For one throb of the artery,
While on that old grey stone I sat
Under the old wind-broken tree,
I knew that One is animate,
Mankind inanimate phantasy.
— W.B. Yeats, A Meditation in Time of War
In the cool air of twilight as the Sun descends below the horizon, Mercury begins its journey into the underworld as a retrograde planet. While changing into the role of a psychopomp as fluidly as vespertine colors transfigure into the darkness of nightfall, Mercury retrograde opens us to a liminal perceptual space which offers guidance in between life transitions and the crossing of thresholds. Mercury delights in the part of a cunning guide of soul during its retrograde phase, beguiling all with unforeseen twists best handled with intuitive receptivity to direction. On April 9 Mercury will begin its retrograde within the earthy home of Venus, a twenty four day passage that will take it back into the fiery home of Mars where it will hold lengthy counsel with Uranus. As Mercury will station retrograde less than a week before the current Venus retrograde ends with Venus stationing direct, there is an incredibly volatile atmosphere at the beginning of Mercury’s retrograde which will require constant focus on recalibrating the connection between our perceptions and translation of meaning.
Within the rulebook of astrology, Mercury refuses to be caged in by categorizations of gender or preference for day or night. However, since Mercury begins its retrograde period as an Evening Star, it finds accord stationing in Taurus since the nocturnal sign of the Bull is both the exaltation of the Moon and the domicile of Venus. Mercury stationing retrograde in the inwardly receptive sign of Venus will lead us to find meaning through our subjective sensual faculties as we will be drawn into our corporeal senses and instincts. Fittingly, Hermes in myth is bound to the fertility and life force of nature, a seductive mediator who reveals the spiritual found in the profane and the profane that may be discovered in the spiritual.
Hermes was born in a cave, a fitting origin to his destiny as subterranean caves were the temples of our ancestors where Spirit was received in the flesh. In the instinctual sign of Taurus our Mercurial capacities turn within so that our diverse senses take precedence over rational analysis. Similar to how Mercury in alchemy conjoins the animating spirit with its earthy body, the full bodily perception available with Mercury in Taurus brings nonverbal insight into the world-creating spirit concealed in material forms. Along these lines it is fascinating that Taurus is the heliocentric South Node of Mercury, for Mercury does not move at a fast pace in Taurus but rather sustains a slowly churning rhythm grounded into the sensuality of the moment. The plodding, patient, and thorough movement of Mercury in Taurus also helps bring awareness to practical considerations and focus on developing and nurturing work and relationships toward their full potential.
In popular astrology there are many warnings to not start businesses, sign contracts, make important purchases, initiate relationships, or basically make any major life decisions while Mercury is retrograde. It has also become common parlance even among those with minimal astrological understanding to not only complain about Mercury being retrograde, but to blame all technological mishaps and communication breakdowns on the phenomenon of Mercury appearing to move backward through our zodiac. However, Mercury being retrograde is not a cursed anomaly but rather an essential aspect of Mercury, as essential as sunset is to sunrise. Very successful businesses, contracts, and relationships of all sorts can begin during Mercury retrograde, but it is more important than normal to pay attention to our intuition with regards to the choices we make and the ventures we begin.
During Mercury retrograde the orbit of Mercury comes in between our Earth and our Sun, bringing Mercury as close to us as it ever gets. In the resulting amplified atmosphere of Mercury, it is vital to maintain keen awareness into the synchronous interplay between sights, sounds, and other senses within our environment. It is further paramount during Mercury retrograde to pay attention to gut instincts and the symbolic meaning of omens and other oracular messages that cross our path whether from our nightly dreams or daily travels. Our inner life will need tending especially during the first week of the Mercury retrograde in Taurus, as Mercury will be ruled by a Venus that is also retrograde but in the process of stationing direct. Since Venus is in her exaltation of Pisces while simultaneously forming a catalytic relationship with Saturn, our sensual perceptions will receive sharp and potent messages and we will need to navigate an inner sea of emotions that can become turbulent at times.
Mercury rules the first face of Taurus where it stations retrograde, giving Mercury greater natural aptitude to do its work of interpreting and communicating meaning. The astrologer Austin Coppock in his book on the decans 36 Faces noted that the Mercurial first face of Taurus holds resonance with the thorough and patient planning necessary to develop future harvests. Mercury is under the full influence of Venus at the beginning of its journey as it is in both the home and the bounds of Venus, with Venus at a standstill in her exaltation of Pisces. The fact that Mercury initially moves retrograde ruled by Venus retrograde, with Venus forming a conjunction with Chiron and a square with Saturn, cannot be overlooked or downplayed. It will be necessary during the initial movement of Mercury retrograde to face the truth of our external reality as well as our full interior realm of feelings without denial. Whatever needs nurturing, adjustment, alteration, or rebalancing will be revealed if we are paying attention, and with the gained awareness we can begin to modify our decision making and development of goals.
Since Mercury is also stationing in the exaltation of the Moon and close to the specific exaltation degree of the Moon, it is compelling that its retrograde begins with a waxing gibbous Moon on its way toward a conjunction with Jupiter in Libra and an especially dynamic Full Moon in Libra the following day. Not only will the Full Moon at the beginning of Mercury’s underworld journey be conjoining Jupiter, but the Sun will also be united with Uranus while the Full Moon itself forms a challenging square to Pluto in Capricorn. In short it will be impossible to miss the messages Mercury intends to send at the beginning of its retrograde, as significant illumination will show up in both collective and personal events revealing what was previously hidden or unclear.
As Mercury will move all the way back into Aries where it will eventually station in conjunction with Uranus, the fact Mercury retrograde begins with a Full Moon that connects both the opposition between Uranus and Jupiter as well as the square between Uranus and Pluto is pivotal. Jupiter at the time of the Mercury retrograde is volatilizing the square between Uranus and Pluto, having recently moved away from an exact opposition with Uranus to form an exact square with Pluto. As a result it’s not so much that unexpected developments are going to be appearing out of nowhere during the first phase of the Mercury retrograde, more that a fresh perspective can be revealed toward storylines that have been developing over time. Mercury in its psychopomp role can provide the guidance needed to discern our next step if we are paying attention, helping us find our place within the tumultuous shattering and shifting of collective structures occurring all around the world.
The Mercury retrograde in Taurus also serves as a finale for the transit of the lunar nodes through Pisces and Virgo, with Mercury serving as the ruler of the transiting North Node of the Moon. Mercury will station in range of a trine to the North Node of the Moon in Virgo, and when Mercury unites with the Sun at the heart of its retrograde it will also be closely trine to the North Node of the Moon. After Mercury stations direct on May 3, the true nodes of the Moon will shift into the South Node of the Moon in Aquarius and the North Node of the Moon in Leo on May 9. The lunar nodes have been in Pisces and Virgo since 12 November 2015 (true node calculation), a time period that has lived up to the mutable sign significations of immense change, endings, and transitions. While its possible that the Mercury retrograde will coincide with circumstances bringing up a review or reflection upon the life changes that have occurred since November 2015, it is also likely that opportunities and boons will present themselves enabling us to integrate final lessons and make new choices resolving our experience with the Virgo North Node.
Mercury in the Heart of the Sun
That Light who’s smile kindles the universe,
That Beauty in which all things work and move,
That Benediction which the eclipsing Curse
Of birth can quench not, that sustaining Love
Which, through the web of being blindly wove
By man and beast and earth and air and sea,
Burns bright or dim, as each are mirrors of
The fire for which all thirst, now beams on me,
Consuming the last clouds of cold mortality.
— Percy Bysshe Shelley, from Adonaïs: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats
Mercury enters the heart of the Sun on April 19 or 20, depending upon your location, the moment in which Mercury unites with the Sun at the exact degree of the zodiac. When Mercury retrograde unites with the Sun, labeled its inferior conjunction by astrological texts, Mercury is aligned with our Earth in between our orbit with the Sun, as close as Mercury ever gets to us. This moment is experienced as a rebirth of the Mercury archetype within our lives, and at the time of its union with the Sun, Mercury is said to be in its seat of power, like an empowered Hermes taking a turn behind the reigns of our solar chariot.
Venus in Pisces rules the union between Mercury retrograde with our Sun, and significantly at the time of their union Venus will have recently stationed direct and will be applying tightly to her final square with Saturn in Sagittarius. There is a fascinating relationship between Mercury being cazimi (at the heart of the Sun) and the Venus retrograde of 2017 for the Venus retrograde began with Mercury cazimi in Pisces while direct, meaning that Mercury was on the other side of the Sun from us. As Venus begins to move direct again as a Morning Star, we once again experience a regeneration of Mercury, this time with Mercury close to us in orbit. The harmonious relationship between Taurus and Pisces is part of the reason why Venus is considered to be exalted in Pisces, as their relationship supports staying true to one’s inner values while dissolving blockages in support of making the needed alterations to manifest inner visions.
The sabian symbol for the first degree of Taurus where Mercury’s inferior conjunction occurs is “A CLEAR MOUNTAIN STREAM” with the keynote of The pure, uncontaminated and spontaneous manifestation of one’s own nature according to Dane Rudhyar. The union of Mercury and the Sun being ruled by Venus in a tight square with Saturn may make it difficult to picture spontaneous manifestation if you hold certain astrological dogma in mind, however in truth there is no reason that spontaneous authenticity cannot arise in response to the cold necessity of Saturn. Mercury is being purified within our central light of Spirit fire at the same time Venus in her exaltation degree is calling us to take accountability and integrity into expression of our deepest love. Within clear boundaries of structure, instead of feeling repressed or hemmed in there can arise an improvisational display of our primal creativity.
Mercury retrograde at the heart of the Sun also occurs during a last quarter Moon in Aquarius on its way toward an eventual New Moon in Taurus, the inner home of Venus, as well as with Mars at the final degree of Taurus. Thus though Mercury is at the first degree of Taurus and Mars at the last, both are still within the domain of Venus in her exaltation of Pisces. The powerful Venusian influence upon this moment further amplifies potential to reveal inner desires and values needing to emerge into awareness, with the last quarter lunation helping us dislodge from old preconceptions. In addition, it means that shortly after Mercury unites with the Sun a mutual reception between Mars and Mercury will begin through Mars entering Gemini, the airy yang home of Mercury, and Mercury crossing back into Aries, the fiery yang home of Mars that forms a harmonious sextile with Gemini. Fittingly, we can still discover Venus in the relationship formed by the signs Mercury and Mars will enter as traditionally in astrology Venus has always stood as the symbol underlying the meaning of the sextile.
Mercury stations with Uranus
What constitutes the training of the hand?
I shall tell what constitutes the training of the hand.
One suspects something is wrong with transcribing signs
But the hand transcribes only the signs it has learned.
Then it is sent to the school of blots and scrawls
Till it forgets what is graceful. For even the sign of a butterfly
Is a well with coiled poisonous smoke inside.
Perhaps we should have represented him otherwise
Than in the form of a dove. A fire, yes, but that is beyond us.
For even when it consumes logs on a hearth
We search in it for eyes and hands. Let him then be green,
All blades of calamus, running on footbridges
Over meadows, with a thump of his bare feet. Or in the air
Blowing a birchbark trumpet so strongly that farther down
There tumbles from its blast a crowd of petty officials,
Their uniforms unbuttoned and their women’s combs
Flying like chips when the ax strikes.
Still it’s just too great a responsibility to lure the souls
From where they lived attentive to the idea of the hummingbird, the chair, and the star.
To imprison them within either-or: male sex, female sex,
So that they wake up in the blood of childbirth, crying.
— Czeslaw Milosz, Sentences (1963-1965)
This particular Mercury retrograde is especially jolting, catalytic, and compelling because Mercury will spend an extraordinary length of time in conjunction with Uranus in Aries. Truly out of the ordinary, Mercury will spend over three weeks from April 20 through May 16 in range of a conjunction with Uranus in Aries. There will two distinct phases of Mercury uniting with Uranus, the first from April 20 through May 3 when Mercury is retrograde and invisible under the beams of the Sun- during this period Mercury will unite with Uranus on April 28. Mercury and Uranus combined brings sudden awareness that can synthesize previously fragmented strands of thought and analysis instantaneously in the flash of the moment. In the process of being purified and regenerated from its recent union with our Sun, Mercury in this period has not taken visible form and similarly our Uranian insights and revelations may feel more unconscious and not clearly seen.
28 April 2017 looks to be a pivotal day not only because of Mercury uniting with Uranus, but also because on the same day Venus will re-enter the sign of Aries. As Venus re-enters Aries, she moves away from her square with Saturn in Sagittarius at roughly the same time Mercury is forming a trine with Saturn (Mercury retrograde will trine Saturn exactly on April 24). It is compelling that as we have been dealing with Saturn in square to Venus all month long, we end up with Mercury combining with Uranus in a trine to Saturn. As a result we can receive revelatory ideas into how to make minor modifications as well as major reformations into the issues dredged up during the time of Saturn in square to Venus. It could feel like breakthrough insights are intensifying in our subconscious, ready to burst through into our conscious awareness with blazing comprehension.
After Mercury stations direct on May 3 it will emerge in the sky above the moist dew of morning, heralding the return of solar light at sunrise as a Morning Star. Making the atmosphere more electric, the Moon in Leo will form a fiery triangle in our sky with Mercury, Uranus, and Saturn on May 3 when Mercury stations direct, increasing the likelihood of inspirational insights entering consciousness that address whatever challenges we have been dealing with. Mercury visible and direct will form another conjunction with Uranus on May 9 and a trine with Saturn in Sagittarius on May 11, with a Full Moon in Scorpio falling in between these aspects on May 10. Although Mercury is not seen as having essential dignity in the third face of Aries, Mercury emerging direct as a Morning Star does resonate with the diurnal sign of the Ram that is considered to be the exaltation of our Sun.
In addition, as Mercury stations and moves direct as a Morning Star while in Aries it will be in mutual reception with Mars moving forward through Gemini, with Venus co-present at the beginning of Aries. As Venus retraces her steps through the previous section of Aries that she moved retrograde through in February and March, there will likely be some unexpected developments to contend with. However, Mercury united with Uranus while in trine to Saturn supports a ready mental faculty that can swiftly respond and initiate new structural supports to help stabilize whatever has become volatile. Mercury up at the crack of dawn, crowing like a rooster, is in an invigorating position of immense curiosity and exploration that can open us to a flow of creativity in response to life.
It is noteworthy that Mercury’s retrograde phase involves stationing in the Earth element and going back to the Fire element, echoing the retrograde that took us across the threshold of 2017 that went from Capricorn to Sagittarius. In August we will experience another Mercury retrograde that goes from Virgo back into Leo. This transition from Earth to Fire in some ways is like a foreshadowing of the movement from Fire to Earth we will enter in 2018 as Saturn will move from Sagittarius into Capricorn, and Uranus will move from Aries into Taurus. Some of the shifting adjustments needing to be found during the current Mercury retrograde will have far reaching impact, especially considering that Mercury ends up stationing direct with Uranus. Early warning signs of what we need to prepare for in the year ahead may enter our awareness at the same time we are finding it necessary to deal with the pressing issues of the moment.
Milosz, Czeslaw. (2006). Selected and Last Poems 1931 -2004. HarperCollins.
Rudhyar, Dane. (1974). An Astrological Mandala: the cycle of transformations and its 360 symbolic phases. Vintage.
Yeats, W.B. (1989). The Collected Poems revised second edition. Edited by Richard J. Finneran. Scribner Paperback Poetry.