Breaking the Fear and Tyranny of Mercury Retrograde

Mercury retrograde happens about three times a year and lasts about 21 days each time. (Click here to learn why planets “retrograde”)It has come to signify a time when people fear that all the affairs associated with the planet Mercury–commerce, contracts, communication and travel–are somehow warped, waylaid or altogether foiled.  Although I fall victim to that kind of fear too, as I’ve thought about it recently, I don’t think we should make as big of a deal about Mercury’s retrograde as we do.  We may have created a self-fulfilling reality with Mercury, because we feed this “god” too much without due attention to “higher” principles.A few weeks ago, a member of my spiritual meditation group asked a question following a meeting. He said, “Who do you think is the patron god or spirit of the United States, as a country?” We bandied about a few names. I suggested Mercury, for reasons I’m going to list a little later. However, my colleague, who asked the question originally, agreed that Mercury could be the patron deity now, but he felt the founding fathers had Athena/Minerva in mind.  Athena was not only the patron goddess of Athens, birthplace of Western democracy, but also war, civilization, wisdom, strength, strategy, crafts, justice and skill.  (Minerva is the Roman version of the Greek goddess.) He then broke down some of the logic for his choice.  He saw how Athena’s owl was replaced by the eagle; her spear and shield replaced by a torch and book on our Statue of Liberty; and how classical Athenian notions of democracy inspired the formation of the US. There are also other things that he didn’t say that I knew, like how an olive branch (one of her sacred plants) figures frequently in American iconography and one of the earliest animal “totems” for the US was the snake, one of her key totems. Though it’s true that this country has had high aspirations to epitomize the best attributes of Athena, we’re a lot more like Mercury as I stated.

There’s no question that this country, with its 24 hour news cycle, ever growing number of cellphones and “webs” of networking (social or otherwise) has made  strange bedfellows of communication and commerce. If a hundred years ago, we trusted Mercury to zip and alight from sundry places in minutes or hours for us, via rail, carrier pigeon or letter, then there’s no doubt that he’s zipping now in nanoseconds and we’re running him dogged tired. Dude has to go retrograde just to relax now, and maybe that’s the better way to look at his retrograde. (In fact, classically, when Mercury goes retrograde, he starts his “descent” into the “underworld” of our collective psyches to “extract” the things we don’t want to say–but should and venture into the uncomfortable places we don’t like to go–but must)

Mercury--mediator between worlds!

Mercury Retrograde is a time to lay off the caffeine-powered Mercury engines of our lives and find something else–stillness, Athena, Jupiter, anybody but Hermes/Mercury.  And this is what could be filling us with dread as we think of Mercury receding away from us.  We’ve come to depend so much on him that we can’t picture him moving away from us.  We come to think only about a Mercury who moves with us or ahead of us (if we think about our motion as the Sun’s motion), but it’s too painful to think that he’s moving behind us.  We don’t use it as a time to reflect on our attachment to our computers, our phones, our social networking accounts, our blogs, or even ways of communicating, whether electronically or not. It doesn’t mean that we have to cut off Mercury or Mercury related concerns entirely, even if that were possible.

It means that we can give space to other dimensions of Mercury through other “gods” or principles, like looking at the beauty of our handwriting, which is more of a Venus/Jupiter concern.  (Yes, when was the last time you looked at your writing script? Have you ever pushed to develop or improve it, especially since writing in script is becoming a dying art?) Or does a recent argument with a friend highlight how you might not listen as well as you think you do? Or do you speak more forcefully, with too much Mars, than you might think or would like? Similarly, are you being as serious about your communication or your spoken commitments as you could, which is to evoke more Saturn? Or how are you evoking Athena (strategy) and wisdom on your job? Maybe this Mercury retrograde is what you need to keep some things closer to your chest, rather than blabbing it all off to your officemate or on twitter!

Mercury retrograde can only dominate and foul-up as much of our lives as we’ve allowed Mercury to foul-up and dominate our lives. It may be time to invoke other spirits or manifestations of the Divine rather than Mercury.  Don’t think about this too much, though. With a little quiet space and reflection (honoring the Moon), see what other images or parts of yourself need honoring–other than Mercury. Then like Athena Nike, a combination of Nike (goddess of Victory) and Athena, just do it!

8 Responses to “Breaking the Fear and Tyranny of Mercury Retrograde”

  1. Jeffrey Kishner Says:

    There was a recent piece in The Times (don’t recall the link) in which a group of social scientists and neurobiologists who study attention went on an extended hiking trip. About half the camp committed to going gadget-free, and the others didn’t even bother. I do think that we are currently so dependent on staying on top of things that we feel anxious when we are not always connected. (My iPhone is like an appendage!)

    Certainly if we are always distracted by the latest meme, there is little psychic space to notice the deeper goings-on happening within our selves.

  2. Kevin Uehlinger Says:

    thanks for this inspiring article full of so many little interesting details. Very appropriate for Mercury in Virgo! When Mercury makes its next rise as the morning star, which is about the same time it turns direct (September 12), we will be in a full-on Mercury-Virgo phase. Very good for the analytical, discerning functions of the mind. The previous retrograde period was in Taurus. So in this retrograde passage, I feel the greater “world-mind” adjusts from a position of Taurus passivity and receptivity to a place of greater critical insight.
    I completely agree with your point that people make too big a deal about Mercury retrograde. It’s just a period of re-adjustment to a new archetypal phase. This particular Mercury retrograde isn’t such a huge adjustment, as it’s from a Taurus phase to a Virgo phase, still in the same element. Notice if the more difficult Mercury retrograde periods tend to come when there is an elemental shift. For example, the next Mercury retrograde after this one will be in December, and the next heliacal rise will occur in Sagittarius — a shift of element, and Mercury’s detriment, to boot. My prediction is that this current Mercury retrograde feels more evolutionary, and the next one is more disruptive.
    In any case, thanks for this great article as we initiate the Mercury-Virgo phase.

  3. Paul F. Says:

    Nice article Sam. I definitely agree. Mercury retrograde can really foul stuff up, but I also find it to be a fantastic opportunity to take a deep breath and reflect. If you go in with the right attitude, Mercury Retrograde becomes less frustrating and more relaxing and, frankly, humorous.

  4. Regie Cabico Says:

    Samuel You are brilliant as always! Thank you for all your insights and your intuitive and technical gifts that have always guided me. I do want to say that Athena, to me has a lot of Uranus energies and symbolizes that higher octave of Mercury. I think the US resonates with more Athena than Mercury/Hermes- given all of the technological advances (gifts and gadgets– Athena has lots of weapons and James Bond toys) this country has discovered as well as our sense of warfare. Mercury is a little too flighty for us. But our 23 hour nature is due to our North American electrical resources— which is a Uranus/Athena kind of brilliance with help from Zeus (bolts)

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