Is Mercury in retrograde? What does it mean and what is its astrological significance - what are 2023 dates?

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Everything you need to know about how Mercury entering retrograde could impact your life this April

“Mercury Retrograde” is probably the most oft-referenced astrological event. You’ll be hearing about it a lot more for the next few weeks, because the first of three Mercury Retrograde phases expected to occur in 2023 has just begun.

It’ll last for a little under a month, but in that time you might find yourself wondering – what actually is Mercury Retrograde? How does it work? Why do people care about it? When is happening next? Is there any astronomical significance to the phenomenon, or is it strictly an astrological invention? 

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Here’s everything you need to know – or maybe might just want to know – about Mercury Retrograde 2023.

When is Mercury Retrograde in April 2023?

Mercury entered retrograde for the first time in 2023 on Friday 21 April. The planet will remain in retrograde until Sunday 14 May, a duration of nearly three weeks. 

What actually is Mercury Retrograde, scientifically speaking?

A picture of the planet Mercury transiting in front of the sun, taken in Kuwaiti City on November 11, 2019. (Credit: Yasser Al-Zayyat / AFP via Getty Images)A picture of the planet Mercury transiting in front of the sun, taken in Kuwaiti City on November 11, 2019. (Credit: Yasser Al-Zayyat / AFP via Getty Images)
A picture of the planet Mercury transiting in front of the sun, taken in Kuwaiti City on November 11, 2019. (Credit: Yasser Al-Zayyat / AFP via Getty Images) | Yasser Al-Zayyat / AFP via Getty Images

Mercury Retrograde is an astronomical phenomenon that essentially functions like an optical illusion. Mercury is the planet closest to the sun, and as a result orbits the sun much faster than Earth (one revolution around the sun, or a year, takes the equivalent of just 88 Earth days for Mercury). Because of that, Mercury will ‘lap’ the Earth multiple times a year – it happened four times in 2022 – and create the illusion that the planet is moving backwards through the sky. After a while, Earth ‘catches up’ to Mercury, and the small planet is said to be ‘prograde’.

This occurs only from the perspective of someone on Earth. On Mercury, there’s no actual physical change, and the planet doesn’t really change direction (interestingly, though, that same phenomenon means that if you were on Mercury there are times during the year when the sun would appear to enter retrograde). The only tangible impact of Mercury Retrograde is that, during those moments, the planet is so close to the sun that radio interference compromises communication with any artificial satellites in the vicinity. 

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Why is Mercury Retrograde astrologically significant?

Insofar as anything is ever astrologically significant, it’s believed that Mercury the celestial body rules different types of communication. As a result, Mercury Retrograde can influence listening, speaking, learning, reading, and editing, as well as broader forms of communication like researching, negotiating, selling, buying, coding, and transportation. 

It’s thought that this can be traced back to the Romans, when Mercury was believed to be the god of communication. It’s also been suggested that the modern pop culture understanding of Mercury Retrograde began in the 1980s, and took on particular significance – as, genuinely, all things do – when Taylor Swift referenced it on MTV in 2014.

How might Mercury Retrograde affect me?

If, to pick a random example, you were born in September and your sun sign was Virgo, you might expect Mercury Retrograde to leave you feeling lost. When Mercury retrograde ends, you’ll feel a sense of direction returning, and perhaps will have had the chance to learn something if you really let yourself embrace the detours along the way. 

Otherwise, it’s thought that everyone will experience the classic communication mishaps and related frustrations when Mercury enters retrograde. Emphasis on “thought”, though, obviously. (What a classic Virgo sentence to write!)

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When is Mercury Retrograde for the rest of the year?

It’s typical for Mercury to enter a Retrograde period multiple times a year. These are the key dates to watch out for across the rest of 2023:

  • From April 21 until May 14 

  • From August 23 to September 14

  • From December 13 to January 1, 2024

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