And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game. Joni Mitchell
Time...is on my side. Yes, it is. The Rolling Stones, written by Norman Meade
The World is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings. Robert Louis Stevenson
December 13, 2016 Full Moon in Gemini, 22°26’, 4:05 PM PST. Sun 22°26’ Sagittarius, conjunct Saturn 19°16’, Moon forming a loose Grand Trine in Air signs with Mars at 25°56 Aquarius and Jupiter, 18°52’ Libra. Jupiter opposes Uranus, retrograde, 20°40’ Aries.
December 19, 2016 Mercury in Capricorn retrograde 15°8’, 2:55 AM PST, within orb of conjunction with Pluto, Capricorn 16°31’.
December 21, 2016 Winter Solstice - northern hemisphere, 2:45 am PST, Sun enters Capricorn.
When I was a kid, I used to love to write stories. I used to illustrate them too. I also had a goal that one day I would climb Mount McKinley, officially known as Denali, the sacred mountain's indigenous name. I imagined reaching the top. Summiting was something I could strive for and I could actually make it happen. Don’t we all have dreams as kids? Goals we set for ourselves. But our dreams seem to change. They change as our perceptions, along with our circumstances, change. And the structures that we once thought were so present in our lives seem to morph into something else. We end up becoming a different person, different than what we thought we would become when we were six. Whatever happened to climbing Mount McKinley? Now I find myself writing stories again and wondering what it would be like to climb Olympus Mons. That’s the largest mountain in the Solar System, taller than any mountain on Earth. Of course, we’d have to travel to Mars, but why not? A curious mind is a flexible mind. We open doors. The Full Moon in Gemini, a mutable sign ruled by Mercury, stimulates our mental processes and offers us opportunities to shift our perceptions. The week following the Full Moon, Mercury in Capricorn will turn retrograde asking us to search inward and reflect back upon our "mountains" – what changes now need to happen to guide and give structure to your goals? What great accomplishment is calling you?
In the northern hemisphere, the short days and fading light as we approach Winter Solstice seem to bring us into a time of reflection. We seek the light inside ourselves and recognize it within those we love as we feast, celebrate the year that was and ready our hearts for the year ahead. The Solstice brings us into Capricorn season. Capricorn is the sign ruled by Saturn. In antiquity, the Romans celebrated Saturnalia, a festival in honor of the God Saturn, in the middle of December. This year, Mercury retrograde in Capricorn allows us to look back on the paths we have taken. Because Capricorn is about the climb. This sign fits so naturally into this season of advent, which is a time of turning inward. The internal process of advent is a Christian meditation. However, we all know it does not matter if you are Christian or Pagan, Jewish or Muslim, we recognize the gifts we get from such inward- focused times. Let’s step back a little. Let’s look for that light inside. When Mercury stations retrograde, on December 19th, he will be almost in a conjunction with the dwarf planet, Pluto (After the New Year, starting January 8th, Mercury appears to move forward again and he will meet Pluto exact at 12:18 PM PST on January 29th). The near, but "not quite there," conjunction, brings an opportunity for our meditations to delve under the surface, look for truth within, find the inner side of consciousness that holds us back or pushes us forward up the mountain. We all see such forces in play around us. A lot of people, rightfully so, are questioning the political turmoil of the moment, the veracity of the election process in America, and they are critically looking at the systemic and often rigid structures we have built in our communities and nations. Yet, December is also a time to honor self by using Mercury retrograde to pull inward and investigate our own inner terrains. What processes make it so hard to see? What blocks us from seeing the cycles of our dreams and goals that come and go, evolve and change? The Full Moon in Gemini initiates this process by breaking down the limitations of our perceptions.
At the time of the Full Moon in Gemini, a loose trine, roughly 120 degrees, between Mars in Aquarius and the Moon and between the Moon and Jupiter in Libra creates a Grand Trine in Air signs. We have an opportunity to act and assert ourselves through emotional self- expression, through verbal, artistic communication and through the joy and support of others. The sign Gemini is so often associated with words and the intellect. But, mercurial communication can also be through the realm of creative image-making that may help stimulate the upcoming meditations of the retrograde period. We often consider artistic expression to be closely tied into Venusian signs of Libra and Taurus. But the power to communicate through imagery, such as visual arts, film making, metaphor and music, can be a Gemini art that opens our preconceived notions and shifts our understanding. Take, for example, master musician, bard, and poet, Bob Dylan, whose Birth chart has strong Gemini energies along side a strong Taurus 5th house and Libra, 10th. The current Trines are flowing, easy aspects holding a potential to underscore the mental shift of this Full Moon. Meanwhile, Jupiter in Libra also opposes Uranus in Aries (this aspect is exact the day after Christmas, December 26th, at 10:32 AM, PST). Uranus, the individual, the rebel, the eccentric, in fiery Aries, is in tension with our desire to build jovial, loving 'friend' energy, a harmony and balance with others. Of all the planets in the Solar System, Uranus is the only one to rotate on his axis tipped at a 98-degree angle to the planet's orbit around the Sun. A freak, an outsider, Uranus plays his own tune and dances to his own rhythm. This opposition of Uranus and Jupiter plays into the shadow period leading to Mercury retrograde because it presents an opportunity to wrestle 'self' and one's true dreams and goals from the expectations of pleasing others. During the days prior to the Full Moon, the Sun met up with Saturn in a conjunction in Sagittarius making this hard work.
Capricorn so often receives a "bad rap" as the conservative, restrictive sign ruled by Saturn. In actuality, Capricorn done right offers us a kind of strength; it comes from being able to see past structures and patterns that restrict our growth and evolution. It is what old age brings us through the ability to be able to look back and say “I’ve done this before. I‘ve done this and I’ve done this and I've done this yet again." And so there it is; there’s the structure. We can view it. View it from today. It doesn’t matter what age you are; the elder wisdom that comes from reflecting upon retrograde Mercury in Capricorn will help you. Consider where the sign Capricorn falls in your Birth chart, what aspects it effects, especially note mid-Capricorn degrees (second decan - Shadow period began at Sagittarius 28 degree). Mid-degree of Cardinal signs will be also emphasized. Remember to look where transiting Pluto is in your chart: what lies behind these cycles, limitations, set backs to our dreams? Why DO we go round and round in the circle game? Shifting perspectives may help us see. That is what the mercury retrograde is about.
There is a trickster dimension of Mercury. The retrograde period may fool us into hurrying through our day-to-day communications and bog us down with technological glitches as we fail to notice simple mistakes. But a full-body "sweater" to protect us from "harm" is not necessary. Rather take the trickster for the game and make it work for you in Capricorn style. In Mercury's giant impact crater, Caloris Basin, lies "the Spider," a formation of deep troughs or valleys marking the surface of the planet. Like the Lakota Sioux trickster spider Iktomi in Native American myth, this apparition of a Mercurial spider fools us with parts and pieces to reveal an essence. It is similar to a gestalt; you have to look at all the lines to grasp the big picture. This retrograde period of Mercury in Capricorn allows us to look back upon all the "pieces," all the pathways, that gave structure to the "mountain." We don't have to let Mercury simply be the "trickster." Use this inward time of reflection to fill in the gestalt and see the cycles of the past and rework the goals and steps for the future. The Moon opposing Saturn several hours before the Full Moon calls us to work on contemplating and communicating about what feeds us emotionally and what out-dated, rigid structures and paradigms keep our viewpoints locked and our goals limited.
Detail of Caloris, a large impact crater on Mercury, and the extensive radial troughs known as 'The Spider'
You might be asking, but wait a minute, isn’t Mercury about communication and the mind? About conveying information? Mercury is also about receiving and observing, a dialogue where we listen and perceive. When retrograde, it is possible to revisit, review messages in a fresh light. Twisting information into new ways reminds me of the now famous dream of Nobel Laureate James Watson, who in sleep saw the spiral staircase that would help him realize the double helix of DNA. Here is another short story, a true bit of history, that I believe helps us to question how we glean information from creative insights, not just as words on a page but, like evolutionary astrologer Steven Forrest describes, as omens, signs made known to us. In 1726, Irish author Jonathan Swift wrote, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of Several Ships, better known to us today as Gulliver’s Travels. Most of us know the famous chapter in which the ship surgeon Gulliver ends up among the "little people" of the land of Lilliput. But in another part of the book, Gulliver meets a people, the Luputans, who are great mathematicians and astronomers living aboard a floating island. They observe the two moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos. But yet how did Jonathan Swift know to include these two moons? Astronomers would not discover them until 1877, over hundred years after the publication of Gulliver's Travels. Swift was using most likely a popular mistranslation of one of Galileo’s letters. Galileo put his discoveries into Latin word puzzles in his letters as a way to document his findings, but at the same time, keep them secret from the reader. Galileo sent the letter to fellow astronomer, Johannes Kepler. Kepler was not able to translate the anagram properly and assumed Galileo wrote of two moons orbiting Mars, but Galileo did not see these moons. Jonathan Swift knew of Kepler’s translation and hence wrote of the Luputans and their observation of the two moons. Swift even wrote a fairly accurate estimate of the orbital paths and distances of the moons from Mars. Are there two moons of Mars? Yes! Was this chance? Maybe. But to me, this story illustrates the complex way information can be conveyed, the subtle forms an omen can work and the possibilities of diverse modes of perception Mercury can reveal. The Luputans had it right.
Here is a more mundane example of how Mercury works as a change in perception. To be aware of the omens takes an open heart and the patience to listen. Remember the times you were on the way out the door and you see the bank card there on the table? A feeling comes over you like you need to pick the card up, you will need it, you perceive it as a feeling, but the rational mind kicks in and says, “No, I don’t need that card.” Then hours later at work you realize you have left your wallet at home. The card would have saved you. Have you missed a Mercury moment? Perhaps. Under the retrograde an awareness of that process can be made more real for you as an idea, an insight. See if you can notice those moments this winter season. Like we saw in the example of Jonathan Swift's story, they may just help you to see the "two moons."
Finally, I want to close with an image that seems to capture the essence of Capricorn as we approach Winter Solstice and the Sun's ingress (entry) into the sign. It is one of walking on ice, or rather the dry, black spaces between the ice, as one carefully and gradually steps along the ground. My principal astrology teacher, Steven Forrest, used this image once in a story. I only heard him share the story one time, but it lingered in the back of mind because, for me, a person with several natal planets in Capricorn, it worked. It captures the spirit of the "sea goat," the gradual evolution of a soul and a life well lived. Imagine a dark, cold alley in an old, medieval town. On a winter's night, you walk along the rough, uneven cobble stones, up an old, crumbling set of steps, near the walls of a church ruin. There is little light so it is difficult to see. Some parts of the stone surface shine with the reflections of light from the street lamps, subtly revealing the icy patches. Capricorn spies a narrow slice of dark, dry pavement, steps lightly, then firmly, maneuvers the feet and turns to seek the next dry segment, sure-footed and skipping a step to find a clean landing. One step, check, balance to the next, check. The rustic surface of the stones require care and caution. Capricorn looks for steps with a focused sight and chooses a path that will endure.
What were those paths, those steps that led us one way or another through the years in our "circle game"? And how did we get sidetracked or did we get sidetracked at all? How did we decide what dreams were worth pursuing? As dark turns to light here in the northern hemisphere, we claim the time for introspection and the grace to see our paths in new ways. Wishing everyone a blessed Winter Solstice and much joy in the New Year!