Venus Retrograde and the Synodic Cycle

Imagine a circle. Imagine this circle represents 2920 days. Divide that circle into ten equal parts. Split these parts into alternate divisions of dark and light (or black and white) and voila, you have reproduced the elegant design of the Venus synodic cycle.

The Venus synodic cycle (VSC) is a natural work of near-perfect symmetry, a celestial tracing of humanity’s most universal symbol, the five-pointed star. (1) Venus is the brightest light in the sky after the Sun and Moon, and knowledge of its patterns and phases is no less fundamental to the development of astronomy than the cataloging of solar and lunar eclipses. The astrological study of the VSC goes back at least to the Babylonian era (2nd to 1st millennia B.C.), predating and contributing to the emergence of horoscopic astrology.

2920-day pattern

Since the 2920-day VSC is nearly the length of eight years (2922 days), solar return charts cast at eight-year intervals following birth always place Venus close to its given natal position. Moreover, the synodic cycles of Venus and Mars coincide in the 32nd and 64th solar returns, in which both planets are in close proximity to their respective natal positions. Nativities with a pronounced dynamic between those two planets, whether that means having them in close aspect in the nativity, or because the Ascendant / Descendant axis is under their rulership axis of Aries / Libra or Taurus / Scorpio, often see their astrological Venus / Mars dynamic come to life at these milestone ages.

Rising and setting phases

Within the 2920-day cycle, Venus alternates between its rising and setting solar phases a total of ten times, five for each phase. (2) Venus shifts between rising and setting phases every nine and a half months, and every successive shift begins with a Venus-Sun conjunction, alternating between exterior and interior conjunctions. (3) When Venus shifts from a rising to setting phase, it has accelerated toward the Sun, disappearing from its morning star phase toward its exterior conjunction with the Sun. However, when Venus shifts from its setting to rising phase, it has slowed down to a stop and reversed course in a twist / swirl motion back toward its interior conjunction with the Sun.

Different astrological traditions offer differing distinctions between morning and evening star Venus, but in my experience the truth is more nuanced than many of these claims. I’ve seen a fairly even distribution of both morning and evening star Venus amongst the hundreds of nativities of politicians, military leaders, revolutionaries, artists, sports figures, etc., that I’ve studied closely. The difference between the two becomes acute when considered in individual nativities, where Venus’ placement in one of the four quadrants of a chart provides necessary context.

Backward in zodiacal order

Since the duration of the VSC falls just two days shy of an exact eight-year solar cycle, the point at which the cycle completes itself always occurs about 2-3 calendar days and 2-3 zodiacal degrees earlier than the previous return. For instance, Venus’ next interior conjunction with the Sun occurs on January 9, 2022 at 18°43’ Capricorn, whereas eight years ago it occurred on January 11, 2014 at 21°11’ Capricorn. Eight years prior to that it stationed at 23°40’ on January 13, 2006, and so forth. With this pattern, the tropical signs where Venus retrogrades occur shifts backward in zodiacal order every 120 years. The Venus retrograde transit in Capricorn happened in Aquarius through most of the 20th century, and then in Pisces back in the 19th, and so forth. It takes 251 years for the retrograde and direct stations to land on the same zodiacal degrees.

Retrograde station conjunct Pluto

Transiting Venus will station retrograde at 26°29’ Capricorn on December 19th, whereas eight years ago it occurred at 28°58’ on December 21, 2013. However, this upcoming retrograde interval is unique relative to its precedents because the station occurs within a degree of conjunction to transiting Pluto at 25°32’.

The transit cycle alignment of Venus retrograde and Pluto comes and goes in phases about twice per century, although Venus stations occurring this close to Pluto are considerably more rare. Venus stationed direct within four degrees conjunction to Pluto in Scorpio, back on November 25, 1986, and most other Venus retrograde and direct stations that have occurred close to Pluto have maintained a range of 4-6 degrees orb. However, Venus did station retrograde exactly conjunct Pluto in Cancer on July 25, 1916, a period in history so grim it makes 2020 look like 2015. In the midst of the First World War, it was a period of particularly horrific military engagements that I hesitate to detail here.

The last time Venus stationed retrograde conjunct Pluto in Capricorn was on December 20, 1770 during a slight pause in an impending outbreak of the bubonic plague in Russia.(4)Most likely carried by soldiers returning from war in Turkey, it reached Moscow in late 1770, but was thought to be contained until a cold spell subsided. Soon enough, the disease was killing 800 Muscovites daily. (5)

Revolution and change

Venus represents social consensus, the accepted norms that most citizens can agree on. The Venus retrograde transit, occurring once every nineteen months for a duration of about 40-42 days, marks a time when this consensus comes up for review. New standards are set as outdated values are reformed, behavior that might be taboo for one generation is advocated by the next. Global society leaves 2021 with some understanding of what it means to adapt to a “new normal”, but who can say how anyone might react to the “newer normal” 2022 has in store?

Footnotes:

(1) “Synod” is derived from the Greek synodos for “meeting place”, in this case referring to a cyclical relationship between two bodies.

(2) Venus is in its rising phase when it precedes the Sun in zodiacal order and therefore rises into view on the eastern horizon prior to sunrise. Venus is in its setting phase when it follows the Sun in zodiacal order and therefore sets on the western horizon following sunset.

(3) Exterior conjunctions, also known as superior conjunctions, refer to a horizontal alignment placing the Sun centred between Venus and Earth. Interior conjunctions, also known as inferior conjunctions, refer to a horizontal alignment placing Venus centred between Earth and the Sun.

(4) With a wider ten-degree orb in this instance.

(5) Rounding, Virginia. Catherine the Great (pp. 226-227). St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Bio: Nick Dagan Best was converted to astrology while on the road to Damascus on January 17, 1995. He trained with a variety of astrology teachers in the NYC NCGR program between 1997-2000. In the summer of 1999, he was introduced to Hellenistic astrology at a series of Project Hindsight conclaves. Inspired, he soon began focusing his studies on planetary synodic cycles. An avid researcher, Nick has amassed a Solar Fire database of event and natal charts totalling over 40,000 entries. He is available for consultations at nickdaganbestastrologer.com

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