The Ultimate Guide to Mercury Retrograde

Let’s be honest.  You hear someone mention that Mercury Retrograde is coming and you get a little freaked out.  Or a lot freaked out.  You know you really don’t have to freak out but you do anyway.  You start marking the calendar with the start and end dates and running through your mind all the things that you expect are going to come up during that three week period.

Some people don’t really care about Mercury Retrograde and hardly give it a second thought while other people just go into a weird panic.




Since I get asked a lot by readers and clients about Mercury Retrograde, I thought it was time to really put together The Ultimate Guide to Mercury Retrograde.  Bookmark it, print it, save it, share it.  You’ll want to come back to this time and time again.  And since we never know when a specific retrograde is going to really hit us hard, having this info handy when you need it will be super helpful down the road.


What is Mercury Retrograde?

All planets go retrograde at some point.  Retrograde refers to the orbit of a planet around the Sun, which from our view and difference in orbit speeds, appears to stop for a brief moment and then begin to move backward.  The plant isn’t really moving in reverse, it’s an optical illusion.  The illusion comes from the fact that Earth, which is also orbiting around the Sun, is just moving at a different speed from the retrograde planet.

Mercury Retrograde happens 3 or 4 times a year.  The actual retrograde period lasts for 3 weeks but there are also two other parts to this backward motion: a pre-shadow and post-shadow.  This is when the planet is getting ready to turn either retro or direct.  These periods last for about 2 weeks each, so a full Mercury Retrograde takes about 2 months total.  Because of this we can feel the effects of Mercury Retrograde before and after it actually happens.

When Mercury is retrograde, from an astrological standpoint, it moves backward through the degrees of the sign it’s already in.


Upcoming Mercury Retrograde Dates

October 4 – October 25
pre-shadow September 9 – October 3
post-shadow October 25 – November 10}

January 21 – February 11
May 8 – June 11
September 17 – October 9


How Does Mercury Retrograde Affect Us?

Mercury is the plant of technology, travel and communication.  When this planet is retrograde we tend to find that all these areas of our life take some kind of a hit.  Planes get delayed, hard drives fail, emails get lost and misunderstandings run amok.


Why Does Mercury Retrograde Affect Us?

There are a few different theories but here is my take on this.  When Mercury Retrograde happens Mercury passes closest to Earth while traveling between the Earth and Sun.   Mercury has a very large and very dense mostly iron core.  When it’s making this journey so close to us it’s like having a giant magnet slowly moving past.  And what do magnets do?  Disrupt energy.

This is one of the reasons that technology goes wacky.  It’s also part of why we go wacky because our nervous system is an electrical system itself.   Along with the overall way that the planets, orbits and alignments can impact our lives this retrograde can be one of the most obvious planetary event felt by most people.

Another thing to consider is that when people learn about Mercury Retrograde and its effects people who never heard of it before and never had a problem in the past suddenly start having all kinds of retrograde mishaps.  This is because once you know about it and its in your field of consciousness it can cause your mind to start expecting the worst.  Remember that what you think and where you put your energy ultimately determines what you’ll attract.


Surviving Mercury Retrograde

There are a bunch of things that we need to be mindful and aware of during Mercury Retrograde.  The first thing is to simply check yourself and your wild imagination.  What you put your thoughts and energy into is inevitably what you manifest, so if you go into Mercury Retrograde with an “oh shit” attitude, don’t be surprised when all holy hell breaks lose.

Mercury Retrograde can be an awesome time to take a step back and get a different perspective on the problems and situations in our lives that have been swirling around us.  Some people may see this as a “do over” period since things will slow and you get a chance to reevaluate but it’s more of a time to take a safe pause and make shifts before jumping ahead.

So don’t freak out, embrace it.  Take this time to tie up loose ends, re-establish boundaries and wrap up things that have been hanging over your head.  This is ideally a time for going within and letting go since communication from outside yourself is likely to be muddled.  Going inward presents a lot more opportunity for clarity.

It’s also important not to get wrapped up in the “OMG this isn’t really happening” panic that comes when something does go wrong during Mercury Retrograde.  Instead of focusing on the big picture issues right now be mindful of the details since they are the things that often get screwed up and cause the big things to blow up on us. Keep a bit of a bird’s eye view of things during Mercury Retrograde so that your emotions don’t get the better of you too.

Keep in mind that this is a time for slowing down, so don’t start anything or except big change or movements in anything already going on in your life.  Now is a favored time for meditation, reflection and seeking new spiritual perspectives.

Since this is a time when communication and technology can get mucked up, don’t take it person when someone doesn’t get your point or doesn’t respond to a message or email right away.  The best thing to do during Mercury Retrograde is to commit to making all your communication short and concise.  Don’t rely on text, email, Facebook and other forms of social media for connecting.  Pick up the phone or see people face to face.  Don’t lose your cool!

One of the key things to consider is the retro part of retrograde.  Things from the past often come up now.  It could be things you’ve done or said in the past that pop back up to haunt you or even people from your past who you’ve long been out of contact with who suddenly call you up, send an email or a Facebook message. It’s not uncommon for people to start seeing an ex again around this time too.

Just know that with all this retro inspired energy, feelings and activities will eventually straighten themselves out and start to move forward again, just like Mercury will “go direct” again and no longer appear to be moving in reverse.   This is one of the reasons why it’s a good idea to avoid signing contracts or starting anything new right now; these things started during a retrograde have a tendency to unravel and “reverse back” when the retrograde ends.

One of the best things you can do during Mercury Retrograde is give up control and be willing to be in the ebb and flow of this energy.

Pay attention to patterns during Mercury Retrograde.  Often when we’re deeply affected by Mercury Retrograde it’s the same problems over and over that come up. Pay attention to these things, notice what lessons, thoughts or occurrences seem to plague your Mercury Retrograde periods and start using tools like meditation, divination and journaling to get to the bottom of things.  Be willing to really feel into the problem and be comfortable in the uncomfortableness. 

Above all else keep in mind that Mercury, as a deity or spirit, is often a bit of a trickster. Don’t take things too personally during this time and be willing to dig into things, especially from an inner or spiritual perspective, to find the truth and heart of matters. Then just be patient and go with the flow.


Tools for Surviving Mercury Retrograde

Who can’t use a few spiritual and metaphysical tools to survive a rocky Mercury Retrograde?  Here are some that you may find helpful now or in the future.

Pre-Retrograde Prep List

  • Confirm appointments for the month
  • Back up the data and hard drives for your computer, phone, tablet and other devices
  • Make sure all outstanding paperwork and bills are attended to
  • Plan ahead so you don’t need to make any big ticket purchases or sign any contracts
  • Double check details and reservations for any trips or events
  • Clean your desk: clear desk means clear mind and clear communications
  • Clean up your closets so you know what you have and where everything is {less confusion}
  • Let go of anything no longer serving you {that dead potted plant still sitting in your windowsill can go now} and move past existing blocks
  • Have any heart to heart conversations before the retrograde; if now isn’t a good time hold off until after the retrograde and instead spend the time meditating and journaling on the situation, which will help you gain more clarity and be ready to talk it out later


Wear or carry these crystals, either individually or together, to help support you during Mercury Retrograde. Remember to cleanse them before using them.

  • Amethyst – for dealing with the boosted stress during Mercury Retrograde
  • Blue Lace Agate – for clear, calm and peaceful communication
  • Fluorite – for centering and balancing as well as keeping your thoughts clear and focused
  • Hematite – for protection and to help deflect negative energy
  • Kyanite – for help keeping disagreements from popping up as well as lending Divine energy to existing disagreements to help heal them
  • Sodalite – for keeping emotions calm and bringing inner peace


Essential Oil
Wear them, sniff them or place a few drops of one or several into a mister bottle of water and use to cleanse, clear and bless your area.

  • Bergamot – gives strength during rocky times
  • Lavender – helps you stay relaxed and find peace in the chaos
  • Lemongrass – repels negativity and uplifts that spirit
  • Peppermint – helps with concentration and emotional focus
  • Ylang Ylang – calms your nerves while helping you see through negative situations


Mercury Retrograde Tarot Spread
Use this spread at the beginning of Mercury Retrograde to get a feel for what to expect and how to hand it.  Remember to pay attention to how many of the same suits come up {especially Swords in this case} and any repeat number.   And if you want to dive more into tarot, check out my In The Cards intuitive reading course.

Mercury Retrograde Tarot Spread


Now that you’re prepared for Mercury Retrograde, share this so others can survive and thrive too!

[Tweet “I’m ready for Mercury Retrograde, are you? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Mercury Retrograde!”]

And if you really want to help shift your focus during Mercury Retrograde, shift which Mercury you’re focusing on.

Freddie Mercury Retrograde

Don’t forget to check out my other Mercury Retrograde Resources! 

A Little Mercury Retrograde Experiment – I share a video with an experiment you can try during Mercury Retrograde to really get a sense of how we make this planetary movement worse that it needs to be in our lives.

Beat Mercury Retrograde with Candle Magic – Some info on candle magic that you can do to help make your Mercury Retrograde a little smoother.

Mercury Retrograde Buster Oil + Mister Recipe – the name says it all!

Let’s Stop Hating On Mercury Retrograde and Do This Instead! – This is my plea to you to start seeing this inevitable three times a year three week period in a different and more positive way. And naturally, there’s magick too! Check out my “Chill The Fuck Out, Mercury Retrograde” spell bag inside!

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  • Lila Wolff
    October 2, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    Loved getting a better understanding of Mercury retrograde, thanks Jess.

  • Life After Transition
    October 9, 2014 at 9:50 am

    Just wondering…are the crystals you listed good for all planetary retrogrades or specifically Mercury? Same with the oils?

    • Jess Carlson
      October 9, 2014 at 11:07 am

      Yes, these are specific to Mercury Retrograde. Each retrograde brings its own challenges, so the support devices will change based on the planet that is retrograde. 🙂

  • Angie Loveness
    January 23, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    Great text,and then I saw Freddie,my idol! And I said I AM WRITING ,THAT`S IT!!
    Now,i have a question.I have Me Rx in Scorpio,2nd house. What can you suggest to us. I am all about meditation,,double check and all inner work,but lack of action. Can we do something to be more Mercury in direct way. Thank you!

    • Jess Carlson
      January 23, 2015 at 2:23 pm

      Let me just preface what I’m going to say with I’m not an astrologer. 😉 It’s thought that most people who Mercury Rx in their charts don’t experience it in the same way that people without it do. The 2nd House is the House of Possessions and is concerned with material objects. So you may find that be a little more cautious and aware of what you’re doing with buying stuff or making any big ticket purchases. But when it comes to how to deal with Mercury Retrograde in general I’m a big fan of not letting it be more than it is. This more recent post and video might be helpful.

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