- Mercury enters shadow zone: 12 December 2022 at 8°08’ Capricorn
- Mercury at maximum elongation as evening star (becoming slower than Sun): 21 December
- Mercury stations retrograde: 29 December at 24°21’ Capricorn
- Mercury inferior conjunction: 7 January 2023 at 16°57’ Capricorn
- Mercury stations direct: 18 January at 8°08’ Capricorn
- Mercury at maximum elongation as morning star (becoming faster than Sun): 30 January
- Mercury leaves shadow zone: 6 February at 24°21’ Capricorn
Mercury Retrograde in Capricorn
Mercury delights in questioning categorization and fixed concepts. It’s the only planet that refuses to be limited to singular categories, as it can be benefic or malefic, nocturnal or diurnal, masculine or feminine depending upon the surrounding influences it mixes with. In popular astrology Mercury is often described as linear and logical, yet the ease with which Mercury can interface with the irrational and nonlinear, such as in the interpretation of dreams and omens, reveals how its affinity for deconstruction and destabilization is an essential element of its capacity to bring about primal reordering. When Mercury shifts into its retrograde phase, the star of Hermes makes its home in the liminal, in threshold experiences of leaving one state to enter another. Mercury retrograde delivers transitions and twists in storyline, teaching pivotal lessons from unexpected circumstances. With Mercury stationing retrograde in the final days of 2022, it’s fitting that Mercury will play a major role in ushering us across the threshold into a new year.
Mercury will station retrograde on 29 December 2022 and embark upon a twenty day journey of backtracking from 24°21’ to 8°08’ Capricorn when it stations direct on 18 January 2023. As Mercury retraces the zodiacal terrain from eight to twenty-five degrees of Capricorn, he will excavate material that we need to deepen our engagement with, returning our perception to issues we need to release, rework, or reintegrate. Yet the retrograde of Mercury is not limited to review and redo, as the star of Hermes will deepen development in areas of focus as well as reseed vital ideas and inspiration to enliven work in the season ahead. After passing through a phase of putrefaction and purification, we will experience renewal on the other side once Mercury has returned to visibility and direct motion in the morning sky. Mercury first crossed 8°08’ Capricorn on 12 December and will not move beyond 24°21’ Capricorn until 6 February, creating almost two months of mercurial focus in this range of your natal chart.
Of course, the reverse direction of Mercury is an illusion stemming from Mercury orbiting in between the Earth and Sun while retrograde. With Mercury’s presence intensified due to being as close to Earth as possible in orbit, the slowness of its backward motion produces a churning quality that can dredge up issues that had been hidden from awareness. With Mercury retrograde in an earth sign, messages and material carried by our body and bodily senses that we have been mentally neglecting will rise into awareness. Due to Venus forming a conjunction with Mercury on 29 December while Mercury is stationing, followed by Venus forming a conjunction with Pluto on 31 December, there will be a wealth of deep-rooted material held within the body and inner recesses of psyche to uncover and explore. The connection between Venus and Pluto will activate longstanding relational patterns, with the ghosts of past relationships emerging within the present relational circumstances we find ourselves within.
There is an important connection between the alignment of Mercury, Venus, and Pluto at the end of 2022 and beginning of 2023 with the previous alignment of Mercury, Venus, and Pluto that took place at the end of 2021 and beginning of 2022. While the planetary combination is repeating, the solar phases of Mercury and Venus are opposite. Last year Venus was retrograde while Mercury was freshly visible in its evening star phase, whereas this year Mercury is retrograde while Venus has recently become visible as an evening star. While there may be specific relationships from last year that have mirroring issues emerge again to address, there is most likely a connection taking place between major relational patterns we needed to address at the end of last year that will be emerging again in new forms. We may realize ways in which we have experienced significant growth while also recognizing aspects of ourselves that will be requiring more inner work.
The Mercury retrograde passage in Capricorn that began in 2023 marks the first of three consecutive Mercury retrograde periods in 2023 that will take place wholly in earth signs. Last year we gained a taste of Mercury retrograde in earth signs due to the retrograde periods ending with Mercury stationing direct in each of the the three earth signs after spending most of its retrograde phase in each of the three air signs. Taking note of lessons learned from last year can help in orienting to the meaning of Mercury being retrograde in the areas of your natal chart occupied by the all three of the earth signs in 2023. A fascinating aspect of Mercury retrograde during 2023 is that the first three retrograde periods of the year in earth signs all feature Mercury in either a flowing trine aspect with Uranus in Taurus or being in close proximity to Uranus. The innovative and liberating influence of Uranus upon Mercury retrograde during 2023 will create opportunities for breaking free from past patterns and making the changes that can accelerate creative development.
In addition to paying attention to information found within your body and its connection with your mind and expression, the fact that Mercury will be retrograde in all three earth signs during 2023 will make it important to analyze and review practical structures and routines in your life as well as the infrastructure and organizational systems you utilize in your work. Capricorn is the cardinal earth sign ruled by Saturn that also exalts Mars, and so Mercury retrograde in Capricorn can help initiate the fundamental changes that need to be made within personal structures of all sorts, from exercise and nutritional considerations to the ways in which you manage time and space. Take stock of habits getting in the way of efficiency or that are needlessly wasting time that can be purged or reformulated during the retrograde motion of Mercury. Discipline is pleasing to Capricorn, and so it will be an opportune time for getting daily plans and routines adjusted and set in place that you can commit to following through within the year ahead.
Mercury retrograde in the nocturnal, cold, dry, and earthy sign of Capricorn has a strong skillset for sorting through and separating factors at play to diagnose the reforms needing to be made. The melancholic quality of Capricorn may influence Mercury to take on a downcast quality at times, brooding over anxieties and worries, but the imaginative nature of Capricorn combined with Mercury forming three sextile aspects with Neptune (on 24 December before stationing, 1 January while retrograde, and 6 February while direct) can also create opportunities for imaginative exploration that can help in re-dreaming your vision for what to produce in the new year. The cold and dry quality of Capricorn will also be tempered by Venus forming a conjunction with Mercury at the beginning of its retrograde passage, signaling that Mercury’s descent into the underworld while retrograde can facilitate a pivotal renewal of our creative potency and agency.
Mercury will not only be retrograde in the earthy domicile of Saturn, it will also be ruled by Saturn occupying its airy domicile of Aquarius. The powerful influence of Saturn combined with Mercury retrograde in Capricorn will emphasize our relationship with collective influences such as societal conditioning from systemic structures. Societies are formed by laws, regulations, norms and taboos, yet we can forget at times how our habitual conformity with certain societal norms can keep us stuck in limiting patterns we wish to break free from. Mercury retrograde in Capricorn will destabilize our perception of societal norms and rules, heightening awareness of ways we have been restricting our authentic expression, As we deepen into a process of revelation, the flowing trine aspect that Mercury retrograde will eventually form with Uranus in Taurus on 8 January will unveil a more vibrant presence and creative expression to take on through our work. The mature and responsible nature of Capricorn can facilitate Mercury retrograde guiding us through a process of taking greater accountability for the work we desire to manifest and embody through our contribution to our wider community.
We drive and are driven. / But time’s stride– / think of it lost / in the ever-remaining.
All that’s hurrying / will quickly be past; / only what lingers / grants us credence.
Boys, don’t fling your courage / into the thrill of speed / or attempts at flight.
All that is is at rest– / darkness and morning light, / flower and book.Rainer Maria Rilke, from Sonnets to Orpheus, #22
Like the ancient Saturnalia in which societal conventions are overturned, Mercury retrograde in Capricorn will invert norms in ways that bring awareness to social conformity and taboos. A subconscious portal into exploring our constructs of time and space will open so we may renew our relationship with phenomenal reality. In Capricorn, the star of Hermes takes on the likeness of his goat-horned and hoofed progeny Pan who can shepherd us through a journey into our vast inner multiplicity that mirrors the multiplicity of stars above. As Mercury descends from visibility as an evening star at sunset at the end of 2022, the new year will begin with Mercury shepherding us through its invisible phase in which it serves as psychopomp to our own underworld journey.
The association of Pan with the scapegoat is relevant, as unrecognized inner material emerging into awareness can be projected onto an Other of one sort or another. Intersecting with societal oppression, the collective discharge can often be projected through the lens of collective constructs around ideas of race, gender, or other forms of identity, taking on the ugliness of racism or sexism. When facing inner conflicts around taboos or aspects of ourselves we have been denying, we can utilize Mercury retrograde in Capricorn for coming into greater acceptance of our diverse inner nature and multiplicity of identities rather than projecting what we don’t want to look at about ourselves. In addition, feelings of scarcity or not having enough can become heightened due to the combination of collective economic uncertainty and the emphasis on Capricorn, so there will be a need to take personal accountability and transfigure anxieties into creative production generated from inner strength rather than out of fear or control.
There will be a likelihood of harsh words and wounding projections due to the powerful interplay between Mercury retrograde in Capricorn with Mars retrograde in Gemini in the beginning of 2023. There is a mutual generosity of Mercury being in the exaltation of Mars while Mars is in the domicile of Mercury. Though you may think of Capricorn and Gemini as being averse to one another due to them sharing nothing in common (nocturnal-cold-dry versus diurnal-hot-moist), their aversion is mitigated due to Capricorn and Gemini being signs of equal ascension that share the same speed as well as being contra-antiscia to one another. Planets in exact contra-antiscia form a midpoint at zero degrees of Aries, bringing the diversity of their differences together into a potent marriage of manifestation in the world.
Mercury will become exactly contra antiscia with Mars on 3 January when Mercury is at 21°21’ Capricorn and Mars is at 8°39’ Gemini. Moreover, since Jupiter is close to zero degrees of Aries, Mars and Mercury will form an exact midpoint with Jupiter on 1 January 2023. As a result, the first few days of 2023 possess a potent planetary picture of Mercury-Jupiter- Mars. The effects of this combination will be multivalent, ranging from extremes of destruction in current events to incredible creative production in our own personal sphere. Due to both Mercury and Mars being in retrograde phases, it will be an especially fruitful time for gathering resources and doing renovation that builds a stronger foundation for our visible work to emerge later in the year.
The powerful interplay between Mercury-Jupiter-Mars will occur at the same time that Mercury will be entering combustion to burn off excess under the beams of the Sun. The image of Temperance from tarot can be helpful during this time, as we will need to undergo a process of purging that acknowledges excess in order to bring about a restoration of balance. With Jupiter at the midpoint of the contra-antiscia dynamic between Mercury retrograde and Mars retrograde, we can experience a powerful initiation into a new stage of growth and development. Yet to realize the potential available we will need to take note of our areas of excess so we can become focused more clearly upon what needs to be purged and consumed by the flames of the Sun as Mercury approaches its solar conjunction on 7 January.
O come and go. You, still almost a child, / with your spell transform for an instant / the dance figure make it one of those pure / constellations in which we fleetingly
transcend dull ordering Nature. For she was roused / to full hearing only when Orpheus sang. / You were still swayed by those ancient chords / and a bit annoyed if a tree took stock / before it followed where your hearing led. / You still knew the place where the lyre / rose resounding–; the undreamt-of center.
For it you practiced those beautiful steps / and hoped one day to turn toward / total happiness your friend’s face and stride.Rainer Maria Rilke, from Sonnets to Orpheus #28
Mercury will become reanimated by its conjunction with the Sun on 7 January 2023 at 16°57’ Capricorn, a day after the Cancer Full Moon that will take place on 6 January. As a result, the light of the silvery Moon in her watery domicile of Cancer will fully illuminate the reseeding of Mercury in solar light. The regeneration of Mercury occurs as it aligns in between the Earth and Sun by zodiacal degree, as close to us in orbit as possible for Mercury within its cycle. Known as the inferior conjunction of Mercury, it’s a moment of clarifying rebirth that can enhance realization and seed new ideas for the Mercury cycle ahead in which it will transition into becoming a visible morning star. While Mercury is within one degree of conjunction with the Sun, even more so within sixteen arc minutes of its solar conjunction, there can be empowerment for tasks associated with Mercury since it is enthroned upon the solar chariot. Older astrological texts named this moment of Mercury’s rebirth cazimi, or being in the heart of the Sun. It’s the cyclical moment when Mercury enters what Demetra George has named the “sanctum sanctorum,” or “the innermost holy chamber of the mystery initiations” found within “the protected space at the heart of the Sun.”
Although the inferior conjunction of Mercury is typically felt in hidden, interior spaces, the regenerative conjunction between Mercury with the Sun on 7 January will pack a louder punch than normal due to it being illuminated by the Full Moon in Cancer while also forming a flowing trine aspect with Uranus in Taurus that will take place on 8 January. The more we can let go of excess and outdated patterns in the lead up to Mercury’s inferior conjunction, the better we will be able to receive the emancipatory messages of Uranus in Taurus. This can be a powerful time for research and writing, especially when needing to brainstorm and generate new ideas or ways to reorganize and reconceptualize ideas already under development. It can also be a potent time for creating sacred space to nurture our imaginal, tender connections with the interconnectedness of all.
Mercury’s inferior conjunction will be just over one degree away from the fixed star Vega, a fixed star currently projected onto the ecliptic at 15°37’ Capricorn. Mercury will be within a degree of Vega’s ecliptic degree when forming its flowing trine with Uranus on 8 January. Vega is one of the brightest stars in the entire sky and has ancient significance in skylore. As the brightest star in the Lyra constellation it possesses a direct connection to the birth story of Hermes told in the Homeric hymn, an amazing synchronicity as the star of Hermes becomes reborn at this time. After Hermes was born in a cave, his immense curiosity soon led him to journey outside where he encountered the cattle of Apollo, stealing them and marching them backwards to conceal his theft in a manner mirroring the retrograde motion of the planet named after him. But stealing cattle was not all that Hermes was up to on his first journey into the world, as he also encountered a tortoise whose shell he transformed into a lyre. Once Hermes was confronted by Apollo for stealing his cattle, he sang a song with the lyre and gifted it to Apollo, enchanting the Sun god in the process.
Enchantment is central to Vega. Ptolemy linked Venus and Mercury to Vega, a further sync with the conjunction of Venus and Mercury in Capricorn initiating us into the stationing of Mercury retrograde. Bernadette Brady described Vega as bringing “creative, mysterious skill which can be used for artistic, spiritual expression or in a negative reading as a tool of deception,” with a presence that gives “charisma and the suggestion that one has been touched by the other world.” Vega is one of the fifteen Behenian stars long associated with astrological magic, possessing magical properties that amplify creativity as well as bringing protection against demons and nightmares. It’s deceptive, creative, and protective capacities are an exact match for the hidden powers of Mercury that become alive when it passes through its regenerative conjunction with the Sun, especially when also forming a flowing trine aspect with Uranus.
The otherworldliness of Vega can also be found in its mythic associations with Orpheus who played the lyre so beautifully that the music was said to enchant all of life, everything from animals to stones. Orpheus was even able to enchant the guardians of the underworld, permitting him to journey into the underworld in order to retrieve his beloved Eurydice. In addition to the ability of Orpheus to travel to the underworld and back again mirroring the psychopomp capacities of Hermes as well as the symbolic underworld journey that Mercury retrograde guides us through, there is additional chthonic associations with Vega through the image of the vulture. Agrippa in Three Books of Occult Philosophy listed the vulture as a magical image for Vega, and Vega has also been viewed culturally as the brightest star in a constellation featuring the form of a vulture rather than a stringed instrument. Vultures play a vital role in the life cycle through feeding upon the dead, and in another ancient myth it was the form of a kite (a bird of prey that also feeds on carrion) that the goddess Isis took when resurrecting her beloved Osiris from death.
Altogether, Mercury forming a conjunction with Vega as it passes through its conjunction with the Sun and trine with Uranus signifies the immense creativity that can become regenerated and activated during this time. Listen for the song to sing or play your creation into being in the world.
Does it really exist, Time the Destroyer? / When, on the peaceful mountain, does it crush the fortress? / And this heart, always the gods’ possession, / when does the Demiurge pillage it?
Are we really so anxiously brittle / as Fate would have us believe? / Is childhood, so deep, so rich with promise, / in the roots– later on– stilled?
Ah, the spectrre of transience, / through the guilelessly receptive / it passes like wisps of smoke.
And we, with our driving, our striving, — / the abiding Strengths assume / that the gods have some need for us.Rainer Maria Rilke, from Sonnets to Orpheus, #27
After Mercury becomes regenerated by the Sun, the middle of January will be dominated by the intensification of Mars stationing direct on 12 January at nine degrees of Gemini. With Mars barely moving in the airy domicile of Mercury, it will gather and focalize energy to solidify new movement. If you have been unable to gain traction on all of the new creative directions you have been inspired to pursue since Mars stationed retrograde on 30 October 2022, the week surrounding the stationing of Mars can be a potent time for committing to making it happen. Amazingly, around the same time that Mars stations direct, Mercury will also become intensified through its heliacal rising, becoming visible again as a morning star heralding sunrise. The divine presence of Hermes will be strongly alive and mediated by Chiron – for Chiron in Aries will form an exact square aspect with Mercury on 11 January, while Mars stations in range of a received sextile with Chiron. There may be an old wound to work through in mid-January that will ultimately prove to be an essential aspect of your work to come.
Moreover, Mercury will station direct less than a week after Mars on 18 January at 8°08’ Capricorn in an exact quincunx aspect to the degree and minute where Mars stationed direct. It will be extremely important to practice mindfulness during this time, paying close attention to any signs or omens in dreaming or waking life that reveal important lessons or insight into the choices you need to make. It will also be important to pay attention to triggers of conflict and restrain from creating additional conflict needlessly through words or behavior. At the same time, this can be a profoundly rich time for creativity and embarking upon new directions. Those involved in research or writing projects can discover deep wells of focus to apply to their work.
Less than a week after Mercury stations direct on 18 January, Uranus in Taurus will station direct on 22 January. Combined with the New Moon in Aquarius on 21 January that demarcates the Chinese New Year of the Yin Water Rabbit, the week following the stationing of Mercury will bring an extraordinary turning of the tide and a massive shift into generative forward motion. After Uranus stations direct on 22 January, all of the planets will be moving direct until the end of April when Mercury will station retrograde once again in Taurus. In the week following the Aquarius New Moon, Mercury in Capricorn will complete its final square aspect with Chiron in Aries on 27 January with Mars three degrees away from an exact sextile with Chiron. Pay attention to how the tests and trials of the past month have led to newfound strength and courage to face adversity and push forward with your goals and growth.
Matching the forward momentum of this time, Mercury will reach maximum elongation as a morning star on 30 January. The maximum elongation of Mercury demarcates another threshold to cross, as it initiates us into the phase of Mercury speeding up as well as accelerating our capacity for integrating the many inner changes that took shape during the retrograde. Gary Caton described this solar phase of Mercury as being similar to the rubedo phase within alchemy in his book Hermetica Tryptycha. As we work to integrate the insights and changes in perspective realized during Mercury’s retrograde journey, Caton noted that we should expect to endure a phase of chaotic volatility as we make a commitment to embody a new presence of being. With Mars in Gemini also beginning to generate more forward momentum, this will be a key period to take direct action on whatever you have been developing.
Interestingly, Mercury will complete its final sextile with Neptune in Pisces on February 6, the same day that it moves beyond the place where it originally stationed retrograde. A few days later Mercury will finally complete an exact conjunction with Pluto in Capricorn on 10 February before leaving Capricorn to enter Aquarius on 11 February. These final major aspects for Mercury in Capricorn will take place around the same time as an extremely potent Full Moon in Leo on 5 February that will be forming a square aspect with Uranus while applying toward an opposition with Saturn in Aquarius. The Leo Full Moon will be the final major activation of the square aspect between Saturn and Uranus that has dominated astrology during 2021 and 2022.
As a result, two of the longstanding transits that will be ending in 2023 – the transit of Pluto through Capricorn and the square between Saturn and Uranus – will both be stirred up as Mercury finally finishes its passage through Capricorn. Of course, the new year will not bring the final end of Pluto in Capricorn, as Pluto will only be in Aquarius from 23 March until 11 June, and we will continue experiencing Pluto moving back and forth between Capricorn and Aquarius until entering Aquarius for good on 19 November 2024. Though you have already experienced immense regeneration in the Capricorn section of your natal chart since 2008 in relation to Pluto’s transit, the months ahead will bring opportunities for receiving deeper lessons of insight into the ways that Pluto in Capricorn has reshaped your life and perception. May Mercury help us receive and integrate the lessons and meaning we need to learn.
If you enjoy my writing please consider supporting my work through a monthly subscription on my Patreon page. Take a look to see the benefits you will receive as a patron! Beginning in January we will be exploring the fixed stars in the Oak branch tier, including the mythology of the stars and how to work with them not only in natal and mundane astrology but also how to develop relationships with them through ritual and astrological magic.
Brady, Bernadette. (2008). Star and Planet Combinations. The Wessex Astrologer.
Caton, Gary. (2017). Hermetica Triptycha: The Mercury Elemental Year. Rubedo Press.
George, Demetra. (2019). Ancient Astrology in Theory and Practice: a Manual of Traditional Techniques. Rubedo Press.
Rilke, Rainer Maria. (2004). Sonnets to Orpheus. Translated by Edward Snow. North Point Press.