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 Gemini

Mercury Retrograde in Gemini Dream Shifting

A Measure of Dreams (1908) by Arthur B. Davies

—When I die, I will see the lining of the world.

The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset.

The true meaning, ready to be decoded.

What never added up will add up,

What was incomprehensible will be comprehended.

−And if there is no lining to the world?

If a thrush on a branch is not a sign,

But just a thrush on the branch?  If night and day

Make no sense following each other?

And on this earth there is nothing except this earth?

−Even if that is so, there will remain

A word wakened by lips that perish,

A tireless messenger who runs and runs

Through interstellar fields, through the revolving galaxies,

And calls out, protests, screams.

Czeslaw Milosz (1991) MEANING

Mercury Retrograde in Gemini

On May 18, a day after a New Moon in Taurus, we enter the second of our thrice yearly Mercury retrograde spells, this one occurring in Gemini.  As the Mercury retrograde periods in 2015 all occur in Air signs, this chapter is significant for being in the mutable sign of Gemini where Mercury makes its home and lifts our minds with winds of inspired language.  Mercury retrogrades are not a time to fear, though being aware that Mercury is setting a different tempo can help us orient to how to make productive use of its potential.  When Mercury appears to move backward from our perspective during its retrograde, it is closer in orbit to us and creates the effect of moving slower.  In correspondence, we gain access to a more magical perception that can decode messages from symbolic patterns in our daily experience.  Following Mercury’s retrograde station, Mercury disappears from our view of it hovering over our horizon and moves into the underworld and the role of guiding us into pivotal inner insights of soul.  In Gemini, Mercury plays up his mischievous trickster side that unveils the folly of those taking themselves too seriously, as well as amplifies our capacity to synthesize a multiplicity of perspectives, philosophies, and observations into shared meaning and unified vision.

Muse,
sing Hermes,
son of Zeus and Maia . . .
. . . [Maia] produced her child,
the very crafty,
the super-subtle
Hermes:
thief,
cattle-rustler,
carrier of dreams,
secret agent,
prowler,
and soon to show his stuff

–from the Homeric Hymn to Hermes

Mercury is the in-between archetype capable of seeing both sides of a duality, while mediating the tension of opposites in order to unify meaning.  Mercury in Gemini has been stereotyped as scattered and distracted, yet this curious mental quality continually finds new connections between concepts superficially viewed as disparate.  Mercury is a phallic god of fertility with a fully developed femininity that can take it beyond gender categories, a networker in the upper world of matter who can descend into the underworld and guide souls toward their next incarnation.  There is a depth to Mercury retrograde that is simultaneously full of humorous and serious exploration.  No one in society can escape the tricks Mercury plays, whether they be the chief executive of a large corporation hoarding societal rewards or an alienated, unemployed drifter struggling to survive from day to day.  When Mercury strikes with his flash of light and clever grin, the joke he pulls on you holds a profound lesson to glean in meaning.

This youthfully handsome, friendly, and thievish guide, who possesses magical golden shoes that transport him over earth and sea and a magical staff with which he puts people to sleep and awakens them again- has he not all the characteristics and attributes of a seductive and lethal guide of souls, the gentle Psychopompos of the later monuments?

–Karl Kerenyi (p. 28) Hermes: Guide of Souls

During this Mercury retrograde from 14° to 5° Gemini, one of the most significant themes is the unveiling of the archetype of Neptune in Pisces.  A little over a week before stationing retrograde, Mercury in Gemini formed a square to Neptune in Pisces, and during it’s retrograde phase Mercury will square Neptune again, ultimately stationing direct in range of a square to Neptune.  The day after Mercury stations direct at 5° Gemini, Neptune will station retrograde at 10° Pisces, leading to Mercury creating a third square with a retrograde Neptune in Pisces after moving direct again. Since Neptune in Pisces represents our collective tapestry of consciousness and the unconscious, the square from Mercury in Gemini can lead us to penetrate into the connective details found in the interwoven threads of meaning within the Neptunian fabric surrounding us.  If we open ourselves to the possibility of shifting our future visions, we can experience a re-alignment that sheds what has been disillusioning and re-centers us on the dreams that are most deeply felt and authentic.

As Mercury is also a boundary marker whose presence at entryways and borders is especially illuminated during Mercury retrograde time periods, it is further significant that Saturn, the planet of boundaries, is also retrograde when Mercury shifts direction and in range of an opposition to both the Sun and Mars.  This very same sense of restriction we could feel from Saturn toward the Sun and Mars at the beginning of the Mercury retrograde is the very fuel Mercury will consume in order to stimulate our thoughts beyond previous limitations:

Archetypally, we can see in the image of Hermes a mythical statement of the psyche’s innate tendency to give definition to perceptual and mental horizons, to mark edges, to define spaces. Originally Hermes stood at the edge of known space . . . His sign marked the limit of consciousness. Beyond the boundary lies the unknown, the uncanny, the dangerous, the unconscious. When markers are created and limits set, however, curiosity and explorativeness are also excited and new spaces for exploration and discovery invite the bold and courageous traveler. If Hermes marks the boundary between conscious and unconscious, we have to realize that this boundary is always shifting and in flux; it is mercurial. Background and foreground may instantaneously reverse too, and generate new perceptions, novel insights.

Within the area of the known, containers take shape which are reserved for specific types of human activity, while beyond them lies the “other,” the foreign (even if only temporarily), the taboo, the forbidden, the unclean. Hermes standing at the boundary marks a psychological and sometimes a moral limit and calls special attention to the space being entered or left. When he first appears, he may create a new space by dividing a vast horizon into the “here” and the “beyond,” and thus he creates both consciousness and a new unconscious. His intervention in the perceptual and psychological field creates new possibilities for consciousness, also new edges and boundaries beyond which lie the mysterious “others.” When he disappears, there is a loss of identity and definition.

— Murray Stein from Hermes and the Creation of Space (1999)

Mercury Retrograde in Gemini passage

Two Trees (1875) by Odilon Redon

When I ran barefoot in our gardens by the river Niewiaza

Something was there, that I didn’t then try to name:

Everywhere, between the trunks of linden trees, on the sunny side of the lawn, on the path by the orchard.

A Presence resided, I didn’t know whose.

The air was full of it, it touched me, it held me close.

It spoke to me through the scents of grass, the flute voice of the oriole, the twitter of swallows.

Had I then been taught the names of gods, I would easily have known their faces.

But I grew up in a Catholic family, and so my surroundings were soon teeming with devils, but also with the saints of the Lord.

Yet in truth I felt their Presence, all of them, gods and demons,

As if rising within one enormous unknowable Being.

Czeslaw Milosz (2002) PRESENCE 

Once Mercury has stationed retrograde he ushers us into a darker, deeper, underworld phase of our path, a stage during which our Mercurial perceptions function most strongly with intuition and symbolic awareness of patterns perceived in our journeys by day as well as at night in our dreams.  We enter a liminal space of shifting speed that slows things down enough to take in a deeper examination of the underlying patterns we have been living from.  This is a time in which our minds can be more free than normal to take in new insight, and we can ultimately emerge from the period with a revitalized perception.  In a Mercury retrograde it matters less that you have constructed a rationally balanced argument to support your position, and matters more that you have described your perspective with poetic imagery that can strike at the hearts of your audience.

Mercury retrograde is also a time of synchronicity, and in this way we are fortunate that this Mercury retrograde in Gemini begins with the Moon applying to a conjunction with Mercury in the sign of the Twins.  The Moon uniting with Mercury at the beginning of the retrograde increases our capacity to orient ourselves to the changes that will be coinciding with the Mercury retrograde and to begin to attune to the meaning that will be taking shape for us.  There is also an expansive quality to the stationing of Mercury found in the sextile between Mercury and Jupiter in Leo, and since Jupiter in Leo is also in trine to Uranus in Aries it signifies that this coming Mercury retrograde could coincide with dramatic breakthroughs in thought that take us to a new level of thinking in whatever realm we have been exploring.  The less we can be tied and bound to rigid, fixed belief systems, and the more we can liberate ourselves from past dogmatic thinking, the better we will be able to access the potential of this Mercury retrograde that appears to be very impressive in the field of creative thought and communication.

The Sun and Mars joining Mercury in Gemini is another important theme, and at the beginning of the Mercury retrograde the Sun and Mars are in range of an opposition to Saturn retrograde in Sagittarius, with Mars separating from an opposition to Saturn and the Sun applying to an opposition with Saturn.  Mars in Gemini is full of mental activity, and it’s inquisitive nature could spark us to intellectually challenge authorities in our field of interest.  Since Saturn in Sagittarius is retrograde, we could experience a de-conditioning from belief systems that have not been authentically resonant for us through exploring exciting new sources of knowledge.  As Mars separates from it’s opposition to Saturn it will begin to form an exact square with Neptune in Pisces, and so this tension can compel us to go deeper into metaphysical study of our subject.  In particular, the combination of Mercury retrograde in Gemini uniting with Mars direct in Gemini will feed our ability to create new categories and definitions of meaning that will both expand and intensify any subject we sustain focus on.  If we are full of hubris or living in an illusion, the square between Mars in Gemini and Neptune in Pisces could result in a great Mercury retrograde joke being played on us that reveals the foolishness of our ways.

Also during the initial phase of Mercury retrograde, transiting Venus in Cancer will claim center stage by triggering the Uranus and Pluto square with an opposition to Pluto in Capricorn and a square to Uranus in Aries.  These stressful, growth-oriented aspects to Venus will give Mercury retrograde a lot of material to work with, and if you are a writer there could be incredible depth to access and process through your craft.  Venus triggering the Pluto and Uranus square will uncover our emotional needs and insecurities we have been overcompensating for in one way or another.  Significant memories could arise to process that connect back to any point within the series of seven squares between Pluto and Uranus that have been in range since 2011.  This is fortuitous in both the healing and creative realms, as memory is a fertile source from which the Mercury retrograde can weave new meaning from the release of old thought forms.  The connection between Mercury with memory and creativity can be found in the Homeric hymn to Hermes, where it is revealed that Hermes is a follower of the Titaness of memory, and mother of muses, Mnemosyne:

Suddenly [Hermes] started playing the lyre
louder, reciting a prelude-
and the sound accompanying him
was lovely-
about the immortal gods
and the dark earth,
how they were in the beginning,
and what prerogatives each one had.
And the first of the gods
that he commemorated with his song
was Mnemosyne, Mother of Muses,
for the son of Maia
was a follower of hers.

–from the Homeric Hymn to Hermes

Mercury Retrograde Inferior Conjunction

Vision (1883) by Odilon Redon

That boundless substance,

different, in any case, from

the flight of a crane, the gait of a tiger,

the underwater gambols of sperm whales.

In dreams I saw cities of gas and metal,

unceasing fabric of the mind.

Music of the spheres, music of violins and flutes.

That, which endures,

while they are born and die.

Higher than the blind energies of matter,

higher than currents running in the body

of eel, piranha, shark, so they may open

their jaws and devour their catch.

A temple full of little gods and demons,

with a vast number of nicknames and tails.

Czeslaw Milosz (2003)

The Inferior Conjunction of Mercury and the Sun in Gemini, the point of conception for a freshly synthesized vision, occurs at 9:56 am Pacific Standard Time on May 30, 2015 at nine degrees of Gemini.  Gemini is one of the mutable, double-bodied signs, perhaps through the image of the twins being the most exemplary sign of the human tendency toward dualistic thinking.  Just like the heaven of connecting with another human we consider to be a kindred spirit, soul mate, twin flame, . . . etc . . . it can be the deeply felt experience of our own personal patterns being mirrored back to us through another that sparks an epiphany of self-realization, and demonstrates how the interplay between twins can coalesce transcendent thought.  At the inferior conjunction we have a magical moment to achieve a one-pointed focus of the unity that holds duality within it, that bridges a multiplicity of meaning to a unified perspective, and that guides us into an insightful realization about our soul and associated patterns.  This is a time to meditate or surrender to Hermes the Psychopomp, as we allow the message of the moment to soak into our core and revivify our perception.

The Sabian Symbol for 9° Gemini where Mercury’s inner union with the Sun occurs is “A QUIVER FILLED WITH ARROWS,” and fittingly had a double meaning to Dane Rudhyar.  On the lower level, this symbol represents the human capacity “to extend the scope of his conquest of nature and kill enemies in order to build a larger base for the collective development of a culture and an organized society” (p. 95).  Since a quiver of arrows suggests the existence of a target to aim at, this symbol also represents the penetrating potential of the human mind to go through the target toward which it aims, destroying the obstacles on its path.  At a higher level, Rudhyar likened this symbol to the “Zen practice of archery” in which “the obstacle is the ego” (p. 95).  The unifying concept of this symbol to Rudhyar is “CONQUEST,” whether it is applied to conquering the external world or the restrictive influence of the ego on our inner world. During this Mercury retrograde, it is best to remember Rudhyar’s conjecture of conquest, as the moment our ego grabs hold of us in order to win a debate at all costs, is the moment that the staff of Hermes could suddenly strike and enfold us in a joke of which we are the punchline.  The more we can sustain a collaborative, creative air between us and those holding sharply contrasting opinions, we will be better able to avoid the pitfalls of dispute that stresses more so than enlivens.  The inspiring potential we find here is that by listening to opinions coming from drastically different perceptions to our own, we can fertilize tremendous growth of knowledge from within.

With the Sun and Mercury exactly conjunct in Gemini and in square to Neptune in Pisces, with Mars in Gemini in sextile to Jupiter in Leo and Uranus in Aries, we have a regenerating, liberating well to drink from within us even though the current events dominating the global stage are filled with instability, violence, discord, and oppression.  An image that comes to my mind in association with the strong Gemini energy of the Sun, Mercury retrograde, and Mars is that of a WITNESS to life in all of its complex depth, a witness who is then willing to serve as a messenger to inform the surrounding society about what is going on in secrecy behind the proverbial locked doors Mercury can open for us.  When we express the full story we are witnessing within and around us, we beam our light into the collective matrix and move others with the emotive, wakening wind of Mercury.

“World” can be a comprehensive idea if as an autonomous entirety it accommodates the observer as if he were moving about in the world he normally is surrounded by.  The world of the Iliad or that of the Odyssey accommodates us in this way.  Every such world, however, is at the same time a worked-out idea of the world that existed already prior to this expression of it and that lent itself to the finished expression of the idea.  There can be no “world”- even if it is the purely spiritual epiphany of an intellectually luminous god- which is not “worldly,” that is, which does not function as a space to contain the content of the revelation in a fitting way.  If a god is “idea” and “world,” he remains nonetheless in connection with the world that contains all such “worlds”; he can be only an “aspect of the world” while the world of which he is an aspect possesses such idea-aspects. Indeed, it has the ability to shine forth in its totality as idea, it possesses the light of the idea, and is itself in its own way lighted and clear . . . “Light” and “clear” in the sense of “world-like” – and therefore convincing – could also be the idea of Hermes.

— Karl Kerenyi (p. 69) Hermes:  Guide of Souls

Mercury Retrograde in Gemini stationing direct

Germination by Odilon Redon (1890-96)

To find my home in one sentence, concise, as if hammered in metal. Not to enchant anybody. Not to earn a lasting name in prosperity. An unnamed need for order, for rhythm, for form, which three words are opposed to chaos and nothingness.

Czeslaw Milosz (1981-1983)

After Mercury separates from its inner merging with the Sun, the Sun moves on to initiate a conjunction with Mars in Gemini, as Mercury begins its shifting ways again and starts to station direct. The Sun conjoining Mars in Gemini constellates images of a warrior of words, a passionate poet, an intellectual activist who refuses to collude with oppressive powers and instead expresses her voice in defiance to surrounding injustice.  The Sun-Mars conjunction in Gemini as Mercury stations direct germinates our desires with inquisitive thoughts that can reveal new meaning for us through the juxtapositions of language and philosophies we encounter.  At the same time the Sun and Mars are coming together in Gemini, Mercury is stationing direct in range of a square to Neptune that is also stationing retrograde simultaneously.  We have had four years so far to experience the meaning of Neptune in Pisces by transit, and in the first couple of weeks in June 2015 we can receive illumination of any Neptunian illusions that have been sourcing our conditioned beliefs.  As an illusion of Neptune is unveiled, in the winged steps of Mercury we will be able to experience a sharper sense of clarity and direction to follow forward.

In this final phase of the Mercury retrograde cycle in Gemini, one of the most significant transits is the ingress of Venus into the fiery, solar sign of Leo during the first week of June.  Venus in Leo ignites a creative actualization of the mental contents the Mercury retrograde has been brewing, and by the time Mercury stations direct Venus in Leo will have passed through a beautiful sextile to Mercury in Gemini.  There is a potent re-integration available at this upcoming stationing direct of Mercury at five degrees of Gemini, that can unbind and untether us from restrictive thought patterns.  This potential release can be seen in the transits of the Moon conjoining Uranus in Aries at the time of Mercury stationing direct, with the Moon-Uranus conjunction in Aries being in sextile to the Sun-Mars conjunction in Gemini and in trine to the Jupiter-Juno conjunction in Leo.  Within this magical mix of astrological aspects, Mercury will arise from the underworld at dawn and with a flash of light illuminate our waking horizon as our Morning Star again.

Hermes, draw near, and to my pray’r incline,
Angel of Jove, and Maia’s son divine;
Prefect of contest, ruler of mankind,
With heart almighty, and a prudent mind.
Celestial messenger of various skill,
Whose pow’rful arts could watchful Argus kill.
With winged feet ’tis thine thro’ air to course,
Emblems of Mercury 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.
Whose hand contains of blameless peace the rod,
Corucian, blessed, profitable God.
Of various speech, whose aid in works we find,
Emblems of Mercury And in necessities to mortals kind.
Dire weapon of the tongue, which men revere,
Be present, Hermes, and thy suppliant hear;
Assist my works, conclude my life with peace,
Give graceful speech, and memory’s increase.

–from the Orphic Hymn translated from the Greek by Thomas Taylor (1824)

MercuryStationRetroWRIGC2A

MercuryInferiorConjunctWRIGC1A

MercuryStationDirectWRIGC3

References

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

Milosz, Czeslaw. (2011). Selected and Last Poems, 1931-2004. HarperCollins.

Rudhyar, Dane. (1974). An Astrological Mandala: the cycle of transformations and its 360 symbolic phases. Vintage.

Stein, Murray. (1999).  Hermes and the Creation of Space.

Mercury Retrograde at the Gate of Neptune

water nymph by John Collier

Mercury stations conjunct Neptune in Pisces

  • Mercury stations retrograde on February 6, 2014 at 3º20′ conjunct Neptune in Pisces (Neptune will be at 4°25′) at 1:43 pm PST.

  • Mercury returns to Aquarius on February 12 having been between zero and four degrees of Pisces from January 31 – February 11 (take note people with planets between 0 – 4 degrees of Mutable signs).

  • Inferior conjunction of Mercury retrograde and the Sun on February 15, 2014 at 27º4′ of Aquarius.  This inferior conjunction will be square Saturn in Scorpio and in trine to Mars in Libra.

    • Full Moon the day before the Inferior Conjunction at 26°13′ of Aquarius and Leo.

  • Mercury stations direct on February 28, 2014 at 18º9′ of Aquarius.

  • Mercury leaves its retrograde shadow zone on the Equinox of March 20, and will be exactly conjunct Neptune at 6°02′ of Pisces on March 22, 2014.

“The Water Nymph” painting above is by an artist, John Collier, with an interesting connection to this astrological moment- he was born in 1850, the last time Neptune was in Pisces at its current area of Pisces, and he also was born with an Aquarius Mercury in the same place as the upcoming inferior conjunction of Mercury retrograde and the Sun.  To me, the “nymph” in the image is completely absorbed into nature, her natural surroundings, the Soul of the world, opening her to a direct connection with Spirit.  While this connects with Mercury conjunct Neptune in Pisces, so does her gazing at her reflection in the water connect with a Mercury retrograde cycle beginning in Pisces.  During Mercury retrograde we have the opportunity to reflect upon our perceptions, imaginings, and just exactly where are thoughts are coming from.  This can be an internal experience, but we will most likely get a sense of how our inner dynamics are operating through our relationship to the outer world and interactions with others, including conflicts.  There are astrological signs we will experience challenges in the external world at this time, as calming as Mercury stationing retrograde conjunct Neptune in Pisces may sound.  This is because Mercury stationing retrograde happens at a first quarter Moon of Taurus at 19 degrees that is especially intense, as the Aquarius Sun and Taurus Moon forms a t-square with Saturn in Scorpio at 23 degrees.  This is happening simultaneous to the other big t-square of Cancer Jupiter opposite Venus and Pluto in Capricorn, all in square to Uranus in Aries.  Beginning on February 6, we will be facing these challenges with Mercury descended to the underworld, acting as the Psychopomp guide of our souls.

The Sabian symbols as interpreted by Dane Rudhyar give us a clear warning for this upcoming Mercury retrograde- desires and thoughts not aligned with Soul and Spirit, or Source (or Gods, Goddesses, God, what have you) will not only crash on a wave of disillusionment but may bring significant karmic repercussions to not just ourselves but the wider collective of our world.  The Sabian symbol for Mercury stationing retrograde is “heavy car traffic on a narrow isthmus linking two seashore resorts,” while the symbol for Neptune at this time is “a church bazaar.” Huh? Well, Rudhyar explains the isthmus traffic jam as a relic of the fact that the Sabian symbol transmissions went down in the San Diego, California area where such structures exist.  Since traffic jams are an astrological stereotype connected to Mercury retrograde periods, this may make sense, but the meaning of this symbol is much deeper.  Part of the meaning is a “traffic jam” of thoughts and information, as anyone who has been on social media is familiar with.  Thoughts have always been viral, with any thought carrying the potential to become swept up into the whirlwind of the collective zeitgeist and infecting multitudes, with many not even aware of how their previous thoughts have been shifted by the new viral thought pattern.  However, social media and things like facebook have made this phenomenon more extreme- facebook in particular being problematic as its feedback mechanism circulates posts from people you have “liked,” so the tendency is a feedback loop of people with similar perspectives or interests.  Rudhyar notes in the symbol that the sea surrounding the isthmus of traffic “stresses the collective nature of social experiences and of what may appear to be ‘individual’ achievements” (p. 271).

Rudhyar also highlights words such as “commerce and social interactions in a new form,” and “the need to establish unceasing dynamic relationships between all aspects and functions of the social life” (p. 270-1).  There is a danger in establishing new forms of interactions and relationships if we are not discerning, however, as the “church bazaar” symbol for Neptune connects with the social fabric of religions, the Church, or any group coming together for a spiritual purpose, from the New Age to the old.  The Neptune/Mercury/Pisces danger is that these social groups create a code of being that “justifies human behavior by blessing it with a divine Revelation of what is good and valuable” (Rudhyar, p. 271).  Spiritual doctrine guiding “right human relations” is valuable, however, there is also a Neptune trap of individuals justifying or rationalizing their behavior because of a belief it is of divine origin, or what God wants them to do, when in actuality it is more about their own selfish desire at the bottom line.  This is an important aspect of the Neptune archetype developed by Jeff Green in his soul-focused Evolutionary Astrology:  that while Neptune can help us spiritualize our life and connect with a timeless sense of ultimate meaning, we can also project delusional beliefs concerning ultimate meaning and can deceive ourselves and others that our selfish, separating desires are connected to Divine Will.

I see this connecting to the Sabian symbol for where Mercury is stationing direct at 19 Aquarius, “a forest fire is being subdued by the use of water, chemicals, and sheer muscular energy.”  As Rudhyar analyzed, forest fires can often be caused by humans and their modern inventions of technology, the tools of commerce and communication referenced in the Sabian symbol for where Mercury stationed retrograde.  And yet, at the same time the dynamic capacity humans have for communication and ingenuity can help us recover from disasters and come to the aid of life in danger of eradication.  Along these lines, the dynamic modes of communication indicated by the stationing symbol could also relate to us coming into contact with like-minded people, groups of people, on a global level, using technology to connect with others across great distances.  However, as Rudhyar noted in his analysis, the stationing degree symbol for Mercury indicates we will have our “strength, ingenuity or emotional stability” tested at this time, and that with faith we will have to draw from every resource available- “emotional, mental, physical” (p. 261).  Thus, whatever collective calamities will be arising that many of us are partially responsible for, we can use this Mercury retrograde cycle to re-formulate ourselves and prepare for the challenging times ahead, connecting with others who will be mutually benefit supports with us.  The Sabian symbol for the inferior conjunction of Mercury and the Sun is aligned with this idea:  “a tree felled and sawed to ensure a supply of wood for the winter.”  I feel this line of analysis from Rudhyar is very pertinent for now:  “In meeting the hardships inherent in an existence close to nature, strength, efficiency and intelligence are needed, but they are incorporated in a life in which every act can be part of a harmonic and beautiful ritual permeated with deep significance” (p. 266).  The more we can use this Mercury retrograde to go within, to question and discern our thoughts and perceptions and their source, the better.  The more we can sense and feel the soul of everything, everyone, everywhere we go in our daily experiences, the more we can connect with the correct current of Neptune for us to float down during this retrograde.  Neptune transits can be confusing, and so a Mercury retrograde cycle initiated by Neptune in Pisces sounds like perhaps the most disorienting of all: yet while these Sabian symbols and the deeper meaning of the astrology do suggest we need to be discerning in navigating through a Pisces fog, there is at the same time a tremendous inner resource available for us to cultivate with work that will help us persevere through the challenging times ahead on the horizon.

Mercury is traditionally not seen as operating smoothly in Pisces, since Pisces is the opposite sign of Virgo that is ruled by Mercury.  While Virgo embodies incredible tools and techniques for smooth, clear, and effective communication, Pisces still carries its own unique gifts into Mercury.  However, keeping the “viral” idea of thoughts in mind is important for Pisces, a sign that can be overly sensitive to its environment (and why Pisces people usually sense on their own when they need to take some time to themselves away from the thoughts of others).  Spending time going within is key now- reflecting, meditating, whatever will help us re-center and realize whether or not our desires are coming from an authentic affinity for soul and spirit or if instead they are being manipulated by outside sources or overly selfish desires. Mercury in Pisces is more intuitive and poetic than it is in other signs, perhaps open to misinterpretation but capable of expressing incredible emotion, perceiving and communicating the essence of the soul embedded in every aspect of our environment.  Looking at a list of people with Mercury in Pisces is a look at genius in a variety of fields:  Dane Rudhyar, Rudolph Steiner, Charles Darwin, Copernicus, Gallileo, Bach, Houdini, James Joyce, Stephane Mallarme, Charles Baudelaire, Milan Kundera, Roberto Assagioli, Kurt Cobain, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Harry Belafonte, Auguste Renoir, and Piet Mondrian.  Creating a structure or form for Mercury in Pisces is absolutely vital, however, so that there is a way to communicate the insights a Pisces Mercury can perceive in a form other people can understand.  This Mercury retrograde will be an opportune time to create a daily practice of some form where we can process our experience.  This sort of practice can be even more beneficial given that Venus has recently stationed direct and is now moving forward back across her retrograde shadow zone.  In fact, on the same day of Mercury’s Inferior Conjunction with the Sun-  February 15, 2014-  Venus will be shining at her peak level of brightness as the Morning Star.

Botticelli-primavera

The Botticelli painting above, commonly called “La Primavera” or “Allegory of Spring,” contains two pivotal archetypal figures of this astrological time, Mercury on the far left pointing toward the celestial heavens, and Venus honored in the center.  The Botticelli painting above is also fitting for this Mercury retrograde because Mercury will not leave its retrograde shadow zone until the Northern Hemisphere’s Spring Equinox of March 20, 2014 (the Autumn Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere- but Botticelli lived in the Northern Hemisphere).  In his extraordinary book The Planets Within: the Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino, Thomas Moore analyzed this work through the soul-focused perspective of Marsilio Ficino, a Renaissance astrologer and philosopher who had an enormous influence over Bottitcelli.  Moore wrote that Mercury “looks to the clouds, not because he has no place in the scene or is not interested in life’s graces, but because it is his office and function to see behind the facade of things, to find the significance and value which lay hidden in the folds of ordinary existence” (p. 142).  Moore also elaborated at depth on how this image embodies the perspective of Ficino that Venus is both an earthly and celestial goddess, concluding that “Venus leads the soul into the body and through the body to spirit.  From spirit, to body, back to spirit” (p. 142).  Ficino saw spirit as being like the “fire of the stars,” and intrinsically connected to soul, emphasizing the importance of imagination in finding our path and calling in the world (p. 49).  Moore wrote that Ficino valued imagination because it “allows of a vision that penetrates the surface of things and grasps those factors that have significance for the psyche” (p. 50).  With Mercury retrograde descended to the underworld at this time, our imagination will be an important skill to use in our daily life because Mercury in this soul-guide role will open us to perceiving information in dreams, omens, synchronicity, and other signs we will pass on a daily basis.

Although there is potential for us to find our path through allowing ourselves to be guided by soul during this Mercury retrograde, Ficino like many other spirit guides from history emphasized the importance of self-awareness and getting to know one’s self on a deep level:

Whoever discovers his own genius through the means we have stated will thus find his own natural work, and at the same time he will find his own star and daimon.  Following these beginnings he will do well and live happily.  Otherwise, he will experience misfortune and feel the enmity of heaven.

–Marsilio Ficino, The Planets

Mercury retrograde in Pisces conjunct Neptune at this time, with Venus slowly moving direct conjunct Pluto in Capricorn, are two celestial configurations to draw from in opening our perception to the Soul of our surroundings and a connection with Spirit.  Venus in particular can help us get into touch with our soul through our body and physical surroundings at this time, as she is still close to Pluto after her long retrograde journey.  However, both being personal planets that are highly charged at the moment, they are also both pivotal archetypes to utilize at this time for deep internal reflection and gaining a deeper awareness for what is going on in our inner relationship with our Self.  Indeed, Venus is opposite Jupiter in Cancer at this time, and Jupiter is the traditional ruler of Pisces where Mercury is stationing retrograde.  Jupiter in Cancer is also retrograde in a Water sign like Mercury, so going into our emotions at this time can be very fruitful and revealing.  We will want a practice of some sort to access this information- it can be contemplative like taking some time to simply breathe or meditate, or it can be more active like playing music, creating art, or writing.

Venus is a potent ingredient to this Mercury retrograde not just because she is currently conjunct Pluto and opposite Jupiter, however, but also because at the beginning of the Mercury retrograde she is ruling the transiting South Node in Taurus.  Significantly, in the days leading up to Mercury stationing direct, the lunar nodes will switch signs with the South Node becoming Aries, and the North Node becoming Libra. As a result, when Mercury stations direct Venus will have become the ruler of the transiting North Node of the Moon.  This is another sign of an important bridge at this time between our own individual experience with the wider collective experience-  take the responsibility to create the life you want to live, instead of wasting energy through complaining about what other people are doing.

Rudolf Steiner pencil sketch

Aquarius Alchemical Vessel

The inferior conjunction of Mercury retrograde and the Sun will be at 28 degrees of Aquarius on February 15, but will still carry overtones from the retrograde initiation of Mercury conjunct Neptune in Pisces.  The above pencil sketch was drawn by astrologer and philosopher Rudolph Steiner, who was born with Mercury conjunct Neptune in Pisces and is a good example of the sort of limitless perception a Pisces Mercury-Neptune combination is capable of embodying.  Relevant to the meaning of Mercury retrograde, Steiner once said,  “Thinking … is no more and no less an organ of perception than the eye or ear.  Just as the eye perceives colours and the ear sounds, so thinking perceives ideas.”  He also wrote Mystery plays with titles fitting to this Mercury retrograde:  The Portal of InitiationThe Souls’ ProbationThe Guardian of the Threshold and The Soul’s Awakening.  The upcoming inferior conjunction of Mercury and the Sun will be in Aquarius, however, a sign with a very different energy than Pisces.   Aquarius is the water bearer, but the water borne by Aquarius is illuminating and purifying, more of a cleansing energy than the fertile waters of Pisces that can get us rather muddy.   The inferior conjunction is like the New Moon for Mercury and the Sun, a new point of conception for our Mercury function and archetype in the world.   In contrast, the time leading up to this inferior conjunction, from February 6-14, will be more like a Balsamic Moon for Mercury, a time of releasing old thought forms, patterns, and embedded concepts in preparation for the new Aquarius vision to come after February 15.  We can feel confused at this time if we are insisting on being overly logical or rational, because the more “irrational” or unconscious mode of perception will be open to a greater extent, with information arising around us in dreams, signs, and symbols.

The inferior conjunction happening in Aquarius is perfect for a new vision, and the fact Mercury will re-enter Aquarius a few days before will help us objectify and detach from old thought forms in order to clear them for good.  Saturn is the traditional ruler of Aquarius, and Saturn in Scorpio will be very significant in this time period as the inferior conjunction will be in square to Saturn in Scorpio, and when Mercury finally stations direct on February 28, Saturn will be stationing to turn retrograde a few days later on March 3.  In addition, during the Mercury retrograde there will be a lunar occultation of Saturn in Scorpio on February 21.   Saturn has correlations in astrology to the alchemical process in association to the lead or base of conscisousness, a darkness that paradoxically contains its own light and gold.  This is the Jungian idea that by going into our darkness and shadow, we can alchemize and heat up our inner spark of gold- in this case events associated with transiting Saturn in Scorpio.  Aquarius will lend it’s penetrating insight to this inferior conjunction of Mercury as well as Mercury’s eventual stationing direct at the end of February, a perceptual awareness that can detach from emotional compulsions and can facilitate us liberating ourselves from habitual patterns of thought that have been limiting us.  We can use Aquarian insight to help us structure our own alchemical vessel within, mindful of the concept in verse 10 of the Tao Te Ching in which Lao Tzu states that “Clay is moulded to form a vessel, but it is the emptiness inside that gives the vessel its use.”   If you prefer to use Uranus as the ruler of Aquarius like most modern astrologers, then you don’t need to look farther than Uranus in Aries being in a t-square to Cancer Jupiter and Capricorn Pluto/Venus at this time for the star fire to heat your alchemical vessel.  No matter what your rulership perspective is, however, there is more than enough star fire going around in various transits to heat  your experiences into greater clarification.

While a square from Saturn in Scorpio to the Sun and Mercury in Aquarius may sound intense, there is also a tradition that there is sympathy in the square between Aquarius and Scorpio because they “see” one another as a result of being signs of equal power.  I recently watched an excellent webinar by Seattle astrologer Kate Petty called “Reflections Across the Cardinal Axis” that is available from Kepler College in which she very clearly illustrated this ancient concept if anyone is interested in learning more about this (basically it has to do with the fact that Scorpio and Aquarius are equi-distant signs from the Solstice, or Capricorn/Cancer axis).  In addition, since Saturn is the traditional ruler of Aquarius there is an affinity here, and with Saturn being in Scorpio we can add in a soul-focus to this affinity that connects to the humanitarianism of Aquarius.  There will also be a trine from Mars in Libra to the inferior conjunction in Aquarius of Mercury and the Sun, which will give us an opportunity to link our new vision into social justice concerns and issues, or into the development of new relationships.  Mars will be stationing retrograde in Libra immediately following Mercury stationing direct in Aquarius, and so this trine between Mars and the Mercury inferior conjunction is a powerful omen of an auspicious link between the two cycles to take advantage of for an increased self-awareness that will ultimately help us face oppressive conditions and other issues related to social justice in the collective global community.

Saturn in Scorpio is a karmic placement not unlike the deities Kali and Mahakala, and Saturn will suffer no fools at this time.  As a result, if we are operating from some delusional beliefs or selfish desires we will no doubt have something loudly and boldly thrown in our face, so to speak, or experience profound disillusionment from within.  If our imagination becomes activated, we will no doubt face tests of whether we are perceiving true or fabricated imaginal thought; likewise, if we feel a spiritualization occurring we will face tests of whether we are perceiving a true or fabricated connection to spirit.  Avoid clinging to denial out of defensiveness at this time and be open to questioning any beliefs or thoughts you have been operating from.  As Scorpio and Aquarius are both fixed signs, if we are unwilling to shift or flow with the current of our life we will add fuel to the fire of conflict arising around us.

Moon pamela colman

Leo Full Moon squares Scorpio Saturn

Prior to the inferior conjunction of Mercury and the Sun we will have a huge build up of energy with a  Leo Full Moon occurring on the previous day, in square to Saturn in Scorpio.  If you haven’t been paying attention, that means Feburuary 14, the traditional “Valentine’s Day” of romantic fantasy and illusion in our culture.  Perfect, right.  Remember that as we approach this build of energy that Mercury is in the underworld guiding our soul experiences and so we will want to attune to and align with the signs arising around us indicating the path forward.  This is a powerful lunar cycle:  the New Moon began the day before Venus stationed direct conjunct Pluto and opposite Jupiter, and then the Full Moon happens the day before the inferior conjunction of Mercury and the Sun, all in square to Saturn in Scorpio.  I feel having some strong Leo lunar energy at this time will be a true blessing of the goddess, as we will be saturated so much in Aquarius and Scorpio energy.  This will be an important time for self-love and to pamper yourself like you would a lover; if you are lucky enough to have a true lover in your life, this can of course be a mutual experience.  Just don’t get caught up in the blown-up romantic expectations of our cultural Valentine’s Day driven by selfish corporations who want you to purchase their ethically questionable chocolate.  If we have been behaving in an overly selfish manner, or projecting our opinions and desires in an unbalanced way into our environment in order to over-compensate for inner wounding or lack of true confidence, the Leo Full Moon may illuminate these issues strongly through the  square from Saturn in Scorpio.

7th Harmonic

7th Harmonic in February

Finally, I briefly want to comment upon how a 7th Harmonic could possibly be affecting your natal chart at this time.  The above diagram was drawn by Olympia astrologer Rosie Finn, who has taught my information concerning the 7th Harmonic.  The seven pointed star you can see above is activated in February by Mercury stationing with Neptune in Pisces, Venus stationing with Pluto in Capricorn, and Saturn in Scorpio- the other missing points are 26 Aries, 17.5 Gemini, 9 Leo, and 0.5 Libra.  You can look for transits to these points, or perhaps they are active in your natal chart through an aspect of some manner.

The 7th Harmonic is a strange harmonic, made up of septiles (51.5 degrees), bi-septiles (103 degrees), and tri-septiles (154.5 degrees).  I’ve learned from Rosie that these septiles can involve magical creativity and vision, a mystical sense of information descending from another realm, or a transfiguration.  They have an energy similar to the dissolving of boundaries and transcendence of “normal” reality that we often associate with Neptune and a Mercury retrograde period initiated by a conjunction of Mercury and Neptune in Pisces.  The 7th Harmonic can be highly creative and spiritual, can appear weirdly anomalous and difficult to occur naturally.  In a class one time Rosie gave Beethoven as an example of someone with a strong 7th Harmonic who created highly spiritual art yet also had to persist through the pain and suffering of being deaf (in contrast to Mozart who had a strong 5th Harmonic).  The bi-septile and tri-septile aspects of the 7th Harmonic stress the importance of integrating creativity into our purpose and process and making the necessary adjustments to manifest the inner revelations of this process and purpose back out into the external world. As the 7th Harmonic is a strange one, this isn’t exactly easily done.  However, anyone having experiences resonating with this description will be able to draw upon this Mercury retrograde process at this time to make the inner adjustments necessary to ultimately express whatever epiphany is being experienced within.

References

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

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