Aquarius is a fixed sign, but I’ve always viewed it as the nominal mutable, just like Virgo can seem like the nominal fixed sign. This is because the energy of Aquarius is inventiveness, but it is an inventiveness focussed on individuality, yet expressed in relation not so much to ‘society’ as defined by the institutional structures of Capricorn, but to the more fluid sense of a collective humanity. (Famous Aquarians include Virginia Woolf, Abraham Lincoln, and Yoko Ono.)

According to Eric Francis the themes of the coming Mercury retrograde in Aquarius are to do with re-assessing the boundaries of social norms, and how they have come to define us:

We may not be admitting the extent to which social norms cause us to deny our strength on all these accounts. People tend to act like prudes because they are expected to, and/or because they expect to be shunned if they don’t. Chiron always wants to stand out. Vesta wants us to bring our fire through. Why would we not do these things? Fear of being judged, of course. Shame is a form of internalized self-judgment.

Guilt is internalized resentment of others who hold us down, usually people we threatened with how alive we were as kids. Both involve sex, and both involve the fear of being alive. Chiron is saying: these are the injuries we need not only to deal with, but to use as a source of strength, and as a means to set ourselves free.

Mercury in Aquarius is set up for an exciting retrograde across all these points. Mercury entered the degrees where it will be retrograde this week (called by some the shadow phase, and which I call the echo phase). The actual retrograde is from Jan. 28 through Feb. 18. The discussion can happen three times — direct through the middle degrees of Aquarius (as in right now); retrograde over them again (Jan. 28 through Feb 18); and direct for a second time (Feb. 18 through March 10).

Here is the theme, as I see it: are we willing to challenge social norms, among the people closest to us, by having an open discussion about those social rules? Or are we so terrified that we think that people will judge us merely for thinking a thought or challenging an idea we notice is holding us down?

If you want to have a discussion, you need the words to have it. I am certain that approximately half the reason conversation of these themes does not occur is that we lack the language to speak about our feelings and desires. Maybe you want to read and learn some words, or maybe you want to use the ones you have, being blatantly simple and descriptive about yourself.

Using traditional astrology keys (term and face), Mercury is strongly dignified in the middle degrees of Aquarius. Now is a good time to open up and start talking, and start listening. It’s time to own up to the past and tell the people supposedly important to us what really makes us who we actually are. What challenges social norms that are the things to bring up first: the things that make us fear rejection. If you’re trying to have a safe discussion where in you shelter yourself from saying anything that risks rejection, you’re not really doing it. Now, take a chance. Go deeper and try again.

Mercury retrograde allows us to stop and reflect on the thought patterns that have accumulated in our continuous self-formations. In intellectual, independent and inventive Aquarius, it is reminding us to get in touch with our own humanity that we may thus get in touch with the collective. Let us hope in the next nine weeks or so, that this message manages to reach those that purport to run this world of ours.