Mercury the Messenger and Trickster
By Nadiya Shah
Mercury is known by many names depending on the pantheon. The Greek god Hermes, son of Jupiter, who rules travels, literature, communications, and the cunning of thieves. The Roman God Mercurius, who oversaw commerce and trade. He has been known across cultures as a messenger of the gods and a wise trickster.
The trickster aspect of Mercury is a very sacred honor. Like other trickster gods, Mercury reminds us that just when we think we have defined the sacred, we are further away. According to Joseph Campbell, the trickster motif is meant to move us beyond the image of the god to the energy represented. By moving beyond the image, we move closer to our own divinity. The trickster motif found in every pantheon also reminds us that the greatest wisdom comes from unlikely sources, and that the most confusing of situations can resolve themselves with the benefit of growth and healing that we would not replace for anything in the world.
In Astrology Mercury has been an important symbol. Considering that the origins of astrology lie in cultures that thought of what happened on a personal level as intimately connected to what happened on every other level of existence and reality, the fast movement of Mercury took on significance for much of our daily lives. What happens on the Marco reflects the Micro, as all levels of life are intimately connected.
Mercury travels fast, taking only about 180 days to zip around the zodiac, and he is never more than a sign or two from the sun.
Mercury primarily rules communications with others and with our self, as in the way that we think and the sentiments we reinforce within our minds. This is something that takes place constantly and is ever changing. With Mercury zipping around in the sky, this movement can mirror the rapidness with which ideas and stimulus flow in and around us.
In a person’s astrology chart, Mercury’s sign and placement can indicate the way the native processes information and their intellectual orientation to the world.
Mercury also rules machines with moving parts, like computers, watches, and cars. Commerce and trade, as in shopping, fall under his domain. Sometimes sibling relationships are also signified through Mercury’s placement.
Now, we cannot speak of Mercury without discussing Mercury’s notorious, or perhaps infamous, retrograde phases. It is when he is retrograde that we notice him most!
Some people fear Mercury retrograde- but there is nothing to fear! Mercury retrogrades 3-4 times a year, all part of a loving Universe designed to help us gain clarity when it is needed.
As mentioned, Mercury rules communicating with others and us (as in thinking), commerce and contracts. During a retrograde period it is not a good time to start things, but an excellent time to re- anything! Re-evaluate that big purchase, re-negotiate that contract, re-do that paper, re-think that flawless plan. Strive to be objective in the way you communicate with others and yourself, and the way you interpret communication coming your way.
Mercury also rules machines with moving parts, like computers, watches, and cars. This is why Mercury in retrograde is notorious for playing with our computer, Internet connections, time devices, and even time appreciation (as in, misinterpreting the time for important meetings and events). Since travel also falls under his domain, we are advised to be patient and plan for extra time when making a journey.
Additionally, emails and phone messages have a way of going wonky during retrograde cycles. Theorists have debated who creates meaning in the word. When you read something, keep in mind that you as the reader are creating meaning of what you are reading. Listen to phone messages more carefully, considering you do not have the “visual and non-verbal” cues factor to consider.
We are currently in a Mercury retrograde cycle, officially from October 12 to November 1, 2007, though we can feel Mercury retrogrades a week on either side. The current cycle features Mercury traveling back in Scorpio and then into the sign of Libra. These days right now are especially potent as Mercury switches signs. When He travels in retrograde motion from one sign to the other, he tends to link his lessons from one area of life to another.
Whenever we are approaching a retrograde phase, it is important to watch events in the weeks leading up to the actual retrograde cycle. When Mercury is actually retrograde, those events may be re-visited, and then once Mercury goes direct he will connect with the same points and planets as he did when going backwards. It is usually during this third “hit” that the lesson finally hits home. The influence of this one-two-three can be especially potent when Mercury is traveling over key points in your natal chart. Experiment with this, stay aware, and see if you can better come to appreciate the rhyme and reason to these cycles.
Working with Mercury is great when we want to have safe journeys, important contracts signed, messages delivered swiftly, and successful conversations. Particularly good times to work with Mercury are when he has just switched into a sign or is in aspect to a planet that is compatible to your aims. Because of Mercury’s reputation as a trickster, the way that our intentions come to fruition can sometimes be disguised so that we can appreciate the spiritual quality of our aim. The thing to consider is that, if it is a fresh start or new venture we are interested in, the direct cycle is the best time to connect with his energy.
Mercury retrograde is the time to seek re-contact with people from our past or revisit events from the past at an attempt to find resolution, greater meaning, or clarity. Just keep in mind that if we actively seek to work with Mercury when he is retrograde, then when Mercury eventually goes direct, things could work out very differently than the initial reunion may have indicated. Part of the trickster quality of Mercury, part of the frustration, and part of the fun.