Ratiocination ~ Mercury Retrograde in Capricorn

It’s finally here.

The last Mercury Retrograde of the year.

And it promises to be a seismic paradigm shift for anyone paying attention. That’s because for the first time in two years, this Mercury Retrograde will be exclusively in an earth sign.

For all of 2021 and 2022, Mercury spent his retrograde almost entirely in air signs.

Until now, when he is destined to retrograde in the cardinal earth sign of Capricorn.

Those wild wind currents where Mercury soared high in the stratosphere so his feet never touched the ground will transmute into the weight of gravity grinding down to a slow, steady climb toward the absolute.

And this climb will continue until Winter Solstice 2023.

Capricorn is the crow’s nest above the world, where you can eavesdrop on the whisperings of the gods while simultaneously looking down on the miseries and misfortunes of mankind. It’s the lofty peaks where two worlds intersect, where hard work meets personal ambition and spirit is drawn into matter.

Being symbolized as the goatfish, Capricorn has an uncanny gift for descending to the lowest depths unto the greatest heights and bringing chaos into order.

If you have a plan to build something great and everlasting, then your season has come. And with Mercury retrograding in the sign of Capricorn, may your ambitions exceed even your greatest visions.

Power of Three

Hermetic cosmology sees three worlds—heaven, earth and the underworld (divine, human, animal)—all connected by the axis mundi.

The axis mundi has been depicted in mythological traditions as a tree (Yggdrasil of Norse mythology) or mountain (Mount Olympus of Greece). It’s the pillar that holds up the entire universe and connects the human world to one that is at once animistic and divine.

It’s through Mercury that we learn our ancestral wisdom and divine origins in equal measure. Mercury’s Grecian counterpart Hermes was the only god granted the power to travel the full range of the axis mundi, from the heights of Mount Olympus to the depths of Hades.

When he turns retrograde, Mercury descends below the horizon. He transforms from the Winged Messenger into the psychopomp, the guide who carries departed souls into the underworld.

In Hermetica Triptycha Volume One: The Mercury Elemental Year, Gary P. Caton describes the visual phenomena of the Mercury Retrograde as a “disappearing act,” writing that it appears Mercury is “switching skies, appearing in the same degrees three times: first as evening star, then becoming invisible and making the inferior conjunction, and finally crossing for the third time as morning star.”

The Mercury Retrograde is an invitation for you to switch selves—to transform from ordinary consciousness to unconscious reverie, from a rational being into an irrational creature. You are being asked to switch patterns and change perception, lest you become a “victim” to the alteration of consciousness naturally underway during the Mercury Retrograde.

You may hear an invitation from Mercury the trickster to switch worlds. It’s an invitation to go within to discover the source of your discontent with others and the world-at-large, rather than point your finger like a heat seeking missile at an easily identifiable enemy. You are being called to break free of rationality, to embrace the irrational and see reality as it truly is (or at least seems to be).

The Heart of the Sun

On the morning of January 7th, 2023 Mercury will make his inferior conjunction with the Sun at 17 degrees Capricorn. This transit is otherwise known as Cazimi, translating to “In the Heart of the Sun.” The image given here is one of a messenger entering the throne room of a great monarch.

The Cazimi is a great seed moment. In this cosmic temple beyond the limits of space and time, you may commune with the divine and bear witness to a greater plan for your destiny. And with the Cazimi in a supportive trine to Uranus in Taurus, the time is ripe for unexpected shocks that will accelerate your ascent.

This Cazimi will take place in the second decan of Capricorn, which the Picatrix describes as “seeking what is known but unobtainable.” The second decan is the peak of Capricorn’s ambitions, with Agrippa describing it as “requiring those things which cannot be done, and for the searching after those things which cannot be known.” This is the exact kind of discouragement that Capricorn needs to work twice as hard just to prove everyone wrong.

The second decan of Capricorn is represented in the Tarot by the Three of Pentacles, which Aleister Crowley says shows the “material establishment of the idea of the Universe, the determination of its basic form.” It’s where Capricorn builds its empire.

The Capricorn Cazimi is your chance to do the impossible—to achieve your most ambitious goals in the face of insurmountable odds. It’s your opportunity to bring chaos into order and unlock the mystery to your own destiny.

To aid in this journey, it is advised to embark upon a directed mythological study and magical practice. As Caton writes in Hermetica Triptycha, “To keep the passages between worlds open, and our basic self and non-rational worlds integrated, we should dedicate at least one of these three periods each year to taking a conscious descent into the worlds of magic and myth.”

The Murders in the Rue Morgue

A perfect story for contemplation during the Mercury Retrograde in Capricorn is “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe.

Having his Sun conjunct to Mercury in Capricorn, Poe was granted a vantage point above the landscape of literature afforded to very few writers before him or since. And with this supreme point-of-view, Poe established traditions in the literary genres of horror and mystery that continue to be upheld to this day. 

“The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is Poe’s most renowned tale of ratiocination (or: reasoning by conscious deliberate inference). It’s widely considered the first modern detective story, and laid the foundation for many literary detectives to come. Its hero, the eccentric and ingenious C. Auguste Dupin served as the main inspiration for iconic detectives of literature that followed, including Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot.

The prime example of the “locked-room mystery” or “impossible crime”, the set up for “Rue Morgue” is deceptively simple. Two women brutally murdered in an upscale Parisian neighborhood. A bloody straight razor found on the floor. The room locked from the inside. One body found outside in the courtyard, the head nearly decapitated from the body. The other, strangled to death and shoved into the chimney. Two bags of gold coins and priceless jewels left strewn across the floor.

 “To this horrible mystery there is not as yet, we believe, the slightest clew.”

Witnesses report they heard two voices. One belonged to a Frenchman, the other a foreigner. No one can agree on the language spoken by the foreigner, although none had conversed with a native speaker in the language they believe they heard.

[SPOILER ALERT] Upon visiting the crime scene, Dupin discovers a small detail the investigators missed: a single follicle of hair that doesn’t appear to be human in origin. On a hunch, he runs an ad in the newspaper seeking the owner of a missing orangutan that was trapped in the city. When a sailor shows up to claim the animal, Dupin holds him at gunpoint and demands to know the details of the crime. The sailor reveals that he had captured the orangutan in Indonesia and had plans to sell it on the black market in Paris. He kept the animal locked in a closet in his apartment until he could find a buyer.

But after a late night of drinking, he returned home to find the ape escaped its confines. It had lathered its face and was using a straight razor to mimic its master’s shaving routine. In attempt to discipline the ape, the sailor cracked his whip which only startled the animal to fly out into the streets. It found the open window of the victims, climbed in and attempted to give the first a shave, inadvertently slicing her head nearly off. When the second victim screamed in horror, the ape strangled her. Fearing punishment from its master, it shoved the body up the chimney to hide the crime. When the sailor finally caught up and climbed to the window, the ape threw the other body at him in shock and escaped out the open window, which closed and latched behind it when it fled. [END SPOILER]

“The Ourang-Outang must have escaped from the chamber, by the rod, just before the breaking of the door.”

Planet of the Apes

Poe’s finest tale of ratiocination is perfect for examination this Mercury Retrograde in Capricorn for a number of reasons. The most obvious of these is the role of the detective whose skill of deduction outwits all other investigators, a clear nod to the mental powers of Mercury. And when he turns retrograde, a great mystery envelopes you, transforming you from a rational being into an irrational creature.

“The best chess-player in Christendom may be little more than the best player of chess; but proficiency in whist implies capacity for success in all these more important undertakings where mind struggles with mind.”

It’s also worth noting that the Picatrix assigns to the second decan of Capricorn the image of “a man with a monkey in front of him.” 

Furthermore, the Tarot key attributed to Mercury, I. The Magician, is noted for featuring an ape descending from the central figure of the mercurial magus in Crowley’s Book of Thoth.

Also note that on the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, the Sephirah (or Emanation) that’s attributed to Mercury is Hod (or Spleandor), the Absolute or Perfect Intelligence. And note, too, that the Hindu god attributed to this sphere is Hanuman, represented as an ape or monkey.

Regarding this connection between monkey and mind, Israel Regardie points to Madame Blavatsky’s theory in The Secret Doctrine that “within the apes are imprisoned the human souls of solar-mercurial nature, souls almost of the status of godhead, called Manasaputras, ‘Mind-born sons of Brahma.'”

“To observe attentively is to remember distinctly…”

Being the sign of the goatfish, Capricorn is iconic of evolution. It emblematizes the strength required to adapt to your environment so that you may climb from the lowest depths to the highest heights and bring chaos into order.

The Mercury Retrograde in Capricorn is a time for you to adapt your thinking to a changing world. To cease accepting obvious answers and look at the facts that no one else can see (let alone dare talk about). It’s time to evolve.

May “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” serve your contemplation of what it means to bring chaos into order this Mercury Retrograde in Capricorn, the tale of a murder committed by a monkey and the only man smart enough to solve the crime.