Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images
As it does every August, summer is sleepily winding down — except the cosmos are making sure this one goes out with a bang. Yes, dear reader, the bitch is back: On Wednesday, August 23 (the exact same day Virgo season begins), everyone’s favorite scapegoat goes backward. From now through September 15, Mercury retrograde is at it again.
But wasn’t Mercury just retrograde?! Well, no. Although it may seem like life is often moving in reverse, Mercury only goes backward three or four times per year. And anyhow, every Mercury retrograde is unique, which means this upcoming reversal is going to be totally different than the last one. Don’t panic! I got you covered — read on for everything you need to know!
Mercury moves fast … like, really fast. This swift little planet (the closest celestial body to the sun) completes its accelerated orbit in a mere 88 days, which means it moves approximately four times faster than planet Earth. Naturally, to match its speedy movements, it was named after the Roman deity associated with commerce, expeditions, and currency. Today, Mercury also governs technology, digital communication, and all types of connections and transactions.
When Mercury is functioning normally, it keeps a pretty low profile. Conversation is flowing, websites are loading, and everything just works. But, approximately once per quarter, Mercury shifts gears for a three-week slowdown — a phenomenon known as Mercury retrograde. And for those keeping track, of course, planets don’t actually move in reverse: Planetary retrogrades are optical illusions based on the speed of the planet and its proximity to Earth.
Nonetheless, when a planet as significant as Mercury even appears to go backwards, distortions, deceptions, and downright disasters are inevitable. Considering that a substantial portion of our quotidian reality is governed by Mercury, this radical shift in perspective is guaranteed to induce mayhem.
While Mercury retrograde (along with its signature chaos) are inevitable parts of life, there are definitely ways you can maintain composure. Namely, understanding exactly how this retrograde is going to impact you will help you prepare for any unexpected calamities.
From August 23 through September 14, Mercury will move backward in the sign of Virgo. Symbolized by the virginal maiden (a representation of purity), Virgo is associated with logic, practicality, and structure, along with health, wellness, and hygiene. Fundamentally, Virgo wants to improve systems — to tweak, to refine, to make things better. And, because Virgo is known for its extreme meticulousness, on a bad day, it can certainly skew towards perfectionism or criticism.
When Mercury first entered this sign on July 28, you may have noticed a shift in your communication … perhaps an improvement? That’s because Mercury is considered to be in its domicile and exaltation in Virgo — in other words, it’s where Mercury really thrives. Maybe you’ve been motivated to clarify your thoughts? To explore new-and-improved ways of conveying your point of view?
But wait. Does that mean everything will come crashing down with Mercury retrograde? Absolutely not! In fact, this Mercury retrograde has been peppered with some auspicious signatures. Not only does Mercury maintain its optimal position in Virgo throughout the entire retrograde, but on September 4, it forms an extremely special connection to Jupiter — the planet of luck and fortune. Mercury retrograde famously brings things back from our past (which is why so many exes resurface during this time) so on this day, potential opportunities that seemed DOA may have a surprising (and exciting) second life. How fabulous!
Another thing that makes this moment special is that, for the first ten days of Mercury retrograde, Venus will also be retrograde. Since Venus first went backward on July 22, we’ve been exploring topics relating to values, self-worth, partnership, and confidence. Although it might seem scary to have a double-dose of retrograde, the timing is actually quite special. With the planet of communication also slowing down and approaching life with a more critical lens, we are inspired to be discerning, thoughtful, and intentional about our words. How can we articulate our wants, needs, and expectations, ensuring that our truth is fully and completely understood? This is a unique moment for us to align our external expression with our internal experience, inviting genuine transformation into the fold.
First, keep in mind that the effects of Mercury retrograde are felt two weeks before the planet goes backward (that’s called the “pre-shadow”), as well as two weeks after it goes direct (that’s the “post-shadow”) — accordingly, our Mercury retrograde haze started on August 4 and will continue through September 30. Of course, you’ll want to brace yourself in all the standard Mercury retrograde ways: Pad your travel itineraries with extra time, read the fine print of every contract (and then read it again), make sure your text messages are going to the correct recipients, and don’t text your ex. But there are some other things you can do to really maximize your retrograde experience.
During this cycle, you’re invited to get granular. I’m talking line-edits, fine-tooth-comb microscopic. Virgo is all about details, so right now, you’re encouraged to review your day-to-day realities with careful precision. What’s working in your life? What isn’t? What modes of expression feel most comfortable for you? Are you a writer? A speaker? A visual artist? Identify how you best communicate, and for the next few weeks, explore how you can strengthen those skills even further. What does it mean for you to convey your truth? Additionally, since Virgo is also associated with the body, this is an excellent time to tune into your physicality. Are you sore? Are you dehydrated? What nourishment is your body craving? By the time this Mercury retrograde is over, don’t be surprised if you have a much more comprehensive understanding of how you move through the world — ultimately, this backward spin is a very good thing! Enjoy it!