Hot-stepping Mercury has swung into Scorpio, where he will stay until just before midnight on the 5th of November*. Mercury joins expansive Jupiter in the watery depths of Scorpio, plunging into the foundations of the earth and assisting Jupiter in bringing light to the darknesses within each one of us and leading us away from our attachments to those things which pass away and toward those factors and people which allow us to experience life transformed and renewed.
In Greco-Roman myth, Hermes was not just the messenger of the Olympian gods, but he also served an important role as a psychopomp, that is, a deity charged with guiding the souls of the departed into the next life in the underworld.
The painting featured in this post is a late 19th-century work by the Hungarian Jewish artist Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl, depicting a dark-clad Hermes accompanying the souls of the departed to the banks of the Acheron where they will pass into the next life.
This painting is a stunning image of the resistance with which we approach letting go of our attachments; each of the souls, save those of the very young and very old, grasp for Hermes and attempt to get him to slow down his pace so that they can linger in the twilight of the world above just a bit longer. Yet Mercury stands unfazed amid the souls who are desperate to hold on to their attachments, and peacefully bids them to continue forward, holding his staff of healing out for those who cannot stand on their own.
Consider the mythic parallels between Mercury’s staff Caduceus, the bronze serpent Nehushtan in the Hebrew Bible, and the serpentine figure of the crucified Christ as we see him depicted in Eastern iconography.
In the Greeks’ telling of the mystery of death, every soul’s fate is not behind, but before them; the more ready a soul is to embrace their new reality, the better time they’ll have, and perhaps what for many is Hades can become Elysium. For the Greeks, our experience of the afterlife was determined a matter of virtuous acts; the more virtuous you were in your living, the more peaceful your dying and afterlife would be.
Yet for us, it may be a matter of learning to accept responsibility for our roles in our own stories, examining with fearless honesty (as Jupiter assists us in doing) those areas in which we have failed so that we may properly make amends with parties wronged—including making amends with ourselves.
Mercury’s glide through Scorpio over the next several weeks may help us let go of our attachments to our sense of shame and unworthiness or from the myth of perfection in order to assist us in accepting what we are: souls beloved and being healed. The path of healing is not to avoid things which feel like death, as detachment can indeed feel; the path of healing leads straight through death to the other side.
*Remember that the Fifth of November incident in English history was about throwing off a Protestant parliament to revert back to a Catholic theocracy—in other words, an attempt to return to the world “as it was before,” not dissimilar from the souls clambering back towards the sunlight in this painting. In that vein, it continues to baffle me that the Guy Fawkes grimace has become the symbol for “progress” used by Anonymous.