Cracked Ice by Maruyama Okyo
My room and this vastness, / awake over the darkening land,– / are one. I am a string, / stretched tightly over wide / raging resonances.
Things are violin-bodies / full of murmuring darkness: / in it dreams the weeping of women, / in it the grudge of whole / generations stirs in its sleep . . . / I shall vibrate / like silver; then everything / beneath me will live, / and whatever wanders lost in things / will strive toward the light / that from my dancing tone– / around which the heavens pulse– / through thin, pining rifts / into the old / abysses endlessly / falls . . .
–Rainer Maria Rilke, On the Edge of Night translated by Edward Snow
Many live life sourced from beliefs they hardly take time to consider. Not the idealized philosophy or vision of life you find most inspiring, but how you actually live your life. It’s the image shot forth from inner realms at the target of thought pondering what’s around the corner and what choices you have in response. Sometimes we have a moment of realizing how these beliefs have been conditioned by external influences, or rather shaped by internal waters that have become frozen into rigid patterns over time. The Mercury retrograde that begins in Sagittarius on November 16 and ends in Scorpio on December 6 will bring opportunities to discern how well our daily perceptions and underlying beliefs are aligned with both the hard reality of present circumstances as well as the future oriented, imaginal vision of the life we wish to bring into our reality.
“It is a soul-realm as the primordial foundation of all actualizations in life . . . a middle realm between being and non-being . . . The primordial mediator and messenger moves between the absolute ‘no’ and the absolute ‘yes,’ or, more correctly, between two ‘no’s’ that are lined up against each other, between two enemies, between woman and man. In this [Hermes] stands on ground that is no ground, and there he creates the way. From out of a trackless world – unrestricted, flowing, ghostlike- [Hermes] conjures up the new creation.”
— Karl Kerenyi, Hermes: Guide of Souls
Mercury weaves together polarities in shades of gray and particularly when retrograde guides us into a liminal state of being in between. Mercury retrograde is an essential phase of the Star of Hermes, a time to seize for breaking down old constructs and breaking free from habitual thought patterns, finding new angles of perception in problem solving. When Mercury stands still at 13º29’ Sagittarius on November 16, glittering in twilight as it stations retrograde, it has the great benefit of the co-presence of Jupiter in Sagittarius. It’s a more Jupiterian, expansive, and inspirational Mercury retrograde than normal, but due to Jupiter also undergoing its own rebirth within its cycle with the Sun it will be most fruitful in terms of inner visioning, awareness, and realization. Rather than becoming overwhelmed by difficulties coming up in correspondence, allow the polarizing pattern weaving of Mercury to help you tease out the larger meaning.
Here are some of the key dates of Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius and Scorpio:
- November 6: Mercury direct at 8º Sagittarius at maximum elongation as an Evening Star; same time as a New Moon in Scorpio. This date marked a threshold crossing into an intensification of the pending Mercury retrograde.
- November 16: Mercury stations retrograde at 13º29’ Sagittarius on the same day that Venus stations direct in Libra.
- November 27: INTERIOR/INFERIOR conjunction of Mercury retrograde with the Sun at 5º03’ degrees Sagittarius. Rebirth of Mercury at the same time that Jupiter also begins a new synodic cycle in Sagittarius. Mercury retrograde also conjoins Jupiter at 4º18’ Sagittarius.
- December 1: Mercury re-enters Scorpio
- December 6: Mercury stations direct at 27º16’ Scorpio
- December 12: Mercury returns to Sagittarius
- December 15: Mercury at maximum elongation as Morning Star at 3º Sagittarius
- December 21: Solstice and final conjunction between Mercury and Jupiter at 9º34’ Sagittarius
Ariadne by Giorgio de Chirico
And again my inmost life rushes louder, / as if it moved now between steeper banks. / Objects become ever more related to me, / and all pictures ever more perused. / I feel myself more trusting in the nameless: / with my senses, as with the birds, I reach / into the windy heavens from the oak, / and into the small ponds’ broken-off day / my feeling sinks, as if it stood on fishes.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, Progress translated by Edward Snow
The stationing of Mercury in Sagittarius on November 16 is more dramatic than the usual shift of Mercury from direct to retrograde motion, as it occurs later on the same day that Venus finally stations direct in Libra. When planets station they have a collective and personal announcement to make and tend to dominate the astrological atmosphere; and so we have both Venus in Libra and Mercury in Sagittarius simultaneously proclaiming messages that are vying for our attention. Mercury and Venus are in starkly different circumstances within their synodic cycles: Venus is now direct and shining bright as a Morning Star, while Mercury is descending in twilight from being an Evening Star into its invisible, underworld role of guiding us into unconscious content, loosening conscious control.
Venus stationed retrograde in Scorpio on October 5, and so while the beginning of the Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius is simultaneously weaving together the end of the forty day Venus retrograde, we are not yet actually at the end of the Venus retrograde narrative. One primal reason is the opposition between Venus and Uranus that has been going on since early September before Venus went retrograde, and will not complete until we cross the boundary between November and December. The opposition between Venus and Uranus calls for a radical upgrade of what we expect from life, leading us to initiate breakthrough choices that crack open old constraints. It’s here in the final stages of a revelatory process that Mercury gladly accepts the role of psychopomp to whatever old beliefs and identities are ready to pass away, making space for the expansive growth stirred up by Jupiter in Sagittarius.
Amping up the extremity of tidal forces is that while both Venus and Mercury station with Venus in opposition to Uranus, Mercury is out of bounds in southern declination while forming a catalytic square aspect with Neptune in Pisces. Any planet 23º27′ or more in north or south declination is considered to be out of bounds- beyond the boundaries of 23º26′ set by the course of the Sun. Tony Howard has described planets out of bounds as being inherently freedom oriented rather than in reaction like Uranus, meaning that instead of acting rebellious in reaction to external constraints, people with a planet out of bounds in their natal chart act have an inner liberating vigor that flows from within without regard to external circumstances.
Altogether these aspects at the time Mercury stations retrograde and descends into invisibility could lead us to consider doing things differently than we ever have before. Due to the influence of Neptune in Pisces, however, we will need to discern what possesses a deeper, imaginal truth versus what is a misleading illusion. Mercury will leave its out of bounds state on November 20, around the same time it also disappears from twilight view. Taking the risk to try something new may not go according to plan and expectations at this time, but the potent reflective quality of Mercury retrograde will facilitate sifting through the experience for important lessons that will ultimately bolster achieving success in a new direction. While the opening section of Mercury retrograde is powerful for putrefaction and breaking down the outworn, it can also be fertile for cultivating a fresh path going forward.
“Whoever does not shy away from the dangers of the most profound depths and the newest pathways, which Hermes is always prepared to open, may follow him and reach . . . a greater find and a more certain possession. For all to whom life is an adventure- whether an adventure of love or of spirit- [Hermes] is the common guide.”
— Karl Kerenyi, Hermes: Guide of Souls
Maruyama Okyo by Tsukioka Yoshitoshi illustrating story of Okyo painting a ghost so viscerally that it came to life.
The blind man who stands on the bridge, / gray like a boundary stone of nameless kingdoms, / he is perhaps the thing, ever unchanging, / around which the far-off stellar hours move, / and the constellations’ still midpoint. / For everything around him strays and struts and runs.
He is the immovable upright one / set down in many tangled paths; / the dark entrance to the underworld / amid a surface-dwelling race.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, Point Du Carrousel translated by Edward Snow
Hermes in myth delights in putting people to sleep with his serpentine wand, guiding them into inner visions of dreamscape where the irrational may reveal insight through discernment of deeper meaning. Mercury retrograde periods draw upon this beguiling quality of Hermes, leading perception to more readily pick up meaning from symbols, signs, and synchronicities. As as a result it’s fascinating that Neptune, the planetary archetype of dreams and imagination, is a dominant force during the first two weeks of Mercury retrograde. Not only does Mercury form a square aspect with Neptune when it stations retrograde, Neptune stations direct a week later at 13º41′ Pisces on November 24. When Neptune stations it has a gravitas like a whirlpool pulling us into the Neptunian, such as experiencing a heightened imagination or feeling boundaries dissolve that awaken awareness of interconnection with others.
Mercury and Neptune have a complex relationship, as Neptune can easily fog or bewilder the clear reception of Mercury in communication and interpretation. Yet while some may have an ideal of a logical Mercury organizing everything crisply in categories, the reality is that Mercury is an archetype in-between definitions that questions unifying theories while also weaving together meaning from the innumerable contradictions within our changing world. The ancient philosopher Heraclitus noted not only the constant flux of our world with its ceaselessly changing meanings of truth, but that the underlying Logos or Word from which “all things follow” is not understood by most people. It’s possible that the square aspect formed between Neptune in Pisces with the Sun, Jupiter, and Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius can help us open to understanding beyond culturally conditioned, preconceived notions.
One way or another, Neptune in Pisces will come to the forefront just as a Full Moon in Gemini peaks on November 22 and as Jupiter begins a new synodic cycle with the Sun on November 25 at 3º56′ Sagittarius. Jupiter in the heart of the Sun on November 25 and 26 places Jupiter at the helm of our solar chariot and seeds an inspirational, uplifting vision of meaning to manifest in the year ahead. The last solar conjunction for Jupiter occurred on October 26, 2017 at 3º30′ Scorpio and so it is an ending of a Jupiter cycle just as it is simultaneously a beginning of life affirming growth and expansion for the year ahead. Yet this is not the sort of dry clarity that can be found on top of a mountain, but rather the oceanic breadth of imaginal vision that can only be encountered through Neptune.
Psyche Opening the Door into Cupid’s Garden by John William Waterhouse
“Even the tilings of the floor, made of precious stones cut fine, are divided into registers, mosaics in pictures and patterns of all sorts . . . And the other wings of this palace, arrayed from side to side and round about, are similarly precious and priceless, and all of it, with the walls constructed of bricks of gold, flares in a radiant glory all its own, so that the house makes its own day and daylight, even when the sun refuses to shine; so too do all the bedrooms, the colonnades, and even the doors explode with their own light. The household goods are no different: in their opulence they match the dignity and grandeur of the palace, so that you would rightly conclude that here is a heavenly imperial residence fashioned by great Jupiter himself so that he may dwell among mortals.”
— Apuleius, “Cupid and Psyche” from The Golden Ass: Or, A Book of Changes translated by Joel C. Relihan
One avenue for imaginal exploration of the influence of Neptune upon Mercury retrograde in the fiery home of Jupiter is the Psyche and Eros story written down by the Hellenistic author and philosopher Apuleius. There is both a thematic as well as cosmic connection, as the Psyche asteroid is at 15º09′ Sagittarius and within three degrees of Mercury on the day it stations retrograde, while the Eros asteroid stations retrograde at 18º11′ Gemini on the same day, in opposition to Mercury and Psyche.
The famous love story involves Psyche, incarnated as a human yet worshipped as a living embodiment of Aphrodite, falling in love with Eros, the divine son of Aphrodite who brings her to his Neptunian palace where he descends to her each night cloaked in mysterious darkness. In the pivotal plot moment, Psyche shines light through a lamp upon Eros while clutching a sharp blade, fearing he could be a monstrous dragon devourer. Yet upon witnessing his divine radiance, she not only falls under the spell of his legendary arrows, but also startles him awake with hot oil which causes him to flee from her. Psyche next undergoes a series of seemingly impossible trials set forth by Aphrodite, going so far as to descend to Persephone in the underworld.
Keeping in mind the ancient line of thought from Empedocles that creation is born from love and strife, we can see how disharmony and discord were sealed off from Psyche’s initial experience of Eros in his archetypal castle, bringing the necessity of her consciously shining light to shatter the illusion. We similarly may feel disillusioned during the Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius, but the vital component will involve illuminating and reorienting our personal truth without negating our experience of the numinous and divine we can encounter in both relationships as well as the dreams we wish to manifest. Over and over again Psyche gives herself over to her feelings and pain, while over and over again the living soul of her environment comes to her aid. She finds her center through following her eros, surrendering to reshaping from the world around her rather than forcing control.
Marie Louise Von Franz beautifully described this process in her book The Golden Ass of Apuleius: The Liberation of the Feminine in Man:
“The chaos of the unconscious always contains a relation to order as well. In talking about the unconscious one must always talk in paradoxes, and when we emphasize its chaotic aspect we know at the same time that the unconscious is not only chaos but is also order . . .
So one can say that in the right way faith is a great achievement, or rather pistis: loyalty to the inner law. When this loyalty or feeling constellates, it calls forth the the secret order which is in the chaos of the unconscious . . .
There is an instinct of truth in the human psyche which, in the long run, cannot be suppressed. We can pretend not to hear it, but it remains in the unconscious . . . Jung always said that truth does not speak with a loud voice. Its low but unsuppressible voice announces itself as a malaise, or a bad conscience, or whatever one may want to call it. Great quiet is needed in order to feel these small hints.”
— Marie Louise Von Franz
By following this same attitude, we can bring acceptance to whatever challenges and difficulties emerge in correspondence with Mercury retrograde, even a sense of humor where we can manage it, allowing the process of reshaping to unfold. This doesn’t mean to be passive, as we will of course need to take initiative and be decisive. It does mean, however, that the benefit we can gain from Mercury retrograde is through allowing a new order from our unconscious to emerge without stifling, controlling, or negating it. If we can do so, we can experience a symbolic sacred marriage like Psyche and Eros when Mercury retrograde unites with the Sun on November 27.
from the Rosarium Philosophorum (1550)
Out of infinite desires rise / finite deeds like weak fountains / that fall back in early trembling arcs. / But those, which otherwise in us / keep hidden, our happy strengths– / they come forth in these dancing tears.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, Initial (The First Book, Part Two) translated by Edward Snow
In the Heart of the Sun
The inferior conjunction of Mercury retrograde with the Sun on November 27 is the center of the retrograde process, offering a sacred marriage of conscious and unconscious in quiet moments of reflection. This is the rebirth of Mercury that seeds the coming cycle of Mercury in which it return to visibility in pre-dawn skies as a Morning Star. Remarkably, the rebirth of Mercury on November 27 comes only two days after the rebirth of Jupiter with the Sun on November 25. Since Mercury retrograde is in the home of Jupiter, it means Mercury and the Sun are being received by a revivified Jupiter. As a result this is an incredibly fertile moment of potency for Mercury, and yet since both Mercury and Jupiter are being regenerated it also means it is a newborn phase for both planets that suggests inner realizations to be found more so than external, grandiose manifestations of Jupiter.
Fascinatingly, just as Mercury retrograde unites with the Sun in Sagittarius, the Sun is receiving the Moon in Leo through a harmonious trine. In addition, Mars in Pisces is in a change inducing square aspect with the conjunction of the Sun, Mercury retrograde, and Jupiter; in fact the Star of Ares is being received by Jupiter as it approaches a conjunction with Neptune. This is an incredibly strident, inspirational, passionate, and creative combination that is capable of seeding an entirely new direction cut free from constraints of the past. The influence of Mars can certainly bring conflict and a need for confrontation, yet it is also a call for a deepening of whatever searching for meaning we have been engaged in. There is resilient resolve to be found within capable of fueling your visionary endeavors across the next year. Listen for it in the stillness of Mercury uniting with the Sun, inviting it to integrate into your embrace of life and navigation of coming currents.
Let your beauty manifest itself / without talking and calculation. / You are silent. It says for you: I am. / And comes in meaning thousandfold, / comes at long last over everyone.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, Initial (The Second Book, Part One) translated by Edward Snow
After the solar rebirth of Mercury on November 27, Mercury retrograde returns to Scorpio on December 1 where it will station direct on December 6 at 27º16’ Scorpio. By the time Mercury stations direct it will have reappeared in visibility as a Morning Star, and similarly this marks another threshold to cross in which we bring the new meaning of Mercury sparked at its inferior conjunction into our daily presence and work, imbibing it into our engagement with matter. It is necessary during this phase to persist in the new direction rather than allowing ourselves to fall back into the old patterns we have felt compelled to move on from. It’s also important to accept the process and be nurturing with yourself when you notice you’ve taken a step or two backwards, prodding yourself forward again. Interestingly, Mercury will be stationing in a watery triangle with the North Node of the Moon in Cancer and Chiron in Pisces.
The day after Mercury re-enters Scorpio, Venus will also return to the sign of the Scorpion on December 2 for the first time since the end of October. This is also the same time period in which Venus completes its third and final exact opposition with Uranus. As a result the stationing direct of Mercury is crucial in helping us discover and integrate the final lessons coming forth from the Venus retrograde transit that began at the beginning of October. It will be a penetrative, probing process as both Venus and Mercury are in the fixed, watery home of Mars with Mars in Pisces forming a whole sign trine to both. At the same time, Mars is applying to a conjunction with Neptune in Pisces that perfects on December 7 at the same time Mercury is stationing.
From December 1 until December 12 when Mercury returns again to Sagittarius, the heavy influence of Scorpio with Mars and Neptune in Pisces will compel an intensification of questioning foundational beliefs and curiously investigating the undercurrents of whatever dynamics we are engaged with. Rather that projecting beliefs from a dogmatic perspective, allow the slippery, thieving Mercury to unlock the hidden places where you source vision and beliefs from. This time period will be opportune for testing the strength of the new vision you want to bring into life, making modifications and reorienting aspects as necessity dictates.
The movement of the current Mercury retrograde from the fire sign of Sagittarius back to the water sign of Scorpio foreshadows the fact that in 2019 we will experience Mercury retrograde transits primarily in water signs. This brings to a completion the past two years of having Mercury retrograde in primarily fire signs. It will be worth the time to consider what houses in your natal chart are in the fire element (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) and what changes you can note have coincided with Mercury enacting its retrograde regeneration there. Furthermore, the subsequent Mercury retrograde will be in Pisces in March 2019 and will also be significantly stirring up meaning in connection with Jupiter in Sagittarius and Neptune in Pisces; there is likely to be some sort of mercurial connection between now and then.
A final element of the visionary meaning stemming from Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius and Scorpio will come at the Capricorn Solstice on December 21, when Mercury will complete its final conjunction with Jupiter at 9º34’ Sagittarius. Both Mercury and Jupiter will be visible as Morning Stars at the solstice, with Venus above them bringing her light to the solstice sunrise. The Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere, it is the dark turning of the year that welcomes increasing light. This is a perfect cosmic alignment of the hope and faith that can be kindled at the solstice stoking the flames of inspiration between Mercury and Jupiter. There will be a hard, constraining reality to confront in 2019 as Saturn, Pluto, and the transiting South Node of the Moon come together in Capricorn. As the Sun enters Capricorn on the solstice, as Mercury and Jupiter unite at dawn, allow yourself to dream the life you wish to live backed by the determination to bring it fully into being.
Chiron and Achilles by John Singer Sargent
Apuleius. (2007). The Golden Ass. Translated by Joel C. Relihan. Hackett Publishing Company.
Rilke, Rainer Maria. (1991). The Book of Images. Translated by Edward Snow. North Point Press.
Von Franz, Marie Louise. (1992). The Golden Ass of Apuleius: The Liberation of the Feminine in Man. Shambhala.