If the season of the witch has yet to cast its spell on you, this week’s Full Moon Eclipse in earth-magic Taurus might just do the trick. The longest lasting partial eclipse of the century will captivate its audience in the predawn hours of Friday, November 19th. The earth’s shadow will slowly cast over the Moon for a duration of nearly 3 and half hours, with its peak coverage around 4am Eastern Time. The cast of this shadow will likely display a deep red hue and be visible across the Americas, much of Asia, parts of Europe and West Africa.
If you happen to sleep through this wondrous event, let’s hope that your dreams may connect with this widespread magic. There is another kind of sleep however, non-rejuvenating and devoid of dreams. This sleep is one to be wary of. It is the ‘sleep of the senses’ that the Earth spirit warns Faust about. It is a closing off to the expressiveness of the natural world.
In his book, “The Spell of the Sensuous”, David Abram describes the human experience of magic as “our ancestral animistic awareness of the world as alive and expressive.” He says that everything ‘speaks’, and it is only through our creation of the written word that ‘the stones fall silent.’ What once was some grooves on a rock expressing meaning to us has become a paragraph in the New York Times. The alphabet and the written word is entirely human-constructed, not even the spirit of breath shapes it, the way the spoken word does. Far from saying that the written word is ‘bad’ he simply emphasizes what the written word really is: magic. This is why one can ‘cast a spell’ and ‘spell a word’. He says, “As non-human animals, plants, and even ‘inanimate’ rivers once spoke to our oral ancestors, so the ostensibly ‘inert’ letters o n the page now speak to us! This is a form of animism that we take for granted, but it is animism nonetheless- as mysterious as a talking stone.”
Even if you sleep through the Full Moon eclipse, be sure to rouse your senses enough to realize something important; the world is magical and we have the capacity to be magicians!
As always, happy astro pondering!
For more on David Abram, here is a wonderful interview where he talks about animism, magic and the senses.
Kierkegaard famously said, “Life can only be understood backwards: but it must be lived forwards.”
Understanding things is the mind’s job, represented in the zodiac by Mercury, the quick-silvered Messenger of the Gods. It moves forward very quickly, faster than any other planet in our solar system. But 3 times a year, it gives the illusion of moving backwards and we find ourselves in the spell of Mercury retrograde for about 3 weeks. Good thing Mercury is the planet of mind, which is good at understanding life in a backwards fashion. Mercury goes retrograde at the beginning of this week on Monday, September 27th and will continue its moonwalk until October 17th. As we continue to live forward, let’s also see how well we can employ our minds to look backwards, and better understand the lives we lead.
Looking back is synonymous with reflection. When you look in a mirror, there you are as a reflection looking back at yourself. As Bob Dylan sang,
When you wake up in the morning, baby, look inside your mirror
You know I won’t be next to you, you know I won’t be near.
I’d just be curious to know if you could see yourself as clear
As someone who has had you on his mind.
In this romantic instance, a lover’s reflection, far away from her, wagered to be stronger than the actual reflection looking back at her from a mirror right in front of her.
Distance is of little importance when it comes to the power of mind. The Extended Mind Thesis, created by philosophers David Chalmers and Andy Clarke states that the mind extends into the world by use of tools and other minds. The idea is that just like a prosthetic limb can become part of a body, technology such as computers or even notebooks become part of our minds. You say you know the time and then look at your watch, or that you know where something is then consult your smartphone. Your mind extends into your environment.
And then there’s the matter of other minds! Other people’s ideas allow us to think of thoughts that we never otherwise would have. Just think how limited our minds would be if ideas were never shared! Ideas are like oxygen, the air we share.
Thinking and looking back has a wide network of assistance. It isn’t just you alone in your head indulging in some “me time”. It is your mind, out in the world, entangled with the ideas that have inspired you, shaped by the people who you love and admire, made more efficient by the tools you use.
When you reflect, when you look back, certain things can happen that simply can’t happen while looking forward. Threads show up and some declare themselves as common. Dots appear that beg to be connected. Patterns emerge. Connections converge. Before you know it, you are sitting in the middle of a movie that has a definite plot. It is this kind of 4th wall shattering that credits Mercury as a bonafide trickster. “Down in front” yells Bugs from the back of the theater.
That’s right, it’s a wascally wetwogwade, with you in the center of it.
This year has been a year of air sign retrogrades for Mercury. After retrograding in Aquarius through most of February, and Gemini through most of June, we are now looking into most of October with a Libra retrograde. Above all, Libra is an otherness.
No matter how much your reflection in the mirror looks like you, it is still fundamentally not you. The otherness of who looks back at you in the mirror is similar to the otherness of your mind as it extends into the world. Silver provides the best reflection, and remember, Mercury is liquid silver. It is fast moving silver, reflecting with a silly symphony of extensions from notebooks to neighbors. It is you and not you. The more not you it is the more you you may become. That is to say, the more you embrace the tools and inspiring ideas that surround you, the more you may come to understand the life you live, and feel a fuller sense of who you are.
Maybe that is why we can see the rabbit in a Full Moon.
The subject of Mercury keeps you guessing the more you look into it. It is the archetypal Trickster as well as our own minds. It is our words and thoughts as well as all of the information that we take in from our surroundings.
He is Hermes (Greek) and Thoth (Egypt). Both of these Gods are connected with communication, perception, writing, learning and zipping around as messengers to the other Gods. Hermes wears a winged helmet, whereas Thoth’s head is that of an ibis, a bird.
Why the concept of flight associated with the head? Does it point towards looking into the speed of thought? Could it point to the feeling of flight as being free and light, as in soaring in the clouds? The mind, speed, flight, freedom… what is the sacredness that is being preserved in these archetypal images?
Let’s take a look at some other familiar Tricksters. We already have this concept of flight associated with the mind in Hermes and Thoth. What do we see in the others?
One common similarity here is that each of these animals have pointy ears. Looks a bit like a winged helmet doesn’t it? If we search onward it becomes evident that pointy ears are found on many a Trickster.
What’s amazing about Mercury is how one association continues to lead to another and quickly. For instance, the fact that Bug’s says “what’s up doc?” is curious because of the caduceus association with medicine. Go into any doctor’s office today and you are likely to find this symbol hanging on a wall or on the cover of a pamphlet. Let’s look at the symbol again.
I wrote another post a while back entitled “The close relationship between the heart and mind (Sun and Mercury)” in which I talked about the way the lungs and the heart (Mercury and Sun) are so closely connected in the body. Mercury is never far off from the Sun. These are themes that I find very significant when further exploring the true role of Mercury in our psyches. We know that is always close to the heart and we know that it is by nature a trickster. It often gives us the “switcheroo” just look at what happens with our eyes! The perception of the eyes are ruled by Mercury.
So if the nature of Mercury is to flip things upside down AND it is always associated with the Sun (life, love, the heart) we might hypothesize that we should strive to “think with our hearts and love with our minds” as Alice O. Howell says. For anyone who doesn’t know, Alice O. Howell is my favorite astrologer and I encourage everyone to buy her books! Think with our hearts.. very Yoda!
How do we do that? I don’t know! But I do know that something feels good about this notion, at least to me. So often our minds are slaves to things we DON’T love. We put our attention to things that feel bad and get stressed and upset. So often our hearts are screaming at us and we don’t listen. We just keep doing what we’ve always done and rationalize it with our minds! A little balance is in order here. And a little humor (Mercury!)
Just a little thought to keep in your heart, or a little feeling to keep in your mind. Until next time!