By leaning into the lessons of Mercury retrograde in Aquarius, it's totally possible to not only survive but also thrive over the next three weeks.

By Maressa Brown
January 29, 2021
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We might have just kicked off a new year, a time we tend to think of as ripe for progress and plowing ahead, but the planets have a different game plan in mind. Well, one planet in particular: the messenger planet, Mercury, which will soon begin its first retrograde of 2021 in fixed air sign Aquarius, symbolized by the Water Bearer. From January 30 through February 20, the ruler of communication, transportation, and technology will appear to move backward through the sky.

There's a reason Mercury retrograde has such a bad rap. Even before it "stations" — aka comes to near-standstill before turning backward — you may feel Merc's effects as it delivers various miscommunications and misunderstandings, triggers delays, and spurs tech glitches galore. That said, this notoriously bummer transit isn't only about causing one headache after the next.

Here's what you need to know about the first Mercury retrograde of 2021 and how to make the best of it.

A Quick Primer on Mercury Retrograde

First, a quick lesson on what might be the most well-known astrological event: Lost emails, packages, or your mind because you can't for the life of you seem to get your message across no matter how hard you try? Must be Mercury retrograde! We love to blame this transit for any havoc wreaked — in part because it feels like it's happening all the damn time. The fact is that it does happen quite often: The communication planet goes retrograde approximately three to four times a year for three weeks at a time. In other words, it's retrograde 18 percent of the time.

As if that wasn't enough, there are always lead-in and lead-out periods — referred to as the "Mercury retrograde storm" — before and after every retrograde, during which Mercury has to put on the theoretical brakes before turning retrograde and then rev back up after the fact. Because it's the speediest planet in the solar system — it moves around the sun every 88 Earth days, traveling at nearly 112,000 mph — we can't help but feel the communication planet's slowdown and attempt to get back up to speed. (Reminder: The planet isn't actually stopping and reversing IRL, but simply appearing to do that from our vantage point on Earth.) But the day you'll most feel its effects will be when it "stations" — aka actually goes — retrograde or direct.

But while Mercury loves to mess with all of the technology we're endlessly addicted to, screw up travel plans, and set the stage for plenty of interpersonal confusion, the astrological occurrence — like most others — is not entirely negative. It's also an opportunity to look backward, to reflect, revise, review, and tie up loose ends before moving forward confidently and decisively. It serves as a reminder that, no matter how much you wish you could push forward 24/7/365, life wasn't designed to be lived with your foot on the gas pedal every day. In fact, by slowing down and checking yourself, you might ultimately get even further.

Themes of the First Mercury Retrograde of 2021

From January 30 to February 20, the communication planet will be retrograde in Aquarius, the fixed (also known as most resolute or stubborn) air sign. Known for being progressive, futuristic, humanitarian, friends with literally everyone, and quirky to the max, Aquarius is ruled by electrifying Uranus, the planet of rebellion, revolution, and change — often of the sudden variety. And the air sign serves as the ruler of the eleventh house of networking and long-term wishes.

That said, this retrograde might serve as a nudge to look back and handle unfinished biz, as well as reflect on past lessons around group projects. It could also encourage us to focus on working toward the greater good, fostering a sense of community, cultivating greater autonomy and individuality, tackling any ongoing issues with friends or teams, and perfecting technological and scientific endeavors (cough COVID vaccine rollout, anyone?).

The Signs This Mercury Retrograde Will Affect the Most

Because the retrograde is occurring in fixed Aquarius, the other fixed signs across the other elements will feel this particular backward turn the most. That includes Taurus (fixed earth), Leo (fixed fire), and Scorpio (fixed water). Taureans, you'll feel it in your tenth house of career, Leos, in your seventh house of partnership, and Scorpios, in your fourth house of home life.

It also bears noting that Geminis and Virgos generally can't help but feel Mercury retrogrades a bit more acutely than others, as both signs are ruled by the messenger planet. (BTW, here's a complete guide to all the zodiac signs, plus their dates, houses, symbols, and meanings.)

Tips for Surviving the 2021 Mercury Retrograde in Aquarius

By leaning into the lessons of the first Mercury retrograde of 2021, it's totally possible to come out whole on the other side — and perhaps even a little better for it. You might want to make a point to make the following moves.

Reconnect with Groups of Old Friends or Colleagues

Mercury retrogrades generally stir us to reach out to or be approached by people with whom we're long overdue for a catchup, whether that's someone you haven't spoken to since grade school, a former colleague who wants you to recruit you for a new collaboration, or, ahem, an ex who texts you out of the blue. But with the communication planet retrograde in community-oriented Aquarius this time, you might find yourself thinking more along the lines of groups vs. individual friends. You could end up having a Zoom happy hour catchup with old sorority sisters or buddies from an old job.

Tackle Back-Burnered Business with Networks

If there's a professional organization you've been meaning to apply to, a volunteer org you've been meaning to get involved with, or if you've been considering going back to school to get an advanced degree, take note. This retrograde could present the perfect opportunity to do exactly that, as it'll train your focus on any key networks and groups you already are or want to be associated with.

Get Clear on Humanitarian Causes You Want to Support

Speaking of volunteer orgs, Aquarian energy is deeply philanthropic and dedicated to bolstering the greater good for whole communities, even the planet as a whole. For this reason, you could make the most of this Mercury retrograde by carving out time to reflect on ways you've been giving back and using your voice (and dollars) for positive, global change — plus how you can do even more going forward.

Back Up and Update Tech

This is something you'd want to consider doing during any Mercury retrograde, really, considering its general themes. But because Aquarius is ruled by Uranus and is particularly obsessed with all things science and tech, the next three weeks could present an even more urgent opportunity to get your tech in order. Consider what needs wrangling, whether it's organizing all those files in the cloud, attending to ongoing issues like lost passwords or unanswered emails, or backing up every last bit of info — it's all worth it in an effort to preempt your worst Mercury retrograde nightmare.

Prioritize Rational Thought

Aquarius not only exhibits high mental energy (a trademark of the whole air crew), but the sign tends to reject just about anything that hasn't been documented in a lab or peer-reviewed. In other words, thinking in a rational, scientific, fact-based way is of utmost importance in the Water Bearer's opinion, so doing your best to hold that perspective in mind through the next three weeks could make for smoother sailing in business and relationships. (Related: What the Current Age of Aquarius Says About 2021)

Embrace Your Quirkiness

Influenced by rebellious Uranus, which urges us to be free-spirited and strike out on our own, Aquarians tend to reject convention and the status quo, preferring to write their own, super-unique narrative professionally and personally. Over the next three weeks, you might want to look back at times when you were absolutely 100 percent yourself — even if that meant going against the tide. Mercury retrograde in Aquarius was made for exploring different ways to own and showcase the strengths, dreams, and perspective that makes you distinctive — and yes, sometimes, a complete weirdo.

Maressa Brown is a writer and astrologer with more than 15 years of experience. In addition to being Shape's resident astrologer, she contributes to InStyle, Parents, Astrology.com, and more. Follow her Instagram and Twitter at @MaressaSylvie.

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