The Astrology of Breaking Down

Today’s article is a story. Not a made-up story, it’s a real-life story, a part of my own story, and it demonstrates, I believe, just how astonishingly powerful astrology is when you are open to its most fundamental principles, when you are fluent (and that’s a potent word in this context) in its language, and how it is a diagnostic and therapeutic tool second to none if you are experiencing life problems.

There is a phenomenon in astrology which I call the cascade effect. I shall quote myself, because I want you to understand the cascade effect, if you don’t appreciate it truly, then you will struggle to harness the power of your nativity: instead, it will remain abstract, disconnected from your reality. So:

Any physical symptom is simply an expression of the astrology at the level of last resort. That psychic impetus that you have not manifested at some level higher-up in the totality of your awareness has – left with no viable alternative – found its way out into the body, and that is the cause of your symptom.”

Meditation or prayer is a powerful tool for healing when combined with astrological self-awareness

So, if you are sick, then there is a problem in your nativity that has been triggered. Of course, for the sake of clarity, this does not mean that if you have caught a cold there is a problem in your nativity; but if you are unusually sick, relative to the statistical norm for people of your age and background, and even, in fact, relative to your own experience. What this means is that if you become ill, and your symptoms are severe, chronic or unusually distressing, then the reason for that problem will be found in your nativity.

That problem will have manifested at different levels too, although, if it has reached the ‘low-point’ of the physical body, then the chances are that you haven’t noticed it manifesting in any of the higher levels, but have no doubt, it will have been there! I have a theory that these problems want to be noticed, simply because the natural impetus of the human soul is toward improvement and purification. Let me use an analogy.

You go and buy a TV, and because you’re short of cash, you buy it on credit. The next day you lose your job, and because you are always a bit short of cash you didn’t get any unemployment insurance, so you miss the first payment on your new TV. A month goes by and you receive a reminder in the post. You ignore it, thinking you’ll soon be back in work and you’ll sort it out then. Another reminder arrives and you ignore that, and the next, and you’re beginning to get a little panicky about it now. The phone rings and you’re screening the calls and it’s the credit company, so you start avoiding the telephone (we’ve all been there right?) A couple of weeks later, you get a really threatening letter telling you you’re going to be taken to court if you don’t get in touch and sort this out.

Now, you can carry on with this story, right up to the point where the bailiffs are kicking in the door and clearing out all your worldly goods, you get evicted and end up living in a homeless shelter; but since I already said this would be a true-story and not make-believe, I’ll leave all that to you.

The point is that your astrology works in exactly this way, except it doesn’t use uneasy feelings, reminder letters, phone calls and bailiffs; rather it uses synchronicity, feelings of discomfort, interpersonal conflict and physical sickness as a direct correlation.

What this means is that the Universe (which from a philosophical perspective is really your nativity) starts making things happen in external reality as a way of trying to tell you that you need to take note of this problem and start dealing with it. We call this synchronicity for easy reference. Astrology is a universal language; Mercury is concerned with an array of factors, from communication at the interpersonal level to nerves and lungs (and so on) at the physical level. Similarly, Mars rules assertion and competition at the interpersonal level and the muscles, the head (and so on) in the physical body. Therefore, if you suffer from neuralgia or frequent toothaches then the chances are that there is some difficult connection between Mercury and Mars in your nativity. This might not be immediately obvious, but here is a list of some possible interconnections:

  1. Mercury in aspect (especially hard aspect) to Mars.
  2. Mercury in Aries or Mars in Gemini.
  3. Mercury in the 1st or Mars in the 3rd.
  4. Having a stressor aspecting the midpoint of Mercury and Mars (e.g. Sa=Me/Ma).
  5. Having both planets in weak positions, thus Mercury in Sagittarius and Mars in Libra, (or even Mercury in the 9th and Mars in the 7th).
  6. Having another planet act as an intermediary: for example having Jupiter in Aries (thus ruled by Mars) in tricky aspect to Mercury. Or vice-versa, having Saturn in Gemini in tricky aspect to Mars.

Now the crucial point here is that this problem will be trying to get itself noticed throughout your life, but like the reminder letters from the credit company, you’ve been ignoring them. What happens next is that you get a (cosmic) phone call, and maybe you start experiencing heightened conflicts in your interpersonal relationships; you’re always arguing with some people (and just what is their problem anyway!) but still you take no notice, you stop answering the phone and eventually, the bailiffs start kicking the door down. AKA: you get sick.

There are  a number of other stages of course: you might get divorced, your car might break down repeatedly (that’s a Mercury problem too), but whatever, ultimately, if you don’t take notice at one of these other levels, eventually you leave the Universe no other option than to give you a really big and obvious hint and make you sick.

Of course, you can go on with this (as with the original story) and ignore the bailiffs too, but now you’re playing a high-stakes game. Your quality of life might be affected or you might be hospitalised: you could even die; and lots of people do, believe it or not, rather than fix the original problem which is sitting there (often plain as day) in their nativity.

So you see, by following the TV bought on credit example, you can begin to understand how your astrology actually works. It would be nice of course if we were able to work out what was wrong even before we got the first reminder letter, and actually, with practise you can. You can cultivate a habit of taking notice of synchronicity, those coincidences that seem too uncanny to truly be mere coincidences and try to interpret what the underlying message is all about, but of course you need to be aware of the universal and symbolic language of astrology before you can understand the message. If you don’t speak the language, you won’t be able to understand the message (you can of course use a good interpreter).

The human body is an energy matrix that is mapped by your astrology

Now, one more note before we move on; the reminders, like the problem that is attempting to get noticed are not random. They are always triggered by transits, directions, and especially – in my experience – Secondary Progressions. What this means is that you can usually find the cause of the sickness if you take a look at the Secondary Progressed nativity at the time the problem was first noticed. It is not always there (but that would be unusual, especially if the problem is serious), but if it is not, then it will certainly be obvious in the transit chart, the progressed Solar Return chart or somewhere else. You will find it if you know how to look for it.

Now, I could provide theoretical examples, but it would be more powerful, and easier, to give a real-life story to illustrate this issue. This article will probably be especially interesting to anyone with difficult aspects between Mercury and Saturn.

In my own nativity, Mercury is peregrine (not classically peregrine, but Ptolemaically unaspected). That means it receives no major aspects. There are only three minor aspects, a quintile (72°) to Jupiter, a semisquare (45°) to Pluto and a quincunx (150°) to Saturn. I have never had the slightest problem accessing the Pluto semisquare, Mercury is in Scorpio and in mutual reception with Pluto in Virgo, and I understand the quintile to Jupiter (I have a fortunate knack for learning: if I want to understand something I will), but I’ve never been especially aware of the aspect to Saturn.

There are two factors to consider here: the aspect, and the quality of the blend. A quincunx is an aspect which fundamentally connotes dissatisfaction: when you try to combine these two energies, you’re never entirely satisfied with the result; it therefore creates a push for perfectionism. Mercury – Saturn on the other hand has plenty of meanings, but fundamentally, it suggests that when you are involved in a communication or exchange of ideas (thus anything from a chit-chat to a formal learning process) there is a feeling of inadequacy, blockage, slowness or frustration. I’d never been consciously aware of any such problem in my life, any dissatisfaction with my communication or ability to learn and as a result I’d never taken too much notice of the aspect before but then, two months ago I began to develop a problem with my shoulder.

As an astrologer, I determined that I really ought to be taking notice of this, because obviously, I’d been ignoring a problem all the way down the line, so I needed to find clues. I thought about it for a few days and went to see the doctor. The shoulder had become so bad by this point that I was practically paralysed, I could hardly move and my every waking moment involved severe pain. The doctor told me that I had a nerve trapped between two vertebrae in my spine and prescribed me powerful painkillers and a muscle relaxant which helped but did not ‘fix’ the problem. I was therefore tasked with translating the problem into the universal language of astrology in order that I find a solution. So, I had: a nerve (Mercury) that was trapped, compressed between two bones (Saturn), which resulted in muscular pain (Mars) for which the doctor (Hygeia) prescribed drugs (Neptune).

So, the trapped nerve immediately made me take notice of Mercury quincunx Saturn. But other events started to make themselves felt.

During the recent Mercury retrograde my car overheated (Mars) and all the water exploded out from a burst pipe in the engine (Neptune and specifically: Mars-Neptune, the explosion of liquids). The next day the temperature dropped and there was heavy snowfall so the water in the engine froze (Saturn), I hadn’t had a chance to put antifreeze in. This resulted in repeated problems with the car; it kept breaking down (Mercury-Saturn). I’ve actually become quite good friends with my mechanic as a result, because he’s had to fix the car (Hygeia) so many times!

So, all the clues are here: we have a Mercury Saturn problem, with elements of Mars, Jupiter, Neptune and Hygeia thrown in for good measure. Now here is my nativity:

As you will see, all of the aforementioned planets are involved in a complicated matrix of hard aspects in my nativity. I was born with this problem. Evidently, I’d managed to ignore the reminder letters, and the phone calls, and now the bailiffs were knocking on my door.

So, what’s the story here? I included the Sun in this picture because it’s relevant.

When I was three months old my father left and I never saw him again (Sun opp. Saturn Rx). My mother remarried when I was 4 and I had never been especially interested in my biological father but through a long course of synchronicities I had finally got to the point where I’d decided to contact him, which I did: just before Christmas. So, for the first time in my life since the age of 3 months, I communicated (Mercury) with my father (Saturn). Shall we call that another coincidence?

So what then is the fundamental problem? As I said before, Mercury – Saturn aspects are all about feeling intellectually inadequate. That would probably seem quite laughable to anyone who knows me well, and indeed, if anyone had told me a year ago that I had a lack of confidence in my intellect I’d probably have found it quite laughable myself, but the more I examined the issue, the more it made sense.

The chakras are the primary energy centres of the human body

My stepfather, whom I love dearly, has always told me how incredibly bright I am, as has my mother. In my stepfather’s case that was all very well, but he is a Cambridge University professor and one of the most supremely intelligent, wise and self-possessed human beings alive on this earth today (which really is no exaggeration). That’s a real legacy to live up to. Upon serious reflection then, I now realise that this first became a problem for me at the age of 14 (when I had my first Saturn opposition, thus triggering the Sun opposition to radix Saturn and the quincunx to Mercury). I fell behind at school after being the highest achieving pupil in my year: and this at one of the best schools in the country. I essentially flunked my exams. Still, my parents persuaded me to go back and take A’ levels, but I lasted almost until the point of taking the exams and I dropped out again. Even still, I went back to school many years later and took A’ levels, this time at 29! The Saturn return: and I got into University as a mature student. I started taking History with Archaeology (how Saturnian is that?) but then decided that it wasn’t for me and switched courses: supremely late, to Computing with Psychology. I got two years through my course and became so discontented that I basically flunked out again.

I am quite sure you are seeing a pattern here.

Sun-Saturn connotes somebody who is not so much motivated by a desire for success as they are paralysed by a fear of failure. They can do quite well in life, but crucially, their efforts are fuelled primarily by not wanting to fail.

Now, the Mercury – Saturn connection provokes a test as does any Saturn connection, there is a looming qualm, an innate inadequacy which the native struggles to overcome, usually through persistent hard work. When connected with Mercury, that test relates to intelligence, one’s ability to learn and communicate knowledge, and it relates very precisely to academic matters, so Saturn here says: are you academically able? The aspect is quincunx, so there is a seeking after perfection, things have to be just right or the aspect nags, like grit in your shoe, demanding that you get it right. But then Sun-Saturn is paralysed by a fear of failure and the primary role-model for success in a man’s life are these exact male archetypes, Sun and Saturn, the living embodiment of which is found in the father or father figure.

So, when your primary father figure is one of the most well-qualified human beings on the planet (and he really is: you could count on one hand the number of people alive today with his credentials in his field, he has taught at Harvard, UCLA and held a professorship at Cambridge) then really, to say that’s a tough act to follow, is an astounding understatement. My younger brother summed it up rather astutely when I saw him a couple of weeks ago when he asked: “what actually is the point in trying to distinguish yourself academically in our family?”


It has dawned on me since that the reason I had always dropped out of education before I really got finished was because then I didn’t have to fail (Sun-Saturn) which meant that I wouldn’t therefore have to feel stupid (Mercury-Saturn). What else was there? Any child only wants to individuate and exceed their parents’ expectation, so what was I going to do, become a double professor?

And that’s when I realised that I had an intellectual inferiority complex. It’s not remotely my stepfather’s fault of course, he is as humble, gentle and kind as the day is long, he would never crow about his achievements – indeed, the only reason I even know that he is a professor, or where he taught is because I’ve read his biography in the numerous books he has had published. It hit me with a kind of kaleidoscopic rush. I can now sense the inner tension that builds as soon as I feel pressured to learn something, and it resonates dissonantly, at the same time, with an inner pressure to achieve that learning goal; to prove myself.

And do you know what happened as soon as I realised this?

The pain began to subside. Well, I have a lot of work to do and it will probably take many weeks to fix myself for good, but I feel as though I am on the mend.

Understanding this, let us revisit the story of my car:

During the recent Mercury retrograde my car went through numerous cycles of overheating and freezing (Mars – Saturn: Saturn is in Aries thus ruled by Mars), Mercury was retrograde (breakdowns) and in Capricorn (thus ruled by Saturn). The Sun – Saturn opposition points to a congenital weakness, my mechanic tells me that I bought the car with this problem (on Ebay), and of course, the mechanic himself is represented by Hygeia which is the apex point of a tee square from the Sun – Saturn opposition.

It was when I looked at my Secondary Progressed chart that I decided to just buy a new car, I had already thrown away a small fortune on trying to get the old one fixed.

There are a number of remarkable features here. Before I explain though let me tell you a little about progressed Mercury. I was born with Mercury at 7 Scorpio, unaspected. Mercury continued to progress direct through Scorpio until 1984 – the year I first took my high school exams – when it turned retrograde. It moved back through Scorpio until it had returned to its birth position, when I decided to go back to school and get the exams I needed to go to University. When Mercury was in perfect quincunx to SP Saturn I actually made the decision that I would give up work and go back to school (although it took a while to realise that plan fully). When I experienced my Saturn Return I started University. Mercury continued to retrograde until it reached 1 Scorpio, in 2004. When Mercury came within a degree of the natal quincunx to Saturn (for the 3rd time now) I started to experience pain in my shoulder and the car started to break down.

Quite apart from the rather remarkable fact that SP Mercury has been in Scorpio my entire adult life: and will be until I am well into my 60s, what you will see is that just now, there is a Mars – Hygeia conjunction at the exact midpoint (all midpoints express the two aspecting points) of the Mercury – Saturn quincunx. Hygeia is indeed in exact squile (half-way between the sextile and the square) aspect (75°) to both Mercury and Saturn (don’t laugh, it’s an important and neglected aspect, especially for progressions – as is the squine: 105°). So, the mechanic, the doctor, my health are receiving the tension of needing to fix my intellectual insecurity complex. Mars (overheating, muscles) is manifesting in both the car and my own physical body.

Esoterically I have been reading an interesting book about chakra healing. I meditate most days so I am fairly comfortable with the idea of moving energy around my body, and it’s no coincidence that I’ve always experienced a sluggishness around the meridians in my right shoulder that run up into my neck. I’ve also suffered with a long-standing gallbladder problem (Pluto is on the degree for the gallbladder) and the gallbladder meridian runs up over the right shoulder blade, up the right-side of the neck and on upward through the throat chakra.

Mercury-Saturn of course certainly highlights the throat chakra as an area of potential concern and difficulty (Mercury: communication / Saturn: block). I have had to learn to moderate my communication over the last couple of years, the fallout from my divorce have made that necessary, and in the last few days I am beginning to find the requisite peacefulness of heart to speak my truth without recrimination. The heart chakra, precedes the throat chakra as energy travels up the spine, so the neck problem can only be cured with love and understanding.

What I have learned is this:

I do not need to prove myself to anyone. I am what I am and I live my life with integrity. I try to help people, for no other reason than that it brings peace to my heart to feel their pain easing. Those people who cannot hear me, I forgive, but until they too are able to set aside recrimination and blame I must remove them from my life, in order that I properly protect my sensitive emotional body and the wellbeing of my loved ones. I am learning to say only words which reflect my needs, but without bitterness or anger, balanced with the needs of those around me.

Over the coming days and weeks I will be writing to all those people that I have blamed so that I can express my regret and forgiveness.

That is the path to healing.

Mercury Pluto: Insight or Inquisition?


Continuing with my current theme of analysing Pluto contacts to personal planets, today I wish to look in detail at the Mercury – Pluto combination, which in keeping with all applications of Pluto evinces a range of difficult effects, most especially because until the behaviour is recognised and reconciled it creates a compulsion, which will be especially uncomfortable for the subject. Inevitably this difficulty and discomfort will affect important relationships too and ultimately – as with any Plutonic contact – the aspect must be transformed to prevent it becoming ultimately destructive. Aspects to Pluto from any of the personal planets are profoundly problematical, but as ever, the first and most effective step on the path to cure must be to recognise the behaviours and take responsibility for them. Owning up to our Plutonic compulsions, shining light upon them – uncomfortable though it may be – is often powerfully effective in transforming them: indeed, in many cases an “instant cure” is entirely possible.

Mercury Pluto, in keeping with other applications of Lord Hades deals with hidden, sinister and subtle aspects of communication and of course the mental processes that underpin them. Indeed, the entire arena of interpersonal communications is fraught for Mercury – Pluto, usually because of an early childhood that is characterised by difficulty, cruelty or power-games in communication matters. We shall explore these causal themes in the ensuing discussion, but first I would like to examine some of the specific effects.

Mercury Pluto is the aspectual manifestation of Mercury in Scorpio, which is renowned for being either verbose or rather monosyllabic. This implies nothing about the underlying mindset or facility for language or mental processing, but only the willingness or unwillingness to reveal the self. This is reflected perfectly by the aspects between Mercury and Pluto, most especially with the conjunction and to a lesser extent the easy aspects there is a loquacious response to the contact: these people talk, often exhaustively although without necessarily revealing much of substance about themselves. Conversely, those with hard aspects are not likely to give too much away, or at the very least – while they may talk freely – they are never comfortable talking about themselves in a way that is particularly incisive or revealing. In either case it boils down to a profound fear of communication and a sense that somehow words can cause pain and lasting damage. With the easy aspects there is not the same urgent sense of danger, but nevertheless there is a need to control the conversation which is engendered by the same mindset as the individual with the hard aspects. Often the Pluto conjunct Mercury person will talk exhaustively and exhaustingly, and the ‘listener’ will often walk away feeling tired and somewhat overwhelmed by the experience. In any case, the process of communicating, with easy aspects or hard, is uncomfortable for both parties involved in the dialogue.

It should be remembered that any aspect between Mercury and Pluto will evince one or other of these effects. For my own part I am extremely familiar with Mercury – Pluto as I have Mercury in Scorpio, peregrine and semi-square, contraparallel and in mutual reception with Pluto, I can speak from experience as to its effects.

With the hard aspects especially, the sense of difficulty with communication creates an observer rather than a participator. Here is somebody who is aware of every subtle nuance of communication and is typically deeply distrustful of words. Usually it will be found that Mercury – Pluto grew up in an environment where truth was taboo, and one or both parents will have been the murky wellspring from which this skewed sense of things was first experienced. It is also possible that an older brother or sister was the cause of the problem or some difficult secret in connection with that sibling or one that haunted and tainted the family environment in some way might be found to be in evidence. On a fairly simplistic level, the Mercury Pluto child will have learned early on that words were not to be trusted at face value. The resentful and controlling mother who would tell her child: “of course I love you darling, more than anything in the world” while evincing no genuine or believable warmth is one good example of this effect. There is then a dichotomy here, between words and more subtle forms of non-verbal communication that have poisoned the child’s perceptions. Body language, ever a reliable indicator of true feelings, is therefore valued much more highly than any simple verbal statement, but this again is fraught with difficulty. The Mercury – Pluto person is formed in such away that they are innately suspicious of any communication: this is very often sensed by others, who feel that they are “on the spot” somehow, and their body language will betray their discomfort which will in turn set off the ultra-sensitive radar of Mercury – Pluto. This can create a cycle of suspicion, distrust and interrogation that is especially exhausting within close relationships later in life.

Therefore, the Mercury – Pluto type is often handicapped in life by being too perceptive and it is through this mechanism of not being able to take things at face value and exhausting oneself and others by continually investigating the most subtle of interactions that the damage is done.

The child learned to do things this way because of the unreliability of close family communications. Language may have been used to damaging effect by a parent or sibling, secrets were kept and wielded almost politically within the early home environment and this actually characterises very neatly the quality of this combination for the afflicted. Words cannot ever mean what they say, there is usually a hidden agenda, an ulterior motive, a secret being kept: indeed this is exactly the case in the childhood home, but the problem is that the child grows up and takes this same understanding out into the world and applies it indiscriminately to every relationship in the whole of life from then on.

But there is a more profound realisation here too. It is not actually so much what is said that concerns Mercury – Pluto, but indeed what is  not said. This creates an anxiety about communication that is really very disturbing: this is why the native talks so much (in the conjunction or easy aspect), not because they have anything much to say, but because they are terrified of the silence and what it might mean. The child will no doubt have been controlled with lack of communication as much as the use of ugly, brutal or cruel language. A parent or sibling may have ostracised or ignored the child as a means of creating an emotional anxiety, or made vague, open-ended threats which would have created a sense of foreboding and impending anguish all with the express purpose of eliciting control.

There is too a legacy of damaging secrets in the early home which would have reinforced this sense of anguish, very often there are half-brothers or sisters who are kept secret or in some other way separate from the rest of the family. There may also have been other secrets relating to siblings which, when revealed created anxiety in the native: I have seen cases where a more favoured sibling is secretly given money or some other treat or benefit by a parent unbeknown to the Mercury Pluto child and when this is learned the assurances by the parent that they love their children equally become hollow and suspect.

At its best, and transformed, Mercury Pluto makes an excellent researcher and psychologist. Able to delve into the deeper and more innate realities of interaction they can often see cause where others cannot; they see the subtle motivations that are in fact pre-cognitive, and in a very real sense they do not need the words to arrive at an understanding. In fact, the Mercury – Pluto person can often be frustrated at the depth of their understanding because words are ultimately a rather blunt instrument when trying to convey the profundity of their insight and this creates another signature of the contact of course: Mercury Pluto despises the superficial and capricious. Intense and insightful, but with a need to avoid obsessing, Mercury Pluto is a natural researcher and student of human nature and motivation, they make excellent counsellors and – once the aspect is transformed – powerful and persuasive communicators who are able to see into the heart of any matter.

Mercury gatecrashes Gemini

I am hoping to use this journal to discuss some of the themes and conundrums that get thrown up by my work as an astrologer, and of course, I like to talk theory and practise, so there will be a few insights into hands-on astrology as well; I have no idea exactly how it will play out, but I am all about serendipity, so let us see where we end up.

I guess the first interesting talking point right now is Mercury. Mercury is currently retrograde in Gemini, a sign in which Mercury normally feels very clever and curious, it’s very much at home there and as the planet which is domiciled in Gemini, those born under Gemini are naturally curious, talkative and quick; mercurial you might say. Interestingly the Greek equivalent of Rome’s Mercury was Hermes, (they both sported a nice line in winged helmets) who was the god of roads; travellers, thieves, athletes and shepherds (among other things). Mercury/Hermes was also a hermaphrodite being considered curiously sexless.

Personally I don’t much get Mercury in Gemini, although I am sure it must be very nice and those I know who have this placement are usually very good company; they can be refreshingly curious, and will talk all night long about this and that, about nothing in particular, although they do it with such good-natured enthusiasm that it’s easy to enjoy it.

Gemini though is quincunx to my own Mercury in Scorpio, which is why I probably don’t really get along too well with Mercury in Gemini all that well; I don’t have much mental energy for idle chit-chat, and actually I would rather make one single penetrating observation that cuts to the heart of the matter and be done with it, than spend an hour flitting from one shiny nuance of a subject to the next. I have plenty of Scorpio though, so I can forgive any amount of Gemini once I have determined that somebody is okay, (but God help you if I decide you’re an idiot.)

But usually, and objectively, I would say that if you are born with a Geminian Mercurius then you can consider yourself fortunate; but I would hope for a well placed Jupiter to add some moral fibre to the mix, because Mercury isn’t the ruler of rogues and vagabonds for nothing. Oh, and shepherds. Not sure what that’s about really.

As we speak, Mercury is retrograde in 17° 52′ of Gemini after it made its station right on my Midheaven. Maybe that’s why I have found my work so frustrating recently, but I cannot very well stop communicating whenever Mercury turns retrograde, I can barely make ends meet as it is! Now, usually Mercury retrograde spells trouble for all matters ruled by Mercury, thus things get lost, stolen or otherwise misplaced, communications are fraught, subject to odd delays and snarl-ups and of course, shepherd’s are going to lose a few sheep, it goes without saying. So, it’s probably not the best time to start a new blog, but there’s a philosophical trade-off in your view of astrology, and I am at least partly wise to it (although that’s a subject for a later post).

In general, advice for a Mercury retrograde – especially if you’re a Gemini – is to take extra time and care over all matters of communication and short journeys in particular; and it might be best to put off signing any important contracts until after Mercury has turned back to its direct station again.

So, what else can we learn about Mercury? Personally I don’t have much like for the planet, not least because it is unaspected in my own chart (along with my Moon in Scorpio) so I don’t connect very well with Mercurial themes; but I think even more than this, I just have no love for the nature of Mercury itself. It is essentially quick, clever and flighty, but more so the flip-side of Mercury is glib, clever-clogs and shallow, it is not archetypally a thing of weight and substance and actually with those who have Mercury combust or under the beams, I usually struggle. I guess I have to be careful what I say now, because I certainly do not wish to tar anyone with a prejudicial brush, but I find those with considerable separation of Sol and Mercurius to be most amenable to listening rather than giving forth, and that, to my Scorpionic faculties is far closer to the divine. I learned this from my father, who was by nature a listener, he had a habit of listening to some self-professed expert for a time and then making a single devastating observation that often had me in stitches at its sublime succinctness. He was a simple man mind, but a powerfully insightful one, and that informed my outlook immeasurably.

My wife and the entire female line of her family all have Mercury in hard aspect to Pluto, mostly squared, but my daughter got the opposition on the 3rd/9th axis. I would say that Mercury by its very nature can be extremely prone to colouration from its contacts; many astrologers consider that it needs contact though to assimilate experience (Bill Tierney makes this exact argument for Mercurial peregrination in his excellent Dynamics of Aspect Analysis (which was bought for me by my good friend Tony) and I would agree, difficult minor aspects and parallels just do not cut the mustard with Hermes) and anything that gets coloured in a difficult way by Pluto has its challenges. In hard aspect Me/Pl gives an element of harsh brutality to the speech; with the square this can manifest as too much intensity in communication, the opposition might provoke negative intensity from others and there is hardly a week goes by when my superstar daughter does not come home from school having been locked in a life and death power struggle with one of her classmates over some ridiculous inconsequence. With Pluto in the 3rd of course it is always going to manifest at school and she has Pluto in Scorpio too which in the third is kind of a double Pluto and double Mercury opposition. That’s the downside because of course, properly balanced it gives astonishing potential to express passion and power and her creative writing is pretty awesome (I’m her Dad, so I get to say so.)

For me I have a mutual reception of Mercury and Pluto and they are also in exact parallel. This is a pretty majestic combination (if I say so myself), my unaspected Mercury struggles like mad and I have to keep a lid on expressing that Pluto otherwise I can lose friends, but actually, I get to think deeply about things which is a side-effect I’ve learned to value. Mercury actually retrograded while applying a degree short of square to radix Pluto, which was interesting, I shall let you know how it plays out once it makes it back over my Midheaven. Maybe then I’ll get some paying work? I hope so!