In an article about Mercury retrograde, an illustration of the Greek god Hermes holding up the planet Mercury
Take this time to be particularly mindful of your actions. (Illustration by Elizabeth Wong, University of Rhode Island)
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In an article about Mercury retrograde, an illustration of the Greek god Hermes holding up the planet Mercury

If you’re experiencing some bad luck or just having a bad week, there might be a reason why — and it aligns with the planets.

Have you recently had one of those mornings where everything goes wrong all at once? You burnt your morning toast, spilled your latte, your car refused to start or you got stuck in an unforeseen traffic jam making you miserably late to class? If so, you might be a potential victim of the soon-to-fully-start Mercury retrograde.

Ah, the infamous Mercury retrograde. Everyone’s heard of it with astrology gaining more and more attention throughout the past couple of years. Today, there are countless social media accounts like Rude Astrology on Twitter, The Astrology Podcast on YouTube and @notallgeminis on Instagram. Each are taking over the astrology scene to boost your knowledge (and provide hilarious memes) on this ancient study. But with so many options, it’s not easy to know where to turn to for the basic information you need to understand just what the phrase really means. Thankfully, your search stops here. Welcome to your comprehensive guide to this year’s Mercury retrograde in Pisces and Aquarius.

Every planet sitting in the sky rules many different aspects of life: The Sun rules the ego, Venus rules love and relationships, Mars rules energy and drive. Mercury, the planet of the hour, rules over language, technology, travel and more. In Greek mythology, Mercury corresponds with the god Hermes. He was notoriously dubbed as a trickster amongst his fellow divinities. Besides playing pranks, Hermes acted as the swift messenger of the gods. It only makes sense that Mercury’s link to Hermes gives insight to what Mercury is most known for ruling: communication. So why is it that during Mercury retrograde, a slew of problems, including miscommunication, ensue?

To understand the pattern of hiccups that commonly pop up during this time, you first need a definition of the term retrograde: “directed or moving backward.” While you may hear Mercury “is in retrograde,” the term serves as an adjective that describes the planet. So, the same way you’d say, “The sky is blue,” is the correct way to say the phrase, “Mercury is retrograde.” Considering this definition, Mercury stationing retrograde means the planet appears to slow down until it comes to a stop in its orbit and then moves backward.

On Feb. 2, Mercury already started slowing down, meaning it is now in its pre-shadow phase. This phase hints at themes to appear during the retrograde. Mercury officially stationed retrograde Feb. 16, 8:54 p.m. EST and it stations direct on March 10, 10:59 a.m. EST. After this time, the planet begins moving forward in its post-shadow phase, retracing its steps from when it moved backwards, ending on March 29, 10:03 p.m. EST. While Christopher Crockett explains how the backward motion is an astronomical illusion, the effects of Mercury retrograde are anything but make-believe.

Due to the backward motion of retrograde, all the aspects of life that Mercury rules become inverted and confused. That’s why communication may be misconstrued and the whole truth might not be present throughout retrograde. Considering this, here are some tips to thrive during this topsy-turvy time.

Don’t be surprised if simple things you say, or things said to you become twisted around. Double or even triple check emails, texts or posts before you send them. Take care to not mix up times and dates on appointments. If you have travel plans, you don’t have to cancel them, but be on high alert and expect the unexpected. Have extra precaution when signing legally binding documents of any kind, or better yet, wait to sign until Mercury stations direct and all the facts are available. You might want to put off updating your software, and, instead, make sure your documents and data are securely backed up to your storage drives.

Just as Hermes plays the trickster of the gods, Mercury plays the trickster of the solar system. But the planet isn’t only seeking to trick you: It wants to teach you. Mercury retrograde ultimately serves as a time of self-reflection, returning to the past and revisiting what you might have left unresolved. Understanding what you need to learn requires taking a look at the two signs this retrograde is in: Pisces and Aquarius.

At any given time, a planet spends its orbit in one of the twelve signs of the zodiac. Each sign exhibits specific traits and qualities, exclusive to its element and modality. During this Mercury retrograde, most of its station — from now until March 4 — is in dreamy, intuitive Pisces. As a mutable water sign, Pisces’ emotional intuition and ability to find unusual connections between everything makes it a difficult sign for Mercury to be in — Pisces is one of Mercury’s detriments. The water sign especially loves to daydream, so watch out for distorted fantasies and false twists of the truth. Because of its sensitivity, the tendency to take general remarks as personal jabs might come up repeatedly. Remember: The only person you can control is yourself, so be mindful of what you say and how you consider what others say to you.

With Mercury moving backward during the retrograde, from March 4 to March 16, it ends up back in the sign before Pisces: unconventional, humanitarian Aquarius. It is a fixed air sign, loving to stir the pot and shake up the status quo. Since Aquarius exists as a fixed sign, be aware of getting too carried away with stubbornness and the desire to be right at the cost of being kind.

When considering all the little things that may go wrong during this Mercury retrograde, just keep in mind that Mercury stations retrograde at least three times every year. That means you’ve already dealt with the problems it can bring before you. But now you’re aware of it and can act with intention and mindfulness during the inconveniences. Recognize the reasons for your mix-ups are bigger than you and your situation. See this as a time of intellectual and spiritual growth. Think on the Greek maxim: “Know thyself.” Your problems, whether they stem from Mercury retrograde or not, are a reflection of the innermost self.

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