It’s that time of year again—the infamous Mercury retrograde officially begins on July 26. Every planet goes into retrograde from time to time, but Mercury’s retrograde cycle is the most frequent and most well-known. Three times a year, Mercury, ruler of communication, travel, technology, and intellectual thoughts, appears to move backwards in the sky for about three weeks. Mercury doesn’t actually move counter-clockwise—its orbit around the Sun is faster than ours, and this causes the optical illusion of a backwards-moving planet. When a planet is in retrograde, the themes and energies it embodies are reversed and internalized, which can make you feel like you’re swimming against the tide.
Think back to last March — it probably feels like a decade ago now, considering how much astrological activity we’ve faced since then, but that was the last time Mercury was retrograde.
And what a retrograde it was.
If you felt like you were dealing with twice as many headaches, misunderstandings, and stressors as you normally experience during a Mercury backspin, you’re not alone. March’s retrograde took place in short-tempered Aries, the first fire sign of the Zodiac whose impulsive, confrontational energy only amplified Mercury’s signal-scrambling effects.
As much as you’d rather forget all the faux pas committed and passwords lost during that time, looking back on this frustrating period (and how you survived it) might actually come in handy ahead of this Thursday, when Mercury begins its second retrograde of the year in yet another fire sign, Leo.
It bears mentioning that, although they’re both ruled by the element of fire, Aries and Leo are still different. Where Aries hurdles headlong into any challenge, Leo’s sense of self-preservation leads them to think before acting (though once they do act it’s usually with the same amount of passion as Aries). If Aries is a Roman candle, then Leo is a bonfire that burns through the night. But, where their personalities overlap is in their flair for dramatics and aggressive communication style.
Considering Mercury’s close association with communication and interpersonal relationships, it can make socializing feel like dodging bullets when it goes retrograde in a touchy, temperamental fire sign. When it takes place in Leo specifically, we ought to brace for misunderstandings in which our pride and egos are on the line. Even the humblest among us could end up taking offense to minor remarks or a single rumor about them.
Unfortunately, our current Mars retrograde (which began on June 26) could make us even more sensitive to the types of foot-in-mouth interactions that Mercury retrogrades tend to prompt. The trick to getting through any retrograde is to move slowly and deliberately — and this summer of retrogrades galore is no exception.
Until Mercury goes direct on August 18, make sure to guard your heart, keep offhand comments in perspective, and, if you can’t help but engage in a little gossip, double- and triple-check who’s in your group text before hitting send.
By SARA COUGHLIN For Refinery29