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When is Mercury in Retrograde in 2023?

It's a perfect excuse to hole up, goblin out, and avoid reading emails!

The planet Mercury in the foreground, with the sun shining on it in the top left corner.

Has this happened to you? You send an important email only to find, six hours later, that it never made it past your outbox. Meanwhile, your paycheck gets lost in the mail and your partner wildly misinterprets a harmless comment you made. During the ensuing fight, you open your mouth to apologize, only to vomit all over their shirt and make them even angrier. Later, the GPS in your phone goes berserk and you accidentally drive off a cliff to your gory, violent death! What a day! Are you cursed!?

Nope. Relax. It’s probably just Mercury Retrograde.

What exactly is Mercury Retrograde, and why do astrology-minded people swear by it? When is it occurring in 2023? And is anyone going to recover your body from that fiery car on the side of a cliff? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is Mercury Retrograde?

If you were to stare at the night sky for an entire year straight, you would notice that the visible planets all appear to move from east to west across the sky. This is because all the planets are orbiting the sun. However, sometimes a planet seems to move backward—that is, from west to east. That happens because every planet orbits the sun at a slightly different speed, so sometimes, planets will lap each other. When Mercury completes half its orbit of the sun and starts going back the other way, it appears to be moving backward from our point of view here on Earth.

The Farmer’s Almanac likens the optical illusion to cars on a highway:

Picture two cars on the highway going in the same direction in different lanes. If one car is driving faster than the other, the slower car will appear to go backward from the perspective of a person in the faster car, even though the slower car is still going pretty fast in the same direction.

To astrologers, the planets are potent sources of symbolism that we can use to make sense of our lives. Mercury, named after the Roman messenger god, rules the realms of communication and transportation. When Mercury appears to go backward in the sky, it has the same effect as folk magic practices like turning your clothes inside out or reciting something backward. It takes all the good effects of Mercury, like clear communication and swift travel, and reverses them. That’s why astrologers believe that mishaps like lost mail and traffic jams are more likely to occur during Mercury Retrograde.

Do other planets go retrograde?

Oh, yes. Technically they all do, although Mercury tends to have the most well-known retrograde periods. For example, Venus also periodically goes retrograde, which leads to a shift in energy in the spheres of love, beauty, and relationships.

What should I do when Mercury goes retrograde?

PANIC! Just kidding.

Different astrologers belong to different schools of thought when it comes to Mercury Retrograde. Some astrologers believe that the planets have a physical effect on the world, and that you need to be extra careful when traveling and communicating. For example, you might be warned to postpone any important communication or travel until after the retrograde period. Is there any way you can put off that job hunt or trip to France for a few weeks? Then do it.

Other astrologers see Mercury Retrograde more as a period to pause and take stock of our relationship with the world around us. If you find that you compulsively send work emails late into the night, or you have trouble staying in one place for very long, then Mercury Retrograde is a time when you can intentionally slow down and reexamine your habits. How does it feel to set limits around the amount of work you do after the office is closed? Will you still want to take that trip to Vegas in a few weeks, or do you think you’ll be just as happy staying home? Mercury can encourage you to take some time to reflect on your habits.

When will Mercury go retrograde in 2023?

Here’s when Mercury goes retrograde in 2023.

December 28, 2022 to January 18

April 21 to May 14

August 23 to September 14

September 9 to October 1

December 13 to January 1, 2024

The first and last dates of each retrograde can be a little fuzzy, since Earth has 24 time zones and Mercury is in space, so if you’re really concerned, you can always extend your personal retrograde period to one day before and after the “official” days.

Good luck out there!

(featured image: Buradaki/Getty Images)

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Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at