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Mercury Retrograde As Told By 15 Artworks
Mercury retrograde explained through the thing we know best: art
Art Stuff 07 Aug 2019

Guys… is anyone alive out there? It’s been a tough few weeks, to put it very lightly. Mercury retrograde is always rough, and maybe it’s just me, but this one has felt like being trapped in an endless wash cycle with all my soul’s dirty laundry.
Whether you’re an astrology skeptic or know your birth chart like your Starbucks order, you’ve definitely heard of Mercury retrograde, if only from memes. Mercury retrograde hits several times a year, causing chaos and confusion in everyone’s lives. Essentially, Mercury retrograde is the period of time when Mercury appears to be moving backwards across the sky. The planet doesn’t actually move backwards—this is just like an illusion from our vantage point here on Earth (see the metaphor there?).
You can read all about Mercury retrograde here, but for your own life, there are just a few things you need to know. Mercury is the planet of communication, technology, agreements and transportation. When it goes retrograde, you can expect some minor to major snafus in those areas of your life. Sales might fall through, an artist might go MIA the day before the opening of their solo show, only to emerge two weeks later on the other side of a life-changing ayahuasca trip. Needless to say, there goes your show.

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Hallelujah Mercury has gone direct! ⚡️The wonderful Robert Wilkinson shares: “Reflect on recent redirection of energies… take a new look at what you’re heart’s into, and how to express what you really care about in playful or creative ways… We should all start seeing, hearing, and understanding things that point the way to some Mercurial fulfillment related to how we have been and continue to be guided to our Soul… Though there may be a sense of not knowing what direction you’re going, in the immortal words of George Harrison, ‘if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get your there.’ The Sun indicates the Light is found by focusing your emotional intensity in creative techniques where ‘the formative power of the Soul’ can shape materials in artistic ways…Heal into your Higher Self through illuminating a side of your personality which allows you power and influence, and be clear about who you are and are not in your social existence. Humanity still moves through its long term ordeal, where much in the collective mindset must be ‘crucified’ so that ‘compassion and understanding can rise from the inmost depths of Being.’ At this time of fiery initiatives and practical experience, continue to keep it focused and organized as you enthusiastically embrace a new heart expression… See what must be done, ‘gather your feeling-medicine,’ and then do what you need to do.” Read in full >mystic mamma.com Artbyme: #MYSTICMAMMA (Pregnant mamma @carlyjomorgan live sketch from @elenastonaker ’s event Artist as Muse)

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The good news is that Mercury went direct on July 31—but there’s something called the “shadow period” that hangs around for two weeks after. Basically, this is a time to clean up the mess that exploded in your face during the retrograde, and maybe even integrate some lessons learned.
This is all great, but since we’re visual people, we decided that Mercury retrograde is best explained through the thing we know best: art. Here are 15 paintings that capture the before, during and after of Mercury retrograde.
1) Sappho on the Leucadian Cliff, Pierre-Narcisse Guerin (1787) 
This is your mood the week before Mercury retrograde. You’ve been through this before, and you know what’s coming. Brace yourself!
2) Christian Descending into the Valley of Humiliation, Samuel Palmer (1848) 
Walking into Mercury retrograde like… the title speaks for itself. Get ready for your ego to be knocked down a few pegs.
3) Choppy Sea, Jules Dupre (1870) 
Welcome to your life for the next few weeks. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
4) Still Life With Rabbit, Anne Vallayer-Coster 
A few days into the retrograde, this is the collective mood. Are you the rabbit or the pheasant?! On the upside, at least we’re all going through it together.
5) Time Has Come to a Stop, Samuel Bak (1965) 
If you feel like Mercury retrograde has been going for five years, it’s probably only been five days.
6) Self-portrait with and without the Mask, Francesco Clemente (2005) 
When an off-hand comment by a gallery assistant triggers a deep existential crisis. You start questioning who you are, how you got here, and if you’re being honest with yourself and the world.
7) The Climax, Aubrey Beardsley (1893) 
Around week 1.5, said questioning reaches a climax. You’re forced to take a long, hard look in the mirror, and what you see isn’t always pretty. Even if it’s just a lot of mascara streaks.
8) Two Thugs and a Victim – Victim, from Flying to the Moon, Wanda Koop (1987) 
Keeping a straight face as you talk to clients. Who, me? Going through an extremely unsettling life transformation? Never! 
9) Night, Ferdinand Holder (1890) 
Needless to say, there’s not a lot of sleep happening during Mercury retrograde.
10) Cut with the Kitchen Knife through the Beer-Belly of the Weimar Republic, Hannah Hoch (1919) 
This is what your dreams look like on Mercury retrograde.
11) Gladiators, Philip Guston (1940) 
Valiantly fighting off the voice of you super-ego (a blend of your mother and your middle school headmistress who always yelled at you for your skirt being too short) and the urge to text your ex.
12) Saint Julia (Crucified Martyress), Gabriel von Max (1866) 
By week two, the collective consciousness is approaching crucifixion.
13) Emperor Augustus and the Sybil of Tibur, Konrad Witz (1435)
Begging the stars to go easy on you. (And your boss, who has kindly been ignoring your frequent crying-disguised-as-coffee breaks).
14) Ascent of the Blessed, Hieronymus Bosch (1500-1504) 
The last few days of Mercury retrograde, when your life is still in shambles but at least you see light at the end of the tunnel.
15) Red Christ, Lovis Corinth (1922) 
The last day of Mercury retrograde, when you’re emotionally bleeding out, but somehow feeling light and exalted at the same time.
We made it! …Until next time, at least. Now it’s time to pick up our egos off the floor, get back into journaling and figure out how to move forward from this Mercury retrograde.
Got a great Mercury retrograde story? Tips for dealing with the fallout?
⇩⇩⇩Hit me with your best ⇩⇩⇩
Text by Katya Lopatko.
Images via WikiArt, Anna Iovine

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