Venus and the Divine Feminine
(Venus Retrograde in Virgo/Leo) July 27th-September 8th, 2007
First published on Myss.com.
As many of you may know, astrology is my favorite intuitive tool and I often write articles pertaining to various astrological cycles that we may be experiencing. Thus, for this article I thought it might be interesting to write about a cycle I haven’t yet addressed that has certainly been kicking my butt, oops – I mean giving me some pause…lol. I am talking about the current Venus retrograde that we are experiencing which began on July 27th. However, before we look at this cycle, let me just present a little bit about my philosophy regarding astrology and how I use it, as a refresher and introduction for those of you who are new to the idea that astrology can actually be used as a way to give meaningful context to your life experiences. Though there are many ways I can, and have articulated the way I view astrology; for this article, let me offer you this approach:
Imagine that before you were born your cosmic soul decides that, out of the numerous planets in the universe available, it wants to experience a creative journey on planet Earth. (Think about that for a minute—have you ever considered that this may not me the only planet you can come to? Or have you always just assumed that you only keep coming back here? It’s a massive universe folks!)
Having decided that Earth school looks good this time around necessitates that your soul first meet with what I call ‘Earth Guardians.’ These Beings tell you that if you are going to incarnate onto this planet, your soul must fuse with certain creative patterns and cycles that are already managing creation down here as part of your journey. Said another way, you incarnate into a certain historical context and time’s march forward by birthing at a precise moment on Earth’s timeline of evolution and creation. Yet, how have we come to understand and determine time on Earth as human beings?
The determination and creation of our modern concept of time began with ancient cultures, most notably the Babylonians, observing celestial and solar movements, the lunation cycle, and the seasons. Eventually this evolved and consolidated into a rich and elaborate way of seeing time as a cyclical, divinely designed, and archetypal process. Yet, as the rational mind took hold thousands of years later causing a divorce between astrology and astronomy, as well as a separation of the archetypal, intuitive, mythic mind and literal/logical mind, we lost touch with seeing the cycles of the planets and stars as being imbued rich meaning; a communication of sorts from the Gods that elucidates a divine plan and our role within that plan.
So though many may now only see time via calendar years, seasons, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes, and seconds; esoterically there exists a deeper soul beneath time’s passage that astrology, properly understood, speaks to; especially when it comes to discerning the unfolding of our purpose here on Earth.
That said, as we look together at this moment in time, astronomically we can observe that the planet Venus appears to be going backward in the sky because of her orbit and the Earth’s orbit around the Sun creating the phenomenon of retrogression—which is the apparent movement of Venus going backward in the sky. To understand what this means astrologically and soulfully, let’s first investigate the planet Venus as an archetypal force.
The Archetypal Venus
Understanding Venus as an archetype is essential to intuiting what her cycles of retrogression mean for us. Furthermore, we must also take a look at her mythic origins, and to do this we must go back to her predecessor, the Greek Aphrodite, which gave rise to this Roman Goddess.
In the Greek creation myths, Aphrodite was the last offspring of her archetypal parents Gaia (Earth – Divine Mother) and Ouranos (the starry heavens—Divine Father). She was mid-wifed into being when Chronos (Titan and last earthly child of Gaia and Ouranos), at the behest of Gaia, castrated his father Ouranos causing some of his semen to spill into the ocean (lovely image, I know!). Aphrodite rose full grown out of the foam this semen and ocean mixture produced (another nice visual!). She was immediately attended to by Eros (love) and Himeros (desire), and later personified both in the Greek myths.
From this much of the myth we can already see that Aphrodite symbolizes what results out of earth and time (Gaia/Chronos) castrating that which is timeless (Ouranos-Heaven) by embodying it into form. We get Aphrodite/Venus, which represents the union of both heaven and earth through a reconciled relationship fostered by both love and desire. Aphrodite thus symbolizes that which is timeless expressing itself through the beauty of form in a harmonious way.
Furthermore, Aphrodite/Venus represents the meeting of the sacred and profane, as well as the spiritual with the sexual and sensual/physical world. Venus shows us we must honor ourselves as being in relationship to not only both heaven and earth, but with each other as well, via love and desire for our own completeness in this life. What motivates us to want to be in relationship with each other most, if not a desire for our own completeness through love?
It is therefore through Venus that we discover the archetype of ‘relationship’ itself. And though relationships definitely are within the domain of Venus, we must not forget that we are living in a patriarchal time that does not make room for Goddesses, and our Judeo-Christian culture has stripped away the earthy nature of Venus as a component of experiencing the Divine through an authentic embodiment of our sensuality/sexuality. And without this Goddess integrated holistically into our psyches, our models of relationship are in dire need of deeper investigation…
Psychologically, for most of us our relationship models are formed from the primary relationship that we encounter between our parents. They are our Gaia and Ouranos. It’s usually around five years of age we begin to recognize that our parents are engaging in the emotional dance of relationship. Though we've been most aware of our mother since we were born (as she primarily attended to our emotional security early on) now we are coming to understand deeper levels of our father’s role in our development, and most importantly, we are being imprinted psychologically with the relationship model in which our parents are participating.
On a subtle level we are picking up that our parents are relating to each other in a way that establishes their individual relationships to self-esteem. Self-esteem is in fact a crucial component of the planetary archetype of Venus.
If you study the Greek myths of Aphrodite, you will begin to discover that, as the Goddess of love, she was not interested in loving others through a victim or savior mentality. She wasn’t interested in mothering or rescuing anyone, rather she was most desirous of partners who allowed her to experience her own pleasure and beauty through them. (As opposed to a lunar relationship which seeks fusion of identity with another in a maternal way.)
Yet, like the Moon, Venus is related to the feminine principle of life (anima) but they are very different urges within your psyche. Where the Moon archetype seeks emotional security and a sense of safety, Venus seeks the affirmation of having her reflection mirrored back to her by another--through relationships.
Relationships are the means of self-discovery for Venus--in terms of her essential worth. So, there is a narcissistic element to our beloved Venus; after all, she was a vain Goddess, full of selfishness and self indulgence.
Aphrodite/Venus was competitive and jealous of other Goddesses and mortal women. In one mythological example, Psyche (a mortal) possesses such beauty that she is compared to Aphrodite by others; something Aphrodite can’t tolerate, which leads to Aphrodite's plotting Psyche’s end!
This competitive killer instinct speaks to the darker aspects of this archetype, which manifest when it is blocked and are quite noticeable in our current culture ethos. If we can’t affirm ourselves and live congruent to an internalized sense of our true value, we are more prone to maneuvering in unethical, externalized, and immoral ways to attain more surface levels of affirmation; while clinging to surface values. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but what do we do when the eyes of our beholder do not see our beauty? What if our own eyes do not see our beauty? How do we affirm ourselves? How do we define what beauty is?
Beauty is itself an archetype, and is often found in what we value the most in life. Yet, Venus doesn’t operate in alignment to a social or religious ethic in terms of values and beauty, her ethics and aesthetic can only be truly grasped when one has found the lover within. Venus acts as a vessel for our life force that translates the raw power of our spirit into a fundamental life affirming value set that guides how we love ourselves and others. Still, I have met many people who seem to align themselves with a false Venus, one that is not intrinsically connected to their authentic values, but is, instead, a religious and socio-culturally conditioned and adopted response to life masquerading as values.
In that regard, I must reiterate that we live in a cultural ethos bereft of an authentic feminine Goddess energy. Most notably, we have lost touch with Venus, this beautiful Goddess of self-affirmation through sensuality, embodiment, relationships, and pleasure; you sure don’t see that in The Virgin Mary! How many people do you know that can really articulate and own what turns them on? Can you? Why not?
Sexuality indeed falls under the province of Venus, though not as a procreative act (the Moon) or need to dominate another (Mars) per se, rather a way to experience our own embodiment and pleasure. In becoming integrated in mind, body, and spirit we must connect to our senses, bodies, and the Earth. As a culture we have barely grasped the deeper spiritual elements of sexuality, let alone let ourselves openly experience how it can affirm our lives, something the Kama Sutra sought to elucidate.
Some 4000 years ago, as the Patriarchy swept in, Goddesses began to lose their prominence and place in the world and in us; their temples were destroyed, and many women became the possessions of men.
And now we are left with mainly darker faces of Venus, which is no doubt due to our current disconnection from the Divine as a feminine and earthly force. It’s been my observation that the only way that we--as a culture and as individuals, especially women--can access this fundamental part of ourselves is through the more destructive archetypal forms of the Goddess because she is culturally being help captive in the shadow.
For example, as many women seek to accomplish the various current social standards of beauty, many seem unconscious that they are aspiring to embody a beauty standard that men, for the most part, have created for them; a standard that often results in self-hate and demands gratuitous plastic surgery, not to mention other considerable health risks. I doubt that women one day held a convention and decided exclusively as women that breast implants and surgical face-lifts were good ideas!
Venus wouldn’t stand for such a thing--unless such impulses came from an inner vision of beauty and value of self. Nor would she let herself be owned by anyone.
If you are a man, don’t think that you are off of the hook! In an astrological birth chart, everyone has a Venus (and a masculine Mars energy for that matter). Thus we all have to form a relationship with this energy as part of our sacred contract. Yep, Venus is a Goddess that demands that men form an inner relationship with her principle, as well, instead of projecting her onto women whom they may then seek to own as a way of recapturing a disowned part of themselves.
In addition, in a turned around expression of the same repressed Venus issue, beauty standards for men are emerging as The Adonis Complex, which deals with an obsession in attaining a perfect body, like Adonis who was a mortal with whom Aphrodite fell in love.
Venus is the archetypal force that urges us to discover and identify what we value and give form to that through personal choices, thus laying the foundation of our authenticity. Our choices in love, beauty, and life are often the real evidence of what we value most and least in life--values are what we live, not necessarily what say we believe. So, do you value yourself? Does it show in your choices every day?
With these questions, and some of archetypal principles outlined, we are now moving toward the themes of this Venus retrograde, and the questions that we should be asking ourselves during this time.
Venus Retrograde in Virgo/Leo
Venus retrogrades do not occur with the same regularity of Mercury (a process I have greatly written about – see my website for more info). In fact, Venus goes retrograde about every 564 days – which is about every year and a half, and then stays retrograde for approximately forty days, whereas Mercury stays retrograde for only twenty one days and does so three times a year. What this means in terms of experiencing the Venus retrograde cycle is that it can be a bit jarring for the psyche, as its retrograde energy in less familiar to the usual collective and personal psychic rhythm we experience with other planetary archetypal cycles.
That said, on July 27th Venus appeared to stand still in the sky, and then began to move backwards in the early degrees of the zodical sign Virgo. Take a moment and think about what was going on in your life then, and what has transpired since then that is relative to the archetypal energy of Venus that I’ve already mentioned. What issues surfaced two weeks or so ago that dealt with love, affirmation, money, emotional resources, values, and expression of your sexuality?
As she went retrograde, Venus was wearing a Virgo garment which means she first began her retrograde alchemy by instructing us to begin a deep process of discrimination against that which does not serve our holism (Virgo) in the area of relationship models, values, and inner integrity. In addition, if we look to the word ‘Virgo’ which is Latin for ‘virgin’ we can find some other themes to this initial retrograde energy.
The word ‘virgin’ originally had little to do with sex. We find that its original context and usage was to denote women who could not be possessed by a man through marriage because they were in allegiance to and owned by the divine through which they gave service (which sometimes was sexual!). Quite simply, virgins were originally priestesses and harlots of temples. Thus being a virgin had nothing to do with chastity, rather it implied that a woman could not be owned by a man; she was off limits and solely possessed herself to allow the Divine to flow through her unimpeded, in a pure way. So can you imagine what Venus’ brief retrograde in Virgo was bringing up for many folks two weeks ago?? How about the Sacred Prostitute archetype for starters!
Nonetheless, your own personal relationship with Venus and her retrograde cycles demands that you come to know what is personally right and wrong for you as you continue to mature into your authenticity and how that is measured against the values that society and culture feeds you daily. Thus, this retrograde period brings with it a time during which we all must reassess where in our lives our values are in need of refreshing. I think it’s important to recognize the ways we are continually told by our media and culture that we should continue to find value in the same thing for the whole of our lives. For example, we are told to keep valuing our youth and fight aging; keep valuing your affiliation with a political party—even if they prove themselves unworthy of your allegiance via corrupted values; keep valuing your wedding vows, though they were taken by an older version of yourself that has grown beyond them; keep valuing the stability of your job though it has become claustrophobic.
If only the psyche were that static! The soul is here for experience, not security. And our values should change as we age and mature, no? What one held in esteem in their 20’s hopefully isn’t the same when they are in their 50’s.
Each Venus retrograde asks us to take forty days and deeply look at our values and their relevance to our soul’s current needs in a certain area of our life. And with Venus currently retrograding back into the zodiacal sign of Leo (which precedes Virgo), the discord we may be feeling signifies the amount of distance that has formed between our ego and the fundamental core passions, values, and higher creative inspirations of our soul. In synchronicity, Venus is retrograding over the degrees of Leo that Saturn just traversed, highlighting our deepest needs to source our sovereignty (capacity to creatively rule our lives) from within while having just animated further issues to come this fall when Saturn crosses into Virgo.
As the whole planet experiences the retrograde, I feel that this is also a time of global review of Venus’ themes. One can already see issues of international diplomacy (relationships and values) being heightened. The United States is currently negotiating a review of what is considered diplomatic in the Middle East, most notably with Iran. We need to pay attention here folks, because we must be conscious of what is necessary to maintain a national sense of integrity. At this crucial time all democratic nations are being called on to define what their core values of diplomacy are, and whether the choices they make will indeed reflect a true democratic world view. Will we really respect the sovereignty (Leo) other nations as a fundamental principle of democracy? Or only do so when it’s convenient for our nationalist agendas?
In some astrological texts, there have been many correlations made between the later half of the Venus retrograde period, and serious mistakes made by world leaders. We are now entering the later half of the Venus retrograde as the Venus joins up with the Sun in Leo today (August 17th), demarcating the mid-point of the cycle. Let’s hope our world leaders are guided to hold the line of democratic integrity…hell, let’s do better than hope, let’s pray!
Personally this means that you should be attentive to the Venus’ themes that are now more obvious to you in your life, as they will reach a crescendo in about a week’s time when Venus then emerges from its alignment with the Sun to become the ‘morning star’ again, which you will be able to visibly see in the morning sky by mid-September.
More superficially, this retrograde phase can also address the ways in which we give outer expressions to our inner values via what we wear, the music we listen to, what we find beautiful and artistic, and the social circles we gravitate toward. Venus was known to the Romans as elegantiae arbiter – the arbiter of good taste, after all. Maybe it’s simply time for some new style! Goddess knows I am sick of my wardrobe!
On a serious note, I have so far seen this retrograde affect the various personal and professional relationships of my friends and clients by awakening them to the realization that they currently are engaged in relationships that do not adequately support their own values and needs to be fully expressive and self-possessed. So many are currently planning a much needed exit strategy!
However, I want to help you ascertain where this retrograde might most apply to you. Thus, what follows are some questions to help you work with the energy of this cycle productively, as well as some Venus archetypes you might need to dialogue with:
Questions to help identify your Venus retrograde themes:
What affirms your life and gives you a sense of personal value, fulfillment, beauty, and pleasure? What do you find attractive? What turns you on? Are these things being challenged for review?
What are the ways in which you adorn yourself to feel beautiful? How do you feel about your body? Do you take time for your looks? What is your style of dress reflect about you?
What kind of experiences do you tend to attract in love relationships? How do you like to be affirmed in relationships? What is your ideal mate like? What archetype would that be defined as and do you play the opposite role in your relationship myths (Like the Knight and the Damsel?)
What do you value most in friendships? What are your artistic tastes? What music do you like? What do you find beautiful?
Are you competitive and jealous of others that seem to possess what you feel you lack or would like to have? How do you manifest that urge? How do you respond to being ignored? Do you need a lot of external attention to validate your own worth?
Are the choices you make in life in alignment with your values? Or do they betray what you say you value and reveal something else?
What do you consider to be your worth? What will you sell yourself for? What can buy you?
How do you feel about your experience of sexual pleasure? Do you find sex sinful or ecstatic? Do you ‘spiritualize’ your sexuality such that it’s discounted as a Divine part of you? Can you openly experience sexual energy as an integral facet to all of life—such as in a flower, chocolate, or fine wine?
Read over the following of archetypes and see if any seem to be animated for you during this Venus retrograde and why. What do they need you to recognize about your values and personal power?
The Goddess, The Lover, The Prostitute, The Courtesan, The Geisha, The Harlot, The Femme Fatale, The Artist, The Plastic Surgeon, The Super Model, The Temptress, The Jeweler, Artemis, Galadriel, The Beautician, The Make-up Artist, The Hedonist, The Sex Addict, The Celibate, The Virgin, Circe, Aphrodite, The Don Juan, The Enchantress, Eros, Casanova, The Companion, The Consort, The Empress, The Damsel, The Flirt, The Promiscuous One, The Slut, The Gigolo, The Farmer, The Builder, The Musician, The Queer Eye Guy, The Sensualist, The Sacred Whore, The Mediator, The Renunciate, The Sadist, The Masochist, The Sexual Healer/Therapist, The Priestess, The Princess, The Sculptor, The Architect, The Vampire, The Tramp, The Counselor, The Materialist, The Plastic Surgery Addict, The Vain One, The Jealous Lover, The Unrequited Lover, The Mirror, The Diva, The Vixen, The Siren, The Anorexic, The Gym Rat, The Tantrist, The Architect, The Princess, The Landscaper, and The Florist.
Venus will end her retrograde on September 8th. Until then, spend some time with her. Invite her to dinner. Of all the Goddesses in the Roman and Greek pantheon, she’s the one who will appreciate your attention the most! And as you honor her, you will honor yourself.