This Next Mercury Retrograde Will Force You to Reevaluate Your Boundaries

Photo-Illustration: by Preeti Kinha; Photos: Getty Images

You thought 2023 was over? Not so fast, friend. There’s no way we’re leaving this hellscape without another Mercury Retrograde — sorry! On Wednesday, December 13, swift-moving Mercury begins its final backward dance of the year, where it will remain until literally the New Year (as in Monday, January 1).

As you know by now, while every Mercury Retrograde has shared qualities (they’re all, for example, The Worst™), each is unique in its own special way. So what should you expect from this upcoming Mercury Retrograde, and what does it mean for you? Read on to find out!

But wait, what is Mercury Retrograde again?

There’s nothing slow about Mercury. This planet moves fast — it takes Mercury just 88 days to complete an orbit. Makes sense, then, that Mercury is named after the Roman messenger god who governed commerce, transportation, travel, and communication. Today, Mercury’s domain also includes technology, social media, thoughts, and ideas. So, basically, Mercury is responsible for everything we interact with on a day-to-day basis — and usually that’s fine. We’re chatting, we’re texting, we’re online shopping. We’re just minding our own business, living our lives, doing our thing. And then, suddenly, things get a little … messy.

Approximately once per quarter, Mercury stops, pivots, and seemingly changes direction. This three-week slowdown is known as “Mercury retrograde,” and — despite how chaotic it may seem — it’s a totally normal part of the cosmic flow. (Of course, planets don’t actually move backward: All retrogrades are optical illusions in which a celestial body appears to move in reverse based on our perspective on Earth. But like a mirage in the desert or a Christopher Nolan movie, these visual deviations can be extremely disorienting.) When Mercury is compromised, we, too, begin to operate suboptimally. And that is exactly what to expect in the weeks ahead.

What do I need to know about this Mercury Retrograde?

You don’t have to run for the hills — the best way to prepare for Mercury Retrograde is simply knowing what to expect. And this Mercury Retrograde is all about the powerful lessons in both control and boundaries. You know, no big deal.

This Mercury Retrograde has two distinctive parts. First, from December 13 through December 23, it will take place in the sign of Capricorn. Symbolized by the seagoat — the mythological creature with the body of a goat and the tail of a fish — Capricorn can successfully navigate both land and sea, symbolizing this sign’s ability to overcome even the most daunting challenges. Capricorn knows that through hard work and perseverance, they can overcome the most impossible odds. But on a bad day, Capricorn struggles with infuriating micromanaging and obsessive workaholism. (Basically, Capricorn’s motto is “if you want it done right, do it yourself,” which doesn’t make this sign the best collaborator.) Harsh and clinical, Mercury in Capricorn can certainly be a bit cold and insensitive.

But this Mercury Retrograde we’ll be journeying into yet another zodiac sign. From December 23 through January 1, Mercury is sliding into Sagittarius’s domain. Like Capricorn, Sagittarius is symbolized by a hybrid creature, the Centaur. Half-human and half-horse, Sagittarius’s intellect enables it to travel long distances, representing its philosophical passions and expansive wanderlust. Likewise, Sagittarius is brave, exploratory, and optimistic — this zodiac sign wants to leave no stone unturned. But Sagittarius can also be flighty, inconsistent, and unreliable. After all, how can you count on someone who’s always seeking the next best thing? Abrasive and brash, Mercury in Sagittarius is recognized for its blunt, sharp tongue.

So what should I expect?

Astrology is always nudging shoving us toward important life lessons, empowering us to become better, more self-actualized individuals. During Mercury Retrograde’s dynamic two-part waltz, we have the opportunity to reevaluate how we’re communicating our goals, passions, and ideas. First, we’ll be invited to explore what it means to surrender, trust the process, and explore the benefits of teamwork. Then, when Mercury shifts into Sagittarius, we’ll be encouraged to reevaluate boundaries, manage expectations, and lead with authentic curiosity.

If you have personal planets (Sun, Moon, Rising, Mercury, Venus, or Mars) in Capricorn or Sagittarius, get ready. You’ll be feeling the energy of this Mercury Retrograde a bit more acutely. At first, it may feel a bit torturous — like no one is understanding and everything is falling flat on its face. But while this backward spin may certainly start out as a pain in the ass, it will present you with some extraordinarily important opportunities to grow, heal, and maybe even … mature? For example, for those with Capricorn placements, perhaps you could actually try implementing an idea from a friend or colleague instead of barreling forward with your own strategy? Or, for those with strong Sagittarius in their chart, maybe this is about learning to actually (ahem) listen before projecting your own agenda?

Don’t forget that everyone has every zodiac sign in their birth chart, which means everyone will feel the impact of Mercury Retrograde. No matter where Capricorn or Sagittarius activate your birth chart, remember that if you look at an old situation from a different point of view, you’re bound to discover new, unexpected possibilities.

How should I prepare?

While you may want to pad your travel itineraries with a little extra time, back up your most important data, and triple-check the recipients of your texts and emails, remember that Mercury Retrograde is not an apocalyptic disaster. Mercury’s backward spin is a normal part of its cycle, so focus on how you can use this time to truly rest, reset, and recalibrate. Maybe you can even lean into Mercury Retrograde as an opportunity to explore another timely “re-” word: resolution. Over the next three weeks, powerful discoveries will surely inspire you to set exciting intentions for the year ahead. Let’s go!

More astrology news and guides

See All
Just in time for those New Year’s resolutions!