Rescuing the Real Venus from Venus-Lite
Valentine’s Day is a month away and our culture’s sentimental approach to love will be front and center. However, Venus the goddess of love won’t be apparent in the cards, flowers, and heart-shaped candy boxes. Instead we’ll see infantilized images of her son Cupid in a diaper fluttering around with a pint-sized bow and arrow. Come on, do you really want love brought to you by a toddler?
In today’s culture we’ve been given Venus-lite, feminine arm candy, a façade of the powerful feminine goddess whose passions no one could control, including other gods. We could also dig deeper into her nature in astrology. Too frequently we hear that Venus represents “affections” and “small gifts” (Ha! She scoffs), “values,” “creativity,” and, of course, “love.”
She does rule those things of course, but to understand the true nature of her love and what she represents in astrology we first have to scrape off layers of Renaissance paint and its accompanying taint of centuries of Christian patriarchy, modesty and prudery to look to myth. As I describe in my book Humanus Astrologicus:
Botticelli’s famous painting, “The Birth of Venus,” greatly sanitized the modern image of Venus in which she is portrayed as demure, pristine, and pure, someone you could take home to mummy for tea as soon as you threw some clothes on her. If the ancient Greeks and Romans weren’t already dead they’d die laughing at these depictions because they knew there was nothing pristine or demure about Venus.
In fact, the word “venereal” is derived from her name. It was nearly impossible for any god or mortal to resist or, more importantly, to restrain her once her passions were ignited. To try to control her pursuit of whoever she wanted, Jupiter, king of the gods, married her off to the ugly lame god Vulcan but it didn’t slow her down one bit.
Psychologists knowledgeable about myth say Venus is the least integrated into today’s psyche and culture because she represents that aspect of the feminine that wants what it wants when it wants it simply because it wants it. Venus is the goddess of love and pleasure with no regrets. She makes it clear that pleasure is not to be denied her or, by extension, us.
She is about desire, not logic. Her birth, according to myth, was not from a god or mortal but from the depths of the sea, the kingdom of Neptune representing the unconscious mind. Therefore, who we love and what gives us pleasure are not determined rationally or culturally. These desires do not come from personality but from a place deep inside us, the seat of the gods in all of us.
With billions of people on this planet we have to have Venus-lite in our day to day lives. We need her civility, just as we need traffic lights and lanes on the freeway. However, to know the real Venus we must be possessed by her in a love we can neither ignore nor refuse because she takes us captive so powerfully.
She first seizes us, plunges into the root chakra then rushes up through the body to explode in the brain dramatically altering our perceptions of where we were standing and who we were standing with. No amount of moral code or pulpit pounding preaching can keep Venus from pursuing her surging desires, nor us when we are possessed by her. Nor do we heed the well intended “Are you out of your freakin’ mind” cautions from friends and family.
It’s one of the most powerful rushes life gives, and its pursuit can cause upheavals, aching hearts, and a radically changed life structure. Its end—because it’s not usually a long flight—drops us broken and bleeding into what initially seem to be destructive outcomes, but time shows us they lead to creative destinations.
Ask anyone who has been a Venus possessed captive if in spite of the ripped out seams of one’s life, would you rather have not had the experience? The answer is inevitably no, for in the wake of such a love affair is when Venus’ true gifts become apparent. We are deepened if we are willing to learn from it. It makes us more honestly available, gives us greater capacity to share meaningfully with others—definitely not the expected outcome when first possessed by Venus but valuable nonetheless.
Liz Taylor was a modern day archetype of Venus. She lived and loved as Venus would have. Her breath-taking beauty from both a physical and archetypal level enthralled the planet, almost as much as her escapades in love and marriage—and her suffering. Her love life knew no bounds and we all loved and forgave her. That wasn’t all she did. She was remarkably human, available to others who suffered. She did ground breaking advocacy and person to person contact with those with AIDS and addictions.
Venus is only half the picture of love and desire. Wait until she pairs up with Mars. These two have far greater significance in our lives as indicated by their placement in the individual horoscopes than they’re often give credit for.