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Venus at the Edge
Anne Lathrop

One doesn't have to be an astrologer to be aware of the connection between Venus and the arts, beauty and love. One of the more enduring and universally recognized examples of fine sculpture is that of Venus, the most important Roman goddess.

The planet Venus was named in honor of this Roman goddess, known as Aphrodite to the Greeks. In the Mesopotamian era, this planet was associated with Ishtar, a goddess combining elements of both erotic love and war according to the position of Venus in the sky—morning (war) or evening (love).

During the rearrangement of cultural icons by Roman emperors, Venus was retained as the favored goddess, but only after "taming" her by giving her a male "mother" and marrying her to a lame blacksmith. This effectively controlled her femininity and sexuality in a society where patrilineal succession required that a woman be the property of her husband. Thus a “sanitized” Venus was launched upon her trajectory through the centuries to follow.

Most astrological texts speak of harmony, beauty and love in connection with Venus; the dark facets—her sexual power and the destructive and combative attributes recognized in earlier times—have been repressed. The concepts of security, relationship and marriage have all been pasted on to a sugary Venus. Yet in nature, ancient laws still apply; the fly respects the Venus Flytrap, a stunningly beautiful but lethal flower, or ceases to exist.

The effect of repressed matriarchal sexual customs and pleasures associated with Aphrodite/Venus eroticism is frequently addressed by Jungian psychiatrist James Hillman as one of the cultural ills that beset America today.

But let's let him speak for himself, from "Pink Madness," an essay published in Archetypal Sex (1995) which collects ideas from talks he gave in the early nineties:

“If you had been put in a closet for hundreds of years by priests, philosophers and prudish women who loved their religions more than their bodies, what would you do to let mortals know that you are still vibrantly alive and well? And if you were banned from actual life, except for occasional opportunities in certain circles dedicated to you or at specified times or occupations, finding no societal frame in which to fit into the literal realities of medieval piety, reformational capitalism, iron-age industrialism, ceremonial colonialism, scientific progressivism (as transformed into therapeutic salvationalism)—if there simply was no dignified place for you in the big literal world, what avenue would be left except fantasy....

Sex education, sex talk shows, sex help books, sex therapy, sex workshops—Aphrodite's pink ribbons wrap our culture round. The billion-dollar porn industry is minor league compared with the haunting sexual obsessions endemic in the culture at large.

The artist often brings the erotic side of Venus out of the closet in a style that varies according to social tolerance. Today the canvas with its imaginal hole through which obscene or disagreeable images emerge to startle the viewer is commonplace. Photography and even advertisements are erotically charged, and the fractured imagery of modern art continues to batter the wall of unexpressed eroticism.

Early in the twentieth century, composers created a "hole" in the scale, a missing piece that longs for reintegration. Deconstruction, a word later coined by the literarti, was broadly applied to musical assumptions and norms. Eventually every rule of musical composition and expression was tested by disgruntled Venusian muses.

Once these early iconoclasts broke with tradition, music became a raging river of longing and protest. Its connection to the sacred had been ruptured and, with the advent of recording and broadcasting technology, used to serve secular ends. Totalitarian regimes regulated the proletariat pulse with hypnotic tunes and rhythms; protestors and resisters of every ilk warred against the patriarchy with everything from folk songs to rap. And for those who needed to find a port in the storm, "new age" and meditation music brought harmony and unification in the midst of turmoil.

The arts attract spiritual warriors willing to lead the assault on the bastion of outdated social principles and mores. Twentieth century art, in all forms of expression, gives abundant evidence of these changes. Bob Dylan spelled it out for us in "The Times they are A'changin" written in the early sixties. He comments in his notes for Biography:

“This was definitely a song with a purpose. I knew exactly what I wanted to say and for whom I wanted to say it. I wanted to write a big song, some kind of theme song, you know, with short concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way."

The destructive side of Venus shows up again and again in the artist's world, and it is not always the artist who takes the sword in hand. Over the course of the twentieth century one after another precious cultural treasure has been bombed, sacked, ransacked, robbed, plundered by paid military personnel—quite a statement of the demented warrior Venus running amuck, uncontrolled. On the individual scale, sacred images have been savaged and defaced, slashed with knives, splattered with paint, attacked with acid. Here, as with the epidemic of pornography, Venus is being attacked, ravaged, ripped away; she is both the attacker and the attacked..

So here, we come full cycle. It is by virtue of the Roman icon management that the imaginal qualities of Venus were contained in a sugary sweet armless female form. The dark side of Venus, festering over the centuries, has reached the depths of horror over the twentieth century. Three men willing to desecrate all that is sacred and beautiful in the human for the sake of power—Adolph Hitler, Jim Jones, Saddam Hussein—have natal horoscopes heavily charged with Venusian symbolism. This is the repressed female mad with her erotic power over fellow humans.

The artist plays a key role in the ultimate resolution of this Venusian dis-ease, in the recovery process following the collapse of a social system which has developed beyond its natural limits. We are at a critical stage individually and culturally where we can ignore the transitional signs, the danger signals, only at the risk of perdition. The patriarchy is crumbling. Evidence of repressed Venusian energy exists at all levels, from child abuse to planetary rape.

Perhaps the key here is that both the matriarchal and patriarchal social systems are spent; the human projection of femme fatale and warrior onto Venus has reached its evolutionary limit and it's time to bury our cultural parents. Perhaps God isn't out there, nor bearded and benevolent, nor big-breasted, nor many-armed. Perhaps we need to look for God somewhere else.


Take a look at the accompanying geometric representation of the planet Venus' trajectory over an eight year period. This shows the unfathomable beauty of a Great Artist's hand at work. Perhaps by meditating on this image, we can connect to a new element of the Venusian principle: the rational harmony and natural relationship so readily evident in all the rest of nature.


Illustration credit: “Movement and Rhythm of the Stars” Joachim Schultz, copyright 1963, Florin Books. Fig. 97, pg. 131.



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