Lessons From Mischievous Mercury

I like astrology because
its a fun way to learn about history
mixed astronomy and mythology
calculated with precision
and a touch of psychology.

If you know me IRL, then you know that I love astrology! It’s just neat. Well, it’s more than just neat, really. Astrology is fascinating for all sorts of reasons! I mean, it’s a tradition that dates back to 2400 BCE. Lasting for 4421 years is pretty darn impressive, in my opinion. Well, that’s just for Western astrology, which can be traced back to the Babylonians. Jyotish, or Vedic astrology, on the other hand, is estimated to be as old as 12021 years old, with some experts estimating that it dates back to 10000 BCE.

Keep in mind, when I talk about astrology, I’ll be talking about Western astrology, since my educational background is in Western Traditions.

Astrology and Mythology

Hellenistic mythology is so interesting! It permeates so much of Western culture, with characters reoccurring throughout art and media even to this day. Can you say Disney’s ‘Hercules,’ anyone?

To this day, high schools and colleges in America alike have students reading Homer, Socrates, Ovid. And consider how many art historical pieces reference Aphrodite/Venus, among other goddesses and gods. Can I get a hell yeah for Hellenism? As an (almost) art historian and a space enthusiast, it only makes sense that I have an interest in Hellenistic Astrology, which uses the Cosmos to tell the stories of Ancient Greece.

Think of it like a cosmic play taking place on the celestial stage. The planets are the characters, the signs are how they’ll be acting (or the mood that they’ll be in), and their location in the sky is the scene/setting that they’ll be acting in.

Mercury Retrograde

Mercury is in retrograde right now. This happens 3-4 times a year, and it just means that Mercury has reached a point in its orbit where, from Earth’s perspective, it appears to be moving backwards in the sky. Associated with the Greek god Hermes, Mercury is the planet of communication, short commutes, commerce, and technology. There are more things associated with Hermes, but we’ll only be talking about these associations today.

It’s no surprise that Mercury is associated with these things, as it revolves around the sun faster/more often than any other planet. Seeing the planet move through the sky so much, of course it would be the Messenger of the Cosmos! Of course it would be good for short travels! And with how fast technology advances? It only makes sense that those changes would be represented by wing-footed Hermes.

Mischievous Mercury

Typically, Mercury Rx(retrograde) is seen as a time to expect more miscommunications/misunderstandings, technical difficulties, and travel delays than usual.

Did you know that Hermes is also known as a trickster! As the story goes, the day that he was born he left his cave and stole some of his brother Apollo’s cattle, leading them away from the fields backwards in order to hide their tracks.

Photo by Jon Butterworth on Unsplash

Apollo eventually figured out what Hermes had done, though Hermes wouldn’t admit it and used his age as proof that he couldn’t have possibly stolen any cattle. He was only a day old, after all! To appease his brother, Hermes invented the lyre and gave it to Apollo.

I absolutely love this allegory! Apollo, associated with the sun, is considered a god of music, poetry, dance, and other things. It makes sense that communication(Hermes/Mercury) would give the gift of music to the day(Apollo/Sol), no?

I’m reminded of this story every time Mercury goes retrograde. The part about leading the cattle backwards is clearly alluding to retrograde’s motion across the sky!

Reminders for Retrograde

What’s my point in telling you all of this? Well, I think there are some valuable lessons in this story! Mercury Retrograde reminds us that people aren’t always honest. It also reminds us that people aren’t always bad, either.

Hermes didn’t steal the cattle because he wanted to hurt Apollo, he just wanted to have a little bit of fun! Plus, he gave the cows back AND gave his brother the gift of the lyre. He also promised to never steal from Apollo again, and they stayed good friends after that.

Mercury Rx is usually dreaded. It’s seen as a time of miscommunications and mishaps. People often report having more technological problems during this time of year, and car troubles, too. People also report being contacted by old friends, exes, and other people who they haven’t heard from in a while more often during this time. Whether or not that’s true, in my opinion, is irrelevant. (Although I have been contacted by more than a couple old friends since Rx started, and that usually doesn’t happen. Just sayin’!)

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Mercury retrograde is a reminder that it’s okay to take a break from commerce/work, errands, and technology (which are supposedly more likely to act up during retrograde). Whether or not you believe in astrology, taking a break never hurt anyone! And who knows, maybe those things start to have issues because we tend to go so long without giving ourselves a break that we get burnt out and sloppy.

Retrograde happens 3-4 times a year, with each Rx lasting around 21 days. It’s a reminder to slow down a little bit, to spend time reconnecting with others and with ourselves. It’s never a bad thing to look back on our past, recognize when we might have unintentionally hurt others, and reconcile. And that means redefining boundaries if necessary! Apollo and Hermes got along great after Apollo made it clear that theft would not be tolerated.


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