Hermes I call, whom Fate decrees to dwell in the dire path which leads to deepest hell
O Bacchic Hermes, progeny divine of Dionysius, parent of the vine,
And of celestial Aphrodite Paphian queen, dark eye-lash’d Goddess of a lovely mien:
Who constant wand’rest thro’ the sacred feats
where hell’s dread empress, Persephone, retreats;
To wretched souls the leader of the way when Fate decrees, to regions void of day:
Thine is the wand which causes sleep to fly, or lulls to slumb’rous rest the weary eye;
For Persephone’s thro’ Tart’rus dark and wide gave thee forever flowing souls to guide.
Come, blessed pow’r the sacrifice attend, and grant our mystic works a happy end.
— Hermes Chthonian from The Orphic Hymns
When Mercury shifts retrograde our angelic trickster slips into his role as psychopomp, the guide of souls who can journey into the underworld and back again. On a personal level this coincides with a turn within toward awareness not as readily available when Mercury is moving direct, a process that can birth new presence and shed old habits as Mercury reemerges on the other side (Mercury will station direct on January 25 and leave the retrograde shadow zone on February 17). Mercury retrograde is not a time to fear but rather an opening to symbolic perception that can divine messages within the darkness of our dreams as well as in the signs that appear during our sunlit daily journeying. The Mercury retrograde that begins on January 5, 2016 initiates at the first degree of Aquarius, but spends the majority of the time in the second half of Capricorn. Aquarius and Capricorn are both the homes of Saturn, and so this Mercury retrograde will be deeply linked with the significations we associate with that old devil, Saturn. The link to Saturn is further intensified by Mercury crossing the South Node of Saturn while retrograde,and then returning to conjoin the South Node of Saturn again once moving direct.
Modern astrology gives the rulership of Aquarius to Uranus, and one result of this is to associate Aquarius with future-oriented, liberated forms of thought. Yet this same meaning can be found through Aquarius being the diurnal home of Saturn, a place where Saturn detaches from the conditioned thought forms of consensus culture to develop systems of thought that break free from the constraints of the status quo. Mercury free from other influences stationing retrograde in Aquarius would support reception of a message beyond self-centered subjectivity, in an objective and clarified mind frame detached from passions and able to rationalize feelings. Yet instead the stationing of Mercury is painted in bold, impassioned colors by Mars in Scorpio forming an exact square at the time Mercury stations retrograde. As Mars in Scorpio heats the emotional climate of Mercury stationing retrograde, our feelings could override our ability to be objective or communicate with restraint. The eruption of cathartic feelings at the dawn of this retrograde will be borne by Mercury into our underworld for deep processing and purification.
The movement of Mercury from Aquarius back into Capricorn is united by both signs being the home of Saturn. Mercury in the territory of Saturn can readily focus on systems and structures in our life, including rumination upon time and space. Mercury stationing retrograde while bearing the water of Aquarius holds the promise of illumination that transcends our everyday conception of time, saturating our direct perception of the moment with lucidity. As Mercury moves backward into Capricorn, goat horns protrude through the messenger’s head as the role of water bearer is released in order to invest fully into the surrounding material realm with its lusty nature. In Capricorn, where Mercury spends the majority of its time this retrograde, Mercury shifts our focus toward achievement and ambition as well as the degree of determination and discipline that will be needed for manifestation.
In addition to entering the heart of the Sun while retrograde in Capricorn, Mercury will also form conjunctions with Pallas Athene and Pluto, and in fact will station direct conjoining Pluto. Around the recent solstice Mercury was first conjunct Pallas Athene, and in the first week of its retrograde movement Mercury will again become conjunct with Pallas Athene in Capricorn. Here the creative visioning of Pallas Athene combines with the symbolic perception of Mercury retrograde for penetrating perception into the structural and systematic foundations surrounding us. In her classic Asteroid Goddesses Demetra George wrote:
Aesthetically, Pallas Athene is very strong in Capricorn representing the ability to formulate precise structures (molds) into which raw creative energy can coalesce. Instant manifestation is often possible and can be seen as a magical process. Here, Pallas excels in the arts of architecture, drafting, and sculpture. Capricorn’s association with time connects Pallas Athene with the art of timing- being in the right place at the right time. Politically, this is a defender of law and order. There is a strong power drive for authority over others in political and social institutions. The wisdom of Pallas in Capricorn is the wisdom of order- putting things in their proper sequence (p. 105).
The Sun in Capricorn is applying closely to a conjunction with Pluto in Capricorn and square to Uranus in Aries when Mercury stations retrograde, and then in the weeks ahead after Mercury passes back across the face of the Sun, Mercury will eventually come into a square with Uranus in Aries and then will station direct in conjunction with Pluto in Capricorn. As a result, this Mercury retrograde activates and re-triggers the first quarter square between Pluto and Uranus that has been dominating our astrological landscape for the past seven years, most exactly in the past four years. As predicted the Pluto-Uranus square has correlated with seismic shifts around our planet, and so this Mercury retrograde is profound for reflecting upon the immensity of change that has passed through our lives. Furthermore, it’s a potent period for reorienting our plans and structures in greater harmony with the insights we receive for how our world has been altered and continues to change.
Does it really exist, Time the Destroyer?
When, on the peaceful mountain, does it crush the fortress?
And this heart, always the gods’ possession,
when does the Demiurge pillage it?
Are we really so anxiously brittle
as Fate would have us believe?
Is childhood, so deep, so rich with promise,
in the roots- later on- stilled?
Ah, the spectre of transience,
through the guilelessly receptive
it passes like wisps of smoke.
And we, with our driving, our striving,-
the abiding Strengths assume
that the gods have some need for us.
— Rainer Maria Rilke from Sonnets to Orpheus
Mercury Stations Retrograde
Hermes is a god of boundaries, with a tradition of demarcating divisions between profane and sacred territory, between rural and urban landscapes, between the graveyards of the dead and the playgrounds of the living. When Mercury stations retrograde, this normally swift planet gives off the appearance of putting down roots into solid stillness, and as it disappears with a flash of light at sunset there is a cosmic message transmitted. As Mercury moves retrograde under the beams of the Sun it is not visible, and being in between our planet Earth and our fiery Sun it is symbolically considered to be journeying through our underworld. Demetra George has connected Mercury retrograde with the work by Jungian Murray Stein on the borderline spaces we inhabit during transitions and gaps between conscious realities. As Hermes is a god of thresholds and passages between realms, Demetra George has taught that the stationing of Mercury retrograde marks a liminal time in which we are separated from a clear sense of where we are, as Hermes guides us through a transition of an old identity dying and the emergence of a new sense of Self.
This Mercury retrograde primarily occurring in Capricorn introduces the Mercurial theme of the earth element in 2016, as the following two Mercury retrograde periods this year will also occur in the earth signs of Taurus and Virgo. This brings to mind the unconscious symbolism of the forest as well as other oracular associations with soulful matter such as rocks, plants, and other elements of our natural world. Capricorn is distinguished in part from the other earth signs through it being the home of Saturn, and the transiting Saturn in Sagittarius is fittingly forming some of the most significant astrological aspects during this Mercury retrograde. Transiting Saturn being in Sagittarius colors Mercury’s time in Capricorn with a more strident, visionary vibration. The last quarter square between Saturn in Sagittarius and Neptune in Pisces that has been an intense astrological factor over the past couple of months continues to be so during this Mercury retrograde, and in fact becomes all the more dramatic with the passage of Venus triggering their dynamic.
As Mercury stations retrograde, Venus is applying tightly to a square with Neptune, within minutes. Venus is also four degrees away from Saturn in Sagittarius as Mercury stations, and as Mercury moves retrograde over the following week Venus will conjoin Saturn on January 8 at a Dark Moon in Capricorn. The square between Venus and Neptune portends a crisis in our relationships, and as Venus is overcoming Neptune in the square while also approaching Saturn, the dreamy unconditional side of our feelings can be overcome by the conditions of circumstance in front of our face, what we feel are the cold hard facts of reality. However, the square of Neptune in Pisces to Venus and Saturn combining in Sagittarius also reveals that there is a deeper and more far reaching truth to discern, such as the fact that what we are perceiving to be our reality is based more upon our current beliefs than actual reality. While Saturn can bring up feelings of wanting to cut something off and separate, it is also true that Venus can soften up the old ringed devil for reconciliation. At a higher potential, we can utilize these aspects during the Mercury retrograde to penetrate into our subjective feelings and perceptions and unveil a vaster conception of personal truth.
At the outset of Mercury stationing retrograde, with Mars in Scorpio in square to Mercury in Aquarius, we will want to keep in mind that disillusionment and feelings of disorientation are likely to come up in our relationships and that this amplified aspect between Mars and Mercury can erupt easily into bitter conflict. While Mercury is in Aquarius, there is a risk that the detached side of Aquarius could combine with the fury of Mars at full force in Scorpio, resulting in explosive fights. Yet the anger coming out in conflicts at this time has a source within, and it will be the task of this Mercury retrograde to journey within and explore the full ramifications of where these feelings are coming from. It is important to realize that the feelings and thoughts dislodged at the beginning of this Mercury retrograde by Mars square Mercury, Venus and Saturn square Neptune among other things, is not the end of the story but merely the beginning. Mercury will be journeying in the retrograde all the way back to unite with Pluto in Capricorn, and so there will be a vital message for us to receive about ourselves connected to the impassioned feelings provoked at the outset of this Mercury retrograde.
There is also the potential that we can rekindle passion from the Mars square in order to then harness corresponding desire to determined effort going forward. Mercury retrograde in the home of Saturn will reward hard work and effort, and so the square from Mars to Mercury can jolt us into awareness of where we need to concentrate and work with full force. This square between Mercury and Mars is even more intense as it is the second one to occur within the same week. The first square in this cycle was on December 29, 2015 with Mercury at its maximum elongation as an Evening Star at 28° of Capricorn, and Mars at the same degree of Libra. There is something hugely significant to find within this square between Mercury and Mars that will fuel our work in the year ahead. Mars and Mercury will form their third square in the beginning of March 2016 with Mercury at the very end of Aquarius and Mars and the very end of Scorpio. It may take until this later time a few months from now to fully come to terms with the work that will be involving this intense aspect between Mercury and Mars, and in the meantime we will need to persevere in the face of any daunting obstacles.
The other major astrological aspect occurring as Mercury stations retrograde is that a couple of days after Mercury stations retrograde, Jupiter in Virgo will also station retrograde closely conjoining the North Node of the Moon in Virgo. There is a powerful connection here with Mercury as the conjunction between Jupiter and the North Node of the Moon is occurring in Virgo. In fact, as Mercury moves retrograde into Capricorn this connection will intensify as Mercury will be receiving Jupiter through a trine. With Mercury in the home of Saturn, Saturn in the home of Jupiter, and Jupiter in the home of Mercury during this retrograde, despite some of the otherwise challenging aspects there also appears to be a confluence of forces supporting us finding a vision for our life that will bring us a fulfilling sense of purpose. Jupiter moving retrograde also brings an inner visioning in terms of reorienting toward a more authentic personal truth. Jupiter was previously retrograde in Leo between early December 2014 and early April 2015 if you want to contemplate events associated with the prior Jupiter retrograde. Jupiter will remain retrograde until the beginning of May 2016, at which time it will station direct in range of an opposition to Neptune in Pisces and a square with Saturn in Sagittarius.
Only he who has also raised
his lyre among shadows
may find his way back
to infinite praise.
Only he who has eaten with the dead
from their stores of poppy
will never again lose
the softest chord.
And though the pool’s reflection
often blurs before us:
Know the image.
Only in the double realm
do the voices become
eternal and mild.
–Rainer Maria Rile from Sonnets to Orpheus
Mercury into the Sun
Mercury’s inferior conjunction occurs when Mercury retrograde reaches the same zodiac degree as the Sun, and as Mercury during its retrograde is passing between our Earth and Sun, I am part of the astrological community who interprets this as being similar to a New Mercury. This is a moment of cazimi, in which Mercury is reborn in the radiance of our solar light, regenerated and purified within the golden rays of the fiery Sun. On a personal level, this is a moment of new conception regarding the significations of Mercury within our life, and a powerful moment within to attune to an oracular message we may receive. In Pacific standard time, this magical Mercury moment occurs at 6:05 am on January 14, 2016, while in the Central European time zone this will occur at 3:05 pm on January 14.
Mercury and the Sun will be at 23º50′ tightly in trine with Jupiter in Virgo at 23º10′ and the true North Node of the Moon in Virgo at 23º30′. Amazingly, the waxing crescent Moon at the moment of Mercury cazimi is at 22º30′ of Pisces, closely applying to a conjunction with the South Node of the Moon, a sextile with the Mercury and Sun conjunction, and an opposition to Jupiter in Virgo. These aspects are remarkably suggestive of the interpretation that Dane Rudhyar gave to the Crescent Moon as fighting off the ghosts of the past, as there is an activation of past patterns of awareness at the same time we sense new choices and opportunities linked to a reborn vision of meaning. While we may feel a pull back toward the normalcy of old patterns, we can consciously with determination propel ourselves into the unknown with faith despite the fears arising that we will not have what we need to be successful in the new direction. The close trine between Mercury conjoining the Sun and Jupiter conjoining the North Node of the Moon indicates that we will in fact be able to access the resources we need to successfully transition in the new, unfamiliar direction.
In addition, the inferior conjunction of Mercury will be almost exactly conjunct the geocentric South Node of Saturn, and a few degrees away from a conjunction with the geocentric South Node of Pluto. This intensifies the connection of this Mercury retrograde cycle with the full archetypal arcs of both Saturn and Pluto. In evolutionary astrology, Jeff Green teaches that the South Nodes of Saturn and Pluto being in Capricorn symbolizes the vast shadow cast by the patriarchal paradigm that seized power from a matriarchal collective ages ago. Mercury retrograde united with the Sun at the South Node of Saturn suggests penetrating insight into the foundation of the structural systems surrounding us will be available. It also portends we can discern how our behavior in the moment has been conditioned by the vast history of hierarchical power structures vying for power, control, and dominance.
Finally, there are additional indications that Venus is demanding attention from us during this Mercury retrograde, and that the retrograde commencing with a tight square between Venus and Neptune is a sign that we have a deep message regarding our Venusian nature to uncover. At the time of Mercury’s inferior conjunction, Venus in Sagittarius is separating from a trine with Uranus in Aries and applying to a square with Jupiter and the North Node of the Moon in Virgo, as well as a square with the Moon in Pisces and the South Node of the Moon. Well, we’re always focused on Venus and looking for messages about her, right? Nonetheless, Venus is holding aspects suggestive of being at a crossroads at the time of this Mercury inferior conjunction, and as she will be received by Jupiter it is yet another sign of the Jupiter conjunction with the North Node of the Moon in Virgo being a beacon of light leading us out of the Mercurial underworld.
We puzzle over flower, vine-leaf, fruit.
They speak not just the language of the year.
A thing of succor rises from the dark
and its hues may gleam with the jealousy
of the dead, those who strengthen the earth.
What do we know of their share in it?
It has long been their practice to enrich
the loam with their own free marrow.
The question is: do they do it willingly? . . .
Does this fruit, a work of sullen slaves,
push through clenched to us, to their masters?
Or are they the masters, sleeping among
the roots and granting us from their profusion
this hybrid of mute strength and kisses?
— Rainer Maria Rilke from Sonnets to Orpheus
Mercury Stations Direct
Mercury ultimately will station direct on January 25, 2016 at 14º55′ of Capricorn, closely conjoining Pluto at 15º54′ of Capricorn. As Mercury appears to stand still when stationing, this means we will have an extended period of Mercury and Pluto being a degree apart (roughly January 21 – February 1, 2016). On January 20 when the Sun ingresses into Aquarius, Mercury retrograde will also form an exact square with Uranus in Aries, and Mercury will still be in range of a square to Uranus when it finally stations direct. There is deep reckoning to be found in this stationing direct of Mercury, much more so than normal as it is intimately bound to the influence of the Pluto-Uranus square. This may or may not be a pleasant time depending upon your circumstances, but there is no doubt that an aspect of your ineffable soul will be available to perceive. Whether you are able to schedule some downtime for yourself or whether you will be forced to be engaged in numerous intense activities, there is immense catharsis found in these aspects surrounding Mercury stationing direct. There is also a harmonious sextile formed between Mars in Scorpio with the stationing Mercury in Capricorn, suggesting that a level of resolution could be reached concerning whatever was stirred up by Mars being square to Mercury at the beginning of the retrograde.
Adding to the vast depth of this time is that Mercury will be stationing direct closely conjoining the geocentric South Node of Jupiter, and also a couple of degrees away from a conjunction with its own geocentric South Node of Mercury. This is yet another potent activation of the Jupiter archetype during this Mercury retrograde, and points toward Jupiter taking on the role of a guiding shepherd. As Mercury begins to move direct again as an explorative Morning Star, it will once again begin applying to a trine with Jupiter and the North Node of the Moon in Virgo. Those who have been working hard with due diligence and determination during the Mercury retrograde will be rewarded during this final period of Jupiter in Virgo receiving Mercury in Capricorn through a trine. By willingly descending into underworld darkness during the Mercury retrograde, we will reascend nourished by a regenerated vision of life focused upon our essential fulfillment.
George, Demetra with Bloch, Douglas. (1986). Asteroid Goddesses. ACS.
Rilke, Rainer Maria. (2004). Sonnets to Orpheus. Translated by Edward Snow. North Point Press.