Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the ShadowT.S. Eliot from “The Hollow Men”
Mercury Retrograde in Libra
In the space between the changing colors of twilight, in a moment of presence within liminal air charged by solar descent, the stillness of Mercury stationing saturates the atmosphere with his divine being. When Mercury stations retrograde, his forward progress as a twinkling evening star halts, giving way to an underworld passage through darkness that the star of Hermes will shepherd us through. We experience an intensification of all things related to Mercury when he stations, including his significations for divination and interpreting omens, and so it will be wise in the days surrounding his stationing to pay attention to signs and symbols of synchronicity that may reveal the important themes and issues that the retrograde movement of Mercury will be continuing to draw your attention to.
Mercury will station retrograde on September 26 or 27, depending upon your time zone, embarking upon a twenty-two day journey in which the star of Hermes will backtrack from 25°28’ Libra until stationing direct at 10°07’ Libra on October 18. As Mercury retraces the zodiacal terrain from ten to twenty-six degrees of Libra, he will excavate material that we need to deepen our engagement with, returning our perception to issues we need to release, rework, or reintegrate. After passing through a phase of putrefaction and purification, we may experience renewal on the other side. Mercury first crossed 10°07’ Libra on September 6 and will not move beyond 25°28’ Libra until November 2, creating almost two months of mercurial focus in this range of your natal chart.
Libra as the sign of the Scales involves the perpetual balancing experienced within all of our relationships. As a symbol the scales conjure the Egyptian imagery of Maat and the weighing of the Soul after death, when the heart would ideally be as light as a feather. Maat is also the balancing of natural, terrestrial, and cosmic order arising from the field of chaos and its constant flux. From this comes a sense of social justice felt by a heart aligned with natural order, as well as the social conventions of how a society ascribes judgment to what is appropriate or inappropriate behavior. In our modern world, however, the societal conventions and laws created by humanity can be at odds with the reordering of nature. In the constant balancing act of an individual moving through the injustices of this world, the back and forth movement of Mercury through Libra will exacerbate tensions around social injustices, bringing opportunities to contemplate and reconsider any rigid beliefs you have been fixated upon in relation.
In astrology Mercury possesses a liminal identity that can move in between being masculine and feminine, nocturnal and diurnal, mutating in acclimation with the surrounding astrological environment. Mercury retrograde in Libra beckons re-examination through the Scales, a re-balancing that necessitates extremes, tension, polarity, counterpoints, and contrariness. The awareness we can access through Mercury retrograde can help us transcend rigid parameters of duality by swinging wildly at times between extremes of perception in a continual process of experiencing oscillating oppositions.
Enantiodromia is a term from ancient Greek meaning “to run counter to,” that was unearthed in the work of Carl Jung to demonstrate his understanding that anything at an extreme state will turn into its opposite quality. The concept of a unity found in oppositions goes at least as far back as the time of the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, whose famous statement that no one steps in the same river twice was embedded within a philosophy of flux in which everything in existence contains and turns into its opposite state. Jung brought this concept into his theories about the interplay between our conscious and unconscious, and how what we repress in our subconscious can erupt in polarity through our shadow. The inherent restoration of balance to our system that results is not unlike the meaning we may discover with Mercury retrograde in Libra. Though we may want or need to strike out against the injustices of the surrounding world or within our personal relationships, it will be important to simultaneously come into relationship with the shifting sands of the shadow within our own inner darkness, holding the tension so we may make the most thoughtful and discerning choices.
Since Mercury will be residing within the airy home of Venus for a lengthy stay we will be able to take a long look at ourselves in her mirror, using the mirror of Aphrodite to alter appearances and aesthetics while also descending into the depths of relational dynamics with others. As Karl Kerenyi wrote in in Hermes: Guide of Souls, “meeting and finding are revelations of Hermes’ essence,” and so “finding and thieving in the realm of love are also Hermetic traits.” Kerenyi also ascribed “belonging to the journey” and being “by the road” as part of the essential nature of Hermes, as any “journeyer” connected with Hermes remains “at home on the road itself, the road being understood not as a connection between two definite points on the earths surface, but as a particular world.” Kerenyi further mused that “Journeying is the best condition for loving,” and that “the gorges over which the ‘volatized one’ passes like a ghost can be the abysses of unbelievable love affairs- Circe and Calypso islands and holes; they can be abysses also in the sense that there no chance exists for standing on firm ground, but only for further floating between life and death.” We need to embrace being in between states and forms during periods of Mercury retrograde, and while it is possible to bring matters into definite form when Mercury is moving backwards through the zodiac, in some situations we must accept the flux of formlessness and fluidity, recalibrating our perceptions and decisions in accordance with changing conditions.
While Mercury will be visible as an evening star when stationing retrograde on September 26, about a week later on October 1 he will cross the threshold of being fifteen degrees away from the Sun, disappearing from view into the darkness of his underworld journey during which he takes on the role of a psychopomp guiding souls through thresholds of liminality. The underworld passage of Mercury retrograde is not a time to fear, but rather a world to fully enter and embrace for the invaluable treasure that may be unearthed within its depths. The gifts we can most readily receive from Mercury retrograde are not always the kind valued by consensus culture: the illuminated thought received in quiet moments, the mysterious meanderings of a creative process that does not provide immediate reward. As Mercury is the divine messenger who weaves the golden rays of the Sun into forms of expression and translates experiences of phenomenal reality into realization, make time and space during the retrograde movement of Mercury to allow your intuition and inner knowing to receive whatever messages the star of Hermes will be providing regarding changes in storylines and opportunities to stoke movement out of places you have felt stuck or stagnated.
Before Mercury disappears from view over the horizon during sunset, however, it’s notable he is occupying a place in the sky close in proximity to the fixed star Spica. Known as Sunbala, Sunbale, Sumbela, Sumbalet, as well as Spica, the Spike of the Virgin, it has been said that the light of Spica which symbolizes the wheat held by the Winged Goddess is a source of cultivating knowledge and bountiful gifts. Bernadette Brady wrote that Spica brings “a gift of brilliance, an innate talent, skill or ability which is out of the ordinary,” a “symbol of knowledge and insight.” Brady wrote that the wheat sheaf symbolism of Spica “can be considered a symbol of her [the Goddess] gifts to humankind.” Diana Rosenberg wrote that people born with natal placements conjoining Spica “often have literary, artistic, and (especially) musical ability- they seem able to reach out and grasp inspiration from the stars themselves- words and music pour forth from them as from a deep wellspring.”
Moreover, astrologers in India for ages have placed Spica (“Star of Opportunity”) as the defining star of Chitra (“The Bright and Brilliant”), the 14th nakshatra which has been associated with a Bright Jewel or Pearl, making Spica a pearl of divine spirit within the heavens we have within. Dennis Harness in The Nakshatras explained Chitra also translates as a “painting or work of art” and “reflects the many, variegated colors seen in the radiance of a white star.” Chitra possesses Tvashtar, the Artificer, or Shaper, as its presiding divinity, he who is “the master of maya and magic.” Harness wrote that not only is Chitra “one of the most mystical nakshatras,” with “a deep spiritual depth,” it also also brings “sudden flashes of inspiration and the urge to realize one’s true self.”
As Mercury stations retrograde, the Moon will be passing through a flowing trine aspect with Mercury from its airy home of Gemini on September 27, completing a grand air trine between the Moon, Jupiter, and Mercury. The Gemini Moon will also form a square aspect with Neptune in Pisces, activating the mystical dimension one may also associate with Spica. Be curious regarding whatever sources of inspiration and creative pursuits draw your interest as Mercury spends time in the sky near Spica in the week following its stationing. There may be many-colored gifts of insight and inspiration to carry through the intensifying passage of Mercury retrograde in the coming weeks, sources of creativity that you may meaningfully focus upon and deepen into engagement with.
Whó am I? Whó am I?Denise Levertov, “Wind Song”
It is the old cry wandering in the wind
and with it interwoven
words of reply: I am fiery ember, dispersed
in innumerable fragments
flying in the wind, gray cinders
and black, and all still burning, all bearing
a point of flame
hidden in ashes. Flying upon the nameless
winds and upon those that men
know and name: sirocco,
bise, northeaster, tramontana. I die and again
life is breathed
into me. Whó am I? Whó am I?
My dust burns
in the past and flies before me
into the whirling future,
the Old World, the New World, my soul is scattered
across the continents
in the named places and the named and unnamed
shadowy faces, my years
a hearth from which the sparks wander
and to its stones
blow back at random upon the winds
to kindle the brand again that fades and flares.
The three passages of Mercury retrograde during 2021 have been significant due to them all occurring in air signs, as the year began in the wake of the grand conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius that established an era of Jupiter and Saturn uniting in air signs. Each back and forth movement of Mercury through each of the air signs during 2021 has brought important opportunities for recalibrating and readjusting personal perceptions, beliefs, and structures with the way in which collective, systemic structures are being rapidly reshaped or shown to need massive renovations. Along these lines, the retrograde passage of Mercury through Libra is notable due to it occurring in the exaltation of Saturn while making harmonious aspects with both Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius. Mercury will station retrograde while engaging in an extended, expansive trine aspect with Jupiter in Aquarius, and will ultimately station direct in range of a clarifying trine aspect with Saturn in Aquarius. As a result, Mercury will allow us to penetrate into whatever needs our attention in relation to the larger collective shifts that correlate with the influence of Jupiter and Saturn in Aquarius.
The extended trine aspect between Mercury and Jupiter will hopefully bring awareness of opportunities for growth that can be cultivated during the rest of Mercury’s retrograde journey. Mercury first formed a flowing trine aspect with Jupiter on September 20 and will form a second trine aspect with Jupiter on October 3. In addition to Mercury picking up the starry influence of Spica previously mentioned, it is further compelling that Jupiter in Aquarius is presently near the same zodiacal degree as the projection of the fixed star Deneb Algedi upon the ecliptic. The star lore of Deneb Algedi fits well with the need to adjust to immense collective change, as Deneb Algedi is a star in the tail of the Goat-Fish constellational image associated with the ancient creator god Enki, who brought the gifts of civilization from his realm of subterranean water. A trickster and wise magician bent on reordering civilization with the greater good of the wider community in mind, the flowing freshwater of Enki transfigures the landscape of dry land, creating wetlands and fertile soil in which the food and resources needed to fuel civilization can grow. With Jupiter close to Deneb Algedi while engaging in an extended trine aspect with Mercury, explore what gifts may emerge from the subterranean water within to cultivate during the passage of Mercury retrograde to share with your wider community. Seek to discover how you can reorder your personal structures to be in greater flow with the changing currents altering the wider landscape, staying centered within your own sense of integrity.
In contrast with the potential inspiration contained within the trine aspect between Mercury and Jupiter, Mercury will also be stationing retrograde while engaging with an intensifying square aspect with Pluto in Capricorn. Mercury first formed a square aspect with Pluto on September 22 and will form a second square aspect with Pluto on October 1, the timing of which will correspond not only with the heliacal setting of Mercury and it’s descent into the underworld, but also an extreme intensification of Pluto due to it stationing direct on October 6. The purgative square aspect between Mercury and Pluto that begins its retrograde portends an especially cathartic retrograde passage for Mercury that can draw us into a deepening awareness of inner relational patterns and how they have been playing out within external relational dynamics with others. There may be an upwelling of desire to explore as well as revelations regarding the way relational issues from our past are intersecting with present relational experiences and influences. With Pluto strongly activated, it will be best to face whatever internal issues arise rather than resist or avoid them through denial. Ultimately, by penetrating and exploring whatever deep material becomes stirred up by Mercury and Pluto, by the time that Mercury is moving direct and forms its final square aspect with Pluto on November 2 we may experience greater empowerment around the issues.
Furthermore, the usual underworld atmosphere of Mercury retrograde will be accentuated not only by the tense aspect between Mercury with Pluto, but also by Venus (the ruler of Libra) occupying the subterranean waters of Scorpio during the first half of Mercury’s retrograde journey in Libra. However, the watery landscape of Scorpio is not only a place of burial and decomposition, but also terrain in which decay nourishes and feeds the growth of orchards and vineyards that can eventually produce fruit. Venus in Scorpio can facilitate a plunge into emotions and desires, exposing hidden dynamics and penetrating into the underlying emotions of our relations in ways that can cultivate significant growth. Combined with the fact that Venus in Scorpio will be mutually exchanging signs with Mars in Libra, and Mars in Libra will eventually form a conjunction with Mercury in the middle of its retrograde movement, we may need to traverse challenging or intense relational situations at times. Yet by cultivating honest communication and expression of emotional needs we may also find ways of shifting relational dynamics in constructive ways, gaining realization for how to foster greater equilibrium when possible and clarity for when it is not possible and a dynamic needs to end.
After Mercury moves away from its aspects with Pluto and Jupiter, it will get closer and closer each day to forming a conjunction with Mars and the Sun in Libra. The New Moon in Libra on October 6 will occur on the same day that Mars will become regenerated through its superior conjunction with the Sun; Mercury will be less than seven degrees away from the New Moon and Mars, and so the Libra New Moon will demarcate Mercury shifting into a fiery phase of coming under the influence of the Sun and Mars, both of whom will influence Mercury with their heat and dryness that burns with discrimination, separating elements that had become blurred through enmeshment. It will be wise to avoid unnecessary conflicts and contemplate how to respond to those who anger us, yet at the same time as Mercury gets closer and closer to uniting with Mars and the Sun on October 9, the star of Hermes will have increased capacity for burning off whatever needs to be released from the past to make space for new ideas and purposeful meaning to take root.
Moreover, the New Moon in Libra will also demarcate a shift in the sign placement of Venus, as Venus will exit the boggy water of Scorpio to rise to more expansive heights within the fiery sign of Sagittarius on October 7. The enlivening heat of Venus in the fiery sign of Sagittarius will further accentuate the purgative and cathartic quality of Mercury getting closer and closer to forming its fiery conjunction with the Sun and Mars on October 9. Indeed, Venus will form a conjunction with the South Node of the Moon in Sagittarius at the same time that Mercury will unite with the Sun and Mars, amplifying the potential for releasing relational patterns from the past as well as drawing forth insight from old relational dynamics into the present. If possible find ways of making space for inner contemplation and exploration during the days between the New Moon in Libra on October 6 and the union of Mercury with the Sun and Mars on October 9, as we may simultaneously dislodge and release significant blocks from the past while also receiving intimations of new visions and desires to begin pursuing and developing.
A certain day becomes a presence to me;Denise Levertov, “Variation on a Theme by Rilke”
there it was, confronting me- a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic- or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.
In the Heart
Mercury will become reanimated by its conjunction with the Sun on October 9 at 16°35′ Libra, followed by Mercury forming an additional conjunction with Mars later on the same day at 16°16′ Libra. The reseeding of Mercury in solar light occurs as it aligns in between the Earth and Sun by zodiacal degree, as close to us in orbit as possible for Mercury within its cycle. Known as the inferior conjunction of Mercury, it’s a moment of clarifying rebirth that can enhance realization and seed new ideas for the Mercury cycle ahead in which it will transition into becoming a visible morning star. While Mercury is within one degree of conjunction with the Sun, even more so within sixteen arc minutes of its solar conjunction, there can be empowerment for tasks associated with Mercury since it is enthroned upon the solar chariot. Older astrological texts named this moment of Mercury’s rebirth cazimi, or being in the heart of the Sun. It’s the cyclical moment when Mercury enters what Demetra George has named the “sanctum sanctorum,” or “the innermost holy chamber of the mystery initiations” found within “the protected space at the heart of the Sun.”
The union of Mercury with Mars on the same day it forms its inferior conjunction with the Sun is unusual; the last time it happened was at the end of May in 2015. The influence of Mars will make the revelations received while Mercury becomes regenerated more dynamic, incisive, and penetrative. There may be potent reassessments regarding plans aligned with one’s core purpose, as well as a more radical realization regarding the purpose we have been using to direct our goals and life trajectory. The onery heat of Mars may also magnify places of irritability that can lead to quarrels with others, yet by utilizing the thoughtful measuring capacity of Mercury in Libra it will be possible to hold whatever tension we experience in order to find our way to deeper awareness of the underlying issues involved. As both Mars and Mercury are simultaneously beginning new cycles with the Sun, there is immense potential for envisioning a more creatively actualized and fulfilling direction forward.
Though there is potential for conflict while the Sun, Mercury, and Mars unite together, the airy zodiacal terrain of Libra may facilitate constructive dialogue in which we express our own needs while listening to the needs of others. A related concept that was emphasized in the work of Carl Jung is auseinandersetzung, German for “taking something to pieces.” This refers to confrontation in dialogue in which two people verbally engage without running away from the conflict. By staying engaged in the dialogue, the differences inherent to the disagreement become clarified and distinct, making mediation or compromise possible. Jung believed it was also possible to engage in such a dialogue with one’s anima/us, clarifying the unconscious being projected into relationships and keeping us perpetuating past relational patterns. To Jung we gain “mettle” when facing the conflicts between our ego and anima/us, and out of the confrontation between the conscious and unconscious arises awareness of our wholeness, what he called individuation. The clarity that can come from Mercury being reanimated by the Sun may be utilized in seeking the kind of inner integration that supports healthy growth and empowerment.
Furthermore, at the same time that Mercury will unite with the Sun and Mars in Libra, Saturn will be stationing direct in Aquarius on October 10. The stationing of Saturn will saturate the astrological atmosphere with the significations of Saturn at the same time there will also be powerful influences from both Mars and Mercury becoming reanimated by the Sun. The sobering impact of Saturn may be deeply felt in moments of being fully present in one’s being, slowly and surely deepening into awareness of whatever internal stirrings are taking shape. Saturn has been retrograde since May 23, and so as it begins to gain some forward traction during the second half of Mercury’s retrograde phase in Libra we may unveil important insights into the direction we want to follow forward, as well as accumulate more momentum to make solid progress on goals.
From the shrivelling gray
silk of its cocoon
a creature slowly
is pushing out
to stand clear-
not a butterfly,
petal that floats at will across
the summer breeze
not a furred
moth of the night
crusted with indecipherable
Denise Levertov, “The Disclosure”
some primal-shaped, plain-winged, day-flying thing.
Mercury will station direct on October 18 at 10°07’ Libra, with Jupiter also stationing direct a day later on October 17 at 22°20’ Aquarius. The simultaneous stationing direct of both Mercury and Jupiter, combined with Saturn also having recently stationed direct, will make the stationing direct of Mercury much more propulsive and potent than normal. Moreover, Venus (the ruler of Mercury in Libra) will receive Mercury through a harmonizing sextile aspect on October 16 while the star of Hermes is stationing. As a result, the days surrounding Mercury stationing direct will be important to seize for inner contemplation and mindfulness. There will be inspirational and creative resources available to draw from while integrating and learning how to embody the internal changes and shifts you have experienced during the course of Mercury being retrograde. Internal shifts and how they intersect with external relationships will be further illuminated by an especially activating Full Moon in Aries on October 20 that will involve the waxing Moon forming an opposition with the recently stationed Mercury.
Although Mercury will not form an exact trine with Saturn once stationing direct, Mercury and Saturn will be within four degrees of one another for days. With the presence of Mercury intensified due to it stationing and becoming visible again as a Morning Star, while also in the exaltation of Saturn, allow the star of Hermes to tease and probe the recesses of your psyche for whatever insight may be gathered concerning the path you wish to chart in the period ahead. The astrological transits for the rest of 2021 portend a time of accelerated volatility and change, and so whatever clarity can be gained as both Mercury and Jupiter station direct can help bring centering and cohesion concerning whatever we wish to develop and cultivate during the coming Morning Star phase of Mercury.
Mercury will begin to generate forward momentum and then will reach maximum elongation as a Morning Star a week after stationing on October 25, the point of its phase in which it begins to increase in speed and return to moving faster than the Sun again. Mercury will then form its final flowing trine aspect with Jupiter on October 31, its final square aspect with Pluto on November 2, as well as exit its retrograde shadow zone on November 2, finally moving beyond the point in the zodiac where it stationed retrograde on September 26. The period at the end of October and beginning of November is a sacred time for communing with ancestors as the veils between worlds draws thinner, and so there is synchronous sustenance to be found in Mercury guiding us out of whatever transfiguration we experienced during its retrograde passage at the same time. As the New Moon in Scorpio on November 4 will be in opposition with Uranus in Taurus and will demand an encounter with our own authenticity, we will be able to more gracefully navigate the coming changes the more we can let go of what needs to be released and integrate whatever new desires arise during the period of Mercury retrograde in Libra.
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Brady, Bernadette. (1998). Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars. Weiser.
Brady, Bernadette. (2008). Star and Planet Combinations. The Wessex Astrologer.
Harness, Dennis. (1999). The Nakshatras: Lunar Mansions of Vedic Astrology. Lotus Press.
Kerenyi, Karl. (1976). Hermes: Guide of Souls. Spring Publications
Rosenberg, Diana. (2012). Secrets of the Ancient Skies, Volume 2. Ancient Skies Press.
Stein, Murray. (1998). Jung’s Map of the Soul. Open Court.