As you might be aware, dear reader, the planet Mercury went retrograde a few days ago on September 17, and will be in retrograde until October 9. It’s cute how this retrograde ties in oh-so-well with commuting issues (the Pope is coming to visit my area, causing huge traffic and building closures) as well as other large-scale events (e.g. upcoming government shutdown), but it also means I have some insulation and introspection to do in the meantime. Mercury retrograde periods are good for review; as the planet goes backwards, it behooves us to look back and take stock of what we’ve done, what we’ve accomplished, and the like. Conjuration and some divination of mine can get a little hairy during these periods, but it’s not insurmountable with a bit more dedication and practice; Hermetic magic, though based on Hermes-Mercury-Thoth, provides many tools to get around the currents and ebbs and flows inherent to the tradition when they on their own don’t go your way.
One of the things I do during Mercury retrograde periods is wrap my Hermes statue in fine black cloth, although loosely. It’s not that I want to completely cut myself off from him or his effects, but doing this keeps some of the worst of retrograde issues at bay, like a layer of sunscreen on a hot and bright summer day. Meanwhile, I restrict my offerings to him to silent and short ones done only at night, and when I do make a prayer aloud to him, I switch from using the usual Orphic Hymn to Mercury to the one for Terrestrial Hermes, as befitting his complete change in the heavens above. I keep my explicitly Hermaic things to a minimum during these times, which can be a little awkward, given how big he is in my life.
Earlier this week, though, even before Mercury went retrograde, I was making an offering to him, and we had a bit of a chat. He reminded me of the other gods I have in my temple, some of whom haven’t gotten an offering made to them in quite a while due to my eight-month hiatus from Work, and most notable among these was Apollo, the son of Zeus and Leto. Hermes told me that, in the future, I should keep Hermes primary in my devotional work when it comes to the θεοι and with mathesis, and I should definitely involve Apollo more in my life and Work. However, when Hermes is “retired” into retrograde, he told me that I should then shift my gears into working explicitly and primarily with Apollo—not as a substitute patron, mind you, but as a substitute guide and teacher. Divination with knucklebones confirmed this explicitly, and since Apollo hadn’t gotten an offering in…well, too long, I decided to make an offering to him last night and call him down.
I forgot how much of a douche he can be. He’s truly awesome, of course, as only a god can, but goddamn is he ever the frattiest and most brotastic of gods I’ve had the privilege of working with.
Still, after the jokes and haughtiness of the god were worked through, it hit me how badly I’ve fucked up by not incorporating him into my regular worship and Work for so long, even before the end of last year. He’s instructed me in a way to approach him and, after more divination to confirm a few things, will continue to do so by my regular honor of him. It’s not exactly what I’m used to, but it’s something that I really do need. This is especially true with mathesis, that art I’ve procrastinated on developing for so long, since Apollo is truly supposed to be a part of it; this is something confirmed by both the god himself and Hermes, and in a way far greater than thorough purification. I’ve become stagnant with mathesis, and after my own self-initiation under Hermes, I was looking forward to exploring the roads of the central six-way crossroads of the Tetractys I developed, but instead, I got stuck on an island with no way out.
Part of this was the set of tools I’ve developed to work in mathesis. They’re not much, but they’re something I had designs to use and…never got around to using them, partially because I knew I needed to have them but had no idea how to do so. In my offering to Apollo, I was given a first glimpse and some very basic practice in using them; they felt a little awkward-yet-right, if that makes sense, and in getting more used to them, I can finally get off my ass and get back to mathetic exploration. This is good, since Hermes is directing me to do a full mathetic ritual later on in October and I’m still stuck as to how to set that up. With Apollo’s guidance, I may just be able to figure that out in time, at least in a preliminary and exploratory way so as to get started with other types of mathetic ritual and development.
So, why Apollo? Well, he is Hermes’ half-brother by Zeus, and shares in the arts of divination and prophecy, that much is obvious. Still, with Apollo’s connection to the Sun, especially as a rational force that drives the Sun’s light as opposed to Helios who is the Sun, we have a great wellspring of power and direction that can illumine much in our lives. This is different from Hermes who guides, who walks along with us on a road and leads us hither and thither; Hermes guides, but Apollo directs. There’s a subtle difference between the two in terms of scale and scope. Besides, going by planets, both Hermes and Apollo could be recognized in the Triad. But…this would mean a third deity, linked to the Moon, would be called upon as well for another purpose. Can’t get the Tetractys all unbalanced, after all, but I’m unsure whether this would be Artemis or another deity, especially as I have no experience with the Lady Huntress.
For now, one thing at a time. Take this time of Mercury retrograde and call upon the forces of the Sun in your life, and honor Apollo and his progeny and allies. You may be pleasantly surprised to see where it leads you, as well!