Updated: Feb 28
Suffering from a bad case of saying the wrong thing at the worst time? There's an explanation in the stars, and its name is Mercury retrograde. Here's everything you need to know about this cosmic event and what's in store for you when it happens in 2021.
On Saturday, January 30, Mercury (the planet of communication) goes reverse in Aquarius, where it's been since Friday, January 8, entering its first retrograde of 2021. When the swift-moving Mercury cruises backward, we can expect frustrating miscommunications, technological meltdowns, and travel mishaps. While the first Mercury retrograde of the year doesn't officially start until Saturday, January 30, its shadow period begins on Friday, January 15. During this time, we begin to feel the effects of retrograde, although they are less intense than when things go full-swing.
Two days after 2021's first Mercury retrograde begins, on Monday, February 1, lover planet Venus also enters independent Aquarius. This airy sign is notorious for forgetting to text people back, an effect that will be amplified due to Mercury retrograde. Double-check your texts and emails to make sure you haven't left anyone important on read.
This first Mercury retrograde lasts until Saturday, February 20, when the messenger planet goes direct. While communication will become easier on this date, the shadow period (yes, there's one on both ends) lingers until Saturday, March 13. It should be fine to sign important documents again during the shadow period, just double-check the fine print. However, that's not the only Mercury retrograde of the year — in fact, there are two more to mark down on your calendar for 2021 — and you'll need to know a bit more about this cosmic event so you can make the most of it.
What exactly is Mercury retrograde?
Mercury — named after the Roman deity who served as a messenger to the gods — is the quick-moving planet that governs communication, travel, and technology. It helps us transmit messages by controlling both what we say and how we process what we hear from others. Three or four times per year, Mercury appears to go backward in the sky. While other planets also go retrograde, this particular retrograde has the potential to screw up all things related to communication and transmission. Shakeups aside, when Mercury rests, it gives us time to take a breath.
This time period is the planetary reflection of "measure twice cut once," and offers three chances to make sure our work is perfect. The first occurs when Mercury initially crosses a degree in the sky during a period known as its pre-retrograde shadow. The second happens when Mercury is retrograde and reverses back over this degree, which is when mistakes may be reviewed and corrected. Our final chance to move forward is when Mercury makes its final crossing over the degree, during what is known as a post-retrograde shadow. Basically, the effects of Mercury retrograde start to kick in about two weeks before the planet begins to appear to move backward from the earth, and clean up continues for up to two weeks after the retrograde ends.
During a Mercury retrograde period, it's important to be extremely careful with our language. Triple-check every text, email, and DM, and take the time to carefully explain your intentions. Spelling errors and Freudian slips are bound to happen. Decision-making skills may also be muddled, so avoid signing any major contracts during this period (although, if you must, be sure to thoroughly read the fine print). When it comes to technology, Mercury retrograde may be to blame for any massive electronic meltdowns, so it's advisable to not buy any new gadgets for the next three weeks, and if you do, make sure they come with a warranty. And if you're going to travel, build in time for delays, cancellations, and wrong turns.
Last, but certainly not least, we can always expect people from the past — including old flames — to reemerge during Mercury retrograde. In many cases, it's best to kindly decline unexpected coffee invites and "innocent" proposals to grab drinks.
When is Mercury retrograde in 2021?
There are three Mercury retrograde cycles in 2021. They are:
January 30 to February 20: The pre-retrograde shadow begins January 15, post-retrograde shadow ends March 13.
May 29 to June 22: The pre-retrograde shadow begins May 14, post-retrograde shadow ends July 7.
September 27 to October 18: The pre-retrograde shadow begins September 6, post-retrograde shadow ends November 2.
What do I do to survive Mercury retrograde? Will anything good come out of it?
Surviving Mercury retrograde is pretty simple: Remember to proofread everything, choose your words carefully, avoid signing contracts (or review them extra carefully), back up your data, and plan for travel mishaps. The truth, cosmic warrior, is that Mercury retrograde isn't all bad; in fact, it can serve as your quarterly self-assessment. How prepared are you for inconveniences? How's your self-care routine when things go awry? Although Mercury retrograde isn't a great time to make huge changes, it is ideal for reflection.
A central theme surrounding the first Mercury retrograde of the year, which starts on Saturday, January 30, is staying on top of correspondence. This retrograde is fueled by the unique spirit of Aquarius. This humanitarian sign, which is ruled by innovative Uranus, also has an aloof nature and can forget to text or call back, even with the help of messenger Mercury. When the communication planet goes backward, we're more likely to space out and forget to respond to an important email or leave a lover hanging. However, Mercury is happy in this sign. The logical and intellectual air sign nature of Aquarius will help us step back and stay calm during any communication mishaps.
This summer's Mercury retrograde moves backward through Gemini, starting on Saturday, May 29. Because Gemini's ruling planet is Mercury, this retrograde will be more intense than others, especially for those with heavy Gemini placements in their charts. As Gemini is an epic flirt, not only does this retrograde signal a return of the exes, but we might even sext the wrong person. Make time for meditation and therapy to keep your head on straight; don't screw up a healthy relationship because you're horny and your ex is in your inbox. Use this Mercury retrograde, which ends in Gemini on Tuesday, June 22, to get organized and express gratitude to those who you truly care about (and who care about you).
Try to remain present in your relationships during this year's Mercury retrogrades.Then, Mercury spins backward in Libra on Monday, September 27, for its final retrograde of the year. In 2021, every Mercury retrograde takes place in an air sign, so you really have to make sure you're being present in your relationships during these time periods. Air signs can forget to text you back on a good day, let alone while Mercury is in reverse. Libra is the sign of partnerships and balance, so this period marks another time in which old flames may reappear. Remember, a long-term healthy relationship, or even a promising crush, is not worth the brief adrenaline burst of sexting with someone that you shouldn't. Mercury retrograde in Libra ends on Monday, October 18. Use these weeks to layer on the self-care and to take social media breaks to focus on yourself and your loved ones.
Communication is a huge part of our daily lives, so when the messenger planet goes reverse, major issues are to be expected. But it's important to remember that while retrogrades can be annoying and cause some mishaps, they're not the end of the world. Swift-moving Mercury goes retrograde three or four times per year, so you've been through it before plenty of times, and will get through it this year, too.