Like most astrologers, I tend to be in awe of Pluto and Neptune as they make their stately, slow-motion passages through houses, signs and aspects. In doing that they illuminate the broad symphonic development of our lives over years and decades. With experience, we soon learn that they can knock us for a loop, sending us out of one relationship and into another, or into a new career, or off to live in a different part of the world. We can say the same for the other slow-moving planets – Uranus, Saturn, and Jupiter – as well as all of the progressions and solar arcs.
Heading sunward toward the center of the solar system from the august realms of the outer planets, we cross the asteroid belt and enter a far more frenetic zone. Like a carousel that's drunk one more cup of coffee than it should, Mars, Venus, and Mercury zoom frantically around the Sun – and around our charts. They’re powerful triggers, but what they actually trigger are those bigger developmental themes that were signaled by the slow moving bodies. Right there, we see one of the bedrock practical principles of working with planetary transits: the distinction between the fast bodies and the slow ones, so beautifully punctuated by the asteroid belt.
- Slow-moving Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto take years to ask us the big questions, while fast-moving Mercury, Venus, Mars, Sun and Moon create – and time – the daily dramas in which those big questions gradually get answered.
Maybe, for one quick illustration, you’re needing to make some adjustments in your living space – Uranus is the midst of a seven-year transit through your 4th house. Transiting Mars hits your 4th house cusp and you leap out of bed at 2:00 AM one Saturday morning and start throwing away clothes you haven’t worn for years. Uranus is “the big theme,” and Mars is the “quick trigger.” That’s how it works.
Usually, in looking at a period of a few years during a session with a client, I won’t even mention those quick planets. They’re just too busy. They flood us with details. For example, counting only major aspects, and stations, plus sign and house ingresses, transiting Mercury alone is going to do over 160 things in my own chart over the next year – and that’s pretty typical. There’s no way to talk about all of them in any kind of reasonable time period with a client. So I focus on the work of the giants. It’s a necessary policy and, as a professional astrologer, I don’t see any practical way around it unless you have the same four or five clients who come in and talk with you “about everything” every week or two.
Still, this focus on the big theme-building planets can be blinding, and that’s the point I am exploring in this little essay. Those quick ones are powerful in their effects – and, just like the biggies, they also carry real evolutionary meaning. To help make that idea come alive, I’d like to take a deep look at something I’d normally ignore – let’s look at what Mercury has in store for us all this month, and let’s accelerate our senses enough to get into synchronization with its minute-by-minute evolutionary guidance for us. As October opens, Mercury is retrograde in Virgo, but that doesn’t last for long. It turns direct on the 2nd and quickly speeds through the final five or six degrees of Virgo, arriving at the Libra frontier on October 10. Mercury spends most of the rest of the month in Libra, only crossing into Scorpio in time for Halloween, on October 29th.
Mercury’s transit through Libra – it’s hardly an event that will make history. In average terms, Mercury, like Venus, takes only about a year to get around the zodiac, give or take a bit. The last time it entered Libra was on August 29, 2021. The next time it enters Libra will be on October 4, 2023. It’s as common as a rainy day, in other words. By contrast, when Pluto touches Aquarius next March, YouTube will light up – that’s a big deal, and Pluto won’t be entering Aquarius again for well over another two centuries. YouTube should light up!
But poor Mercury entering Libra . . . ho hum, not that again . . . didn’t that just happen last summer?
Let’s go back to basics. First, Mercury in Libra is just as impactful, just as energetic an event as Pluto in Aquarius. The only difference – and it is an important one – is that it won’t last as long. That means Mercury won’t turn the world on its ear the way Pluto will – it just won’t have enough time to develop that kind of depth and complexity of meaning. But while it’s happening during those 19 days, you’ll feel it as deeply as you’ll feel Pluto.
More importantly, every transit can be understood as angels whispering guidance in your ear. Who are we to ignore any of it, even “the small stuff?”
Here are some words taken directly from my 2020 publication, The Book of Air: The Art of Paying Attention. Let’s look at them and perhaps consider them a little more deeply. By the way, over the course of all four of these “Elements” books, we cover nearly all of possible combinations of planets with signs and houses, both in motion and natally. That’s why those volumes all together total nearly 1800 pages. What I tried to provide in each case is a core “seed idea” about the evolutionary meaning of every configuration. Once you understand its essence, it’s your job to fit it into the unique structure of your own chart.
MERCURY ENTERING LIBRA
- What part of me needs to stop and take a deep breath? My nervous, chattering mind – which is constantly “explaining everything” to me, and is often wrong about it all too. Some simple silence between my ears would do me a world of good.
- Where might I need to be more open to paradox and ambiguity? In my explanation of my own life. In my rationalizations. In the narrative I have invented to explain myself to myself.
- Where do I need some help? As I listen to people I like and trust, I see everything through their fresh eyes rather than through my own jaded ones – but that only works if I truly listen.
- What happens if I muscle through this period of time rather than surrendering to it? I remain actually a lot more confused than I believe myself to be. The parts of reality that I refused to acknowledge sneak up on me and undo my efforts. I am ambushed by the ignorance I chose to protect.
That’s just 169 words, but there’s an underpinning of astrological theory in them, as well as a purely evolutionary tone. We’re looking at Mercury (the mind; thinking; learning) being animated and guided by Libran values (serenity; seeing both sides of things; the benefits of relationship) – and we’re also warned about Mercury’s inherent pitfalls (over-thinking; chatter) along with Libra’s own dark sides (indecision; rationalization; conflict avoidance).
Where the “evolutionary tone” comes into play is easy to see. Note how there are clear goals built into the language, along with practical strategies for achieving them. It’s not just the usual astrological drill of “description” and “passive prediction.” There are warnings about what the Mercury-in-Libra energy looks like if you get it wrong – how, if you’re lazy, you’ll be “ambushed by any ignorance that you choose to protect.”
Between October 10 and 29, everyone will be swimming in this same bath of energy and evolutionary potential. Whether people know it or not, the whole world will be “trying to stop and take a deep breath.” These transits always happen for a reason and they always happen exactly when they need to happen. The buzz of the world will be thickening as tensions rise. The more conscious ones among us will be trying to calm it – remember, a search for serenity is always at the heart of any Libran event. For all of us, reaching the higher ground depends upon seeing both sides of all the complicated questions that will be right in our faces. Blessed are the peacemakers, in other words. Let us resolve to listen to each other – Mercury is about communication and Libra is about relationship. That means that, in fact, “listening” (Mercury) and “to each other” (Libra) is a pretty good plain English translation of the configuration.
Above all, let us resolve to realize that, even if we are basically right about something, the truth might be still even more complex – and richer – than we realize.
Some of us will rise to the highest potentials of Mercury’s transit through Libra. They’ll take another little step upward on the soul-mountain – a mountain we’re all climbing, whether or not we know it. Even better, those who succeed will also radiate healing, stabilizing energy into this frazzled world.
Meanwhile, some of us will get it wrong – and experience the tension of fanaticism, while setting ourselves up to eventually be “ambushed by our own ignorance.”
As ever, every astrological configuration represents an evolutionary opportunity to which we can potentially rise. That’s just as true of the quick ones as it is of the slow ones that define the chapters of our lives. Mercury’s passage through Libra may be here today and gone tomorrow, but it’s still a piece of the infinite puzzle we’re all trying to assemble.
Listen to the podcast version