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Mercury Retrograde...what?

Tomorrow mercury spins retrograde, and will be retrograde until January 18, 2023. You’ve likely seen the memes going around about mercury in retrograde, or jokingly referring to mercury in Gatorade, or mercury in the microwave. Or perhaps you’ve heard folks blaming mishaps on mercury being in retrograde. This cosmic event has even been spotlighted in magazine and newspaper publications. Mercury is the talk of the town!

I recently got a tattoo of the symbol that represents mercury on my wrist. Why? I have a lot of mercurial energy. I am a Virgo rising (mercury rules the sign of Virgo) which means mercury is my natal chart ruler, it is also the ruler of my 10th house, the house of career in Gemini (mercury rules Gemini), and I was born during what’s known as mercury cazimi (cazimi comes from the Arabic term which means means in the heart of the sun), my mercury sits at the same exact degree as my sun. As far as planets go, mercury sits in my driver's seat in terms of how I show up, and how I operate in this world. I have a fondness for mercury and feel obligated to set things straight.

What’s the deal with mercury?

Every planet “rules” something. Mercury rules communication, logic, analytical skills, intellect, memory, transportation, and it’s a quick planet in terms of movement. Mercury energy is fast, its right next to the sun so it's orbit takes less time than the rest of the planets.

What Does Retrograde Mean?

In astrology, retrograde is when a planet appears to slow down and go backward in its orbit, as viewed from the earth. It’s actually an optical illusion. And I hear what you’re thinking, ‘But Jen, if this is just an illusion, why do we claim it affects us?’ Great question, and honestly one that I have dug into deeply. Ancient people lived their lives by the sky, they used the stars for navigation, rituals, crop planting and harvesting, they had their eyes on the sky constantly. They observed that when planets changed direction or speed, certain instances happened here on earth…and they noticed these things became patterns. As I thought about this the mercury in me (logic) was like, well….did they want to see a pattern because their grandparents told them it was a pattern, or was there an actual pattern? Then I remembered this was during a time of disconnection. There were no phones, computers, social media, transportation…so it is possible that a lot of people were experiencing the same thing without the influence of popular opinion.

Here’s the thing, Mercury goes retrograde 3-4 times a year and it’s been doing so since before any of us were born. It’s worth noting that all planets retrograde, so this isn’t exclusive to mercury. Mercury is just getting its 5 minutes of fame right now. Mercury retrogrades for about 3 weeks at a time, and it also has a pre and post shadow period, which are days leading up to and following the planet stationing direct. About two weeks before the actual retrograde mercury enters a pre-shadow phase, it’s like the appetizer before the main course (main course being the retrograde period). Once the planet is out of retrograde and we call this, “stations direct” we have approximately a two week post-shadow period which is like the dessert that follows the main course. It’s not uncommon to notice the effects of a retrograde pre and post shadow. Knowing that mercury rules transportation and tech I can’t help but look at what’s happening with Southwest Airlines. Yes there was a terrible storm, yes we’ve learned that their computer program is outdated by about 20 years…but it came to a head during mercury pre retrograde shadow. Interesting timing. So while retrogrades aren’t new, what is new is the popularity of astrology. Though astrology has been around for thousands of years, things like people in religion came along and said it wasn't cool, then science forward thinkers turned their noses up at it. Then the 1960’s came along and revived astrology and it’s been gaining traction ever since. Fast forward to today where we are able to track and compare astrological events to when they occured in the past and notice trends. People are saying, wait a minute- there’s something here! And now astrology is cool again, yay!

Why is Retrograde an Opportunity?

In astrology we know that retrogrades aren’t a “bad” thing. Inconvenient at times? Absolutely. But not bad. What we like about them is that a retrograde for us earthlings is an opportunity to slow down (much like what the planet I retrograde appears to be doing), and lean into the “re’s”- reflect, relax, realign, review, reevaluate, revisit, rest. And I personally add responsibility. If I know that the planet of communication is in retrograde, I am really intentional with my communication, and I am very intentional with sitting with what I hear. I know miscommunication and misunderstandings are a bit more likely during this time- so let me be responsible with how I communicate, I won’t assume you know what I’m talking about, I’ll add details for the sake of clarity. And when I am the listener I will not assume, I will ask clarifying questions and practice grace, because I know (and you’ll now notice) there’s a lot of folks around us who are clueless as to what’s going on. So if I can show up better on my end, I will.

A common mercury retrograde joke is that you’ll likely hear from an ex, or someone from your past. It’s not at all uncommon for the past to return for all those “re’s” we just learned about. So if that person returns it’s up to us to reevaluate that dynamic, reassess how we handled things, etc. I find that what comes up during these retrogrades is a bit more nuanced but it’s a commonly mentioned event I wanted to mention. What I find to be common is a feeling of being stuck, or having my plans paused. I usually describe mercury rx (rx is short for retrograde) as feeling like being a car stuck in mud, my wheels keep spinning and I’m unable to get traction. If the point is to slow down, visit my “re’s”, why would I think that I should continue to push at hyper speed like I do every other day? I’m not supposed to.

So Why is Mercury Retrograde a Big Deal all of a Sudden?

Now that we all know what mercury rules, and what a retrograde is, why is it suddenly a big deal? Let’s think about what mercury rules in terms of living life in 1800 versus life now in 2022. We live a much faster pace of life, we rely on technology, we rely on transportation, we are so connected, and communicate often via email and text (which is already a minefield for misunderstandings in my opinion). Let’s be honest, we aren’t the best at remembering when good things happen but we will always remember a lengthy delayed flight, a hurtful text, or that time we forgot to attend a meeting, right? So mercury in retrograde has become this dreaded event. But we don’t bash or blame the planets on my watch. We’re still human with free will and free thinking, we can navigate this, and not give our power away by blaming the cosmos. We can open ourselves up to the wisdom a retrograde can bring, it’s not uncommon to gain insight, clarity, or come up with a pivot regarding something in our life during these times.

*It’s worth mentioning:

This is a basic overview of mercury in retrograde. There’s several pieces of the puzzle that make an interpretation unique, what sign is the retrograde taking place, and what does that sign mean, where in an individual's birth chart will the retrograde be impacting, and what house. If someone was born during mercury in rx they typically don't feel the 'discomfort' like the rest of us. This energy is familiar to them.


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