Mercury Retrograde in Aquarius

Light in Heavy (1929) by Wassily Kandinsky

Mercury Retrograde in Aquarius

Every person is a half-open door
leading to a room for everyone.

— from “The Half-Finished Heaven” by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly

Mercury is a friend to humanity, albeit a tricky guide who enjoys sleight of hand and cunning words that catch us off guard. In astrology, when Mercury pauses in motion to change direction it’s necessary to be mindful with focused curiosity that can intuit the emerging issues that need our attention. The airy terrain of Aquarius will provide contrasting wind currents for Mercury to ride, sometimes forcing us in certain directions out of necessity, at other times opening an expansive vision that simultaneously draws from our well of memory while seeing new pathways to follow into the future.

Mercury is the most changeable planet, and when stationing retrograde shifts from its fleet footed pace when direct into intensifying stillness that calls for introspection. As Mercury begins its slow, churning backward motion it pulls us into a quality of time aligned with dissolution, purification, and regeneration. Rather than insisting on controlling outcomes to push forward, we need to surrender to the changes in storylines and meaning delivered by Mercury when retrograde. Although we may at times become disoriented by destabilizing dynamics, if we listen closely we will hear the guidance we need from Hermes and discover a gleaming gem of realization left where only we may find it.

Following the stationing of Mercury on January 30 at 26°29’ Aquarius, the star of Hermes will spend twenty-two days backtracking through the sign of the Water Bearer until stationing direct at 11°01’ Aquarius on February 20. As Mercury retraces the zodiacal terrain from eleven to twenty-seven degrees of Aquarius, it will excavate material that we need to deepen our engagement with, returning our perception to issues we need to release, rework, or reintegrate. After passing through a phase of putrefaction and purification, we may gain a rejuvenated presence and felt sense of renewal on the other side. Mercury first crossed 11°01’ Aquarius on January 15 and will not move beyond 26°29’ Aquarius until March 12, creating two months of mercurial focus in this range of your natal chart. 

In addition to changing speed and direction while retrograde, Mercury also transitions from being visible as an evening star in twilight into an invisible phase during which it comes closest to us in orbit and amplifies its impact in our life. In between the descent of Mercury into darkness and its eventual re-emergence into light as a morning star heralding sunrise, Mercury’s underworld journey demarcates a threshold we must cross into our own liminal passage of descent and internal processing. While we always need to attune and adjust to changes emerging from internal and external sources during the three weeks Mercury is retrograde, the period of Mercury retrograde in Aquarius in 2021 will be taking place during a collective time of immeasurably immense transition and liminality in global events.

During Mercury’s retrograde movement the Sun, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn will all be gathered together with Mercury in Aquarius like a grouping of clouds whose shaping and reshaping brings new realizations of our past and new inspiration for our way forward. We are still coming to terms collectively with the systemic shifts emanating from the great conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius, with disruption and volatility continuing to increase in correlation with the first exact square aspect formed between Saturn in Aquarius and Uranus in Taurus on February 17. Since Aquarius is a zodiacal sign that connects the known with the unknown, as Mercury moves back to reconnect with Jupiter and Saturn we will be given the opportunity to realign and recalibrate with the rapidly developing movements, accelerated growth, and sudden collapses within societal systems that have been taking place. 

Explorador Piloto (1960) by Remedios Varo

Through a backdoor in the landscape
the magpie arrives,
black and white, bird of the death-goddess.
A blackbird flies back and forth
until the whole scene becomes a charcoal drawing,
except for the white clothes on the line:
a Palestrina choir.

The whole universe is full!

— from “Morning Bird Songs” by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly

The significance of Mercury, Venus, the Sun, and Jupiter all joining Saturn in its home of Aquarius cannot be overstated. Since this great gathering of wandering stars in Aquarius will also be forming a sign-based square aspect with Mars and Uranus in Taurus, we can expect it to be an especially disruptive and unstable period of Mercury retrograde. Especially during the first two weeks when Mars and Mercury will be more intensely engaged in a square aspect, we will need to navigate the stereotypical breakdowns in technology and communication emphasized in popular astrology. Yet due to Saturn being rooted in its airy home of Aquarius the entire time,  we will be able to lean on the endurance, slowly pondering analysis, and special skills in deconstruction and reconstruction possessed by the ringed star of Cronus. 

It’s further notable that Mercury is the nocturnal ruler of air signs and shares an affinity with the air element in being mobile, flexible, versatile, and facile in communication. The slow, intensified nature of Mercury when retrograde can be excellent for in-depth research, and so it can be a fruitful time for poring over reading material or penetrating deeper into learning within fields of interest. The flexibility of consciousness that Mercury brings to the potent contemplation of Saturn in Aquarius will also be beneficial in critically examining media sources as well as separating true revelation from false conspiracy on social media and elsewhere. In particular, it will be a powerful time for shedding outdated mental frameworks and thought patterns that no longer align with the changing wind of the time.

The fixed nature of Aquarius means that the changes brought into our life through the deluge of planets in Aquarius may slowly take shape in some cases but will create long lasting impact. Since Aquarius is a human sign connected with the relationship between humans with one another in our vast network of intersecting societal constructions, humanitarian concerns will take precedence. The numerous crises impacting people around the world in relation to the global pandemic as well as the collapse of formerly reliable structures means that it’s simply going to take a long time to find the needed solutions and work through the difficulties involved in reform and repair. Bring patience and willingness to persist in problem solving into the passage of Mercury retrograde, and by the end of it you will likely find new insights to apply to issues and new pathways to follow forward. 

As we continue to orient with the new era of air initiated by the recent conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn, we can utilize the three weeks of Mercury retrograde to notice synchronicities and discover revelations in connection with all forms of air symbolism. One realm will be in the use of language itself, rethinking how we use language to communicate. With the tension from Mars and Uranus to the gathering of Aquarius planets there will continue to be cultural battles over the use of language and the ways we tell our collective stories of humanity, with escalating conflict swirling like whirlwinds. In verbal conflicts of any sort, the mediation offered by Mercury retrograde is to pause, slow down, and rethink your perspective, finding ways to de-escalate discord so that a bridge between view points can be made.

Within our personal relationships, we will also have opportunities for uncovering ways to more directly express the heart of the matter through our choice in words. As the living symbolism of Aquarius involves how humans draw from sources of spirit within earthly matters, one constant intersection is in how we express the flight of our thoughts through language. As Dr. Mervat Nasser wrote in Hermopolis, “the Egyptian alphabet took the shape of birds that were seen as capable of flying high into the sky to mediate between the knowledge of heaven and earth, between god and humanity.” 

We may also gain insight through the appearance of airy omens and signs, whether they appear through images soaring through our mind when asleep or through the flight patterns of birds within our waking time in nature. Just like Owen Barfield emphasized in Saving the Appearances, rather than forming an “I-it” relationship with nature in which we desire to observe the beautiful flight of birds separate from ourselves, we can instead seek to learn what we can understand about ourselves from the sudden appearance of a Blue Heron or Peregrine Falcon along our path. There is a depth of symbolic insight accessible when Mercury is retrograde that can be more nonlinear and intuitive than linearly logical.

When possible it will be worthwhile to spend time with the muses of your creativity while Mercury is retrograde, as the gathering of planets in Aquarius making creative tension with Mars and Uranus can lead to breakthrough ideas and important brainstorms that dislodge you from a formerly stuck position. In myth the Muses were known as the daughters of Mnemosyne (memory) and Zeus (creative divine mind), and so with Jupiter and Venus both present in Aquarius with Mercury we may draw from streams of memories in the creation of new expressions and thought forms. According to Tim Addey, who drew upon the work of Plato in his book The Seven Myths of the Soul, engaging in arts and sciences requires both creative thought and “the memory of our pre-terrestial vision of the celestial realm.” To Addey, this creative process can put us in touch with a sense of morality drawn down from the spirit of stars above, a rather Aquarian process as ethics are an important ideal for Aquarius:

“The theory of reminiscence is Plato’s explanation of why we as human beings are able to recognize abstract, universal and spiritual truths, such as justice, beauty, and goodness: it is because the soul once possessed this knowledge..but forgotten when she descended into the world of matter; the soul’s activities in arts and sciences helps her remember it.”  – Tim Addey, The Seven Myths of the Soul

odilon redon pilgrim from a sublunar world

Pilgrim from a Sublunar World (1891) by Odilon Redon

. . . Oh, but just beyond that,
behind the last of the billboards, plastered with signs for “Deathless,”
that bitter beer which tastes sweet to those drinking it
as long as they have fresh distractions to chew . . . ,
just beyond those boards, just on the other side: things are real.
Children play, lovers hold each other, off in the shadows,
pensive, on the meager grass, while dogs obey nature.
The youth is drawn farther on; perhaps he’s fallen in love
with a young Lament . . . . . He pursues her, enters meadowland. She says:
“It’s a long way. We live out there . . .”

— Rainer Maria Rilke, from the Tenth Elegy of Duino Elegies translated by Edward Snow

Venus and Mercury will both be entering the underworld together within the first few days of Mercury being retrograde, meaning that both the Mercury and Venus aspects of our life will begin to enter a phase of putrefaction and decomposition. However, while Mercury will be stationing retrograde to descend from visibility as an evening star in the west at sunset, Venus will be disappearing from view as a morning star in the east at sunrise; while Mercury will be moving slowly through the zodiac backwards in between our orbit with the Sun, Venus will be moving fast and direct on the other side of the Sun from us in orbit.

Soon after disappearing under the beams of the Sun, Venus will run straight into the unsettling square aspect being formed between Saturn and Uranus. On February 5 there will be a conjunction of Venus with Saturn in Aquarius followed by square between Venus and Uranus in Taurus on February 6. As a result, the increasingly purgative phase of Mercury being retrograde that leads up to its union with the Sun on February 8 will also involve a cathartic process of Venus setting off the friction building between Saturn and Uranus. Just as Mercury will be increasingly burning off material built up from its last union with the Sun on December 19, so will Mercury also help us shed and release aspects of the issues being volatilized by Venus engaging with Saturn and Uranus. 

To dig deeper into the meaning of the aspects we need to remember that Venus will be in the home of Saturn when they unite on February 5, followed by Venus having a catalyzing encounter with Uranus who will be in the earthy home of Venus. While potentially disruptive there is also more potential for integration due to astrological reception being involved in the aspect sequence. The union of Saturn with Venus can bring a sobering view of reality, coming into contact with the confines of our circumstantial context. Yet the airy nature of Aquarius can help move with the emancipatory impulse from Uranus that can push desires to break free from present restrictions.

Fundamentally, the sequence of Venus moving from Saturn into Uranus combined with Mercury undergoing its own regenerative process of purification will create opportunities to deepen into the ways in which our values are being reshaped and reforged during a period of great collective transition. If we have been unconsciously letting go of old ideals and desires, as Mercury approaches its union with the Sun on February 8 we can begin discovering ways to embody the ways in which our values are undergoing a process of renewal and rejuvenation. Yet before full embodiment will be possible, we will need to come into greater clarity and realization of the ways in which our known understanding is transfiguring into unknown, emerging potential.

Across time the myth of Prometheus has been increasingly connected to the meaning of Uranus in astrology, perhaps most notably by Rick Tarnas. Within the Uranian themes of emancipation, innovation, invention, and rebellious individuality in the story of Prometheus, there are also lessons centered around the hubris of humanity. When we are struck by Uranus in astrology, we may ask ourselves what we have been creating with the divine gift of fire, what we most wish to bring to civilization, and what we most wish to awaken in ourselves and others. Just as Prometheus knowingly sacrificed his boundless nature to be chained to an earthly rock as punishment for delivering the gift of fire to humanity, so do we need to find ways to ground the searing visions of Uranus into our material forms with awareness of its repercussions across our world.  As Tim Addey in The Seven Myths of the Soul wrote, “The mystic’s initiation into the mysteries of Prometheus is the voluntary acceptance of the limitations of matter, not its rejection.”

Whatever innovative ideas, clarifying insights, and new desires are gathered by Venus moving across Saturn and Uranus will be brought into the conjunction that will form between Venus and Jupiter in Aquarius on February 11, the same day as the New Moon in Aquarius. While this will be a period in which to come into deeper contact with the new visions gestating within, we will first experience the reanimation of Mercury with the Sun on February 8.

Vision by Odilon Redon

Vision (1895/97) by Odilon Redon

Task: to be where I am.
Even when I’m in this solemn and absurd
role: I am still the place
where creation works on itself.

Dawn comes, the sparse tree trunks
take on color now, the frostbitten
forest flowers form a silent search party
after something that has disappeared in the dark.

But to be where I am . . . and to wait.
I am full of anxiety, obstinate, confused.
Things not yet happened are already here!
I feel that. They’re just out there:

a murmuring mass outside the barrier.
They can only slip in one by one.
They want to slip in. Why? They do
one by one. I am the turnstile.

— from “Guard Duty” by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly

Chthonic Cazimi

Mercury will become reanimated by its conjunction with the Sun on February 8 at 20°01′ Aquarius. The reseeding of Mercury in solar light 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. 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.” 

Guarding the entrance of Mercury into the heart of the Sun will be Pallas Athene, whose asteroid will unite with Mercury on February 7 and will be at 20°51′ Aquarius when Mercury unites with the Sun at 20°01′ Aquarius on February 8. The union of Pallas Athene with Mercury is the second in a three part sequence: Mercury formed its first conjunction with Pallas Athene on January 16 at 13°05′ Aquarius, and will form its third and final conjunction with Pallas Athene on March 18 at 3°25′ Pisces. With her glaring gray-eyes that penetrate with far reaching vision, Pallas Athene will be present with her sharpened spear, slithering snake, and protective aegis to foster the courage of a burning heart that can pierce through previous blockages to enliven a fuller sense of our potential.

A goddess of arts and crafts, prophecy, and warfare, Walter Burkett noted in Greek Religion that what unites Pallas Athene’s “divergent spheres of competence is not an elemental force, but the force of civilization: the just division of roles” among the populace as well as “the organizational wisdom which achieves this.” Burkert further noted that “more than any other deity Athena is always near her protégés,” declaring that “wherever difficulties disappear and the impossible becomes possible, Athena is at hand.”  In astrology, Demetra George has described Pallas Athene in Aquarius as representing “futuristic perception ” that creates “forms that will benefit generations to come,” as well as artists and others “on the forefront of the future, translating the tone of what is coming  in for the masses.” While the issues in need of addressing across society seem impossibly large, the presence of Pallas Athene with the inferior conjunction of Mercury is a sign of significant progress being possible in terms of reorganizing structures, roles, and responsibilities within societal and personal systems of all sorts.

The union of Pallas Athene with Mercury will precede the movement of Mercury from the heart of the Sun into a discordant square aspect with Mars in Taurus. Mercury will form its exact square aspect with Mars on February 10 during a dark Moon in Aquarius that will be moving through a sequence of conjunctions with Venus, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mercury as it draws its lunar cycle to a close, intensifying our feelings of transitioning in between what has been and what will be. The disruptive influence of Mars in Taurus upon the inferior conjunction of Mercury will be modulated by Pallas Athene, amplifying the penetrative visioning available as well as the inspiration for activism on behalf of social justice concerns from groups who have been marginalized in one way or another by the cultures in power.

If you experience any significant breakdowns, conflicts, or obstacles as Mars and Mercury clash, keep in mind that as soon as Mercury begins to separate from Mars it will begin applying toward a beneficial and restorative conjunction between Jupiter and Venus in Aquarius. There may be a need to come to stark terms with what isn’t working in the middle of February, but there will be celestial support available to diagnose solutions and ultimately begin moving forward again from a more solid foundation. 

The Buddha (1895) by Odilon Redon

The airy sky has taken its place leaning against the wall.
It is like a prayer to what is empty.
And what is empty turns its face to us
and whispers
“I am not empty, I am open.”

— from “Vermeer” by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly

A few days after the inferior conjunction of Mercury, there will be an extremely potent New Moon in Aquarius on February 11 at 23°17’ Aquarius that will involve a conjunction between Venus and Jupiter in Aquarius as well as all of the seven traditional planets and lights occupying Aquarius except for Mars. Following the New Moon in Aquarius, Mercury will form a conjunction with Venus in Aquarius on February 13 followed by a conjunction with Jupiter in Aquarius on February 14. These days following the Aquarius New Moon can be extremely fertile for creativity and coalescing greater clarity regarding the path we need to follow into the year ahead. The more we can strip away the inessential and what is ready to be shed from our life in the period leading up to these days, the more space we will have to welcome exciting new developments. 

As Mercury begins slowing down to station direct on February 20, it will become visible again in the darkness before dawn around February 16. There will be a burst of new movements and ideas for future plans at this time, as the reappearance of Mercury as a morning star to deliver a vital message will be combined with the fact that both Saturn and Jupiter will have also renewed their own visible cycles as morning stars in the days before Mercury. Yet we will have to navigate an extremely turbulent atmosphere while integrating new visions due to the first exact square aspect between Saturn and Uranus taking place on February 17. There will be rupturing in collective events creating division while sudden shifts and movements continue to reorder and rearrange systemic structures and alliances between societal structures and groups.

Some of the ways Mercury may assist in ferrying us across the volatile middle of February involves Mercury being within its own decan of ten to twenty degrees of Aquarius. Mercury will possess both decan as well as triplicity dignity as it slows down to station, giving it added potency in helping us forge links of support with relationships and resources that can help us handle being at a threshold in-between the way it’s been and the way of what’s to come. Austin Coppock in his book on the decans 36 Faces ascribed the image of “Heaven and Earth” to the second face of Aquarius, noting that the “principled but fierce wisdom” found in this face “stabilizes commerce between heaven and earth” while also allowing for “the connection of the orthodox and the unorthodox, the known and the unknown,” as well as “the ideal and the practical.” 

Further adding to the instability and creative tension of the days surrounding Mercury stationing direct, Venus in Aquarius will form a catalyzing square aspect with Mars in Taurus on February 19. The waning square between Venus with Mars will necessitate adjustment and reorientation within our relational dynamics in accordance with whatever larger collective changes are taking place as well as whatever kind of internal shifting in values and needs we have been experiencing. As Mercury will be stationing direct at the same time, make the time and space needed to gather a deeper sense of how your life and desires have been reshaped. After Venus forms its square with Mars it will form a conjunction with Pallas Athene in Aquarius on February 21, helping us formulate strategies to handle any difficulties that were set off by Mars as well as gain a stronger sense of  ways we need to alter plans and goals for the future in light of however our inner values have been shifting. 

As a result of numerous destabilizing astrological aspects occurring simultaneously, it will be important to be as mindful as possible in the days surrounding the stationing direct of Mercury on February 20 at 11°01’ Aquarius. Mercury will station close to the midpoint between Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius, giving us an opportunity to deepen in our understanding of how our life has been altered in correspondence with the great conjunction between Jupiter and Saturn that arrived at the end of 2020. Mercury will next slowly begin moving forward again as it applies toward a conjunction with Jupiter that it will not complete until March 4. As a result, we will have a couple of weeks following the stationing direct of Mercury to benefit from the star of Hermes applying toward a conjunction with Jupiter in Aquarius. Utilize this period for pushing forward with goals and generating forward momentum toward whatever ways your purpose in life has undergone a metamorphosis.

Mercury will reach its maximum elongation as a morning star and begin speeding up on March 6. The maximum elongation of Mercury demarcates the point in which Mercury will have picked up enough speed to match the steady course of the Sun again. From this day forward, Mercury will move increasingly faster as it proceeds through its morning star phase. 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.

In all, the period of Mercury retrograde in Aquarius promises to be full of ups and downs as we move through an unstable stretch of time. Although the collective changes that will be developing may feel unsettling, we could not ask for a better guide through the volatility than Hermes. Give praise to Mercury and welcome his wild wisdom into your life, as you need to allow for all of his tricks in order to receive all of his gifts. Be on the constant lookout for the windfalls of fruitful fortune that Mercury may deliver unexpectedly, while making the time to formulate long-term strategies to achieve the goals and larger visions that have been consolidating in your mind. By the time Mercury is heading direct again at the end of February, you may feel renewed with a rejuvenated excitement about what you can create and bring into form in the year ahead.

Mercury Riding Pegasus, Jardin des Tuileries, Paris

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References

Addey, Tim. (2000). The Seven Myths of the Soul. The Prometheus Trust.

Barfield, Owen. (1988). Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry. Second Edition. Wesleyan University Press.

Burkert, Walter. (1985). Greek Religion. Harvard University Press. 

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.

George, Demetra. (2019). Ancient Astrology in Theory and Practice: a Manual of Traditional Techniques. Rubedo Press.

George, Demetra. (1986). Asteroid Goddesses. With Douglas Bloch. ACS.

Nasser, Mervat. (2019). The Path to the New Hermopolis: The History, Philosophy, & Future of the City of Hermes. Rubedo Press. 

Mercury Retrograde in Aries

 

caduceus sun and moon

Mercury Retrograde in Aries

Journeying through the cosmic sea of celestial conditions, what Plotinus called the cosmic circuit, some periods will be felt as more volatile and challenging than others.  Mercury retrograde periods have a bad reputation as signifying doom, a misguided notion as all Mercury retrograde periods are not equal and in actuality are variable in experience.  Having said that (insert Larry David smirk here),  the forthcoming Mercury retrograde in Aries time period is littered with numerous difficult aspects that mark it as a period in which to be especially mindful.  The wise will remain steadfastly watchful for those moments in which the smoothly wound threads of life begin to become undone and in need of mending.  It’s not that it will be impossible to make plans and determined choices that will lead to success, but that it will be important to be ready to respond to challenges as the transits portend more disruption than normal for a Mercury retrograde phase.

It’s worth remembering the symbolism of the caduceus carried by Hermes that both heals as well as provokes slumber to make the cunning arts of the Angelic Messenger easier to manifest.  Mercury rules the art of astrology for many reasons, my favorite being the manner in which its cherished caduceus contains the core themes of astrology: Daimon/Spirit, Fortune, Eros/Love, and Necessity. Dorian Greenbaum in her marvelous thesis on the daimon in Hellenistic astrology integrated the symbolic analysis of the caduceus given by fifth century philosopher Macrobius in his text Saturnalia, including that the two serpents of the staff represent the intermingling forms of Daimon (Sun/Spirit) and Fortune (Moon/Matter). At the top of the staff they arc toward one another for a kiss (Eros), while lower down they are bound in a knot (Necessity).

From ancient thinkers like Plotinus to modern ones such as Carl Jung, endless spans of time have been spent contemplating the intersections between fate and free will.  As astrology developed in the Hellenistic era, forces of Eros and Necessity were seen as ruling over souls such as ourselves bound to human bodies.  Eros was named as the binding force of love, sourced from nous, that creates connections and order; in contrast, Necessity was linked with the strife of fate we must face during existence in a world of temporal forms ceaselessly passing away and coming into being.  Astrology mediated through the caduceus of Mercury helps us bring our personal volition into a kiss with the coming tides of matter we meet in the moment. This includes both the aspect of life we can change, and those we must accept and surrender to no matter how much wishful thinking we project.

Mercury is further associated with the Lot of Necessity according to Paulus Alexandrinus (citing text attributed to Hermes Trismegistus). It’s exaltation in Virgo in the northern hemisphere involves the symbolism of the Sun’s time in its peak period of light coming to an end and approaching the Libra equinox of balanced day and night turning toward increasing darkness. When Mercury shifts into retrograde movement, its orbit comes in between our Earth and our Sun and in correspondence we face the necessity of changes in our material circumstances.  As Mercury disappears from view at twilight as an Evening Star at the beginning of its retrograde phase, its descent into invisibility has been connected to its mythic role of psychopomp by Demetra George and other astrologers. We must inspect and attend to earthly matters during Mercury retrograde, witnessing what is growing, what is falling apart, what needs tending. Mercury also asks us to descend into the darkness of our unconscious and allow for a breakdown of habitual thought patterns to bring about the space needed for regeneration of thought and expression.

Piero_di_Cosimo_-_Allegory

Piero di Cosimo (c 1500) Allegory

This World is not Conclusion.
A Species stands beyond –
Invisible, as Music –
But positive, as Sound –
It beckons, and it baffles –
Philosophy, dont know –
And through a Riddle, at the last –
Sagacity, must go –
To guess it, puzzles scholars –
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown –
Faith slips – and laughs, and rallies –
Blushes, if any see –
Plucks at a twig of Evidence –
And asks a Vane, the way –
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit –
Strong Hallelujahs roll –
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul –

» Emily Dickinson «

Consciously, it’s difficult to know exactly what a Mercury retrograde period will be bringing us.  It’s a liminal space in which we have changed in sometimes obvious, other times mysterious, ways on the other side of it.  The confounding nature of Mercury retrograde is both its beauty as well as why it can feel frustrating. The very nature of change and regeneration demands that we shed what was once comfortable and familiar, embracing something unknown and uncomfortably foreign. This is where Hermes enters with his caduceus and sleight of hand, facilitating our capacity to meet disruption while discerning how to effectively remediate and respond, often shifting our life in a new direction in the process.

The ability of Mercury to mediate opposing forces, interweaving between conflicts, will be important to keep in mind with Mercury retrograde in Aries, the fiery home of Mars.  Mars is in its exaltation of Capricorn during the retrograde, a sign that forms a catalytic square aspect with Aries, provoking dynamic change.  It also means that Mars will be receiving Mercury, bringing the resources of its exalted Capricorn location into relationship with Mercury.  Furthermore, Mars will be approaching union with Saturn in Capricorn at the same time Mercury will be uniting with the Sun at the heart of its retrograde. Mars and Saturn will be conjoined in two of their strongest positions while forming a square to Mercury uniting with the Sun in its exaltation of Aries. These are extremely powerful forces at work through the cardinal, or moveable, modality of initiation and engaging in profound changes of circumstance.

Mercury in Aries is direct, quick moving and cuts to the core of perceptions.  As Mercury stations retrograde the Moon will be in the curious sign of Gemini, creating harmonious reception with Mercury that portends a retrograde phase of wide ranging exploration. As Mercury stands still in Aries and begins to slowly shift into backward movement, the impulse of its fiery placement becomes highly concentrated with a volatility that is capable of penetrating focus. Since Mercury is in the home of Mars, its notable that not only will Mars be in its exaltation of Capricorn, it will also be out of bounds in declination. Mars out of bounds and ruling Mercury creates wildness that can be best directed into areas you can freely express untethered curiosity.

In addition to Mercury shifting retrograde in Aries, Venus will also be moving direct in Aries while engaging both Pluto and Uranus.  Mercury and Venus spent an extended period of time conjoining as Evening Stars leading into the stationing of Mercury, drawing attention to something primed for birth. As they separate and Mercury descends toward subterranean depths, Venus will continue to become brighter at sunset while forming a tumultuous square aspect with the archetypal lord of the underworld, Pluto.  After Venus moves through its square with Pluto, it will eventually reach an exact union with Uranus in Aries on March 28 with a Moon waxing in light near fullness.  The interplay of Venus with Pluto and Uranus adds increased turbulence as well as liberating impulses to the already intense aspects formed by Mercury. Its a fertile environment for soul tending and letting the seemingly irrational sway of psyche become more conscious; as a result an opening of awareness for new routes of expression and paths of purpose may ensue.

Mercurius british museum print

Altogether, the intense ingredients of the beginning movement of Mercury retrograde in Aries is ideal for engagement with pioneering research, work, and expression. We need to keep in mind that during this opening division of Mercury’s backward loop, both Mars and Mercury will be getting closer to Saturn in Capricorn each day.  This means we have a powerful accompanist directing us toward how to build effective structures, yet Saturn demands patience and thorough persistence. Saturn simultaneously signifies what could appear to be immovable obstacles and blockages to plans. The fluidity of Mercury retrograde channeled through the fires of Aries may give impulse to burn down the walls we come up against, yet a wiser move will be to utilize the skillset Capricorn brings to Mars for strategic plans of action. The combination of Mercury retrograde in Aries with Mars out of bounds in Capricorn will be optimal for those types of “out of the box” ideas that enable one to successfully work around limitations.

Mercury projects involve creating with both the hands and the mind and so a diversity of work can be done in the weeks ahead, yet the fiery initiative of its Aries location will need to take account of the wide variance of potential hurdles before leaping into action. With both the Sun and Mars in their exaltation engaged with Saturn in its home, there is potential to combine hard work with effective planning to dig the trenches needed for increased irrigation throughout whatever system we focus on. Capricorn is a cardinal sign of nocturnal and inward earth, while Aries is a cardinal sign of diurnal and outer fire. The common ground is in the moveable modality of initiating plans of action, with Mercury retrograde needing to mediate the polarities of day and night, inner and outer, assertion and reception. Fire does thrive on the fuel of felled earthly trees, and so we can keep in mind the image of Mercury serving as a deft fire tender who expertly tempers the balance of keeping the fire going without allowing it to turn into a wildfire.

Temperamentally, fire and earth share the dry quality of making distinctions, having clear boundaries, and making the tough decisions of ending what is no longer working in order to productively engage with whatever holds greater promise. Within personal spheres we will have greater capacity to utilize the protective capacities of Mars, but still need to keep in mind the fact Mars and Saturn coming together can signify conflicts we will need to mediate. In collective events, there are likely to be more conflicts erupting out of the themes of information warfare and vying interests using data networks in strategic conflict, as well as economic warfare involving trade and other mercurial significations. The more we can stop ourselves from getting drawn into surrounding conflicts, the more energy we will have to instead engage with the dynamic aspects that are also available for developing plans with an eye for what looks to be working and what instead needs to be modified.

Blake door orb

William Blake (1804) Jerusalem

Into the Sun

The heart of the Mercury retrograde period occurs when Mercury aligns by zodiac degree in between the orbits of our Earth and Sun, becoming regenerated within its union with our solar light. Mercury retrograde goes into the heart of the Sun on April 1, a day after a Full Moon in Libra and a day before the exact union of Mars and Saturn in Capricorn.  While the inferior conjunction of Mercury occurs at 12º Aries, the conjunction of Mars and Saturn will occur at 9º Capricorn, bringing Mercury and Mars into applying engagement. Since Aries is the exaltation of the Sun, symbolically we can derive an added dose of enlivening empowerment to the purification and rebirth process for Mercury. This is a day for envisioning new ways of approaching longterm goals, as well as taking care of mercurial tasks. Mercury’s significations are strengthened while it aligns closely with the Sun, and so all manner of expression, research, negotiation, and work requiring dexterous skill gets an extra boost.

Moreover, as the Sun-Mercury union occurs in a Full Moon phase with the Moon in Libra applying to an opposition with Uranus in Aries, there is amplified illumination available. The liberating lunar atmosphere will create heightened emotions and excitement that will make the aspects between Sun-Mercury and Mars-Saturn more dramatic. We can receive far reaching awareness not only regarding recent events, but also deep unconscious material due to the Moon forming a polarity with Uranus. Fortunately, Venus will have entered its inner home of Taurus by the time Mercury unites with the Sun, bringing greater stability and full access to the pleasures of Venus. Venus in Taurus will begin to form a trine with Saturn and Mars and can help ground within bodily senses to find the calmness necessary to receive the full scope of lucidity available. If the coming together of Mars and Saturn has left you overwhelmed or exhausted at this point, making space for Venus will bring relief.

The sabian symbol for 12 degrees of Aries is “a triangularly shaped flight of wild geese,” with Dane Rudhyar giving it the keynote of “an idealistic reliance upon a mental image of universal order.” Rudhyar viewed the flight of geese forming a harmonious pattern as reflecting a synchronous attuning to both “planetary rhythms” as well as an underlying “cosmic order.” Rudhyar further pointed out that the type of celestial order revealed by the flight of earthly birds contrasts “with the social-political order within a nation which is represented by its ruler.” As a result Rudhyar saw this symbol pointing toward the polarizing conflict provoked by cosmic order when one has been overly relying upon societal order. The “Soul-consciousness” embedded within this image puts the emphasis on taking individual responsibility in development of one’s life rather than giving power over to external authorities. It also highlights the likelihood that the soulful insights arising from within may be at odds with our societal conditioning, and so we will need to keep an open mind rather than restrict how we interpret the messages we receive.

Gary Caton in his book Hermetica Triptycha: The Mercury Elemental Year explained how the inferior conjunctions of Mercury each year occur in the same element. This year we are experiencing the fire element, the first one of the series occurring on 12 December 2017 at 22º Sagittarius, the next one occurring on 8 August 2018 at 17º Leo. Caton gave guidelines into how to grasp the bigger picture of mercurial shifts by looking at the triangle of houses containing the fires signs in your natal chart (for example, they could be occurring in your third, seventh, and eleventh houses). In this way you can see how the isolated meaning of this Mercury rebirth in Aries connects with its previous regeneration in Sagittarius and forthcoming one in Leo in your natal chart. Caton wrote that in fire years “we need to find new sources of creative fuel and inspiration and learn to use this fire to burn off any accumulated detritus in our lives and to purge falsity in ourselves” (p. 142).

Klee heroic strokes

Paul Klee (1938) Heroic Strokes of the Bow

In the Morning

Mercury stations direct on April 15 at 4º46′ Aries during a Dark Moon in Aries, in range of a square to Saturn.  The day after Mercury stations direct we will experience a New Moon in Aries conjoining Uranus, another sign that Uranus looms over the entire retrograde phase in less obvious ways. Mercury direct as a Morning Star is eager for new growth and endeavors, hungry for new information and connection. The New Moon conjoining Uranus following the stationing direct of Mercury signifies an emancipatory shift of the winds we can catch and ride. All the work of preparation and modification put in during the retrograde can fuel a leap forward at this time.

Other signs of monumental shift coming as Mercury stations direct involve Chiron and Saturn. Chiron will be at the final minutes of its time in Pisces when Mercury stations direct, and will ingress into Aries two days later on April 17. In addition, Saturn is stationing retrograde around the same time, bringing the influence of Saturn to the forefront. Mercury moving forward again while Saturn turns backwards means that these two once again begin to apply to another square aspect. Mercury will perfect its final square with Saturn on April 25, and later on this same day Mars will finally reach its exact conjunction with Pluto in Capricorn. As a result the week and a half following Mercury moving direct again is saturated with potent astrology which can bring about full realization of whatever creations we work on during the time of Mercury retrograde.

Mercury reaches maximum elongation as a Morning Star on April 29 at 13º of Aries as the Moon waxes full in Scorpio. Gary Caton in his book Hermetica Triptycha illuminated the significance of Mercury aligning three times in the same range of zodiacal degrees before its retrograde at maximum Evening Star elongation (March 15 at 14º Aries), in the middle of its retrograde at its Inferior Conjunction (April 1 at 12º Aries), and after completion of its retrograde at maximum Morning Star elongation (April 29 at 13º). This creates a link between these dates and an alchemical process to work with between March 15 and April 29, 2018. Caution may be applied to what promises to be a tumultuous Mercury retrograde in Aries, but fear will do us no good. In the volatility of change we can discover luminous meaning and persevere with diligence and resilient thoroughness to create and contribute to the greater good.

References

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

Greenbaum, Dorian. (2009). The Daimon in Hellenistic Astrology: Origins and Influence. A dissertation submitted in fulfillment for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Combined Studies at The Warburg Institute of the University of London.

Rudhyar, Dane. (1973). An Astrological Mandala. Random House.