What Actually Is Mercury Retrograde? (Plus 2024 Dates To Watch For)
You drop your coffee on the way to work, your phone starts acting up, or you miss your train—one too many inconveniences like these always have me wondering if Mercury is in retrograde, which is happening four times this calendar year.
Retrograde motion happens when a celestial body appears, from our vantage point on Earth, to move backwards in the sky. It’s an optical illusion, explains Kirah Tabourn, an astrologer and host of The Strology Show podcast. “It’s important to know that the planet isn’t actually going backward,” Tabourn tells The Good Trade. “All planets retrograde at some point in their cycle as seen from the Earth.”
Mercury retrogrades more than other planets because of its short year—it takes just 88 Earth days for Mercury to orbit the sun once. That means that three or four times a year, the planet appears to move backward in the sky, entering a retrograde motion that lasts for around three weeks each.
According to astrology, each celestial body influences a different aspect of our lives. Venus, for example, rules over beauty and passion, and the moon governs our emotions and our inner world. Mercury is the planet representing communication, reasoning, transportation, and technology, so when she enters retrograde, we tend to feel it acutely in our busy world that’s centered around communication and tech. These kinds of issues might look like delayed flights, a broken appliance, or a text from an ex.
What Mercury In Retrograde Might Mean For You
While Mercury retrograde gets a bad rap for causing technical mishaps, travel delays, and miscommunications, it’s not all crummy. Mercury entering retrograde is much like the weather shifting—not good, not bad, but a neutral, essential part of life on Earth. We tend to move full steam ahead so often that when Mercury retrogrades and encourages certain parts of life to slow down, it can actually have some positive effects.
Mercury entering retrograde is much like the weather shifting—not good, not bad, but a neutral, essential part of life on Earth.
“Retrogrades are regular invitations to slow down and reassess where you are in particular areas of life,” says Tabourn. “[They] can be immensely healing and times of recentering or recalibration,” she says, adding that decluttering our spaces (physical, mental, and digital) can help us during the recentering process that a retrograde invites in.
Maybe you take this time to do some retrograde motion yourself. Revisit an old project you put on the back burner, reach out to an old friend, or rediscover a book or movie you used to really love. It also might be a great time to do some inner reflecting by meditating or journaling.
And when you’re prepared to slow it down a bit, this period’s mishaps might become easier to handle. If someone from your past reaches out, consider how it makes you feel. If your train is delayed or you’re in the worst traffic jam of your life, you’ll be forced to exercise patience. If you misplace an important email or document, you’ll learn from your mistake next time. Mishaps happen all the time for loads of different reasons—that’s life.
When Mercury is in retrograde this spring from April 1 to 25 in Aries, those with placements in Aries might feel the retrograde’s effects most keenly. Likewise, the retrograde late last year in Sagittarius might’ve affected Sagittarius placements more than others. Mercury also rules over Gemini and Virgo, too, so folks with placements in those signs might always feel Mercury retrograde periods more strongly.
When Is Mercury In Retrograde In 2024?
Before and after each official three-week-ish Mercury retrograde times are the retroshade periods, also called the retrograde shadow periods, during which the planet isn’t yet moving backward but is moving slower than usual. This is why you might have retrograde-like experiences before or after the planet is totally in retrograde.
Here is every Mercury retrograde period in 2024, along with its pre-shadow and postshadow dates:
December 13, 2023 – January 1, 2024
Mercury retrograde was in Sagittarius late last year and moves into Capricorn, carrying over into the new year. The preshadow began November 25 and the postshadow ends January 22.
April 1 – April 25, 2024
This spring, Mercury retrograde will be in Aries. The preshadow begins March 18, and the postshadow will end May 13.
August 5 – August 28, 2024
Late this summer, Mercury retrograde will be in Virgo. The preshadow begins July 15, and the postshadow ends on September 12.
November 26 – December 15, 2024
Towards the end of this year, Mercury retrograde will be in Sagittarius. The preshadow begins November 7, and the postshadow ends December 31.
Natalie Gale is a Boston-based freelance journalist. When she’s not writing about art, food, or sustainability, you can find her biking to the farmers’ market, baking, sewing, or planning her next Halloween costume. Say hi on Instagram!