Mercury in Gemini, Mercury in Virgo | Not Necessarily Strong for the Intellect


Mercury with Super-Dignity

If you believe that Mercury, the planet of intellect, must bode well for the intellect in its own domiciles, Gemini and Virgo, then you are mistaken. The delineation of intellectual prowess is a matter that goes far beyond the sign placement of Mercury. Additionally, many ancient astrologers considered Mercury in a mutable sign, especially one of its own domiciles, to have a destabilizing effect on the mind. This is in contrast to what one may assume based on the level of “dignity” of Mercury in its own domicile.

Due to an over-reliance on sign-based dignity in delineation, there is a trend among today’s traditional astrologers to consider a planet in its own domicile as signifying that the natural significations of the planet are strong and beneficial. In the case of Mercury in its own domicile, it would have a dignity score of at least +8 by the most common scoring methods. By such an approach, the natural significations of Mercury in relation to the intellect, communication, cleverness, and quickness would all be accentuated in a beneficial way.

Dignity isn’t Dignified

For those who don’t know, I’m a strong critic of the over-reliance on dignity in traditional circles for matters of the strength and goodness of a planet. I do use “dignity” for rulership, pertinence, and various qualitative considerations including a type of prototypicality (a type of strength). However, I have made it a point to speak out against the use of dignity as a chief strength consideration, and especially for any matter of goodness, benefit, or “dignity” in the dictionary sense.

I completely avoid the use of dignity in that manner in my own work on the blog. I also frequently engage in polemics about the idiocy of heavy reliance on dignity.  For instance, I’ve discussed the dignity problem in “The Curious Case of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Turner” (and its sequel) and “Dignity: The Biggest Problem with Late Traditional Astrology“.  Here I look at one particularly cogent error of the dignity approach, the belief that Mercury, the natural significator of the rationalizing mind, bodes well for the intellect in the signs where it is most dignified, its domiciles Virgo and Gemini.

Mercury in Virgo or Gemini Can Be An Indication of a Small Intellect

Both Masha’allah (On Nativities, c.f. Dykes trans., 2008, Section 5) and Abu’ali al-Khayyat (The Judgment of Nativities, c.f. Dykes trans., 2009, Ch. 5) discussed the signification of Mercury for thought and speech. One factor examined is its occurrence in sign of different quadruplicities. Signs come in three flavors of quadruplicity, cardinal (aka moveable/changeable), fixed (aka solid), or mutable (aka common). The “quad” in quadruplicity comes from the fact that there are 4 signs in each group.

Their comments take place in their discussion of delineating character, mind, and will in the chart. For that type of delineation, they both rely heavily upon the lord of the Ascendant and Mercury. Mercury indicates the manner of speaking (and also of intellect, to at least Abu’ali).

They seem to agree that Mercury in a cardinal sign (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn) indicates an enthusiasm, fast grasp of things, and even skill in speech. Mercury in a fixed sign (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius) indicates a deeper more serious search for truth and a giver of good advice. However,  Mercury in a mutable sign, which includes Virgo and Gemini as well as Sagittarius and Pisces, is indicative of a small intellect quick to anger and slow to understand.  Additionally, Abu Bakr, in a passage pertaining to indications of quickness to rage, noted Mercury in one of his own domiciles as an indication of instability.  These passages are summarized below.

Mercury through the Quadruplicities

Mercury in a Cardinal/Moveable Sign (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn)

Masha’allah said, “…strong and in a moveable sign, it indicates he has a good way of speaking, and an honored one, and one fearing God” (Dykes, 2008, Section 5, p. 398).  On Mercury in a cardinal sign, Abu’ali said, “…it signifies the intellect’s loftiness, easy grasp [of things], and [its] beauty, and love of the sciences, and religion” (Dykes, 2009, Ch. 5, p. 236).

Mercury in a Fixed/Solid Sign (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius)

Masha’allah said, “…it indicates he is going to be honored, and by means of truth and goodness and counsel in his life, and his advice will be most truthful in every way, and will free hindered advice from hindrances” (Dykes, 2008, Section 5, p. 398).  On Mercury in a fixed sign, Abu’ali said, “…it signifies prudence, constancy, mercy [or pity], and the fulfillment of things undertaken” (Dykes, 2009, Ch. 5, p. 236).

Mercury in a Mutable/Common Sign (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces)

Masha’allah said, “…it indicates he has little wisdom, and is liable to anger, and as a rule he does not believe the advice of another” (Dykes, 2008, Section 5, p. 398). On Mercury in a mutable sign, Abu’ali said, “…it signifies a small intellect with great speediness, and quickness to anger, and a scarce and small stability or perseverance in something undertaken, or advice, or business” (Dykes, 2009, Ch. 5, p. 236).  Additionally, Abu Bakr noted, “If Mercury were in his own domicile, the native will be fearful and unsound” (Dykes, 2010, On Nativities, Book II, Ch. 1.2, p. 143).

Not Just About Mercury

The delineation of intellectual strength is not something to be taken lightly.  Intellect cannot be delineated based on the quadruplicity of Mercury’s sign placement alone.  Many of the quotes above were said to pertain to both Mercury and the Lord of the Ascendant, as both were relevant concerning the character. Additionally, the approach is based strongly on Ptolemy (2nd century) who also emphasized the quadruplicity of the significant personality factors. However, Ptolemy’s main factors were the Moon and Mercury (rather than Asc Lord and Mercury). In what follows, “solstitial” means cardinal and “bicoporeal” means mutable.

Of the signs of the zodiac in general, then, the solstitial signs produce souls fitted for dealing with the people, fond of turbulence and political activity, glory-seeking, moreover, and attentive to the gods, noble, mobile, inquisitive, inventive, good at conjecture, and fitted for astrology and divination. The bicorporeal signs make souls complex, changeable, hard to apprehend, light, unstable, fickle, amorous, versatile, fond of music, lazy, easily acquisitive, prone to change their minds. The solid signs make them just, unaffected by flattery, persistent, firm, intelligent, patient, industrious, stern, self-controlled, tenacious of grudges, extortionate, contentious, ambitious, factious, grasping, hard, inflexible. (Ptolemy, Book III, Ch. 13, Robbins trans., p. 335)

Quadruplicity is just one consideration, and a thorough consideration of quadruplicity should involve looking at the quadruplicity of not only Mercury, but also its twelfth-part, the Ascendant, the Ascendant lord, the Moon, and the Lot of Spirit. There have been great geniuses born with Mercury in each of the signs. Consider the following individuals with Mercury in mutable signs:

Gemini: Nikola Tesla, Karl Marx, Jean-Paul Sartre, etc.

Virgo: Leo Tolstoy, Howard Hughes, Claude Debussy, George Soros, etc.

Sagittarius: Isaac Newton, Noam Chomsky, Benoit Mandelbrot, etc.

Pisces: Copernicus, Bach, Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson. etc.

The Benefits of Mercury in Detriment or Fall

Many traditional astrologers today associate Mercury in detriment or fall with a “debilitated Mercury”. This debility means that Mercury is not able to express its true nature, being weakened by the contrary sign and overall less fortunate. However, Mercury is in detriment or fall when it is in one of the signs of Jupiter, the greater benefic. Rulership by Jupiter at least links Mercury with wisdom, philosophy and/or religion, and the search for greater truth. Rulership by Jupiter also links Mercury with gain and fortune.

Noam Chomsky and Christopher Hirata (child prodigy with a very high IQ who started work with NASA when 16), both have Mercury in Sagittarius. Both also have Mercury combust the Sun in Sagittarius, not regarded by its ruler Jupiter, but conjunct an angle and in a stake, with strong identification with Mercury as it is either in the first or ruling the first house in both charts.  Copernicus too had Mercury ruled by Jupiter, this time in Pisces. Mercury is again with the Sun in a stake, with Mercury ruling the first house (Virgo), though he has Jupiter regarding Mercury.

In these cases, we see that the other factors are more important than dignity, quadruplicity, reception, and combustion. The link of Mercury with Jupiter by rulership, the prominence of Mercury by advancement, and the identification with Mercury shown through some important rulership of the Ascendant and/or position in the stakes are more important indications of notable intellectual prowess. Note that Mercury with the Sun may show additional public importance.

Traditional Emphasis

What is significant is that Mercury in a mutable sign, especially Mercury in its own domicile, was ever considered an indication of a weaker, more superficial, or more unstable intellect. It is also interesting that Mercury was given a relatively similar signification in all the mutable signs. These signs range from those where Mercury has negative dignity by scoring methods to those with very positive dignity.

This historic fact indicates that “dignity” was much less emphasized than it is today, while other sign features like quadruplicity were more emphasized, at least among some ancient astrologers. Today, dignity is too often treated as an over-riding factor for strength and benefit associated with a planet. In truth, it is just a planet ruling itself, one that’s become a little bit more hyper-prototypical and less tied to other planets. In the case of Mercury, this may not be a good thing.

Mercury’s Mercurial Enough

Mercury, as a significator of intellect and speech, moves from place to place and constantly connects things. It is like the syntax of language, chaining complex ideas together.  Similarly, mutable signs are associated with back-and-forth between two things or parties.  It would seem that a mutable sign accentuates the instability of Mercury, rather than directing it and stabilizing it.  Furthermore, when he’s just working for himself, so to speak, Mercury is even more unstable.  This seems to be particularly so in Gemini, which is additionally an air sign, accentuating the flitting quality of Mercury.

In my experience, I find Mercury’s quadruplicity to be a weaker indication of intellectual strength or its lack.  I may address the delineation of intellect at greater depth in a future article. The main idea here is that Mercury in its own signs may be a counter-indication of intellectual strength. For this reason, and many more, we should not over-rely on the concept of dignity for strength or benefit.

Personal Note: Mercury in Fall

On a personal note, my daughter’s early and articulate language use has impressed me. She has Mercury in Pisces and combust, within 3 degrees of the Sun, though strongly advancing and in the 5th. Additionally, four of her seven planets are in Air signs, including a Gemini Moon. Jupiter, the ruler of Mercury, is cadent and retreating in the 12th, so it does not aspect Mercury. She was fluid and articulate in her speech from when she first began to speak. She has always been ahead of the curve both linguistically and mathematically. Teachers have raved to me about the depth of her story-telling and social abilities. She tells her stories with an unusual amount of detail and is not afraid to use big words.


My hope is that this article forces many astrologers to question their assumptions about dignity. A sign’s influence on the significations of a planet are more complex than dignity scoring would have one believe. The quadruplicity, triplicity, and nature of the ruler of a sign are important considerations. They can be obscured in an approach that emphasizes dignity. Additionally, the delineation of any matter, including the manner of speech and thought, involves more than just sign placement, and should involve multiple relevant factors.

For more on the problems with dignity and its scoring, please see the article on Dahmer and Turner, the article on the history of dignity scoring, and the article on James Holmes.


Update October 2018

This article was thoroughly edited and updated in late October of 2018 with additional content intended to clarify the main points.

Featured Image

Mercury with Fig Leaf (cropped) by Sputnikcccp at en.wikipedia. Photo taken by Sputnikcccp in the Vatican, May 25, 2003. (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [GFDL, GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

al-Tabari, U., & al-Hasib, A. B. (2010). Persian Nativities II:  ’Umar al-Tabari and Abu Bakr. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.
Bishr, S. ibn, & Masha’allah. (2008). Works of Sahl & Masha’allah. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.
Masha’allah, & al-Khayyat, A.  ’Ali. (2009). Persian Nativities I: Masha’allah and Abu  ’Ali. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.
Ptolemy, C. (1940). Ptolemy: Tetrabiblos. (F. E. Robbins, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library. Retrieved from


Blogger interested in all things astrological, especially Hellenistic, medieval, Uranian, and asteroid astrology.

11 thoughts on “Mercury in Gemini, Mercury in Virgo | Not Necessarily Strong for the Intellect

  • October 23, 2018 at 9:24 pm

    However, Ptolemy also states:
    “Further, should the planets having dominion be in places of their own, and in conditions suitable to their own qualities, the mental properties will be rendered exquisite, unimpeded, and successful: and especially if these planets rule at the same time over both places; that is to say, be by some mode configurated with Mercury, and holds separation from, or application to the Moon. Should the said planets, however, not be thus constituted, but be posited in places not particularly appropriate to themselves, they will yet, even then, infuse into the composition of the mental energy the properties of their own nature; but obscurely and imperfectly, and not with such force and strong evidence as in the other case.”

    So, being in his own domicile (also the moon being so) makes the mind more successful, and also the mind is stronger if the same planet holds dominion over Mercury, the Moon, or if the Moon applies to the ruler of Mercury.

    • October 24, 2018 at 6:15 am

      Yes, and Maternus also says that the more planets a person has in domicile the stronger and more renowned the person will be. However, these are methods that don’t work, which is why I say they are approaches I am highly critical of on empirical grounds. For the empirical examples, see the other articles that I cite in that article.

    • October 24, 2018 at 6:56 am

      However, even for Ptolemy, dignity has a bit part among numerous parts, it is mentioned after quadruplicity, phase relative to the Sun, and many other factors. The two paragraphs directly following the one I quote in the article on quadruplicity by Ptolemy are quoted below. This is from the Robbins translation available free online which is in the references and can be accessed here – Ptolemy Robbins trans.

      “Of configurations, positions in the orient and at the horoscope, and in particular those which are in proper face, produce liberal, simple, self-willed, strong, noble, keen, open souls. Morning stations and culminations make them calculating, patient, of good memory, firm, intelligent, magnanimous, accomplishing what they desire, inflexible, robust, rough, not readily deceived, critical, practical, prone to inflict punishment, gifted with understanding. Precessions and settings make them easily changed, unstable, weak, unable to bear labour, emotional, humble, cowardly, deceitful, bullying, dull, slow-witted, hard to arouse. Evening stations and position at mid‑heaven beneath the earth, and furthermore, in the case of Mercury and Venus, by day evening settings and by night morning settings, produce souls noble and wise, but with mediocre memory, not painstaking nor fond of labour, but investigators of hidden things and seekers after the unknown, as for example magicians, adepts in the mysteries, meteorologists, makers of instruments and machines, conjurors, astrologers, philosophers, readers of omens, interpreters of dreams, and the like.

      When, in addition, the governors of the soul, as we explained at the beginning, are in their own or familiar houses or sects, they make the characters of the soul open, unimpeded, spontaneous, and effective, especially when the same planets rule the two places at once, that is, when they are configurated to Mercury in any aspect whatever, and hold the separation or application of the moon; if they are not so disposed, however, but are in places alien to them, it renders the properties of their own natures obscure, indistinct, imperfect, and ineffective with respect to the active quality of the soul. The powers, however, of the nature of the planets that dominate or overcome them are vigorous and injurious to the subjects. Thus men who, by reason of the familiarity of the maleficent planets, are unjust and evil, find their impulse to injure one another easy, unimpeded, secure, and honourable, if those planets are in power; but if they are overcome by planets of the opposite sect, the men are lethargic, ineffective, and easily punished. And those again that through the familiarity of the beneficent planets to the aforesaid boundaries are good and just, if these planets are not overcome, are themselves happy and bear a good repute for their kindness to others, and, injured by none, continue to benefit from their own justice; if, however, the good planets are dominated by opposites, simply because of their gentleness, kindness, and compassion, they suffer contempt and reproach or even may easily be wronged by most people.”

  • October 15, 2018 at 11:43 pm

    Well done. You made your point but…even though you mentioned it to be a more minor point of consideration, some people with a grasp of astrology DO tend to have Mercury in Gemini or Virgo. Is this Manifesto really worth these peoples personal feelings? You cited ancient texts, but it’s in you’re adherence and propagandizing that I find offensive. Basically you are outright saying that these people with mercury in gemini or virgo have smaller intellects.

    • October 16, 2018 at 9:54 am

      Hi Art,

      I apologize if I’ve offended you in any way.

      I think you are mistaken about my “outright saying that these people with mercury in gemini or virgo have smaller intellects”. I am also certainly not adhering to a belief that people with Mercury in domicile are intellectually deficient as a Manifesto and propagandizing about it.

      I’m not sure how anyone reading the article could come away with that understanding as I note from beginning to end that what I’m countering is the assumption that sign dignity equals “better”. The assumption among traditional astrologers is that Mercury in one of its domiciles, Gemini or Virgo, indicates a super-powered form of Mercury and its significations of analysis and rational thought. What I am presenting in the article and even in the title is that it is “not strong for the intellect” in traditional astrology. I provided excerpts from traditional astrologers who saw it as an indication of the opposite in fact. However, I make it clear that the delineation of intellect is a complex matter involving multiple factors and that sign quadruplicity is a minor one. I even note how there are many geniuses with Mercury in mutable signs. How is that the same as saying that people with that configuration have smaller intellects?

      In modern astrology a planet is indicative of some element of the soul, so in a sense all the elements of your chart indicate your psychological make-up. However, in ancient astrology different factors merely indicate things as signs. Unless you have a few major indicators pointing to something and/or many minor indicators for something then one indication on its own is meaningless – it is just an ambiguous sign that could mean this or that – but without reinforcement is just one faint possibility among many. I teach that in my lessons and I think you can see some of that in my wording of the article as well. If there’s any Manifesto that I “propagandize” it is to think critically about the things ancient astrologers say, to not jump to assumptions over one factor or especially the sign of a factor, and to use a large number of related factors in any delineation. This should be clear from reading the lessons on the site, the articles on how ancient astrologers didn’t all agree, and the many articles on lots and twelfth-parts.

      I am going through and editing all the articles on the site for clarity but I’m only about halfway through. This article has not yet been edited for clarity. For some reason this article gave you the impression that I have a Manifesto that people with Mercury in domicile are idiots so I’ll make it clearer that’s not the case with the edit. That should also be clearer when the 8th lesson on delineation is published in the future.

      Best wishes,


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  • January 17, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Astrologically, Mercury represents our ability to communicate with others through writing and speaking. Mercury becomes much more important than its usual description when we look at communication as a way of creating our own reality. It is through Mercury that we learn to use will power to command energy to take form. Without the power of intention or speaking, energy cannot crystallize into matter. It is our word or intention that creates the matrix or container for energy to take form in the physical world.
    William Spearman


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