Steven just returned from his first trip to Switzerland! If you follow him on Facebook, you can see some of his posts and pics from the trip.
As you receive this, there is some very good juju for starting new projects today, on May 1. But move fast. Because after May 8, it's time to slow down in preparation for Venus Retrograde! Steven shares a little about that below...
Starting with the Alpine AP Program on May 17, Steve is on a whirlwind tour that takes him coast to coast - literally - with stops in New Orleans, Maine and North Carolina. I hope you're one of the lucky folks who get a chance to enjoy his teaching in person. If you're on the fence, it's well worth the effort. Visit our website for his full travel schedule.
Finally I'll toot my own horn a little and share my excitement at being included in the new Flare anthology Astrology: The Next Generation. I'm happy to share credits with several other wonderful astrologers. Check it out if you get a chance.
Best wishes to all of you,
This is Not Your Grandmother's Venus Retrograde...
...or maybe it is!
Venus turns retrograde on May 15. It makes a station on June 27 and after that will be in direct motion until the end of 2013. None of this is earth-shaking. Venus moves fast and unless you are in diapers and weigh about the same as a Thanksgiving turkey, you’ve been through this kind of Venus event before. Venus’s synodic cycle runs about 584 days and it spends about forty of them in retrograde condition. In other words, Venus is retrograde for a little over a month out of every year and a half or so. An interesting subject, but no big deal.
This retrograde period is a different beast though, so hold onto your hats. This retrogradation of Venus will change the world. On June 5, Venus will transit the Sun - and that word “transit” is where we need to start. I am using it as an astronomer would, which is totally different from the way an astrologer employs the term. Astronomically, when a planet transits the Sun, that means it actually crosses the Sun’s disk. The simplest illustration of an astronomical transit is a total solar eclipse. Every month, there is a New Moon - a Sun/Moon conjunction. But only rarely are the two actually directly lined up so perfectly that the Moon covers the Sun’s face. That’s what happens with Venus on June 5th - although of course the disk of Venus is tiny so it can’t really fully “eclipse” the Sun. It just passes across it, a tiny little black dot taking about six hours to make it across the fiery surface.
Don’t look at it! It will blind you. Use #14 welder’s goggles or something similar. With care, it’s a naked eye event. Here’s a good link for tips about observing this event safely: http://www.nakedeyeplanets.com/index.htm#venus
The astronomical geometry behind a Venus transit like this is complex. As with a solar eclipse, a lot of things have to fall just right for it to happen. First, it has to be an “inferior conjunction” of Venus. A superior one will not do. If you think about it, there are two ways Venus can be aligned with the Sun in your chart. One is when Venus passes between the Earth and the Sun - that’s the inferior conjunction. The other is when the Sun is between Venus and the Earth, with Venus of course far away on the other side of the solar system. There’s no way it can cross the Sun’s face then - the Sun is crossing it. In normal astrology, these two kinds of conjunctions look the same - almost. The difference is that the in the inferior conjunction, Venus is always retrograde. (In the superior conjunction, it is always direct.)
These inferior conjunctions occur every 583.92 days, like clockwork. In fact, before the age of atomic clocks, the Venus cycle was the solar system’s premier time-keeper.
For a solar eclipse to occur, the Sun/Moon conjunction must occur close to the lunar nodes. It’s the same with Venus. It has nodes too and if the inferior Sun-Venus conjunction falls too far away from them, then Venus will be a little too high or low actually to cross the Sun’s face. Those Venusian nodes are in Sagittarius-Gemini, so this time we are in luck.
Some of you probably know about the eight-year pentagonal cycle of Venus. A full discussion of it is beyond our space limitations here. Suffice to say that during an eight year cycle of five inferior conjunctions, Venus traces out a nearly perfect pentagon - a five-pointed star. After 7.977 years, it starts the cycle over again at a point two or three degrees earlier in the zodiac. So these Venus transits across the Sun’s face occur in pairs just about exactly eight years apart. The one June 5 is actually the second one. The first one occurred on June 8, 2004.
Don’t hold your breath for the next one. It occurs in 2117.
The bottom line is that we get matched pairs of these supercharged Venus transits separated by eight years every century or so. Even trickier, the actual rhythm is that these pairs of events oscillate between happening every 105.5 years and every 121.5 years. The last pair occurred on December 8, 1874 and December 6, 1882.
What does it all signify? In practical astrology, the big themes of life are defined by the slow-moving outer plants, while the quick motions of Mercury, Venus, and Mars serve more as triggers for specific events. As we have seen, Venus forms an inferior conjunction with the Sun about every nineteen months. Obviously, to say that your “life is completely changed” every nineteen months is hyperbolic. But here, with our current transit-pair, we have a major Venus cycle that has over a century to develop depth and complexity of meaning. We are looking at something that hasn’t happened in the last four or five generations.
Our premise is that all humanity began a new relationship with Venus between 1874 and 1882, and that we are doing it again now. Plainly we need to stand back and take in the big picture to comprehend such a huge event. To get a taste of it, let’s focus on three classic Venusian categories: art, relationships, and “the Feminine.”
With Art, we hit paydirt right away. The period between 1874 and 1882 was extraordinary fertile artistically. In painting, artists such as Cezanne, Pissaro, Whistler, Manet, Renoir, Monet, Homer, and Rodin were in full flower. Musically, we had peak expressions from Rimsky-Korzakov, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Moussorgsky, Verdi, Bizet, Wagner, Saint-Saens, Gilbert and Sullivan, and Bartok. That list is a Who’s Who, of course. Its significance lies in the fact that human art renewed its vision during this period.
Has something similar been occurring over the past eight years? Would we even know? It is a classic question of what the fish knows of the sea - we are in the midst of this present period, and we cannot yet see it clearly. Not all of these luminaries were recognized and celebrated during their lifetimes. The foundations of a new vision have been laid and we will watch the structures rise over the next century. I am not sure what it is, but I am sure it runs deeper than better digital delivery systems and 3-D glasses. Could it be video games? My younger friends tell me that there are worlds to be explored there, worlds that run much deeper than “first person shooter” pablum. What new novelists, poets, film makers, and graphic artists have arisen to be the “Last Names” of a century from now?
Feminism has a long, complex history and this is meant to be a short article! Let me cite one single, hugely symbolic event dating back to the last Venus transits. That was the passing of The Married Women's Property Act in The United Kingdom in 1882. Essentially, this major legal event was the culmination of a long feminist struggle, and it reflected the changing nature of the relationship between men and women during this seminal Venusian period. Essentially, it allowed married women to control and own their own property.
It is interesting and concerning to me that we are currently experiencing so much backlash relative to the equality of women – the so-called “War on Women” is raging, and even issues such as equal pay and access to birth control are being debated. Will we step backwards and reverse the gains made by the brave women of the last Venus transits? I doubt it, but it is telling that these issue are “up” in the collective consciousness again. We are “reconsidering the Feminine.” Here of course I write as an American. In other parts of the world, for better and for worse, the roles of women are being re-framed as well. The pivotal female role in the Arab Spring movement is emblematic of all this.
Relating Venus strictly to females is, in my view, ultimately problematic. Men have Venus in their charts too! I believe that the obvious and practical associations between Venus and women in conventional astrological practice reflects cultural, rather than archetypal, realities. It ain’t permanent, in other words.
In this larger view, I would contemplate a wider perspective on various cultural changes cemented over the past eight years. High on the list is the fact that it is now OK to be gay - at least compared to the rampant prejudices of the past. There are still homophobes everywhere of course, but their ranks are thinning. To see this, simply contemplate the normalization of gayness on television shows, in film, and in popular music.
Perhaps even more deeply, I suggest that the past eight years have marked the beginning of a new cultural paradigm of human intimacy in general. As the old cliche goes, each generation imagines that it has invented sex. The joke is obvious, but the line also possesses an underlying reality. Each generation does indeed re-create the customs and assumptions that shape the ever-shifting meaning of “normal” sexual behavior. For one example, some say that marriage is fading as an institution. Certainly it is seen as increasingly “optional,” maybe even a little quaint. And that is a major change. Has this attitude taken root in the mainstream during past eight years? Today divorce and re-marriage tend to be at least halfway assumed as a norm rather than as a personal failure.
The age of the commitedly, happily non-celibate single person is emerging – and such a person represents a far more welcome dinner guest than he or she would have been in 1882! . Sexually confident, even sexually assertive, young women are everywhere - as are young men capable of saying, “thanks, but I don’t know you well enough yet.”This is the beauty of astrology. These are changes we can only see and appreciate clearly if we sit on the astrological mountaintop. Without that century-wide perspective, we are too close to see the turning of the wheels. So perhaps we can recognize that the upcoming retrograde cycle of Venus is a special one. It completes something. Or, more accurately, it completes the foundation of something. And, going back to the title of this article, perhaps it does have a connection with your grandmother or your great-grandmother. And perhaps we must look through her eyes to fully appreciate its magnitude.
Take a journey with Steven through the houses according to Venus. This talk is great for anyone wanting to learn a little more about the sign placement of their natal Venus. Also great for students who would like an introduction to the way Venus might express through each of the 12 zodiac signs.