On Mercury

The word, “Abracadabra” says, “I create as I speak” and, in Astrology, words…thoughts…imagination… are the domain of Mercury. This article began as part of what turned into a very long article on Mercury’s next retrograde. It gives some more information about this wing footed Deity.

He is Mercury to the Romans, Hermes to the Greeks, Thoth to the Egyptians and has also been linked to Wotan. He is the God of Magic and of Writing and, as Thoth and Hermes combined, he is Hermes Trismegistus, or Hermes Thrice Great, who is said to have authored the hermetic texts.

His mother is the eldest of the Seven Sisters, the Stars called the Pleiedes. Her name is Maia, a name which phonetically brings to mind the idea of Maya or Illusion. She’s been linked with growth, with our ancestors and with the Goddess. His father is Jupiter, or Zeus, the King of the Gods, who is linked with expansion and with good luck.

Mercury is fast, he is the Messenger of the Gods, moving with ease between the worlds of the gods and the worlds of humankind. He rules the boundaries between these places, the borders between the Creator and the Created. From the Valley of Somnus, he carries dreams to us as we sleep. In his role as Psychopomp, helping newly deceased souls travel from this world into the next, he is the only Deity, outside of the King and the Queen of the Underworld themselves, who has the freedom to move into and out of the Underworld. And, what’s more, he can do so as he pleases.

It is out of this that everything else that he does falls…He is the God of thoughts, words, language, ideas, imagination, messages, communication, travellers, stories, storytellers, actors, siblings, lungs, arms, hands, information, crossroads, choices and of portends or signs. He is also the God of tricksters and thieves.

One of the signs that he rules, Gemini, is the twins who are sometimes mortal and sometimes immortal, the side of ourselves that moves between being of the Earth and of the Heavens. As Ruler of Gemini, Mercury has to do with lungs and with breath – that which connects what’s inside us with what’s outside us. It’s on our breath that our ideas can travel in the form of words which then penetrates, affects and changes that which is around us just as we absorb what we see and perceive around us and allow it to change what is inside us. Here, Mercury has to do with duality, choices and with the reconciliation of these two sides.

As Ruler of the other of his two signs, Virgo, he has to do with our daily rituals and habits, with our overall wellbeing and with healing which may be why his wand, the caduceus, is often mistaken as the symbol of medicine which is the Rod of Asclelius. It is here in Virgo, that the mind becomes the alchemist, able to extract and to carve out exactly what is needed to create what is being created.

Mercury is quicksilver, sometimes said to be the most innocent of all the planets, being the only one to have retained its liquid form. The metal, like thoughts, words and deeds, can be poisonous though, but, as Paracelcus says, “Poison is in everything and no thing is without a poison. The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.”

Mercury’s signs, like Mercury himself are mutable, changeable. They have do with changing and with bringing about changes, with working with and through our lower selves to step into our higher selves. He has to do with weather and is used in instruments which take its measure.

In Greek and Roman Mythology, Mercury / Hermes is commonly referred to as ‘he,’ but takes on the colour of that which is around him. He is the father of the two sexed Hermaphroditus and is also often said to be the father of Pan, a word which means ‘all.’ Mercury’s glyph is made up of the semi circle of reflection sitting above the whole which, in turn, sits upon the cross of matter. It describes that which we see being taken within and manifested or, more simply put, mind over matter.

Mercury is the curiosity and the ideas that leads us to make connections, to interact and exchange with what is around us, it is the self knowledge that leads to wisdom.

Mercury’s caduceus wand is a staff entwined by two serpents beneath a pair of wings. The serpents speak of change and transformation as well as Hermes’ ability to change and to transform that which he touches. It is through allowing this serpentine, kundalini energy to move and transform us that our consciousness can take flight into higher realms. It is a symbol of awakening.

Mercury inspires us. In this and in his mercurial, changeable, trickster nature, he is similar to the higher Octave of Mercury, Uranus, who, in the tarot cards is also the Fool – the character who can become any of the others and out of which everything comes.

And most importantly, of Mercury it has been said that when the consciousness of mind takes residence in the place of the heart... we can make gold.


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The images from the tarot are from the Rider Waite Tarot deck (Arthur Edward Waite and Pamela Coleman Smith,) photographed by myself with the kind permission of Rider, Ebury.