I can sometimes overlook Mercury when I’m doing a reading. He sits quite close to the Sun and tends to be in his shadow. He is the way our mind works and the way we communicate. And the way we learn. This can be quite interesting, because different people learn in different ways, and astrology can show us that.
Our early experience of learning tends to be the school system, which is a bit ‘one size fits all’. And people can end up as adults feeling they’re a bit thick because they didn’t do very well at school. Not that many of us would readily admit that. But the school system puts an enduring judgement on us that can last the rest of our lives. It’s crazy, because there we are as teenagers going through the biggest change of our lives, in which we don’t to a large extent know who we are any more, like a flower that is unfolding but whose true shape and colour is yet to emerge. And at precisely this point kids are put under a lot of pressure to study in a particular kind of way, with this big stick hanging over them that how they perform in the next 2 or 3 years is going to determine the course of their whole life. Bonkers.
If you have Mercury in Capricorn, or conjunct Saturn, you may perform well under this system, provided you don’t have too much Uranus/ Aquarius elsewhere in your chart. It means you are good at learning systematically and conventionally, and you may have a maturity of thought for your age. And if you have Mercury in Pisces you may be able to sit dreamily looking out of the window and yet somehow you have absorbed everything that has been said, and you have a wide understanding on which to hang all the bits of knowledge. And if you have Mercury in Aquarius you may be bored shitless by the rote learning, but brainy enough to wing it.
So each placement probably has its own way of coping, but nevertheless we are left with an enduring sense of what learning is, which is about something being put into you. Instead of something being drawn out of you: the original meaning of the word ‘educate’ comes from the Latin meaning ‘to lead out’.
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I was good at passing exams when I was at school, and I even got a degree (only just). But I didn’t learn to think until I was in my mid-twenties. Real thought is always original, in the sense of coming from ourselves, the origin – reason applied to our own experience. And it involves the ability to know what we actually feel rather than what we ‘ought’ to feel. And to rely on facts rather than hearsay, and to be aware of the sources of our facts. And to be aware of received opinion. Thinking requires our whole being. With Mercury, the messenger of the gods, acting as mediator.
I have Mercury in Aquarius opposite its ruler Uranus. It has taken me many years to learn how my Mercury works and to feel it’s a valid way. I don’t read books about astrology, I’m not systematic, I just dip in and find bits that interest me and contribute to what I’m thinking about. And maybe I place too much emphasis on originality. No, I don’t. Originality isn’t about coming up with something left-field and brilliant. It’s about coming from a place that is authentically oneself, but which can take years to get to. It usually seems to come with age, having our own experience to work from.
Albert Einstein had Mercury in Aries conjunct Saturn. So there is the boldness of thought at an early age (Aries) and the maturity of thought (Saturn). But eventually Saturn took over, and he became stuck in his early way of thinking, unable to accept the findings of quantum physics.
Bill Gates has Mercury in Libra conjunct Mars and opposite Moon in Aries on the MC. So you can see his mind being driven by Mars and Mars-ruled Moon, using his ability to think to achieve and to compete and to conquer. I wouldn’t know the Libran quality of his mind when he was younger, but it has been evident since he became a philanthropist. (As they say, whatever you think of his motives, you can’t argue with $30 billion given away.) He thinks that since society has provided the conditions for him to make all this money, he should give back. Very Libran.
Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (a trilogy in 5 volumes) had Mercury in Aries opposite Saturn and square to Uranus rising. It’s the Uranus that is most obvious here. Every sentence crackles with an offbeat, funny and often insightful way of seeing things. The secret of flying? Throw yourself at the ground and miss. Adams’ love of deadlines for the whooshing sound they make as they fly past.
And: “I don't believe it. Prove it to me and I still won't believe it.”
“He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it."
“Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news, which obeys its own special laws.”
“Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty- five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.”