On the Spiritus Mundi mailing list, Christopher Warnock often complains of the way in which Mercury retrograde seems to have been chosen as a New Age scapegoat: along with Luna Void-of-Course, it seems to have absorbed all the “negativity” and malific influence that was (traditionally) ascribed to numerous planetary aspects and interactions. Although I have only a little more interaction with the New Age community than I have with traditional astrologers, I can definitely see this dynamic at work. Rufus Opus has talked about the magical “storms” associated with bad astrological “weather” like Mercury retrograde in the context of his Hermetic practice.
For myself, I have an interesting relationship with Mercury in general and the retrograde period in particular. You see, while I’ve seen everyone else scrambling around me trying to deal with unanticipated communication, computer, and travel related disasters, I’ve never personally experienced any difference. I’ve never noticed periods of my magic backfiring, only to later discover that Mercury was running backwards. I kind of thought it might just be that New Age hooey. Specifically, I thought that people were just more self-conscious about the sorts of disasters they were already living with every day—you know, just like I was.
Then I discovered that I was born under Mercury retrograde.
There are people in this world who can cast dispersions and invective upon anyone—casually flinging about slurs of the vilest sort—and others seem only to love them the better for it. I’ve know people who could lie like breathing, and no one ever questioned them, or seemed to loose trust in them even after they were caught. I’ve been close friends with several such people.
I have never been one of them.
A coworker once identified me as a fellow Dungeons & Player by my careful word choice. I would attribute my passion for reading and writing to a greater share of credit for my speech patterns. Unfortunately, though, no matter how carefully I choose my words, people find ways to misunderstand me. Sometimes these misunderstandings are hilarious; more often, they’re disastrous. When I communicate over the internet, it seems to be exponentially worse. Technology fails me with greater frequency than anyone else I know. All my cars have coolant leaks, and I’ve been through more alternators than everyone else I know combined.
Then there’s this funny thing where I tell people the unvarnished truth and they just don’t believe me. They might assume that I’m exaggerating, joking, or outright lying. This particular brand of miscommunication has become so common that I’ve come to use it to my advantage: my best “lies” (stories I tell that no one believes) are the literal truth.
Now, I didn’t get to where I am now without learning to compensate for these things. I got into a private liberal arts college, after all, where I’m maintaining a 3.4 GPA, held down only by my B’s in Ancient Greek. I have friends and lovers. These things take communication skills. But I definitely feel the effects of my retrograde natal Mercury in my daily life.
And when Mercury retrograde comes around for everyone else … well, I have to admit to feeling a bit of schadenfreude: Welcome to my life, fuckers.
There is a lot of paranoia surrounding Mercury retrograde in the occult community. I frequently see admonitions to set aside the thaumaturgy for the duration. And I definitely used the last retrograde period for a much-needed break from my escalating practice.
This coming retrograde I intend to do the opposite. Mercury retrograde is where I live: those conditions exist within me. Perhaps I will benefit from re-establishing my daily and devotional practices while the outer world is a fraction more closely aligned with my inner world.
1 – There are schools of thought which say that I shouldn’t work Mercurial magic at all because it’s afflicted in my natal chart. That same reasoning would seem to argue that I ought avoid Hermetic magic altogether—perhaps, taken to its logical extreme, any form of magic whatsoever. The fact that I can work effective magic implies that there is a flaw to this theory (or possibly just my understanding of it), but I still wonder what affect that has on my abilities. Through Christopher Warnock, I have learned of a Vedic practice known as planetary charity. I will not be attempting it this round, but it’s something I’ve been considering.