The Uses of Adversity: Mercury Retrograde, Part II

Popularly known as "Mercury Retrograde" — the illusion of Mercury's apparent backward motion (around the Sun) is explained again in this second video posted above.  It demonstrates the geometric reason for this apparent reversal of direction.  From our perspective here on Earth, as we circle the Sun in our wider orbit, Mercury appears to reverse direction in its much smaller orbit approximately three to four times a year, for approximately three weeks at a time. It took astronomers a long time to understand this phenomenon — which actually affects every planet (the Greek word for "Wanderer") in our solar system (but not the Sun or Moon), with Mercury simply being the most talked about.

Dates of Apparent Mercury Retrograde Motion 2022-2024:
January 14 to February 3, 2022 [starting in Aquarius and backing into Capricorn]
May 10 to June 3, 2022 [starting in Gemini, backing into Taurus]
September 9 to October 2, 2022 [starting in Libra, backing into Virgo]
December 29 to January 18, 2023 [in Capricorn]
April 21 to May 14, 2023 [in Taurus]
August 23 to September 14, 2023 [in Virgo]
December 13 to January 1, 2024 [in Sagittarius - Capricorn]
April 1 to April 24, 2024 [in Aries - Taurus]
August 4 to August 27, 2024 [in Leo - Virgo]
November 25 to December 15, 2024 [in Sagittarius]

To Jump Ahead to a Discussion of the Labyrinthine Path of
Mercury's Apparent Retrograde Orbit, Click This Image:

To review a bit of what we covered in Part I —
"Mercury Retrograde"
tends to get a very bad rep, as these times are notoriously challenging to our day-to-day routines, schedules, and the best laid plans of mice and men.  Contracts and travel; communications and deliveries, these tend to go awry from our everyday perspective. For a more complete list of the challenges ascribed to these cycles, see the list in the left-hand column in Part I.

However, also bear in mind that not least of all, these periods are important opportunities to Re-Direct ourselves. The apparent obstacles we encounter now often turn out to be life-saving — in Retro-Spect.

As a practicing Jungian (Archetypal) Astrologer, I have considered this very definite phenomenon to be "Synchronistic" (see) for more than 30 years ... Recently, however, in light of my unfolding dialectic with my mathematician / physicist partner in this thing, Bart Stuck, over the past three years I have begun to question my whole previous understanding of "Synchronicity" itself.  We feature a whole section of our ongoing Zoom course devoted to Jung's 26-year dialogue with the physicist Wolfgang Pauli, in which they examined Synchronicity in great depth together.  I am currently exploring new potential "causal" explanations for both Synchronicity and Mercury Retrograde — and a more complex concept of causality for that matter altogether.  I will share more about this in the upcoming section on the Double Slit Experiment in Part III.

As pointed out in Part I, these mysterious periods, known as "Mercury Retrograde," are most frustrating if you merely try to persist in straight-ahead "Forward Motion" no matter what.  Then you will likely feel that you are banging your head against a wall at every turn as you spin your wheels or tread water — or mud — and get nowhere fast, mix and match your metaphors freely.

However, if we can learn to shift gears into a more "Zen" state of mind — often a good idea in life anyway — letting go and working with What Is, rather than fighting the resistance, these three-to-four-week intervals can become more like a pleasant "staycation" and even become productive (if you must) in their own way.  But you might also benefit from learning to simply BE.  Try to welcome these cycles as an opportunity for, or an invitation to, a different mode of being: more inward- and backward-looking.  Then we can learn to enjoy the potential benefits and silver linings listed in the right-hand column in Part I.

These periods are usually an especially good time to slow down, to go within, and reflect, and to be less focused on doing, doing, doing — going, going, going — producing, producing, producing.  We all need time to mend our sails and nets, and to just STOP AND THINK.  To go inward, and Re-connect with not only our closest intimates but with ourselves, and perchance the Divine, should not be such a luxury or rarity that we need a special reason to do it, such as being sick or going on a formal retreat.

Said to be good for all kinds of things that begin with "RE" — think Review, Reflect, Repair, Regroup, Rethink, and you'll have the right idea — these periods can become welcome changes of pace if we can learn to Let Go a bit.  Try not to just keep forging ahead, as this usually backfires (a Mercury Retrograde concept for sure).  And, the world usually can manage without us, as it does when there is a blizzard or we come down with the flu.  Also remember, everyone else is probably having similar challenges too.

Consider these cycles as invitations to pause and examine your past and inner motivations.  What does this introspection tell you about your present trajectory into the future?  As you reflect on your Habits, Routines, Disciplines, Practices  [all Virgo / 6th House things, by the way], what might you Reconsider and Refine? Such Re-evaluation can be much more valuable than stubbornly resisting the resistance you are likely to encounter.  This is said to be an excellent time to break a bad Habit or begin a new Practice or Discipline (the root of the word Disciple).

As one of our regular Aleph Talks class participants (a long-time fellow Unitarian by the name of K. Steven Kunstler) pointed out, it might be appropriate to view these 3 1/2-week cycles as a sort of "Sabbath"  in our otherwise full-steam-ahead schedules — Exactly!  These periods are great times to go inward, "Let Go and Let G_d," or "Let the Universe Take a Turn."  We can all do well to take a little time off from all the heavy lifting that we feel compelled to keep up with in life.  This is a time to remember that there are also other, larger forces at work — and to explore what the Great Mystery may have in mind, beyond our limited conscious understanding and doing.  We may have to plant the seeds and plow the fields and (or nowadays, send out the resumes and proposals), but we do not make the sun shine or the rains come.  We certainly do not make the seeds grow, any more than we can make our contacts call us back.  This can be an excellent time to Re-introduce some senses of humility and wonder into your daily life.

As we discussed last time, if you are in Sales, Technology, Communications, or Commerce, these  are  considered to be Mercury / Gemini-ruled areas, and so cold calls are difficult at this time.  It's a hard time to begin anything new.  However, it is a great time for culling your old files; and Re-connecting with old clients and customers is to be encouraged.  You may benefit from Re-newing old partnerships and strategic alliances, even if you have been out of touch for a while.  You may even develop new insights that lead to finding new ways of looking at old issues, dynamics, and relationships.

If you are offered a new job, especially if it is in a Gemini-related field (such as Communications or Technology), or a Virgo-related field (such as Proofreading or Nursing), the conventional wisdom is to wait until after these periods end to formally accept or begin the job.  If you feel you absolutely cannot put it off, be prepared to learn that the job may not be what you think it is at the outset, or for it to change drastically once you do begin.  Do as much research as you possibly can, and try not to burn any bridges behind you.

However, if you are offered an old job back, or a new job with an old boss, or are invited to resume an old partnership or consultancy, those all get green lights at these times.


Here we can begin to delve a bit deeper into how the symbolic language of astrology works.

Why are "Jobs" relevant at this time?  Jobs are not particularly related to either Mercury or Gemini, unless they are in related fields, such as Sales, Tech, or Communications.

Here is a separate list of Keywords for Mercury, Gemini, and the Third House — all three are said to "correspond" to one another.  You will see that "Jobs" are not an item on any of those lists, so what's up?

In the symbolic language of traditional astrology, in addition to Gemini and the Third House, Mercury is also said to "rule," or correspond to —

Virgo and the Sixth House — and Jobs; and Health and Healing

And so this is where "Jobs" come in, Jobs in general.  I personally love that astrology distinguishes between one's "Day Job" (or "Service") and one's "Career" (or "True Calling") — the latter is represented by Saturn, Capricorn and the Tenth House (the cusp of which is the Midheaven, a very important point in the chart).  This significant role that one plays in life — and usually what one is publicly known for —  may not necessarily bring in any income whatsoever, directly, but it is where one really invests the most energy and contributes the most.

A wonderful example of this duality is the life of Sir Isaac Newton, a 17th Century English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, and alchemist, regarded by many as the greatest figure in the history of science. His treatise Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687 and extending the trajectory of the earlier work of Johannes Kepler, described universal gravitation and the three laws of motion, helping to lay the groundwork for classical mechanics and modern astronomy.

In addition to our current Theory of Gravity, Newton discovered many of the scientific insights that he contributed to the world while he was either "on hiatus" (due to the Plague in London and Cambridge [where he had become a professor]; or, later in his life, due to his own personal Health Issues).  In additional Sixth House symbolism, he was able to pursue many productive years of research while working (virtually part-time) at a rather modest post as the manager of the Royal Mint — which provided him a certain amount of social status and financial security — while also allowing him plenty of free time to pursue his true avocation: Inventing Modern Astronomy.  Newton's work brought us — along with other discoveries and inventions that he accomplished in Optics — for example, the modern reflective Telescope — many insights into the Laws of Motion that govern the orbits of all the planets around the Sun and the spectrum shift that demonstrates the expansion of the Universe, as seen in distant stars.

So we see here that the principles that correspond with Virgo and the Sixth House introduce a whole new set of gifts, concerns, and issues for Mercury's symbolism and its apparent Retrograde Cycles.  And, again, along with Routines, Habits, Disciplines, and Practices (Creative, Spritual, Professional, etc.), Virgo and the Sixth House also represent Health and Healing  for that matter.

So you can begin to see that there are even more layers to be considered in exploring these dynamic astrological patterns and how they describe in symbolic and literals terms how these factors play out in real life.

For example, how does the Sign of the Zodiac in which Mercury is turning Retrograde or Direct relate to your life, through your individual chart?

At this juncture, astrological principles start to become quite "dense" and complex, because there is, as you can begin to see, much more involved than just your Sun Sign, or even the current Sun Sign in the sky.  If your Sun is in one of the Signs "ruled by" Mercury — that is, Gemini or Virgo — you may find yourself more affected than other people, for better and / or for worse.  Traditionally, the signs that are connected by either "Element" or "Cardinality" (that is, either 120 or 90 degrees away) are also especially involved.  If it is occuring in your Sun Sign or one closely related, it may be easier for you to learn to work with these cycles in a proactive way — or, they may just drive you even more nuts!  This is where Consciousness comes into play, and that is not "written" in your chart.  Humanistic astrologers (like me) believe that we can, as we (hopefully) mature in life, learn to work more consciously with whatever curve balls we are served.  Humanistic (or "Transformational" or "Evolutionary")  astrologers believe that we can to some extent outgrow our innate "default modes" as we become more liberated and empowered — through simple life experience, and through learning to use certain tools such as learning astrology, meditation, spirituality, etc. etc. etc. — to learn to make lemonade when life hands us lemons, as they say.  This is always a good ability to add to our life skill set, regardless of what we believe about the timing.

As we said, you can learn to avoid making cold calls during these periods if you are in Sales.  You can concentrate instead on culling your files and refreshing your old contacts, and see how that works for you.  I always encourage my clients and students to conduct their own experiments.

But if you are curious, you can explore how this kind of insight can become exponentially more informative if you also know which particular House in your own chart the current Retrograde is happening in.  The Houses are said to represent the AREA OF LIFE in which the planetary energies play out, and they are measured from your exact Ascendant, which is determined by the exact minute of your first breath.  So the Planet represents the themes expressed in raw energy in question itself.  We consider this fundamental energy to come in 10 varying flavors; plus the North and South Nodes of the Moon [more later] make for 12 distinct energies.  This basic planetary energy is then "colored" by the Sign of the zodiac that it is in, in much the same way that a gel colors a theater light.  And then, thirdly, the House that the Planet is occupying or transiting is the stage upon which the light is projected — that is, the Area of Life "affected" by the Planet in the Sign in the House.  And so all of these 36 factors are different for different individual horoscopes or birth charts, and change over time, making for a veritable kaleidoscope of possibilities, rather than just 12 general "types" for us all to fit into — which astrologers "believe in" even less than the average newspaper sun sign column reader.


Aries — Head
Taurus — Throat
Gemini — Chest & Lungs
Cancer — Stomach
Leo — Heart
Virgo — Intestines

Libra — Kidneys
Scorpio — Reproductive Organs
Sagittarius — Thighs
Capricorn — Knees
Aquarius — Ankles
Pisces — Feet

Mercury, Virgo, the Sixth House — and Healing

The model of the seven chakras (left) originates in the Hindu spiritual tradition, which considers these energy centers to be the basis of our human existence. It can be said that the Holy Spirit, a.k.a. Chi energy in Asia, or more generally "Life Force Energy," travels from the "Crown" chakra (at the tops of our heads) down through the body to the base of our spines (the Root chakra) and back up in a circle, up toward the Crown chakra again.  This forms what is known as a torus vortex in Quantum Physics — which looks a lot like an apple if you think about it.

The ancient Hebrew Kabbalistic energy diagram above and right is known as "The Tree of Life," no less. Esoterically, its depiction and spiritual teachings also reference serpent energy — basically akin to "Kundalini."  It is clearly a very similar, parallel, but ultimately also unique, paradigm of the human energy body that has been handed down verbally and then in written form for many generations. The multi-faceted schematic is used by initiates in traditional spiritual teachings, profound meditation practices, and energy healing — and over the millennia different versions have become available to Christian and other practitioners, including medieval alchemists; and modern-day occultists such as the Free Masons:

The energy center at the top of the Tree (representing on one level the top of the head) is also referred to as the "Crown" in Kabbalah; "Kether" in Hebrew. To the right, we see another confluence in symbolism and meaning, with the Sanskrit symbol for the Heart chakra and the "Magen David."  A torus vortex consists of a central axis with a vortex at both ends and a surrounding coherent field. Energy flows in one vortex, through the central axis, out the other vortex, and then wraps around itself to return to the first incoming vortex. The simplest description of its overall form is that of a donut, though it takes many different shapes, depending upon the medium in which it occurs.

Upon mapping the intersecting circles that make up the outer rings of the torus vortex of the human body (above, left), the Flower of Life pattern (left) emerges.  This symbol is significant, again, in both the Hebrew and Hindu systems.   It is said that the more expanded one’s  aura, through a healthy and balanced chakra system, the greater one's auric influence is upon uplifting others and increasing the electromagnetic field of not only one's own  heart, but everyone else's as well

In the Jewish tradition,  the Kabbalistic Tree of Life (shown here overlapping the Flower of Life design from which it comes) represents the 10 "Sephiroth" (spheres) or aspects of God as described in the Kabbalistic Book of Splendor.   It is said to function as a hologram, representing the macrocosm of the Universe on the highest level, and the human form as the microcosmic expression of the same Divine principles.  It is striking that the ancient Egyptian Caduceus; Hindu traditions in Yoga, meditation, and many other metaphysical traditions; as well as the Western system inherited from Rome, Greece, and the Middle East (including Hebrew Kabbalah), all refer to the same energy body, whether it is conceived of and articulated as the Caduceus; or the Rod of Asculapius; or the Biblical Tree of Life — they all make reference to the energy channel along the spine known as the Sushumna in Sanskrit, which includes the seven chakras (or the related central "Sephiroth" on the Hebrew Tree of Life) in their traditional symbols for health and healing.  The fundamental human chakra system, as it is commonly accepted, consists of seven energy centers rising from the base of the spine to the crown of the head.

The God of Travel and Commerce presides over 1913 Beaux Arts archetectural masterpiece Grand Central Station in Midtown Manhattan ~ note the caduceus with two intertwined serpents in his left hand (above, left); while the signs of the zodiac arc across the enormous vaulted ceiling of the main concourse within (right).


Speaking of energy symbolism hidden in plain sight ~ probably of Masonic origin, this relief sculpture of a winged pine cone atop a caduceus adorns another Beaux Arts landmark, the 1910 Whitehall Building at the southern tip of Manhattan.

The (c. 1224 B.C.E.) Egyptian caduceus with
two cobras facing a pine cone
is known as the
Staff of Osiris. Are these hints of a now-
forgotten single world religion, with modern
traces surviving only in the East, and our
Western Esoteric Traditions?

The Hindu energy centers' English names, locations, and corresponding psychological representations, from the bottom up on Mercury's Staff, symbolize the energy channel along the spine, or in Sanskrit, the Sushumna. They are shown below, right with the two serpentine Kundalini channels (known as "Ida" [the Yin channel] and "Pingala" [Yang]) spiraling around the central channel. All of this is collectively aka the Tree of Life in the roughly equivalent Hebrew system referenced in our Western Bible story of the Garden of Eden. This allegorical tale describes Eve (the Feminine) initiating Adam into "the Fall" from amniotic Oneness and into the Journey of Individuation — with a higher level of Unity to be re-discovered in the process of healing the (all-important) Illusion of Separation / Duality / Exile from The One. The spiritual teaching is that this higher level of Re-Unification is impossible without the loss / injury of the original separation (i.e., Original Sin), and so that is an important developmental stage of spiritual growth — recognized in the fact that on the eve of the Hebrew Sabbath, TWO candles are lit, and not just one:

1.  Root or Base chakra — Safety, grounding;
2.  Sacral chakra — Sexual and creative energy;
3.  Solar Plexus chakra — Self-empowerment;
4.  Heart chakra — Giving and receiving love;
5.  Throat chakra — Communicating one’s truth and honesty;
6.  Third Eye chakra — Connection to the spirit realm and intuition with Higher Self;
7.  Crown chakra — Connection to Universal God consciousness.


Physiological correspondences include:

1.  Root — Testes, kidneys, spine;
2.  Sacral – Bladder, prostate, ovaries, kidneys, gall bladder, bowel, spleen;
3.  Solar Plexus — Intestines, pancreas, liver, bladder, stomach, upper spine;
4.  Heart — Heart, lungs;
5.  Throat — Bronchial tubes, vocal cords, all areas of the mouth, including tongue and esophagus;
6.  Third Eye — Eyes, pituitary gland, pineal gland (resembling a pine cone), brain;
7.  Crown — Spinal cord and brain stem.


Introduction to Labyrinths

While perhaps an acquired taste that's not for everyone, learning to work in positive ways with the challenges associated with the apparently "retrograde" periods of Mercury's annual orbit can be likened to learning to appreciate the circular pathway to the Center of ...

... The Labyrinth As a Metaphorical Mandala for Walking Meditation

Many people find spiritual healing and insight in the circuitous, "serpentine" paths of the labyrinth — said to originate in the tracing of Mercury's apparent annual orbit  (above, right). Shown here to the left is the 1100 C.E. 42-foot Chartres Labyrinth, made of blue and white marble (laboriously transported from Wales — long before railroads or trucks).  These indoor medieval labyrinths were thought to have been navigated on pilgrims' knees during the Crusades, as a symbolic substitute for the then-perilous physical "Journey to Jerusalem." However, pre-Christian examples are found literally all over the planet, and were used for many other purposes, including initiations associated with the Solstices and Equinoxes, and the in-between points 45 days apart such as May Day, below, right. The so-called "Minor Sabbaths" of the pagan calendar year include, in Celtic terms, Imbolc (or Candlemas) - February 2; Beltaine, May 1; Lammas or Lughnasa, August 2; and Samhain (Halloween, All Saints' Day, All Souls' Day, October 31, November 1).

As labyrinth facilitators are fond of pointing out, when a young man asked Carl Jung what the fastest route to his destiny was, Jung replied:  "A detour."  Unitarian theologian Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with another labyrinth insight: "The Journey Is the Destination." And more specifically, as Jill Kimberly Hartwell Geoffrion says in Praying The Labyrinth: "Labyrinths are symbols, spiritual tools, mathematical images, harmonic patterns, pathways of discovery, playgrounds of prayer.” 

The U-turn segments resemble (and perhaps represent) both  the folds of a brain and the side and frontal views of a uterus — below — and the word itself is thought to derive from the LABRYS shapes where the U-turns meet up back-to-back.  The word labyr-inth is generally translated as "The Place of the Labrys."


For many who work in any kind of healing field, and for many who have ever experienced profound healing in their own lives, walking the labyrinth is an appropriate metaphor for this kind of non-linear process, with its inevitable ups-and-downs and backs-and-forths; setbacks, detours, U-turns, delays, times of hope, faith, surrender, despair, and surprising breakthroughs.  Many experience  the labyrinth's energy field itself as a kind of spiritual technology that seems to affect our brains (which it's thought by some to resemble), especially where the U-turns occur and seem to facilitate some kind of hemispheric shift.  Walking, being wheeled through, and even tracing finger labyrinths have all been shown to be physiologically beneficial for patients with Parkinson's.

Incidentally, the design at the center of the Chartres Labyrinth references the simple fact of geometry that a circle can be surrounded by exactly six circles of the same size. Hence this concept is considered to be fundamental to Sacred Geometry — referring esoterically to the seven days of the week and the seven classical planets (named accordingly).

We will now wrap up Part II of this meandering essay on Mercury Retrograde — do tune back in for Part III and a possible explanation of the phenomenon from the perspective of where Modern Physics just may intersect with Ancient Metaphysics and Archetypal Astrology.  We will just take this quick look at another astrologer's quick thumbnail sketches for the December 2022 M Rx in Capricorn, and how all the signs are "affected" (reverting to causal language) in turn — most likely more accurate for your Rising Sign than your Sun Sign, if you know it, because it is more personal being based on your exact minute of birth, rather than your month of birth.

As we prepare to say Goodbye for now, I will leave you with an analogy to contemplate, of the value and importance of many non-direct processes in life, such as many learning, and healing experiences — both said to be "ruled by" the planet Mercury.

Like a backstitch in embroidery — shown in the video below — often we have the need and / or opportunity to deepen a life lesson by seemingly repeating it, or back-tracking over the same territory in our lives until we really "get it" — only to discover that we have actually come out ahead of where we were, or thought we were.  

This "backstitch" concept can be a helpful way to look at otherwise frustrating delays and detours when they occur in life. These apparent setbacks often actually bring us to a better place, further ahead, with a deeper understanding, than we would have gotten to in a more direct, straightforward learning and / or healing process — a richer experience than simply popping a pill and suppressing the experience! Rather than groaning and rolling our eyes when a Life Lesson seems to rear its ugly head, for its umteenth review, if we really pay attention we may be able to discern that there is really a spiral at work rather than a vicious circle; and we can welcome the opportunity to truly integrate the Lesson more consciously. This idea is conveyed beautifully in a mantra commonly associated with Kundalini Yoga, and used in the Sikh tradition, in which we contemplate our gratitude toward Life Itself as the Ultimate Divine Teacher, the Guru Within — with gratitude that we experience ANYTHING at all — that we have the gift of Consciousness at all — that we experience experience at all — good or bad — is a miracle — a Miracle beyond the miracle of mere existence in the first place.

Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo:

I bow to the subtle divine wisdom,
I bow to the divine teacher within.




Here is discussion


Marjorie Partch is a counseling, teaching, and writing Jungian (Archetypal) Astrologer and Tarot interpreter with more than 35 years' experience. In addition to her training in Transformational Astrology, she has studied Integrative Therapy with an emphasis on the work of C.G. Jung, and is a longtime student of yoga, meditation, and Kabbalah, as well as a practicing artist and poet. Marjorie was a contributor to Your Birthday Sign Through Time, Simon & Schuster, 2002. Transplanted from her native New York City in early 2001 (by way of Vermont), she is now happily available in Fairfield County. Ordained in 2006, Marjorie received her labyrinth facilitator training from Lauren Atress in the same year, and shares her Blue Lotus canvas labyrinth as a tool for spiritual transformation and Sacred Activism.  Marjorie also offers Reiki sessions in conjunction with or apart from spiritual counseling, with or without the tools of astrology or Tarot; in person or by Zoom or by phone: (203) 286-7525 /