Mercury Retrograde

Mercury in Astrology and What is Mercury Retrograde?

The planet Mercury is one of the better known planets in Astrology, at least for the term “Mercury Retrograde”. We frequently hear this term when things have gone wrong or going in that direction. But what does it really mean, does it have anything to do with Mercury and is it for real?

Retrograde motion is the apparent backward movement of a planet due to the differing speeds and locations in their orbits relative to Earth. This occurs about three times per year for the planet Mercury and represents a time associated with confusion, delay, and frustration, especially with communications and travel.

What Is Retrograde Motion?

The astronomical explanation for retrograde motion starts with knowing that each planet travels at different speeds and in different orbits. While we orbit the Sun ourselves, we can observe the other planets moving across our sky, following their own paths. These different speeds make for a relative difference and sometimes it looks like they slow down and reverse for a time.

What Is Mercury Retrograde?

About three or four times a year, the planet Mercury appears to travel backward across the sky. We refer to these periods as times when Mercury is in apparent retrograde motion, or simply “Mercury retrograde.”

Imagine traveling in a car on a highway. Both you and the other cars are traveling forward, yet when you pass another car, it appears to be moving backwards. If the car is going slower, it’ll appear to be going backward, when actually it’s going forward. The retrograde of a planet is this kind of optical illusion.

What does Mercury Retrograde Mean?

Those who know astrology, know that these times were traditionally associated with confusion, delay, and frustration. Think undelivered love letters! This is an excellent time to reflect on the past, however. Coincidences can be extraordinary and intuition can be high during these periods.

When Mercury is in retrograde, communication can seem to slow down, misfire or go haywire with missed calls and technological snafus. This is why there’s a warning against signing contracts or starting a project during this time.

Google Trends showing the interest in “Mercury Retrograde” over time.
Google Trends showing the interest in “Mercury Retrograde” over time.

The Meaning of Mercury in Astrology

Mercury concerns the mind and your way of expressing yourself. It determines how you make sense of your world, formulate ideas and share them with others. Your speech patterns, communication style, sense of humor, quickness of thought — all these are flavored by the position of your Mercury.

Mercury determines your fascinations, what kinds of puzzles you’ll want to work out, where you’d like to focus your mind power. Mercury’s influence on how you think can steer your career path since you’ll likely be drawn to areas in which your mind thrives and excels.

Were You Born During Mercury Retrograde? 

If you see an “Rx” next to a planet in your birth chart, that means it was in retrograde when you were born. If you were born during Mercury Retrograde, you are more likely to have a reflective or introverted mind. You might want to mull things over more than most before drawing a conclusion. The way to find out is to have your Astrology chart made.

Do all planets move in Retrograde?

Yes. All planets except for the sun and moon go retrograde. Mercury goes retrograde the most amount of time and Venus the least. It is important to know when as the effects of the retrograde planets change. When a planet is about to turn retrograde, it moves slower and marks a time when affairs ruled by the planet will seem to slow down. Think of it like the ‘defrost’ cycle on your refrigerator.

Mercury Retrograde in Birth Chart

Mercury’s shorter and faster orbit causes the planet to appear to be in retrograde more often. Astrologers believe that while Mercury is in retrograde, it is in a resting or sleeping state, and that has a psychological effect on some people—you are more mercurial, in fact—and if you are born during one of those periods, your chances of being affected by Mercury’s fluctuations are more likely.

What Mercury Rules

In astrology, the planet Mercury rules all types of communications: Speaking, learning, reading, writing, researching, negotiations. Mercury describes our intelligence, our mind, and our memory; it rules our sense of humor, what fascinates us, how we speak write and otherwise communicate.

The Mercury Rx Club

About 25 percent of people on earth were born during a Mercury retrograde—you can check your own natal chart to see if you are one of those lucky few. Look for the Mercury glyph. If you see an Rx next to it, that means you were born during a retrograde.

In astrology, Mercury affects your perceptive abilities, and if you know the effect that Mercury has on you, it can help you understand how you see things and thereby be more effective in the world. If you’ve got Mercury retrograde, you’ve got a very different mercurial make-up than other people. Understanding how you think can lessen the frustrations that go along with this kind of planetary influence.

Non-linear Thinking

Mercury rules your mental expression. Sometimes Mercury will be ‘aspected’ by planets that cause a non-linear way of thinking or expressing yourself. Sometimes this come from being born during Mercury Retrograde. If this is the case, you may find the Retrograde periods of Mercury positive times for you.

Collage Effect

The collage effect of Mercury retrograde makes it hard to see how things will play out. You may see the end before the middle, or a vision of what’s to come. But if this resonates with you, try working with, rather than against your own Mercury Rx. Instead of swimming against the tide, look for mediums where this kind of perception is valued and even rewarded.

Trust your perceptions, and find ways of expressing yourself through art, music, dance. The arts allow a different kind of language, that of symbol and collage, to stand on its own. No translation necessary! Trust that you have a unique way of seeing the world, one that is worth sharing.


This is a general description of the planet Mercury and it’s Retrograde motion. I hope this will helpful and informative for you. I have avoided all the flavors of house and sign meanings and the endless descriptions that are overly flowery or detailed. Much of Astrology is tied up with the mistaken interpretations given to the zodiac signs and houses.

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