Right now, the closest planet to the sun is moving direct in Capricorn. But Mercury retrograde is never too far away. In 2020, the phenomenon will happen three separate times. And if you want to save yourself a headache, you'll start preparing yourself now.
When a planet is in retrograde, that means that it’s appearing to move backwards in its orbit from our perspective on Earth. All the planets are in retrograde at some point, but Mercury goes in and out of retrograde more frequently than the others — and in astrology, the planets that are closer to the sun have a stronger influence on our day-to-day lives than the outer planets.
Mercury rules communication (including technology), self-expression, travel, and timing. During a retrograde, these areas of our lives can experience some conflict. When the Red Planet is tracking backwards, contracts fall through, exes come out of the woodwork, and flights are suddenly delayed — or you might just start missing them. In a peak example of Mercury retrograde chaos, last November, a server glitch meant that many people received texts that were originally sent on Valentine’s Day. Yikes.
Mercury retrogrades in different zodiac signs — sometimes two in the same retrograde — depending on where the planet is in the sky at that time of year. Each retrograde will be subtly influenced by the characteristics of the sign Mercury appears in. When Mercury was in retrograde in water sign Scorpio this past fall, for instance, intense emotions were at the forefront of our experiences. And while everyone will notice retrogrades, some people could experience stronger effects than others, depending on their birth charts.
Okay, mark your calendars. The dates for Mercury retrograde in 2020 are:
February 16-March 9, in Pisces (until March 4) and Aquarius
June 18-July 12, in Cancer
October 13-November 3, in Scorpio (until October 27) and Libra
On the dates that Mercury is in retrograde, astrologers will suggest you try to avoid making any major commitments, such as signing a lease or beginning long-distance travel. But let's face it: Asking a friend if you can crash on their couch to delay signing a new lease until Mercury goes direct again isn't always an option. If you do end up making big changes during Mercury retrograde, just be mindful — read that rental contract extra-carefully, or spring for traveler’s insurance if you usually don't.
Finally, some good news. Astrologers tend to say that all the panic over Mercury retrograde is a tad overblown. It has become something of an astrological boogeyman, overshadowing the effects of other planetary retrogrades. (You hardly ever hear anyone talk about Venus retrograde, do you?) And retrogrades aren't all bad. In fact, this infamous period can even be a time of growth.
“Retrogrades are a time for the three Rs: Review, Reflect, and Reassess, while Mercury governs your attitudes, communication and friendships,” astrologer Jessica Lanyadoo, author of Astrology For Real Relationships, previously told Refinery29. “We are meant to internally clarify our thoughts at this time, and even if it's annoying, it's a useful event.”