Along the Starry Road

Once upon a time, an overextended friend of mine quoted from a movie he'd seen. I don't recall what movie, but I'll never forget the quote. I may not have the exact words:

I want to be able to think a thought through from one end to the other.

So do I!

The planet Mercury goes retrograde about three times a year, for about three weeks at a time. It went retrograde on Sept. 17th. Astrological newbies may be wondering what that means?

Here's the relative, naked-eye "truth": Mercury appears to slow down, then to stop and hold still briefly (to make a station and be stationary retrograde) before starting to move backward through the zodiac. Three weeks later, it appears to slow down, stop again briefly (another station, this one stationary direct), then start to move forward through the zodiac again. That's called turning direct, which will happen on Oct. 9th.

Here's the astronomical situation: When the Earth temporarily overtakes Mercury in its orbit, Mercury appears to slow, stop and move backwards.

Some astrologers think that we're still "under the shadow" of Mercury retrograde until it passes the degree in which it first went retrograde. I don't. Direct is direct; retrograde is retrograde. Remember that the outer planets are retrograde for a long time, in some cases about half the year. If we included "the shadow" for the retrogradations of Mercury, then by that logic we should include "the shadow" for the retrogradations of all the planets. That inclusion would leave the outer planets retrograde most of the time, and that's not how I've observed that my clients experience them.

So what happens under Mercury retrograde? We've defined it, but what does it mean?

First, what does Mercury mean? In your birth chart, Mercury is the information, perception and experience-processing unit in your head. With pure Mercury, that means data in, data out, without assigning any meaning to the data. There's no such thing as pure Mercury, however. Inevitably, we humans interact with our perceptions, with our experiences, and tend to form opinions about the data that we observe and communicate. The sign, house position and aspects of your natal Mercury say a lot about how your mind works, what you tend to notice, how you learn, how you teach, where your attention goes, how and what you perceive and communicate. People with prominent Mercuries tends to have a busy brain; regardless of their IQ, their minds are active. They're curious. They notice more than the average human, if there is such a person. They thrive on new information and experiences and indeed often crave them.

What about the world outside the birth chart? What does Mercury rule there? All the ways and means in and by which we communicate. Anything written or spoken or read or heard. Schedules. Appointments. Classes. Students. Teachers. Transportation (planes, trains and automobiles). Media. The Internet. Computers. Telephones. Wiring. (I think Uranus rules the impulses that travel along the wiring, but Mercury rules the wires and cables themselves.) Objects that have wires, cables, plugs, on/off switches... Crossroads. Doorways. Windows. (Saturn rules the walls.) Agreements and disagreements. Perceptions and misperceptions. Messages and messengers. The more verbal or ephemeral art forms. Objects that measure time. (Saturn rules time itself.) Eloquence. Persuasiveness. Certainly, when Mercury is retrograde, anything it rules can seem to go widdershins. I advise clients to double check all details of messages, appointments, tickets, etc., and to leave early for wherever they're going. I suggest they don't buy a car or a computer until after Mercury goes direct again, and has left the degree in which it went direct, too.

Mercury was the messenger of the gods. Mercury traveled between the worlds, facilitating communication between the realm of the mortals, the realm of the gods, and the underworld. Sometimes Mercury was involved in the journey of the dead to and from the underworld; in that role, we call it a psychopomp. If we think of the underworld as a metaphor for the unconscious mind, then Mercury's busy in a good therapist's office, facilitating the retrieval of information from the client's unconscious, or helping the client understand information that he or she already has. Psychological growth involves both insight and support. We can't change our self-defeating behavior or work through a loss if we're unaware of it. Mercury aids with how and when insights arise. Mercury retrograde is a great time to dig deep and see how much more we might unearth.

Mercury has another face, that of the Trickster. This archetype has many names in many cultures. Mercury, Hermes, Coyote. Confidence men, flimflam artists, grifters. Magicians and illusionists. How do magicians direct your attention (Mercury) away from their tricks and props (Mercury)? They keep up a patter and provide distractions (Mercury). This planet rules card players, sleight of hand, language and manual dexterity. It rules the shoulders, arms and hands, what we reach for, what we can grasp.

What we perceive or think or know. How we know it. That's Mercury.

We can't pay attention to everything at once in this fast-paced world; Mercury rules our selective attention. More information is available to more people today, at least in the developed world, than ever before. It isn't an information highway so much as it's an information tsunami that drenches us every day. Hurricanes of data streaming down the Internet. Avalanches of information waiting to appear on our computer monitors, our televisions, our radios. I'm amused at the way the phrase "too much information" or "TMI" signals that a listener doesn't want to hear any more, typically because he or she is hearing potentially embarrassing data. Life in the developed world's Information Age means that everyone is dealing with TMI in general, not just the embarrassing kind, all the time.


No wonder it can be so hard these days to think a thought through all the way from one end to the other. But if you never have time to ponder, to work through your understanding of something, to focus, to concentrate, to absorb a complex sequence of ideas, what happens? You're distracted, and distractible. You don't have sufficient time or attention to think deeply, which can be necessary for some information to move from short-term to long-term memory. You don't retain details. Moreover, living like an air traffic controller on speed isn't relaxing. You can become nervous, hypervigilant, even anxious. Whoever first pointed out that the pace of modern life can produce some of the symptoms of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in normal people understood Mercury very well.

I'm using this Mercury retrograde to slow down a bit. Not to stop, just to slow down. Mercury started communicating this need to me in a series of meaningful coincidences. One: I've wrenched my back more than once in the past several months, aggravating an old injury. Result: I've been horizontal on an ice bag for long periods of time. I couldn't be busy, at least physically. So I caught up on most of my email. I'm almost through reading a book I've been asked to review. I'm working on my own writing. Mercury.

Two: Because our electricity, solar panels and air conditioning (Mercury) were all malfunctioning, I had to stay home to let repair people--tradesmen, Mercury-- in and out of the house. Result: Being home allowed me to take a breather and handle some details I'd neglected (Mercury).

Three: When my back improved, I promptly injured my right foot (Mercury, who wore winged sandals) when I stood up and started to walk without realizing how very asleep and numb my foot was. I stumbled and twisted my ankle badly. Result: I had to slow down. I couldn't be as busy, at least physically. And I had the insight that Mercury retrograde was coinciding with circumstances that were helping me slow down enough to think a thought through from one end to the other.

As a friend says, "Deep breaths." If it feels right to you, don't spend so much time online while Mercury is retrograde. Walk, don't run. Turn off the TV. If you can, reduce the demands on your time. Watch where your attention goes when you aren't distracted and interrupted all the time. Give yourself the luxury of time for introspection. You may be surprised at what you learn about yourself.

August 11, 2016. Transits: Uranus is still in the orbs of its station, and Saturn's began on July 27 and is exact on Aug. 14th and lasts until Aug. 30. Thoughts about Mars conjunct Saturn on Aug. 24th, and the building Saturn-Neptune square, which is exact on Sept. 10th.

Unless you've been stranded on a desert island for several weeks, you've had front row seats on quite a show. Uranus, planet of revolutionaries, sociopaths, reformers, cranks, geniuses, crackpots, whistle-blowers, rabble-rousers, Utopian thinkers, anarchists, non-conformists, criminals, radicals (and reactionaries, if sufficiently non-mainstream or at odds with current society), and the freedom-loving and the contrary alike. We've been experiencing its station in Aries, the sign of the warrior, risk-taker, adventurer, athlete, pioneer, hero/heroine, brave man or woman, bully, "me-firster," rageaholic, adrenalin junkie, "s***-stirrer," trouble-maker, drama king or queen, and loose cannon.

Loose cannon. Rabble-rouser. Um, non-conformist . . . Sound like anyone in the news lately? Has there been an outcry over death threats? Discord in the ranks of a certain political party? Heated exchanges of words?

Yes, it does and yes, there have.

Does one of the presidential nominees have a Sun-Uranus conjunction in Gemini in the tenth house? Yes: Donald Trump's been something like a lightning rod for the energy of this station. We can also see its energy around the many incidents of politically or religiously-motivated violence in the world over the past month, including the fact that some of the perpetrators may have been genuinely mentally ill (which can correlate with Neptune).

Saturn's been slowing down since Jul. 27 for its stationary-retrograde exact station on Aug. 14, and we're still feeling the station through Aug. 30th. That's been intensifying the ongoing Saturn-Neptune square which is exact on Sept. 10th. I wrote about that in my June 7th post below. Right now I'd like to add that a striking manifestation of this transit has been meandering around in circles among us, in the persons of Pokemon Go's global (Neptune) players.

Catch those floating monsters (Neptune) that only you and other players can see (Neptune), and you only by the aid of a very complicated and technical electronic device (Saturn)! Become so oblivious (Neptune) to your outer surroundings (Saturn) that you bump into people, hold up traffic, don't notice when you're walking into danger, etc.! There's the square.

This AR (augmented Neptune, reality Saturn) device is earning people millions of dollars, while it amuses and relaxes many of us and annoys or endangers others, who don't appreciate (square) having to keep track (Saturn) of what's happening in pedestrians' virtual space (Neptune) as well as in their physical surroundings. While we may make attempts to regulate its use, Pokemon Go will not be taken off the market. Neptune's strong in its own sign, Pisces, and the AR illusions win.

And now for a bit of odd advice (I'm an Aquarian. You have been warned.): A great many people are feeling overwhelmed today for all kinds of reasons. The news seems to teeter between horrible and surrealistic, the economy could be better, etc. "Reality" (Saturn) can feel too much some days, and on an international level (Sagittarius), not just at home. What's an antidote for Saturn? The Moon, yes; we all need nurturing sometimes. Venus, yes; sometimes we all need empathy and connectedness. And Neptune, in my opinion, because we all need harmless forms of escape sometimes, too. Healthy trances. The movies. A fantastic book. Front row seats to your favorite band. Some extra sleep. A visit with your best friend.

If you're feeling overwhelmed and find some time to relax, then don't stop at lunar and Venusian antidotes, although they can certainly help. During the Saturn-Neptune square, make every effort to go do something that takes you out of yourself (Neptune). Not all the time, but as a deliberate break. You take a breather. You get lost in the movie; you swap stories and laugh with your old friend; you float along with the music. You make art; you cook; you do something that puts you in a state of flow (Neptune). Or you meditate. Or you help someone else, and in helping them you forget yourself long enough to feel refreshed and restored when you pick up your Saturnian to-do lists again.

July 8, 2016: It's Station City just now!

Mars leaves the degree in which it went direct on July 12, so its station is over on July 12. A few more cosmic tomatoes may get lobbed in your direction; be prepared and it's easier to duck them. Stationary Mars can correlate with situations that require you to assert yourself or otherwise respond with courage and strength of will. It can increase your energy (and irritability, and libido), and sometimes contribute to your feeling restless. Go to the gym, carefully. Make that cardio machine your safe "opponent."

During Mars stations, all kinds of chores, activities and events can feel more urgent, dramatic or crucial than they actually are. Don't rush when there's no real need to, as I did. During this particular Mars retrograde, which was affecting key areas of my natal chart, I sprained my left foot and ankle. I slipped sideways / forward off of my platform sandal while carrying a huge basket of laundry. I was trying to save time by cramming a towering pile of laundry into that basket, so that I could make just one trip to and from the dryer instead of two, as if speed were a matter of life and death. But it wasn't. It was a relaxed Sunday at home. Lesson learned!

A Uranus station (direct) started on June 24, is exact on July 29 when Uranus stops and turns retrograde. The (retrograde) station continues until Sept. 4, when Uranus leaves the degree in which it went retrograde and enters the previous degree (retrograde motion goes backward through the zodiac).

Saturn starts its station (direct) on July 27, stops and turns retrograde on Aug. 14, and the station lasts until Aug. 30, when Saturn leaves the degree in which it went retrograde and enters the previous degree.

June 7, 2016
California Primary
Uranus-Pluto square
Saturn-Neptune square
Mars retrograde and stationary

If you live in California, please vote in the primary election today! Thank you.

As usual, a lot's happening overhead.

* Uranus and Pluto are still in the orbs of their transiting square. If you have natal planets between about 15 and 27 degrees of the cardinal signs Aries, Cancer, Libra and Scorpio, you're feeling this slow-moving transiting square particularly acutely. How are you feeling it? Whatever planet Pluto is aspecting represents a part of your psyche that's in an internal review and rebuild process.

Is it your Venus, for example? That's your attitude toward relating (friends and lovers) and creativity, and the people with whom you relate or create. Your relationship/creativity patterns and behaviors. The sign and house of Venus will give you more details and insights about what you need to examine. Go slowly. Feel your way. Watch your dreams. Take your time; Pluto transits last a few years. Talk to someone if you feel it would be helpful. Above all, attend to your feelings and memories; if you have to make time to do so, then make that time. Pluto rules our deep unconscious at both a personal and a transpersonal level, and under its transits, whatever we haven't been dealing with floats up for processing. Since what "floats up" is often something we've repressed (forgotten) or suppressed (are trying not to think about it or haven't thought through yet), and was or is often painful to consider, Pluto transits are not typically our favorites. However, when faced with courage and a desire to grow, they can be immensely strengthening. Clear some of your psychological "clutter," learn a lot, make some changes, and feel better and stronger because you no longer have psychological energy locked up in "forgetting" that clutter. Actually, "clutter" isn't the best word. Wounds. Baggage. Charged issues or situations we haven't dealt with yet, for whatever reason.

Meanwhile in this example, transiting Uranus may be aspecting your Venus, too. Out with the outgrown, limiting, distorting, inauthentic areas of your relating or creative life. And in with the new, with what suits you better. What should leave?That takes time and Pluto and your gut to figure out. A "sudden" insight may have taken years to surface. What seems a "sudden" change you make, or need someone else to make, may have taken years for you to process until you say, "Enough: This can't go on." I suspect that Uranus is very connected to "the last straw." Not everything should change, of course. Some of your relating and creative life is just fine and should remain as it is, if it fits the real, core you. That's what Uranus and Pluto are both there to help you determine.

Saturn and Neptune: Their transiting square is exact on June 17th. We've been feeling this one for a while; their last exact square was in November, and their third and last one is in September. Saturn requires good reality testing, realism, responsibility and practical effort. It rules maturity and the wisdom that we hope accompanies it. It rules priorities, deadlines, deliverables. Neptune encourages letting go of our definition of ourselves as just a body and an ego, "feeling the force," exploring our consciousness, exploring mysticism, and opening to the possibility of other dimensions besides our time-bound, three-dimensional one.

To Saturn, Neptune can seem completely woo-woo, ungrounded, spacy, impractical, even helpless or delusional. To Neptune, Saturn can seem cold, soulless, without imagination, and overly linear, as if Saturn wants to put this mysterious world into the box of a laboratory experiment or an algebra equation.

If you have planets in about three to twenty degrees of Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius or Pisces, you've felt the square for part of last year and will feel it for part of this one. Saturn's saying to the planet or house that it's affecting, "Grow up. Claim your dignity. Claim your authority. Figure out what's broken or needs doing here, and fix it or do it. Yes, it'll take some planning and hard work: Welcome to the real world. If you decide what you need to do to maintain your self-respect and do it, the planning and hard work are worth it."

Meanwhile, Neptune's saying "Trust! Trust God! What does Spirit want you to do with this planet or in this house? How can you open up to the divine here? Those little ESP experiences and meaningful coincidences are coming from somewhere . . . How can you feel more one with all that is?"

Whoever made up the proverb "Trust God, but tie your camel" probably had a natal Saturn-Neptune square. What are you more comfortable doing, trusting whatever you call God/Goddess/the Dharma/the divine, or tying your camel? Which one are you better at doing? How's that been working for you?

Planets in square need equal amounts of time, equal amounts of expression, except when you've been underdoing or overdoing one of them. Then, the less expressed planet has to show up more, and/or the overfunctioning one has to rein itself in more. Trouble happens if one planet in the square tries to take over, or if you completely ignore one of them, or both.

For example, your ashram (Neptune) burns down; where will you live and what will you do (Saturn)? Or, you and your MBA are overworking (Saturn); your relationships, health and ability to rest suffer to the point that you make a stupid, sleep-deprived decision in traffic and have a near-death experience (Neptune). Even if you don't see a tunnel, narrowly escaping death tends to make us question what matters most in life, and what if anything comes afterward. You might decide it's unrealistic (Saturn) to push yourself so hard, and you too deserve an inner life (Neptune). You might take a long hard look at reality (Saturn) and decide you've been idealizing (Neptune) the wrong priorities or people.

* Mars is still retrograde (apparently moving backwards in the zodiac) until June 29th, when the station occurs in about 24 degrees Scorpio. It appears to hold still before slowly changing direction and moving forward ("direct motion") through the zodiac again. What happens with a retrograde inner planet? Everything that planet rules has a tendency to go backwards or widdershins, become complicated, slow down, etc. It's actually a good time to do some deep reflecting on how you deal with what Mars rules: very briefly, your will, your desire nature, your boundaries, how you defend or protect yourself or others, your basic energy level. However, I think we feel retrograde planets as retrograde until the planet leaves the degree in which it went direct and enters the following degree. For Mars this time, that's July 12th, when it reaches the 25th degree of Scorpio. If you have an Aries *or* a Scorpio Sun, Moon, or particularly Ascendant, then you're feeling this astrological event more than the rest of us are. I suspect that people born with Mars conjunct the Sun or Moon or Ascendant, or in the first house, find the stations and retrogradations of Mars particularly noticeable, too. Meanwhile, since Mars and Pluto co-rule Scorpio, I think the Mars station adds some juice to the Pluto-Uranus square. Whatever long-term aspects those two outer planets are making in your chart, the Mars station can emphasize them, trigger them, bring them more to your attention, particularly if you're angry, fearful or sad about something important that Pluto may be excavating or that Uranus may be breaking free. Ditto for the Saturn-Neptune square: the Mars station may trigger stresses related to how you're dealing with the balance of practicality and idealism in your life.

The Mars station starts on June 18th, when Mars starts slowing down before it turns direct on June 29th. The station lasts until July 12th. From June 18-July 12:

* Don't just count to ten. Count to at least thirty.
* People may be more irritable, impatient, stressed, foolhardy, fearful or moody than usual. Make the allowances for them that you'd want someone to make you if you were in their situation, but speak up calmly if you need to.
* Don't chicken out about something major that has a big impact on your life. It's not good for you to agree to something you know is wrong for you or that scares, appalls or hurts you. Don't let yourself be bullied.
* Know what you want or need to do, but you're frightened? Inform yourself. Get some second and third opinions from wise people. Get support. And if you know you must do something, feel the fear and do it anyway.

* Remember that the station runs June 18-July 12.
Expect more than the usual number of setbacks, traffic snarls, petty annoyances, exasperated people, situations where someone needs to be assertive, etc. All around you. It's global. And it's not forever! Think of it as an opportunity to practice the virtues of patience, non-judgmentalness and compassion. (I'm not good at remembering that, either.

Jodie Forrest