Total Solar Eclipse in Sagittarius

Robert Fludd from Utriusque Cosmi (1617)

Robert Fludd from Utriusque Cosmi (1617)

Solar Eclipse in Sagittarius

As the Sun turns black during the total Solar Eclipse in Sagittarius on December 14, so may we feel overshadowed by what is ready to be laid to rest in the darkness of our subterranean soil and what is stirring in our chthonic depths with the seeds of new growth to come. The eclipse will appear above as a dark void unveiling stars normally obscured by daylight, while below it will be felt as a fertile matrix unleashing material that has been hidden from perception into awareness. While solar eclipses have long been known to demarcate pivotal endings and beginnings in storylines, the Sagittarius Solar Eclipse is unusually significant due to it arising at the threshold of not only a new year but also a new astrological era.

Indeed, in the week following the Sagittarius Solar Eclipse we will experience Saturn entering Aquarius on December 16, Jupiter entering Aquarius on December 19, and a grand conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn on December 21, the day of the Capricorn Solstice. Not only is the conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn initiating a new twenty year cycle of sociopolitical changes in culture that always occur when Jupiter and Saturn unite, their conjunction at the end of 2020 is also marking our entrance into a new astrological era in which Jupiter and Saturn will only be forming conjunctions in the tropical air signs of Aquarius, Gemini, and Libra. After Jupiter and Saturn conjoin at 00°29′ Aquarius on December 21, there will only be conjunctions between Jupiter and Saturn in air signs until 21 December 2159 when they will unite in Scorpio, followed by two more grand conjunctions in air signs (2179 in Gemini and 2199 in Aquarius) before the elemental era fully shifts into tropical water signs in 2219.

As a result, the Sagittarius Solar Eclipse is occurring in the final week of an astrological era of Jupiter and Saturn conjoining in earth signs that began in 1802. Since eclipses typically intensify our experience of forms entering and leaving our life, there will be an immeasurably larger scale of wider collective change at the same time we will be experiencing our own personal mutations. The dissolution of the eclipse can loosen however we have been bound up in knots by difficulties from the past year, yet we may also sense an unraveling of innumerable threads of historical and cultural conditioning that have been bound together. As eclipses enhance our capacity to purify and release material attachments, we may experience not only a personal reckoning with our own past attachments but feel how there is a wider reckoning occurring across global civilizations concerning collective attachments that have dominated the past two centuries.

The astrological tradition imagines eclipses as a great dragon or serpent consuming the light of our Sun and Moon, with the North Node of the Moon symbolizing its head and the South Node its tail. The Solar Eclipse at 23º08’ Sagittarius will be aligned with the tail of the dragon, as the South Node of the Moon will be at 19º56’ Sagittarius. As a result, we can align with the eclipse by emphasizing processes associated with the South Node of the Moon such as emptying, shedding, cleansing, purifying, releasing, and harvesting. Knowing that the solstice a week after the eclipse holds great potency for visioning and intention setting with Jupiter and Saturn conjoining, the week surrounding the eclipse can help us gain a sharper sense for the projects and goals to focus on and cultivate by letting go of whatever is inessential or no longer resonant with our core purpose. Sit in the stillness of the solstice season and let the gravity of the eclipse settle your soul on the creative desires that will be most enlivening for you to cultivate and develop in the new year. Let your sense of linear time be eclipsed so that nonlinear revelations may bring inspiration as you simultaneously surrender to the dissolution, emptying, and deepening of the eclipse.

Folio from a Mu’nis al-ahrar fi daqa’iq al-ash’ar (The Free Man’s Companion to the Subtleties of Poems) of Jajarmi dated A.H. 741/A.D. 1341

More immediately, however, the Sagittarius Solar Eclipse is important due to being the first solar eclipse in a series that will occur in the signs of Sagittarius and Gemini over the course of the next year (there will be another solar eclipse at 19°47′ Gemini on 10 June 2021, followed by another solar eclipse on 3 December 2021 at 12°22′ Sagittarius). Since the eclipse is the first of a series of solar eclipses in the signs of Sagittarius and Gemini, it will introduce new narrative themes into our life while we simultaneously need to begin molting aspects of our old attachments and identity. One way to get a sense for how your story may be changing in accordance is to pay attention to the associated topics and condition of the Sagittarius and Gemini houses of your natal chart. 

As the shadow of the Moon completely covers the face of the Sun, so will the meaning of Sagittarius also undergo a blackening as it becomes veiled by the void of the eclipse. Sagittarius is the fire sign that comes at the end of the calendar year, the time of greatest darkness in the northern hemisphere when cold winds blow. Sagittarius kindles the inner fire that incites grand quests for meaning and adventure, and in its symbol of the wayfaring centaur reveals how it synthesizes reasoning with instinctual intuition as it searches widely for meaning across diverse cultures and philosophical traditions. The other primary symbol of Sagittarius is the archer, showing its tendency to look ahead and center its gaze on targets to strike, fueled by the fiery visions hovering over the horizon. In keeping with the eclipse arising at a threshold between collective eras, Sagittarius is a sign open to mystery and capable of sustaining faith in the face of the unknown.

Since the Sun is being eclipsed in Sagittarius, however, we need to be ready to release fixation on already knowing where we need to go and what we need to do. There are illusive influences swirling around the eclipse difficult to decipher, as Neptune in Pisces is forming a bewildering square aspect with the lunar nodes and the eclipse is separating from a square with Neptune. The shadow of Sagittarius involves dogmatism and self righteousness, insisting that one’s inner sense of the truth is in fact the truth despite other perspectives indicating you do not really know the full story and have not appreciated other viewpoints. It will also be important to not rush ahead with sole focus on future directions, instead taking time to contemplate the past and integrate any essential lessons from whatever old material is being emptied into the void of the eclipse. The deep wisdom of Sagittarius needs to be applied like a nonlinear spiral, reaching back in reflection on lessons learned from the past while cohering a clearer vision of the new direction opening in the year ahead.

Robert Fludd from Utriusque Cosmi (1617)

Robert Fludd from Utriusque Cosmi (1617)

Jupiter in Capricorn is the ruler of the Sagittarius Solar Eclipse as it traverses the final degree of Capricorn. Jupiter will be less than one degree away from Saturn in Capricorn during the eclipse, with Saturn at 29°44′ Capricorn spending its final two days in the sign of the Sea Goat. Saturn has been in Capricorn since 19 December 2017, and ever since Jupiter entered Capricorn a year ago on 2 December 2019 we have been experiencing the closing of not only their past twenty year synodic cycle but also their past two hundred year elemental era of uniting in earth signs. As we exit 2020 to enter 2021 we will be able to witness manifestations of the old earth era fading away as the new air era takes shape through the kind of rapid change and dispersed movement associated with air. Before crossing the threshold we will be well served by pausing within the stillness of the solstice season to recenter and deepen into envisioning the life we wish to create free from the obstacles and hangups from the past. As the new desires take root within, we can hold space for them while facing challenges and prioritize the steps that need to be taken to begin making the vision a reality.

In the larger context of being in between collective eras, it’s significant that Venus in Scorpio is applying toward an almost exact sextile aspect with Jupiter in Capricorn that it will complete a few hours after the eclipse, as well as a harmonizing sextile aspect with Saturn in Capricorn that Venus will complete the next day on December 15. Venus in the third decan of Scorpio possesses potency in digging into the roots of desires, a skill that will help us more gracefully cross the collective threshold. By laying old desires to rest we will create space for whatever new passions, interests, and dreams will emerge in accordance with the grand conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn. Venus in Scorpio will resurrect essential desires through decomposing old wounds and losses, helping us to sort what must be let go with finality and what needs to be regenerated within the new visions we enact.

Saturn has been strong in its earthy, nocturnal home of Capricorn during the past three years and so has brought immense adversity on collective and personal levels for us to endure. Yet as we sit with the lessons of Saturn and persevere through the tests brought by the star of Cronus, we slowly strengthen the bones and foundational structures of our lives. As Saturn lingers in the final degree of its Capricorn domicile that accentuates it’s cold and dry nature, it’s an ideal time to contemplate what you have created from its contraction and honing force in the past three years. Let yourself witness how you have grown in your ability to take responsibility and act from your own sense of authority, as we will each need to become even more accountable for doing our individual part in helping to create the world we wish to live in during the next three years of Saturn bringing the next level of its tests from its airy, diurnal home of Aquarius.

Robert Fludd from Utriusque Cosmi (1617)

Robert Fludd from Utriusque Cosmi (1617)

Eclipses come in families known as the Saros cycle. The origin of their ancestry begins at either the south or north pole and then traces a serpentine path around our world every eighteen or so years, moving ahead eleven degrees of celestial longitude each time. The Sagittarius Solar Eclipse on December 14, 2020 is part of the Saros 142 eclipse family that has its origin in a 1624 eclipse at the south pole. The 1624 date is intriguing for numerous reasons, including that some mainstream media reports about the upcoming conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn have stated that it will be their closest visible alignment since 1623. While other media reports have instead declared the upcoming conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn to be their closest visible alignment since 1226, it’s nonetheless notable that the period of the early 1620s has connection with the upcoming sequence of the Solar Eclipse on December 14 and the grand conjunction on December 21.

For those living in the USA during a period of intense polarized conflict that has its roots in the nation’s history, it is significant that the 1620s is the same period during which the Mayflower landed ashore, the Plymouth colony was established, and the legend of the first Thanksgiving was conceived. During this past era the collective traumas of the Atlantic slave trade displacing Africans, European immigrants fleeing oppression becoming displaced from their own ancestral culture, and indigenous people losing their land and lives all intensified in development. The ancestral wounds, grief, and trauma from this time period are still all around us, unresolved and in need of healing and reparation. While the promise and potential of being on the precipice of a new astrological era may make us want to focus on future visions, it will be necessary to return to the roots of the discord gripping current events for there to be any hope of mediating the polarized conflicts and creating a more just society.

In Bernadette Brady’s stellar book Predictive Astrology: The Eagle and the Lark she named the eclipse family of the Sagittarius Solar Eclipse “4 South” and wrote about it having its origin in a solar eclipse on March 19, 1624. However, checking the NASA site of saros series for eclipses, the origin of the Saros 142 eclipse family was actually on April 17, 1624. Brady described the 4 South eclipses as involving “very strong emotional feelings concerning relationships and/or money,” with sudden desires to end relationships running up against blocks that create great frustration, leading Brady to advise “avoid[ing] rash action until the issues settle down.” Brady’s description may have been based on some research into events associated with the saros series, but also clearly was connected to the fact that the March 19, 1624 eclipse was at the midpoint of Venus and Pluto with Pluto also in a conjunction with Mars and Venus also in an opposition with Saturn and Uranus.

In contrast, the April 17, 1624 eclipse is at the midpoint of Mars in Gemini and Chiron in Pisces, with Venus in Pisces applying to a close conjunction with Chiron. In fact, the Chiron and Venus conjunction in the origin eclipse from 1624 is at the same degree as transiting Neptune in Pisces today. As Chiron can function in connection with ancestral relationship and healing, one message from the 1624 origin eclipse relevant to the present is the capacity each of us possesses for forming relationships with our ancestors and doing our own individual part to deepen our relationship with the intersection between our ancestors and the present experienced in our individual bodies and within the world around us. As we deepen into relationship with our ancestors we deepen into recognizing the impact of culture and ancestral trauma on our individual lives as well as how they shape societal events.

Catafalque by Peter Kingsley has been my favorite book that I have read that was published during the recent transit of Saturn through Capricorn, in large measure due to the attention Kingsley gave to having relationships with our ancestors as well as stressing the importance of the living ancestors in the work of C.G. Jung. Kingsley wrote:

“We too are broken. All of us, not just some or a few, are addicts. We have lost any contact with our ancestral homes not because someone chased us out, but because we chase ourselves out. And there is not a single atrocity westerners can inflict on indigenous people that they have not also inflicted on themselves.”

If you want to reflect back upon your experience with previous solar eclipses in the Saros 142 series, the previous solar eclipse took place on December 4, 2002 at 11°58′ Sagittarius, on November 22, 1984 at 00°50′ Sagittarius, and on November 12, 1966 at 19°45′ Scorpio. All three of these eclipses were total just like the one on December 14, 2020.

Light in darkness

Robert Fludd from Utriusque Cosmi (1617)

Another key aspect of the Sagittarius Solar Eclipse involves Mercury in Sagittarius. Mercury in Sagittarius will be three degrees away from the eclipse, moving swiftly toward a conjunction with the Sun it will complete on December 19 at 28°42′ Sagittarius. Mercury will form a conjunction with the dark Moon shortly before the eclipse, and is also separating from a disorienting square aspect with Neptune. Mercury’s close presence with the eclipse will seed the significations of the star of Hermes into the impact that the eclipse will make in world events. Judith Hill in Eclipses and You listed significations of Mercury in connection with eclipses including news services, journalists, communication systems, phone and computer companies, writers, books, young people, childhood education, literacy, the postal system and language. 

Before Mercury forms its solar conjunction, it will first move through a flowing trine aspect with Mars in Aries. With Mercury separating from a square with Neptune and applying to a trine with Mars, we have a correlation in the USA with the use of the Internet and social media by those in power to manipulate public opinion that voter fraud in the presidential election took place despite having a total lack of evidence showing the proof. Whether or not your are being swayed by conspiracy theories, however, all of us are having to contend with our personal information being used by Internet companies to manipulate our choices and behavior. Mercury is also the ruler of the North Node in Gemini, and therefore its approaching union with the Sun is ideal for burning off distractions and shifting away from our attention being dispersed into too many directions into become focused upon the heart of the matter aligned with our greater purpose. All of us need to increase our capacity for critical thinking and seeing through attempts to manipulate our perception as we cross the threshold into a new astrological era of air.

As Mars in Aries is finally picking up substantial forward momentum we will likewise have increased support for getting things done and taking action. As Mercury moves through the trine with Mars and forms its conjunction with the Sun on December 19, we can ideally gain clarity regarding our creative desires and begin envisioning more fully the work we wish to create in the year ahead. At the same time, Mars is applying toward its final square aspect with Pluto in Capricorn that it will complete on December 23 a couple of days after the grand conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn. Mars previously formed a square aspect with Pluto when it was retrograde in Aries on October 9, and so we have had a few months to let whatever desires were stirred up by their previous tension to simmer within our inner depths. While we previously may have felt blocked or inhibited in some way from fully expressing whatever ambitions were ignited by Mars and Pluto in October, we can use the week following the Capricorn solstice and the conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn to make significant progress on whatever goals were forged during the past few months of Mars moving backwards and forwards in Aries.

10 of Wands

10 of Wands by Pamela Colman Smith

Sagittarius 3 Decan

The Sun in Sagittarius will be eclipsed within the third decan of Sagittarius associated with the 10 of Wands card illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith.  Human toil, endurance and perseverance are some of the immediate associations evoked by the image of determination, as this card has been associated with oppressive dynamics and limitations we must face and do our best to work through. The third face of Sagittarius is ruled by Saturn and the Sun, bringing together within its space of relentless determination the polarized tension between the limiting contraction of Saturn and the animating spirit of the Sun. While we will need to take care of necessary responsibilities in the days surrounding the eclipse, we will manage things better by refraining from overworking ourselves and instead making contemplative space to ponder the meaning gathered from our experiences.

Austin Coppock ascribed the image of “A Horse’s Skull” to the third face of Sagittarius in his book 36 Faces, describing how it reveals the unification of mind, body, and spirit through committed work and effort yoked to a goal.  Coppock also wrote that the final face of Sagittarius brings a reckoning regarding whatever needs to be sacrificed in pursuit of desires, noting that “those who walk this face must choose which burdens they will bear to the bitter end, and which are not worthy of such feats of will and endurance.” Both the Picatrix and Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy warn of the “evil inclinations” that can be harbored within this decan for those overly desperate to achieve objectives. Coppock described the intoxicating pursuit of victory that is found in this face, noting a need to realize when the “desperate fervor” of this decan’s power is appropriate and when it is inappropriate and will exact “a heavy toll.” These essential points by Coppock are in deep accord with what needs to be released and emptied into the eclipse in the third face of Sagittarius. It’s not a time for being forceful with whatever ambitions you have been consumed by, but rather a time for surrender and release so that the freed up space may generate new desires and visions that will be in greater alignment with the quality of time we will enter at the end of 2020.

In keeping with themes of necessity, the Hellenistic text The 36 Airs of the Zodiac proclaimed the presence of the primordial goddess Ananke in the third face of Sagittarius.  Ananke is the mother of the Fates, the overseer of souls incarnating in Plato’s Myth of Er, and is the primordial mother of creation in some strands of Orphic cosmology who governs the cyclic nature of the cosmos. Ananke is the goddess of Necessity, and her presence in the third face of Sagittarius further amplifies the fateful feelings that will be incited by the eclipse initiating us into the grand conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn. May the watchful eye of Ananke alert us to whatever actions needs to be taken and whatever responsibilities need to fulfilled as we contend with the burdens of Necessity. As the Sun emerges from the shadow of the eclipse and enters its sacred space of the solstice, may its returning light illuminate an inspired path of Eros for us to follow into the new era of air.

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References

Brady, Bernadette. (1998). Predictive Astrology: The Eagle and the Lark. Weiser Books.

Coppock, Austin. (2014). 36 Faces: The History, Astrology and Magic of the Decans. Three Hands Press.

Hill, Judith. (2013). Eclipses and You: How to Align with Life’s Hidden Tides. Stellium Press.

Kingsley, Peter. (2018). Catafalque: Carl Jung and the End of Humanity. Catafalque Press.

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.