What Kind Of Mercury Learner Are You?

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.

Don’t Know Your Mercury Sign?

If you don’t know what sign your Mercury is in and you want to find out, you can order your own personal Astrology Chart Decoder.  This is a special tool I’ve invented that puts your chart’s details in English, instead of astrology symbols.  Your Decoder tells you where every planet in your chart is located:  the sign it’s in, the house it’s in and the exact degree it occupies.

Got your Mercury sign now?  Great.  The following paragraphs will let you know what element your Mercury is in and what it means.

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.

Gemini, Your God Is A Messenger

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.