Mercury went retrograde on November 23, and will keep moving along his backward path in the sky until December 13. You can read an earlier post of mine to get my general approach to Mercury retrograde periods, with the difference this time being that Mercury is retrograde in the sign of Sagittarius. I want to focus on Sagittarius, but first I want to add another level to what seems to go on during these sometimes frustrating and sometimes surprisingly calm periods, by taking a look at Mercury himself.
MERCURY, GUIDE OF SOULS
In mythology, Mercury is commonly known as the Trickster. This is the face of Mercury that gets the most press during retrograde cycles, especially in the mainstream press, as he shows up in all sorts of inconvenient ways, interrupting what were supposed to be the normal, smooth, everything-going-as-planned days of our lives.
There’s more to Mercury than just this Trickster aspect, though; much more. If we look at Mercury through his Greek counterpart Hermes, he is also known as the Guide of Souls. This is significant. What does that mean, to be a Guide of Souls? And how might this shape our understanding of a retrograde period?
If you’ll notice, the “inconveniences” that annoy us the most during Mercury retrogrades periods are always the inconveniences in our physical lives. It’s the toaster that breaks down, or the computer that crashes, or the files that were “suddenly” deleted by some invisible visitor who happened to use your computer (while you were on it), or it’s the phone that doesn’t ring, or it’s the phone that does ring (your cell phone, right in the middle of the most important job interview of your life). Or it’s the new road construction that just began, right as winter is setting in. Any way you look at it, it’s the strange detours our physical lives are forced to take—the inconveniences that we didn’t see coming—that get the most attention during Mercury retrograde.
Conveniently, Mercury is the god of the “in betweens” of life. For example, when you’re on a road trip, Mercury is those “convenience” stores you stop at between the place you left and the place where you are heading, to get gas or get a snack. Likewise, when something comes up “right in the middle” of something (after it starts and before it ends), you can be sure Mercury is making an appearance.
One of Mercury’s unique characteristics is that he is the only god allowed to freely travel from the soaring heights of Mount Olympus above, down into the dark depths of the Underworld below, always connecting with the world in between (our world). No other god or human was allowed entrance to the Underworld, that remarkable place of astounding mystery only open to humans once they have died, and only then if they pay the proper toil. Only souls are allowed into the Underworld, and therefore, the Underworld is the world of Soul. And it’s Mercury (Hermes) who guides souls as they enter the Underworld.
What this has to do with us, physical humans living very physical lives above ground, is that we have souls, and the soul is the invisible, non-physical part of us. And it’s not just a part of us—it’s everywhere. Soul does not begin and end. Soul is not bound the way we are. We may not have access to the Underworld, but our soul does, and Mercury is our Guide.
They say everything is bigger in Texas. This may be true, but what’s truer is that everything is bigger in Sagittarius! A mind that was once small gets the bigger picture in Sagittarius! What was once a normal and ordinary life gets slotted into the bigger and grander scheme of the whole of Life! It’s part of a huge plan! What were once simply little things enjoying their simple little lives get wrapped inside phrases like, “Little things mean a lot!” What was once good becomes extraordinarily fabulous!! And what was once merely likeable becomes the most amazing thing in the whole entire universe!!! Whoever invented exclamation marks must have been a Sagittarius!
See, Sagittarius is a sign that is fabulous at exaggeration, in the best ways and the worst ways (if there is a “worst” way to exaggerate). I could say that Sagittarius is the most amazingly terrific, astoundingly brilliant, ceaselessly wondrous sign there is, and I bet all of the Sagittarians would agree. Behind this exaggeration, though, lies the larger truth of our lives. There’s something mythic about Sagittarius, something that aspires toward the heavens, searches for meaning, and always aims at the higher perspectives of life, often through religion, or through spiritual endeavors. Sagittarius loves to keep moving, always continuing this wondrous spiritual journey we call life. Life as a continuous journey is a Sagittarian perspective.
But let’s shrink this down for a minute, so as to connect it to our still-ordinary lives that are in the midst of Mercury going retrograde in Sagittarius.
A retrograde planet moves backward in the sky. Not really, but it just looks that way. So, at the heart of a retrograde period is the very notion that things are not necessarily as they appear. How appropriate, then, for Mercury the Trickster! And how appropriate, too, for Mercury as the one who guides the soul, that invisible, non-physical, non-literal realm of life. And how appropriate as well for Sagittarius, the sign that seeks the invisible meaning of life not obvious if we look at life only from the ground (physical) level of things.
If we get stuck focusing on the inconveniences of our physical lives (as is usually the case with Mercury retrograde periods) between now and December 13, we miss a grander opportunity this time to explore the higher meaning—the symbolic meaning—hidden within those inconveniences. You know, maybe there’s something more. Maybe! Maybe these things are literal exaggerations begging our attention so as to divulge the “real” reason something happens. What may be seriously inconvenient to our physical lives may be a store of convenience to the soul, and Mercury is our Guide.
This requires a thoughtful, reflective, somewhat philosophical approach to life until December 13, but that’s what Sagittarius is all about. And the soul in its very nature is reflective. It requires a leap of faith from us when we are being too literal. It requires a leap into something non-physical, rather than just looking for the hard-copy outcomes we may be more accustomed to. With Mercury moving backward, it’s a good time to not only look backward (by reflecting on meaningful things of the past year, for example), but to look at life backward, where what you see isn’t always what you get. Maybe moving forward all the time is what’s getting you stuck, and if you get stuck somewhere during Mercury retrograde, it may be what’s necessary to move you forward.
I know, that all sounds so abstract and philosophical, but at the heart of philosophy is “sophia”—wisdom. And there’s often a wonderfully wise common sense about being where you’re at in life, accepting the things that happen in life (the ups and the downs, the happiness and the stickiness) with an active curiosity and wonderment. A line from a favorite song (“The Journey Home”) often reminds me that, “Not every boat you come across is one you have to take; sometimes standing still can be the best move you ever make.”
This Mercury retrograde, notice the things that make you stand still, and take in the larger picture. Wonder about the meaning of it all, and carry that meaning forward with you as of December 13, when Mercury starts moving forward again, guiding our souls into the holiday season.