Man Ray (1931) Untitled
Mercury Retrograde in Libra
- Mercury stations retrograde at 15°55′ Libra on September 17, 2015
- Mercury unites with Sun at 7°07′ Libra on September 30, 2015
- Mercury stations direct at 0°54′ Libra on October 9, 2015
- Mercury leaves its retrograde shadow zone on October 26, 2015
The transit of Mercury retrograde in Libra beginning September 17 opens a doorway within the vivifying void of eclipses, as we will be in between the Solar Eclipse of September 13 and the Lunar Eclipse of September 27. While Mercury retrogrades are always liminal in quality, the influence of eclipses on the commencement of this retrograde evokes entrance through a magic portal that mysteriously redefines and redirects. Mercury stations retrograde simultaneously with two other impactful transits, as about eleven hours before Mercury stations there will be an exact opposition between Jupiter in Virgo and Neptune in Pisces, and about nine hours after Mercury stations, Saturn will ingress into Sagittarius. Jupiter in Virgo, Neptune in Pisces, and Saturn in Sagittarius will be dominant players in the upcoming astrological atmosphere saturated with the deep shifting of Mutable signs. Our move into the preponderance of Mutable signs will create an air of adjustment to the ensuing disorientation, and so it is here that Mercury retrograde arrives. Since this Mercury retrograde is occurring in Libra, the sign of Scales and the domicile of Venus, an atmosphere of relational recalibration will occur on both inner and outer levels. In collective events of tension and trauma such as the refugee crisis in Europe, we will witness raised levels of rhetoric and reaction with participants coming back and forth from extreme positions of opposition. Perhaps there is none other than Mercury more up to the task of guiding us to find a middle way of solutions in response.
The journey of Mercury around the Sun is important to pay attention to, as Mercury from our perspective on Earth never gets too far ahead of the Sun as an evening star, returning three times every year during its retrograde to reunite and regenerate within the purifying solar rays. Karl Kerenyi in Hermes: Guide of Souls ascribed “belonging to the journey” and being “by the road” as part of the essential nature of Hermes, who is “constantly underway” in motion at all times (p. 33). Kerenyi wrote that any “journeyer” connected with Hermes remains “at home on the road itself, the road being understood not as a connection between two definite points on the earths surface, but as a particular world” (p. 32). When Mercury stations retrograde, it marks the time period in which Mercury disappears as an evening star with a flash of light, descending from our view into the invisibility of the underworld. The underworld passage of Mercury retrograde is not a time to fear, but rather a world to fully enter and embrace for the treasures found within its depths. There are already innumerable issues occurring that are creating fear, and these have nothing to do with this Mercury retrograde causing them.
Mercury is the divine messenger who weaves the golden rays of the Sun into the words and other forms of communication we express ourselves through, a soulful guide through which our consciousness discerns meaning from phenomenal reality. The constant variation of Mercury’s synodic cycle influences how we evaluate our experiences, and so during the retrograde when Mercury symbolically descends into the underworld we can more readily access alternate forms of perception resonant with the intuitive meaning found in symbols, signs, omens, and dreams. Mercury retrograde as a result becomes a time we can seize to turn within and ruminate on the nature of our experiences since the previous Mercury retrograde (Mercury last stationed direct at 4°34′ Gemini on June 11, 2015). Mercury moving in a radically different motion from our perspective also coincides with radical changes in thought, and we can use this Mercurial phenomenon to directly respond to life less attached to the previous habitual patterns of mind.
This retrograde occurring entirely in the sign of Libra means that Mercury will be residing in the house of Venus, and so we will be able to take a long look at ourselves in the mirror of Aphrodite as well as use Venusian mirrors to alter our appearance to others. It also means that as Karl Kerenyi wrote in Hermes: Guide of Souls that “meeting and finding are revelations of Hermes’ essence” (p. 43), “finding and thieving in the realm of love are also Hermetic traits” (p. 48). Hermes was born from a secret love affair between Zeus and Maia, and as shown in the Homeric Hymn and the Odyssey, Hermes felt no shame singing about his divinely deceitful origins or loudly proclaiming that he would also love to “bed that golden Aphrodite” when she was discovered in her affair with Ares. I am not sharing these references to suggest anyone enter into an extramarital affair during this Mercury retrograde, only that we will be overcome at times with eros and that within our impassioned embraces we will enter the magical world of Mercury:
Journeying is the best condition for loving. The gorges over which the “volatized one” passes like a ghost can be the abysses of unbelievable love affairs- Circe and Calypso islands and holes; they can be abysses also in the sense that there no chance exists for standing on firm ground, but only for further floating between life and death.
–Karl Kerenyi from Hermes: Guide of Souls
Mercury’s capacity to travel the extents of both the upper and underworld brings the association of being a psychopomp or guide of souls, the wily thief and shepherd who carries a golden staff that can lull others into trance states as well as startle wide awake. During Mercury retrograde it is as if the wave of Hermes’ wand takes us into a realm of perception counter to the dominant narrative of how one’s awareness is expected to operate. Gleaning wisdom from Mercury retrograde is like embracing the “mythological treasure” described by Peter Kingsley in his book Reality: “the invaluable object that has been lost and misused and has to be rediscovered at all costs” (p. 21). The gifts we can most readily receive from Mercury retrograde are not always the kind valued by consensus culture: the illuminated thought received while watching the flight of birds or the flight of leaves falling from trees, or the mysterious meanderings of a creative process that does not provide immediate gratification or reward.
Revolving Doors (1926) by Man Ray
Enantiodromia is a term from ancient Greek meaning “to run counter to,” that was unearthed in the work of Carl Jung to demonstrate his understanding that anything at an extreme state will turn into its opposite quality. The concept of a unity found in oppositions goes at least as far back as the time of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, whose famous statement that no one steps in the same river twice was embedded within a philosophy of flux that saw that everything in existence contains and turns into its opposite state. Jung brought this concept into his theories about the interplay between our conscious and unconscious, and how what we repress in our subconscious can erupt in polarity through our shadow. There is an inherent restoration of balance to our system that results that is not unlike the astrological meaning we can find in Libra, the sign of the Scales.
In astrology Mercury has been defined clearly across centuries, yet delights in defying definitions as it has been known to identify as both masculine and feminine, nocturnal and diurnal, capable of mutating identity in acclimation to its surrounding environment. Mercury retrograde in Libra beckons a re-examination of the Scales, the concept of finding balance that necessitates extremes, tension, polarity, counterpoints, and contrariness. The awareness we can access in Mercury retrograde can help us transcend rigid parameters of duality through swinging wildly at times between extremes of perception, experiencing extremities of oppositions in a continual process of re-balancing. As this Mercury retrograde occurs during the final days of the lunar nodes being in Aries and Libra, one realm of extremes we will experience will be our desires for independence and self-empowerment in tandem with our desires for relationship and mutual sharing. Since the Mercury retrograde begins with Jupiter in Virgo exactly opposite Neptune in Pisces, the extremes of vision we can find between Virgo and Pisces, between skepticism and inspiration, between reductionism and holism, will also come up in a process in which we will be redefining our belief system.
As Mercury stations retrograde in opposition to Uranus in Aries and in square to Pluto in Capricorn, the stationing Mercury will dig into our core and a morphing from one extreme to another could result from what was formerly repressed entering conscious awareness. This Libra Mercury retrograde bridges Uranus and Pluto more intensely together than they have been recently, and so corresponding contrariness could involve strong impulses for liberation and emancipation in the face of judgmental shaming or oppression, or strivings for a freedom from restraints coming up with a need to take responsibility within boundaries. The opposition between Mercury in Libra and Uranus in Aries being in square to Pluto in Capricorn creates a t-square in which the missing point is found in Cancer, which means our issues around emotional insecurity and security will be important triggers.
The influence of the North Node of the Moon being in Libra is further amplified not only because this Mercury retrograde occurs entirely in Libra, but also because at the time that Mercury stations, Juno will be in Libra conjunct the North Node of the Moon, and Black Moon Lilith will also be conjunct the North Node of the Moon. Juno here in Libra makes our desires for relationship all the more soulful and procreative, drawing feelings to work through difficulties that have arisen in the relationships that resonate with our deepest longings. As Juno is also a protector of those abused or victimized in relationship, her meaning in combination with the fiercely independent Black Moon Lilith and the Lunar North Node means that those being victimized at extremes in relationship can experience a sudden shift that impels them to leave for good.
Black Moon Lilith also brings added meaning that aspects of our essential nature that we have formerly not integrated into our relationships will now demand attention with the swift force of enantiodromia. In the Libra realm of balance and counterweight, Black Moon Lilith is a fascinating calculated point in space that serves as a point of balance in terms of the Moon’s orbit. Indeed, the true node of Black Moon Lilith is even called the “oscillating” Black Moon Lilith, and by name association both the “true” and “mean” calculations of the point have taken on the mythological meaning of Lilith. Here we find the exiled and the estranged, but like one who must runaway from one’s home environment for safety as well as to find one’s true joy, the issues of Black Moon Lilith are necessary challenges for us to face in our healing and empowerment. If we have been coping with certain issues at an extreme of perception, the other side holding an important perspective for us to embrace will flood our awareness.
Along these lines, the beginning period of Mercury’s retrograde seems to hold a powerful moment of integration from the previous Venus retrograde, as Venus is direct while still within her retrograde shadow zone, and is receiving the stationing Mercury in Libra through a sextile. As Mercury begins to move backward into the initial phase of its retrograde motion, Venus will continue moving forward through Leo in the degrees of its retrograde shadow zone, resurrecting the issues from this past Venus retrograde for us to readdress. If you have important placements or aspects in the second half of Leo, this Mercury retrograde time period will be your third opportunity to experience the transit of Venus there. The third time will be the charm in the sense that the issues needing to be addressed will now be crystal clear if you have been paying attention, and the magical thinking of Mercury retrograde could bring a new perspective to the situation previously unthought.
Man Ray (1922) Rayograph
The initial phase of the Mercury retrograde begins on September 17 and extends until September 30, 2015 when Mercury enters the heart of the Sun at its Inferior Conjunction. The union of Mercury with the Sun during its retrograde descriptively is similar to an interior conjunction, as it is the conjunction of Mercury with the Sun that happens when Mercury is between us on Earth and our Sun. As a result this is a powerful moment of conception, likened to a New Mercury for us to set intention with in accord. To the ancients this is the time of Mercury being cazimi or at the heart of the Sun, the moment when Mercury is reborn with purifying vivification by the rays of solar light. When Mercury and the Sun are cazimi at eight degrees of Libra, Juno and Black Moon Lilith will also be conjunct a few degrees away- this makes themes related to Juno and Black Moon Lilith absolutely vital to a new conception of Mercury we create at this time. There is also an opposition of Vesta in Aries to Juno and Black Moon Lilith that brings a counterpoint of wanting independent focus on needs not being met in relationships. Vesta is also retrograde, signifying a strong inner urge of devotion operating independent of our outer relationships. The Vesta opposition to Juno and Black Moon Lilith is further emphasized by its alignment with a Lunar Eclipse in Aries a couple of days before Mercury becomes cazimi.
Convictions, beliefs, opinions,
rules and habits have abandoned me.
I woke up naked at the edge of a civilization
which seemed to me comic and incomprehensible.
— from After by Czeslaw Milosz
The period around the Inferior Conjunction of Mercury is a time of incubation, and so it is interesting that we will be experiencing the initial return of Saturn in Sagittarius simultaneously. Whatever house Sagittarius rules in your birth chart is important to reflect upon at this time as you will experience a sudden jolt of the associated issues arising in your life. The jolting pace of the half human half horse Centaur found in the symbol of Sagittarius is another theme that we will need to address through Mercury retrograde in Libra, as Sagittarius thrives on swiftness and taking off in new directions. Since Saturn in Sagittarius is ruled by a Jupiter that is in the Virgo sign of Mercury, it means that the shifting relational perspectives we experience during this Mercury retrograde are deeply rooted to the changes that will occur with Saturn re-entering the sign of Sagittarius. We can open to the gifts of Sagittarius by opening perception to the unknown without preconceived assumptions, discerning directly in the moment as much as possible.
It was a riverside meadow, lush, from before the hay harvest,
On an immaculate day in the sun of June.
I searched for it, found it, recognized it.
Grasses and flowers grew there familiar in my childhood.
With half-closed eyelids I absorbed luminescence.
And the scent garnered me, all knowing ceased.
Suddenly I felt I was disappearing and weeping with joy.
— A Meadow by Czeslaw Milosz
A further link between this Mercury retrograde in Libra and the previous Venus retrograde in Leo is at the time that Mercury has its Inferior Conjunction with the Sun on September 30, Venus will be in range of the same degree at which it had its own Inferior Conjunction with the Sun back on August 15, 2015. As a result this is a magic portal moment in which our new conception of Mercury arises at the same time we are re-awakened to our new conception of Venus that happened over a month ago. As we enter this New Mercury phase we release our old thought forms in preparation for the envisioning of the new. Any deep soul desires we have been resisting could erupt with volatility at this time, as there is an incredibly transformative astrological climate surrounding the build up to this New Mercury: Pluto will station direct in Capricorn six days before it, and there will be a Lunar Eclipse in Aries a few days before Mercury enters the heart of the Sun.
Man Ray (1926) The Meeting
“The diverse shall be no less diverse, but they shall flow and unite . . . .
they unite now.”
∼ Walt Whitman from [The Sleepers] in Leaves of Grass
Beginning October 1, Mercury will shift into the final phase of its underworld journey that lasts until October 9 when Mercury stations direct as a Morning Star. There are a number of important astrology aspects occurring during this period, and the sign of Virgo that Mercury calls its home is highlighted. For one, Venus will have re-entered Virgo and will only be a couple of minutes away from leaving her retrograde shadow zone at the moment Mercury stations direct. As Mercury stations Venus will also be applying closely to a square with Saturn in Sagittarius. This final week of Mercury’s retrograde motion thus holds a powerful ingress of Venus from the solar sign of Leo into the Mercurial sign of Virgo, a transition symbolized for many by the form of the half maiden half lioness Sphinx. With Saturn in Sagittarius awaiting Venus here, there is a demand for us to catalyze and activate all of the changes that have been stirred up during the long Venus retrograde journey from the beginning of Virgo to the heart of Leo and back again. As soon as Venus enters Virgo, she is welcomed by a delighted Mercury into his hermetic home. Venus traditionally has been classified as being in its fall in Virgo, and so with Mercury already in retrograde in Libra this can be a profound falling into our inner realm for transformative realization.
In addition, there will be an opposition between Mars in Virgo and Neptune in Pisces that occurs leading up to the stationing of Mercury, bringing the boundlessness of Neptune in opposition to Mars in the home of Mercury. Mars in Virgo utilizes Mercurial facilities to focus on the details of our surrounding environment to accomplish work. In the Virgo capacity to refine and develop techniques and tools, Mars necessarily needs to separate this from that in order to find the necessary focus for desired growth. In the face of Neptune, the invisible realm opens around Mars in Virgo, evoking mystical, mysterious desires and experiences. As e.e. cummings once wrote, “love is a deeper season than reason,” and with Mercury retrograde in Libra during this Mars and Neptune opposition we will know this beyond rational comprehension in one way or another.
By the time we get to Mercury stationing direct, Mars will be further conjunct the Moon in Virgo and applying closely to a conjunction with Jupiter in Virgo. The Moon in the sign of Mercury therefore will be bringing the spirit of Neptune opposite Mars into its conjunction with Jupiter in Virgo as Mercury stands still in the sign of the Scales. This seems like a time of inner epiphanies such as the macrocosm the poet Walt Whitman described through the microcosm of the leaves of grass before him. With Neptune in Pisces activated so strongly with Venus, Mars, the Moon, and Jupiter all essentially in an opposite area of the zodiac, and Saturn having now entered Sagittarius to begin to initiate its pivotal last quarter square to Neptune, there is an amplified otherworldly quality to the approach of Mercury retrograde into the heart of the Sun. This does not spell disaster for our dearest dreams, but rather asks us to open ourselves to the boundless quality of our vision as well as the pragmatic work needed for successful manifestation. At the time of Mercury uniting with the Sun, however, it will be most effective to enjoy the timeless quality of the moment that transcends reasoned defining:
what time is it? it is by every star
a different time, and each most falsely true;
or so subhuman superminds declare
-nor all their times encompass me and you:
when are we never, but forever now
(hosts of eternity; not guests of seem)
believe me, dear, clocks have enough to do
without confusing timelessness and time.
Time cannot children, poets, lovers tell-
measure imagine, mystery, a kiss
-not though mankind would rather know than feel;
mistrusting utterly that timelessness
whose absence would make your whole life and my
(and infinite our) merely to undie
— e.e. cummings
At the time that Mercury is stationing direct, it is phasis which means in this case it makes its first appearance in our morning sky after having been invisible during the retrograde. This means that Mercury will be emerging from “under the beams” of the Sun, which generally means it is moving beyond fifteen degrees from the Sun, and our ancients saw this re-appearance in the sky as signifying a vital message. In a recent episode of the Hermetic Astrology Podcast, Gary Caton used the term “oracular” in tandem with the “appearance that speaks” made by Jupiter recently emerging from under the beams of the Sun in Virgo. Oracles have strong association with Mercury, as Hermes was given an oracle from Apollo found under the cliffs of Mount Parnassus on Delphi, driven by three sisters of Fates who feed on honey. At this oracular phase of its retrograde journey, Mercury will no longer be invisible and will emerge with a flash of light at dawn as a Morning Star. At this moment Mercury will be closely conjunct the North Node of the Moon in Libra, in addition to Mars, the Moon, and Jupiter lined up together in Virgo. Wherever we are, whatever is happening for us at this time will be saturated with the delightful, curious, mischievous, erotic presence of Mercury, and the message transmitted being so closely aligned with the North Node of the Moon means there is an essential and necessary push forward in growth for us to experience in relationship.
Man Ray (1931) Untitled
Following Mercury stationing direct on October 9, Mercury as a Morning Star will no longer be retrograde in motion but will remain in the retrograde shadow zone until October 26. Demetra George has compared this phase of Mercury’s journey as being similar to Mercury in Gemini, in contrast to her viewpoint that Mercury’s retrograde motion makes it similar to Mercury in Pisces. At this point Mercury goes through an identity shift that leaves the magical, symbolic, subjectively intuitive mode of the retrograde behind, and transitions into a mindset eager to learn multiple new things with a sense of adventure toward the future. Mercury in this phase as Morning Star is the friendly, fleet footed messenger who stimulates thoughts, connections, and conversations everywhere travelled. Mercury with a flash of light heralding sunrise appears as we wake up from the dream world, guiding our thoughts through the haze of morning toward the objectives we need to focus on in the light of day. This Promethean role of foresight will be played with full aplomb by the clever Mercury in the weeks ahead.
During this phase of Mercury direct and beginning to gain in speed again, Venus finally moves beyond her retrograde shadow zone and glides through the sign of Virgo making a series of crucial aspects. First, immediately following Mercury stationing direct Venus will square Saturn in Sagittarius on October 10. Less than a week later, Venus will oppose Neptune in Pisces on October 16, and then on October 25 when Mercury is emerging from its retrograde shadow zone, Venus will conjunct Jupiter for the third time this year in Virgo. Meanwhile, Mars in Virgo will also conjunct Jupiter on October 16 at the same time Venus is opposing Neptune, and day by day as we approach the end of October Venus will be getting closer and closer to Mars in Virgo.
Thus as we exit the Mercury retrograde shadow zone, with Mercury direct in Libra, the passions of our relationships will continue to be stirred up as Mercury moves through the sign of Venus and Venus heads for her eventual union with Mars in the sign of Mercury on November 2, 2015 at 25 degrees of Virgo. The combination of Jupiter, Venus, and Mars in Virgo in this period, purified from the recent retrogrades of both Venus and Mercury, will be a very different affair than the unions of Venus with Jupiter and then Mars that occurred in Leo earlier in the year. It seems the more we let this Mercury retrograde in Libra lead us where life takes us, knowing that our travels astray will ultimately return us to center again, the more the full range of our experiences can inform this late October, early November timeframe where it appears important work can be crafted from within our mind. This Mercury retrograde in Libra can help us discover the inner truth that will source our later works to come.
life is more true than reason will deceive
(more secret or than madness did reveal)
deeper is life than lose:higher than have
-but beauty is more each than living’s all
multiplied with infinity sans if
the mightiest meditations of mankind
cancelled are by one merely opening leaf
(beyond whose nearness there is no beyond)
or does some littler bird than eyes can learn
look up to silence and completely sing?
futures are obsolete;pasts are unborn
(here less than nothing’s more than everything)
death, as men call him, ends what they call men
-but beauty is more now than dying’s when
— e.e. cummings
cummings, e.e. (1994). Selected Poems. Liveright.
Kerenyi, Karl. (1976). Hermes: Guide of Souls. Spring Publications.
Kingsley, Peter. (2003). Reality. The Golden Sufi Center.
Milosz, Czeslaw. (2011). Selected and Last Poems, 1931-2004. HarperCollins.