Astrology as if the Sky Matters: Venus Retrograde

We are about to experience an extremely rare celestial event, wrapped within another relatively rare one. Venus is retrograde least often of all the planets; she does her backward dance only every 19 months, for a little more than 40 days each time. This time, Venus is making an extended stay in the sign of Gemini, traversing back and forth through the sign of the Twins for four months, from April 3 to August 7. On average, she spends only four weeks in any sign, so this is a significant burst of Gemini energy.

In the midst of this retrograde, beginning on May 15, we have the fabled “Transit of Venus,” where Venus will be seen crossing the solar disk, for the second (and last) time in a period of more than 200 years. The previous Venus transit to the current pair (i.e., 2004 and 2012) was December 1882, and the next transit of Venus will be in December 2117.  The rarity of this transit makes it obvious to me that the themes of Gemini are being powerfully activated in our times. These themes have to do with discovery (or re-discovery), learning, and communication of basic facts.

Over the last 20 years, we have seen a movement toward recovery and translation of our ancient astrological source texts, mostly by academics within the astrological community.  This is important work, but just as vital is the recovery and reintroduction to modern astrology of the observational and astronomical skills, an even more ancient heritage. This process was begun shortly after the translations became a well known factor in the astrological community, but, in my opinion, has yet to receive the same kind of generalized press and support. (1) We need to continue to remember to look up from our desks and our charts and re-learn how to understand what we see in the actual sky! I have found that a basic awareness of the nature of Venus (and other planets) as visible phenomena has the capacity to deeply enrich and enliven our field and each of us, both as professionals and as people.

The understanding of Venus as a visible phenomenon is the focus of my essay in the forthcoming book, Astrology: The New Generation (ATNG), in which I outline the Venus cycle in terms of a three-fold process. (2)  Visually speaking, Venus has three incarnations: Morning Star, Invisible (or Underworld), and Evening Star. We can see the flow of these three “phases” in the following diagram.

Diagram rendered by Vanessa J Keys © 2011 Gary P Caton

Venus’ visible cycle begins with her eastern appearance as Morning Star, which lasts about 258 days. This is separated from her western appearance as Evening Star by 60 days of darkness (invisibility), as she slowly passes through the crucible of the solar fire during her superior or exterior (direct) conjunction with the Sun. Venus then spends another eight months or so shining in the west as Evening Star. So, about 95% of Venus’ visual cycle involves a slow transmutation of over 18 months, and includes her morning star, underworld, and evening star incarnations. (It is18 months from first morning appearance to last evening appearance.)

Venus’ retrograde period, which lasts only 40 – 43 days, is about 5% of 584 days, the total synodic cycle. It also contains all three of Venus’ visible phases. But, in stark contrast, what previously took 18 months to unfold, we will now experience in a mere 14 or so days! If you begin watching the sky every evening, you will soon see Venus, one of the brightest stars in the sky, rapidly dim, disappear, and then reappear in the opposite part of the sky, that is, the eastern morning sky. This is a very dramatic transformation! Visually, what stands out the most is not so much Venus’ backward motion, but her rapid disappearance and change of horizons. What was previously established and slowly transformed, over the last 18 months, is now rapidly swept away. (3)

This rapid transformation has a parallel in the mythology associated with Venus. As I note in my essay for ATNG, many scholars have noted that the Mesopotamian myths surrounding Inanna seem to be clearly referencing the movements of the planet Venus. Most notable is that in mid-life, Inanna makes a prolonged journey to the Underworld, just as the planet Venus has an extended period of invisibility in the middle of her cycle. (4) However, it is what happens to Inanna in her early life that seems to parallel the retrograde part of Venus’ cycle.

Older than the Bible, the myth of Inanna and the Huluppu Tree is one of the earliest known recordings of a Genesis story. Central to this story is a theme that has become universal to many other creation myths, that of the World Tree or Tree of Life. The Tree is just one representation of what has become a larger mythical motif, the Axis Mundi, which exists at the center of the Universe and is the place of connection between Heaven and Earth.

Early in the story of Inanna and the Huluppu Tree, we are told that the Gods and Goddesses have participated in the formation of three Worlds: Sky, Earth, and Underworld. At that time a single Tree was planted by the banks of the Euphrates River, but then a great storm arose and carried the Tree downriver. The young Inanna finds the Tree and decides to plant it in her sacred garden in Uruk. (5)

Based on interpretations of later parts of the myth of Inanna, this could be interpreted as an allegory for the “socio-political tides” moving to Uruk as their center, or Axis Mundi, at least in the Earth World. (6) In the Sky World, this could very well be an allegory for the movement of the fabled Star of Venus. When any important turning point in the cycle of Venus is plotted for five or more consecutive cycles, a remarkable pattern emerges — a five-pointed star!  This phenomena is covered expertly and extensively in Arielle Guttman’s book Venus Star Rising. (7) Similar to the Tree swept downstream in the myth, successive interior conjunctions of Venus (i.e., the retrograde conjunction of Venus with the Sun as Venus passes between the Sun and Earth) occur about 216° – 220° degrees “downstream” in the Zodiac. For instance, the previous interior conjunction occurred October 28, 2010 at 6° Scorpio. The next one occurs 584 days later on June 5, 2012 at 16° Gemini. The next one after that is January 11, 2014 at 22° Capricorn.

Besides visually passing from her Evening Star, through the underworld, and into her Morning Star phase, Venus’ retrograde establishes a new “seed moment,” where the foundation or wellspring of Venusian energies for the next 19 months is established. The following diagram, also designed for my essay in ATNG, displays this from a heliocentric point of view.

Diagram rendered by Vanessa J Keys © 2011 Gary P Caton

As you can see, the beginning of Venus’ retrograde phase (her retrograde station, #13 in diagram above) is at the end of one journey around the Sun, and the direct station (#3 in diagram above) is at the beginning of another. So, there are two kinds of Venus retrograde. In the situation now, the period from May 15-June 4 is the ending of her previous Scorpio-based journey round the Sun, whereas the period from June 6-27 is the beginning of her new Gemini journey.

In between, Venus aligns with the Sun and Earth, passing between them at interior conjunction (#1 in diagram above), which is on June 5. This is the “seed moment” for a new cycle, as the Heroine Venus/Inanna prepares to set off again for another 1.6 year (19 month or 584 day) adventure. As I said above, this new Gemini cycle, which begins in the heart of this retrograde period — at a rare Transit of Venus — will be about discovery (or re-discovery), learning, and communication of basic facts. But as Arielle Guttman pointed out in her recent newsletter, these are not intellectual facts, but rather the “facts of the heart.” (8)

Venus always wants us to go deeper into our hearts and heart-centered ways of being. She is currently out-of-bounds north and stationary. This has stirred up some major controversy over “values” recently, from the ban on same-sex marriage by voters in North Carolina, to the breastfeeding mother on the cover of TIME. (9) In this whipped up frenzy, we may find ourselves, like Inanna, in need of rescuing and re-planting our uprooted center. Just like Inanna and her Huluppu tree, we can plant our intentions for our growth into a heart-centered life. But first we must prepare the soil in the sacred gardens of our psyches and our lives to receive this new seed. Like good gardeners, we must clear away the detritus of the old Scorpio cycle and put it into the compost heap, and then plow the fields clean for the new Gemini cycle.

In summary, I feel this Venus cycle of the next 19 months, and indeed the next 105 years (until the next Transit of Venus), is about creating a World in which heart-centered communication thrives. At its most basic, this means valuing, developing, and refining emotional intelligence and communication skills in relationship, as well as the concept of “right relationship” — because all Life is in relationship. We have a long ways to go, but the journey starts with a single step. The realization necessary for this step, and each step after that, is summarized in the Lakota prayer: Aho Mitakuye Oyasin – We are all related. (10)

References & Recommended Reading:
(1) Daniel Giamario published groundbreaking articles on this topic in The Mountain Astrologer in Feb/Mar 1997 and Aug/Sept 2002. This material can also be found in the booklet, A Shamanic Investigation of Venus and Mars, JCA Unlimited (Tucson, Arizona), 1997. Shamanic Astrology

(2) Gary P Caton, “The Visual Journey of Venus as Heroine and Goddess of Re-birth” in Astrology: The Next Generation, Flare Publications, London, 2012. Flare UK

(3) “Swept away” is a reference to the flood that swept Inanna’s tree downstream; visually, she is retrograde, the Sun is moving toward her, and she rapidly disappears.

(4) Wolkstein and S. Kramer, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns, from Sumer, Harper & Row, 1983, p.137. Diane Wolkstein

(5) Readers can find the myth of Inanna and the Huluppu Tree online here,
and some interpretations of the myth at these links:

(6) Uruk is Inanna’s city. Later in the mythological story she goes to Enki’s city, Eridu, and takes the civilizing powers of the gods from Eridu back to Uruk. On Earth, this myth would seem to be a metaphor for events of an early period when political authority passed from Enki’s city of Eridu to Inanna’s city of Uruk. Since the tree comes downriver to her and she plants it at Uruk, this is a foreshadowing of that later event.

(7) A. Guttman, Venus Star Rising: A New Cosmology for the 21st Century, Sophia Venus Productions (Santa Fe, NM), 2010. Venus Star Rising

(8) A. Guttman, Venus Star Point, Issue # 12 — May 2012

(9) One mother describes what she calls her “natural parenting values” in this Huffington Post article.

(10) Wikipedia

Bio: Gary P. Caton is an eclectic Astrologer who embraces an organic process-oriented approach of spiritual exploration via the Living Sky. Gary has studied Spirituality for over 23 years. After exploring Shamanism and the Tarot, in 1993, his life was changed by a magnificent Dream where he was shown planetary alignments and became an Astrologer. Gary earned a degree in Counseling with honors and has developed a unique multi-discipline path to practicing Astrology over 19 years. Visit Gary at his website: Dream Astrologer.

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