Cardinals, Codes, and Mercury

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Just as Mercury stationed and turned retrograde a Cardinal showed up at our kitchen window and has been either perched on the window sill, singing in the tree directly outside the window, or tapping on the window on and off from dawn until dusk. For the first 24 hours I resisted the urge to google browse through all the random pages filled with people chirping endlessly about things like “empowerment” and “the color red” and “root chakras.” Instead I kept thinking of what the late James Hillman once said about the obsession with trying to decode the meanings of various animals or dream images. He wrote, “Lives without meaning hunger for meanings, and psychologists feed the hungry with the living presences of animals. Patients as carnivores, devouring the flesh of their dream animals to satisfy their gluttony for knowledge. Or, have we psychologists become taxidermists, disemboweling the snake, stuffing it with concepts, and preserving it as a carefully fixed meaning?”

So instead of trying to decode its meaning, for the first day of its tapping I simply spent time with the bird. I noticed that I was thinking of dead people, and my first sense was that a person, not a bird, was trying to say something to me. However, each time these thoughts came up I dismissed them and tried to recall Hillman’s wisdom: don’t rush to decode or make this bird into something self-serving. Don’t kill the messenger with conceptualization. What this bird “means” is something happening right this very moment, not some idea or words to be extracted FROM the bird.

But still…I kept feeling as though the bird was an emissary or messenger tapping on the behalf of a dead person…someone trying to communicate with me.

Then yesterday the bird was there all day again, and my wife took the photo below. At one point, whether I dreamed it up or my subconscious has a good sense of humor, I heard James Hillman’s voice in my head saying, “It’s actually ME. I sent the bird just to give you permission to not take my words so literally. Sometimes decoding riddles in nature is exactly what’s needed in order to understand something that can’t be spoken in human language. However, there can be more than one meaning to these messengers. Trust me on this. Oh, and for the record, I’m not the dead person who sent this particular bird. I’m also not “IN” the bird or anything like that.”

Then last night I had a dream that an old friend of mine wanted to come into my house. He was homeless and out on the street, and suffering from what appeared to be schizophrenia. He said, “I’m stuck in a loop that won’t stop repeating.” His eyes were filled with tears. He told me that smoking too much pot had led him from one bad thing to the next and that for as good as marijuana legalization might be for the crime rate it’s going to create other problems that many people aren’t aware of yet. He suggested that for many people the plant is actually more like a band-aid than a true medicine. I suggested he lay down and rest on my couch, and he started crying and said “thank you.” He looked afraid.

This morning I woke to the sounds of the same Cardinal tapping at the window. In fact I can hear his song and intermittent tapping outside as I write this. We put out bird food in all the feeders the first day he came, but today I plan to spend some time in prayer and make a small peace offering to the Cardinal and invite him to keep speaking to me…both in terms of his simple song and his beautiful red, and in terms of the dreams, visions, and images that he has inspired.

So how does all of this relate to today’s astrology? Well one of the archetypal titles we astrologers give Mercury is that of the “messenger.” One of Mercury’s traditional topical designations was also related to divination, and most of us know that the associated Greek god Hermes was also a psychopomp and guide of souls. Furthermore, many of the earliest astrologers attributed the original secret doctrines and teachings of astrology to Hermes Trismegistus, or Hermes thrice great. We have to remember, in other words, that astrology is a language that lives, and conceals itself, in nature. It’s a language that teaches us how to read AS we learn how to read it. It’s a language that teaches us to speak, AS it speaks its multiple meanings. It’s a language that retains its ambiguities deliberately so that we might learn the difference between the living and the dead. It’s a language that encourages us to seek for the correct answers to its riddles and rewards us when we find the right answer by teaching us ever more complicated and subtle exceptions held within the language.

The more we learn this secret language the less the language stands in for something “other” and the more it embodies the most obvious appearances…the plain truth of what is tapping on our windows or chirping all around us, all of the time.
Prayer: Teach us the heavenly language. Put our minds at rest with the words of life.

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