What's the actual meaning of Mercury in retrograde? Here's everything you need to know

From the myths to the science and everything in between

Woman silhouette behind sunrise meant to symbolize the meaning of mercury in retrograde
(Image credit: Future)

So, what exactly is the meaning of Mercury in retrograde? Is the notorious planet as frightening as we've imagined it to be?

Now that Mercury retrograde 2022 is underway, everyone is expecting their lives to go haywire. But how does this trouble maker actually impact us?

For the astrology newcomers, Mercury is known as the messenger that is responsible for communication and travel. When it is moving in a backwards motion, known as retrograde, that's when things tend to get a little shaky...or so we believe.

We're quick to blame any and all inconveniences on the planet, but perhaps we should examine the phenomenon from a new point of view. Let's orbit around Mercury retrograde, shall we? 

(If this notion makes you a bit stressed, stock up on candles, crystals and tea—perfect gifts astrology fans love.)

What does Mercury in retrograde mean?

Allow us to take you back in time: the ancient Babylonians began using the skies to help them predict seasons and events. Back then, astrology and astronomy were more or less the same thing. In the 4th century BC, the likes of Plato and Aristotle made the practice of astrology much more common and began connecting it to real-life situations.

In Roman myths, Mercury was the god of commerce, cheats and thieves. He was supposed to govern the circulation of people and goods, but he was also often accused of pulling pranks. 

As for the science behind it all, when a planet is in retrograde motion, it appears that it is orbiting in an opposite direction to other bodies within its system, as observed from a particular vantage point. This illusion is brought on by the fact that Mercury moves so much faster than the Earth in its cycle around the sun, that it actually passes us.

When is Mercury in retrograde? The 2022 dates to note

Mercury retrograde has decided to provide us with four helpings instead of the typical three this year, which has put plenty of us on high alert. Mark the following dates in your 2022 planners:

  • January 14 to February 3, 2022
  • May 10 to June 2, 2022
  • September 9 to October 2, 2022
  • December 29, 2022 to January 18, 2023

Let's not forget about the Mercury shadow period known as retroshade, the two weeks before and ever the retrograde itself, so expect to feel a few remnants of the planet's antics during this time. 

But, there's some good news, particularly regarding the two weeks after the big event.

"You might find yourself dealing with some of the same issues that came up over the past few weeks and finally finding a sense of resolution," astrologer Nina Kahn (opens in new tab) says of the post-retrograde shadow. Cheers to that!

Top view of woman holding smartphone and tablet with calendar on desk

(Image credit: Getty)

What happens when Mercury is in retrograde?

What happens when Mercury is in retrograde?

Because Mercury is the god of commerce and communication, these are the areas that seem to be most often affected when it's not direct. People like to blame getting stuck in traffic, texting dilemmas and poor purchase decisions on Mercury in retrograde. 

Work

Expert Tammy Richards from Pure Optical (opens in new tab) advises us to take time and be more mindful of what we are saying in an office environment, particularly since communication between co-workers might be affected. 

Health

Mercury can have an impact on your sleep pattern. You may find yourself having strange dreams and waking up in the morning feeling groggy and unrested—even if you got all eight hours. Read up on our expert-backed tips for how to get better sleep if you're a bit anxious. 

Love

We are more sensitive, prone to misunderstandings and may find ourselves more short-tempered, which is why breaking up during Mercury retrograde seems inevitable, but don't give into the cliché!

“Arguments may become more dramatic, so if you find yourself arguing, try and take a step back and think, ‘Is this really worth it?’” Tammy says.

Friendships

Much like in our relationships, friendships are all about communication. The risks of arguments and fallouts are much higher, and we tend to stress about friendship breakups during Mercury retrograde.

Before making any rash decisions, take a step back and do not let the emotions get the best of you.

Technology

One of the strangest impacts Mercury can have is on our tech and gadgets. Our computers are more likely to crash and our phones to break. But before you throw your laptop out of the window in anger—take a deep breath, call an expert and remember it’s not the end of the world.

Tammy says to take frequent screen breaks, make sure you hit save often and remember to back things up.

How should you prepare for Mercury in retrograde?

Here's the deal: Mercury in retrograde isn't all bad. 

"While Mercury retrograde can seem scary, there is a lot to gain and benefit from during this time," says astrologer Renée Watt, who offers a handy Mercury retrograde survival kit (opens in new tab). "Give yourself permission to take things easy."

Likewise, astrologer and author Narayana Montúfar, who just released Moon Signs: Unlock Your Inner Luminary Power (opens in new tab), says retrogrades in general are a perfect time to take a much-needed step back from our busy schedules.

"It's an opportunity to readjust the things that the particular planet rules and revise the way we're going after things," she says. 

Obviously, things can go wrong during those few weeks when it's occurring, but things can go wrong at any time of the year, so preparation is key. If you want to be ahead of the game, there are several things you can do:

1. Take a look at your calendars
Try not to make any huge travel plans if you can avoid it, and always have hard copies of tickets, reservations and so on. 

2. Double-check messages.
Make sure you're sending work emails on time and be mindful of what you're putting in the group chat. A few text flubs are possible, so be cautious and do not write anything you wouldn't say aloud. 

3. Slow down
Reevaluate your priorities and make sure your decisions are carefully planned out. Light one of the best scented candles in your collection, take some deep breaths with the best meditation apps around and get planning!

4. Use crystals
We've rounded up a complete guide to crystals for beginners that will help you get your feet wet. Plus, we spoke to an astrologer about the best crystals for Mercury Retrograde that'll help you survive its ups and downs.

5. Be mindful of your behavior
Use this as a time to pay extra close attention to how you interact with others and ways in which you can improve this area of your life.

Mercury, we're ready for anything and everything you've got.

Meet the experts:

Narayana Montúfar

Narayana Montúfar is an astrologer, content strategist, visual artist, and the author of Moon Signs: Unlock Your Inner Luminary Power. (opens in new tab)

Renée Watt

Astrologer Renée Watt has offered her expertise for a variety of publications, including Cosmo, InStyle, Girlboss and more. She hosts a weekly podcast called "The Glitter Cast" (opens in new tab) and is a cohost of the occult livestream  “Betwixt The Shadows.”

Danielle is a writer for woman&home and My Imperfect Life, covering all-things news, lifestyle and entertainment. 


The heart of her time at Future has been devoted to My Imperfect Life, where she's been attuned to the cosmos and honed in on astrology coverage within the Life vertical. She's partial to writing pieces about the next big TV obsession—anyone else impatiently waiting for "Conversations with Friends"—and keeping you up to date on new trends like the latest must-have from Zara. 


Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids and a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, amNewYork and Newsday, among other outlets. 


When Danielle is not working, you can usually find her reading a new book, coffee at hand, or attempting a new recipe. (Recommendations always welcome!)

With contributions from