Capricorn Full Moon: Mars Stations Retrograde in Aquarius

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Felix Vallotton (1909) La nuit, effet de lune

Full Moon in Capricorn

The Full Moon in Capricorn which arises on June 27 or 28, depending upon your time zone, has a ripeness best enjoyed by those who possess resilient persistence and can maintain diligent insistence on doing what must be done. Saturn and Mars take center stage at the Capricorn Full Moon, the planets who have borne the roles of malefic and trouble making nemesis with dramatic flair within the history of astrology. Yet there is also the ancient line of thought that essentially all of the planets are holy agents of the world soul who always bring opportunities for developing and refining our nature. It’s true that Saturn can open us to transcendent insight, while Mars can incite the courage needed for dynamic reform and inspired creation. However, much of the time we experience growth through hardship, letting go, surrendering, or needing to overcome overwhelming odds. The Capricorn Full Moon signifies a time in which challenging difficulties are highlighted rather than unobstructed flow. The Moon’s fullness irradiates how to work with energy levels within the stinking decay of societal structures and promising movements of fresh innovation.

The Full Moon in Capricorn illuminates a reality check on deep, underlying shifts beginning to take shape in our lives. The Full Moon is in the earthen, inwardly directed home of Saturn and forms an exact conjunction with the ringed planet as it culminates in full light. This creates an intensely Saturnine lunation, and while Saturn may generally make you think of the hardening and solidifying of forms that resist change, there is another astrological event occurring simultaneously that signifies a monumental alteration of life narratives. This is because a day before the Full Moon the fiery red planet Mars stations retrograde in Aquarius, the airy, outwardly directed home of Saturn that readily formulates plans to structure future vision. The Full Moon uniting with Saturn thus brings a fully lit glare of Kronos to the changes underway, whether they are already occurring at a rapid pace or instead are slowly showing initial signs of deep-rooted modification.

The Full Moon peaks less than sixteen hours after Saturn forms an exact opposition with the Sun, demarcating the heart of its retrograde period (Saturn is retrograde from April 17 – September 6) when Saturn is at its brightest phase as an Evening Star as well as closest to us in orbit. Saturn has been in Capricorn for over six months now, and so with reflection the correlations within both collective and personal experiences will become clear. Saturn in its nocturnal home brings the gravity of stone to decision making, and so we can feel the weight of our choices more tangibly, more readily sense the realistic amount of time and space we have to work with. Saturn in Capricorn demands responsible and patient persistence, yet its cardinal and earthy nature also opens the potential to source foundational change in the sustenance of our life.  When we work with Saturn in Capricorn while detaching from the dogma of how we have been conditioned to believe things must be, the nourishment of imaginative visioning allows us to actively work with the Capricorn gift for molding materials in new and improved ways.

Saturn receiving the spotlight of the Full Moon is ideal for looking back over the course of the past six months and contemplating what’s been working well and not so well in your co-participation with its plodding course through the sign of the Sea Goat. While many people appear to react in habitual, unmindful ways to the changing currents of life, we all possess the capacity for the self awareness necessary to break ourselves free from past patterns of behavior and open ourselves to direct engagement in the moment. As the Saturnine light of the Full Moon blossoms while Mars stations retrograde, it will be easy to feel overwhelmed by past and current sources of stress. If possible, find ways to detach in protective space in order to access the gift the lunation offers for reformulating strategies for the next steps to take in future plans.

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Georgia O’Keeffe (1922) A Storm

Mars stationing retrograde is a big deal because the retrograde movement of Mars is the most rare of all the planets, occurring roughly every twenty six months or so. Furthermore, Mars moving retrograde in Aquarius has been the most rare of all Mars retrograde transits in the recent era, as we have not experienced a Mars retrograde in Aquarius since 1971. This particular Mars retrograde in Aquarius is even more volatile than normal for a few reasons. For one, Uranus in Taurus is in range of a catalytic, change inducing square aspect with Mars, ramping up the unexpected quality of martial change immeasurably. In addition, Mars is stationing in conjunction with the South Node of the Moon in Aquarius as we enter a season of lunations aligned with the transiting lunar nodes- this results in three eclipses in a row following the Capricorn Full Moon (Partial Solar Eclipse in Cancer on July 12; Total Lunar Eclipse in Leo on July 27; Partial Solar Eclipse in Leo on August 11). Weaving all of this together, we can know for certainty that more than the normal amount of unpredictable change  is on the horizon. As a result, the Full Moon aligning with Saturn is a gift in terms of digging into the roots of our situation to assess the state of our foundation.

Life narratives shift when Mars moves retrograde, pivotal figures enter our lives while other relationships fade away. Unlike the underworld retrograde movements of Mercury and Venus that involve both planets disappearing from view, Mars is brightly lit against a backdrop of starry firmament the entire time it is retrograde. In fact, Mars will be as bright during the upcoming retrograde as it has been since 2003. The wandering celestial objects such as Mars signify how we live in a world of constant flux, ceaseless death and birth; in contrast, the fixed stars that rise and set each night in the same places they have for ages past signify enduring aspects of the eternal. The glowing redness of Mars will be bound to our night sky as it appears to move backward through our zodiac, providing the opportunity to turn away from passing fancies and toward our inner realm of deep desire resonant with the eternal world of soul. Mars retrograde is less effective for the usual, status quo operations of the consensus, more resonant with a turn toward the unusual, irrational, unexplainable places where passions are visceral, purely sourced from within rather than projected based upon external rewards.

Mars in Aquarius is a fascinating sign for the red planet to station retrograde in while conjoining the transiting South Node of the Moon. Mars is an outsider in Aquarius, and this unique environment for Mars to operate within cultivates a martial force like nowhere else.   Mars can be fierce and protective in Aquarius, yet also has a strange mix of objectivity, humanitarianism, experimentation, and determination we do not quite find in any other sign. Mars retrograde in Aquarius can ultimately aid us in discerning how to catalyze necessary growth through detaching from consuming, subjective emotions like anger and frustration. Its union with the South Node of the Moon brings the opportunity to burn off old martial identities on the fires of purification. However, we also need to remain aware of the shadow side of Mars in Aquarius that can become overly detached from the consequences of its actions due to the fervor of its idealistic convictions. While we will need to have the awareness to cool it down when rising inner heat is leading us into unnecessary conflict, our relationships and community will also need us to maintain a heart-centered connection with what needs to be done and who needs to be protected.

Aquarius is the sign of the Water Bearer who carries and shares the enlivening water of consciousness that nourish humanitarian impulses. With Mars retrograde, the water poured throughout the collective will be dissolving fixed structures and opening spaces within the fields of power for new voices to emerge within a state of rearrangement and reformulation of dynamics. Moreover, with Mars wrapped up intensely with Uranus in Taurus during its retrograde, its more likely than normal that rapidly developing, nonlinear revelations will emerge that can be challenging to integrate into our sense of personal identity as well as work with in the established structures of our life. Rather than dissociating or splitting off what feels difficult to embody or receive within surrounding circumstances, it will be important to find ways to responsibly work with the sudden Uranian insights in tangible ways, finding acceptance for how old conceptions of our identity mutate.

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Alder Wolf (2012) by Marlene Seven Bremner

Aquarius hosting the opening of the Mars retrograde signifies that outsiders will take center stage, and so it is not surprising that a ramping up of debate and conflict over immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers erupted as Mars slowed down to station. The collective conflicts building now will not be resolved any time soon, and similarly we can expect that any personal conflicts arising now will also endure an extended battle before finding resolution. Aquarius is a sign known for being able to keep a steady pace of endurance, a quality we will need to integrate rather than insisting on rash, impulsive action. Aquarius is also optimal for abstract strategizing, and so as we navigate the storms brought by Mars retrograde clashing with Uranus and a season of eclipses, we can receive new ideas and solutions for old dilemmas, new questions that lead us to new answers and reframing.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the trajectory of the Mars retrograde leads it to eventually station direct at its exaltation of 28°37′ Capricorn on August 27. Mars ending its retrograde on its most exalted degree of the zodiac suggests out of all of the struggles that come about in the next several months, in some way a refinement of a more exalted martial quality may be discovered and then embodied on the other side. For the time being, it will be much more important to stay present with the task at hand rather than becoming distracted over future expectations. The stationing of Mars also has an important impact on the transit of Jupiter in Scorpio, since Jupiter is in the home of Mars and so looks to the red planet for resources. Interestingly, the Capricorn Full Moon is separating from its conjunction with Saturn and is applying toward a sextile with Jupiter retrograde in Scorpio. This is yet another sign of growth being able to be found through suffering and deep penetration into the actual reality of circumstances rather than denial over what’s really going on beneath the surface.

Jupiter is getting closer to the end of its retrograde phase at the Full Moon, eventually stationing direct during the forthcoming waning cycle of the Moon at 13º20′ Scorpio on July 10.  Mars is stationing in range of a wide square to Jupiter, and since they are occupying signs that square one another it signifies we will be going through one of our deepest dives yet into the realm of shadow with Jupiter in Scorpio. A pull into the shadow of our subconscious, revealing intimations of what we have been refusing in one way or another to acknowledge about ourselves, will be amplified further by the fact that the Mars retrograde will be taking it into extreme southern latitude relative to the ecliptic. Gary Caton has been doing innovative work with the retrograde loop patterns of Mars and at UAC 2018 gave a talk I was fortunate to attend in which he stated that when planets go into southern latitude they call us to dig deep into our subjective senses to discover how we are unconsciously acting out from our shadow. In combination with Mars also stationing in conjunction with the South Node of the Moon, we have repeated signs indicating that the greatest meaning will be found in contemplating our depths, pulling in our energy around a purifying fire we stoke to burn off the past identities and patterns we are ready to now let go of.

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Vincent Van Gogh (1888) Starry Night Over the Rhone

Not only will Mars become an extremely bright Evening Star in the midnight hour, so will all of the traditional planets be visible following the setting of the Sun as the luminous, silvery Moon rises. As the Sun sets it will be possible in some locations to view Mercury briefly in the shifting hues of twilight, while both Venus and Jupiter will be higher, brighter, and more easily seen for an extended period following sunset. Eventually both Saturn and then Mars will emerge in the night sky. There is fascinating symbolism occurring that as Venus in Leo sets on the western horizon, Mars in Aquarius will begin to rise on the eastern horizon. Taking a break from the toil of the day to attune to the starry night sky will be one available remediation strategy to help with cooling down and opening to a more reflective state of mind as the inner heat stoked by Mars retrograde intensifies.

A day after the Full Moon, Mercury will enter Leo and begin to apply toward an opposition with Mars retrograde and a conjunction with the North Node of the Moon. Mercury will form an exact opposition with Mars retrograde on July 5, and so the tension between Mercury and Mars will be intensifying until then. Mercury’s time in Leo this year is one of its most pivotal journeys of the year, for Mercury will later go through a retrograde phase in Leo at the end of July resulting in Mercury remaining in Leo until September 5. The inner desires incited by Mars retrograde can be transmitted into fiery, inspirational communication with Mercury in Leo, but as the opposition with Mars builds in the week following the Full Moon it will be necessary to remain on high alert over the potential of getting drawn into vicious and unnecessary arguments that drain energy and serve no real purpose. There will also be many necessary conflicts to engage in and courageously persist through, and within collective events there will likely be numerous examples of protest movements and fierce public debates between competing interests.

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2 of Pentacles by Pamela Colman Smith

Capricorn 1 Decan

The Full Moon illuminates the first decan of Capricorn associated with the Two of Pentacles card illustrated above by Pamela Colman Smith.  The image is fitting for the Saturnine Full Moon coinciding with Mars stationing retrograde, as the juggling magician set against a backdrop of a pivotal sea change embodies the capacity of Capricorn to penetrate into structural forms and impact matter from the underlying fabric of reality.  Austin Coppock in his book on the decans 36 Faces ascribed the image of “A Headless Body” to the first face of Capricorn, stating it “entails the descent of the spirit into the body of the world itself,” bringing consciousness to deeper and deeper levels of matter to “set those powers in motion” as well as “use the higher, logoic functions to guide them along their course.”  Coppock analyzed the ancient attribution by Ibn Ezra of a bestial man carrying a cattle prod to this face, suggesting it reveals the capacity of this decan to not only set material forces in motion but also steer them in order to create change such as new work or sources of sustenance.

The “atavistic consciousness” Coppock described within the first decan of Capricorn that “descends into the natural world with ease” connects well with the ancient Hellenistic text 36 Airs of the Zodiac attributing the ancestor of earth and body-based healers, Asklepios, to the first face of Capricorn. There is also an Asclepius asteroid #4581 which at the Full Moon is forming an opposition to Uranus in Taurus and square to the stationing Aquarius Mars, at 3º11′ Scorpio.  Asclepius, son of the Sun god Apollo and a mortal woman, embodies a centered focus which integrates all surrounding realms, both material and immaterial.  Rooted in Earth, Asclepius is a healer who emerges in times of crisis and cathartic change, reverent of Nature, in balance with masculinity and femininity,  and reliant upon ritualistic incubation to find healing cures.  Asclepius is associated with healing through dreams, an incubatory process that reveals the connection between external symptoms and the underlying unconscious.  With his hermetic staff planted in the ground, Asclepius weaves together meaning from celestial and chthonic realms through discernment centered in his sensual nature, applied to his work through disciplined spiritual practice.

Jupiter is the ruler of the first face of Capricorn in the Chaldean descending rulership scheme, Saturn the ruler in the triplicity scheme. Both Jupiter and Saturn are key elements of the lunation as already mentioned, but Saturn of course is most impactful due to not only residing in its own face but also its own domicile while receiving the full light of the lunation. If we link a responsible, reverent engagement with Saturn to the noble attributes of Asclepius, we find the ultimate manner in which to navigate the chaotic changes which will be continuing to tear through our global collective in coming months. Walk with full presence, sensual awareness of the myriad fluctuations in growth and decay all around, with willingness to contemplate the synchronous meaning found in dream images as well as passing omens along one’s daily course. There are no easy answers at this time, and it will be necessary to draw upon reservoirs of inner strength to respond to emergent crises. Centering within the integrity of our own essential values, remaining open to protecting and nurturing those in need, will be ways to find the optimal path forward.

References

Coppock, Austin. (2014). 36 Faces: The History, Astrology and Magic of the Decans. Three Hands Press.

 

New Moon & Venus in Capricorn

 

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Photograph by Beau Vandendolder

New Moon in Capricorn

Within the heart of the dark forest we seclude ourselves from the tumult and toxicity of civilization.  We feel the slow rhythm of the earth under our feet, the songs of the wild in the air, the sense of the trees reaching out from and sinking deep into subterranean nourishment.   The canopy of trees shelter the surrounding diversity of nature, the natural cycles of growth and decay clearly observable.   A Capricorn New Moon is similarly an opportunity to center and ground within the changes of what is ready to be developed and what is passing away or in need of release.  Capricorn is most potent and fertile when we allow our inner life to help us navigate through the labyrinth of external conditioning structures and influences.

The New Moon in Capricorn on January 16 takes us into a season of eclipses, with a Total Lunar Eclipse in Leo (12º) coming January 31 followed by a Partial Solar Eclipse in Aquarius arriving February 15 (27º).  The emphasis on Capricorn calls us to formulate plans and fixate determination to persevere, yet the nature of the forthcoming eclipse season portends a wave of events on the horizon bringing changes in circumstances requiring adjustment. This theme is reemphasized by the New Moon forming a square with Uranus in Aries.  The places in your natal chart impacted by the coming eclipses in Leo and Aquarius are important to take into consideration at this New Moon.  Ultimately, the Capricorn New Moon is fertile ground to launch the work and endeavors you are most passionate about, with a willingness to consistently put in the necessary amount of practice, study, and effort needed to achieve successful manifestation.

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Photograph by Beau Vandendolder

Saturn rules the New Moon from within the stability and strength of its own home in Capricorn.  Co-present with the New Moon and Saturn in Capricorn are Mercury, Venus, Pluto, and Black Moon Lilith.  During the darkening of the Moon leading up the Capricorn lunation, Mercury finally completed its final conjunction with Saturn in Capricorn that links back to its previous Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius (December 2 -22, 2017) that began with Mercury united with Saturn.   Direct action toward goals and strengthening of foundations are needed now more than reflective restraint.  Contemplation must be yoked to determined effort and disciplined focus.  Distractions flee under the glare of Saturn, revealing the core desires, needs, and issues to prioritize.  The plethora of placements in Capricorn support creative visualization of developing plans that pragmatically discerns a path forward with solutions that are both realistic and imaginative.

While Saturn in Capricorn intensifies the Saturnine significations of the Capricorn New Moon, Mercury will be a bright Morning Star in Capricorn in the lunar cycle ahead, ready to help make clarified choices within daily tasks.  Mercury will be transitioning from Capricorn into Aquarius as the blood red eclipse in Leo forms on January 31.  While there will be solid astrological support for making headway with work and projects in the next couple of weeks, remember to make time for self care and restful dreaming time.  The emphasis on Capricorn can coincide with intense, pressurized feelings of time and space and deadlines we must meet.  Ideally a balance can be struck between seizing the moment when opportunities appear and nurturing ourselves so we have our full strength to summon when needed.

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Photograph by Beau Vandendolder

A New Venus synodic cycle began in the week before the New Moon that was simultaneously united with Pluto in Capricorn.  The personal meaning found in the January 8 solar union of Venus and Pluto seeds the growth beginning to form within the New Moon.  The reception of meaning stemming from this alignment will continue to slowly deepen in awareness in coming weeks, prodding us to face and overcome whatever fears have been holding us back.  It can be easy to remain stuck in routines and responsibilities we have outgrown due to the comfort of the old and familiar that do not require making radical changes.  The rebirth of Venus in union with the Sun and Pluto, combined with Mercury and Saturn also residing in Capricorn, facilitates asking new questions that demand new answers and a reframing of circumstances.  Old structures can more easily break open within the series of eclipses we will be experiencing within the next month, making this a perfect time to courageously consider how our use of time and space can be rearranged so we are more actively engaged with inspirational activity that grips our full presence.

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Photograph by Beau Vandendolder

The other major aspect of the Capricorn New Moon involves the harmonious sextile with Scorpio holding a formidable influence of Mars and Jupiter.  Mars is separating from a recent union with Jupiter in Scorpio, and Mars has a receptive sextile with the New Moon due to it occurring in the exaltation of Mars.  Amplifying the transmutational potency is Jupiter in a close sextile with Pluto in Capricorn, and Mars in Scorpio in square with the degree of the partial Solar Eclipse in Aquarius coming February 15.  We have both malefics, Mars and Saturn, at full strength in their own homes.  Malefics are a polarity to benefics due to their correspondences often causing fear and requiring determined resiliency in response.  Often the key to overcoming fears is a willingness to explore their undercurrents and face whatever lies at their root.  As we shed old fears the harmonious interchange between Scorpio and Capricorn within the lunation brings a forceful current to propel us through the upcoming eclipses into bold new levels of development.

In addition, Neptune in Pisces has a less obvious effect within the New Moon as it forms harmonious whole sign aspects with the abundance of planets in Capricorn and Scorpio.  The strongest aspect for Neptune in the New Moon involves Mercury in Capricorn applying to a sextile with Neptune.  Furthermore, the Total Lunar Eclipse coming on January 31 is aligned with the nodes of Neptune, with the Sun and South Node of the Moon conjoining the South Node of Neptune, and the eclipsed Moon and North Node of the Moon conjoining the North Node of Neptune.   Altogether this ramps up the imaginative fertility of the New Moon to foster a dissolution of restrictive conditioning influences from the past in order to activate creative actualization of core talents and calling.

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4 of Pentacles by Pamela Colman Smith

Capricorn 3 Decan

The New Moon arises in the third decan of Capricorn associated with the Four of Pentacles card illustrated above by Pamela Colman Smith.  An image of empire building and wielding influence from a seat of power, the Four of Pentacles signifies a cultivation of inner talents to make an impact in the material world in matters that are most meaningful.  The crowned and enthroned figure has pentacles below and above him, with a fourth pentacle cradled at heart level evoking a spinning wheel of fortune.   The figure towers in the foreground, suggesting someone sovereign and able to manage structures to bring material prosperity and security within the wildly fluctuating changes in fortune that come and go within surrounding society.

Austin Coppock in his book on the decans 36 Faces ascribed the image of “The Throne” to the third face of Capricorn, a fitting image given that the Sun rules the decan.  Coppock wrote that this face of Capricorn involves administering from a throne to control the elements of the world needed to attain material gain and positions of greater power and responsibility.  Notably, Coppock cautioned that hubris can tempt those grasping for power in this face to overlook the weight of responsibility and the loneliness of isolation that accompany achieving ambitions.  Coppock warned that accumulations of material wealth, power, and responsibility “may end up crushing them,” the idealized palace turning into a restrictive prison.

Since Saturn in Capricorn can bolster the application of the New Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Pluto in Capricorn toward whatever ambition we set our mind and will toward, make sure that the achievement of current goals are in accord with a healthy, balanced life that enables inner fulfillment in addition to external success.   If you are feeling overwhelmed and blocked by external circumstances, let yourself surrender to acceptance while remaining watchful and determined to find openings for advancement, no matter how small or temporary.    In fact, the astrological alignments at the New Moon can help prepare and refine an abundance of inner riches and attainment of inner wisdom that has nothing to do with material circumstances.  Within the shifting tides of the material realm, however, perseverance and determination will be required to navigate the sweeping change on the horizon.

References

Coppock, Austin. (2014). 36 Faces: The History, Astrology and Magic of the Decans. Three Hands Press.

 

Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius: Crossing of Cronos

Saturn with Mercury caduceus

Saturn photo by NASA; Mercury glyph by Bradley Naragon

Mercury Retrograde in Sagittarius

In the twilight of encroaching darkness Mercury disappears at sunset toward the beginning of its retrograde period, initiating its invisible phase.  As nightfall and its bed of glittering stars overtake our senses, we lose the light of Mercury during the liminal time of its retrograde until it’s reflected light returns again at dawn on the other side of its backward movement through the zodiac.  During the time we have no hope of glimpsing the light of the star of Hermes, we can feel bewildered as our perceptual awareness shifts in correspondence as elements of our life pass away.  The volatility of Mercury can be found in its mythic sources:  Carl Jung called Hermes the “many-hued and wily god,” while Karl Kerenyi noted that the ingenious leaps in gain brought by Hermes also coincide with loss.  Since Mercury stations at the beginning of December aligned with Saturn, there is adversity to face on the horizon.  The solidifying stillness of Mercury stationing with Saturn also can bring the types of tests that ultimately foster increased strength, endurance, and structural foundations.

Mercury’s retrograde cycle comes at least three times each calendar year, each manifestation unique and notable for more than a few reasons.  However, the Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius that commences December 2 or December 3, depending upon your time zone, is especially remarkable for ushering us from our experience of Saturn in Sagittarius (12/23/2014 – 12/19/2017) into Saturn in Capricorn (12/19/2017 – 12/17/2020) while Mercury also spends an unusually long time in close proximity to the star of Kronos.  Mercury first united with Saturn on November 27 at 27º27′ of Sagittarius, and after shifting retrograde will align with Saturn for a second time on December 6 at 28º23′ of Sagittarius.  Mercury will remain within three degrees of Saturn until December 9, capping off a couple of weeks of close alignment.  Mercury will eventually conjoin Saturn for a third and final time on January 12, 2018 at 2º47′ of Capricorn, and at this point we will be able to gain sharper clarity for how the events of the Mercury retrograde fit into vaster narratives.  Mercury is serving as a messenger for Saturn, and though not the only meaning to be found in this period is certainly a fundamental aspect to contemplate.

Mercury’s protean nature shifts and mutates more so than any other planet, weaving together polarities and delighting in the grayness of being in between dualities.  Mercury can be both yin and yang, nocturnal and diurnal, spiritual and material, masculine and feminine, and readily accords itself with whatever planetary engagements it finds itself within.  Additionally, the retrograde phase of Mercury is the time in which the meaning of Mercury itself changes, as its swift pace slows to a standstill at the beginning and end of its backward movement through the zodiac.  Instead of firing quickly with curiosity in numerous directions of outward expression, Mercury when retrograde focuses internally with greater propensity for intuiting guidance through symbols and discerning the underlying meaning of both waking and dreaming life. Aligned with Saturn, Mercury retrograde takes on the significations of the star of Kronos, and so to navigate this passage optimally we need to consider how the archetypal forces of Mercury retrograde and Saturn commingle.

Hermes Trismegistus

Hermes Trismegistus floor panel in Siena Cathedral

Hermes, ruler of the world, dweller in the heart, circle of the moon,
Round and square, inventor of the words of the tongue,
Obedient to justice, wearer of the chlamys, shod in winged sandals,
Guardian of the many-sounding tongue, prophet to mortals.

— translation of a Magic Papyrus in Carl Jung’s Alchemical Studies

In our astrological tradition, the affinity between Saturn and Mercury is generally positive:  the 17th century text Christian Astrology by William Lily stated that both Mercury and Saturn are friendly toward one another, while the 9th century Vedic astrological text Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra stated that Saturn considers Mercury a friend while Mercury in comparison is neutral about Saturn.  In the 20th century archetypal tradition that synthesized ancient understanding from Hermetic sources within a depth psychology framework, the lineage from Carl Jung through James Hillman found a vital relationship between Saturn and Mercury within alchemy as well as through the conceptual duality of the senex (elder authority) and puer (eternal youth).  In Alchemical Studies, Carl Jung noted that Mercurius contains the dual  nature of senex and puer. Hillman later illuminated that the senex brings structure, discipline, tradition, and grounding, while the puer injects the vibrancy of idealism, imagination, creativity, and wanderlust.

We can imagine the union of Mercury’s creative bridging with the structural discipline of Saturn through authoritative sources that sustain openness to invention and visionary change.  Mercury retrograde periods bring the ability to focus deeply into mercurial research and communication projects, and so the influence of Saturn brings opportunities to base understanding from traditional lineages while opening awareness to how it fits within the current moment and zeitgeist.  Fantasizing or speculating while disconnected from the responsibilities of reality during this Saturnine retrograde of Mercury will bring repercussions, however, and so flights of imagination need to sustain a level of grounded application.  Whatever philosophical, intellectual, or spiritual frameworks we have been thinking and acting from will be confronted and tested and it will become obvious (if we are paying attention) where we have been deluding ourselves or how are belief system leads to adverse consequences we had not formerly recognized.

With regards to the interplay between Mercury and Saturn within alchemy, I was intrigued to find that Gary Caton linked the alchemical process of nigredo with the initial stationing phase of Mercury retrograde in his recently published book Hermetica Triptycha: The Mercury Elemental Year.  The blackening and putrefaction of nigredo that Jung’s work linked to the dark night of the soul has been associated with Saturn as it brings a decomposition that ultimately leads to illumination.  Since Mercury is stationing in alignment with Saturn at the end of Sagittarius, the peak period of darkness in the northern hemisphere that precedes the rebirth of increased solar light at the Winter solstice, the link to nigredo is even further increased.  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 (p. 112).

Since Saturn and Mercury are both in the outwardly directed home of Jupiter, Mercury’s retrograde will be pulling us into volatile and stark examinations of our vision for how we create meaning from our experiences in life.   Old thought patterns that have become habitually ingrained in our mind yet are no longer aligned with our authentic development can be dissolved and released with mindful focus and attention.  In a more immediate and mundane sense, we will be called to question some of our goals and plans through Saturnine delays, blockages, or obstacles.  It can be a pop astrology cliche to say that we should expect delays with everything happening in correspondence with Mercury retrograde, but with Mercury stationing in such close proximity to Saturn we are entering a retrograde phase that will force us to slow down and reconsider choices as we encounter restrictions or barriers of one sort or another.  Instead of impatiently shutting down or trying to force things out of frustration, keep a steady and alert focus on how things are developing and be ever ready to spontaneously shift directions or make alterations and revisions as needed.  Saturn and Mercury can guide us toward what needs to be modified for necessary reasons, whether we initially like it or not.

Ancient Mesopotamian astrology also reveals some overlap in meaning between Mercury and Saturn through the associations of the planets with mythic divinities Nabu and Ninurta.  Saturn was linked to the conquering hero Ninurta who retrieved the tablets of fate from a dragon of chaos who had stolen them, subsequently becoming an “overseer of fate and destiny” according to Michael Baigent in his book From the Omens of Babylon: Astrology and Ancient Mesopotamia.  Mercury was linked to the messenger Nabu, a divine scribe who recorded the fate for the world in the coming year when the gods met to decide upon the destiny for the year ahead at the ceremonial end of the year.  These ancient connections with Mercury and Saturn are fitting for the Mercury retrograde coming at the close of 2017, as its surrounding aspects portend the arrival of twists and turns in our personal and collective narratives.

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Hermes (27 B.C. – A.D. 68) The Met

Mercury plays the role of psychopomp during its retrograde phase, and if we can make the space to go within for internal contemplation we can receive guidance from the depths of soul.  Chthonic Mercury’s guidance can feel irrational at times, perplexing to habitual, egoic minds.  Since Mercury is aligning with Saturn at the end of its time in Sagittarius and will station direct following the ingress of Saturn into Capricorn, we have a saturnine atmosphere to reflect back over all of our experiences in connection with the star of Kronos since it entered Sagittarius on December 23, 2014.  At the same time we will be dealing with the final lessons Saturn in Sagittarius has to offer, and so the quicksilver of Mercury can help us mutate as needed and prepare us for crossing over the threshold of the forthcoming three years of Saturn in Capricorn.  Mercury is a guardian of gates, doors, and liminal thresholds of all manner.  Maintaining mindfulness will enable us to notice and discern whatever final messages we need to hear and integrate with Saturn in Sagittarius.

Moon in home of Mercury

Mercury glyph by Bradley Naragon

A Full Moon in Gemini on December 3 launches us into the Mercury retrograde period with a boom and bang.  Most notable in the syzygy are the aspects circulating between the Full Moon, Jupiter in Scorpio, and Neptune in Pisces.  While the Full Moon forms a tight, catalytic square with Neptune, at the same time Jupiter in Scorpio is forming its first exact trine with Neptune in Pisces. Since the Full Moon is in the home of Mercury, there is incredible timing of the lunation ripening about eight hours after Mercury has officially stationed retrograde in union with Saturn.  Altogether this brings increased potency to Mercury’s stationing much more so than normal, and whatever the Mercury retrograde is initially leading us to recognize and respond to will be obvious.

The influence of Neptune over the Gemini Full Moon that initiates us into the Mercury retrograde harkens back to the square between Neptune and Saturn in Sagittarius that dominated 2016 and was one of the most prominent aspects of Saturn’s time in the sign of the Centaur.  Among other current events this coincided with debates over national borders with regards to refugees and immigrants as well as a deterioration in the ability of the general public to discern the difference between fake and accurate media sources.  We now have the transit of Jupiter harmoniously interacting with Neptune as the backdrop behind Saturn and Neptune’s movement through the homes of Jupiter, and during the Mercury retrograde we will also experience Mercury, Venus, the Sun and the Moon moving through Sagittarius.

Since Jupiter in Scorpio is in the twelfth place from Sagittarius, the interplay between Jupiter and Neptune can deepen understanding through exposure of the previously concealed.  However, the easy trine aspect could also result in people deluding themselves within dogmatic belief systems if they are unwilling to open their minds to evidence coming from a different perspective.  The influence of Neptune upon Mercury’s retrograde through Sagittarius will not be going away, as Mercury will ultimately station direct in range of a square with Neptune.  As a result disillusionment could arise in related events that can cause depression, but these same difficult events can also become a necessary wake up call with what needs our full attention to change or heal.

The trine aspect between Uranus in Aries with Saturn has been another one of the key aspects within Saturn’s transit through Sagittarius that Mercury retrograde will also activate.  Mercury in Sagittarius formed a trine with Uranus on November 25 while moving direct at maximum elongation, and will form a second trine with Uranus in Aries on December 10.  After Mercury stations direct, it will move into its final trine with Uranus on January 6, 2018.  The trine between Uranus and Saturn has brought opportunities throughout 2017 to innovate and open the structural foundations of our lives to greater freedom and authenticity of expression.  Mercury moving back and forth in aspect with Uranus can help us attune to the aspects of organizational restructuring we have been developing that need additional support or repair.  It also increases the volatility of the Mercury retrograde period through unexpected influences and change that comes rapidly with quick development.

Ananka_i_Mojre

Ananke and the three Fates

The shadow cast across the Mercury retrograde by Saturn means the disintegration of matters we will face are necessary, and so instead of becoming stagnant with depression we need to surrender to the unalterable changes while conserving energy for the creative action we have the time and space to make a difference with.  The ancient Hellenistic text The 36 Airs of the Zodiac ascribed the primordial Ananke to the third decan of Sagittarius where Mercury will unite with both Saturn and the Sun during its retrograde.  Since Saturn rules the third face of Sagittarius and has been present in transit here, the gravitas of Ananke has been accentuated.  Austin Coppock in 36 Faces wrote that Ananke’s influence over this decan can be seen in daunting trials and tasks demanding uncomfortable endurance and effort.  Forces of Necessity and Eros, Daimon and Fortune lay at the root of our astrological foundations.  We have to deal with elements of destiny we cannot change and must endure, while we are also given opportunities to respond with clarified intention and co-create the life we most desire to lead.  Do your best to flow with the currents brought along with Mercury’s sleight of hand rather than becoming frustrated by the aspects of life you cannot change.

Since Mercury is orbiting through the space between our planet and our Sun during its retrograde, as close to us as it ever gets, it is like the Mercury archetype is more present and gripping us from the inside.  As a result its always important to maintain keen alertness and attention to subtle shifts in the details of daily life so we have the best chance to respond effectively.  Mercury retrograde periods also reward efforts to create space for meditation and inner contemplation, and this aspect is especially intriguing this time around as Mercury retrograde is uniting with Saturn near the degrees of our Galactic Center which is roughly at 27º of Sagittarius.  I find the idea of transits to the Galactic Center compelling, though I do not feel I completely understand the full ramification of their meaning as an astrologer.  I like the following interpretation Melanie Reinhart wrote in her article The Galactic Centre and the Centaurs:

Astrologically, when the Galactic Centre zone is activated by transits . . . the places, people, ideas, notions and events in our life where we have previously projected our own sense of ‘Higher Self’, or ‘Deeper Centre’ as a source of nourishment may collapse, let us down, crumble, turn against us, or simply quietly depart. That which promised ‘immortality’ fails us. Our ‘tribal’ associations, national or racial identities, while valuable on their own level, are relinquished. Through these transitions or crises, our consciousness develops. This may require a great deal of psychological processing, allowing grief and confusion to give way to peace and clarity. Both our physical bodies and subtle bodies may need attention as toxins begin to be eliminated when we travel the ‘celestial pathway’.

Urania's_Mirror_Serpentarius_Serpens

Ras Alhague, Ophiuchus from Urania’s Mirror

Mercury in the Heart of the Sun

On December 12 we will experience the heart of the Mercury retrograde phase when Mercury is purified and reborn through a conjunction with our fiery Sun.  Called the inferior conjunction of Mercury, it represents a time of illumination in which Mercury aligns in orbit exactly in between our Earth and the Sun.  All of Mercury’s significations are strengthened during the time in which Mercury is transiting within a degree of the Sun, making it an excellent window of time for all mercurial activities. As we cross this threshold of the Mercury retrograde we enter a phase of deepening meaning and realization. Occurring at 21º14′ of Sagittarius, the influence of Saturn is further amplified by Mercury’s inferior conjunction happening within the Egyptian bounds of Saturn.

The union of Mercury with the Sun is also occurring in range of a conjunction with the fixed star  Ras Alhague in the Ophiuchus constellation.  Ras Alhague is the brightest star in Ophiuchus and the head of the Serpent Holder.  Ptolemy associated Ras Alhague with Saturn and Venus, interesting since both Venus and Saturn are co-present with Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius.  Bernadette Brady wrote that “healing, teaching, or wounding” are the themes of Ophiuchus with a focus on reparations for whatever has been damaged.  The healer connection with Ras Alhague is intriguing since the inferior conjunction of Mercury occurring nearby can facilitate attention to nurture whatever needs mending.  Robert Hand and other astrologers have also connected the Serpent Holder with humanity’s attempts throughout history to grab ahold of nature in order to reap energy resources and power.  We are clearly at a collective crossroads in terms of our use and misuse of nature for energy.  Mercury’s back and forth through Sagittarius and across the Serpent Holder will bring significant messages concerning the need for change and the repercussions of inaction.

Hermes print Robert Mapplethorpe

Hermes by Robert Mapplethorpe

Solstice Station of Mercury

A few days after Mercury unites with the Sun, Mercury retrograde will conjoin Venus on December 16 at 17º52′ of Sagittarius.  Venus will be co-present with Mercury in Sagittarius for the entirety of its retrograde, making Mercury’s ability to find pleasure and harmony easier than it would normally be while in the same sign as Saturn.  Similar to the recently reborn Mercury not being at full strength due to being invisible and finishing a purification process, Venus is also not at full strength and engaged in purification on her way toward an eventual union with the Sun.  Venus and Mercury retrograde unite under a Dark Moon in Scorpio.  Nights come full of secrets and delights that are hidden from external eyes.  In the privacy of one’s inner sanctum healing and joy are possible during the interplay of Venus with the retrograde Mercury.

Mercury stations direct in Sagittarius a day after the Solstice on December 22, the peak time of darkness in the northern hemisphere and the peak time of light in the southern hemisphere.  This is also one day after Saturn enters Capricorn and forms a conjunction with the Sun at the Solstice.  Mercury also shifts into direct motion in range of a challenging square with Neptune, while forming a harmonious sextile with the South Node of the Moon in Aquarius and a stimulating trine with the North Node of the Moon in Leo.  If we have been open to flow with the chaos and allow for the necessary disintegration and dissolution, the coagulation of the Capricorn Solstice will bring needed reordering and rebirth along with the return of the holy light of Hermes.  The close of the year brings a new cycle of Saturn in its own home of Capricorn, with Mercury bright at dawn and ready to take on all of the needed responsibilities in the day ahead.

References

Baigent, Michael. (1994). From the Omens of Babylon: Astrology and Ancient Mesopotamia. Arkana.

Brady, Bernadette. (1998). Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars. Weiser.

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.

Hand, Robert. (2000). A Dialogue Between Heaven and Earth.

Jung, Carl. (1967). Alchemical Studies. Bollingen.

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

Reinhart, Melanie. (2017) The Galactic Centre and the Centaurs.