Mercury Retrograde in Aquarius

Light in Heavy (1929) by Wassily Kandinsky

Mercury Retrograde in Aquarius

Every person is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.

— from “The Half-Finished Heaven” by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly

Mercury is a friend to humanity, albeit a tricky guide who enjoys sleight of hand and cunning words that catch us off guard. In astrology, when Mercury pauses in motion to change direction it’s necessary to be mindful with focused curiosity that can intuit the emerging issues that need our attention. The airy terrain of Aquarius will provide contrasting wind currents for Mercury to ride, sometimes forcing us in certain directions out of necessity, at other times opening an expansive vision that simultaneously draws from our well of memory while seeing new pathways to follow into the future.

Mercury is the most changeable planet, and when stationing retrograde shifts from its fleet footed pace when direct into intensifying stillness that calls for introspection. As Mercury begins its slow, churning backward motion it pulls us into a quality of time aligned with dissolution, purification, and regeneration. Rather than insisting on controlling outcomes to push forward, we need to surrender to the changes in storylines and meaning delivered by Mercury when retrograde. Although we may at times become disoriented by destabilizing dynamics, if we listen closely we will hear the guidance we need from Hermes and discover a gleaming gem of realization left where only we may find it.

Following the stationing of Mercury on January 30 at 26°29’ Aquarius, the star of Hermes will spend twenty-two days backtracking through the sign of the Water Bearer until stationing direct at 11°01’ Aquarius on February 20. As Mercury retraces the zodiacal terrain from eleven to twenty-seven degrees of Aquarius, it will excavate material that we need to deepen our engagement with, returning our perception to issues we need to release, rework, or reintegrate. After passing through a phase of putrefaction and purification, we may gain a rejuvenated presence and felt sense of renewal on the other side. Mercury first crossed 11°01’ Aquarius on January 15 and will not move beyond 26°29’ Aquarius until March 12, creating two months of mercurial focus in this range of your natal chart. 

In addition to changing speed and direction while retrograde, Mercury also transitions from being visible as an evening star in twilight into an invisible phase during which it comes closest to us in orbit and amplifies its impact in our life. In between the descent of Mercury into darkness and its eventual re-emergence into light as a morning star heralding sunrise, Mercury’s underworld journey demarcates a threshold we must cross into our own liminal passage of descent and internal processing. While we always need to attune and adjust to changes emerging from internal and external sources during the three weeks Mercury is retrograde, the period of Mercury retrograde in Aquarius in 2021 will be taking place during a collective time of immeasurably immense transition and liminality in global events.

During Mercury’s retrograde movement the Sun, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn will all be gathered together with Mercury in Aquarius like a grouping of clouds whose shaping and reshaping brings new realizations of our past and new inspiration for our way forward. We are still coming to terms collectively with the systemic shifts emanating from the great conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius, with disruption and volatility continuing to increase in correlation with the first exact square aspect formed between Saturn in Aquarius and Uranus in Taurus on February 17. Since Aquarius is a zodiacal sign that connects the known with the unknown, as Mercury moves back to reconnect with Jupiter and Saturn we will be given the opportunity to realign and recalibrate with the rapidly developing movements, accelerated growth, and sudden collapses within societal systems that have been taking place. 

Explorador Piloto (1960) by Remedios Varo

Through a backdoor in the landscape
the magpie arrives,
black and white, bird of the death-goddess.
A blackbird flies back and forth
until the whole scene becomes a charcoal drawing,
except for the white clothes on the line:
a Palestrina choir.

The whole universe is full!

— from “Morning Bird Songs” by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly

The significance of Mercury, Venus, the Sun, and Jupiter all joining Saturn in its home of Aquarius cannot be overstated. Since this great gathering of wandering stars in Aquarius will also be forming a sign-based square aspect with Mars and Uranus in Taurus, we can expect it to be an especially disruptive and unstable period of Mercury retrograde. Especially during the first two weeks when Mars and Mercury will be more intensely engaged in a square aspect, we will need to navigate the stereotypical breakdowns in technology and communication emphasized in popular astrology. Yet due to Saturn being rooted in its airy home of Aquarius the entire time,  we will be able to lean on the endurance, slowly pondering analysis, and special skills in deconstruction and reconstruction possessed by the ringed star of Cronus. 

It’s further notable that Mercury is the nocturnal ruler of air signs and shares an affinity with the air element in being mobile, flexible, versatile, and facile in communication. The slow, intensified nature of Mercury when retrograde can be excellent for in-depth research, and so it can be a fruitful time for poring over reading material or penetrating deeper into learning within fields of interest. The flexibility of consciousness that Mercury brings to the potent contemplation of Saturn in Aquarius will also be beneficial in critically examining media sources as well as separating true revelation from false conspiracy on social media and elsewhere. In particular, it will be a powerful time for shedding outdated mental frameworks and thought patterns that no longer align with the changing wind of the time.

The fixed nature of Aquarius means that the changes brought into our life through the deluge of planets in Aquarius may slowly take shape in some cases but will create long lasting impact. Since Aquarius is a human sign connected with the relationship between humans with one another in our vast network of intersecting societal constructions, humanitarian concerns will take precedence. The numerous crises impacting people around the world in relation to the global pandemic as well as the collapse of formerly reliable structures means that it’s simply going to take a long time to find the needed solutions and work through the difficulties involved in reform and repair. Bring patience and willingness to persist in problem solving into the passage of Mercury retrograde, and by the end of it you will likely find new insights to apply to issues and new pathways to follow forward. 

As we continue to orient with the new era of air initiated by the recent conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn, we can utilize the three weeks of Mercury retrograde to notice synchronicities and discover revelations in connection with all forms of air symbolism. One realm will be in the use of language itself, rethinking how we use language to communicate. With the tension from Mars and Uranus to the gathering of Aquarius planets there will continue to be cultural battles over the use of language and the ways we tell our collective stories of humanity, with escalating conflict swirling like whirlwinds. In verbal conflicts of any sort, the mediation offered by Mercury retrograde is to pause, slow down, and rethink your perspective, finding ways to de-escalate discord so that a bridge between view points can be made.

Within our personal relationships, we will also have opportunities for uncovering ways to more directly express the heart of the matter through our choice in words. As the living symbolism of Aquarius involves how humans draw from sources of spirit within earthly matters, one constant intersection is in how we express the flight of our thoughts through language. As Dr. Mervat Nasser wrote in Hermopolis, “the Egyptian alphabet took the shape of birds that were seen as capable of flying high into the sky to mediate between the knowledge of heaven and earth, between god and humanity.” 

We may also gain insight through the appearance of airy omens and signs, whether they appear through images soaring through our mind when asleep or through the flight patterns of birds within our waking time in nature. Just like Owen Barfield emphasized in Saving the Appearances, rather than forming an “I-it” relationship with nature in which we desire to observe the beautiful flight of birds separate from ourselves, we can instead seek to learn what we can understand about ourselves from the sudden appearance of a Blue Heron or Peregrine Falcon along our path. There is a depth of symbolic insight accessible when Mercury is retrograde that can be more nonlinear and intuitive than linearly logical.

When possible it will be worthwhile to spend time with the muses of your creativity while Mercury is retrograde, as the gathering of planets in Aquarius making creative tension with Mars and Uranus can lead to breakthrough ideas and important brainstorms that dislodge you from a formerly stuck position. In myth the Muses were known as the daughters of Mnemosyne (memory) and Zeus (creative divine mind), and so with Jupiter and Venus both present in Aquarius with Mercury we may draw from streams of memories in the creation of new expressions and thought forms. According to Tim Addey, who drew upon the work of Plato in his book The Seven Myths of the Soul, engaging in arts and sciences requires both creative thought and “the memory of our pre-terrestial vision of the celestial realm.” To Addey, this creative process can put us in touch with a sense of morality drawn down from the spirit of stars above, a rather Aquarian process as ethics are an important ideal for Aquarius:

“The theory of reminiscence is Plato’s explanation of why we as human beings are able to recognize abstract, universal and spiritual truths, such as justice, beauty, and goodness: it is because the soul once possessed this knowledge..but forgotten when she descended into the world of matter; the soul’s activities in arts and sciences helps her remember it.”  – Tim Addey, The Seven Myths of the Soul

odilon redon pilgrim from a sublunar world

Pilgrim from a Sublunar World (1891) by Odilon Redon

. . . Oh, but just beyond that,
behind the last of the billboards, plastered with signs for “Deathless,”
that bitter beer which tastes sweet to those drinking it
as long as they have fresh distractions to chew . . . ,
just beyond those boards, just on the other side: things are real.
Children play, lovers hold each other, off in the shadows,
pensive, on the meager grass, while dogs obey nature.
The youth is drawn farther on; perhaps he’s fallen in love
with a young Lament . . . . . He pursues her, enters meadowland. She says:
“It’s a long way. We live out there . . .”

— Rainer Maria Rilke, from the Tenth Elegy of Duino Elegies translated by Edward Snow

Venus and Mercury will both be entering the underworld together within the first few days of Mercury being retrograde, meaning that both the Mercury and Venus aspects of our life will begin to enter a phase of putrefaction and decomposition. However, while Mercury will be stationing retrograde to descend from visibility as an evening star in the west at sunset, Venus will be disappearing from view as a morning star in the east at sunrise; while Mercury will be moving slowly through the zodiac backwards in between our orbit with the Sun, Venus will be moving fast and direct on the other side of the Sun from us in orbit.

Soon after disappearing under the beams of the Sun, Venus will run straight into the unsettling square aspect being formed between Saturn and Uranus. On February 5 there will be a conjunction of Venus with Saturn in Aquarius followed by square between Venus and Uranus in Taurus on February 6. As a result, the increasingly purgative phase of Mercury being retrograde that leads up to its union with the Sun on February 8 will also involve a cathartic process of Venus setting off the friction building between Saturn and Uranus. Just as Mercury will be increasingly burning off material built up from its last union with the Sun on December 19, so will Mercury also help us shed and release aspects of the issues being volatilized by Venus engaging with Saturn and Uranus. 

To dig deeper into the meaning of the aspects we need to remember that Venus will be in the home of Saturn when they unite on February 5, followed by Venus having a catalyzing encounter with Uranus who will be in the earthy home of Venus. While potentially disruptive there is also more potential for integration due to astrological reception being involved in the aspect sequence. The union of Saturn with Venus can bring a sobering view of reality, coming into contact with the confines of our circumstantial context. Yet the airy nature of Aquarius can help move with the emancipatory impulse from Uranus that can push desires to break free from present restrictions.

Fundamentally, the sequence of Venus moving from Saturn into Uranus combined with Mercury undergoing its own regenerative process of purification will create opportunities to deepen into the ways in which our values are being reshaped and reforged during a period of great collective transition. If we have been unconsciously letting go of old ideals and desires, as Mercury approaches its union with the Sun on February 8 we can begin discovering ways to embody the ways in which our values are undergoing a process of renewal and rejuvenation. Yet before full embodiment will be possible, we will need to come into greater clarity and realization of the ways in which our known understanding is transfiguring into unknown, emerging potential.

Across time the myth of Prometheus has been increasingly connected to the meaning of Uranus in astrology, perhaps most notably by Rick Tarnas. Within the Uranian themes of emancipation, innovation, invention, and rebellious individuality in the story of Prometheus, there are also lessons centered around the hubris of humanity. When we are struck by Uranus in astrology, we may ask ourselves what we have been creating with the divine gift of fire, what we most wish to bring to civilization, and what we most wish to awaken in ourselves and others. Just as Prometheus knowingly sacrificed his boundless nature to be chained to an earthly rock as punishment for delivering the gift of fire to humanity, so do we need to find ways to ground the searing visions of Uranus into our material forms with awareness of its repercussions across our world.  As Tim Addey in The Seven Myths of the Soul wrote, “The mystic’s initiation into the mysteries of Prometheus is the voluntary acceptance of the limitations of matter, not its rejection.”

Whatever innovative ideas, clarifying insights, and new desires are gathered by Venus moving across Saturn and Uranus will be brought into the conjunction that will form between Venus and Jupiter in Aquarius on February 11, the same day as the New Moon in Aquarius. While this will be a period in which to come into deeper contact with the new visions gestating within, we will first experience the reanimation of Mercury with the Sun on February 8.

Vision by Odilon Redon

Vision (1895/97) by Odilon Redon

Task: to be where I am.
Even when I’m in this solemn and absurd
role: I am still the place
where creation works on itself.

Dawn comes, the sparse tree trunks
take on color now, the frostbitten
forest flowers form a silent search party
after something that has disappeared in the dark.

But to be where I am . . . and to wait.
I am full of anxiety, obstinate, confused.
Things not yet happened are already here!
I feel that. They’re just out there:

a murmuring mass outside the barrier.
They can only slip in one by one.
They want to slip in. Why? They do
one by one. I am the turnstile.

— from “Guard Duty” by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly

Chthonic Cazimi

Mercury will become reanimated by its conjunction with the Sun on February 8 at 20°01′ Aquarius. The reseeding of Mercury in solar light occurs as it aligns in between the Earth and Sun by zodiacal degree, as close to us in orbit as possible for Mercury within its cycle. Known as the inferior conjunction of Mercury, it’s a moment of clarifying rebirth that can enhance realization and seed new ideas for the Mercury cycle ahead. While Mercury is within one degree of conjunction with the Sun, even more so within sixteen arc minutes of its solar conjunction, there can be empowerment for tasks associated with Mercury since it is enthroned upon the solar chariot. Older astrological texts named this moment of Mercury’s rebirth cazimi, or being in the heart of the Sun. It’s the cyclical moment when Mercury enters what Demetra George has named the “sanctum sanctorum,” or “the innermost holy chamber of the mystery initiations” found within “the protected space at the heart of the Sun.” 

Guarding the entrance of Mercury into the heart of the Sun will be Pallas Athene, whose asteroid will unite with Mercury on February 7 and will be at 20°51′ Aquarius when Mercury unites with the Sun at 20°01′ Aquarius on February 8. The union of Pallas Athene with Mercury is the second in a three part sequence: Mercury formed its first conjunction with Pallas Athene on January 16 at 13°05′ Aquarius, and will form its third and final conjunction with Pallas Athene on March 18 at 3°25′ Pisces. With her glaring gray-eyes that penetrate with far reaching vision, Pallas Athene will be present with her sharpened spear, slithering snake, and protective aegis to foster the courage of a burning heart that can pierce through previous blockages to enliven a fuller sense of our potential.

A goddess of arts and crafts, prophecy, and warfare, Walter Burkett noted in Greek Religion that what unites Pallas Athene’s “divergent spheres of competence is not an elemental force, but the force of civilization: the just division of roles” among the populace as well as “the organizational wisdom which achieves this.” Burkert further noted that “more than any other deity Athena is always near her protégés,” declaring that “wherever difficulties disappear and the impossible becomes possible, Athena is at hand.”  In astrology, Demetra George has described Pallas Athene in Aquarius as representing “futuristic perception ” that creates “forms that will benefit generations to come,” as well as artists and others “on the forefront of the future, translating the tone of what is coming  in for the masses.” While the issues in need of addressing across society seem impossibly large, the presence of Pallas Athene with the inferior conjunction of Mercury is a sign of significant progress being possible in terms of reorganizing structures, roles, and responsibilities within societal and personal systems of all sorts.

The union of Pallas Athene with Mercury will precede the movement of Mercury from the heart of the Sun into a discordant square aspect with Mars in Taurus. Mercury will form its exact square aspect with Mars on February 10 during a dark Moon in Aquarius that will be moving through a sequence of conjunctions with Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mercury as it draws its lunar cycle to a close, intensifying our feelings of transitioning in between what has been and what will be. The disruptive influence of Mars in Taurus upon the inferior conjunction of Mercury will be modulated by Pallas Athene, amplifying the penetrative visioning available as well as the inspiration for activism on behalf of social justice concerns from groups who have been marginalized in one way or another by the cultures in power.

If you experience any significant breakdowns, conflicts, or obstacles as Mars and Mercury clash, keep in mind that as soon as Mercury begins to separate from Mars it will begin applying toward a beneficial and restorative conjunction between Jupiter and Venus in Aquarius. There may be a need to come to stark terms with what isn’t working in the middle of February, but there will be celestial support available to diagnose solutions and ultimately begin moving forward again from a more solid foundation. 

The Buddha (1895) by Odilon Redon

The airy sky has taken its place leaning against the wall.
It is like a prayer to what is empty.
And what is empty turns its face to us
and whispers
“I am not empty, I am open.”

— from “Vermeer” by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly

A few days after the inferior conjunction of Mercury, there will be an extremely potent New Moon in Aquarius on February 11 at 23°17’ Aquarius that will involve a conjunction between Venus and Jupiter in Aquarius as well as all of the seven traditional planets and lights occupying Aquarius except for Mars. Following the New Moon in Aquarius, Mercury will form a conjunction with Venus in Aquarius on February 13 followed by a conjunction with Jupiter in Aquarius on February 14. These days following the Aquarius New Moon can be extremely fertile for creativity and coalescing greater clarity regarding the path we need to follow into the year ahead. The more we can strip away the inessential and what is ready to be shed from our life in the period leading up to these days, the more space we will have to welcome exciting new developments. 

As Mercury begins slowing down to station direct on February 20, it will become visible again in the darkness before dawn around February 16. There will be a burst of new movements and ideas for future plans at this time, as the reappearance of Mercury as a morning star to deliver a vital message will be combined with the fact that both Saturn and Jupiter will have also renewed their own visible cycles as morning stars in the days before Mercury. Yet we will have to navigate an extremely turbulent atmosphere while integrating new visions due to the first exact square aspect between Saturn and Uranus taking place on February 17. There will be rupturing in collective events creating division while sudden shifts and movements continue to reorder and rearrange systemic structures and alliances between societal structures and groups.

Some of the ways Mercury may assist in ferrying us across the volatile middle of February involves Mercury being within its own decan of ten to twenty degrees of Aquarius. Mercury will possess both decan as well as triplicity dignity as it slows down to station, giving it added potency in helping us forge links of support with relationships and resources that can help us handle being at a threshold in-between the way it’s been and the way of what’s to come. Austin Coppock in his book on the decans 36 Faces ascribed the image of “Heaven and Earth” to the second face of Aquarius, noting that the “principled but fierce wisdom” found in this face “stabilizes commerce between heaven and earth” while also allowing for “the connection of the orthodox and the unorthodox, the known and the unknown,” as well as “the ideal and the practical.” 

Further adding to the instability and creative tension of the days surrounding Mercury stationing direct, Venus in Aquarius will form a catalyzing square aspect with Mars in Taurus on February 19. The waning square between Venus with Mars will necessitate adjustment and reorientation within our relational dynamics in accordance with whatever larger collective changes are taking place as well as whatever kind of internal shifting in values and needs we have been experiencing. As Mercury will be stationing direct at the same time, make the time and space needed to gather a deeper sense of how your life and desires have been reshaped. After Venus forms its square with Mars it will form a conjunction with Pallas Athene in Aquarius on February 21, helping us formulate strategies to handle any difficulties that were set off by Mars as well as gain a stronger sense of  ways we need to alter plans and goals for the future in light of however our inner values have been shifting. 

As a result of numerous destabilizing astrological aspects occurring simultaneously, it will be important to be as mindful as possible in the days surrounding the stationing direct of Mercury on February 20 at 11°01’ Aquarius. Mercury will station close to the midpoint between Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius, giving us an opportunity to deepen in our understanding of how our life has been altered in correspondence with the great conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn that arrived at the end of 2020. Mercury will next slowly begin moving forward again as it applies toward a conjunction with Jupiter that it will not complete until March 4. As a result, we will have a couple of weeks following the stationing direct of Mercury to benefit from the star of Hermes applying toward a conjunction with Jupiter in Aquarius. Utilize this period for pushing forward with goals and generating forward momentum toward whatever ways your purpose in life has undergone a metamorphosis.

Mercury will reach its maximum elongation as a morning star and begin speeding up on March 6. The maximum elongation of Mercury demarcates the point in which 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.

In all, the period of Mercury retrograde in Aquarius promises to be full of ups and downs as we move through an unstable stretch of time. Although the collective changes that will be developing may feel unsettling, we could not ask for a better guide through the volatility than Hermes. Give praise to Mercury and welcome his wild wisdom into your life, as you need to allow for all of his tricks in order to receive all of his gifts. Be on the constant lookout for the windfalls of fruitful fortune that Mercury may deliver unexpectedly, while making the time to formulate long-term strategies to achieve the goals and larger visions that have been consolidating in your mind. By the time Mercury is heading direct again at the end of February, you may feel renewed with a rejuvenated excitement about what you can create and bring into form in the year ahead.

Mercury Riding Pegasus, Jardin des Tuileries, Paris

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References

Addey, Tim. (2000). The Seven Myths of the Soul. The Prometheus Trust.

Barfield, Owen. (1988). Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry. Second Edition. Wesleyan University Press.

Burkert, Walter. (1985). Greek Religion. Harvard University Press. 

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.

George, Demetra. (1986). Asteroid Goddesses. With Douglas Bloch. ACS.

Nasser, Mervat. (2019). The Path to the New Hermopolis: The History, Philosophy, & Future of the City of Hermes. Rubedo Press. 

Mercury Retrograde in 2021

Mercury air triplicity

Astrology glyphs by Bradley Naragon

Mercury Retrograde in 2021

I recently joined astrologer Stormie Grace on her astrology show to talk about the significance of the three Mercury retrograde periods in 2021. Mercury will be retrograde in air signs in 2021 and as a result will help facilitate our transition into the new era of air signified by the recent conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius. In addition, Mercury retrograde in Aquarius in February and Mercury retrograde in June will also be happening during the first two exact square aspects formed between Saturn and Uranus. As a result, the Mercury retrograde periods will also be directly involved in our adjustment to the sudden changes and rupturing that will correlate with Saturn in square with Uranus during 2021. We talk about the meaning of Mercury and Mercury retrograde in general, and then get into the details regarding each of the three periods of Mercury retrograde next year.

Here is a link to watch the recording:

Mercury Retrograde in Scorpio and Libra

Ships in the Dark (1927) Paul Klee

Someday, at the end of the nightmare of knowing,
may I emerge singing praise and jubilation to assenting angels.
May I strike my heart’s keys clearly, and may none fail
because of slack, uncertain, or fraying strings.
May the tears that stream down my face
make me more radiant: may my hidden weeping
bloom. How I will cherish you then, you grief-torn nights!
Had I only received you, inconsolable sisters,
on more abject knees, only buried myself with more abandon
in your loosened hair. How we waste our afflictions!
We study them, stare out beyond them into bleak continuance,
hoping to glimpse some end. Whereas they’re really
our wintering foliage, our dark greens of meaning, one
of the seasons of the clandestine year—; not only
a season —: they’re site, settlement, shelter, soil, abode.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, from the Tenth Elegy of Duino Elegies translated by Edward Snow

Mercury retrograde in Scorpio

As night and its unknowing darkness envelopes us on October 13, Mercury will be cloistered in their cave of pungent roots, fungi, and herbs stirring a cauldron of mysterious brew hung with an iron hook over fire. Mercury has outdone themselves, really, as it’s a concoction into which we may pour all of our laments of loss, grief, vulnerabilities, and fears, cooking and transfiguring their essence into medicine. As Mercury tends to the dissolution, swirling it into a spiral with their spoon, we will be offered a taste.

Mercury will station retrograde on October 13, 2020 at 11°40′ Scorpio, pulling us into a twenty-one day period in which the star of Hermes will backtrack through the zodiac until stationing direct on November 3 at 25º54′ Libra. Uranus and Saturn will be in the role of threshold guardians, as Mercury will begin its retrograde in an opposition with Uranus and will end it while in a square aspect with Saturn. Mercury will thoroughly inspect the zodiacal terrain from twenty-five degrees of Libra to twelve degrees of Scorpio in natal charts, digging up material in need of release, rehabilitation, rejuvenation, or reintegration. Mercury first crossed 25º54′ Libra on September 23 and will not finally move beyond 11°40′ Scorpio until November 19.

While 2020 has been dominated by the grave lineup of Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto in Capricorn, 2021 will be fundamentally shaped by three shattering square aspects formed between Uranus in Taurus and Saturn in Aquarius on February 17, June 14, and December 23, 2021. Mercury’s retrograde journey through Scorpio and Libra will bridge the astrological themes streaming from this year into next, since it will begin by triggering issues related to Uranus and then penetrate into the core dynamics of Saturn, Pluto, and Jupiter. Mercury is at home in liminal states of being in between, and while retrograde will guide awareness into exploration of the issues that require deeper attention so we may more fluidly pass from the way things have been into the way of what is to come.                     

Mercury transitions from being visible in the evening twilight at the beginning of its retrograde phase into an invisible phase for most of its retrograde passage, re-emerging into visibility at the end of its retrograde phase at dawn. In between Mercury descends into the darkness of the underworld to be regenerated by the Sun, reseeding our consciousness with new ideas and a refreshened presence. The apparent backward motion of Mercury is due to it orbiting in between our Earth and Sun, coming to its closest proximity with us in orbit. We thus experience an intensification of Mercury during its retrograde phase, as its descent calls for a purging and purification of our mental constructs and the way we process and communicate information and ideas.

Mercury retrograde has a reputation for trouble that it will play at full tilt this time around. Crucially, Mercury will not only station in opposition with Uranus, it will also be under rulership of Mars retrograde in Aries in its full phase with the Sun. This means that after the Sun sets and Mercury shares its final light as an evening star in the few days after it stations retrograde, Mars will be arising over the eastern horizon in its brightest phase of fiery redness and proceed to glow down upon us all through the night. Since Mars will be operating at an extremity of symbolic heat, we can expect the three week period of Mercury being retrograde to be more disruptive and disorienting than normal.

Mercury’s fluid nature that weaves between divergent perspectives and embraces multiplicity will be the kind of medicine we will need to digest. Yet we must also bear in mind that Mercury will utilize sleight of hand trickery while dislodging us from stuck, habitual patterns when retrograde. The building square aspect between Saturn and Uranus that Mercury will bridge during its retrograde journey is a waning one, signifying that across our global collective the clash between Saturn and Uranus will demand a radical altering of how we perceive and approach the dismantling of societal systems underway. The more we can let go of our fixed conceptions of identity, the more that we can utilize the experience of Mercury retrograde for sifting through the unraveling of our inner multiplicity, reintegrating fragmented aspects of ourselves that essentially need to be returned, finding new angles of perception in problem solving in the process.

While we are often called to revisit old issues while Mercury is retrograde, the influence of Mars combined with the hard aspects Mercury will make with Uranus, Saturn, Pluto, and Jupiter over the course of its three week retrograde passage has the potential to dredge up core patterns that feel like they have been festering in the deepest recesses of our subconscious for ages. Rather than becoming angry and frustrated over having to re-engage with something from the past, ask what the spirit of the presenting issue is bringing as an underlying lesson. Allow the star of Hermes to guide awareness to the old issues that need to be laid to rest, the repairs and reparations that need to be enacted, and the emptying of what needs to be released in order to more effectively welcome an influx of new developments at the end of 2020.

Walpurgis Night 1935 by Paul Klee 1879-1940

Walpurgis Night (1935) Paul Klee

And so we press on and try to achieve it,
try to contain it in our simple hands,
in our brimming eyes, our voiceless heart.
Try to become it. Try to give it— to whom? Best of all,
to hold on to it all forever . . . Ah, but what can one carry across
into that other relation? Not the art of seeing,
learned so slowly here, and no event that transpired here. Not one.
The pain, then. Above all, the hard labor of living,
the long experience of love, —all the purely
unsayable things. But later on,
among the stars, what then: there the unsayable reigns.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, from the Ninth Elegy of Duino Elegies translated by Edward Snow

Mercury typically will spend about two years being retrograde in the same element- since March 2019, Mercury has been shifting retrograde in water signs. This will be the final Mercury retrograde in a water sign in the current sequence, as Mercury will be retrograde in the air signs of Aquarius, Gemini, and Libra in 2021. During the past two years the periods of Mercury retrograde in water signs have plunged us into the depths of emotional undercurrents so we may excavate buried treasures of insight. It’s wise to slow down and allow for dreams, synchronicities, and omens to work through us when Mercury is retrograde in water signs, and that will be especially the case while Mercury is retrograde in Scorpio from October 13 until it returns to Libra on October 27.

Mercury will be visible in the liminal hues of twilight at the beginning of its retrograde phase, transitioning around October 18 into its phase of invisibility in which it facilitates purging and shedding.  The closer Mercury comes to uniting with the Sun on October 25, the more the cauldron of Mercury will feel the Sun’s calcining fire that can dissolve rigidity and open deeper attuning with needed messages from our unconscious. From the stationing of Mercury on October 13 until its conjunction with the Sun on October 25, let the watery nature of Mercury in Scorpio pull your feelings into the places that need release and resolution within.  After the New Moon in Libra forms on October 16 and the waxing Moon shares its first crescent light while conjoining Mercury in Scorpio on October 17, it will be possible to gain greater clarity for what needs to be emptied and shed with intention. 

As Mercury disappears into darkness it takes on the role of Chthonic Hermes, the psychopomp who was given souls to guide by Persephone. Mercury will descend into the underworld while forming an opposition with Uranus that will become exact on October 19. The emancipatory and jolting wattage oscillating between Mercury and Uranus will not be new, for Mercury first formed an opposition with Uranus on October 7 after having spent a week building up tension with Uranus. On the most simple level the extended interfacing between Mercury and Uranus will bring unexpected announcements and events that radically upturn narratives and plans. Combined with Mercury stationing retrograde, there will be a deeper side of soulful and ancestral patterns becoming volatilized that will feel disorienting but can lead toward fundamental growth and development.   

While it’s best with Mercury retrograde in a water sign to go with the flow, the fixed nature of Scorpio can lead to being stuck on compulsive feelings or consumed with trying to maintain control in getting our way. The lightning strikes from Uranus will force release and surrender to the currents, and while we may have to experience strife we may also listen to what message the sleight of hand of Mercury is delivering through the tumult. When it doesn’t feel possible to let go of wounds or loss, the ineffable depth of Scorpio’s waters can help dislodge feelings of grief that need to be released.  Make space for rest and time for descent into incubatory darkness so you may better attune to the inner guidance needed.

the green candle jorge camacho

The Green Candle by Jorge Camacho

With all its eyes the animal world
beholds the Open. Only our eyes
are as if inverted and set all around it
like traps at its portals to freedom.
What’s outside we only know from the animal’s
countenance; for almost from the first we take a child
and twist him round and force him to gaze
backwards and take in structure, not the Open
that lies so deep in an animal’s face. Free from death.
Only we see death; the free animal has its demise
perpetually behind it and before it always
God, and when it moves, it moves into eternity,
the way brooks and running springs move.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, from the Eighth Elegy of Duino Elegies translated by Edward Snow

Chthonic Cazimi

Mercury will become reanimated and reseeded by its conjunction with the Sun on October 25 at 2°48′ Scorpio. Known as its inferior conjunction, Mercury aligns in between the Earth and Sun by zodiacal degree, as close to us in orbit as possible for Mercury within its cycle. During the time that Mercury is within one degree of conjunction with the Sun, even more so while Mercury is within sixteen minutes of its solar conjunction, there is enhanced potential to experience clarifying self-reflection and reception of key insight. Older astrological texts named this moment of Mercury’s rebirth cazimi, or being in the heart of the Sun. It’s the cyclical moment when Mercury enters what Demetra George has named the “sanctum sanctorum,” or “the innermost holy chamber of the mystery initiations” found within “the protected space at the heart of the Sun.” 

Karl Kerenyi wrote in Hermes: Guide of Souls that “meeting and finding are revelations of Hermes’ essence,” as Hermes discovers fortune through “accidental happenings” and windfalls that he crafts with “intelligence and the art of living,” shaping every find into “a theft that is put into better use.” Wherever you find yourself in your journey on October 25, invite Hermes to help you make inventive use of your circumstances. Indeed, Kerenyi illuminated that the journeyer in communion with Hermes remains “at home on the road itself, the road being understood not as a connection between two definite points on the earths surface, but as a particular world.” This “middle domain” of Hermes has resonance with Mercury at the point of its chthonic conjunction with the Sun because, as described by Kerenyi, “a person in this volatized condition has access to everything.” It’s a moment to enter the primordial in the present.

When Mercury becomes revitalized with the creative potency of our solar light on October 25, its ruler Mars will remain retrograde but will have finally finished forming exact square aspects with Saturn, Pluto, and Jupiter in Capricorn. We may draw from the absorptive potency of Mercury in Scorpio to soak in all the feelings that have been stirred up by Mars catalyzing Jupiter, Pluto, and Saturn, grounding into a deeper sense of our circumstances. Open your awareness to the seeds of new ideas and visions germinating within your inner darkness.

Victor Brauner origin of the word

Origin of the Word by Victor Brauner

But suppose the endlessly dead were to wake in us some emblem:
they might point to the catkins hanging
from the empty hazel trees, or direct us to the rain
descending on black earth in early spring.-

And we, who always think of happiness
rising, would feel the emotion
that almost baffles us
when a happy thing falls.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, from the Tenth Elegy of Duino Elegies translated by Edward Snow

Mercury Station in Libra

Mercury slides backwards into Libra on October 27 only eight minutes before Venus enters Libra. This brings a major change in tone that switches the focus of Mercury from Mars retrograde in its fiery home of Aries to Venus in its airy home of Libra, with both Mercury and Venus gaining increased essential dignity on the same day (Venus entering its own domicile and Mercury entering its own triplicity). Mercury will also be in the exaltation and triplicity of Saturn, and will test this relationship immediately by applying to an intensifying square aspect with Saturn. The square between Mercury and Saturn is a double edged scythe, as on one hand there could be rejection to contend with while on the other hand there could be a solidification and harvesting of insight and results.

As the tension between Mercury retrograde in Libra and Saturn direct in Capricorn builds to a peak, there will be a cathartic Full Moon in Taurus on October 31 that forms an almost exact conjunction with Uranus. Notably, the Taurus Full Moon combines the monthly polarity of the Sun and Moon with the yearly opposition between the Sun and Uranus retrograde, the heart of the retrograde cycle of Uranus when it is closest to Earth. The lunation’s alignment with Uranus can bring the electrified spark needed to finally change a deep seated pattern as well as incite far ranging vision that brings a sudden reformulation of whatever we have been planning and working on. The mysterious, nonlinear realm of memory and dreams will be invigorated with activity.

A day after the Full Moon in Taurus unites with Uranus, Mercury retrograde in Libra will form an exact square aspect with Saturn in Capricorn on November 1. As Mercury retrograde in Libra clashes with Saturn under the full light of the Moon, we may encounter extremes in current events as well as interpersonal encounters, bringing a need for balancing within experiences full of tension, polarity, counterpoints, and contrariness. Fortunately, the timing of these transits with the Samhain holiday can make for potent rituals, spiritual experiences, and communion with ancestors that can bring pivotal guidance. 

As Mercury slows down to station direct on November 3 while forming a square with Saturn, Pluto, and Jupiter in Capricorn, the star of Hermes will also be returning to visibility as a Morning Star sharing its light amongst the birdsong that comes just before sunrise. In the United Sates of America, Mercury will station direct in the vicious political climate of Election Day that will likely be full of conflicting reports and contested results. Mercury will make major pronouncements during the first week of November in global events, and likewise in our personal life we will receive an influx of new vision and an activation of imaginative ideas.

After Mercury stations direct and begins moving forward in Libra, it will form its third exact square aspect with Saturn in Capricorn on November 7. The final square between Mercury and Saturn brings to completion a process that began on September 23 when Mercury and Saturn formed the first square in the sequence. The meaning found in the relationship between Mercury and Saturn across this time brings to mind the description given by Liz Greene regarding Carl Jung’s understanding of their interplay in her book The Astrological World of Jung’s Liber Novus. Greene wrote that the “shadowy, potentially destructive prima materia of the unconscious, represented by Saturn, bears a secret unity with the mysterious mediating agency in the psyche, represented by Mercury, that fosters the conscious recognition of meaning and teleology.”  One aspect of the realm where Mercury and Saturn may meet is in the imagination, and so it will be worthwhile spending time incubating within the living symbolism of whatever emerges to glean the deeper significance for your life.

Mercury will return to the dark waters of Scorpio on November 10, the same day it also reaches maximum elongation as a Morning Star and begins to move faster than the steady course of the Sun. At the same time, Venus in Libra will be forming an opposition with Mars in Aries as the red planet begins to slow down to station direct. The tension between Venus and Mars will intensify the entrance of Mercury into its explorative solar phase that Gary Caton has compared to the rubedo phase of alchemy, as it demarcates the period for manifesting the inspired ideas and revivified presence gathered during the period of Mercury retrograde into our daily routines and reality. Make space for deep listening and delving into your relational dynamics with others, taking note of the underlying patterns and crafting ways to create healthier, mutually supportive dynamics.

Altogether, the period of Mercury retrograde in Scorpio and Libra will play a crucial role in transitioning us into the finale of Mars retrograde in Aries and comprehending whatever emerges. It will also provoke a vital reorientation to the issues that need our attention in the final stretch of the year as we approach an eclipse season and the grand conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius on December 21. After traversing the boggy landscape of Scorpio where we will experience decomposition of past issues, Mercury will retrieve the golden scales of Libra that we may utilize in recalibrating whatever new growth is becoming fertilized. Moving back and forth between the dissolving water of Scorpio and the intellectualizing air of Libra can facilitate the understanding of surrounding relational dynamics we need in order to navigate the social unrest and disruption to societal power structures that will be taking place.

Angel! O take it, pluck it, that small-petaled herb of healing!
Create a vase, preserve it! Place it among those joys
not yet open to us; in a delicate urn
let an ornate inscription praise it: “Subrisio Saltat.”

— Rainer Maria Rilke, from the Fifth Elegy of Duino Elegies translated by Edward Snow

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References

Caton, Gary. (2017). Hermetica Triptycha: The Mercury Elemental Year. Rubedo Press.

George, Demetra. (2019). Ancient Astrology in Theory and Practice: a Manual of Traditional Techniques. Rubedo Press.

Greene, Liz. (2018). The Astrological World of Jung’s Liber Novus: Daimons, Gods, and the Planetary Journey. Routledge.

Kerenyi, Karl. (1976). Hermes: Guide of Souls. Spring Publications.

Rilke, Rainer Maria. (2000). Duino Elegies. translated by Edward Snow. North Point Press.

Mercury Retrograde in Cancer

charles white sound of silence

Sound of Silence by Charles White

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.

Hokusai Femenine_wave

by Hokusai

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.

william blake the soul exploring the recesses of the grave

The Soul Exploring the Recesses of the Grave, From the Grave (1813) by Luigi Shiavonetti after William Blake

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.

General Moses Harriet Tubman by Charles White

General Moses (Harriet Tubman) by Charles White

Morning Star

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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References

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.

Mercury retrograde in Pisces & Aquarius

Mercury retrograde in Pisces

Felix-Hilaire Buhot (1860-98) The Seascape Painter

Mercury Stations Retrograde in Pisces

We paused amid the pines that stood / The giants of the waste, / Tortured by storms to shapes as rude / As serpents interlaced, / And soothed by every azure breath / That under Heaven is blown / To harmonies and hues beneath, / As tender as its own; / Now all the tree-tops lay asleep / Like green waves on the sea, / As still as in the silent deep / The Ocean woods may be.

— from Percy Bysshe Shelley’s To Jane. The Recollection

Mercury is at home in the liminal, in between thought and expression, in threshold experiences of leaving one state to enter another. Mercury is the only planet that defies definitions fixing it to a singular category, as it can be benefic or malefic, nocturnal or diurnal, masculine or feminine, depending upon whatever surrounding influences it is mixing with. Mercury delights in transitions within storylines, the unexpected twist or turn, and the loss that catches you off guard and brings awareness to a necessary lesson. Just as Mercury corresponds with stones of many colors, so does it rejoice in the changing hues of sunrise and sunset where it fleetingly shares its light with us. It’s thus ironic that so many hold a rigidly negative judgment against Mercury when retrograde.

When Mercury stations retrograde on February 16, it will twinkle in the sky one last time as the sun sets. After Mercury follows the sun into the darkness of night it will enter its invisible retrograde phase, taking on the role of psychopomp guiding us into the underworld of our unconscious. Mercury shifting retrograde is not an abhorrent aberration, but rather a natural phase of dissolution, purification, and regeneration that is essential to the meaning and function of Mercury. Perhaps it is the cultural emphasis on progress, future goals, and linear processes that leads people to complain about the nonlinear, magical reality Mercury activates when retrograde.

Mercury when retrograde possesses the logic of symbols and poetry more so than instruction manuals, especially when in its fall in Pisces. Mercury retrograde in its fall will compel awareness into incubatory darkness and places of low lying depth rather than exalted heights, especially since it is also under rulership of Jupiter in its fall in Capricorn. Mercury is ready to take us on a deep dive into boundless oceanic depths where we may excavate long lost fragments of ancient secrets harbored in sunken treasure. Mercury stations retrograde on February 16 at 12º53′ Pisces near Neptune at 17º37′ Pisces, with Jupiter at 17º02′ Capricorn and applying to a harmonious sextile with Neptune.

The visible, evening star phase of Mercury that will end after it stations retrograde was seeded on January 10 during a Lunar Eclipse in Cancer and a new cycle beginning between Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn. The retrograde movement of Mercury will test and temper aspirations that arose in correspondence with the potent Capricorn seeding in January, loosening our control so as to reveal any unstable elements in need of shedding or shoring up. Furthermore, since Jupiter in Capricorn is receiving Neptune through a waning sextile aspect, we will be called to reorient our beliefs and perspective with the deep, underlying changes that have started to take shape. The disintegration and breakdowns brought forth by Mercury retrograde will incite a shedding of illusions that have accumulated, purging and purifying understanding.

As Jupiter will complete its sextile with Neptune on February 20 and then eventually move within three degrees of its first conjunction with Pluto by the end of Mercury’s retrograde passage, the amorphous perception of Mercury retrograde in Pisces can dissolve the culturally conditioned boundaries that will become volatilized through the catharsis of Jupiter, Neptune, and Pluto coming together. If we can fluidly engage with Mercury’s capacity for dislodging stuck, habitual patterns we can gain increased flexibility in responding to the wider societal changes that will be happening. Yet since Pisces is the inwardly directed home of Jupiter, Mercury’s sleight of hand within its watery landscape can blur distinctions and cause confusion through focusing on larger visions rather than practical details.

Mercury’s retrograde journey will not take place entirely within the ocean of Pisces, however, as Mercury will backtrack into Aquarius on March 4, station direct in Aquarius on March 9, and remain inside the fixed sign of air until March 16 when it returns to Pisces. Since Aquarius is the intellectually oriented, airy home of Saturn, the creative chaos stirred up by Mercury in its first seventeen days of being retrograde will give rise to clarifying insight once Mercury climbs out of the waves of Pisces in order to contemplate and distill wisdom within the sign of the Water Bearer.  Until then, Mercury will need to utilize the extrasensory perception of Pisces and the divinatory tools at its disposal to chart our course along a deep sea expedition.

Baro_Urbigerus_—_Filius_noster_—_1705

Baro Urbigerus (1705)

“Mercury . . . has such power over the animal spirit that he is said both to put minds to sleep and to wake them up with his caduceus, that is to say, by any aspect of his, disposed this way or that, he can miraculously either blunt the wits or sharpen them, weaken or strengthen them, agitate or calm them.”

–Marsilio Ficino, Book III, Chapter XI of Three Books on Life

Our astrological ancestors such as Marsilio Ficino and William Lilly viewed Mercury as ruling the animal spirit, a term we can connect in modern terminology with the interplay between our nervous system responses and our emotional sensations. Although the planet Mercury is not classically viewed as having dignity in the astrological element of water, William Lilly linked Mercury with the element of water through its watery role in alchemy in which it is the fluid mediator between spirit and matter. As Mercury pauses in stillness to shift retrograde, it signals that we are crossing a threshold into a passage of putrefaction and dissolution in which matters will need to be broken apart in order to bring about a process of purifying reassembly.

Mercury retrograde in the water triplicity will be one of the key astrological themes of 2020, for the next two subsequent Mercury retrograde periods this year will also be in water signs. Mercury will be retrograde in Cancer from June 17 through July 12, and then will be retrograde in Scorpio from October 13 until October 27 when it will move backwards into Libra, stationing direct in Libra on November 3. The water signs are traditionally known as being mute, places where Mercury’s caduceus transmits feelings, the deeper meaning behind language, and the indescribable significance of visual images and symbols. Pay attention to the three houses of your natal chart ruled by water signs and the sequence of topical significations that will unfold as Mercury moves retrograde through each one this year. Although the astrology of 2020 has a lot of emphasis on the elements of earth, wind, and fire, Mercury through its retrograde motion in water signs will be calling for us to purify and regenerate our emotional presence and ability to share and receive feelings with others.

Mercury is known for its dissolving and blending capacities which mediate polarities such as between conscious and unconscious, day and night, solar and lunar, the sacred and mundane, and so on. Yet Pisces is known to be challenging terrain for Mercury where emotional receptivity and extrasensory perceptions are accentuated more so than skill in clear articulation of ideas through linear language and logic. Being a mutable sign ruled by Jupiter where Venus is exalted, Pisces is a watery landscape of fishponds, rivers, and springs that inspires us to daydream, unifying elements of thought through synthesis and harmony.  Due to its exceptional sensitivity, however, Mercury in Pisces is at risk when emotional flooding disrupts its capacity for discernment and clarity.

Thus when the trickster role of Mercury retrograde rears its head to pull the proverbial rug out from under you, find ways to recover and restore your nerves such as through a hot bath soaked in calming herbs and salts. Rather than cursing the fate of being gripped by the cunning Hermes, it is advisable to keep an open and curious mind regarding whatever unplanned changes occur, as Mercury retrograde is known for making changes in plot that will lead to unforeseen fruit in the future. It’s also wise to use Mercury retrograde in Pisces for what it is good for: being receptive to omens within nature, listening to and exploring the meaning of your dreams, and utilizing whatever forms of divination you can access for guidance.

William Lilly in Christian Astrology, Book Three declared that Mercury in Pisces “makes [wo]men given to Magic, either in hope or dissemblingly.” There is a compelling asteroid connection with not only the capacity of Mercury in Pisces for magic, but also Neptune’s co-presence in Pisces looming over the retrograde journey of Mercury: the Circe asteroid is applying within one and a half degrees to a conjunction with Mercury as it stations retrograde in Pisces, forming an exact conjunction on February 19. We can therefore integrate the mythopoetic meaning of Circe into the opening phase of Mercury retrograde in Pisces.

Circe is a magical solar goddess who is the daughter of Helios and plays a pivotal role in the ancient tale of the mercurial hero Odysseus enduring the retribution of Poseidon/Neptune. In fact, Hermes mediates the enchantment of Odysseus by Circe through precise instruction for how Odysseus may successfully navigate through this rather retrograde episode of his journey. Crucially, Circe ultimately advises Odysseus regarding his destiny, similar to the ancient tradition across numerous cultures in which a hero descends into the underworld in order for the destiny they need to claim to be illuminated by the Goddess. Indeed, Circe not only tells Odysseus that he needs to descend into the underworld, she tells him how to do so as well as how to successfully reascend. Similarly, there will be a deeper layer of our destiny to discover, claim, and embody during the underworld journey of Mercury moving retrograde.

the night prowlers

Felix-Hilaire Buhot (1865-98) The Night Prowlers

Into the Black

“Wisdom’s beginning is to give up on the endless fuss of looking hopefully into the future for some final solution to our ignorance, some perfect correction to the mess we’ve made so far.

It starts the same way it ends– with looking back, exactly as Jung recommended, and into oneself. Instead of stepping forwards we have to walk backwards into the place inside us all where the answers already lie and have always been waiting.”

— Peter Kingsley, Catafalque

There will be a jolt of inspiration when Mercury stations retrograde on February 16, as the Moon will be at 11º38′ Sagittarius and applying to a superior square aspect with Mercury as well as Neptune, signifying that the irrational side of rationality may take prominence. From sunset on February 16 when Mercury disappears from view until February 25 when Mercury is regenerated through its conjunction with the Pisces Sun, you can align with Mercury’s solar phase by letting go and breaking things down, releasing old patterns and storylines ready to be composted. Since the Moon will be waning in light until forming a New Moon in Pisces on February 23, the lunar cycle during the first week of Mercury retrograde will accentuate the putrefaction of Mercury getting closer each day to being burned up in the Sun.

Mars will enter its exaltation in Capricorn on the same day that Mercury stations retrograde in Pisces, demarcating February 16 as a critical turning point in the year. Mars will generate an intense, catalytic force as it transits through Capricorn at the same time as the South Node of the Moon, Jupiter, Pluto, and Saturn are co-present in the sign of the Sea Goat. Mars in Capricorn will immediately begin applying toward a flowing trine with Uranus in Taurus followed by a conjunction with the South Node of the Moon, amplifying the volatility already being stirred up by Mercury stationing retrograde. While an exalted Mars in Capricorn brings increased drive in working hard to achieve aspirations, as it approaches its union with the South Node of the Moon while Mercury simultaneously deepens into its retrograde, we will be invited to peel back the surface layers of our ambitions to explore the undersoil feeding the roots of our striving.

The days between February 18 through February 20 will be particularly potent as the waning Moon in Capricorn will pass through conjunctions with Mars, its own South Node, Jupiter, Pluto and Saturn as well as forming sextile aspects with Mercury retrograde and Neptune in Pisces. Pay attention to whatever emotions become activated by your experiences on these days, as key insight may be received regarding what you have been desiring to achieve, why you have been desiring it, and whether or not the way you have been using your time and energy has been serving your higher purpose.

The New Moon on February 23 will occur at 4°28′ Pisces, two days before Mercury will be reseeded through its conjunction with the Sun. Within the darkness of the Pisces New Moon, Mercury retrograde will be in close proximity with the Sun and therefore will be embodying solar qualities that can burn off whatever is ready to be purged. Since Venus in Aries will be forming a square aspect with Jupiter in Capricorn during the Pisces New Moon, making space to explore our own inner darkness can lead to the realization of old relationship patterns we are ready to release, while regenerating our desires for creating what we want to receive in relationship.

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Felix-Hilaire Buhot Midnight Revel

Chthonic Cazimi

Gie me ae spark o’ Nature’s fire, / That’s a’ the learning I desire; / Then, tho’ I drudge thro’ dub an’ mire / At pleugh or cart, / My Muse, tho’ hamely in attire, / May touch the heart.

— Robert Burns (from Epistle to J. Lapraik: an Old Scottish Bard, April 1, 1785

On February 25, Mercury retrograde will unite with the Sun at 6°55′ Pisces during its inferior conjunction. This is an ending and beginning, a rebirth moment for Mercury that deserves time set aside for contemplation and consideration, as Mercury will align in between our orbit with the Sun as close to our Earth as it is possible for Mercury to be. Astrologers have named the union between Sol with the wandering planets cazimi, or being in the heart of the Sun: the moment in which Mercury is revitalized with the creative potency of our solar light. During its solar re-seeding, Mercury will be regenerated and purified 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.” We can imagine Mercury reverent in ritual, enclosed in a grotto moistened by sweet spring water, ready to cleanse us with the holy water of Pisces.

Fascinatingly, Mercury will unite with the Sun on February 25 during roughly the same time that Mars in Capricorn will be forming a conjunction with the South Node of the Moon in Capricorn. Furthermore, the inferior conjunction of Mercury will form an exact sextile aspect with Mars and the South Node of the Moon in Capricorn, as well as a sextile aspect with Uranus in Taurus. There is deep potency here for descent into inner realms of shadow and exploring our relationship with the ideals we use to generate our force of will in the external world. Turning away from the force exerted on the present by the future, turning toward the light in the darkness of the living dead, abandoning ambition to lay down low, within our incubation a healing insight may emerge from our subconscious.

There is resonant living symbolism for this sacred opportunity being offered by the star of Hermes that can be found in the ancient tale of Odysseus. As previously mentioned, Mercury stations retrograde while conjoining the asteroid Circe, the solar goddess who directed Odysseus to descend into the underworld. Thus it is fitting that in the greatest depths of its underworld journey, in between life and death as it melts into the fires of the Sun, Mercury retrograde will be mutually applying to a conjunction with the Odysseus asteroid at 2º08′ Pisces. After the mercurial hero Odysseus follows the advice of the Goddess and descends into the living underworld, he encounters not only blood ancestors such as his mother but also the collective realm of mythic heroes and heroines in the forms of Heracles, Orion, Minos, Sisyphus, Tantalus,  Agamemnon, Leda, Ariadne, and Achilles among others. While Odysseus also learns from a blind prophet the degree to which he has been subject to treachery from Poseidon, a plot line within astrology we could connect to our present relationship with Neptune, the great mystery of what he received from the collective realm of ancestors was the deeper wisdom.

We know that astrology has its roots in philosophies that bind our inner nature with the outer radiance of the stars that shine above us. That we wish upon stars, search to know and realize our guiding star or guardian angel, and that most commonly this deeper process is reflected in the way we use celebrities from the present and heroic figures from the past to serve as our role models and sources of inspiration. The days surrounding the chthonic cazimi of Mercury retrograde in Pisces will be fruitful for exploring the ideals and values under sourcing the role models we have been mentored and guided by. As we deepen into our relationship with the ideals we have clung to in the past, so may we better regenerate a sense of meaning to guide us into the unknown future.

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Alexei Savrasov (1875) Monastery Gates

Mercury Stations Direct in Aquarius

Under the self same bough, and heard as there / The birds, the fountains and the Ocean hold / Sweet talk in music through the enamored air. / And then a Vision on my brain was rolled . . .

— from Percy Bysshe Shelly’s The Triumph of Life

After passing through its purifying conjunction with the Sun on February 25, Mercury will continue to move retrograde through Pisces until it enters Aquarius on March 4. Mercury’s backward movement into Aquarius also marks its return to visibility as a Morning Star heralding the rise of the Sun each morning. Pay close attention to the days following March 4 for important messages, signs, and omens as the re-emergence of Mercury into visibility is an oracular moment in which Mercury delivers significant messages as well as insight into the meaning we can gather from its recent underworld phase of invisibility.

Amazingly, Mercury will station direct on March 9 at 28°12′ Aquarius during a Full Moon in Virgo in which the Sun will be conjoining Neptune in Pisces. Making the surrounding lunation even more catalytic, Venus will also be conjoining Uranus in Taurus while Chiron in Aries will be forming a square to the transiting lunar nodes. This means that Mercury stationing direct as well as the Virgo Full Moon will occur one day after Neptune’s solar cycle will be regenerated through a conjunction with the Pisces Sun. To say that Neptune’s influence in astrology is multivalent is an understatement, and it’s influence over the stationing of Mercury direct will be seen in many ways. Most simply, it is likely that the full light of the lunation combined with Mercury stationing will simultaneously coalesce imaginal insight that can be directed into creative expression as well as will reveal illusions that have been clouding our perception.

Following the Full Moon in Virgo, Mercury will slowly begin moving forward and will remain in Aquarius until March 16. Pay attention to what whole sign houses in your natal chart are signified by Pisces and Aquarius in order to reflect upon the associated life topics and how they may become activated and then reactivated as Mercury moves back and forth in between Pisces and Aquarius in the first couple of weeks in March.

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Maximum Morning Star in Pisces

After Mercury returns to Pisces on March 16, Mercury will reach maximum elongation as a Morning Star on March 23 at seven degrees of Pisces. This demarcates the point in which 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.

Just days before Mercury will reach its maximum elongation as a Morning Star, there will be an incredibly powerful Aries equinox (on March 19 or 20, depending upon time zone) seeding themes for the year ahead.  As the Sun ingresses into its exaltation of Aries, Mars will be forming an exact conjunction with Jupiter and applying toward a conjunction with Pluto in Capricorn. Meanwhile, Saturn will be at the very end of Capricorn preparing to make its grand entrance into its airy home of Aquarius two days later on March 21 or 22, depending upon your time zone. Mars exalted in Capricorn mixing it up with Jupiter and Pluto will inject the full force of Spring erupting from the underworld into Mercury reaching maximum elongation as a Morning Star. Combining this with the enormity of Saturn entering a new sign for the first time will create an atmosphere of immense change for Mercury to mediate.

Mercury will finally return to the same place it originally stationed retrograde at on March 29 at the same time that Jupiter and Pluto are on the cusp of finally completing their first exact conjunction of the year in Capricorn, while Mars is simultaneously applying toward an exact conjunction with Saturn in Aquarius. At this point the magnitude of immense change promised by the astrology of 2020 will be fully set in motion, with Mercury fully activated as a Morning Star and lending us its light in the liminal shade before sunrise. The more we work with the internal processes Mercury seeks to guide us toward during its retrograde motion, the more fully awake we will be to creatively engage with the great collective changes taking shape at the end of March.

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References

Burns, Robert. (1897). The Complete Poetical Works. Houghton, Mifflin, & Co.

Caton, Gary. (2017). Hermetica Triptycha: The Mercury Elemental Year. Rubedo Press.

Ficino, Marsilio. (1998 edition). Three Books on Life. A Critical Edition and Translation with Introduction and Notes by Carol V. Kaske and John R. Clark. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies.

George, Demetra. (2019). Ancient Astrology in Theory and Practice: a Manual of Traditional Techniques. Rubedo Press.

Lilly, William. (2004 edition). Christian Astrology. Astrology Classics.

Kingsley, Peter. (2018). Catafalque. Catafalque Press.

Shelley, P.B. (2002). Shelley’s Poetry and Prose. WW Norton & Company.

 

Mercury Retrograde in Scorpio

psyche and cerberus bertel thorvaldsen

Psyche and Cerberus (1838) by Bertel Thorvaldsen

Mercury Retrograde in Scorpio

Call me to that one among your hours / that incessantly resists you: / beseechingly near like a dog’s face, / yet ever again turned away

just when you think to grasp it. / What’s thus withdrawn is most your own. / We are free. We were dismissed / at the very place where we expected welcome.

Afraid, we yearn for some handhold, / often too young for what is ancient / and too old for what has never been.

And yet: only just when we praise, / since, ah, we are the branch and the axe / and the nectar of ripening risk.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus (Second part, 23)

On October 31 within the liminal space of twilight, with the setting Scorpio Sun descending into it’s underworld journey of night, the twinkling star of Hermes will pause to prepare for its retrograde journey backwards through the putrefying waters of Scorpio. As Mercury in its retrograde phase takes on its chthonic role of a psychopomp who guides us into and out of underworld experiences, it is fitting for its stationing to take place on the holidays for honoring and communing with ancestors and the living otherworld. Mercury is known for its dissolving and blending capacities which mediate polarities such as between the solar and lunar, the conscious and unconscious, the sacred and mundane, and so on. The dark watery climate of Scorpio will nurture and amplify the ability of Mercury retrograde to absorb atmospheric undercurrents and penetrate under the surface of dynamics to reveal what has been hidden in the root of the matter.

Although Mercury retrograde has been demonized by many, it is in fact an essential phase within the totality of Mercury’s entire solar cycle that delivers necessary messages. Rather than cursing the fate of being gripped by the cunning Hermes, it is advisable to keep an open and curious mind regarding whatever changes begin to take shape. Part of Mercury’s core purpose in astrology is to destabilize dynamics in order to loosen control, break up accumulated dross, and bring about a turning point in narrative and meaning. When Mercury is stationing retrograde, it signals that we are crossing a threshold into a passage of putrefaction and dissolution in which matters will need to be broken apart in order to bring about a process of purifying reassembly.

Mercury delights in gray areas between fixed categories of meaning, as it is a gender bending planet that moves easily between states of day and night, good and bad, reason and imagination, depending upon its surrounding influences. It is therefore pivotal that Mercury is stationing retrograde while forming a conjunction with Venus in Scorpio. The impact of Venus in Scorpio upon Mercury is complex, for while Venus brings a unifying and harmonizing influence to Mercury, their union in Scorpio means that death, decay, and decomposition will be necessary in order to fertilize and produce the fruit we can eventually savor from their conjunction. In fact, we may discover it is the difficult experiences we must persist through that ultimately brings us closer to others. As Haruki Murakami once wrote:

“One heart is not connected  to another through harmony alone. They are, instead, linked deeply through their wounds. Pain linked to pain, fragility to fragility. There is no silence without a cry of grief, no forgiveness without bloodshed, no acceptance without a passage through acute loss. That is what lies at the root of true harmony.”

— Haruki Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage 

Mercury’s fluid nature that weaves between divergent perspectives and embraces multiplicity can be helpful in dislodging us from stuck, habitual patterns when retrograde. The more we can let go of our fixed conceptions of identity, the more that we can utilize Mercury retrograde for sifting through our many inner parts in order to reintegrate fragmented aspects of ourselves. The influence of Venus upon Mercury stationing retrograde can open receptiveness to insightful ideas to be curious about and investigate as Mercury moves retrograde in the weeks ahead. In addition, the Moon will also be inciting inspiration through forming a conjunction with Jupiter in Sagittarius as Mercury stations retrograde. Pay attention to not only the events happening around October 31 when Mercury stations, but also the signs and omens that cross your path and bring premonition regarding the liminal process you are entering. It can be a particularly powerful period to intensely focus on research applied to creative output, so notice what grabs your interest in exploring to a deeper level.

Hermes Argus Bertel Thorvaldsen


Mercury about to kill Argus (1818) by Bertel Thorvaldsen

Celestial messenger, of various skill, whose pow’rful arts could watchful Argus kill:
With winged feet, ’tis thine thro’ air to course, O friend of man, and prophet of discourse:
Great life-supporter, to rejoice is thine, in arts gymnastic, and in fraud divine:
With pow’r endu’d all language to explain, of care the loos’ner, and the source of gain.

— from the Orphic Hymn to Hermes translated by Thomas Taylor

Thine is the wand which causes sleep to fly, or lulls to slumb’rous rest the weary eye;
For Persephone thro’ Tart’rus dark and wide gave thee forever flowing souls to guide.

— from the Orphic Hymn to Chthonic Hermes translated by Thomas Taylor

Despite the unifying influence of Venus upon Mercury stationing retrograde, there will be strife and conflict to contend with since Mercury will be retrograde in a sign ruled by Mars. Moreover, Mars in Libra will be forming an intensifying square aspect with Pluto in Capricorn at the same time that Mercury stations. The square between Mars and Pluto can stoke inner drive and ambition, with a willingness to persist through obstacles or break free from constraining influences.  While Mars will be forming a harsh aspect with Pluto, however, Mercury will begin moving backward toward a harmonizing sextile aspect with Pluto once it shifts retrograde. As a result, it will be vital to listen to messages from the stationing of Mercury with regard to where we will need to alter plans to avoid unnecessary discord, versus where it will be important to lean into the difficulty and tread into uncertain ground. Mercury’s stationing can help clarify what will be worth fighting for to protect and cultivate in the weeks ahead, as well as what instead needs to be laid to rest.

Mercury retrograde under rulership of Mars wields weapons which disarm fixated viewpoints, nudging us off guard enough to deliver insight that cuts through old defense mechanisms. In myth, Mercury played the role of slayer at times, such as lulling the giant Argus to sleep in order to go in for the kill. When retrograde, the magical wand of Mercury may charm us with seeming distraction, yet eventually as we regain our bearings we can realize there was a larger purpose behind the enchantment no matter how frustrating it felt in the moment. Although Mercury retrograde in Scorpio may lead us into strife and experiences of separation, it will be worth the risk to resiliently accept and work through the difficulties in order to comprehend the message that Mercury’s sleight of hand is delivering. When it doesn’t feel possible to let go of wounds or loss, the ineffable depth of Scorpio’s waters can help dislodge feelings of grief that need to be released.

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from Viridarium Chymicum (1624)

Mercury’s retrograde phase occurs during the part of its orbit in which it is as close to us as possible, moving in between the orbit of our Earth and the Sun. The close proximity of Mercury intensifies its presence in mundane matters, which can be beneficial when focusing on research or writing, difficult when experiencing mental overwhelm. As Mercury shifts backwards while the Sun moves directly towards it, Mercury mutates from being a visible Evening Star into its chthonic invisible phase. Mercury will be visible in some localities as an Evening Star when it stations on October 31, but by November 4 it will definitively move into its invisible phase by getting within fifteen degrees of the Sun. As we can no longer see Mercury in the sky at this point in its cycle, Mercury symbolically takes on the role of a psychopomp guiding our soul into a liminal, underworld period of regeneration.

During the week from November 4 when Mercury disappears until November 11 when Mercury will be revivified through its conjunction with the Sun, we will experience the most intense process of putrefaction, decomposition, and release. During this week you can align with Mercury by mindfully purging whatever from the past is ready to be burned off by the fiery Sun. As Mercury gets closer and closer to the Sun during this week, it will simultaneously take on more of the hot and drying qualities of the Sun that can aid in separating us from whatever needs to be released. It can also be a powerful time of receiving imaginal inspiration that will seed ideas to nurture and work on during Mercury’s journey through darkness.

The watery landscape of Scorpio is not only a place of burial and decomposition, but also a place in which decay nourishes and feeds the growth of orchards and vineyards that can eventually produce fruit. The day after Mercury stations retrograde, Venus will enter Sagittarius on November 1 and will begin her pilgrimage to conjoin Jupiter that will occur on November 24 just after Mercury stations direct. The co-presence of Venus and Jupiter in Sagittarius during the Mercury retrograde period can be helpful in lifting vision to expansive heights whenever we feel like we are getting stuck in the quagmires of Scorpio.

It’s worth considering that while popular astrology dogma warns to not sign any contracts or begin initiatives during Mercury retrograde, it is in fact possible to sign contracts and begin enterprises that will turn out to be successful during Mercury retrograde periods. However, it is important to listen closely to your intuition, bodily senses, and synchronous signs that illuminate inner guidance.  If something about a new project or move seems off for some reason, it will be wise to investigate further before making a commitment. If all evidence points toward making a positive change in direction, there is no reason to prevent yourself from acting due to worry over Mercury being retrograde. If a decision can wait, however, clarifying insight can be received after Mercury is regenerated through its inferior conjunction with the Sun on November 11.

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Hilma af Klint (1915) The Swan, No. 10, Group IX

Mercury transit of the Sun

Will transformation. O be ravenous for the fire / in which a thing boastful with change forever eludes you; / that designing Spirit which plots earth’s flourishes, — / it loves most in the figure’s élan the moment of turning.

What shackles itself in survival already is rigidity; / does it feel itself safe in the shelter of nondescript gray? / Beware, from afar the hardest is warning the hard. / And woe–: an absent hammer is lifting!

Whoever pours forth as wellspring, Recognition greets; / and she guides him enthralled through the serene Creation / that often ends with beginning and in ending begins.

Every happy space through which they walk marveling / is child or grandchild of Separation. And the transformed Daphne, / feeling so laurel-like, wants you to change into wind.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus (Second part, 12)

Mercury will be revivified and reseeded by its chthonic conjunction with the Sun on November 11 at 18º55′ Scorpio. During its inferior conjunction Mercury becomes purified and regenerated while aligned in orbit between the Earth and Sun by zodiacal degree, as close to us in orbit as it is possible for Mercury to be. During the time that Mercury is within one degree of conjunction with the Sun, even more so while Mercury is within sixteen minutes of its solar conjunction, there will be enhanced potential to experience clarifying self-reflection and reception of key insight. Old astrological texts named this moment of Mercury’s rebirth cazimi, or being in the heart of the Sun, when Mercury is seated upon the throne of the Sun and revitalized with the creative potency of our solar light.

“The protected space at the heart of the Sun is the sanctum sanctorum, the innermost holy chamber of the mystery initiations.”

— Demetra George, Ancient Astrology

All inferior conjunctions of Mercury are not equal, however, and in fact the one on November 11 has a special quality. Due to Mercury’s union with the Sun being within a degree of the heliocentric North Node of Mercury, visually a small black form of Mercury will be able to be seen transiting across the face of the Sun during its solar alignment. This is similar to what happens during a Total Solar Eclipse in which a New Moon forms close to one of the Moon’s nodes, but the difference is that Mercury is visually too small from our perspective to eclipse the light of the Sun in blackness. This means Mercury will literally be in the heart of the Sun, making it an intensified rebirth for Mercury befitting its placement in Scorpio.

Make sure to create space for inner contemplation on November 11, for Mercury’s transit of the Sun only happens thirteen or fourteen times a century. The last time there was a Mercury transit of the Sun was in May 2016 with Mercury retrograde in Taurus conjoining the heliocentric south node of Mercury. It will not happen again until November 2032. Mercury’s chthonic cazimi aligning with its North Node will amplify penetration into inner depths to discover self realization of material that had been hidden from our awareness. Whatever inner space was cleared through emptying and shedding during the first half of Mercury’s retrograde can now be seeded with new ideas and desires to nurture in the forthcoming cycle of Mercury. Adding to the potency, Mercury will be entering its own Egyptian bounds as it enters the heart of the Sun, giving Mercury greater capacity to redirect insight into material manifestation.

Furthermore, there will also be an underlying influence of Uranus in Taurus on Mercury’s rebirth, as the waxing gibbous Moon in Taurus will be conjoining Uranus as Mercury forms its inferior conjunction with the Sun on November 11. This is especially significant since Mercury stationed retrograde in Scorpio on October 31 in the week following a New Moon in Scorpio that was opposite Uranus. The effect of Uranus on Mercury’s solar conjunction can incite unexpected events and revelations which lead to dramatic changes as the Full Moon in Taurus brings further illumination on November 12. The impact of Uranus can also manifest through forging deeper connection with allies and collaborators who share similar passions and interest in forming supportive communities, whether in person or through long distance technology.

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Hilma af Klint (1908) Group VI, Evolution, No. 9

Morning Star of Hermes

Behold the flowers, those true to the earthly, / to whom we lend fate from the edge of fate,– / yet who can say? If they regret their fading, / it is for us to be their regret.

Everything wants to float. And yet we move about like weights, / attaching ourselves to everything, in thrall to gravity; / O what wearisome teachers we are for things, / while in them eternal childhood prospers.

If someone were to take them into his inmost sleep / and sleep deeply with them–: O how light he’d emerge, / changed, to a changed day, from the mutual depth.

Or perhaps he’d stay; and they’d bloom and praise him, / the convert, become now like one of their own, / all the quiet brothers and sisters in the meadow’s wind.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus (Second part, 14)

From the Full Moon in Taurus on November 12 until Mercury stations direct on November 20 at 11º55′ Scorpio, Mercury will move retrograde through its final phase of invisible darkness. During this week Mercury retrograde will form a harmonizing sextile with Saturn in Capricorn on November 13 and a flowing trine with Neptune in Pisces later on the same day. Moreover, at the end of November after Mercury stations direct and is visible again, Mercury will complete an additional trine with Neptune and sextile with Saturn. As a result, in the afterglow of the Full Moon in Taurus make space and time to imaginatively explore the insights and ideas seeded during Mercury’s chthonic cazimi to the fullest extent possible, without worry of making them fully manifest until Mercury returns to visible light. Mercury retrograde in Scorpio this year bears the gift of providing not only the imaginal support of Neptune, but the tempering and practicality of Saturn in Capricorn that will help facilitate finding ways to transfigure imaginative vision into tangible forms that can meet the needs of others in your wider community.

Mercury will finally return to visible light again as a Morning Star at the same time it stations direct on November 20. As Mercury undergoes a process of recovery from its retrograde motion, it will gain an added dose of vitality from the entrance of Mars into its watery home of Scorpio on November 19. Mars at the beginning of Scorpio is in a place of extreme strength as it is in its own home, bounds, and triplicity. It’s co-presence with Mercury stationing direct will supply ample fuel to begin moving forward with implementation of the ideas developed during Mercury’s twenty day journey retrograde. Just as it is important to pay close attention to Mercury when stationing retrograde, so it as well extremely important to be mindful when Mercury stations direct in order to receive necessary guidance.

In addition to the ingress of Mars into Scorpio brining an extra charge of resilient determination into the stationing of Mercury direct, Venus will be applying to a conjunction with Jupiter in Sagittarius and providing a fount of providential inspiration. Venus will complete its exact conjunction with Jupiter on November 24 as Mercury is finally beginning to move forward again. If you have become motivated to make dramatic changes during Mercury’s retrograde motion that also makes you fearful due to the uncertainty surrounding the outcome of following through, the union of Venus and Jupiter will provide uplifting support for taking the risk to break free from whatever restrictive influences have been holding you back. As Mercury returns to visible light in the pre-dawn sky, so may we experience ignition of an inner fire to strike out in pursuit of revivified passion and desire.

Copper alloy sculpture from Sumer (ca 3000 BC) of figure with ibex horns and raptor wings

The final phase of the Mercury retrograde process begins as Mercury reaches maximum elongation as a Morning Star, which will occur about eight days after Mercury stations direct this time around. The threshold of Mercury reaching maximum elongation as a Morning Star demarcates the stage at which Mercury returns to matching the speed of the Sun and then shifts into moving faster than the Sun as it continues to travel through its Morning Star phase. Gary Caton in his book Hermetica Triptycha compared this phase of Mercury with the rubedo stage in alchemy (Caton also compared the opening stage of Mercury retrograde to the nigredo stage, and the time following the inferior conjunction to the albedo stage of alchemy). 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 the shift into a new way of being as Mercury picks up speed and moves through its Morning Star phase.

Mercury will reach maximum elongation as a Morning Star on November 28 at seventeen degrees of Scorpio, at the same time that Neptune is stationing direct on November 27 in an exact trine aspect with Mercury. Furthermore, Mercury will reach maximum elongation as a Morning Star at the same time that it will form its third and final sextile aspect (since the middle of October) with Saturn in Capricorn on November 29. A few days later, Mercury will complete its third and final harmonizing sextile aspect with Pluto in Capricorn on December 2, the same day that Jupiter leaves its fiery home of Sagittarius in order to enter its fall in Capricorn. Finally, Mercury will leave its retrograde shadow zone and pass through the same degree where it originally stationed retrograde on December 7.

As a result, Mercury will be engaging with supportive aspects from Saturn, Neptune, and Pluto as it picks up speed and heralds the rise of the Sun with its morning light. The beginning of 2020 will be dominated astrologically by the conjunction of Saturn and Pluto on January 12, and so Mercury will be in position to help with attuning and adjusting to the larger changes in collective structures taking place. More importantly, Mercury will also be supportive in melding imaginative vision with the disciplined determination needed to fully manifest creative expression into forms that can offer solace and support to others in need of what we have to offer. As the coming astrology of 2020 suggests monumental, tectonic shifts in collective events are on the way, it will be up to each and everyone of us to claim the responsibility to do our part in cultivating our skills and talents to share with others in mutual support.

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Mercury Retrograde in Leo & Cancer

Chagall BetweenDarknessandLight.jpg

Marc Chagall (1938-43) Between Darkness and Light

Mercury Retrograde in Leo & Cancer

It’s the main highway leading in, / the sun soon down. / Traffic backs up, creeps along, / it’s a torpid glittering dragon. / I am a scale on that dragon. / The red sun all at once / blazes in my windshield, / pouring in, / and makes me transparent. / Some writing shows / up inside me- words / written with invisible ink / appearing when the paper / is held over a fire. / I know that I have to go far away, / straight through the city, out / the other side, then step out / and walk a long time in the woods. / Walk in the tracks of the badger. / Growing hard to see, nearly dark. / Stones lie about on the moss. / One of those stones is precious. / It can change everything. / It can make the darkness shine. / It’s the light switch for the whole country. / Everything depends on it. / Look at it . . . touch it . . .

— Further In by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly

The stillness of Mercury when it stations retrograde demands attention. The fleet-footed Star of Hermes which is capable of questioning and curating with quicksilver speed, ever cunning in its capacity to incite changes in perspective, stands still in contemplative pause. In the liminal transition of twilight, Mercury shares the final light of its cycle before descending into its invisible phase of rebirth. It is always advisable to pay closer attention than normal when Mercury stations, as well as making space for reflection regarding inner shifts beginning to take shape. When Mercury stations retrograde on July 7 at 4º27′ Leo, however, it will be even more important than normal due to it stationing in range of a conjunction with Mars in Leo and a catalytic square aspect with Uranus in Taurus. These aspects indicate more than the usual amount of unexpected twists and turns in storylines suddenly appearing, even more so since it is also happening within the mysterious vortex of change that comes in between eclipses.

It’s common to hear warnings from astrologers to not sign any contracts or make major purchases during periods of Mercury retrograde, due to it being associated with delays and erratic volatility, but the fact remains that life for most cannot go on hold for the rest of July while Mercury is retrograde. It is possible to successfully initiate new enterprises, sign contracts, and make purchases during Mercury retrograde periods, but it is important to recognize it possesses a different quality of time than when Mercury is moving at its usual speed while direct. The slow, churning, backward motion of Mercury calls for introspection and paying close attention to inner guidance and intuition in relation to whatever is undertaken. While Mercury is retrograde we can become aware of numerous signs indicating it’s not the right time to do something we have been consciously fixated on making happen. However, if  everything is lining up well to embark on a new initiative, there is no reason to refrain from acting just because of fear over the fact that Mercury is retrograde.

We are often called to revisit an old issue or pattern while Mercury is retrograde, but rather than becoming angry and frustrated over having to rework or re-engage with something from the past, it’s better to utilize the opportunity for resolving old issues, making reparations and repairs where needed, and coming to terms with whatever needs completion in order to more effectively welcome an influx of new developments.  In the week following Mercury stationing retrograde on July 7, take time for reflection regarding whatever you have outgrown and feel that the time has arrived to release. Mercury retrograde periods are always powerful in terms of purging and breaking free from old habits, but this particular Mercury retrograde will be even more powerful than normal due to Mercury stationing in strong aspect with both Mars and Uranus, while also happening in between a solar and lunar eclipse. There is an old way of expressing ourselves in the world that is ready to be shed, while at the same time a potent new form or source of creativity is ready to be embraced.

Dragon ouroboros Hermetic Sun and Moon

From The Hermetic Child of Sun and Moon (1752)

The Fixed & Volatile Fire of Leo

The dwarf pine on marsh grounds holds its head up: a dark rag. / But what you see is nothing compared to the roots, / the widening, secretly groping, deathless or half-deathless root system.

I you she he also put roots out. / Outside our common will. / Outside the City.

Rain drifts from the summer sky that’s pale as milk. / It is as if my five senses were hooked up to some other creature / that moves with the same stubborn flow / as the runners in white circling the track as the night comes misting in.

A Few Moments by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly

As Mercury stations on July 7 to begin slowly shifting retrograde on July 8, we will experience the unusual occurrence of Mars applying toward a conjunction with Mercury that completes on July 8. While Mars will continue to charge forward into a volatile aspect with Uranus in Taurus that will complete on July 11, Mercury will turn around and head backwards before completing an exact square aspect with Uranus. As Mars completes its catalyzing aspect with Uranus, Mercury will be disappearing from view in twilight and entering its invisible, psychopomp role of pulling awareness into subconscious depths. In combination these aspects portend extreme volatility with mental unrest and overwhelm at times overcoming us, as well as sudden conflicts arising that could provoke frustration and anger. There may also be a connection of events back to the period of June 18 when Mercury previously formed a conjunction with Mars for the first time in this series.

Yet the volatile, destructive quality of time signified by Mercury stationing retrograde while engaging both Mars and Uranus can be utilized in breaking free from situations that have been limiting or stagnating us. There is a highly charged dosage of liberating creativity and courageous determination within these aspects that can spur us to act on desires for new growth and dynamic exploration. However, it will be vital to keep in mind the tendency of Mercury retrograde periods to bring delays, so be patient and do your best to not add fuel to fires of frustration when events do not move as quickly as you had expected. Positively, Mercury retrograde periods can help cultivate incredible focus directed toward research, writing, and other mental pursuits when we are able to make time and space free from distractions. As long as we don’t insist on making fast progress, Mercury in its retrograde path through Leo can facilitate work on creative projects that can eventually manifest powerful results in the months ahead. Rather than cursing Mercury retrograde when we lose track of something or are surprised by a sudden twist of fate, see where the unexpected turns take you and discover whatever revelations your mind becomes opened to receive.

Mercury will remain retrograde in the first decan of Leo until July 19 when it will return to the watery sign of Cancer. Austin Coppock in his book 36 Faces ascribed the image of “The Spotlight” to the first face of Leo, describing its power to focus massive attention through the role, mask, or persona we bear in public performance for an audience. Since Mercury retrograde will be stoking the flames of the first face of Leo as the Sun forms a conjunction with the North Node of the Moon on July 10 and then eclipses the Capricorn Moon on July 16, take time to contemplate whatever has been feeling inauthentic regarding the persona you have been engaging the wider world through. What aspects of soul and psyche have you been neglecting in your pursuit of worldly ambition or insistence on doing things a certain way to conform with external expectations?

Mercury retrograde in the fire of the first face of Leo can be utilized to burn off and purge however we have allowed ourselves to stray from our essential purpose, or however we have been restricting ourselves from pursuing and achieving what we want to create.  In particular, whatever fears and blockages have arisen as barriers during the recent months of Saturn, Pluto, and the South Node of the Moon aligning in Capricorn will become triggered during the Lunar Eclipse in Capricorn on July 16. While we will need to face and deal with issues of necessity during this time, the sleight of hand offered by Mercury retrograde can help open a new awareness for how to handle responsibilities while also nurturing the life we desire to cultivate. After Mercury moves backward into the lunar-ruled sign of Cancer on July 19, a few days after the lunar eclipse, we will need to sift through irrational feelings and messages from our depths that will be able to ultimately help guide us forward into a more fulfilling direction.

Remedios Varo-Personaje-En-Lancha-1957

Remedios Varos (1957) Personaje En Lancha

From Flames to Waves

“We are not provided with wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no one else can take for us, an effort which no one can spare us.”

— Marcel Proust from Within a Budding Grove volume two of In Search of Lost Time 

Mercury will return to Cancer on July 19, making the incongruous transition from the hot and dry fire sign of Leo into the cold and moist water sign of Cancer. Whereas the scorching, fiery light of the Sun rules Leo, Mercury will submit to rulership from the cool, receptive light of the Moon within the waters of Cancer. Mercury slowly moving retrograde under rulership of the Moon brings it under the influence of the constantly changing lunar phases, meaning our perception will be pulled even more so than normal into a realm of changing feelings and thoughts, emotional needs and desires. It will be necessary to make an effort to gain objective clarity, yet the sway of our subjective senses will be able to make meaning from an inner turn toward intuition, impressions, empathy, and imagination. With Mercury at the very end of its cycle within the lunar waters of Cancer, our thoughts will be sensitized to the unconscious depths of memories, dreams, and nonlinear sensations.

While Mercury will station direct and return to visibility as a Morning Star at the end of July, it will remain in the third decan of Cancer from July 19 through August 11 when it will finally return to Leo. Austin Coppock in his book 36 Faces gave the image of “The Overflowing Cup” to the third face of Cancer, linking it with both the endless energy of the natural world as well as the danger of facing scarcity within societal systems in which people compete for limited material resources. The importance Coppock noted for being a “conduit for luxury, not its endpoint” through investing any excess of luxury one accumulates into additional good works relates well to the societal upheaval which will likely correspond with eclipses volatilizing the combination of Saturn and Pluto with the South Node of the Moon in Capricorn. As Mercury moves retrograde and stations direct within the third face of Cancer, consider how its regenerative process may reshape your work to not only be more personally fulfilling but to also provide resources to benefit others.

Mercury retrograde will reenter the third face of Cancer only a couple of days before it becomes regenerated through its conjunction with the Sun on July 21, placing it at the end of a cycle similar to a Dark Moon. Fittingly, the Hellenistic text 36 Airs named the lunar goddess Hecate as presiding in the third face of Cancer. Hecate has always been honored at the crossroads during the dark phase of the Moon as well as when facing the darkness of the unknown. The wise crone and dark goddess who rules over all lunar phases and all realms of the upper and underworld, Hecate for ages has been available to call for regenerative guidance and assistance during dark nights of the soul. With Mercury going through a death and rebirth process in the inner, watery home of the Moon, we will need to discern inner guidance from the deep stirring of our emotions. Old memories that bear a soulful message will likely demand attention and call us to re-integrate them into the way our regenerating perspective is reshaping our life narrative.

“When from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection.”

— Marcel Proust from Swann’s Way volume one of In Search of Lost Time

Mercury Retrograde in Cancer

Remedios Varo (1945) Icono

Chthonic Cazimi in Cancer

“On the way there a couple of startled wings fluttered, and that was all. One goes there alone. It is a lofty building made entirely of open spaces, a building which sways all the time, but is never able to fall. The sun, changed into a thousand suns, drifts in through the open slivers. And an inverse law of gravity takes hold in the play of light: this house floats anchored in the sky, and what falls falls upward. It makes you turn around. In the woods it is all right to grieve. It’s all right to see the old truths, which we usually keep packed away in the luggage. My roles down there in the deep places fly up, hang like dried skulls in an ancestor hut on a remote Melanesian island. A childlike light around the terrifying trophies. Woods are mild that way.”

– A Place in the Woods by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly

On July 21, Mercury will unite with the Sun at 28º28′ Cancer during its inferior conjunction in which Mercury aligns in between our orbit with the Sun, as close to us in orbit as it is possible for Mercury to be. Astrological texts named this time of rebirth cazimi, or being in the heart of the Sun, when Mercury is seated upon the throne of the solar ruler and revitalized with the creative potency of our solar light. This is a moment of solar re-seeding in which Mercury is regenerated and purified 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, July 21 will be especially potent in terms of turning within for reflection and contemplation regarding all of the material stirred up by the eclipses of July. We may not only set intention for release and to manage whatever is demanding our attention, we may also plant the seeds of whatever we wish to cultivate during the coming cycle of Mercury.

At the same time that Mercury is being reborn in the heart of the Sun, the disseminating Moon in Pisces will be conjoining Neptune. The Moon’s union with Neptune supports setting time and space aside to luxuriate within your senses and imagination, to meditate away from the monotony of daily responsibilities when possible. It will also be a potent time to pay attention to dreams or actively work with any recent dream images, as well as contemplate messages received from signs and synchronicities in your environment.

There is a compelling connection between the conjunction of Neptune and the Moon with the Sabian symbol for the degree where the chthonic cazimi of Mercury occurs. The Sabian symbol for Cancer 29° is “a greek muse weighing new-born twins in golden scales,” a symbol which Dane Rudhyar described as involving “the intuitive weighing of alternatives.” Rudhyar wrote that since it’s “the Muse that is doing the weighing, it is apparent that forces deeper or higher than the intellect are actually at work- the intuitive mind, or what Jung calls the anima, i.e. the psychic function which relates ego-consciousness to the collective Unconscious.” Rudhyar further noted this symbol can also imply that we need to sort through what “may be more a dream or ideal than a practical reality” within choices needing to be made, an important warning to keep in mind when the Moon is under the sway of Neptune.

In addition to the Moon conjoining Neptune at the time of Mercury’s union with the Sun, Venus in Cancer will be forming an opposition with Pluto. The presence of Venus less than six degrees away from the rebirth of Mercury is pivotal, for Mercury has turned backward in order to complete an additional union with Venus on July 24. The mutual application of Mercury retrograde with Venus signifies a sudden insight or turn of events. Both Venus and Mercury are in the middle of a regenerative process of purification, with the opposition from Venus with Pluto dredging up unconscious patterns that have been impacting relationships from hidden realms within. There is incredible depth within these aspects that will be worth the time made for reflection and sifting through the intensification of desire that will be stirred. Though both Mercury and Venus are not at full strength during their union, their meeting can bring healing and nurturance to whatever needs tending.

Remedios Varo-Trasmundo-1955

Remedios Varo (1955) Transmundo

Morning Star of Lunar Tides

One March day I walked down to the lake shore to listen. / The ice was blue as the sky. And breaking up in the sun. /  The sun whispers into a microphone under the ice. / There’s a seething and burbling. Far out it sounds like a sheet / being snapped. / The whole thing is like History: our present. We are lowered / into it, we listen . . .

Radical and Reactionary live together as in a miserable marriage, / diminished by each other, leaning on each other. / But we, their children, have to find our own road. / Each problem cries out in a private language! / Walk down any path where there is a trace of truth.

In a field not far from the subdivisions / a newspaper has been lying for months, full of news. / It is aging because of days and nights, rain and sun. / It’s on its way to becoming a plant, a cabbage head. It’s starting / to join the field, / like an old memory gradually changing into you.

– from About History by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly

From July 22 through the end of July, Mercury will remain invisible until it returns to visibility as a Morning Star around the same time that it stations direct on July 31. The return of Mercury’s light will bring important messages to receive and integrate, highlighting the importance of making time and space for reflection and paying close attention to the signs we receive in our daily travel. The date of July 31 signals a major transition from the eclipse season of July, as a New Moon in Leo will occur within the same hour in which Mercury will station direct. This will be a potent date to deepen the understanding gained during Mercury’s movement retrograde, as well as setting intentions for the forthcoming lunar cycle, yet the stationary presence of Mercury suggests we will remain in a liminal state of recovery for a time before moving stridently forward with progress in August.

While Mercury will station direct at 23º56′ Cancer, Pluto will be moving retrograde away from an opposition with Mercury at 21º28′ Capricorn. Although Mercury will not reach an exact opposition with Pluto, its intensity will be deeply felt as the transiting Moon in Cancer will pass through an opposition with Pluto and a conjunction with Mercury on July 30. As Mercury stations in the final days of July in opposition with Pluto, we can expect a final upsurge of information to enter our awareness from subconscious depths and unexpected sources, one more installment of whatever material was stirred up by the Lunar Eclipse in Capricorn on July 16. The tension between Mercury and Pluto can facilitate penetrating underneath the surface of conventions, probing beyond societal boundaries to understand the essence of whatever you have been exploring.

Significantly, Mercury will be stationing direct in range of a conjunction with the North Nodes of Saturn and Pluto. This is of vital importance due to the fact that the alignment of Saturn, Pluto, and the South Node of the Moon in recent months has ben occurring in alignment with the South Nodes of Saturn and Pluto, a configuration that has been dredging up intense societal issues that have roots within the oppressive cycles of civilized history. With Mercury activating the North Node side of Cancer, it may feel like peeling off the dead skin of perception you have been attached to using when interpreting meaning, especially those aspects heavily conditioned by external influences within your surrounding civilization. While you may initially feel vulnerable due to releasing perspectives that have brought security to your identity, you can simultaneously begin to feel revitalized by embracing a more authentic way of understanding.

Mercury will reach maximum elongation as a Morning Star on August 9 at 29º Cancer, marking its entrance into what Gary Caton named the rubedo phase of its alchemical, retrograde process 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 the shift into a new way of being as Mercury picks up speed and moves through its Morning Star phase. After Jupiter in Sagittarius stations direct on August 11, Mercury will return to Leo and begin applying toward a harmonious trine aspect that will facilitate taking ownership over creating what you want to bring into the world free from the weight of however you have held yourself back in the past.

By the time of the Aquarius Full Moon on August 15, Mercury will be crossing the threshold of the degree in Leo in which it stationed retrograde at the beginning of July, finally completing its catalyzing square aspect with Uranus on August 16. The month of August holds dramatically different astrological meaning than the month of July, with a strong focus on fiery inspiration and creativity. The more we can utilize July for clearing and reshaping our perspective, the more we will be able to manifest powerful changes and productive results in August and September.

References

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.

Rudhyar, Dane. (1973). An Astrological Mandala: the cycle of transformations and its 360 symbolic phases.

Tranströmer, Tomas. (2001). The Half-Finished Heaven: The Best Poems of Tomas Tranströmer. Selected and translated by Robert Bly. Graywolf Press.

Mercury Retrograde in Pisces

rene magrite fair captive

The Fair Captive by Rene Magritte

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

rosmerta and mercury

Rosmerta and Mercury

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.

Magritte__Le_Baiser-3

Le Baiser by Rene Magritte

“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.

Georgia O'Keefe music - pink and blue

Georgia O’Keeffe (1918) Music – Pink and Blue No. 1

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.

pegasus and bellerophon

Odilon Redon (1888) Pegasus and Bellerophon

Chthonic Cazimi

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.

Astro-Errante-1961 Remedios Varo

Astro Errante by Remedios Varo

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.

Magritte_Wonders-of-Nature

Wonders of Nature by Rene Magritte

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.”

the black pegasus

Odilon Redon

References

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.

 

Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius & Scorpio

Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius

Cracked Ice by Maruyama Okyo

My room and this vastness, / awake over the darkening land,– / are one. I am a string, / stretched tightly over wide / raging resonances.

Things are violin-bodies / full of murmuring darkness: / in it dreams the weeping of women, / in it the grudge of whole / generations stirs in its sleep . . . / I shall vibrate / like silver; then everything / beneath me will live, / and whatever wanders lost in things / will strive toward the light / that from my dancing tone– / around which the heavens pulse– / through thin, pining rifts / into the old / abysses endlessly / falls . . .

–Rainer Maria Rilke, On the Edge of Night translated by Edward Snow

Many live life sourced from beliefs they hardly take time to consider. Not the idealized philosophy or vision of life you find most inspiring, but how you actually live your life.  It’s the image shot forth from inner realms at the target of thought pondering what’s around the corner and what choices you have in response. Sometimes we have a moment of realizing how these beliefs have been conditioned by external influences, or rather shaped by internal waters that have become frozen into rigid patterns over time.  The Mercury retrograde that begins in Sagittarius on November 16 and ends in Scorpio on December 6 will bring opportunities to discern how well our daily perceptions and underlying beliefs are aligned with both the hard reality of present circumstances as well as the future oriented, imaginal vision of the life we wish to bring into our reality.

“It is a soul-realm as the primordial foundation of all actualizations in life . . . a middle realm between being and non-being . . . The primordial mediator and messenger moves between the absolute ‘no’ and the absolute ‘yes,’ or, more correctly, between two ‘no’s’ that are lined up against each other, between two enemies, between woman and man. In this [Hermes] stands on ground that is no ground, and there he creates the way. From out of a trackless world – unrestricted, flowing, ghostlike- [Hermes] conjures up the new creation.”

— Karl Kerenyi, Hermes: Guide of Souls

Mercury weaves together polarities in shades of gray and particularly when retrograde guides us into a liminal state of being in between. Mercury retrograde is an essential phase of the Star of Hermes, a time to seize for breaking down old constructs and breaking free from habitual thought patterns, finding new angles of perception in problem solving. When Mercury stands still at 13º29’ Sagittarius on November 16, glittering in twilight as it stations retrograde, it has the great benefit of the co-presence of Jupiter in Sagittarius.  It’s a more Jupiterian, expansive, and inspirational Mercury retrograde than normal, but due to Jupiter also undergoing its own rebirth within its cycle with the Sun it will be most fruitful in terms of inner visioning, awareness, and realization.  Rather than becoming overwhelmed by difficulties coming up in correspondence, allow the polarizing pattern weaving of Mercury to help you tease out the larger meaning.

Here are some of the key dates of Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius and Scorpio:

  • November 6: Mercury direct at 8º Sagittarius at maximum elongation as an Evening Star; same time as a New Moon in Scorpio. This date marked a threshold crossing into an intensification of the pending Mercury retrograde.
  • November 16:  Mercury stations retrograde at 13º29’ Sagittarius on the same day that Venus stations direct in Libra.
  • November 27:  INTERIOR/INFERIOR conjunction of Mercury retrograde with the Sun at 5º03’ degrees Sagittarius. Rebirth of Mercury at the same time that Jupiter also begins a new synodic cycle in Sagittarius. Mercury retrograde also conjoins Jupiter at 4º18’ Sagittarius.
  • December 1:  Mercury re-enters Scorpio
  • December 6:  Mercury stations direct at 27º16’ Scorpio
  • December 12:  Mercury returns to Sagittarius
  • December 15:  Mercury at maximum elongation as Morning Star at 3º Sagittarius
  • December 21:  Solstice and final conjunction between Mercury and Jupiter at 9º34’ Sagittarius

Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius

Ariadne by Giorgio de Chirico

And again my inmost life rushes louder, / as if it moved now between steeper banks. / Objects become ever more related to me, / and all pictures ever more perused. / I feel myself more trusting in the nameless: / with my senses, as with the birds, I reach / into the windy heavens from the oak, / and into the small ponds’ broken-off day / my feeling sinks, as if it stood on fishes.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Progress translated by Edward Snow

The stationing of Mercury in Sagittarius on November 16 is more dramatic than the usual shift of Mercury from direct to retrograde motion, as it occurs later on the same day that Venus finally stations direct in Libra. When planets station they have a collective and personal announcement to make and tend to dominate the astrological atmosphere; and so we have both Venus in Libra and Mercury in Sagittarius simultaneously proclaiming messages that are vying for our attention. Mercury and Venus are in starkly different circumstances within their synodic cycles: Venus is now direct and shining bright as a Morning Star, while Mercury is descending in twilight from being an Evening Star into its invisible, underworld role of guiding us into unconscious content, loosening conscious control.

Venus stationed retrograde in Scorpio on October 5, and so while the beginning of the Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius is simultaneously weaving together the end of the forty day Venus retrograde, we are not yet actually at the end of the Venus retrograde narrative.  One primal reason is the opposition between Venus and Uranus that has been going on since early September before Venus went retrograde, and will not complete until we cross the boundary between November and December. The opposition between Venus and Uranus calls for a radical upgrade of what we expect from life, leading us to initiate breakthrough choices that crack open old constraints. It’s here in the final stages of a revelatory process that Mercury gladly accepts the role of psychopomp to whatever old beliefs and identities are ready to pass away, making space for the expansive growth stirred up by Jupiter in Sagittarius.

Amping up the extremity of tidal forces is that while both Venus and Mercury station with Venus in opposition to Uranus, Mercury is out of bounds in southern declination while forming a catalytic square aspect with Neptune in Pisces. Any planet 23º27′ or more in north or south declination is considered to be out of bounds- beyond the boundaries of 23º26′ set by the course of the Sun. Tony Howard has described planets out of bounds as being inherently freedom oriented rather than in reaction like Uranus, meaning that instead of acting rebellious in reaction to external constraints, people with a planet out of bounds in their natal chart act have an inner liberating vigor that flows from within without regard to external circumstances.

Altogether these aspects at the time Mercury stations retrograde and descends into invisibility could lead us to consider doing things differently than we ever have before. Due to the influence of Neptune in Pisces, however, we will need to discern what possesses a deeper, imaginal truth versus what is a misleading illusion. Mercury will leave its out of bounds state on November 20, around the same time it also disappears from twilight view. Taking the risk to try something new may not go according to plan and expectations at this time, but the potent reflective quality of Mercury retrograde will facilitate sifting through the experience for important lessons that will ultimately bolster achieving success in a new direction. While the opening section of Mercury retrograde is powerful for putrefaction and breaking down the outworn, it can also be fertile for cultivating a fresh path going forward.

“Whoever does not shy away from the dangers of the most profound depths and the newest pathways, which Hermes is always prepared to open, may follow him and reach . . . a greater find and a more certain possession. For all to whom life is an adventure- whether an adventure of love or of spirit- [Hermes] is the common guide.”

— Karl Kerenyi, Hermes: Guide of Souls

Ghost of Maruyami Okyo

Maruyama Okyo by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi illustrating story of Okyo painting a ghost so viscerally that it came to life.

The blind man who stands on the bridge, / gray like a boundary stone of nameless kingdoms, / he is perhaps the thing, ever unchanging, / around which the far-off stellar hours move, / and the constellations’ still midpoint. / For everything around him strays and struts and runs.

He is the immovable upright one / set down in many tangled paths; / the dark entrance to the underworld / amid a surface-dwelling race.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Point Du Carrousel translated by Edward Snow

Hermes in myth delights in putting people to sleep with his serpentine wand, guiding them into inner visions of dreamscape where the irrational may reveal insight through discernment of deeper meaning. Mercury retrograde periods draw upon this beguiling quality of Hermes, leading perception to more readily pick up meaning from symbols, signs, and synchronicities. As as a result it’s fascinating that Neptune, the planetary archetype of dreams and imagination, is a dominant force during the first two weeks of Mercury retrograde. Not only does Mercury form a square aspect with Neptune when it stations retrograde, Neptune stations direct a week later at 13º41′ Pisces on November 24. When Neptune stations it has a gravitas like a whirlpool pulling us into the Neptunian, such as experiencing a heightened imagination or feeling boundaries dissolve that awaken awareness of interconnection with others.

Mercury and Neptune have a complex relationship, as Neptune can easily fog or bewilder the clear reception of Mercury in communication and interpretation. Yet while some may have an ideal of a logical Mercury organizing everything crisply in categories, the reality is that Mercury is an archetype in-between definitions that questions unifying theories while also weaving together meaning from the innumerable contradictions within our changing world. The ancient philosopher Heraclitus noted not only the constant flux of our world with its ceaselessly changing meanings of truth, but that the underlying Logos or Word from which “all things follow” is not understood by most people. It’s possible that the square aspect formed between Neptune in Pisces with the Sun, Jupiter, and Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius can help us open to understanding beyond culturally conditioned, preconceived notions.

One way or another, Neptune in Pisces will come to the forefront just as a Full Moon in Gemini peaks on November 22 and as Jupiter begins a new synodic cycle with the Sun on November 25 at 3º56′ Sagittarius.  Jupiter in the heart of the Sun on November 25 and 26 places Jupiter at the helm of our solar chariot and seeds an inspirational, uplifting vision of meaning to manifest in the year ahead.  The last solar conjunction for Jupiter occurred on October 26, 2017 at 3º30′ Scorpio and so it is an ending of a Jupiter cycle just as it is simultaneously a beginning of life affirming growth and expansion for the year ahead. Yet this is not the sort of dry clarity that can be found on top of a mountain, but rather the oceanic breadth of imaginal vision that can only be encountered through Neptune.

Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius

Psyche Opening the Door into Cupid’s Garden  by John William Waterhouse

“Even the tilings of the floor, made of precious stones cut fine, are divided into registers, mosaics in pictures and patterns of all sorts . . . And the other wings of this palace, arrayed from side to side and round about, are similarly precious and priceless, and all of it, with the walls constructed of bricks of gold, flares in a radiant glory all its own, so that the house makes its own day and daylight, even when the sun refuses to shine; so too do all the bedrooms, the colonnades, and even the doors explode with their own light. The household goods are no different: in their opulence they match the dignity and grandeur of the palace, so that you would rightly conclude that here is a heavenly imperial residence fashioned by great Jupiter himself so that he may dwell among mortals.”

— Apuleius, “Cupid and Psyche” from The Golden Ass: Or, A Book of Changes translated by Joel C. Relihan

One avenue for imaginal exploration of the influence of Neptune upon Mercury retrograde in the fiery home of Jupiter is the Psyche and Eros story written down by the Hellenistic author and philosopher Apuleius. There is both a thematic as well as cosmic connection, as the Psyche asteroid is at 15º09′ Sagittarius and within three degrees of Mercury on the day it stations retrograde, while the Eros asteroid stations retrograde at 18º11′ Gemini on the same day, in opposition to Mercury and Psyche.

The famous love story involves Psyche, incarnated as a human yet worshipped as a living embodiment of Aphrodite, falling in love with Eros, the divine son of Aphrodite who brings her to his Neptunian palace where he descends to her each night cloaked in mysterious darkness. In the pivotal plot moment, Psyche shines light through a lamp upon Eros while clutching a sharp blade, fearing he could be a monstrous dragon devourer. Yet upon witnessing his divine radiance, she not only falls under the spell of his legendary arrows, but also startles him awake with hot oil which causes him to flee from her. Psyche next undergoes a series of seemingly impossible trials set forth by Aphrodite, going so far as to descend to Persephone in the underworld.

Keeping in mind the ancient line of thought from Empedocles that creation is born from love and strife, we can see how disharmony and discord were sealed off from Psyche’s initial experience of Eros in his archetypal castle, bringing the necessity of her consciously shining light to shatter the illusion. We similarly may feel disillusioned during the Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius, but the vital component will involve illuminating and reorienting our personal truth without negating our experience of the numinous and divine we can encounter in both relationships as well as the dreams we wish to manifest. Over and over again Psyche gives herself over to her feelings and pain, while over and over again the living soul of her environment comes to her aid. She finds her center through following her eros, surrendering to reshaping from the world around her rather than forcing control.

Marie Louise Von Franz beautifully described this process in her book The Golden Ass of Apuleius: The Liberation of the Feminine in Man:

“The chaos of the unconscious always contains a relation to order as well. In talking about the unconscious one must always talk in paradoxes, and when we emphasize its chaotic aspect we know at the same time that the unconscious is not only chaos but is also order . . .

So one can say that in the right way faith is a great achievement, or rather pistis: loyalty to the inner law. When this loyalty or feeling constellates, it calls forth the the secret order which is in the chaos of the unconscious . . .

There is an instinct of truth in the human psyche  which, in the long run, cannot be suppressed. We can pretend not to hear it, but it remains in the unconscious . . . Jung always said that truth does not speak with a loud voice. Its low but unsuppressible voice announces itself as a malaise, or a bad conscience, or whatever one may want to call it. Great quiet is needed in order to feel these small hints.”

— Marie Louise Von Franz

By following this same attitude, we can bring acceptance to whatever challenges and difficulties emerge in correspondence with Mercury retrograde, even a sense of humor where we can manage it, allowing the process of reshaping to unfold. This doesn’t mean to be passive, as we will of course need to take initiative and be decisive. It does mean, however, that the benefit we can gain from Mercury retrograde is through allowing a new order from our unconscious to emerge without stifling, controlling, or negating it. If we can do so, we can experience a symbolic sacred marriage like Psyche and Eros when Mercury retrograde unites with the Sun on November 27.

Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius

from the Rosarium Philosophorum (1550)

Out of infinite desires rise / finite deeds like weak fountains / that fall back in early trembling arcs. / But those, which otherwise in us / keep hidden, our happy strengths– / they come forth in these dancing tears.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Initial (The First Book, Part Two) translated by Edward Snow

In the Heart of the Sun

The inferior conjunction of Mercury retrograde with the Sun on November 27 is the center of the retrograde process, offering a sacred marriage of conscious and unconscious in quiet moments of reflection. This is the rebirth of Mercury that seeds the coming cycle of Mercury in which it return to visibility in pre-dawn skies as a Morning Star. Remarkably, the rebirth of Mercury on November 27 comes only two days after the rebirth of Jupiter with the Sun on November 25. Since Mercury retrograde is in the home of Jupiter, it means Mercury and the Sun are being received by a revivified Jupiter. As a result this is an incredibly fertile moment of potency for Mercury, and yet since both Mercury and Jupiter are being regenerated it also means it is a newborn phase for both planets that suggests inner realizations to be found more so than external, grandiose manifestations of Jupiter.

Fascinatingly, just as Mercury retrograde unites with the Sun in Sagittarius, the Sun is receiving the Moon in Leo through a harmonious trine. In addition, Mars in Pisces is in a change inducing square aspect with the conjunction of the Sun, Mercury retrograde, and Jupiter; in fact the Star of Ares is being received by Jupiter as it approaches a conjunction with Neptune. This is an incredibly strident, inspirational, passionate, and creative combination that is capable of seeding an entirely new direction cut free from constraints of the past. The influence of Mars can certainly bring conflict and a need for confrontation, yet it is also a call for a deepening of whatever searching for meaning we have been engaged in. There is resilient resolve to be found within capable of fueling your visionary endeavors across the next year. Listen for it in the stillness of Mercury uniting with the Sun, inviting it to integrate into  your embrace of life and navigation of coming currents.

MarleneSevenBremner_Citrinitas_

Citrinitas: To Yellow the Wings, Await the Swelling Haws (2018) by Marlene Seven Bremner

Let your beauty manifest itself / without talking and calculation. / You are silent. It says for you: I am. / And comes in meaning thousandfold, / comes at long last over everyone.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Initial (The Second Book, Part One) translated by Edward Snow

After the solar rebirth of Mercury on November 27, Mercury retrograde returns to Scorpio on December 1 where it will station direct on December 6 at 27º16’ Scorpio. By the time Mercury stations direct it will have reappeared in visibility as a Morning Star, and similarly this marks another threshold to cross in which we bring the new meaning of Mercury sparked at its inferior conjunction into our daily presence and work, imbibing it into our engagement with matter. It is necessary during this phase to persist in the new direction rather than allowing ourselves to fall back into the old patterns we have felt compelled to move on from. It’s also important to accept the process and be nurturing with yourself when you notice you’ve taken a step or two backwards, prodding yourself forward again.  Interestingly, Mercury will be stationing in a watery triangle with the North Node of the Moon in Cancer and Chiron in Pisces.

The day after Mercury re-enters Scorpio, Venus will also return to the sign of the Scorpion on December 2 for the first time since the end of October. This is also the same time period in which Venus completes its third and final exact opposition with Uranus. As a result the stationing direct of Mercury is crucial in helping us discover and integrate the final lessons coming forth from the Venus retrograde transit that began at the beginning of October.  It will be a penetrative, probing process as both Venus and Mercury are in the fixed, watery home of Mars with Mars in Pisces forming a whole sign trine to both. At the same time, Mars is applying to a conjunction with Neptune in Pisces that perfects on December 7 at the same time Mercury is stationing.

From December 1 until December 12 when Mercury returns again to Sagittarius, the heavy influence of Scorpio with Mars and Neptune in Pisces will compel an intensification of questioning foundational beliefs and curiously investigating the undercurrents of whatever dynamics we are engaged with. Rather that projecting beliefs from a dogmatic perspective, allow the slippery, thieving Mercury to unlock the hidden places where you source vision and beliefs from. This time period will be opportune for testing the strength of the new vision you want to bring into life, making modifications and reorienting aspects as necessity dictates.

The movement of the current Mercury retrograde from the fire sign of Sagittarius back to the water sign of Scorpio foreshadows the fact that in 2019 we will experience Mercury retrograde transits primarily in water signs. This brings to a completion the past two years of having Mercury retrograde in primarily fire signs.  It will be worth the time to consider what houses in your natal chart are in the fire element (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) and what changes you can note have coincided with Mercury enacting its retrograde regeneration there. Furthermore, the subsequent Mercury retrograde will be in Pisces in March 2019 and will also be significantly stirring up meaning in connection with Jupiter in Sagittarius and Neptune in Pisces; there is likely to be some sort of mercurial connection between now and then.

A final element of the visionary meaning stemming from Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius and Scorpio will come at the Capricorn Solstice on December 21, when Mercury will complete its final conjunction with Jupiter at 9º34’ Sagittarius. Both Mercury and Jupiter will be visible as Morning Stars at the solstice, with Venus above them bringing her light to the solstice sunrise. The Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere, it is the dark turning of the year that welcomes increasing light. This is a perfect cosmic alignment of the hope and faith that can be kindled at the solstice stoking the flames of inspiration between Mercury and Jupiter. There will be a hard, constraining reality to confront in 2019 as Saturn, Pluto, and the transiting South Node of the Moon come together in Capricorn. As the Sun enters Capricorn on the solstice, as Mercury and Jupiter unite at dawn, allow yourself to dream the life you wish to live backed by the determination to bring it fully into being.

Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius

Chiron and Achilles by John Singer Sargent

References

Apuleius. (2007). The Golden Ass. Translated by Joel C. Relihan. Hackett Publishing Company.

Rilke, Rainer Maria. (1991). The Book of Images. Translated by Edward Snow. North Point Press.

Von Franz, Marie Louise. (1992). The Golden Ass of Apuleius: The Liberation of the Feminine in Man. Shambhala.

Mercury Retrograde in Leo

Mercury from Hermetic child of Sun and Moon

from Hermetic Child of Sun and Moon (1752)

Mercury Retrograde in Leo

Flower-muscle, slowly pulling open / the anemone’s vast meadow morning, / until the loud sky’s polyphonic light / comes pouring down into its womb,

muscle of infinite reception / flexed in the quiet flower star, / sometimes so overwhelmed by fullness / that the sunset’s call to rest

is scarcely able to give you back / the wide-sprung petal edges: you, / resolve and strength of how many worlds!

We violent ones, we last longer. / But when, in which of all these lives, / are we finally open and receivers?

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus

When Mercury stations retrograde its best to honor the stillness of the quicksilver messenger, bringing focused presence to our day and open receptivity to the multiplicity of night. Being ever watchful as Mercury stations helps direct awareness toward opportunities appearing on the horizon as well as previously unnoticed matters on the edge of disarray that need remediation. Mercury is always powerful when stationing and typically dominates the astrological discourse when it does; however, when Mercury stationed retrograde on July 26 it was overshadowed by Mars  being opposite the Sun at the heart of its retrograde phase, as well as the anticipation of a Total Lunar Eclipse in Aquarius climaxing the next day. Being in the middle of eclipses, with a partial solar eclipse in Leo coming on August 11, we can expect more than the usual amount of change in coming weeks. Mercury twinkling in the cooling of sunset, standing still by zodiacal degree, offers us the gift of potent awareness.

Of course, Mercury shifting retrograde really means that Mercury is passing in between our Earth and its orbit with the Sun. Since Mercury becomes closest to us in orbit when retrograde, the star of Hermes becomes a more dominant force to contend with amongst the daily transits. Though Mercury retrograde has taken on overly negative projections in popular culture that are false exagerrations, it is true that there is a cunning, elusive quality of Mercury that can be difficult for many to negotiate with. The star of Hermes becomes a crafty, artful leader in life when retrograde, with a wily and procreative quality that was deftly teased by Karl Kerenyi in the following passage:

With Hermes as leader in life- so the classical tradition teaches us- the world receives a special nuance, the Hermetic accent as we have become acquainted with it. This Hermetic aspect is thoroughly empirical, and it remains within the realm of a natural experience of the world. The sum total of pathways as Hermes’ playground; the accidental “falling into your lap” as the Hermetic material; its transformation through finding-thieving- the Hermetic event- into a Hermetic work of art, which is also always something of a tricky optical illusion, into wealth, love, poetry, and every sort of evasion from the restrictions and confinement imposed by laws, circumstances, destinies- how could these be mere psychic realities? They are the world and they are one world, namely, that world which Hermes opens to us.

The reality of the Hermes world proves at least the presence of a standpoint from which it is revealed; more than that, it testifies to something active that is not merely revealing itself from that standpoint, but that is ever again suddenly present and drives the world to give concrete expression to the Hermetic works of art and illusion. The source of this experience and configuration of the world … is Hermes himself. It must possess the complete Hermetic breadth, from the phallic to …  the guidance of souls, an activity that stretches even beyond life.

— Karl Kerenyi, Hermes: Guide of Souls

Though people often curse blunders, mistakes, and the falling apart of possessions linked in the mind with Mercury retrograde, its worth considering the realm opened by Mercury retrograde is not an anomaly but rather something already there, awaiting activation. Indeed, Mercury stations retrograde at least three times a year for three weeks or so, and so the guidance it offers when retrograde is intrinsic to its nature. It’s what makes Mercury, Mercury.  In fact when retrograde Mercury brings an amplified, penetrating focus to research, inner exploration, and the changing of habitual patterns.

Visually, Mercury transitions from being an Evening Star visible at sunset into an invisible phase in which it descends below the horizon, too close to the Sun to be seen. This oracular disappearance from light is called the heliacal setting of Mercury, and will occur on July 30. From this day until Mercury eventually reemerges again into visibility on August 19 as a Morning Star at dawn, Mercury will be taking on its underworld role as a guide of souls, or psychopomp. Mercury is less the fleet footed, super curious social networker in this phase, becoming more plodding, penetrative, intuitive, and facile with symbolic interpretation of the signs we encounter in life. As Marsilio Ficino wrote in Opera:

Mercury has the power to put souls to sleep or waken them with his staff; that is, in some way or another by putting himself into a certain shape, he can dull or sharpen the mind, or weaken or strengthen it, or upset or calm it.

The tricks of changing mind we can feel while Mercury is retrograde may feel frustrating, but if we can stand back and contemplate the bigger picture we will begin to sense an insight we actually needed to bring into our awareness. Dane Rudhyar in The Astrology of Transformation wrote that Mercury “gives mental formulation to the solar will,” seeking “to impersonalize and provide a conceptual foundation- a raison d’etre – for the often unclear (because emotional) urge the would-be individual experiences to live his or her own life.” With Mercury retrograde in the home of the Sun, during a time in which the Leo Sun will become partially eclipsed (August 11), and Mars retrograde will continue to deeply stir desires, the capacity of Mercury to help us discover a purpose within the tumult will be needed medicine.

crowning-39-calcinatio

from The Crowning of Nature

Though the world change swiftly / as the forms in clouds, / all perfected things fall back / to age-old ground.

Over what changes and passes, / wider and freer, / your deep song still hovers, / O god with the lyre.

Pain has not been understood, / love has not been learned,  / and what in death removes us

remains undisclosed. / Alone over the land / song hallows and heals.

-Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus

Mercury retrograde in Leo is the second of three retrograde phases in fire signs we will experience in 2018. Previously we experienced Mercury retrograde in Aries from March 22 through April 15, and later in the year Mercury will station retrograde in Sagittarius on November 16. Within a year of regenerating our relationship with the fire signs (consider what houses the fire signs occupy in your chart and related topics), the retrograde of Mercury in Leo is not only at the dead center of the process, but occurs during the most volatile period in astrology this year.  As a result, Mercury retrograde can facilitate breaking down and releasing whatever aspects of our life need clearing to create more space for new growth to take root. The purgation that can come with this Mercury retrograde is amplified due to it occurring in Leo, the sign of the upcoming eclipse as well as the sign forming a polarity to Aquarius, the sign of the recent Lunar Eclipse and the place Mars is currently retrograde in.

One of the advantages Mercury retrograde periods bring is increased capacity to look at things from a new perspective, helping us gain insight toward old issues and realize what aspects of life need support and attention.  The combined influences of Mars retrograde with eclipses makes it more likely than normal that storylines are changing dramatically, and so the extra stirring provided by Mercury retrograde brings to mind the delight Mercury takes in the twist that moves the plot in a surprising direction and creates needed change. Thomas Moore in his book about the Italian Renaissance astrologer Marsilio Ficino brilliantly summarized Ficino’s perspective toward the protean imagination intermixed by Mercury:

Mercury reveals an inner realm of things without depriving them of their concreteness… The most common mode of interpretation, in some circles the only way, is to dissect and analyze, freezing the components of an insight into brittle pieces which are then easy to manipulate. But the crafty sleight-of-hand of Mercury interprets without killing, transforming our view of one image through another…  Since interpretation consists chiefly in discovering new images among the old, the surprise Mercury brings is a new image or a new idea, a gift from the cunning god who knows how to stir the soul…

In Mercury, words are like crystals whose facets are revealed in their turning, in the various perspectives brought upon them. Whatever keeps our ideas and fantasies turning and shifting, eluding our rational grasp and defying conclusive definition, is Mercurial. When we are the deft, interpretive, eloquent secretaries of our own actions and ideas, then we are Mercury; for then we interpret our own minds.

— Thomas Moore, Planets Within: the Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino

With Mercury retrograde in the fixed fire sign of Leo, opposite the sign of Aquarius where Mars is retrograde, we are journeying into the subconscious shadow of however we have been creatively self actualizing. Have we been holding back on going after what we want, or have we been taking on too much? What lies at the heart of our ambition, is it a need for attention or power? Or are we passionately in service to an ideal or message we wish to share with others, without need of extrinsic reward or recognition? What sacrifices on behalf of our ideals and community are we willing to make, and how will this impact our personal relationships? How much attention needs to be directed into our intimate relationships, personal space, and private creativity, rather than expressed through mediums into the collective?

In the end all of the challenges faced during Mercury retrograde in Leo will help us not only refine the vision we have of a healthy and fulfilling life, but begin enacting the modifications needed to rebalance whatever has been imbalanced. Whatever inauthentic patterns we have been engaging in will become obvious, opening the opportunity to separate from what we no longer want to engage, realigning in a direction resonant with our core values.

MarleneSevenBremner_Thoth_300dpi_1800pix

Transfiguration of Thoth [Squaring the Circle] by Marlene Seven Bremner (2018)

Into the Heart

Here, among the vanishing, be, in the realm of decline  ⁄  be a ringing glass that shatters even as it rings.  ⁄  Be—and know as well the terms of nonbeing,  ⁄  the infinite ground of your inmost vibration,  ⁄  so that, this once, you may wholly fulfill them.

–Rainer Maria Rilke, Sonnets to Orpheus

Mercury will be reborn through its union with the Sun on August 8 at 16º27′ Leo. At this moment of regeneration within Mercury’s synodic cycle, efforts made in contemplation can be rewarded with clarifying insight. Mercury within a degree of the Sun was described by the ancient astrologer Rhetorius the Egyptian as being in the heart of the Sun, and this became known as moment in which Mercury is seated upon the solar throne, strengthened in all things mercurial. Typically we get can get a boost with our Mercury work at this time, or powerful realizations through inner reflection, but overall this is a time to emerge with a purified perspective from all the putrefaction of mind we’ve been experiencing since Mercury stationed retrograde on July 26. This particular inferior conjunction of Mercury is especially powerful and volatile, due to it occurring in between eclipses with Uranus in Taurus stationing retrograde a day before on August 7, and Mercury applying to a square with Jupiter in Scorpio that will perfect a couple days later on August 10.

As Mercury is a mutable planet that takes on the qualities of its aspects in astrology, Mercury near the Sun in Leo likewise takes on the potent heating, drying, clarifying, and inspiring qualities of the Leo Sun. Yet the current Mercury retrograde finds it in the strange climate of eclipses occurring during the Sun’s time in Leo. More significantly, Mercury will unite with the Sun for its fiery rebirth only three days before the Sun is partially eclipsed by the Moon. The shadow that will partially fall across our great solar light is therefore transmitted directly by the quicksilver messenger, just as Mercury is at a “newborn” phase of its cycle more susceptible than normal to other influences.

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.” At the time of the inferior conjunction of Mercury, the Moon will be at home in Cancer within the closing, balsamic phase of its synodic cycle.  On August 10/11 the Moon will conjoin Mercury only six hours before the Moon then partially eclipses the Sun on August 11. This brings the regenerated Mercury into deep, stirring contact with whatever hidden material is emerging from the opening and closing of the eclipse gates, including the Total Lunar Eclipse of July 27.

As Mercury moves from 17º Leo where it unites with the Sun back to 12º Leo where it stations direct on August 18, Hermes will be playing its role of alchemical mystic with pleasure, diverting and then refocusing perception on a multiplicity of images and messages to help us sort through the insights revealed by the eclipses. An extra shift coming in the wake of the Leo Eclipse on August 11 will occur when Mars retrograde transitions from Aquarius into Capricorn on August 12. Mars retrograde leaving a whole sign opposition with Mercury retrograde will not make things easy all of a sudden, but it will lower the levels of volatility to a degree. With Mars retrograde in Capricorn while Mercury finishes the final week of its retrograde, we can begin taking action in accordance with whatever insights arose with the rebirth of Mercury.

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El Trovador by Remedios Varo

Mercury Stations Direct

And their feet move  /  Rhythmically, as tender  /  feet of Cretan girls  /  danced once around an  /  altar of love, crushing  /  a circle in the soft  /  smooth flowering grass

— Sappho, translated by Mary Barnard

Mercury stations direct on August 18 or 19, depending upon your time zone, at 11º32′ Leo. Not long after Mercury stations direct, we will also experience the heliacal rising of Mercury on August 19 when it becomes visible again at dawn as a Morning Star. Since ancient times in astrology this has been seen as an oracular moment of Mercury transmitting a message for us to receive. Fittingly for such an ancient spiritual context, Mercury will be stationing direct in Leo closely conjoining the North Node of Neptune.

The planetary nodes of Neptune began shifting back and forth from Cancer (North) and Capricorn (South) into Leo (North) and Aquarius (South) by the 10th century, but by the time of the 1100s they began stabilizing in Leo and Aquarius where they remain today. I was recently watching Joseph Campbell interviewed in The Power of Myth television series, and realized when he waxed poetic about the significance of the shift to the age of the troubadour that he was also speaking about the shift of the North Node of Neptune moving into Leo. Campbell said that the shift that came about in the age of the troubadour was monumental in terms of creating a human ideal for pursuing an authentic life rather than one dictated by the dogmatic authority of church, family, and culture. With the troubadours came the ideal of person to person love that continues into the modern era. Instead of conforming to the dictates of arranged marriage, the sway of the troubadours inspired the ideal of being seized by the soul’s counterpart in a romantic other. People became willing to risk literally burning in the fires of hell, as they were told they would do by authorities, in order to be with their beloved.

With Mercury stationing direct on the North Node of Neptune, the message we receive will involve an essence to embody in our creative actualization. We may feel inspired to sing a new song of heart centered inspiration. We will need to begin finding ways to work with the fecund creative potency emerging from within, integrating it into our identity and relationships. Sweetly, Venus will be at home in Libra and passing through a sextile with Mercury as our valiant messenger finally completes its underworld voyage. Moreover, not only Venus by sextile, but the Moon in Sagittarius by trine will be there to bolster reception of a new creative spirit as Mercury stations direct.

As Mercury resumes forward motion through zodiacal degrees again, Mars will begin stationing direct in Capricorn. Mercury reaches maximum elongation as a Morning Star on August 26 at 16 degrees of Leo, a point in its synodic cycle that Gary Caton in his book Hermetica Triptycha demarcated as an ending to the alchemical retrograde process of Mercury that began on July 11 when Mercury was at maximum elongation as an Evening Star at 17 degrees of Leo. Mars then stations direct two days later on August 28, and as Mars begins to generate some forward momentum, Mercury will leave the “shadow zone” of the degrees it formed its retrograde within on September 2 when it crosses over 24 degrees of Leo.

This means at the end of August we will be wrapping up both the Mercury and Mars retrograde periods, with awareness needed that we will still be dealing with the aftermath of Mars retrograde into October as it makes its way back toward the degree it originally stationed at. When we look back at these months in future years and decades, we are likely to remember it as a time of significant turning. Bear this in mind if things become overheated and rough, for you will have found new strength and realization on the other side of these transits. As a fragment of Sappho, who wrote in the 6th century B.C., still sings:

You may forget but

Let me tell you / that someone in / some future time / will think of us

-Sappho, translated by Mary Barnard

References

Barnard, Mary. (1958). Sappho: A New Translation. U of California 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.

Kerenyi, Karl. (1976). Hermes: Guide of Souls. Spring Publications.

Moore, Thomas. (1990). The Planets Within: the Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino. Lindisfarne Press.

Rilke, Rainer Maria. (2004). Sonnets to Orpheus translated by Edward Snow. North Point Press.

Rudhyar, Dane. (1980). The Astrology of Transformation. A Quest Book.

Mercury Retrograde in Aries

 

caduceus sun and moon

Mercury Retrograde in Aries

Journeying through the cosmic sea of celestial conditions, what Plotinus called the cosmic circuit, some periods will be felt as more volatile and challenging than others.  Mercury retrograde periods have a bad reputation as signifying doom, a misguided notion as all Mercury retrograde periods are not equal and in actuality are variable in experience.  Having said that (insert Larry David smirk here),  the forthcoming Mercury retrograde in Aries time period is littered with numerous difficult aspects that mark it as a period in which to be especially mindful.  The wise will remain steadfastly watchful for those moments in which the smoothly wound threads of life begin to become undone and in need of mending.  It’s not that it will be impossible to make plans and determined choices that will lead to success, but that it will be important to be ready to respond to challenges as the transits portend more disruption than normal for a Mercury retrograde phase.

It’s worth remembering the symbolism of the caduceus carried by Hermes that both heals as well as provokes slumber to make the cunning arts of the Angelic Messenger easier to manifest.  Mercury rules the art of astrology for many reasons, my favorite being the manner in which its cherished caduceus contains the core themes of astrology: Daimon/Spirit, Fortune, Eros/Love, and Necessity. Dorian Greenbaum in her marvelous thesis on the daimon in Hellenistic astrology integrated the symbolic analysis of the caduceus given by fifth century philosopher Macrobius in his text Saturnalia, including that the two serpents of the staff represent the intermingling forms of Daimon (Sun/Spirit) and Fortune (Moon/Matter). At the top of the staff they arc toward one another for a kiss (Eros), while lower down they are bound in a knot (Necessity).

From ancient thinkers like Plotinus to modern ones such as Carl Jung, endless spans of time have been spent contemplating the intersections between fate and free will.  As astrology developed in the Hellenistic era, forces of Eros and Necessity were seen as ruling over souls such as ourselves bound to human bodies.  Eros was named as the binding force of love, sourced from nous, that creates connections and order; in contrast, Necessity was linked with the strife of fate we must face during existence in a world of temporal forms ceaselessly passing away and coming into being.  Astrology mediated through the caduceus of Mercury helps us bring our personal volition into a kiss with the coming tides of matter we meet in the moment. This includes both the aspect of life we can change, and those we must accept and surrender to no matter how much wishful thinking we project.

Mercury is further associated with the Lot of Necessity according to Paulus Alexandrinus (citing text attributed to Hermes Trismegistus). It’s exaltation in Virgo in the northern hemisphere involves the symbolism of the Sun’s time in its peak period of light coming to an end and approaching the Libra equinox of balanced day and night turning toward increasing darkness. When Mercury shifts into retrograde movement, its orbit comes in between our Earth and our Sun and in correspondence we face the necessity of changes in our material circumstances.  As Mercury disappears from view at twilight as an Evening Star at the beginning of its retrograde phase, its descent into invisibility has been connected to its mythic role of psychopomp by Demetra George and other astrologers. We must inspect and attend to earthly matters during Mercury retrograde, witnessing what is growing, what is falling apart, what needs tending. Mercury also asks us to descend into the darkness of our unconscious and allow for a breakdown of habitual thought patterns to bring about the space needed for regeneration of thought and expression.

Piero_di_Cosimo_-_Allegory

Piero di Cosimo (c 1500) Allegory

This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond –
Invisible, as Music –
But positive, as Sound –
It beckons, and it baffles –
Philosophy, dont know –
And through a Riddle, at the last –
Sagacity, must go –
To guess it, puzzles scholars –
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown –
Faith slips – and laughs, and rallies –
Blushes, if any see –
Plucks at a twig of Evidence –
And asks a Vane, the way –
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit –
Strong Hallelujahs roll –
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul –

» Emily Dickinson «

Consciously, it’s difficult to know exactly what a Mercury retrograde period will be bringing us.  It’s a liminal space in which we have changed in sometimes obvious, other times mysterious, ways on the other side of it.  The confounding nature of Mercury retrograde is both its beauty as well as why it can feel frustrating. The very nature of change and regeneration demands that we shed what was once comfortable and familiar, embracing something unknown and uncomfortably foreign. This is where Hermes enters with his caduceus and sleight of hand, facilitating our capacity to meet disruption while discerning how to effectively remediate and respond, often shifting our life in a new direction in the process.

The ability of Mercury to mediate opposing forces, interweaving between conflicts, will be important to keep in mind with Mercury retrograde in Aries, the fiery home of Mars.  Mars is in its exaltation of Capricorn during the retrograde, a sign that forms a catalytic square aspect with Aries, provoking dynamic change.  It also means that Mars will be receiving Mercury, bringing the resources of its exalted Capricorn location into relationship with Mercury.  Furthermore, Mars will be approaching union with Saturn in Capricorn at the same time Mercury will be uniting with the Sun at the heart of its retrograde. Mars and Saturn will be conjoined in two of their strongest positions while forming a square to Mercury uniting with the Sun in its exaltation of Aries. These are extremely powerful forces at work through the cardinal, or moveable, modality of initiation and engaging in profound changes of circumstance.

Mercury in Aries is direct, quick moving and cuts to the core of perceptions.  As Mercury stations retrograde the Moon will be in the curious sign of Gemini, creating harmonious reception with Mercury that portends a retrograde phase of wide ranging exploration. As Mercury stands still in Aries and begins to slowly shift into backward movement, the impulse of its fiery placement becomes highly concentrated with a volatility that is capable of penetrating focus. Since Mercury is in the home of Mars, its notable that not only will Mars be in its exaltation of Capricorn, it will also be out of bounds in declination. Mars out of bounds and ruling Mercury creates wildness that can be best directed into areas you can freely express untethered curiosity.

In addition to Mercury shifting retrograde in Aries, Venus will also be moving direct in Aries while engaging both Pluto and Uranus.  Mercury and Venus spent an extended period of time conjoining as Evening Stars leading into the stationing of Mercury, drawing attention to something primed for birth. As they separate and Mercury descends toward subterranean depths, Venus will continue to become brighter at sunset while forming a tumultuous square aspect with the archetypal lord of the underworld, Pluto.  After Venus moves through its square with Pluto, it will eventually reach an exact union with Uranus in Aries on March 28 with a Moon waxing in light near fullness.  The interplay of Venus with Pluto and Uranus adds increased turbulence as well as liberating impulses to the already intense aspects formed by Mercury. Its a fertile environment for soul tending and letting the seemingly irrational sway of psyche become more conscious; as a result an opening of awareness for new routes of expression and paths of purpose may ensue.

Mercurius british museum print

Altogether, the intense ingredients of the beginning movement of Mercury retrograde in Aries is ideal for engagement with pioneering research, work, and expression. We need to keep in mind that during this opening division of Mercury’s backward loop, both Mars and Mercury will be getting closer to Saturn in Capricorn each day.  This means we have a powerful accompanist directing us toward how to build effective structures, yet Saturn demands patience and thorough persistence. Saturn simultaneously signifies what could appear to be immovable obstacles and blockages to plans. The fluidity of Mercury retrograde channeled through the fires of Aries may give impulse to burn down the walls we come up against, yet a wiser move will be to utilize the skillset Capricorn brings to Mars for strategic plans of action. The combination of Mercury retrograde in Aries with Mars out of bounds in Capricorn will be optimal for those types of “out of the box” ideas that enable one to successfully work around limitations.

Mercury projects involve creating with both the hands and the mind and so a diversity of work can be done in the weeks ahead, yet the fiery initiative of its Aries location will need to take account of the wide variance of potential hurdles before leaping into action. With both the Sun and Mars in their exaltation engaged with Saturn in its home, there is potential to combine hard work with effective planning to dig the trenches needed for increased irrigation throughout whatever system we focus on. Capricorn is a cardinal sign of nocturnal and inward earth, while Aries is a cardinal sign of diurnal and outer fire. The common ground is in the moveable modality of initiating plans of action, with Mercury retrograde needing to mediate the polarities of day and night, inner and outer, assertion and reception. Fire does thrive on the fuel of felled earthly trees, and so we can keep in mind the image of Mercury serving as a deft fire tender who expertly tempers the balance of keeping the fire going without allowing it to turn into a wildfire.

Temperamentally, fire and earth share the dry quality of making distinctions, having clear boundaries, and making the tough decisions of ending what is no longer working in order to productively engage with whatever holds greater promise. Within personal spheres we will have greater capacity to utilize the protective capacities of Mars, but still need to keep in mind the fact Mars and Saturn coming together can signify conflicts we will need to mediate. In collective events, there are likely to be more conflicts erupting out of the themes of information warfare and vying interests using data networks in strategic conflict, as well as economic warfare involving trade and other mercurial significations. The more we can stop ourselves from getting drawn into surrounding conflicts, the more energy we will have to instead engage with the dynamic aspects that are also available for developing plans with an eye for what looks to be working and what instead needs to be modified.

Blake door orb

William Blake (1804) Jerusalem

Into the Sun

The heart of the Mercury retrograde period occurs when Mercury aligns by zodiac degree in between the orbits of our Earth and Sun, becoming regenerated within its union with our solar light. Mercury retrograde goes into the heart of the Sun on April 1, a day after a Full Moon in Libra and a day before the exact union of Mars and Saturn in Capricorn.  While the inferior conjunction of Mercury occurs at 12º Aries, the conjunction of Mars and Saturn will occur at 9º Capricorn, bringing Mercury and Mars into applying engagement. Since Aries is the exaltation of the Sun, symbolically we can derive an added dose of enlivening empowerment to the purification and rebirth process for Mercury. This is a day for envisioning new ways of approaching longterm goals, as well as taking care of mercurial tasks. Mercury’s significations are strengthened while it aligns closely with the Sun, and so all manner of expression, research, negotiation, and work requiring dexterous skill gets an extra boost.

Moreover, as the Sun-Mercury union occurs in a Full Moon phase with the Moon in Libra applying to an opposition with Uranus in Aries, there is amplified illumination available. The liberating lunar atmosphere will create heightened emotions and excitement that will make the aspects between Sun-Mercury and Mars-Saturn more dramatic. We can receive far reaching awareness not only regarding recent events, but also deep unconscious material due to the Moon forming a polarity with Uranus. Fortunately, Venus will have entered its inner home of Taurus by the time Mercury unites with the Sun, bringing greater stability and full access to the pleasures of Venus. Venus in Taurus will begin to form a trine with Saturn and Mars and can help ground within bodily senses to find the calmness necessary to receive the full scope of lucidity available. If the coming together of Mars and Saturn has left you overwhelmed or exhausted at this point, making space for Venus will bring relief.

The sabian symbol for 12 degrees of Aries is “a triangularly shaped flight of wild geese,” with Dane Rudhyar giving it the keynote of “an idealistic reliance upon a mental image of universal order.” Rudhyar viewed the flight of geese forming a harmonious pattern as reflecting a synchronous attuning to both “planetary rhythms” as well as an underlying “cosmic order.” Rudhyar further pointed out that the type of celestial order revealed by the flight of earthly birds contrasts “with the social-political order within a nation which is represented by its ruler.” As a result Rudhyar saw this symbol pointing toward the polarizing conflict provoked by cosmic order when one has been overly relying upon societal order. The “Soul-consciousness” embedded within this image puts the emphasis on taking individual responsibility in development of one’s life rather than giving power over to external authorities. It also highlights the likelihood that the soulful insights arising from within may be at odds with our societal conditioning, and so we will need to keep an open mind rather than restrict how we interpret the messages we receive.

Gary Caton in his book Hermetica Triptycha: The Mercury Elemental Year explained how the inferior conjunctions of Mercury each year occur in the same element. This year we are experiencing the fire element, the first one of the series occurring on 12 December 2017 at 22º Sagittarius, the next one occurring on 8 August 2018 at 17º Leo. Caton gave guidelines into how to grasp the bigger picture of mercurial shifts by looking at the triangle of houses containing the fires signs in your natal chart (for example, they could be occurring in your third, seventh, and eleventh houses). In this way you can see how the isolated meaning of this Mercury rebirth in Aries connects with its previous regeneration in Sagittarius and forthcoming one in Leo in your natal chart. Caton wrote that in fire years “we need to find new sources of creative fuel and inspiration and learn to use this fire to burn off any accumulated detritus in our lives and to purge falsity in ourselves” (p. 142).

Klee heroic strokes

Paul Klee (1938) Heroic Strokes of the Bow

In the Morning

Mercury stations direct on April 15 at 4º46′ Aries during a Dark Moon in Aries, in range of a square to Saturn.  The day after Mercury stations direct we will experience a New Moon in Aries conjoining Uranus, another sign that Uranus looms over the entire retrograde phase in less obvious ways. Mercury direct as a Morning Star is eager for new growth and endeavors, hungry for new information and connection. The New Moon conjoining Uranus following the stationing direct of Mercury signifies an emancipatory shift of the winds we can catch and ride. All the work of preparation and modification put in during the retrograde can fuel a leap forward at this time.

Other signs of monumental shift coming as Mercury stations direct involve Chiron and Saturn. Chiron will be at the final minutes of its time in Pisces when Mercury stations direct, and will ingress into Aries two days later on April 17. In addition, Saturn is stationing retrograde around the same time, bringing the influence of Saturn to the forefront. Mercury moving forward again while Saturn turns backwards means that these two once again begin to apply to another square aspect. Mercury will perfect its final square with Saturn on April 25, and later on this same day Mars will finally reach its exact conjunction with Pluto in Capricorn. As a result the week and a half following Mercury moving direct again is saturated with potent astrology which can bring about full realization of whatever creations we work on during the time of Mercury retrograde.

Mercury reaches maximum elongation as a Morning Star on April 29 at 13º of Aries as the Moon waxes full in Scorpio. Gary Caton in his book Hermetica Triptycha illuminated the significance of Mercury aligning three times in the same range of zodiacal degrees before its retrograde at maximum Evening Star elongation (March 15 at 14º Aries), in the middle of its retrograde at its Inferior Conjunction (April 1 at 12º Aries), and after completion of its retrograde at maximum Morning Star elongation (April 29 at 13º). This creates a link between these dates and an alchemical process to work with between March 15 and April 29, 2018. Caution may be applied to what promises to be a tumultuous Mercury retrograde in Aries, but fear will do us no good. In the volatility of change we can discover luminous meaning and persevere with diligence and resilient thoroughness to create and contribute to the greater good.

References

Caton, Gary. (2017). Hermetica Triptycha: The Mercury Elemental Year. Rubedo Press.

Greenbaum, Dorian. (2009). The Daimon in Hellenistic Astrology: Origins and Influence. A dissertation submitted in fulfillment for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Combined Studies at The Warburg Institute of the University of London.

Rudhyar, Dane. (1973). An Astrological Mandala. Random House.

 

Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius: Crossing of Cronos

Saturn with Mercury caduceus

Saturn photo by NASA; Mercury glyph by Bradley Naragon

Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius

In the twilight of encroaching darkness Mercury disappears at sunset toward the beginning of its retrograde period, initiating its invisible phase.  As nightfall and its bed of glittering stars overtake our senses, we lose the light of Mercury during the liminal time of its retrograde until it’s reflected light returns again at dawn on the other side of its backward movement through the zodiac.  During the time we have no hope of glimpsing the light of the star of Hermes, we can feel bewildered as our perceptual awareness shifts in correspondence as elements of our life pass away.  The volatility of Mercury can be found in its mythic sources:  Carl Jung called Hermes the “many-hued and wily god,” while Karl Kerenyi noted that the ingenious leaps in gain brought by Hermes also coincide with loss.  Since Mercury stations at the beginning of December aligned with Saturn, there is adversity to face on the horizon.  The solidifying stillness of Mercury stationing with Saturn also can bring the types of tests that ultimately foster increased strength, endurance, and structural foundations.

Mercury’s retrograde cycle comes at least three times each calendar year, each manifestation unique and notable for more than a few reasons.  However, the Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius that commences December 2 or December 3, depending upon your time zone, is especially remarkable for ushering us from our experience of Saturn in Sagittarius (12/23/2014 – 12/19/2017) into Saturn in Capricorn (12/19/2017 – 12/17/2020) while Mercury also spends an unusually long time in close proximity to the star of Kronos.  Mercury first united with Saturn on November 27 at 27º27′ of Sagittarius, and after shifting retrograde will align with Saturn for a second time on December 6 at 28º23′ of Sagittarius.  Mercury will remain within three degrees of Saturn until December 9, capping off a couple of weeks of close alignment.  Mercury will eventually conjoin Saturn for a third and final time on January 12, 2018 at 2º47′ of Capricorn, and at this point we will be able to gain sharper clarity for how the events of the Mercury retrograde fit into vaster narratives.  Mercury is serving as a messenger for Saturn, and though not the only meaning to be found in this period is certainly a fundamental aspect to contemplate.

Mercury’s protean nature shifts and mutates more so than any other planet, weaving together polarities and delighting in the grayness of being in between dualities.  Mercury can be both yin and yang, nocturnal and diurnal, spiritual and material, masculine and feminine, and readily accords itself with whatever planetary engagements it finds itself within.  Additionally, the retrograde phase of Mercury is the time in which the meaning of Mercury itself changes, as its swift pace slows to a standstill at the beginning and end of its backward movement through the zodiac.  Instead of firing quickly with curiosity in numerous directions of outward expression, Mercury when retrograde focuses internally with greater propensity for intuiting guidance through symbols and discerning the underlying meaning of both waking and dreaming life. Aligned with Saturn, Mercury retrograde takes on the significations of the star of Kronos, and so to navigate this passage optimally we need to consider how the archetypal forces of Mercury retrograde and Saturn commingle.

Hermes Trismegistus

Hermes Trismegistus floor panel in Siena Cathedral

Hermes, ruler of the world, dweller in the heart, circle of the moon,
Round and square, inventor of the words of the tongue,
Obedient to justice, wearer of the chlamys, shod in winged sandals,
Guardian of the many-sounding tongue, prophet to mortals.

— translation of a Magic Papyrus in Carl Jung’s Alchemical Studies

In our astrological tradition, the affinity between Saturn and Mercury is generally positive:  the 17th century text Christian Astrology by William Lily stated that both Mercury and Saturn are friendly toward one another, while the 9th century Vedic astrological text Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra stated that Saturn considers Mercury a friend while Mercury in comparison is neutral about Saturn.  In the 20th century archetypal tradition that synthesized ancient understanding from Hermetic sources within a depth psychology framework, the lineage from Carl Jung through James Hillman found a vital relationship between Saturn and Mercury within alchemy as well as through the conceptual duality of the senex (elder authority) and puer (eternal youth).  In Alchemical Studies, Carl Jung noted that Mercurius contains the dual  nature of senex and puer. Hillman later illuminated that the senex brings structure, discipline, tradition, and grounding, while the puer injects the vibrancy of idealism, imagination, creativity, and wanderlust.

We can imagine the union of Mercury’s creative bridging with the structural discipline of Saturn through authoritative sources that sustain openness to invention and visionary change.  Mercury retrograde periods bring the ability to focus deeply into mercurial research and communication projects, and so the influence of Saturn brings opportunities to base understanding from traditional lineages while opening awareness to how it fits within the current moment and zeitgeist.  Fantasizing or speculating while disconnected from the responsibilities of reality during this Saturnine retrograde of Mercury will bring repercussions, however, and so flights of imagination need to sustain a level of grounded application.  Whatever philosophical, intellectual, or spiritual frameworks we have been thinking and acting from will be confronted and tested and it will become obvious (if we are paying attention) where we have been deluding ourselves or how are belief system leads to adverse consequences we had not formerly recognized.

With regards to the interplay between Mercury and Saturn within alchemy, I was intrigued to find that Gary Caton linked the alchemical process of nigredo with the initial stationing phase of Mercury retrograde in his recently published book Hermetica Triptycha: The Mercury Elemental Year.  The blackening and putrefaction of nigredo that Jung’s work linked to the dark night of the soul has been associated with Saturn as it brings a decomposition that ultimately leads to illumination.  Since Mercury is stationing in alignment with Saturn at the end of Sagittarius, the peak period of darkness in the northern hemisphere that precedes the rebirth of increased solar light at the Winter solstice, the link to nigredo is even further increased.  Caton wrote that the connection between the initial descent of Mercury retrograde with the nigredo process calls us “to purge the body, the psyche, and the life of extraneous or ‘dead weight’ in order to free up energy for future growth” during the beginning phase of Mercury retrograde (p. 112).

Since Saturn and Mercury are both in the outwardly directed home of Jupiter, Mercury’s retrograde will be pulling us into volatile and stark examinations of our vision for how we create meaning from our experiences in life.   Old thought patterns that have become habitually ingrained in our mind yet are no longer aligned with our authentic development can be dissolved and released with mindful focus and attention.  In a more immediate and mundane sense, we will be called to question some of our goals and plans through Saturnine delays, blockages, or obstacles.  It can be a pop astrology cliche to say that we should expect delays with everything happening in correspondence with Mercury retrograde, but with Mercury stationing in such close proximity to Saturn we are entering a retrograde phase that will force us to slow down and reconsider choices as we encounter restrictions or barriers of one sort or another.  Instead of impatiently shutting down or trying to force things out of frustration, keep a steady and alert focus on how things are developing and be ever ready to spontaneously shift directions or make alterations and revisions as needed.  Saturn and Mercury can guide us toward what needs to be modified for necessary reasons, whether we initially like it or not.

Ancient Mesopotamian astrology also reveals some overlap in meaning between Mercury and Saturn through the associations of the planets with mythic divinities Nabu and Ninurta.  Saturn was linked to the conquering hero Ninurta who retrieved the tablets of fate from a dragon of chaos who had stolen them, subsequently becoming an “overseer of fate and destiny” according to Michael Baigent in his book From the Omens of Babylon: Astrology and Ancient Mesopotamia.  Mercury was linked to the messenger Nabu, a divine scribe who recorded the fate for the world in the coming year when the gods met to decide upon the destiny for the year ahead at the ceremonial end of the year.  These ancient connections with Mercury and Saturn are fitting for the Mercury retrograde coming at the close of 2017, as its surrounding aspects portend the arrival of twists and turns in our personal and collective narratives.

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Hermes (27 B.C. – A.D. 68) The Met

Mercury plays the role of psychopomp during its retrograde phase, and if we can make the space to go within for internal contemplation we can receive guidance from the depths of soul.  Chthonic Mercury’s guidance can feel irrational at times, perplexing to habitual, egoic minds.  Since Mercury is aligning with Saturn at the end of its time in Sagittarius and will station direct following the ingress of Saturn into Capricorn, we have a saturnine atmosphere to reflect back over all of our experiences in connection with the star of Kronos since it entered Sagittarius on December 23, 2014.  At the same time we will be dealing with the final lessons Saturn in Sagittarius has to offer, and so the quicksilver of Mercury can help us mutate as needed and prepare us for crossing over the threshold of the forthcoming three years of Saturn in Capricorn.  Mercury is a guardian of gates, doors, and liminal thresholds of all manner.  Maintaining mindfulness will enable us to notice and discern whatever final messages we need to hear and integrate with Saturn in Sagittarius.

Moon in home of Mercury

Mercury glyph by Bradley Naragon

A Full Moon in Gemini on December 3 launches us into the Mercury retrograde period with a boom and bang.  Most notable in the syzygy are the aspects circulating between the Full Moon, Jupiter in Scorpio, and Neptune in Pisces.  While the Full Moon forms a tight, catalytic square with Neptune, at the same time Jupiter in Scorpio is forming its first exact trine with Neptune in Pisces. Since the Full Moon is in the home of Mercury, there is incredible timing of the lunation ripening about eight hours after Mercury has officially stationed retrograde in union with Saturn.  Altogether this brings increased potency to Mercury’s stationing much more so than normal, and whatever the Mercury retrograde is initially leading us to recognize and respond to will be obvious.

The influence of Neptune over the Gemini Full Moon that initiates us into the Mercury retrograde harkens back to the square between Neptune and Saturn in Sagittarius that dominated 2016 and was one of the most prominent aspects of Saturn’s time in the sign of the Centaur.  Among other current events this coincided with debates over national borders with regards to refugees and immigrants as well as a deterioration in the ability of the general public to discern the difference between fake and accurate media sources.  We now have the transit of Jupiter harmoniously interacting with Neptune as the backdrop behind Saturn and Neptune’s movement through the homes of Jupiter, and during the Mercury retrograde we will also experience Mercury, Venus, the Sun and the Moon moving through Sagittarius.

Since Jupiter in Scorpio is in the twelfth place from Sagittarius, the interplay between Jupiter and Neptune can deepen understanding through exposure of the previously concealed.  However, the easy trine aspect could also result in people deluding themselves within dogmatic belief systems if they are unwilling to open their minds to evidence coming from a different perspective.  The influence of Neptune upon Mercury’s retrograde through Sagittarius will not be going away, as Mercury will ultimately station direct in range of a square with Neptune.  As a result disillusionment could arise in related events that can cause depression, but these same difficult events can also become a necessary wake up call with what needs our full attention to change or heal.

The trine aspect between Uranus in Aries with Saturn has been another one of the key aspects within Saturn’s transit through Sagittarius that Mercury retrograde will also activate.  Mercury in Sagittarius formed a trine with Uranus on November 25 while moving direct at maximum elongation, and will form a second trine with Uranus in Aries on December 10.  After Mercury stations direct, it will move into its final trine with Uranus on January 6, 2018.  The trine between Uranus and Saturn has brought opportunities throughout 2017 to innovate and open the structural foundations of our lives to greater freedom and authenticity of expression.  Mercury moving back and forth in aspect with Uranus can help us attune to the aspects of organizational restructuring we have been developing that need additional support or repair.  It also increases the volatility of the Mercury retrograde period through unexpected influences and change that comes rapidly with quick development.

Ananka_i_Mojre

Ananke and the three Fates

The shadow cast across the Mercury retrograde by Saturn means the disintegration of matters we will face are necessary, and so instead of becoming stagnant with depression we need to surrender to the unalterable changes while conserving energy for the creative action we have the time and space to make a difference with.  The ancient Hellenistic text The 36 Airs of the Zodiac ascribed the primordial Ananke to the third decan of Sagittarius where Mercury will unite with both Saturn and the Sun during its retrograde.  Since Saturn rules the third face of Sagittarius and has been present in transit here, the gravitas of Ananke has been accentuated.  Austin Coppock in 36 Faces wrote that Ananke’s influence over this decan can be seen in daunting trials and tasks demanding uncomfortable endurance and effort.  Forces of Necessity and Eros, Daimon and Fortune lay at the root of our astrological foundations.  We have to deal with elements of destiny we cannot change and must endure, while we are also given opportunities to respond with clarified intention and co-create the life we most desire to lead.  Do your best to flow with the currents brought along with Mercury’s sleight of hand rather than becoming frustrated by the aspects of life you cannot change.

Since Mercury is orbiting through the space between our planet and our Sun during its retrograde, as close to us as it ever gets, it is like the Mercury archetype is more present and gripping us from the inside.  As a result its always important to maintain keen alertness and attention to subtle shifts in the details of daily life so we have the best chance to respond effectively.  Mercury retrograde periods also reward efforts to create space for meditation and inner contemplation, and this aspect is especially intriguing this time around as Mercury retrograde is uniting with Saturn near the degrees of our Galactic Center which is roughly at 27º of Sagittarius.  I find the idea of transits to the Galactic Center compelling, though I do not feel I completely understand the full ramification of their meaning as an astrologer.  I like the following interpretation Melanie Reinhart wrote in her article The Galactic Centre and the Centaurs:

Astrologically, when the Galactic Centre zone is activated by transits . . . the places, people, ideas, notions and events in our life where we have previously projected our own sense of ‘Higher Self’, or ‘Deeper Centre’ as a source of nourishment may collapse, let us down, crumble, turn against us, or simply quietly depart. That which promised ‘immortality’ fails us. Our ‘tribal’ associations, national or racial identities, while valuable on their own level, are relinquished. Through these transitions or crises, our consciousness develops. This may require a great deal of psychological processing, allowing grief and confusion to give way to peace and clarity. Both our physical bodies and subtle bodies may need attention as toxins begin to be eliminated when we travel the ‘celestial pathway’.

Urania's_Mirror_Serpentarius_Serpens

Ras Alhague, Ophiuchus from Urania’s Mirror

Mercury in the Heart of the Sun

On December 12 we will experience the heart of the Mercury retrograde phase when Mercury is purified and reborn through a conjunction with our fiery Sun.  Called the inferior conjunction of Mercury, it represents a time of illumination in which Mercury aligns in orbit exactly in between our Earth and the Sun.  All of Mercury’s significations are strengthened during the time in which Mercury is transiting within a degree of the Sun, making it an excellent window of time for all mercurial activities. As we cross this threshold of the Mercury retrograde we enter a phase of deepening meaning and realization. Occurring at 21º14′ of Sagittarius, the influence of Saturn is further amplified by Mercury’s inferior conjunction happening within the Egyptian bounds of Saturn.

The union of Mercury with the Sun is also occurring in range of a conjunction with the fixed star  Ras Alhague in the Ophiuchus constellation.  Ras Alhague is the brightest star in Ophiuchus and the head of the Serpent Holder.  Ptolemy associated Ras Alhague with Saturn and Venus, interesting since both Venus and Saturn are co-present with Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius.  Bernadette Brady wrote that “healing, teaching, or wounding” are the themes of Ophiuchus with a focus on reparations for whatever has been damaged.  The healer connection with Ras Alhague is intriguing since the inferior conjunction of Mercury occurring nearby can facilitate attention to nurture whatever needs mending.  Robert Hand and other astrologers have also connected the Serpent Holder with humanity’s attempts throughout history to grab ahold of nature in order to reap energy resources and power.  We are clearly at a collective crossroads in terms of our use and misuse of nature for energy.  Mercury’s back and forth through Sagittarius and across the Serpent Holder will bring significant messages concerning the need for change and the repercussions of inaction.

Hermes print Robert Mapplethorpe

Hermes by Robert Mapplethorpe

Solstice Station of Mercury

A few days after Mercury unites with the Sun, Mercury retrograde will conjoin Venus on December 16 at 17º52′ of Sagittarius.  Venus will be co-present with Mercury in Sagittarius for the entirety of its retrograde, making Mercury’s ability to find pleasure and harmony easier than it would normally be while in the same sign as Saturn.  Similar to the recently reborn Mercury not being at full strength due to being invisible and finishing a purification process, Venus is also not at full strength and engaged in purification on her way toward an eventual union with the Sun.  Venus and Mercury retrograde unite under a Dark Moon in Scorpio.  Nights come full of secrets and delights that are hidden from external eyes.  In the privacy of one’s inner sanctum healing and joy are possible during the interplay of Venus with the retrograde Mercury.

Mercury stations direct in Sagittarius a day after the Solstice on December 22, the peak time of darkness in the northern hemisphere and the peak time of light in the southern hemisphere.  This is also one day after Saturn enters Capricorn and forms a conjunction with the Sun at the Solstice.  Mercury also shifts into direct motion in range of a challenging square with Neptune, while forming a harmonious sextile with the South Node of the Moon in Aquarius and a stimulating trine with the North Node of the Moon in Leo.  If we have been open to flow with the chaos and allow for the necessary disintegration and dissolution, the coagulation of the Capricorn Solstice will bring needed reordering and rebirth along with the return of the holy light of Hermes.  The close of the year brings a new cycle of Saturn in its own home of Capricorn, with Mercury bright at dawn and ready to take on all of the needed responsibilities in the day ahead.

References

Baigent, Michael. (1994). From the Omens of Babylon: Astrology and Ancient Mesopotamia. Arkana.

Brady, Bernadette. (1998). Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars. Weiser.

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.

Hand, Robert. (2000). A Dialogue Between Heaven and Earth.

Jung, Carl. (1967). Alchemical Studies. Bollingen.

Kerenyi, Karl. (1976). Hermes: Guide of Souls. Spring.

Reinhart, Melanie. (2017) The Galactic Centre and the Centaurs.

 

Mercury Retrograde in Virgo & Leo

Iris

Iris

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).

Chagall the apparition.jpg

The Apparition (1917) by Marc Chagall

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.

the-creation-of-man-1958-1

The Creation of Man (1958) by Marc Chagall

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.

Iris_Carrying_the_Water_of_the_River_Styx_to_Olympus_for_the_Gods_to_Swear_By,_Guy_Head,_c._1793_-_Nelson-Atkins_Museum_of_Art_-_DSC08946

Iris Carrying the Water of the River Styx to Olympus for the Gods to Swear By (1793) by Guy Head

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.

–Demetra George

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.

References

 

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.

Mercury Retrograde in Taurus & Aries

Fingal_s_Cave,_Island_of_Staffa,_Scotland_by_Thomas_Moran,_1884-5,_High_Museum_of_Art

Fingal’s Cave, Island of Staffa, Scotland (1884) by Thomas Moran

Mercury Retrograde

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.

Mercury caduceus by Bradley

Mercury caduceus glyph by Bradley Naragon

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.

great work le triomphe hermetique

from Alexandre Toussaint de Limojon de Saint-Didier’s Le Triomphe Hermetique (1689)

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.

marlene-seven-roasting-cinnabar

Roasting Cinnabar (2017) by Marlene Seven Bremner

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.

Matta Being With

Being With (1946) by Roberto Matta

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.

References

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.