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Mercury Retrograde? What Does That Mean?

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Mercury Retrograde? What Does That Mean?

If you have friends who reference astrology, but don’t follow it much yourself, you may have heard people complaining about, or dreading, something called Mercury retrograde. But what is it?

Here’s a list of all of the periods of Mercury retrograde for 2019:


  • March 5–March 28
    July 8– August 1
    October 31 – November 20

What does Mercury Retrograde mean?

The term retrograde comes from the Latin word retrogradus, which literally means “backward step.”

(Continued Below)

As the name suggests, retrograde is when a planet appears to go backward in its orbit, as viewed from Earth. Astronomers refer to this as “apparent retrograde motion,” because it is an optical illusion. The opposite of retrograde is direct or prograde motion. Prograde motion is the term astronomers prefer, while astrologers are more prone to use the term “direct” motion.

Backwards Motion?

Every planet in our Solar System travels in the same direction in its journey around the Sun, and none of them ever pause and turn back in the opposite direction. Yet, all of them appear to do just that from time to time.

Because of the Earth’s daily rotation, the objects in the night sky appear to move from east to west through the night sky. While the location of the stars relative to the Earth is fixed, at least from our vantage point, the other planets in our Solar System all orbit the Sun at varying speeds. The outer planets — Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune — all take longer to orbit the Sun than the Earth does, because their orbits are larger. Because of this, the Earth often laps these planets in its journey around the Sun. When the Earth overtakes an outer planet, that planet appears to travel backward, as compared to the stars, for a time. 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 backward from the perspective of a person in the faster car, even though the slower car is still going pretty fast in the same direction.

For the inner planets, Mercury and Venus, the mechanism that causes them to turn retrograde is the same, but in reverse. Mercury and Venus appear to go retrograde when they lap us.

Because Mercury completes its orbit around the Sun in only 88 days, the Swift Planet becomes retrograde three or four times in a calendar year, for about three weeks at a time. Outer planets have less frequent, but longer lasting, periods of retrograde motion.

Why Dread It?

So what does all of that have to do with people wanting to hide in their rooms for weeks at a time?

Astrologers believe that the Moon, stars, planets, and Sun affect happenings here on Earth, and that each planet in our Solar System rules a different aspect of life. Like the Greek messenger god it was named for, Mercury is said to govern transportation and communication.

Those who dread Mercury’s retrograde motion say that, when the planet travels backward, its power to positively influence these domains is stifled, leading to chaos. Believers in the malevolent power of Mercury retrograde blame the phenomenon for everything from arguments to lost mail or luggage to automobile accidents, and warn people to hold back on conducting important business during this time.

Of course, few of us can afford to hide under our beds for three weeks, so for most people, life goes on as usual during Mercury retrograde. And if you choose to be more cautious during this time, well, a little extra caution never hurt anyone.

Have you ever had a negative experience you think is the fault of Mercury’s retrograde motion? Share it below!

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1 onalee { 04.30.16 at 1:11 am }

Can dreadful things start a few days before? Lost things all day Sunday, Monday not well, Tuesday electrical problems, Wednesday no house water for 12 hours, Thursday, computer crashed in morning and lost cell power which made it cause no incoming or outgoing texts for 20 hours, Oh yeah, at 2:15am, got a text telling me the problem was taken care of and all of the text from the day came flooding in. Lucky me. Friday, I was on the phone 3 times to get my computer running. Last time was on the cell for 3 hrs and it costs $80 to get a post warranty program. I couldn’t hide from it if I tried. Lord give me strength

2 Alice { 04.29.16 at 9:31 am }

Somebody ate my leftover Red Lobster shrimp, obviously there is a connection!

3 Patricia { 01.22.16 at 12:10 am }

I definitely believe that Mercury Retrograde has some kind of influence over transportation issues. I have had nothing but car problems ever since this Mercury Retrograde. I bought a new battery, and I took it to Auto Zone. The car still did not start up again, so I then took it to O’Ryeleys, and they explained that it also has a weak alternator. I went and got that fixed. The next morning I tried to start my car and it would not turn over. Even the alternator and new battery still has not fixed the problem. I am just going to wait a few weeks and take it from there. It is the Mercury Retrograde!

4 Kelly { 05.26.15 at 9:54 pm }

Yes. I totally believe this is the cause of my string of bad luck with my vehicle. First, tire got dry rot even though I drive on it all the time. Then a chip in my window which has been there for over a year through a summer and a harsh winter, now started to splinter…then I received a speeding ticket after 18 years of safe driving. So yes, Mercury has affected me in so many ways

5 Angela { 02.03.15 at 8:15 pm }

My computer and tv both died and my husband and I have been fighting all week. There have also been communication mix ups between myself and a couple others. I attribute all of this to Mercury retrograde.

6 Cynthia link { 02.02.15 at 7:55 pm }

This makes sense work is crazy me and my husband had arguments i told him to leave , had tension headaches all last week

7 Elaine { 02.02.15 at 8:09 am }

What were the dates of Mercury Retrograde in 2014? It was a tough year to say the least. I’d be interested to see if some of the events were during these times of retrograde.

8 Cathy { 02.01.15 at 7:49 pm }

That explains why New Years’ resolutions last about 3 weeks!

9 Cathryn Dennis { 02.01.15 at 6:19 pm }

Like many elements of astrology, a Mercury Retrograde has an undeserved bad reputation. While it’s true that the typical things Mercury is said to influence (communication, technology, travel) tend to go a little wonky, it’s because a Mercury Retrograde is a time for “re” activities – redoing, revisiting, editing, remembering, etc – not because it’s a malevolent influence. For example, it’s not a good time for signing contracts, but it’s a great time for going over contracts and ensuring that they written correctly. It’s akin to the Moon in certain signs being favorable times for growing and in other signs a favorable time for pruning. Same thing.

10 Vicky G. { 01.23.15 at 8:50 pm }

Mercury retrograde. Gotta love it – waking you up at 3am because your carbon monoxide detector kept going off. No worries! After digging out and trying 6 brand new batteries we finally found 3 that quieted it down. P. S. I put in fresh batteries at daylight savings time. And later in the day we bought two new detectors.

11 Mary { 10.02.14 at 4:32 pm }

The best way I’ve found to deal with Mercury in retrograde is to put a bag over your head and pretend you’re some place else. That’s a mini vacation. Just make sure its a paper bag!

12 Lueann Cullen { 10.01.14 at 10:21 am }

I rember reading about the Titanic and the election when All Gore lost. Both were in retrograde.

13 Sun moon stars { 02.25.14 at 12:09 am }

For as long as I can remember my mom and grandma have said be careful, Mercury is about to go retrograde. And until I became a truly open minded adult did I understand what that meant. Boy does the fit seem to hit the shan! I try not to make any important decisions, nor do I push for important things to be completed. I also notice people seem to lose their minds! I still have to live and let live, however I try hard to do it carefully and quietly! Easier said than done usually. I also realize that “bad” things that happen can be changed for the better when it goes direct.

14 Blueviolet { 11.06.13 at 7:15 pm }

I”m a virgo HELP.

15 Walter { 10.30.13 at 9:08 am }

This is very enlighting to say the least.

16 kennak { 10.28.13 at 8:44 pm }

I like the part where you explained the phenomenon of two cars passing on a highway. the one being passed appearing to be going backwards. I knew what going retrograde meant but did not know it was an optical illusion. all along I know the planet actually went backwards. thank you for this article, it’s such an eye opener

17 Chelsea { 10.25.13 at 9:27 am }

Wow. That might explain a bit of our recent misfortunes- my fiance was hospitalized with pulmonary embolism, we had to cancel our original wedding day and reception, he was released for light duty at work but work doesn’t do light duty so we lost our income until he’s back to normal, the speedometer needle fell off my van, we can’t afford the rent, or the repair on the van… Not sure I can take another 2 weeks of this though 🙁

18 Elana { 10.25.13 at 9:06 am }

Thank you for not coming at this as a skeptic, and just explained what it means.

19 Michael Cleland { 10.24.13 at 10:04 am }

Mercury Retro grade is also a good time to make up with past friends that we have fought with.

20 Janet groves { 10.24.13 at 9:59 am }

im blameing the cardnals loseing last night on Mercury retrograde ! lol

21 N Crowell { 10.23.13 at 10:14 pm }

Thank You for the article – I now feel validated! I have been aware of the effects of Mercruy R for many years – especially paperwork issues creating delays …it’s good to triple check and check again during Mercury R. (I use the knowledge effectively at work, though I can’t really talk about it, because I get the crazy looks – I just find the mistakes and correct the problems as much as possible.)

22 Christina { 10.23.13 at 5:05 pm }

Thank you very much for explaining this. I have always heard people talk about “Mercury in retrograde” but I never knew what they meant exactly.

23 Marilyn J { 10.23.13 at 10:07 am }

Jaime, great explanation of retrograde! I learned a lot from your article.
thank you!

24 Ken { 10.23.13 at 9:00 am }

I remember a friend who use to be a regretionist told me about Mercury moving excessively in its retrograde and warned me by saying Uranus might heat up. Crazy ole coot.

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