If youre familiar with the term, Mercury retrograde, odds are you dont have good feelings about it. Oh, no, not again! is the usual reaction to learning that one is coming up.

Take heart! It doesnt mean the sky is falling. Mercury retrograde is not a freak occurrence, much less the end of the world. Its a regular phenomenon that happens three or four times a year. We cant stop it, but we can understand and work with it.

And this year, the phenomenon might not be as aggravating as in recent years. Read on for how and why.

What does it mean?

First, the technicalities: Mercury is retrograde when it looks from the earth as if its traveling backwards. Thats an optical illusion, of course. It happens when Mercurys orbital speed changes in comparison to the earths. Its the planetary equivalent of speeding up on a highway, passing a car and seeing it fall far behind after you in the rear view mirror.

How this works: When Mercury is retrograde (not in retrograde), the areas of life it governs do not play by the usual rules. Anything related to communication and travel requires extra attention. This includes phones, computers and electronic devices, mail, cars, public transportation and commutes.

Our information flow is always a casualty. Messages go astray. Misunderstandings, confusion, half-truths and deception are rampant. Both sides of a conversation may use the same words, but give them different meanings. Unspoken expectations and assumptions may differ as well.

Vehicles of communication also misfire. Anything with an inherent instability hits the breaking point. Technology malfunctions. Websites and networks go down. Programs stop working. Tasks that should be ordinary turn into a gauntlet of error messages and trouble-shooting.

Getting around is also a challenge. Traffic snarls. Travel gets delayed. Buses dont arrive. Cars break down. Detours pop up and complicate your route.

What should you do?

Postpone launching major projects, signing major contracts and buying big-ticket items if possible. (You may not have complete or accurate information; the subject or purpose may not be what you think it is.) Double-check fine print, backup your data and allow lots of extra time when youre on the road.

Watch for opportunities for a do-over, which may initially show up as unraveling or restructuring. Investigate and research, finish old business, clean up paperwork and get in touch with people you havent talked to in a while. Pay attention to who surfaces from the past, in person or in thought. Their reappearance could help tie up loose ends or resolve lingering business. Organize and prepare so youll be ready to move ahead when Mercury does.

Mercury retrogrades in 2021

First, the details. In 2021, Mercury is retrograde from:

January 30 February 20, going from 26 Aquarius to 11 Aquarius;

May 29 June 22, going from 24 Gemini to 16 Gemini; and

September 27 – October 18, going from 25 Libra to 10 Libra.

Look for effects before and after these dates. Communication and transportation matters usually start slowing (or growing complicated) a couple of days before a retrograde begins. The day of the retrograde station (when Mercury appears to be motionless, as it appears to change direction) can feel as if time has stopped altogether.

The same sensation returns when Mercury stations direct. Communication and transportation matters dont suddenly speed up once the retrograde ends, either. Give the planet time to get moving again. Wait a few days after Mercury stations direct before resuming business as usual.

What’s Different About 2021

All of Mercury’s 2021 retrogrades are in air signs. Mercury is comfortable in the element of air – one of his homes is in the air sign of Gemini – because it allows the freedom of movement he prefers. This has a paradoxical effect.

On the one hand, the retrograde complications and opportunities will feel familiar. They may come with the sense that we’ve been through something like this before.

On the other, snafus and complications may happen at a breakneck pace, because Mercury (and everything he rules) is moving so easily. This possibility could also happen for investigating, reorganizing and do-overs, though. Those matters could resolve with surprising efficiency.

Also, the first two retrogrades will draw attention to the role and use of technology and social media.

The first retrograde, from January 30 February 20, in Aquarius, is heavy on abruptness, intellectual detachment and technology issues. It occurs while the skies are propelling us away from the disintegration of the past few years and into new networks, institutions and realities. We’ll be gathering lots of information, with a scientific reserve.

Dates to watch:

  • Hearts and minds align on February 13, when Mercury joins Venus, goddess of love and desire.

  • The flow of information (accurate or confused) mushrooms when Mercury meets Jupiter February 14.

  • Tension that has been building since late December snaps when the two rulers of Aquarius, Saturn and Uranus, pit the need for structure against the need for radical change on February 17. Liberating, awakening action ensues.

The second retrograde, from May 29 June 22, in Gemini, brings a classic Mercury retrograde experience. Gemini is home base for gab, gadgets and getting around, all of which Mercury rules. Expect information and complications involving all of them to flow quickly, freely and constantly.

This retrograde coincides with the start of a long and dramatic process of resetting what goes in and out of our minds and mouths. That is the outgrowth of the solar eclipse on June 10, in the sign of Mercury’s rulership and this retrograde. The eclipse is at 20 Gemini, with Mercury smack on that degree as well.

Social media and news sources will figure in this process, which has us revisiting the quality and nature of our communications. As we reboot and potentially upgrade information, this retrograde will assist by pointing out areas of confusion or deception. This stretch will also offer many opportunities for clearing up or finishing up.

This stretch has us rethinking and revisiting a lot, because it coincides with several outer planet retrogrades. Saturn and Pluto are already retrograde when Mercury stations, and Jupiter will also go retrograde before Mercury turns direct.

Because the planet and the sign both carry a streak of the trickster, cosmic jokes could be rampant. Keeping a light-hearted attitude is advisable; laughter is, they say, the best medicine.

Dates to watch:

  • Confusion and inspiration hit dazzling heights when Mercury squares Neptune June 5.

  • Processing and assimilating the personal meaning of information occurs when Mercury meets the Sun June 10, during the solar eclipse.

The final retrograde, from September 27 October 18, in Libra, may involve issues of relationships, reckoning, balancing and even litigating, because Libra rules partnerships and legalities. Misunderstandings could come from Libra’s preference for graceful, harmonious approaches, which could make words so understated that the intent or meaning isn’t clear.

This stretch is even more inner-directed and complex than the second retrograde, and leads to greater resolution. That’s because it overlaps with the most retrogrades of the year, which gradually clear up during this stretch. Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus and Pluto are retrograde when Mercury stations, Pluto, then Saturn, and then Jupiter turn direct by the time Mercury follows suit.

Dates to watch:

  • Look for romance, escapism and a heightened sense of love when Libra’s ruler Venus trines transcendent Neptune on September 29.

  • Indulgent tendencies mushroom when Venus squares expansive Jupiter on September 30.

  • Demands for candor hit and secrets will out when Mercury squares Pluto October 1.

  • Optimistic and maybe unrealistic thinking increases when Mercury trines Jupiter October 3.

  • Personal awareness is on tap as Mercury meets the Sun October 9, and we walk our talk with Mercury also joining go-getter Mars that same day.

  • Stability is on offer when Venus sextiles Saturn October 13.

  • Opportunities open to talk about matters close to our hearts when Mercury sextiles Venus October 16.

Learn more about the cosmic messenger in Kathy’s downloadable Mercury Intensive.

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