Mercury Retrograde Meaning And 2023 Dates (Because Yes, It's Baaaaack!)

Prepare yourselves.

Mercury Retrograde SN VFX / Shutterstock / Getty

There are times in our lives when everything just feels like a chaotic mess. Cell phones break. We fight with our boyfriends. Planes get delayed. Our boss gets mad at us for no apparent reason.

Those moments of "what else could possibly go wrong" often fall during the astrological event known as Mercury retrograde.

Astrologers (and people who are looking for something to blame their series of bad days on) believe that Mercury retrograde can affect our lives in the areas of communication, clear thinking, travel, and truth. Because when this planet goes backwards, so does everything else.


When is Mercury retrograde in 2023?

​The next official Mercury retrograde period will be from April 21 to May 14, 2023. Mercury retrograde occurs roughly three to four times per year and lasts for a period of approximately 21 days.

In 2023, Mercury is retrograde on the following dates:

  • December 28, 2022, to January 18, 2023
  • April 21 to May 14
  • August 23 to September 14
  • December 13 to January 1, 2024

RELATED: What It Means If You Were Born During Mercury Retrograde

What is Mercury retrograde?

The astrological term "retrograde" refers to a planet appearing to move backward in orbit, specifically when viewed from Earth. Also referred to as apparent retrograde motion, the literal meaning of retrograde is "backward step.” However, while a planet in retrograde appears to be moving backward, in actuality, it is not.


Essentially, retrograding planets are an optical illusion. When a retrograding planet passes Earth, it appears to move backwards, when it’s actually still in its orbit. The same is true when you speed past cars that are suddenly slowing down. You are moving forward more quickly than they are, making them appear to move backward even though they are not doing so.

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Both before and after a planet turns retrograde, it enters into what is known as a shadow period, or shadow phase. The shadow period for Mercury lasts approximately two weeks, both pre- and post-retrograde. Pre-retrograde, Mercury slows down; post-retrograde and during its direct motion, Mercury regains speed. So, in its shadow period, Mercury moves along the same path it appeared to move backwards on, retracing the route it retrograded.


When a planet then turns direct, it is essentially the opposite of retrograde; a planet moving in direct motion, or prograde motion, moves in the same direction as other bodies or planets.

Mercury retrograde effects

According to astrology, Mercury retrograde may come with plenty of irritating, chaotic moments. It basically feels like your mind isn't functioning as well as it usually does for a few weeks. While this might tempt you to hide in a hole until the astrological storm passes, there are ways to make it out of a retrograde alive.

Mercury is the planet of communication, which includes speaking, learning, technology, and other facets of contact. It also involves documentation, like deeds and agreements. It’s important to not make any drastic changes or decisions during Mercury retrograde, particularly signing contracts, beginning big projects, making expensive purchases, launching a business, starting a new job, sending valuable documents through the mail, and even getting cosmetic surgery. Be sure to double-check the dates of any important meetings, elective surgeries, or future ventures.

Because technology is also affected by Mercury retrograde, many experience their electronic devices, phones or computers glitching or crashing. So, back up any important information before and after these retrograde periods.


But Mercury retrograde isn’t all bad! It’s actually a great time for opportunities to come your way. You may find yourself more open to planning ahead, making new plans, resolving old issues, reconnecting with old friends, and finding objects that had been missing.

RELATED: Should You Get Married During Mercury Retrograde?

Emily Blackwood is a freelance writer, editor and journalist who covers astrology, pop culture, travel, and wellness.