It’s halfway through the winter, a day that’s celebrated in many different ways. It’s Groundhog Day, Imbolc, and my mother-in-law’s birthday. Back in the day, when I was a witch in a coven, we celebrated it as Candlemas, and it was the time that we initiated new members. All these different celebrations are mixed in my memory, imparting a unique flavor to this windy afternoon.
Mercury is retrograde, and that always brings on feelings of nostalgia. We hear echoes from the past. Old habits are resurrected, old patterns of thought resurface. I recently read a blog about “political correctness” making a comeback, and it reminded me both of the radical movements of thirty years ago, and of the backlash to that radicalism.
Mercury goes direct on February 11, but it spends the rest of the month in what’s known as the shadow period. It moves slowly, reclaiming lost ground, until it reaches the point where it went retrograde, on March 3. So February’s tone is generally thoughtful, a time to remember and to process.
This Mercury retrograde gives us a chance to really look at the words and phrases we use, to check out the emotional charge that each one carries. We are lucky to live at a historic moment in which communication is burgeoning. In some ways, it’s an echo of the period when the printing press was first developed, and when cities were suddenly full of pamphlets and tracts.
Mercury is in the reasonable, logical sign Aquarius all month, and this encourages dialogue, inquiry and education. People talk about unconscious bias, economic principles, gender politics, the biosphere, and everything else. And then there’s Black History month, always a great time to share lost stories, and to look at the sources of current tensions in past events.
People weigh in on social issues, and respond to others who see things differently. We’re still sharing all the experiences curated by influential people – the movies, the TV, the political drama – but now we’re also connecting around more spontaneous and ordinary experiences.
This can make people uncomfortable, given that we have been trained to passivity for many years, as audiences and consumers. How does it feel when a fellow audience member stands up and starts singing an aria? Our first impulse is to hush them. After all, we’re not here for that. Or are we? Maybe, as Jane Wagner said, the play is the soup, and the audience is art.
As we turn our heads to see what’s happening beside us, rather than staring ahead at the screen, we see so much more. All the communication builds energy, and turns into organizing. We see this in the Black Lives Matter protests in New York City and around the nation. These protests interrupt the flow of ordinary life, just as routine racism disrupts the lives of Black people. They get people involved, thinking about issues that may have seemed distant in the past.
Mercury’s retrograde in Aquarius also lends itself to fixing things, and we see this in the budget that President Obama sent to Congress today, with its focus on shoring up the country’s infrastructure. His budget also reverses the sequester, recognizing that it was a lousy idea to begin with. This is how Mercury retrograde is supposed to be used. It’s about repairing things that are broken, and making changes to things that never worked well.
Underneath this month’s reasonable Mercury-in-Aquarius veneer, though, there are some storms. Uranus and Pluto are still at odds, moving towards their last exact square in mid-March. So there’s tension building, as different factions jockey more and more intensely for position.
There are strong fiery and watery influences all through the month, and that puts the Aquarian sun and Mercury at a distinct disadvantage. The watery planets are all in Pisces, the most sensitive and intuitive of signs, and these make for a more subjective and vulnerable approach. Among the Pisces figures are the martyr, the saint, and the poet; these are people who are generally not open to discussion. And the sun itself leaves Aquarius and enters Pisces on February 18, just after the new moon.
On February 19, the first day of the new lunar cycle, there are five planets in Pisces, so emotion is at a high pitch. It’s like the sound of the mermaids singing. You may not understand what they’re saying, but you know how they make you feel. And for the rest of the month, we’ll all be going from feeling to feeling, while Mercury in Aquarius tries to explain us to each other.
During the last part of February, the urge to believe will be stronger than ever, and the connection with reality could become a lot more tenuous. People will reach for their religious and spiritual shelters, but for some people there’s an ongoing need to defend these shelters against those who think or act differently.
This, coupled with the stressful power issues associated with the Uranus/Pluto square, could mean violence. And there are the fiery influences – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and the south node all in fire signs. So passions could flare, and old anger could be forged into new weapons, especially among people who believe strongly in the hero myth.
And that means us here, in the US. Uranus and Pluto will form a T-square with the sun in the US’s chart, so important questions about our national identity will come up. It’s a turning point for us. What do we believe in? Can we pursue a reasoned approach? What do we do about our most vulnerable citizens – and can we even agree on who they are? Why are advocates for fetuses on one side, and advocates for small children on the other side? And how do we really make change, as opposed to putting new actors in the same old roles?
But yes, it is a time of change, irresistible change. And along with the changes, there will be a powerful flow of emotion. The poets, saints and martyrs will all give their particular spin on it, running across the pages of the history books yet to be written.