It can be difficult to hold a full image of Mercury retrograde, its effects and influences, when Mercury was a trickster god. The transit itself is a kind of illusion — the appearance of moving backward. None of us are actually going backward, although sometimes the country (or the world) does feel that way. On Monday, I screenshotted an article from the New York Times claiming that burglaries, rape, and violence are on the rise in New York subways and sent it to my Gen X kin. We joked about the '80s being back; we joked about the hell-mouth opening and the death demons holding rallies. It’s not funny, but one can laugh or one can cry — and laughing in moments of grief is a time-honored Jewish tradition.
On Tuesday, I woke up thinking about the many people who refuse to believe that COVID-19 is “that bad,” despite the numbers, despite the refrigerator trucks. If we tend the collective memory, we remember that most atrocities, most forms of genocide, were regarded by the beneficiaries as par for the course toward a “better country,” and they were sanctioned. In my ancestry, there have been plenty of those: Holodomor, Babi Yar, and the Holocaust. In my country of citizenship, countless examples: the Atlantic slave trade; the internment camps; the Trail of Tears; the Tulsa Massacre; the ICE detention camps; the unceasing state-sanctioned murder of Black people in our country without cause, without fair trial, and without legal consequence.
What does the weight of our past have to do with the present moment? Aren’t we shaped by it? Doesn’t epigenetics provide that our cells remember the terror of witnessing our loved ones treated as expendable by a militarized state? Doesn’t epigenetics store knowledge in the bodies of those who have descended from enslavers and Nazi sympathizers? A knowledge that an oppressed populace, united, is powerful with grief? If there is information stored in us from previous generations, it is information that governs our reasons. Is that what makes men across the globe refuse to wear masks, claiming they are a sign of weakness? Mercury, it was written, traveled between the world of the living and the world of the dead delivering their messages.
This Mercury retrograde transit begins Oct. 13 and ends Nov. 3, Election Day in the United States. Of course, we know a retrograde cycle is flanked by shadows and returns to those shadows to do its work. On Oct. 7, in the shadow of Mercury Rx made an opposition to Uranus in Taurus and the White House refused contact tracing despite being a COVID-19 Petri dish, a move that surely displeased investigative Mercury in Scorpio. On Oct. 7, foreign powers called for ceasefire in the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia (a conflict that reinforces our topic of generational memory and debt). In Lagos, young Nigerian protestors against police brutality and the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) posted a list of demands which notably states, “In the Spirit of Fairness, Justice, and Tranquility for victims both Dead and Alive we also demand an adequate compensation for citizens.” And, on Oct. 7, in the theme of Mercury in Scorpio, our country watched Kamala Harris debate Mike Pence negotiating when and how to lie by omission about taxes, debt, misinformation, abortion, and voter fraud. On Oct. 19, Mercury retrograde returns to this point of opposition and illuminates these events.
Illumination doesn’t always lead to action, however, and this Mercury retrograde transit won’t prove otherwise. What it does offer us is caution born of recognition, a chance to collect the data and process it for further use. This transit makes a sextile to both our moon and Venus, aspects that strengthen our relationship to our intuition and the way we express our values. These planetary offerings are not coincidental and they work well together. Intuition is a survival tool and it, too, is made of ancestral memory. When Venus in Virgo sextile Mercury in Scorpio Rx graces our households, it can show us how to attune our language to the needs of our listeners. It can inspire mutual understanding and remind us that there is more than one way to honor a social contract.
Mercury Rx begins in Scorpio and ends in Libra, a transit that is both algebraic and strategic, prompting us to figure out what information is missing so that we can balance both sides of the equal sign. But, on Nov. 3, when Mercury stations direct and the U.S. watches the polls, Mercury will make a square to Saturn that promises to drag our heels through the mud of misinformation for another week. On Nov. 17, when Mercury makes another opposition to Uranus, this time direct in Libra, the equations we’ve worked hard to balance — politically and interpersonally — can guide us in our actions and our collaborations, with the living and the dead.