What You Need to Know About Mercury Retrograde

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

In 2017, Mercury retrograde will occur four times:

  • January 1, 2017 –January 8, 2017, in Capricorn
  • April 9, 2017–May 3, 2017, in Aries, then Taurus
  • August 12, 2017–September 5, 2017, in Leo, then Virgo
  • December 2, 2017–December 22, 2017, in Sagittarius then Capricorn

What Is Mercury Retrograde?

Mercury retrograde happens three to four times per year, when the planet Mercury slows down and appears to stop (station) and move backward (retrograde). It's an optical illusion, since there is forward movement, like speeding by a slow-moving train—as it recedes, it appears to go backward.

While delays and misunderstandings do seem to happen, that people and ideas also return, for integration, resolution and more.

About 25% of us are born with Mercury Retrograde in the birth chart. It is believed that this tends to make someone more reflective and out of sync with the usual way of seeing and sharing perception.

Mix-Ups and Delays

Mercury is the messenger, and in this time, the delivery is warped or the message gets lost en route. Some people find that their computers go on the fritz or phone lines go down. If you're at all worried about this, go ahead and back up your important files.

There can be delays, so give yourself plenty of time to get places. What happens in those down times? Mercury retro is known to be a time of 'fated' events—who will you meet? What will be revealed?

A Time Out

Mercury retrograde gives us time to catch up with ourselves, and reflect. Something from the past returns in a different form. People, ideas, or buried insights that are keys to moving forward can float to the surface.

Often it's felt as a slowed down, contemplative time, and depending on the sign, a chance to go over old ground again, to claim what you missed the first time.

Err on Side of Caution

There's a long-held belief that it's best to avoid making set plans during the Mercury Retrograde. This means holding off on signing contracts and forming partnerships and alliances.

What gets put in writing at this time may turn out to need serious revising after Mercury goes direct. But since tying up loose ends is the domain of retrograde, this type of finalization might fly.

Can You Repeat That?

In our relationships, sometimes we gloss over things that pushed buttons at the time, but which we let slide. What seemed not worth the trouble may reveal itself as a major issue in need of our attention. The Mercury retrograde is a time for review, when the underlying patterns come to light.

Back to the Drawing Board

Some dreams and goals get lost in the hectic rushing around of daily life. The Mercury Retrograde period can be a rich time of reflection on those longings.

This makes it a time for the soul to ponder its destiny. You might look over old journals, review your creative work, muse on serendipities of the past that have pointed you toward your spirit's calling. It can make the retrograde period a time of solidifying a sense of your personal story and where you're headed.

What Does It Mean in Each Zodiac Sign?

The Mercury retrograde is shaped by the sign through which it is cast. For example, a Mercury retrograde in Cancer turns the mind toward things like family, home and the invisible emotional bonds that connect us.

On the other hand, a Mercury retrograde in Aquarius gives it a different spin, with a review of group dynamics, the larger human community, all from a detached perspective.

Making the Most of Mercury Retrograde

A major cause of stress at Mercury retrograde is frustration from mishaps, things breaking down, computers going black. But if we know its cycle, this makes it feel less terminal. If things go pear-shaped, see what's there to see. Take a break from the usual routine.

Just observe and see what happens, and be open to the past returning for review. If it's coming back, there's likely something more to learn or release from it. This can be a good (and productive) time, in its own way.

Read about what happens when the other planets are in retrograde (Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, and Pluto.) 

Mercury Retrograde Dates for 2016

  • January 5 - January 25, 2016, First in air sign Aquarius, then in earth sign Capricorn
  • April 28 - May 22, 2016, in earth sign Taurus
  • August 30 - September 22, 2016, in earth sign Virgo
  • December 19 2016 - January 8, 2017, in earth Capricorn, back into fire sign Sagittarius

Read more about Mercury Retrogrades in Earth signs from 2016.  Earth signs are sensible, practical, and able to craft a plan for dreams to become real.

Mercury Retrograde Dates for 2015

In 2015, all the retrogrades were in air signs—Aquarius, Gemini and Libra. 

As Mercury dials back into air signs, there's a review of the mind's patterns—the conclusions we each draw from experience. It's possible to see the past in a different light, or from another angle.

It's time for a breather.  Mercury's retro cycles are times of slowing down, gaining new perspective.  Mercury in air signs fluff out some distance, to be able to see as if from outside.  In the realm of air, the new is conceptualized, making it a creative time of hatching possibilities.