If you’re on social media, by this point you’ve heard of Mercury retrograde. About three times a year, Mercury, the planet of communication, goes retrograde, causing all kinds of problems across relationships, technology, and travel. Yesterday at 6 p.m. EST, we were finally set free from Mercury’s most recent retrograde in Gemini which began on May 29, after weeks of the placement drugging up the past and throwing wrenches into our plans.
Alice Bell, who is the resident astrologer for British Vogue and co-host of the Astrology and You podcast (and an Aquarius sun, Pisces moon, and Leo rising), explained what exactly happens when Mercury is retrograde and why it affects us so much. “Mercury retrograde is kind of an optical illusion,” she tells Her Campus. “It’s when Mercury tends to appear to move backwards in the sky, when really it’s just that other planets are moving faster.”
As the ruler of communication, Mercury going retrograde is bound to have a noticeable effect on our lives. “Mercury is the planet of communication in astrology, and it also rules travel and anything involving communication and talking to people,” Bell explains. “So when it goes retrograde, all of that stuff is thrown into confusion and there tends to be miscommunication that comes up.” According to Bell, some signs you’re feeling the retrograde’s effect on your life could be “text messages that are sent and interpreted in the wrong way, or travel plans are delayed, or it also gets people thinking about the past a lot more than usual. Oftentimes you’ll get old friends that reach out or an ex might text you.”
This time around, the retrograde was supposed to be more intense because it was in Gemini, an air sign that’s ruled by Mercury. In fact, each time Mercury goes retrograde this year, it will be in an air sign. “Mercury retrograde is happening in air signs for all of 2021,” Bell said. “It was in Aquarius in February; Now, it just happened at Gemini; It’ll be in Libra in the fall. And all of those signs have to do with connecting with others, communication, and forming relationships. So that’s a bigger theme for this year — learning how to address any problems you’re having with people.”
While I have come to dread Mercury retrograde for the logistical and relationship problems it poses, every challenge comes with a lesson. Here are three I took away from our most recent season of stifled communication.
- Give yourself time and space to improve.
Against any astrologer’s best advice, I started an internship during Mercury retrograde — and one that mostly consists of communicating and writing (yikes). So, as I was meeting new people, relying on technology (something which can become unreliable during this time), and trying to write articles, the messenger planet was not on my side.
Mercury retrogrades are also known to add anxiety and restlessness to our lives, making it feel like you’re not standing on solid ground. Even though Mercury retrograde can be a time of slowing down, it doesn’t mean that you should put all of your plans on hold. Though my brain felt cloudier than usual and I found myself struggling to write the way I knew I could, the placement of the planets reminded me to slow down and cut myself some slack. There is always an adjustment period when you start something new, and though sometimes the planets feel like they’re working against us, they are also giving us an opportunity to find our own sources of self-confidence amid a shaky time.
- Just because you think about them again, doesn’t mean you haven’t moved on.
I’m not going to lie: my least favorite part of this Mercury retrograde was how much time I spent thinking about people from my past, but this is totally to be expected. Ex-flames who I certifiably don’t care about anymore kept coming to mind, and I physically bumped into one last week despite the fact that we live in different states (what was he doing in my hometown?).
I started to question myself. Does this mean that I haven’t really moved on? That I’m not as far along as I thought I was? Well, no. Sometimes people are brought back into your life just so that you can come to the same conclusion: that they don’t belong there. Revisiting the past can give you another chance at closure, tying up loose ends that you didn’t even know existed. Plus, this was a helpful reminder that moving on doesn’t have to be linear. You can have moved on and still think about them… sometimes.
- Structure can be the best medicine.
If I’m making confessions, I guess I can also tell you that I was late to work three days in a row last week. The first time, my tightly packed schedule was thrown off because of a meeting running late. The second time, I was stuck in an uncharacteristic traffic jam. And the third time, well, I couldn’t decide what to wear.
All of these mishaps are characteristic of Mercury retrograde which is known to mess up our schedules, affect travel, and overall just slow us down. Throughout the entire period, I felt myself acting more sluggish than usual, procrastinating on making plans and responding to text messages, and spending more time in my room on TikTok. I was frustrated because I wasn’t getting anything done and structure is just what I needed to get myself out of bed. I set my alarm a little earlier, promised myself I’d spend at least 10 minutes meditating, and set a goal to read every day. These weren’t big changes, but they helped me stay on top of the responsibilities that I did have. My Google Calendar, which has been ignored since I got out of school in May, became my best support system.
With one Mercury retrograde ending, we can look ahead to the next one. The next Mercury retrograde will be from September 27 to October 17 in Libra. When I asked Bell what advice she would give to those preparing for the fall, she said, “I wouldn’t let [Mercury retrograde] halt you from moving on with your life. A lot of times people are scared. Should I move? Should I talk to this person? I wouldn’t let it control you like that. It’s just more of, I think, a time to revisit things that may have been left unfinished.”
Though Mercury retrogrades can be draining, putting our communication skills and self-esteem to the test, it’s important to remind ourselves that things will settle once it ends, and we’ll even have learned something new. “It’s just nice to know that there’s certain cycles with astrology — there’s a beginning date and there’s an end date,” Bell says.