Mercury is retrograde when from our perspective on Earth it looks to be going backward. Mercury is not actually going backward but its position, in relation to the positions of the Sun and Earth, means that sometimes Mercury seems to be moving in reverse motion.
Mercury retrograde dates for 2023
21 April (15° Taurus 37′) to 14 May 2023 (5° Taurus 50′)
Retrograde shadow period 7 April to 31 May 2023.
23 August (21° Virgo 51′) to 15 September 2023 (8° Virgo 00′)
Retrograde shadow period 3 August to 30 September 2023.
13 December 2023 (08° Capricorn 29′) to 1 January 2024 (28° Sagittarius 10′)
Retrograde shadow period 29 November 2023 to 20 January 2024.
All times Central Time (C.S.T. or C.D.T)
What to expect when Mercury is retrograde
When Mercury is retrograde there is a tendency for mix-ups and delays. This is a time when it is good to go over old ground, to review, re-edit, re-do, re-think, and reorganize. It is a good time to process and go over what has happened in the previous 3 months.
You can get an idea of what to expect personally during a Mercury retrograde period by looking at what natal houses Mercury is retrograding through.
Not sure what signs are in your natal houses? Generate your natal chart now, or if you prefer a more beginner-friendly version you can order your free natal chart instead (may take a few weeks to receive).
Mercury retrograde through the natal houses
The 1st house is associated primarily with ourselves, including physical health, appearance, and personality. If you have Mercury retrograde through your natal 1st house, you may be rethinking your image or how you present yourself to others in some way.
The temptation to makeover your image and appearance in some way is likely to be strong, especially in the second part of the retrograde phase. A better use of the retrograde phase would be to use this time to research and refine what exactly you would like to change and how to go about it.
After Mercury has moved out of its retrograde phase (and maybe the shadow period just to be safe) would be the best time to move forward with any drastic changes.
The 2nd house is associated primarily with our income, finances, and possessions. If you have Mercury retrograde through your natal 2nd house you may be rethinking or re-evaluating your attitude towards these matters.
There is also the potential for mix-ups, delays, and confusion around these topics. Try to ensure that you are being paid correctly and double-check change and receipts when purchasing items. Keeping receipts in case a new purchase is faulty is also a good idea at this time (well any time really, but especially at this time).
Signing contracts may be more prone to errors, delays or glitches, so make sure to double-check important documents. Money you felt sure would arrive on a certain date could be delayed at this time as well.
The 3rd house is associated primarily with communications, short distance travel, siblings and our local neighborhood. If you have Mercury retrograde through your natal 3rd house you are likely to be rethinking or re-evaluating your attitude towards these matters.
You may find that you have problems with your car or other forms of transport. You may also have issues to do with email, computers, and electronics in general. Make sure that any important information or documents are backed-up.
Dealing with siblings and those in your local neighborhood may be prone to mix-ups and confusion during this time. Alternatively, if you rarely see your siblings or your cousins, you may hear or see from them during this period.
The 4th house is associated primarily with our family, especially our parents, along with our home, and real estate in general. If you have Mercury retrograde through your natal 4th house you may be rethinking or re-evaluating your attitude toward these matters.
There may be mix-ups concerning your family, especially communications with your parents. There could be long lost relatives that show up during this time.
Matters to do with your house, particularly selling or buying may be prone to mix-ups and delays. Make sure you understand documentation and the fine print when it comes to all paperwork if you are involved in buying, selling or renting during this period.
The 5th house is associated primarily with our children, romance, hobbies, creativity, socializing, and what we do for fun. If you have Mercury retrograde through your natal 5th house, you may find yourself rethinking or re-evaluating your attitude towards these matters.
This is likely to result in delays with regards to your children or creative projects. This is a good time to go back to creative projects that you want to rework and finish. You may find yourself returning to a hobby or pastime that you enjoy. This is also the house of romance, so you might hear from exes.
The 6th house is associated primarily with our work, daily routines, health and fitness, and our pets. If you have Mercury retrograde through your natal 6th house your may be rethinking or re-evaluating your attitudes on these matters.
In the workplace, you may find that you need to check your work more thoroughly and that miscommunications with coworkers or those that work for you are more frequent. You may see or hear from someone that you used to work with, or who worked for you in some capacity.
You may find that there are mix-ups with medical test results, or callbacks to get retested for something health-related. This is also a good time to research and plan out how to improve your health and fitness going forward. You may also find that a pet can return at this time, or may need some attention for a prior problem.
The 7th house is associated primarily with our partnerships. This includes business and romantic partners, as well as close friends. If you have Mercury retrograde through your natal 7th house your may be rethinking or re-evaluating your attitudes on these matters.
You may find that you hear from ex-partners during this time. There may also be issues relating to communications between you and your partner, whether this is a business or romantic partner.
The 7th house is also the house of open enemies, so it could be that if you have a particular nemesis, that they may come out of the woodwork during this period.
The 8th house is associated primarily with shared finances and resources and death. If you have Mercury retrograde through your natal 8th house your may be rethinking or re-evaluating your attitudes on these matters.
This can cause delays and mix-ups in regards to such matters as inheritances, financial agreements, including divorce settlements, taxation, insurances and loans from financial institutions. There may be a need to double-check paperwork concerning these topics.
The 9th house is associated primarily with our beliefs and expanding our horizons. This includes such matters as overseas travel, religion, philosophy, higher education, publishing, the law, and other countries and cultures. If you have Mercury retrograde through your natal 9th house your may be rethinking or re-evaluating your attitudes on these matters.
This can cause delays and mix-ups concerning travel, especially long-distance travel. As this is the house of higher education, you might hear from people that you knew through college or university. You may also hear from people that you know through religious or philosophical organizations or that live overseas.
The 10th house is associated primarily with our careers and public reputation. If you have Mercury retrograde through your natal 10th house your may be rethinking or re-evaluating your attitudes on these matters.
You may find that you need to double-check your work more thoroughly at this time, as errors are more likely to slip through the cracks. It is also possible that you may hear from those that you use to work with, particularly if they were in a higher position than you.
The 11th house is associated primarily with groups, friends, organizations and your hopes and dreams. If you have Mercury retrograde through your natal 11th house your may be rethinking or re-evaluating your attitudes on these matters.
This may result in you seeing long lost friends and acquaintances. You may find that you run into people that you know from groups and organizations that you may not have seen for a long time, or in completely different surroundings.
This can be a good time to go back and work on some hopes and dreams that you may have started on but didn’t get around to completing.
The 12th house is associated primarily with hidden and secret matters. The 12th is related to hidden illnesses such as mental health or psychological issues that are not necessarily visible to others. If you have Mercury retrograde through your natal 12th house your may be rethinking or re-evaluating your attitudes on these matters.
This is said to be the house of our undoing, so this could be a time when self-defeating issues may come back to trip us up. Addictions, psychological issues or mental health may need to be re-assessing or need addressing during this time.
The 12th house can also be related to spiritual matters, resting, recharging, dreaming and the unconscious. This can also be a time when working behind the scenes can run into issues. If you have spent time in places of confinement or seclusion such as a hospital, prison or spiritual retreat, you might encounter people you know through these places.
How often does it happen?
Mercury is retrograde about 3 times in 13 months. Mercury is retrograde for approximately 22 days each time which means it is retrograde for about 20% of its cycle.
However, the retrograde shadow period means that the fallout from the Mercury retrograde (mix-ups, confusion, delays) may extend to close to 8 weeks at a time.
What causes Mercury to retrograde?
Mercury (and Venus) are closer to the Sun than Earth, and as such, their cycles around the Sun are shorter. Mercury orbits the Sun in about 88 days compared to Earth’s 365.25 days. When Mercury catches up to and passes the Earth, about every 116 days, a retrograde occurs.
As Mercury is so close to the Sun (never more than 28° away) we do not notice Mercury in the sky unless it is at its most eastern or western elongation (distance from the Sun).
When Mercury is at its most eastern elongation it appears as the evening star, just after the Sun sets.
At its most western elongation, Mercury is the morning star, appearing ahead of the rising Sun.
Venus, which is also closer to the Sun than Earth, also appears as either the morning or evening star and has a similar retrograde phase to Mercury.
Mercury stationary points
About a week after reaching its most eastern elongation, Mercury will start to slow down and stop (station). It will then appear to reverse direction (station retrograde) and start moving backward.
As the retrograde phase of Mercury is coming to an end, Mercury will start to slow down and then stop (station). It will then appear to reverse direction (station direct) and start moving in a forward (prograde) direction again. This happens about a week before Mercury reaches its most western elongation.
The period when Mercury is between these two stationary points is considered the retrograde period and usually lasts about three weeks. Mercury will have three retrogrades in 13 months.
Important Phases of the Retrograde Period
Epimethean and Promethean phases
Mercury’s orbit as a whole (not just the retrograde phase) can be divided into two separate sections or phases.
The first phase is the Epimethean phase when Mercury moves from the superior conjunction to the Sun until it reaches the inferior conjunction with the Sun, which occurs during the retrograde phase.
When Mercury moves from the inferior conjunction to the Sun (occurring during the retrograde phase) to the superior conjunction with the Sun is known as the Promethean phase.
From station retrograde to inferior conjunction
The Epimethean retrograde phase lasts from the station retrograde until the inferior conjunction with the Sun and lasts about 11 days. During this time, and especially at the station retrograde point, there can be a real sense of frustration and a need to go with the flow and be adaptable to what delays, distractions or mix-ups occur.
Some of these delays, confusion, and mix-ups may be in effect Mercury trying to get your attention and to focus on these areas of your life. Looking at the natal house that Mercury stations retrograde in is likely to be helpful, as matters to do with this natal house likely need you to take a step back and review what has been happening.
The inferior conjunction of the Sun and retrograde Mercury is a time best spent reflecting on what has been happening rather than trying to achieve or move forward with matters.
New ideas and thoughts generated at this time are likely to be acted on in the next phase.
From inferior conjunction to station direct
The Promethean retrograde phase starts at the inferior conjunction of the Sun and lasts until the station direct, a period of about 11 days. At this stage, there can almost be a tolerance built up to what confusion and mayhem retrograde Mercury may have produced up to this point.
There is likely to be a sense of impatience and wanting to move forward with new ideas and plans. However, it usually works best when a receptive posture is adapted and an ability to open oneself up to take in new thoughts, experiences, and opportunities without actually moving forward as yet.
If like Prometheus, you act too impulsively, or without enough forethought, you might suffer the consequences. If you find that you cannot avoid starting something new or taking on new activities, it helps if you can leave some leeway for flexibility.