We delight in the butterfly...exploring Mercury's role as psychopomp during this retrograde

Once again we are in a Mercury Retrograde period. The planetary messenger stationed and turned retrograde late on Friday, September 9 and will remain there through October 2. 

Often filled with inconveniences and misunderstandings from the banal and trite to the more aggravating, it is a time that even the most astrologically unaware have come to dread. And believe me, I understand. This particular one is dancing across a very sensitive part of my chart and every time I turn around something is breaking down, falling through the cracks or there is some misunderstanding I am attempting to navigate. 

I have to be honest, this was not the blog I thought I was going to be writing even two hours ago. But it is a quiet day with the promise of rain and as I settled after what had felt like a particularly intense two weeks a more poignant mood arose. I realized that I had connected with one of Mercury’s roles that is seldom explored, particularly in connection with his retrogradation: Mercury as psychopomp. 

A psychopompp is a god, spirit, or daimon who is responsible for guiding the spirits of the dead on their journey to the underworld. His role to provide safe passage. The word comes from the Greek  psykhopompos which means both conductor of souls and spirit guide.

One of the roots of the word psyche literally both means soul and butterfly. Like the butterfly we are always transforming aren't we?

Mercury’s role is so underestimated even when he is moving in direct motion, but his retrogradation has been nothing short of well… mythologized. It has become infamous, even the most astrological skeptical now has at least heard about Mercury retrograde and every time I turn around someone on social media is sure he is retrograde when things in their lives are running afoul even when he is not. 

Let’s segue back to his role as psychopomp. We dread Mercury retrograde because in Western culture we have forgotten both the value and the significance of stillness, of going within, of listening and being receptive. Which in my experience where our greatest miscommunications happen, certainly with others, but more importantly within ourselves. Today we thrive on the extroverted energy of Mercury-direct. We are accustomed to messages sent and received with no delay, as Carrie Fisher iconic noted in Postcards From The Edge: “Instant gratification isn’t fast enough.: 

We have come to favor light, the visible, the tangible, the so called logical, the measurable, at the expense of the instinctual, the mysterious, the chthonic. Even our dark skies are disappearing, people can no longer even see the stars in many places.

In his role as psychopomp during a Mercury retrograde he is asking us to allow ourselves to change our mind, to feel our grief whether it is the loss of someone near and dear to us, a breakup or feeling devastated by the hopes and expectations we had of something that simply did not go the way we had hoped. These are all experiences of the psychopomp. And in today’s culture experiences we have a tendency (more starkly stated an addiction) to skipping over because they are uncomfortable. 

According to Carl Jung, the figure of the Psychopomp acts not only as a bridge between life and death,  it is also an intermediary between Conscious and the Unconscious, our inner and outer worlds. Mercury is our archetypal guide to the hidden corners within ourselves. He brings us messages from our dreams, but also from our subconscious, our own personal underworld, where our shadow is kept. The parts of ourselves that we have rejected ironically out of fear of ourselves. It’s worth remembering the symbolism of the caduceus carried by Hermes/Mercury both heals as well as provokes slumber.  

As the God of thresholds and the crossroads Mercury is a liminal guide. He assists us in the navigation between spaces, between worlds. When we are in transition within our lives, it’s Mercury that comes a-calling. It’s to him that we send our prayers for guidance on these new roads.

So how do we cross over?

This retrograde takes place in the sign of Libra ( though it is backing down into Virgo - more on that later) so no matter where it falls within your chart the mirror of relationships is being activated. 

Libra is a sign that among other things is about finding the balance between the self and others. Sumerians called this constellation Zib-ba An-na, meaning "the balance of heaven." Back then the autumn Sun rose in Libra when night and day were in equal measure, inspiring the belief that Libra was about, not partnering, but balance. 

How have you arranged your life to encompass your various relationships? What’s your work life balance like? Do you make the time to connect with friends? With yourself? Where have you sacrificed some part of yourself in order to “keep the peace?” What is your relationship to your dreams and desires? How is this reflected within your life?

We long through our Soul to find ourselves in others, because on some level we understand that we are one with all. When we allow our inner sense of the good, the true, and the beautiful to truly touch the world and are moved in response, we heal our soul's painful separation. We are at last in harmony. This is the essence of Libra. As John Welwood reminds us in his Journey of the Heart, "A relationship that has any depth and power at all will inevitably penetrate our usual shield of defenses, exposing our most tender and sensitive spots, and leaving us feeling vulnerable - literally, 'able to be wounded.’"

During this Mercury Retrograde time, it would behoove us to embrace a different perspective and yield to Mercury’s guidance to the hidden gems of our psyche. 

Activate the psychopomp and get rid of what is metaphorically dead in your life by clearing some clutter to make space for something new to arrive. Do you have any zombie relationships with others or something that really hasn’t had any sign of life for some time? Let go of the walking dead. Pay attention to your dreams by keeping a note book and pen next to your bed so you can keep a dream journal capturing those messages from psyche right as you awaken each day before they dissipate in the light of day.

It is a time to look back, reassess, re-organize and reflect. You will be richly rewarded with inner revelation that sets the stage for the time to follow. 



P.S. As I was writing this it became clear there was way too much to say in one article, part two will follow on Tuesday, September 13 with full information about my upcoming new class Thresholds that many of you have reached out to ask about. 

I also just want to take a moment to thank all of you who often share my work or reach out to me personally to thank me and let me know that my astrological takes have made a difference for you, it means the world to me.

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