The Gift of Venus Retrograde.

The Dance of Venus

Today the planet Venus goes retrograde beginning her transformation from evening star to morning star. This shift occurs about once every 1.6 years and, like the moon, reflects the shifting tides of consciousness and the cosmos. The dance of Venus forms an exquisite five petalled rose pattern around the earth every eight years, and although the distance between the five points she touches is slightly irregular, the pattern created is beautifully harmonizing.

In the human psyche, the influence of Venus can likewise point the way toward harmonizing our experiences- both inner and outer- creating a world where our soul may flourish and thrive. Venus can bring order out of Chaos, and mythologically she is the only one who can temper Mars.

Venus orbits the Sun every 224.7 Earth days showing herself in different phases like the moon. When she makes her inferior conjunction to the Sun during her retrograde phase (3rd June 2020) she is closest to the earth- we could consider this a new phase of Venus, much like the new moon phase.

The phases of Venus and evolution of its apparent diameter

When Venus is retrograde we have a chance to review, revise, and revaluate aspects of our life that relate to our inner Venus. As astrologer Darby Costello poetically says, Venus retrograde is a time to do some interior decorating on the self. Venus themes to consider include relationships- how are we relating to others, what changes do we need to make, what shadow aspects do we need to face, and what is our deepest longing for connection, union, or communion?

Venus relationships are not only romantic or sexual but include friendships, working partnerships, our relationship with money, with the environment, food, nature… Venus rules all kinds of partnerships including and most essentially the relationship with ourselves.

The dance of Venus is mythologised in the Sumerian story of Inanna Queen of Heaven and Earth. Inanna makes a descent to the ‘great below’ to attend the funeral of her sister’s husband. Upon entering the underworld she is devested of her regal attire… symbols of her heavenly status, until finally she is hung naked on a hook for three days. This is the stripping of the ego that happens when we enter the underworld- the unconscious- to face our shadow- in the case of Inanna her confrontation is with her dark sister Ereshkigal, who in reality is the unacknowledged and rejected parts of Inanna herself.

Inanna is finally saved by her father the God of water, Enki who sends two creatures- the kurgarra and the galatur, beings neither male nor female formed from the dirt beneath his fingernail and who “enter the underworld like flies”. The tiny creatures witness the pain of the dark queen Ereshkigal empathising with her every cry and suffering, a compassionate act that breaks the curse. Through the empathy offered by the creatures, Ereshkigal is touched, grateful for having been witnessed in her anguish and offers the kurgarra and the galatur a gift of their choosing- which of course is the corpse of Inanna revived and released from the underworld.

There are many layers of symbolism encoded in this myth of renewal and transformation and Venus retrograde is an excellent time to explore these themes in our own lives.

Inanna in the great below- artist unknown

What darkness is waiting to be illuminated by the light of heaven- our conscious mind? What aspects of our exiled and disenfranchised self is ready to be integrated? In terms of relationship, are we ready to accept our own failings and sabotaging behaviours- or will we continue to project them onto others?

Venus is retrograde in the same sign every 8 years thus providing a thread- a golden thread- to follow our life’s narrative and soul’s unfolding- like the Venus rose. Perhaps an old story or theme from the past is reactivated during this Venus retrograde- old lovers or friends from the last Venus in Gemini phase (May/June 2012) may suddenly reappear.

What relationships have we not ended properly? Are we still haunted by the ghost of relationships past? Are lessons still to be learned from emotional baggage hung on a hook in our psyche? It could be that an aspect of a story or theme is ending and a new cycle is beginning. Perhaps we need a deeper understanding of what has gone before we can truly move on. This is a time to reflect.

The last time Venus was retrograde in Gemini was 15th May – 27th June 2012 -this was an extra special event as Venus also transited the Sun during the inferior conjuntion on 5th June, 2012. What was going on for you at that time? I recall exactly what I was doing that evening: I was dancing with a group of people in a studio in Ecuador and as I danced I became mesmerised by the sacred mountain Mandango the “sleeping giant” or “sleeping warrior”.  It was a magical connection which was highly symbolic of an aspect of myself that was awakening.

Taking it further back in the Venus retrograde in Gemini cycle- 8 years before that it occured on May 17th – June 29th, 2004- and then 20th May- 1st July, 1996… and so on. Can you find a connecting thread that runs through these time-lines in your life? Hopefully with each cycle we get to see our issues and patterns more clearly- get to shine more light into the dusty dark caverns of our unconscious. Like in the dance of Venus we may see that events we thought were random or spurious were in fact important parts of our beautiful design… or steps in our dance.

Remember to be gentle- and let ourselves off the hook- in most cases we did the best we could at the time with the knowledge we had. Like the little creatures in the myth of Inanna, it is finally compassionate connection that breaks the spell of fragmentation. To invite the lost parts of ourselves home we must first accept them without judgement- and also not fear them.

Venus in Gemini is about integrating the light and the dark. It is also about merging the faculties of the mind with a deeper embodied wisdom of the heart-centre and soul. If we have been struggling to filter some of our traumatic or buried experiences through the mental faculties, or articulate what happened- tell our story- Venus retrograde in Gemini may provide an opportunity to finally put some flesh on the bones.

As well as the goddess of love, Venus is also the goddess of war in her morning star persona. During our time in the underworld we reclaim and integrate our disenfranchised parts which can then ignite our sacred warrior and we are renewed as the light bearer.

This is Venus’ transformation from evening star to morning star – the Heliacal Rise- and happens on June 10th at 09 degrees 44′ Gemini.

Venus is also about money- what is our relationship with money? Do we know how to manifest abundance, can we receive it, are we comfortable asking for what we need… what we want…what we like? Are we eclipsed in the shadow of poverty consciousness… do we feel undeserving of the finer things in life?

Venus is connected to creativity and style- is what we present on the outside an accurate reflection of how we feel on the inside… does this strike you as superficial… is it time for a reinvention?

Do we have a creative outlet- can we show the world our creative spark without shame or fear of rejection? Can we create purely for the pleasure and the joy of it, just for ourselves?

Venus is our values- what do we truly value?

And finally Venus is our connection with the natural world- can we take pleasure in the scent of a rose, the feel of the air kissing our skin on a summer day, or the sensual joy of cool water bathing… can we connect with tiny creatures and stop to marvel at the wonder of an eagle soaring overhead? Or do we rush through life with our senses and feelings shut down living only in our head?

Venus retrograde offers rich pickings in reviewing these aspects of our life.

For the time of the Venus retrograde- from now until 25th June- I am offering special priced astrology consultations focusing on the Venus aspects in your chart.

 

 

 

Dionysus and the Undivided Self

 

The Maenad by John Collier

How do we contact the parts of ourselves that have become split off, exiled, or buried beneath layers of social control- either our own or imposed by others?

What lurks beneath the masks that we wear and how do we find ways to connect with and release those hidden parts of ourselves? Would we even want to?

Dionysus as ‘The Undivided’ god (or archetype) can lead us to the wilder, untamed parts of ourselves so that they may be reclaimed. His method of doing this is not necessarily talking things over in a rational way, he is more likely to lead us through the portals of ecstasy, dance, spiritual intoxication, passion, sensuality, sexuality, and the pulsating blood and flesh of our own body.

Dionysus is all about bringing spirit into the material world. He is after all one who can descend into the pit of Hades, come back to tell the tale, and then take his place in the abode of the gods. He is the quintessential walker of the worlds, or Shaman.

The ecstatic methods of Dionysus differ from what we have come to recognise as mainstream western analysis, or ‘talking therapies’ practiced in many a treatment room. Traditional psychotherapy tends to engage the ego- mind in a bid to reason with our scattered fragments and have them return home. This is the main aim of therapy and in psychological parlance is known as integration. Therapy like this works when feelings attached to suppressed material are finally acknowledged and felt. There may be tears, screams, anger… a whole host of strong expressions in the releasing of bottled-up emotions.

But what if we can’t coax our exiled parts back home? What if the structures of the ego are simply too hard? Or too clever?  What if despite our best efforts to heal we are in fact a tough nut to crack, or we have too much conditioning for words alone to dismantle?

 And what if we just sense that to reclaim all of ourselves in the most authentic and liberated way… to allow our bigness… we need more than western-style analysis… more than to be fixed so that we can operate in society even while we have an uneasy feeling that we have not brought all of ourselves to the party?

Outside the parameters of mainstream psychotherapy shamanism – which is itself a largely Dionysian practice – describes the process of becoming whole in terms of ‘soul retrieval’. Dionysus and shamanic practice are less about analysis and more about a direct route into the trapped or lost parts of ourselves. Amnesia, illness, mental disease, psychological complexes, physical illness, neurosis are all ways of describing what for the shaman is loss of soul. Dionysus can deal with collective soul loss.

In his book, ‘The Myth of Analysis: Three Essays in Archetypal Psychology, James Hillman exposes the limitations of analytical psychology when he says: “The analytical viewpoint tends towards divisions: consciousness from unconsciousness, cure form neurosis, individuation from collectively, even eros from psyche. The main aim may be a synthesis, but the means and methods are division. Dionysian consciousness proceeds otherwise. One of the names for Dionysus was The Undivided.”

Over and beyond analysis there are other ways to unblock psychic energy, reclaim libido and connect with the ‘Prima Materia’. There are other ways to release the ‘demons’ so that they might, in the end, become as William Blake suspects, ‘our greatest gods’. For Blake, who it could be argued was himself a Dionysian character, sexual energy is not an inherent evil, but the repression of that energy is. He says, “The preachers of morality fail to understand that God is in all things, including the sexual nature of men and women.”

But Dionysus is not only about the expression of sexual energy he is ultimately concerned with liberation of the soul… liberation from the tyranny of the ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’ that weigh down the human heart. And freedom from the safe-playing- small-self that would rather reject unpalatable feelings and emotions than face them. This is the same small self who, terrified to reveal his or her true nature, judges in others what it cannot tolerate in itself.

The ego fears rejection and separation from our culture and kin but with Dionysus who leads us to the group, and to the like- minded, we are not alone.

And here is the power of Dionysus- he is ultimately involved with group processes and the collective. Collective enthusiasm – some may say madness or hysteria – initiates a phenomenon much larger than the sum of its parts- you only have to watch a big football match, or the aftermath of a sports or political victory to witness this. I am thinking of the collective energy released in Paris last year after France won the world cup. I was so overwhelmed by the intensity of the celebrating, verging on frenzied crowds that I needed three days to recover (see blog post Paris, Mars, Football and Intrigue).

In ancient Greece, many indigenous cultures, and in cultures where initiation and ritual were a part of life, people bonded together in a purpose larger than themselves through the sharing of divine experience. Transformation induced in the initiates was witnessed, acknowledged and sanctioned by the wider community for the benefit of all. There was a ritualistic container to hold and transmute the strong spiritual energies that were being evoked and passed through the people, and in this way, change was affected.

When Dionysian energy is not contained within a ritualistic context there is propensity toward chaos. Examples of Dionysian energy in our modern world can be seen in the casualties of the rock world… sex, drugs and rock & roll; the acid and other casualties of the tune-in -drop-out of the 60’s; in the burgeoning pornography industry; the sex and sex trafficking industry; and in the young women who are swallowed up by unrealistic ideals of glamour and feminine allure. It can be witnessed in protests and political movements that degenerate into violence with the unspecific venting of primal rage.

Sometimes movements that start out with good intentions can quickly descend into mob mentality and stupidity… or are co-opted to do so.

The rave scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s was Dionysian in its expression, though again there was no ritual context in which to meet and hold the gods , and like many openings in human consciousness it was quickly exploited by the cold hand of capitalist economics, misuse of power, and personal interest.

Dionysian energy as wild as it is also needs containment- it is a bringing of the so called sacred and profane together – which is just a Christian way of saying heaven and earth, or body and spirit.

Today in the UK sees the beginning of this year’s Extinction Rebellion protests, to ‘shut down the heart of the government’ for the next 14 days unless demands are met. Here is an upsurge of collective energy that challenges the social order, not with remote ideas and manifestos but with active participation, group solidarity, music, celebration, and at times human bodies… I am thinking of the people who last year glued their hands to the trains in London’s financial district, Canary Wharf.

Dionysian collective uprising is often feared and maligned as mob rule – a remnant from some of the darker aspects of Europe’s past – it can instill fear into the rational order of Apollonic consciousness and therefore be subjected to further control and suppression. But the Dionysian outburst whether it be moral, or ecstatic is essentially ritualistic in its enthusiasm, it is ultimately for the higher purpose of breaking down stagnation and outmoded attitudes either in the individual or in the collective psyche.

This ‘ritualistic enthusiasm’ is a healthy expression of the human being and is not to be pathologized by an overly rigid, overly rational society imposed by those with a vested interest in maintaining a passive and docile populace.

While Dionysus may be an archetype of bottom up power, he is also a champion of the feminine… it is no coincidence that his followers were women who existed outside societal bounds of patriarchal control- women in Greece at that time were largely oppressed and controlled. The followers of Dionysus, the ‘maenads’ enjoyed rites that included wild dancing, music and ecstasy in the remote mountains, and unashamed divine intoxication … barefoot with untied hair, and wearing animal skins the women were free to unleash pent up emotions, trapped libido, psychic and sexual energy, and connect their bodies with the spirit without imposition.

It could be said that Dionysus is a bit like Lilith, the exiled shadow feminine who, repulsed with the oppressive laws of society, willingly banishes herself to the wild places to cavort with demons. But while Lilith is very much alone in her exile, the strength of Dionysus comes from the collective.  It is one thing to assert and release our untamed selves in the privacy of our own fantasies and it is quite another to reveal those selves to others.

How do we meet the wild gods? How do we invite Dionysus into our lives and our collective experience in a sacred way untainted by the corruption of our post capitalist world, a world that has long separated body from spirit, and that deems mad, bad or dangerous, anything beyond the rational mind?