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Retro Merc

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  • #72994

    Whew! Mercury moved direct last night (at 8:13 pm PST on February 3, not that I’ve been keeping track 😏), after three weeks backpedaling through the heavens.

    Astronomically, all “retrograde” means is that, from Earth, Mercury appears to be moving backwards in its orbit – an anomaly of perspective. Nevertheless, Mercury-in-retrograde has long been associated in the astrological imagination with glitches in travel, communication, commerce, and most recently, technology – a perception that does seem to mirror my experience.

    I have, for example, kept a journal for decades, at times running to thousands of words a month; at one point I thought I would investigate this supposed phenomenon by looking up in my journals the dates of past Mercury retrogrades, which run for three weeks or so some three or even four times a year. I was flabbergasted to discover, long before I had ever paid attention to the concept, that there were more glitches and weirdnesses clustered during retrogrades than I was moved to record the entire remainder of each year … hmm.

    Doesn’t prove anything, but that correlation did catch my attention.

    However, disaster and catastrophe, or even annoyance, are not inevitable, and need not be the norm. Retro Merc traditionally signals a time to slow down, to shift focus; those bumps in the road happen because, in today’s fast-paced society, there is undue pressure to keep forging ahead, making progress, no matter what – but the planetary Trickster is not about making progress and forging ahead.

    Ironically, I have discovered that when I’m aware Mercury is moving retrograde, life’s inevitable glitches and setbacks are far less traumatic (at least during retrograde, I’m not so surprised when they occur – and then, I have a cosmic partner to share the blame).

    Theoretically, during retrogrades one should take extra care signing contracts, maybe delaying major purchases, expect disruptions when traveling, double-check emails and think twice before clicking send, etc. I’m not fanatical about it (hard to hide in a cave for three weeks), but I like to, at least metaphorically, give the gods their due. If one is buying a car, traveling across country, or getting married, how could it hurt to schedule that before or after a retrograde?

    Mercury retrogrades are not necessarily perceived as bad , especially in earlier cultures – but in 21st century Western societies our emphasis is on progress and forward movement; a retrograde slows or even derails that progress in favor of introspection – so it’s a period when I do my best to not be pummeled by deadlines.

    But life doesn’t have to stop.

    What activities are favored during a retrograde? Oddly enough, many that begin with “re”:

    Reflect, renegotiate, refit, repair, research, review, relax, rehabilitate, read, rewrite, retreat, renew, renovate, redress, report, reclaim, recycle, refinance, relate, reschedule, reinvest, rectify, refer, release, recreation, and even reefer, for those so inclined.

    Have to admit it doesn’t really matter to me whether there’s a causal relationship or not. Frankly, asking whether or not one “believes” in astrology is akin to asking whether or not one “believes” in poetry. Beyond “belief,” I prefer to embrace the symbolism of astrology as a tool for re-imagining and mythologizing my life.

    Now that Mercury is moving direct once more, feel free to resume your previously scheduled programming.
    😎

    #72996
    philspar
    Participant

    Nice explanation Stephen – heard the expression ‘Mercury in Retrograde’ a bit but never really understood it.  I’ve just looked up the dates for the remaining three events this year and will set reminders in my calendar to increase my level of caution.  Thank you for this public safety announcement service! 🙂

    #72995

    Thanks, Phil for those kind words. It can be touchy discussing astrology, given the long held popular assumption that it’s all about the stars and planets controlling our fate (in the same way that alchemy is popularly understood to be about literally turning lead into gold).

    Jung wrote at length about alchemy and astrology – and many Campbellophiles forget that Joe himself used to cast horoscopes (eventually stopping because, in his words, “it gave me a feeling I  knew too much about people; you know you get these intimate things . . . “), but that focus is more on metaphor and an imaginative reading of the symbols, rather than a literal interpretation.

    Many mythologists and depth psychologists today are drawn to the field of archetypal astrology. Though this can be traced back to the writings of Jung, the catalyst for this movement was the 2006 publication of Cosmos and Psyche, by Richard Tarnas (Richard wrote his first book, The Passion of the Western Mind, while manning the front gate at Esalen back when Joseph Campbell was regularly in residence); that book is well-researched and worth the read.

    Here is a brief description of this nascent field from mythologist Keiron Le Grice (author of The Rebirth of the Hero):

    Archetypal astrology . . . is based on an observed correspondence between the planets in the solar system and specific themes, qualities, and impulses associated with a set of universal principles and thematic categories known as planetary archetypes. Each of the planetary bodies, as well as the Sun and the Moon, is associated with a distinct archetypal principle. Thus, the planet Mars, for example, is related to a complex array of themes and qualities associated with the warrior archetype and, more generally, to the principle of assertion, action, and aggressive force; whereas Venus, understood in its simplest terms, is related to the principle of eros, romantic love, beauty, and pleasure. Rather like the ancient mythic conception of the gods, and as in the Platonic conception of archetypal Forms, the archetypal principles associated with the planets are recognized to be not only psychological but also cosmological in essence, exerting a dynamic formative ordering influence on both the interior and exterior dimensions of reality.” (Keiron Le Grice, “The Birth of a New Discipline”)

    Over the course of a few millennia in ancient Mesopotamia, the planet we know today as Venus was associated with Inanna or Ishtar (incarnations of the goddess of love). No surprise that – as both the evening and the morning star, this planet presided over late night lovemaking sessions, and was often in the sky before dawn as lovers made their way home from their trysts – so there are thousands of years of near universal collective projections on that celestial body. Does the planet Inanna/Ishtar/Venus determine one’s love life? Hardly – but nevertheless, there is an ancient association between that planet and romance which continues to this day.

    When it comes to Mercury retrogrades I imagine the key phrase should be “actual user experience will vary.” If you’re inclined to pay attention to that kind of thing, it can be a fascinating and, at times, useful exercise – but if not so inclined, don’t feel a need to alter your behavior (though I am curious to see if you notice an uptick in weirdness during retro Merc, though granted that might well be the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy so to speak).

    I don’t disagree with Shakespeare when he has Cassius say, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves”; at the same time, it takes examining the projections we make outside ourselves (including onto the heavens) to come to know oneself.

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