How’s that retrograde treating ya?


Thank God for astrology–at least I know there will soon be an end to the shitshow that is Mars retrograde with a side of Mercury retrograde. This time I decided to keep a record of whatever happened during the retrogrades (primarily the Mars Rx), just for fun. So here’s how my retrograde has been going so far:

  • I started a new (awesome) job, and within my first week the payroll got bungled such that people didn’t get the full amount they were owed. But it wasn’t one single mistake, it was several different ones that each only affected certain groups. So one group didn’t get paid for mileage; one group got paid, but at the wrong rate; one group got paid correctly but didn’t get paid half their stipend…and so on. No one could figure out how this constellation of errors happened.
  • Right after I was hired, one fiscal year ended and the new one began. Somehow, one program was overspent at the end of the year, and so far no one can figure out where the money went (but see below).
  • Someone backed into my car. At least the damage was minimal.
  • I was significantly overcharged at a store and didn’t discover it until after I got home. So I had to go back–not a huge deal, but it’s like 25 miles each way so a fair bit of gas was used.
  • I got hit in the head, surprisingly hard, by a falling curtain rod. It hurt for days.
  • My TV stopped working. It took over a month to get the situation fixed, and now it’s not working again.
  • I hit the exact same quarter-sized spot on my right hand three times in three days. There was blood. Fortunately not much.
  • I got really flustered and messed up at my sucky job and got in trouble.
  • I also got put on probation at my sucky job for calling off more than three times in 90 days. Three of the four times were during Mars retrograde. Two were migraines right at the beginning of Mars Rx.
  • And I cannot seem to get to this job on time no matter how hard I try, though usually it’s not a problem.
  • I honest-to-God shat myself at work. It was completely out of the blue and very sudden.
  • The electronic payroll/timesheet system went down at my good job.
  • A coworker’s computer stopped working.
  • A volunteer didn’t receive her stipend because she had provided the wrong account number for direct deposit; but even though we figured out the problem and got the correct account number, somehow nobody bothered to issue the payment owed. So the poor woman was down to her last $4 before we finally got it rectified. (But, interestingly, she told me that as she went to the store with her $4 to buy some milk and bread, a man–a stranger to her–came up and started talking to her about religion. As he left he handed her $100. Which is just so…Mercurial. That whole story smells like Trickster. I love it.)
  • I had a medical procedure before Mars/Merc Rx, but keep getting billed in error because some paperwork got screwed up.
  • My boyfriend’s brakes went out.
  • Boyfriend has been sick almost the entirety of Mars Rx.
  • Boyfriend didn’t receive his last paycheck due to some kind of family bereavement or emergency on his boss’ part. Mars Rx, and its buddy the South Node, have been riding right over boyfriend’s natal Venus and North Node.
  • Today, as Mars moves back into Capricorn, we discovered that a bunch of people got paid twice, for at least one pay period, but almost certainly two and very possibly three. Worse yet, some were paid out of the wrong fund (and we are talking federal grant money where every penny has to be documented and justified). Possibly worse than that, some people got paid out of yet another wrong fund (a matching fund), and that probably depleted the matching fund. Remember we are only four weeks into the new fiscal year. So now we may have an explanation for the overspend that happened last time Mars Rx was in Cap, that I referred to in the first item in this list. The error was no one person’s fault, it happened because several people all did their jobs correctly but each was missing some crucial piece of information that would have allowed them to avoid this. All this comes before a monitoring visit where all T’s must be crossed and I’s dotted. My boss, a strong woman, actually broke down and cried. On the plus side, I caught the error, which I think is a prelude to Mercury going direct next week (yay).

So what can we learn from this (besides that I am an oversharer)?

Some thoughts… The payment issues at work came to light as Mars Rx was in Capricorn. Funnily enough, my (good) job is very Capricornian/Aquarian–a nonprofit, community-based organization dedicated to helping low-income people, which deals a lot with volunteers, senior citizens, and housing (also young children). I almost wonder if there was something about Mars Rx crossing back and forth over the Capricorn/Aquarius threshold? I didn’t keep that detailed a record of the timing, alas. Looking at the matter from the point of view of the organization, the payroll issues are less about money (although that’s still a problem) and more about a breakdown in our ability to perform our responsibilities, both to our volunteers (staff pay has not been affected) and to the government as our main funding source. Responsibilities are a very Saturnian thing, and thus fit well with Capricorn and Aquarius.

From what I can tell, Mercury Rx seems to have affected me in the usual domains of commerce, transportation, and technology (especially communications- and money-related technologies). As far as I can tell, it hasn’t hit me any harder than usual, though it is conjunct my natal Mars, which I might have thought would produce more sparks.

Mars Rx, on the other hand, has affected my body, in the form of minor injuries and, er, issues of the digestive tract. (Now that I think of it, my digestion has actually been really awful during this period. That is no doubt related to the fact that my diet has suffered due to my being super busy–which seems very Mars Rx–but there has just been a general lack of vitality which is definitely very Mars Rx.) While in Aquarius, Mars Rx (and South Node) have been opposing my natal Mars, so blah health and low energy isn’t exactly surprising. (Also the eclipses have been aspecting my Mars.) The bf seems to also be feeling Mars Rx primarily as bodily affliction. Marx Rx is happening in my 11th/12th houses (by whole signs), or my 11th (by quadrants), which is perhaps fitting given that a lot of the problems that have arisen for me or around me have been in the context of my new job, which is very 11th-housey.

I have had no adverse affects (knock wood) in my relationship, friendships, family relations, housing, or neighbors. I have not had any conflicts to speak of. Although we’ve had money problems at work, my own finances have (again, knock wood) not been affected negatively–in fact they are in better shape than they have been in years. My intuitive abilities are not as sharp as usual, but not so dull that it has been a problem. My sucky job has always been sucky, that’s not due to the current transit, but that is overshadowed by the new job which I love. My creative juices have started flowing again now that I have no time to express them, and that’s very exciting for me.

Anyway, I thought that might be useful–if only for a good laugh at my expense–as a concrete example of how this transit is playing out.

Jupiter: friend or foe?


I guess you’re probably aware of the debate about Jupiter between Jason Miller and Gordon White. (If not, read Miller’s Financial Sorcery and White’s Chaos Protocols, then this, then this, then this.)

Basically, Gordon argues that, unless you are a king or super-elite, Jupiter is not your god, he’s the god of people who actively oppress you. You’re better off working with one of the many civilizing trickster figures who, in spite of their rather bizarre senses of humor, seem to generally like helping a brother or sister out (albeit for inscrutable reasons of their own).

Miller, on the other hand, says that the bad acts of human elites are not a reflection on the nature of the deity, or at most just one side of that deity. With deities we are working in the realm of myths and archetypes. Jupiter is the god of abstract principles of wealth, sovereignty, and lawful gain (though these can manifest materially), not of specific people, instances, or acts, and thus is the friend of anyone who wants to have these things in their life.

Now, I have not really worked with Jupiter magically so I have no experience on which to base an opinion, and the two sides of this argument both seem reasonable to me. (Never really been drawn to Jupiter that much. I just don’t like that much beard.) But pondering where I might tentatively stand on the issue is an interesting thought exercise.

I do know enough to understand that the Roman deities were/are not the same as the planets named for them, but the personae and planets are deeply intertwined astrologically and, I think, shed light on one another. Jupiter is both my chart ruler (ruler of my Ascendant) and solar dispositor (ruler of the sign my Sun is in), as well as the ruler of the house my Sun is in. Jupiter is also exalted in the sign of Cancer in my chart, disposes some other planets besides my Sun, rules another angle besides AC and conjoins a third, and is involved in a lot of other aspect patterns. So the point is the planet has a lot of juice in my horoscope and wins a lot of essential dignity points.

In contrast, Mercury conjoins my MC and opposes Jupiter. Now Mercury is in detriment in the two signs where Jupiter is in domain (Pisces and Sagittarius), which in mythic terms makes sense as Mercury’s antinomian trickster nature (though it is much less emphasized than that of the Greek Hermes) is at odds with Jupiter’s rulership of rulership. In Jupiter’s house, Mercury can’t Mercury. Or at least not as well. My natal Mercury is essentially weak, but gets a fair bit of accidental dignity by association with other planets, angles, and so on. He too rules two angles, for example. Jupiter and Mercury are even co-rulers of the decan my Sun resides in. The polarity between these two planets, particularly as they conjoin opposing angles and rule opposing angles, is an axis that seems to organize my whole chart, and my life activities and personal proclivities have followed suit. So Jason and Gordon’s debate almost seems to re-enact the dynamics that go on in my head all the time.

I am also reminded of when I was in grade school and my stepbrothers were big into Dungeons & Dragons. They were two-and-a-half years older than me which at that age is rather massive, and they’re identical twins. When they needed a third person to play D&D, I was drafted, mostly against my will. My characters were always killed off in short order so I finally refused to participate anymore. Anyway, I don’t remember a whole lot beyond that except that you would choose your character’s orientation toward law and order and good-vs.-evil, so you would be “lawful good”, for example, “or “neutral neutral” and so on. (Ever the goody-two-shoes, I liked to be lawful good.)

Astrological Jupiter is lawful good. One of the quintessential aspects of Astrojupiter that often seems to be missed is that his domain deals with society and social institutions. That’s why you get the otherwise rather motley assortment of things he rules: law, higher education, religion, general embiggening. If you look at these things from the perspective of ancient Roman culture, they’re all aspects of Romanitas. Religion (religio) for example was not about personal faith but about participation in public ritual. And in this case we’re not talking about law in the Saturnian sense, as a set of constraints, but as the sociopolitical organization of the state. They are things that defined “civilization”.

So it occurs to me that whether you view Jupiter as a friend or foe might have a lot to do with how much social legitimacy forms a part of your personal model of success and achievement. Jupiter is all about legitimacy because he basically decides what that is in the first place. Whereas to embrace a trickster-centric lifestyle, or magical practice, means you pretty much have to be the kind of person who likes to rebel, stick it to The Man, and take risks. Not everyone is up for that. I think left-hand-path/right-hand-path is an oversimplification, but perhaps this is a more complex and nuanced version of that dynamic. It’s not to say that you can’t achieve conventionally-recognized models of success working with a trickster, but you can’t do it while wearing the white hat. You have to be alright with a grey one. Of course if you’re doing magic, you’re already halfway there. (And I should probably note, I’m not trying to psychoanalyze Miller and his approach. Just speculating on general Jupiterness.)

Time for TMI (Tell More Information!). Growing up a disabled female, frequently isolated from society at large (due to being hospitalized so much), my mother clung to two convictions–an extremely romantic, Sir Walter Scott-esque notion of chivalry, heroism and gentility to which she aspired, and a firm conviction that to show any vulnerability is certain doom. Although she was an introvert my mom achieved great success in whatever social circle she found herself in–and they were many and varied over the course of her life, from coal miners to Spanish grandees–because she would go along to get along. She never inconvenienced anyone. She never took up space. She never showed fear or sadness or weakness or ugliness that might make other people feel uncomfortable. “Never make other people uncomfortable” and “never make work for other people” were a litany I heard countless times growing up.

That’s not a criticism, by the way. My mother did what she had to to survive in a world that is very hostile to people like her. She achieved her principal goal of having an interesting life, and was a kind, generous, and warm person. She was also undoubtedly the bravest person I have ever known, because she was one of the most fearful, and she still kept getting up every morning. Not only that, in spite of her disability and constant pain and being a single mother working, in one memorable period, two full-time jobs, she achieved things that plenty of less vulnerable people find too difficult. When the going got tough, my mom sucked it up and came out the other side without a hair out of place. (Remind me to tell you about the time she was offered a modeling career while saving the life of the call-girl her husband* had just abandoned her for.) I think she had an innate knack for glamour magic and would probably have really enjoyed and appreciated Deb Castellano’s work. What I’m saying is, no trickster-lovin’ feminist witch or magician could ask for a better role model; and yet the teachings that were impressed on me were to always color inside the lines and be scared. I was wrapped in a veritable cocoon of “ladies don’t…” My mom wanted to keep me safe and protect me from the kind of terrors she faced every day just going about her life, and to ensure that I wouldn’t have to work quite as hard as she did for a little social mobility.

My point with all this, is that you can probably understand how I am conflicted about where I stand on all this Jupiter business. I roll my own eyes at what a moralizing, people-pleasing goody-goody I can be. Yet I’ve always been too much of a weirdo and an idealist to ever get social approval and I am trying to embrace and grow into my inner Persephonic-Luciferian punk witch.

There is also a very real question here: In The Chaos Protocols and many times on his blog, Gordon has speculated that the planet’s super-elites not only have a different value system than we do, but probably even a different cosmology. If that is true, it stands to reason they would have different gods. Gods of things that are important to people with a vested interest in promoting inequality and hierarchy. That sounds more archonic than godly, I suppose, but we humans don’t really grok gods so why couldn’t such unpleasant ones exist? Why would we automatically trust the word of history about the nature of specific deities, knowing that history is always just one biased point of view?

I’m planning on exploring these questions a little more in my next post, from a different angle.

*not my dad

Mercury Retrograde and chthonic Hermes – addendum


I wrote my post on Mercury Rx and Hermes Khthonios before listening to Gordon’s interview with astrologer Austin Coppock on the Rune Soup podcast, which for various reasons I didn’t have a chance to listen to until today. Funnily enough, though, I actually wrote the post the same day the podcast aired, scheduling it to be punished a few days later. I guess great (or weird) minds think alike! Check out the whole interview, or if you are just interested in Mercury Rx and how it relates to Hermes’ underworld aspect, I’ve cued it up at the link below:

Discussion of Mercury Retrograde lasts until 1:07:45, and then moves on to other transits for this year–all very interesting.

Mercury Retrograde and chthonic Hermes

Mercury Retrograde and chthonic Hermes | Otherwise
“Axis Mundi” scarf by–who else?–Hermes.


Today Mercury goes direct again, leaving its first retrograde of 2016 (though the effects of the retrograde will still be felt as late as mid-February). This year, Mercury spends all or part of each retrograde in an earth sign–the first retrograde in Capricorn-Aquarius, the second in Taurus, and the third in Virgo and Libra–and this seemed like a good opportunity to delve into the chthonic aspects of the Messenger god.

Mercury is a big player in my horoscope, generally forming a team with Jupiter, so I think a lot about its astrological shenanigans, and sometimes feel them quite acutely. (It was classic Mercury Rx when my credit card company decided I was dead, for example.) Although the planets are not the same as the deities, my approach to astrology entails diving deep into myths. This often reveals nuances to the planets and houses that I wouldn’t see otherwise.

Hermes has always struck me as quite unusual among the Greek gods because he has a finger in every pie–there’s hardly an aspect of life that doesn’t seem to fall under his purview. As much as I rail against narrowly constraining what a deity is supposed to be a “god of“, in this case I admit it was hard to connect the dots in a way that would help me better understand the astrology of Mercury. Here is a list, not comprehensive mind you, of things governed by Hermes (also check out the three-part summary of a Hermes-themed conference on the Digital Ambler and see also this list of Hermes epithets):

  • livestock and shepherds
  • athletes
  • gambling
  • theft
  • psychopompery
  • divination by sortilege
  • magic
  • masturbation
  • comic theater, particularly in iambic pentameter and the more low-brow the better
  • communication
  • travel
  • electronics
  • commerce

And there are what seem to me weird contradictions as well. For example, Hermes is associated with seduction, animal fertility, and was often represented simply as an erect phallus (or a head and a phallus), yet unlike other Greek deities he’s not depicted as shagging (or raping) every passing nymph or prince/ss. Furthermore, despite being so intimately connected with things humans love–and being beloved himself as a deity who was particularly friendly to humans and our interests–Hermes didn’t have any big temples or an organized cultus. I always thought it was weird that as a psychopomp, a speedy traveler, and a protector of livestock, Hermes is not associated with horses.

At first I thought maybe we were looking at the vestiges of a syncretic merging of multiple deities way back in prehistory, but I now think it’s more likely that Hermes’ mythos preserves his evolution**, perhaps better than with any other Classical deity. It’s said that Hermes was a late addition to the Olympic pantheon, but he seems to me one of the most “primitive” of the Olympians, or at least to preserve more archaic qualities.

I’m not the first to reach that conclusion. In his essay “Hermes and the Creation of Space”, Murray Stein quotes the Oxford Classical Dictionary, which states that Hermes

“…is probably one of the oldest [of the gods] and most nearly primitive in origin….and signifies the daemon who haunts or occupies a heap of stones, or perhaps a stone, set up by the roadside for some magical purpose.”

This image is vividly animist and reminds me of the stones that serve as god-bodies at Shinto shrines. In what I suspect are the earlier conceptions of Hermes, he is present in liminal places, interstices between the known and unknown, such as crossroads, the mountain slopes where shepherds grazed their flocks (shepherds are always liminal types, being of civilization but rarely in it), and most importantly the boundary between worlds. Through experience people came to know Hermes as a friend in need, and he thus became a guardian of travelers and outsiders; then, by extension, a granter of luck, and in turn a patron of risky pastimes like business and gambling. In modern times, digital communications, electronics, and the postal service were added to his bag of tricks.

While Hermes as we most often see him represented–a beautiful, lithe youth with winged sandals–seems airy and even whimsical, a look at his signature tool and symbol, the kerykeion or caduceus, reveals another side.

The kerykeion is a winged staff entwined by two serpents. It unites a symbol of the sky or heavens–wings–with a symbol of the earth and rebirth–snakes. It is thus a kind of axis mundi. With the kerykeion Hermes could put anyone to sleep or wake them (the space/time between sleep and wakefulness also being his territory of course). With the axis mundi for a staff, an antinomian patronage of all kinds of outsiders and boundary-crossers, the ability to instigate dreaming and to travel between worlds upper, middle, and lower, Hermes starts to look very shamanic* indeed. (And a lot like David Bowie, actually.) One can’t help but notice certain parallels with another antinomian deity represented by a phallus, and associated with the axis mundi: Shiva.

Returning to the vagaries of the planet Mercury, its astrological associations are traditionally more in line with what I think of as the elaborated, evolved form of Hermes the Messenger. The planet governs travel, study and teaching, information, and communications. When Mercury goes retrograde, all these areas can be turned topsy-turvy as Mercury shows his trickster persona. It is often recommended that during Mercury retrograde one should do some introspection, since outrospection (is that a word? It is now! Thanks, Mercury!) is likely to go awry anyway.

Now when it comes to the kinds of experiences we conventionally term “shamanic,” Pluto, Saturn, and Neptune have much greater claim to rule them. Moreover such experiences are more often associated with the 8th house and its associated sign, Scorpio, which belongs to the water element, not earth. However, since 2016’s Mercury Retrogrades will be in earth signs, it seems only appropriate to be inspired by chthonic Hermes***–his psychopomp role/epithet–and dig deep.

Taurus, which Mercury will be reversing through in late April-May, seems an appropriate sign for the god of livestock. Cattle were one of the principal forms of wealth in the ancient (and indeed not so ancient) world, and Taurus is very much concerned with value: determining what is of value and then stockpiling as much of it as possible. The accrual of wealth, in other words. Taurus likes to get (at least metaphorically) fat and sleek in lush green pastures, with everything it needs close to hand and in ample quantities. We can expect this Mercury Rx to call our values into question and perhaps force us to face the death–in Hermetic terms–of our Precious, whatever form it may take. Instead of being lucky for gamblers and businesspeople, this chthonic Mercury might take them on a journey to some shadowy places where they have to confront fears and experiences of scarcity. The more stubborn and bullheaded we are, the harder the lesson will be.

Mercury will enter Virgo in its third retrograde during September. Virgo is traditionally ruled by Mercury. Virgo is the sign of service and helpfulness, and Mercury/Hermes is the only Olympian in service to other deities–he serves his father Zeus as messenger. Even more than service, though, Virgo represents the separation of pure from impure, sacred from profane. That is, Virgo is concerned both with determining what is pure and sacred, and with taking the necessary actions to keep it that way. Contrary to popular astrological claims, I have yet to meet a Virgo who was tidy, and I have known, and lived with, many Virgos. Virgo is not about being neat, it’s about tending the eternal sacred flame of the inner temple–that is the service they give. A keen mind and even keener sight is needed to sort the wheat from the chaff, and Virgo is ever on the lookout for stray chaff that may have sneaked in or been missed by some lackadaisical sign like that awful Sagittarius****. Virgo likes nothing better than to draw boundaries and then police them; Hermes likes nothing better than to cross boundaries and play with them. Chthonic Hermes’ power is in his ability to move between worlds. If you try to contain him within one, he is nowhere. That kind of thing makes Virgo crazy. So when Mercury Rx goes into Virgo we can predict a dissolution of boundaries that causes confusion and unease, as if we suddenly fell through the looking glass or down the rabbit hole. Categories that have always seemed set in stone will suddenly be seen to be arbitrary and fragile. The only way to deal with it is to lean in, let go, and get right with neither-nor. If you’re not willing to meet what’s on the other side, why go to the crossroads in the first place?


*I know the term is problematic, but I don’t have time to go into it here, so let’s just use shaman in the conventionally-understood, generalized way.

**There is no implicit value judgment here. Evolved simply means changed over time.

***Hermes Khthonios, “Hermes of the Earth”–by extension, the underworld.

****Said the Sagittarius, speaking from experience.