I probably think about Mercury retrograde more than the average person. That's partially because I write about astrology for Refinery29. But I also just worry about the transit. I never want to be caught unawares. Weeks ahead of certain events — my birthday, a road trip, my big moving day — I'll quickly check to see if a retrograde is coming. So this year, I decided to get ahead of the game and look up each and every time the speedy planet will be doing its backwards dance this year, so I can fully prep myself.
Mercury is known as the Planet of Communication, and when it goes retrograde, our connections can get pretty wonky, causing confusion and glitches in technology. The reason Mercury retrograde gets so much hype, according to Narayana Montúfar, senior astrologer for Astrology.com, is because "our society is highly dependent on technology, so when a text or an email gets lost, or our computer crashes, we are highly inconvenienced."
Mercury goes retrograde three to four times a year — more than any other planet. This year, thankfully, it moves backwards just three times. Mercury also retrogrades in just one element every year, and this year it's happening in air signs. Montúfar says this is important to note. "Instead of analysing Mercury retrogrades alone, they all form part of an overall story," she says. "It also means that we will be working with the energies that relate to that element in particular." Mercury retrogrades in air signs affect us on a more intellectual and mental level, compared to when Mercury retrogrades in the other elements, she says.
Without further ado, the dates Mercury will retrograde in 2021 are:
30th January to 20th February, in Aquarius. The pre-retrograde shadow (which is the time before the retrograde officially kicks off, when we may already start feeling the effects of the movement) will begin on 15th January, and the post-retrograde shadow ends on 12th March.
29th May to 22nd June, in Gemini. The pre-retrograde shadow begins on 14th May, and the post-retrograde shadow ends on 7th July.
27th September to 18th October, in Libra. The pre-retrograde shadow begins on 6th September, and the post-retrograde shadow ends on 2nd November.
For fairness's sake, I have to point out that Mercury retrogrades aren't all that terrible. They can even be positive. "It's is a time to slow down, to revisit, redo, and rethink plans or projects," Montúfar says. "In a fast-paced culture like ours, that is seen as negative, when the truth is it offers us a chance to fix projects and situations that actually needed revision in order to be successful."
So while marking down these transits in your 2021 planner can help you prepare and get through them more easily, recognise that it's not just a time of chaos and destruction — it can be a time of growth too.