Engraving by C. Lasinio after Raphael, 1516 (source: Welcome Library)

Classical significations
of Mercury

Valens | Firmicus | Abu Mashar

More on Mercury

Mercury indicates education, letters, disputation, reasoning, brotherhood, interpretation, embassies, number, accounts, geometry, markets, youth, games, theft, association, communication, service, gain, discoveries, obedience, sport, wrestling, declamation, certification, supervision, weighing and measuring, the testing of coinage, hearing, versatility. It is the bestower of forethought and intelligence, the lord of brothers and of younger children, and the creator of all marketing and banking. In its own character, it makes temple builders, modelers, sculptors, doctors, secretaries, legal advisors, orators, philosophers, architects, musicians, prophets, diviners, augurs, dream interpreters, braiders, weavers, systematic physicians, those in charge of war and strategy, and those undertaking any unusual, systematic work in accounting or with reasoning. Mercury makes weightlifters and mimes, those making their livelihood with displays of skill, deception, gambling, or sleight of hand. It also rules those skilled interpreters of the heavens, those who by using pleasure or winning charm, earn fame for their amazing feats—all for the sake of gain. This star’s effects go in many directions, depending on the changes of the zodiac and the interactions of the stars, and yields quite varied results: knowledge for some, selling for others, service for others, trade or teaching for others, farming or temple service or public [employment] for still others. To some it grants authority, rentals, labor contracting, rhythmical performance, the display of public service, the acquisition of personal attendants or the right of wearing temple-linen, robed in the luxury appropriate to gods or rulers. As for the end result—Mercury will make everything capricious in outcome and quite disturbed. Even more, it causes those having this star in malefic signs or degrees to become even worse. Of the parts of the body, it rules the hands, the shoulders, the fingers, the joints, the belly, the sense of hearing, the arteries, the intestines, the tongue. Of materials, it rules copper and all coins used in buying and selling—for the god makes exchanges ... [It is blue in color, sharp in taste.]

Translation by Mark Riley, (informally published in 2010, based on a preliminary translation made in the 1990s) Anthologies, I.I

Mercury is of a mixed nature, combining alike to the one it is with, or to which it is joined by some aspect. But by [its own] nature it is rather cold and dry. It signifies childhood, ingenuity, reason, eloquence, playful deception, joking, theft; moreover, enthymemes, syllogisms, sophisms, poetics, music, astronomy, and the whole complete study of astrology. It also signifies devoted men, prophets, fortune-tellers, augurs and those adorned with the divine interpretation of the fates, traders and also legates, speakers – but quite often those who deceive through fraudulent cunning. It also signifies someone who illuminates the most difficult art, the discovery of hidden things and secrets, gentle speech, sound advice, delicacies, pleasures, ambitions, profits, taxes in money, and whatever can be sought for the sake of more glory and usefulness. Moreover, feigned reconciliation, doubt, and concealed emotion; but also gentle sympathy of the soul, unwelcome modulation of the voice, but, in every difficult work of art, a skilful hand and an extremely well-adapted intellect. Furthermore, in relation to occult matters, wonderful invention and very swift perfection in it. Also, of the parts of the body, it owns the mouth and tongue, and the hands, which are the helpers of human speech.

Translation by Valerie Roebuck, (published in the Skyscript Newsletter, issue 5, 2022), based on the 1533 Aldine Latin translation.

Mercury bends with his nature toward the one who is complected to him, in terms of the natures of the planets and signs, on account of the mixing of dryness and cold in him. And he signifies youth and younger brothers and an affection for male and female servants, and abundance from them. And he signifies divinity and the oracles of prophets, sense and reason, speech and conversations and stories and the committing of them to memory. Also wisdom, belief and the beauty of learning, sharpness of character. And intellect and literature and philosophy and a gift of knowledge, also arithmetic and geometry and the measure of higher and terrestrial things. Even the wisdom of the stars and prophecy and its declamation, and rebuking, and a good omen, and hospitality, and knowledge in matters, and wisdom and obscure books. And rhetoric and eloquence or the sweetness of speech and its quickness, or the explanation of opinions and study in [types of] wisdom. And striving for a position of first place, and passionate desire in them, and praise and a memory because of it, and a beacon in all things, and he signifies haircuts. And writers and books and offices and the assessing of land taxes, and colonies, and slander and lying and false testimony, and fictitious books and the speculation of hidden secrets. And he signifies a scarcity of joy and the destruction of assets. He even signifies assets and distributions and merchandise and business deals, and buying and selling, giving and taking and partnering, affliction, burglaries and contentions, deception, lies, resentment, cunning, denials, and depth of counsel, and no one knows what he bears in his mind, nor does he disclose it to anyone. And he signifies combatants and hostility, and losses in [his] reckonings, and a multitude of fears from them, slaves and assistants, and quickness in work, and crookedness of morals. And a multitude of color and charm, and gentleness of speech, and acquisition, and assistance, and willingness, and endurance, also an inclination to piety and mercy and calm, sobriety, and restraining the hands from [doing] evil. And the beauty of faith and obedience to God, the cause of truth, and the preservation of his brothers. Timid with diverse fears, beauty of voice, knowing melodies. And he signifies the precision of the hands in diverse masteries, and prudence in every matter which he takes on, having pleasure in every completed work. And he signifies bloodletters and those who work with razors and combs. And he signifies fountains of waters and rivers and wells and prisons and the dead, and mange in beasts.

[From Gr. Intr. VII.9.1541-80] Translation by Benjamin Dykes, (extracted from Introductions to Traditional Astrology: Abu Ma'shar & al-Qabisi (2010).
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