Astrology of Sherlock Holmes - Mercury as a Man
Sherlock Holmes is one of the most enduring literary characters out time, famous for his wit, intelligence, and ingenious methods for solving even the most baffling mysteries.
He is one of the most life-like archetypes for the planet Mercury, a fascinating embodiment of the planet as well as the Signs that Mercury rules, Gemini and Virgo.
The detective Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887, and quickly became Conan Doyle’s most popular character, and magazine editors quickly became desperate for more of Holmes’ adventures.
The short stores became so popular, in fact, that Conan Doyle began to feel trapped by the success of Holmes, wanting to write about other subjects and characters.
He even killed off Holmes in the story “The Adventure of the Final Problem”,
but due to a massive backlash, and the phenomenal paychecks that were at stake, Conan Doyle intelligently gave in and brought him back to life, accepting that Holmes was so interesting and dynamic to his readers not to fight against his creation.
In the Jaimini system of Vedic astrology, Mercury is known as a manifesting planet which brings things into our material lives, and indeed Holmes manifested himself into the world, and there have been no shortage of film adaptations and new stories written by other authors ever since.
So what makes Holmes so “mercurial”?
Mercury is the force in our psyche we use to investigate and experiment with the world around us in order to create a better and more enjoyable life for ourselves. We use our Mercury whenever we are observing possible options and need to analyze the specific details of each one. The more developed our Mercury, the better we are at diving into minute details, organizing information into logical and functional categories, and weeding out whatever is unnecessary in order for our lives to run smoother.
Mercury is our ability to objectively observe and analyze the world, entertain diverse and contrary ideas without judgement, manage those ideas properly, and then experiment with them to see if they are practical and useful to our life. We use Mercury to learn about the world in order to arrive at objective truths.
When Mercury is not functioning well in our psyche, we misplace information or get bogged down in details and cannot discern between what is important and what is not, which results in mental disorders such as hyperactivity, nervousness, and an impractical attitude.
Also, a bad Mercury will overlook key facts and data, or be too abstract of a thinker and not know how to operate on a mundane level. All of this results in a life that doesn’t work and leaves us unfulfilled with the possibilites presented to us.
A detective’s job requires an astute and highly attuned Mercury because it is based on honing in on the most important details and creating a logical scenario about how the facts are put together based on the concrete information in front of us. A detective needs to pursue as many likely possibilities until the truth is uncovered, or as Holme’s most famously put it, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”
These are the basics of how Mercury is operating in us, but the actual abilities it uses to carry out these objectives are the Signs it rules, Gemini and Virgo. Let’s dig in deeper into them and see how Sherlock Holmes embodies these Signs.
In the Vedic tradition, Gemini is a boy and a girl, not twins per se. The boy carries a club and the girl carries a lute. The two humans shows that this is the most interpersonal of all the Signs, and how could any story of Sherlock Holmes not include his best friend Dr. Watson. The two are inseparable when solving crimes, bouncing ideas back and forth from one another, and live together for periods of time.
Gemini is an Air Sign, which amongst other significations symbolizes ideas and concepts, the passing thoughts we have. Mercury-Gemini is extremely curious about how the world works, and develops a person’s knowledge base. Holmes embodies this with his interest in numerous subjects and disciplines, including botany, geology, anatomy, chemistry, literature, philosophy, politics, astronomy, the occult, and law.
Air also symbolizes communication, and one of Holmes’ talents is articulating the myriad of thoughts going through his mind, especially when he explains exactly how he arrives at his conclusions when solving crimes.
Mercury is the planet of observation, and through Gemini develops a person’s ability to observe and learn from external environment and from other people. Holmes and Gemini-strong individuals are characterized by their charismatic nature and love for simply being around others, and prefer to live in places where they are surrounded by many people and culture, like big cities.
Holmes is no stranger to the high-society of London, and famous in his own right, though likes to spend time by himself at times, showing a healthy and balanced expression of Gemini. Out of balance Gemini people can often feel uncomfortable being alone and want to always have another person around to relate to, even if just about mundane matters and small talk.
The more we observe other people, the more we understand them, their ticks, their habits and their motives, all extremely important necessities of an astute detective. Mercury, and specifically Gemini, generate the abilities needed to become an actor. What does an actor do? They imitate other people, doing their best to actually become other people for the sake of a performance.
Mercury rules the skin of our body, and anything that acts as a covering or container. An actor has the ability of putting on the covering, sometimes a literal mask, of another being, and the better they understand the subject by observing it closely, the better they can imitate it.
One of Holmes’ talents is to create elaborate disguises, makeup, beards, props and all, in order to infiltrate precarious situations and further conduct his investigations.
This is an example of one of Holmes’ extremely specific Mercurial talents which makes it seem like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was consciously intending to create a character based on Mercury, which I don’t actually believe to be the case, but according to Conan Doyle’s birth time he had his Ascendant, the Sun, Mars and Jupiter all in Gemini.
Gemini and Mercury both have a playful quality that helps a person understand the “rules of the game” of life and know how to play it successfully. Mercury and Gemini enjoy testing boundaries, provoking others to see what lines are crossable. Mercury produces what friends we have in life and what they are like, and also produces the ability for humor, which is essentially the ability to see truth around us and relate it to others in a light way that serves to reduce stress. After all, it was only the court joker who was allowed to tell the truth to the ruthless king because he could do so in a way that made the King laugh.
Holmes is most often portrayed as a playful individual, and one of his most famous phrases, spoken when he is filled with enthusiasm about a new lead and ready to go follow up on it, is “Come Watson! The game is afoot!” Indeed, Holmes very much enjoys his work and sees it as an elaborate game between him and the culprit.
A key attribute of Gemini is experimenting with the world around us, to make hypothesis and test them. This requires technical expertise of the subject you’re investigating, and Gemini develops a person’s ability to learn and apply technical knowledge, knowing the nuts and bolts of how a particular subject is designed and operates.
One needn’t be a full blown laboratory scientist in order to use the scientific method to arrive at a functional truths about things. But, as would have it, one of Holmes’ hobbies was chemistry and had his own elaborate laboratory at home, complete with beakers, flasks and test tubes.
It is very interesting to note that some of Holmes’ investigative techniques in the fictional stories inspired real life innovations in forensic investigation. For example, in the story “The Sign of Four” written in 1890, Holmes mentions the importance of fingerprint analysis, which was adapted by Scotland Yard in 1901 in order to narrow down suspects, and today is a universal tool in crime scene analysis.
Also, Holmes invented the technique of analyzing the idiosyncrasies of typewriters to detect who could have written a particular document, first employed in the story “A Case of Identity” from 1891. The FBI didn’t open its own document analysis division until 1932. Holmes also had an expertise in analyzing handwriting, called graphology, which, like astrology, is often derided as a pseudoscience though its proponents attest that it likewise offers a unique vista into a person’s psychology and subconsciousness.
Gemini as the Sign of technical expertise is shown in the symbol as the girl holding a musical instrument. Musical ability and the performance arts in general are trademark Gemini activities (although actually becoming a performing musician takes more than just a strong Gemini and Mercury). While objections could be made regarding modern and post-modern music, musical talent and ability requires technical knowledge about how music works and at least an elementary ability for differentiating between notes, scale structure, harmonics, chord progression, and rhythm.
Also, Gemini rules over the arms and hands on our body, and there are no musical instruments that do not require using the arms nor the hands (but it is possible for armless people can use their feet to play instruments). One of Holmes’ favorite pastimes is playing his violin, which he considers to be a lesser talent of his but his playing is admired by Dr. Watson who attests to his skills.
And finally, the darker side of Sherlock Holmes is his drug use, particularly injecting cocaine, the famous ‘7 percent solution” (7 percent cocaine and 93% water) to the disappointment and disapproval of the good doctor Watson. Holmes claims he uses cocaine when he is bored and there isn’t an active case to occupy his mind. This shows the negative side of Gemini, the communicative and mentally dexterous ability that can overextend itself and cause acute anxiety and overthinking trivial matters.
“My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.”
Curiously, Holmes’ addiction seems to dissipate as soon as another case shows up and he is able to dedicate his mind solely to solving it. This shows how a person is able to overcome this Gemini issue, which is having a larger goal or cause that requires perseverance and a long-term focus, which is the ability of the opposite Sign of Gemini, Sagittarius.
As you can see from these brief but illustrative examples, Sherlock Holmes embodies some very common Gemini archetypes and behaviors, such as his keen eye for observation in the field during an investigation, the ability to succinctly detail his thought processes to others, his playful and humorous attitude, especially with his right-hand man Dr. Watson, his talent for scientific experimentation and analytical logic, and his perpetually active mind.
Now let’s look at the other Sign that Mercury rules, Virgo.
Once you’ve gathered information through the experimentation and investigative process using Gemini, it’s time to whittle down that information into what’s necessary and what’s unnecessary. This is Virgo’s job in our psyche, Mercury’s ability to arrive at a singular and absolute truth in something.
In the Vedic tradition, Virgo is simple a “girl”, specifically a pre-pubescent girl, and not a voluptuous, blushing virgin. In the practical use of astrology, Virgo is the least sexually active Sign, and a heavy emphasis in one’s chart creates the general effect of a diminished sexual drive and sensuality, so an ovulating, fertile virgin woman is indeed an inept symbol. The girl symbol, on the other hand, reveals the essence of purity to Virgo, as pre-pubescent girls have no sexual drive or will to pro-create.
There is great debate on the nature of Holmes’ sexuality, and has been explored in many adaptations of the short stories. Conan Doyle never gave a definitive answer, but Holmes has never been married and never expressed an explicit romantic interest in a female character in the stories, and some speculate that he is a homosexual. Dr. Watson was married at least twice, and the original stories never provoke the reader to suggest Holmes and Watson’s relationship is anything beyond platonic. The ambiguity about Holmes’ sexual desires, or lack thereof, further points to his strong Virgo de-sexualized nature.
It’s one thing to have a lot of information at one’s disposal, but it’s another to have the correct and best information. Virgo develop’s a person’s ability to reach pure conclusions using the process of deduction. Gemini assembles data, and Virgo distills it. A detective would have no chance of even remedial success with a destabilized Virgo, because they would never be able to point directly to one culprit, or they’d jumble and misunderstand key facts and arrive at faulty conclusions. A harmed Virgo is one of the causes of the habit of hoarding physical items, which begins with a mental world that is unable to consolidate thoughts.
“There comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”
Virgo rules the the large and small intestines where the body filters food between useable nutrients and waste, showing that Virgo gives the ability to distinguish between things we need and don’t need in our lives. The small intestine, in particular, has a direct connection with our brain’s pituitary gland. This gland of the endocrine system releases peptide messengers - which make us feel certain emotions - that are sent via the bloodstream to receptor cells in the small intestine.
Likewise, the cells in the small intestine send similar peptide messengers to the brain’s pituitary gland that also result in emotional responses. This “brain-gut pathway” is why we have emotional responses to food, and is also explains why we can have “a gut feeling” about certain situations - our brain and our intestines are in constant communication.
The brain-gut connection reveals that Virgo gives a person an ability for intuition, specifically in the realm of reading whether information is true or false taken form a single glance without needing to dive into the gritty details. In fact, having the ability to conduct a detailed, fact-based analysis is what causes the ability for a strong intuition, because the more experience we have with a particular subject, the easier it is to holistically and effortlessly “read” information related to it.
Holmes could, with a single glance at a tiny detail, instantaneously derive incredible insights into the character of a person or a situation. He eventually explains, step by step, how he logically came to his conclusion, but his initial reaction to the stimuli is entirely intuitive based on his extensive experience investigating the world around him.
Sherlock Holmes’ name is practically synonymous with the word “deduction”, and his work is often summarized as the science of deduction. He is able to reduce the amount of possibilities discovered by his Gemini abilities and arrive at a singular solution to the problem or crime committed. Whenever we seem Holmes brooding over his pipe, we are watching his deductive mind at work, rigorously sifting through the facts of the case and focusing on select ones to follow up on.
Virgo is a female Sign, meaning it develops its attributes in our internal world. People with a healthy Virgo emphasis in their chart are able to consolidate information mentally without even having to write it down. It gives a person the ability for computational and mathematical precision used to analyze problems and generate solutions to real-world situations. A strong Virgo develops a person’s ability to be a great researcher, a book-worm of sorts, someone who could spend hours alone in a library, and gives the skill for advanced mathematical concepts and being able to comprehend and simplify complex webs of information.
Between Gemini and Virgo, Mercury is more powerful in Virgo, all other factors being equal, primarily because Mercury is an Earth planet and Virgo is an Earth Sign, showing us that Mercury’s agenda in our consciousness is best used for practical, real world activity and not meant to remain in one’s head. Earth Signs, focuses a person on the concrete realities, and Virgo wants a come to a “Yes” or “No” conclusion, such as “He or She did commit the crime, absolutely.”
As you can see, Mercury’s ability to carry out its agenda of creating a smooth and enjoyable life through gathering knowledge about our world, is incomplete without both the external abilities of Gemini and the internal abilities of Virgo. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is such an intriguing character because he is so closely related to the expression of Mercury, the planet that brings interesting and fun things into our lives.
The more we develop our own Mercury in our psyche, the more we can see that everything in the world is connected on an intricate level, and that everything is, in fact, made up of the same thing, which is divine energy. The spiritual lesson of Mercury is to enjoy the world we inhabit with detachment, because every thing and every one is God, and is there to teach us something about ourselves.