The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.
Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made
is star-stuff too?
– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –
dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.
Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.
Wednesday, 6 November 2013
the winged messenger flying backwards
In alchemy, no transmutation/transformation is possible without this swift winged spirit to counter the pull of base, or leaden, matter, symbolised by Saturn; the gravity of the ego so resists the process of transformation into all we might be, into the 'gold' of ourselves, also known as the Higher Self, that part of us which works for the greater good rather than simply the gratification of our own desires.
In Greek his name is Hermes, from which we get 'hermetically sealed'. So this god is associated, too, with secret processes and places hidden from prying eyes: the alembic, the container of alchemy in which the crude substances are 'cooked' under pressure until the hieros gamas, the Sacred Marriage of soul and spirit, can take place; from this union is born also the Divine Androgyne, the one beyond duality. The hortus conclusus, in some ways the 'garden of the soul', is dedicated to and protected by Mercury, also.
Mercury is often also portrayed carrying the Caduceus wand or staff. This is the common symbol of healing or wholeness, now used by the medical profession, around which, in some depictions one, and in others two, serpents twine. There's much to say about that, too, but here let's just say that the twin snakes around the central (spinal) column may well represent the ascending and descending kundalini currents (life-force, Eros, libido, vital energy – call it what you will) – which create and maintain the the balanced and awakened energies of life, both in each living being and arguably, esoterically, in the cosmos at large – twin currents or poles of energy and manifestation, the synthesis of which is our inner work. Think too, of course, of the twin currents of DNA, the double helix.
You'll notice that in the image above left the staff (unserpented in this case) carried by Hermes is topped by the symbol used for the planet Mercury: a circle crowned by a pair of horns, or the crescent moon. This suggests that Mercury, like Cernunnos and Herne, is one of the horned gods in the service of the Goddess.
Mercury is also androgynous; this is fitting for one whose work is to help take us beyond the pairs of opposites.
People who are strongly Mercurial in their character often have an androgynous quality to them – think Gemini (whose ruler is Mercury), Castor and Pollux, the twins who represent the constellation of Gemini, Apollo and Artemis: the male and female twins who are deeply interlinked and in some ways remarkably similar. Have you noticed this (the androgynous quality to some individuals born under Geminin/Mercury, I mean)? And they are often boyish or girlish in their bearing, habits, and attitudes long after they've physically left adolescence. They have a charm to them, and are usually articulate communicators; they often exhibit a trickster-ish playfulness, an often marked artistic ability, and an attractively elusive quality (which can manifest in relationship as an inability to commit, and an irresponsibility which stems from a fear of being tied down and grounded – death to this airy spirit – which can drive one nuts, in my experience!). In Jungian thought, they are the puer aeternus, or puella aeterna – the perpetual boy, or girl; a Peter Pan figure.
The reason I'm speaking of Mercury here is because we, cosmically speaking, are in what astrology calls a time of Mercury retrograde: astronomically, although the planet Mercury is in its usual trajectory around the sun, as we are, from earth it looks as though the planet is travelling backwards at the moment.
This retrograde cycle of Mercury happens 3 or 4 times a year, for about 3 weeks, plus lead-in and move-out times. This year, each cycle has been in a water sign. Right now, he is in the sign of Scorpio until 10th November.
In the philosophy of 'as above, so below', and not looking at causal ideas so much as synchronous events (synchronicity was Jung's term for what he identified as an 'acausal connecting principle'), we can perhaps read in Mercury's apparent movements symbolic suggestions as to what we might expect 'down here' during a Mercury retrograde cycle: a confusion in the fields of usually-clear thinking, or communication; crossed wires; travel disruption; computer glitches (especially email/computer/mobile phone glitches – Mercury is so suited to the role of the god of cyber-communications); and things being delayed or lagging behind when they should have been tied up by now, perhaps. (Just after I wrote this my sort-of step-daughter emailed her dad to say she'd missed her flight from Argentina to Chile as the buses weren't working.)
Traditionally, a Mercury retrograde period is not auspicious for contracts and legal documents or binding agreements to take place; they might need revising after this period.
It's not always a good time for initiating creative projects, either; although I often notice I feel very creative during one of these periods, I am often muddled as to where to begin – much to say and frustration at knowing how best to get it out.
On the other hand, with Mercury in a water sign (Scorpio), which suggests emotional matters, secrets, and events which in the past may have touched us deeply, we might yet have the opportunity to revisit a time, situation, or person with which, or whom, we have not yet quite completed a process. Memories, and the role of memory, might be significant here, and at this dark time of the year in the Northern hemisphere, an evening by the fire with a notebook or journal and an intention to revisit the past by letting whatever wants to arise from the psyche do so, might prove fruitful and healing.
If you're merely experiencing frustration after delay after miscommunication, hold still and give it another two weeks, if you can, without pushing the river.
© Roselle Angwin, November 2013
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