Very few astrological transits set the internet ablaze quite like Mercury Retrograde. Mercury Rx is known for screwing with all methods of communication. Think faux pas when you speak, autocorrect blunders galore, and glitching technology in general. It’s almost ironic that word about it spreads so efficiently. You’ve likely heard the warnings: Don’t buy new tech, triple-check your emails, and be careful when signing contracts. So, as Mercury assumes this position in the sky on August 23rd, you might be wondering: Is it a good time to take an extended break from social everything and perhaps live in the woods for a few weeks?
Romantic as that idea is, what if I told you this retrograde might not hit you as hard as you think it will?
I’ve always had a curiosity about Mercury Retrograde. For starters, why is it so popular? Numerous astrological transits occur on the regular. So, how did Mercury Rx get hooked up with the most active PR team?
My interest in this particular retrograde was piqued when a friend looked at my birth chart and noticed I was born during a Mercury Retrograde. She proceeded to tell me that I was somehow immune to the transit as a result. Immune? Let’s just say I’ve experienced enough lost emails, glitchy laptop situations, and fumbled conversations to feel skeptical. Still, it made me wonder: Despite the abundance of proof to the contrary, do some of us skate away from Mercury Retrograde scot-free?
I decided to consult an expert. So I reached out to Jessica Lanyadoo—famed host of the astrology-meets-advice pod, Ghost of a Podcast, and all-around astro-maven. If you’re not already obsessing over her talking planet commentary on Insta, you’re welcome.
Why is the internet so obsessed with Mercury Retrograde?
First, I hit Lanyadoo with my main question: Why does Mercury Retrograde get so much attention? “I don’t know if the Saturn Return would take kindly to the suggestion that Mercury retrograde is the most famous transit in astrology!” she rebutted. And it’s a fair point, honestly. The Saturn Return is different for everyone, but it’s a transit that occurs approximately every 29 years when Saturn “returns” to the same place it occupied the moment you were born. When it does, it shakes up your life so much. We’re talking about career changes, existential crises, and the like.
So, maybe Mercury Retrograde is slightly less famous. Regardless, Lanyadoo aptly described our collective fascination with it: “We live in such a Mercurial world. Communication, verbally and through technology, is a massive part of how we connect—and those things are governed by Mercury. So are friendships, colleagues, social media, email, making plans, signing contracts, and so much more!” So, if you’re a human person who connects with other human people, you will probably notice when those connections fray at the edges. “When this planet pulls shenanigans, it’s evidential, even to folks who don’t particularly care for astrology,” Lanyadoo added.
Who does Mercury Retrograde affect?
I wanted to learn more about the notion that some of us might hold a get-out-of-retrograde-free card. Who among us gets to escape this notorious transit unscathed? What I discovered was that in some ways, at certain times, we all do.
As it turns out, Mercury Retrograde hits differently for different people every time it transits.
Mercury stations retrograde in a different zodiac sign—and at varying degrees—every time it transits. So if it’s passing through a sign that plays nicely with your natal chart, it complements the planets and their positions in your chart. Therefore, you might not feel the retrograde at all. Then again, if it’s passing through a sign—or at an angle—that exacerbates the more challenging aspects of your chart, you might feel like the zodiac’s favorite trickster is singling you out. As Lanyadoo says, “This is why sometimes during a Mercury retrograde you don’t really notice it, and other times it creates massive dramas in your life!”
How do you know if Mercury Retrograde will affect you?
If Mercury Retrograde ranges in severity with every visit, how do you know if you will be in its crosshairs?
First, it’s good to know where Mercury lives in your birth chart. As Lanyadoo explains, “Mercury’s placement in your birth chart (by zodiac sign and house) describes how you process information, how you learn, and how you communicate, including how you listen.” It also paints the picture of “how others experience how you communicate,” she added. When this planet stations retrograde, the way you express your thoughts becomes “less efficient, because retrogrades are when we are meant to be more internal in our processing.” This means we all tend to feel a little slowed down when the retrograde occurs. And hey, that’s not all bad! Where it gets tricky is when Mercury’s placement in the sky is in opposition to an aspect of your chart. That’s when it’s safe to expect some extra turbulence.
To see exactly where Mercury lands in your chart, you can try the free Astro-Charts tool at Lanyadoo’s website. It will tell you which sign Mercury lives in. Plus, if it was retrograde when you were born, you’ll also see an “r” in parentheses. If you don’t know your birth time, Lanyadoo suggests entering 12 p.m. as the time. “If you do this, you will have to ignore the rising sign, the houses, and your moon placement, but it will tell you what sign Mercury falls in as well as if it’s retrograde or not,” she said.
Of course, dissecting those details might take a little research. If you’re curious about Mercury Retrograde’s nitty-gritty compatibility with your chart, talking to a pro is helpful. It will take much less time than spiraling down a Google rabbit hole.
What I can tell you, though, is that Mercury has what’s called a “shadow phase.” This is a period of about two weeks before and after the planet stations retrograde. This shadow phase is referred to as the “retroshade.” It’s a bit of a canary in a coal mine. Because Mercury is in the process of slowing down, it’s already starting to serve looks. So whatever drama this transit is likely to stir up begins to make itself known subtly.
All this to say, if the pre-retrograde shadow phase felt a little bumpy, you will probably feel the retrograde. On the other hand, if things operated smoothly in the retroshade, that’s an indication you might be one of the lucky ones.
What does it mean to be born during a Mercury Retrograde?
For those of us born during a Mercury Retrograde, are we the true unicorns of this dreaded transit? Do we communicate with ease despite what’s written in the stars?
Not so, unfortunately. At first, Lanyadoo told me I might feel “a greater sense of ease during this transit, as the rest of the population is finally on [my] wavelength.” But when I prodded her to explain exactly what kind of ease we were talking about, she hit me with the cold hard truth. Folks born during Mercury Retrograde tend to “struggle with feeling understood and communicating in general, which includes both listening as well as verbalizing. You may also overthink things or have a hard time getting out of your head,” she explained.
Let’s just say I had a hard time getting that out of my head. You’re telling me I only have it easier because retrogrades make everyone else as miserable as me? And I’m stuck in a perma-Mercury Retrograde reality 24/7? I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.
After my doom spiral, I decided to focus on the other half of what she said, which included the fact that this aspect can inspire us to work even harder on the ways that we express our thoughts and communicate. This means folks born during Mercury Retrograde are often able to find creative ways of strengthening their skills. It suddenly became clear why it’s always felt so bafflingly difficult to speak my thoughts out loud. I’ve always struggled to understand why it takes so much effort to speak my mind clearly when other people do it with such ease. But that frustration led me to find an outlet in writing—and here I am, living out a career built on the written word.
How to make Mercury Retrograde work for you
As with all things astrology, where there is perceived weakness, there is also hidden strength.
And, honestly, Mercury Retrograde offers all of us a little brick of gold if we’re willing to dig for it. No matter how it engages with your chart, Lanyadoo assured me there’s a way to make any Mercury Retrograde work for you, not against you. “Retrogrades follow the rule of REs: reflect, review, reassess,” she says. As this transit slows us down, it also asks us to “reconsider our attitudes, beliefs, and plans. It’s a good time to return to things you’ve lost track of and spend time in contemplation and reflection,” Lanyadoo said. What you discover about yourself in the process might feel so valuable that it’s worth whatever social blunders it took to get you there.
So next time you send the wrong email or trip over an embarrassing Freudian slip in front of your crush, use the moment as a sign to press pause and consider. How are your ideas or beliefs yearning to express themselves? Do you need to take a second to re-evaluate them? If you approach Mercury Retrograde from this point of view, there’s nothing you won’t be able to handle. And who knows, maybe you’ll thank the stars for their mischief-making by the time Mercury stations direct. Or, at the very least, make peace with them.