Mercury (bronze, early 16th century, Italian), The Metropolitan Museum of Art
May 23, 2014: Mercury enters retrograde shadow zone of 24°23′ Gemini
June 7: Mercury stations retrograde at 3°10′ Cancer
Mercury stations retrograde in trine to Neptune stationing retrograde in Pisces (Neptune stations June 9)
June 12/13: Full Moon at 22°06′ of Gemini–Sagittarius
Venus in Taurus opposes Saturn retrograde in Scorpio exactly two minutes before the exact Full Moon in Sagittarius
June 17: Mercury re-enters the sign of Gemini
June 19: Inferior conjunction of Mercury and the Sun at 29° Gemini
June 21: SOLSTICE
June 26: Lunar occultation of Mercury as Mercury leaves combustion zone
June 27: New Moon at 5°37′ of Cancer
July 1: Mercury stations direct at 24°23′ Gemini
July 12: Full Moon at 20°03′ of Cancer–Capricorn
July 13: Mercury re-enters the sign of Cancer
July 16, 2014: Mercury moves beyond it’s retrograde stationing degree
Mercury retrograde time periods have gained a fearful notoriety in popular culture despite being an astrological gift we can enjoy with pleasure three times a year, in order to re-focus, re-tune, and re-integrate the interplay between our thoughts and expression, for a release from our previous patterns of perception. Just as there are multiple intelligences, there are multiple levels of perceptual and communicative awareness: even though our business/economy obsessed global culture (that has been dominating other cultural mindsets for centuries) attempts to demand linear and efficiently rushed communication more focused upon punctuality than quality, it does not mean that it is the perceptual and communicative mindset we are meant to function through at all times in our lives. Indeed, planetary cycles such as the Mercury retrograde phase demand that we have a lunar ability to embrace a new phase, or suffer the consequences. Perhaps the popular culture fear of Mercury retrograde cycles come from, in the end, the manipulative plutocratic agents dominating our culture who do not like the general populace becoming more watery and reflective, and harder to control as a result.
This particular Mercury retrograde is fascinating in the context of the major astrological cycles of 2014. For example, there is a clear link between this Mercury retrograde cycle and the one that occurred earlier this year in February: then, Mercury stationed retrograde conjunct Neptune in Pisces, and now, Mercury stationed retrograde in Cancer in a trine to Neptune in Pisces. Since Neptune is also in the midst of stationing retrograde right now, it means that we have an especially Neptunian Pisces retrograde cycle of Mercury to explore once again. The year of 2014 has brought forth a series of transits capable of facilitating everything from a shift to complete liberation of past patterns, as we have had a Venus retrograde, Mercury retrograde, Mars retrograde, Cardinal Grand Cross, eclipses, and the fifth of the exact first quarter squares between Pluto and Uranus. To receive a Mercury retrograde at this time is a blessing enabling us to reflect upon the first half of this year of shifting, in order for us to break free with clarified focus into uncharted territory in July, August, and September.
Bacchus as a child given by Mercury to the care of the Nymphs (Andrea Procaccini, The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Mercury is the psychopomp who can transgress boundaries, move from the upper world to the underworld and back again in order to save and guide souls. In myth Hermes/Mercury transports the infant Dionysus/Bacchus, the divine child at risk of being murdered, into the safety of nymphs who raise the child in disguise as a girl. In line with this myth as metaphor for this Mercury retrograde, we can imagine our own divine inner child in our core surrounded by loving nymphs, nurtured to grow into an authentic presence that expresses our essential nature without inhibition. While it is important to learn a healthy sense of boundaries as we grow up, we can also restrict ourselves into rigid categories of our culture such as swirl around concepts like gender. The fact Hermes took Dionysus to be raised as a girl in secret by nymphs connects with the Mercurial willingness to use deception and mystery if necessary to work the Mercurial magic of mediating a sense of the in-between, unifying opposites into wholeness. Mercury can be at its most secretive and magical during it’s initial descent into the underworld in the week and a half before its inferior conjunction, acting as a magician capable of uniting the light and dark aspects of our psyche together. During the first half of this year we may have felt yearning for an identity or sense of self beyond the boundaries of recent cultural conditioning we have been living within. If we have any lingering fears or trepidations around this new direction for ourselves, this current Mercury retrograde cycle can help us separate from recent limiting thought patterns in order to re-connect with the essential seed we wish to keep and plant, like finding our divine inner child we can raise to take great risk in our outer environment during the second half of 2014.
Children are magical, fantastic, and imaginal and yet many of us lose touch with this primary part of our nature as we become conditioned through growing up in our society. When Mercury slows into its retrograde motion, the linear and logical modes of communication we learned as adults do not function as smoothly, and instead the world of dreams, omens, intuition, hunches, and imaginal divination we are more connected with in childhood come to the forefront. Demetra George has taught that the phase of Mercury’s retrograde journey into the underworld in order to reunite with the Sun at the inferior conjunction is similar to Mercury in Pisces, a placement that in traditional astrology has the fun label of being in both detriment and fall. Sure, if you want to create an orderly, logical, rational, hyper organized academic essay at this time focused like a laser on a well-crafted thesis statement, this phase of Mercury may not be the best for you. But who would want to be writing or reading something like that all the time? Instead, if you want to enjoy passionate and poetic language that evokes the senses and emotions on such a deep level that it can be a struggle to imagine which particular words can best capture the feeling aroused in you, this phase of Mercury will reward you. During this Mercury retrograde in particular, with Neptune in Pisces stationing retrograde at the same time, we will feel the pull to dive into the inner realm of our unconscious, perhaps even our collective unconscious, into the magic of dreams and divination, into awareness of symbols surrounding us like signs guiding our intuition forward along a mysterious path unfolding step by step.
2 of Cups image by “Pixie,” Pamela Colman Smith
The stationing Mercury of this time is in Cancer, a sign ruled by the Moon. Demetra George has taught that the time of Mercury descending into the underworld during its retrograde phase is like the Balsamic phase of the Moon where we enter a liminal space of past thought patterns dissolving as a new vision of an emerging self prepares to be born at the inferior conjunction of Mercury and the Sun. In astrology, the Moon is the luminary and Mercury the personal planet with the strongest connection to our mind, to the connection between our thoughts, our response to events and relationships in our environment, and our manner of navigating our world through communication. This particular Mercury retrograde has a deeply dark moon feel to it that could feel disorienting with Neptune stationing simultaneously, and yet by transit we will actually be experiencing a waxing Moon becoming Full during the first week of this Mercury retrograde cycle. Indeed, less than a week after Mercury stations retrograde we will experience a powerful Full Moon on June 12/13 that occurs literally two minutes after an exact opposition between Venus in Taurus and Saturn retrograde in Scorpio. If we can go within to search for the insights beginning to rise from our personal underworld during this initiatory time of the Mercury retrograde, we may find them lit up in sharp relief with lunar luminosity at the time of the Full Moon this week.
This deliciously complex mix of astrological energy connects well to me with the fact that Mercury stationed retrograde in this cycle in the first decan of Cancer, a decan connected to the 2 of Cups in tarot. In the image of the 2 of Cups above by Pamela Colman Smith, we can synchronistically even notice a Mercurial caduceus ascending from the cups of lovers in mirror image, evoking the alchemical nature of the sign Gemini that Mercury will re-enter as part of this retrograde cycle. According to the astrologer, magician, and alchemist Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa, the first decan of Cancer has the image of a crowned young Virgin full of love, and indeed the 2 of Cups like the first decan of Cancer has become associated with the union of masculine and feminine energy into harmony and pleasure, and the manifestation of love. And yet, there is also a warning in this card and decan that connects to a stationing Neptune, in that new attraction can also be full of folly and lead to great dissipation of energy. Since Venus in Taurus will oppose a retrograde Saturn in Scorpio at the same time as a Full Moon in Gemini and Sagittarius a week into the Mercury retrograde, we will be forced to confront any illusory aspects of our developing passions and calling. Mercury being retrograde in the first decan of Cancer at the time of the Full Moon opposition between Venus in Taurus and Saturn in Scorpio is a perfect tool for mediating the polarity into a unified sense of greater wholeness in our being. Since this is a Full Moon occurring during the magician phase of Mercury’s journey into our underworld, we have the capacity to use imagination and vision disciplined into the focused depth of Saturn in Scorpio to bring form to the Venusian values that will delight our body and mind. In any event this can be a powerful time of an alchemical merging within ourselves, a re-tuning for our heroic self to begin to emerge with a new vision during this Mercury retrograde cycle.
The degree of Mercury’s stationing in Cancer points to the vital importance of heroic discernment at this time to trust the calling of our soul, and to refuse to pull back from our calling out of fear. According to Dane Rudhyar in his Astrological Mandala book of Sabian Symbols:
Cancer 4 keynote: An attempt at self-justification
We are still involved in the results of an act which brought about a radical reorientation of one’s life . . . A multitude of lesser decisions inevitably follows the big and grand gestures of repudiation and realignment. The desires of the body still drown the voice of the “new man.” One argues with oneself, hoping to convince oneself that the old impulses are still legitimate (p. 112).
Again, just as Hermes delivered the infant Dionysus to be mothered by nymphs in order to save his life, so we will also need to intuit during this Mercury retrograde how to nurture the seeds of our liberation from past limitations we found during the intense eclipses and Cardinal Grand Cross of the past couple of months. It is human nature at times like this to talk ourselves out of embodying a new presence, to fear the disorientation of the new and have the urge to remain in the familiar patterns of the past. Yet, if we can allow what is rising from our imaginal nature at this time to begin to take form in our mind and thought processes, we will have the opportunity for an epiphany of what needs to be cut away and what needs to be kept to create the life we want to live- Saturn retrograde in Scorpio through its full confrontation with Venus in Taurus will help make what is not nourishing our growth obvious.
Symbolically, we will in fact be heading for what Dane Rudhyar called a “crisis in consciousness” at the inferior conjunction of Mercury and the Sun on June 19, as the inferior conjunction occurs at the same time as a Last Quarter Moon in Pisces that squares the conjunction of Mercury and the Sun. This Lunar phase can be about disillusionment, especially so with a Pisces Moon squaring a Gemini Sun, and a sense of discontent in the realization of old, limiting thought patterns that are hindering the evolution of our consciousness and need to be released so our mind can midwife the new vision developing in our soul’s womb. In particular, the last quarter moon phase highlights the conditioning of our culture and place of birth as a target for self-questioning and skepticism, in order to discern what thought patterns we will want to destroy at this time and which ones we want to re-integrate into our developing new vision. The sabian symbol for 29 degrees of Gemini of “the first mockingbird of Spring” speaks to our ability to shift feeling of discontent at this time into artistry such as song and music, weaving our emotions into melodious sounds that transform frustration into love and beauty. Dane Rudhyar analyzed this symbolic degree of the inferior conjunction as “the reaction of the individual who has become sensitive to many life currents in his environment and who is able to exteriorze this welling up response as a gift to his society, displaying VIRTUOSITY” (p. 108). If we are already working on developing a particular craft or art form to express ourselves, this will be a perfect time for a final re-tunement; instead, if we are only at a point of discovering what exactly we wish to focus on to develop, this is a perfect time to eliminate thought patterns getting in our way of following through on a new passion and to set an intention to devote ourselves toward cultivating our calling, whatever it is.
Athena and Hermes (?), German engraving, 19th Century, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Another archetypal figure facilitating a heroic journey for us, in tandem with Mercury, is Pallas Athene. At the time of Mercury stationing retrograde, Pallas Athene is in Virgo in sextile to Mercury and in opposition to stationing Neptune in Pisces, becoming exactly opposite Neptune at the same time that Neptune stations retrograde on June 10, 2014. Amazingly, Pallas Athene was also opposite Neptune in Pisces last November of 2013 following the intense eclipses and fourth square between Pluto and Uranus in this cycle, just as now Pallas Athene after a retrograde journey earlier this year returns to once again oppose Neptune in Pisces following another intense eclipse season and the fifth square between Pluto and Uranus in this cycle. In tandem with Mercury and Neptune stationing at the same time, clearly something is up here.
It pleases Pallas Athene to be in Virgo, a zodiac sign with strong associations to her archetype. In myth, Pallas Athene has already proven herself worthy of defeating Neptune/Poseidon as they each competed to be the ruler of Athens and Pallas Athene won through her gift of the olive tree that was selected for its beauty and functionality, its practical use in healing, shelter, and other expressions that benefit society. Similarly, Pallas Athene being in Virgo at this time also lends us a powerful archetypal tool-set to utilize in our personal and collective projects, inspiring in us a sharpened focus to penetrate to the core of any issue we are facing. In opposition to Neptune in Pisces, however, she must be careful of delusion and illusion, falling under the influence of blind faith or an inability to distinguish between what is real and unreal in our environment. Yet, these potential pitfalls of Neptune being in opposition to Pallas Athene are the exact sort of obstacles that Pallas Athene being in Virgo is equipped to combat: in Virgo, according to Demetra George, Pallas Athene has an “analytical perception” that can sense “the essence of things in their simplest forms apart from the surrounding superfluous complications,” like “separating the wheat from the chaff” or “the wisdom of discrimination” (page 103). This is perfect symbology to utilize during a Mercury retrograde phase in which we can uncover what is true to our nature and what is false, to plant at this time of Solstice to later reap for personal and collective benefit.
Bronze Herm, ca 490 B.C., Greek, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Demetra George has lectured on the connection of the Mercury and Hermes archetype with the heap of stones called “Herms” in ancient times that marked grave mounds, eventually becoming landmarks in a time without roads to guide and protect travelers. Just as the Herm guided the living toward their journey as well as toward their dead, so Hermes became a god of boundaries: an archetype marking the boundaries of roads between cities and villages, the boundaries between the sacred and profane, and the boundaries between the living and the dead. Fittingly, this current Mercury retrograde marks the boundary between the shifting of the first half of 2014 and the unfoldment of the second half of 2014.
In particular, this Mercury retrograde re-connects us with the transits involved in the Cardinal Grand Cross of April 2014, allowing us a final re-integration of the changes wrought in our life from that time period. The inferior conjunction of Mercury and the Sun happens just before the June Solstice point, and the Mercury retrograde cycle holds within it the return of Mars in Libra moving direct to re-engage for the last time Pluto in Capricorn and Uranus in Aries. Indeed, just after the Full Moon of June 12/13 that happens at the same time as Venus in Taurus opposes Saturn in Scorpio, there will be the final square between Mars in Libra and Pluto in Capricorn on June 14. This final square in this cycle between Mars in Libra and Pluto in Capricorn happening just after a Full Moon could be explosive, but since we have already experienced this aspect twice already in the past seven months, the third time could also truly be the charm. This time we will more clearly have the opportunity to overcome the frustrating aspect of this last quarter square dynamic between these two heavy hitters, as past confrontations since the end of 2013 have probably already helped us eliminate many aspects of our life not serving our authentic will-force. Now following a glowing Full Moon with a harsh opposition between Scorpio Saturn and Taurus Venus that will further focus us on what we do and do not want in our life, we can use the Mercury retrograde timing of this final square to make a final release of negative past thought patterns in order to make our pure intuition more fully accessible moving forward.
Then, at the end of the Mercury retrograde cycle when Mercury is beginning to station direct, Mars in Libra will oppose Uranus in Aries on June 25. In stark contrast to the square between Mars and Pluto in this Mercury retrograde cycle occurring after a Full Moon, this opposition between Uranus and Mars will occur in a Balsamic Moon phase. The similarity to the square between Mars and Pluto in this Mercury retrograde cycle, however, is the fact that this aspect will electrify the old thought patterns we wish to discard during this Mercury retrograde, making what needs to be released in our mind more obvious. Yet since this opposition between Mars and Uranus occurs during a balsamic moon, we will feel more in the mystery of it all, a little more like fumbling around in the dark when we are struck by the lightning bolt of Uranus opposing Mars. Mercury at this time is separating away from the Sun about a week away from their inferior conjunction, and as there is a magical lunar occultation of Mercury on June 26, I feel like if we have learned to adapt to the modus operandi of Mercury retrograde by this point we will be able to integrate some significant insights out of the opposition between Uranus in Aries and Mars in Libra at this time.
Fantastically, in the following week we will experience a New Moon followed a few days later by Mercury finally stationing direct at 25 degrees of Gemini. Thus, the lunar connection with this Mercury retrograde is even more profound than the simple fact Mercury stationed in the lunar sign of Cancer, as we will have a beautiful Crescent Moon forming in Leo as Mercury stations direct. I love the fact that the New Moon, a time of re-visioning, will occur while we are still under the auspices of Mercury retrograde, and that Mercury will finally station direct during a Crescent Moon, a lunar phase of fighting off the ghosts of past limiting thought patterns in order to find the resources we need to move forward in our evolution within ourselves and surrounding us in our environment. Dane Rudhyar described the sabian symbol where Mercury stations direct as “the revelation of archetypal form and essential existence,” a place where we discover the essential:
At this third level of “exteriorzation” a contact with archetypes and pure forms of individual selfhood is to be sought–also with the characteristic image of the culture. Externals are left behind. This is a step beyond “pruning”; it is rather a process of removal of all superficialities of existence. Cyclically, nature helps us to reach this state of bare reality. It is not that we experience the Buddhist’s void (sunya), but rather that we reach the essence of our individual being, the form of pure selfhood which is the structuring power underneath all external features–all that belong to the “leaf” realm (p. 106).
So prepare to go into the trunk of our tree during this Mercury retrograde, and all the way down into our roots, into our underworld. In the end we will create beautiful blossoms and bonny green leaves that will dance in the wind for all to enjoy.
George, Demetra. (2008). Hermes: Guide of Soul. Lecture.
George, Demetra. (1994). Finding Our Way through the Dark. AFA.
George, Demetera with Bloch, Douglas. (1986). Asteroid Goddesses. ACS.
Rudhyar, Dane. (1973). An Astrological Mandala: the Cycle of Transformations and its 360 Symbolic Phases. Vintage.
The Tarot and the Decans: http://www.tarot.org.il/decans.html