I don’t really keep track of astrology; the new and full moons are about it, and that’s more for interest’s sake than any finger-wavey reason. But boy oh boy do I believe in Mercury retrogrades fucking shit up. When a major cell service provider here in good old R of SA had disappearing data issues a few weeks back, I crossed my hands over my generous middle, sat back in my chair and nodded sagely. Of course it would happen during a Mercury retrograde. Mercury retrogrades are like the universe stacking everything communication related with a .5 towards chaos instead of order, and Vodacom got shanked up its treacherous little tuchus.
I’ve had a few Mercury retrograde-related casualties on the home front. Foolishly (this was before the Vodacom fiasco, which was the blip that alerted me to the retrograde) I signed up for a new internet service, and it’s been a fortnight of wailing and gnashing of teeth, and that’s just on Twitter. I’m hoping tomorrow’s direct will slingshot the situation back to the Lands of Competence – not familiar territory for Telkom, but still – and will be putting in a prayer or two to that effect. I’ve had my fair share of miscommunication, minor and major, my mom’s (until then perfectly functional) phone broke, and an old “pal” (it seems gratuitous to label someone as an enemy, so observe the quotes) crawled from the woodwork to try and poison my spiritual well.
Still, it wasn’t all bad. I found a lovely organiser on sale at 1/5th of its usual price. I’ve reorganised, re-prioritised, and made an impressive amount of lists. I finally unstoppered my piehole and shared some issues I’ve been having with supportive friends, which didn’t change the situation but sure made me feel better about it. I cleared my email inboxes. I put labels on things. I got around to watching Me Before You. Mercury retrogrades are astrology’s yoga pants: nice little hiatuses from having to suck your stomach in and have it all together.
Tomorrow, though, it’s back to business. This week’s FYI card is “Strength”. Can I be honest? I sometimes want to punch Strength in its magnanimous little face. It’s so serene. I mean, yes, that’s the point of it. But nothing’s quite so irritating as serenity when you’re not there yet yourself, which came through strongly in my reading.
Two connections stood out for me. The first was the relationship between Strength and The Magician: both have the lemniscate on their person. I read using The Wild Unknown deck; The Magician’s is in its fur, Strength’s lion above its head. Strength is what happens when The Magician puts on its big girl panties. The Magician’s all about will, and its will can be relentless – too relentless. As the first card The Fool encounters on her journey, The Magician still has much to prove, both to her or himself and the world. By the time The Fool reaches Strength, that will has changed, softened into the confidence of initial mastery. Strength doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody.
Strength is also in relationship with The High Priestess (11 = 1+1 = 2). The High Priestess’ search for inner mysteries is actualized in the peace at the heart of the Strength card. When you’ve been tested (Wheel of Fortune) and found yourself true to your inner guidance and resilience, you no longer roar and rampage – you don’t need to. In Christian terminology, I think of Strength as the peace of Christ. This peace is incomplete as yet, though – it’s not until you die to self and live to Christ that it finds its perfection.
Practically, I think Strength is often being able to…but choosing not to. It’s being able to say something that’s right but not necessarily kind and choosing not to say anything. It’s mercy over judgment. Strength asks us who and what we are when we no longer have anything to prove to anybody. That proof’s been provided in The Chariot. Now what? From the times in my life I’ve felt most “Strong”, I’d say Strength is patient, generous, grateful, aware. When Strength permeates our lives, we take deeper breaths, listen more than we speak, pause. Sometimes it’s less of a presence than it is an absence: an absence of comparison and envy, of defensiveness and irritation, and of materialism, waste and excess.
In that vein, I consulted the cards on how I can best combine Strength with the energy of tomorrow’s Mercury direct. I used Temperance as a loaded card and pulled the cards preceding and following it and got Death and the Knight of Swords. I thought this was an interesting combination: isn’t Death but the Knight of Swords’ final charge, realised? These energies aren’t dissimilar, but unless a conscious effort is made to combine these internal and external forces of change, their interaction will be combustible and oppositional.
The Mercury direct will test the resolve of our Strength. It will put us and our aimed-at serenity straight in the path of people and things we might wish to avoid. Mercury is infernally chatty, but is our Strength Strength unless it can bear the unpredictability of interpersonal relationships? Not really. The proof is in the pudding, after all.
This week’s challenge, then, is not to let the onslaught of Mercury’s Knight of Swords rush or hamper the steady progress of Strength’s implacable, Death-like energy. For me, that means holding onto Strength even when Mercury’s energy is tugging at your sleeve, urging you to ask the question you know you shouldn’t, go to the party you don’t have time for, reschedule an appointment last minute because something more tempting’s come up. Mercury can be a real son of a bitch, retrograde or not, but he doesn’t always have to get his way.