Dear Friend and Reader:
Mercury retrograde is not quite over. I know the station direct was June 22, which in our time frame seems like an eternity ago; it was less than three weeks.
As you probably know, while Mercury retrograde lasts about 23 days, there is a time margin on either side of that where the effect is not only still strong, but for some people more pronounced than when Mercury appears to be moving backward. This is called the shadow or echo phase. The storm phase is the few days clustered around when Mercury appears to change directions.
Here is a classic article from 2014 about this.
In the present cycle, the shadow or echo phase ends July 7, though this is complicated by an aspect: Mercury retrograde in Gemini began in a square aspect to Neptune. This is slippery. Lately it has reminded me of how oil and water don’t mix.
Personally, I’ve been struggling to come to any analysis that holds up for more than an hour. Everything seems to be squirming around. One response to this might be to cling to an idea or ideology; to hang on to an interpretation whether it is true or not. For now, I suggest letting things slip, slide and squirm around and not demand certainty from any situation.
Mercury stationed retrograde on June 22 at about 24 degrees of Gemini, conjunct Venus, and closely square Neptune. This signifies altered perception and some real difficulty figuring out which feelings are sincere and which are not; what is of value and what is not. The whole retrograde has been in range of a square to Neptune, so in all, this will have gone on for more than two months.
The Third Mercury Square Neptune
Earlier the morning of July 6, Mercury in Gemini made its third and last square to Neptune in Pisces for this cycle. Then Mercury comes out of shadow phase on July 7. It will still be in a square to Neptune, by my reckoning, until Mercury enters Cancer on July 11. This is another image of watery Mercury, which is about confusing feeling for thinking. (However, Mercury is about to take a trip along the cardinal cross, featuring Chiron, among other factors; this will be bracing.)
Listening to common speech, you can pick this up: many people believe that someone’s reasoned conclusion or factual analysis is about how they feel, not what they have reasoned through and documented. There are days when it seems like the whole concept of thinking and reasoning is gone: not that people are not doing it, but that the capacity has vaporized, or is not counted as valid.
Right along with this, the notion of belief seems to reign supreme over knowledge, understanding, discovery, questioning, and other abilities. If you believe it, then it’s true — welcome to Mercury square Neptune. The issue goes back further than that, though we’re seeing an eruption of it now. I think this is an outcome of the digital age.
It would be nice if more people understood how dangerous it is to confuse knowing and believing. It’s easy to convince people to believe something, if you bypass their ability (or desire) to think and reason. The nice thing about belief is that it implies no responsibility. It is clear that people feel they’re not as accountable for a belief as for something they have figured out themselves.
A Very Strange Mercury Retrograde: Late Winter 2020
Lately I’ve been noticing the power of Mercury retrograde in a way I have never seen. I’ve studied these things going back to before I was an astrologer, in the days when I was an unwitting astrology student working in the newspaper office of Flo Higgins.
In prior eras, Mercury retrograde was a more personal event. Now it seems like it represents vastly collective events and mentalities. And in prior eras, one did not go to the beach with more computing power than the Viking space craft or the Apollo mission. You did not need a portable television studio and microwave transmitter. (That is an iPhone.)
By far the strangest Mercury retrograde was the one that spanned Feb. 16, 2020 to March 9, 2020. That was the one where we went from one world to another. That particular retrograde starts in mid-Pisces and ends in late Aquarius. The stock market seemed to crash 10 times.
It’s almost as if everything that happened before that Mercury retrograde is now forgotten. I understand how traumatic it was, seeing Donald Trump on TV all the time and all.
A state of national emergency was declared during the ending storm phase, on March 13, 2020, and from there, it seems like society was on autopilot. All reason was suspended. Fear became the law of the land. Where there is fear, there is not love.
I sense a kind of taboo around discussing events of January and February of 2020, where the plan was put into action. Closer to that time, there was an almost violent insistence that nothing at all was planned, and all that happened was an unfortunate accident. Yet that is a belief, not something grounded in documented facts. The documented facts all point away from the unfortunate, unforeseen accident scenario.
The Danger of Belief
It’s time to reckon with the danger of belief. In my own use of the word, it means, “Based on a thorough review of the facts, and challenging my perceptions, this is my observation.” Then, included with that is the understanding that belief is subject to review: to being torn down, reconsidered, reviewed, revised, challenged, and so on.
However, to most other people it means, “This is what I think is true,” and when you probe them, you find out that there is little to no substance behind their assertion of belief. It ends there. You could find hundreds of psychological studies on confirmation bias that attempt to account for this; what we know is that the less certain someone is, the more likely they are to fight aggressively for their belief.
In this context, belief is merely a bypass for thought. The rolling disaster here is that we live in times when people are putting excessive pressure on one another to accept as true what nobody involved in the scenario has worked through.
The United States chart has a troubling aspect, for the chart of a whole society: Mars square Neptune. I discuss this right at the top of the most recent Planet Waves FM.
To me, this demonstrates an aggressive hunger to be lied to, especially in situations where someone is cast as the enemy, or perhaps with Mars in Gemini, the frenemy.
Belief is almost always a matter of deception. However, it takes a lot of self-awareness to see that and get past it. And these days, you have to stand up to about 20 people (or so you may think) so it seems easier to go along with the charade.
But that is a matter of belief.
This week’s special edition horoscope offers excerpts from INTELLIGENCE for each of the signs.
This week’s horoscope is a sample of INTELLIGENCE, what I consider my best astrological writing up to that time. While this is an unusual duration for an astrological reading, there are events on the horizon that make this a valuable tool. Now that we are seemingly in the post-Covid world, I would invite you to review my last writing from the pre-Covid world. The link to the full reading is right above each of the horoscope entries. — Eric Francis
INTELLIGENCE for Aries:
Aries (March 20-April 19) — Identity is not self, and much of this effort is, in my view, insincere and misdirected. For the most part, it’s about labeling and tribal identity — not self-actualization.
Your quest, and your healing mission, is to find your true self; your most personally valid state of being and of expression. This is easily said, and not so easily (or so often) done. The reason is that in order to be who you are, it’s necessary to set aside or cast off anything and everything that you are not. Most people you meet are heavily invested in not-self. To the extent that you struggle with being yourself and with making choices that work for you, you are likely to be invested in not-self. If you knowingly do things that don’t work for you, and associate with people who do not support you, those are signs of investment in not-self.
Let’s use a metaphor: honesty. People like to talk about being honest, and sometimes strive to be so. Yet in order to be honest, one must confront all the things one was dishonest about in the past. Honesty requires reckoning with the current state of one’s relationships, and would likely require shaking all of them up. This is seen as dangerous, and potentially painful. Were you to suddenly become transparent and honest about everything in your life, you would be taking a big risk, or so it would seem. People might get upset. They might not want to be associated with you. That is the risk of actually expressing yourself.
INTELLIGENCE for Taurus:
Taurus (April 19-May 20) — Based on a diversity of factors, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for you to contain yourself in ways that are unnatural. The challenge is that Taurus is the master of appearances, and one of the great guardians of stability. There is something about existence that it sometimes feels like you’re the only one who understands. The world is changing too much, too fast, for no good reason. Part of your idea of integrity is being consistently who you are, and respecting the status quo.
That said, you’ve been restless in recent years, and this has been gradually ramping up to the point where you’ve had to do something about it. Hopefully that thing was to express yourself in some tangible and focused way. I may have mentioned that many of my most deeply respected artistic heroes are born under the sign Taurus. There is potential contained in Taurus that I see in few other signs (though remember, everyone possesses every sign, and gets to express it to a greater or lesser degree).
When someone with strong Taurus gets going, there is little that can stop them, and their work has the power to change society. The world needs people who embody this energy to do what you do, and what you love to do. To get yourself going, you must express your being beyond the filters of appearance, or any fears of what someone else might think. I’ve noticed that there are two major pathways associated with your sign.
INTELLIGENCE for Gemini:
Gemini (May 20-June 21) — Asbolus arrived in Gemini in 2013 for an approximately 10-year run that lasts through late 2024. It’s now at a new peak of its passage through Gemini, making a square to Neptune in Pisces.
Having an outer planet transit through your sign creates a strong identity factor with whatever themes it carries. Centaurs veer right into the human realm, describing conditions of ordinary people on Earth. They are not “the gods.” They are relatable. They are mortal. They have issues. Even “the gods” act out human dramas (that is their purpose, as fictional human creations), though the centaurs are particularly down-to-Earth in the kinds of conditions they describe.
Centaurs also come with a distinct intensity that you can almost smell, and that people respond to. This is an edgy quality, much more than we might imagine you possess from being born under a sign ruled by Mercury.
In mythology, Asbolus had the gift of prophecy: the ability to see into the future. In particular, he could practice augury off of the flight of birds (that is the concept behind inauguration). It is fair, therefore, to look to the sky for ideas. The whole world around us is alive, creative and interwoven.
Remember that Asbolus was a bit of a Cassandra figure in that he would say things that were true, but which nobody believed, or would take heed of. This to me describes a boundary issue, in terms of a relationship to the future, and also a relationship to those who are the subjects of “predictions.”
INTELLIGENCE for Cancer:
Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Your sign is famous for its interior quality, for making a home, and for the love of solitude. These are states of being that are essential to your wellbeing, and I suggest you go out of your way to honor them. In order for you to feel secure anywhere in the world, you must feel confident and like you belong in your own home. In particular, it must in some way reflect your tastes, and your practical needs — particularly your bedroom and your kitchen.
This may sound like the most ordinary thing in the world out of the most basic astrology book, though some of that is true, and some of it is ambrosia. Home is your sanctuary, and you must always know that it’s there for you to return to, no matter what you may do — or where you may go — in the world. Your home being as you want it, and as you need it, is some of the most essential medicine and nourishment you can give to yourself. It’s worth investing your resources in as a top priority.
Yet there are qualities that call you out of yourself, and they are being activated now. One of them is the placement of Aries on your 10th house, which is all about reputation and public responsibility. In its more domestic forms, the 10th is about being a parent, or the head of a family, though with the world so career-focused today, the professional aspect of life is so hyper-focused that it’s an essential element of the 10th.
INTELLIGENCE for Leo:
Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — If you are Leo, your 6th house (counting whole signs) is Capricorn; the same is true if you’re Leo Sun (counting solar houses). Think of this as the archetypal chart for your sign, which in many ways describes you. Capricorn has a quality of high aspirations and great accomplishments; the 6th is the house of humble work, service, day-to-day efforts and the basic rituals that make up our lives. The suggestion here is that you invest your ambition into a job well done.
Leo is often miscast as the sign of bossy and egotistical people. Such individuals exist under every Sun or rising sign. I have a different theory about the essence of Leo, ruled by the Sun. The Sun holds the Solar System together. It’s the primary source of energy that feeds life, including flooding us with a stream of subatomic particles day and night.
Your role as a Leo, accordingly, is to hold the world together, and to provide a source of heat and light. This is crucial for everyone in our time in history, as so many forces rip and pull at the fabric of existence. Using the Sun as your model, you provide a central gravitational force that holds the planets in place. This is not an easy job, and most people take you for granted. And it’s possible that others might misinterpret your role. Part of that interpretation will depend on your leadership style, though even if you’re the mellow type, others might project their authority issues onto you.
That said, your primary role is not to be a “big star” but rather the ordinary star that serves as our point of orientation here on Earth, indispensable as such.
INTELLIGENCE for Virgo:
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — One of the most intriguing features of the Virgo chart (whether Sun or rising) is that Aries is placed on your 8th house. Translating, your sign of self-discovery (Aries) is placed on the house associated with surrender of your being to others — such as through long-term relationships, marriage, financial investment or sexual involvement. It is natural for you to strive to find yourself through deep involvements with others. Intimate relationships are a dependable source of self-knowledge for you. To some extent this is true for everyone, though it is a particularly strong motivation for you to bond with others.
One thing to check here is whether you’re ever not in a relationship; this is a setup for always being in one. This will vary based on your age, your level of experience in life, and your personal circumstances, though note that your tropism to bond is strong, and that you may not feel like a “whole person” when you’re not in a relationship. This recalls Erica Jong’s famous line from Fear of Flying about wanting to be a whole person and not half of a couple; that would be a worthy goal for you.
Yet it would seem, more accurately, that you want to be a whole person within a relationship; you want to hold your identity in the presence and context of a partner. For that to really work, though, you need to spend significant periods of time outside the context of a partnership, and living on your own.
INTELLIGENCE for Libra:
Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — Fear tends to influence people to build heavier structures, thicker walls and denser barricades. Early cultures (not subject to colonization and development) that have evolved in earthquake zones tend to inhabit lighter structures, things like tents and thatched huts, which can withstand movement; and if they fall down, nobody gets hurt.
This is the approach I suggest you take. Lighten up your life. Cast off possessions that you don’t need. Clean and clear closets and storage spaces. This has spiritual value, though primarily I mean for the physical benefits of having less stuff and more space for your consciousness to expand. This will also be helpful if you decide at some point in the next year or so to move to a different location. There is rarely time for this kind of sorting out when you change locations or upgrade your living space, so stuff tends to get ported from place to place. It’s better to do this incrementally, and it comes with the general theme of making things lighter and less dense — a theme that seems to be going around these days and would be significantly helpful for you to apply.
As I have suggested in other readings, while you do this, keep an archive of your most meaningful papers and artifacts. There are some people who just purge everything, by the box. That’s not a good idea. There are things you will want when you arrive in your new life — important connections to the past.
INTELLIGENCE for Scorpio:
Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — People tend to be responsive to your power, and give you a lot of room to be yourself; this has a way of glossing over some of the ways that people struggle with you. They value their relationship with you and will put up with a lot. This can lead you to lack honest feedback in your life, or a sense of what others experience when they experience you.
I suggest you practice equanimity with everyone — mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in difficult situations. But there is more; it’s necessary that you practice kindness. There are many elements to this, but really, just one: being good to people in word and deed.
Never take an advantage just because you can. Give people a second chance. Practice forgiveness. Go out of your way to be warm. Nothing else can be called “spiritual.” Spiritual is not about being right; it’s about feeling others, listening with sensitivity, and helping individual humans, and the human family, find its way — one day at a time, one conversation at a time, one person at a time. This must be true no matter who they are, no matter what your relationship to them is, and in truth, no matter your opinion of them. The more intimate you are with someone, though, the more you need to pay attention, and not take them for granted.
INTELLIGENCE for Sagittarius:
Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — When I looked up “self-esteem” in the Etymology Online Dictionary by Doug Harper, I learned that it’s an old term (dating to 1615 or so). But then in the 19th century, it was popularized by phrenology, which assigned it a bump. A bump, that is, on the head, where the phrenologist could ostensibly read how much of it you presumably had.
This is the problem — it’s thought of as a thing; and you have it or you don’t (that’s how head-bump reading works). And just think — psychology is obsessed with a concept that existed before but was popularized by phrenology of all things. I guess too bad if you don’t have that little thing on your skull.
I would like to introduce a new concept, that of self-esteem as an earned asset. I recognize a potential controversy here — I’m proposing that one must earn feeling good about themselves. So be it. We need to be interested in the kind of self-esteem that we can take to the bank: that we can turn into respect for the work that we do, respect for our actual value to society, respect for what we know, respect for what we have built up over time. In lived reality, people who are able to earn money based on their talents are the ones who recognize those personal gifts, and develop them over time; and develop their reputation. This is not bestowed by a faerie godmother or by having a famous family name. Respect must be earned, and that includes self-respect — if it is to be real.
INTELLIGENCE for Capricorn:
Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — There is a noteworthy phenomenon that sometimes happens in group therapy. When someone is a focus of the process, people in the group shake out as the person’s different family members, and the drama is replicated on the spot. The take-away here is that we contain our family of origin through various shades of neurological imprinting (including memory, but also deeper). It is this level of imprinting that Chiron moving through your 4th place, Aries, will be illuminating. It’s as if you go into the space.
Rather than seeming to have no other option than conform to what is expected of you, or who you are accepted to be, you’re likely to feel a variety of shades of being different, and even touching the edges of being unacceptable. Let’s take a clue from Hakomi therapy: you don’t need to go too deep into the seeming lack of acceptability, the notion or the associated emotions: you merely need to get close enough to feel its heat and its distinct sense of alienation. You only need a reminder of what you once went through and how deep the fear of unacceptability can go. You don’t need to get lost in these feelings, though.
Making peace with who you are implies making peace with being unacceptable. It’s essential that these feelings and fears be contacted and acknowledged rather than buried. A whole diversity of feelings may come up — Chiron is famous for its ability to access ancestral material, and provides the spiritual resources to help you process it. Getting your DNA done would merely be scratching the surface here; you may be able to make contact with what actually happened to your predecessors.
INTELLIGENCE for Aquarius:
Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — There are reasonable grounds for debate about whether humans change their nature. Certainly some can, if they want to; that is the deciding factor, generally and maybe even always. The story of every great success involves some version of “I overcame my limitations.” We could say that quality was in their nature, and have a long chicken-and-egg go-around. (This is similar to, “If your guru takes karma from you, then it was your karma that they do so.”)
On my watch, people grow and change because they want to, or because they are put in a position of having no other choice if they want to keep living.
By want to, I don’t mean having good intentions. I mean wanting like one’s body calling out for air when the head is immersed too long. I mean wanting to speak, read and write like Helen Keller did. I mean like the Wright brothers wanting to fly.
Yet this is rare; there is a disturbing tendency in humanity, which is its struggle with acknowledging the need and the desire to grow; and worse, with growth seeming inconvenient. It is. That’s the whole thing. Cleaning is inconvenient. But when you’re done, your place is in order and more livable.
INTELLIGENCE for Pisces:
Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — Neptune has been in Pisces since around 2011 and will be in your sign until its transition into Aries, 2025-2026 — for the foreseeable future. Pisces is foggy and watery enough on its own; eminently realistic, practical Chiron provided some relief from that.
Neptune is adding water to the equation. It’s demanding that you take over the tasks of staying focused and grounded in reality. There is the possibility for extreme distortion under the influence of Neptune — a lack of self-awareness, the potential to push others past their limits, and a kind of infiltrating quality. Others may not want to be treated the way you think you should treat them. Others may not feel about you the way you think they do.
Your imagination cannot substitute for what is actually so, and therefore you must establish reality checkpoints that you connect with several times a day. Staying connected to your inner world — not the world of fantasy, but how you actually feel — can be one of those checkpoints.
It will help if you are sensitive to the influences that you have on others, though this is not easy. You will be able to tell from the extent of turbulence around you how others are responding to your energy. There will be times when you will need to match inner and outer adjustments to get the result that you want. If you find someone to be persistently disruptive or scattering, for example, it may be time for you both to move on.