Heralds and Psychopomps

Mercury enters Cancer and goes Retrograde

Mercury – Protector of travelers.  Guide of souls.  Herald of Gods.

Mercury often gets a bad rap for being superficial and for the woes its retrograde periods bring, but it’s time to set the record straight.

There is hardly a more sophisticated skill than acting as an effective go-between of the many Gods and humans of ancient Greece, or in our case, the multitude of aspects of the human psyche.  Mercury, as messenger of the Gods, provides counsel to and from the other planets, allowing us to understand what they seem to want or need from us.

We should not pretend to understand the world only by the intellect. The judgement of the intellect is only part of the truth. - Carl Jung

Thinking of Mercury only in terms of its representation of our capacity to think, communicate, and learn is one-dimensional and encompasses solely its diurnal meaning, whereas Mercury exists in twilight – within the space between day and night.  And the more nocturnal Psychopomp Mercury journeys into the depths to retrieve lost items from the land of the dead. The origin of the Greek “psyche” is “soul”, not merely “mind”.  Hermes (the Greek Mercury) was sent into the Underworld by Zeus to persuade Hades to release his daughter Persephone.  Mercury is concerned not only with facts and history, but also with subjective reality and memory.      

So, as Mercury enters the sign of Cancer on May 28, let us remember and utilize this more soulful aspect of Mercury to get the parts of us that have been frozen moving.  We know that trauma limits our sense of what options exist.  And we have all been through a collective trauma.  Where our story is stuck, Mercury in Cancer helps us to become our own inner trauma therapists and experience something different.

But Mercury has no agenda.  With Mercury in Cancer, it is not our job to decide for others what they should do, but rather to activate an inner dialogue.  And when offering this type of nurturing assistance to another, a perfectly fine response is, “not today.”  While lending a sympathetic ear for others’ troubles is a wonderful mental orientation toward caring, bearing the unpleasant can hurt deeply.  There are times when we don’t need to grow personally, when we need to put up boundaries.  The crab cannot survive outside its shell.  Sensitivity requires protection.

The goal with Cancer is to discover where “I” begin and end – who and what I am in relation to others.  Mercury gives us the ability to retrieve lost parts of ourselves such as a disowned inner child, so that Cancer’s waters may assimilate them into the whole.  The danger with Mercury in Cancer is to bypass the necessary experience of our emotions by over-analyzing or over-explaining them.

Returning to the idea of Mercury as counselor to the other planets, where Mercury in Cancer aspects your chart, there is the opportunity for softening a message from other parts of your chart in a way that you can finally metabolize them.  But be wary of being mis-guided by overly emotional appeals during this time – Mercury can also be the unreliable storyteller.

When an inner situation is not made conscious, it appears outside as fate. - Carl Jung

When Mercury goes retrograde on June 18, we take this conversation inward.  There are many Mercury retrograde “survival guides” and other such fear-based press.  But while the popular narrative holds that Mercury retrograde takes us off-course, in actuality it is taking us straight to the core of the matter – toward the Sun – it’s just that we can’t see it at the time.

Through strategies of indirection, we come to a more complete understanding of ourselves.  Only in retrospect can we appreciate that we could not have gotten “here” any other way.  But if we have decided ahead of time what the course will be, we are bound to be thrown off track.   

As with everything in life that we are faced with, there is the opportunity to respond or react, to create harmony or disharmony.  Harmony with Mercury Retrograde looks like speaking only when there is reason to speak.  Being discerning with our words.  Rejecting all unnecessary information.

Thus, there is intelligence, reason, and purpose behind why our communication devices don’t behave the way we’d like during Mercury Retrograde.  We are being called to discontinue the indiscriminate collection and sharing of information, and instead orient toward material that is particular to one’s own reason for being – in effect, to personalize information and find one’s own true voice.

Disharmony with Mercury Retrograde looks like non-stop talking, looping back over and over the same information, and incessantly gossiping or complaining.  If we instead follow the impulse toward self-attunement, great inspiration can flow.

Creativity is non-linear.  It is received, not got.  And this season’s Mercury Retrograde occurs in the very receptive sign of Cancer.  So rather than complaining or worrying about your texts not going through, why not take an inward journey of self-reflection?  This way, you won’t miss Mercury’s more intuitive and subtle messages.

Mercury reminds us of our own complexity, and to consult the un-consulted parts of ourselves.  If you’ve been paying attention, you know that there have been and will be several other planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Pluto, Venus and soon, Neptune) and asteroids (Pallas and until recently, Juno) in retrograde.  Perhaps this Mercury Retrograde in Cancer is telling us something about how to creatively assimilate all of the introspective teachings from those other planets’ retrograde transits.  Since retrograde periods bring us to a deeper and truer understanding of the archetypes represented by those planets at issue, we now have the opportunity to re-mythologize our personal destinies based upon novel perceptions of things like structure, authority, faith, love, indulgence, and consciousness.  With this transit, lasting until Mercury goes direct on July 12, allow inner wisdom and inspiration to bring those un-consulted parts of your chart into the counsel room of your psyche so that you have at your disposal more elements to understand and reimagine your life.

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart.  Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. – Carl Jung

This article first appeared in AS ABOVE SO BELOW.  Click here to download the entire GEMINI issue.  Artwork by @astroccult.