Thursday 16 January 2014

Venus rising

Venus is about to make a return to our skies as Morning Star after a short period of invisibility, during which she joined with the Sun at her inferior conjunction. In my experience, few astrologers pay much attention to the cycles of Venus and Mercury, which have distinctive rhythms owing to the fact that they orbit between Earth and the Sun. Because Mercury is so close to the Sun, he's much more elusive than Venus and there's not the same level of mythology concerning his cycle. However, as one of the brightest objects in the sky, people through the ages couldn't fail to notice Venus as she comes and goes, growing brighter and dimmer, and as morning star and evening star. It's not difficult to see why she was associated with beauty, rhythm, harmony and so on.

But there's so much more to Venus than the superficial gloss we apply to her in chart analysis. Actually, the very word 'analysis' is anathema in this context. Venus doesn't analyse, she flows. She moves between phases and she moves between worlds, as in her Sumerian guise of Inanna and her descent to the Underworld, where her dark sister Ereshkigal reigned.

I've worked with Venus' phases for many years but recently I read a book called 'The Light of Venus' by Adam Gainsburg which takes the Venus cycle to a whole new level. He defines thirteen distinct phases – way beyond the four I was using. (You can find out more from his website But he also has some very interesting things to say about Venus herself. I think there's a tendency to trivialise Venus in astrology, linking her to a love of luxury and acquiring 'stuff,' wanting harmony in life and good d├ęcor in the home, and generally being nice to people because she wants everyone to love her. All surface stuff. Yet there's so much more to her than that, and as one of only two planets that embody feminine energy in the chart Venus deserves much better. (Yes, there's also a whole host of female asteroids, plus some female Centaurs and minor planets but they don't fulfil the same function as Moon and Venus, in my opinion).

So it seems only right to mention that behind the fairly nondescript figure of the Roman Venus stands a line of formidable – and at time terrifying – goddesses. I've already mentioned Inanna, who was stripped of everything as she moved deeper into her dark sister's realm. And still Ereshkigal demanded more of her, so that eventually Inanna gave up her life and her corpse was hung on a meat hook, rotting for several days before her rebirth and return to the upper world as Queen of Heaven and Earth. Then there's Aphrodite, the Greek Venus. No ordinary birth for her: she was the result of the union between the severed genitals of Ouranos, the sky god, and the sea (which is where his dangly bits landed). When you take into account the fact that the Erinyes (Furies) sprang from drops of Ouranus' blood, you get an idea of the power and energy behind the birth of Aphrodite. And, closer to home, we have the Irish Morrigan, goddess of love, sovereignty and death. In the latter form she was known as the Battle Crow, who fed on the corpses of slain warriors. The Irish hero Cuchulainn once spurned her. Tired out after a day on the battlefield, he declined her invitation to make love – not a wise thing to do to a goddess. It led to his downfall in the end, when he was faced with an impossible choice. All Irish heroes had many obligations or taboos laid upon them. Two of Cuchulainn's were never to refuse hospitality when offered, and never to eat dog (his totem animal). So when an old crone at the roadside invited him to join her in a meal of dog, he was doomed whatever choice he made. The crone, was, of course, the Morrigan in disguise. Cuchulainn died on the battlefield later that day and the other warriors only believed he was dead when the Battle Crow came to peck at his flesh. Oh, and the Morrigan's name is usually translated as 'Great Queen' – another nod to Venus.

This gives us a much more rounded picture of Venus and the kind of energy she embodies. She is the essence of femininity, encompassing love, war, relating and the desire to connect with others. In her morning star phase – when she rises before the Sun and is visible in the morning sky – she is assertive, aggressive even, and at times war-like. As evening star, having returned from her longest period of invisibility and her furthest point from Earth at the superior conjunction, she is much more measured, reflective and altruistic. She has travelled to the other side of the Sun and wants to use what she learned there for the greater good of society, humanity and ultimately the entire Earth community. Venus, like Neptune, is about interconnectedness but, as a personal planet, it's through Venus that we can bring that concept and understanding into our daily lives.

Another thing I think we tend to forget is that Venus is Earth's twin. The two planets are very similar in size and sit next to each other in the solar system. Though the length of their orbits are different, they're locked into a harmonious pattern. This means that for us on Earth five cycles of Venus are equal to eight Earth years. (As many of you will know, Venus' cycles during this period trace a beautiful five-pointed star around the zodiac). On a personal level this means that every eight years we experience a Venus return, to within one or two degrees. I will give a striking example of this in my next instalment.

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