When astrologers use the word ‘planet’ in their interpretations, they know full well they’re not referring to those huge rocks in the heavens. Rather, they are discussing an archetype, a timeless aspect of reality. Venus on a birth chart, likewise, is not really the Venus in the sky – it is the power, or principle, of love and the urge for relationship. Planets and signs are the intentions of the cosmos – they represent the hidden blueprints, or potential characteristics, of the Universe itself, and their true home is that higher dimension of Eternal Images and Forms to which the great Plato once drew our attention. These are, essentially, Universal Archetypes.
And so, there is a goddess representing the archetypal principle of love in whatever culture you care to mention. There was the Aztec Xochiquetzal, patroness of beauty, pregnancy, prostitutes, and even women’s crafts. There was Hathor, Egyptian, divinity of the sky, love and music, or Freya, the love deity from Norse myth, or the Syrian Atargatis, a goddess of fertility, and protectress of her people. And, as anthropologists and mythographers have seen, each culture tended to import these archetypal characteristics from earlier ones. The Roman goddess, Venus, for instance was derived more or less wholesale from the Greek Aphrodite. In turn, as Wikipedia states:
The cult of Aphrodite in Greece was imported from, or at least influenced by, the cult of Astarte in Phoenicia, which, in turn, was derived from the cult of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, which itself was largely derived from the cult of the Sumerian goddess Inanna. However, the ancients had not quite distinguished between the Feminine as sexuality/ attraction; and the Feminine as Mother, or the Matrix (the moon in astrology). This is why many representations of the Goddess of Love were simultaneously mature Earth Mothers presiding over agriculture, say, and at the same time, courtship, love and sex. In short, the border between lover and mother in these ancient pagan myths is blurred. For example, there is Cybele,
‘an Anatolian mother goddess [who] … was partially assimilated to aspects of the Earth-goddess Gaia, her Minoan equivalent Rhea, and the harvest-mother goddess Demeter’ and whose ‘major mythographic narratives attach to her relationship with Attis, who is described by ancient Greek and Roman sources and cults as her youthful consort.’ (Wikipedia)
Cybele was known as Magna Mater (the Great Mother) just as the Greek Gaia symbolised ‘Mother Earth’. And yet, they mated with other nature deities; Cybele with her youthful consort, Attis, Gaia with Ouranos (the Sky god) and Rhea with her brother, Kronos (Saturn). If these primal goddesses were literally mothers to the world, whichever god they mated with afterwards (logically) resulted in an act of incest! It is this primitive and earthy aspect to these ancient female deities that has left us with the association between Taurus and Venus in astrology. In the Roman world of the 2nd century AD, the goddess was known as Venus Caelestis (Heavenly Venus) and presided over the taurobolium when bulls would be sacrificed to her. Despite this, Venus is a bad ‘ruler’ for Taurus. The correlation is much better exemplified with Libra – all of the virtues (and vices!) we associate with this sign are also symbolised by Venus
Venus (a Latin name meaning ‘sexual love/desire’) was, as we’ve seen, the Roman counterpart of the Greek Aphrodite, ‘the foam born’ after she came to life from the severed genitals of Uranus. This was the consequence of a violent act by Kronos who had dismembered his father Uranus and thrown the genitalia into the sea. Already there is a metaphor at work here – the power to transform something ugly into something beautiful. Indeed, the function of Venus is to harmonise – and it is based on archetypal forces present in creation: the powers of both attraction and equilibrium.
Venus in the Natural World
In the physical world, for example, we have the natural pull of masculine to feminine (think of the poles of a magnet) or the seemingly magical way that pairs of human chromosomes ‘line up’ in an emphatic way in the middle of the cell, whereupon each partner migrates either ‘north’ or south’. This co-ordinated movement has been termed the ‘dance of the chromosomes’ – revealing a holistic, self-regulating harmony that living entities always seek. One could cite this self-regulating function in a global context – think of Gaia theory and its self- sustaining feedback system between the earth and the life forms which inhabit it.
This promotes a state of balance in nature, and it’s just the same in the psychological world, too – Jung discovered a counterbalancing function at work in the human psyche: often, our dreams ‘fill the gap’ (with fulfilled wishes) of what we lack in our conscious existence:
‘For instance, it is clear when one works with dreams that they regularly find a way to provide balance, support, and correction to the particular conscious attitude of the dreamer. This undeniable “compensatory” function provided by the Self proves its role as the central guiding force in an ongoing urge to realize the individual’s potential.’1
Indeed, nature compensates – think of the way a blind person’s hearing or sense of smell is enhanced, as if to make up for the sense that is missing. The overall psyche seeks a kind of balance, too – it’s why we’re attracted to our opposite. The stable and earthy type is attracted to the volatile and fiery; deep and emotional is drawn to light and airy (and vice-versa of course). Unconsciously, we’re trying to become ‘whole’ human beings. This is the essential function of Venus – this instinctive ‘balancing out’ function we find in nature (clearly related to the Balance symbol of Libra, the sign Venus ‘rules’). And what we feel we lack in ourselves, we look for elsewhere. This, of course, is what drives most human relationships: whether from loneliness, sexual desire or a less clearly defined want. We may call it emotional need, or elevate it to a more spiritual realm and call it the quest for the soul mate, but none of us are self-contained islands. It is the simple drive towards relationship of some kind.
At its core, Venus is a Feminine ‘yin’ energy: receptive rather than assertive, passive rather than active. If we contrast it with its polar opposite, fiery Mars, we see that it is the exact complement. If Mars is action, individuality and selfhood, Venus is passivity, duality and compromise – the need to relate and keep things in their necessary balance. If we consider the kabbalistic system of manifestation in the Universe, the one-dimensional energy point at the source of creation has now extended to become a line: it now has two ends. In a very simple sense, we may now say there’s an awareness of polarity and opposition (either/or, north/south, inner/outer, me/you, and so on). The act of comparison has been created. There is consciousness of the Other. One can now relate to things.
Even so, this is a double edged sword, for we project on to others qualities that really exist within. This, we may call the Law of Attraction in its psychological sense. The phenomenon of attraction is not simply about Venusian harmony and togetherness – it is there to wake us up to what is within, what lies in the Unconscious. For example, take the phenomenon of falling in love, or ‘hero-worship’, for example. These are periods where we find nothing but the Good True and Beautiful in the object. Some powerful factor in the Unconscious seems to overtake us, judgement is suspended and we become totally and magically besotted by someone. In love, we are at the mercy of all kinds of strange emotions. Our heart strings seem more finely tuned than ever – what has gotten into us? Why do we feel so good? Why do we swoon at the mere mention of our lover’s name? Isn’t this a kind of insanity? The French have a phrase for it: la folie – roughly translated as the ‘madness of love’.
But, as we all know, that intense and overwhelming feeling never lasts – and either we settle down into a more realistic kind of relationship, or become disenchanted to find that the person before us is not quite love’s young dream, but mortal after all. Most of us are able to take the realistic option, but what has happened to cause this change in our beloved? Why, nothing! The psychological projection – that powerful ideal-image we projected on to them has begun to thin out and we’re now seeing more of the real person.
However, one never attracts another person unless there is something similar within you – ‘like attracts like’ is always the general rule. The Attraction of Opposites phenomenon is really Like Attract Like – but inside out. That is, what appears to be very different at the conscious level (like the fact that one’s wife is obviously not like you) is in fact quite similar in the Unconscious. At the level of psychological energy. In other words we contain our opposite within us. This is the real lesson of Venus on your chart – the power of attraction which draws things to us with seemingly little effort on our part. This is why older astrologers called it the ‘minor’ benefic, responsible for small strokes of luck and good fortune.
Wherever you find her on a chart, this ability to relate, harmonise, compromise, is evident. It has to operate through a certain sign, too – and so your power to attract is coloured very much by those energies. Your style of seduction, courtship and emotional ‘communication’ (how you express feelings) is there in your Venus sign and its aspects. It’s a two way street, of course – you are attracted by the things represented by Venus on your chart. Simply put, if you have Venus in Scorpio or Aries, then Scorpios and Ariens turn you on! If you have Venus in Gemini or Sagittarius, Geminians and Sagittarians are endlessly fascinating. Why? Because these qualities, these aspects of Being, exist somewhere within you, too! Like attracts like.
1. Polly Young-Eisendrath; Terence Dawson, The Cambridge Companion to Jung, New York : Cambridge University Press, 1997.