When is Mercury in retrograde this year, and how can we navigate it?

It's coming for four signs in particular...

Mercury in Retrograde
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Calling all Virgos, Capricorns, Sagittariuses and Geminis - this is essential reading for you.

"Mercury in retrograde" is a phrase that all millennials have come to fear.

In its literal form, Mercury in retrograde means that planet Mercury is appearing to go backwards in its orbit for three weeks. But spiritually, those three little words have come to mean that life is going to turn to shit.

Periods of the year when Mercury is in retrograde are often linked to bad decision making, workplace dramas, ex partners resurfacing, relationship problems (duh), travel delays and just general life being out of whack. In fact, when anything goes wrong nowadays, at least someone will ask, "Is Mercury in retrograde?" - particularly if you're a Gemini.

The astrological phenomenon has gone viral over the past few years, joining the popular heights of crystals and star signs, and it looks like the obsession is here to stay. But what does it all actually mean?

If you are one of the baffled few who are not subscribed to Co-Star and have never slept with Rose Quartz under your pillow, this article is for you.

Mercury in retrograde

Getty Images
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When is Mercury in retrograde?

Our current Mercury in retrograde period begins on Wednesday 13 December, lasting until Monday 1 January 2024.

This year has seen three periods where Mercury will appear to be in retrograde: Friday 21 April to Sunday 14 May, Wednesday 23 August to Thursday 14 September, and Wednesday 13 December to Monday 1 January 2024, falling under the zodiac signs of Taurus, Virgo and Sagittarius.

What is Mercury in retrograde?

Mercury in retrograde quite literally refers to the time period when Mercury appears to go backwards in its orbit - seemingly moving from West to East. This moment - when fast-moving planet Mercury goes "retrograde" - happens three or four times a year, following its 88-day circle around the sun.

For believers in astrology, the "retrograde" is thought to turn everything on its head and is often considered to be a time when things go wrong. With the planet Mercury ruling communication and intellect, a Mercury in retrograde is thought to be a time for communication mishaps, technology failures and travel problems.

Mercury in retrograde

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Mercury in retrograde 2023

The 2023 Mercury in retrograde cycles fall in Taurus, Virgo and Sagittarius, but in terms of negative energy they are reportedly coming for earth signs. So if you're a Capricorn, Taurus or Virgo, Godspeed also.

What does Mercury in retrograde affect?

Mercury in retrograde is thought to predominantly affect communication, technology and travel - areas that are usually ruled by the planet, according to astrologers. But culturally, a Mercury in retrograde season is reported to mean general shit hitting the fan. Over this time, there are reports of relationship challenges, from infidelity to unfounded arguments, workplace struggles, financial difficulties, messages from exes, friendship dramas and just general miscommunication.

Astrologers have also been warning people to keep an eye on their belongings this Mercury in retrograde season to avoid losing or misplacing them, so take from that what you will.

How long does Mercury in retrograde last?

Mercury in retrograde lasts approximately three weeks in full as the planet laps Earth, in between its 88-day orbits around the sun. It has been reported however that the two weeks preceding and succeeding it will also have effects, as the cycle ramps up and winds down. This is known as the pre-retrograde and post-retrograde shadow.

Well, that's that.

With that in mind, good luck over the next month - especially if you're an earth sign.

Jenny Proudfoot
Features Editor

Jenny Proudfoot is an award-winning journalist, specialising in lifestyle, culture, entertainment, international development and politics. She has worked at Marie Claire UK for seven years, rising from intern to Features Editor and is now the most published Marie Claire writer of all time. She was made a 30 under 30 award-winner last year and named a rising star in journalism by the Professional Publishers Association.