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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Venus: About the Transit of Venus and MUCH more

About the Transit of Venus and MUCH more

Watch for numerals that don't seem to belong. There are ten, 1-10, and they refer to end notes. One was with numbers so I put it in brackets [5].

This year there's an astronomical event that won't happen again until December 11, 2117. Venus visibly crosses in front of the Sun on June 5, 2012, a sort of solar eclipse with Venus between Earth and Sun instead of the Moon.

It is an amazing time we live in where so much past, present, and future astronomical data is available to us. In previous centuries plotting a date for a transit of Venus (the technical terminology for "Venus visibly crosses in front of the Sun") was a very dicey thing and astronomers of former times missed it by weeks or days getting better as tools and calculations improved. When transits were first noticed observers probably assumed they were Sun spots. Today you can get the times for transits for centuries before anyone knew there were transits and for transits so far into the future that when they occur this planet may no longer be populated.

A fun little factoid is that "The Declaration of Independence was first read aloud in public in Philadelphia on July 8, 1776, from a platform which had been erected to observe the transit of Venus on June 3, 1769."1 

More of a technical nature about this event and about Venus' orbital behavior will be later in the article. My inclination is to put the astronomical first because that is the foundation of the astrology but I don't want to turn away those readers that are turned off by the technical stuff. It's here; I just moved it to the end of the story. On we go to the astrology and mythology.

What's Venus? Who's Venus? Inanna or Ninsianna (Sumerian), Ishtar (Akkadian), Aphrodite (Greek), Ashtart (Syro-Palestinian), Branwen (Celtic) . . .  there are many options for the goddess linked to the planet.

"Venus was a major Roman goddess. She was considered the goddess of beauty, love, and fertility. Her Greek counterpart was the goddess Aphrodite."2   The same source adds that she was ". . . originally a vegetation goddess and patroness of gardens and vineyards."

Encyclopedia Mythica adds a good deal to the myths. "Venus is the daughter of Jupiter, and some of her lovers include Mars and Vulcan, modeled on the affairs of Aphrodite."

"In Greek mythology, Aphrodite is the goddess of love, beauty and sexual rapture. According to Hesiod, she was born when Uranus (the father of the gods) was castrated by his son Cronus [Saturn]. Cronus threw the severed genitals into the ocean which began to churn and foam about them. From the aphros ("sea foam") arose Aphrodite . . .  Aphrodite was originally an old-Asian goddess, similar to the Mesopotamian Ishtar and the Syro-Palestinian goddess Ashtart." 

"Inanna is the most important goddess of the Sumerian pantheon in ancient Mesopotamia. She is a goddess of love, fertility, and war. . . .  She is also called Ninsianna as the personification of the planet Venus. Inanna is portrayed as a fickle person who first attracts men and then rejects them. She is depicted as richly dressed goddess or as a naked woman. . . . The Akkadians called her Ishtar."

And to get those barbarians in there, Venus to the Celts is Branwen, goddess of love and beauty. (All of these from Encyclopedia Mythica.)3

As a translator I sometimes like to let the planets speak as if they are beings. Maybe they are but they don't need to be to reflect or offer symbolic messages. I refer to Venus as "she" and of course the goddess that bears that Roman name is as "she" as can be regardless that "she's" inhospitable as a physical planet.

Thanks to an aunt who gave me a beautiful book called D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths when I was about seven, I became fascinated with mythology and the stories of gods, goddesses, titans, and the rest.

I had an idea of Venus in my pre-teen years (astrology study began at age 10) that was pretty white bread conventional European-American; Venus was beautiful, blonde, blue eyed, tall, leggy, statuesque. I remember a Life magazine with photos of Marilyn Monroe in a swimming pool and she'd do quite well to fit the Venus image I had in those days. Today someone along the lines of Angelina Jolie or Charlize Theron would do.

Venus as I've learned about her at the feet of the planetary archetype is much richer, deeper, and more complex than my little boy idea of the goddess. As I began to listen to the planet astrologically and to let her speak, she became at times downright scary and immensely powerful. I learned about Venus as Isis, quite black, Virgin Mary, Black Madonna, Inanna, Lucifer (no, not the bible cliché), Ishtar, and in other powerful goddess representations.

My first ideas of Venus were from surviving Greek and Roman sculptural models and I think many people hold those kinds of images for Venus. Then somewhere in my years of "higher education" (anthropology or art appreciation?) I encountered the little statue known as the Venus of Willendorf.4  She turned my idea of Venus sideways and Venus began her breakout from my white bread Marilyn Monroe picture. It was a surprise. I was smacked by the representation, "How can you call this fat, weird little thing, Venus?"

On the other hand we shouldn't limit our understanding of astrological Venus strictly to Venus myths. Other female and feminine myths also help in understanding astrological Venus as well as some that hold the planet as a male god of war. Venus is an extremely complex, rich, deep, (mostly) feminine archetype. She is far beyond the limitation of any one mythological or even all mythological goddesses and gods. She is capable of encompassing mythologies that are not specifically linked with Venus, goddess or planet. While the Greek Aphrodite, the Roman Venus, and other mythological figures are specifically linked to the planet, the planetary archetype as defined by her behavior astrologically (in daily events and in charts) can also be elucidated by mythologies that while fitting and feminine (some male) are not Venus myths.

In astrology I find two primary and several additional archetypal figures for the feminine. The primaries are one, Mother, and two, much of what is female and not mother. Even then there are exceptions such as occasions when we do find Venus as a mother. There are also astrological and astronomical factors such as asteroids, minor planets, stars, and more that contribute to a very detailed view of the feminine, but for astrology, Venus and the Moon will always give the foundation and broad outline.
Astrological Venus is a female/feminine archetype beyond any limitation of specific myths ascribed to Venus alone. For example I've found the Persephone story fit quite well for astrological Venus in occasional real life charting (not always, but sometimes). Persephone remains squarely in the Pluto planet and myth realm but I've seen astrological Venus align with that myth as well.

In several Venus stories we find her making journeys to the underworld. We also find the planet representing distinctly different gods. That comes thanks to the varying views we have of her from Earth. When she's west of the Sun she's the beautiful Morning Star (Venus Lucifer) and then she swings around the back of the Sun and disappears to reappear East of the Sun as an evening star (Venus Hesperus).

It is the disappearing of planet Venus as she's lost in the light of the Sun that's the source of myths that have her making journeys to the underworld.  The most "Western" version is actually not about Venus but is the story of Pluto and Persephone where Demeter's daughter Persephone is abducted by Pluto and in her grief Demeter allows the earth to grow dry and barren. Persephone is taken to his underworld kingdom on the other side of the river Styx. A deal is struck that Persephone would be allowed to spend half the year above with her mother (Spring and Summer) and would spend half of the year as Pluto's queen in Hades (Fall and Winter). This might be seen as a reflection of the Venus cycle when Venus disappears between the periods of morning star and evening star or vice-versa. Persephone, by the way, adjusts quite well to her role as a powerful underworld queen. Another of the great underworld myths comes via Mesopotamia in the story of Inanna, enslaved and executed in her sister Ereshkigal's underground kingdom. She is able to return from death less as escape than in glory. It is interesting that Inanna returns in her full raiment and Persephone accepts her role as a powerful queen. While Inanna is definitely connected with the planet Venus, Persephone is not, and both tell somewhat similar stories of feminine loss and return to power.

The point is there are many centuries of mythological explanation attached to the solar system dance of Venus orbiting the Sun whether or not they are directly linked to the planet. If they work, they work.

What is magical and amazing about a Venus transit is that for a very brief few hours she is revealed when she would customarily be hidden from view by the overpowering radiance of the Sun. Does this make something happen as some metaphysically inclined observers would have it, or simply give scientists the opportunity to make more observations and measurements?

I like both viewpoints and my take is that the event is reflective. What we experience is in some way a Venusian message that may be applied to the myths and archetypes of the planet. We are the ones telling and living the stories.

I find Venus fits with most female/feminine archetypes. Some areas I am less likely to find Venusian are mother and crone. Also there are some astrological factors that have specific roles but even in those cases, Venus often still has something to say. For example the earlier discovered asteroids have qualities that fit with Venus such as Pallas Athena as a warrior goddess, and Juno as wife to a great god. I find some planetary behaviors "Venusian" at times such as when Neptune seems less a male god than a feminine spirit of creativity. While there are astrological indicators for other feminine myths and archetypes like those I've just given for Pallas and Juno, archetypal Venus in general goes for much of the path from baby girl to crone, moving to Saturn for that last and as mentioned to Neptune as a mystic goddess.

We also need to consider Venus via her Sign analogies, of earthy, practical, sensual Taurus and of airy sociable, artistic Libra.

Venus transits come in pairs eight years apart. About the 2004 transit the astrologer Frances Coman McEvoy wrote: 

      "A transit of Venus to the Sun can only happen within a day or two on either side of June 7 or December 8, and the phenomena never happened at all during the 20th century!
      "The entire Venus cycle takes 19 months and is less apt to be retrograde than any other planet. It spends only six weeks in backward motion every 19 months. And for a transit over the Sun itself to take place, that backward motion must happen in June and [or] December when the Earth crosses the Venus line of nodes." 

[The Heliocentric Venus nodes, where the orbit of Venus intersects the plane of Earth's orbit are currently 16° 47' 44" Gemini (North Node) and 16° 47' 44" Sagittarius (South Node).]

Some astronomical and astrological Venus events in 2012 that figure in this article:
27 March Maximum Elongation East 46.0° E (Evening Star) [5]
2 April OOB 23° 26' N 5:06 AM HI
12 April enters Retrograde Zone* 7° 29' Gemini
15 May Retrograde at 23° 59' Gemini 4:32 AM HI
3 June leaves OOB 23° 26' N 2:16 PM HI
5 June conjunct Sun/Transit 15° 44' Gemini 3:09 PM HI
Hawai'i is a location where one can see the entire six-plus hours of the Venus transit, from approximately 12:10-6:45 PM
27 June Direct at 7° 29' Gemini 5:07 AM HI
31 July leaves Retrograde Zone* 23° 59' Gemini
15 August Maximum West 45.8° W
* The portion of the Zodiac Venus will crisscross in direct motion, retrograde motion, and once again direct.

OOB out of bounds is explained later in this article

My apologies for any data errors.  Please drop me a line if you spot any mistakes and I'll make corrections. Time permitting I will put dates and times in Universal/Greenwich Mean Time but since I use Hawai'i Time that is the default.

April 12, 2012 at 7° 29' of Gemini Venus began to cover the Zodiacal territory over which she'll traipse back and forth (her "Retrograde Zone" isn't any sort of shadow).

Something which seems to help delineate or explain a retrograde planet aside from the repeating and redoing and re-re-re stuff is to consider that but for the Sun and Moon (which never retrograde in the conventional sense anyway) all the planets work as analogs for two Signs each; Mars has Aries and Scorpio, Venus Taurus and Libra, etc. When a planet is direct in motion I find its behavior better represented by the yang Sign (Mercury Gemini, Venus Libra) and when it is retrograde its behavior fits better with the yin Sign (Mercury Virgo, Venus Taurus). If you think of the Venus retrograde as a blessing as suggested by the astrologer
John Wadsworth at, you will see that Taurus fits quite well. He says for Venus retrograde that she is "blessing the earth." It is well to remember though that for a few days about her conjunction with the Sun (aside from such as the very rare Venus Transit) she is invisible to us; she's visiting the underworld and will return in her power after the retrograde conjunction continuing west of the Sun in her masculine role as the morning star. You also have to take into account of course the Sign the planet happens to be transiting. So although Venus's current retrograde is Gemini there's a Taurean quality exhibited due to the retrograde.

Venus has been speaking loudly of late and will continue to do so at least through mid-Summer. May 15, 2012, was the day she seemed to pause at 23° 59' Gemini and as her orbit takes her nearer earth she begins to appear to move backward against the backdrop of the Zodiac. On the very day of Venus' retrograde station (that standstill moment as the planet turns the orbital corner left to right, when a planets archetypes burn bright) I turned on the radio to a program lauding fat black women. (Don't get mad at me, this was a real NPR show, Morning Edition or some such.) Instantly the Venus of Willendorf came to mind. The fat black woman thing was respectful. Such a woman was/is revered, and many black men prefer big women. This is an example of how the planets speak. Venus was at her burn bright station and right on schedule, a radio program on a feminine archetype. 6

It was also the day I began this article. There were too many things singing a Venus siren song for me to not give her some attention. Another obvious Venus aria was President Obama stating support for gay marriage. The goddess mentioned earlier, Inanna, among other things, she turns men to women. Venus by way of Taurus has to do with money and another item of current attention is the prospect that Greece may abandon the Euro and return to the drachma. One can go on and on with a flood of Venus reflected current events.

Back to the Transit, the astrological use of astronomical information has always been based on an observed resonance between an astronomical event and the goings on here on this planet. Beginning with the first transit of Venus since the development of the telescope there are 8 years separated pairs of transits in: 1631 and 1639, 1761 and 1769, 1874 and 1882, and the current set 2004-2012. They only occur in June or December when Venus orbits between Earth and Sun aligned with Venus' nodal axis which is Gemini/Sagittarius. This one has Venus join the Sun at 15°44' Gemini.

I'll make a quick stab at some of many possible mundane connections with the transit of Venus as suggested by Alison Chester-Lambert. [See, "The Meaning of the Venus Transit in June 2012",] Venus transits 1518 and 1526: Magellan set sail in 1519; circumnavigation. Transits 1631 and 1639: postal services established; Denmark 1624, Sweden 1636. Transit 1761 and 1769 the first transit observed globally and collaboratively. Transit 1874 and 1882: World Postal Union established, transatlantic telegraph cable laid, 1876 Bell patents his telephone. For our current 2004 and 2012 set it seems global collaboration via the Internet is well established. Is some major development there due to occur or has it already with the social networking, file sharing, smartphone video exposing corrupt governments, soldiers, police and so on? Is there a connection with the current struggle of the post office hemorrhaging money, and are Denmark and Sweden in a similar situation?

Astronomical Venus, the planet, with its orbital patterns and physical characteristics provides some of our astrological information. As Venus orbits the Sun she spends roughly half the time as a morning star and half as an evening star being "in the dark"  when her orbit takes her to her superior conjunction on the far side of the Sun from Earth and again at her inferior conjunction when she's  between Earth and Sun. At conjunction the radiance of Sun removes Venus from view. Somewhat ironically the myths suggest then that she's underground or in darkness.

I remember in the 80s when Mark, or Bill, or Rique, or one of those Pottenger sons of Zipporah Dobyns did computer plots of planetary cycles including Venus cycles of ten conjunctions. Every 8 years Venus returns to very nearly the same place in relation to the Sun. Plotting the intervening 5 superior and 5 inferior conjunctions produces a pentagram for each set. It's mind blowing to see the solar system draw pentagrams for Venus' orbital dance. Another computer plotting of Venus produced a pattern like a rose composed of five heart-shaped petals.7  All that and more from the physical planet with a forty mile thick cloud of carbon dioxide and sulfuric acid spinning at a greater rate of speed than that of the rocky body. The physical planet alone is full of wonder, mystery, and symbol useful to the astrologer. 

Venus reached her maximum separation East of the Sun (a little confusingly, she's an Evening Star in the Western sky after Sunset during her East period) March 27, 2012. She'd been very high and bright in the western evening sky.

Venus' orbit around the Sun may be seen as a plane in relation to the plane of the orbit of the Earth. The line formed by the intersection of the orbital plane of Earth and a planet's orbital plane is called a node. The Venus orbital plane intersects the Earth plane at 16° 47' 44" Gemini/Sagittarius. That's why Venus transits only occur in one or the other of those Signs.

Venus' orbital inclination also indicates degrees in declination measured north and south of the Celestial Equator (Earth's Equator extended into space). The belt of the sky where we view stars, constellations and track the motions of planets is pretty much defined within the same band as gives us seasons and that give us the terrestrial latitudes of the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. If we extend those into space some 95% or more (Tim guesstimate) of everything we track, Zodiac, stars, planets, asteroids, centaurs, comets, minor planets, etc. are within those boundaries, on that band. We call it the band or belt of the ecliptic. Rarely, the planets we track exceed those boundaries. It's like when the projectionist in the movie theater doesn't quite have the entire picture on the screen. That bit not on the screen is something we customarily watch on the ecliptic band that is now above or below the band. It is either more than 23°26' North or more than 23°26' South declination. When a planet exceeds that distance north or south it is said to be "out of bounds." When a planet does that, and exceeds the limit 23° 26' N or S of the Celestial Equator, it is said to have gone Out Of Bounds (OOB). It's as though the screen is too small for the projection. We don't see Venus on the screen now, she's on the wall. Then she'll head back toward the Celestial Equator and come back onto the screen. The trip beyond the band of the planes of the Tropics steps up the archetypal message and the planet moving into "out of bounds" territory explores new expressions (such as frankly considering that fat black women may represent a cultural norm or that same-sex marriage should be regarded as a civil right - marriage and relationship being a Venus thing). Can you see the wild, off the screen symbology at work here?

Within the band of the ecliptic planets react within the established norms of experience. The closer planets get to the 23° 26' N or S ecliptic boundary "the more extreme, eccentric, unusual, far reaching and enduring their influence will be . . . when a planet exceeds the 23°N27' or 23°S27' limitation it indicates events, activities and emotions or achievements that are beyond normal expectation." 8

The purpose of explaining this is to clarify a Venus motion that points to her being a bit of a wild woman at times. The inclination of Venus' orbit is not parallel that of the Earth's equator extended into space. She has her own orbital plane. The Venus orbit at times punches up beyond the plane of the Tropic of Cancer and also sometimes goes down beyond the plane of the Tropic of Capricorn. The points of intersection are known as nodes and nodal alignments are keys to transits of Mercury and Venus and to eclipses with the Moon.

Venus's orbit punched beyond the ecliptic band April 2, 2012, when she exceeded 23° 26' North declination and she will remain Out Of Bounds until she returns to that declination on her path toward the Celestial Equator when she again reaches 23° 26' North on June 3.  The planetary message from OOB planets is more extreme than when they are "in line." We can expect the Venus messages to be louder, longer, and more surprising both as she's OOB as well as on the part of her orbit that brings her nearest Earth, a double whammy.

All the planets have their own messages but the similarity of Mercury and Venus orbits within the orbit of Earth does allow for messages from them to be delivered in a style different from that of other planets. The retrograde periods of Mercury and Venus are very different from retrogrades of the planets that circle the Sun outside Earth's orbit.

When Mercury or Venus is retrograde it is in the part of its orbit that carries it between Earth and the Sun. It helps to envision a bug circling a light bulb, from right to left as it circles behind the bulb and from left to right on the inside track. The inside left to right track is the retrograde. That suggests an intensification of the message of the planet simply because it is on the same side of the Sun as the Earth and is nearer Earth and Earth's orbit.

"A retrograde is a retrograde" astrologers may suggest that Murphy's Law in high gear while Mercury is retrograde is simply due to "backward motion" and things having to be re-done and re-this and re-that. My take is the part of the orbit that finds Mercury or Venus nearest Earth is a period when the intrasolar (a word I'm trying out comparing to intramural)9  planet is most intensely dispensing its message. Of course we're talking symbolically, they're not sitting up there at a table handing out experiences to Earthlings, rather than a physical effect there's a reflection between the astrological message and life on Earth.

On June 5, Venus aligns precisely with and crosses in front of the Sun. She makes her second transit (first of the pair was in 2004) of the Sun in some 130 years. There will not be another until 2117. 10

Some Venus facts
Has a mean daily motion of 1° 12'
Orbits the Sun in 224.7 days (around 7.5 months)
Spends 23-24 days in a Sign (when not retrograde)
Spends 40-43 days a year retrograde (about every 18 months, 7.2% of the time)
Is never more than 48° from the Sun

On June 3, Venus comes back down to the Declination 23° 26' North (plane of the Tropic of Cancer) returning "in bounds."

Venus as Morning Star is considered masculine, Evening Star, feminine.

June 27, now to the right of the Sun and a Morning Star, Venus pauses and resumes direct motion at 7° 29' Gemini.

June 31, she leaves the zone of her retrograde and moves off to new territory at 24° Gemini (went Rx at 23°59' Gemini and went back as far as 7°29' Gemini gives us the Retrograde Zone from 7°29' to 23°59').

August 15 Venus reaches maximum separation west of the Sun, her highest Morning Star placement.


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1  An historical footnote from the astrologer Valerie Vaughan from the Spring 1998 NCGR "Geocosmic Magazine"


(EM) Encyclopedia Mythica -


[5]  (Elongation calculations [include maximum degrees East or West for Venus] thanks to Richard Nolle,, other calculations via Janus, - Richard Nolle (elongation calculations) credits and the reference:  Meeus, Jean. Astronomical Algorithms . Richmond: Willmann-Bell, 1998. ISBN 0-943396-63-8. This is the essential reference for computational positional astronomy. The calculation of the time of Venus' greatest elongations is performed using the algorithm given in Chapter 35.

6 "Many black women are fat because we want to be." With those words in a New York Times op-ed, novelist Alice Randall sparked a controversy. Touching on flashpoints of race, weight, politics and gender, her contention prompted a debate and raised serious questions about health, culture and race. Hear the story at

7 There's nice coverage of the pentagram and rose pattern production at I found it fun to be reminded of these discoveries (I had a spiral bound book of the print outs from them that had computer print outs for all the planets but Venus was definitely the most remarkable.)

8 "A Study in Declination," Katherine Boehrer, "Today's Astrologer" AFA Bulletin 37/3

9 A word I may have coined, intrasolar, has to do with something between the orbit of our Earth and the Sun. Intrasolar does not seem to be a "real" word but there is not a word for the space between Earth and the Sun and I'm making one, intrasolar. Mercury and Venus are intrasolar planets.

10     NASA Science News for May 18, 2012: It won't happen again until December 2117. On June 5th, 2012, Venus will transit the face of the sun. The best places to watch are in the mid-Pacific, but travel is not required. The historic event is widely visible around the world, including at sunset from the USA.

Original text copyright © Tim Rubald 2012
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