Welcome to the Mid-Summer Tarot Blog Hop! We’re talking Sun and/or Mercury in the Tarot this time around. You can use the easy navigation links above and below at the end of the post to enjoy more great writing on these topics.
Cozy partners, the Sun and the little planet Mercury (you can see the little planet transiting in front of the sun in the pic). Mercury orbits the sun really fast (88 Earth days), although its day (rotation period) is much slower; it spins on its own axis only once every 176 Earth days. We can see why the attributes of the Greco-Roman god, Hermes/Mercury are associated with this planet: small and swift, tricky (Mercury looks like it’s dancing all over the sky going back and forth from our perspective on Earth), willing to take on the big older gods (hanging out right next to the Sun! Crazy stuff).
Metaphysics and Myth
Yep, the planet Mercury is well-named, indeed. I know the god best by his Greek name of Hermes, where he’s the messenger of the gods (even to the point of escorting folks to Hades after death), and also the god of shepherds, traders, travelers, inventors, and…thieves.
From infancy, he was a precocious fellow, sneaking off from his mother, Maia (one of the seven nymphs called the Pleiades, who are commemorated in the night sky in the constellation of Taurus) to get into various kinds of mischief.
One of the more famous stories that illustrates his trickery and inventiveness was his escapade to steal his half-brother Apollo’s cattle. Some stories say he did this while still an infant (must have had those winged sandals already). He got out of being punished (and got to keep the cattle) by giving Apollo his newest invention, the lyre (note that Apollo is stuck with a violin(!?) initially in Lorrain’s painting—Not an ancient Greek instrument), which subsequently became one of Apollo’s main symbols as the god of music.
The cool part for our Sun and Mercury story is that Apollo was associated with the sun, and was the only god who could drive the solar chariot of Helios (who had the main Sun procession day job) without losing control of the fiery steeds. Another good reason to name the planet closest to the Sun after the quirky god, Mercury.
For the Reading
The Sun card obviously comes to mind to represent the Sun, but I’ve also seen court cards in the Wands (Fire) suit associated with various Sun-associated gods in theme decks. The Sun reveals, penetrates, gives life (on Earth) as well as death (on barren Mercury or overheated Venus). Larger than…well, anything in the neighborhood, really. It’s not surprising that it’s the ruling planet of big-ego Leo in astrology. The Sun has a definite “look at me!” quality. 🙂
As for Mercury, I’ve seen him associated with both the Fool and the Magician, depending on the deck. Astrologically, Mercury rules both Gemini (associated with the Lovers) and Virgo (associated with The Hermit). But unlike the easy symbolic association between the Sun and Leo, it’s hard for me to see Mercury in the Lovers (except in the sense of communication between two people) and definitely not the withdrawn Hermit. However, if you’d like to show me different, get into the comments and let me know how you’d use these associations to add to the reading of the Lovers or Hermit.
The historical, pre-Golden Dawn Magician was a trickster, so I can definitely see that association with Mercury/Hermes, along with the post-Golden Dawn association of the Magician with the link between heaven and Earth (Hermes escorting dead people to Hades and tricking the gods for the benefit of humans).
I’d like to vote for Mercury’s personality as applied to The Fool as well. Particularly for decks like Ciro Marchetti’s, where The Fool is portrayed as a Joker, one who seems foolish, but is actually quite clever in his veiled satirical criticism of authority figures. One could read The Fool as foolish or as cleverly wearing a fool’s mask, depending on the question asked during the reading. And Fool and Magician together could provide lots of room for looking at hidden motives and watching out for folks who seem simple but aren’t. 😉
For our story, a poem of mine from 2004, in which the Sun god plays a part, along with lots of Earth creatures out to, like The Fool, have a good time. 🙂
It’s an open-air affair, of course,
the better to watch the celestial strippers
unwind their cloudy lingerie,
and toss it off to the setting sun god.
He seems pleased with the results
and slowly swirls their lavender bodies
toward his twilight abode.
But when the sun god goes down,
the volume at the bar goes up.
The black water begins to glisten with stars
and the latest one-liners can soon be heard.
After a couple of marsh gas beers,
the frog princes gather courage to bellow
to that sleek amphibian missy at the bar’s end,
but she just gives them a bulbous glare.
Meanwhile, a trout sidles up to the bar,
orders some pussy-willow champagne,
and then blows a few bubbles toward
the young school-girls in a nearby tide pool.
The birds ruffle their feathers
and look down their noses at the proceedings.
They usually fly off to join the sun god’s party.
He has better beverages anyway.
The last to arrive, of course, are the snapping turtles.
The bass vibration of their shells lends a bit of class
to the place, along with their taste for reed-whiskey.
As the darkness spreads up from the black water,
the volume goes up, and a cacophony of sound
reaches even to the mysterious marsh lights on the shore.
There, strange two-legged creatures cradle Bud bottles
and croak their one-liners to the local chicks,
who roll their eyes and order another glass of wine,
before they, too, move on to the sun god’s party.
He has better beverages anyway.
and a very warm embrace, indeed.
© 2004 Joanne Sprott