The Head and the Heart
by Jenny Yates
There are times when the head and the heart diverge. Your head tells you, “This makes sense,” while
your heart tells you, “It doesn’t feel right.” Your head is already composing letters or speeches telling
everybody what you’ve decided, while your heart is demurring.
If your head ignores your heart, you may feel depressed. You may get a stomach-ache. Or you may just
find yourself doing something completely different from whatever you had decided to do.
In astrology, Mercury is the head. It’s the voice inside you which explains you to the world, and explains
the world to you. It’s the part of you that makes decisions, and that speaks and writes about these
decisions. It’s the side of you which learns, adding new information to the stock that you already have,
organizing it all in a form that you can use.
Mercury tells you to do whatever makes sense. What is the most reasonable response to the situation?
What stimulates you intellectually? What keeps you learning and growing?
The moon is the heart, in its ancient meaning as the center of your instinctive self. When it comes to
valentines and romance, Venus might claim to be the heart. But deeper than Venus, older than her
patterns, there is the moon. She represents the earliest relationship in your life, the connection with your
mother. She is about living life totally on the feeling-level, as a newborn does.
The moon’s message is to take care of yourself emotionally. What will make you feel most comfortable
and secure? What warms you, feeds you, nurtures you? What can you merge with? What can you trust
However, there are many variations on these “pure” messages of the moon and Mercury. For some
people, the head isn’t all that mental, and the heart is not all that emotional. In order to examine the
heart/head dynamic further, let’s look at the elements in which your moon and Mercury are found.
If either is in a fire sign, it will be connected with the drive for freedom and self-expression. With Mercury
in fire, you have to think for yourself, and act courageously on your ideas. This takes precedence over
pure logic. With the moon in fire, your emotions are direct, spontaneous and compelling, and sometimes
you’ll pick excitement over emotional safety.
If either one is found in an earth sign, it will operate on a more practical level. Your earthy Mercury is
the voice of an old sage or crone, telling you the best way to assure material success and physical
security. You focus on what is most logical in terms of immediate mundane realities. Your earthy moon
calls your attention to whatever grounds and sustains you emotionally, and physical safety plays the largest
role in this.
If either is found in an air sign, it will connect you to the world of abstract ideas, social theories, and
human relationships. Your Mercury in air allows you to think in pure forms, and also gives an awareness of
what others are thinking and saying. This is where Mercury is most intellectual. Your moon in air gives
lighter, freer emotions, and the capacity to distance yourself from them and examine them.
If either is in a water sign, it will be more instinctive and intuitive. Mercury in water is very subjective.
This is not a particularly logical Mercury, but it seems to give a good feel for the truth – proving that logic is
not everything. The moon is in her element in water, and with her here, you will dwell for a long time on all
Mercury and the Moon in the Same Element
When these two are in the same element, your head and your heart are usually in sync. When
something makes sense to you, it also has emotional appeal. When something seems natural to you, you
can find plenty of good reasons to go with the flow of feelings.
If both are in fire, you act spontaneously - both from your head and from your heart. You know you
have to move quickly to catch the opportunities that come your way, in order to experience a wide range of
possibilities, both intellectual and emotional. Life is too exciting to hold back.
Of course, the main drawback to all this fire is that you can be too impulsive. If something seems good
at the moment, you go for it. If either the moon or Mercury has hard aspects to Mars, this will increase the
force of your impulses – perhaps to a dangerous degree.
All this fire gives confidence, but it can also give arrogance. You don’t accept the fact that you might be
wrong – until much, much later. But this same confidence can mean taking on enormous challenges, and
winning against all odds. You’re a very definite person, with a positive outlook and a resolute
independence, and you’re always moving ahead into a future that you yourself create.
If both are in earth, you’re a much more cautious person. You think about the information that comes
from both sources – from your head and your heart – and weigh it for practicality and good sense. Both
your mind and your emotions are focused on the physical reality that surrounds you.
The difficulty is that, at times, you can miss opportunities, because you are afraid of letting go of
whatever is known and established. With your Mercury in earth, you don’t like to be on unfamiliar ground
intellectually. And with your moon in earth, you also have an emotional preference for stability and
Especially if the moon or Mercury have hard aspects to Saturn, you may limit yourself unduly. But the
advantage of all this earth is that you persevere until you accomplish your goals, no matter how long it
takes. With your practicality and realism, you take all the ordinary ups and downs in stride.
If both are in air, then the head definitely predominates over the heart. Mercury will always feel more at
home in air than the moon does. Yet, with the moon also in air, your emotional needs align nicely with the
intellectual interests that propel you.
All this air can mean being a little too spacey at times, and living too much in your mind. Unless you
have a few watery influences, you may have a hard time relating to anything that’s purely emotional or
An airy Mercury and moon can also give a great deal of nervous energy. Your heart responds to a
variety of interesting stimuli, and everything triggers a mental response as well. You may have trouble
winding down, relaxing, sleeping. You’re constantly responding to information, arriving from a variety of
The best part of all this air is that it makes you an interesting person, and a great conversationalist. You
never have trouble connecting to others.
If both are in water, then emotional realities tend to predominate. Your feelings are strong, although you
may not always feel safe enough to show them. And these strong feelings are echoed by your thought
processes. You start out thinking about how something feels, and proceed from there.
The disadvantage of all this water is that you can be very subjective about everything. It’s hard for you
to achieve distance. You follow your heart, and your mind goes right along with the agenda, busying itself
thinking up lots of reasons for you to move towards whatever feels good.
Sometimes this is about indulging your appetites. Sometimes it’s about forming beautiful, intimate bonds
with other people. Sometimes you lose track of important boundaries (especially if your moon or Mercury
has hard aspects to Neptune). But your rich, vivid emotions can give you many moments of bliss, as well.
Fire and Earth
Fire and earth take life at very different paces. The fiery part of you is always charging ahead, while the
earthy part of you puts on the brakes. The fiery part of you sees potentials. It has a powerful glamour, and
can carry you away to magical places. The earthy part sees actualities, and works hard to keep your feet
on the ground.
When Mercury is in fire and the moon in earth, you think with passion, but feel more prudently. You have
very ambitious ideas – but you may not always feel safe enough to implement them. Emotionally, you
prefer the status quo.
And so this combination can sometimes indicate the revolutionary talker who actually leads a rather
bourgeois life. Your words are exciting and challenging – but when you go home at night, you want
everything to be the same as it was yesterday.
If your head and heart work together, the stability and comfort of your domestic life can function as a good
foundation. It can support you while you go out and conquer the world.
When Mercury is in earth and the moon in fire, you think and speak more cautiously – in fact, sometimes
hardly at all – but inside, you feel everything intensely. People assume that you’re totally practical and
matter-of-fact, because of the language you use and the issues you raise. When they get close to you,
they may be amazed that there are so many passionate feelings simmering inside.
Your head is always nudging you towards the practical, efficient approach – but your heart pushes you
towards noble, dramatic gestures. And though you can live a very practical and realistic life, you do need
to listen to your heart, and to give it outlets. It’s important to express your ferocious love of life.
You could think of your earthy Mercury as a clay oven, in which you bake whatever you need for
sustenance. And the fiery moon is the inner flame that keeps that oven going.
Fire and Air
This is an easier combination that fire/earth was, but there is still some dissonance. The fiery part of you is
passionately immersed in larger ambitions, while the airy part of you is much more logical and reasonable.
There is much more focus with fire, while air generally likes to dance around and experience a little bit of
With Mercury in fire and the moon in air, you have a passionate mind and a more objective heart. Your
intellectual inclination is towards large, exciting projects, and you invariably point yourself towards whatever
promises the most drama, adventure and success.
Emotionally, however, you aren’t quite so focused. You like to do a number of things – to read books, to
call up friends, to surf the Internet. Without all this mental stimulation, you feel stifled and unhappy.
Your airy moon gives you excellent communication skills, and these can be a great tool for achieving your
exalted ambitions. You charm everyone with whom you come into contact, because you almost always
share some interests with them. This combination also makes it very easy to amuse yourself. The world is
always an interesting place for you.
When Mercury is in air and your moon in fire, you are logical on the surface, but passionate and excitable
underneath. Your heart is a propelling force, and you generally do things because you love to do them.
Your heart is kept busy figuring out how to make your dreams, desires and ambitions come true.
However, your mind sometimes hesitates, in a way that can be frustrating for you. You know what you
want. But your mind persists in checking out all the options, talking to people, examining information – as
though there were still choices to be made!
When they work together, your mind has the task of cooling down your heart. But it should never blow out
the flame completely.
Fire and Water
Both fire and water are very emotional, but in quite different ways. Fire wants to move through experiences
at a quick pace, while water wants to linger and feel everything. The fiery part of you is saying, “Hurry up,
let’s move on towards tomorrow!” while the watery part replies, “I’m not ready for that. I haven’t gotten over
the shock of getting to this point!”
When Mercury is in fire and the moon in water, you think quickly - but your feelings echo for a long time and
sometimes never fade completely. Your fiery Mercury can give a tendency to be impatient with people and
situations. And you can also be impatient with yourself, and with your own tendency to get weepy and
It’s very easy to see your watery moon as your weak side. If you deny or repress it, it can act out in ways
that aren’t healthy. You can be manipulative or insincere. Or you can start trying to feed your emotional
hungers with food or drink. You need to come to terms with the acute vulnerability that comes from a
Owning your moon is a key to happiness for you. Your fiery Mercury gives independence, drive, and a
fierce need to define yourself on your own terms. But this is not your whole self. When you let down your
guard, and allow yourself to fully experience your heart, then you are really whole.
When Mercury is in water and the moon in fire, your mind is open and impressionable, and your emotions
quick and fierce. You realize that life is not all that logical, and you trust your feelings and intuitions to tell
you what to do. At the same time, you’re always clamoring for more passion, more excitement, more
Water is more cautious than fire, so you don’t always find it easy to fulfill your own desires. If the situation
doesn’t feel right, you generally hold back. Safety comes first. Of course, sometimes the fiery moon gets
away from you, and you find yourself running away from your own mind, rushing off to do something mad
and risky and glorious.
When your head and heart work together, your excellent instincts help you to fulfill your heart’s desires.
You may not know exactly how to get where you want to go, but you do know what you want. And you can
feel your way there.
Earth and Air
The earthy part of you is practical and realistic, while the airy part of you is abstract. You can imagine this
combination as a gnome and a fairy. The gnome is always pulling on the fairy’s leg and demanding, “Get
down here! Deal with things!”, while the fairy yells back, “Let me go! I want to fly!”
When Mercury is in earth and the moon is in air, your mind is practical and sensible, but your heart tends to
float off into the clouds. In your heart, you’re a dreamer, and you see what’s beautiful and ideal - but you’re
also always conscious of the hard work and determination required to bring a dream to life.
The airy moon tends to be romantic, while the earthy Mercury focuses on survival skills. If they can work
together, you can build a life that supports you, and that gives you sufficient safety to pursue your romantic
The main danger of this combination is that your mind can step on your dreams, judging them “unrealistic”.
You may even make fun of the things that your heart wants. Or you may have a hard time making room for
them among all the “useful” things that you have to do. And if this is true, you lose something beautiful, and
you also lose the part of yourself that’s most open, flexible and curious.
When Mercury is in air, and the moon in earth, then your mind is most interested in abstract principles, but
your heart feeds on what’s alive and immediate. You seem very light and flippant on the outside, but you
have a realistic heart.
You enjoy information, communication, culture, word-games, and intellectual pursuits. But you don’t feel
truly safe unless you’ve figured out how to deal with the mundane details of life. You want money in the
bank, a well-stocked larder, a permanent home, a well-cared-for family, and these things give you a sense
of the world as a warm, secure, comfortable place.
Emotionally, you’re very cautious, and can sometimes get stuck. But your mind is always a wonderful
resource. Your mind kicks into gear whenever you feel that things aren’t moving along, and you start
talking to people, gathering information, and working out strategies. Eventually, you figure out a lifestyle
that’s both intellectual stimulating and emotionally grounding.
Earth and Water
This is usually not too difficult a combination - since both earth and water prefer security. The main
difference is that the earthy side of you focuses on physical data, while the watery side relies on instincts.
This can be like an interaction between a scientist and a mystic, with the scientist pulling out a microscope
and the mystic dusting off a crystal ball. They can look at the same things, and see them very differently.
When Mercury is in earth and the moon in water, your mind is pragmatic and your emotions are fertile and
imaginative. You deal with whatever is in front of you, focusing your attention on practical plans. But your
feelings go much deeper than this. You pick up the emotional energy around you, and you easily merge
with others. Your need for intimacy may not always be practical, but it’s necessary. You don’t feel you can
survive unless you can get close to other people.
And so, on the outside, you may live a life that’s simple, clear-cut, even materialistic. You focus on your
business, your land, your goals, your garden, your economic security. And yet only your intimates realize
how many vulnerable feelings swim beneath this surface.
So your head is thinking about what needs fixing or building, while your heart is busy picking out the
mushiest Valentine’s Day cards imaginable. When they work together, your head keeps you safe on a
physical level, while your heart gives you joy, pain, all sorts of powerful sensations, and lots of love.
When Mercury is in water, and the moon is in earth, you think and communicate in a free, fluid way, feeling
your way from one idea to the next. People either understand you immediately, because they can relate to
your unique world-view, or you seem a little alien to them. You may speak cryptically at times, and you can
refrain from expressing your ideas altogether when you’re in an unsympathetic environment.
But inside, you’re a very solid person, with a strong commitment to home, family and loved ones. You’re
more traditional and more conservative than you seem on the outside. Your ideas can be vague and
changeable, but you tend to base your feelings on definite, physical data. Someone you love is here, or
they’re not. You feel comfortable, or you don’t. You often look to your body to tell you how you feel.
When they work together, your earthy heart gives more substance to your watery mind. People soon
realize that they can count on you, because you value loyalty and stability above everything.
Air and Water
With air and water, the tension is between mind and emotion. This is the classic conflict between head and
heart, between the linear and the non-linear sides of you. The logical part of you wants everything to
make sense, while the emotional part is conscious of less clear-cut alternate realities. Your airy side
organizes, but your watery side feels and senses and becomes part of everything that’s felt.
When Mercury is in air and the moon in water, things are easier – since these are the elemental placements
that feel most comfortable. The danger here is that of compartmentalizing. In other words, you can have
an intellectual sphere and an emotional sphere. In the intellectual sphere (which is probably connected with
your work), everything has to make perfect sense. In your emotional sphere (which probably deals with
your family and romantic life), nothing has to make sense, and you can operate purely on instinct.
This can work fine until you have to make an important decision that impacts both areas of life. When this
happens, the airy Mercury can try to talk the watery moon out of her feelings. Or the watery moon can
sabotage the airy Mercury, sometimes by going on strike and refusing to cooperate with all those logical
and highly-organized plans.
When your head and heart work together, they can give a great deal to each other. Your intellectual gifts
and communication skills make for a very smooth and successful life, and the empathy and warmth of your
watery moon fills in all the gaps.
With Mercury in water and the moon in air, you have a complex and sometimes confusing pattern. Here,
Mercury follows the path of the heart, and the moon follows the path of the mind. You can feel at odds with
yourself some of the time.
The watery Mercury thinks according to instincts and intuitions, so it’s hard for you to know anything
absolutely. And yet you love knowledge. Your heart is inspired by the search for knowledge, and by
communication and connection. You love words, ideas, principles, relationships, and are always being
distracted by them.
The difficulty with this combination is that your heart is full of a variety of ideas, but you can’t always follow
through on them. You have to make sure that they feel right, and this means waiting until your instincts
give you the go-ahead. And if it never feels right, you may never get around to it.
How do you find ways for your watery Mercury and your airy moon to work together? You need to make
peace with the emotional information that comes from your watery Mercury, and respect the gems of truth
that are hidden there. And you need lots of mental stimulation – books to read, people to talk to – so that
you’re always dwelling in a vast field of interesting ideas.
In general, how do you reconcile the head and the heart? The only way is to look at each in turn, and to
figure out exactly what each one needs.
Your Mercury tells you how to make sense of the world around you. It gives you a coping mechanism, a
tool for self-expression, a structure for survival. The moon tells you how to satisfy yourself on a very basic
level. It tells you what you need to thrive emotionally as well as physically.
Mercury is more often felt as a conscious choice, while the moon can operate unconsciously. But the moon’
s needs are so strong that they can’t be ignored. Most people choose their mates, their homes, and their
meals on the basis of an unconscious “something” that really can’t be put into words.
You need to find ways to own both your Mercury and your moon. Accept each, and give each what it
needs, in order to express itself fully. Then you will understand yourself and your world, and you’ll feel at
home within your own psyche.
first published in American Astrology magazine
Aries, Leo, Sagittarius
Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces