Real talk, what does Mercury Retrograde even mean?

You don’t have to believe in astrology to feel it happening.

words by: Kayla Carmicheal
Oct 5, 2022

Picture this: Your internet, after running flawlessly for months, suddenly doesn’t want to connect. Your phone charger is acting up. Later, you run a red light, or the train gets delayed for what seems like hours. Your significant other is just not understanding you, or your best friend is getting on your nerves. A hard week, right?


That’s Mercury Retrograde. So let’s talk about it.


What is retrograde?

I’m not saying that astrology is something you have to believe in. (BTW, it’s not a religion, it’s an observation, so…). It’s the study of patterns in the sky. Basically, when the planets align a certain way, certain things happen. Like clockwork. And that, friends, is astrology.


We’ve been hearing on and off for the past couple of years that when something is going wrong, it must be because Mercury is in retrograde. It’s almost like a punchline. And honestly, this conclusion isn’t far off. Mercury is the planet of, among other things, transportation and communication. Mercury is known in Greek as Hermes — the god of translators and commerce. Makes sense, right?


So when planets are direct, they’re happily orbiting around the sun as normal. Planetary interactions more finely reflect what’s happening here on Earth, but for the most part, it’s business as usual. But sometimes planets, seem to travel backwards. This is called retrograde, and where disruption occurs. For Mercury, that means with communication and travel. Maybe education, or with family members.


This time of poorly executed emails, frustration over work, and confusion with others often lasts for about 3 weeks. Every 88 days, Mercury completes its transit around the sun. Coincidentally, every 88 days or so, Rx happens. In 2022, for example, Mercury was in Rx 3 times: January 13 to February 3, May 10 to June 2, and, much to the dismay of many, September 9 to October 1, with six other planets in retrograde. So, if you had a messy September, some of it was definitely because the planets were not on your side.


Of course, you can’t blame Mercury for everything. But if you find yourself having a particularly tough Rx, or you know one is coming up (again, patterns in the sky — Google the next one), there are things you can do.


What you can do

Most of all, take time out. Most Rxs are going to be frustrating and there’s nothing you can do, so it’s best to be patient and flexible. Communication being out of whack is a primary way we tend to blow up, so take a minute and breathe. Do what you need to do to ground yourself. Re-read everything before you send it. Twice. Make sure flight tickets are booked correctly. Have a backup plan.


And if you can, try not to make any permanent decisions.


Some people are born during Mercury Retrograde. To check, put your birthday into an astrology website. For the most part, I recommend astro-charts because it’s pretty and easy to read. But for this specific aspect, cafeastrology will be your friend. You’ll see a chart with your natal planets, the signs they were in, the degrees, and a capital “R” if that planet was in retrograde. For example, I was born during Mercury Retrograde in Aries.


For those like me, communication with others is always pretty difficult. We have our own ways of doing so, and it’s tough to do that clearly. It’s easy to feel misunderstood, but there’s a silver lining: When Mercury is in Rx, those who were born during this time don’t experience much of a difference. While others may be living in chaos, those of us who are used to this are just that: Used to it. And actually, we tend to thrive, because we can get our point across the best during this time. Plus, people with this aspect tend to be creatives and intense thinkers.


So, bottom line: Mercury in Rx isn’t great. Most planets in Rx aren’t, but that’s life. Depending on when you’re reading this, the next period will begin December 28, 2022 and last until January 18, 2023.


Remember: Keep calm, avoid travel unless necessary, and go with the flow.


You might be able to see Mercury up close and personal soon if you’re in the right tax bracket.


Photo via Getty/Adobe, Design via Sasha Purdy/Stylecaster