art: Sarah Aha

As an astrologer, “Mercury retrograde” frequently piques widespread curiosity. Whether met with scepticism or genuine intrigue, this phenomenon calls for some elucidation. Be you an astrology aficionado, a novice, or entirely new to the terrain, let’s delve into this astrological matter: What exactly is Mercury retrograde, and why does it captivate our collective psyche every so often?”


Mercury retrograde refers to the optical illusion when Mercury, the planet closest to our Sun, appears to move backwards in the sky. Due to Mercury’s relatively short orbital period, this phenomenon happens a few times a year, lasting about three weeks each time. Rooted in ancient observations, many believe these ‘backward’ periods can adversely influence comms, intel, info, travel, and render some disastrous technological mishaps. Whilst there’s no direct impact on Earth scientifically, the pervasive sentiment in its symbolic effects remains strong. Is it mere superstition or an ancient wisdom reflecting the ebb and flow of most common human experiences – the art of ‘getting the message’? Whatever the belief, its cultural significance can’t be denied. Whether you’re an astrology enthusiast or sceptic, understanding its origin and implications is essential.


Mercury, known as Hermes in Greek mythology, was the swift-footed and cunning messenger of the gods, bridging the divine and mortal realms. This enigmatic, androgynous figure not only plays the role of a trickster, sowing mischief but also serves as a psychopomp, guiding souls between worlds. He epitomises the cerebral, fluid processes of communication, mental adaptability, and transition. Rich in duality and complexity, his character illuminates the multifaceted nature of the astrological symbol, weaving tales of both mischief and profound wisdom.

Astrologically, Mercury governs our internal mental processes, how we construct and transmit our thoughts, and how we interpret the world through our senses. The planet’s innermost proximity to the Sun is significant; it zips around our star in just 88 days, the fastest orbit of any planet. This close-knit association with the Sun, the very heart of our solar system, amplifies Mercury’s role in shaping perceptions, influencing thought processes, and mediating communications. Just as Hermes was crucial in relaying divine messages in myths, Mercury’s closely intertwined connection with the Sun underscores its utmost significance in getting our ideas across and understanding the world around us.


During Mercury’s retrograde, the planet’s cerebral energy is commonly believed to be inverted or disrupted, not as direct and causing double-takes. This is where the notorious ‘trickster god’ can play havoc with our mind, where ‘second-thought’ delays or a mere flicker in our usual sensory perception can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunications, technological glitches, and travel hiccups. Contracts signed or major decisions made during this time might require revision later. However, the influence doesn’t just snap into play; it eases in and out. The “shadow periods” – about two weeks before and after the retrograde – are transitional phases where one might start noticing subtle shifts in communication and technology, serving as a precursor to, and a tapering off from, the more intense retrograde period. These phases urge us to be more conscious, reflective, and deliberate in our actions and communications.

August 3, 2023: Mercury enters the Retrograde Zone (pre-retrograde shadow) at 8° Virgo 00′.
August 23, 2023: Mercury stations, turning retrograde at 21° Virgo 51′ Rx.
September 15, 2023: Mercury stations, turning direct at 8° Virgo 00′.
September 30, 2023: Mercury exits the Retrograde Zone (post-retrograde shadow) at 21° Virgo 51′.


It’s worth noting that Mercury’s retrograde doesn’t randomly flit across the zodiac; it follows a pattern, cycling through the same elemental trigon over a period of about 12-18 months. A trigon consists of the three zodiac signs associated with a particular element—Fire (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius), Earth (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn), Air (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius), or Water (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces). This cycle repeats roughly every six or seven years. Using our current Earth trigon (2022-23) as an example, we saw a similar pattern beginning in 2016-17. Each elemental cycle brings a distinct flavour to Mercury’s retrograde:

  1. Fire Trigon: Energises and inspires us, stoking passions but may lead to impulsiveness. It is a time to harness creative energies but beware of hasty words or decisions.
  2. Earth Trigon: Grounds us, encouraging practicality but may foster stubbornness. It’s a period of tangible manifestations and reevaluating material goals.
  3. Air Trigon: Stimulates thoughts and communication but can induce overthinking. Reflect on relationships, clarify misunderstandings, and breathe before speaking.
  4. Water Trigon: Amplifies emotions and intuition, yet might blur logic. Deep introspection, healing past wounds, and nurturing emotional bonds are emphasized.

As we traverse each trigon, understanding its essence helps us steer through the retrograde’s challenges and harness its potential transformative power in the way we think and perceive things.

art: Dariusz Klimczak


The Earth trigon, anchored in the signs of Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn, emphasises tangible, material, and practical matters. When Mercury retrogrades in this elemental group, the focus is often on reevaluating, restructuring, and solidifying all facets of material worth, including money, self-esteem, working/mundane living conditions, physical health, and other practical responsibilities. During Mercury’s retrograde phase in an Earth sign, we become aware of the full potential of our resources and reassess our grasp on reality.

We may have to make changes in areas that resist change, specifically in how we relate to our bodies, jobs, and attitudes toward resources. Taking care of the fundamentals of life can liberate your spontaneity and relieve any guilt you might feel about not paying attention to them.

  1. Capricorn (Dec 29 2022 – Jan 18 2023): Initiating the cycle, the retrograde here can bring about reflection on ambitions, career, and societal structures. There might be delays in professional pursuits or a need to reassess your long-term goals. Authority figures and institutions might be under scrutiny. It’s a period where you might want to lay down robust foundations for future endeavors.
  2. Taurus (April 21 2023 – May 14 2023): The retrograde here shifts the lens towards personal values, possessions, and self-worth. Financial reviews, revisiting budget plans, and reevaluating personal investments are common. There might be an increased desire for stability and security. It’s a time to be wary of impulse purchases and instead focus on what truly adds value to your life.
  3. Virgo (August 23 2023 – September 15 2023): The focus narrows down to daily routines, health, and work processes. There could be disruptions in everyday schedules or a need to refine your wellness practices. It’s an excellent period to declutter, reorganize, and streamline both mental and physical spaces.

Ending again in Capricorn/hybrid Sadge (December 13, 2023 – January 1 2024), this retrograde cycle comes full circle, offering a chance to see the culmination of what began a year ago. There’s an invitation to solidify the changes initiated to ensure that the foundations laid are strong and that your professional and personal trajectories align with your core values. As with all Earth-sign retrogrades, the key is patience, persistence, and staying rooted in practicality.

Earth retrogrades are not necessarily the most inspiring times, but they can be a productive time for dealing with practical matters and unfinished business, ultimately leading to advantageous returns. It is advised not to make major changes such as moving to a new place, quitting a job, or spending a lot of money during these earth phases. Do, however, look for opportunities to tie off loose ends and explore options that could be more satisfying on an ego level. Maintaining objectivity and approaching your assets and liabilities with a sense of detachment as if they belonged to someone else is essential.

THE CURRENT VIRGO RETROGRADE (August 23 – September 15)

The Virgo retrograde, nestled within the current Earth trigon, casts a meticulous and analytical spotlight on earthy matters. Virgo, ruled by Mercury, amplifies the planet’s influence, making this retrograde particularly potent. As Virgo governs daily routines, wellness, and the minutiae of life, this retrograde phase often triggers a deep introspection into one’s routine habits, work ethic, body issues and general health practices. Disruptions might arise in day-to-day schedules, pointing out inefficiencies or areas needing improvement. There’s a heightened sensitivity to order, hygiene, and functional detail, making it a prime time to declutter or reorganise our lives. However, the risk here is getting lost in the weeds, becoming overly critical or succumbing to perfectionism and pedantry.

The challenge is to use Virgo’s discerning energy to refine and improve without falling into the trap of nitpicking or undue self-criticism. Challenges might include miscommunication in workplace settings, overlooking crucial details, or feeling overwhelmed by trying to achieve an unattainable ideal. Mastering the essence of this retrograde means seeking balance: optimise routines and prioritise health, but remember to extend grace to oneself and others.

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