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Ode To the Psychopomp: Mercury Retrograde, March 2...

Ode To the Psychopomp: Mercury Retrograde, March 2018

March 22nd, 2018 marks our first period of Mercury retrograde this year. A second planet, Jupiter, is also retrograde right now. Our period of Mercury retrograde lasts until April 15th. 

Known as Mercury to the Romans, Hermes to the Greeks, and Thoth to the Egyptians, the messenger god always worked for whomever happened to be in charge. He was a divine scribe, note-taker, time-keeper—Mercury always was assisting, for he is fluid and energetic by nature. Associated with Virgo and Gemini, two verbal signs, Mercury brings associations of language. Unlike other planets, Mercury is genderless, colorless. Like the Magician in tarot, Hermes brings the energy of transmutation. A spell recited with passion can bring either protection or banishing. Mercury facilitates this alchemy.

For thousands of years societies worshipped the Moon and what mythologist Robert Graves calls the White Goddess, (Mother-Maiden-Crone, always in triplicate). About 5,000 years ago, people from the Eurasian steppe took to invading and colonizing the lands around them, Europe to the west and India to the east. From their home above the Caspian Sea, they brought the first domesticated horses and a warrior culture. Inculcating their victims in their own beliefs, Moon worship was eventually stamped out, denigrated, and finally replaced with a largely Solar perspective, a Jupiter/Mars-oriented way of life. As women were recognized in connection to the Moon, from which their power derived, they too were diminished. The sensual, the psychic, and the cyclic were over time subjugated in favor of the linear and the technological. The technological-imperialist-warrior culture of today has its roots here.

I call this to our attention as a roundabout way of reminding us that our culture is still a culture of Mars, of results, of action, of war. Though many of us reject the trappings of modern society and actively fight the inequality it brings, we still remain here in the mire. Our trepidation around Mercury retrograde is related, I think, to Martian culture’s aversion to imprecision and non-linearity.Mercury retrograde is viewed negatively as a time when messages are lost, miscommunications abound, flights are missed, technology malfunctions. Progress, in other words, is stymied, and we are forced to slow down, prevented from pushing forth. It is not a time to conquer, rather it’s a time to gaze inward and contemplate the waters. It’s possible we have been conditioned to fear Mercury retrograde because we are addicted to the extroverted nature of Mercury in its direct form. For many, there is nothing more frightening than having to engage their own unconscious, and that is what this astrological weather calls for.

Mythologically, Mercury knew both the day-world and the underworld. We can think of him as working for both Jupiter and Pluto, delivering missives between both gods. Mercury is the psychopomp, the “darkener,” the bringer and taker of dreams. Other than Pluto himself, Mercury is the only god always at home in the underworld.

Pluto, Scorpio’s ruler, wears Mercury’s cap, and it blesses him with invisibility. On Earth there are no temples to Pluto; as a result we are uncomfortable with him. We fear death and darkness, we fear our shadow-sides and the depths of our psyche. But Pluto’s name, Plouton in ancient Greek, translates to “riches.” Pluto has no face, his realm is psychic, intuitive, feeling, visceral. It is tongue out of jaw, spirit empowered in the dark. Some ancient cultures pictured the underworld as a vast wood dense with night-flora. Pluto’s lair looks and feels much like that of the Moon-cults of prehistoric times. Here Hekate is amplified. Remember, her symbol is the Moon. Like the Moon, Pluto is a psychic force, as is Neptune. Moon, Pluto, and Neptune align with the three water signs, all which have easy access to the underworld. During Mercury retrograde, we must reach toward the psyche, rather than toward the daylight.

We fear Mercury retrograde as we have forgotten the importance of stillness, of darkness, of the invisible. Our society thrives on the extroverted energy of Mercury-direct. We are addicted to the message sent and received with no delay, it is part of our culture of instant gratification. We have come to favor light, the visible, the tangible, the data-oriented, the measurable, at the expense of the sensual, the psychic, the chthonic.

Jupiter, Mercury, and Pluto form a divine triad—day-god, messenger, night-god. With Jupiter and Mercury both retrograde, we have even more reason to consider Pluto who calls us downward. Interacting with the shadow world, the hidden depths of the soul, during this upcoming retrograde can bring power. Do not fear the message from your psychic unconscious. Tend to the realm of dream. Relinquish selfhood, for the self is a solar illusion.

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Occultist, poet, translator, Neptunian lamentress. Christina Farella operates Eighth House Astrology, where she creates astrological portraits for Seekers. She imagines our natal charts as lush celestial embroidery hovering over our shoulders. Fondness for descent into the underworld. She hangs myrtle above her bed.
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Occultist, poet, translator, Neptunian lamentress. Christina Farella operates Eighth House Astrology, where she creates astrological portraits for Seekers. She imagines our natal charts as lush celestial embroidery hovering over our shoulders. Fondness for descent into the underworld. She hangs myrtle above her bed.

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