The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 307, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Jo Gleason
Episode originally released on June 16, 2021
Note: This is a transcript of an audio podcast. We strongly encourage you to listen to the audio version, which includes inflections that may not translate well when written out. Transcripts are created by using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and the text probably contains some errors and differences from the audio version. Please submit any corrections to Chris Brennan by email at email@example.com.
Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released July 2, 2021
Copyright © 2016 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hi, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. In this episode, I’m going to be talking with astrologer Jo Gleason about the astrology of Mercury and some of its significations and meanings in astrology in general. So hey, Jo welcome to the show.
JO GLEASON: Hey, thanks for having me back.
CB: Yeah, it’s been a while. This is your second or third appearance I think on the show, but we’re doing this episode and then you’re going to be joining us for the forecast later this month as well.
JG: Yes, I’m so excited for that.
CB: I am too. I’m less excited about the astrology of early July with the Mars-Saturn opposition, but I am still excited about doing that forecast episode.
JG: Yeah, same here. I don’t love that for us, but here we are. It’s gonna be fun.
CB: All right, well, let me read off the data. So today is Thursday, June 10, 2021, at 1:07 PM, in Denver, Colorado. I’m not sure what episode this is, but it’s somewhere in the early 300s, I suspect.
So this is going to be the third installment in our planetary series where I’m going through each of the planets in astrology and doing a deep dive into their significations and their meanings by reading through a series of astrological texts or excerpts from astrological texts from different ancient and modern astrologers in order to get some insight about how astrologers conceptualized each of the planets uh over the past 2,000 years or so.
So I already did two episodes–one on the Moon and then one on the Sun–last month, so this is our next episode on the planet Mercury. You watched the last two episodes, right?
JG: Yes, yes.
CB: So I’ve been trying to do a series where I have somebody who has a heavy emphasis of placements. Previously, it’s been the rising signs; so in the Moon episode, Israel was a Cancer rising, and then in the Sun episode, Demetra was a Leo rising. I’m going to break that with a slight break, just making an exception for you. You actually have Leo rising, but you have a stellium in Virgo, right?
JG: That is correct.
CB: Okay. So you’re kind of almost like an ‘honorary’ Virgo rising or Mercury-ruled nativity in some ways, right?
JG: Yeah, that’s what I’ve been told. That’s how it feels.
CB: Okay, good, I like that. So I think that’ll work out just fine; you’re gonna help me with the Mercury episode. Any preliminaries before we jump into it with some of the significations of Mercury?
JG: I can’t think of any preliminaries.
CB: All right, well, let me show a little diagram that helps to get us oriented with the symbol or the glyph for Mercury; and this is made by our graphic designer Paula Belluomini. So here it is just showing the symbol for Mercury, which is like a circle on top of a cross, and it has two tiny little horns or antennas on top of it, for those listening to the audio version. I have no idea what that’s actually gonna sound like or what kind of mental image that will create in your mind, but just try to picture that.
So Mercury has its domicile in the sign of Gemini and also its secondary domicile in the sign of Virgo, and then it has its detriment–or ‘antithesis’ as I call it–in the signs of Sagittarius and Pisces. Mercury is kind of weird because it has its exaltation in one of its domiciles, in the sign of Virgo, and then it has its depression or fall in the sign opposite to that, which is the sign of Pisces. So those are the basic essential dignities and debilities of the planet Mercury in traditional astrology which is pretty straightforward I think, right?
JG: Yeah, yeah, pretty straightforward. It is unique that Mercury has its exaltation and domicile, as well as antithesis and depression in the same sign, but I feel like we’ll talk more about that later too.
CB: Yeah. Well, as somebody with a lot of Virgo placements, I think you can attest to or appreciate that.
JG: I do. I really do. I have some other not-so-super fun things going on in Virgo, so having a domiciled and exalted Mercury is a nice ruler to have over those challenges.
CB: For sure. All right, well, let’s get oriented by jumping into our first set of significations from one of the earliest authors who has a long, extended discussion about the significations of the planets, Vettius Valens, who lived in the 2nd century in Egypt and wrote a textbook called the Anthology. I’ll share this for those watching the video version of this episode, the significations of Mercury according to Valens, from my translation in my book, Hellenistic Astrology.
So I’ll just read it off and then we can stop and talk about it occasionally. So Valens says: “The star of Mercury signifies education, writings, disputation, speech, brotherhood, interpretation, the office of the Herald, numbers, calculations, geometry, commerce, youth, play, theft, community, messages, service, profit, discoveries, following, contest, wrestling, declamation, sealing, sending messages, weighing, suspense, testing, hearing, [and] versatility,” and he keeps going on and on actually.
This is like the longest paragraph of all of the planets when Valens talks about each of the seven traditional planets. He just has like a ton of significations for Mercury. I think that’s actually a common thing, right? In pretty much every astrological tradition, Mercury covers a lot of ground I think, just as a basis or a starting point.
JG: Yeah, definitely. It’s interesting because Mercury is so flexible and adaptable in a general sense, that it’s almost like Mercury can flex into any role–or maybe not any role, but a large variety of roles–and you really see that with this massive wall of text that Valens has for Mercury. We can see kind of a common thread going through it, but, I mean, this is a huge variety. I really love that ‘suspense’ is in there too.
CB: Yeah, ‘suspense’. Well, I’m in suspense right now because I’m sure people are wanting to hear the rest, so I’ll keep going. I’ll keep taking breaks for a breather occasionally. All right, so ‘versatility’. And Valens says: “He is the bestower of critical thinking and judgment, lord of brothers and of younger children, and the author of all things pertaining to the market and the craft of banking. Properly speaking, he makes temple builders, modelers, sculptors, doctors, teachers, lawyers, orators, philosophers, architects, musicians, diviners, sacrificers, augers, dream interpreters, braiders, weavers, those who are methodical, and those who are in charge of managing wars or strategic actions, and those who utilize paradoxes and craftiness in calculations or false reasoning, those who are strong performers or mime-actors, making their livelihood from display, while still wandering and roaming and unstable; those with knowledge of the heavens or those who seek to become knowledgeable, undertaking the marvelous work with pleasure and contentment for the sake of the honor and the benefit it brings.” I think he’s referring to astrologers there.
CB: And he keeps going: “For this star holds the power of many pursuits, granting occupations in accordance with the variations of the zodiacal signs or the interweavings of the different configurations of the stars; for some it gives knowledge, while for others, brokerage; service for some, while it produces trade or teaching for others; and for some agriculture or temple-keeping or public <office>; moreover, for some it grants the ability to exercise authority or leasing rentals or labor contracting or rhythmic performance or managing public services or even body-guarding or wearing the linen robes of the gods or bestowing the pomp of powerful men. It brings about all the irregularities in our fortunes and many distractions from our goals, and even more so when this star is upon signs or degrees ruled by malefics, in which case things may even take a turn for the worse. Of the parts of the body, it rules the hands, the shoulders, the fingers, the joints, the belly, the hearing, the windpipe, the intestines, the tongue. Of substances, it is lord of copper and all coinage, giving, taking: for the god is common.”
And that is Valens’ significations of Mercury. And he kind of notes that it sort of adapts to whatever zodiacal sign or whatever other planets it touches. And that’s one of the things about Mercury that comes up frequently, especially with traditional astrologers, is the malleability of Mercury and its tendency to take on some of the qualities of whatever planets it’s closely configured to in the chart, or especially whatever sign of the zodiac it’s located in even more so than other planets perhaps.
JG: Yeah, certainly. I was thinking about this yesterday, when I was kind of mentally preparing for this episode, and thinking about the receptivity of the Moon and the Moon kind of ‘collecting’ light and ‘translating’ the light of other planets to one another and down to the sublunar sphere. But Mercury isn’t necessarily receptive, I would say, but does have this ability to kind of take on its environment in a way that’s really unique and really interesting.
And at first it almost sounds like a superpower. It’s like, “Dude, cool. It’s like this planet that can just be good at kind of anything, anywhere it is.” But I love how at the end, Valens says basically Mercury will also distract you and make things unstable, etc., etc. There’s an interesting emphasis there on the lack of consistency with Mercury, that kind of is the double-edged sword of that variety or adaptability or flexibility.
CB: Yeah, that’s a really good point. There’s a lot of similarities in the ancient tradition, especially even more so than in modern astrology. In ancient astrology, we can see a lot more closer parallels in some ways between the Moon and Mercury because they are the two fastest-moving, visible planetary bodies or planets, just to use the short form for celestial bodies that are used in astrology.
And the Moon zips around the zodiac in a month, but Mercury also moves pretty fast through each of the signs of the zodiac; not quite that fast, but compared to most other planets, Mercury is the next fastest planet after the Moon. And so, as a result of that you see some interplay and some similarities between their significations in terms of connections with things like messengers or things that move quickly in ancient astrology.
JG: Yeah, certainly. Such a good point to note is that Mercury is the next fastest celestial body aside from the Moon, but a core difference is of course the Moon does not have retrograde phases. So there’s still kind of a rhythm to the lunar cycle, even though you go outside and look at the Moon every night and it’s going to look different every single night; and that really kind of drives home the changeability of the Moon. The Moon isn’t like stopping and going backwards and going forwards again three times a year and Mercury is.
So there’s this interesting component of this instability. The ancients did tend to view that which was more consistent as more divine. And so, no doubt they look at this planet that zips around the zodiac and spends not very long in each sign and then retrogrades all the time as quite unstable and quite far from the divine in many ways.
CB: Yeah, I think that’s why Valens has that digression where he’s otherwise talking about Mercury signifying relatively positive things, but then at one point he talks about it distracting us and leading us astray and things like that. I think it’s because of that weird thing that it does in stationing retrograde and making that sudden turn occasionally when it’s going through the zodiac. It seems like it’s going forward and then there’s this anomaly, and all of a sudden, Mercury will start moving backwards as if it’s like a star in the sky that starts backtracking, or a ‘Moon-walking’ across the sky for three weeks, every few months.
JG: Yeah, yeah, the frequency. The fact that we can depend on that happening at least three times a year is pretty unique. It’s a little different with the outer planets or the slower planets because they’re retrograde for so much of the time, but Mercury’s greater speed just makes it so apparent when those retrograde cycles happen.
CB: Right. One of the things about Mercury that comes up and many of its core significations has to do with this idea of transmitting or acting as a go-between, and I think a lot of that has to do with just the position that Mercury occupies in the solar system and the fact that it’s the first planet that follows after the Sun and it acts as sort of an intermediary between the Sun and the rest of the planets.
So Valens talks about the Sun representing this divine spark or the concept of nous, which is like ‘mind’, some core principle of mind, but then Mercury is that planet which has to convey that central concept of mind or intelligence to the rest of the planets, and so it has this sort of go-between function. And I think just so many of Mercury’s core significations come down to that as a result of that astronomical position of being the go-between between the king or central figure in the solar system, which is the Sun, and all of the rest of the planets from that point forward.
JG: Yes, that’s such a good point. And it’s interesting to think about if we were to imagine literally a king or a monarch or something and a dedicated messenger to kind of capture the king’s message or be entrusted with the king’s message. Think of all the places that person would have access to, all the information–the really important and maybe even sacred information that person would have access to and responsibility for–and how important those journeys would be to deliver those messages.
And it’s interesting to think of that as we think about Mercury being able to pick up on its environment, pick up on these different signs and configurations with other planets, and do well kind of wherever Mercury is in a way. Of course there are places where Mercury does ‘Mercury’ things the very best and then there are places where Mercury is not as good at doing those things, but that may be a slight digression.
But I love that idea of Mercury sort of describing or capturing in language or systems that kind of divine intellect which belongs to the Sun. That’s something I end up talking a lot with clients about actually, the Sun as the sort of divine intellect and Mercury as more of like the ‘thinky’ juice, as Austin would say, or like the brain part that writes it down or documents it or communicates it to someone else, or metabolizes that information in the mind.
CB: Yeah, I think that comes down to that its core function is to transmit or to convey things, to transmit or convey. And it’s like if you understand that as Mercury’s primary function then you understand 70% of the rest of the significations that people like Valens gives, as well as just the distinction between, for example, your Sun sign maybe being one thing, and the Sun representing in some ways your internal monologue and what you think in your own head versus those occasions where sometimes you try to articulate that and say that and whether you’re successful or not; or whether you attempt to say something but it comes out completely differently than how you thought about it in your head; that’s kind of the difference between the Sun and Mercury in some ways.
JG: Absolutely. Mercury is kind of like the, I want to say, mouthpiece, but almost like–this isn’t the perfect analogy–a little machine that the pure thought form goes through in order to make it to the outside world or to someone else or to the page. And I think that’s where we start to see a little bit of Mercury’s sign and house placement as far as a natal chart goes, and how that really has an effect on how that process goes, like what’s pure and in the mind and then how it gets out into the world and leaves your mouth or leaves your mind.
CB: Yeah, and sometimes people have a consistency between how they think and how they speak. So let’s say the Sun and Mercury sign are the same, and there’s like a consistency or they’re on the same page there. But in other instances, you might have somebody whose Sun sign is one thing but their Mercury sign is different; and so sometimes the way that that person communicates might come off differently than how the person is if you actually get to know them and you get to know their inner thinking and inner thoughts.
JG: Absolutely. I remember very early on when I was first starting to really study astrology seriously and I was moderating some subreddits, people would ask questions a lot, you know, the basic question of, “Oh, I don’t feel like a Gemini,” or “I don’t feel like a Virgo,” or whatever; they didn’t really relate to their Sun sign.
And so, often, in those situations, they would post their chart and I would see, let’s say, they were a Gemini, but they had Mercury in Taurus or something. And maybe it was angular so that, number one, Mercury ruling the Sun would be in aversion to the Sun, but also in a totally different sign, in a Venus-ruled sign, or maybe the sign before, but there is a huge distinction. And my first thought of course was aversion because Mercury doesn’t get very far away from the Sun in its orbit, so the chance for Mercury and the Sun to be in the same sign is pretty big, but so is a Sun-Mercury aversion as well.
CB: That’s a really great point. So that’s just a basic astronomical fact that maybe it’s good to state right from the start, that Mercury can never get more than–I’m blanking–28 degrees?
CB: I believe it’s 28 degrees away from the Sun, which means it’s always going to be within one zodiacal sign of the Sun. And there’s a pretty good chance of it being in the same sign as the Sun, but it could be either one sign forward or one sign backwards from the Sun.
JG: Yeah, yeah.
CB: One of my favorite examples of that that I always invoke–and I don’t have his birth time which I’m really annoyed about; I’m pretty sure I don’t have his birth time–is the rapper Eminem; he’s a Sun in Libra, but he has Mercury in Scorpio. And I think oftentimes you hear that Mercury in Scorpio much more clearly in some of his internal stuff; he’s a little bit different.
JG: Yeah, yeah, certainly, and really appropriate for an artist too to have that Libra Sun, but have Mercury in Scorpio.
CB: Yes, and Venus and Virgo actually, talking about Mercury-ruled signs.
JG: All right.
CB: Yeah, I like that. So that’s a really good point, but going back to the idea of Mercury transferring things, that’s part of the reason why one of the primary things that’s always been associated with it is the broad category of communication, as well as speech, because that’s when you attempt to convey something to another individual through words. You’re trying to convey ideas or meanings or intentions or what have you–there’s many different things that you can convey–but it’s the medium through which you convey it, as well as the attempt to convey something; and that’s Mercury and its core function, that attempt to convey something.
JG: Yeah, absolutely. And I don’t know why I’m having–maybe it’s because Mercury is retrograde right now as we’re recording this, but I’m having these memories from when I first started studying astrology and how exciting it was to go from Sun, Moon, and rising to looking at my Mercury sign being, “Oh, communication style,” because that’s so relevant to all of our lives; we’re always communicating more or less with other people.
And it’s interesting how when it comes to communication styles, there are all different kinds; there are as many as there are people. I guess we could say there are some that are better than others, but that’s all very relative; it depends on the situation. If you’re a teacher or something versus a lawyer or a caregiver, it really depends on what the best communication style is for the situation or for the audience.
But that makes me think of what Valens said in that huge range of significations and Mercury adapting to their environment. That really speaks to how you may have four friends and they all have these different communication styles, and there’s not one that’s the best or the worst, they’re just all very different; and I think that has a very mercurial feeling to it just by itself.
CB: Yeah, just the different communication styles that different people have; and so it can typify the way that people communicate and the way people give and receive information. And while there is definitely a sense in which there’s just different styles and there isn’t one that’s better or worse, one of the things that’s interesting is that sometimes when you’re looking at the full birth chart, if there are difficult placements to Mercury, it can indicate if there are challenges or blockages in some way to the person’s communication style or something that they struggle with in attempting to articulate their internal thoughts to the outside world and to convey that or transmit it.
So for example, Joe Biden has Saturn in Gemini, and he had that speech impediment when he was growing up. He had a stutter which he struggled with and had to overcome, but eventually was able to get over it or find a way to work around it. It took a lot of effort, but it was something that was an impediment or something that was a blockage to him otherwise effectively communicating or conveying his internal thoughts.
JG: Yeah, absolutely. And I believe you’ve mentioned this example a couple times–well, this is Joe Biden’s chart–the voice actor who played Darth Vader. Was that another really big thing?
CB: Oh, yeah, James Earl Jones. That’s a great example.
JG: Yes, James Earl Jones.
CB: Yeah, go ahead.
JG: Oh, you could probably tell the story better than I did, but I was just gonna mention that’s such a good point, these very real challenges that can occur when there are difficult Mercury configurations, such as a hard aspect from Saturn or maybe a hard aspect from Mars. And this makes me think of just the idea of mitigating factors in general, but before I digress into that, one thing I was thinking about as well is how Mercury can convey different messages in different ways.
And I think, at its core, when we think of Mercury and effective communication, which is ideal and natural for Mercury, if we were to kind of isolate Mercury on its own, we might think of something like memorization or like an Excel spreadsheet, or being able to keep track of all different kinds of currencies or counting money or whatever; and that’s a very dignified Mercury thing in general. But I think what’s really interesting is Mercury’s versatility and ability to adapt to its environment can also give us things like poets and artists when Mercury is in Pisces.
So there’s this question of how easy, or how much ease or difficulty is there in translating what’s in the mind or in the heart into speech and communicating it and how are we doing that. I have Mercury in Virgo. I love writing things down, I love speaking and hopefully doing so clearly–no promises on this Mercury retrograde podcast–but there are also very poetic ways of communicating things.
So it’s interesting to me to think about if we were able to completely isolate Mercury, what kind of communication would Mercury really excel at? And then what does it look like when Mercury communicates more creatively or differently in other signs of the zodiac or with other configurations? I think with the hard aspect from Saturn, though, even if it’s Mercury in Gemini, if you have Saturn there too, that really does represent an additional obstacle; but worth mentioning that Mercury can communicate in many different ways as far as creatively and what-not.
CB: Yeah, all great points. It’s bringing up a ton of examples that I’m thinking of, but the first one you mentioned was James Earl Jones, who’s one of my favorite examples. Yeah, you’re right, especially Saturn aspects, because Saturn can tend to block or slow things down or provide an obstacle to things in your chart. And if Saturn is making a hard aspect to Mercury then it can indicate, just broadly speaking, some sort of obstacle or challenge to communication.
And that idea of obstacle or challenge to communication is a pretty broad archetype, and there’s many different ways that that can work out. So one example of that is, like you said, James Earl Jones, who has Capricorn rising, and he has a stellium of planets in the sign of Capricorn, including Mercury, the Moon, Saturn, and the Sun all in Capricorn in the 1st whole sign house.
And Mercury was actually stationing direct pretty much the day he was born, which is really interesting, because stationary planets–planets that station retrograde or direct within 7 days of your birth–are like planets that have an exclamation mark after them in your chart, and they really can tend to stand out. So he’s interesting because he also–because of that conjunction or co-presence between Mercury and Saturn in a night chart–did have a speech impediment early on.
So here’s the Wikipedia page and it talks about from the age of 5 being raised by his maternal grandparents, and then he made a transition to living with his grandparents. And it says: “Jones found the transition to living with his grandparents in Michigan traumatic and developed a stutter so severe that he refused to speak.” And it says: “I was a stutterer. I couldn’t talk. So my first year of school was my first mute year, and then those mute years continued until I got to high school.”
So we’re talking about major blockages to speech and to conveying things. But then you think about how that was eventually something he was able to overcome, because it actually says that: “He credits his English teacher, Donald Crouch, who discovered he had a gift for writing poetry, with helping him end his silence. “Crouch urged him to challenge his reluctance to speak through reading poetry aloud in the class.”
And then of course he becomes, ironically, in quite a turnaround, one of the most iconic voices of the 20th century when he ends up voicing Darth Vader. And there was another actor who played Darth Vader, but then in post-production they went back and James Earl Jones overdubbed all of the lines with his just like amazing deep, rich, authoritative voice. And certainly, that was his most prominent role, but then he also played other prominent roles. Wasn’t he also Mufasa in The Lion King?
JG: I think so.
CB: I’m testing your Disney knowledge right now. I’m putting you on the spot.
JG: That’s like my least-known Disney movie, but that sounds very familiar.
CB: I’m more of an Aladdin guy myself. But yeah
JG: Big same.
CB: Yeah, big same, hard same, okay, but Lion King is still up there. Anyways, his voice becomes like this iconic, late 20th century voice in film and acting and television to some extent. So these obstacles don’t have to be permanent, but it can represent a challenge to communication that comes up in the person’s life. It can be something that they struggle with if Mercury has some challenging placements to it, but sometimes it’s something that they can overcome.
JG: Yeah, certainly.
CB: Yeah, so another one that that reminded me of, when you were talking about positive placements and poets and poetry, is one of my other favorite examples which is Maya Angelou, a famous American poet who has Mercury in Pisces, which is the sign of its antithesis and the sign of its fall or depression; and it’s actually squaring Saturn.
And she also had some challenging issues with speech early in her life, but then Mercury is also closely conjunct Venus in the sign of its exaltation. So Mercury is at 20 Pisces and Venus is at 21 Pisces, and Mercury is applying to a conjunction with Venus. And she actually eventually grew up to be a famous American poet and one of the leading American poets in the late 20th and early 21st century.
JG: Yeah, such a great example.
CB: Yeah, so sometimes challenging aspects can indicate challenges or difficulties in speech, but positive aspects to Mercury can indicate somebody who excels at speech, or in her case, has a particular eloquence or flair or gift at conveying things in a beautiful or interesting way in some sense.
CB: What’s Mercury like in your chart? What’s your situation?
JG: Let’s see, I also was born on a Mercury station, but it was the retrograde station. Mercury is exactly conjunct Venus in Virgo in my chart and co-present with Mars and Virgo; and it’s also conjunct the Lot of Fortune. So there’s a lot going on in Virgo in my chart.
CB: Are you okay sharing it for the video viewers?
CB: Okay, here’s your chart; so Leo rising. Mercury’s at 5 Virgo, stationing retrograde conjunct Venus at 6 Virgo, and Mars at 14 Virgo. Do you experience yourself as a day chart or a night chart? Your Sun’s at 11 Leo. Sorry, your Ascendant’s at 11 Leo and your Sun is at 15 Leo.
JG: Yeah, I think functionally it’s a night chart…
CB: You think so?
JG: …just according to zodiacal releasing consultations I’ve gotten; and just my personal experience, it functions like a night chart. But also, I was born 15 clock minutes before sunrise. It was bright outside.
CB: It’s really close to rising.
JG: Yeah, it’s one of those things where it almost doesn’t matter; there’s so much solar and so much lunar, and then so much mercurial.
CB: Right, and that could lead to another topic. So Mercury is stationing retrograde in your chart; it’s like 20-something degrees away from the Sun. It’s as far as away almost as it can get from the Sun before it turns around and starts heading back towards it, and then eventually makes the retrograde conjunction with the Sun halfway through the retrograde cycle, which is actually the point of the retrograde cycle that we’re at today consequently, as we’re recording this episode which is kind of nice.
Let me actually show the chart for that because I meant to show it earlier. There we go. We caught Virgo rising for starting this election and put Mercury on the Midheaven there conjunct the Sun at 20 degrees of Gemini.
Anyway, eventually your Mercury will station direct by secondary progression. And I always think that’s an interesting thing to pay attention to as an important turning point in a person’s life when Mercury–by secondary progression, either stations direct or retrograde–and sometimes a change in terms of the person’s communication style.
JG: Yeah, absolutely. I’m trying to remember when exactly this happened for me. But while that runs as a background process in my brain, it is worth noting that it’s really interesting that out of all the planets, since Mercury is the fastest, overall, people are more likely to be able to catch a progressed station of some kind with Mercury than with Venus, Mars, or any of the other planets, depending on what part of their cycle they were born in. If you were born pretty near to a station of another planet, you will experience that station as far as secondary progressions go. But I’m trying to do the math quickly in my head.
CB: I just pulled it up.
JG: Okay, great.
CB: I got you. Let’s see, so I’ll animate it in the Solar Fire. So right now, your secondary progressed Mercury is at 26 Leo, but it says down here in the bottom-right that it last stationed 6.7 days ago; so in secondary progressed language that’s 6.7 years ago if we back it up. So 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, there we go. So it stationed direct at 23-ish degrees of Leo back around 2014-2015. How were things going in 2014-2015 for you?
JG: Well, interestingly enough, with Mercury in my 2nd house, I had decided at that point to quit my day job as a manager at a retail place and focus on studying astrology seriously. So it was really about astrology for me, honestly.
CB: Yeah, that makes total sense. And I’ve seen other people–Alan White is like an example I’ve used. He had been in astrology for a while, but when he discovered Project Hindsight, and he discovered traditional astrology, which was like this big moment, a turning point in his life, I think his secondary progressed Mercury was stationing direct or something as well.
JG: Nice, yeah.
CB: Yeah, so that’s a pretty good example of just turning points. So people should check out when their secondary progressed Mercury stations retrograde or direct because that can often be a pretty notable turning point in a person’s life.
All right, so backing up, we talked about James Earl Jones, Maya Angelou, and the potential for either challenges in communication or having some great ability in language. There’s one other poet that I sometimes use; I think it’s T.S. Elliot who has a Venus-Mercury conjunction in Libra on the Ascendant, and who, again, similar to Maya Angelou, had a great ability to communicate in an artistic manner.
JG: Yeah, that’s great.
CB: Let me see if I can actually find that chart really quickly. Do you know of any other poets or anybody like that that has interesting Mercury placements?
JG: I can’t think of any off the top of my head.
CB: Here it is; so T.S. Elliot. So it’s 25 Libra rising, and Venus is at 24 Libra, and Mercury is at 26 Libra. So there’s a very, very tight Mercury-Venus conjunction; so good for artistry in terms of one’s communication and writing style.
Other combinations, though, we talked about Mercury-Saturn. What are Mercury-Mars combinations like? Because that’s another famous or infamous one in traditional astrology especially.
JG: Yeah. Well, thinking about Mercury-Venus combinations, we think about words as a medium for art or creativity. And every time I think of Mars-Mercury combinations, I think about words as weapons, or fighting with the pen rather than the sword. I always think about aggressive communication styles, very assertive, maybe quick to speak sometimes without thinking first, depending on the sign placement, but those are my immediate thoughts. But I feel like you’re about to mention how this is like a ‘theft’ thing in ancient texts. Were you going to go there?
CB: Well, I mean, we could go there, but I like where you’re going, more impulsivity or fighting words. That then actually brings up the Eminem example again because Mercury in Scorpio would be a Mars-ruled sign, and his rap is very aggressive and assertive; he did rap battles and things like that. Rap battles is a great Mercury-Mars archetype combination.
JG: It’s perfect.
CB: Yeah, because Mars is also associated with screams and anger and wars just traditionally on its own, or fighting and battles and things like that. What else? I don’t know how this works out, but curse words or cursing can sometimes be like a Mercury-Mars type thing occasionally.
JG: I can attest to that. I’m being good on this podcast, but otherwise, yeah, that’s a thing for me at least in my experience.
CB: As soon as the recording is off, it’s just like a drunken sailor with you.
JG: Yeah, that’s me. But quickly, that made me also think about the association of Mars with warring and wars and things and Valens’ keywords of ‘strategic’–I’m trying to think of the exact words; I can’t think of them exactly–‘war planning’, or war strategy with Mercury. I think it’s very natural and automatic to think of these ‘hot’ and ‘dry’ Aries significations when we think of Mars, but there’s also the Scorpionic side that is a little bit cooled off, a little bit tempered, that tends towards strategy rather than necessarily being on the vanguard.
And so, when you get a Mars that leans that way with Mercury, you can get individuals who are very incisive, very perceptive, very focused. There’s a relentlessness that can come from Mars, and when joined with Mercury, that can turn into relentless mental focus or being very driven intellectually. One of my favorite rising signs–it’s weird to have a favorite rising sign–just as far as studying charts.
CB: You’re like ranking them in the background.
JG: Yeah, only in the background. But Virgo rising is such an interesting rising sign because you have Mercury ruling the Ascendant, and then you have Mars ruling the 3rd house, which has connections to communication for one, but also just mental patterning and things like that. And these tend to be quite incisive individuals, very perceptive; kind of like detective energy going on. So that’s another interesting, kind of different manifestation of Mercury-Mars sometimes is that drive.
CB: Yeah, you’re getting us into some territory here with Mercury. One of the tendencies for Mercury is a methodicalness, and I think that’s tied into one of the other very broad, overarching, umbrella archetypes for Mercury which is that in addition to being the closest planet to the Sun, it’s also the smallest of the seven traditional planets; and its domiciles of Virgo and Gemini are opposite to Jupiter which is like the largest planet in the solar system.
So one of the major contrasts for Mercury that comes up is that Mercury focuses on very small things, whereas Jupiter focuses on very big things, and part of understanding Mercury is understanding that contrast with Jupiter. But focusing on very small things, sometimes small things are the details, and an ability to focus on the details is definitely a great Mercury trait, especially for Virgo, which is more of a grounded Mercury sign. So it’s like the small things that are tangible, which are definitely the details.
JG: Absolutely. We should talk about Mercury’s domiciles because this is such an interesting way to kind of dig into Mercury significations. But you’re absolutely right; with Mercury’s earth sign, there is this groundedness or a tangible quality. I often find Virgo placements with a sort of attitude of like, “Okay, but show me the evidence. Show me something real. Where’s the data?” rather than a Gemini air focus of like, “Well, let’s just explore it. What if it’s this? What if it’s this? What if it’s both? What if it’s neither? Let’s think of something new?”
There is kind of that more methodical quality with Mercury’s Earth sign that is focused on the details and improvement and sort of tweaking and updating versus exploration, and a lot of that I tie to temperament when I think about it; Virgo being a cold and dry sign. So the element of earth is made up of the two qualities, ‘coldness’ and ‘dryness’; ‘dryness’ being very ‘separative’.
And the main difference that I always think about with Gemini is that Gemini is an air sign, which is made up of the qualities of ‘heat’ and ‘moisture’, and moisture is ‘connective’. And I always think of ‘connecting the dots’ with Gemini or connecting with people, whether socially or conversationally, so there’s this idea of bouncing ideas around with other people with Gemini versus getting down to the details; I imagine looking at every single component of something.
I use this example sometimes: a really good way to figure out how something works is to take it all apart and put it all back together again. I think of those kids who would just take apart their alarm clock and look at all the little parts and see if they could put it back together with all the little screws; it’s a very Virgo, cold and dry approach, and it really speaks to the methodical side of Mercury; that systematic thinking and wanting to understand the small parts rather than the large parts, or the overarching themes, which is more of a Jupiter thing.
CB: Yeah, I love that. I was actually thinking of–I’m blanking out on his name as I commonly do–one of the founders of Apple Computer; not Steve Jobs, but Steve Jobs’ friend. What’s his name? He’s also a Steve.
JG: I literally have no idea. Is it like ‘Light-something’?
CB: No. Founder of Apple who is not Steve Jobs–Steve Wozniak. Let me pull up his chart really quick, because he is exactly what you’re talking about in that he had–he’s actually still around–but he has a Virgo rising chart, with a Mercury conjunct Saturn in Virgo, and he’s like this tech genius.
And even though he got together with his friend who he met in high school, Steve Jobs, and they founded Apple Computer together, Steve Jobs was the big idea marketing guy. But Steve Wozniak was actually the technical guy who was really good at putting together little gadgets and had the technical knowledge and aptitude and programmed some of the early Apple Computers. So that’s a really great example of that just in terms of sometimes what you’ll see is a technical ability, a technological ability with Mercury and Virgo placements.
JG: Right. I love that chart, first of all, especially Mercury with Saturn just like right there in the 1st house.
JG: Let’s take this idea and give it a container and make it real. That’s already sort of a Virgo thing. Let’s make this a real thing, embody it somehow rather than it just being a cool idea. But with Saturn too, there’s this idea of let’s build a sustainable structure for it; let’s make the machine that will actually run this idea. That’s so cool.
CB: Yeah. And what’s funny is Steve Jobs, who is the co-founder of Apple Computers, also had Virgo rising, but his Mercury was in Aquarius in the 6th house; it was actually stationary as well. So again, people with stationary Mercury, as you know, are pretty important or can have really interesting Mercury placements like that, but it was in Aquarius and sort of squaring Saturn.
And he was a little bit more complicated because he could also be very severe in his speech, especially in the way that he talked to and treated employees, which is kind of like a 6th house thing. But there was a lot going on there with this chart, especially with his Jupiter-Uranus conjunction in the 11th house, exalted in Cancer, squared Neptune, and this sort of visionary or far-reaching, far-thinking idea, with that tagline from the ‘90s. “Think different” was one of his things that he was really big on.
JG: Yeah, that’s fantastic. My brain is going nuts over their synastry too. We definitely don’t have to go into that digression, but like, wow.
CB: I know, and especially their 11th house stuff. I always use them for that as an example because they were two friends who both had very positive 11th house placements and it was as a result of their friendship. So it’s Steve Jobs has that Jupiter in the 11th house, exalted, conjunct Uranus, whereas Wozniak has this nice Moon-Venus conjunction in Cancer in the 11th house; and really as a result of their friendship, they became millionaires or billionaires eventually down the line. And even though they didn’t necessarily stay working together–because Wozniak eventually left Apple at one point–still sometimes there can be signatures like that in a chart that indicates friendship is a really important component that will change this person’s entire life at some point, and sometimes it’s just like that one friend that does that for you.
JG: Absolutely. That is too cool.
CB: Yeah. All right, so we’re talking about the Mercury and the Virgo thing: small things, details, sweating the details. Sometimes the downside of that is that the Mercury function can sometimes malfunction, and it can get stuck on the details and obsessing about the details, or not being able to see the bigger picture or to zoom out, but to stay stuck on the details, and sometimes that can be a tricky thing with Mercury at the same time.
JG: Absolutely. I believe Austin used this example at some point, Austin Coppock, the idea that Jupiter is like a telescope and Mercury is like a magnifying glass or a microscope, zooming in on the very small details versus looking up and out into the sky and into space. And I can confirm as a Virgo person that, yeah, getting super zoomed-in on details and being a little bit bogged down by them can be a mercurial thing.
There is such a thing too as just taking it too far as far as trying to break something down into the components. There’s a point where it is valuable to be able to take something at face value, and sometimes an unbalanced Mercury or a super-dignified Mercury or otherwise very emphasized Mercury can get a little stuck in that. And this is just the day I reference Austin the whole time, but I looked over here to my copy of 36 Faces and remembered some of my favorite significations from the Virgo decans; I’m trying to remember which one’s exactly, 1 or 2; either way, ‘a gift for fault-finding’ is a line that stuck in my mind.
Because, again, that cold and dryness is just, “Look at every tiny little detail; break it down and then break it down again,” and that’s a very useful function. It’s good to be able to find the weak links in an idea or in a project because that can guide you toward a solution. But sometimes you’re just nitpicking. Sometimes it just gets to the point where it’s like very hard to find any sort of satisfaction, so that’s definitely kind of a negative experience of a Mercury skill.
CB: Yeah, that’s like a double-edged sword in some sense in terms of it can either be a great strength or it could also be a great weakness. Sometimes that idea of little things can extend to ideas of cleanliness as well, which can sometimes be a good thing, but also can sometimes malfunction or short-circuit and become a fear of small things, which can extend to things like microbes or like germs.
JG: Yeah, absolutely. It’s like the idea that it’s hard to ‘un-see’ or ‘un-know’ something. I know folks with prominent Virgo placements or Virgo rising who once they learned what germs were when they were like kids in school, it’s like they can’t ‘unknow’ it. They’re the people who have that kind of hyper-awareness of that, not in a super extreme way. But Mercury is like, “Oh, no, I’m retaining that information forever. Like that’s yours now forever.” And this line of thinking makes me think of perfectionism as well, just this idea of like, “No, no, if I just tweak it a little more, it’ll be better; like maybe I could actually attain perfection.” That’s kind of a mercurial Virgo-leaning trait as well.
CB: Definitely, especially if it’s combined with Saturn. Because sometimes Saturn can be fear or seeing the faults in things, but Mercury also has that ability to see the fine details, and therefore, see what’s out of place. And if you put like 100 things in front of it, and like one of them is out of place, they can see that one and zoom in on that one thing that’s out of place, and sometimes that will really bother them. And that can be a positive thing or it can be a thing that they obsess over and get stuck on and can’t move past in some sense.
JG: Yeah, absolutely.
CB: Good, I like this. So we’re focusing a lot on the Virgo part of it; I do want to bring in some Gemini stuff. And I’m trying to think of some good Gemini examples, but I’m drawing a blank right now because Gemini is an air sign; it’s much more about communication and much more of conveying things. And one of the only examples I’m finding, that I’m pulling up really quickly right now, is Edward Snowden, who’s a famous Gemini and Gemini rising.
So his Ascendant supposedly is at 12 degrees of Gemini, Mercury conjunct the degree of the Ascendant at 10 Gemini, with Mars at 24, and the Sun at 29 Gemini, so he’s actually got a Gemini stellium. And that’s kind of an interesting one, having Mars thrown in there, because he of course was a whistleblower. So he broke a pact or whatever with being a contractor for the US government and announced that they were spying on people around the world through technology and communication and that was kind of his thing.
So that’s interesting because one of Valens’ significations is the “office of the Herald.” And the herald is kind of like the town crier in ancient Greco-Roman society, where a guy just announces the news of the day or announces the official proclamations or something. But sometimes that can be the role of Mercury, just to announce things or to declare or disclose things; to uncover and put light on things in some sense.
JG: Totally. Yeah, I love that, the herald, or one who proclaims. That’s really, really great for Gemini being an air sign. Because the heat of Gemini, being hot and moist, is that kind of outward-facing or outward-moving energy versus Virgo which is kind of inward-facing or inward-moving or condensing. We could compare the herald with the scribe or something, just copying manuscripts over and over all day in a dark room versus the town herald, literally walking around, proclaiming things to the community constantly; but yeah, that really speaks to that Gemini quality.
And even in a natal context, we can see a little bit of the outward-moving versus inward-moving with Gemini: a desire to connect, a desire to have conversation. And both Virgo and Gemini are mutable signs, but we really feel the mutability with Mercury’s air sign with the idea of exploration or variety or options, multiplicity, trying different things, transforming one thing into another thing. Having kind of a comfortability with being in a state of transition or change is kind of mercurial on its own, but especially so in Mercury’s air sign, I feel.
CB: Yeah, definitely, and that can be really good because there’s, maybe even more than any other sign, a good sense of adaptability for Mercury in Gemini and for Gemini placements in general, the ability to sort of conform to things or go with the flow in some sense, which can be very good in the sense of adaptability and things like that. But also, sometimes the flip-side of that coin can be a feeling of talking a lot or using a lot of words, but it not having a lot of depth behind; sometimes the worst case scenario can be just like talking for the sake of talking.
JG: Yeah, that can be a thing as well. And it makes me think about just the concept of air as an element, thinking about literal air or wind. Air touches everything. It’s constantly in motion, even if we can’t see it. And especially when we think about wind, like a gust sweeping across a landscape, the wind doesn’t stop and go down and permeate the earth and sink lower and lower; that’s what water would do. Air goes broad rather than deep and so does Gemini in a way. And there’s a real strength to that because there’s an ability to kind of gather and evaluate your options rather than getting stuck in one place.
And of course the other side of that is maybe perhaps a tendency to be a little non-committal, or a less kind word would be ‘flaky’. The strength there isn’t necessarily for committing to one thing; it’s in the exploration and in the gathering and evaluating and playing with options, and the curiosity it takes to do that. And curiosity is another very Gemini thing and a mercurial thing as well; a desire to know how something works or maybe to pursue what you don’t know yet.
CB: That is a great segway into my example. I was just searching for my Mercury in Gemini examples, and one that I found that’s one of my favorites started out as a writer–became famous initially as a writer–is Anthony Bourdain, who was born with Leo rising, but he has this great Mercury in Gemini with Venus or in the same sign as Venus in the 11th whole sign house.
And he of course was a chef who cooked for like 10 or 20 years or something, but then in the late ‘90s, he wrote this book, Kitchen Confidential, that just became wildly successful very quickly. And then he ended up starting a travel show and that ended up becoming, in the last two decades of his life, this major thing where he would just travel around the world trying different cultures and just exploring different things.
And I think one of the reasons among many that it touched people was he always had this very poetic way with words and this ability to talk about his experiences and talk about different cultures and people that he was experiencing when he would travel to different countries for this food show in this very eloquent way.
JG: Oh, that’s fantastic. Talk about getting a taste of so many different things and following your curiosity and desire and trying new things, that’s beautiful.
CB: Right, exactly. Yeah, all of that; all the keywords that you were using there were pretty perfect. So I’m trying to think whether there’s other Gemini examples. One of the things I forgot was to keep going through the significations. I know there’s still a few in Valens that we didn’t dwell on, but there’s also like five other authors that we could go through to get more of the ancient and the modern significations if it’s time for that.
JG: Yeah, sure. I mean, one of the ones that I think about too is Mercury and youth; and I know brothers, or what was it, younger brothers was mentioned with Valens. But I think those are mentioned elsewhere as well, right?
CB: Yeah, is the “lord of brothers and of younger children.”
JG: Younger children, yeah.
CB: And then there’s so much other stuff, it’s so dense: all the things pertaining to the market and the craft of banking. In traditional astrology, there’s this mercantile context of Mercury that sometimes gets overlooked in modern astrology. I also love that he associates it a lot with divination and astrology. He says it indirectly but he basically associates astrology with Mercury.
And Mercury was traditionally associated with astrology, and it’s partially because astrologers are seen as being translators who are translating the speech of the stars for the client, and they act as sort of like a go-between between the client and the stars, or between the client and their fate or what have you.
JG: Absolutely. This touches on a couple really core Mercury things, so, one, being a go-between, which we talked about a lot early on; number two, this idea of translation and the connection to language and astrology as sort of a language or something that requires translation in order to communicate; another very mercurial thing.
But divination is really interesting too, and it makes me think of Mercury as ‘psychopomp’; this idea of not only traveling to be the king’s messenger or what have you, but traveling between worlds and having the ability and capacity to do that in ways that perhaps not every planet does; being able to go there and capture and somehow understand or receive this divine information and then deliver it to somewhere else, or bring it up out of the depths. Yeah, there are so many good Mercury significations just in a few little sets of keywords.
CB: Right. Because Mercury in mythology was one of the few gods–as the messenger of the gods who wore the winged sandals–who could actually go to the underworld and come back in order to convey messages.
CB: So you get some of that coming up in the significations of things. Translators. Yeah, translators is a really good Mercury signification, and that’s partially what astrologers are doing. Partially what’s happening is they’re translating from the language of the stars into–at least ideally, in best case scenario–some language that their clients can understand, but that’s also pretty much any other type of translator. Because of that go-between function, you can have somebody that hears one language and then in their head translates that, and then outputs it into another language. So you get both that hearing and understanding and then conveying function all in one.
JG: Yeah, absolutely. It’s like the perfect example, translator in general. And one thing I was going to mention–I don’t think I mentioned it–but also this idea of Mercury’s association with astrology, and astrology being this really intense system. There are a lot of moving parts in astrology.
I mean, I don’t know about anyone else, but it was kind of a big learning curve, at least for me. It took a lot of effort. It took a lot of that mercurial focus because it is so systematic; it can be so methodical. And so, that’s another way that astrology is so mercurial and then it even touches on the divination, as well as translation and communication. I’m like, is astrology the most mercurial thing that exists? Probably.
CB: Yeah, maybe.
JG: Pretty close. It’s gotta be up there.
CB: It’s close. It’s up there. It’s like top ten. And numbers are a thing that’s associated with Mercury, as well as counting. That also is making me think of some of the physiological connections, like hearing. Because translating involves not just communicating in the outward expression of speech, but also the receiving of speech and like how you hear things and whether you hear things well, or whether, again, there can sometimes be an impediment.
So if there’s a challenging Mercury placement sometimes an impediment to hearing can be a very literal manifestation of that. But other physiological connections, for example, that Valens mentions are the hands; and there are people that work with the hands and do things that are methodical. That’s one of the reasons why Valens lists a bunch of significations, like braiding and weaving, as sort of an ancient, literal manifestation of somebody that does something very methodical that’s involving the hands.
JG: Absolutely. And this idea of skill with the hands, like great dexterity, or even like agility, I guess is more geared towards the performer significations; but I love that braiding and weaving, taking all of these multiple threads, multiple parts and skillfully combining them into something more complete or into something new or into a pattern–super mercurial.
CB: Yeah. All right, I just keep going back because there’s so many other cool significations in Valens that tie us back to things, like “those who utilize paradoxes and craftiness in calculations or false reasoning.” So there’s the idea of being crafty or being into paradoxes. I’m thinking of a Rubik’s Cube and that being a mercurial thing of trying to unlock a puzzle or something like that through methodicalness, but then also the flip side of that, of somebody who is crafty or wily or something or tricks you. A funny part of the Mercury mythology or the Hermes mythology is the craftiness or the tendency to play jokes or tricks on people in some way.
CB: Oh, yes, the trickster part of Mercury. Yeah, that’s a huge thing, and I love that. This whole connection with paradoxes makes me think of riddles too; humor and jokes, but riddles particularly because there’s this cleverness or craftiness that goes along with riddles. I gotta admit I’m thinking about the Riddles in the Dark chapter from The Hobbit. Obviously, I’m thinking about Tolkien right now. For those who do not know, I’m a massive Tolkien nerd, but yeah, super mercurial.
CB: Yeah, whenever the Joker is mentioned, I think of Jim Carey’s version of that in the 1990s like Batman, but it also makes me think of things like stand-up comics. A stand-up comic or a comedian is a very mercurial thing because it’s not just communication, like standing on a stage with a microphone and talking, but it’s also trying to be funny and trying to be clever with words or speech and eliciting a laugh from the audience. So a comedian is a very Mercury, and perhaps especially a Gemini type thing.
JG: Oh, for sure. And the idea of feeding off an audience and kind of being able to riff or being able to just kind of roll with it is super Gemini energy, super Gemini behavior.
CB: Yeah, I’ve actually been watching a lot of roast battles recently of comedians in LA and New York; I think Jeff Ross first invented it. But it’s just like getting up on a stage with two comedians, and they have a setup, and they insult each other for jokes in front of the audience. It’s a very Mercury-Mars combination type thing.
Sometimes it’s about who can say the meanest thing a little bit, that hits a little bit too close to home, but the goal isn’t necessarily meanness. The goal is who says the funniest thing that happens to be something that’s also insulting to the other person, and it’s a very funny manifestation of a Mercury-Mars type of combination archetypally.
JG: Oh, my gosh, yeah, that’s perfect, and just like a high energy situation too. I love it.
CB: Yeah, and having to think fast. Sometimes having a good comeback and having to think on your feet is a good Mercury thing in terms of that adaptability and also quick ‘thinking-ness’.
JG: Certainly, like mental agility.
CB: Right, exactly. All right, so I think that’s good for the significations of Valens. Why don’t we jump forward several centuries to the 9th century, to Abu Ma’shar and the Abbreviation to the Introduction of Astrology, which thankfully, like its title, has a much more abbreviated paragraph of significations of Mercury; although a lot of them are very similar to Valens because there’s a lot of continuity between the Hellenistic and the early medieval Arabic tradition.
So Abu Ma’shar says: “Mercury inclines its nature to the natures of the planets and the signs in which it mixes. It indicates youth, younger brothers, love for servants and servant-girls. It indicates divinity, revelation to prophets, trustworthiness, intellect, speaking, rumors; the various sciences: calculation, surveying, geometry, astrology, omens by birds, sorcery, rhetoric, poetry, the art of writing, poetic anthologies; little joy, corruptions to wealth, commerce, receiving and giving, cunning, swindling, slyness; assistance, patience, friendliness with one who is suitable.”
Yeah, so we see a lot of similarities and a lot of overlap, but a little clarity. And it’s actually mentioning some things that we ended up coming up with sort of on our own that weren’t mentioned with Valens, but I like that little one of “cunning, swindling, [and] slyness,” or the notion of slyness.
JG: Yeah, that’s good. I mean, thinking about Mercury as a planet that can kind of go places other planets might not or like this sort of ‘psychopomp’ archetype, that also gives the ability to kind of stay out of the sight of others or do things covertly as well. If one can make these huge, heroic, monumental journeys, that’s a good traveler. And a person or a figure who’s able to do that traveling is probably also able to travel unseen and that’s like another interesting way to think about the cunning/slyness associations with Mercury.
CB: That’s a good point because Mercury actually–again, more than any of the other planets–will also because of its frequent retrogrades frequently ‘go under the beams of the Sun’ when it gets within 15 degrees or so of the Sun, so it will frequently be concealed. And that’s probably where some of that hiddenness or slyness or other things comes into play as well.
JG: Absolutely. I was just thinking the same thing.
CB: I have a diagram somewhere–I don’t think I can pull it up in time, but I’ll find it later–for Mercury and its cycles for being ‘under the beams’. Is there any other thing here, in Abu Ma’shar? I mean, aside from him emphasizing sort of the same thing that Valens did–which he just says: “Mercury inclines its nature to the natures of the planets and the signs in which it mixes”–that was a common thing.
Usually when the traditional astrologers enumerate the benefic planets and the malefic planets, they’ll say Venus and Jupiter are the two benefics and Mars and Saturn are the two malefics. And when they come to Mercury, they just say Mercury will take on the qualities of whatever planets it’s most closely associated with in the chart, and if that’s benefics, it will tend to be more benefic, and if it’s malefic it will tend to be more malefic.
So that shows up in many different areas where Mercury will tend to take on the qualities of the planets that it’s closely associated with in the chart, including in sect. For example, Mercury is said to be neutral and in sect, but that it joins the daytime planets when it’s a morning star and it joins the nighttime planets when it’s an evening star.
JG: Yes. I’m so glad you brought this up because I think about this a lot as far as Mercury being neutral when it comes to sect, and even when it comes to being malefic or benefic and just kind of taking on the qualities of the planet to which it’s most closely configured. Even with temperament, I believe it’s that way. I’m not remembering exactly what the technical procedures are for determining Mercury’s temperament; I think there are multiple factors.
Now I’m not sure where I’m remembering this from, but on its own, Mercury does have that kind of cold and dry temperament. But being so adaptable, if you have Mercury with Mars in Aries or with Jupiter in Pisces, you’re going to get a very different expression and experience of Mercury due to its ability to kind of absorb and take on the beneficence or maleficence or whatever of the planet it’s most closely configured to–it’s super fascinating.
CB: Yeah, it’s a really interesting thing from a technical standpoint with astrology, but then I guess also, it goes back to part of the core archetype of Mercury having this sense of neutrality, of being neutral, and that it can go either way. It almost doesn’t have an inherent moral compass, but it can sort of be talked in either direction in some sense.
JG: Yeah. And especially keeping in mind your episode on the Moon and your episode on the Sun, those two celestial bodies are so archetypally clear when it comes to sect, when it comes to temperament–they’re so iconic. And then even when it comes to malefic and benefic planets, we have the malefics Mars and Saturn tending toward extremes in whatever they’re doing and then the benefits tending toward moderation; and then you have Mercury that’s completely neutral on all of it–it’s so unique.
And I often think about how funny it is that this ultra-neutral, ultra-adaptable planet was like, “You know, for my domiciles and exaltations, I’m just gonna like double down on one of each and just break the entire pattern that the rest of the planets follow and have my domicile and exaltation in Virgo and my detriment and fall in Pisces. Why not?”
CB: Yeah, I like that.
JG: Kind of this wild card almost.
CB: Yeah, ‘wild card’ is a really good keyword for Mercury; there’s a little bit of unpredictability in it. Traditionally, Mercury was almost the one that played the function that modern astrologers tend to give more to Uranus at this point, like unexpectedness or disruptions or things like that.
JG: Absolutely. And speaking of Uranus, we also get more modern associations of Uranus with technology, which I certainly don’t fully disagree with or anything, but if there is a technological planet, it’s Mercury. Systems, components, bits and pieces working together–that’s kind of an aside, but yeah, for sure.
CB: No, that’s perfect. So some Mercury tended to be more of the ’technology ‘planet’ in traditional astrology and that’s still very much relevant, I think. And we saw some of that, for example, with Steve Wozniak and that technological ability, and ability to work with computers; or even Edward Snowden, for example. But part of the reason for that is that sometimes Mercury, especially when it’s well-placed, in its best function can excel at technology.
JG: Yeah, certainly.
CB: I’m trying to find a diagram for sect, but I’m having a hard time, so I’m going to skip that. Why don’t we go back to our significations? Maybe that’s good for Abu Ma’shar. He was pretty straightforward and pretty similar to Valens in terms of traditional significations, and I’m not sure if there’s anything else there that we need to mention.
So we’re going to jump forward to the 17th century–to the very end of ‘traditional astrology’–to William Lilly and his book, Christian Astrology, which was published in 1647. So he breaks it into different sections of what is the nature of Mercury, what kind of people does it signify, and what does it signify when it’s well-placed in the chart versus when it’s poorly-placed. Do you feel like reading some of this? I feel like I’m taking all the reading stuff? Can you see this clearly?
JG: Yeah, I can read some. Okay, so in the section called Nature, William Lilly says of Mercury: “Masculine or feminine, depending on its placement; if in conjunction with a masculine planet, Mercury becomes masculine; if with a feminine, then feminine. By its own nature Mercury is cold and dry, and therefore melancholic. Mercury is adaptable; its influence is beneficial when associated with good planets, malefic when associated with bad planets. Mercury rules the animal spirit and is the author of subtlety, tricks, devices, and perjury.” Do you want me to go on to People Signified?
CB: Here, let’s alternate. I’ll do this one, then you do the next one.
JG: Sounds good.
CB: Okay. So Lilly says: People Signified–and this is in the 17th century’s, so like some of it doesn’t make sense in our context, but just bear with me.
JG: You don’t know any scriveners, Chris?
CB: I mean, I might. I don’t know. Usually they don’t tell me when they are. “Literary men, philosophers, mathematicians, astrologers, merchants, secretaries, scriveners, diviners, sculptors, poets, orators, advocates, school masters, stationers, printers, exchangers of money, attorneys.” That’s a good one, lawyers. Continuing: “[E]mbassadors to emp[o]rors, commissioners, clerks, artificers, generally accomptants.” I don’t know what that means. “Solicitors, sometimes thieves, prattling muddy ministers, busy sectaries, and they go unlearned; grammarians, tailors, carriers, messengers, footmen usurers.” Any questions about that? Any points about that?
JG: Uh, I just have to repeat “prattling muddy ministers” just one more time for the folks in the back.
CB: You’ve met a lot of those.
JG: Just around every corner, right?
JG: Okay, so Mercury’s Manners when well dignified: “When well-dignified, Mercury represents a man of subtle and political brain, intellect and cogitation; an excellent disputant or logician, arguing with learning and discretion, and using much eloquence in his speech, a searcher into all kinds of mysteries and learning, sharp and witty, learning almost anything without a teacher; ambitious of being exquisite in every science, desirous naturally of travel and seeing foreign parts: a man of an unwearied fancy, curious in the search of any occult knowledge; able by his own genius to produce wonders; given to divination and the more secret knowledge; if he turned merchant, no man exceeds him in a way of trade or invention of new ways whereby to obtain wealth.”
CB: Oh, man, there’s so many good ones in there that I want to talk about, and I want to pause. But here, I’ll finish the last paragraph and then we can go back. So then Lilly says: Manners when [Mercury is] badly placed: “A troublesome wit, a kind of phrenetick man, his tongue and pen against every man, wholly bent to spoil his estate and time in prating and trying nice conclusions to no purpose; a great liar, a boaster, prattler, busybody, false, a tale-carrier, given to wicked arts, as necromancy and8 such like ungodly knowledges; easy of belief, an ass or very idiot, constant in no place or opinion, cheating and thieving everywhere; a news-monger, pretending all manner of knowledge, but guilty of no true or solid learning; a trifler; a mere frantic fellow; if he prove a divine, then a mere verbal fellow, frothy of no judgment, easily perverted, constant and nothing but idle words and bragging.” I think he had a grudge against a Gemini or something at one point.
JG: These are like just prime Twitter display names–I’m so sorry.
CB: I know.
JG: All of them.
CB: I want to change my Twitter description to ‘frothy of no judgment’.
JG: I really support that so much.
CB: Okay, so these are really good. What’s funny is a lot of them, it’s hard, because of the 17th century English, to know fully what he’s talking about; you kind of need some of them translated. But some of them are actually still relatable and are still essentially not just what astrologers will say today in the early 21st century, even if they’ve never read William Lilly, but there are things sometimes you’ll see that are actually still true in certain charts today; some of the positive things and some of the negative things.
JG: Yeah, yeah. “A kind of phrenetick man,” I love that spelling, but also there can be this kind of high, nervous energy or high-strung kind of quality with prominent Mercury’s or very mercurial folks. So that stands out to me as something that is still relatable today, that makes sense today. “His tongue and pen against every man,” that’s another one; kind of this idea of being argumentative. Just going beyond wanting to play devil’s advocate and just enjoying disagreement in some way, shape, or form can be kind of a more negative-leaning Mercury manifestation.
CB: One of them that he sort of is alluding to here is spreading rumors about people or talking about people behind their back or something like that; like somebody who talks a lot or talks bad things in some way.
JG: Yeah. And interestingly, on the other side of spreading rumors or falsehoods, he also says, “easy of belief,” which I believe by that he means gullible; so kind of will fall for things or could fall for the falsehoods too. It’s like an interesting other side of that coin too.
CB: Right. There was one in here that was talking about the ability to sort of figure things out on their own or being good at learning things or self-education. And that ties into an episode that I just recorded a couple of days ago with Claire Moon, where we talked about one of the things about being a self-employed astrologer is having to learn, or have many different hats and learn many different things in order to do astrology basically.
You’ve got to learn counseling. You’ve got to learn sometimes like how to run a website or how to record audio or video, or how to use social media 20 other things because there’s so many things built into astrology. So sometimes that can be one of your greatest assets is an ability as an astrologer to teach yourself and to be good at learning on your own without necessarily anybody holding your hand.
JG: A hundred percent. That’s so true.
CB: Yeah. So what are some other things that are good here about Lilly’s significations?
JG: Let’s see. I really love “ambitious of being exquisite in every science” as a way to say really curious about things and enjoys getting good at multiple different things. That’s my new Twitter name.
CB: Curiosity is a great signification of Mercury.
JG: Yeah. And it’s interesting that in that next little part, he mentions “curious in the search of any occult knowledge;” so this sort of interest or inclination towards the occult or mysteries and curiosity in that specific direction as well, which kind of links to astrology and divination.
CB: Definitely, and like uncovering things or uncovering hidden knowledge and having a great curiosity especially. It’s funny that he mentions more explicitly some of the things we were talking about earlier about ‘sharp and witty’ and some of those comedian-like significations that we were talking about earlier. Oh, yeah, there’s the one, “learning almost anything without a teacher;” so learning on your own.
CB: Yeah, all of that’s good. All right, so let’s jump forward then. So that’s like the 17th century and the end of traditional astrology, and then astrology is on its way out in Europe, but then it comes back in the late 19th and early 20th century. And the first modern source I wanted to cite for significations of Mercury is Reinhold Ebertin, in the book, The Combination of Stellar Influences, which was written in Germany in 1940, and he breaks it up into different sections.
He says the Principle of Mercury is the “intellect” and “mediation;” so just right away ‘mediation’ as core meaning or signification of Mercury, which is great. He says Psychological Correspondence, plus or positive is: “Good grasp or understanding of a subject, sound judgment, critical ability, dexterity in expression and in writing, mediation, diplomacy, general intellectual abilities, analysis.” All of that is great.
And then he says negative or minus is: “A lack of understanding and of objective criticism, the tendency to diffuse one’s energy into too many channels, inhibitions in speech and in writing, overdevelopment or weakness of intellect.” Then Biological Correspondence: “The motor-nerves (speech – and hearing organs).” And then Sociological Correspondence: “Intellectual workers, tradesmen, agents, or mediators.”
So all of that is great and very concise and very straightforward; still very clearly tied in with the earlier tradition and expressing that actually pretty clearly and concisely.
JG: Yes, and “critical ability” is mentioned here. And critical thinking is something I bring up a lot with Mercury, and I can’t believe we haven’t really talked about that yet. But yeah, critical ability or critical thinking skills are also very mercurial–I love that.
CB: Yeah, that’s a really good one; the ability to think critically and to question something and to explore it or take it apart. Just like you were talking about taking apart a clock earlier in order to see all the different pieces, it’s like somebody that can do that mentally with a concept or an argument and who can take it apart and see all of its different components and see what the parts are that are working versus what are the parts that are not working.
JG: Right. Another word along these lines is ‘discernment’.
CB: Discernment, yeah that’s a really good one. All right, and then jumping forward to the next excerpt I have. I didn’t use this for the previous two episodes, but a really good one is Steven Forrest, The Inner Sky, which was published in 1988, as like a modern take on astrology. So for Mercury, he says, Function is: “Intelligence, transmission of information, talking, teaching, writing; reception of information: listening, learning, reading, observing.” Dysfunction can be: “Nervousness, rationalization, worry, flightiness, intellectualism, chattering, inconsistency, and hyperactivity.” Key Question: “What are my intellectual and communicative strengths? What are my intellectual and communicative weaknesses?” So we’re going in more of a psychological direction here, but it’s still very much tied in with a lot of those core things that we’ve been talking about up to this point.
JG: Yeah, I love this because it really captures kind of what we might be really focusing in on. If it’s someone learning astrology for the first time, these very relatable psychological functions are important as far as beginning to gain a grasp of what a planet means, and they’re also just very applicable, they’re very straightforward: function and dysfunction. So yeah, these are great.
CB: Yeah. And I like that he’s really focusing on two sides, especially in that first paragraph, of the dual role of both the externalization and sending something out that is a communicative thing versus the receiving function as well, and that Mercury has those two sides to it as we’ve talked about in terms of both hearing as well as talking.
CB: Yeah, so ‘reading’ and ‘observing’ are two additional good ones. All right, and then there’s just one more, which is Richard Tarnas in his 2006 book, Cosmos and Psyche. For Mercury, he says: “The principle of mind, thought, communication, that which articulates the primary creative energy and renders it intelligible; the impulse and capacity to think, to conceptualize, to connect, and mediate, to use words and language, to give and receive information; to make sense of, to grasp, to perceive and reason, understand and articulate; to transport, translate, transmit; the principle of Logos; Hermes, the messenger of the gods.” And that just kind of brings everything full circle at this point in terms of some of those really core concepts.
JG: Yes, I feel like every excerpt that we’ve read through that you’ve shared, Chris, every single time I’ve been like, “Oh, what a great sum up of the last one.”
JG: There’s a lot of great continuity, first of all. But yeah, leave it to Richard Tarnas to really sum it up in these beautiful ways and cover everything and articulate it so well.
CB: Yeah, totally. Was there anything there that we haven’t covered? I mean, he’s really good. The idea of rationalizing things I thought was actually an interesting one in the last two. Sometimes it’s a positive thing, but also Stephen Forrest was mentioning it as a potential downside, which I thought was interesting. There can be a problematic type of rationalization, of rationalizing, let’s say, bad behavior, for example, that could be a problematic function of Mercury.
JG: Yeah, that is a really interesting point because critical thinking skills are very useful. They are these mercurial skill sets that we can’t really argue that they’re useful, but there is a point where it can go overboard. And what I immediately think of is the idea of–well, I immediately think of two things simultaneously because it’s Gemini season.
But one of the things is this idea of sort of ‘solar knowing’; this ‘solar idea’ of something is illuminated, you have clarity, you have a knowing. You have a sense of purpose and the capacity for decisive action. There’s that kind of knowing or understanding and then there’s this rationalizing or this logical approach that’s like, “I’m going to comb through all the details and think this through logically. I’m going to use deductive reasoning,” and those are all very mercurial ways of arriving at clarity and understanding, and I think the distinction is important and interesting to think about.
And when you lean very far to the mercurial, there can be times when perhaps we could say your heart has clarity on something or there is kind of a knowing, but your brain is like, Let’s just think about it more and maybe we’ll arrive at a different clarity that’s less uncomfortable perhaps, depending on what it is.” But that also makes me think of your episode with Demetra and this idea of the mind being in the heart rather than in the brain and that distinction.
So I think when we’re talking about rationalization or ‘overlogic-ing’ things essentially, it can be letting the mind or the brain, the thoughts take over so much that you’re pulled. And this is my segway into the second thing I’m thinking about–kind of out of the body and into the mind. And this is where restless thoughts come in; this idea of the therapist says, “Now where do you feel that in your body?” and you’re like, “What? I can describe what I’m thinking.” It can kind of be like a mind/body separation type of thing, which is like, “Okay, I’m fine,” but it can lean a little extreme where that’s when we do get mental loops or racing thoughts, too much Mercury; like that hyper-rationalization or overthinking, those kinds of things.
CB: Yeah, that was me, for example, last night, trying to sleep and just like lying there horizontally, and my brain won’t shut off for three hours under this Gemini eclipse. And yeah, that is something when your thoughts run away with you or that you can’t shut off sometimes that part of your brain is sometimes a Mercury thing in its not-great functioning.
But the first distinction you were talking about makes me think also of a difference between the Moon. We’ve talked about similarities between the Moon and Mercury, but one of the major differences is sometimes feeling something emotionally or feeling something in your heart, or even a sort of moral component to something versus a rational thinking through of something, and sometimes a difference between somebody that can rationalize something. But if they weren’t thinking of it rationally, if they were thinking more with their heart or thinking from an emotional standpoint, they might come to a different conclusion about something.
JG: Yeah, absolutely. Very well said. I’m trying to think of actual analogies, but I’m drawing a blank right now. But I feel like there’s philosophical or moral issues where sometimes people argue from more of a rational standpoint of like, “Oh, well, this is obviously the correct conclusion based on this, this, and this,” and will enumerate all these very tangible, numerical, concrete things versus if you’re approaching it from more of a human or emotional or empathetic standpoint.
Having empathy can sometimes be different. Empathy is more of a lunar function, I feel, because it has to do with almost the adaptable quality of water and the ability to feel other people’s emotions and put yourself in another person’s place, and therefore, develop a sense of sympathy as a result of that, versus Mercury is more keeping things at arm’s length and can sometimes be more dispassionate or sometimes more cold as a result of that; I think that’s part of the rationalization component.
JG: For sure. And what I think about too is the idea of this lunar receptivity when we’re talking about empathy or feeling someone else’s emotions or being able to pick up on that almost on an instinctual level, which is very lunar too–like a body level, like a felt sense–rather than a “I’m thinking this through rationally” sense.
And we could even think about Venus being the relational planet as far as relating, friendship, connection, and unification, that kind of thing. And the Moon and Venus are both moist planets as far as temperament goes. And Mercury can change for sure and adapt to its environment, but is fundamentally dry, which leans towards logic and rationale, and you do sacrifice something when you lean too hard into that. And it’s a great reminder in Valens to have some Venusian or lunar component in order to prevent that or mitigate it if necessary.
CB: Yeah, definitely. And then one last thing, on the more positive side of that, one of the things that was mentioned several times is ‘philosophers’ and ‘philosophizing’. And I always think that’s really interesting because of what philosophy is fundamentally in reasoning or thinking something through. Ancient philosophers could sometimes come to conclusions about the cosmos or about how things work in the world not as a result of direct observation and experimentation necessarily, but as a result of thinking it through logically, and by extension, making not necessarily logical leaps, but just the great ability that the mind has in order to figure certain things out by reasoning, based on first principles or something like that; and that seems like a Mercury function as well.
JG: Absolutely. Yeah, that’s a really good point.
CB: Yeah. All right, well, those are actually all the significations that I had to read through. So that gives a pretty good overview of basically some of the major–obviously, we skipped a lot of astrologers–but some major turning points in the astrological tradition and seeing I feel like a lot of continuity in the astrological tradition between how different authors would talk about different planets, or talk about Mercury in particular. But there seemed to be more continuity than discontinuity in terms of how astrologers have conceptualized Mercury, right?
JG: Absolutely. Yeah, there is plenty of continuity there.
CB: There might be some combinations we haven’t talked about with planets. We talked about Mercury and its connection with benefics and malefics, and its connection with the Sun and relationship to the Moon. One of the interesting combinations though that’s come up more recently in modern times is connections with newly-discovered planets, or relatively newly-discovered planets, such as Uranus or Neptune or Pluto, and that might be something we mentioned really quickly in passing.
Mercury-Neptune, for example, are funny because those are two of the most antithetical combinations, and I think as a result of that often gets a ‘bad rap’. And I know, for example, in forecast episodes, I’m sometimes giving it too much of a bad rap; recently, we had Mercury station retrograde square Neptune. But one of the issues that makes that a difficult combination, especially in hard aspects, is just if Mercury’s core function is to convey things, if I could come up with a core function of Neptune, it would be to make things less clear, or to cloud things in some way. And so, that becomes antithetical because when you put Neptune and Mercury together, it can sometimes make communication less clear for some reason.
JG: Right. Oh, Mercury and Neptune. What I think about so often is this idea of Mercury really likes to make distinctions between things and be like, “Yeah, I took this clock apart, and this is the part that does this, and this is the part that does this,” and Neptune is like, “We are all one. You are the clock.” And Mercury’s like, “What?” It can feel like that mentally. I don’t know if it’s that way for you, but it can feel that way to me, just this idea of distinctions and lines and boundaries being blurred, which can sometimes lend itself to some really amazing, creative juices flowing or like divine inspiration.
But sometimes it can just be really confusing or feel kind of paranoid, or like you’re stuck in a fog. You have this brain fog where it’s hard to do the ‘Mercury’ thing, like discern and think critically and reason something out, figure something out. There can just be sort of like a haze over that with Neptune. This is where certain Neptune significations, like ‘surrender’ really come in handy; just kind of accepting which variables you can and cannot control in those situations where Neptune and Mercury are both involved.
CB: Yeah, definitely. I found recently this amazing–and I’m desperately trying to find this tweet really quickly so I can give it proper attribution. But some astrologer posted how the first time that a scientist took acid ever, Neptune was right on the Ascendant. I thought that was such a brilliant example of Neptune and just like the dissolving of reality and the boundaries of perception and things like that. That’s going to be in my top ten, most literal astrology manifestations ever.
JG: It’s so literal. That’s perfect.
CB: Yeah, I am having trouble finding that really quickly, so whoever found that, shout-out to them. But yeah, on the plus side, Mercury-Neptune can be very good, similar in some ways to Mercury-Venus at creating a sort of false reality or false illusion that can be very aesthetically-appealing and very pleasing in some way, in terms of the speech or ability to communicate having this gloss or this illusion over it that can be very engaging. Yeah, sort of deceptive, but in a positive way; it’s just that the downside can be deceptiveness in a bad way at the same time.
JG: Right. Think about incredible films that transport you to another world or books that transport you to another world; time stops, your reality fades away, and you’re totally immersed. That’s a wonderful Mercury-Neptune combination there, for sure.
CB: Right, definitely. All right, and then Mercury-Uranus combinations, sometimes it brings that quickness because Uranus is also a very fast planet; it can sometimes do things way fast and accelerate it. And when put together with Mercury, which both signify things that move kind of fast, it can accelerate things or move communication and make it even quicker than it was previously in some way; sometimes that’s through technology or technological means.
JG: Absolutely. And I think of changing direction quickly as well. The sort of lightning strike where suddenly you’re going this whole different direction that you didn’t predict, couldn’t have predicted, or couldn’t have seen coming is very Uranian, and then Mercury is a planet that is known for changing direction frequently and that sort of changeability. So when you put the two together, it can be kind of dazzling in that way or frazzling sometimes.
And I think it’s worth mentioning both with Mercury-Uranus configurations as well as Mercury-Neptune configurations that I’m thinking about Mercury’s natural adaptability and how different people experience different combinations and particularly transits different ways. If you are the kind of person with a natal Mercury placement that does lean towards critical thinking and discernment, those Neptune transits might be really uncomfortable for you because they might feel very foreign. If you have a very grounded Mercury, a Mercury-Uranus transit might feel very uncomfortable, like someone plugged your brain into an outlet and your thoughts are racing when you’re used to maybe a little more mental calm.
But yeah, it’s just worth mentioning that because of the huge range of experiences people can have with Mercury, the transits can be sort of similar. If you are a very creative Mercury-Venus conjunction in Pisces person, a Neptune transit might just be absolutely wonderful; you might be writing constantly or creating constantly and feel very attuned and in sync with your artistic side; so just throwing that in there too.
CB: Totally. And I found that tweet.
JG: Oh, nice.
CB: So it was by @spacecaseastro on Twitter, and they wrote: “Today I learned that the guy who invented LSD recorded the time & date he first intentionally ingested his creation. It wasn’t hard to find the location, so I drew up a chart. Please enjoy the amazing astrology of the first ever acid trip.” And it has the Ascendant to 25 Virgo and Neptune at 29 Virgo. And I’m sure there’s other stuff going on in this chart, but that’s the part that I love the most, just Neptune rising because that’s just such a great descriptor of Neptune.
JG: I know; in Virgo, no less. It’s like all these distinctions that you thought were real and concrete, let’s dissolve all those.
CB: Yeah, and your reality just dissolves into this colorful menagerie of different shapes and colors and lights and everything else.
CB: Yeah, and suddenly you can feel light and sound and things like that.
JG: Yes, it’s so good.
CB: Anyway, good times. Oh, yeah, back to Mercury-Uranus. One downside is that with the quickness–or the other side of the quickness is sometimes it can be destabilizing or things move too quickly and are unstable or disruptive in some way, so there can be a disruptiveness to the communication or the communicative quality of Mercury for some reason.
JG: Yeah, Uranus is not really known to be the most stabilizing planet, to put it really mildly; quite the opposite. ‘Breakdowns’ and ‘breakthroughs’ are two words that are very commonly used with Uranus transits; so yeah, there is massive unpredictability when it comes to Mercury-Uranus. But one thing I thought of as well is this idea of originality or inventiveness, like this mercurial curiosity with this Uranian strike of inspiration. Sometimes the thing that came out of the blue that you couldn’t have predicted is like an idea that you could not have conceived of until it hit you or kind of landed in your mind; and Mercury can be a great messenger for that; a great communicator of a great idea.
But one thing to keep in mind too–this is something I’ve heard you all talk about on the forecast episodes at some point, I’m sure–this idea that the outer planets are not like the traditional seven planets; they are beyond in a way. I do a lot of narrative astrology work, so I’m often imagining the planets as figures or people, which I think is really common; I think most people do this to a degree.
But I always imagine the outer planets as perhaps like beings of some kind–like not exactly human, whether they’re supernatural or spiritual or whatever–and there’s this idea that that’s a lot of energy for a human transfusion or transmission or download, whatever you want to call it; a lot of contact with an outer planet can be hard to hold, hence, a disturbance can come from Uranus or whatever. But that’s just something I guess worth mentioning when it comes to Mercury-Uranus and the destabilization. It reminds me of like too much electricity being pumped into something until it just kind of goes boom.
CB: Yeah, I’m thinking of Doctor Manhattan in The Watchmen comic wandering into an area and getting pumped full of electricity and then exploding because his body couldn’t handle it.
JG: Yeah, that.
CB: Something like that. That is what you can feel sometimes under a Uranus transit, but sometimes that can be because you suddenly discover something. Some people have a Uranus transit when they’re discovering something like astrology or something like that and suddenly they’re just overwhelmed by this sudden revelation of this amount of information or a new perspective that they never expected, that suddenly changes the world for them or changes their conceptualization of the world. And that can feel overwhelming beyond what they can possibly handle at that moment in their life, but sometimes it can also rapidly expand your world in a way that you didn’t even realize you could pull off or could handle.
CB: So one last thing is something this is bringing up for me, as we’re going through the outer planets, is it’s just making me think that sometimes one of the core principles of what we’re doing when we’re talking about planetary combinations is we’re looking for areas where there’s similarities or overlap between two-planet significations. Because when there’s overlap then there will be like a doubling-up of the significations, so that it magnifies or exacerbates that tendency.
So for example, two things that we’re talking about here is Mercury’s tendency to move quick and then Uranus’s tendency to speed things up or move very quick; and then when you put those together, it’s just indicating something that moves very, very fast, at like light-speed’ so sometimes there’s combinations that accentuate each other. Other times there’s combinations that are antithetical in some ways, where one of the significations of the planets actually does the opposite of what that planet does.
So for example, Mercury signifying communication and Saturn signifying boundaries or obstacles or difficulties, you literally get an obstacle to communication or a hampering of speech or of hearing or something like that. Alternatively, another antithetical combination is like when we’re talking about Mercury trying to convey something or communicate, whereas Neptune makes things muddy or less clear. And so, what you get is a lack of clarity of communication or a lack of clarity in speech, which is kind of an antithetical thing. So probably a broader, interpretive principle as we’re thinking about going through planetary combinations is just areas of overlap and doubling-up in emphasis versus areas of a canceling out or an antithetical quality and that producing something that’s distinct or that really stands out.
JG: Yeah, yeah, very well said. And this actually reminds me, we haven’t talked much about Mercury-Jupiter. I know we’ve already been talking a lot, but that’s one thing just worth mentioning. Mercury is in its antithesis or detriment and fall in Pisces and in its detriment in Sagittarius, and those are Jupiter-ruled signs. So there’s sort of like a natural polarity between Mercury and Jupiter; Mercury thinking very small, very focused on the details, very focused on reason and logic, and then Jupiter with this broader perspective, thinking in ‘big picture’ terms, thinking about the broad strokes.
And one thing I always think about is Mercury wants to know the data, like, “What’s the information like? Show me the spreadsheet,” and Jupiter is like, “I really don’t want to see the spreadsheet. Like what’s the truth in what you’re communicating? Where’s the wisdom?” They’re both very ‘mind’ planets in their own ways, but Jupiter focuses more on these broader, almost spiritual and religious concepts or scales. It really is a difference in scale, so that’s just something interesting to think about too.
CB: Yeah, that’s a really great point. And more like Mercury has a tendency, with the Virgo and Gemini side, to rationalize things, whereas Jupiter might have more of a tendency to look for the overarching philosophy in some sense, or sometimes even the Pisces function, the more spiritual or religious component to things.
JG: Yeah. That reminds me there’s also Jupiter’s significations of faith and belief, and Mercury leans more towards skepticism and wanting to kind of figure it out or reason it out; so that’s another way that they’re very different.
CB: I’m just doing a quick search through Solar Fire. And just as a digression, this is another reason why having astrology software like Solar Fire is so awesome. I’ve been building up for years just a database, so that when I’m doing talks like this or doing research and I want to know who in my files has Mercury conjunct Jupiter, I could just do a search and it spits out 20 examples of that.
So one great example of a Mercury-Jupiter conjunction in Virgo was the astrologer Tem Tarriktar, who was the founder of The Mountain Astrologer Magazine. And he had Leo rising with Mercury at 2 degrees of Virgo conjunct Jupiter at 6 degrees of Virgo, and he founded in the 1980s a magazine. I think during or just after his Saturn return, he founded a magazine for astrology; so a print magazine for astrology. And I interviewed him at one point, we talked about his life, and sadly, he passed away a couple of years ago. So you can find that in the episode’s archive, the episode for The Mountain Astrologer Magazine.
But that’s a really good example of a Mercury-Jupiter conjunction, and one of the things that he did was he brought this broadness to the astrological community. In some ways, what he did with The Mountain Astrologer Magazine is sort of like a template for what I’ve tried to do with the podcast. Because he would bring so many different voices and such a broad array of different astrologers and have them write articles for or invite them to write articles for The Mountain Astrologer Magazine and bring it into print and sort of make it tangible in this written form every month.
But I think that Jupiter part with Mercury is part of the broadness to where it wasn’t just like one type of astrology, but instead TMA has always been really good at providing a broad overview of the many different traditions of astrology and having evolutionary astrology and traditional astrology and Vedic astrology and whatever as a result of that. So sometimes when the Mercury-Jupiter function is doing well together, it can unite both the ‘small picture’ thing as well as the ‘big picture’ view into one, nice, little combination.
JG: Absolutely. That’s such a great example too, because, I mean, first of all, it’s so very mercurial. It’s an astrology publication; it doesn’t get more Mercury or Virgo than that. But you’re so right. That Jupiter component of inclusion and making sure that the variety displayed highlights the specialness and the gifts offered by so many different kinds of astrologers in astrology, whereas just purely Mercury and Virgo could be really hyper-focused. So there’s that counterbalancing of Jupiter’s broad perspective and understanding what’s meaningful about having that perspective and what’s meaningful about creating that publication, that magazine.
Meaning is a big ‘Jupiter’ thing, where sometimes I feel like Mercury just likes to play and just likes to dabble and mess around and get curious about something. Jupiter brings in that ‘meaning’ component, which just tends to make some really special things, no doubt, with TMA.
CB: Yeah. And another good thing that brings up with Virgo, and Mercury and Virgo, is that it really excels more than anything else in editing. If you’ve ever written something and worked with an editor, just the ability an editor has to see the flaws in what you’ve written and to be able to tell you exactly and precisely what you need to change to improve what you’re trying to convey, it’s one of the most heightened manifestations of Mercury and Virgo placements; that ability to see the flaws in something, but also see how to improve it in order to better convey something.
JG: Couldn’t have said it better myself.
CB: One other Mercury-Jupiter conjunction really quick is Alois Treindl who’s the founder of Astro.com or Astrodienst, which is where most people for like the past 20 or 25 years have gotten chart calculations from. And they also created the Swiss ephemeris, which is like the ephemeris that pretty much every astrology program runs on at this point, including Solar Fire and most apps, like Astro Gold and everything else. So he has Taurus rising and a nice little Mercury-Jupiter conjunction in Aquarius in the 10th house.
JG: Oh, perfect, I love that.
CB: Yeah, and then one last one really quickly. It’s a little bit wider, but another Mercury-Jupiter conjunction that came up for me in my search was Richard Tarnas, who actually has Gemini rising and Mercury is up in Aquarius in the 9th house, and it’s in a conjunction or a sign-based conjunction, a co-presence, with both Venus and Jupiter in the 9th. And I love that one just because he has such a breadth of learning.
In the 1980s or something, he wanted to write a book on astrology which eventually became Cosmos and Psyche, but before he could get there, he realized he needed to write the history of Western thought. So as an afterthought, he published The Passion of the Western Mind in the early ‘90s, and then it became a hit book that was assigned in many Western philosophy courses and things like that.
It’s a great book covering just the history and development of Western, thought but then that was just like a precursor to this big book on astrology, where he tried to make the case for astrology being a legitimate phenomenon by showing how especially outer planet combinations and alignments would coincide with important turning points in world history. And he tried to provide this very ‘big picture’, world overview of how astrology was relevant in the context of Western society. It was also a very thick and very wordy book, which is sometimes something that can happen with Mercury-Jupiter conjunctions, as they can be very wordy.
JG: Oh, yes. That’s great, though, how perfect that stellium is there in the 9th house with the Midheaven, no doubt.
CB: I love that. Yes, and he was a famous, famous astrologer. All right, I think we’re coming to, what, two-hours-and-five-minutes; so that’s a pretty solid discussion about Mercury. And in order to not fully ‘Mercury-Jupiter’ it ourselves, this might be a good time to start winding down. I’m trying to think if there’s anything else I meant to say in terms of the basic meanings of Mercury or anything else, but we’ve covered a surprising amount of ground here, going through like 2,000 years of Western astrology and astrologers discussing the significations of Mercury.
JG: We have, we have. I actually have one question for you. I was trying to figure out what this was from last night, the ‘essential functions’ of the planets–such as the Sun ‘selects’, the Moon ‘collects’–because Mercury ‘destabilizes’ and ‘contests’, right? Where is that from? I can’t remember.
CB: So that was part of Robert Schmidt; Robert Schmidt looked at Valens’ significations. Well, part of it was that Rhetorius of Egypt, in the 6th or 7th century, when he’s talking about the basic meanings of the planets, he talks about the domicile assignments, and he shows how some planets in the domicile assignments are set up so that they have opposite meanings. And so, he contrasts Mars indicating ‘war’ and ‘strife’ and Venus representing ‘love’ and things like that. And then he does a similar contrast of opposites with the exaltations and shows how part of the rationale for the exaltations is that the exaltation lords have opposite or contrary significations or that some of their significations are contrary.
So Schmidt looked at a bunch of the significations in Valens and noticed that there were a bunch of core, opposing significations and came up with a list of core meanings based on that. Those were his oppositions where he showed that Jupiter typically represented ‘confirmation’, ‘the confirming of things’, and ‘stabilization of things’, in opposition to Mercury where Mercury sometimes played a disruptive function of ‘throwing things up in the air’.
JG: Gotcha, okay. Yeah, thank you for that. I think about that a lot with the Mercury and Jupiter kind of–‘opposition’ is not the word I’m looking for, but ‘contrast’: Jupiter affirming and stabilizing and Mercury kind of destabilizing and contesting; the idea of Mercury being the planet that would be like, “Well, how do we know that’s true” or like, “Well, why do you believe in that?” or like, “Let’s test it and see,” and I noticed this in one of my last re-reads of Lord of the Rings.
For those not familiar, Gandalf is essentially the good wizard and Saruman’s like the wizard that turns bad and is a traitor. But Saruman is basically a very mercurial figure in a lot of ways, and there’s a quote from Gandalf where he says, “He who breaks things to find out how they work has left the path of wisdom,” or something to that effect; I’m paraphrasing a little bit. But just that seemed like a very Jupiter-to-Mercury kind of exchange; Mercury being willing to be like, “Well, let’s take it apart, let’s break it and see if we can fix it,” and that being kind of like a destabilizing, curious approach. That can be kind of lacking empathy sometimes, rationalizing, if we want to go back to that signification.
Saruman is thinking, “Well, if we can’t beat him, join him,” essentially, and this idea that that’s leaving the path of wisdom, that’s a very Jupiterian idea: How do we stabilize? How do we affirm? How do we look at the bigger picture and keep a sense of morals and principles, etc., etc.? But I always think of that ‘essential function’ idea from Schmidt and then that Lord of the Rings quote. I couldn’t resist throwing in a Lord of the Rings quote today.
CB: Yeah, totally. And I sort of modified and changed a little bit of the significations of Schmidt’s, but this is what I came up with in my book, Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune, which consequently is available in fine book stores everywhere. So the principle of the Sun is to ‘emit’ and the Moon’s principle is to ‘receive’ and that’s opposite to Saturn’s principle in Capricorn and Aquarius to ‘exclude’ and to ‘reject’. Then Mars and Venus, the principle of Mars is to ‘sever’ and ‘separate’, and it’s opposite to Venus’ principle–in its two signs of Taurus and Libra–to ‘unify’ and ‘reconcile’. And then Jupiter ‘affirms’ and ‘stabilizes’ in Sagittarius and Pisces and is opposite to Mercury’s principle to ‘destabilize’ and to ‘argue’.
Because one of the interesting things about Mercury is also it signifies lawyers. And if you think about lawyers making an argument, and how that’s really the function of a lawyer, whether they’re defending somebody who deserves to be defended. It’s interesting, in the American legal system, how even if somebody did the crime or something like that, the lawyer’s job is still to make the best case that they can to defend that person and to argue the merits of that case as far as they can possibly take it, and that’s such an interesting mercurial sort of role to play.
JG: Absolutely. Yeah, that’s so perfect.
CB: Yeah, so I don’t think these are the only significations of Mercury and that Mercury’s function is only to destabilize and to argue, but that is one interesting sort of contrast that Mercury plays in terms of that and in terms of its function opposite to some of Jupiter’s functions.
JG: Yeah, for sure. That’s a great diagram. Thank you for sharing that.
CB: Yeah, thanks for mentioning that. That was a good thing to mention. All right, well, I think we’ve done it. I think this was a great discussion about Mercury and the significations of Mercury. I didn’t know how this was going to go, going into it. I had to get a little caffeinated before this episode, due to lack of sleep doing this on the day of a solar eclipse in Gemini that happened this morning. But this worked out really well, and I’m really glad that we did it, so thanks for joining me today. Where can people find out more information about you or things that you have coming up or work that you’re doing?
JG: Yeah, you can find me at JoGleason.com; that’s my website. I do offer consultations, but those are closed right now; they’ll be open either mid-to-late July. And you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @justjogleason; that is my name but with ‘j-u-s-t’ before. I’m on Twitter a lot. I got a lot of Mercury and Virgo stuff. So I’m obviously on the ‘bird’ app, so that’s where you can find me.
CB: Oh, yeah the ‘bird’ app. I think there’s like a Mars-Mercury conjunction or something like that in the chart of Twitter. Is that what it is? Am I remembering correctly?
JG: I don’t even know. I don’t even have to confirm; I just believe that at face value.
CB: Just feel it in your bones that that’s a true statement.
JG: I really feel that, yes.
CB: Yeah. All right, well, thanks for joining me for this today. People should check out your website. I’ll put a link to it in the description below this video, on the description page on The Astrology Podcast website.
And you’ll be back again, I guess. Is it next week now or in a week or two, we’re going to be recording the forecast for July?
JG: That’s right, yes. And thank you so much for having me. This was a blast. It’s like my dream to just come talk about Mercury with someone for two hours, so I really appreciate you having me. This was great.
CB: Yeah, thanks a lot for joining me. All right, thanks everyone for watching this episode or listening to this episode of The Astrology Podcast, and we’ll see you again next time.
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