Mercury Retrograde in Cancer
Mercury shifts retrograde at least three times a year, yet some are positioned at more pivotally important times than others. Mercury will station retrograde at 14º45′ Cancer on the night of June 17 in Pacific standard time, only a few days before the Moon will eclipse the Sun on the solstice. It is a peak moment of light, the time of the longest days in the northern hemisphere and the longest nights in the southern. As the star of Hermes pauses, twinkling in the liminal space of sunset, the air will be saturated with transmissions from Mercury that deserve deep listening and discernment.
The week surrounding the stationing of Mercury is always a time to bring as much mindfulness as possible to your daily interactions, listening for signs of what needs your attention. Mercury has a gift for playing the wildcard that upturns expectations, delighting in the twists and turns that change everything. Mercury is the one planet that defies rigid categorization, able to shift between expressions of day and night, masculine and feminine, capable of bringing insights and riddles from unconscious depths into conscious awareness. Above all it points to the importance of being flexible, of being curious about the shifting of parts emerging internally and externally, rather than cursing the tricks of the cunning Hermes. Although Mercury retrograde is known for coinciding with delays and miscues in communication, it is an essential phase of Mercury’s cycle that delivers necessary messages.
With Mercury stationing just before an extremely potent solar eclipse, with the Sun in Gemini forming a conjunction with the North Node of the Moon in Gemini, there will be a momentous surge of events and emotions erupting around the motionless intensity of Mercury. Part of Mercury’s core purpose when retrograde is to destabilize dynamics in order to loosen control, break up accumulated dross, and bring about a turning point in narrative and meaning. Since Mercury is stationing retrograde at the same time as a powerful solar eclipse, it means we are crossing a threshold into a passage of amplified putrefaction and dissolution in which matters will need to be broken apart before being brought back together through purifying reassembly. The presence of strong eclipses will make the usual shedding process of Mercury retrograde more dramatic, with unexpected events catalyzing pivotal changes.
We are in a year of Mercury being retrograde in water signs, places where Mercury is more attuned to the unconscious, the nonlinear realm of memories, and the ceaseless flow of feelings dissolving and coagulating. Mercury retrograde in Cancer and under rulership of the Moon’s receptive light will pull perception into the inner realm of thoughts, emotions, desires, and the messages emerging into awareness through our dreams at night. It will be necessary to succumb at times to the subjective sway of our senses and an inward turn toward intuitive impressions and imagination. Fortunately, Mercury is stationing retrograde within its own bounds and face, giving Mercury greater potency in being able to help guide us toward the information and ideas we need to absorb, digest, and begin to integrate during the initial phase of its purgative descent.
Our capacity for choosing what to let into our environment and what to keep out will be crucial, as Austin Coppock in his book on the decans 36 Faces ascribed the image of “A Walled Garden” to the second face of Cancer where Mercury is stationing. Coppock stated that processes associated with the second decan of Cancer ruled by Mercury need a boundary of protection like the sealing required by alchemy, so that we can bring about a process of cultivation and refinement of whatever we wish to create and grow without being contaminated by poisons or toxicity. When possible it will be helpful to create protected space and time for the projects and work you feel are most essential, so that the intensification Mercury experiences while retrograde can be utilized productively.
Around the same time as the Cancer Solar Eclipse on June 21, Mercury will descend from visibility into its invisible, chthonic phase of laying to rest and releasing whatever elements of its past cycle need to be shed. As we begin to deepen into the decay, emptying and putrefaction of this purgative phase in the week following the solar eclipse, Venus in Gemini will station direct on June 25 bringing an end to its retrograde phase that began on May 12. Since Venus is in the airy, mutable home of Mercury, its slow shift into forward motion will be under the influence of Mercury retrograde in Cancer. Thus while the stationing of Venus will demarcate a new chapter in storylines, its rulership by Mercury retrograde will invite an inner descent to integrate the meaning of its retrograde phase before beginning to implement forward movement. This may be a tricky balance to maintain, as powerful solar eclipses bring a tidal wave of new events and relationships to the shore of awareness while old patterns and relationships recede back to the distant sea.
While the world continues to come to terms with the collective crisis of the COVID 19 pandemic, in the United States of America there has been a necessary crisis around systemic racism in law enforcement that has erupted during the past month of Venus being retrograde in Gemini. When Venus stationed retrograde in mid May it crossed paths with Mercury during the twilight hour, with Mercury increasing in light in its evening star phase just as Venus began its descent toward its underworld passage of invisibility. The murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis took place just as Venus was entering its invisible phase, and so the fact that Venus will be increasing in visible light in its Morning Star phase as it stations direct will likely spark significant developments with protests and efforts at making substantial reforms within the criminal justice system in the USA.
It is telling that Mercury is stationing retrograde close to the degree of the Cancer Sun in the birth charts most commonly used for the USA, as well as that the date given for the creation of Black Lives Matter has Mercury retrograde in Cancer less than a degree away from where Mercury is stationing retrograde in Cancer. Within European American communities there has been more widespread focus on exploring white privilege and how to engage in anti-racist action than ever before. The passing of Mercury through its underworld phase can be particularly powerful for coming into deeper connection with feelings and emotions around racism for those whose privilege has enabled them to be disconnected from its oppressive impact. As Mercury retrograde deepens while Venus picks up forward movement, there can be increased realization for direct action that can be taken on local and national levels to protect and support those who are targets of systemic racism.
Just before Mercury reaches the regeneration of its inferior conjunction with the Sun, it will form a conjunction with the asteroid Vesta in Cancer on June 28, while it is also applying toward a sextile aspect with Uranus in Taurus. Vesta’s union with Mercury can help take us to the heart of whatever material has come up to be processed and digested during the initial phase of Mercury retrograde. Vesta’s presence with Mercury retrograde can help with centering and becoming focused on what needs to be burned off and released when Mercury conjoins the Sun on June 30, as well as what new ideas and visions will be seeded by Mercury passing through the heart of the Sun. Listen for what new aspirations want to emerge that you will be able to commit to devoting your energy and focus toward bringing into being.
On June 30, Mercury will unite with the Sun at 9º44′ Cancer, becoming reanimated with the creative potency of our solar light. During this moment of solar re-seeding, Mercury will be purified and regenerated within a place Demetra George has described as the “protected space at the heart of the Sun . . . the innermost holy chamber of the mystery initiations.” As a result, June 30 is a powerful day for planting the seeds of whatever ideas you wish to cultivate during the coming cycle of Mercury. It can also be a potent time for reflection and contemplation regarding whatever material or events were volatilized by the Cancer Solar Eclipse on June 21. By bringing light into inner shadows, we may become aware of certain fears or projections that have become triggered and need our focused attention to tend and mediate.
The inferior conjunction of Mercury will be forming a sextile with Uranus in Taurus and will also be close to the zodiacal degree of the fixed star Alhena in the constellation of Gemini. Alhena is the heel of the immortal twin Pollux, described by Bernadette Brady as symbolizing “the heel of an immortal or sacred one who touches the earth with great pride.” Brady further described Alhena as the “Proudly Marching One” who “is associated with the following of a cause, a belief for which one will march.” In the United States of America, it is likely that the protest movements around systemic racism will become revivified and focused with increased determination to achieve tangible results in the cycle ahead for Mercury.
In contrast, both Reinhold Ebertin and Vivian Robson connected Alhena with artistic inclination and eminence, while Ebertin also described it as bringing a spiritual orientation and interest in the sciences. Combined with the influence of Uranus upon Mercury’s solar reseeding, it will be helpful to set aside space to express however you feel inspired and to allow the muses to lead you into the discovery of new passions and desires you can cultivate and explore more deeply in the forthcoming cycle of Mercury.
It is further significant that on the same day that Mercury conjoins the Sun, Jupiter retrograde will be uniting with Pluto retrograde in Capricorn. The conjunction between Jupiter and Pluto on June 30 will be the second of three conjunctions formed by Jupiter and Pluto during 2020, and so Mercury being reseeded with solar light can help us deepen into relationship and awareness with whatever deep rooted issues and external shifting have been taking place in correspondence with the beginning of a new cycle between Jupiter and Pluto. While there are often power struggles over issues of justice in collective events as well as exposure of corruption among those with extreme ambitions for power when Pluto and Jupiter come together, amidst the collective catharsis and upheaval within our personal lives the union of Jupiter and Pluto can bring new opportunities for growth that expands vision beyond previous restrictions.
The asteroid Pallas Athena in Capricorn is also applying toward a conjunction with Jupiter and Pluto when Mercury retrograde unites with the Sun on June 30. The co-presence of Pallas Athena highlights the importance of utilizing the regeneration of Mercury to bring awareness to ways you have been complicit in the forms of systemic oppression being exposed by the union of Jupiter and Pluto so that you can instead work to bring about their dismantling. The presence of Pallas Athena with Jupiter and Pluto can not only help in envisioning ways of contributing to tangible reforms of the societal structures that are falling apart, but also in devising cunningly effective strategies so that plans of renovation may be received and implemented. I recently was on the Kosmic Tonic Podcast talking about the significance of Pallas Athena aligning with Jupiter and Pluto in 2020, a conversation you can listen to here.
Following the inferior conjunction of Mercury on June 30, there will be a partial Lunar Eclipse on July 4 involving Mars in Aries applying to a square with Mercury retrograde in Cancer that it will eventually complete on July 8. Since Mercury is retrograde in the fall of Mars, the friction and conflict incited between Mercury retrograde and Mars could be messy and emotionally eruptive. The transit of Mars through Aries will become increasingly important during 2020 and so the square between Mars and Mercury retrograde will bring an early clue to what areas of life will be volatilized by Mars in Aries. To work with the adversity brought by Mars constructively, be curious how the challenges you must face during this time can help you to become not only more determined and resilient, but also creatively innovative in finding ways to navigate conflicts. It will also be important to discern when it is necessary to stand your ground in the face of contention versus what situations are not worth fighting over.
At the same time that Mercury retrograde and Mars come into conflict, Ceres will station retrograde at 12º49′ Pisces on July 7. In an article I previously wrote about the importance of Ceres in 2020, I asked astrologer and therapist Jason Holley to share what he has noticed from his practice in correlation with periods of Ceres being retrograde. Though I asked him for his thoughts at the end of March, they still feel relevant so I will share them again here:
“In my work as a therapist, I have seen that retrograde Ceres periods seem to correlate to times when unconscious and implicit material comes forward in what are called in relational psychoanalysis ‘enactments’. These are experiences where a person or group, unable to meaningfully articulate or symbolize particular traumatic experiences, instead re-enacts them with whoever happens to be around. There is often a serious rupturing of the relational fabric, sometimes unrecoverable, but often recoverable with perseverance and leading to profound gifts such as those Ceres gave to humankind at the end of the story: Agriculture (a new relationship with the earth) and the Mysteries (a new relationship to spirit).
The upcoming Ceres retrograde in Pisces feels to me like the tsunami of collective grief, anger, and emotional overwhelm that will follow and accompany the seismic level of loss of human life and economic instability of the coming weeks and months. It is in the midst of this wave that we will be challenged to find the deep and embodied groundedness that Ceres represents. Those of us who can access this, even if only transiently, will be called upon to help the even greater numbers of individuals whose coping resources are quite simply overwhelmed.”
Thus while Ceres will be stationing retrograde and facilitating a process of grieving and discovering ways to tend and nurture the inner places where we carry old wounds and grief, Mercury will be slowing down in speed to station direct. Altogether this can open a potent window of time following the Lunar Eclipse in Capricorn to come terms with all of the hopes and plans for the future that the pandemic has dissolved, and embracing the uncertainty as well as powerful potential of being in a liminal collective space of leaving an old reality behind for a new and unknown future. Laura Nalbandian gave a talk at NORWAC 2020 called “Nourishing the Soul: Ceres in the Birth Chart” that illuminated ways our Ceres placements can reveal the manner in which we seek external solutions to internal issues leading to co-dependent attachments. Laura stressed the importance of finding connection with your own center you didn’t realize was there in grief, a process that can be facilitated as Ceres stations retrograde while Mercury stations direct.
Mercury will finally return to visibility again as a Morning Star at the same time it will station direct on July 12 at 5º30′ Cancer. As Mercury begins to slowly generate forward momentum in the following week, make the space and time to gather, coalesce, and weave together whatever new sense of presence and awareness wants to emerge out of the retrograde. Mercury slowly shifting direct as a Morning Star will initiate a period of searching for new opportunities to set plans into motion and generate productive growth. In some case you may be ready to launch plans soon after Mercury stations direct, while in other cases there may still need to be a process of integration completed before fully setting things in motion.
Mercury will reach its maximum elongation as a Morning Star on July 22 at eleven degrees of Cancer, returning once again to the zodiacal degree of the fixed star Alhena, the “Proudly Marching One.” This demarcates the phase when Mercury will have picked up enough speed to match the steady course of the Sun again. From this day forward, Mercury will move increasingly faster as it proceeds through its Morning Star phase. Gary Caton described this solar phase of Mercury as being similar to the rubedo phase within alchemy in his book Hermetica Tryptycha. As we work to integrate the insights and changes in perspective realized during Mercury’s retrograde journey, Caton noted that we should expect to endure a phase of chaotic volatility as we make a commitment to embody a new presence of being.
A few days later on July 26, Mercury will return to the degree where it originally stationed retrograde and bring to a close its extended process of moving backward and forward from five to fifteen degrees of Cancer. One day later on July 27, Mercury in Cancer will form its second square aspect with Mars in Aries, a catalyzing aspect that may bring tests or contention requiring increased focus and determination in response. This also means that Mars in Aries will be engaged in a superior square aspect with Mercury in Cancer for all of July. There will be much more intense drama and destructive battles emanating from Mars in Aries during the second half of 2020, making the period of Mercury stationing direct vital for gaining a sense of how to nurture yourself so that you can cultivate and sustain resiliency in the face of increased adversity. Constructively, the heat and fire brought by Mars in Aries can help focalize intention on what matters most and where we need to assert our own will, where we need to be protective and supportive of others who are vulnerable.
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Brady, Bernadette. (2008). Star and Planet Combinations. The Wessex Astrologer.
Caton, Gary. (2017). Hermetica Triptycha: The Mercury Elemental Year. Rubedo Press.
Coppock, Austin. (2014). 36 Faces: The History, Astrology and Magic of the Decans. Three Hands Press.
George, Demetra. (2019). Ancient Astrology in Theory and Practice: a Manual of Traditional Techniques. Rubedo Press.