Mercury Retrograde, Orthodoxy and the Pagan Community

Mercury Retrograde, Orthodoxy and the Pagan Community September 5, 2010

It’s a holiday weekend. A celebration of the labor we do every day, a break from the daily grind. I considered writing a fluff piece today, maybe a bit on “blue-collar Gods” with labor music. Guthrie and Utah Phillips. Something free of the drama mercury retrograde can tease out of us so readily. It’s not to be.

Every mercury retrograde is different and this one seems bent for the jugular. The idea of astrology is that the movements of the stars and planets affect us all. Yet my informal inquiries with colleagues in other faith traditions suggests that we are experiencing mercury retrograde more directly. Why is this?

Perhaps by being aware of astrological influences we are more sensitive to them? Seems counter-intuitive. We should be better able to adjust ourselves to balance out such influences by being aware of them. Perhaps we simply abdicate our responsibility to behave properly to the heavens?

In the first 400 centuries of the common era the many sects Christian faith was at each other’s throats. Had they not banded together in order to Christianize Rome they may have perished altogether, decimated by sectarian violence. While Pagans haven’t engaged in violence against one another lately they do love wars made of words, preferably enacted in the safety and comfort of the anonymous web.

The Celtic triads, the Havamal, the Delphic maxims, the Wiccan laws, the folktales of the orishas and many more sources of traditional wisdom instruct us against hasty speech, against creating enmity and instructs us to be hospitable and mannerly. How often do we fail at heeding such wisdom, especially where the repercussions for our behavior are slight, such as in anonymous online interactions?

I’ve tried to be hyper-alert to my own behavior during this mercury retrograde. I’ve done my best to limit my words and weight them carefully. I’ve also been observing the interactions around me and the reactions of my community to events. I see something that troubles me, something I’ve noticed for awhile but it’s just recently presented itself to me as a real danger. I see orthodoxy blossoming in our communities and it scares me.

When the free discourse and inclusivity of our many traditions is violated by the need to impose and control another’s thoughts and actions, the very foundation of our movement is under attack. While I’m certain the ancient temples talked smack, did the priests of Diana Nemorensis concern themselves with the thoughts and activities of the priests of Artemis of Ephesus? To do so was to descend into something less holy, the role of the streetcorner philosopher haranguing his colleagues.

The need to press your viewpoint upon others is a sign of insecurity. I say this will full realization that in writing I walk the fine line between sharing and imposing. I aim for the first and do my best to avoid the latter. I hope anytime I engage in discussion or debate I am civil and unpersonal. I hope here on Patheos I create space for people to share their views and their stories and their practices in civil good faith whether I agree with them or not. At any rate, that is my goal.

In the final analysis, I think we have no excuse to be as rude, imposing or contentious as we sometimes allow ourselves to be. We are faiths built on personal responsibility and we cannot beg off our impropriety due to astrology, karma, fate or the will of the Divine. We are each sovereign of our own souls. Our actions are governed by Free Will. Instead of being concerned with our fellow Pagans thoughts, we should first order our own. As they say in Delphi: Know Thyself.

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  • Ali

    Well said!

    I wish I had more to add, but it seems Mercury Retrograde is taking its toll on me as well. (And I didn’t even know it was going on until you mentioned it! Any idea when it’s due to be done?)

  • Thanks! It’s in retrograde until the 12th.

  • Till the 12th?!?!?! Eww

    But seriously…I think that you touched on a very important point that I don’t believe is taken quite as deeply as it should. The idea of “know thyself”. It’s very easy to say, and it’s very easy for one’s self to fool into thinking we understand. You are right when you say that the need to impress your own views is a sign of insecurity.

    Young ones in school often feel such a need to fit in with peer groups that they lose the sense of self in order to do so. You have your ones that fully step out of that mold, and yes this is a strong generalization, but that is the process of adolescence. Through that we learn, hopefully, that we need to be our people. We learn that these things are not to last, so we need to develop our selves.

    Though I believe that with the spiritual aspect, comes a whole other level of growth out of adolescence. This, however is harder to measure than a calendar. But even though paganism is “old”, in many senses…it is still new. Hell, people still argue over semantics to such a degree I’m surprised half of us move forward sometimes.

    But back to the issue, with being a new group, many are struggling with the concept of “Where do I belong?” rather than using their spirituality as an extension of themselves. Too many people that introduce themselves with their path attached not to far behind the initial introduction, as if their path defines what kind of person they are. But, I really do think this comes from a need to compartmentalize and see where everyone “fits”. A process not too dissimilar to social compartmentalization in grade school before blossoming out to become young adults.

    After all, to even the most honest, well read, intelligent, wise, *insert virtue here* person…true, deep introspection…can be a devastating thing.

    Then again…we can always go the pessimistic route and say these days, the generations now are just spoiled and self-centered that can’t see beyond their own sphere of reality enough to understand their impact on others. Personally, I’m hoping this is just a transitional period that’s taking a long time. ^.^

  • First off, I can’t say that I noticed this effect, but then I haven’t studied astrology yet so I can’t claim to know much about this. I figured it was just my normal combative personality (something it seems I share with most Asatruar, if the net is to be believed). I shall have to look further into this. How long is it supposed to be retrograde anyways?

    As for the Rise of Orthodoxy, I think I can explain that. Like it or not, most Pagans and Heathens are coming from backgrounds where there are high degrees of orthodoxy in place. While most of us come from Christian nations, even none Christians/Islamic/Jewish religions (or even Atheism and Science) have their orthodoxy. It isn’t always easy for people to leave the hard definitions of such things for the overwhelming chaos of the Pagan/Heathen realm. The fact that as much as we have Gods of Order, we also have Gods of Chaos. Chaos is making a comeback, and in trying times like we are having economically and politically, people like ridged structures to feel safe from the overwhelming possibilities and threats of Chaos.

    A good way to look at this is to watch the rising chaos and fear that marked the rise of the Atomic age at the end of WWII, where women and minorities who had gained a lot of freedom and equality, saw those same freedoms and equalities almost erased as the totality of American society (not just the whites, but everyone) locked down into a ridged society to counter the fear of complete annihilation. It was only after a decade plus of this ridged Order that we saw the Chaos of the Sixties. I think much of what we see today, from Glenn Beck’s Return to God drive to the push for Orthodoxy in the Pagan/Heathen Communities, can be traced to the current crisises facing our nation.

    Another thing to remember is that Mercury (both the planet and the god) are tied up with Alchemical forces. Be it as Hermes in the Greek, or Odin in the Germanic/Norse, I think the effects of Mercury at this time maybe having an alchemical purging effect as well as adding to chaos. Paganism is a fast growing religious group at this time. Lots of people are coming in, some more serious than others. Many are entering it because it is “cool, hip, different, etc” but aren’t interested in recognizing in full what it means to be a Pagan/Heathen. If we liken the rising of Paganism/Heathenism to the Great Working, then just as when forging Iron, or anything for that matter in Alchemy, impurities must be purged so that a more powerful and stronger product will result. I do not think it is our place to do this, we are simply the matter and energy that is being crafted, but I do think the Gods themselves guide this Great Work, and this may be them doing a bit of cleansing and focusing of us, their children, so that in the troubled times ahead, we might prove stronger than those that oppose us, and usher in a new era.

    We keep the Order, We restore the Chaos, We walk with the Gods and Goddesses. Hail to the new rising of all our peoples and their ancient ways.

  • There are various ideas at work in this post…

    I think, though, that a lot of the difficulties on this matter of “emerging orthodoxy” isn’t that such a thing is happening, but instead that there are more people with blogs who are posting regularly.

    What is resulting is that too many people are misunderstanding “writing something” or “saying something” or even “believing something” is the equivalent of “orthodoxy.” It isn’t.

    Granted, if one does write something, it is best if it is internally coherent, well-argued, and perhaps some demonstration of why the writer opted for one position as opposed to another will be efficacious in that process. Saying “I am pagan” implies a manifold number of choices that lead to that one; but it does not (contra Christians and others) mean that by saying one is pagan, one is automatically saying all Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Shinto practitioners, Taoists, and others SUCK. And that’s where the difficulty is coming…

    Take any issue within paganism; take any possible stance on that issue; and then take someone talking about it. All of a sudden, anyone who disagrees in the slightest pops up out of nowhere to say “But don’t you think…” or “Wouldn’t it be better to…” or “Had you considered…” In each of those cases, someone stating an opinion has suddenly been cast as the EVIL ORTHODOXY, and someone else comes along to disagree or oppose that EVIL ORTHODOXY, and in doing so, they often unwittingly play the role of being a COMPETING ORTHODOXY, which very easily then degenerates to the original person thinking the other is the EVIL ORTHODOXY, etc.

    If someone is obsessively afraid of spiders, they may end up seeing them constantly in fearing them constantly, even if there are no spiders nearby. I think that modern paganism, while it has developed a healthy and often critically aware aversion to orthodoxy (due to the religious systems people have come from), now sees it lurking everywhere ready to strike.

    Not every blog post is a street-corner philosopher haranguing colleagues, but that’s the mistake being made in these situational assessments far too often, I think.

  • Khryseis_Astra

    As an astrologer, I would not say that the astrological planets/bodies *cause* anything to happen, but that their movements synchronistically correspond with happenings here below. :) I tend to think of it as a giant cosmic clock, wherein astrology can show us “what time it is” by giving us a symbolic picture of the archetypal themes we’ll be going through.

    This Mercury Retrograde, in the sign of Virgo, corresponds with a general mental atmosphere in which everyone seems to be very picky about everything. It definitely paints a clear picture of how overly critical people are being. The frustration many are feeling is being directed outward, but Mercury RX in Virgo suggests that the more productive option may be to turn that critical eye towards a mirror, and do some work ourselves towards creating the results we want to see, rather than focus on the shortcomings of others.

    Mercury will return to the degree it went Retrograde at on the 27th.