13 March 2012

Mercury Retro Series (a.k.a. the Mercury Retrograde Survival Kit)

Since I find myself often writing to correct lots of misperceptions about retrograde planets in general, and Mercury retrogrades in particular, I've decided to assemble all of the links to previous posts on the topic in one blog post, so that I can easily refer to them in the future.

So here they are in (almost) chronological order, and are probably best read in this order.

1. Retrograde Schmetrograde 
2. Retrograde Planets
3. Retrograde Planets: What to do?
4. Not Again With This Retrograde Thing! (Not Really, Read On...)
5. Mercury Retrograde - Again
6. Here We Go Again
7. Retrogrades and the supposed "Shadow"
8. Harping on Mercury

Harping on Mercury

Yes, that's me harping. It seems that every time Mercury goes retrograde, I write a flurry of blog posts on the matter. You'd think that it was a big deal with me (Mercury retrograde); in fact, it's quite the opposite. Whenever Mercury goes retrograde, the internet is flooded with Stupid Astrology. And so here I am, harping on the matter once again.

Let me be clear about what I mean by "Stupid Astrology." I am first of all, not blaming non-astrologers for posting or re-posting spurious information about astrology (unless of course, they are non-astrologers claiming to be actual astrologers). But most of this false information comes from two main sources: 1. modern astrological publications, and by extension, modern astrologers themselves, and 2. the insipid custom in modern astrology to free-associate and then make astrological pronouncements based on their "conclusions."

For more detail on some illegitimate modern astrological associations, see this post

No, really, go read it first, and then come back to continue with this one. 

OK, see what I mean? Most modern astrologers aren't even working quite within the astrological tradition, as we traditional astrologers have understood it for over 2,000 years. 

I'll refer you to two other posts of mine on Retrogrades (specifically Mercury retros), so that I don't have to re-write them here.
Retrograde Planets: What to do?
Retrograde Schmetrograde

(Note that for most of the astrological tradition, nothing was said about the general effects of a planet going retrograde; these things were delineated always in the context of a specific astrological chart.)

What I want to focus on today is the timing of the Mercury retrograde cycles. 

I wrote about this in my post Retrogrades and the supposed "Shadow." It's a short post, and I recommend reading it before the rest of this one.

Building on what I wrote there, I want to direct your attention to a chart that I found online last year. I've been saving it for just this occasion. This was last year's Mercury cycle laid out. When any planet goes retrograde, it slows down in its apparent motion through the zodiac, or against the background of the ecliptic. This has to do with a number of factors, including things like the fact that the orbits are not perfectly circular, but elliptical; and the fact that some of the planets are between the Earth and the Sun, while others orbit outside the orbit of the Earth. 

When a planet gets to the degree where it is going to turn backwards, or forwards, it is considered "Stationary." It may continue to move a bit, but it will not go past the limits of that degree. Traditionally, the Station is the practical beginning of the retrograde or direct period. That is, when a planet like Mercury is "stationary retrograde," it may still be inching forward, but the effects of the retrograde are already beginning, since it is now in the degree where the "turnaround" will happen. Likewise, when Mercury is "stationary direct," the retrograde period is, for practical purposes, at an end.

However, in modern astrological mythology, there is this idea of a "shadow" period, and the corresponding idea that the planet has to totally clear any territory that it covered during the retrograde period, before it is "free and clear," so to speak of ill effects.

For example, if Mercury goes retrograde at 5 Capricorn, and is going to go back to 19 Sagittarius (as in the first line of the table below), then even before Mercury goes retrograde, the ill effects are supposedly felt from the time that Mercury hits 19 Sagittarius. Likewise, when Mercury goes direct at 19 Sag, it is said to have to go past the point where it originally went retrograde (5 Capricorn) before its effects are "normal" again. While one must admit that right before and after a retrograde period, the fact that a normally-fast moving planet is moving very slowly will bring some hindrances still, this whole "shadow" effect is a thoroughly modern concept. 

What fascinated me about this table is the totals in the last column. An individual Mercury retrograde lasts, on average, for about 22+ days each time (just over 3 weeks). If one adds up the "shadow" and "release" periods as well, as the table below does, one sees that the effects of poor little Mercury retrograde last for (on average) 190 days each year. 
Mercury Retrograde 2011
Retro Station
Direct Station
19 Sagittarius 37
Mon, Nov 22, 2010
5 Capricorn 54
Fri, Dec 10. 2010
19 Sagittarius 37
Thu, Dec 30, 2010
5 Capricorn 54
Tue, Jan 18, 2011
12 Aries 54
Thu, Mar 17
24 Aries 19
Wed, Mar 30
12 Aries 54
Sat, Apr 23
24 Aries 19
Wed, May 11
18 Leo 45
Fri, Jul 15
01 Virgo 12
Wed, Aug 3
18 Leo 41
Fri, Aug 26
01 Virgo 12
Fri, Sep 9
03 Sagittarius 51
Sat, Nov 5, 2011
20 Sagittarius 06
Thu, Nov 24, 2011
03 Sagittarius 51
Wed, Dec 14, 2011
20 Sagittarius 06
Sun, Jan 1, 2012
18 (til Nov 22)

Yes, read that again. 190 days. For the non-mathematically inclined among us, that's more than 50% of the year. In other posts I've mentioned that due, in part, to the complete unwillingness of modern astrologers to acknowledge the presence of malefics in astrology (usually Saturn, Mars, and a few others), they need to squeeze all-that-is-bad into one thing: Mercury retrograde. As if Mercury were the most important planet in the Solar System or in anyone's birth chart. And as if going retrograde were the only thing (or the worst) that could affect Mercury.

So here, we see the modern solution: declare the negative effects of one planet to last for over six months of the year, and then we can blame it for everything!

06 March 2012

Astrology and Mythology

I was reading a blog recently by a non-astrologer, who made some musings about the current Mars retrograde. One of the things that struck me (amongst some otherwise good ideas) was the idea that Mars is the active, aggressive part of sexuality. This is, indeed, the understanding of many modern astrologers, and it is certainly from these modern, pop-astrologers that the blog writer, along with many others, gets his information about astrology. 

Traditionally, Venus is all things having to do with love and sex. This runs the gamut from love to lust; from passive to not only active, but even aggressive; from demure to whore; etc. There is no need for Mars to be invoked here in order to explain aggressive love. This brings out an important point that seems to have been introduced into modern understanding, which is quite incorrect. To wit: 


It is certain that the tradition of watching the classical planets in the night sky and even using them for omens and auguries predates the more recent cast of characters in any particular culture's mythological pantheon. The planet Mars, for example, was known by many cultures and by many names before the Greeks started referring to it as the "star of Ares," or the Romans called it "Mars." The ancients of many cultures considered these planets, and the angels/spirits that inhabit them and which they embody, as divinities; each culture took it's turn (and still does) at naming their divinities, including planetary ones. However, these planetary divinities predate and precede any one culture's mythology. In other words, planet Mars preexisted the Roman god of war.

This idea was brought home to me when I was speaking on astrology and magic last summer, and someone asked about how one approaches this matter if your primary pantheon is something like Celtic. It hadn't even really occurred to me at the time, but the fact that these planets bear the names (mostly) of Roman gods and goddesses does not mean that they are one and the same with this band of characters. So in fact, you may call these planets whatever names, from whatever cultures, speak most loudly to you. Don't get stuck into thinking that astrology is subject to one culture's way of understanding that name. Planetary gods and goddesses are far greater than more culturally-limited figures that may bear the same names.

For example, in Roman mythology, Jupiter is always turning himself into some creature in order to disguise himself and go screw the wood nymphs. This also has him perpetually in trouble with his wife. This has absolutely nothing to do with the astrological Jupiter. Also, Mars and Venus are coupled in Roman mythology, while in astro-theology, there is no sense that Venus "needs" Mars for sex to happen. Venus is fine bringing this about all by herself.

This brings me back to where I began. Astrologically, sex is NOT a function of Mars. Venus can handle this by herself, thank-you-very-much. She is perfectly capable of being aggressive and even rough. But she is not Mars. Mars is only "needed" here if the issue is one of rape, which is functionally about violence, not about sex. One may also argue that astrologically a very well-functioning Mars might act as a protector for Venus, and there may be some legitimacy to that, but still, this is removed from the arena of sexual contact. 

By taking the active functions of sex away from Venus, we have removed an important piece of the divine feminine, and while trying to be feminist about all this, have essentially disempowered Venus completely and relegated her to a totally passive role in sexual matters. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of Venus (and by extension women and their sexuality). By allowing only Mars to be aggressively sexual, we disempower women. This, in and of itself, amounts to a rape of sorts: a violent imposition of Mars and a stealing of that which properly belongs to Venus.

Any proper understanding of Venus and Mars, and astrological planets at all, must separate itself from any one particular culture's mythology and deal with astro-theology on its own terms.
And you're gonna like it!