Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius & Scorpio

Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius

Cracked Ice by Maruyama Okyo

My room and this vastness, / awake over the darkening land,– / are one. I am a string, / stretched tightly over wide / raging resonances.

Things are violin-bodies / full of murmuring darkness: / in it dreams the weeping of women, / in it the grudge of whole / generations stirs in its sleep . . . / I shall vibrate / like silver; then everything / beneath me will live, / and whatever wanders lost in things / will strive toward the light / that from my dancing tone– / around which the heavens pulse– / through thin, pining rifts / into the old / abysses endlessly / falls . . .

–Rainer Maria Rilke, On the Edge of Night translated by Edward Snow

Many live life sourced from beliefs they hardly take time to consider. Not the idealized philosophy or vision of life you find most inspiring, but how you actually live your life.  It’s the image shot forth from inner realms at the target of thought pondering what’s around the corner and what choices you have in response. Sometimes we have a moment of realizing how these beliefs have been conditioned by external influences, or rather shaped by internal waters that have become frozen into rigid patterns over time.  The Mercury retrograde that begins in Sagittarius on November 16 and ends in Scorpio on December 6 will bring opportunities to discern how well our daily perceptions and underlying beliefs are aligned with both the hard reality of present circumstances as well as the future oriented, imaginal vision of the life we wish to bring into our reality.

“It is a soul-realm as the primordial foundation of all actualizations in life . . . a middle realm between being and non-being . . . The primordial mediator and messenger moves between the absolute ‘no’ and the absolute ‘yes,’ or, more correctly, between two ‘no’s’ that are lined up against each other, between two enemies, between woman and man. In this [Hermes] stands on ground that is no ground, and there he creates the way. From out of a trackless world – unrestricted, flowing, ghostlike- [Hermes] conjures up the new creation.”

— Karl Kerenyi, Hermes: Guide of Souls

Mercury weaves together polarities in shades of gray and particularly when retrograde guides us into a liminal state of being in between. Mercury retrograde is an essential phase of the Star of Hermes, a time to seize for breaking down old constructs and breaking free from habitual thought patterns, finding new angles of perception in problem solving. When Mercury stands still at 13º29’ Sagittarius on November 16, glittering in twilight as it stations retrograde, it has the great benefit of the co-presence of Jupiter in Sagittarius.  It’s a more Jupiterian, expansive, and inspirational Mercury retrograde than normal, but due to Jupiter also undergoing its own rebirth within its cycle with the Sun it will be most fruitful in terms of inner visioning, awareness, and realization.  Rather than becoming overwhelmed by difficulties coming up in correspondence, allow the polarizing pattern weaving of Mercury to help you tease out the larger meaning.

Here are some of the key dates of Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius and Scorpio:

  • November 6: Mercury direct at 8º Sagittarius at maximum elongation as an Evening Star; same time as a New Moon in Scorpio. This date marked a threshold crossing into an intensification of the pending Mercury retrograde.
  • November 16:  Mercury stations retrograde at 13º29’ Sagittarius on the same day that Venus stations direct in Libra.
  • November 27:  INTERIOR/INFERIOR conjunction of Mercury retrograde with the Sun at 5º03’ degrees Sagittarius. Rebirth of Mercury at the same time that Jupiter also begins a new synodic cycle in Sagittarius. Mercury retrograde also conjoins Jupiter at 4º18’ Sagittarius.
  • December 1:  Mercury re-enters Scorpio
  • December 6:  Mercury stations direct at 27º16’ Scorpio
  • December 12:  Mercury returns to Sagittarius
  • December 15:  Mercury at maximum elongation as Morning Star at 3º Sagittarius
  • December 21:  Solstice and final conjunction between Mercury and Jupiter at 9º34’ Sagittarius
Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius

Ariadne by Giorgio de Chirico

And again my inmost life rushes louder, / as if it moved now between steeper banks. / Objects become ever more related to me, / and all pictures ever more perused. / I feel myself more trusting in the nameless: / with my senses, as with the birds, I reach / into the windy heavens from the oak, / and into the small ponds’ broken-off day / my feeling sinks, as if it stood on fishes.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Progress translated by Edward Snow

The stationing of Mercury in Sagittarius on November 16 is more dramatic than the usual shift of Mercury from direct to retrograde motion, as it occurs later on the same day that Venus finally stations direct in Libra. When planets station they have a collective and personal announcement to make and tend to dominate the astrological atmosphere; and so we have both Venus in Libra and Mercury in Sagittarius simultaneously proclaiming messages that are vying for our attention. Mercury and Venus are in starkly different circumstances within their synodic cycles: Venus is now direct and shining bright as a Morning Star, while Mercury is descending in twilight from being an Evening Star into its invisible, underworld role of guiding us into unconscious content, loosening conscious control.

Venus stationed retrograde in Scorpio on October 5, and so while the beginning of the Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius is simultaneously weaving together the end of the forty day Venus retrograde, we are not yet actually at the end of the Venus retrograde narrative.  One primal reason is the opposition between Venus and Uranus that has been going on since early September before Venus went retrograde, and will not complete until we cross the boundary between November and December. The opposition between Venus and Uranus calls for a radical upgrade of what we expect from life, leading us to initiate breakthrough choices that crack open old constraints. It’s here in the final stages of a revelatory process that Mercury gladly accepts the role of psychopomp to whatever old beliefs and identities are ready to pass away, making space for the expansive growth stirred up by Jupiter in Sagittarius.

Amping up the extremity of tidal forces is that while both Venus and Mercury station with Venus in opposition to Uranus, Mercury is out of bounds in southern declination while forming a catalytic square aspect with Neptune in Pisces. Any planet 23º27′ or more in north or south declination is considered to be out of bounds- beyond the boundaries of 23º26′ set by the course of the Sun. Tony Howard has described planets out of bounds as being inherently freedom oriented rather than in reaction like Uranus, meaning that instead of acting rebellious in reaction to external constraints, people with a planet out of bounds in their natal chart act have an inner liberating vigor that flows from within without regard to external circumstances.

Altogether these aspects at the time Mercury stations retrograde and descends into invisibility could lead us to consider doing things differently than we ever have before. Due to the influence of Neptune in Pisces, however, we will need to discern what possesses a deeper, imaginal truth versus what is a misleading illusion. Mercury will leave its out of bounds state on November 20, around the same time it also disappears from twilight view. Taking the risk to try something new may not go according to plan and expectations at this time, but the potent reflective quality of Mercury retrograde will facilitate sifting through the experience for important lessons that will ultimately bolster achieving success in a new direction. While the opening section of Mercury retrograde is powerful for putrefaction and breaking down the outworn, it can also be fertile for cultivating a fresh path going forward.

“Whoever does not shy away from the dangers of the most profound depths and the newest pathways, which Hermes is always prepared to open, may follow him and reach . . . a greater find and a more certain possession. For all to whom life is an adventure- whether an adventure of love or of spirit- [Hermes] is the common guide.”

— Karl Kerenyi, Hermes: Guide of Souls

Ghost of Maruyami Okyo

Maruyama Okyo by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi illustrating story of Okyo painting a ghost so viscerally that it came to life.

The blind man who stands on the bridge, / gray like a boundary stone of nameless kingdoms, / he is perhaps the thing, ever unchanging, / around which the far-off stellar hours move, / and the constellations’ still midpoint. / For everything around him strays and struts and runs.

He is the immovable upright one / set down in many tangled paths; / the dark entrance to the underworld / amid a surface-dwelling race.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Point Du Carrousel translated by Edward Snow

Hermes in myth delights in putting people to sleep with his serpentine wand, guiding them into inner visions of dreamscape where the irrational may reveal insight through discernment of deeper meaning. Mercury retrograde periods draw upon this beguiling quality of Hermes, leading perception to more readily pick up meaning from symbols, signs, and synchronicities. As as a result it’s fascinating that Neptune, the planetary archetype of dreams and imagination, is a dominant force during the first two weeks of Mercury retrograde. Not only does Mercury form a square aspect with Neptune when it stations retrograde, Neptune stations direct a week later at 13º41′ Pisces on November 24. When Neptune stations it has a gravitas like a whirlpool pulling us into the Neptunian, such as experiencing a heightened imagination or feeling boundaries dissolve that awaken awareness of interconnection with others.

Mercury and Neptune have a complex relationship, as Neptune can easily fog or bewilder the clear reception of Mercury in communication and interpretation. Yet while some may have an ideal of a logical Mercury organizing everything crisply in categories, the reality is that Mercury is an archetype in-between definitions that questions unifying theories while also weaving together meaning from the innumerable contradictions within our changing world. The ancient philosopher Heraclitus noted not only the constant flux of our world with its ceaselessly changing meanings of truth, but that the underlying Logos or Word from which “all things follow” is not understood by most people. It’s possible that the square aspect formed between Neptune in Pisces with the Sun, Jupiter, and Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius can help us open to understanding beyond culturally conditioned, preconceived notions.

One way or another, Neptune in Pisces will come to the forefront just as a Full Moon in Gemini peaks on November 22 and as Jupiter begins a new synodic cycle with the Sun on November 25 at 3º56′ Sagittarius.  Jupiter in the heart of the Sun on November 25 and 26 places Jupiter at the helm of our solar chariot and seeds an inspirational, uplifting vision of meaning to manifest in the year ahead.  The last solar conjunction for Jupiter occurred on October 26, 2017 at 3º30′ Scorpio and so it is an ending of a Jupiter cycle just as it is simultaneously a beginning of life affirming growth and expansion for the year ahead. Yet this is not the sort of dry clarity that can be found on top of a mountain, but rather the oceanic breadth of imaginal vision that can only be encountered through Neptune.

Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius

Psyche Opening the Door into Cupid’s Garden  by John William Waterhouse

“Even the tilings of the floor, made of precious stones cut fine, are divided into registers, mosaics in pictures and patterns of all sorts . . . And the other wings of this palace, arrayed from side to side and round about, are similarly precious and priceless, and all of it, with the walls constructed of bricks of gold, flares in a radiant glory all its own, so that the house makes its own day and daylight, even when the sun refuses to shine; so too do all the bedrooms, the colonnades, and even the doors explode with their own light. The household goods are no different: in their opulence they match the dignity and grandeur of the palace, so that you would rightly conclude that here is a heavenly imperial residence fashioned by great Jupiter himself so that he may dwell among mortals.”

— Apuleius, “Cupid and Psyche” from The Golden Ass: Or, A Book of Changes translated by Joel C. Relihan

One avenue for imaginal exploration of the influence of Neptune upon Mercury retrograde in the fiery home of Jupiter is the Psyche and Eros story written down by the Hellenistic author and philosopher Apuleius. There is both a thematic as well as cosmic connection, as the Psyche asteroid is at 15º09′ Sagittarius and within three degrees of Mercury on the day it stations retrograde, while the Eros asteroid stations retrograde at 18º11′ Gemini on the same day, in opposition to Mercury and Psyche.

The famous love story involves Psyche, incarnated as a human yet worshipped as a living embodiment of Aphrodite, falling in love with Eros, the divine son of Aphrodite who brings her to his Neptunian palace where he descends to her each night cloaked in mysterious darkness. In the pivotal plot moment, Psyche shines light through a lamp upon Eros while clutching a sharp blade, fearing he could be a monstrous dragon devourer. Yet upon witnessing his divine radiance, she not only falls under the spell of his legendary arrows, but also startles him awake with hot oil which causes him to flee from her. Psyche next undergoes a series of seemingly impossible trials set forth by Aphrodite, going so far as to descend to Persephone in the underworld.

Keeping in mind the ancient line of thought from Empedocles that creation is born from love and strife, we can see how disharmony and discord were sealed off from Psyche’s initial experience of Eros in his archetypal castle, bringing the necessity of her consciously shining light to shatter the illusion. We similarly may feel disillusioned during the Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius, but the vital component will involve illuminating and reorienting our personal truth without negating our experience of the numinous and divine we can encounter in both relationships as well as the dreams we wish to manifest. Over and over again Psyche gives herself over to her feelings and pain, while over and over again the living soul of her environment comes to her aid. She finds her center through following her eros, surrendering to reshaping from the world around her rather than forcing control.

Marie Louise Von Franz beautifully described this process in her book The Golden Ass of Apuleius: The Liberation of the Feminine in Man:

“The chaos of the unconscious always contains a relation to order as well. In talking about the unconscious one must always talk in paradoxes, and when we emphasize its chaotic aspect we know at the same time that the unconscious is not only chaos but is also order . . .

So one can say that in the right way faith is a great achievement, or rather pistis: loyalty to the inner law. When this loyalty or feeling constellates, it calls forth the the secret order which is in the chaos of the unconscious . . .

There is an instinct of truth in the human psyche  which, in the long run, cannot be suppressed. We can pretend not to hear it, but it remains in the unconscious . . . Jung always said that truth does not speak with a loud voice. Its low but unsuppressible voice announces itself as a malaise, or a bad conscience, or whatever one may want to call it. Great quiet is needed in order to feel these small hints.”

— Marie Louise Von Franz

By following this same attitude, we can bring acceptance to whatever challenges and difficulties emerge in correspondence with Mercury retrograde, even a sense of humor where we can manage it, allowing the process of reshaping to unfold. This doesn’t mean to be passive, as we will of course need to take initiative and be decisive. It does mean, however, that the benefit we can gain from Mercury retrograde is through allowing a new order from our unconscious to emerge without stifling, controlling, or negating it. If we can do so, we can experience a symbolic sacred marriage like Psyche and Eros when Mercury retrograde unites with the Sun on November 27.

Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius

from the Rosarium Philosophorum (1550)

Out of infinite desires rise / finite deeds like weak fountains / that fall back in early trembling arcs. / But those, which otherwise in us / keep hidden, our happy strengths– / they come forth in these dancing tears.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Initial (The First Book, Part Two) translated by Edward Snow

In the Heart of the Sun

The inferior conjunction of Mercury retrograde with the Sun on November 27 is the center of the retrograde process, offering a sacred marriage of conscious and unconscious in quiet moments of reflection. This is the rebirth of Mercury that seeds the coming cycle of Mercury in which it return to visibility in pre-dawn skies as a Morning Star. Remarkably, the rebirth of Mercury on November 27 comes only two days after the rebirth of Jupiter with the Sun on November 25. Since Mercury retrograde is in the home of Jupiter, it means Mercury and the Sun are being received by a revivified Jupiter. As a result this is an incredibly fertile moment of potency for Mercury, and yet since both Mercury and Jupiter are being regenerated it also means it is a newborn phase for both planets that suggests inner realizations to be found more so than external, grandiose manifestations of Jupiter.

Fascinatingly, just as Mercury retrograde unites with the Sun in Sagittarius, the Sun is receiving the Moon in Leo through a harmonious trine. In addition, Mars in Pisces is in a change inducing square aspect with the conjunction of the Sun, Mercury retrograde, and Jupiter; in fact the Star of Ares is being received by Jupiter as it approaches a conjunction with Neptune. This is an incredibly strident, inspirational, passionate, and creative combination that is capable of seeding an entirely new direction cut free from constraints of the past. The influence of Mars can certainly bring conflict and a need for confrontation, yet it is also a call for a deepening of whatever searching for meaning we have been engaged in. There is resilient resolve to be found within capable of fueling your visionary endeavors across the next year. Listen for it in the stillness of Mercury uniting with the Sun, inviting it to integrate into  your embrace of life and navigation of coming currents.

MarleneSevenBremner_Citrinitas_

Citrinitas: To Yellow the Wings, Await the Swelling Haws (2018) by Marlene Seven Bremner

Let your beauty manifest itself / without talking and calculation. / You are silent. It says for you: I am. / And comes in meaning thousandfold, / comes at long last over everyone.

— Rainer Maria Rilke, Initial (The Second Book, Part One) translated by Edward Snow

After the solar rebirth of Mercury on November 27, Mercury retrograde returns to Scorpio on December 1 where it will station direct on December 6 at 27º16’ Scorpio. By the time Mercury stations direct it will have reappeared in visibility as a Morning Star, and similarly this marks another threshold to cross in which we bring the new meaning of Mercury sparked at its inferior conjunction into our daily presence and work, imbibing it into our engagement with matter. It is necessary during this phase to persist in the new direction rather than allowing ourselves to fall back into the old patterns we have felt compelled to move on from. It’s also important to accept the process and be nurturing with yourself when you notice you’ve taken a step or two backwards, prodding yourself forward again.  Interestingly, Mercury will be stationing in a watery triangle with the North Node of the Moon in Cancer and Chiron in Pisces.

The day after Mercury re-enters Scorpio, Venus will also return to the sign of the Scorpion on December 2 for the first time since the end of October. This is also the same time period in which Venus completes its third and final exact opposition with Uranus. As a result the stationing direct of Mercury is crucial in helping us discover and integrate the final lessons coming forth from the Venus retrograde transit that began at the beginning of October.  It will be a penetrative, probing process as both Venus and Mercury are in the fixed, watery home of Mars with Mars in Pisces forming a whole sign trine to both. At the same time, Mars is applying to a conjunction with Neptune in Pisces that perfects on December 7 at the same time Mercury is stationing.

From December 1 until December 12 when Mercury returns again to Sagittarius, the heavy influence of Scorpio with Mars and Neptune in Pisces will compel an intensification of questioning foundational beliefs and curiously investigating the undercurrents of whatever dynamics we are engaged with. Rather that projecting beliefs from a dogmatic perspective, allow the slippery, thieving Mercury to unlock the hidden places where you source vision and beliefs from. This time period will be opportune for testing the strength of the new vision you want to bring into life, making modifications and reorienting aspects as necessity dictates.

The movement of the current Mercury retrograde from the fire sign of Sagittarius back to the water sign of Scorpio foreshadows the fact that in 2019 we will experience Mercury retrograde transits primarily in water signs. This brings to a completion the past two years of having Mercury retrograde in primarily fire signs.  It will be worth the time to consider what houses in your natal chart are in the fire element (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) and what changes you can note have coincided with Mercury enacting its retrograde regeneration there. Furthermore, the subsequent Mercury retrograde will be in Pisces in March 2019 and will also be significantly stirring up meaning in connection with Jupiter in Sagittarius and Neptune in Pisces; there is likely to be some sort of mercurial connection between now and then.

A final element of the visionary meaning stemming from Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius and Scorpio will come at the Capricorn Solstice on December 21, when Mercury will complete its final conjunction with Jupiter at 9º34’ Sagittarius. Both Mercury and Jupiter will be visible as Morning Stars at the solstice, with Venus above them bringing her light to the solstice sunrise. The Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere, it is the dark turning of the year that welcomes increasing light. This is a perfect cosmic alignment of the hope and faith that can be kindled at the solstice stoking the flames of inspiration between Mercury and Jupiter. There will be a hard, constraining reality to confront in 2019 as Saturn, Pluto, and the transiting South Node of the Moon come together in Capricorn. As the Sun enters Capricorn on the solstice, as Mercury and Jupiter unite at dawn, allow yourself to dream the life you wish to live backed by the determination to bring it fully into being.

Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius

Chiron and Achilles by John Singer Sargent

References

Apuleius. (2007). The Golden Ass. Translated by Joel C. Relihan. Hackett Publishing Company.

Rilke, Rainer Maria. (1991). The Book of Images. Translated by Edward Snow. North Point Press.

Von Franz, Marie Louise. (1992). The Golden Ass of Apuleius: The Liberation of the Feminine in Man. Shambhala.

Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius: Crossing of Cronos

Saturn with Mercury caduceus

Saturn photo by NASA; Mercury glyph by Bradley Naragon

Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius

In the twilight of encroaching darkness Mercury disappears at sunset toward the beginning of its retrograde period, initiating its invisible phase.  As nightfall and its bed of glittering stars overtake our senses, we lose the light of Mercury during the liminal time of its retrograde until it’s reflected light returns again at dawn on the other side of its backward movement through the zodiac.  During the time we have no hope of glimpsing the light of the star of Hermes, we can feel bewildered as our perceptual awareness shifts in correspondence as elements of our life pass away.  The volatility of Mercury can be found in its mythic sources:  Carl Jung called Hermes the “many-hued and wily god,” while Karl Kerenyi noted that the ingenious leaps in gain brought by Hermes also coincide with loss.  Since Mercury stations at the beginning of December aligned with Saturn, there is adversity to face on the horizon.  The solidifying stillness of Mercury stationing with Saturn also can bring the types of tests that ultimately foster increased strength, endurance, and structural foundations.

Mercury’s retrograde cycle comes at least three times each calendar year, each manifestation unique and notable for more than a few reasons.  However, the Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius that commences December 2 or December 3, depending upon your time zone, is especially remarkable for ushering us from our experience of Saturn in Sagittarius (12/23/2014 – 12/19/2017) into Saturn in Capricorn (12/19/2017 – 12/17/2020) while Mercury also spends an unusually long time in close proximity to the star of Kronos.  Mercury first united with Saturn on November 27 at 27º27′ of Sagittarius, and after shifting retrograde will align with Saturn for a second time on December 6 at 28º23′ of Sagittarius.  Mercury will remain within three degrees of Saturn until December 9, capping off a couple of weeks of close alignment.  Mercury will eventually conjoin Saturn for a third and final time on January 12, 2018 at 2º47′ of Capricorn, and at this point we will be able to gain sharper clarity for how the events of the Mercury retrograde fit into vaster narratives.  Mercury is serving as a messenger for Saturn, and though not the only meaning to be found in this period is certainly a fundamental aspect to contemplate.

Mercury’s protean nature shifts and mutates more so than any other planet, weaving together polarities and delighting in the grayness of being in between dualities.  Mercury can be both yin and yang, nocturnal and diurnal, spiritual and material, masculine and feminine, and readily accords itself with whatever planetary engagements it finds itself within.  Additionally, the retrograde phase of Mercury is the time in which the meaning of Mercury itself changes, as its swift pace slows to a standstill at the beginning and end of its backward movement through the zodiac.  Instead of firing quickly with curiosity in numerous directions of outward expression, Mercury when retrograde focuses internally with greater propensity for intuiting guidance through symbols and discerning the underlying meaning of both waking and dreaming life. Aligned with Saturn, Mercury retrograde takes on the significations of the star of Kronos, and so to navigate this passage optimally we need to consider how the archetypal forces of Mercury retrograde and Saturn commingle.

Hermes Trismegistus

Hermes Trismegistus floor panel in Siena Cathedral

Hermes, ruler of the world, dweller in the heart, circle of the moon,
Round and square, inventor of the words of the tongue,
Obedient to justice, wearer of the chlamys, shod in winged sandals,
Guardian of the many-sounding tongue, prophet to mortals.

— translation of a Magic Papyrus in Carl Jung’s Alchemical Studies

In our astrological tradition, the affinity between Saturn and Mercury is generally positive:  the 17th century text Christian Astrology by William Lily stated that both Mercury and Saturn are friendly toward one another, while the 9th century Vedic astrological text Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra stated that Saturn considers Mercury a friend while Mercury in comparison is neutral about Saturn.  In the 20th century archetypal tradition that synthesized ancient understanding from Hermetic sources within a depth psychology framework, the lineage from Carl Jung through James Hillman found a vital relationship between Saturn and Mercury within alchemy as well as through the conceptual duality of the senex (elder authority) and puer (eternal youth).  In Alchemical Studies, Carl Jung noted that Mercurius contains the dual  nature of senex and puer. Hillman later illuminated that the senex brings structure, discipline, tradition, and grounding, while the puer injects the vibrancy of idealism, imagination, creativity, and wanderlust.

We can imagine the union of Mercury’s creative bridging with the structural discipline of Saturn through authoritative sources that sustain openness to invention and visionary change.  Mercury retrograde periods bring the ability to focus deeply into mercurial research and communication projects, and so the influence of Saturn brings opportunities to base understanding from traditional lineages while opening awareness to how it fits within the current moment and zeitgeist.  Fantasizing or speculating while disconnected from the responsibilities of reality during this Saturnine retrograde of Mercury will bring repercussions, however, and so flights of imagination need to sustain a level of grounded application.  Whatever philosophical, intellectual, or spiritual frameworks we have been thinking and acting from will be confronted and tested and it will become obvious (if we are paying attention) where we have been deluding ourselves or how are belief system leads to adverse consequences we had not formerly recognized.

With regards to the interplay between Mercury and Saturn within alchemy, I was intrigued to find that Gary Caton linked the alchemical process of nigredo with the initial stationing phase of Mercury retrograde in his recently published book Hermetica Triptycha: The Mercury Elemental Year.  The blackening and putrefaction of nigredo that Jung’s work linked to the dark night of the soul has been associated with Saturn as it brings a decomposition that ultimately leads to illumination.  Since Mercury is stationing in alignment with Saturn at the end of Sagittarius, the peak period of darkness in the northern hemisphere that precedes the rebirth of increased solar light at the Winter solstice, the link to nigredo is even further increased.  Caton wrote that the connection between the initial descent of Mercury retrograde with the nigredo process calls us “to purge the body, the psyche, and the life of extraneous or ‘dead weight’ in order to free up energy for future growth” during the beginning phase of Mercury retrograde (p. 112).

Since Saturn and Mercury are both in the outwardly directed home of Jupiter, Mercury’s retrograde will be pulling us into volatile and stark examinations of our vision for how we create meaning from our experiences in life.   Old thought patterns that have become habitually ingrained in our mind yet are no longer aligned with our authentic development can be dissolved and released with mindful focus and attention.  In a more immediate and mundane sense, we will be called to question some of our goals and plans through Saturnine delays, blockages, or obstacles.  It can be a pop astrology cliche to say that we should expect delays with everything happening in correspondence with Mercury retrograde, but with Mercury stationing in such close proximity to Saturn we are entering a retrograde phase that will force us to slow down and reconsider choices as we encounter restrictions or barriers of one sort or another.  Instead of impatiently shutting down or trying to force things out of frustration, keep a steady and alert focus on how things are developing and be ever ready to spontaneously shift directions or make alterations and revisions as needed.  Saturn and Mercury can guide us toward what needs to be modified for necessary reasons, whether we initially like it or not.

Ancient Mesopotamian astrology also reveals some overlap in meaning between Mercury and Saturn through the associations of the planets with mythic divinities Nabu and Ninurta.  Saturn was linked to the conquering hero Ninurta who retrieved the tablets of fate from a dragon of chaos who had stolen them, subsequently becoming an “overseer of fate and destiny” according to Michael Baigent in his book From the Omens of Babylon: Astrology and Ancient Mesopotamia.  Mercury was linked to the messenger Nabu, a divine scribe who recorded the fate for the world in the coming year when the gods met to decide upon the destiny for the year ahead at the ceremonial end of the year.  These ancient connections with Mercury and Saturn are fitting for the Mercury retrograde coming at the close of 2017, as its surrounding aspects portend the arrival of twists and turns in our personal and collective narratives.

fullsizeoutput_782

Hermes (27 B.C. – A.D. 68) The Met

Mercury plays the role of psychopomp during its retrograde phase, and if we can make the space to go within for internal contemplation we can receive guidance from the depths of soul.  Chthonic Mercury’s guidance can feel irrational at times, perplexing to habitual, egoic minds.  Since Mercury is aligning with Saturn at the end of its time in Sagittarius and will station direct following the ingress of Saturn into Capricorn, we have a saturnine atmosphere to reflect back over all of our experiences in connection with the star of Kronos since it entered Sagittarius on December 23, 2014.  At the same time we will be dealing with the final lessons Saturn in Sagittarius has to offer, and so the quicksilver of Mercury can help us mutate as needed and prepare us for crossing over the threshold of the forthcoming three years of Saturn in Capricorn.  Mercury is a guardian of gates, doors, and liminal thresholds of all manner.  Maintaining mindfulness will enable us to notice and discern whatever final messages we need to hear and integrate with Saturn in Sagittarius.

Moon in home of Mercury

Mercury glyph by Bradley Naragon

A Full Moon in Gemini on December 3 launches us into the Mercury retrograde period with a boom and bang.  Most notable in the syzygy are the aspects circulating between the Full Moon, Jupiter in Scorpio, and Neptune in Pisces.  While the Full Moon forms a tight, catalytic square with Neptune, at the same time Jupiter in Scorpio is forming its first exact trine with Neptune in Pisces. Since the Full Moon is in the home of Mercury, there is incredible timing of the lunation ripening about eight hours after Mercury has officially stationed retrograde in union with Saturn.  Altogether this brings increased potency to Mercury’s stationing much more so than normal, and whatever the Mercury retrograde is initially leading us to recognize and respond to will be obvious.

The influence of Neptune over the Gemini Full Moon that initiates us into the Mercury retrograde harkens back to the square between Neptune and Saturn in Sagittarius that dominated 2016 and was one of the most prominent aspects of Saturn’s time in the sign of the Centaur.  Among other current events this coincided with debates over national borders with regards to refugees and immigrants as well as a deterioration in the ability of the general public to discern the difference between fake and accurate media sources.  We now have the transit of Jupiter harmoniously interacting with Neptune as the backdrop behind Saturn and Neptune’s movement through the homes of Jupiter, and during the Mercury retrograde we will also experience Mercury, Venus, the Sun and the Moon moving through Sagittarius.

Since Jupiter in Scorpio is in the twelfth place from Sagittarius, the interplay between Jupiter and Neptune can deepen understanding through exposure of the previously concealed.  However, the easy trine aspect could also result in people deluding themselves within dogmatic belief systems if they are unwilling to open their minds to evidence coming from a different perspective.  The influence of Neptune upon Mercury’s retrograde through Sagittarius will not be going away, as Mercury will ultimately station direct in range of a square with Neptune.  As a result disillusionment could arise in related events that can cause depression, but these same difficult events can also become a necessary wake up call with what needs our full attention to change or heal.

The trine aspect between Uranus in Aries with Saturn has been another one of the key aspects within Saturn’s transit through Sagittarius that Mercury retrograde will also activate.  Mercury in Sagittarius formed a trine with Uranus on November 25 while moving direct at maximum elongation, and will form a second trine with Uranus in Aries on December 10.  After Mercury stations direct, it will move into its final trine with Uranus on January 6, 2018.  The trine between Uranus and Saturn has brought opportunities throughout 2017 to innovate and open the structural foundations of our lives to greater freedom and authenticity of expression.  Mercury moving back and forth in aspect with Uranus can help us attune to the aspects of organizational restructuring we have been developing that need additional support or repair.  It also increases the volatility of the Mercury retrograde period through unexpected influences and change that comes rapidly with quick development.

Ananka_i_Mojre

Ananke and the three Fates

The shadow cast across the Mercury retrograde by Saturn means the disintegration of matters we will face are necessary, and so instead of becoming stagnant with depression we need to surrender to the unalterable changes while conserving energy for the creative action we have the time and space to make a difference with.  The ancient Hellenistic text The 36 Airs of the Zodiac ascribed the primordial Ananke to the third decan of Sagittarius where Mercury will unite with both Saturn and the Sun during its retrograde.  Since Saturn rules the third face of Sagittarius and has been present in transit here, the gravitas of Ananke has been accentuated.  Austin Coppock in 36 Faces wrote that Ananke’s influence over this decan can be seen in daunting trials and tasks demanding uncomfortable endurance and effort.  Forces of Necessity and Eros, Daimon and Fortune lay at the root of our astrological foundations.  We have to deal with elements of destiny we cannot change and must endure, while we are also given opportunities to respond with clarified intention and co-create the life we most desire to lead.  Do your best to flow with the currents brought along with Mercury’s sleight of hand rather than becoming frustrated by the aspects of life you cannot change.

Since Mercury is orbiting through the space between our planet and our Sun during its retrograde, as close to us as it ever gets, it is like the Mercury archetype is more present and gripping us from the inside.  As a result its always important to maintain keen alertness and attention to subtle shifts in the details of daily life so we have the best chance to respond effectively.  Mercury retrograde periods also reward efforts to create space for meditation and inner contemplation, and this aspect is especially intriguing this time around as Mercury retrograde is uniting with Saturn near the degrees of our Galactic Center which is roughly at 27º of Sagittarius.  I find the idea of transits to the Galactic Center compelling, though I do not feel I completely understand the full ramification of their meaning as an astrologer.  I like the following interpretation Melanie Reinhart wrote in her article The Galactic Centre and the Centaurs:

Astrologically, when the Galactic Centre zone is activated by transits . . . the places, people, ideas, notions and events in our life where we have previously projected our own sense of ‘Higher Self’, or ‘Deeper Centre’ as a source of nourishment may collapse, let us down, crumble, turn against us, or simply quietly depart. That which promised ‘immortality’ fails us. Our ‘tribal’ associations, national or racial identities, while valuable on their own level, are relinquished. Through these transitions or crises, our consciousness develops. This may require a great deal of psychological processing, allowing grief and confusion to give way to peace and clarity. Both our physical bodies and subtle bodies may need attention as toxins begin to be eliminated when we travel the ‘celestial pathway’.

Urania's_Mirror_Serpentarius_Serpens

Ras Alhague, Ophiuchus from Urania’s Mirror

Mercury in the Heart of the Sun

On December 12 we will experience the heart of the Mercury retrograde phase when Mercury is purified and reborn through a conjunction with our fiery Sun.  Called the inferior conjunction of Mercury, it represents a time of illumination in which Mercury aligns in orbit exactly in between our Earth and the Sun.  All of Mercury’s significations are strengthened during the time in which Mercury is transiting within a degree of the Sun, making it an excellent window of time for all mercurial activities. As we cross this threshold of the Mercury retrograde we enter a phase of deepening meaning and realization. Occurring at 21º14′ of Sagittarius, the influence of Saturn is further amplified by Mercury’s inferior conjunction happening within the Egyptian bounds of Saturn.

The union of Mercury with the Sun is also occurring in range of a conjunction with the fixed star  Ras Alhague in the Ophiuchus constellation.  Ras Alhague is the brightest star in Ophiuchus and the head of the Serpent Holder.  Ptolemy associated Ras Alhague with Saturn and Venus, interesting since both Venus and Saturn are co-present with Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius.  Bernadette Brady wrote that “healing, teaching, or wounding” are the themes of Ophiuchus with a focus on reparations for whatever has been damaged.  The healer connection with Ras Alhague is intriguing since the inferior conjunction of Mercury occurring nearby can facilitate attention to nurture whatever needs mending.  Robert Hand and other astrologers have also connected the Serpent Holder with humanity’s attempts throughout history to grab ahold of nature in order to reap energy resources and power.  We are clearly at a collective crossroads in terms of our use and misuse of nature for energy.  Mercury’s back and forth through Sagittarius and across the Serpent Holder will bring significant messages concerning the need for change and the repercussions of inaction.

Hermes print Robert Mapplethorpe

Hermes by Robert Mapplethorpe

Solstice Station of Mercury

A few days after Mercury unites with the Sun, Mercury retrograde will conjoin Venus on December 16 at 17º52′ of Sagittarius.  Venus will be co-present with Mercury in Sagittarius for the entirety of its retrograde, making Mercury’s ability to find pleasure and harmony easier than it would normally be while in the same sign as Saturn.  Similar to the recently reborn Mercury not being at full strength due to being invisible and finishing a purification process, Venus is also not at full strength and engaged in purification on her way toward an eventual union with the Sun.  Venus and Mercury retrograde unite under a Dark Moon in Scorpio.  Nights come full of secrets and delights that are hidden from external eyes.  In the privacy of one’s inner sanctum healing and joy are possible during the interplay of Venus with the retrograde Mercury.

Mercury stations direct in Sagittarius a day after the Solstice on December 22, the peak time of darkness in the northern hemisphere and the peak time of light in the southern hemisphere.  This is also one day after Saturn enters Capricorn and forms a conjunction with the Sun at the Solstice.  Mercury also shifts into direct motion in range of a challenging square with Neptune, while forming a harmonious sextile with the South Node of the Moon in Aquarius and a stimulating trine with the North Node of the Moon in Leo.  If we have been open to flow with the chaos and allow for the necessary disintegration and dissolution, the coagulation of the Capricorn Solstice will bring needed reordering and rebirth along with the return of the holy light of Hermes.  The close of the year brings a new cycle of Saturn in its own home of Capricorn, with Mercury bright at dawn and ready to take on all of the needed responsibilities in the day ahead.

References

Baigent, Michael. (1994). From the Omens of Babylon: Astrology and Ancient Mesopotamia. Arkana.

Brady, Bernadette. (1998). Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars. Weiser.

Caton, Gary. (2017). Hermetica Triptycha: The Mercury Elemental Year. Rubedo Press.

Coppock, Austin. (2014). 36 Faces: The History, Astrology and Magic of the Decans. Three Hands Press.

Hand, Robert. (2000). A Dialogue Between Heaven and Earth.

Jung, Carl. (1967). Alchemical Studies. Bollingen.

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

Reinhart, Melanie. (2017) The Galactic Centre and the Centaurs.