Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve likely heard the phrase "Mercury retrograde," usually used as a scapegoat for challenges and obstacles that come up in daily life.
But what is Mercury retrograde? And why does it have such a bad reputation?
Here's everything you need to know about Mercury in retrograde and its effects.
What is Mercury retrograde?
According to the Old Farmer's Almanac, the phrase refers to a time when the planet appears to travel backwards across the sky, which happens during three periods in the year. These periods are referred to as times when Mercury is in retrograde motion, or Mercury retrograde.
This is only an illusion, caused by the position of Earth in relation to Mercury. However, this time period when Mercury appears to move backwards has long been associated with confusion, delays, and blunders, at least as far as astrology is concerned.
When is Mercury retrograde in 2022?
Mercury entered its apparent retrograde motion on September 9. The phenomenon occurred during two other time periods this year, from January 13 to February 3 and from May 10 to June 2.
It will also occur again from December 28, 2022, to January 18, 2023.
Why does Mercury retrograde have a bad reputation?
"Mercury is symbolic of the little transactions we have as we move through our day," Canadian astrologer Nadiya Shah tells Narcity.
"Those can be financial transactions, but most importantly, it’s how we communicate and connect with others," she says.
"We all know how important clear communication is. Now, imagine the planet that speaks to strong communication travelling backwards, a symbol for it being not at its best, and you can see how this can be a time of chaos and obstacles."
Are all Mercury retrograde periods the same?
"Each Mercury retrograde season will have some similar themes," says Shah. "However, each will also be unique."
"The sign that Mercury retrogrades in will always be different, and that can determine how it is experienced."
She says that this time around, Mercury retrograde takes place "partly in the sign of Libra and partly in the sign of Virgo."
"What that means is Mercury first retrogrades in the sign having to do with partnerships, with our one-on-one alliances and how we communicate within them. Therefore, how we understand each other is where we will experience the most confusion now."
"The sign of Virgo has to do with those small moments as we move through our life, but it also speaks to what we believe are good health habits," says Shah.
"It speaks to how well we take care of ourselves, and where it is that we may be looking for more information. However, chances are that information is not going to be accurate at this time."
What are Mercury retrograde's effects on zodiac signs?
"Each sign will have to find ways to more deeply understand areas of life at this time," says Shah. "It is the reflection and reunion of two different areas of life that speak to how well we might use this time. This is always going to be unique to each different sign."
"Virgos and Libras will be affected most strongly, along with their opposite signs, Pisces and Aries, respectively."
What should I avoid doing during Mercury retrograde?
"Mercury rules communications of all kinds," says Shah. According to the astrologer, this includes "spontaneous communications with each other," as well as formal types of communication like negotiations, contracts and documents.
"We can see how the planet that rules these types of endeavours, travelling backwards in the sky during the retrograde period, indicates that this would not be the ideal time to engage in these matters," she says.
"The single most important thing I would say is if you can help it, try not to sign contracts while Mercury is retrograde. Chances are you will see the agreements you made and what you agreed to differently in some way later on."
This advice doesn't mean that you need to be fearful of signing contracts or making negotiations during this time, though.
"It doesn’t always mean that things don't work out well. Just differently," says Shah.
She says that you may also want to avoid a lot of spending during this time.
"As Mercury rules commerce and technology, the other important thing to remember during any Mercury retrograde season is that this is not the time for large purchases, especially the technological kind.
"You want a strong, forward-moving Mercury if you are going to invest in new technologies, especially those that you hope will make your day-to-day life better, like a new smartphone or a new computer," she says.
What should I do during Mercury retrograde?
On the flip side, Shah says there are things you actually should make a point of doing while Mercury is in retrograde.
"Mercury retrograde is a wonderful time to go over old ground," she says. "Revisit, reunite, re-edit, review — recycle even! Astrologers famously say that anything beginning with a 're' is how we use energy wisely during a Mercury retrograde season."
The period is also a time to pay attention to communication in your relationships, says Shah.
"Taking special consideration to communicate more clearly, but also understanding that even the clearest communication to you might have all kinds of interpretations to another, is a way to allow patience and grace to navigate Mercury retrograde and all relationships at this time."
Mercury retrograde isn't all bad! If you are, however, feeling spooked, you can at least rest easy knowing the period will end on October 2, 2022.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.