The Inferior conjunction of Mercury and the Sun on October 16, 2014 is in the sign of Libra and conjunct Venus, evoking Maat through the added atmosphere of the Goddess (Venus) and the Scales (Libra) of Balance, Law, and Justice. In Egyptian mythology, the god Thoth is associated with Mercury, and Maat is the goddess corresponding to Thoth, the beloved daughter of the sun god Ra who undertook the work of creation along with Thoth. There were only two deities who stood on either side of the boat of Ra: Thoth and Maat, and Maat’s presence was intrinsic to the daily regeneration of Ra, the Sun. Maat wore an ostrich feather in her hair, the feather a symbol of “maat,” an ineffable word that had associations with genuineness, authenticity, truth, and being “real.” This being a time of Mercury retrograde, and Mercury being the trickster transgressor of boundaries, we also want to be aware of how the additional link between Maat and concepts like righteousness and unalterable morality can trick us at times into thinking that we are in the right, when in actuality we have not deeply explored ourselves to the necessary extent to truly understand our truth.
The inferior conjunction of Mercury with the Sun is a magic moment of soul, and the center of the Mercury retrograde cycle we are experiencing from Scorpio to Libra and back to Scorpio again. This “inferior” conjunction of Mercury is like an “interior” alignment of Mercury with the Sun from our perspective on Earth, as Mercury appears to move in reverse into the Sun in between our orbit and the great light of our solar system. This is a moment in which Hermes transmits a message from Spirit to us, as Mercury’s orbit is much closer to the Sun than our orbit on Earth. We can center at this time as we release old thought patterns, making space for the arising new vision of our life. This can be a disorienting time, so the symbol of Mercury being in Libra at this time is an apt guide, as we will want to find our focal point of balance in the flow around us. This is a point of conception to generate what we will birth from our minds in the forthcoming cycle, and we want to keep in mind that Mercury at this point in its retrograde cycle is inwardly directed and more subjectively susceptible to sensing the symbols surrounding us than at other times. As Venus in Libra and Mercury in Libra are moving toward one another, only a couple degrees apart at the time of the inferior conjunction, reaching their own conjunction a day later, this is also an opportune time to center within our authentic values, releasing what is false in order to embrace our burgeoning truth.
Maat was involved in the judgment of souls, the weighing of hearts at the time of death, as the hearts of the dead were placed on a scale to be balanced with the feather of Maat. The goal was to have Maat in your heart, to balance the scales and reveal that your voice was true, genuine, and justified. Now is the time to go within our unconscious, our dream time, our place of centering, so that we can re-emerge into the bustling world from a more authentic place, acting from and speaking our truth.
The inferior conjunction of Mercury and the Sun will be in the Libra III decan, a decan associated with the 4 of Swords in tarot. In the image above created by Pamela Colman Smith for the A.E. Waite deck, we can see what looks to be a tomb with a statue of a knight in prayer, under a stained glass window of “PAX” or “peace.” This image also evokes a pilgrim in meditative silence within a protected, sacred space, and likewise it can help us find our own balance at this time if we can manage to create our own space, or journey somewhere we can find solace in silence. Since we are in a time of Mercury retrograde, we also can integrate the duality within this image, the concept of peace that necessitates the concept of conflict, the pilgrim/knight in prayer surrounded by swords. Within the balance of these dualities, we can sense how his positioning is like a re-balancing of the chakras and re-integration of our body and mind, and the sword below him is a tool to be used to cut away the false and inessential in order to reveal our essential and genuine presence that can emerge now. It also connects to the judgment of Maat at our time of death, the weighing of our heart to reveal if we lived a life in accordance with our soul or not.
In 36 Faces Austin Coppock described Libra III as a decan that “allows one to see through the eye of the storm” through equilibration of movement:
Its secret resides in the eye of the storm, calm and clear as the chaos of desire and fear whirl all about . . . The principle of justice or balance is thus applied constantly to a lop-sided world, one interaction at a time. Those who enact this formula successfully emanate an aura of order and are themselves a walking corrective . . . The power of this face is to equilibrate unbalanced forces as they are encountered, and to maintain connection to the unmoved center. It offers the formulae by which equipoise may be maintained in any circumstance- shelter in any storm. (p. 168-70)
Lastly, as we remember the connection between Libra and relationships, the Moon in Leo being conjunct Juno in Leo at the time of the inferior conjunction gives added weight to our relationships being a primal source of lessons for us now. It may be through our intimate relationships as well as our more ephemeral interactions that we come to important realizations that will help us to release old thought forms in preparation for the new. I am reminded of this passage I admire from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, in which the main character realizes the gap of understanding between him and his wife of over six years:
Is it possible, finally, for one human being to achieve perfect understanding of another?
We can invest enormous time and energy in serious efforts to know another person, but in the end, how close are we able to come to that person’s essence? We convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but do we really know anything important about anyone?
I started thinking seriously about such things a week after I quit my job at the law firm. Never until then- never in the whole course of my life- had I grappled with questions like this. And why not? Probably because my hands had been full just living. I had simply been too busy to think about myself. (p. 24)
No matter how busy we are, this is a time necessitating deep reflection in order to reap the reward of realization available. This does not mean it will be easy- going into the underworld realm never is, but it has always been the mythic figures consumed with great love and desire for their beloved, like Psyche, Isis, Dionysus, Orpheus, and Persephone, who survive and give birth to new vision from a new sense of self. We can make a sacred oath and contract with ourselves at this time, to clear what needs clearing and to courageously embody our deepest desires. By doing this work within and nurturing our own needs, we will be able to listen with greater clarity to the needs of others. There may be hard truths to recognize about ourselves, attachments we have clung to for years that must be let go, but in the end our lives and the lives of the people we are in relationship will be richer for our participation in this time of internal transition guided by Mercury.
Coppock, Austin. (2014). 36 Faces: The History, Astrology, and Magic of the Decans. Three Hands Press.
Murakami, Haruki. (1997). The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Vintage.
Pinch, Geraldine. (2002). Egyptian Mythology: a guide to the gods, goddesses, and traditions of ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press.
Wallis Budge, E.A. (1960). The Book of the Dead. University Books, Inc.
12 thoughts on “Maat in the Heart of Mercury”
An interesting description of Maat.
A brief description into a complex deity, but hopefully it made some sense.
Outstanding as usual Gray.
Thank you, Judie.
Thank you for the thoughtful article! Can I just ask what is an “inferior conjunction”? I know some astrology but I’m not an expert … 😳
Thank you for letting me know that was not clear- I’ve written about it before but you are right that I did not really explain it in this post at first. I went back and added a couple of sentences to be more clear- it has to do with the fact Mercury has an orbit between Earth and the Sun, like Venus. Mercury and Venus as a result both have “inferior” conjunctions which is when they are conjunct the Sun in between our orbit and the Sun. In the “superior” conjunction they are conjunct the Sun on the other side of the Sun from us. So in this way, the “inferior” conjunction has some similarity to the New Moon, when the Moon is in between our orbit and the Sun, as well as the Solar Eclipse. When Mercury and Venus are in this phase of orbit, their motion appears to move backward from our perspective, so when either Mercury or Venus are retrograde and conjunct the Sun, it is there “inferior” conjunction. Right now, Venus is not retrograde but getting close to being conjunct the Sun- this will be the “superior” conjunction of Venus, and Venus is on the other side of the Sun in orbit now, whereas Mercury is in between the orbit of the Sun and us. I hope this makes sense? You can find much longer, more clearly written articles about this. In either case, in both the superior and inferior conjunction, Mercury and Venus are invisible from our perspective so they can have somewhat of an “underworld” association (they are “combust” or too close to the Sun to be visible). This is especially the case when they are retrograde, and Mercury in particular is a mythic figure capable of descending to the underworld and re-ascending to the upper world, and so there ends up being that sort of archetypal myth association of meaning. If that did not make sense, please let me know and I will try to explain it with greater clarity.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer this question so thoroughly! 😀 Your reply together with the sentences you added to the article has made it completely clear to me. Except for one thing – if Mercury has an inferior conjunction with the Sun, and Venus has a superior conjunction, does that mean that the Sun is between them, from our Earth perspective?
You say that the conjunction is like a new moon, and that it is a moment of birthing things for the new cycle. That sounds very promising. 🙂 Also that there will be a conjunction of Mercury and Venus shortly after the Mercury-Sun conjunction. I have a Mercury-Venus conjunction in my birth chart (1st house Scorpio). Thus, the Mercury retrograde cycle happens in my 12th house – very underworldly indeed, and it also might be significant with regard to my radix conjunction.
But when you say that Osiris hates nothing so much as lies and deceit, how does this fit in with Hermes the trickster god in your opinion? He is very ambivalent, sometimes helpful and full of truth and wisdom, then again lying and deceitful. And both parts are important, so a good/bad morality does not really do him justice. If you choose one part and negate the other, you see only half of him. (I’m grappling with that lying, tricking part of him in myself, failing miserably so far. 😉 ) So where do you see the connection between Hermes, Maat and Osiris, apart from the underworldly part? I find it fascinating how you weave these images together, but to me Thoth seems a bit different from Hermes – more serious perhaps. 😉
Thank you for sharing your ideas!
Thank you for your thought provoking comment. Well, let me tell you for starters that me connecting these concepts has a bit of the Trickster in it, as I am not an expert and it was an intuitive association I was making (I am also Gemini rising, Gemini Moon, Gemini South Node of Moon, Pisces Mercury square Moon and nodes of Moon). I am glad you see that Mercury through Hermes goes beyond dualistic notions of good/bad morality, as he certainly does. And you are right that deceit and trickery can be part of Mercury’s devices. The way I see this in connection to what I am writing about here is authenticity- so in this way it is more about being authentic than necessarily avoiding deceit. Not sure if this makes sense- but if someone is doing lying and deceit and dishonesty that is also not part of their authenticity, then that would be what I would suggest avoiding. However, as in fairy tales and hero stories, as in our personal life, sometimes in order to be authentic it is necessary in moments to not tell someone the whole truth- I guess what I mean with this inferior, interior, conjunction of Mercury is being honest with your Self.
Thoth and Hermes are connected, but I do not know enough about Thoth to get into an analysis of him being more serious than Mercury. I can tell you what I do know, which you may know already, but for one Thoth was the secretary for Osiris, he would record the result of Osiris in his judgments- and so in this messenger, scribe role, it is the same as Mercury. However, I also know that Thoth was supposedly a Moon God, his Ibis beak reflects the Crescent Moon, and he was involved in tracking and recording the phases of the Moon. A similarity with Mercury and Hermes is that Thoth is also connected to writing, in fact inventing writing, magic spells, prescribing medication, prayers, hymns, planning including planning for temple building, mathematics, teaching, notation, record keeping,…. As a Moon God he reflected the Sun and transmitted the message of the Sun. In this way I think he is similar to Mercury in astrology as we associate Mercury with being closer in orbit to the Sun to help us tune into messages. From Plato to Plotinus, many famous thinkers associated with Greek had study in Egypt, and it is in the Hellenistic era that brought together Greece and Egypt that the recorded history of the astrology we use today emerged.
I am not sure if Thoth is like a trickster in the way of Hermes. And, I do not know enough about Osiris and this idea of condemning lies and deceit that I found in the translation of the Book of the Dead (though Osiris was the victim of deceit from Seth, in some versions stemming from his affair with Seth’s wife that some versions also show as deceit in Seth’s wife disguising herself as Isis to trick Osiris). What is clear, though is that in myth Hermes was born from Zeus having an affair with Maia, one of the Pleiades, in her cave. When Hermes was born he immediately struck out and stole the cattle of Apollo, marching the cattle backwards to disguise their tracks in retrograde fashion. He also came across a turtle, intuitively killing the turtle to create a lyre from its shell, creating music- which he then used as a gift to give to Apollo to remedy his fury over him stealing his cattle. Hermes is about using deceit and trickery at times, and seems to be about revealing the hypocrisy of moral righteousness coming from Zeus authority figures who are hypocritical in their moral judgment. To me, it is about being authentic with yourself. Does this make any sense?
I really appreciate your comments- thank you.
all my best,
This quote is wonderful and yet a bit frightening too:
“We convince ourselves that we know the other person well, but do we really know anything important about anyone?”
Ahh, “important?” That is a huge question as it requires me to ponder what my truer values are in others. I’ll admit that I am very attracted to deep thinkers and people who enjoy the study of esoteric topics. People with such interests are rare, at least in my local and familial circles. In those circles I think to know someone means to understand their language and history enough to communicate on whatever level they’re willing and able to.
But to those others, many of whom I engage with here on WP, the knowing seems more difficult because of the lack of physical proximity, and yet, more engaging because the language and references are the familiar, bonding us in ways that don’t often happen with family and friends.
There’s value and importance to different varieties of knowing, but there still remains the mystery of each person, including ourselves. As well, to remind myself that I do not know and can not know to the degree that I desire is ever necessary to stay open to what may be revealed at any time.
Thank you Debra,
Not to be too ironic, but I feel I do understand where you are coming from with your comment. Actually, I do believe it is possible to know “important” things about someone else. I also think that some connections can be deeper than others, and this knowingness can be more accessible. With others we can be more closed off, and also I think people do not always take the time to know themselves enough so that they can correspondingly know another at a deep level. Also, I think it is not only knowing yourself, but also then being able to be vulnerable and open with others, so you can have a dynamic formed in which a revealing is possible in between. I do not know how Murakami wrote this in Japanese, but I found the phrasing of this translation well put. I also think sometimes in moments of loss (like in this scene in the story the character had quit their job and had become unemployed), in times of transition we can get more in touch with ourselves and then others as well as a result. I think this also connects to the astrology of the moment. Your wonderful last sentence also connects strongly to all of this to me- staying “open to what may be revealed at any time.”
Thank you for sharing Debra- I can tell you that you are someone who will write about ideas that I am also thinking about.
all my best,
I did not know that the feather used to weigh the Soul was Maat…authenticity. Rings so true.
Yes, it is fascinating. I was just reading about it in a library copy of “The Book of the Dead” I found recently translated by EA Wallis Budge, late keeper of Egyptian and Assyrian Antiquities at the British Museum: In Plate III, a scene of the weighing of the heart in the Judgement Hall of Osiris, Ani’s heart is weighed and “we see that the beam of the Balance is exactly horizontal, and that the heart and the feather of Maat exactly counterbalance each other; in other words, the heart is neither too light nor too heavy, and thus the demands of the Law of Osiris are satisfied . . . his soul has borne testimony on his behalf, and that his heart has been found right and true by the Great Balance . . . The texts that supply these facts make it clear that the fundamental demands of the Law from a man were that he should: 1. Speak the truth. 2. Do no harm to any man by word or deed. 3. Observe strict honesty in dealing with the property of others, whether it belonged to the gods or to men. 4. Commit no sin against the gods, and do nothing to belittle their dignity or destroy sacrosanct property. From many other texts, and from inscriptions of all periods, it is clear that what Osiris abominated above all other things were lying, prevarication, deceit, and insincerity. To him the speaker of crooked words must necessarily be a doer of crooked deeds, and the proof of this fact is the words “maat kheru,” “whose word is truth,” which it was the proud hope of every Egyptian to have applied to him by Thoth, by the gods, and by Osiris himself, the God of Truth” (.p. 238-239)