A Guide to Understanding Mercury in Astrology

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images

Mercury has a weird reputation, which can be blamed squarely on Mercury Retrograde, the cosmic chaos that occurs on a quarterly basis. But Mercury is more than just hell on wheels: In astrology, Mercury is the planet associated with communication, expression, and cognition. Travel, technology, and day-to-day affairs, too. So what’s really going on with Mercury? And what does Mercury mean for you, personally? Below, your definitive guide to all things mercurial.

What does Mercury symbolize in astrology?

In Roman mythology, Mercury was a busy guy god. Mercury was in charge of finance, commerce, messages, travelers, thresholds, and trickery. What’s more, Mercury was responsible for offering medicinal support for ailing mortals, as well as guiding souls into the underworld. With such a hectic schedule, it’s no surprise that Mercury’s helmet was equipped with two little wings, making it much easier to get from one place to another.

Like its mythological namesake, the planet Mercury moves fast. Really fast. As the planet closest to the Sun, one year on Mercury is just 88 days long! Mercury’s celestial properties — as well as its ancient lore — are reflected in its astrological associations: Today, Mercury is associated with communication, travel, and all types of transactions.

Mercury — like Venus and Mars — is considered a “personal planet,” which means we experience its influence on a daily basis. Planets farther away in the solar system (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto), on the other hand, have sweeping societal implications. Mercury’s position in the sky has a direct impact on how we talk, how we think, and how we best express ourselves.

Mercury’s extremely speedy movement (when it’s not retrograde, it can change zodiac signs in just two weeks) reflects how quickly our own curiosities and ideas can fluctuate. For example, when Mercury is in fiery Aries, communication may feel spontaneous, impulsive, and perhaps even aggressive. But when Mercury shifts into earthy Taurus just a couple of weeks later, dialogue may slow down, becoming more pragmatic and logic-oriented. Mercury in Taurus will help us build on the impassioned momentum we established while Mercury was in Aries, and do so in a more grounded and long-term way. (You can use this website to see which zodiac sign Mercury is occupying on any given day.)

So what does Mercury mean for you, individually?

Your Mercury placement — precisely where Mercury was located based on your exact time, date, and location of birth — reveals your style of communication, how you process information, and the type of intellectual stimulation you crave. Mercury is closely associated with matters of the mind, so the zodiac sign Mercury occupies in your birth chart reveals both how you think and express your thoughts to others.

Finding your personal Mercury placement is easy: Simply use an online calculator (I recommend TimePassages) to generate your birth chart (a map of the sky based on your time, date, and location of birth) to identify which zodiac sign Mercury occupied at the moment you were born, revealing your unique style of personal expression. For example, if your Mercury is in diplomatic Libra, you’re probably very measured with your communication. You like to collect all the information, thoughtfully weighing the pros and cons, before reaching a decision. Alternatively, if your Mercury is in vivacious Sagittarius, you’re known for your quick wit and sharp tongue. With curiosity as your guide, you can talk to anyone about anything — and there’s nothing you love more than a good laugh.

Here’s how Mercury expresses itself through each zodiac-sign placement:

  • Mercury in Aries: Courageous and impulsive communication
  • Mercury in Taurus: Grounded and consistent communication
  • Mercury in Gemini: Playful and curious communication
  • Mercury in Cancer: Sensitive and guarded communication
  • Mercury in Leo: Dramatic and passionate communication
  • Mercury in Virgo: Linear and organized communication
  • Mercury in Libra: Diplomatic and balanced communication
  • Mercury in Scorpio: Strategic and intuitive communication
  • Mercury in Sagittarius: Bold and exploratory communication
  • Mercury in Capricorn: Pragmatic and discerning communication
  • Mercury in Aquarius: Innovative and cerebral communication
  • Mercury in Pisces: Artistic and emotional communication

Next, you’ll want to see which astrological house Mercury occupies in your birth chart. Your birth chart is divided into 12 sections, with each section representing a different area of life. By locating Mercury’s house, you’ll be able to understand how your unique style of communication shows up in your day-to-day experiences. If Mercury is in your 5th House, for example, you express yourself best through creativity and passion — whereas if your Mercury is in your 8th House, you’re skilled at discussing complex emotional topics that may intimidate others.

Find out what Mercury in your chart means for you using the below House keywords:

  • Mercury in the 1st House: Identity, presence, sense of self
  • Mercury in the 2nd House: Stability, material possessions, self-worth
  • Mercury in the 3rd House: Friendship, peers, local connections
  • Mercury in the 4th House: Home, family, origin story
  • Mercury in the 5th House: Creativity, pleasure, joy
  • Mercury in the 6th House: Routines, wellness, daily experiences
  • Mercury in the 7th House: Partnerships, contracts, external dynamics
  • Mercury in the 8th House: Depth, memories, psychology
  • Mercury in the 9th House: Discovery, exploration, expansion
  • Mercury in the 10th House: Legacy, reputation, career
  • Mercury in the 11th House: Humanitarianism, technology, social justice
  • Mercury in the 12th House: Intuition, healing, poetry

So if you’ve been trying to figure out the best way to share your thoughts and ideas, exploring your natal Mercury (both the zodiac sign and astrological house it occupies) is a great place to start. By understanding your Mercury, you’ll know the type of conversation you crave, what intrigues you on an intellectual level, and how to best express yourself. Sort of makes up for  Mercury Retrograde, don’t you think?

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A Guide to Understanding Mercury in Astrology