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This Year’s Mercury Retrograde

Is Mercury Retrograde?
Mercury is now direct (moving backwards), not retrograde.

Most Recent Mercury Retrograde period:
December 12, 2023 to January 1, 2024
From 8º Capricorn to 22º Sagittarius

Upcoming Mercury Retrograde period:
April 1, 2024 to April 25, 2024
From 15º to 27º Aries

You’ve probably heard about Mercury Retrograde, the celestial event most discussed by the astrological layman. But what exactly happens when Mercury goes retrograde, and does it deserve its controversial reputation?

When Mercury, god of communications, connections, intellect and ideas goes retrograde, it marks a period of tangles and confusion. But this period can also be a fruitful time to reorient and reflect, if you know how to handle it.

What is Mercury Retrograde?

Mercury goes retrograde in our skies about three times a year. When it does, it marks a three week long period of rest, reflection, and reorganization. These periods call into question our habitual ways of communicating, rushing around our daily activities, and our way of thinking.

Mercury Retrograde periods are usually marked by snarl-ups in communication and breakdowns of communications and office equipment, as well as networks of all kinds.  When Mercury is retrograde, there’s an excellent chance that letters and packages will be lost in the mail and information will be delayed. This could leave our projects and lives in disorder. 

How Long Does It Last?

The Mercury retrograde period lasts roughly 3 weeks. It’s part of a grand Mercury cycle that lasts about 6 months. The Mercury Retrograde cycle of December 2023 –January 2024 lasts for 19 weeks.

How Can I Use Mercury’s Retrograde Cycle To My Advantage?

Astrologers look at the position of Mercury to analyze the current mental chemistry of human beings.  Mercury tells us about how the day-to-day details of life will be handled. Additionally, it tells us how communications will proceed and how office relations will go.  When Mercury is “direct” (moving forward) and fast, such things proceed swiftly with few obstacles.  Mercury is direct and fast for most of its cycle.

When Mercury is “retrograde” it’s moving more slowly. On one hand, Mercury’s direct periods are best used for forward motion and starting new projects. On the other, Mercury’s retrograde periods are best used for contemplation, research and cleaning up old projects.

Let’s get deeper into how to plan for Mercury Retrograde and how to adapt to its demands.

1) Allow More Time For Everything.

Mercury is the god of mental activity, machinery, communication technology, everyday logistics, and commuting and travel. When it goes retrograde, technology breaks down, messages get lost, plans are derailed, trains are delayed, tires are flattened, and files are lost.  In fact, we tend to experience so many interruptions that our train of thought is entirely derailed and we can’t seem to get anything done.

It’s best to plan for this period of interruptions, misunderstandings, trouble focusing, and mechanical and logistical errors by padding your schedule thoroughly. Allow more time than you think you need for everything you have to do.  If there are things you need to accomplish and deadlines you must meet, be prepared. You may have to have to do things twice, perhaps even three times, to achieve your normal efficiency rate.

The best way to be fully prepared for Mercury Retrograde is to plan ahead. Meet your current deadlines and be as finished as possible with current projects before Mercury goes retrograde.

2) Be Extra Careful In Your Communications

Mercury is the god of communication. Therefore, when it is retrograde, we notice that our words are received in a way that is different from how they were intended.  Our words can be spoken hastily, and are subject to misinterpretation and mishearing. On the other hand, we may be so introverted with our thinking that we fail to communicate thoroughly and clearly.

Double check dates, details, and plans. Ask for clarification when discussing anything, but especially logistics and schedules. When speaking and listening, pay attention to tone. Try to conduct important conversations in person. Better yet, delay extremely important conversations that require great depth and nuance until Mercury is direct and moving at a decent clip.

Mercury Retrogrades can be wonderful times for righting communication gaffes, clearing old misunderstandings and going back to fix something that was already broken before this period began. All these things work best when you curb your irritation, maintain patience and express yourself with warmth and sympathy. Relating to people by focusing on their good intentions instead of their failures will help everyone get through it more smoothly.

3) Ditch The Productivity Mindset

Mercury’s retrograde cycle is often experienced as a frustrating time. That’s because our modern society has a bias that things should always progress forward without a halt.  When Mercury is retrograde, it is moving in apparent backward motion. Likewise, regardless of our notions of how things should  be, life is actually lived in cycles of work and rest.

Rather than trying to finish current projects during a Mercury retrograde period, it’s better to go back and pick up the pieces of something old.  People frequently find to their surprise that some long-shelved project gets finished effortlessly during this time, blithely shoving more current projects aside.

Use this time as a period of introspection and reflection. It’s a great time to clean out closets, both of physical and metaphorical kind. In fact, doing so literally can be a very powerful exercise, so go ahead and clean that desk, closet, garage, basement or attic. Who knows? You might be surprised what you uncover and how much peace of mind results from the order you create.

What If I Just Can’t Plan Around Mercury Retrograde?

Unfortunately, many people work in a business where it is impossible to avoid deadlines. We can’t all contemplate our navels for a significant amount of time. Therefore, we may just have to accept that the business we are in goes against the celestial tide and requires us to barrel ahead. All despite Mother Nature’s message to “relax, people!” 

In that case we will find ourselves largely dealing with the usual Mercury retrograde annoyances. For example, broken fax machine, lost messages, poor cell phone service or any unexpected delays and miscommunications which force us to slow down. 

At best, we can enter retrograde periods with the awareness that nature is forcing us all to slow down. Thats the key to avoiding emotional reactivity and taking it personally.

It’s not that we (or others around us) are inefficient or incompetent. It’s just that we are all trying to have a picnic in a rainstorm. However, it makes no sense to complain that it’s raining—it just is.  Maybe it’s better to stay inside, but if you can’t, the least you can do is bring an umbrella.

What if I Have Mercury Retrograde in my Natal Chart?

Interestingly, a Mercury Retrograde period is usually enjoyable to people who have Mercury retrograde in their natal chart to begin with.  That’s because such people naturally prefer a slower pace. Similarly, they’ve already learned to field a wide variety of constant interruptions from their lifetime of experience with them.

If you are one of these natives, Mercury’s retrograde period can mark a time when the world is finally on your wavelength. And it can feel great!

The Most Recent December 2023 – January 2024 Mercury Retrograde Cycle:

Most recently, Mercury turned retrograde at 8º of Capricorn on December 12, 2023 and travels backwards to 22º Sagittarius, turning direct on January 1, 2024. This brought up communication, contractual, and logistical issues which will not fully resolve until January 20, 2023, when Mercury once again turned direct and passed the degree of Virgo where it first turned retrograde. Since that day, Mercury has been fully sped up and back in normal functioning mode.

Mercury traveled retrograde from 22º of Sagittarius to 8º of Capricorn, so if you have anything at all in your chart between 8º of Capricorn to 22º of Sagittarius, you felt this transit strongly. And if you have anything in your chart in the same degree span of the other Cardinal signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra), you also felt this strongly.

Read more about the Mercury Retrograde in Capricorn and Sagittarius of December 2023 and January 2024 here.

Understanding the Mercury cycle can help you in all
of your business and contractual dealings,
as well as finding time for introspection and soul searching.

To learn how Mercury functions in your chart
and how to use the retrograde cycle to your advantage,
 contact Pandora Astrology for a
Natal and Transits Reading.

Upcoming Mercury Retrogrades of 2024 in Fire Signs:

Each Mercury retrograde period has a theme based on the sign or signs Mercury is moving through at the time.  In 2024, all Mercury Retrograde cycles occur in the Fire signs. This bestows a general focus on faith, optimism, and action. Mercury in the Fire signs is subjective, enthusiastic, theatrical, and impulsive. It is charismatic and persuasive, but can mistake opinion for fact and put its foot in its mouth. Furthermore, it is charming in conversation, sometimes somewhat aggressive in conversation.

The retrogrades of Mercury through the Fire signs will teach us about thinking before we speak, how to convey enthusiasm and positivity honestly and accurately, and how to actually communicate and turn ideas into actions.

Mercury Retrograde in Aries, April 2024Mercury Retrograde in Virgo and Leo, August 2024Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius, November and December 2024

Click each diagram to read more about the upcoming Mercury Retrogrades of 2024:

April 2024’s Mercury Retrograde in Aries
August 2024’s Mercury Retrograde in Virgo and Leo
November and December 2024’s Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius

The Mercury Cycle and Its Milestones

As shown in each diagram above, Mercury begins its cycle direct. It enters the Mercury retrograde period (shown by the red part of the line) in the few days before it makes the actual pivot. Mercury moves so slowly as it changes direction that those additional days might as well be considered part of the retrograde. The period when a planet is in the process of reversing direction is called a “station”. By the end of the cycle, Mercury is direct again and moving fast.

The entirety of Mercury’s cycle lasts about 4 months. Meanwhile, the retrograde part of the cycle lasts only 3 weeks.  Naturally, this means Mercury goes through this cycle 3 times a year.

Here are the (detailed!) stages of Mercury’s Retrograde Cycle:

1) Mercury Direct and moving fast:  Efficiency is high

Mercury is moving forward at a swift pace.  This helps us to handle details smoothly and stay organized.  It’s a great time for meeting deadlines, planning long-term projects and generally getting a lot done. Enjoy the easy ride by getting as much done as you can. Meet every deadline as efficiently as possible and staying organized as you go.

Mercury direct usually lasts for about 2 to 2-and-a-half months—more than half of Mercury’s total cycle. No wonder we feel this is how it should be!

2) Greater Epiphany Day—A day of illumination

At some point along Mercury’s headlong scamper, it catches up to the Sun.  The day this happens is a day of illumination.  It’s a day when breakthroughs are possible, new understandings emerge, and mental clarity is at its height.  I call it “Greater Epiphany Day”. This is like a natural peak on a wave.  Therefore, the weeks leading up to it are a great time to push into that day of natural epiphany.

Surf this wave and take advantage of its rhythm by setting up your current projects so that the peak in mental clarity will be advantageous and well-timed for you.  Schedule your most difficult and detailed work for the weeks leading up to Epiphany Day. Plan to spend the drop-off period after it responding to the events that happen around that peak.

3) After Epiphany Day, Mercury still direct:  Post-peak and gearing down

Right after Epiphany Day is past, Mercury is still direct and moving fast. Efficiency will still be high.  You can continue setting and meeting deadlines, requesting rush jobs and generally getting lots done. Finish projects here and celebrate your achievements.

However, about a week before the retrograde day, Mercury begins to slow down—and you should too.  Start winding things down to prepare for the fallow Mercury retrograde period that’s coming. Expect less of yourself and others. Similarly, don’t take on more than you could handle if the lines got clogged. Any loose ends you tie up here will not return to bite you when Mercury goes retrograde.

It’s ok to start thinking about future projects you might work on after the current ones are complete. However, don’t set goals yet.  The Mercury retrograde period will be the perfect time for ruminating and meditating on those future projects. Even moreso if you go into it with an already-clean slate.

4) Mercury turns retrograde:  Look backward instead of forward; clear the old instead of initiating the new

The day Mercury stations retrograde is a day of “getting it.” We realize that we’ve been moving too fast and skipping over important details. We realize that we need to slow down. 

It’s a great time to retreat into your shell, reexamine yourself, your life and your values.  It’s also a great time to clear up old messy communications between yourself and others, so be prepared. As it happens, people in your life who need to do that with you may present themselves.

Mercury retrograde happens only three times a year, so pull out some large garbage bags and get ready to move a mountain or two.  Imagine how sleek and streamlined your life will be after this purge.

5) Lesser Epiphany Day–A Day of Insight

For every time Mercury goes retrograde, it will also meet the Sun and conjunct it.  The day this happens will be a peak of epiphany during the retrograde.  Let your mind build up to it slowly and intuitively. As a result, you may find that on this day an idea occurs to you which solves the greater problem you’ve been ruminating on for weeks, or even months.

Alternatively, it may be a day when you connect with or meet exactly the right person to help you solve that problem.  Look for this kind of epiphany or connection anytime in the 5 days surrounding Lesser Epiphany Day.

6) Mercury’s retrograde period ends, Mercury turns direct

The day Mercury stations direct again—along with the few days leading up to it—is characterized by a sense of urgency. We will want to finish up any clearing and cleaning we haven’t done yet. That applies to your conversations as well as your closets.

When Mercury is finally direct, we leave the introspective period behind.  This is your last chance to get the most out of this retrograde period, so take advantage of it while it’s happening!

7) Mercury Direct, speed increasing:  Back to business

It’s back to the workaday world for the human race. Mercury is slowly and gradually putting back together all the pieces mixed up during the last Mercury retrograde period. When Mercury first goes direct, it’s still moving slowly. That means that it’s a good idea to continue avoiding deadlines and contracts at this time.

Once the Mercury retrograde period is well over, Mercury speeds up and it’s “back to business.” At this point, we can set deadlines and begin projects with the healthy expectation of finishing them on time. We can also feel good about signing contracts, as they are less likely to need revising while Mercury is direct.

Within two weeks after Mercury turns direct, it is already moving swiftly. At this point, there are fewer obstacles and we are free to move forward with speed and efficiency.  It’s a ride with great momentum and I suggest you get on it!  You’ll find others are doing it too, and that meetings are easier to run. Mercury’s increasing pace sets a wonderful tone for beginning new 3-month projects.  Now is a great time to initiate, brainstorm, get started on those new ideas you’ve got.

8) Mercury Direct conjuncts the Sun—Greater Epiphany Day again

The last point on the diagram is exactly like the first point. It marks the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. A peak in mental efficiency comes on the day Mercury conjoins the Sun. Therefore, plan to expand on your projects until this peak. Likewise, plan to begin trimming and contracting your projects after this peak, before Mercury’s next retrograde period.

Did the last Mercury Retrograde Affect You?

There’s no doubt you felt this transit in the area of life corresponding with the house Mercury retrograded through, as well as the house it rules in your chart. (That’s something you can reflect on in a reading.) There’s also no doubt that if your Sun is in a degree along Mercury’s recent retrograde path, you felt it too.

Generally speaking, here are the birthdates (in any year at all) that were most affected by the December 2023 to January 2024 Mercury retrograde:

March 13 to 29
June 13 to 30
September 15 to October 1
December 14 to 30

Go Deeper

Read about Mercury Retrograde in the last couple years…

April and May 2023’s Mercury Retrograde in Taurus
August and September 2023’s Mercury Retrograde in Virgo
December 2023 and January 2024’s Mercury Retrograde in Capricorn

December 2022 and January 2023: Mercury Retrograde in Capricorn
September-October 2022: Mercury Retrograde in Libra and Virgo
May-June 2022: Mercury Retrograde in Gemini and Taurus

If you are feeling the current Mercury Retrograde period
and you want to understand its effect on your life,

request a reading on our services page.

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