Mercury enters Libra today (until September 26) on a whirlwind diplomatic visit, to survey the lay of the relational landscape and perhaps to set things in order before next month’s retrograde in Scorpio. In Libra, the planet is traveling through the Marketplace of Ideas, where—in theory— freedom of speech is valued, conversation is seen as a healthy exchange, and all viewpoints are valid as long as they don’t endanger anyone or threaten individual liberties. Mercury in the Venus-ruled sign can be a natural mediator, seeking to understand opposing sides and broker agreement; it can also spin its wheels in deliberation, unable to make a decision once and for all.
In the case of this transit, there are some caveats to this: before the messenger can leave Libra later this month, it will have to pass through a tough square to Pluto and Saturn in Capricorn and an opposition to retrograde Mars in Aries, putting all of its natural courtesy and equanimity to the test. Meanwhile, Venus will be in Leo for the duration (September 6 - October 2), so the objective may be less about getting along than about being right, or perceived as “good.” And she, too, will be squaring off with Mars mid-month. With these influences factored in, the aforementioned free market now takes on the look of a stage, or a schoolyard, where passions run high, we act out our various individual dramas, and our pride, as well as our hearts, are on the line. It will be harder keep a level head, or to just “agree to disagree.”
This month, Mercury and Venus are asking: when it comes to how you relate to others, what does freedom of expression mean to you? The potential challenges of these transits will be: wanting to be heard while remembering to listen; receiving rather than reacting; peacekeeping but not placating; disagreeing but not condemning; and fairness without false equivalency. The potential gifts will be: an impassioned outlook, artistic inspiration, and an extra dose of confidence when it comes to expressing the love that we feel. If the ego can be kept in check, then this could be the perfect time for a nourishing heart-to-heart.
We’ve come to the point in the year when our two so-called malefics, Mars and Saturn, are engaged in a Battle Royale, both hellbent on winning and determined to be the last man standing. Mars, brave and bloodthirsty and empowered in Aries, sets siege to Saturn, in his Capricornian fortress of stone and steel, and the old god answers back with a volley of shots, ready for—and relishing— the long haul. This unyielding placement (the first of three we can look forward to) leaves us stuck in a tangle of stubborn and volatile squares and oppositions for the rest of the year, every time other planets transit the cardinal axis of Aries, Libra, Cancer and Capricorn.
Were it just the two gods locking horns, there would be plenty to feel uneasy about. But consider their teammates: with Saturn, there is also Pluto, Lord of the Underworld; and with Mars—the Black Moon Lilith, and Eris, goddess of Discord. Stress amongst the cardinal signs signals a crisis of power and leadership, as everyone vies for primacy and no-one wants to listen to the others. And with the dark, destructive deities also demanding to be heard, this starts to look less like an Olympian pissing contest and more like a rising. Whatever lies buried in the past, or in the unconscious; whatever has been neglected and rejected; whatever has been demonized and abused, will continue to surface until it is acknowledged—and now, say the gods, is the time for acknowledgment.
What are we unleashing upon the world? In the US alone, Coronavirus continues to threaten communities. Wildfires and hurricanes gather force. Conspiracy theories breed mass distrust. Real villains plot to consolidate power and destabilize the country. And places like Minneapolis, MN; Louisville, KY; Portland, OR; and Kenosha, WI are battlegrounds for the future of democracy, as protestors fight for the safety of Black lives and white supremacists fight to be able to continue killing people with impunity. The Ancient Greeks would have said it was the Furies, or the Erinyes, winged female deities of vengeance, wreaking havoc on us. Dystopian novels and films have symbolized agents of discord with machines, aliens, dinosaurs, or—in Hitchcock’s case—kamikaze birds. Nature (and supernatural) as a destructive force is not a new concept to humans, but we still, as a collective, have yet to recognize the direct part we play in contributing to so much of our own destruction. And so here we are, at a crossroads. The wounded Feminine is not a weeping maiden; she is a chthonic bringer of chaos. But only if we refuse the call to hear, and heal, her.
As above, so below; as within, so without. The problems we face on the macro level are very real, but they are also manifestations of our own individual, internal battles. The Mars-Saturn et al square is happening inside each of us, as one part of our psyche pushes against another. It can feel like simmering rage or frustration, or it can project itself as conflict onto people or situations around us. But as long as we continue to externalize this impasse, looking for something or someone to blame, the disorder will continue. I am an optimist and an idealist, but I’m also a pragmatist: this is a hell of a transit, no matter how you look at it. How we navigate the next few months will depend on how willing we are to face our own shadows—the “malefics” that we all embody—one day at a time, with patience, non-judgment, radical honesty and constant self-checks. By examining the source of our wrath, and our relationship to authority and control. By forgiving ourselves and making reparations for the things we did when we didn’t know any better. Mars and Saturn offer us the gifts of endurance and strength, of beginnings and endings: you are living through this time for a reason, and you are stronger than you think.
Every year, in the Northern hemisphere, as summer comes to an end, there is a slight shift in the angle and quality of the light, imperceptible to many of us unless we’re paying close attention. But our biological clocks recognize it. The Sun too knows that his power is starting to wane. There is no nostalgia, no particular sentiment about it, just acceptance that this is the natural course of events. All life on earth follows an internal and external rhythm. To everything there is a season. There is an underlying order and mechanism by which the world operates, and we humans are cogs in a vast and highly complex machine. This is the story that beats in the heart of Virgo.
In the zodiac, Virgo is depicted as a winged maiden holding a sheaf of wheat, an image that hearkens back to the earliest agrarian civilizations. Virgo is aware of its place in the vast machine, however small it might be. And like the grain that gives of itself for us to eat, it has an understanding of sacrifice as a necessary part of the circle of life. Its symbol of the virgin can tell us something about the psyche of Virgo, if we can look beyond the conventional definition of that word. Removing any moral of value judgment we may attach to “virginity”—jettisoning the question of sexual experience entirely—what we are left with are deeply spiritual sensibilities of purity, ideals and virtue. Virgo is, perhaps more aptly, the archetype of the Uninitiated. It represents the aspect of us all that has not yet crossed the “threshold.” But in anticipation of doing so, Virgo, like the novice priestess, keeps herself prepared and in a state of readiness to be given over to the gods. This has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with being “whole unto oneself.” Coming from the earth and dedicated to the earth, a humble servant and a divine vessel in one.
Virgo is ruled by Mercury—the mage, messenger, and god of small things. It’s a sign that perceives the world in terms of intake and output, and operates behind all the processes that make our lives livable. It concerns itself with the material, corporeal, quantifiable aspects of humanity. Virgo is happiest when doing good and useful work, always analyzing, optimizing, improving and helping. It is meticulous, methodical, and often masterful, with an eye for detail that is unmatched. Lurking in the Virgo shadow is perfectionism and idealism that can lead to eternal striving, anxiety, equating worthiness to productivity, or inevitable disappointment, if things or people fall short of their expectations. Often, they are their own worst critics. Virgo’s giving nature can also carry with it the archetype of the martyr, and so learning boundaries around work and service are key to preventing depletion and self-sacrifice. From this pure-hearted sign, we learn that it is better to give than to receive, and that anything worth doing is worth doing right. Virgo makes the world go round, and for that we owe them our eternal gratitude.