What Happens in Real Life When Mercury Is in Retrograde?

Young woman lying down on autumn leaves. Getty Images / FilippoBacci

Mercury's role is to show us that what we perceive is not set in stone. And during Mercury retrograde, the picture gets jumbled, sometimes beyond recognition. There's a fated aspect to the cycles, since they seem to bring back old ideas, friends and exes. You can get new pieces of a puzzle, by paying attention to what (or who) crosses your path.

Get Comfortable With Orchestrated Chaos

I personally like these cycles, as a time to tie up loose ends, muse on the past and shake-up my perception. I've had the classic issues of getting lost or having mail delays. But under Mercury retro, I've also run into friends that were estranged, and been able to say my peace, and bring it to completion. The noted astrologer Nick Campion says it's a fallacy that more things "go wrong" during Mercury retrograde. And it's helpful to keep in mind that many things "go right" and are untangled. Mercury shows us the world from new perspectives. The retrograde cycle is a mystery that's best met with curiosity, some caution and an open mind.

Your First Impression May Not Be Right

As a kid, I used to run off the store on an errand for my Mom, and about 50% of the time, come home with the wrong thing. I have Mercury retrograde natally, and can say looking back that I was confident in my “impression” of what she wanted. But the info was lost when I got into the dizzying array of choices at Winn Dixie.

During a Mercury in retrograde cycle, we’ve each got an altered perception of what’s going on and what’s being said. That’s why when a contract is signed under Mercury retrograde, it may later look different in the light of direct motion. The intent of both parties becomes clear. Or you as the signer, may come to see that it was made when your vision was skewed, and isn’t right at all! You see the fine print, whereas before, had an impression that it was a-ok.

Communication May Be Complicated or Delayed

When Mercury is retrograde, the usual channels of information are disrupted. It can mean that a piece of mail takes the circuitous route, and goes missing. For some people, computer problems get out of hand, even to the point that content or emails are lost.

The classic “blame it on Mercury retrograde” moment is losing what you’ve worked on through some sudden computer crash. Mercury in retrograde brings on the “do-over,” in many areas. You may have to rewrite or redo from memory and hope that you've remembered all the important pieces.

Sometimes the do-over becomes a repeat, when you pay twice online or hit send with an email twice. The worse case scenario is hitting "send to all" when you're returning an email....this is how excruciatingly raw emails meant for your best girl friend, end up read by your Dad's first cousin. This happened to a friend of mine and it was mortifying for her. A personal email full of the neurosis we only share with our closest friends, was broadcast to her entire email list! Things like this, along with significant typos is one way the mercurial trickster rocks our world.

You May Travel in Circles, With Pleasing Results

The Mercury retrograde period is often linked to getting stuck in traffic, or lost down some side street. The schedule we have for the day is disrupted, and we’ve got to “go with the flow.” It challenges us to be patient, and avoid aggravating the situation with the anguish over it. Mercury is the planet that shows new perspectives, and in retrograde, we see from unusual angles.

During that trip down a side street, you may run into an old friend. Or you may fall in love with the location, and discover a new favorite place. During the delay, like with a layover, you may meet a soul mate or friend. Or have a breakthrough in our thinking. It’s hard to say whether these things happen more during Mercury retro, or if it just seems that way. Even a wrong turn or a traffic delay may bring their own gifts, if we can get past the frustration they cause.

You May Have More Misunderstandings

There’s also more room for misunderstandings. Someone may listen to what you’re saying, but understand your meaning incorrectly. Or you may feel resentful that someone is not answering your email—the one that they never got! That’s the kind of trick played on the mind; it’s Mercury’s way of reminding us that things are not always as they seem.

This is harder for those that like to keep everything running in an orderly, controlled way. And it can wreak havoc on the mentally unstable, those that may already not know which end is up. If you’re anxious to be heard, it can be maddening to be confused.

A Vacation for Your Mind

We are constantly surrounded by noise these days. Messages, alerts, ads, the conversations of others on cell phones, the news in banks and airports...our minds work overtime to process the info, even if we're not consciously aware of it. Mercury is all about the conduits between the material and intellectual and spiritual dimensions. As a time for review and reflection, Mercury retrograde can be a reprieve from the cacophony. It's a time to go within, to know your own mental processes, as well as your dreams and visions of your spiritual self.

It's an energy shift that involves sorting and shifting of past currents. Find ways to soothe your mind with music, or rare quiet. Listen to your own thoughts and be curious about where they're taking you.