Mercury Retrograde in Virgo

Splendor Solis Mercury flask

Mercury Flask from the Splendor Solis

We know where [ Hermes ] comes from and what type of consciousness he exemplifies.  He is most likely the same dark depth of being from which we all originate.  Perhaps for this reason Hermes can so convincingly hover before us, lead us on our ways, show us golden treasures in everyone through the split-second timing which is the spirit of finding and thieving- all of this because he creates his reality out of us, or more properly through us, just as one fetches water not so much out of a well as through the well from the much deeper regions of the earth . . .  Despite the thievery and deceit and shamelessness- and this is probably the most wonderful thing about it- a divine innocence is properly suited to and inherent in it.  Hermes has nothing to do with sins and atonement.  What he brings with him from the springs of creation is precisely the “innocence of becoming.”

— Karl Kerenyi, from Hermes: Guide of Souls

Mercury Retrograde in Virgo

It’s in twilight when it comes.  The shift of hue and space arrives, transmuting sunlight into variegated shadow, enveloping life in a polychromatic caress of sensuous mood and mysterious measure.  With a flash of light Mercury descends retrograde into the darkening brilliance of sunset, disappearing into its invisible, underworld phase with a message to receive.  The sign of Virgo where Mercury stations in stillness is the nocturnal home of Hermes, the quicksilver messenger and companion of black night whose serpentine staff enchants and lulls, whose fluttering wings break open any static sleepiness of mind.  As Mercury slows down, comes to a standstill, and then turns backward in retrograde motion through the zodiac, we cross a liminal threshold that invites alterations of mental fixations and openings to manifold perspectives.

In the realm of popular culture, periods of Mercury retrograde are known as disastrous aberrations in which Mercury becomes a scapegoat for all misfortunes and mishaps.  Yet the Mercury retrograde period is a regular cyclical phenomenon that happens at least three times every year, an essential aspect of Mercury’s orbit just like the consistent blackening of the Moon in its orbit.  Unlike the astrological stereotypes, important actions can be initiated during Mercury retrograde as well as successful contracts signed.  However, during Mercury retrograde it is advisable to sustain mental alertness and be open to signs, symbols, and information in your environment that can help guide your intuition toward which actions to take or commitments to make.

Mercury retrograde is intrinsic to Mercury in astrology, a planetary archetype of contesting and contrasting.  While Mercury signifies insight and smooth communication, the lessons of Mercury do not always come from stability, as experience shows that chaos and disorientation lead to illumination and realization.  Once Mercury moves retrograde it descends from being a visible Evening Star into an invisible, subterranean guide of soul catalyzing change and growth in situations that range widely from the frustrating to the enlivening.  Flowing with Mercury retrograde involves letting go of strict control and order, opening to the wisdom coming from unexpected sources.   As the changeable nature of Mercury is found in its extremely variable speed, when Mercury slows dow to station it is important to pay attention to its aspects in the natal chart as well as to other planets by transit.  The Mercury retrograde in Virgo begins with the strange brew of Mercury stationing in a beneficial conjunction with Jupiter and Venus, at the entrance into a dramatic portal of eclipses.

Mercury stations retrograde in Virgo on 30 August 2016 at a Dark Moon two days before an annular Solar Eclipse.  In the blackness of the Balsamic Moon, Mercury will be surrounded by Venus and Jupiter with all three planets visible during the changing colors of sunset.  Since Mercury is both at home and exalted in Virgo, and surrounded on both sides by the visionary Jupiter and the pleasing Venus, Fortuna smiles upon this alignment.  Furthering fortune, at the same time Mercury stations retrograde Venus enters her own sign of Libra where she will luxuriate for the entirety of the backward motion of Mercury, increasing in brightness as an Evening Star.  However, these signs of expansive harmony coexist with Mercury stationing at the time of a potent Solar Eclipse in hard aspect to Mars, Saturn, and Neptune.  Mercury retrograde in Virgo will be the psychopomp guiding us through an eclipse season that will call for the release of old attachments and beliefs, but in the letting go a space will open for nurturing innovation.

MercuryStationRxWRIGC3

Magritte-the-cultivation-of-ideas

The Cultivation of Ideas (1928) by Renee Magritte

In ‘nature’ there’s no choice-
flowers
swing their heads in the wind, sun & moon
are as they are. But we seem
almost to have it ( not just
available death )

It’s energy; a spider’s thread: not to
‘go on living’ but to quicken, to activate: extend:
Some have it, they force it-

with work or laughter or even
the act of buying, if that’s
all they can lay hands on-

the girls crowding the stores, where light,
colour, sold dreams are- what gay
desire! It’s their festival,
ring game, wassail, mystery.

It has no grace like that of
the grass, the humble rhythms, the
falling & rising of leaf and star;
it’s barely
a constant. Like salt:
take it or leave it

The ‘hewers of wood’ & so on; every damn
craftsman has it while he’s working
but it’s not
a question of work: some
shine with it, in repose. Maybe it is
response, the will to respond- (‘reason
can give nothing at all / like
the response to desire’) maybe
a gritting of the teeth, to go
just that much further, beyond the end
beyond whatever ends to begin, to be, to defy.

–Denise Levertov, Beyond the End

Virgo is a mutable earth sign in which Mercury is exalted and comfortably at home, with all of its resources and tools at its disposal.  As a result, the tricks and wayward paths Mercury guides us through during its retrograde promise to make essential aspects of our reality illuminated even when reinforcing the obscurity of our world and the impossibility of knowing everything clearly.  Virgo is an inwardly directed and receptive place for Mercury to burrow into fertile sources of research, devise practical solutions to current predicaments, discern dietary and physical routines to fortify the body, and purify the mind from whatever heavy issues have been accumulating and weighing one down.

The year of 2016 has had the theme of Mercury being retrograde in earth signs (Mercury retrograde in Aquarius and Capricorn in January;  Mercury retrograde in Taurus in April and May),  a sequence of retrogrades that has called for us to reorient to the surrounding material world and the way we create meaning out of our senses.  Our relationship with finances and the flow of resources in our life has also been highlighted by Mercury being  retrograde in earth signs this year, and will again be significant with the God of Commerce being in its home of Virgo.  Since Mercury stations retrograde in sync with a Solar Eclipse in Virgo, and a Lunar Eclipse in Pisces follows, this retrograde in Virgo promises to be most pivotal in terms of adjusting our resources and livelihood in connection with the momentous changes of the current year.

Another theme of the three Mercury retrogrades so far this year is that each of them has had significant aspects with Mars, Jupiter, and Pluto, resulting in cathartic change in our vision of life and the manner in which we use our will-force to manifest fulfillment.  As a result of the surrounding astrological climate, Mercury’s retrograde in Virgo will bring increased emphasis to reorienting personal beliefs, opening awareness more acutely to how perception and knowledge are bound to one’s own sense of culture and existence.  Mercury retrograde in Virgo can be used to uncover how one’s beliefs have to do with whatever one is used to or not used to experiencing.  While Mercury is retrograde in Virgo situations will present themselves in a way that facilitates rearranging or releasing old conceptual thought patterns rooted in belief systems Mercury will be able to loosen.

The pull of Mercury retrograde within to know thyself on deeper levels is amplified by the inner focus of Virgo.  Since Mars and Saturn both signify separation, the beginning of the retrograde involves dealing with whatever difficult losses or challenges have come into our life in correspondence with Mars and Saturn aligning at the Heart of the Scorpion (the fixed star Antares).  Mercury stationing retrograde while surrounded by Jupiter and Venus points toward healing oneself from the vast well within, eventually coalescing what has been fragmented to return to a sense of wholeness.  The Virgo retrograde of Mercury can open newfound self knowledge from within that catalyzes defiant strength in overcoming adversity and going beyond previous limitations.

René-Magritte-The-Castle-of-the-Pyrenees-1959-The-Israel-Museum

Rene’ Magritte (1959) The Castle of the Pyrenees

Swing of the scythe
illuminated, displaced
into my book of hours, the falling
grass, gold leafed
on the uneven
left upper windowpane-

But way up on the hill
the drift of field-air around you,
the scythe singing,
and what birds you may hear.

— Denise Levertov, Down Here and up There

The final last quarter square between Saturn in Sagittarius and Neptune in Pisces  that has dominated the astrological atmosphere in the past year is a core aspect of Mercury being retrograde in Virgo.  Additionally, the overarching influence that Mars has possessed in 2016 is also mediated by Mercury, as its Virgo retrograde begins with Mars having finally moved beyond the shadow zone of the red planet’s retrograde, and finally having activated its new phase with Saturn and its last quarter square phase with Neptune.  Making these themes of Mars, Saturn, and Neptune even more extreme is that Mars and Saturn are in square to the transiting lunar nodes, Neptune is conjoining the transiting South Node of the Moon, and at the beginning of the Mercury retrograde there is a dramatic Solar Eclipse that is opposite Neptune, square to Saturn and Mars, and conjunct the transiting North Node of the Moon.  Since the Mercury retrograde begins with a Solar Eclipse, there is a deeply mysterious element to the underworld journey Hermes will guide us through that will defy full understanding until a later time of reflection.

In part the square between Saturn and Neptune is about the boundaries and structures in every dimension of life.  While Saturn and Neptune in square can reveal ironic insight and the underlying meaning in the bones of any matter, with Mercury retrograde in Virgo we will also sense how the very idea of being able to penetrate with analysis to core understanding and rationally solve all problems through ordering is a fantasy in itself.  Neptune signifies an immaterial dimension that goes beyond intellectual understanding, and so Mercury in its retrograde role will play the part of Socrates, revealing the ignorance of mental frameworks in order to initiate deeper searches for how to live a life of genuine happiness.  At the same time, the limitations and boundaries of Saturn are necessary to effectively integrate Neptune in a manner that keeps one grounded.  The Virgo retrograde of Mercury in tandem with Mars in Sagittarius can focus awareness on the details needed to keep ourselves healthy and operating at an optimal level of energy in our environment.

The sign of Virgo forms a superior square to Sagittarius, a concept that points to the purification of Virgo taking precedence during the retrograde over the hardened, heavy realities of Mars and Saturn in Sagittarius.  The tension between Mars, Saturn, and Neptune at the beginning of Mercury’s retrograde reveal us to be at the tentative beginning of a new cycle, with an old cycle that has already culminated being in its last remnants of disintegration. There has also been a Mars catalyst of activating serious determination to set targets for long range goals.  As a result, Mercury retrograde in Virgo can aid us in purifying the past through weaving elements of what has been lost together with the opening for the unknown future they have created.  Mercury in its underworld journey can guide us to places that will recover and repair wounds of the past cycle, refortifying our capacity to fully embody the present moment.

Chagall the-deer-looking-itself-in-the-water

The Deer Looking Itself in the Water by Marc Chagall

Under the harvest sun the heart
ripens on its wall;
under the heat of noon the mind
like a leaf is cool.
The angelus and the goat bell
sway across the grass;
butterflies in blue mid-air
touch and spin apart.
Any attempted dream must fall
to ruin in this light, must pass
before the mocking glance
of idle animals.
There is no need to escape
from the motionless mountain
there is no need to escape
when here the indifferent lake
accepts a nervous image,
demands no affirmation
of innocence or faith.

— Denise Levertov, Sarnen

Mercury in the Heart

When Mercury is retrograde it is passing in between the orbits of Earth and the Sun, which is what creates the illusion that it is moving backward through the zodiac from our perspective on Earth.  As a result, when Mercury retrograde conjoins the Sun during its retrograde it is in alignment with our planet as close at it ever gets.  This is the Inferior Conjunction of Mercury when Mercury is said to be cazimi, at the heart of the Sun.  This window of time in which Mercury passes within a degree of the Sun (some say it is really within 17 minutes of the Sun) is a magical moment in the synodic cycle of Mercury in which all of its significations are strengthened by the Solar Light.  It is a rebirth of the Mercury archetype in our life, as Mercury has been undergoing a purifying regeneration in the beams of the Sun while approaching the conjunction.   Mercury enters the heart of the Sun on September 12 while also being square to Mars in Sagittarius.  It comes two days after the final exact square between Saturn and Neptune and so has a lot to do with the aftermath of their upheaval.

Though the square between Mars in Sagittarius and the Mercury-Sun union is most exact, it is also significant considering the Saturn-Neptune influence that Chiron in Pisces is in range of a square to Mars and an opposition to Mercury cazimi.  Chiron functions as a bridge between the realm of Saturn and the realm of Neptune that stretches far beyond the rings of Saturn.  As a result of its retrograde movement, Mercury will also end up passing back and forth across an opposition with Chiron three different times.  Chiron’s influence fosters the purification of Virgo and the healing of wounds that can ultimately lead one to embody a higher frequency in which heavy accumulations of the psyche have been burned off.

However, with Mars forming an exact square to Mercury’s union with the Sun it means that there will be a lot of intensity, if not external conflict than internal conflict to face in any rebirth process.  Mercury at the heart of the Sun in this retrograde cycle is incredibly active and martial in force, capable of propelling oneself dramatically forward.  If instead the Mars influence on Mercury’s Inferior Conjunction leads to more of a wounding crash, than the remaining Mercury retrograde period can be utilized to begin readjusting and reorienting as needed.

MercuryCazimiVirgoWRIGC2

Vasily Kafanov mystery of fishtower

Vasily Kafanov (1998) Mystery of the Fishtower

When the white fog burns off,
the abyss of everlasting light
is revealed. The last cobwebs
of fog in the
black firtrees are flakes
of white ash in the world’s hearth.

Cold of the sea is counterpart
to this great fire. Plunging
out of the burning cold of ocean
we enter an ocean of intense
noon. Sacred salt
sparkles on our bodies.

After mist has wrapped us again
in fine wool, may the taste of salt
recall to us the great depths about us.

–Denise Levertov, The Depths

Four days after Mercury unites with the Sun, a Lunar Eclipse in Pisces will illuminate the heart of the Mercury retrograde cycle.  Once again Mars in Sagittarius holds extraordinary influence, as it forms a close square to the Lunar Eclipse.  Chiron is also highlighted once again as it will conjoin the Lunar Eclipse, echoing the extremely powerful Total Solar Eclipse in March 2016 that was also conjoining Chiron.  Mercury retrograde at this point will be moving toward a trine to Pluto and away from its square to Mars.  The Pisces Lunar Eclipse lights up the full polarity of the sign of Virgo with martial ferociousness.  In collective events, it is an ominous configuration in terms of increased violence coming from crusaders, martyrs, terrorists, and persecutors fixated on dogmatic belief systems.  The shadow side of Virgo that can involve responding to chaotic change through overexerting control or obsessing over perfectionistic ideals could come out if we are not careful.  If we can enter the flow of this eclipse, we can instead let go of control and enter the pure space of whatever the moment is asking from us.

Sekhmet temple bw

Fascinatingly, the Sekhmet archetype will be involved in this section of Mercury’s underworld journey as the Sekhmet asteroid #5381 will be conjunct both the Virgo Sun at the time of the Lunar Eclipse (at 24º Virgo) as well as conjunct Mercury’s Inferior Conjunction (at 23º Virgo).  Though some may scoff at the significance of an obscure asteroid placement in this overall astrological arrangement, I had been feeling a strong intuition connected with Sekhmet which is what led me to notice its alignment with the Mercury retrograde.  Sekhmet is an ancient lion headed goddess, primordial and fierce, whose fiery rage brings purification.  Sekhmet, Great One of Magic, Lady of Transformations, At Whose Wish the Arts were Born, Self-Contained, Opener of Ways, Satisfier of Desires, Destroyer by Fire, Devouring One, The One Who Holds Back Darkness, Lady of the Waters of Life, Great One of Healing . . . her epithets are multitudinous, her nature impossible to fully encompass in language.

Sekhmet’s presence during Mercury retrograde makes the virginal maiden of Virgo a lion headed goddess on the prowl through the desert landscapes of our dreams and inner psychic life, destroying old, obsolete, and decaying attachments with her ferocious form.  Since Mars the red planet is so emphasized at this point of the Mercury retrograde, and in fact Mars forms a square to the Sekhmet asteroid at this time, it is further compelling that red is a sacred color to Sekhmet just as red is the shade the Moon turns during a Lunar Eclipse.  Sekhmet has a message that any anger that arises in association with Mars in Sagittarius during the Mercury retrograde can be utilized to purify and burn off whatever needs to be let go and released.

Frida Roots II

Frida Kahlo (1943) Roots

The gleam of thy drenched
floors of leaf-layers! Fragrance
of death and change!
If there is only
now to live, I’ll live
the hour till doom stroke
crouched with the russet toad,
my huge human size
no more account than a bough fallen:

not upward,
searching for branch-hidden sky:
I’ll look
down into paradise.

Thy moss gardens, the deep
constellations of green, the striate
rock furred with emerald,
inscribed with gold lichen,
with scarlet!
Thy smooth
acorns in roughsurfaced
precise cups!
Thy black
horns of plenty!

–Denise Levertov: Forest Altar, September

Equinox Stationing

Mercury will station direct at the time of the Autumn Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, the Spring Equinox in the Southern Hemisphere.  Mercury also stations in range of some powerful aspects:  a trine to Pluto in Capricorn, a square to Saturn in Sagittarius, an opposition to Neptune in Pisces, and a conjunction with the North Node of the Moon.  However, the most exact and catalytic aspect formed by Mercury as it stations is a square with the Moon, as the Moon will be in Gemini creating a Mutable Grand Cross between the Moon, Mercury, Saturn, Neptune, and the lunar nodes.  Mercury will be receiving the Moon as a result, and so this moment of Mercury stationing direct portends a bigger shift in mental framework than is typically the case when Mercury stations direct.  The aspects surrounding Mercury stationing direct in Virgo suggest it is a significant moment of mediation not only for the past Mercury retrograde cycle, but for the events of the entire year so far.

As Mercury stations direct, it shifts from being invisible to once again making an appearance during the fiery rise of the Sun as a Morning Star, a condition that to Hellenistic astrologers signified a transmission of an oracular message.  It is beautiful symbolism that Mercury stations direct at the time of the Equinox, a time of rebalancing between night and day, a season in the Northern Hemisphere in which cool dry winds begin to blow as green leaves shift to shades of auburn and gold.   My personal view of astrology is that all Mercury retrograde phases signify vital regeneration, however, this particular Mercury retrograde in Virgo appears to signify cathartic rebirth that goes beyond the norm for Mercury retrograde.  It may not feel easy at times, but as John Lennon sang “Living is easy with eyes closed / misunderstanding all you see.”  As the Sun enters the sign of the Scales as Mercury begins to move forward again as a Morning Star, our mind will recalibrate to focus with revivified heart on the desires that will bring us greater happiness and fulfillment in the season ahead.

MercuryStationDirectWRIGC1C

References

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

Levertov, Denise. (2013). Collected Poems. New Directions.

Advertisements

Mercury Retrograde in Saturn’s Home

Dore_Raven15

Illustration for The Raven by Gustave Dore

Hermes I call, whom Fate decrees to dwell in the dire path which leads to deepest hell

O Bacchic Hermes, progeny divine of Dionysius, parent of the vine,
And of celestial Aphrodite Paphian queen, dark eye-lash’d Goddess of a lovely mien:
Who constant wand’rest thro’ the sacred feats
where hell’s dread empress, Persephone, retreats;
To wretched souls the leader of the way when Fate decrees, to regions void of day:
Thine is the wand which causes sleep to fly, or lulls to slumb’rous rest the weary eye;
For Persephone’s thro’ Tart’rus dark and wide gave thee forever flowing souls to guide.
Come, blessed pow’r the sacrifice attend, and grant our mystic works a happy end.

— Hermes Chthonian from The Orphic Hymns

Mercury Retrograde

When Mercury shifts retrograde our angelic trickster slips into his role as psychopomp, the guide of souls who can journey into the underworld and back again. On a personal level this coincides with a turn within toward awareness not as readily available when Mercury is moving direct, a process that can birth new presence and shed old habits as Mercury reemerges on the other side (Mercury will station direct on January 25 and leave the retrograde shadow zone on February 17).  Mercury retrograde is not a time to fear but rather an opening to symbolic perception that can divine messages within the darkness of our dreams as well as in the signs that appear during our sunlit daily journeying.  The Mercury retrograde that begins on January 5, 2016 initiates at the first degree of Aquarius, but spends the majority of the time in the second half of Capricorn.  Aquarius and Capricorn are both the homes of Saturn, and so this Mercury retrograde will be deeply linked with the significations we associate with that old devil, Saturn.  The link to Saturn is further intensified by Mercury crossing the South Node of Saturn while retrograde,and then returning to conjoin the South Node of Saturn again once moving direct.

Modern astrology gives the rulership of Aquarius to Uranus, and one result of this is to associate Aquarius with future-oriented, liberated forms of thought.  Yet this same meaning can be found through Aquarius being the diurnal home of Saturn, a place where Saturn detaches from the conditioned thought forms of consensus culture to develop systems of thought that break free from the constraints of the status quo.  Mercury free from other influences stationing retrograde in Aquarius would support reception of a message beyond self-centered subjectivity, in an objective and clarified mind frame detached from passions and able to rationalize feelings.  Yet instead the stationing of Mercury is painted in bold, impassioned colors by Mars in Scorpio forming an exact square at the time Mercury stations retrograde.  As Mars in Scorpio heats the emotional climate of Mercury stationing retrograde, our feelings could override our ability to be objective or communicate with restraint.  The eruption of cathartic feelings at the dawn of this retrograde will be borne by Mercury into our underworld for deep processing and purification.

The movement of Mercury from Aquarius back into Capricorn is united by both signs being the home of Saturn.  Mercury in the territory of Saturn can readily focus on systems and structures in our life, including rumination upon time and space.  Mercury stationing retrograde while bearing the water of Aquarius holds the promise of illumination that transcends our everyday conception of time, saturating our direct perception of the moment with lucidity.  As Mercury moves backward into Capricorn, goat horns protrude through the messenger’s head as the role of water bearer is released in order to invest fully into the surrounding material realm with its lusty nature.  In Capricorn, where Mercury spends the majority of its time this retrograde, Mercury shifts our focus toward achievement and ambition as well as the degree of determination and discipline that will be needed for manifestation.

In addition to entering the heart of the Sun while retrograde in Capricorn, Mercury will also form conjunctions with Pallas Athene and Pluto, and in fact will station direct conjoining Pluto.  Around the recent solstice Mercury was first conjunct Pallas Athene, and in the first week of its retrograde movement Mercury will again become conjunct with Pallas Athene in Capricorn.  Here the creative visioning of Pallas Athene combines with the symbolic perception of Mercury retrograde for penetrating perception into the structural and systematic foundations surrounding us.  In her classic Asteroid Goddesses Demetra George wrote:

Aesthetically, Pallas Athene is very strong in Capricorn representing the ability to formulate precise structures (molds) into which raw creative energy can coalesce.  Instant manifestation is often possible and can be seen as a magical process. Here, Pallas excels in the arts of architecture, drafting, and sculpture.  Capricorn’s association with time connects Pallas Athene with the art of timing- being in the right place at the right time.  Politically, this is a defender of law and order. There is a strong power drive for authority over others in political and social institutions.  The wisdom of Pallas in Capricorn is the wisdom of order- putting things in their proper sequence (p. 105).

The Sun in Capricorn is applying closely to a conjunction with Pluto in Capricorn and square to Uranus in Aries when Mercury stations retrograde, and then in the weeks ahead after Mercury passes back across the face of the Sun, Mercury will eventually come into a square with Uranus in Aries and then will station direct in conjunction with Pluto in Capricorn.  As a result, this Mercury retrograde activates and re-triggers the first quarter square between Pluto and Uranus that has been dominating our astrological landscape for the past seven years, most exactly in the past four years.  As predicted the Pluto-Uranus square has correlated with seismic shifts around our planet, and so this Mercury retrograde is profound for reflecting upon the immensity of change that has passed through our lives.  Furthermore, it’s a potent period for reorienting our plans and structures in greater harmony with the insights we receive for how our world has been altered and continues to change.

Dore_Inferno1

Illustration for Dante’s Inferno by Gustave Dore

Does it really exist, Time the Destroyer?
When, on the peaceful mountain, does it crush the fortress?
And this heart, always the gods’ possession,
when does the Demiurge pillage it?

Are we really so anxiously brittle
as Fate would have us believe?
Is childhood, so deep, so rich with promise,
in the roots- later on- stilled?

Ah, the spectre of transience,
through the guilelessly receptive
it passes like wisps of smoke.

And we, with our driving, our striving,-
the abiding Strengths assume
that the gods have some need for us.

— Rainer Maria Rilke from Sonnets to Orpheus

Mercury Stations Retrograde

Hermes is a god of boundaries, with a tradition of demarcating divisions between profane and sacred territory, between rural and urban landscapes, between the graveyards of the dead and the playgrounds of the living.  When Mercury stations retrograde, this normally swift planet gives off the appearance of putting down roots into solid stillness, and as it disappears with a flash of light at sunset there is a cosmic message transmitted.  As Mercury moves retrograde under the beams of the Sun it is not visible, and being in between our planet Earth and our fiery Sun it is symbolically considered to be journeying through our underworld.  Demetra George has connected Mercury retrograde with the work by Jungian Murray Stein on the borderline spaces we inhabit during transitions and gaps between conscious realities.  As Hermes is a god of thresholds and passages between realms, Demetra George has taught that the stationing of Mercury retrograde marks a liminal time in which we are separated from a clear sense of where we are, as Hermes guides us through a transition of an old identity dying and the emergence of a new sense of Self.

This Mercury retrograde primarily occurring in Capricorn introduces the Mercurial theme of the earth element in 2016, as the following two Mercury retrograde periods this year will also occur in the earth signs of Taurus and Virgo.  This brings to mind the unconscious symbolism of the forest as well as other oracular associations with soulful matter such as rocks, plants, and other elements of our natural world.  Capricorn is distinguished in part from the other earth signs through it being the home of Saturn, and the transiting Saturn in Sagittarius is fittingly forming some of the most significant astrological aspects during this Mercury retrograde.  Transiting Saturn being in Sagittarius colors Mercury’s time in Capricorn with a more strident, visionary vibration.  The last quarter square between Saturn in Sagittarius and Neptune in Pisces that has been an intense astrological factor over the past couple of months continues to be so during this Mercury retrograde, and in fact becomes all the more dramatic with the passage of Venus triggering their dynamic.

As Mercury stations retrograde, Venus is applying tightly to a square with Neptune, within minutes.  Venus is also four degrees away from Saturn in Sagittarius as Mercury stations, and as Mercury moves retrograde over the following week Venus will conjoin Saturn on January 8 at a Dark Moon in Capricorn.  The square between Venus and Neptune portends a crisis in our relationships, and as Venus is overcoming Neptune in the square while also approaching Saturn, the dreamy unconditional side of our feelings can be overcome by the conditions of circumstance in front of our face, what we feel are the cold hard facts of reality.  However, the square of Neptune in Pisces to Venus and Saturn combining in Sagittarius also reveals that there is a deeper and more far reaching truth to discern, such as the fact that what we are perceiving to be our reality is based more upon our current beliefs than actual reality.  While Saturn can bring up feelings of wanting to cut something off and separate, it is also true that Venus can soften up the old ringed devil for reconciliation.  At a higher potential, we can utilize these aspects during the Mercury retrograde to penetrate into our subjective feelings and perceptions and unveil a vaster conception of personal truth.

At the outset of Mercury stationing retrograde, with Mars in Scorpio in square to Mercury in Aquarius, we will want to keep in mind that disillusionment and feelings of disorientation are likely to come up in our relationships and that this amplified aspect between Mars and Mercury can erupt easily into bitter conflict.  While Mercury is in Aquarius, there is a risk that the detached side of Aquarius could combine with the fury of Mars at full force in Scorpio, resulting in explosive fights.  Yet the anger coming out in conflicts at this time has a source within, and it will be the task of this Mercury retrograde to journey within and explore the full ramifications of where these feelings are coming from.  It is important to realize that the feelings and thoughts dislodged at the beginning of this Mercury retrograde by Mars square Mercury, Venus and Saturn square Neptune among other things, is not the end of the story but merely the beginning.  Mercury will be journeying in the retrograde all the way back to unite with Pluto in Capricorn, and so there will be a vital message for us to receive about ourselves connected to the impassioned feelings provoked at the outset of this Mercury retrograde.

There is also the potential that we can rekindle passion from the Mars square in order to then harness corresponding desire to determined effort going forward.  Mercury retrograde in the home of Saturn will reward hard work and effort, and so the square from Mars to Mercury can jolt us into awareness of where we need to concentrate and work with full force.  This square between Mercury and Mars is even more intense as it is the second one to occur within the same week.  The first square in this cycle was on December 29, 2015 with Mercury at its maximum elongation as an Evening Star at 28° of Capricorn, and Mars at the same degree of Libra.  There is something hugely significant to find within this square between Mercury and Mars that will fuel our work in the year ahead.  Mars and Mercury will form their third square in the beginning of March 2016 with Mercury at the very end of Aquarius and Mars and the very end of Scorpio.  It may take until this later time a few months from now to fully come to terms with the work that will be involving this intense aspect between Mercury and Mars, and in the meantime we will need to persevere in the face of any daunting obstacles.

The other major astrological aspect occurring as Mercury stations retrograde is that a couple of days after Mercury stations retrograde, Jupiter in Virgo will also station retrograde closely conjoining the North Node of the Moon in Virgo.  There is a powerful connection here with Mercury as the conjunction between Jupiter and the North Node of the Moon is occurring in Virgo. In fact, as Mercury moves retrograde into Capricorn this connection will intensify as Mercury will be receiving Jupiter through a trine.  With Mercury in the home of Saturn, Saturn in the home of Jupiter, and Jupiter in the home of Mercury during this retrograde, despite some of the otherwise challenging aspects there also appears to be a confluence of forces supporting us finding a vision for our life that will bring us a fulfilling sense of purpose.  Jupiter moving retrograde also brings an inner visioning in terms of reorienting toward a more authentic personal truth.  Jupiter was previously retrograde in Leo between early December 2014 and early April 2015 if you want to contemplate events associated with the prior Jupiter retrograde.  Jupiter will remain retrograde until the beginning of May 2016, at which time it will station direct in range of an opposition to Neptune in Pisces and a square with Saturn in Sagittarius.

mercury passing in front of the sun

Mercury Passing in Front of the Sun by Giacomo Balla (1914)

Only he who has also raised
his lyre among shadows
may find his way back
to infinite praise.

Only he who has eaten with the dead
from their stores of poppy
will never again lose
the softest chord.

And though the pool’s reflection
often blurs before us:
Know the image.

Only in the double realm
do the voices become
eternal and mild.

–Rainer Maria Rile from Sonnets to Orpheus

Mercury into the Sun

Mercury’s inferior conjunction occurs when Mercury retrograde reaches the same zodiac degree as the Sun, and as Mercury during its retrograde is passing between our Earth and Sun, I am part of the astrological community who interprets this as being similar to a New Mercury.  This is a moment of cazimi, in which Mercury is reborn in the radiance of our solar light, regenerated and purified within the golden rays of the fiery Sun.  On a personal level, this is a moment of new conception regarding the significations of Mercury within our life, and a powerful moment within to attune to an oracular message we may receive.  In Pacific standard time, this magical Mercury moment occurs at 6:05 am on January 14, 2016, while in the Central European time zone this will occur at 3:05 pm on January 14.

Mercury and the Sun will be at 23º50′ tightly in trine with Jupiter in Virgo at 23º10′ and the true North Node of the Moon in Virgo at 23º30′.  Amazingly, the waxing crescent Moon at the moment of Mercury cazimi is at 22º30′ of Pisces, closely applying to a conjunction with the South Node of the Moon, a sextile with the Mercury and Sun conjunction, and an opposition to Jupiter in Virgo.   These aspects are remarkably suggestive of the interpretation that Dane Rudhyar gave to the Crescent Moon as fighting off the ghosts of the past, as there is an activation of past patterns of awareness at the same time we sense new choices and opportunities linked to a reborn vision of meaning.  While we may feel a pull back toward the normalcy of old patterns, we can consciously with determination propel ourselves into the unknown with faith despite the fears arising that we will not have what we need to be successful in the new direction.  The close trine between Mercury conjoining the Sun and Jupiter conjoining the North Node of the Moon indicates that we will in fact be able to access the resources we need to successfully transition in the new, unfamiliar direction.

In addition, the inferior conjunction of Mercury will be almost exactly conjunct the geocentric South Node of Saturn, and a few degrees away from a conjunction with the geocentric South Node of Pluto.  This intensifies the connection of this Mercury retrograde cycle with the full archetypal arcs of both Saturn and Pluto.  In evolutionary astrology, Jeff Green teaches that the South Nodes of Saturn and Pluto being in Capricorn symbolizes the vast shadow cast by the patriarchal paradigm that seized power from a matriarchal collective ages ago.  Mercury retrograde united with the Sun at the South Node of Saturn suggests penetrating insight into the foundation of the structural systems surrounding us will be available.  It also portends we can discern how our behavior in the moment has been conditioned by the vast history of hierarchical power structures vying for power, control, and dominance.

Finally, there are additional indications that Venus is demanding attention from us during this Mercury retrograde, and that the retrograde commencing with a tight square between Venus and Neptune is a sign that we have a deep message regarding our Venusian nature to uncover.  At the time of Mercury’s inferior conjunction, Venus in Sagittarius is separating from a trine with Uranus in Aries and applying to a square with Jupiter and the North Node of the Moon in Virgo, as well as a square with the Moon in Pisces and the South Node of the Moon.  Well, we’re always focused on Venus and looking for messages about her, right?  Nonetheless, Venus is holding aspects suggestive of being at a crossroads at the time of this Mercury inferior conjunction, and as she will be received by Jupiter it is yet another sign of the Jupiter conjunction with the North Node of the Moon in Virgo being a beacon of light leading us out of the Mercurial underworld.

Dore Gustave Inferno_Canto_1_spirit_guide

Virgil leads Dante by Gustave Dore, from the Divine Comedy

We puzzle over flower, vine-leaf, fruit.
They speak not just the language of the year.
A thing of succor rises from the dark
and its hues may gleam with the jealousy

of the dead, those who strengthen the earth.
What do we know of their share in it?
It has long been their practice to enrich
the loam with their own free marrow.

The question is: do they do it willingly? . . .
Does this fruit, a work of sullen slaves,
push through clenched to us, to their masters?

Or are they the masters, sleeping among
the roots and granting us from their profusion
this hybrid of mute strength and kisses?

— Rainer Maria Rilke from Sonnets to Orpheus

Mercury Stations Direct

Mercury ultimately will station direct on January 25, 2016 at 14º55′ of Capricorn, closely conjoining Pluto at 15º54′ of Capricorn.  As Mercury appears to stand still when stationing, this means we will have an extended period of Mercury and Pluto being a degree apart (roughly January 21 – February 1, 2016).  On January 20 when the Sun ingresses into Aquarius, Mercury retrograde will also form an exact square with Uranus in Aries, and Mercury will still be in range of a square to Uranus when it finally stations direct.  There is deep reckoning to be found in this stationing direct of Mercury, much more so than normal as it is intimately bound to the influence of the Pluto-Uranus square.  This may or may not be a pleasant time depending upon your circumstances, but there is no doubt that an aspect of your ineffable soul will be available to perceive.  Whether you are able to schedule some downtime for yourself or whether you will be forced to be engaged in numerous intense activities, there is immense catharsis found in these aspects surrounding Mercury stationing direct.  There is also a harmonious sextile formed between Mars in Scorpio with the stationing Mercury in Capricorn, suggesting that a level of resolution could be reached concerning whatever was stirred up by Mars being square to Mercury at the beginning of the retrograde.

Adding to the vast depth of this time is that Mercury will be stationing direct closely conjoining the geocentric South Node of Jupiter, and also a couple of degrees away from a conjunction with its own geocentric South Node of Mercury.  This is yet another potent activation of the Jupiter archetype during this Mercury retrograde, and points toward Jupiter taking on the role of a guiding shepherd.  As Mercury begins to move direct again as an explorative Morning Star, it will once again begin applying to a trine with Jupiter and the North Node of the Moon in Virgo.  Those who have been working hard with due diligence and determination during the Mercury retrograde will be rewarded during this final period of Jupiter in Virgo receiving Mercury in Capricorn through a trine.  By willingly descending into underworld darkness during the Mercury retrograde, we will reascend nourished by a regenerated vision of life focused upon our essential fulfillment.

References

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

Rilke, Rainer Maria. (2004). Sonnets to Orpheus. Translated by Edward Snow. North Point Press.