From the shadow of Venus retrograde that began April 9 to its retrograde station on May 13, there are few of us who can claim to be unaffected by our evening star. The astronomers call Venus our sister planet; it's true that from our perspective here on Earth, Venus is the planet the comes closest to us, although it's Mercury that stays close longest, the way love cuts close to our core. But it's language that lingers once love is gone.
Venus is the brightest body besides our moon and has no moons of its own. Venus is the hottest planet, but it's significantly less volcanically active than Earth. In school, we learn about the planets as heavenly bodies, each with its own climate and atmosphere. We regard them by distance, by date of discovery, by viability for life. We regard them by their affinity and their divergence from our own planet. What we know about life — about sentience — is all we know about the possibility for it elsewhere. There is, of course, more to life-force than what humans know, more to a planet, and more to love.
We are just beginning to understand, for instance, that volcanic eruptions might be the source of our oceans. We already know how rich their ash makes surrounding soil. Our understanding of the world and its matter changes the longer we are here and the longer we study the past. The same can be said of gods and mythology. Historians piece together the reoccurring patterns, they follow the conversion of one goddess into another, they sleuth the roots of names and symbols. It is said that Venus is the goddess of love and of favor, the name itself Latin for “to love.” But, also, “to venerate” and “venom.” Here, we come to the work of words — of how they mark something doubly, and teach us to regard the world as layered. Venus will be retrograde in Gemini, the sign of doubles and of siblings. Ruled by Mercury, the planet of information, the sign of Gemini revels in the layering of knowledge and making meanings. In the time of the Greek and Roman pantheon, it was not love between those betrothed that was venerated but love between soldiers and between a supplicant and their god. In ancient texts, "The Beloved" was a deity. And so, whatever your relationship to religion, if astrology is a place where you find connection to something beyond yourself, you have space to think about Venus as a force that challenges and deepens our experience of grace.
Like volcanoes, Venus’ attributes create and destroy. From love and attraction, arise acts of devotion: music, art, literature, communities. The underside of love: obsession, projection, fear, and all the things human beings do when faced with those feelings. Venus was said to have sparked the Trojan War. Before Venus, before Aphrodite, there was Inanna — an ancient Mesopotamian goddess of sex and war. The line between what brings us pleasure and what destroys us has always been thin; we don’t have to look at myths from civilizations past to know that. It is evidenced in the natural word, poison plants and their medicinal properties, and it is evidenced in our economic structures. The negotiation of that line, of knowing what is too much and what is not enough, is a negotiation all lovers make.
The Lovers is Gemini's correlating Tarot card, and while it's tempting to read this card as a sign of romance or coupling, it has often been used in divinatory reads as in indication of a choice that must be made. The choice, archetypally, has been one between virtue and passion. For those of us who prefer to wander to the side of good/bad dichotomies, it's valuable to think of virtue as integrity and passion as suffering. Love and favor, fostered in oneself, breeds a feeling of integrity. There are many of us who find that integrity cultivated in solitude yearns to be shared in company. Love and favor, sought outside oneself, can breed suffering. There are many of us who love to suffer until we've suffered too much. In isolation and in relationships, we negotiate between generative and destructive patterns — between Venus and venom.
During this Venus retrograde in Gemini, which lasts until June 25, Venus will make squares to Neptune, a tense aspect to a planet associated with dreams and delusions. Here, there is temptation to project, to obsess, and to disintegrate. Neptune is a planet that revels in "too much." The climax of this square will be followed quickly by a conjunction between Venus and Mercury on the 22nd, powerful in its home sign of Gemini. If this is a time when you find yourself negotiating what you love and value in yourself and how it is supplemented, or eroded, by what you value in your relationships, practice identifying what you know for sure in the present moment versus what you call intuition but what might be fear. Fused with Gemini, this transit can bring up grief about intimate languages you cultivated with people who are gone and how those words lie dormant within you with now. This is a good time to write those words down and honor them for how compelling they are to you, in and of themselves.
Closest to Earth and conjunct the Sun on June 3, Venus retrograde digs up issues from relationships past — times in your life when you didn't feel valued, seen, or attractive. What makes you feel beautiful and beloved and close to grace now is not the same as it was in 2012 or 2004, our previous Venus retrogrades in Gemini. Remind yourself, dear reader, that just as your perception of yourself is changing, so too is what you know of the world, of love, and the people you share it with. Anything living, a person, a tree, a flower, gets more complicated the more you look at it. There's a beautiful suffering in understanding how much we can't know, a relief. What if, in honor of Venus who was once Aphrodite who was once Inanna, you wrote a one ode a day to something that evokes suffering in you, the kind that makes you feel alive?