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Tarot Reflections

  February 1, 2003

Stars and Cards: Mercury Retrogrades in 2003
Liz Hazel

Photo by Derek Sanderson

Elizabeth Hazel is an astrologer and tarotist who lives in Toledo, Ohio.  She has written extensively on techniques for combining stars and cards, and enjoys researching and writing about other occult topics, including mythology and history. 

Liz has 3 cats, loves to grow flowers and herbs, and plays keyboards for a band.  Her secret wish is to be a contestant on Jeopardy.  She can be contacted via email.


The aim of this series is to aid the tarotist in gaining useful information about astrology in order to assist clients. Current phenomenon will be featured in the series.

Mercury is the planet closest to the Sun.  Three or four times each year, Mercury disappears in front of the Sun from our view on earth.  This phenomenon is known as “Mercury retrograde." (The more technically accurate term would be a “Mercury eclipse,” because this phenomenon physically resembles the relationships of the Sun, Moon and Earth during eclipses.)

It is useful to think of the planet Mercury as the moon of the sun, and to think of Mercury retrogrades as a “new Mercury.”  Mercury is the planet of communications, transportation, and exchanges, so these periods – when Mercury’s power is swallowed by the Sun’s light – are notorious for confusion and delays. 

Mercury retrograde phases, also called stations, are not created equal.  The evaluation of any Mercury retrograde starts by determining its relative comfort in the sign in which it occurs. The second criteria are Mercury’s relationships to other planets during its retrograde phase.  Mercury forms triple aspects to slower planets as it shifts through its retrograde territory – forward, backward, and the third and final aspect in direct motion as it is exiting its retrograde territory.  Repeated good aspects help a Mercury retrograde show better results – bad aspects show the potential for a more difficult retrograde.

Mercury is retrograde in one element each year, making three to four retrogrades before moving on to the next element.  In 2003, the Mercury retrogrades are in Earth signs – Capricorn (Jan ’03), Taurus (May), Virgo (September), and Capricorn (December ‘03 – January ‘04).  The earth signs focus on material goods, money, and practical efforts – issues at the heart of the suit of Pentacles.  Some astrologers equate a retrograde Mercury with its transit in the opposite zodiac sign.  The tarot cards assigned to the relevant zodiac decanates and the opposite decanates of the zodiac are given below for each retrograde.

In 2003, Mercury retrogrades repeatedly aspect the asteroid/planetoid Chiron.  This body has been under evaluation by astrologers since its discovery in 1979.  Some astrologers emphasize its role in wounds, healing and teaching; others suggest that it has a strong impact on love and money matters.  Yet another view is that Chiron is the asteroid highlighting the interpretation of symbols (Chiron as the symbolists’ planet was suggested by Mary Greer) – the language of the tarot.  In mythology, Chiron was a centaur, and credited with teaching math, strategy and astrology.  Thus the Mercury retrogrades are quite fortunate for aspiring tarotists in 2003.

The first Mercury retrograde of the year is already complete.  It ran from January 2nd to 22nd, in the sign of Capricorn.  It was in the condition of mutual reception with Saturn in Gemini, thus these two planets were in each other’s ruling signs.  The upshot of this retrograde seemed to be people struggling with leadership vacuums (an issue ruled by Capricorn), and struggles with setting limits with children (a Gemini issue).

The second Mercury retrograde station runs from April 26th to May 20th; from 20 to 11˚ Taurus.  Mercury struggles with the slow pace of Taurus, so expect delays. Mercury forms squares to Jupiter and Neptune in fixed signs.  The fixed signs are “power” signs – Jupiter and Neptune represent spiritual and philosophical matters, generosity, and the extent to which a person can expand their consciousness in both reality and fantasy.  Nonetheless, issues of abundance and stability, excess debt, and balancing the costs of the group versus the individual may be a struggle. 

The station occurs in the second decanate of Taurus, attributed in the Golden Dawn system to the 6 of Pentacles.  This card relates to generosity, loyalty, personal comfort, and gifts.  During this retrograde, gifts may not be welcome if they impose obligations; or wishes may conflict with reality. The card attributed to the opposite decanate is the 6 of Cups, a card of memories and past relationships.  People may need to review events of their childhood, particularly their view of stability or security, or the extent to which they are influenced by the beliefs of others.

There is also a triple trine to Chiron.  For tarotists, this may be a period of accelerated learning, heightened intuition, and striving for a greater depth of interpretation. 

The 3rd Mercury retrograde takes place from August 28th to September 20th, from 26 to 12˚ Virgo.  This retrograde occurs in Mercury’s sign of rulership, thus requires attention to details and scholarly matters.  Mercury conjuncts Venus (on Sept. 8th); a fortunate combination for social events and reunions with friends.  This time period encourages the review of critical assumptions about personal relationships and possible ways of working through difficulties with loved ones. 

The two cards assigned to these decanates of Virgo are the 10 and 9 of Pentacles.  Financial concerns like wills and estates, scheduling, and budgets, are emphasized at this time.  This is a good time to embrace self-improvement or home-improvement efforts relating to the 9 of Pentacles, as the retrograde receives the assistance of Venus.  The cards attributed to the opposite decanates are the 9 and 10 of Cups – cards that focus on family relationships, continuity between generations, and the opportunity to fulfill particular hopes in life.

Mercury forms trines to Chiron in Capricorn.  The Virgo-Capricorn connection suggests comparing various approaches to the tarot (dare I suggest “comparative tarot” techniques?).  Each deck used may inspire diverse divinatory meanings that blend the artist’s unique card rendering with traditional interpretations.

The 4th Mercury retrograde of the year takes place from December 17th to January 6, 2004, from 12˚ Capricorn to 26˚ Sagittarius.  Mercury stations are moving from earth to fire signs, making the transition from one element to another.  Mercury forms oppositions to Saturn in Cancer, which is quite difficult.  Children may struggle with authority figures, and adults struggle with aging parents.  The Capricorn-Cancer axis gives special emphasis on family structure and relationships.  Mercury squares Mars during this station, giving a proclivity for accidents and struggles with transportation during the year-end holiday period.  In a contrasting vein, Mercury forms a triple sextile to Uranus, indicating revolutionary concepts, original solutions, and unusual new resources.  This retrograde has a mixed influence.

The end of this retrograde takes place at 26˚ Sagittarius, the location of the Galactic Center (or GC).  This is an area of deep space that is the center of our galaxy, the Milky Way.  It is surrounded by dust clouds that obscure the view from earth, but is the primary star nursery in local space.  Conjunctions to the GC occur in the charts of tarotists and events of tarot history.  The GC sharply increases godly influences, or divinely inspired metaphysical work.  Important new works about tarot may be released at this time.

The cards attributed to the zodiac decans of this retrograde are the 2 of Pentacles and the 10 of Wands.  These are cards of changes and endings; some may find this a period of intensified turbulence due to location changes or family management adjustments.  The cards attributed to the opposite decans are the 2 of Cups and the 10 of Swords, indicating a shifting view of others in critical relationships, and surprising or sudden actions by loved ones.

Generally, the cards attributed to Mercury are the Magician (Mercury), the Lovers (Gemini), and the Hermit (Virgo), both Mercury-ruled signs.  The Mercury-ruled pip cards are:  5 of Pentacles, 3 of Cups, 10 of Pentacles, 8 of Wands, and 6 of Swords.  Mercury-influenced court cards are the Queen of Cups and King of Pentacles, and the King and Queen of Swords.  If a client gets any of these cards during the above-mentioned retrograde periods, chances are that they are feeling the influence of the station.  Other issues that may appear in spreads are indications of delays, confused communications, absences, and schedule changes.   

For clients who are born under the Earth signs (Capricorn, Virgo, or Taurus), this is a year to reflect on personal management, appropriate boundaries in friendships and love relationships, and on planning for the future.

Clients born under Fire signs (Sagittarius, Aries, and Leo) will make many adjustments to their source of income, use of money, improving their personal possessions, or adapting to adjustments in their career path.

The Water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces) will focus more on the flow of issues with various friends and loved ones, daily scheduling, group events, travel, and education targeted toward future career benefits.

Clients born under Air signs (Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius) will need to focus on negotiating life changes, coping with disrupted patterns, particularly centered on long-term financial or family stability.  They may be vulnerable to health issues this year. 

Mercury retrogrades are not always terrible, but are usually irritating for everyone.  Astrologers recommend that clients avoid signing documents that initiate purchasing, leasing or renting agreements during Mercury stations, and you may wish to pass along this information to clients during these periods.  Sometimes travel is favored, especially if the client needs a rest period.  The most favorable activities during these stations are review, research, and re-doing.  I hope that tarotists make the most of the Mercury retrogrades this year for study and intensifying their understanding of the cards.

This is a simple tarot spread for gauging the effects of a Mercury retrograde.  You may wish to extract the Magician as a significator card (or any card that represents Mercury to you).  You may also use your own birth chart as a meditation mandala.  Write in the degrees of the Mercury retrograde on your chart, and concentrate on the house or houses being activated by the retrograde. 

Shuffle the deck while focusing on the significator card or chart, and meditate on Mercury’s energies.  When you have finished shuffling, take three cards off the top of the deck, and place as shown:

This spread delineates the three major phases of a Mercury retrograde:


Card 1 – The Retrograde Station.  Represents how the Mercury retrograde will begin, and may offer warnings, tips, or areas of extra caution.  It may also show a person that will be involved in your experience of the Mercury retrograde, or someone who may show very obvious Mercury retrograde influences.

Card 2 – Inferior Conjunction.  This is the mid-point of the Mercury retrograde, when Mercury is directly in front of the Sun.  This card represents when Mercury’s energy is at its weakest.  The card may show where a communications vacuum may occur; or show an issue, person, project, or situation that should be re-evaluated at this point in the retrograde cycle.  It may indicate possible weak areas that require protection or great caution at this point in the cycle.

Card 3 – The Direct Station.  This is the end of the retrograde, and this card shows the predominant influences at the time of the direct station.  A new understanding may be apparent in this card, or cumulative fall-out from the entire retrograde may be revealed.  Errors or misunderstandings may also be indicated as the cycle winds to a close, requiring special effort to correct or repair.

Card 4 – Results.  This card shows the cumulative effects of the entire Mercury retrograde cycle.  It may encourage a special attitude or focus to maintain during this cycle, or an emotional tactic that should prove effective for coping with the cycle.  For instance, if the Queen of Cups should appear here, a fine strategy would be to be loving, gracious, and sympathetic toward others, and if all else fails – feed people.


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