Traveling is a great way to experience Mercury’s field of action, especially when it is retrograde. I just returned from a long trip to Brazil. My entire journey happened during Mercury’s retrograde phase and what a lesson that was in RE-learning, RE-viewing, RE-imagining, and RE-connecting. After many hours of flying and waiting at various airports, one feels jostled against the limits of one’s own worldview and invited into something bigger. Once we hand in our tickets, we are no longer in known territory. We have to surrender to what this god of liminality desires. With delays and changes in flights, travelers can only surrender to what is before them. I imagine that is why heroes go on journeys. It teaches them (and us, heroes of our own lives) to surrender to the flow.
While traveling we enter into the realm of liminality, a sort of no man’s land of the psyche, a place of potentiality. We have to surrender to the caprices of Mercury, our psychopomp in whatever journey we undertake, both inner and outer. There is no sense in fighting it. Coincidently, my journey to Brazil was framed by Mercury’s transit in Pisces, together with the Sun, Venus, Mars, Chiron, and Neptune. No wonder this time my experience of crossing boundaries felt imbued by tones of surrender - starting with the change and delay of my flights. There was nothing to do but let it be. Perhaps that is what Mercury in Pisces, but also as a travel companion is about: letting our angst for control out of the driving seat and allowing something bigger to take us where we need to be. It is probably best to take Mercury’s hand and trust that it will deliver you to your destination. As our psychopomp, Mercury, especially while in retrograde, wants to take us on a path that we in our limited view have not yet contemplated. We thus experience delays, changes, and slowing down of the processes. It all brings us to rethink and readjust, away from our own self-imposed tight corset that we have been wearing.
However, not all is flow and surrender. In traveling, we also meet Saturn, the god of rules and boundaries. When traveling internationally and even domestically to a certain extent, we traverse through many safety measures. We surrender our carry-ons and our electronic gadgets at various checkpoints. We must show our passports and boarding passes. We are down to our essentials while traveling. We are allowed to take only what is necessary to our identity. While Mercury guides us through new horizons of understanding, Saturn is commandeering as liminality’s gatekeeper. Thou shalt not pass unless one meets all the requisites.
At times, Saturn’s realm of exactitude exudes fear as well. Since we live in a world of ‘fear and terrorism,’ it’s no wonder that these ‘safety measures’ are deemed ‘necessary’ and Saturn’s bony fingers can hold us in a tight grip, making the journey more laborious and painful.
Crossing boundaries, both in our inner and outer lives, is a reality we all face daily, but how we negotiate this liminal space reveals much about how we relate to our own Mercury and Saturn. Each crossing is an initiation experience and we must surrender and reveal who we are.
I believe Mercury and Saturn go together in any experience of liminal crossing. We need a bit of trickster street smarts to negotiate with the gatekeeper. On the other hand, Saturn teaches us to carry only what is necessary on our journey.
Saturn also demands more pragmatic and concrete results or answers upon crossing through its gates. I experienced this upon my reentry into the United States. When I flew out of the country, there were no questions put to me, albeit all the necessary documents were checked. Upon my return, immigration and customs officials, who in their dark garbs and sullen taciturn faces are the incarnation of Saturn in his rule-abiding mode, asked me two questions. They asked what was the purpose of my trip, and what did I do for a living.
In essence, those two questions asked that I reveal how am I of service (what I do for a living) and what is my purpose. The officials were not interested in what was in my luggage, but in my purpose and function. The experience of passing through immigration and customs feels to me to be a very Saturnian experience that resonates with how our psyche deals with life changes and transformations.
While Mercury in its capacity as psychopomp and trickster may lend us a guiding hand and some street smarts, Saturn asks that we get down to essentials and state our purpose and function. I have both Mercury and Saturn in Gemini in my first house, so perhaps I am already prone to see that they go hand in hand. Mercury also needs Saturn’s steady hand to guide him as well, while in turn, Mercury lends Saturn’s taciturn stance a less grim and pessimistic view of the world. It gives the Lord of Time some much needed air and levity. Senex and Puer need each other, even if this may be at times a prickly union.
In our daily journeys, both inner and outer, Mercury is constantly guiding us, and we are facing Saturn in its various checkpoints. We can get a glimpse of our purpose and function by looking to Saturn in our charts. Mercury will reveal how we might negotiate the liminal space in our inner and outer lives. Outer experiences reveal inner processes. Looking at the questions that you are asked highlights the core of your journey through liminal spaces.
In addition, remember to pack lightly and travel lightly. State your purpose and surrender to the process. Between where you are and where you want to go lies this magical liminal space, the realm of Mercury and Saturn, your travel companions.
Vanessa Couto is an artist and counseling astrologer from Portland, Oregon. Originally, from Brazil, Vanessa is used to living on the border, neither here, nor there, and yet everywhere. Her art is her way to embody the beauty and language of astrology in a physical and tangible way. She has a M.A. in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. Visit her website at www.artbynessa.com.