Mercury Retrograde Survival Guide
Updated: Aug 14
‘In the Know’ with the Mercury Retrograde Survival Guide
Mercury is the planet of communication, commerce, learning, thought, and intellect. It’s negative, or shadow side is dishonesty, trickery, and superficiality. When it is retrograde, it is in reflective mode, introspective, and covering old ground.
While a Mercury Retrograde may or may not impact you, others may be having a really bad day, week, or month. Not everyone follows astrology and so they go about their day as usual not realizing their normal routines may be highly disrupted.
That’s a frustrating thing to have a series of unexpected events throwing a wrench in your day, week, and month. Those of us who know about Mercury Retrograde can take a step back and recognize what’s happening, add extra padding to your schedule, and tap into some extra patience.
We know it is temporary and when the energy will pass.
Those who don’t know, keep trying to do a normal day and don’t make extra space for Mercurial hiccups. This can result in big-time frustration. Keep that in mind, take a deep breath, and find that patience inside of you. It will help you, and others around you, survive Mercury Retrograde.
Find out how Mercury retrograde impacts you directly by scheduling a consult. https://www.loribarnesastrology.com/consultations
How Often and How Long Does Mercury Go Retrograde
Mercury goes retrograde 3 or 4 times a year. Though the actual retrograde motion is around 3 weeks, there is a time period before and after when the energy is gradually building or decreasing called the shadow.
There is a pre and post-retrograde shadow, which I explain more below. The shadow adds a few weeks before and after the Retrograde period making the total cycle last almost two months.
The dates that Mercury goes retrograde and direct are a time of deep reflection and to take it as slow as you can. The 2023 dates can be found here.
The Guide to Survive Mercury Retrograde
Plan Ahead and Sail Over Pitfalls
When Mercury is retrograde, it is in reflective mode. Looking inward is indicated and re-evaluating things is a great way to embrace Mercury Retrograde. Using re- before an action is a way to think of things to do in a retrograde.
Re-decorate, re-design, rearrange, re-do, review, refine, revise, research, and recalculate are a few words that come to mind. Astrologically, Mercury is traveling backward by degree, not astronomically (physically) in the sky. Symbolically it is covering old ground.
Moving backward by degree means the direction Mercury is traveling through the 30 degrees of a zodiac sign. The entire zodiac contains 360 degrees, made up 30 degrees in each of the 12 zodiac signs.
When astrologers look at a chart, the relationships made between planets are considered based on the degree they occupy in addition to the sign. We use the degrees to analyze the relationships between planets and interpret a horoscope (natal birth chart).
Plan Ahead for Mercury Retrograde:
Finish projects already started. Pull out projects you have set aside collecting dust and work on them.
Take a new look at an existing project. Progress on current projects or unfinished projects is more indicated than starting new ones.
Reflection is a positive self-growth tool at any time. During a Mercury Retrograde, reflection can be even more therapeutic.
Give some extra space, extra patience, and support to those around you.
Watch out for mishaps happening more often like running late, missing appointments, misunderstanding what another says, and basically those little snags that can mess up your day.
Give yourself extra time when traveling, between appointments, and doing your routine tasks.
Mercury is about movement, especially in your local environment, driving, and public transportation. Be extra alert during a retrograde for delays and crazy drivers. Please try not to let yourself become one of those frustrated drivers.
Plan ahead and expect some delays or technical problems so if they happen, you are prepared.
Be proactive and conservative with your schedule and time management.
Underreact rather than overreact in anticipation that you may have misunderstood. Using mindful approaches to daily living will help.
Things like stretching, breathing, and essential oils can help deal with stressful moments.
Re-read everything, and then re-read it again.
Do ‘re’ things like revise, refine, review, research, rearrange, re-do, or redecorate.
Back up your computer before the retrograde and anytime you create something important on your devices.
It can be a good time to sign a contract if you want to renegotiate the terms soon after signing the contract.
It is not advised to make a big decision using astrology if you are ONLY considering Mercury Retrograde. If you need to make a big decision and you want astrology to help you decide, it is recommended you look at what’s going on in your personal birth chart. It’s a good time to make an appointment with an astrologer. If you have to make a big decision during a Mercury retrograde, just knowing about Mercury retrograde, in general, will not give you the full picture of your individual circumstances.
My Mercury Retrograde mantra is to try 3 times harder, check things 3 times over, and build extra time in my schedule.
The negative side of Mercury represents those who can be crafty, cunning, corrupt, deceitful, and lacking moral values. The truth can be clouded and the whole picture may not be forthcoming. So if your gut instinct is sensing something is not right, take heed.
Mercury Retrograde Deadlines and Work
You don’t always have control over timelines, especially at work. These circumstances can bring about stress and worry. With the knowledge you have of the retrograde, you can take action to increase communication, pad benchmark deadlines, ask for help, check your work more often than usual, and look for chances to revise things when you normally wouldn’t.
Turn your worry and anxiety into energy that works in the flow with Mercury. Besides padding your time and deadlines, you can use resources and knowledge from the past.
Instead of starting from scratch, do you have some previous research or timeline flows that can help your project? Are there colleagues or consultants who you have worked with before that you can pull in? Have you fully researched how others have done something similar successfully? What can you utilize from past successes to move your project along?
I am a firm believer that all energy has some useful lesson and message. Mercury retrograde offers more than lost cell phones, traffic delays, and missed meetings. Sometimes the work pace is too fast and opportunities are missed. Working on a project during a retrograde is a time to take a slow and precise approach. By taking more time, you may discover things that weren’t possible at a faster pace.
Mercury is a clever planet. So be clever in convincing your boss to support what you need in order to work with the retrograde energy flow. Is it a research staff, more time for review, more information from other similar successes? Ask for it. Who knows, you may even have a cool boss who knows about Mercury retrograde and you work together on utilizing the energy flow to make your project successful.
Having a baby when Mercury is retrograde?
Do not fret, many intelligent and clever people are born under a Mercury retrograde. It does not mean an automatic mental disorder. There are too many factors to generalize about a baby born under the retrograde. The important thing to know is that you cannot generalize that it is a bad thing.
If you do have a youngster born under Mercury retrograde, consult an astrologer who has experience with child development to evaluate the entire chart. Do not make any astrological interpretation about a person based on Mercury retrograde in isolation, you will not have the full picture.
Some famous people born with Mercury retrograde are:
Consider their successful careers.
If you are planning an event, try to set the date outside of a retrograde if possible. But if you can’t, you now have some ideas of how to smash it anyway. A few more resources and a lot more pre-checking everything will make a world of difference.
Do reminder calls you wouldn’t normally do, and have backups for things you may not usually have. Walk through everything in advance to discover potential pitfalls and pre-plan solutions.
For example, order extra walkie talkies, have extra chargers on hand, get a generator, have a backup for all roles, make paper copies to go with electronic copies, bring two flash drives instead of one, have an extra babysitter on standby, call all vendors the week and day before, and triple communicate with everyone involved.
Reconnecting with Your Past is a Possibility
A retrograde symbolically means looking backwards and covering old ground where you have already been. It can be a time of nostalgia. You may think of friends or lovers past. They may be thinking of you. Contacts from the past may pop up out of the blue during a retrograde, or you may decide to ring someone up you haven’t talked to in a long time.
It’s common for you to think of someone you haven’t spoken to in a while, and then they call you. I love it when that happens. I think the saying ‘your ears must have been ringing’ is very Mercurial.
If you go back to a previous employer, it could be a successful move. It can also be a time for making amends with friends, family, or colleagues. Things from the past can be discussed and resolved. One pitfall caution though. Jumping back into a relationship that was unhealthy or toxic is probably not the right thing for you to do. Even jumping back into a relationship that was healthy might not be the right direction for the future.
If you re-enter a relationship with a past lover or other type of relationship, you may regret it once Mercury is direct again. If someone does pop back in your life, wait and see how it goes after Mercury is direct and out of its shadow before you make any serious life changes or decisions. It’s only a few weeks, wait and see.
Blaming Everything on Mercury Retrograde Pitfall
When Mercury is Retrograde we can be more sensitive to normal daily hiccups by misinterpreting them as more frequent. When in fact, the circumstances are similar to times when Mercury is direct (not retrograde). While it’s true that hiccups can increase during a Mercury retrograde. There remains the human possibility of paying more attention to these hiccups because we know it’s Mercury Retrograde.
Just thinking about Mercury Retrograde can lead to repetitive thoughts that some mishap will happen and increase the likelihood of something happening. If you find yourself entertaining fearful thoughts every time you hear Mercury is retrograde, you will benefit from using the planning ahead skills listed above. Ease your fears by planning ahead.
It’s helpful to use positive affirmations, meditation, or whatever means you have to get in your peace zone. Your mindset is key to your experience. The importance of mindset cannot be exaggerated. The vibration of your thoughts is extremely important at all times, not just retrogrades. If you experience a particularly difficult Mercury retrograde, it’s important to use mindful approaches to bring you back in the present, and find balance.
What you think and believe impacts what you attract in life. And just as importantly, how you respond to life events. By practicing mindful approaches to well-being, you will be better prepared mentally, emotionally, and physically for what life throws at you.
Mercury Retrograde Myth Pitfall
The myth is: ‘Things are bad for everyone under a Mercury Retrograde.’ Like signing a contract, delays, and computer breakdowns. The truth is that it depends on your chart. For some, the thought of Mercury Retrograde brings an ominous feeling of doom and the need to hide under covers until the whole thing passes over.
This is not necessary, and can actually keep you from valuable learning that can come from reviewing, refining, and revising life events.
I hope that with the information you find on this page, you will have a productive experience with Mercury Retrogrades when they come and feel equipped to handle them. I also hope that you do not shy away from something that would benefit you just because Mercury is retrograde.
There are many professional astrologers available to help you navigate what is best for you individually. I would love to be your professional astrologer. Check out the consultations I offer here .
Mercury Retrograde May Not Be the Current Theme in Your Chart
Another thing that often happens during Mercury Retrograde is that all activity in your chart gets attributed to the retrograde. If you have not had your chart read, you may not know of the activity going on in your chart, but you know something is going on because you are experiencing it.
Mercury may be involved with what you are experiencing, but it may not be the major thing happening in your chart. Any number of other planetary configurations are also active in the sky, and with your chart, at any given time. During a Mercury Retrograde, you may experience something which seems attributable to the retrograde. When in fact, other stronger and more impactful things may be happening with your horoscope.
For example, Mars, which represents energy and drive, may be making contact with your Sun sign that represents your identity and core essence, stirring up some unpredictable events that could easily be misinterpreted as Mercury Retrograde.
This makes for complexity and a need for synthesizing all astrological components. While any of us can experience some of the general descriptions of Mercury Retrograde energy, the reality is that it really depends on your chart.
There can be other factors in your chart that show a positive time for starting something under a Mercury retrograde. Or you may be required to start something under a Mercury retrograde that can’t wait a week or a month. This is when Electional astrology can help target a specific day and time that is the most auspicious and works with your natal birth chart, even during a Mercury retrograde.
Kick discouragement to the side and be emboldened to find a way to do what you need to do. Whether it’s taking more time for extra review, planning for future renegotiation and refinement after Mercury goes direct, or consulting a professional astrologer like me.
There are ways to work through a Mercury retrograde successfully. When you embrace the energy, you may find it helps improve your project. Remember that your individual chart and timing will be more important for making decisions than basing decisions only on a general Mercury retrograde.
Mercury Retrograde May Be Highly Active in Your Chart
Your experience of Mercury Retrograde depends on how it is working in your chart. Many of us will have Mercury making contact with our horoscope. The life domains where our birth planets are located will give you more information on the parts of life where events may arise.
What’s individually different is where Mercury is traveling in your horoscope and how it relates to the other parts of our horoscope. If Mercury is moving through a part of your chart that is public like your career 10th house, or your personal 1st house, you may have more Mercury Retrograde experiences.
Or Mercury could be going through a house that represents more introspective reflection, like the twelfth house. When that happens, our experience of a Mercury Retrograde may be more introspective, spiritual, or isolating.
The sign and degree Mercury is traveling through will be the same for everyone. But where it is in your chart will be unique to you because of how it relates to the other planets and points in your birth chart. Mercury can go retrograde in any of the 12 zodiac signs taking on a different energy signature with each one. The element Mercury is in (air, earth, fire, water) can give you some information on the energy quality of the retrograde.
A water sign will take on an emotional energy signature, fire will be more active and impulsive, air will be communication and relationship oriented, and earth will have a material security feature. It’s also important to note what the other planets are doing during a retrograde cycle. This creates different flavors and this is what makes astrology so informative, individualized, and interesting.
If you were to compare different years when Mercury was retrograde in the same sign, the energetic signatures can be vastly different because of the placement of the other planets in the sky. All of this is beamed down and interpreted through your horoscope.
Purchasing Things and Signing Contracts
Be cautious with buying large ticket items like a car, computer, smart phone, or anything that has to do with technology and communications. Read all the small and fine print. You may want to take extra insurance for a large ticket item for security if something goes wrong with it.
If you do have to purchase a large ticket item under a Mercury retrograde, be sure to research and get all the details before making your decision.
Sometimes you have to make big purchase items because something important breaks down under the retrograde. Don’t put yourself in hardship by trying to wait out the retrograde. If you need a car, washing machine, or a new phone, go ahead and purchase it. You can get insurance, you can get a product with a good warranty, and you will benefit from giving some extra time to understand the fine details and features.
New projects, employment, and contracts started under a Mercury Retrograde may require alteration in the future. This can be desired, and is not always a negative thing. Some situations are positively indicated under Mercury retrograde, like returning to work with a former boss or colleague, returning to a former place of employment, or renegotiating a contract for a better one.
You often hear that you should not sign contracts or make large purchases during a Mercury retrograde. This is true as a general statement but it really depends on your personal chart and where the other planets are. If contract signing has to happen during a Mercury retrograde, you can consult an astrologer about the best time to sign.
You may have other things in your chart indicating it is a good time for these activities, so it is always best to find out what is going on in your personal chart. There are many happy house owners who purchased it under a Mercury retrograde. The best advice is not to go in blind. Consult your horoscope.
When you are empowered with knowledge, you are much less likely to feel overwhelmed by Mercury Retrograde.
It’s good to be aware of the Retrograde and have a basic knowledge of your chart. With this personalized information, you can bust some of the myths, fears, and generalizations around Mercury retrograde and have a clearer and more individualized way to view each retrograde.
If you don’t have your chart, you can get it for free by contacting me or going to this free online calculator website. If you need a quick reference to the meaning of the glyphs in your chart, click here.
Technical Review: Understanding the Mercury Retrograde Station and Shadow
Retrogrades have the motion of speed, not an on/off switch. Mercury slows down, speeds up, stops, and changes direction. The Retrograde energy before, during, and after retrograde has a gradient speed that can be compared to driving a car.
Think of the shadow in the way a car slows down or speeds up after stopping and changing direction. The pre-shadow time is before Mercury retrograde when the planet is slowing down. The post-shadow time is after the retrograde when Mercury is speeding back up. The shadow times are before and after the retrograde period, not during.
When Mercury changes direction in the zodiac, it is called a station. The station happens twice in a retrograde cycle when the planet appears to briefly stop and stay in a degree for a longer time period and signifies a changing of direction, either station retrograde or station direct, depending on which direction it is changing.
You can see this in the ephemeris (a book of the daily movements of the planets) example below. There is an ‘R’ for retrograde and a ‘D’ for direct. You sometimes see an ‘S’ for ‘station’ in astrological tables, charts, and animated astrology programs. This ‘S’ is especially helpful for planning when looking at transits (travel location of the planets) using an animated program to look forward and backward.
It’s important to remember that station times are when the Mercury retrograde influence is strongest, and when the energy can be the most intense and influential. The station time marks the transition between a shadow time period and the retrograde time period. To find the shadow time periods we look at the degrees of the Zodiac that Mercury travels over during the entire retrograde cycle, including the shadow periods.
When Mercury goes retrograde, it will travel back over degrees it has already crossed over. That means that Mercury will cross over some degrees 3 times, the first time going forward, the 2nd time in retrograde, and the 3rd time when it’s direct again. This is important to remember because some of us will have parts of our horoscope in these degrees. That is how astrologers find out who is more impacted or not, by looking at the person’s chart.
The sign and degree of a Mercury retrograde are different in each cycle. Schedule a consultation with an astrologer to find out what is happening in your chart.
How to find Shadow Dates in an Ephemeris
The pre and post-retrograde shadow dates can be easily located in an ephemeris, the database of the daily movement of the planets that astrologers use. Below is an image of an ephemeris page from astro.com showing you what I am talking about. The ephemeris will show you when Mercury goes retrograde by an ‘R’ and a ‘D’ for when it goes direct.
These two dates are important for figuring out the pre and post-shadow period. The pre-shadow date is the beginning of the entire cycle and the gradual building of the retrograde energy starts. It has an increasing feel to it. The intensity of the cycle peaks at the station retrograde and station direct dates. Then in the post-retrograde period, the energy gradually decreases. The end of the post-retrograde shadow is the end of the cycle.
After the post-retrograde shadow ends, the retrograde energy has faded away and Mercury is back to its regular or average speed in its orbit. Below is an example. I highlighted the shadow period and the retrograde period so you can see how astrologers figure out the shadow dates. There are three months involved in this example retrograde cycle. You can see the name of the month at the top.
Pre-Shadow Cycle Start Date = The degree Mercury travels back to when Retrograde (the first circle in January).
Post-Shadow Cycle End Date = The degree Mercury occupied when it went retrograde (the last circle in March).
The first column = date
The 5th column = planet Mercury, look for the column with a red arrow.
Under the Mercury column is the day-by-day list of the degree Mercury is traveling in. You can see how the degrees are moving forward, and then backward. Look at the four red circles to find the pre-shadow date, retrograde date, direct date, and post-shadow date. Scroll down under the image for a detailed description of the four dates.
16 January 2021 – Mercury retrograde shadow starts at 12 degrees. Technically it starts when Mercury crosses over 11 degrees 1 between January 15 and 16. The exact time would depend on what time zone you are in. We know the shadow starts on 15 or 16 January because that is the degree Mercury returns to when retrograde. You see this by looking at 21 February 2021, the date Mercury goes direct (the ‘D’). That degree is 11, but as you can see on Friday 15 January it is 10 degrees, and Saturday 16 January it has traveled to 12 degrees over the twenty-four hour time period.
31 January 2021 – This is the date Mercury goes retrograde (the ‘R’). This degree is important because this is the degree we look for in the future to indicate the end of the shadow after Mercury goes direct and moves forward in time. You can see this by looking at 13 March, when Mercury gets back to 26 degrees marking the end of this particular Mercury retrograde cycle.
21 February 2021 – This is the date Mercury goes direct (the ‘D’). Mercury has traveled back to 11 degrees, and this marked the degree of the pre-retrograde shadow (the first red circle on 16 January).
degrees3 March 2021 – This marks the end of the post-retrograde shadow at the 26th degree. This is the degree where Mercury first went retrograde on 31 January, the second red circle in January. This date is the end of the post-retrograde shadow and the end of the Mercury retrograde cycle.
Mercury Retrograde Motion and Astronomy
Mercury Retrograde is often explained as the apparent backward motion in the sky. As indicated by its name, it has something to do with the appearance of going backward or retro in the sky. Actually, it’s not physically going backward in the sky. In Astrology, it goes backward in degrees, so it can be confusing.
It appears to be going backward because of the difference in speed between the Earth and Mercury. Mercury moves faster than the Earth around the Sun. Mercury, like Venus, passes the Earth from the inside, the Sun's side. This will look a little different than a Mars, Jupiter, or Saturn retrograde, who are on the outside of Earth, and get passed by the Earth. Mercury moves faster than Earth around the sun, and so it laps Earth.
As Mercury comes around in its lap around the Sun, we see it as going backward in retrograde motion, even though physically it is still moving forward. The thing is that it’s hard to describe the astronomical reason Mercury appears to go backward in the sky. It’s best to see it. For a visual, astronomy-based, and scientific explanation of the motion of Mercury Retrograde, I found this video on youtube that explains it well.
It shows you the orbits of the planets in Retrograde and so you can get the basic mechanics of planets in Retrograde. There’s no astrology in this video, just a good astronomical explanation of the orbit of the planets moving at different speeds resulting in retrograde motion. Click here to watch.
A personalized approach to understanding Mercury Retrograde will be far more revealing than a general approach. Though knowing generally what is happening with Mercury will certainly arm you with better pre-planning than not knowing. If you want to take it a step further, you would consider the sign Mercury is retrograde in, and where that sign is located in your chart.
There are lots of general survival skills in this article to help prepare you to best utilize the Mercury retrograde energies offered up each cycle. When you intentionally and purposefully focus on going with the Mercury retrograde flow, you can find ways to benefit from the universal energy offered up during each cycle.
Let me know if you have questions
Congratulations, you now have an understanding of Mercury Retrograde. You know that generalizations can be helpful to understand Mercury Retrograde but to really understand how it will affect you depends on your personal chart.
If you want to go deeper in understanding how Mercury and Mercury Retrograde operate in your chart, then you would benefit from consulting a professional astrologer. If you have big purchases or decisions to make, you would benefit from an astrology reading and/or having an electional chart identified to find the best dates for you.
If you have questions I didn’t answer here, please contact me. I want this info page on Mercury Retrograde to be comprehensive so if I missed something, I really appreciate you taking the time to let me know. Sign up here to receive my astroblog newsletter.