We’ve heard the buzzing in the air: Mercury is in retrograde.  But what does that actually mean? Does it really account for all the mishaps, broken objects, break ups and emotional stress?  Are we totally connected to the cosmos? Editor Olivia North examines the true meaning of a Mercury Retrograde.

We were squeezing our way to a table in the back, moving through a group of people, when all of a sudden a glass breaks. I turn around and my friend had knocked over someone else’s beer as she scooted by, and then without thinking I yelled “Mercury is in Retrograde! It’s fine everyone!”  While I have been saying this for the last week, and feeling the truth of it, I realized I don’t fully understand what that statement even means. If you’re in the same boat, don’t worry I got you.

The word “retrograde” suggest backwards motion, but planets in retrograde only appear as if they are moving backwards when viewed from the Earth. This is in fact an optical illusion, as planets can never truly move backwards.  What is really happening, is that the planets are lapping us in their rotations around the sun and they appear to be going backwards. Here is a great analogy from Farmer’s Almanac:

“Picture two cars on the highway going in the same direction in different lanes. If one car is driving faster than the other, the slower car will appear to go backwards from the perspective of a person in the faster car, even though the slower car is still going pretty fast in the same direction”

Outer planets (Mars and onwards) go retrograde when Earth laps them, making their retrograde periods longer and few and far between. In the case of Mercury, it is closer to the sun, so it is the faster car.  It becomes retrograde when it laps us, which is about 3-4 times per year, and each retrograde period lasts about 3 weeks. All retrogrades are believed by astrologers to affect us on many levels, each with a different emphasis. 

Pop culture astrologists often refer to the time of Mercury Retrograde as a “total communication breakdown” as Mercury rules communication and transportation, and retrograde will negatively affect this. This can affect the workplace, politics, romantic relationships, friendships and family. We may see car accidents, political mishaps, break ups, fights between friends and family members, lost luggage, missed flights, silly work errors.  The best advice given is to stay away from any big decisions, lay low in relationships and try to let the miscommunications roll off your shoulders, put off any big projects or travels until the end of retrograde if possible. Luckily, the period after retrograde is said to bring abundance and clarity, and is a great time to start new projects and relationships. This particular mercury retrograde started July 7 and ends August 2, so you should be noticing more shifts in energy at the end of the month.  

The concept of Mercury retrograde has become a widely used concept for explaining errors and frustrations, but I do often hear about other planets in retrograde.  Perhaps this is because Mercury is in retrograde most often, or maybe because it is the shortest retrograde, the easiest to pass through and say “phew! We made it out the other side!”.  After some research, I discovered that we are currently in other retrogrades, and have more to look forward to this year:

  • Jupiter Retrograde (April 10-August 11): Intense spiritual and philosophical growth on a personal level, growing pains and slight discomfort in self

  • Saturn Retrograde (April 29-September 18): A time when karmic debts are sorted out, rewards for those who put in effort while the planet was direct. 

  • Neptune Retrograde (June 21-November 27): While Neptune direct allow us to hide our anxieties in other realities, retrograde strips these illusions away, getting to the core of everything.

  • Pluto Retrograde (April 24-October 2): Pluto drops you into your dark, shadow self.  Retrograde allows us to be in the subconscious and confront issues of death, abuse, violence and boundaries.

  • Uranus Retrograde (August 11-January 11, 2020): Uranus pushes our boundaries, it asks us to thrive or die. Push past your comforts or rot in the familiarity.  

As you can see, we are in the midst of many retrogrades, so it makes sense that this current time of sweltering hot summer is intense for many of us. Mercury retrogrades do appear to fuck the most shit up in our lives, so it is helpful to be aware of this energy.  Overall, the planets are constantly shifting and changing and those who are sensitive will feel all of this. It is important to not get caught up on one astrological event, but rather to stay open to all the information in our galaxy, and remain gentle with your growing self. 

Good luck out there babes!

There are many great resources on retrogrades, including:




words by @olivianorthstar

photo by @mysticmamma