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Making Sense of Mercury

Mercury in Virgo wants to speak very precisely and clearly, but when Mercury is retrograde sometimes words, attitudes and ideas come out a little... curiously. In particular, Mercury and Mars are both conjunct and parallel, and get tangled up together in lively ways.

Stars got tangled in her hair whenever she played in the sky.
~ Laini Taylor

Mercury Retrograde Returns!

Mercury be doing his backward Moonwalk (retrograde) from August 23 to September 15, padded before and after by the pre-retrograde and post-retrograde shadow periods from August 3 to September 30. Mercury is in Virgo for the entire cycle, so Mercury remains in Virgo for about 10 weeks, from July 28 to October 4 – a looong time considering Mercury usually changes signs about every 2½ to 3 weeks.

Mercury makes several aspects to other planets during this cycle: opposite Saturn, conjunct Mars, trine Uranus, trine Pluto, opposite Neptune, but the only aspect that gets 3 exact passes is the trine to Jupiter. All others happen when Mercury stations close to exact during the cycle, but there is only 1 exact pass. All aspects are conjunctions, opposites or trines, so there is more beneficial energy than stressful. And since Mercury is highly dignified in Virgo, he's up for the challenge. That's the good news.

Mercury Retrograde opposite SaturnThe more difficult news is that one of the aspects is opposing Saturn, which might feel like the world is imposing strict standards on you while Mercury stations direct. However, it's a good energy to help you get focused on doing something constructive and productive with all the other juicy aspects.

Mercury Retrograde opposite NeptuneThere's also an opposition to Neptune, which can fertilize the imagination and encourage you to dream big. However, this could also lead to confusion, ambiguity, and possibly deception, especially around the retrograde station. Take it slow, listen to your intuition, and don't make any snap decisions – put them off until well after Mercury turns direct, if possible, or get a trusted friend or expert to do a reality check and make sure you're not missing something important.

Mercury Retrograde conjunct MarsThe conjunction to Mars could also stir up some turmoil, emotional thinking, or impulsively shooting your mouth off before your better judgment has a chance to run it through the filters. This extended conjunction (in orb August 2-26) colours the whole cycle with themes about energy, activity, motivation and courage, although it may take until November before your ducks are finally lined up enough to really move forward with what you want to do with your Mercury retrograde ideas.

Since both planets are in Virgo, their conjunction can give extra motivation to do the Virgo thing of organizing, categorizing, cataloguing, and bring order to chaos. It's a great energizing transit for cleaning out your closets or being super-productive with anything you're doing.

Mars could make the Mercury station quite motivating or frustrating. You might get inspired to start a project, especially one you've been putting off, which unfolds throughout the retrograde cycle. Mars could also make the usual Mercury-retrograde hodgepodge a bit dodgier than usual. Overall, it can be a good time to find better ways to harness and modulate your anger, passion, and emotional force field.

There are even more layers to this aspect, discussed in below.

Mercury Retrograde trine UranusMercury trines Uranus, which can bring out some wild ideas, a hilarious sense of humour, and a very creative imagination, especially just after the retrograde cycle ends. However, your mental focus could go a bit haywire as you become distracted by different observations and thoughts, so try writing down your ideas so you can follow up on them later when you have time.

Mercury Retrograde trine PlutoThere's also a trine to Pluto. This can put a lot of power and passion behind your words, but remember that a little goes a long way. Choose not only your words carefully but also the intensity that comes through with them. It's one thing to say something with conviction, but it's something else if your words become overbearing, dogmatic or tyrannical.

Mercury Retrograde in a Grand TrineMercury, Uranus and Pluto form a Grand Trine in Earth in early October, encouraging you to do something concrete, specific or definite with the Mercury retrograde themes. In fact, it's just one in a series of a Grand Trine Kites that start with a Mini-Trine aspect pattern with Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Mercury teases these outer planets with in-orb aspects from August 20-27, and fulfills his promise with exact aspects from Sep. 29 to Oct. 4. (These Grand Trine Kites are discussed in more detail in the New Moon in Leo 2023 article.)

Mercury Retrograde trine JupiterLastly, Mercury makes 3 exact passes to trine Jupiter: Aug. 9, Sep. 4, and Sep. 25. You may find your best ideas and opportunities come to you on those dates, give or take up to a week. It might be a good idea to write down those ideas and opportunities so you can choose whether or not they're worth following up with them later. But it's best not to just assume everything that pops into your head is a good idea, since Jupiter may amplify its grandeur and benefit – hence, it might be best to write it down and come back to it in September or October when you can evaluate it more clearly.

Mercury Retrograde Aspects and Dates

Mercury makes multiple passes of the following transits during this retrograde cycle (all dates are in North American Eastern Time):

  • Mercury opposite Saturn ~ Aug. 1, (Sep. 15, 5:34 orb)
  • Mercury trine Jupiter ~ Aug. 9, Sep. 4, Sep. 25
  • Mercury conjunct Mars ~ (Aug. 15, 03:22 orb), Oct. 29
  • Mercury trine Uranus ~ (Aug. 23, 01:12 orb), Sep 30
  • Mercury trine Pluto ~ (Aug. 23, 06:32 orb), Oct. 3
  • Mercury opposite Neptune ~ (Aug. 23, 05:07 orb), Oct. 2

Here are the key dates of this Mercury cycle (for North American Eastern Time):

  • Mercury enters the Shadow: Aug. 3, 2023 ~ 08:00 Virgo
  • Mercury-Sun max elongation: Aug. 9, 2023 ~ 14:08 Virgo
  • Mercury stationary Retrograde: Aug. 23, 2023 ~ 21:51 Virgo
  • Mercury Rx conjunct the Sun: Sep. 6, 2023 ~ 13:35 Virgo
  • Mercury stationary Direct: Sep. 15, 2023 ~ 08:00 Virgo
  • Mercury-Sun max elongation: Sep. 22, 2023 ~ 11:30 Virgo
  • Mercury leaves the Shadow: Sep. 30, 2023 ~ 21:51 Virgo

This table shows the dates and positions of the Mercury aspects.

Mercury shadow Enters
Aug. 3, 08 VI 00
Sep. 30, 21 VI 51
Mercury stations Retrograde
Aug. 23, 21 VI 51
Sep. 15, 08 VI 00
Merc opp Saturn Aug. 1
05 VI/PI 38
n/a (Sep. 15, 5:34 orb)
08 VI 01 / 02 PI 26
Merc tri Jupiter Aug. 9
14 VI/TA 31
Sep. 4
15 VI/TA 34
Sep. 25
14 VI/TA 51
Merc cnj Mars (Aug. 15, 3:22 orb)
19 VI 09 / 22 VI 31
n/a Oct. 29
11 SC 54
Merc tri Uranus (Aug. 23, 1:12 orb)
21 VI 51 / 23 TA 03
n/a Sep. 30
22 VI/TA 38
Merc tri Pluto (Aug. 23, 6:32 orb)
21 VI 51 / 28 CP 23
n/a Oct. 3
27 VI/CP 54
Merc opp Neptune (Aug. 23, 5:07 orb)
21 VI 50 / 26 PI 58
n/a Oct. 2
25 VI/PI 54

Mercury and Mars in Three Dimensions

Probably the most significant aspect Mercury makes during this cycle is the conjunction to Mars. They are not only conjunct, when Mercury stations retrograde, they also cross paths by declination in late August and early September. In other words, the align not only east-west but also north-south – three dimensions.

The declination parallels bring extra energy to their conjunction, and actually extend the effects. The conjunction's time range goes from August 2-26 while the parallels run from August 23 to September 6 (see table below for declination dates). These parallels also play into Mercury retrograde, which is bound to make this retrograde cycle a little more "interesting" than usual.

Mercury and Mars were parallel back on August 7 (discussed in the New Moon in Cancer 2023 article). In late August, they do a "swing your partner, do-sa-do" with Mercury weaving back and forth across the equator (from August 20-30; see declination graph below). Finally, Mercury and Mars crisscross both the equator and each other within less than 24 hours on August 29-30.

Mercury Retrograde Parallel MarsIn fact, for a full week (August 23 to September 6) Mercury and Mars are contraparallel, then parallel, then contraparallel again. There's an intriguing and somewhat mysterious phenomenon that happens when planets interact with each other near 0°. Theoretically, two planets could possibly be both parallel and contraparallel at the same time (within up to 1½ degrees apart at the equator).

However, strictly speaking, planets are parallel only if they're on the same side of the equator (both north or both south), whereas if they're on opposite sides of the equator they are contraparallel. The difference in their effects is a point of debate among astrologers.

Planets in conjunction are often also parallel to each other, and planets in opposition are often contraparallel. As a result many people interpret parallels in the same way as conjunctions and contraparallels like oppositions. However, parallel planets can also be very far apart in longitude (zodiac sign and degree), as with contraparallel planets. They could be in any kind of longitude aspect, so the conjunction/opposition equivalency doesn't always work.

Suffice to say that whether they're parallel or contraparallel, and whether or not they are in a longitude aspect, there is a resonance between the planets that brings their energies together in some way. Any aspect between them will also colour the nature of their combined energy.

When planets cross the equator, there is usually a kind of reset that happens in how its energy is experienced, expressed, or worked with. Therefore it's extra significant for Mercury and Mars to parallel both to each other and with the equator.

Here is a declination graph showing a visual diagram of Mercury and Mars as they weave together across the equator. Exact dates of these events are found in the table below the graph.

Mercury Mars Declination Graph 

This table shows the dates for when Mercury and Mars are parallel and contraparallel.

Mercury crosses Equator going South August 20
Mercury goes retrograde August 23
Mercury -//- Mars – in orb August 23
Mercury -//- Mars – exact August 27
Mars crosses Equator going South August 29
Mercury // Mars - exact August 30
Mercury crosses Equator going North August 30
Mercury -//- Mars - exact September 2
Mercury -//- Mars – out of orb September 6
Mercury goes direct September 15

A Fresh Start

In general, the Mercury-Mars combination at its best can bring energy, enthusiasm, passion and courage to how you communication, think and reason. You might also become quick to anger, domineering, intense or even cruel in how you interact and speak to others. Since these planets are crossing the equator together, especially with Mercury retrograde part of that time, there is likely to be a process of reconsidering or reorienting how you use this energy.

It's not always a bad thing to be forthright, direct or intense (which Mars often is), but if it crosses the line into being harsh or hurtful, this might be a good opportunity to increase your awareness of how you communicate and its effects on others. If inflicting anger, criticism or condemnation becomes a gratuitous end in itself, then this may be a good time to take a deeper look at what you're doing and why. Venting Mars energy at someone only to make you feel good is often rooted in insecurity, fear, frustration, grief, or a need for release.

As always, remember that others are going through this transit too. If you're on the receiving end of this energy, you'll have to judge for yourself if it's worth getting into an argument about it or if it's wiser to walk away. Compassion helps (courtesy of Mercury trine Jupiter), but making a conscious, deliberate choice is just as important. Consider how you use this Mercury retrograde energy and its implications. Does this help you be the kind of person you want to be?



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