The etymology of words can be very fascinating, especially in the astrological context. A surprising amount of our old astrological knowledge has been forgotten in this current age; yet our very own English language still preserves clues to it, when we know the astrological language that birthed these words. See my previous blog on astrological word origins for more on this. One example I find fascinating is how in English speaking countries there is a negative saying about when someone is getting too curious about things that are not any of their business to be knowing about. We say that person shouldnt be “middling in the affairs of others”. The word middling means of medium or intermediate size, and so to be middling in the affairs of others is to be concerned with affairs of others that arent really important which often leads to unneeded gossip, or back biting, and does not usually bring about a productive result. This term is never used when one is genuinely inquiring about how they can help someone in a serious way. This term is used when one is more likely just curious and potentially seeking self-aggrandizement by comparing themselves to another.
The reason this is so interesting to me is because if there ever was a middle type of planet, it would be Mercury. He is the most mixed and intermediate planet in many ways, being malefic when with malefic planets and benefic when close to benefic planets. He rules, is exalted in, and is fallen in ONLY dual signs (which have both masculine and feminine qualities), showing how pronounced his dual nature naturally is. Mercury rules one’s curiosity, and whether one has a healthy sense of curiosity, or whether they use this faculty to simply “middle in the affairs of others”. And so a person with a weak Mercury may find themselves with a somewhat unhealthy sense of curiosity and can therefore get themselves into trouble with gossip or backbiting.
Let me elaborate on this point further. Mercury is very much in the middle of things, and he likes the harmony that being in the middle can provide. He doesnt like to choose a side, so much so that in a negative state mercury people are often stereotyped as “two-faced”, when they are usually just trying to maintain a good harmony with everyone they associate with, but may fail to really express how they truly feel to the person (which can cause problems down the line).
When it comes to our sense of taste, each planet rules one of the tastes, or “rasa” in sanskrit. For example the moon rules the salty taste, and jupiter rules the sweet taste. Mercury rules the “mixed” taste, or the savory taste as we often say, and what is referred to as “umami”. This is what MSG (monosodium glutamate) is designed to replicate. The taste can be created from the mixture of different chemicals and so is not easily created without being in the “middle” of a bunch of other chemicals, or tastes, we could say. Some examples of the umami, mixed taste of mercury would be the flavor that sauteed onions and garlic add to a dish, or the savory quality that tomatoes cause when cooked in dishes with other vegetables. The quality that aged wines develop is said to be umami. ( See Ernst Wilhelm’s Graha Sutras book for the best treatment I have found on the tastes of the grahas.)
Another example of Mercury being in the middle is the genders of the grahas (graha is the sanskrit word for planet). Sun, Mars and Jupiter are male grahas. Venus and Moon are female grahas. Saturn and Mercury are said to be neuter grahas. Again we see Mercury not necessarily choosing a side but preferring the middle place. Also, each planet is given an avatar that relates to that planet; such as the Sun is correlated to Prince Rama, the Moon to Krishna, etc. Mercury is connected to the Buddha. What did the Buddha eventually end up teaching after experiencing all paths? The “middle way”….
Now we can see how this old phrase happens to match so well with what we know about the most “middle” planet, who also happens to rule over one’s sense of curiosity, be it healthy or unhealthy…. Another saying we have to express the same sentiment is that someone is being “too nosey”. The nose is the organ of the sense of smell. Can you guess which of the five senses mercury rules?