Mercury Retrograde in Virgo

Three Bathers and a Turtle



“I feel very strongly the tie between my earlier and recent works. But I do not think exactly the way I thought yesterday. Or rather, my basic thought has not changed but it has evolved, and my means of expression have followed. My destination is always the same, but I work out a different route to get there.”

— Henri Matisse, 1908


Note: This article was first written on Aug. 20, the day Mercury stationed retrograde. (At that time, Venus conjuncted Mars in Libra, and Saturn in Libra squared Pluto in Capricorn.) Since then I’ve reworked and edited. I trust it is still timely and useful.

After I wrote the blog today, I felt “pulled” to catch the Matisse exhibition I’d been dying to see. I figured there couldn’t be a better occasion than a Venus-Mars conjunction in Libra to breathe in some art, be inspired, and come home to write.

I bought the exhibition ticket online for a 3:30 pm viewing. Walking to the subway, I worried that I’d made a mistake purchasing my tickets online – knowing that I was traveling exactly in the Mercury storm, which is “known” for breakdowns in communication and transportation. But then I heard my inner voice say, “Relax, this is a moment out of time.”

Just then, I also remembered that the last Venus-Mars conjunction in Libra, in 2008, was when I went to see the Dali exhibit. The energy was pretty surreal that day, and today it did feel like time was standing still.

The train arrived pretty quickly. I found a seat, pulled out my subway reading material — Dane Rudhyar’s ‘An Astrological Mandala’ — opened it randomly, and my eyes fell on this paragraph:

“Chaotic as events may be, one can nevertheless state that a person has the experiences he [or she] is entitled to, or has asked for, consciously or not – and no others. Events occur in relation to the process of actualization of his innate potential of being, i.e. his individual self.” I was already on a trail, but now I was on full alert.

“I feel very strongly the tie between my earlier and recent works. But I do not think exactly the way I thought yesterday. Or rather, my basic thought has not changed but it has evolved, and my means of expression have followed. My destination is always the same, but I work out a different route to get there.”

The exhibit began with the quote above. In that moment, I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. The quote is so rich in its symbolism, and it says more about this Mercury retrograde in one sentence than I could say in paragraphs. When the Universe wants to send you a message, the writing is clearly on the wall (in this case a museum wall).

I found myself drawn into the mystery of the ‘Three Bathers and a Turtle.’ The figures in the painting are reminiscent of naked, pure, (Virgin) nymphs bathing by soulful (Piscean) waters.

You can also clearly see that Matisse reworked the canvas over time, as if the figures were “frozen in time.” The turtle is clearly more detailed and in focus than the figures, which draws attention to it. A turtle is a slow-moving creature that has an extraordinarily long life span. In a sense, it slows down perception of time and to me symbolizes ‘eternity.’

Mercury is the planet of communication; it moves rapidly through the zodiac like its namesake “quicksilver,” giving us a clue into the inherent quality of the mind. Mercury stationary can give the perception of ‘time’ standing still. Time, after all, is a human concept, when in truth we live in a continuous eternal moment.

Time may be fleeting, but it is also our perception of time that matters. Retrograde phases come along and show us the need to slow down and absorb what’s coming through. During this Mercury retrograde, separate illusion and confusion from facts and truth. No matter where it feels like you are running out of time – you aren’t.

Pay attention to your inner mental processes at this time. Mercury is the ruler of Virgo, the sign that rules one’s health and nervous system, the sign opposite Pisces that can with greatest ease channel a higher spirit. When the mental functions and excess thoughts overrule the “natural” state of being, the nervous system is over-activated, bringing worry, clouding clarity. One’s health is indeed a delicate balance of body, mind, and spirit, and an imbalance in any of these ultimately manifests in “dis-ease.”

With Mercury standing still and slowly moving backward in the sky, if we keep our minds open, there is the potential to channel a divine vision and inspiration. As the planets suggest, there are huge changes occurring right now, but there is nothing fundamentally wrong about an idea or a destination. This retrograde of Mercury in Virgo is only asking that we evolve and rework our thinking and reroute our journey if necessary.

An important day comes on Sept. 3, 2010, when Mercury makes an interior conjunction to the Sun. Expect to receive an important understanding at this time, but it is also likely that we will get hypercritical if we aren’t careful. Also at this time, Venus will trine Neptune and Chiron in Aquarius.

This can be a powerful time to seek healing within relationships rather than continuing to find fault with all that has gone wrong in the past. This doesn’t mean that we can sweep things under the carpet, either, but we are getting a second chance to recognize what isn’t working and then work toward finding solutions.

You don’t need to find the perfect words or the perfect answers. But if one’s intentions are pure, then we can trust the soul to do the talking; the right inspiration will eventually surface. Of course, it will require the conscious desire to heal something.

If you find yourself stuck on an idea or a problem, don’t wrestle with it. It’s like unraveling a knot: you have to be gentle or you only end up getting it more entangled and yourself more frustrated. Be patient; trust that this is part of a crucial process.

Mercury stations direct on September 12, 2010, and will reoccupy the point in the zodiac that it occupied on Aug. 1, 2010. Expect to be reviewing important conversations that began to emerge at the time, this time with our heads screwed on the “right” way again.

The Sabian Symbol for 20 Virgo, where Mercury stationed retrograde, reads, “A caravan of cars headed to the West Coast.”

Dane Rudhyar’s interpretation from his book ‘An Astrological Mandala’ reads, “…what seems to be clearly implied is a process in a which a group of persons are journeying together – thus linking their consciousnesses and energies (the “car” symbol) – in order to safely reach the goal of destiny. Here there is no longer any sense of competition, but an ordered and structured endeavor.”

This resonates with the rest of the current aspects that are culminating. With the shifts and aspects in Libra, the emphasis is on cooperation rather than competition.

Use the retrograde phase to find constructive solutions rather than criticizing just to pick something apart. We will pass this way again when Mercury completes its shadow phase on Sept. 27, 2010, allowing us to move forward with precious renewed understanding of how to work together as a team or collective for a greater purpose.


Aug. 25, 2010: My trip to the museum began on a Venus-Mars journey and ended on a Mercury retrograde note. Now, as I write this under the Full Moon, it seems that so much more is coming to light.

With the Moon in Pisces, go below surface emotions to find the unconscious emotional triggers that may be setting off the waterworks. There is more magic in store than the worried mind would like you to believe…

— Priya Kale, NYC

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