Mercury is named after the Roman god, also known as "The Winged Messenger" due to its speed and swiftness, and affinities with mental faculties, thoughts, ideas, conceptions, reasoning, writing, communication, and the element of air. As the innermost planet of our solar system, it never gets more than 36 degrees from the Sun. It is rarely visible, much like the mind itself, which we cannot see but whose influences are deeply felt in all areas of life.

It is unique in that it makes three retrograde cycles (appearing to move backward, from the point of view of Earth) of three weeks each annually. These periods are often characterized by a lack of clear communication and misunderstandings, and delays are often experienced in terms of terrestrial events. They are not conducive to things like signing contracts and making agreements, and are rather a time to slow down and develop introspection.

The chemical element mercury, or quicksilver, offers insights as to the working of the planet's forces. It is very toxic, so care needs to be taken in its use, much as thoughts and beliefs can be dangerous and even poisoning to oneself and others! For many years it was used in dental fillings, until the perniciousness was discovered and it was replaced with plastic amalgams. It is also strongly affecting oceans and fish.

If one touches mercury it cannot be pinned down and breaks up into many little streams, but by pushing these together it becomes whole again. The mind can be used to judge people and situations, creating the illusion of separateness, but indeed, we are all connected, if only through the air we breathe.

Mercury is also known as the Trickster, or coyote, in Native American traditions. Alas, the mind can easily lead us astray, and it requires keen discernment to offset its ability to fool us into thinking that we know the answers, or that our opinions are the right ones!

"Mercurial" is another word associated with the planet. It refers to a volatile, unpredictable, fluctuating, changeable, erratic and inconsistent nature, which describes its orbit, physical rotation, and surface temperatures.

Mercury in the Greek pantheon is Hermes, one of the prime keepers of the Mysteries, a messenger from other dimensions of time and space offering humanity a deeper sense of connection, knowledge and intuition.

Challenges and issues to be faced and transformed include gossip and rumor-mongering, idle talk and chatter, restlessness, and a need to go deeper into the meaning of life experiences. The planet is also connected with the nervous system, and responses to stress and anxiety.

In traditional astrology, Mercury rules both Gemini and Virgo. The former is associated with the rational mind — learning the names of things, school experiences, pursuing knowledge and degrees, amassing information, and communicating thoughts to others. It acts in more receptive fashion in Virgo, with an emphasis upon analytical qualities, classification, giving meaning to our experiences, and developing intuition, or inner knowing.

At a transpersonal level, however, its strongest association is with Aries, where it acts as the voice of the collective consciousness formed in Pisces, the previous sign of the zodiac, with wider perspectives, understanding, and the wisdom that comes from the blending of knowledge and experience. This is the penetrating aspect of mind, cutting through illusions and delusions, speaking truth in the face of the emperor's new clothes syndrome so prevalent in these times of fear and confusion.

In the Tarot, Mercury is represented by the Magus, or Magician, one of whose tasks is bringing together seemingly disparate elements and aspects of life into a cohesive wholeness. It is also the magick of alchemy, turning the dross of personality into the gold of the spiritual and compassionate life through reflection and contemplation.

Examining the position of Mercury in a birth chart can reveal much about how one's mind works, illuminating talents and challenges relative to learning, curiosity, and communication. An excellent strategy for quieting the restless of the mind is meditation, which can often lead to developing intuition, a deepening sense of peace and well-being, and increasing awareness of self and others.

Whilst it is important to trust our sense of things, it is also vital to test the ideas and insight that arise in real world situations with a certain detachment from outcomes, in order to more clearly perceive underlying truths and causality. In this regard, Mercury performs a very necessary function in the expansion of consciousness.

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