Mercury Retrograde in Aquarius and Capricorn

by Barbara Crane

Mercury Retrograde in Aquarius and Capricorn

“The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves . . .

This internal requirement toward excellence which we learn from the erotic must not be misconstrued as demanding the impossible from ourselves nor from others. Such a demand incapacitates everyone in the process. For the erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing. Once we know the extent to which we are capable of feeling that sense of satisfaction and completion, we can then observe which of our various life endeavors bring us closest to that fullness.”

Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic

Mercury dwells in the realm of being in between; in between thought and expression, in between the known and unknown, in between the tension of polarized options, in between shifts of identity and the transitions that change storylines. While Mercury is always interpreting the constantly changing relationships between inner and outer worlds, the star of Hermes takes on an intensified role of threshold guardian while retrograde, helping us translate the churning of chaotic internal reshaping into external growth and the reordering of life structures. The sense of catharsis and renewal we may experience over the course of Mercury being retrograde in Aquarius and Capricorn during January 2022 will be more extreme than normal, as it will be occurring during the same time that Venus will be drawing her forty-one-day retrograde journey to a close. As Venus has been inviting us to uproot relational issues and buried desires since she stationed retrograde on December 19, we may utilize the retrograde phase of Mercury for discerning how to infuse the regeneration of values, self-worth, and eros we have been experiencing during the retrograde phase of Venus into a re-evaluation of our presence within relationships as well as the purpose we wish to pursue through our work in the world.

Mercury will station retrograde on January 14, embarking upon a three-week journey in which the star of Hermes will backtrack from 10°20’ Aquarius until stationing direct at 24°23’ Capricorn on February 3. As Mercury retraces the zodiacal terrain from twenty-four degrees of Capricorn to eleven degrees of Aquarius, they will excavate material in need of deeper engagement, bringing opportunities for insight that can catalyze significant growth and foster breaking out of stagnant routines and stuck patterns. As part of the process, however, we may need to return to longstanding issues in need of release, reworking, or reintegration. After passing through a phase of putrefaction and purification that will be especially intense leading up to Mercury’s union with the Sun on January 23, we may experience renewal on the other side as Mercury returns to forward motion in the beginning of February. Mercury first crossed 24°23’ Capricorn on December 29 and will not move beyond 10°20’ Aquarius until February 23, creating almost two months of mercurial focus in this range of your natal chart. 

When Mercury stations retrograde on January 14, the star of Hermes will be directly interfacing with the longstanding square aspect between Saturn in Aquarius and Uranus in Taurus that was the predominant astrological theme of 2021 and will continue to be so during 2022. Mercury will station less than three degrees away from Saturn, while engaging in a catalyzing square aspect with Uranus while Uranus is simultaneously stationing direct. As we have collectively been dealing with the tension between Saturn and Uranus for over a year now, all of us in one way or another have had to be coming to terms with the ways our own desires for personal liberation and structural change have been interfacing with titanic disruptions to societal systems. Though much in the external world may be beyond our control, and difficult collective events may make one feel powerless in the face of larger waves of adversity, we may use the skillset of Mercury moving retrograde within signs of Saturn to reject and remove ourselves from situations out of our integrity that do not fulfill our inner desires.

Mercury’s protean, shapeshifting nature takes on the qualities of planets it is nearby, and so the contemplation and patient discipline of Saturn will be wed to Mercury at the same time that the influence of Uranus stationing will be inciting openness to invention and visionary change. In the airy, intellectual sign of Aquarius, the influence of Saturn with Mercury retrograde will call us to confront whatever philosophical, psychological, or spiritual frameworks we have been perceiving and acting from, testing us to see where we have been deluding ourselves or where we need to apply greater concentration of critical thought and analysis. The clash from Saturn with Uranus is a call from the unknown to the known, and there is no better ally at such a crossroads than Mercury, whose quicksilver caduceus can transmit unexpected messages for bridging the impasse from the way things have been into a more fully creative path forward. The airy environment of Aquarius will accentuate the capacity of Mercury for analyzing whatever needs to be reconsidered while opening awareness to surprising twists of storylines that may lead us to explore ways of embracing unknown potential while lessening our grip on known sources of security that have become stagnant.

Électricité (1931) by Man Ray

“Mercury reveals an inner realm of things without depriving them of their concreteness… The most common mode of interpretation, in some circles the only way, is to dissect and analyze, freezing the components of an insight into brittle pieces which are then easy to manipulate. But the crafty sleight-of-hand of Mercury interprets without killing, transforming our view of one image through another…  Since interpretation consists chiefly in discovering new images among the old, the surprise Mercury brings is a new image or a new idea, a gift from the cunning god who knows how to stir the soul . . .

In Mercury, words are like crystals whose facets are revealed in their turning, in the various perspectives brought upon them. Whatever keeps our ideas and fantasies turning and shifting, eluding our rational grasp and defying conclusive definition, is Mercurial. When we are the deft, interpretive, eloquent secretaries of our own actions and ideas, then we are Mercury; for then we interpret our own minds.”

Thomas Moore, Planets Within: the Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino

Mercury moves in between states of night and day during its retrograde, beginning as an Evening Star in twilight and ending as a Morning Star at dawn. During its retrograde that will involve a border crossing in between Aquarius and Capricorn, Mercury will also be moving in between the elements of air and earth. While Aquarius and Capricorn are both domiciles of Saturn and signs which promote measured contemplation from Mercury, their elemental natures of air and earth are completely dissimilar in quality. The flexible and restless nature of the air element will be emphasized while Mercury moves backwards through Aquarius, accentuating our ability to bring new perspectives together through our many relationships while discovering how to change stagnant thought patterns. In contrast, once Mercury shifts into the earthy sign of Capricorn on January 25, the constructive and pragmatic nature of the earth element will be more emphasized as we realize ways to restructure our material circumstances to support the new creative directions we will be coming into relationship with.

Mercury bridging the air and earth elements through its retrograde journey will be a major astrological theme of 2022, as it is a year that bridges the elemental years of Mercury being retrograde in air and earth signs. In 2021, Mercury was retrograde in air signs, while in 2023 Mercury will be retrograde in earth signs; as a result, 2022 is a transitional year in which Mercury will spend the majority of its retrograde passage in the three air signs while ending each of its retrograde passages in earth signs. Mercury bridging the elements of air and earth can be helpful for organizing the airy revelations received by Mercury into solid forms of manifestation, facilitating important distinctions that can help us adjust our personal boundaries and organization so that we may cultivate greater agency and authority in navigating the ways in which larger societal structures are shifting.

In between Mercury’s disappearance from the evening sky and reappearance in the morning sky, the star of Hermes moves backwards through an invisible phase in which it takes on the role of a psychopomp guiding us through a liminal, underworld journey. Gary Caton in Hermetica Triptycha: The Mercury Elemental Year linked the blackening and putrefaction of the nigredo alchemical process with the initial stationing phase of Mercury retrograde, as Mercury shepherds us through a dark night of the soul. 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.

Soon after Mercury stations retrograde and descends into the underworld in order to psychopomp and shepherd us through an underworld journey of renewal and regeneration, there will be a propulsive Full Moon in Cancer on January 17 that will form an opposition with Pluto at the same time that Uranus is stationing direct in Taurus on January 18.  As Venus began her retrograde phase in union with Pluto on December 19, the Cancer Full Moon will bring emotional release as well as insight through coming into deeper awareness of the emotional material passing through us. Fascinatingly, just as Mercury is entering its invisible underworld phase of disappearing from the sky as an Evening Star, Venus will be emerging into visibility as a Morning Star. Moreover, the lightning strikes of Uranus will be directly infused into Venus, as Venus will be receiving Uranus through a flowing trine aspect as the impact of Uranus becomes intensified through its stationing. Thus, just as the Cancer Full Moon will spotlight important revelations regarding relational patterns and our inner values that Venus has been intensifying during her retrograde journey, Mercury will be guiding us to apply our emerging sense of eros into a re-examination of our perceptual framework and what needs to be shed and released in order to make space for new ideas and creative directions to take root.

Magnolia Blossom (1925) by Immogen Cunningham

In the Heart of the Sun

“The dichotomy between the spiritual and the political is also false, resulting from an incomplete attention to our erotic knowledge. For the bridge which connects them is formed by the erotic – the sensual – those physical, emotional, and psychic expressions of what is deepest and strongest and richest within each of us, being shared: the passions of love, in its deepest meanings.

Beyond the superficial, the considered phrase, “It feels right to me,” acknowledges the strength of the erotic into a true knowledge, for what that means is the first and most powerful guiding light toward any understanding. And understanding is a handmaiden which can only wait upon, or clarify, that knowledge, deeply born. The erotic is the nurturer or nursemaid of all our deepest knowledge.”

Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic

Mercury will become reanimated by its conjunction with the Sun on January 23 at 3°23’ 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 in which it will transition into becoming a visible Morning Star. While Mercury is within one degree of conjunction with the Sun, even more so within sixteen arc minutes of its solar conjunction, there can be empowerment for tasks associated with Mercury since it is enthroned upon the solar chariot. Older astrological texts named this moment of Mercury’s rebirth cazimi, or being in the heart of the Sun. It’s the cyclical moment when Mercury enters what Demetra George has named the “sanctum sanctorum,” or “the innermost holy chamber of the mystery initiations” found within “the protected space at the heart of the Sun.” 

At the same time Mercury is entering the heart of the Sun in the middle of its underworld journey, Venus will be slowing down in order to station direct less than a week later on January 29. Though Venus will still be retrograde when Mercury enters the heart of the Sun, she will no longer be invisible in the underworld and will instead be burning brilliantly in the misty pre-dawn sky as a Morning Star. By deepening into awareness of our inner nature and the ways in which the Venus retrograde phase has been putting us into contact with emerging desires while laying to rest old desires, we may accentuate our ability to have new avenues of creative development reseeded by the union of Mercury with the Sun. Furthermore, as the union of Mercury with the Sun in the first few degrees of Aquarius is close the great conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter on December 21, 2020 at 00°29′ Aquarius, there is an opportunity to re-attune with the vast wave of epochal change that began reshaping global dynamics and systemic structures on radical levels a year ago.

Unmade Bed by Immogen Cunningham

Stationing with Pluto

“When we live outside ourselves, and by that I mean on external directives only rather than from our internal knowledge and needs, when we live away from those erotic guides from within ourselves, then our lives are limited by external and alien forms, and we conform to the needs of a structure that is not based on human need, let alone an individual’s. But when we begin to live from within outward, in touch with the power of the erotic within ourselves, and allowing that power to inform and illuminate our actions upon the world around us, then we begin to be responsible to ourselves in the deepest sense. For as we begin to recognize our deepest feelings, we begin to give up, of necessity, being satisfied with suffering and self-negation, and with the numbness which so often seems like their only alternative in our society. Our acts against oppression become integral with self, motivated and empowered from within.”

Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic

Mercury will return to Capricorn on January 25 and then apply to a conjunction with Pluto it will complete on January 28 at 26°52’ Capricorn. Vitally, the re-entrance of Mercury into Capricorn will be synced with the stationing direct of Venus at 11°05’ Capricorn on January 29. The close contact between Mercury with Pluto will put us in contact with material from our inner depths, ways in which we have felt powerless, way in which we desire to feel powerful, and the complexity of information and knowledge concealed within the shadows cast by both. Although the archetype of Venus will become intensely present within our lives as the star of Aphrodite stations direct removed from Pluto within the sign of Capricorn, the proximity between Mercury with Pluto will bring to mind the deep-seated relational patterns that the opening phase of Venus retrograde brought us into contact with at the end of December 2021 when Venus was in close contact with Pluto. We may find new ways of relating with old patterns, discovering ways our memories of past storylines and relationships may transfigure into new ways of understanding that allow more space for new relational patterns and storylines to take shape in greater accordance with our emerging sense of values and eros.

Mercury will station direct on February 3 at 24°23’ Capricorn in close proximity with Pluto, and then slowly shift forward into a final conjunction with Pluto in Capricorn on February 11 at 27°17’ Capricorn. Mercury will remain in Capricorn until February 14, creating an extended period from January 25 through February 14 during which Mercury will be in Capricorn in close contact with Pluto dredging up deep material to explore from our innermost recesses. The direct station and shift into forward momentum of Mercury in Capricorn will occur at the same time that Mars will be approaching a conjunction with Venus in the red planet’s exaltation in Capricorn. As a result, the first couple weeks of February will be an opportune time to find ways of integrating the ways the combination of both Venus and Mercury stationing direct in Capricorn has not only allowed for deeper attunement with our inner nature but has also facilitated new possibilities for future growth and development we can begin to implement and work toward.

Just after Mercury returns to Aquarius on February 14, Mercury will reach maximum elongation as a Morning Star on February 16, speeding up as well as accelerating our capacity for integrating the many inner changes that took shape during the retrograde. Gary Caton described this solar phase of Mercury as being similar to the rubedo phase within alchemy in his book Hermetica Tryptycha. As we work to integrate the insights and changes in perspective realized during Mercury’s retrograde journey, Caton noted that we should expect to endure a phase of chaotic volatility as we make a commitment to embody a new presence of being. Crucially, at the same time that Mercury reaches maximum elongation as a Morning Star on February 16, Venus and Mars will unite at 16°53’ Capricorn. Since conjunctions of Mars and Venus initiate us into processes of rediscovering what we want in relationship, as well as how we wish to creatively express ourselves, the acceleration of Mercury in speed can help us make external progress and construct external forms sourced from the deep cauldron of change that has been brewing within the sign of Capricorn for months.

As Audre Lorde in Uses of the Erotic wrote that “the lack of concern for the erotic root and satisfaction of our work is felt in our disaffection from so much of what we do,” may the stationing direct of Mercury and Venus in Capricorn help us remember the primal force of our inner eros, finding ways to fully feel the pleasure of our presence through our work and relationships within the greater world.

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References

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

Lorde, Audre. (1984, 2007). Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Crossing Press.

Moore, Thomas. (1990). The Planets Within: the Astrological Psychology of Marsilio Ficino. Lindisfarne Press.