Astrologers get their understanding of the planets from many sources, including science, mythology, and the astrological tradition.
In astronomy, the little planet Mercury is distinguished by its rapid pace — it whirls around the Sun in a mere 88 days — and its proximity to the Sun.
In mythology, the Roman god Mercury, known to the Greeks as Hermes, is also recognized for his speed. In his winged sandals and cap, he was the messenger of the gods as well as a thief, musician, trickster, and accomplished liar who could talk his way out of anything. A master of spin, Hermes escorted dead souls into the underworld. The ancients worshipped him as the god of travel, speech, roads, boundaries, sleep, dream, and the nameless places that fall between here and there. Two of those in-between spots deserve special recognition: the shadowy realm between wakefulness and sleep, and the transition between life and death.
Astrologers see Mercury as the symbol of communication, speech, writing, knowledge, the intellect, reason, wit, and learning. Its position in your birth chart determines the way you think, the speed with which you gather facts and process information, the style with which you express yourself, and your ability to tell a story (truthful or otherwise), give a speech, and use language.
Because it orbits the Sun so closely, Mercury is always either in the same sign as the Sun or in an adjacent sign — and in no case is it ever more than 28° away from the Sun. To discover its position in your chart, turn to the Appendix.
Mercury's symbol has three metaphysical components: the cross of earth or matter, the circle of spirit, and, perched on top, the crescent of personality looking like a tiny satellite dish, ready to receive information.
For a description of the way your mind operates, look up Mercury in the Appendix and read the appropriate paragraph in this list:
i Mercury in Aries: Never slow to jump to conclusions, you have a lightning-fast mind and a direct, forceful way of expressing yourself. Though you can be impatient, competitive, and irritable (and often find it difficult to concentrate), you're never boring or wishy-washy. You're willing to lay down the law if you must. You express yourself assertively, and people generally know what you think. (However, if Mercury is in your twelfth house, you may try to conceal your opinions, usually without success.)
i Mercury in Taurus: You're thoughtful, conservative, and remarkably sensible. You gather your facts, construct a careful argument, and present it diplomatically. After that, you only appear to consider other points of view. In fact, having reached a reasoned decision with all deliberate speed, you see no reason to alter your opinion. You tend to be inflexible, and it's difficult to argue with you, in part because you have the facts, and in part because opening up to fresh ideas is not easy for you. You already know what you think.
1 Mercury in Gemini: You're smart, inquisitive, perceptive, persuasive, humorous, slapdash, and clever. Your intellectual agility is extraordinary. Your curious mind engages easily, you juggle a multitude of interests, and you talk like the wind. You also bend with the wind. All too adaptable, you can rationalize anything. Still, this is an enviable placement. Mercury rules Gemini (and Virgo), so it works very effectively here.
1 Mercury in Cancer: Sensitive and empathetic, you're insightful, reflective, and exceedingly well tuned-in. You can communicate with verve and compassion, and you absorb information readily. You have an amazing memory and a remarkably intuitive mind. But your moods may swamp your better judgment, and you're prone to wishful thinking.
1 Mercury in Leo: Dramatic, dignified, and ambitious, you think creatively, express yourself vividly, and are confident in your opinions (though less so if your Sun is in Cancer). An opinion leader, you usually see the big picture and are persuasive, eloquent, and organized in your thinking. You can also be dogmatic, boastful, and unreserved in your enthusiasms. Okay, sometimes you go overboard. As often happens with Leo placements, your warmth overcomes your tendency to show off and carries the day.
1 Mercury in Virgo: You're smart, subtle, persistent, knowledgeable, analytical, and sharp. Nothing escapes your notice, including logical inconsistencies. A secret idealist who bemoans the distance between how things are and how they ought to be, you can be a nitpicker, a critic, or a prosecuting attorney. You're also a brilliant thinker and a first-rate conversationalist. Mercury rules Virgo, so this planet-sign combination works exceptionally well. Feel confident: You have a fine mind.
1 Mercury in Libra: Rational in thought and elegant in expression, you seek a balanced viewpoint and intuitively understand that the best solution is generally the simplest. Prudent, discreet, and possessed of a strong aesthetic sense, you manage to be objective in a charming, diplomatic way. You love to debate and are interested in the opinions of those you respect. In the privacy of your own mind, you bounce up and down on the seesaw of uncertainty, and because you try to consider all sides of a question, it takes you awhile to reach a decision.
1 Mercury in Scorpio: You have a penetrating, resourceful mind that continually probes beneath the surface. At your best, you're an eagle-eyed observer and a profound thinker. You take nothing at face value, and often suffer from suspicion and even paranoia. You're also analytical, shrewd, incisive, and capable of digging out all sorts of information. This is a great position for a detective, a researcher, or a therapist. It can be dangerous too, because it also confers a biting wit and a persistent tendency to use words as a weapon.
ii Mercury in Sagittarius: You have a searching intellect and a wide-ranging mind. When mulling over the big questions, as you love to do, you can be inspired in your insights and grand in your philosophizing. As a conversationalist, you're entertaining and wise. You can also be dogmatic, hypocritical, and weak when it comes to details, and direct to the point of tactlessness. Evangeline Adams, a great astrologer of the early 20th century, complained in Astrology for Everyone that people with this placement fail to keep their promises due to the "discontinuous and flitterbat quality" of their minds. Your sense of humor is your salvation. (Think of Woody Allen.)
i Mercury in Capricorn: Methodical, realistic, and organized, you're a systematic thinker. You know how to focus, and you act like an adult. Though you can be conventional, rigid, and pessimistic, you try to be even-handed in reaching conclusions, even if that means overcoming your own biases. A serious thinker who values practical information, you're responsible enough to collect the facts, and you communicate clearly and responsibly.
i Mercury in Aquarius: Fueled by ideas, you have an inventive, often brilliant mind (think of Thomas Edison). Progressive, humane, and happiest when committed to a cause, you express yourself in unique ways and often gain your greatest insight in momentary flashes of inspiration. Your perceptions are distinctly your own. You can become totally excited about a social problem or an abstract theory. Nothing wrong with that — as long as you don't become so attached to an idea that you become inflexible, refusing to let facts — or people — stand in your way.
i Mercury in Pisces: Any planet in Pisces leads to the triumph of feeling over fact. You respond to people and situations instinctively, often making the right decision without knowing why. You understand how people operate. And you find it easy to adapt to changing circumstances. Your mind is receptive, subtle, empathetic, and imaginative, but logic is not your strong suit. On the other hand, you have ready access to your intuition, which runs like a river of impressions a fraction of an inch beneath your conscious thoughts.
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