Navigating August Chaos: Your Essential Survival Manual for Mercury Retrograde in Virgo

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Batter up my babies.

From August 23 through September 15, 2023, Mercury, trickster planet of the mind and its multitudes, is going retrograde in the exacting, mutable mud of Virgo, the zodiac’s resident investigative, temple-tending, hands in the dirt third eye to the sky, discernment as dogma earth angels.

Mercury is our planet of messaging and communion and the natural ruler of both Gemini and Virgo.

In kindred conversation with one another, we can see this retrograde as playing for the home team and as a lesson in thinking as becoming and as a practice in renegotiating the terms of our toil.

When is Mercury retrograde August 2023

Mercury officially stations retrograde at 21 degrees Virgo on August 23 at 3:59 p.m. ET, to be exact because you know a Virgo always is.

The term retrograde is a bit of a misnomer as the planet does not actually stop or reverse but rather slows its roll long enough to appear to be backspinning from our vantage here on Earth. Our ancient forebearers noted this phenomenon and correlated the shift to the challenges and changes that befell them.

In myth, Mercury for the Romans or Hermes for the Greeks was the messenger of the gods whose communicative route spanned from the peaks of Mount Olympus to the depths of the underworld.
In myth, Mercury for the Romans or Hermes for the Greeks was the messenger of the gods whose communicative route spanned from the peaks of Mount Olympus to the depths of the underworld.
Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Named for the mischief-minded, trash-talking envoy of gods, the carrier of energies, he of the winged foot and loose tongue, Mercury is the fastest-moving planet in our solar system and it retrogrades three to four times a year. If you factor in the pre-shadow period of a retrograde, (assume Darth Vader voice), “and you should always factor in the shadow” the effects of the prankster planet of commerce and conversation are felt for roughly half of the calendar year. In-kind, Mercury retrograde is not to be feared nor underestimated but acknowledged and integrated.

I like to picture Virgo as a scythe with a smiley face sticker. It’s here to separate us from the dead and the detrimental and while it ain’t easy it is always necessary.

If you’ve been feeling on the fritz, mentally fried or linguistically f–ked in the past few days, you’ve likely been pulled into the undertow of Mercury retrogrades shadow period. Mercury began throwing shade when it entered its pre-retrograde shadow on August 3, and the levels of mixed signals and mishaps have been building ever since.

Mercury in Virgo meaning

1979:  A portrait of future American pop singer Madonna smiling while leaning forward to look at her reflection in a mirror, New York City. Her hair is short and dark, and she is wearing a black scooped-neck top. Madonna had just moved to New York City to study dance.  (Photo by Michael McDonnell/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Madonna was born with Mercury retrograde in Virgo.
Getty Images

Virgo is the sign of refining, fine-tuning and self-improvement, thus whatever systems fail or calamity comes to be, it is in the interest of cutting the fat, clearing the cobwebs and making space for the good to come. I like to picture Virgo as a scythe with a smiley face sticker. It’s separating the dead and the detrimental and while it ain’t easy it is always necessary. Cruel to be kind, take your medicine vibes. Mercury in Virgo is methodical and exacting but beneath its stern and even polarizing exterior it ultimately and always seeks to be of aid to others and to its highest self.

Apropos of this, Virgo rules the sixth house of service; the body at work, the daily rituals we subscribe to and the labors we commit to. During this retrograde, we have the opportunity to renegotiate the terms of our toiling. Does our compensation reflect our exertion? Where are we placing our energies? Are we renewed or depleted by what we do? When do we ignore the messages of the body? Where and why are we sacrificing health for the illusion of wealth? Venus retrograde in Leo already has us doing the shadow work of worth, kicking to the curb lovers that leave us lonely, jobs that leave us empty and all other manner of soul squandering. Mercury’s retrograde is a further invitation to integrate the language and lessons of self-love into a power braid of affirmation.

During this retrograde we have the opportunity to renegotiate the terms of our toiling.

Not for nothing folks, lion queen Madonna was born with Mercury retrograde in Virgo in her birth chart. This placement serves to explain her adoption of an upper-crust British accent, the posh pronunciations of the UK being curious but also clearer than its American counterparts. In terms of the sixth house of the body and our body of work, Madge cuts to the quick, reminding us, “A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That’s why they don’t get what they want.”

3D rendering of the planer Mercury
Mercury is the planet of the mind and the fastest-moving luminary in our solar system.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

Our patron saint of cone tits and controversy has never, ever been afraid to say what she wants or stand up to the forces that would have her express (or earn) less. Her enduring success is a testament to that straight talk and hard line. We can all take a page from the Material Girl during this transit and get clear about what matters to us and make a plan for putting it into place. Because miscommunication is a hallmark of this transit it is best to collect, cull and expertly organize our thoughts and save make-or-break conversations for when the planet goes direct so that we can collect in kind.

What signs will be most affected?

Schematic representation of the zodiacal constellation "Virgo", color corresponds to a zodiac sign.
Virgo is the largest constellation in the zodiac.
Getty Images

Because this retrograde is going down, or back as it were, in a mutable sign, the mutable crew; Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces will feel its effects most acutely. Gemini is especially susceptible as twin folk are ruled by Mercury. For gems, this transit is affecting their fourth house of home and roots, hitting hard on family dynamics and childhood aches. For Virgos, the first house of the self is activated by this retrograde, offering our fair earth people the opportunity to put a muzzle on their inner critic and be kinder to their next incarnation.

This retrograde lights up the tenth house of career and legacy for Sagittarians. Given the influence of Virgo, the time is prime for archers to reassess their role in the workplace and recalibrate the balance between professional progress and personal enrichment. For Pisceans, this retrograde affects the seventh house of partnerships offering fish, who famously flail when it comes to creating a boundary and separating themselves from who they love, the chance to make a clear distinction between who they are and who they consort with.

Dear god, when will it end?

The end of Mercury’s retrograde coincides/culminates with the new moon in Virgo on September 14, an ideal time to apply what we’ve learned and the introspection we have sought to our self-concept and daily rituals. Standing proud and clear here, here.

Astrologer Reda Wigle researches and irreverently reports back on planetary configurations and their effect on each zodiac sign. Her horoscopes integrate history, poetry, pop culture and personal experience. She is also an accomplished writer who has profiled a variety of artists and performers, as well as extensively chronicled her experiences while traveling. Among the many intriguing topics she has tackled are cemetery etiquette, her love for dive bars, Cuban Airbnbs, a “girls guide” to strip clubs and the “weirdest” foods available abroad.

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