Astrology with Alice: Mercury Is in Retrograde, and Here’s What That Means for You

May is a month to reassess (and maybe not make that new phone purchase)

Words by Alice Smith

Astrology with Alice: Welcome to Astrology with Alice, a monthly astrology column aimed at helping readers understand the vibes of the month ahead in plain English. As a Taiwanese immigrant who grew up in Los Angeles, I specialize in combining western astrology with eastern philosophy. I’ve taught modern astrology through the lens of Buddhism and Taoism, and I also draw from the principles of traditional Chinese medicine. Knowing the movements of the planets can help us make decisions around our careers, relationships, family. As the planets move around in the sky, they shift the energetic vibes we experience on Earth, and I believe in flowing with energy instead of fighting it—to work smarter, not harder. So join me on our monthly planetary lowdowns and learn how you, too, can ride the cosmic waves!

Are you feeling out of sorts as the month begins? If so, relax. It’s not just you.

We’re kicking off May with weird energy. The cosmos is shifting. We’re still riding the high of zany eclipse energy (read about them in last month’s column), but now we’ve added Mercury retrograde to the mix. That’s a double dose of weird.

Mercury will be in retrograde throughout the first half of the month until May 15, and it takes a few days for retrograde energy to die down even after that, so this energy will affect most of May.

A retrograde happens when, due to the locations of the planets in relation to Earth, the planets sometimes look like they’re going backwards in the sky. They’re not actually going backwards, but they look like they are. Here’s an example: Remember when we were kids sitting in the backseat of the car, looking out at the sky? And the moon would move both forward and backwards in the sky depending on where our parents were driving? That’s the basic gist of retrogradation.

When a planet retrogrades, its energy, in a way, goes backwards. (One of my mentors liked to say that it goes widdershins.) It wants to revisit the past as opposed to moving into the future. It wants to reflect and internalize instead of act and express outwardly. It prefers nonaction to action. You can imagine that in today’s extroverted, capitalist societies that value tangible and measurable results, retrograde energy is hella uncomfortable.

Mercury retrograde often ends up getting blamed for sooo many things, so let’s also clarify what Mercury can actually affect. Mercury rules communication, perception, mental activity, technology, and travel, as well as the signs Gemini and Virgo. Geminis and Virgos, therefore, may feel more out of sorts than others in that weird, retrograde-y, I-can’t-quite-put-a-finger-on-it sort of way.

When it comes to daily life, here are my Mercury retrograde survival tips:

  • Double-check your texts and emails to make sure they’re going to the right people.
  • Allot extra time to set up your presentations.
  • Be crystal-clear in your communications.
  • Account for the possibility of delays.
  • Avoid moving or signing contracts if possible.
  • Avoid purchasing tech gadgets and appliances. (However, if in true retrograde fashion your stuff breaks and you must repurchase an appliance ASAP, go ahead and do it. Under those circumstances, the repurchased gadget tends to work out just fine, but appliance delivery scheduling might be where the shenanigans occur.)
  • Avoid travel if you can. If you must travel, allow plenty of time for connections and go analog when possible. Print your itineraries and boarding passes as backups and make sure important things are packed in your carry-on. (Also, spoiler alert: The next Mercury retrograde will blanket the entire holiday season in December.)
  • Since Mercury is also associated with business in electional astrology (the astrology of date selection), do not launch any websites, products, or programs. I wouldn’t even hire during this time. A business launch under Mercury retrograde is one of my astrological hard nos.

Something extremely important to remember during this time is that one of the archetypes of Mercury is that of the trickster. The trickster messes with us to teach us to not take ourselves so seriously. Humor and flexibility, therefore, are the best ways to weather Mercury retrogrades. So let go. Breathe. Remember that it’s only a few weeks. Chill out.

Also, people from the past tend to pop out of the woodwork during retrogrades, so if your ex randomly texts you, “Hey,” just know that the point is to revisit old hurts so that you can take another stab at healing them correctly. Before you “Hey” them back, remember that you can revisit the hurt without revisiting the ex. (And blasts from the past aren’t always bad! One of my friends needed some design work done and she got butt-dialed from an old associate during Mercury retrograde. As they spoke, she realized mid-conversation that this woman was the perfect person for the job!)

Even though retrogrades are meta events that can affect all areas of life, depending on your sign, you may feel the wonky pull for reevaluation more strongly in certain places than others. Here’s a quick list of where Mercury in retrograde may activate in your life by astrological sign:

  • Aries - Money and assets
  • Taurus - Personal identity
  • Gemini - Mental health and inherited issues
  • Cancer - Your community and friend groups
  • Leo - Career and legacy
  • Virgo - Matters of faith and education
  • Libra - Financial planning
  • Scorpio - Partnerships
  • Sagittarius - Health
  • Capricorn - Love and romance
  • Aquarius - Family and home
  • Pisces - Your communication style

An uplifting mid-month shift as Jupiter changes signs

The other big astro-news of May is that Jupiter’s heading into Taurus!

We like Jupiter in astrology. Jupiter is the planet that brings gifts and opportunities. It comes in hot with major Santa Claus vibes—joyful and generous. If you want something to take off, it’s best to have Jupiter on your side.

Jupiter moved into enthusiastic Aries at the end of last year, but Mars (Aries’ ruler) was still retrograde at the time. The energy felt like a car getting a jump start with an engine that wouldn’t turn over. But then Mars moved forward again and we got an Aries solar eclipse last month that was turbo-charged with Jupiter energy in April (see April’s eclipse article).

Now? Consider us jumped. The engine has turned over.

With Jupiter sailing into Taurus on May 16, we’re going to start to see some returns on our energetic investments over the next year. Jupiter in Aries helped us to break ground on our new projects, but we’ll see our efforts bear fruit while it’s in Taurus—the sign of fertility and money. Jupiter in Taurus has the power to bring about financial abundance and material stability. The flip side of the coin is that we will also need to keep our materialistic tendencies in check.

Jupiter will stay in Taurus for a year, and, during this time, our tastes will lean in the bougie direction. Jupiter frames our idea of what we’ll want to indulge in, and, in Taurus, it’ll be about the pleasures of la dolce vita.

There will be a beautiful handful of days from May 16-20 when it’ll be a stellar time for some glorious self-care. Jupiter will be luxuriating in Taurus while Venus and Mars are in homey, cozy Cancer. Taurus and Cancer are super simpatico with each other, so those will be lovely days for us to indulge in some TLC.

So while the first half of the month may feel bizarro, things will feel more pleasurable and stable once Jupiter moves into Taurus mid-month.

Published on April 27, 2023

Words by Alice Smith

Alice Smith has loved astrology ever since she read her first horoscope as a kid. She’s a certified, professional astrologer who reads birth charts for clients all over the world and has spoken at events throughout the Pacific Northwest. Alice learned to write horoscopes from her mentor Rebecca Gordon who was herself mentored by the grande dame of horoscope writing, Susan Miller. Alice has a degree in sociology from the University of Washington and is (too) obsessed with her “Furgo” (furry Virgo) cat, whose birth chart she often interprets on social media.

Art by Ryan Quan

Ryan Quan is the Social Media Editor for JoySauce. This queer, half-Chinese, half-Filipino writer and graphic designer loves everything related to music, creative nonfiction, and art. Based in Brooklyn, he spends most of his time dancing to hyperpop and accidentally falling asleep on the subway. Follow him on Instagram at @ryanquans.