The Many Myths of Venus; or, How to Decode Venus Retrograde

Cover art (c) Janet Hill, “Venus in Her Lair”


Summary: This article is a deconstruction of Venus’ 584-day cycle around the Sun as seen from our perspective. In it, I will go over the two distinct phases of Venus (Morning Star and Evening Star), then wrap up with an examination of Venus Rx and how to work through the upcoming transit. For source material, please see footnotes and references section for additional information on this phenomenon.


Because it has been a while since I’ve posted, I thought it would be fun to return with a namesake post, which is to say I haven’t talked about Venus nearly as much as I should be on my blog (you can blame the Saturn Return brainrot I’ve been having for that). I also wanted to take advantage of the timing: Venus ends her 18-month cycle and stations retrograde on December 19th at 26° Capricorn. As with the other inner planet retrogrades, this infrequent transit is prone to cause a bit of a fuss in the astrology community. But is this occasional backstep that our Lady of Love makes in the sky truly one to fear?

Stream Sailor Venus music | Listen to songs, albums, playlists for free on  SoundCloud
I can imagine the heyday Bustle is having with publishing articles on how relationships are going to end, how you might go into bankruptcy, and how nothing will be enjoyable for the next 40 days. / Image (C) Viz Media.

I think instead it’s more useful to reframe Venus retrograde not as a temporary banishment of anything fun or light, but as a time to practice loving yourself through discipline. What I mean by that is, is that it’s important to abstain from a vice, habit, or person that causes you harm. All three, if you find that necessary. And should you remain skeptical, consider Buddha’s fasting, Jesus’ wanderings in the desert, and Inana’s descent into the underworld. In the same 40-day window that Venus finds herself wandering, all have chosen to abandon their worldly wants at the gate in order to turn inward. Isn’t it amazing that we are able to mirror the universe’s rhythm even when we aren’t conscious of it?

Of course, these 40 days are just the end of what I previously mentioned was an 18-month cycle, which is itself part of an 8-year cycle. During Venus’ 18-month journey, the concluding Retrograde phase is an ideal time to practice a form of abstinence; put another way, Venus retrograde is asking us how we can find the source from within. To make the upcoming retrograde easier to process, it might help to first understand how Venus dances in the sky(1).

Venus’ cycle begins at inferior conjunction, the point at which she folds herself in between the Earth and the Sun. In this phase of her journey, she is hidden from view for about two weeks due to the Sun’s rays blotting her out. Thereafter, she then becomes visible in the pre-dawn sky, rising before the Sun as the brilliant morning star. 36 days later — roughly 5 weeks — Venus’ light is at its peak, marking her as the brightest celestial body of the morning.

The obvious draw to make is that this part of Venus’ cycle is named after Lucifer, the Morning Star. In theory, this would solve our association of her to all things indulgent and excessive. After all, is it not Luicifer — often equated in modern pop-culture as Satan — who tries to tempt us into straying from the path by entertaining distraction? Not to mention the timing of her cycles (all multiples of 6) coincide with blanket association of “666” to mean all things devil worship. Clearly the Greeks were like, so ahead of the Bible.

Ol’ homeboy is definitely out here looking familiar . . . / Image (C) Netflix.

We will say here then that it isn’t Lucifer which inspired the traits of Venus but the opposite. Closer examination of Lucifer’s appearance in the Bible confirms this; as it follows in the King James Version, Isaiah 14:12 proclaims:

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

On an allegorical level, the idea of Lucifer the Morning Star rebelling against God and the established order is presumed arrogance on the angel’s part, for they believed they deserved to rule over man. The historical context around this scripture is more straightforward: around 740 B.C., the prophet Isaiah was predicting Babylon’s end at the hands of an invading army for its purported wickedness. These scriptures warn of a city gone astray from its roots, a city whose prosperity would not last for they turned their allegiance away from God. Wouldn’t it be, then, that the Babylonians’ prosperous reign gave too much credence to excess, a notorious “shadow” trait that Venus is known for in astrology?(2)

More recent attempts to decode this Morning Star/Evening Star concept comes from astrologer Michael Meyer. In his series “Venus Morning Star, Venus Evening Star,” he deconstructs Venus’ phases by prescribing some of the above associations to add more layers of meaning. For Lucifer Venus, Meyer describes those born during this phase as “direct and demonstrative with regard to feeling, and they tend to have an open and optimistic approach to life and relationships.” He goes on to suggest that Lucifer Venus types can endure social rejection with more grace (depending on how fresh out of the retrograde phase this Venusian type is), and that it is preferred to “fit in” in order to make it easier to contribute to great social causes. There is good reason to believe that Lucifer’s ability to sweet-talk angels into rebellion with them and rally others around a “good faith” cause is more intimately connected to our Lady of Love than what first seems!


If you want to test out the energy of differing Venus phases, begin documenting some observations of people’s behavior once this Venus Rx ends in January. Do you feel the people around you are more generous with their time or finances? Willing to help you when you need it? In yourself, do you notice it a lot easier to socialize with others?


Hesperus Venus, the Evening Star

Halfway through Venus’ travels in the sky (which is 9 months, or 216 days), she meets up with the Sun again in superior conjunction, thusly granting her maxium distance from the Earth. It is this distance, combined with her hiding behind the Sun’s rays, that Venus keeps hidden for two whole months. Afterwards, she appears once more, this time dressed for us as Hesperus Venus. It should be worth noting here how remarkably symmetrical Venus’ cycle is — compared to her early start in her Lucifer phase, she waits near to the end in her Hesperus phase to peak, her body most brilliant in the sky around day 540 (which is 36 days before the cycle resets again at inferior conjunction). Talk about consistent!

As for the myth: before it was known that Venus the Morning Star and Venus the Evening star were one in the same, the name Hesperus was granted to Evening Venus. Of himself, he is a minor god, oft celebrated by ancient Greek poets and sailors for being “the fairest star in the heavens.” It would seem that, unlike the easy-to-make associations the name “Lucifer” grants us with our modern-day view of Venus, the most interesting thing about “Hesperus” is just the drama of figuring out to which set of gods he was born to, no further depth involved.

(Just kidding. Let’s try again.)

It’d be a better use of time to ignore the direct convention of naming for this second, instead focusing on what happened after the Greeks accepted the Babylonian theory that Venus was just one planet. The deities Eosphoros and Hesperus were combined into Aphrodite, whose tale is most famously documented by the poet Hesiod in his work Theogony: two generations before Zeus’ birth, the titan Ouranos kept his children stuffed inside the earth for he was full of hatred for them. These actions angered Gaia to the point of desiring revenge, and so recruited her son Kronos to castrate his father when he came to lay down with her. The viscera that fell from the sky that night disappeared into the sea, the foam enveloping the gutted pieces until from it emerged the fully-grown Goddess.

Hesiod later notes her afterbirth as follows:

“Her gods and men call Aphrodite, and the foam-born goddess and rich-crowned Cytherea, because she grew amid the foam. . . and with her went Eros, and comely Desire followed her at her birth at the first and as she went into the assembly of the gods. This honor she has from the beginning, and this is the portion allotted to her amongst men and undying gods.”

Theogony, Line 195-205

It seems it was important in this version of Aphrodite’s origin story to emphasize her lustful nature. This makes sense considering Aphrodite’s enduring symbolism; however, our favorite poet Homer would decide not to be outdone by this singular origin story and would instead immortalize an alternative. It goes something like this: Aphrodite is born to Zeus and his mate Dione. Dione herself has a few “claim to fame” moments, most notably in Homer’s epic Illiad for healing Aphrodite after she was wounded by Diomedes at Troy.

Beyond this, we don’t know much about Dione and there isn’t much else that compels this origin story in and of itself. Nonetheless, the introduction of a second origin story made its way down to later Greeks and Romans, where the two tales would confuse future readers as to which one was “real.” Plato’s proposed a fix in his symposium that would distinguish the two: for Hesiod, Aphrodite would be thought of as Aphrodite Urania, for she was born from the heavens and therefore thought to hold a universal love that was all-encompassing. Homer’s Aphrodite then becomes Aphrodite Pandemos (“common Aphrodite”), wherein she becomes affiliated with love of a more primal, tangible nature.

The History of Sleeping Venus by Giorgione and Titian
Even when they realized Venus was one planet, she still has two major origin stories. I don’t think those guys were very good at making up their minds. / Artwork: Sleeping Venus by Giogione and Titian

Let’s assume that Aphrodite Pandemos more aptly fits the Lucifer Venus archetype. That would leave Aphrodite Urania to Hesperus Venus; therefore let us suggest that those born during this part of Venus’ cycle are oriented towards a more introspective and withdrawn nature based on what Aphrodite Urania represents (a detached, spiritual love). This is not to suggest that Evening Star Venus can’t party — she is the host who puts on her silk gown and dazzles, the more analytical and presentation-conscious version of Venus that we associate with the zodiac sign Libra — just that she takes more time in this part of her journey to integrate experiences.

Meyer elaborates on this notion by describing Hesperus Venus as ones who “evaluate and react to situations after they take place. . .[whose] strong sense of values and ideals” temper immediate reactions in favor of judging the situation as objectively as they can. Once they’ve processed what they need to, however, the Hesperus Venusian is described as being intense, for they’ve had time to tease apart their feelings and describe with great accuracy what is in their heart.


For this portion of Venus’ cycle (starting September 2022), see if you notice the behavior of your loved ones change. Does it seem like people prefer to hang out with select loved ones more or hang in smaller groups? Is there more precaution in the things those around you purchase? In yourself, do you feel like you need more time to think about an experience you had before sharing how you feel?


Venus Retrograde, and How to Prepare for the Upcoming Transit in Capricorn

Venus’ intricate back-and-forth dance between us and the Sun can be hard to visualize, so let’s do a quick recap:

  • Venus begins at Inferior Conjunction, triggering her Morning Star phase (Day 0)

  • Venus is the brightest celestial object in the morning (Day 36)

  • Venus comes to Superior Conjunction, triggering the Evening Star phase (Day 288)

  • Venus reaches her furthest distance from the Sun again (Day 504)

  • Venus becomes the brightest celestial object in the evening (Day 540)

Around day 554, Venus stations retrograde, her presence a wink in the sky before she disappears behind the Sun. Partway through, she will meet both us and the Sun again in inferior conjunction, resetting the cycle in the middle of her pause(3).

We can reframe Venus retrograde by looking again at one of the famous 40-day journeys I described at the start, and who better than her Middle Eastern predecesor Inana? Famously captured in the Sumerian poem The Descent of Inana*, the Goddess tasks herself with paying her recently widowed sister Ereshkegal a visit. Her journey (starting at the first gate) goes a little something like this:

Neti, the chief doorman of the underworld, paid attention to the instructions of his mistress. He bolted the seven gates of the underworld. Then he opened each of the doors of the palace Ganzer separately. He said to holy Inana: “Come on, Inana, and enter.”And when Inana entered, the turban, headgear for the open country, was removed from her head. “What is this?” “Be satisfied, Inana, a divine power of the underworld has been fulfilled. Inana, you must not open your mouth against the rites of the underworld.”

The Descent of inana, Lines 123-133

Inana’s descent through the other six gates follows a similar pattern, her every precious item stripped away from her until she is bare before Ereshkegal. She is then imprisoned in the Land of the Dead, left to hang as another corpse in her sister’s collection until her servants (as instructed prior to her descent) go to free her. Of course there is more to this myth, but the core idea is one that makes us blanch: the suggestion of us volunteering to “go to Hell” with little chance of returning doesn’t seem worth it! Why give up our worldly pleasures, our finest goods, to pay respect to a vengeful being with no guarantee of success?

Goddess Ishtar (Inanna), Painting by Zinaida Chernyshova | Artmajeur
I’m glad I don’t have any siblings. God speed to anybody who would go though, I’m cheering for you! / Art: Goddess Ishtar (Inana) by Zinadia Chernyshova

One common interpretation of this myth that stands out to me is the idea of leaving something behind. Material goods are the first to go; physical comfort is not allowed when we turn inwards. Then we are stripped of our vanity, our ego — we feel humiliated as Inana did when all that marked her power was stripped away. What awaits us at the end is our own Ereshkegal; before the object of our judgement we will be naked and prostrating for a mercy that won’t come. Then again, that is the point — we can only reach the heart of our seedy underbelly when we ditch our worldly baggage.

Now, about that upcoming transit . . .some of the first things I think when I hear “Venus Retrograde in Capricorn” are: RE-EXAMINE WHAT YOU VALUE; ARE YOU FEELING NURTURED BY WHAT SURROUNDS YOU; HOW ARE YOU SABOTAGING YOUR PROGRESS; STOP BEING AFRAID OF YOUR WORTH; THE BEST FORM OF SELF-CARE IS SHOWING UP FOR YOURSELF. In this version of our descent, some of the things we must leave behind on our way through the door are things like the compulsive want for luxury goods, the angst of not having the “status” we think our hard work should have brought us by now, and the weight of expectation. When you no longer swallow the “shoulds” of life, either from yourself or from others, you will find pockets of opportunity to make decisions for yourself.

Venus will linger around Pluto once her retrograde begins and (December stay fixed to Hades’ side for about two weeks. The cosmos encourages some much needed purging to be done over the holiday season; throw away old things that take up space and have no value. Question where your trust issues came from and if they’re still helping you. The extended contact of these two planets is ideal for popping that proverbial pimple; healing is impossible if the wound is infected. If you find you need some extra help articulating those wounds, the swift-footed Mercury will join up on December 29th to boost your vocal power. Past the New year, look to the auspicious Venus/Neptune sextile on the 5th and the Venus/Sun conjunction on the 8th for inspiration on how to embrace a more authentic life. Towards the end of Venus’ Rx, there may be a bit of a bucking from the cosmos when Mercury joins the retrograde party on the 14th. This could be a sign you need to unplug or take a breather from your current projects to finish processing the emotional journey you’ve been working on.

On January 29th Venus stations direct at 11°, where she cozies up right next to her lover Mars and her friend The Moon. If this retrograde transit encouraged you to be still with yourself, a fresh burst of energy will motivate you to follow-through on unfinished goals, or even start the ones you were drafting up.

P.S. I want to address one more thing about Venus Rx, and it is this: DO NOT BE AFRAID OF YOUR EX(ES). Yes, it’s possible that they might contact you. But you hear that a lot during Mercury Rx too, don’t you? And even if they do, why do you feel like you have to respond? “Closing the chapter” does not necessarily mean that you must be available to do the labor of “wrapping something up.” Sometimes, the message Venus Rx is trying to send is one you already know.

Say it with me kids: YOU DON’T NEED CLOSURE TO MOVE ON. YOU DON’T NEED CLOSURE TO MOVE ON. YOU DON’T NEED CLOSURE TO MOVE ON! / Artist unknown.

(1) Just in case a primer is needed: Venus in astrology is about the (material and emotional) things we value, our love language, and vice(s) we struggle to resist. Venus also describes how we go about getting these things – is it with tact and diplomacy, or more direct and unabashed?

(2) Ironically enough, the Babylonians did worship a version of her they called Nana (who, like Venus, was derived from Ishtar) but as Irene Toye says best, “her cult (in Babylon) was generally of a debasing nature…her worship far from elevating.”

(3) For the sake of brevity, I did not include Meyer’s research on Lucifer Venus Rx and Hesperus Venus Rx, but he does note that even within the brief window that Venus retrogrades, there are still distinguishable traits between the two.


About The Author

Jasmine Lomax (she/her) is a freelance content creator, educator, and poet who currently resides in Seattle, Washington. When Jasmine isn’t busy ticking away at the computer, she enjoys reading, swimming, tending to her spiritual studies, and the occasional bout of crying over fictional characters.

References

Venus’s Descent Into the Underworld on AstroButterfly
Inana’s Descent: A Sumerian Tale of Injustice by Joshua Mark
Venus Morning Star, Evening Star Venus by Michael Meyer
Aphrodite: The True Origins of the Greek Goddess of Love, Sex, and Beauty by Miriam Kamil
The Duality of Aphrodite by Robert Lenardon, Mark Morford, & Michael Sham
Who is Lucifer and What Does his Name Mean? by Philip Kosloski
A Prophecy about Babylon by Ryan Foster

Works Cited

Black, J.A., Cunningham, G., Fluckiger-Hawker, E, Robson, E., and Zólyomi, G., The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature (http://www-etcsl.orient.ox.ac.uk/), Oxford 1998- 

Hesiod. The Homeric Hymns and Homerica with an English Translation by Hugh G. Evelyn-White. Theogony. Cambridge, MA., Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1914.

Warner, Irene Toye. “Ancient History and Worship of the Planet Venus.” Popular Astronomy, vol. 17, 1909, pp. 80–84.

3 Comments

  1. mia says:

    i enjoyed reading. thank you

    Like

    1. eighthvenus says:

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I’m glad you enjoyed the work.

      Like

  2. melinmia says:

    i enjoyed reading. thank you

    Like

Leave a Reply to melinmia Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s