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Tarot Reflections

 January 15, 2004

Stars and Cards: The Mercury Retrogrades of 2004
Liz Hazel

Photo by Derek Sanderson

Elizabeth Hazel is an astrologer and tarotist who lives in Toledo, Ohio.  She has written extensively on techniques for combining stars and cards, and enjoys researching and writing about other occult topics, including mythology and history. 

Liz has 3 cats, loves to grow flowers and herbs, and plays keyboards for a band.  Her secret wish is to be a contestant on Jeopardy.  She can be contacted via email.


Mercury is the planet closest to the Sun, and requires 88 days to orbit the star. Three times in 2004, Mercury will appear to be swallowed by the Sun from our view on earth. This phenomenon is known as Mercury retrograde. 1 Mercury is the "moon of the sun;" and Mercury retrogrades are comparable to a "new Mercury." A new Mercury period brings a time when things have to be relearned, or scrutinized through a new lens of perception. Mercury is the planet of mental alertness, and its cyclic behavior relates to fine gradations of perceptive awareness. Astrologically, this planet rules communications, transportation, and exchanges, so these periods are notorious for confusion and delays.

As previously noted in the earlier article on this subject in 2003, Mercury retrogrades are not created equal. The evaluation of any Mercury retrograde starts by determining its relative comfort in the sign in which it occurs. The second criteria are Mercury's relationships to other planets during its retrograde phase. Mercury forms triple aspects to slower planets as it shifts through its retrograde territory - forward, backward, and the third and final aspect in direct motion as it is exiting its retrograde territory. Repeated good aspects help a Mercury retrograde show better results - bad aspects show the potential for a more difficult retrograde.

In 2004, Mercury's first two retrograde stations move backwards from earth signs to fire signs. Earth signs are practical and common sense, while fire signs are ambitious and intuitive. These first two retrogrades will be periods when potential opportunities and creative schemes - issues embodied in the suit of Wands - must be evaluated for their potential practical applications - the subject contained in the suit of Pentacles. The third retrograde is entirely contained in a fire sign. This final retrograde of 2004 is very different in both outer planet aspects and its single-element character.

Some astrologers equate a retrograde Mercury with its transit in the opposite zodiac sign. The tarot cards assigned to the relevant zodiac decanates and the opposite decanates of the zodiac are given below for each retrograde. The planet Mercury is attributed to the Magician card, and well represents the Magician's capacity for mental brilliance, inventiveness, and a wide range of skills that includes linguistic abilities, illusion, and deception.

Mercury Retrograde #1
This station runs from April 6 - April 20; from 1 Taurus to 21 Aries. The retrograde station coincides with a Full Moon in Libra, both in signs ruled by Venus, the goddess of love. Relationship conflicts and misunderstandings may surface during the first week of April. Taurus is the sign of values and personal possessions, as well as the ability to earn a living. Although Mercury only dips his little toe into this sign, from April 3 - 12 he is in mutual reception (in each other's signs) with Venus in Gemini. This gives a heightened interest in social activities, cultural events, matters relating to children and education, and efforts to promote self-interest - particularly in intimate relationships. Schedules and priorities are re-arranged for convenience and comfort, but people may not be entirely honest about why they're rescheduling! Venus and Mercury are notoriously amoral, and Mercury is a facile liar.

From April 14 to May 7, Mercury is in mutual reception with the ruler of Aries, Mars. (From April 20 until May 7, Mercury is moving direct as it prepares to exit Aries.) Mercury's mutual reception shift from the goddess of love to the god of war will be noticeable. People will be more hot-tempered and prone to agitation, arguments, and accidents. These tendencies escalate on April 19th when Mercury is aligned with a Solar Eclipse at 29 Aries. This is indicative of ego and identity changes, shifts of status, and revised priorities. It will be difficult to express the inner turmoil roused by the eclipse. Aries is the sign of the hero, and some heroic acts may be ignored, unappreciated, or misread. This is a period of disorder, where judgments and reactions are unbalanced. It should hardly need mentioning, but it would be prudent to complete and turn in taxes early this year! The eclipse and Mercury retrograde square the U. S. natal Pluto, suggesting that the enormous bureaucratic machine will be malfunctioning.

Mercury forms triple aspects to Pluto and Jupiter. Emotional issues may fester as rage, resentment, blame, or guilt rise to the surface. Individuals may over-react to minor irritations. The task of this retrograde is not only to express feelings without excess temper, but to find a means or method through which issues may be resolved. Aries is the sign of nascent consciousness, and the eclipse/retrograde combination signals a challenge to ensure the survival of the ego. Some may find their professional life more gratifying during this period, as it will tend to present far fewer problems than the personal life.

The decan-attributed cards for this retrograde are the 5 of Pentacles and the 4 of Wands. The 5 of Pentacle's attribution is Mercury/Taurus, and its divinatory meaning is quite appropriate: confusions, delays, secret love affairs. The 4 of Wands reflects Mercury's reception with Venus, and the focus on social events and relationships in the early part of the retrograde. The eclipse/retrograde combination may appear as The Sun card reversed. The end of the retrograde partakes of the energies of the 9 of Swords (Mars/Gemini), as Mercury exchanges energies with the god of war. The cards ruling the opposite decans from the retrograde are the 5 of Cups and the 4 of Swords. Emotional turbulence and unavoidable periods of waiting are to be expected under this series of aspects.

Close on the heels of the Mercury retrograde is a Venus retrograde in the sign of Gemini from May 17 - June 29th. As Mercury returns to Taurus, it is again in mutual reception with Venus. Because of the one-two retrograde punch, personal issues (whether connected with love relationships, children, or personal welfare) may extend well into the summer months. This pair of retrogrades requires solutions that combine meanings that are relevant to both the perceptive ego and the perspective of personal values.

Mercury Retrograde #2
The second Mercury retrograde of 2004 is the longest and the most difficult, running from August 10 - September 2; from 8 Virgo to 25 Leo. Mercury is retrograde in its earthy sign of rulership, and this is generally very challenging as pesky details and health-and-wellness issues are brought into close scrutiny. In 2003, the August-September Mercury retrograde coincided with a massive power outage, as well as several violent attacks in the Middle East. A rash of health problems emerged as well.

This year, the confluence of planets surrounding this retrograde is similarly ill-omened. Mercury retrograde will join Mars in opposing Uranus (in Pisces) on August 18th. This alignment is a violent one, suggesting that mid-August bears the potential for attacks by hidden enemies, violent and freaky weather, and a spike in the culture of fear.

Mercury forms three alignments with the asteroid Ceres during this station. Some mythologies suggest that Virgo the virgin is Persephone, the maiden abducted by Hades (Pluto). Ceres (Demeter) is her mother, the great goddess of grain and the harvest. This retrograde may place strains on ties of kinship, and test the willingness of relatives to support each other in times of trouble. Ceres is a goddess who loves the common people, and works to assure their well-being. She is concerned with food production and quality, and the previously mentioned Mercury-Mars-Uranus alignment may threaten food supplies, either through weather that damages crops, or through diseases that compromise the health of animals. Food prices may rise drastically on certain items.

This retrograde contacts important stars in the constellation of Leo. The station begins with Mercury conjunct Zosma, a star on the Lion's back. This star represents victims and martyrs, and can bring about unfortunate situations where dignity is compromised by the dispassionate cruelty of others. Mercury crosses three times over the star Regulus, the Lion's Heart. In contrast to Zosma, Regulus is a star of strength and heroic championship. Cumulatively, this retrograde polarizes the weak and the strong; those who protect and nurture versus those who exploit. Since 2004 is a presidential election year, this Mercury retrograde should be carefully observed for its effects on political campaign battles.

The decan-related cards are the 8 of Pentacles and the 7 of Wands. The 8 of Pentacles demands careful attention to details and work skills; the 7 of Wands is a card of courage in the face of multiple challenges. The 10 of Pentacles is attributed to Mercury/Virgo, and is closely related to critical issues in this retrograde - traditional food supplies, national leadership, and debates about health care concerns that reflect the core values of the collective. The confluence of angry planets on August 18th may be represented by the Magician in contact with the Tower (Mars) and the Fool (Uranus). The cards attributed to the opposing decans are the 8 of Cups and the 7 of Swords. These two cards suggest that the potential for depression and uncertainty are high during this station.

Mercury Retrograde #3
This retrograde begins on November 30 and ends on December 20; and moves from 26 to 10 Sagittarius. This retrograde (as well as the first two in 2005) is entirely contained in a fire sign, so concentrates on re-assessing issues of freedom, belief, education, medicine, and the law. There may be a focus on international diplomacy and shared languages (including computer languages), and on distant travels and the result of journeys.

The retrograde begins at the exact degree of the Galactic Center. This area of the zodiac is a source of concentrated universal energies, and its effects are often termed the hand of fate or the will of the gods. It is the heart of our galaxy, the Milky Way. The GC is our local star nursery, a source of magnificent light, radio waves and infrared; but it is obscured by clouds of star dust that obscure our view of this phenomenon. Planetary conjunctions to this degree of the zodiac are considered a conduit to divine inspiration.

While Mercury's contact with the GC may cause some to struggle with issues of fatedness, this is the least problematic retrograde in 2004, although that is a forecast made with a cautionary note! Mercury enjoys three sextiles with Sagittarius' ruler, Jupiter in Libra; and a triple sextile to Neptune in Aquarius. Sextiles promote opportunities, and sextiles to these benefic planets are visionary, magical, inspirational, and humanitarian. This series may promote concord in issues of religious strife, as global welfare should be held above religious differences. It is certainly an opportunity to promote tolerance, as Mercury, Jupiter and Neptune combine to promote the universal truths sought in the sign of the Archer. The entire retrograde is under the auspices of the Jupiter-Neptune trine that is exact on November 29th.

Potential danger comes from Mercury's triple conjunction to Pluto. This occurs near a black hole in the galaxy, so may account for things disappearing (or long-lost items reappearing) during the station. Pluto is the lord of the underworld, and scars to the soul that have resulted in repression of deep feelings or needs, or compulsive behaviors, may surge to surface awareness. This underworld power may spur others toward peak experiences or spiritual awakenings. Some may be particularly motivated to clean out mental, emotional, or material garbage, as it arouses powerful urge toward elimination. It may also bring about deaths or finalities, or dramatic changes in the status of children during December.

The decan-related cards of this retrograde are the 10 and the 9 of Wands; the 8 of Wands shares the attribution Mercury/Sagittarius. The 10 of Wands is concerned with finalities, burn-out, and lost ambitions, and relates to the triple alignment with Pluto. The 9 of Wands is watchful of allies and enemies, reflecting changing trends in international relationships at the end of 2004. The 8 of Wands is a card of velocity and messages that hints at the visionary quality of this station. The high-vibration energy of Mercury combined with Jupiter and Neptune is equivalent to Magician with the Wheel or Justice; or with the Star and the Hanged Man. The Mercury-Pluto conjunction may also be expressed as Magician-Tower (or Judgment).

The Mercury Retrograde Spread

This is a simple tarot spread for gauging the effects of a Mercury retrograde. You may wish to extract the Magician as a significator c

ard (or any card that represents Mercury to you). You may also use your own birth chart as a meditation mandala. Write in the degrees of the Mercury retrograde on your chart, and concentrate on the house or houses being activated by the retrograde.

Shuffle the deck while focusing on the significator card or chart, and meditate on Mercury's energies. When you have finished shuffling, take three cards off the top of the deck, and place as shown:

Mercury Retrograde layout

This spread delineates the three major phases of a Mercury retrograde:

Card 1 - The Retrograde Station. Represents how the Mercury retrograde will begin, and may offer warnings, tips, or areas of extra caution. It may also show a person that will be involved in your experience of the Mercury retrograde, or someone who may show very obvious Mercury retrograde influences.

Card 2 - Inferior Conjunction. This is the mid-point of the Mercury retrograde, when Mercury is directly in front of the Sun. This card represents when Mercury's energy is at its weakest. The card may show where a communications vacuum may occur; or show an issue, person, project, or situation that should be re-evaluated at this point in the retrograde cycle. It may indicate possible weak areas that require protection or great caution at this point in the cycle.

Card 3 - The Direct Station. This is the end of the retrograde, and this card shows the predominant influences at the time of the direct station. A new understanding may be apparent in this card, or cumulative fall-out from the entire retrograde may be revealed. Errors or misunderstandings may also be indicated as the cycle winds to a close, requiring special effort to correct or repair.

Card 4 - Results. This card shows the cumulative effects of the entire Mercury retrograde cycle. It may encourage a special attitude or focus to maintain during this cycle, or an emotional tactic that should prove effective for coping with the cycle. For instance, if the Queen of Cups should appear here, a fine strategy would be to be loving, gracious, and sympathetic toward others, and if all else fails - feed people

1 The more technically accurate term would be a "Mercury eclipse," because this phenomenon physically resembles the relationships of the Sun, Moon and Earth during eclipses.


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