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 / What’s thus withdrawn is most your own.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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you enjoy my writing please consider supporting my work through a monthly subscription on my Patreon page. My intention with Patreon is to receive enough support to not only help me continue to offer the articles I have been doing for free, but to also expand the scope of what I am offering. Take a look to see the benefits you will receive as a patron!