What is Mercury Retrograde?

March 27, 2024
IONS Communications Team

Have you heard someone curse the smallest planet in our solar system when things don’t go as planned? While there is not a large body of scientifically validated research on astrology, over millennia people across the globe have used the movements of the cosmos to inform their lives. In this article, we’ll review what Mercury retrograde means.

According to practitioners, each planet rules a different area of our lives. Mercury is the planet closest to the sun in our solar system. In Roman mythology, it’s the winged messenger, symbolizing our intellect. 

That’s why, in astrology, Mercury is responsible for communication and travel. Communication relies heavily on the intellect. Mercury’s association with traveling comes from its core meaning: that of being a conveyor of information or people (as in transportation).

What does retrograde imply?

Retrograde happens when a planet appears to go backward in its orbit due to its relative motion vs. the Earth. All planets go retrograde from time to time. This is an optical illusion that occurs more or less frequently depending on the planet’s orbit around the sun. 

An analogy is if you’re driving on a highway and passing a slower-moving car in a parallel lane. Even though you’re both going in the same direction, the car’s relative motion to you will be backward.

In astronomical terms, it’s called “apparent retrograde motion,” which is a more accurate term. In astrology and everyday lingo, it’s shortened to “retrograde.”

Because Mercury has a shorter orbit around the sun than Earth – it only requires 88 days to go around the sun – Mercury goes retrograde three to four times per year. Each retrograde lasts for about three weeks. 

Astrological practitioners contend that retrograde often imposes challenges. Think about it like swimming against the stream instead of being carried by it. 

What happens during Mercury retrograde?

Maybe you’ve experienced things like a flight getting canceled, arriving at the hotel and finding out they don’t have your reservation, or scheduling lunch with a friend – only to have them show up at the wrong restaurant. Those who use astrology in their lives would say that chances are those events took place during a Mercury retrograde. From that perspective, since Mercury rules communication and travel, these areas can be negatively affected by its retrograde. 

In recent years, Facebook and Instagram – some of the world’s biggest networks for communication – have glitched at repeated occasions during Mercury retrograde. Coincidence or cosmic interference? We leave that for you to judge.

Some people use Mercury retrograde as a scapegoat for things going wrong in their lives. There’s even a website – – that reveals whether you can blame this small, fast-moving planet for your current mishaps. 

Jokes aside, it’s important to notice that practitioners often say that astrological events are, in essence, neutral. While Mercury retrograde can cause challenges (see below), its energies favor introspection. Where have you been moving a little too fast in life lately? What’s something you need to communicate that you have avoided? Those are great questions to ponder during Mercury retrograde.  

To add to the complexity, they say that how you will be affected by this planet’s retrograde depends on your natal astrological chart. The zodiac sign in which the retrograde takes place also adds a unique flavor, making each period of backward motion slightly different. 

Mercury retrograde and relationship

Since communication is at the heart of relationships – people often also say that Mercury retrograde can affect relationships. But this is also a golden opportunity to resolve any lingering communication issues. For example, if you’re in a romantic relationship, you may have a very direct communication style while your partner speaks in roundabout terms, subtly hinting at what they want.

Mercury retrograde can be the magnifying lens that helps you see your differences clearly and learn how to communicate in a way that both partners understand. That will help strengthen the relationship and create a heightened sense of connection.

What to avoid during Mercury retrograde

Astrological practitioners suggest avoiding making major life decisions during Mercury retrograde. Likewise, it’s best not to sign any contracts – for example, for a new home – since the risk of misunderstandings and errors is heightened. 

You should also take precautions when traveling. If you have a flight to catch, consider leaving for the airport an hour earlier than you usually would. 

Do the planets really affect us? 

It is widely known that the moon affects the tides on Earth. And since we’re made of 70% water, it makes sense that we’re affected, too.  

Skeptics argue that the fundamental laws of physics, such as gravity, would be too weak for the planets to impact us. Astrologers believe the force by which stellar objects affect us lies outside of the standard model of physics – rather, it’s noetic in nature. 

You can read more in our article on astrology published a while back. 

Mercury retrograde 2024: Dates

So, what are the dates this year during which we can blame the cosmos for everything that goes wrong?

We actually started 2024 at the tail end of a Mercury retrograde (which ended on January 1). 

This cosmic event happens three more times this year.

  • April 1, 2024, to April 24, 2024
  • Aug. 5, 2024, to Aug. 27, 2024
  • Nov. 25, 2024, to Dec. 15, 2024

Moving forward during Mercury retrograde

People say that Mercury retrograde can disturb communication and mess up travel plans. It’s the perfect time to go within and reassess what may be out of balance in your life. 

Many suggest that it’s key to remember that you ultimately have the power of your life and your reality. The planetary motions can either work as conveyor belts helping you gain momentum or headwinds slowing down your endeavors. That’s why so many people are drawn to astrology: it helps us better navigate our life experiences. 

Something to keep in mind the next time you’re tempted to argue with our tiny cosmic neighbor.

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