Someday, at the end of the nightmare of knowing,
may I emerge singing praise and jubilation to assenting angels.
May I strike my heart’s keys clearly, and may none fail
because of slack, uncertain, or fraying strings.
May the tears that stream down my face
make me more radiant: may my hidden weeping
bloom. How I will cherish you then, you grief-torn nights!
Had I only received you, inconsolable sisters,
on more abject knees, only buried myself with more abandon
in your loosened hair. How we waste our afflictions!
We study them, stare out beyond them into bleak continuance,
hoping to glimpse some end. Whereas they’re really
our wintering foliage, our dark greens of meaning, one
of the seasons of the clandestine year—; not only
a season —: they’re site, settlement, shelter, soil, abode.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, from the Tenth Elegy of Duino Elegies translated by Edward Snow
Mercury retrograde in Scorpio
As night and its unknowing darkness envelopes us on October 13, Mercury will be cloistered in their cave of pungent roots, fungi, and herbs stirring a cauldron of mysterious brew hung with an iron hook over fire. Mercury has outdone themselves, really, as it’s a concoction into which we may pour all of our laments of loss, grief, vulnerabilities, and fears, cooking and transfiguring their essence into medicine. As Mercury tends to the dissolution, swirling it into a spiral with their spoon, we will be offered a taste.
Mercury will station retrograde on October 13, 2020 at 11°40′ Scorpio, pulling us into a twenty-one day period in which the star of Hermes will backtrack through the zodiac until stationing direct on November 3 at 25º54′ Libra. Uranus and Saturn will be in the role of threshold guardians, as Mercury will begin its retrograde in an opposition with Uranus and will end it while in a square aspect with Saturn. Mercury will thoroughly inspect the zodiacal terrain from twenty-five degrees of Libra to twelve degrees of Scorpio in natal charts, digging up material in need of release, rehabilitation, rejuvenation, or reintegration. Mercury first crossed 25º54′ Libra on September 23 and will not finally move beyond 11°40′ Scorpio until November 19.
While 2020 has been dominated by the grave lineup of Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto in Capricorn, 2021 will be fundamentally shaped by three shattering square aspects formed between Uranus in Taurus and Saturn in Aquarius on February 17, June 14, and December 23, 2021. Mercury’s retrograde journey through Scorpio and Libra will bridge the astrological themes streaming from this year into next, since it will begin by triggering issues related to Uranus and then penetrate into the core dynamics of Saturn, Pluto, and Jupiter. Mercury is at home in liminal states of being in between, and while retrograde will guide awareness into exploration of the issues that require deeper attention so we may more fluidly pass from the way things have been into the way of what is to come.
Mercury transitions from being visible in the evening twilight at the beginning of its retrograde phase into an invisible phase for most of its retrograde passage, re-emerging into visibility at the end of its retrograde phase at dawn. In between Mercury descends into the darkness of the underworld to be regenerated by the Sun, reseeding our consciousness with new ideas and a refreshened presence. The apparent backward motion of Mercury is due to it orbiting in between our Earth and Sun, coming to its closest proximity with us in orbit. We thus experience an intensification of Mercury during its retrograde phase, as its descent calls for a purging and purification of our mental constructs and the way we process and communicate information and ideas.
Mercury retrograde has a reputation for trouble that it will play at full tilt this time around. Crucially, Mercury will not only station in opposition with Uranus, it will also be under rulership of Mars retrograde in Aries in its full phase with the Sun. This means that after the Sun sets and Mercury shares its final light as an evening star in the few days after it stations retrograde, Mars will be arising over the eastern horizon in its brightest phase of fiery redness and proceed to glow down upon us all through the night. Since Mars will be operating at an extremity of symbolic heat, we can expect the three week period of Mercury being retrograde to be more disruptive and disorienting than normal.
Mercury’s fluid nature that weaves between divergent perspectives and embraces multiplicity will be the kind of medicine we will need to digest. Yet we must also bear in mind that Mercury will utilize sleight of hand trickery while dislodging us from stuck, habitual patterns when retrograde. The building square aspect between Saturn and Uranus that Mercury will bridge during its retrograde journey is a waning one, signifying that across our global collective the clash between Saturn and Uranus will demand a radical altering of how we perceive and approach the dismantling of societal systems underway. The more we can let go of our fixed conceptions of identity, the more that we can utilize the experience of Mercury retrograde for sifting through the unraveling of our inner multiplicity, reintegrating fragmented aspects of ourselves that essentially need to be returned, finding new angles of perception in problem solving in the process.
While we are often called to revisit old issues while Mercury is retrograde, the influence of Mars combined with the hard aspects Mercury will make with Uranus, Saturn, Pluto, and Jupiter over the course of its three week retrograde passage has the potential to dredge up core patterns that feel like they have been festering in the deepest recesses of our subconscious for ages. Rather than becoming angry and frustrated over having to re-engage with something from the past, ask what the spirit of the presenting issue is bringing as an underlying lesson. Allow the star of Hermes to guide awareness to the old issues that need to be laid to rest, the repairs and reparations that need to be enacted, and the emptying of what needs to be released in order to more effectively welcome an influx of new developments at the end of 2020.
And so we press on and try to achieve it,
try to contain it in our simple hands,
in our brimming eyes, our voiceless heart.
Try to become it. Try to give it— to whom? Best of all,
to hold on to it all forever . . . Ah, but what can one carry across
into that other relation? Not the art of seeing,
learned so slowly here, and no event that transpired here. Not one.
The pain, then. Above all, the hard labor of living,
the long experience of love, —all the purely
unsayable things. But later on,
among the stars, what then: there the unsayable reigns.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, from the Ninth Elegy of Duino Elegies translated by Edward Snow
Mercury typically will spend about two years being retrograde in the same element- since March 2019, Mercury has been shifting retrograde in water signs. This will be the final Mercury retrograde in a water sign in the current sequence, as Mercury will be retrograde in the air signs of Aquarius, Gemini, and Libra in 2021. During the past two years the periods of Mercury retrograde in water signs have plunged us into the depths of emotional undercurrents so we may excavate buried treasures of insight. It’s wise to slow down and allow for dreams, synchronicities, and omens to work through us when Mercury is retrograde in water signs, and that will be especially the case while Mercury is retrograde in Scorpio from October 13 until it returns to Libra on October 27.
Mercury will be visible in the liminal hues of twilight at the beginning of its retrograde phase, transitioning around October 18 into its phase of invisibility in which it facilitates purging and shedding. The closer Mercury comes to uniting with the Sun on October 25, the more the cauldron of Mercury will feel the Sun’s calcining fire that can dissolve rigidity and open deeper attuning with needed messages from our unconscious. From the stationing of Mercury on October 13 until its conjunction with the Sun on October 25, let the watery nature of Mercury in Scorpio pull your feelings into the places that need release and resolution within. After the New Moon in Libra forms on October 16 and the waxing Moon shares its first crescent light while conjoining Mercury in Scorpio on October 17, it will be possible to gain greater clarity for what needs to be emptied and shed with intention.
As Mercury disappears into darkness it takes on the role of Chthonic Hermes, the psychopomp who was given souls to guide by Persephone. Mercury will descend into the underworld while forming an opposition with Uranus that will become exact on October 19. The emancipatory and jolting wattage oscillating between Mercury and Uranus will not be new, for Mercury first formed an opposition with Uranus on October 7 after having spent a week building up tension with Uranus. On the most simple level the extended interfacing between Mercury and Uranus will bring unexpected announcements and events that radically upturn narratives and plans. Combined with Mercury stationing retrograde, there will be a deeper side of soulful and ancestral patterns becoming volatilized that will feel disorienting but can lead toward fundamental growth and development.
While it’s best with Mercury retrograde in a water sign to go with the flow, the fixed nature of Scorpio can lead to being stuck on compulsive feelings or consumed with trying to maintain control in getting our way. The lightning strikes from Uranus will force release and surrender to the currents, and while we may have to experience strife we may also listen to what message the sleight of hand of Mercury is delivering through the tumult. When it doesn’t feel possible to let go of wounds or loss, the ineffable depth of Scorpio’s waters can help dislodge feelings of grief that need to be released. Make space for rest and time for descent into incubatory darkness so you may better attune to the inner guidance needed.
With all its eyes the animal world
beholds the Open. Only our eyes
are as if inverted and set all around it
like traps at its portals to freedom.
What’s outside we only know from the animal’s
countenance; for almost from the first we take a child
and twist him round and force him to gaze
backwards and take in structure, not the Open
that lies so deep in an animal’s face. Free from death.
Only we see death; the free animal has its demise
perpetually behind it and before it always
God, and when it moves, it moves into eternity,
the way brooks and running springs move.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, from the Eighth Elegy of Duino Elegies translated by Edward Snow
Mercury will become reanimated and reseeded by its conjunction with the Sun on October 25 at 2°48′ Scorpio. Known as its inferior conjunction, Mercury aligns in between the Earth and Sun by zodiacal degree, as close to us in orbit as possible for Mercury within its cycle. During the time that Mercury is within one degree of conjunction with the Sun, even more so while Mercury is within sixteen minutes of its solar conjunction, there is enhanced potential to experience clarifying self-reflection and reception of key insight. 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.”
Karl Kerenyi wrote in Hermes: Guide of Souls that “meeting and finding are revelations of Hermes’ essence,” as Hermes discovers fortune through “accidental happenings” and windfalls that he crafts with “intelligence and the art of living,” shaping every find into “a theft that is put into better use.” Wherever you find yourself in your journey on October 25, invite Hermes to help you make inventive use of your circumstances. Indeed, Kerenyi illuminated that the journeyer in communion 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.” This “middle domain” of Hermes has resonance with Mercury at the point of its chthonic conjunction with the Sun because, as described by Kerenyi, “a person in this volatized condition has access to everything.” It’s a moment to enter the primordial in the present.
When Mercury becomes revitalized with the creative potency of our solar light on October 25, its ruler Mars will remain retrograde but will have finally finished forming exact square aspects with Saturn, Pluto, and Jupiter in Capricorn. We may draw from the absorptive potency of Mercury in Scorpio to soak in all the feelings that have been stirred up by Mars catalyzing Jupiter, Pluto, and Saturn, grounding into a deeper sense of our circumstances. Open your awareness to the seeds of new ideas and visions germinating within your inner darkness.
But suppose the endlessly dead were to wake in us some emblem:
they might point to the catkins hanging
from the empty hazel trees, or direct us to the rain
descending on black earth in early spring.-
And we, who always think of happiness
rising, would feel the emotion
that almost baffles us
when a happy thing falls.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, from the Tenth Elegy of Duino Elegies translated by Edward Snow
Mercury Station in Libra
Mercury slides backwards into Libra on October 27 only eight minutes before Venus enters Libra. This brings a major change in tone that switches the focus of Mercury from Mars retrograde in its fiery home of Aries to Venus in its airy home of Libra, with both Mercury and Venus gaining increased essential dignity on the same day (Venus entering its own domicile and Mercury entering its own triplicity). Mercury will also be in the exaltation and triplicity of Saturn, and will test this relationship immediately by applying to an intensifying square aspect with Saturn. The square between Mercury and Saturn is a double edged scythe, as on one hand there could be rejection to contend with while on the other hand there could be a solidification and harvesting of insight and results.
As the tension between Mercury retrograde in Libra and Saturn direct in Capricorn builds to a peak, there will be a cathartic Full Moon in Taurus on October 31 that forms an almost exact conjunction with Uranus. Notably, the Taurus Full Moon combines the monthly polarity of the Sun and Moon with the yearly opposition between the Sun and Uranus retrograde, the heart of the retrograde cycle of Uranus when it is closest to Earth. The lunation’s alignment with Uranus can bring the electrified spark needed to finally change a deep seated pattern as well as incite far ranging vision that brings a sudden reformulation of whatever we have been planning and working on. The mysterious, nonlinear realm of memory and dreams will be invigorated with activity.
A day after the Full Moon in Taurus unites with Uranus, Mercury retrograde in Libra will form an exact square aspect with Saturn in Capricorn on November 1. As Mercury retrograde in Libra clashes with Saturn under the full light of the Moon, we may encounter extremes in current events as well as interpersonal encounters, bringing a need for balancing within experiences full of tension, polarity, counterpoints, and contrariness. Fortunately, the timing of these transits with the Samhain holiday can make for potent rituals, spiritual experiences, and communion with ancestors that can bring pivotal guidance.
As Mercury slows down to station direct on November 3 while forming a square with Saturn, Pluto, and Jupiter in Capricorn, the star of Hermes will also be returning to visibility as a Morning Star sharing its light amongst the birdsong that comes just before sunrise. In the United Sates of America, Mercury will station direct in the vicious political climate of Election Day that will likely be full of conflicting reports and contested results. Mercury will make major pronouncements during the first week of November in global events, and likewise in our personal life we will receive an influx of new vision and an activation of imaginative ideas.
After Mercury stations direct and begins moving forward in Libra, it will form its third exact square aspect with Saturn in Capricorn on November 7. The final square between Mercury and Saturn brings to completion a process that began on September 23 when Mercury and Saturn formed the first square in the sequence. The meaning found in the relationship between Mercury and Saturn across this time brings to mind the description given by Liz Greene regarding Carl Jung’s understanding of their interplay in her book The Astrological World of Jung’s Liber Novus. Greene wrote that the “shadowy, potentially destructive prima materia of the unconscious, represented by Saturn, bears a secret unity with the mysterious mediating agency in the psyche, represented by Mercury, that fosters the conscious recognition of meaning and teleology.” One aspect of the realm where Mercury and Saturn may meet is in the imagination, and so it will be worthwhile spending time incubating within the living symbolism of whatever emerges to glean the deeper significance for your life.
Mercury will return to the dark waters of Scorpio on November 10, the same day it also reaches maximum elongation as a Morning Star and begins to move faster than the steady course of the Sun. At the same time, Venus in Libra will be forming an opposition with Mars in Aries as the red planet begins to slow down to station direct. The tension between Venus and Mars will intensify the entrance of Mercury into its explorative solar phase that Gary Caton has compared to the rubedo phase of alchemy, as it demarcates the period for manifesting the inspired ideas and revivified presence gathered during the period of Mercury retrograde into our daily routines and reality. Make space for deep listening and delving into your relational dynamics with others, taking note of the underlying patterns and crafting ways to create healthier, mutually supportive dynamics.
Altogether, the period of Mercury retrograde in Scorpio and Libra will play a crucial role in transitioning us into the finale of Mars retrograde in Aries and comprehending whatever emerges. It will also provoke a vital reorientation to the issues that need our attention in the final stretch of the year as we approach an eclipse season and the grand conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius on December 21. After traversing the boggy landscape of Scorpio where we will experience decomposition of past issues, Mercury will retrieve the golden scales of Libra that we may utilize in recalibrating whatever new growth is becoming fertilized. Moving back and forth between the dissolving water of Scorpio and the intellectualizing air of Libra can facilitate the understanding of surrounding relational dynamics we need in order to navigate the social unrest and disruption to societal power structures that will be taking place.
Angel! O take it, pluck it, that small-petaled herb of healing!
Create a vase, preserve it! Place it among those joys
not yet open to us; in a delicate urn
let an ornate inscription praise it: “Subrisio Saltat.”
— Rainer Maria Rilke, from the Fifth Elegy of Duino Elegies translated by Edward Snow
If you enjoy my writing please consider supporting my work through a monthly subscription on my Patreon page. My intention with Patreon is to receive enough support to not only help me continue to offer the articles I have been doing for free, but to also expand the scope of what I am offering. Take a look to see the benefits you will receive as a patron.
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.
Greene, Liz. (2018). The Astrological World of Jung’s Liber Novus: Daimons, Gods, and the Planetary Journey. Routledge.
Kerenyi, Karl. (1976). Hermes: Guide of Souls. Spring Publications.
Rilke, Rainer Maria. (2000). Duino Elegies. translated by Edward Snow. North Point Press.