The Way of the Stars – Issue 6

Ah! Mercury, the planet of comunications and the mind is retrograde again ;)

This is a time of small mishaps, tech problems and deals gone awry… or not? why?

This issue of my Daily Spell astrology column answers exactly that :) Come and take a look…

The Way of the Stars

An Introduction to Astrology

By Pablo Dotro(*) – The Mage of the Many Shadows.

To She Who Reads the Sky, my Lady Urania, do I dedicate these words.
May by your inspiration our souls learn to dance with the stars”

Merry Meet, my friends! I promised last week to talk about the ruler planets of the signs, but I think we can take advantage of what the sky is showing us right now ;) On June 15th, the planet Mercury “went retrograde”, so this week’s article will depart from our schedule and will be about why does this happen and what it means.

Apparent motion on the sky.

Since the earliest times, our ancestors looked at the sky. They noticed that there were stars that remained static in relation with each other, while others appeared to “move” against this background of static or “fixed” stars. They associated this “errant stars” with their gods and goddesses. This is the origin of the modern word planet, which comes from the ancient Greek words “planete”/ “planét”, which means “wanderer”(1).

Now, when we look at the sky from the surface of our Earth, the perspective we have is that we are static in the center of a huge sphere, whose surface is the stage on which these points of light perform an elaborate dance of light and darkness.

Almost all of Astrology is based on this perspective, which is called “geocentric” because we are using Earth as the center of our mapping system. We describe all movements and positions as relative to a sphere centered in our own planet.

Thanks to science and careful observation we know we are not in the center of the Universe, but Astrology is truly “centered” on our own person, its main concern is what happens to us, so it is fitting that the traditional geocentric concepts remain the basis of its symbolism.

The motion and positions of the planets and stars as seen from the surface of Earth are called “apparent” positions and movements. They describe “what they look like” if we actually go out of the city and look up to them. The real movements on space are called “true”, “heliocentric” or “astronomic”.

The clockwork mechanism of the Solar System.

All of the planets of the Solar System orbit the Sun, each one following a more or less constant “orbit” or path around it. This orbit is not a perfect circle, but kind of oval known as an ellipse (2). The Sun is not at the geometric center, but it’s in on of the foci of this oval. When a planet is close to the Sun, it moves faster. Mercury and Venus, for example, both have orbital speeds faster than ours. In turn, Earth moves faster around the Sun than the planets exterior to her (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, etc.).

For the historically and mathematically inclined, these basic facts were enunciated by one of the last astrologers/astronomers: Johannes Kepler. His “Laws of Planetary Motion”(3) were the first major new discoveries in the 16 centuries that separated him from Claudius Ptolemy.

From Earth, we see the planets moving through the sky at different speeds. Most of the time, the planets move in what is called “direct” motion: this is the standard zodiacal direction over the ecliptic…


However, one of the most interesting consequences of this difference in orbital speed is that whenever a planet closer to the Sun than Earth “passes us by” and is at the same time “behind” it, we see it as if it was “moved backwards” relative to the background provided by the fixed stars.

As the inner planets are faster than Earth, some days or months later, we see them stop and “move forward” again, forming a kind of open loop on the sky.

Something very similar happens with the planets that are farther away from the Sun than us. This time it is Earth who “passes them by”. This image(4) and this short illustrated article(5) may help you see it better.

If you ever have been on a moving train, and the train besides you started moving at a different speed, you have “felt” the sensation of either your train or the other moving backwards, even when from an outside point of view, both trains are moving forward, just at different speeds.

Since this phenomenon requires a planet moving at a different speed than Earth around the Sun, it should be noted that the Moon never goes retrograde: the Moon truly orbits the Earth, and does so always on the same direction. By the same token, the Sun is never retrograde: what we see as the apparent position of the Sun on the sky is a projection of Earth’s own motion on space. There’s no way we can see the Sun moving backwards against the stars.



As you can imagine, if a star you associate with a major God or Goddess suddenly starts moving backwards, perhaps becoming closer to other stars it has already passed by, it looks like a major event to someone observing the celestial drama from the ancients point of view.

As a consequence of this, this symbolic event is important in all branches of Western astrology.

Each planet has specific symbolic meanings and correspondences. A planet entering a retrograde phase is like a Tarot card that is appears inverted on a reading: its meaning changes. And in the same way as Tarot cards, a retrograde planet implies that its usual symbolism is “stayed” or “inhibited” by the temporal and mundane circumstances represented by the movement. Let’s see how this applies to our friend Mercury.

Mercury retrograde, the terror of technically adept Pagans and Astrologers.

Mercury is the planet of Communications, Learning, Commerce, Movements/travel and rational planning. Mercury is the “quick mind” and “communicator” of the Zodiac. We relate Mercury to travel and close range mobility, to our ability to understand each other, to our close relations, to the things we learn and to our “deals” with other people. A well placed Mercury on our charts often gives to us a “blessing” in these areas of life. What happens, then when this mobile planet starts going backwards on the sky? Well, it starts interacting again with the other planets and the signs, but it does so in a way that is not harmonic; its “nicer” qualities are “out of sync” with ours.

So we can expect (depending on each other’s charts, of course) strange obstacles in our daily travel routines, misunderstandings, failures in communication (chat room disappeared? mail server’s down? Cell phone with no credit?), small business transactions gone awry, and misplacements of valuable possessions. It is like if we suddenly lose our instinct for simple things, and everything needs to be checked again and again, for strange casual mishaps keep happening.

Since Mercury is an important planet, one of the “personal” ones, we need to keep an eye for these periods and be prepared ;)

Of course, as each person’s chart is unique, a retrograde transit like the one we are seeing these days affects every one of us differently. If you wish, in a couple of weeks, write me and let me know how it worked out for you.

Coming up next week:

Okay, next week I will really tell you a little more of the relationship between planets and signs, in particular, I will talk about the rulers of the signs. Also, we will visit the first of the water signs: Cancer. Remember you can read this one and all past columns in my blog(6).

(*) Pablo is an advanced astrology student at the Centro Astrológico de Buenos Aires (, a First Degree student at Witchschool, and has extensive experience in Wicca, ceremonial magick, computer science, the Internet, physics and chemistry.

(1) “Planet” at Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged English Dictionary, CD-ROM Edition, 2000.






1 Comment(s)

  1. Pingback by Words of Magick » The Way of the Stars (Issue no. 23) on January 8, 2008 18:11

    […] When Mercury is not well placed in the chart, it may translate as a lack of its qualities (memory lapses, a passive mind, lack of curiosity, bad luck with commercial transactions, etc.) or as an inharmonic expression of mercurial traits: the convincing words and clear perception of the salesman can turn into the twisted wit of the con artist, a quick mind can help others transcend their limits, or can make them manifest to take credit. As always, every symbol has two sides. For an example of a simple way of inharmonic expression of Mercury, you may want to take a look to my past article on Mercury retrogrades(3). […]

Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a comment

Words of Magick is proudly powered by WordPress and themed by Mukkamu