About the Mercury Cycle
Astrologers look at the position of Mercury to analyze the current mental chemistry of human beings.  Mercury tells us about how the day-to-day details of life will be handled and how office relations will go.  When Mercury is fast, such things proceed swiftly with few obstacles.  When Mercury is retrograde there are obstructions and snarl-ups.  Mercury forward (which astrologers call “direct”) is for forward motion and starting new projects; Mercury retrograde is for rest and contemplation and cleaning up old projects.

Every year Mercury goes through its normal cycle three times.  This cycle has several parts:  first we see Mercury race forward ahead of the Sun.  Then it slows down and turns retrograde, or backwards.  The Mercury retrograde period lasts for about 3 weeks, during which the forward-moving Sun will pass backward-moving Mercury, and they will greet each other in a day of illumination.  After another week or so, Mercury will slowly turn and start moving forward again.  Then it will speed up and race to catch up with the Sun, greeting the Sun as it rockets past.  Finally, it will slow again and turn retrograde.  The whole of Mercury’s cycle lasts about 4 months, while the retrograde part of that is only 3 weeks.  Naturally, this means Mercury goes through this cycle 3 times a year.

Mercury’s Current Status:  Efficiency is High
During November of 2009, Mercury is moving forward at a swift pace.  This helps us handle details smoothly and stay organized.  It’s a great time for meeting deadlines, planning long-term projects and generally getting a lot done.  You won’t find yourself facing the kinds of snarls that come up when Mercury is retrograde.  This condition continues through March, until Mercury slows down in the middle of April, preparing to turn retrograde on April 17.  But that is then and this is now, so enjoy the easy ride by getting as much done as you can and by handling and clearing as much paperwork as possible during February, March and early April.

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Categories: Mercury

Mercury retrograde epiphany day has happened—have you had your epiphany yet?

If you’ve read my blog much, you probably know by now that Mercury moves in cycles lasting four months, or three cycles a year.  Mercury moves retrograde (or backwards) for about three weeks of that cycle, and forward for the rest.  Twice during each cycle, Mercury crosses (conjuncts) the Sun, once while both are moving forward, the other while the Sun continues forward but Mercury is moving backward.  Those days when Mercury conjuncts the Sun are days of epiphany.

The Sun, by the way, is always moving forward, never backward.  If an astrologer ever tells you that you have the Sun retrograde, they are pulling your leg.

The Mercury cycle is great for working on projects.  It is a cycle of nature that has a flow that is good for various parts of a project; using the Mercury cycle can be like getting on a ride that helps your project get done.  Mercury’s retrograde period is a reflective period, during which it’s best to slow down and meditate on your project or do research, but to not expect to meet deadline or sign contracts.  It’s also a good time for cleaning up a project in anticipation of beginning a new one.  During Mercury retrograde, deep thought builds up pressure and insights can break through in the right timing.  The day Mercury conjuncts the Sun is a day when clarity has a good chance of descending on those who are watching for it.

Mercury is now retrograde, and crossed the Sun on September 19, 2009:  that was Epiphany Day.  Sometimes the light dawns on Epiphany Day itself, other times it happens up to 2 days early or late; yours may be past or it may still be in the works.  Whether you’ve had your moment of clarity already or whether there is more to come, there’s just one thing to do:  ruminate on it, let it all come together in your mind.  Let the wave break and carry you to the end of the Mercury retrograde period and the fruition of your project.

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Categories: Mercury

Mercury’s epiphany day is here—have you had your epiphany yet?

If you’ve read my blog much, you probably know by now that Mercury moves in cycles lasting four months, or three cycles a year.  Mercury moves retrograde (or backwards) for about three weeks of that cycle, and forward for the rest.  Twice during each cycle, Mercury crosses (conjuncts) the Sun, once while both are moving forward (but Mercury is faster than the Sun), the other while the Sun continues forward but Mercury is moving backward.  Those days when Mercury conjuncts the Sun are days of epiphany.

The Sun, by the way, is always moving forward, never backward.  If an astrologer ever tells you that you have the Sun retrograde, they are pulling your leg.

The Mercury cycle is great for working on projects.  Using the natural flow of the Mercury cycle can be like getting on a ride that helps your project get done. When Mercury is direct, as it is now, great forward progress can be made.

Today is July 13, 2009.  Mercury is now moving forward, and crosses the Sun this evening around 7:18 PM Pacific time:  today is Epiphany Day. Now is the time to bring your project to a culmination–the atmosphere is ripe for a peak of office energy and efficiency.  Maybe you’ve had your moment of clarity already; maybe there is more to come.  Look for and make use of it!

In the upcoming weeks, Mercury will continue moving forward, but will begin to slow down by the end of August, preparing to go retrograde in its usual way.  At that time, the office energy will be winding down and preparing to hibernate.  So get everything done that you can now, while it’s easy and the astrological weather supports progress.

(Note to educators: In the following article, I use astrology to present a non-pathologizing view of differences in learning style among individuals. I hope you find it useful.)

Mercury, ruler of Gemini, is the part of your chart that tells what your learning style is.  If you know what element your Mercury is in, you can get some marvelous clues to using your learning style to your advantage, so you can learn faster and more thoroughly.  Obviously no one part of the chart can tell us everything about a person and so your Mercury sign cannot encompass all of you any more than your Sun sign can.  Keeping in mind that you are a vast being of which your Mercury sign & element are just one small (if important) part, let’s examine this interesting planet and its influence on you and your learning style. And if you don’t know what sign Mercury occupies in your chart, you can use Astro.com to make your own chart and find out.

When you have Mercury in the Fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius), you learn by pratfall and adventure.  Fire is spontaneous and action-oriented—you need the freedom to just try stuff and be ok with failing.  You need to apply what you learned right away, so you can really take it in.  Mercury in fire has a visual learning style and will do best when presented with the big picture first and the details later—in fact, the details will make no sense to you without the big picture to contextualize them and you won’t be able to retain them without it.  You’ll also learn best if you can put your own creative stamp on the project, infusing it with your own personality.  Fire signs enjoy being seen and showing off, so doing a presentation to the group about what you’ve learned can be a way of cementing your understanding of what you’ve learned.

Mercury in the Earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) learns best by doing. Mercury/Earth is a kinesthetic learner.  If this is you, you’ll do best when you can proceed slowly and deliberately and learn in a deep, thorough way.  Other types (especially Air) may have grasped the material while you can end the course feeling that there’s still so much to learn and that the class only scratched the surface.  Earth also does well when presented with a pre-created structure, a conceptual set of bins or a toolbox, into which the new ideas can fit.  When presented with the structure first, you Earth types learn eagerly, because you’re enjoying getting cool tools that go into the toolbox.  Mercury/Earth types like learning things that have a real use and will retain information best when shown how to apply it.  Useless ideas are . . . useless.

Mercury in Air (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) types love ideas for their own sake.  If this is you, you’ll embrace theories and have a love of the pure, pristine quality of a beautiful idea more than you have interest in applying it.  You’ll grasp ideas quickly and you’ll like to keep moving, so you tend to skate over the surface while a subject’s depths may not capture your quick-moving mind.  Mercury/Air types like to learn the abstract notion behind a thing before thinking through its applications.  Since the Air learning style leans toward auditory, you learn well from lectures, often grasping and retaining lesson material the first time it is delivered, without even taking notes (which is especially frustrating to Earth types, who can take notes religiously and Fire or Water types whose note-taking can be atrocious).  Mercury/Air types are avid readers and often go on learning far beyond school, because they naturally love information and the written word.

If you have Mercury in the Water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces), you are an emotive learning type.  You learn by feeling your way along.  Your style is intuitive and you are capable of making great leaps and grasping material instantaneously or sometimes not at all.  You may have muddled around in your childhood for years before figuring out how you work as a learner, especially if your childhood home was a turbulent one.  You need to keep your emotions clear in order to absorb and remember new material and on days when you are upset, learning may feel impossible.  If you were lucky enough to come from a stable, loving family, you probably did well in school, even though you often can’t explain how you got to the conclusions you reached.  The teachers you had the most emotional affinity with were your best ones and their fond indulgence of you may have led to some of the best learning of your life.  You learn from what others feel and you’re sensitive to teachers’ emotional states and can be suspicious and resistant to learning from teachers who put off a different vibe than they say they do or who want you to do as they say, not as they do.  Having to shut off or ignore emotions while learning cripples you and slows you down, sometimes stopping you entirely.

The Types Compared
Most education and schoolwork is oriented toward Air-style learning, so those able to learn by listening to lectures and doing writing assignments and reading books do well.  Teachers love them, not least because such students are a pleasure to teach and make a teacher look good.  The other types, especially Water, do not do well and often are viewed by teachers as slow or obstructive, which is sad, because it’s not a matter of intelligence, but of style.

Earth can succeed in the standard system through sheer diligence.  By persisting and exercising a little ambition, Mercury/Earth types can rise to the top of the class.  Mercury/Water types can go to either extreme—sheer brilliance or sheer failure.  Their natural tendency is to hang back and absorb slowly, learning best from teachers they have an emotional affinity with.  An unfortunate student-teacher chemistry can lead to disaster and throw off a Water child’s whole academic career.  Mercury/Fire types can also go to extremes, but they tend to be so charismatic and enthusiastic about the subjects they are interested in that the extra attention they put in at those times makes up for the horsing around at times when they are bored.  When a Fire child is bored, the best thing the teacher can do is to give them a wacky, challenging assignment, especially one that puts them in the spotlight—then they will scramble to look good.

For Teachers:
If you are a teacher and able to find out something about the Mercury position of your students, this can help you teach them the way they need to learn.  Even if you can’t get details of your students’ charts, identifying the types I’ve described and responding to them as suggested can help you more effectively teach the variety of styles you’re likely to encounter.  And if you teach large classes as if all four types were represented, you can let your students self-select the way they want to learn and more of them will succeed.

A really fine teacher can adjust or supplement their style to accommodate all types of learners and then students do not have to come away feeling stupid or wrong for learning the nonstandard way.  Just being able to validate all 4 styles and work with them goes a long way toward awakening in a child the passion for learning.  If you can avoid being the kind of teacher who presses your own style on students as if it’s the one right way, you will have done a very fine thing.  Simply acknowledging that there are different styles, each of which is valid, helps marginalized learners feel good about the way they learn and better able to use their style instead of being a victim of it.

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The Messenger God
The Mutable Air sign Gemini is ruled by Mercury, messenger of the gods.  Mercury’s nickname was Quicksilver, which is what we sometimes call the metal mercury.  If you’ve ever broken a thermometer and held a ball of mercury in your palm, you have experienced the mutability of Gemini—mercury is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature.  It is as impossible to grasp, hold and contain as Geminis themselves.  If you’ve ever dated a Gemini and become frustrated at their sheer evasiveness, believe me, it’s nothing to the frustration Geminis experience at their own selves.

The mythological Mercury had wings on his shoes and his hat, and carried a winged staff called a caduceus, which was wrapped with two serpents.  The caduceus has been adopted by the medical profession as a symbol (Mercury has historically been associated with medicine), and you can see a stylized version of it in the logo of the American Medical Association.

Mercury needed all the wings he could get because, as Olympian messenger, he was able to go to all 3 realms: heaven, earth and the underworld.  He could hang out on Olympus with the other gods, roam the earth disguised as a mortal, and he was the only being (besides Pluto himself) who could travel freely to and from the underworld.

Mercury As Psychopompos Or Guide To The Underworld
The underworld was the domain belonging to Pluto (Hades to the Greeks) and was a realm forbidden to all other beings, both earthly and divine.  To go there, you had to die, but not so for Mercury.  He often served as an official escort, assisting mortals and gods to return from the underworld once they had entered the land of the dead.  Examples of this include Orpheus’ attempted rescue of his beloved wife Eurydice and the descent of Inanna, the Mesopotamian Venus, to restore her dead love, both situations involving the messenger god in a critical role as helper/escort.  This role of Mercury as psychopompos (or as the OED puts it, “guide of the soul”) symbolizes the ability of the human mind to mediate between the physical world of our bodies and senses and the inner worlds of emotions and the collective unconscious.  I think individuals with Mercury retrograde in their natal charts have a special gift for guiding others on their inner journeys, perhaps from having so much familiarity with their own inner journeys.

The mind thus bridges three realms, transporting both the unknown mysteries of our darkest psychic corners and also the divine inspirations and aspirations of the ideal (Mt. Olympus) to earth, and making them relevant in the world of the everyday and mundane.  Did Mercury have a realm of his own?  Not that I know of.  It seems to me he just belonged wherever he was.

The Flexible Mind, a Mass of Messages
Mythology is deeply symbolic and the stories that have taken shape around Mercury symbolize the human experience of our own brain.  The ancients knew through their stories about Mercury that the human mind is nothing but a messenger service for carrying communications inside our bodies.  They also understood that the human mind has a marvelous capacity to deal with life on 3 levels: heavenly, earthly and underworldly.  Without the benefit of science or proof, their understanding was metaphorical but it served to give them all they needed to know about the mind, how it works and what it is capable of, allowing them to generate knowledge we still value today.

What Does This Mean About Gemini?
Geminis are pulled in many directions at once.  They need to keep moving.  They are mentally agile and quick.  Their minds go with equal facility from higher thought to lower thought.  They enjoy this duality and use polarity to understand a thing by contrasting it with its opposite.  This flexibility, this mutability and the need to keep the message moving is the heart of Gemini’s nature.  When a Gemini learns new information and passes it on to someone else, a winged god flying swiftly somewhere pauses to smile.

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On my Mercury Retrograde page, I’ve said that trying to complete projects with normal efficiency during Mercury retrograde is like having a picnic in a rainstorm.  You may want to go through with the picnic, because it’s what you planned, but if you’d realized it was going to storm that day, you would have planned the picnic for another time.

Knowing Mercury retrograde is coming is like being apprised of a Details Storm, an occasion where the wind picks up and swirls office details, communications and electronics equipment functionality into eddies of confusion and mess.  Sometimes it’s best to simply batten down the hatches.  There is no way to know in advance exactly what form it will take (a fax breakdown just when you needed to get those papers to your loan officer?  A heart-stopping letter from an ex?  A life-altering, unexpected wipe of your hard-drive?)  Your best strategy is to be prepared for anything.  Clear your mind.  Clean your desk.  Take a break.  And when the emergency strikes (as you know it will!), approach it calmly, with a clear head and an open heart.

It’s October 14, 2008.  Mercury has now been retrograde for 20 days.  You may even have known that.  Are you still trying to picnic in a rainstorm?

Mercury’s retrograde stint finishes tomorrow (Oct 15), but don’t expect things to get smoother until later in the week.  In the meantime, continue the practice of taking yourself off the hook, relaxing and cultivating mental stillness.  Have that picnic next week.

In my previous article You’re Not Just Your Sun Sign I pointed out that human beings are too complex to be reduced to a single sign of the zodiac.  I hope also that I made it clear that it’s possible for a person to be a pretty strong type by virtue of having several planets in a given sign.  One way this can happen is if Mercury and Venus are in the same sign as the sun.  Because of the way the solar system is arranged, this is not at all unlikely.  Here’s why:

In our solar system, Mercury is closest to the sun.  Venus is next in line, followed by Earth, then Mars, then Jupiter and so on.  This means that from Earth’s point of view (which is what matters in astrology, because Earth is where we live) the sun, Mercury and Venus will always be in the same quadrant of sky.  You will never see Mercury opposite the sun in a birth chart and if someone tells you that you have that, they’re pulling your leg because it’s physically impossible.  Mercury will always be found in the sun’s sign or one sign ahead or behind the sun.  Venus ranges a little further, but it will never be further from the sun than two signs ahead or behind.

So in any chart, relative to the sun, Mercury has three signs it could be in, while Venus has five.  This significantly increases the statistical chances of Mercury, Venus, or both doubling up in the sun’s sign, which will intensify the sun sign traits.  This is why some people are purer types than others and it’s also why some people may identify with their sun sign very little.  If you are a solid Capricorn sun, but you have a flirtatious Aquarian Venus and a loquacious Sagittarian Mercury, you won’t feel much like a Capricorn unless you have some other planet there (or at least in another Earth sign) to back it up.  However, your Capricorn nature will out eventually, probably around the time of your Saturn return, when you are approaching 30 and find yourself suddenly taking life more seriously.

It’s fairly easy to find out where your Mercury and Venus are in a natal chart reading with an astrologer who can show you around your “map of life.”  While you have your chart in front of you, look to see if a single sign appears three or more times.  If it does, that is probably your strongest sign, whether it is your sun sign or not.  If you enjoy reading the silly newspaper “horoscopes,” then this is the sign you should look at, not necessarily your sun sign.

This is one of three related articles on the subject of why your Sun sign is not all that you are.  For more insight, see the other two.
What Is A “Sign Type?” posted 4/9/09
You Are Not Just Your “Sign” posted 4/4/07
What Makes a Strong Sign Type? posted 8/28/07

Astrology blogger since 2007

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