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All Mercury Retrogrades Are Not Created Equal

Despite the expectations and predictions of many astrologers for a repeat of the 2000 chaos, the 2012 election was mostly quick, clean, and decisive. (1) Why were so many astrologers fooled? Unlike the other classical planets, with their more predictable natures, Mercury is a wildcard. It is the archetype of the trickster, a shape-shifting shaman who blends into the nature of his surroundings like a chameleon. It is clear now that one cannot assume we’ll see similar results because Mercury was retrograde on Election Day in both 2000 and 2012. Mercury’s behavior depends a lot on his surroundings.  With Mercury, more than any other planet, the devil is indeed in the details.

One of the most basic, and often overlooked, detail of any Mercury retrograde is the element within which it occurs. Mercury’s retrograde periods move through the four elements in a cyclical fashion, with four to six consecutive retrogrades occurring in a single element and 19 to 22 retrograde periods occurring over six or seven years before an element is repeated. (2) I call this phenomenon the “Mercury Elemental Year” because it is quite common for all three Mercury retrogrades in a calendar year to occur in the same element, or combination of two elements. For instance, in the year 2000, all three Mercury retrogrades happened mostly in the water signs, with the final retrograde of the year stationing direct just into the last degree of the air sign of Libra on Election Day. (3) This presaged a movement into the air triplicity for 2001.

In the following tables you will see the sign and degree of the Mercury conjunctions for 2000 and 2012. I use the inferior or retrograde conjunction of Mercury with the Sun as the elemental marker because it happens at the midpoint of the retrograde period, and thus whatever element Mercury makes the conjunction in is the element within which he spends more time in retrograde motion (for instance, the next inferior conjunction is November 17 in Scorpio. Mercury spends eight days retrograde in Sagittarius and 12 days retrograde in Scorpio — thus the water element is more accentuated than fire.

Mercury 2000

In 2000, Mercury made the retrograde (inferior) conjunction with the Sun on March 1 in Pisces, on July 6 in Cancer, and on October 29 in Scorpio. As mentioned above, Mercury went direct on November 7 at 29° Libra. The next inferior conjunction was on February 12, 2001 at 21°  Aquarius, thus beginning the movement into the Air triplicity.

In 2012, however, Mercury’s retrogrades are moving from the fire to the water signs.

Mercury 2012

In 2012, Mercury had an inferior conjunction on March 21 in Aries and on July 28 in Leo. The next inferior conjunction is November 17 in Scorpio, and the following inferior conjunction will be on March 4, 2013 in Pisces. The retrograde will be primarily in the water element until 2014 and will not return to the fire signs until 2017.

This fundamental, or “elemental,” difference in the placement of the 2000 and 2012 Mercury retrogrades (within the six-to-seven year cycle through the elements) becomes even more important when one considers the fact that the United States of America was founded on July 4, 1776, during a Mercury retrograde period. In fact, in 1776 the Mercury retrogrades were transitioning from water to air signs, as in 2000.

Mercury 1776

In 1776, Mercury had an inferior conjunction on March 5 in Pisces, on July 11 in Cancer, and on November 2 in Scorpio. The next inferior conjunction was on February 16, 1777 in Aquarius, and the air cycle continued for another or so.

So, in both 1776 and 2000, the Mercury retrograde periods were moving from the element of water to the element of air. However, in 2012, the Mercury retrograde period is moving from fire to water. This then underscores a fundamental difference between the 2000 and 2012 elections — the 2000 election was resonating more strongly with the tone of the U.S. Sibly chart than the 2012 election.

Now, does this mean there will be none of the reversals characteristic of Mercury retrograde in this 2012 election? Absolutely not, only that they won’t show up in the same way as 2000. So then, what does this election mean when put into proper context?

In the chart for the election, cast for midnight at Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, where voting begins, we see that Mercury in Sagittarius is in mutual reception to Jupiter in Gemini.

Dixville Notch

In one of the best astrology articles  I’ve seen in years, my colleague Austin Coppock describes the Gemini/Sagittarius axis as “The One and the Many.” (3) The premise of his article is that this axis acts in a way that mirrors the alchemical formula Solve et Coagula, meaning break apart and put back together. In Gemini things are fractured into countless diverse and unique pieces and in Sagittarius they come back together through some divine unifying principle. This is similar to the phrase on the Seal of the United States, E Pluribus Unum — Out of Many, One.

Accordingly, the results of the 2012 elections were diverse. Rather than hanging chads leading to the involvement of the Supreme Court, the really meaningful reversals brought about by the 2012 Mercury retrograde election are so vast (Jupiter) that they haven’t really come into focus yet. When seen as a whole, I think it is clear that historically this will be looked at as a re-alignment election. Candidates can no longer simply rely on the white male vote to get elected president of this country. The 2012 election results suggest to me that the white/male, straight/square/Christian electoral hegemony may soon be over forever.

Does this sound hyperbolic? Let’s take a look at each of these heretofore fixed cultural conditions, with respect to these election results.

White: Barack Obama became the first two-term President who is not white. He is now one of only 22 men who have won election to a second term. If he completes his term, he will be only the 13th President to do so. (4) Nationally, non-white voters made up 28% of all voters, up from 26% in 2008. Barack Obama won 80% of these voters, the same as four years ago, while 89% of Mitt Romney’s vote came from whites. (5)

Male: Four newly elected and six re-elected female Senators will join the 113th Congress, giving us 19 female senators. (6) This is the highest number of women senators in history. Incidentally, this result is consistent with Mercury retrograde being conjunct the Sun in the 2012 vernal ingress chart, which this author read as showing the possibility for advancement of women’s causes at an historical level. (7)

Straight: Gay marriage measures passed in Maine, Maryland, and Washington state, and the first openly gay person was elected to the Senate. (8) (9)

Square: Marijuana de-criminalization measures passed in Colorado and Washington state. This could be an important turning point in the “war on drugs” that has been raging in this country for 40 years. (10)

Christian: The first practicing Hindu congresswoman was elected and will take her oath of office on the Bhagavad Gita. (11)

In summary, it appears that Mercury retrograde in Sagittarius, in mutual reception with Jupiter in Gemini, has resulted in an election that would make the ancient alchemists proud. According to the formula Solve et Coagula, the old rigid electoral hegemony has been dissolved and has re-coagulated to a state more truly representative of E Pluribus Unum  — Out of Many, One.

References & Recommended Reading:
(1) See for instance this post from the Astrology News Service

(2) Sullivan, Erin Retrograde Planets, Weiser, 2000

(3) Find An Astrologer

(4) CNN

(5) Voxxi


(7) TMA

(8) Huffington Post

(9) Kera News

(10) Baltimore Sun

(11) Jezebel

Bio: Gary P. Caton is an eclectic Astrologer who embraces an organic, process-oriented approach of spiritual exploration via the Living Sky. Gary has studied Spirituality for over 23 years. After exploring Shamanism and the Tarot, in 1993, his life was changed by a magnificent Dream where he was shown planetary alignments and became an Astrologer. Gary earned a degree in Counseling with honors and has developed a unique multi-discipline path to practicing Astrology over 19 years. Visit Gary at his website: Dream Astrologer


  1. Thank you so much for this article which has answered many of my questions concerning the non-repetition of the confusion surrounding the 2000 USA election – confusion very much expected in 2012 by many astrologers, myself included! It also demonstrates the importance in Mundane Astrology of taking a long view in order to get a deeper perspective on what is going on in the present time.

  2. Well done. Yet there’s at least one standard-type Mercury retrograde story involving the election that I think fits the Mercury-Jupiter connection. The Romney campaign’s Project ORCA mobile-optimized website (or “web app”) was supposed to help deliver identified sympathetic voters to the polls. It didn’t turn out so well, in fact it spawned many hoots of derision as a whale of a killer app that beached itself. As my geeky brother summarized it: “… how many IT systems engineering failures do you see in this? Tsk, tsk; relying on new technology, misunderstanding your user requirements, unrealistic schedule, poorly thought out architecture, a lack of testing, failure to understand and account for potential external influences on the whole system, a big bang instead of an incremental roll-out, no apparent risk management, … It reads like a textbook case study. Surely not what would be expected of successful business managers.”
    Here’s one article about it:

  3. I would add that the first Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison from Minnesota, was elected in 2006 and was sworn in using Thomas Jefferson’s copy of the Koran.

  4. Gary,

    Thank you for this fresh perspective of the 2012 presidential election, as well as a greater understanding of the Mercury retrograde cycle, or as Anne Whitaker says, “the long view”.

    In studying the Gen. Petraeus news, an offshoot story of election day’s Mercury retrograde, I referred to the Venus Occult Sun chart of June 5th. The chart positions of asteroids Isis and Osiris, and the story of dismemberment and re-assembly offered an interesting perspective when comparing the U.S. chart to Gen. Petraeus’ chart. The Gemini-Sagittarius axis seen as an alchemical process, or “the one and the many”, comparable to the U.S. seal’s “Out of one many”, has a common theme with the story of Isis and Osiris and supports the Scorpio eclipse theme of regeneration. Thank you so much for bringing Mr. Coppack’s article to our attention.

    Pete Doughty’s noting of ORCA’s story is told in the election day-Mercury rx chart with Orcus conjunct Achilles in Virgo square Mercury in Sagittarius and opposite Chiron-Atlantis-Neptune in Pisces, and square Atropos and Hybris in Gemini.

    Also, thank you Pete for adding Keith Ellison’s story to Gary’s list of historical first’s from this election event. We are making progress!

  5. The first Buddhist, too….the Asian woman from Hawaii!

  6. And Minnesota was the first state to beat back an attempt to make gay marriage illegal under the state constitution. We also defeated a similar proposal to require voters to show ID at the polls, which would have ended our long-standing same-day registration option.

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