That pesky Mercury 

From Michael Butler Smith

We interrupt our regular #TarotTuesday feature with important Celestial News!
# Mercury goes #Retrograde today August 30th 2016 at 9:04 AM EDT – through September 22, 2016 – in the sign of Virgo. The post-retro shadow period will last through October 6th.
Now before we proceed, I’ve decided to institute a new policy concerning retrogrades. I want to be very clear as a responsible spiritual teacher that Retrogrades are *not* here to harm us, or mess up our lives or make things difficult for us. On the contrary – we live in a friendly, conscious, intelligent Universe – nothing happens that is not designed to help us in some way. Yet in our typically alarmist, fearful 21st Century Western culture, we’ve made a boogey-man out of Retrogrades – another thing to be afraid of, blame, and complain about. This needs to stop. I know not all of you reading this are Witches – but many of us are. And as empowered beings, we need to knock off the victim mentality of blaming anyone or anything – including retrogrades. Blaming gives our power away. It’s that simple. OK – end of speech!
So – let’s discuss the particulars of the current Mercury Retro and how to work with it and within it. For starters Mercury now joins those already-in-retrograde planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) we’ve been dealing with for a number of months. Yet Mercury Retrograde only lasts weeks compared to the months it takes for outer planets. This specific Mercury Retro in Virgo is being heralded by some astrologers as the “best” and “lightest” they’ve seen in a long time – and things are promising to be less problematic when it comes to traveling or starting a romance.

This Retrograde in Virgo is set to help us give structure and detail to our personal visions of how we wish our lives to be and to proceed. But it will also be cautioning us – at least at first – to go slow, be deliberate, and look before we leap.
As I remind you with all Mercury Retrogrades, the usual cautions apply: Go over all details carefully. Check and double check your figures. With this particular Mercury Retro in Virgo, we need to speak carefully and succinctly – be precise in communications with others. Don’t leave out any details – but keep it short and sweet. Remain calm, cool and collected whenever possible. With Mercury retrograde in Virgo, it may make you more aware of “messes” (hot or not!) – literal and metaphorical, and you’ll have the urge to clean them up. Just go forward deliberately, consciously and concisely and things should tidy up nicely.
Also, as often happens during Mercury Retro, people, places, and events of the past may make a surprising come-back. This may include some *unwelcome* visitors and situations from your past. These reruns from the past have come up to be dealt with once and for all – bringing healing and resolution in their wake. Let’s not forget that 2016 still remains a year of closure, resolution and the ending of cycles. Allow Mercury Retro to bring it up or back that it may be consciously released and bring you freedom. However, this time around, we may also see a return of some friends we used to walk the spiritual path with and haven’t seen or communicated with in a long time. This may be a happy reunion, or this may be coming about because they can assist you now in a very specific way. Just be open to it.
We’re always cautioned during Mercury Retro not to sign contracts or other important documents if at all possible, do not re-negotiate terms as they are unlikely to stick, be careful with any investments or changes thereof; and to be advised that travel of all kinds may pose some challenges, outright difficulties and even cancellations – though again, this Retro is being billed as less problematic in these areas. Electronic and computer-related glitches are bound to crop up here and there as well. This includes your cell phone, land-line, WiFi and cable TV – since Mercury rules communication in all forms. Just business as usual during any Mercury Retrograde. As a result (and eerily similar to our last Mercury Retro), I’ve been having sporadic WiFi connection problems and my laptop has been periodically shackled to my modem with a lovely blue Ethernet cable! While not always convenient, it’s a speedier connection – part of the balancing act that Mercury Retro can challenge us with. Always try and see the positives in this. Sometimes these things arise so we can explore other means of communication or think on our feet and come up with a workable alternative or solution. Mercury does after all rule the mind and intelligence.
In addition (as I’ve shared here *so* many times over our years together) Retrogrades always invite us to explore the “RE” prefix – we can re-evaluate, re-assess, re-visit, re-form, re-group, repair, all ultimately leading to realization. It’s all here *for* us. But we have to be willing to see it, meditate on it and contemplate its significance in our lives. In our culture, Mercury Retro has become a pop phenomenon and an eye-rolling punchline on TV sitcoms, so when you mention that Mercury is about to go into retrograde motion, I find that people right away do this heavy sigh of despair or get freaked out. But we can *always* harness the power present and use it for our benefit and spiritual and personal evolution. Retrogrades (like everything else in Life) are here to help us grow, not make life difficult as so many mistakenly believe. That’s why I have added my new pro-retro opening statement at the start of this post.
We need to be aware as well, that this time around, Mercury will be working with both Solar and Lunar Eclipses. I mentioned during the recent almost-eclipse of the Moon, that it’d be giving us a preview of what Mercury Retro had in store. Well this sense of revelation will continue and many things will be brought to light and out of the shadows over the next 3 weeks. This is for our growth and greater spiritual awakening. The more light we bring to the shadowy corners of our lives and psyches, the more enlightened we become.
And as I always advise, if things get overwhelming, work with orange and/or gray candles to moderate the Mercury Retrograde energies. Lavender oil (which carries a Mercurial vibe) can help calm and soothe you. You can also work with and carry stones known to calm, protect, stabilize and assist during this transit, such as: citrine, hematite, blue lace agate, chrysocolla, amethyst, obsidian (great for electronics), selenite and rose quartz. Also any of the agates – which are ruled by Mercury – can be helpful allies, moderating Mercury’s energies in our immediate personal sphere and aura.
Remember, we work *with* the stars, we are not ruled by them. There is nothing to fear and everything to grow from and gain. Let that be your mantra throughout this transit!
Goddess Bless and Blessed be!
© Michael Butler Smith 2016
Image: Planet Mercury – uncredited photo found on a number of internet sites including Pinterest and Youtube.

Small talk: The mouth is running and the mind is idling, otherwise engaged


This is a lion’s claw set in silver. I’ve had it for six years and had the setting redone by a couple of friends who are jewelers. The lion it belonged to lived over 100 years ago. I wear it to honor all cats. I’m not going to debate the animal products use arguments any further than that.

Sometime last year I went to a meeting of spiritualists. There was a guided meditation at the end of the session. For probably 20 minutes after the meeting was over there was the usual milling around, non-relevant banter, chatty-ness, mindless mouth running that we call small talk, and that sometimes gets called “afterglow.” Anyone who knows me knows I hate small talk. I’ll do it for a very brief period and at the same time I’m usually looking for an exit. So I’m standing there going through the usual motions chatting with a with a couple of people there and one sees this pendant and asks if it’s a chili pepper.


You read that right.

A chili pepper.

As someone who isn’t comfortable with this kind of communication, I have learned to listen for trigger phrases. These are stupid things that people say that signal to me that it’s time to end the encounter. At work I put on my headphones and start trying to drown them out.

I told them what it was and started slowly working my way towards the door. I don’t know what sort of mental connections one has to make to think that this pendant is a replica of a chili pepper. They have a similar shape, kinda, but it absolutely stops there. There’s not any intuitive meaning to be derived to link the two any further than that. So we’re left with saying that she was just making small talk, and I say “right.” I look at the watch I’m not wearing, and I’m out.

Managing the inbox

YouveGotMail-200On a weekly basis, I probably read 8 to 9 percent, if that, of the emails that come that hit my inbox. And I read even fewer at work.

Lazy? Probably.

Overwhelmed? Definitely.

There is just too much coming in all the time.

You visit a website of a podcaster that you listen to on a regular basis. On the website there are several social media icons. So you start following the person on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Reddit, Stumbleupon, etc. Then the flood begins. The newsletter, followed by notifications about everything this person says and does on all of her accounts. Now multiply that by every website you visit and only wanted to download an ebook or report.

Plus something every few days from each of the online stores you visit.

Plus something every few days from retail stores who gave you a 40% off first purchase for joining the club and giving them your email address.

Now, start wading through all that to get to the emails that are actually important.

And god help you if your website visits attract a spammer.

Be careful to whom and to which websites you give your email address. If you only want to have one account, I suggest getting an account at GMail or Yahoo as a junkpile account for sites you need something from once or twice but don’t visit regularly. That way you can get your PDFs and deal with the potted email product later. Sometimes you have to get what you want from a particular site and unsubscribe later that day. You don’t want a situation where most of your time dealing with email constitutes messing with it.

Prioritizing messages is a sizable chore. I’ve tried several prioritzation tricks to handle it, and at some point they’ve all failed, or I’ve failed at them. This is where the email overwhelm part comes in. It can be depressing. You look at the inbox and the numbers of messages and your response is ‘ugh.’ Then you close the inbox and come back later when there are twice as many messages in there. You’d like to delete everything, but there might be that one message that you’ll need some day. If the need for something buried among irrelevant messages hasn’t arisen in a year, it won’t. Just dump it.

Google divides the messages in buckets to try to keep the social messages from the marketing crap from the important stuff in Gmail. But that’s running off an algorithm which are never efficient, so things you want to see end up in a tab you never look at.

I have several email accounts that I use, and a couple of apps to manage things.


The gmail accounts just kind of sit until I get to them. I have moved most of the important mail from those. The google account is necessary for the phone. I try to move less relevant newsletter items to my gmail accounts. My primary email accounts are through the hosting company I use. I use AquaMail Pro on my phone and tablets to read, scan, and delete emails. The app is set to erase emails from the server when I delete them. Anything I leave on there I need for reference.

mozilla-thunderbird-1When I can get to it, which usually ends up being the weekend, I open Thunderbird and download everything off the server. After that I go back to AquaMail and delete those emails from my phone and tablet. My devices don’t sync, so I have to delete copies in AquaMail on each one.

I don’t always get around to doing all this on a regular basis, and sometimes I leave Thunderbird open after I’ve downloaded and cleared the phone and emails get through. But, overall this cuts down on much of the current accumulation in my inbox. It’s not a perfect system, but it works for the most part.