by Marcia Buchart
Some of you who read the astrological press will have seen articles noting that Mercury, which has been retrograde since August 2nd, turned direct at 23+ degrees of the Sign Leo on Friday, August 26. A bare ten days before, He had conjoined the Sun, being transformed from Administrator to Explorer/Ambassador. (For an explanation of what those terms could mean, see the Stealing Apollo’s Cattle post in this blog.)
I had speculated in that blog post that while Mercury was invisible—hidden from our sight by the light of the Sun—He walks by the side of the King “at court ”, as it were. What if He never actually leaves court during a particular direct or retrograde phase? What?? How could that be so!? you might well ask. It could be so if, during any given phase of His travels, whether direct or retrograde, Mercury never becomes visible!
On August 26th, Mercury turned direct while only 14 degrees 14 minutes of celestial longitude away from the Sun. Unless you live on the ocean or desert, with an absolutely flat horizon and absolutely no clouds or pre-dawn fog, you might never see Him this time around, except perhaps for a blinking instant. He was still “under the beams”, as older astrologers say—less than 17 degrees away from the Sun, the Sun too close to be seen except under perfect conditions.
Even though the distance between Mercury and Sun increases for a week after He turns direct (He’s still reeeelly slow, so the Sun appears to move relatively faster). He only gets to about 18 degrees 6 minutes away on September 2nd. You’ll still have to be really lucky to see Him.
But wait! Can’t Mercury get up to 28 degrees away from the Sun at the extremes of His direct or retrograde phases? Yes, He can, but He doesn’t always, or even very often. In none of His cycles will He achieve maximum elongation (that 28 degrees) this year, for instance—although He gets pretty close in November when he stations on Thanksgiving at 25+ degrees away from the Sun. Unlike Venus, whose cycles are so beautifully, dependably regular in their appearances, timing and distances from the Sun, not all Mercury cycles are created equal.
That damn Trickster! Oy! It would seem that we have yet another factor that can influence the dynamics of any given Mercury phase, and that is whether or not He can actually be seen during that phase, be He direct or retrograde. Older astrological texts are not at all optimistic about the functioning ability of planets that cannot be seen; such planets were felt not to be able to function at their optimal capacity.
What might this mean for you, for us all in the collective?
Possibly that the amount of mental clarity or perspective that can be brought to bear in any given phase of Mercury, be He Explorer or Administrator, direct or retrograde, aspecting other planets or not, powerful or weak by sign placement, depends on whether He gets far enough away from the Sun to be seen.
Think back to this spring’s Explorer cycle, when retrograde-cum-Explorer Mercury got within 8 degrees of maximum possible elongation from the Sun—20+ degrees—before turning direct on March 30. And what happened as He gathered direct motion speed a month later?
A magnificent wedding celebrated through Mercurial technology around the globe and a successful long-distance (and closely supervised from afar) military operation.
A confusion of signals: the failure of the debt ceiling deal to prevent downgrading of the US bond value, the Mercurial market bouncing all over the place, and a plethora of Republican Presidential hopefuls, appearing to see who can whip up the most craziness in the populace and harness it.
And oh yes, a hurricane.
I offer the idea that, with Mercury on such a short “leash”, as it were, our perspective and clarity of thought are in short supply.
Other authors have noted something like this. The late Robert Blaschke, in his Astrology: A Language of Life, Vol. V – Holographic Transits, writes, “[Michael] Munkasey found that the more difficult retrograde Mercury periods are those that have the…least range of degree travel…” But while Blaschke is focused on the issue of Mercury’s speed of travel, I am looking (pun intended) at the issue of His visibility.
Conflicting stories are buzzing around the zeitgeist like radio signal hash during a solar storm and no one can get a clear “vision” of which one is the most likely to play out. I let my imagination loose seeking ideas of storylines that might arise under this Explorer phase and frankly, the zeitgeist splatted me in the face with a pie. Here is the picture of what the most recent Sun-Mercury conjunction looked like. Whoa! Look at the Sun and Venus, hung like a jeweled pendant from the Lion’s neck, with Mercury under the Lion’s paw! Surely there’s a story here—but which one?
Is it the anguished decision (Mercury) the haughty royal princess must make in the old fable of The Lady Or The Tiger, where she must decide her former lover’s fate: does she cede him to the jaws of a beast (Sun in Leo) or the arms of a beautiful hated rival (Venus)?
I sense that which of these stories rises to the surface of a culture—and there are more, I’ve only just scratched the surface, I promise you—depends on where in the world you are. There is no such thing as a specific sky story that will hold true for every place on the globe. Sekhmet’s energies would seem particularly pertinent to the savage unrest in Libya and Syria—or to the murderous heat wave gripping the south central US. The financial and political communities in the US would seem to wish to play out the lose-lose dynamic of The Lady or The Tiger. The destruction of the Mercurial helicopter carrying Navy SEALS responsible for bin Laden’s death seems to echo the feline hunter bringing down birds.
As much as many parts of the body politic seem bent on playing out some of the grimmer stories, is there a way for individuals to seek to manifest Androcles and the Lion, or the Gift of the Lyre, or Dorothy helping the Cowardly Lion? Both Cayelin Castell of the Shamanic Astrology Mystery School and Bernadette Brady in her Visual Astrology course speak of the time of a planet’s invisibility as it being in an enchanted place whose manifestations are mysterious, not at all straightforward. You can’t “see” what’s happening.
But might you be able to “hear” it? After all, “enchant” is derived from an old Latin word—“incantare”—meaning to sing.
Singing might have more to do with Mercury than you might think. Mercury invented the lyre (a Venusian artistic item), which he gave to his half-brother, Apollo—a solar god associated with music—to soften his anger after the little bugger stole Apollo’s sacred cattle. Might Mercury, when invisible, be able to function as a sort-of radio transmitter for the songs of the God of Prophecy? If so the recommended meditation practices, the asking for answers in dreams, the cultivating of quiet stillness that I’ve often heard prescribed as a helpful antidote for Mercury retrograde phases are perhaps more properly applied to the period of His invisibility, so you can “hear” what He has to say…like Pete Townsend did.
“There once was a note, pure and easy / Playing so free like a breath rippling by / The note is eternal, I hear it, it sees me / Forever we blend and forever we die…”