Mercury Retrograde in Pisces
“All I have is a voice / To undo the folded lie, / The romantic lie in the brain / Of the sensual man-in-the-street / And the lie of Authority / Whose buildings grope the sky: / There is no such thing as the State / And no one exists alone; / Hunger allows no choice / To the citizen or the police; / We must love one another or die.
Defenseless under the night / Our world in stupor lies; / Yet, dotted everywhere, / Ironic points of light / Flash out wherever the Just / Exchange their messages: / May I, composed like them / Of Eros and of dust, / Beleaguered by the same / Negation and despair, / Show an affirming flame.”
—from September 1, 1939 by W.H. Auden (born with Mercury in Pisces conjoining Saturn in Pisces)
The twinkling light of Mercury initiates us into the regenerative, retrograde phase of its cycle in sunset. In Greek mythology sunset is the realm of the Hesperides, divine daughters of primordial Night and Darkness who tend a garden and grove bearing the golden apples of Gaia. Charming nymphs who delight in singing songs of the numinous, the Hesperides have granted the gifts necessary for heroes to complete their quests, such as lending Perseus the winged sandals of Hermes. Yet in their company resides an ever wakeful dragon symbolizing the potent fertility of chthonic chaos pulsating under our perceptions of reality. The otherworldly sunset realm of the Hesperides is located in the farthest reaches of the West, at the outermost reaches of the encircling Oceanus from which the fixed stars and Helios rise and set each day.
As Mercury stations retrograde at the final degree of Pisces on 5 March 2019, its Evening Star light will still be visible as the sun sets, transfiguring the sky in changing colors. Whenever planets station in astrology, their archetype dominates the astrological landscape in the surrounding week. Many astrologers focus upon rational analysis and linear logic amongst the many significations of Mercury, yet there is a type of excessively linear Mercury that is more of a dominant cultural construct than the reality of magical and shamanic processes that Mercury also tends. The work of Peter Kingsley is interesting in this context, as he has argued against what he calls a misguided academic approach to the history of logic in Western civilization, since the figures who gave birth to logic such as Parmenides and Empedocles were actually involved in deeply mystical and irrational processes.
In the case of Mercury stationing retrograde, it’s the influence of the underworld, psychopomp side of Mercury that claims prominence due to it disappearing at sunset into its invisible phase in the days following its stationing. Though periods of Mercury retrograde provoke alarm amongst astrologers, it is in fact an essential aspect of Mercury necessary for the natural expression of the Star of Hermes. While breakdowns and disintegration of all things mercurial can happen during Mercury retrograde, it simultaneously brings the opportunity for necessary shedding, cleansing, purification, and reorientation.
The numinous realm of the Hesperides bearing otherworldly gifts as well as a dangerous dragon to face connects well with the particular Mercury retrograde phase occurring in March 2019 as it begins on the same day as the ingress of Uranus in Taurus. The Sun is setting in conjunction with ethereal Neptune as Mercury stations, and its retrograde phase will be taking us into the disillusionment and revelations at the heart of the square aspect between Neptune and Jupiter in Sagittarius that is another one of the most important astrological aspects of 2019. The other major astrological aspect of 2019, the coming together of Saturn, Pluto, and the South Node of the Moon in Capricorn (while also conjoining the South Nodes of Saturn and Pluto), will also be interfacing closely with Mercury’s retrograde phase in Pisces through a harmonizing sextile aspect. We will be pulled to release and rebirth deeply personal patterns as well as disentangle ourselves from the dominant constructs of power enforced through societal institutions and hierarchies.
Here are some key dates:
- February 19: Mercury conjunct Neptune at 15°35′ Pisces first time
- February 22: Mercury in Pisces square Jupiter in Sagittarius (21°06′) first time
- February 26: Mercury at maximum elongation as Evening Star
- March 5: Mercury stations retrograde at 29°38′ Pisces
- March 6: New Moon in Pisces as Mercury descends at sunset into invisible phase and Uranus enters Taurus
- March 14: Mercury conjunct Sun in Pisces at 24°11′
- March 15: Mercury square Jupiter (23°19′) second time
- March 20: Full Moon in Libra on Aries Equinox
- March 23: Mercury retrograde reemerges as Morning Star
- March 24: Mercury conjunct Neptune at 16°49′ Pisces second time
- March 26: Venus enters Pisces
- March 28: Mercury stations direct at 16°05′ Pisces
- April 2: Mercury conjunct Neptune at 17°08′ third time
- April 5: New Moon in Aries
- April 10: Jupiter stations retrograde in Sagittarius
- April 11: Mercury square Jupiter (24°20′) third time with Mercury at maximum elongation as Morning Star
Pisces is the fall of Mercury and the exaltation of Venus, and as this is given great prominence within Indian astrology its interesting that Mercury is stationing retrograde in both tropical as well as sidereal Pisces. On the other side of Mercury’s retrograde when it is stationing direct, Venus will enter her exaltation of Pisces. Thus we can imagine Mercury clearing, cleaning, and preparing the watery, nocturnal temple of Jupiter for the arrival of the goddess, Venus, at the end of its retrograde. In fact, Mercury will be stationing retrograde near the exaltation degree of Venus (27º) and then stationing direct near the fall degree of Mercury (15º).
Moreover, the date of March 5 when Mercury stations retrograde is the traditional date of Navigium Isidis, an ancient Roman festival honoring the great goddess Isis and involving an elaborate procession. Fittingly for the meaning of Mercury retrograde in Pisces, the procession of Isis also served as a prayer for the protection and safety of seafarers. Whether or not you have an oceanic voyage planned during March, we will all be embarking one way or another on a metaphorical sea crossing into realms of imagination and fantasy that will make clarified objectivity difficult to sustain. Yet within the tidal forces of Mercury we can dislodge ourselves from stuck, fixated perspectives into a more enlivening perceptual presence.
While there is mystery involving a definitive answer to the question of why Mercury has its fall in Pisces, there are many reasons that have been deduced that would take up too much space to explore here. One aspect to remember is that the categories of exaltation and fall are status symbols in a way, something one receives from others. There is often something of the unconventional found with Mercury in Pisces that goes against the established, favored doctrines of society. For example, the brilliantly unorthodox writers Maya Angelou, Stephane Mallarme, Langston Hughes, Charles Baudelaire, and James Joyce were born with Mercury in Pisces, as well as empirical scientists who shattered dogmatic worldview such as Nicolas Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, and Charles Darwin. There is also a quality of having to not only fall into the suffering of the material world with Mercury in Pisces, but furthermore needing to traverse underworld experiences as part of retrieving soulful insight to share with others.
Vitally, Mercury in Pisces is ruled by the uplifting influence of Jupiter, and thus during the forthcoming Mercury retrograde its extremely significant that Jupiter is in its fiery home of Sagittarius and receiving Mercury through a catalyzing square aspect. These connections bring the potential to uncover a deeper realization of personal truth within whatever difficult, disorientating, disintegrative, and disillusioning experiences may occur during the month of March. The more we can let go of dogmatic beliefs we have been clinging to for whatever reason, the more we can open ourselves to the dissolution needed for essential rebirth that Mercury retrograde in Pisces can bring.
“We move up a spine of earth / That bridges the river and the canal. / And where a dying white log, finger-like, / Floating off the bank, claws at the slope, / We stumble, and we laugh. / We slow beneath the moon’s eye; / Near the shine of the river’s blood face, / The canal’s veil of underbrush sweats frost, / And this ancient watery scar retains / The motionless tears of men with troubled spirits. / For like the whole earth, / This land of mine is soaked….”
— from Take this River by Henry Dumas
The day after Mercury stations retrograde we will experience both the ingress of Uranus into Taurus as well as a New Moon in Pisces conjoining Neptune. While the Pisces New Moon seeds meaning for the coming month, the entrance of Uranus into Taurus is seeding meaning for the next eight years. There is in addition the compelling symbolism that just as the waxing sliver of crescent lunar light emerges the following day, the Pisces Moon will be uniting with Mercury retrograde at the same time Mercury is descending into the darkness of its invisible phase at sunset. Thus we will be experiencing the waxing, increasing light of the lunar cycle at the exact time the light of Mercury wanes and descends into the darkness of its underworld phase.
Marsilio Ficino in Three Books on Life wrote that as the Moon “receives a life-giving power” from the Sun each time it forms a union, “she receives from Mercury in the same place [Mercury is always near the Sun] a force which blends her moistures,” since Mercury has “the virtue of his own transformation into all other planets and by virtue of his many revolutions.” On March 6 and 7, we will have a syzygy seeding of the Pisces Moon with potent imaginal influences from Neptune, followed by an alchemical mixing by a psychopomp Mercury. There is incredible imagination and fantasy within these aspects that will be able to be utilized in any field involving creativity. It also means that we will need to apply extra attention to detail, such as repeatedly reviewing steps in any process for miscues. While intuitive capacities will be heightened with Mercury retrograde in Pisces, we can also overlook a small detail that leads us astray.
It will be worth being willing to wander in March, bringing the possibility of becoming temporarily lost. Sometimes we have to become lost or pursue the wrong direction at first in order to ultimately arrive at the place we need to be. With Uranus entering Taurus, there will be dramatic developments within personal narratives, with some people having to cope with unexpected shocks shattering their former reality. Moreover, with all of this happening at the same time that Pluto, Saturn, and the South Node of the Moon will be getting closer together, there will be immense breakdowns and power struggles erupting within societal structures to contend with. The influence of these Capricorn placements also means new ideas and remedies may be found amongst old traditions and ancient lineages. The tricks and subterfuges that come with Mercury retrograde can tease us into bending perception enough to receive the necessary guidance or change in direction.
The week of March 6 through March 13 beckons us into a cavernous depth of disintegration, a period that Gary Caton likened to the Nigredo phase of alchemy in his book Hermetica Tryptycha. During this week we may feel forced to release attachments to connections that previously brought security, or we may choose to consciously breakdown old material. The underlying meaning is to align ourselves with a process of separating elements in order to ultimately synthesize a new understanding by the end of the retrograde period. Interestingly, during the first week of Mercury retrograde it will form an exact sextile aspect with the transiting South Node of the Moon in Capricorn, and a trine aspect with the transiting North Node of the Moon in Cancer. The interface with the lunar nodes increases the likelihood that the circumstances we will be facing and needing to alter will guide us into a vital change of heart or shift in what we feel is most important to focus on going forward.
Making it all more disorienting is the strong influence from outer, transpersonal planets. On the one hand there is the serious gravity of Pluto with Saturn and the South Node of the Moon in Capricorn that is demanding a stripping away of the inessential and honoring the honing of what endures across time. While the Capricorn emphasis prods us to persevere with dedication toward developing goals, there is also a heavy karmic aspect of having to face the shadow side of ambition and its effects. In addition, there is also the earth shaking volatility of Uranus entering Taurus that can dramatically amplify feelings of disruption, destruction, and revelation, requiring a rearranging of beliefs and expectations in order to accept and receive whatever rapid developments are unleashed.
Yet on a core level Mercury’s retrograde is most of all centered around the last quarter square phase between Jupiter in Sagittarius with Neptune in Pisces. The current stage of the Jupiter and Neptune cycle is about clearing or clarifying outdated, misleading beliefs while simultaneously receiving intimations of the course to follow into the future. As part of this process we will have to withstand external emotional dynamics at times, as Mercury retrograde in the mutable and watery Pisces can correlate with amorphous personal boundaries that are more susceptible to emotional influences. Yet the sensitivity of Mercury in Pisces to surrounding emotions can be utilized as a gift for discerning the underlying feelings behind what is spoken, as well as the meaning behind what is unspoken.
During the first week of Mercury retrograde make sure to pay attention to the symbolism of dream images, the oracular appearances of animals and other signs within daily travels, and any other omens giving guidance into the regenerative change underway. This is a period to listen to the voice of your inner senses and unconscious messages with a willingness to begin aligning external changes with internal promptings. Whenever awareness brings realization of illusions that have been influencing you, instead of being upset over uprooting a delusive pattern, embrace the opportunity to clear out or compost whatever you have outgrown in order to help fertilize the new vision to come.
The heliacal setting of a star corresponds to its death and its passage into the underworld. Remember, the word synodic, or “union,” is derived from sunodos, and also means “sexual union.” The protected space at the heart of the Sun is the sanctum sanctorum, the innermost holy chamber of the mystery initiations. Here, the union of a planet or star with the Sun represents the seminal impregnation and regeneration. The rebirth occurs at the heliacal rise, as the planet emerges from the womb of the solar rays.
— Demetra George, Ancient Astrology, Vol 1
A new cycle of Mercury will be seeded by its conjunction with the Pisces Sun on March 14. This is the inferior conjunction of Mercury when the Star of Hermes is purified and regenerated while aligned in orbit between Earth and the Sun by zodiacal degree. Though the full meaning of the coming cycle of Mercury remains unclear at this point, one can experience clarifying reflection and reception of key insight on the day Mercury is within one degree of conjunction with the Sun. This particular inferior conjunction of Mercury retrograde in Pisces is especially potent as Mercury is applying closely to a square aspect with Jupiter in Sagittarius. As a result, Jupiter is receiving Mercury in the sacred heart of the Pisces Sun into its fiery home of Sagittarius, inciting a vision of future meaning to manifest. Thus Mercury will be seated upon the throne of the Sun with all of the resources of inspirational and expansive Jupiter at its disposal.
There is also a stellar influence to the inferior conjunction, as the solar seeding of Mercury will occur at 24°11′ Pisces near the fixed star Markab in the Pegasus constellation. Markab is the alpha star of Pegasus located in the wings of the horse, also known as being the saddle of the Winged Horse. Bernadette Brady described Markab as representing solidity and reliability, “a point of steadiness or the power to maintain stability under pressure,” something we need if we wish to ride a soaring Pegasus. Brady noted the symbolism of Markab can be positive in the sense of having the leadership skills to handle crises, as well as negative when becoming overly stubborn and refusing to consider alternative perspectives. It’s a fitting star to be aligned with this moment of Mercury’s retrograde when we can recenter in the seat of the sun, riding the inspirational forces of Jupiter.
The Pegasus constellation has also been connected with inspirational intellect and strident, groundbreaking initiative. The ambitious striving of Pegasus and the potential of both insightful breakthroughs as well as falls from lofty heights is found within the mythology of the Winged Horse. There is a duality of light and shadow with Pegasus: on the one hand Pegasus is felt as a fount of inspiration and the seat of heroes, while on the other hand Pegasus was born from violence and betrayal and tied not only to the slaying of monsters but the monstrous egotistical hubris that could overcome those who rode Pegasus. We find here the binding in which there is no good without evil, no heroes without monsters, and the concept that the path forward for our growth necessitates encountering the darker elements of self.
The link between the inferior conjunction of Mercury with Pegasus suggests the flights of vision and invention we wish to launch must simultaneously involve a purification and purging of excessive pride and the corruption that can come with ambitious striving. Interestingly, the sabian symbol for the degree of the inferior conjunction compellingly aligns with all of its surrounding astrological aspects: a religious organization succeeds in overcoming the corrupting influence of perverted practices and materialized ideals. Dane Rudhyar gave the following elaboration that fits extremely well for the solar seeding and purification of Mercury:
(PISCES 25°) KEYNOTE: The power of the Soul to intervene in the personal life and to induce necessary catharses.
Every man is a Church that has the Soul as its god, but most men forget the Soul and live according to dogmatic rules and habits which not only have become empty of inner meaning, but very often have been perverted by the demands of the senses and the emotional nature, and by the ego with its rationalizing intellect. A purging or catharsis is needed to restore not only fresh and creative spontaneity, but even more the contact with the Soul and the God-ordained dharma.
— Dane Rudhyar, An Astrological Mandala: the cycle of transformations and its 360 symbolic phases.
Full Moon Equinox
In the week of March 15 through March 22, while Mercury retrograde has been purified and reseeded by its union with the Sun, it remains invisible and so we will still be immersed in a process of discovering and exploring the new forms of meaning and understanding taking shape. An incredibly illuminating part of this process will occur on March 20, the Spring Equinox in the northern hemisphere, when the Sun will ingress into Aries and a Full Moon in Libra will culminate. Considered to be the astrological new year, the Aries ingress this year is extra potent due to the moon waxing full on the same day. With Mercury simultaneously retrograde and on the cusp of reemerging into visibility as a Morning Star, we will feel like new shoots of green are ready to burst forth from within, cracking open whatever has previously been constraining. Let yourself receive whatever vision of potential dreams and goals arise without restriction or repression.
The challenge during this phase of the Mercury retrograde is that we may sense new vision and meaning without having everything fully in place in order to successfully manifest and embody the change within the reality of our current circumstances. It’s also likely that we may not have all the information we need to make a final decision at this time, in part due to Mercury still being retrograde but also due to it applying closely to another conjunction with Neptune. If major decisions have to be made this week, do your best to repeatedly review the details and listen closely to your intuition regarding whether or not it feels like the direction to pursue. If major decisions can be put off for another week, let things settle and reformulate before you make a final judgment. This week can be best used for brainstorming and creative exploration and experimentation.
The Trident and the Caduceus
All truths wait in all things, / They neither hasten their own delivery nor resist it, / They do not need the obstetric forceps of the surgeon, / The insignificant is as big to me as any, / What is less or more than a touch?
Logic and sermons never convince, / The damp of the night drives deeper into my soul.
Only what proves itself to every man and woman is so, / Only what nobody denies is so.
A minute and a drop of me settle my brain; / I believe the soggy clods shall become lovers and lamps, / And a compend of compends is the meat of a man or woman, / And a summit and flower there is the feeling they have for each other, / And they are to branch boundlessly out of that lesson until it becomes omnific, / And until every one shall delight us, and we them.
— from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman (published with Uranus in Taurus)
After Mercury retrograde reemerges in light as a Morning Star in the liminal moistness of dawn, heralding the return of sunrise, it will form its second conjunction with Neptune in Pisces on March 24. At this point Mercury will be visible again, and in correspondence we should gain greater clarity regarding whatever changes have been taking shape over the past month. However, Mercury will be enveloped with the fogginess of being in close proximity with the otherworldly Neptune for an extended period of time: after it finally stations direct on March 28 at 16°05′ Pisces, it will not be until April 2 that Mercury will complete its final conjunction with Neptune at 17°08′ Pisces.
As a result, with Mercury stationing direct in conjunction with Neptune the feeling of waking up from the dream of Mercury retrograde may feel more like a waking dream. Whenever Mercury stations, we need to be as fully alert as possible to the details of our daily work and responsibility. With Mercury united with Neptune, there is an added feature of extrasensory perception and symbolic awareness that will be capable of picking up additional messages in unexpected places. It will be helpful to engage in whatever sorts of reflective practices can help you ground in the reality of your circumstances so as to not become swept too far away by fantasy. This can be a dreamy time of poetic inspiration, artistic expression, and fertile creativity, just don’t let feelings of blissful revelry distract you from taking care of a necessary responsibility.
Indeed, Mercury is stationing not only in union with Neptune, but also in range of a harmonizing sextile with Saturn in Capricorn. While we will need to handle our daily responsibilities, there is also potential playfulness within these aspects that can be a soothing remedy for any overworking from Saturn. Saturn is in its nocturnal, earthy home of the Sea Goat, and so this is an ideal time for the Mer-goat to dip its tail into the water to dissolve the stress of old expectations. As Mercury begins to move forward again while engaging both Neptune and Saturn, we can reorder our priorities so that our dedication and work is being guided more towards whatever brings intrinsic happiness and joy.
At the same time Mercury is stationing direct, Venus will enter her exaltation of Pisces on March 26. Venus will then pursue a union with Neptune that will culminate on April 10, the same day that Jupiter stations retrograde in Sagittarius. Amazingly, this is also the same time that Mercury will be reaching maximum elongation as a Morning Star and completing its final square aspect with Jupiter on April 11. As outlined by Gary Caton in Hermetica Triptycha, this is the rubedo alchemical stage of Mercury’s cycle in which we are challenged to fully bring the meaning we retrieved during the retrograde phase into our daily life. With the interplay between Venus and Neptune as well as Mercury and Jupiter, there is enormous potential at this time for heart opening and expanding beyond previous constraints. However, breaking out of old shells and embracing a more enlivened presence is not always easy, and we will likely need to navigate volatility as we engage in our own inner process of volatile change.
Ultimately, it will be worthwhile to persist in following the new vision rather than retreating back to the comfort of the previous status quo. In the legendary words of Devo, “Twist away the gates of steel / Unlock the secret voice / Give in to ancient noise / Take a chance on a brand new dance / Twist away the gates of steel.”
Brady, Bernadette. (2008). Star and Planet Combinations. Wessex Astrologer.
Caton, Gary. (2017). Hermetica Triptycha: The Mercury Elemental Year. Rubedo Press.
Ficino, Marsilio. (1998). Three Books on Life: A Critical Edition and Translation with Introduction and Notes by Carol V. Kaske and John R. Clark. Tempe: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies.
George, Demetra. (2019). Ancient Astrology in Theory and Practice: a Manual of Traditional Techniques. Rubedo Press.
Rudhyar, Dane. (1958). The Jupiter-Neptune Cycle. Horoscope Magazine.
Rudhyar, Dane. (1973). An Astrological Mandala: the cycle of transformations and its 360 symbolic phases.