Jessa Crispin On What To Read: Mercury In Leo

Emily Balivet

Here is what I know about Mercury in Leo from having a Mercury in Leo: our favorite reading material would basically just be something that says a million times over, your thoughts are the best thoughts, your opinions are the best opinions, yes get it grrrrrl.

But that book is just our diary, and that is written only with about 18% intention of having it published later in our life, after we are devastatingly famous, of course. We probably leave it lying around so that other people can “accidentally” read parts of it, or we may publish that nonsense online and get it over with, but we re-read it constantly, probably even going so far as to admire our nice turns of phrase, god we are so narcissistic.

The other thing I know about Mercury in Leo is that we will say anything, write anything, think anything that will get us a lot of attention. Swearing, yes. We use profanity in our conversation the way other people use accessories in their wardrobe, to add dazzle and pop and to catch your attention. We love a (our) hot take.

Creativity

And I don’t mean any of that The Artist’s Way self-help stuff, or that neuroscience lite Imagine by serial plagiarist and liar Jonah Lehrer either. Those books, the ones that say creativity or artistry is something that can be taught, that’s for the amateurs. Mercury in Leos are working with energy that is innate, that was there at birth.

So no to the “you too can write/think/be just like Bob Dylan,” Leos still believe in genius. Leos believe in listening to their betters, and so they believe in reading and absorbing the teachings of geniuses. We want to know about process. And luckily geniuses really love talking about how genius they are.

There are a million memoirs, diaries, letters, interviews, documentaries, and biographies to absorb. One of my favorites lately (and books on this topic fill up about half of my library) is:

Sally Mann’s Hold Still

The genius photographer writes wonderfully about her own process, but also how she has been misunderstood and misrepresented throughout her very long and very brilliant career. Sometimes the most important artistic process is just to keep doing what you’re doing while everyone around you tells you you’re crazy and wrong.

The Opera

 The Opera is catnip to the Leo-flavored, it gives us so much: drama, wonderful outfits, those tremendous voices, great performances. It transports you. It also is a really good excuse to wear your most dramatic dress in public, something certain to cause a stir.

 It’s also an art form, unlike the kind of trickster-y conceptual art we have today, that rewards research, theory, and thought. The more reading you do, the more you get out of the experience. And while I could go tell you to go read more thoughts by the thinkers, like Stravinsky’s lectures or Mozart’s letters, this time let’s go with an appreciator.

 Catherine Clement’s Opera, or the Undoing of Women

 Clement, the French feminist and scholar, looks at the all the put upon women of opera, from the characters in the plays to the singers, and the men controlling and writing them. She writes as an audience member, albeit a particularly bright and attentive one, but, importantly, not as a fan.

 Royalty

Royals are the ultimate celebrity, and their historical excesses are a treat to read about. Now that they’re not actually ruining the world with their appetites for slaves, spices, bloodshed, and religious persecution, of course. Now that we’re not in danger of being screwed over by their whims.

So you can read Marie Antoinette’s karmic return in Kathryn Davis’s Versailles, gossipy intel on what really happened with the Habsburg Crown Prince Rudolph in Mayerling with Frederic Morton’s A Nervous Splendor, or perhaps you’d prefer to read about the architectural excesses and demented pleasures of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, and for that Christopher McIntosh’s The Swan King will serve you well.

 I prefer a more global approach, to learn about why monarchy has fallen out of favor as a ruling system, and for that I trust:

 William Everdell’s The End of Kings

 He tracks the end of monarchy as a center of power and the transition into the ribbon-cutters and ceremonial wavers (well dressed and always with a nice hat, of course) that they’ve become. And I’ve recommended Everdell before, because he is great.

 Childbearing

 We covered mothering in the Mercury in Cancer column, but the actual act of making a new human body with your human body, which is bonkers if you think about it for too long, falls into the realm of Leo.

It’s so bonkers a thing that you’d think there’d be amazing writing on the subject. There isn’t. Let’s blame the patriarchy, bunch of dudes thinking, well, if women do it naturally how interesting can the process actually be? So interesting! And there should be more writing on the subject of pregnancy, because so much of it is fearmongering (What to Expect — Everything Super Terrible — When You’re Expecting), overly sentimental (love letters to the unborn child blah blah blah), or just too scientific. Luckily there is:

 The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

 I don’t normally like Nelson, I find her cold as a writer. But sometimes we need cold, particularly in realms where the overly passionate and overly emotional has taken over. Her writing about the physical pregnancy and childbirth is fascinating. Harrowing, but fascinating. Also her description of the placenta as “a bag of whale hearts” will forever be stuck in my brain.

 Bonus Book!

I think it’s important to understand the mythological grounding of all of this stuff, to give us a deeper, more nuanced way of thinking about it. And about fifty years ago, a series of new inscriptions, having to do with Apollo, Leo’s ruler, were unearthed and completely changed our understanding of how that god operated in Greek polytheism.

 Peter Kingsley’s In the Dark Places of Wisdom

 is a philosophical look at what the new inscriptions mean, and how it changes our understanding of human nature. It’s a beautiful book.

 

Jessa Crispin is the editor of Bookslut.com and Spoliamag.com. She is a tarot card reader, specializing in issues with creativity and writing. For more information, go here. Her first book, The Dead Ladies Project, about love and travel and art, is just published.

 

Image: Emily Balivet

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32 thoughts on “Jessa Crispin On What To Read: Mercury In Leo

  1. This is spot on to my triple-Leo (Sun, Mercury, Mars) tastes. I’ve always been fascinated by royals, art and creative genius process.

    Swearing as an accessory? With the right timing and the right dose – absolutely. Love it. And whenever I get to communicate in my native Russian language, it becomes a truly creative outlet too. With my Libra ascendant, people never see it coming though.

  2. I am Leo Rising, Venus in Leo, and Merc in Leo….this is exact to a t. I always did get frustrated with people complaining about my swearing. I see it as healthy release of energy…..would they rather I do it physically?

    • Italians, southern Mediterraneans use their hands and arms to emote.
      Maoris and Pacific Islanders their eyes and facial expressions.

      Westerners have to be able to swear. FFS

  3. “In the Dark Places of Wisdom” is such a beautiful book – one of my faves. I love it because it describes the underlying spiritual foundations of what we now call “western civilization” – but which has been completely and willfully ignored ever since Plato chose to ignore/kill it. That fuqer really has a lot to answer for. (with my merc in leo i can swear with impunity now)

    The book talks about Parmenides, one of the fathers of western philosophy – a pre-socratic philosopher who greatly influenced Plato. He wrote only one poem. The poem was written in three parts. The first part describes his journey to the goddess who dwells in The Mansions of the Night. The second describes what she taught him about reality. And the third part begins with the goddess saying she will now deceive him as she goes on to describe in detail the world we believe we live in.
    And then in the author’s own words:

    “Every single figure Parmenides encounters …is a woman or a girl. Even the animals are female, and he’s taught by a goddess. The universe he describes is a feminine one; and if this man’s poem represents the starting point for western logic, then something very strange has happened for logic to end up the way it has.”

    Another reason i love this book is probably because my Sun is in Cancer and my Moon-MC is in Leo. The moon and the sun have swapped their natural dwelling places – so i love the theme of Light/Darkness that runs through the narrative and how really you can’t ignore one over the other. Which is what the west has done by demonising darkness.

    Also, Apollo/ Sun has become so one dimensional in that it is always described in terms of light and reason, when Apollo was in fact connected with the night, dark places, with the underworld and death. Apollo’s temple was right above the cave leading down into the underworld, and this was the case at many famous oracle centres in Anatolia. These caves were entered by initiates and priests at the dead of night. It is in the dark night that there is healing, which subsequently allows one to enter into the true light of day.
    Honestly, great read if you’re into history, philosophy, myth, shamanism.

    • I get what you say re childbearing – it also reminds me of a quote made famous by Gloria Steinem: “Honey, if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament”.
      The creativity thing, for sure too – love and appreciate innate genius. Shouldn’t/don’t we all?
      Royalty: abomination, never understood it.
      Opera: some nice tunes, otherwise silly.
      Swearing: fuq yeah!

  4. Mercury in leo, 5th house, retrograde though.
    Yes, of course yes.
    Geniuses, royalty, pregnancy, creativity. The most royal Genius always pregnant with everything to be is Nature. The one that is all around which is also the one that is ourselves.
    So yes, of course, my thoughts are the best ones. As everyone has the best for themselves.
    Maybe it’s the retrograde, but sometimes i feel like I’m childbearing my own thoughts?

  5. Ha ha ha ha…as someone with Merc in Leo, I totally get this. I only like writers who write the way I would.

    This list looks great!

  6. I adore the picture at the top, it is so lovely. It’s now my phone wallpaper to remind myself to be more Leo. Yes, yes, I need a reminder now and again. I’m absolutely starting with the Kingsley – and thank you skarab for the additional praise.

    I have been waiting for this and I think it’s just what I need right now. Sun, MC, Saturn, Merc, and Vesta in Leo. Saturn is starting to do some naughty things to me and I think [thank you ICP for your awesome insights] that part of my lesson is to refine my Leo.

  7. Mercury in Leo here and ummm yep … will *use* profanity to get the communication to pop – both in speech and the written word. Very particular about my use of language and style of writing. It has to be contemporary, punchy and relevant. However nothing beats correct use of grammar and spelling.

    However royalty? … yeah naaaah. And nah to most of the other stuff that Mercury in Leo is supposed to be obsessed with.

    Recently I checked out my progressed chart – Sun, Venus and some other stuff all in Leo. No wonder my hair has been looking particularly good for awhile now! 😀

  8. Seeing you mention the Argonauts & related topics I was compelled to share this title, “Managing the monstrous feminine – regulating the reproductive body” by Jane M Ussher. https://g.co/kgs/79GS
    Maybe it’s my scorp-ruled 5th house not sure, but this book is incredibly interesting reading about the sheer visceral experience of being in a female body, the book devotes chapter/s to childbearing in a very real way. And the massive amounts of self-ownership that many young women have to learn to recognise and take hold of. That’s pretty Leo, I contend.

      • Interesting you mention that Pi. As a young woman I found the whole idea of pregnancy and childbirth offensive. Could not for the life of me get my head around the “visceral” nature of it … as you say. Even after childbirth I struggled with the concept. Maybe it’s my Aqua bits that find the whole thing too … messy.

        • yeah. the author discusses women’s reporting on how they feel around times like this. Basically the feeling of being reduced to nothing more than a biological function. experiences and perceptions, own and others etc etc..She writes about it very intelligently (important to me I guess) and with no eye-rolling goo goo fluff.
          but it’s also about how women in society at large are “managed”, 8th and 9th housey stuff. also 4th housey I guess. ok all the houses.

          • lol … I’m having flashbacks! I remember after years of feminist upbringing and my body being my own temple … and then being pregnant. Was so taken aback by the intrusions to my body both by the medical profession and what was happening internally. Felt like a breeding cow on A Country Practice. 😉

            For me being in a female body on this planet in this era has been an ongoing lesson in humility …

    • I know people who view and describe sex in the same way. Visceral. Biological. It all sounds fairly gross when you take that angle. The word ‘rooting’ As opposed to love making for example. Yes when you ‘made love’ to your partner it could be described as rooting. You can take any human and look at all its human activity, sex, eating, sleeping. They all have their visceral side. A lower vibrational gooeyness.
      I mean look at a breakfast of bacon and eggs and think about it with the same logic. It’s totally disgusting.
      How would you describe a kiss ?

      Childbirth is visceral for a minute in the life of both you and your child. But that’s a few hours out of a lifetime relationship.

      • Uran 2° before 2H cusp and Merc 2° after. Uran in 1H, along with my Aqua Moon (7H) & my SN Aries are my most Yang influences.

        Often drowned out by my harem of Yin aspects

          • Well thanx, DL, but you know I feel such an outsider with (some) staff. Kids like my quirky ways that will quickly morph to Mars Pluto conjunct, with inbuilt ‘Scorpionic Staredown’, if they do ‘wrong’. But they know I’m a Kat empath as well and have their concerns at heart

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