Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Mercury, Ego and the Inner Journey

We know that astrological Mercury represents mind, thoughts and communication in our horoscope.  The mind is where our sensory perceptions are processed in the brain and our perceptions are reflected in our thoughts. As we think, we rationalize, assess, form judgement, make decisions, learn and solve problems. We also form beliefs, ideas and opinions which we express through our actions and communications. This can take the form of sharing ideas, the transfer of information, negotiations, compromises and arguments and we also use verbal and non-verbal communication to form bonds and friendships with others.

Mercury’s sign, house and aspects tell us a lot about our style of communication; how we think and learn and connect with others. It also represents how we mentally process our opinion of ourselves, our self-image. In this, Mercury becomes the tool for our ego and its condition in our chart shows us how our ego communicates, as well as how we can go beyond our ego. If we take the journey beyond the ego, we are channeling a deeper part of Mercury, remembering that Mercury, or Hermes to use the Greek name, is the messenger of the Gods, the intermediary between the human and divine realms. We are particularly invited to step onto these deeper paths when Mercury is touched by an outer planet by aspect or transit.

But first, let’s define the ego. Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, divided the human psyche into the id, the ego and the superego1.

According to Freud, the ego is the self-conscious part of ourselves. It’s how we define ourselves, including our status compared to others and our place in society. It’s wrapped up in our self-esteem, our sense of self-importance and the ‘roles’ we play. Our ego helps us to satisfy our id (the primitive, irrational, instinctive part of the psyche) without breaking society’s rules and conventions. The ego itself is moderated by the superego, which is our conscience, our ‘ideal’ self and the moral values of our collective society.

The ego of course, is reflected in our thoughts, words, opinions and ideas, as well as in conscious decision making and problem solving and this is how Mercury becomes the messenger of the ego. But if Mercury carries the ego, where is the ego itself in the birth chart?

We most strongly associate the Sun with the ego, because it’s about our self-identity and how we reinforce it. The Ascendant is how we project our ego out into the world through our personal style and outward persona. The Moon represents the baggage our ego carries from the past, translated into our moods and habits (it’s also the id, expressed as who we are behind closed doors when nobody’s looking and what we need to feel safe). Venus is about our self-worth, which is also the stuff of the ego and even those things we take pleasure in can be egoic if we use them to boost our self-esteem and status. Mars signifies how we assert ourselves and react to conflict, which is usually ego based. Competing is of the ego because it assumes a winner and a loser. Of course, when we totally lose our temper the ego has given way to the irrational id. When we get to Jupiter and Saturn we are into superego territory, but these planets can also be egoic, in that Jupiter can be about over-confidence and an inflated ego and Saturn about how the ego seeks respect. The fears and doubts associated with Saturn are also often ego based.

Beyond Saturn we’re in the realms of the unconscious, the sphere of the Gods, but more about that as we look at the chart examples.

Pawn as kingThe relationship of the Sun (the largest and most powerful signifier of our ego) to Mercury (the messenger of the ego) is telling.  Astronomically, Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun and astrologically, they can never be more than 28 degrees apart, meaning that only a Conjunction aspect is possible. This tightly entwines our ego and its emissary.  A primary interpretation of Sun Conjunct Mercury2 is that it suggests an ego driven, perhaps controlling personality, with difficulty separating the ego identity from one’s ideas and opinions, which might manifest as seeing one’s own perspective as the only correct perspective and having difficulty accepting the views of others. More positively, it’s associated with independent thought and confident expression.  But even without the Conjunction, the close proximity of the Sun and Mercury suggests that every one of us is somewhat ego driven and to a greater or lesser extent lacking objectivity and defensive of our own opinions when they clash with another’s.

In the traditional astrology of William Lilly, planets Conjunct the Sun are said to be hidden by the light of the Sun and therefore debilitated, weakened3. This applies to anything in the same sign and within 17 degrees of the Sun, but a planet is in its most serious debility - combust - when between 17 minutes and 8 degrees 30 minutes from the Sun (although a planet within 17 minutes of the Sun is considered strengthened by the Sun). If we were to apply this idea psychologically, we could say that the ego (Sun) overpowers everything that gets too close to it.

The following both have Sun Conjunct Mercury and have both defined and written extensively about the ego.... To read more, including analysis of the charts of Sigmund Freud and Eckhart Tolle, click here to read on astro.com

This article was first published in Constellation News magazine and was re-published at astro.com

Wednesday, 11 March 2020

Pandemics of Fear

While the spread of Coronavirus is undoubtedly serious and we must all do what we can to keep ourselves and others safe, what we are also in the midst of is a pandemic of fear.

With the Saturn Pluto Conjunction ongoing, the astrology is clear. Saturn and Pluto hard aspects have fear written all over them. They are an astrological archetype of collective fear.

The last Saturn Pluto Conjunction was in 1981-83 in Libra, a sign associated with relationships and sharing. The fear during that Conjunction was the threat of the AIDs and HIV, a virus transmitted mainly through sex and also the sharing of needles during drug taking. Again, this virus was very real and at the time it had the potential to be a death sentence for those who contracted it.

In my world, however, as a young women just starting out on her sexual journey, I was never really at risk. It was all about the fear. I clearly remember the UK government campaign, ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance.’ The visuals – tombstones and funereal bouquets – piled on the scares. This disease, we were told, could take us directly to the bowels of Pluto’s underworld if we didn’t exercise extreme caution (Saturn) when having sex. Protection took the form of the barrier method (Saturn) of contraception. My girlfriends and I had all gone ‘on the pill’ as soon as we were ready to be sexually active. This is what young women did in the early eighties. We were the beneficiaries of the sexual revolution started by our parents’ generation. AIDS ended that. We were all scared. There was also a sense of feeling the fear and doing it anyway (with protection), but we were definitely, especially us women, denied the sexual freedoms we had thought were our right.

So here we are, with a new Saturn Pluto Conjunction, this time in Capricorn and another new, seemingly terrifying virus. Most at risk are the elderly and those with some underlying health conditions, but most particularly elders with underlying conditions. Saturn in Capricorn clearly describes the elderly.

Jupiter, also in Capricorn, amplifies everything. Are we as a society and individuals overreacting, over-exaggerating? Some say yes, some say no, but time will tell. What is clear and again Saturnian, is that we are all looking to Government and other experts, such as health and medical professionals for advice and instruction. In many countries, laws are changing, if even temporarily. Some laws are being relaxed to help flagging economies affected by the virus and other laws are being set to help control the virus’ spread and by implication to control the behaviour of citizens. Law and order come under Saturn’s symbolism and control is a classic Saturnian word.

There’s a sense of being at war and war-like language is being used, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who understand the combined symbolism of Saturn and Pluto.

In the UK, people are panic buying toilet paper (or loo roll, as us Brits like to call it), even though Coronavirus doesn’t apparently cause bowel upsets. Pluto is of course associated with bowels and with waste in general. It’s about what we get rid of once we’ve taken what we need. This applies as much to our bodily functions as it does to our psyches. To purge is also to cleanse and hand sanitising gels are also currently being rationed due to high demand.

People with the virus are being forced to self-isolate. Again, it is typical of Pluto transits to isolate us, as individuals but also collectively. Walk around central London today and you will find that people are keeping each other at a physical distance. Expect a space to clear around you should you cough or sneeze. Usually it’s impossible to walk down the main shopping street near my office without literally brushing up against someone. Now we’re back in the realm of Saturnian boundaries and barriers.

Keep your distance, says Saturn!  By keeping away you are being isolated, says Pluto! ‘Social distancing’ currently looks like becoming one of the phrases of the year.

Yesterday (10th March), Mercury turned Direct in Aquarius, having spent most of its Retrograde in the sign of its Fall, Pisces. I tend to underplay Mercury Retrograde’s significance and for good reason, but this one was severe. Under Pisces, things can spread, become infected. Because of the fear of spread, we have travel restrictions, cancelled flights, holiday plans ruined, big crowd events cancelled, closed schools, fears about the virus spreading on public transport, massive strains on ‘Piscean’ institutions such as hospitals, prisons and care homes. And let’s not forget all the cruise passengers trapped on board floating germ factories. Of course, on its own, Mercury Retrograde doesn’t symbolise the whole picture, but it’s nevertheless interesting to note the clear symbolic resonances.

Saturn is today at 29 degrees Capricorn. When a planet is in the last degree of any sign, the meanings of the planet and its sign are intensified. The seminal work on this and the other ‘power degrees’ of the zodiac has been done by Frank Clifford who writes that at 29 degrees we “encounter some of the most challenging facets of that meaning.” A four stage plan to tackle the outbreak is in operation in the UK and elsewhere. Stage one is Containment. The second is Delay. Both of these are Saturn key words and these stages are incredibly challenging to implement and to live by. If the UK goes into Delay stage (as it has in Italy and other places) it means not going to work or school, not visiting elderly relatives, not travelling unless it’s an emergency and not socialising. And where this is being enforced there are threats of criminalisation for non-compliance, undoubtedly representing the most challenging aspects of Saturn, at the end of Capricorn.  

And as I publish, the World Health Organisation has just confirmed the Coronavirus as a pandemic.

Saturn moves into Aquarius on 22nd March. We shall see what happens then. It’s the sign of humanitarianism, community, collaboration. It’s also the sign of innovation and technology, which bodes well for the 3rd stage – Research – which is already underway to develop a vaccine and also find existing drugs that can help with treatment. Reports are that pharma companies are collaborating positively. The Mitigation phase, if all else fails, focuses on saving lives, whilst maintainin public services and law and order. Stay safe, look after each other and don’t panic, this too shall pass.

(Here's a happy picture I took in the park today - spring is on it's way).

With love,

Quincunx, Aversion & Venus in Libra

I always have great fun recording the Academy of Astrology UK weekly podcast, hosted by the wonderful Rod Chang. It's never scripted, w...