Hail Mercury…in Retrograde!

Hail Mercury…in Retrograde! August 29, 2016

The planet Mercury goes into a retrograde period three or four times a year. Much like a square dance where all the partners are swinging around in their orbits in the same direction, the retrograde is sort of like a do-si-do where one dancer appears to spin around backwards. You may notice that communications and travel issues may go a bit sideways when Mercury is retrograde. This will account for some of it.

Curious if Mercury could be in retrograde right now? This website has the answer:

Merkury i Argus, By Rubens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Merkury i Argus, By Rubens [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
While I am loathe to allow planetary movements to be used as an excuse for insensitive communication choices, I do understand it to be a reflection on the largest, most visible scale of how patterns play out among us. These things are correlative, not causative. But, we assuage our frustration by saying things like, “Mercury is in retrograde, so that explains it….” However, there is a very big difference between an excuse and an explanation, and in my opinion, any pagan worth their salt should know better, and act accordingly.


Ignorance is an Option

Which got me thinking about the often-ridiculed science of astrology in general. There are plenty of non-magickal folk in this world smugly declaring that they do not “believe in astrology.” That is usually followed by statements that show how little they understand what it is, let alone how it works.

For example:

Mercury is 48 million miles from Earth, and no mystical “energies” or gravitation can reach that far to affect me. 
Me: Duh.

The ancients may have thought the planets were wandering Gods who ruled over them, but I know better; that hunk of space rock is not a God. 
Me: Again, duh.

Fair enough. Perhaps it is better that some things remain a mystery to the masses, lest we suffer the drivel of (most) fashion magazine horoscopes. <shudder>

But when a pagan says that they do not “believe in astrology,” that there is nothing “occult” about their spirituality, that sounds as ass-backward to me as when a Christian tells me they do not believe in science. They might as well be a flat-earther, or tell me that Jesus rode to temple on his dinosaur; bless their hearts.  Knowledge is power; willful ignorance is weakness, and in today’s world, both are options.

While I’m not an expert in the nuances of astrology (far from it) I consider it my business as a Witch to be knowledgeable about the occult sciences that form the foundation stones of my paradigm. Frankly, there is no avoiding astrology as that information intertwines with everything from elemental magick, sabbat and esbat ritual celebrations, herbal and crystal correspondences for spell work, mythology and lore of the old Gods, to Hermetic Qabalah path working and tarot cards, just to name a few.  Without knowing the “why” behind these systems, you fall prey to superstition and empty religiosity.

Belief is not Required

Astrology does not require your belief; it is part of the IS-ness of the Universe. It simply IS.  It is an esoteric theory, I’ll grant you, but it is also an ancient theory examined and codified by cultures all over the Earth for eons, and while each describes the patterns in their culturally unique way, they end up drawing profoundly similar conclusions.  These refined and elegant systems can bear your experimentation, so that you can examine the results for yourself and draw your own conclusions. Much like the sun being the center of the solar system, or the theories of gravity, evolution or quantum mechanics, the effects still apply to you regardless of your awareness or acceptance.   The first step in any mystery tradition is To Know. So why not empower yourself and seek this knowledge?

"Czech-2013-Prague-Astronomical clock face" by Godot13 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons
Czech-2013-Prague-Astronomical clock face” by Godot13Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Occult May Not Mean What You Think it Means:

Occult: adjective

  1. of or relating to supernatural (metaphysical) powers or practices
  2. not revealed:  secret
  3. not easily apprehended or understood:  abstruse, mysterious
  4. hidden from view:  concealed

~Miriam Webster Dictionary

As usual, Webster uses one of my least favorite words, supernatural. I don’t think anything is above nature, but I’ve written more on that, here.  For me, the Occult is the poetry of the Universe, the metaphors between the physical, mental, emotional selves, and the passions that stir between them.

What is this hokey pokey all about?

Astrology: noun

  1. The study of how the positions of the stars and movements of the planets have a supposed influence on events and on the lives and behavior of people.
  2. The divination of the supposed influences of the stars and planets on human affairs and terrestrial events by their positions and aspects.

~Miriam Webster Dictionary

Again, I take issue with the bias shown through their use of the word “supposed;” that much is implied.  Astrology is a science that seeks to describe the relationship between the patterns formed by the movements of the cosmos, and by the patterns repeating throughout the physical world, and their associated movements in consciousness. These patterns repeat from macrocosm to microcosm, described by mystics and physicists, alike. By reading the patterns we can understand our reality all the way from great shifts of society, to the minutia of relationships, to the inner workings of our personal evolution.

Astrology is a system that you can choose to employ for your benefit, like learning how to read a road map. You can then use that map to keep from getting lost, navigating the landscape of your life efficiently and safely, avoiding accidents and roadblocks, and understanding the uphill slogs. With this knowledge you can get from Point A to the Point B of your choosing, seeing the beautiful sites, avoiding the war zones, and basically being your own, sovereign navigator.

In my opinion, we are each born with an incredibly detailed road map of our current lives, called a natal chart. Sadly, some folks choose never to open that map. They may be paralyzed with fear of the unknown and never stray beyond the fences imposed upon them. Always stuck in traffic, hunted through hostile territory, stumbling down blind alleys, wasting energy on dead-ends, running out of gas like a fool and stranded on the side of the road. Astrology gives us the bird’s eye view and that is a powerful tool to be taken up by the Magus.


Retrograde Motion of Mars / Tunc Tezel / NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day - April 22, 2007
Retrograde Motion of Mars / Tunc Tezel / NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day – April 22, 2007

Perception: Its all in Your Head

The entire phenomenon of Mercury retrograde is about relative perception. We know that the planet Mercury is in orbit, moving in only one direction around the sun, (again, duh), but in our perception from Earth, there are three time periods during the year where Mercury APPEARS to run backwards in a little do-si-do, because we are viewing the orbit on it’s edge. This back and forth, round and round, movement is a repeating pattern throughout nature.

What do Holograms have to do with it?

Why does any of this matter? In moments like these, I think about holograms. Yes, holograms. I love me some holograms in science fiction, like the Doctor on Star Trek: Voyager, and Princess Leia in her impassioned plea to Obiwan Kenobe in Star Wars.  This very cool bit of technology also has it’s place in this tree-hugger’s paradigm.

Holograms are three dimensional constructs of light created by a laser beam being split into two, bouncing off of an object and then intersecting with each other, creating an interference pattern that is recorded on a holographic image plate. It’s kind of like taking it’s picture, except that plate will now have 2D information on it’s surface that is a fractal — an infinitely repeating pattern.  The image plate looks nothing like the original object, but when you project a laser beam through the plate, the object is replicated exactly as a 3D sculpture of light. VOILA!

Here is the cool part:

“What is striking about a hologram is that…light from every point on the object is captured at every point on the holographic plate. This means that the entire image of the object is contained at every point… In fact, when a holographic plate is broken into pieces, each fragment…will still contain an image of the whole object (as opposed to a photograph which only contains parts of the image when cut into pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle).”

The Take Away:

All information needed to recreate the whole, is contained in all of it’s parts, much like all of your DNA information to create a whole YOU is contained within every cell of you. The pattern of information is infinite and everywhere. This is a truth repeated throughout the Universe and is described by cosmometry as “Fractal Scaling.”

The Second Hermetic Principle of Correspondence: “As above, so below; as below so above.”

Meaning that by observing the patterns in the manifest world below, we can understand the nature and mechanics of the unseen realms of Spirit above. This is what witches do so well–we Divine by noticing the patterns in the flight of birds, the repetition of numbers, by dreams and the drawing of cards.

“Fractal scaling is clearly present throughout the cosmos and has been extensively explored…as a means to describe the repeating patterns of plant parts, coastal and mountain contours, river branching, lightning, clouds, wave patterns, etc.”

Physicists describe the entire cosmos as being holographic. Now, I could attempt to discuss the holographic principle of string theory within quantum mechanics…but I am a poetess, and who am I kidding? So here is how physicist Andrew Zimmerman Jones describes the Holographic Principle:

Definition: The holographic principle is a mathematical principle that the total information contained in a volume of space corresponds to an equal amount of information contained on the boundary of that space…

“In Brian Greene’s 2011 book The Hidden Reality, he suggests a tightly-interlocked Holographic Multiverse: the holographic principle envisions that all we experience may be fully and equivalently described as the comings and goings that take place at a thin and remote locus. It says that if we could understand the laws that govern physics on that distant surface, and the way phenomena there link to experience here, we would grasp all there is to know about reality.”

As an occultist, I would suggest that the “laws that govern physics on that distant surface” might be more metaphysical in nature, as they describe the interaction between the physical and non-physical realms, and that by learning to read the information in the largest patterns, like astrology, we CAN begin to grasp all there is to know about reality.

I like to imagine this universe like a spiraling, fractal pattern quilt that flows from the Great Mother’s fingers. Or perhaps like a tapestry of super strings woven by the Dream Weaver, that encircle us, much like that “thin and remote locus” that “boundary” of space; that as the love of the two who move as one shine through the pattern on that quilt, that tapestry, our cosmos is formed.

WikiImages /
WikiImages /

Mercury Retrograde

You may be asking, what does Mercury have to do with it?  The planet Mercury is named for a Roman god.  In Greece, he is called Hermes, for whom the Hermetic principles are named.  Hermes has a dear place on my altar, and in my thealogy.  He is known as a trickster god, quick and cunning, eloquent messenger and poet; a god of commerce, communication, and mediumship; he is the messenger between the worlds and the psychopomp that guides the dearly departed to the underworld. He is also the God of transitions, boundaries and thieves. The word “mercurial” is used to mean that someone is erratic, or volatile.  When the planet is perceived as orbiting forward through the skies, those attributes flow freely, when it is perceived to be moving backwards, those attributes suddenly become very challenging.

The Fifth Hermetic Principle of Rhythm: “Everything flows, out and in; everything has it’s tides…” 

So the tide is flowing out, and Mercury is showing us his ass…I mean, his tricksy side. Cue the onslaught of communication gaffs, techno-gremlins and travel mishap.

Cue also the excavation of old dramas that will resurface to finally be resolved, and the inner dialogues you’ve been meaning to hold with yourself, finally getting their due.  Old friends and adversaries tend to seek me out at these times to bury hatchets, and finally clear the air…sometimes decades later.  Mysteries are solved, too, old divinations finally make sense. For that, I am grateful.

It isn’t all bad. “Bad” is only a perception, anyway.  I certainly do not fear these parts of the pattern, nor attempt to deny them. Ultimately, I think retrogrades just drag the truth out of the shadows and force us to look at them in a new, weird light.  That is usually beneficial, even when it sucks. However, careful diplomacy is always a virtue. I prefer to utilize the earthy power of “being silent” and just pay attention and listen carefully for a while, then we can communicate more effectively when Mercury goes direct once more. You see, I read the map, and I know what lies just around this bend in the road. Astrology is mighty handy like that.

A Charm for Mercurial Mercy…

Hail Mercury, of dark cosmic humor,
log me in, accept my password.
Find the WiFi, connect me soon,
hear my prayer and grant this boon:
Run the payroll, transmit the taxes,
upload the work, grant me access.
Trickster Mercury, why the confusion?
Cease the problems, grant a solution!
Take heed of these wishes bade,
even while in retrograde!

Until the next turn in the dance, Hail Mercury!

Good luck and safe travels,

1. For future reference on when Mercury retrograde occurs, check out this website: (back)


About Heron Michelle
Heron Michelle is a witch, priestess, mom, artist and shopkeeper living in Greenville, North Carolina. Connect with her on Facebook: Witch on Fire: Heron Rising Services, and follow her on Twitter @HeronMichelle13. You can read more about the author here.

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