The quieter we are, the more patient and open we are in our sadnesses, the more deeply and serenely the new presence can enter us, and the more we can make it our own, the more it becomes our fate; and later on, when it “happens” (that is, steps forth out of us to other people), we will feel related and close to it in our innermost being. And that is necessary. It is necessary – and toward this point our development will move, little by little – that nothing alien happen to us, but only what has long been our own. People have already had to rethink so many concepts of motion; and they will also gradually come to realize that what we call fate does not come into us from the outside, but emerges from us. It is only because so many people have not absorbed and transformed their fates while they were living in them that they have not realized what was emerging from them; it was so alien to them that, in their confusion and fear, they thought it must have entered them at the very moment they became aware of it, for they swore they had never before found anything like that inside them. Just as people for a long time had a wrong idea about the sun’s motion, they are even now wrong about the motion of what is to come. The future stands still, dear Mr. Kappus, but we move in infinite space.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
Mercury Retrograde in Virgo
In times of destiny, when the threads of fate become loosened to be rewoven within momentous change, we can count on Mercury to slyly guide us in beguiling fashion. Though Mercury when retrograde has become a scapegoat within popular culture, experience reveals that the Star of Hermes when retrograde enacts its namesake’s role of a psychopomp, or guide of souls. Even the most frustrating or upsetting events that occur during times of Mercury retrograde ultimately tend to lead us onto a path that will take us into the experiences we need in order to reach our next level of growth.
Thus it is fitting that in between eclipses, periods of time that always signify vital turns of fortune and fate, Mercury will station retrograde and disappear into the invisible realm of the solar underworld at sunset. While Mercury is retrograde we will experience a Total Solar Eclipse, both the Sun and Mars uniting with the North Node of the Moon, Saturn stationing direct, and Jupiter finally perfecting its long anticipated sextile with Saturn. Factor in that Mercury begins its retrograde while opposite Neptune and ends its retrograde conjoining Mars at the same degree as the Total Solar Eclipse, while a Pisces Moon waxes full in union with Neptune, and we have an incredibly volatile and fertile mix of astrological transits that promise to bring dramatic changes and opportunities for profound growth.
Even though popular discourse labels periods of Mercury retrograde as disastrous aberrations that bring misfortunes and mishaps, the phase of Mercury retrograde is a regular cyclical phenomenon that happens at least three times every year, an essential aspect of Mercury’s orbit. Unlike the astrological stereotypes, important actions can be initiated during Mercury retrograde as well as successful contracts signed. However, during Mercury retrograde it is advisable to sustain mental alertness and be open to signs, symbols, and information in your environment that can help guide your intuition toward which actions to take or commitments to make.
Mercury retrograde is intrinsic to Mercury in astrology, a planetary archetype of contesting and contrasting. While Mercury signifies insight in addition to communication, the lessons of Mercury do not always come from stability, as experience shows that chaos and disorientation can lead to illumination and realization. Once Mercury moves retrograde it descends from being a visible Evening Star into an invisible, subterranean guide of soul catalyzing change and growth in situations that range widely from the maddening to the vivifying. Flowing with Mercury retrograde involves letting go of strict control, opening to the wisdom coming from unexpected sources. As the changeable nature of Mercury is found in its extremely variable speed, when Mercury slows down to station it is important to pay attention to its aspects in the natal chart as well as to other planets by transit.
This is the second year in a row that we are experiencing Mercury stationing retrograde in Virgo during a time of eclipses, as last year in 2016 Mercury stationed retrograde in Virgo two days before an Annular Solar Eclipse. This year’s version has a more mysterious opening act, however, due to it occurring in between eclipses rather than just before the beginning of eclipse season. The days in between eclipses are always full of unexpected shifts and significant encounters, and so adding in the beginning of Mercury retrograde will amplify the strange fatefulness of the time.
Iris as Mercury and Vesta
Mercury stations retrograde while united with Vesta in Virgo and opposing Neptune in Pisces. During the build-up to Mercury retrograde, which included the Lunar Eclipse in Aquarius, Mercury formed two exact conjunctions with Vesta (Mercury has been within three degrees of Vesta in Virgo since July 26). A figure of myth who encapsulates the symbolism of Mercury united with Vesta in opposition to Neptune is Iris, handmaiden of Hera (Juno) and messenger to the gods. Like Hermes, Iris also carries a caduceus, yet the other magical tool she carries, the water pitcher, helps show how her function as messenger differs from Hermes. Golden-winged and radiant, Iris is a goddess of sea and sky who connects heaven and earth, watering the clouds with her water pitcher full of the enlivening waters she collects from the sea. She therefore helps produce the rain that brings fertility and cleansing to our Earth, yet she is perhaps most known for her association with the rainbow she also creates. Iris is as swift as stormy winds, able to descend into the depths of both the ocean as well as the underworld. Similar to Hermes, Iris connects the world of gods with the world of humanity.
The union of Mercury with Vesta in opposition to Neptune signifies that through devotional focus we may perceive powerful messages and guidance, while at the same time suggesting a downfall could occur when engaged with deception. One of the mediating roles that Iris plays between humanity and the gods is through facilitating the fulfillment of the prayers and wishes of humans by illuminating them to deities in position of assistance. Indeed, the golden wings of Iris are capable of bringing light to the most dark of places. Yet, for those who break oaths or knowingly express falsehoods, Iris will put them to sleep with the water she has collected from the River Styx in the underworld. Similarly, with Neptune in Pisces playing a monumental role during the period of Mercury retrograde, it will be vital to maintain focus on being honest and authentic so as not to fall into the realm of Neptunian illusion that will be capable of wreaking havoc like a tidal wave.
The association between Iris with rainbows is a beautiful symbol to work with during the upcoming Mercury retrograde that will take us into the zone of an immensely powerful Total Solar Eclipse. Rainbows not only link heaven and earth with their transcendent and otherworldly colors, they also help to inspire hope and the capacity to believe it is possible for us to lead a more fulfilling life than current circumstances indicate. It is further fascinating that in some versions of myth that Iris is married to Zephyrus, the west wind, and that their union gave birth to Pothos, one of the winged gods of love (the erotes) whose name translates as “yearning” and is associated with strong desire and longing for a loved one who is oftentimes absent. It will be important to stay grounded in our earthly realm (Virgo) with clear focus (Vesta) during this Mercury retrograde period, and yet at the same time to fully realize the available gifts we will need to allow our imaginations and desires to open us to potentials that go beyond the confines of our present reality (Neptune).
Mercury opposes Neptune
The union of Mercury and Vesta in Virgo in opposition to Neptune dominates the beginning of this Mercury retrograde period, with Venus in Cancer playing a facilitating role. As Mercury stations retrograde, Venus is separating from harmonious aspects with both Neptune and Mercury (a trine with Neptune; a sextile with Mercury), as well as separating from a recent conjunction with Ceres in Cancer. During the retrograde movement of Mercury, Venus will move on to catalytic aspects with Pluto in Capricorn, Jupiter in Libra, and Uranus in Aries. The influence of Uranus is further strengthened by the Moon applying to a conjunction with Uranus as Mercury stations retrograde, as well as the fact that Mercury will ultimately station direct in a helpful trine with Uranus. However, since Mercury will also station direct less than a day before a Full Moon in Pisces that is united with Neptune, there is an unmistakeable looming influence of Neptune upon the course of events that will accompany this period of Mercury retrograde.
While the totality of the aspects listed above could coincide with many diverse forms of challenge, all of them are amazing catalysts in the realm of artistry and inspiration. Mercury has incredible strength in Virgo, being both its home and exaltation, and so as Mercury slowly begins to peel itself backwards it can help facilitate deep focus on artistic and academic projects of all mediums and forms, especially those that involve a component of research and analysis followed by expression. Nine days after Mercury stations retrograde we will experience a Total Solar Eclipse in which Mercury will function more as a subtle guiding influence than a dominant component of the portal opened with the syzygy. During powerful eclipse alignments like we will experience this month, new manifestations will appear in our lives coinciding with other elements fading away. It is a blessing Mercury is retrograde in Virgo, as it is a mutable earth sign that can aid us in staying connected within our bodies and all of the mutating details of our daily lives.
With the strong transpersonal influences of Neptune, as well as Uranus and Pluto, upon the Mercury retrograde, the capacity of Mercury to bring nonlinear and unexpected messages from oracular sources is heightened. Pay close attention to the messages received from synchronous alignments of your daily path with animals, plants, minerals, music, and all manner of symbolic signs. Allow your intuition and bodily instincts to transmit impressions that you value at least as much as whatever your rational mind is constructing. It may prove very difficult to keep events moving in accord with carefully made plans, however opening up plans and projects to the flow and all of the changes that will coincide with the month ahead can improve end results. Oftentimes the frustrating experiences of Mercury retrograde illuminate the exact components of life that needed our attention in order to be reworked or strengthened.
Mercury in the Heart of the Sun
The rebirth moment for Mercury during its retrograde comes on August 26 when Mercury aligns with the Sun at the exact degree and minute. This is known as Mercury’s cazimi moment in which it enters the heart of the Sun to be purified and regenerated. In contrast to the Mercury cazimi that occurs when Mercury is moving direct on the other side of the Sun from our orbital position (known as its superior conjunction that last happened at the Cancer Solstice), the inferior conjunction of Mercury with the Sun occurs during its retrograde when Mercury passes in between our orbit with the Sun. Symbolically, the superior conjunction tends to bring more spiritual epiphanies or sudden insights weaving disparate strands together, whereas Mercury at the heart of the Sun during its retrograde tends to bring a deeper, penetrating insight into the current reality of our material lives and the pang of incarnation in our earthly flesh. In the days surrounding August 26 we may feel like resting our Mercurial functions as a part of its regeneration, however, the period of time in which Mercury is within a degree of the Sun on August 26 will bring added strength and power to all Mercurial activities such as all forms of research and expression.
Mercury will enter the heart of the Sun at 3º48′ of Virgo, an incredibly powerful placement of Mercury. The fourth degree of Virgo is in both the home and exaltation of Mercury as well as within its own Egyptian bounds, signifying that this a section of the zodiac in which Mercury not only has important work to do but also has extraordinary strength. The Sabian symbol for the fourth degree of Virgo, black and white children play together happily, was interpreted by Dane Rudhyar as signifying “the overcoming of socio-cultural prejudices.” Though it may seem laughable during a time of such widespread vitriolic discourse in global politics full of prejudice that any sort of collective evolution could be occurring around oppression and prejudice, it is worth bearing in mind the play space of children in which the influence of cultural conditioning has not yet taken hold. The Sabian symbol for the degree of Mercury cazimi suggests perceptions can awaken that go far beyond the constraints and limitations of how we have been conditioned by surrounding culture to perceive and judge the worth of others. The idea of playing together happily also highlights the theme of imbibing daily life with as much playful creativity as possible during this time of tumultuous astrological transits.
Mercury will enter the heart of the Sun five days after the Total Solar Eclipse in Leo and one day after Saturn stations direct for the final time in Sagittarius. At the same time Saturn is stationing, Jupiter will have entered the third decan of Libra it rules and will be applying closely to a last quarter sextile with Saturn. As a result the period of Mercury entering the heart of the Sun on August 26 is a potent moment to re-center amidst all of the changes being brought forth from external and internal events. Saturn stationing brings a seriousness to the moment that calls for us to walk and talk in absolute integrity with our inner values and principles, while the harmonious aspect between Jupiter and Saturn can bring opportunities to stabilize and strengthen both the vision as well as the foundation of whatever we are developing and crafting.
Mercury Stations Direct in Leo
Mercury stations direct on September 5 at the same degree as the Total Solar Eclipse in Leo. Mars will have already entered Virgo by the time Mercury is exactly stationing, but during the course of its stationing Mercury and Mars will unite at the end of Leo. Both the Sun as well as Mars will have united with the North Node of the Moon in Leo during Mercury’s retrograde, and Mercury will furthermore be stationing direct four degrees away from the North Node of the Moon. At this point we can receive a important message that connects us directly with however the narratives of our lives has been transmuting during this period of eclipses, and with the new information will come opportunities to create movement within whatever openings came through with the eclipses. Mercury uniting with Mars while it is stationing can coincide with some heated and difficult conflicts, so it will be important to be actively practicing mediating skills in conversations with others. There is immense inspirational fire available in this period to push yourself forward dramatically in areas of growth you previously have not fully embraced.
The influence of Neptune looms over the stationing direct of Mercury, since the Moon will be applying to a conjunction with Neptune and within a day of its stationing we will experience a potent Full Moon in Pisces united with Neptune. Amping up the energy even further is the fact that Jupiter in Libra will be getting closer to its final opposition with Uranus in Aries. The opposition between Jupiter and Uranus is a breakthrough moment in which many diverse, ingenious insights and messages will enter the collective. Some of the most powerful moments of the Jupiter and Uranus cycle, however, often come in the private moments of significant conversations and relationship experiences, or the work of isolated artists creating outside the rays of mainstream spotlights. There is amazing inspiration and imagination available within the surrounding transits of Mercury stationing direct to seize and work with.
Finally, its interesting to note that Mercury will be stationing direct while in conjunction with the Persephone asteroid #399. The myth of Persephone emerging out of her time in the underworld is a fitting symbol for the fact that both Mercury and Mars will be emerging from out of their underworld experiences while united with the Persephone asteroid. Demetra George wrote the following about the Persephone asteroid in her book Finding Our Way Through the Dark:
In the birth chart Persephone, as a daughter of the patriarchy, symbolizes the process of a child’s separation from its mother. Persephone can indicate how and where, either physically or psychologically, we may be abducted and plunged into an underworld experience (sometimes at an early age) where we encounter terror, loss, and confusion, and feelings of abandonment. This descent can enable us to develop a relationship with the hidden forces in our unconscious, activate our psychic abilities, release the past, discover a new sense of our adult self and strengths, and emerge transformed and renewed. Some individuals who experience Persephone as a tragedy from which they have never recovered may react by developing patterns of distrust, withdrawal, fear of sexuality and intimacy, fantasy life, depression, chemical addictions, separation anxieties, victimizaiton, passivity and powerlessness, and being acted upon by the strong will of others.
Persephone’s name means “she who is to be feared” (Guttman, p.176), and it is possible to view her abduction into the underworld as more about her destiny than a tragedy, for the unalterable shift she created in the cosmos through becoming a life partner of Hades who would descend and ascend back and forth between the upperworld and the underworld, was a calling that fit the unique gifts she held within her soul. Roberto Calasso in The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony wrote that Persephone stepping into her role as Queen of the underworld who can re-ascend to the world above implied that the “invisible would now reassert its rights over the body of the visible more strictly than before: their dealings with each other, long diluted and mingled together on earth, would find a new center of gravity.” Persephone, Mercury, and Mars united at the end of this retrograde signify that the time has arrived to collect all of the wisdom and courage you can draw from the past period of underworld experiences in order to re-ascend into our wider communities with whatever gift or message you have cultivated to share. Like Iris soaring with golden wings and bearing a pitcher full of underworld water, we can create rainbows out of the stormy atmosphere and commit ourselves to oaths of living and creating in accordance with our essence in good ways for all.
Calasso, R. (1993). The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony. Knopf.
George, D. (1994). Finding Our Way Through the Dark: an astrological companion to Mysteries of the Dark Moon. AFA.
Guttman, A. & Johnson, K. (1993). Mythic Astrology: Archetypal Powers in the Horoscope.
Rudhyar, Dane. (1974). An Astrological Mandala: the cycle of transformations and its 360 symbolic phases. Vintage.