“The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and revealed to us in the language of mathematics.” Johannes Kepler
Venus is the second planet from the sun and the brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon. Dense yellow clouds of sulfuric acid obscure the view of the surface. Before radar penetrated this thick shield intense speculation of the reality of Venus reached into the realm of extreme science fiction. Astronomers believe Venus may have once been covered in oceans like Earth, but perhaps due to proximity to the Sun, or because of the dense atmosphere, the oceans evaporated and left a very inhospitable place.
Venus orbits the Sun in 224.7 days, but only rotates once on its axis every 243 Earth days, so one “day” on Venus is longer than its year. Venus also has unique status in our solar system of rotating clockwise on its axis. The rest of the planets, except Uranus which actually spins on its side, rotate and orbit the Sun in a counterclockwise or eastward direction. Likewise, the orbit and rotation of Venus are synchronized in such a manner that Venus always presents the same face to us when Earth and Venus are closest.
Mythology & Astrology
As the third brightest object in the sky Venus has been watched and revered since antiquity. More than three thousand years ago, on a stone in Babylon, images were carved of the Sun, Moon and Venus. Venus was known as the star of Ishtar, who has mythically come down to us through the ages as Astarte, Innana, Aphrodite, Venus and others from different cultures. Galileo observed the phases of Venus through his telescope, changing from crescent to full like the Moon, thereby supporting Copernicus in his view that the Sun is at the center of our solar system.
The Dresden Codex, one of the few remaining Mayan texts, reveals that the Maya tracked the morning star rising of Venus and shows the planet was at the heart of Mayan calendars and cosmology. The Greeks called the morning star Phosphoros, “Bringer of Light,” or Eosphoros, “Bringer of Dawn.” The evening star was Hesperos.
In later myth Venus was the Roman goddess of spring growth and the ordered nature of the seasons. Her name derives from venustus, which means “graceful.” Julius Caesar claimed to be her descendant and dedicated a temple to her in gratitude for his war victories. Her deeper nature is related to a state of grace, the more subtle meaning of her relationship to the earlier Greek Charis, goddess of grace.
In the myth of Aphrodite, Venus’s Greek predecessor, after she was “foam born,” the meaning of her name, from the severed phallus of her father Cronus, she challenged the status quo on Mount Olympus. All the gods desired her and much melodrama resulted. It is also intriguing, since Venus alone rotates toward the west, that in myths around the world goddesses reside in western gardens.
In Astrology Venus represents the principle of attraction and the energy of desire. In a horoscope Venus reveals how “attractive” we are, or how likely we are to magnetically draw things to us. This can be through physical beauty or what may appear on the surface to be luck, which in truth, is more related to the idea of grace mentioned earlier.
Therefore relationships, and whatever draws things and people together, are her domain. Ironically, the planet of relationship has no satellite of her own. Beauty, art, music, color, harmony in form, order and proportion are all her attributes. It is the sense of harmony and order that relates her to the principle of balance and justice. When strong in a horoscope she gives a keen aesthetic sense. Venus is thought to give us our social sensitivity and to influence the nature of our values, what’s most important to us, and what we desire.
Because she embodies the principle of beauty Venus also gives a love of adornments and the wish to possess lovely things. She is said to rule the harmonies of number and the vibration which gives rise to musical expression. Venus influences the affections and creates a desire for sensual gratification. Venus is said to be the goddess of love so she also embodies the feminine ideal as well as the ideal of harmonious relationship. This hints at the deeper significance of her mythical and enduring but conflicted relationship with Mars, the god of war.
The Venus Rose
The Babylonian star of Ishtar was depicted with eight points, revealing that the Babylonians were aware of the planet’s eight-year cycle. We know this from Omen Texts in the British Museum dating to the first Babylonian dynasty (1,900 BCE), which tracked the appearance and disappearance of Ishtar’s star.
Eight is significant because it takes eight years for Venus to complete one full pattern of five appearances as morning and five as evening star, forming an 8:5 ratio. Each rising as morning star occurs every 584 days. These cycles are completed in eight years, less fifty-six hours. This ratio traces an invisible but potent geometry in the sky, forming a five-pointed figure which has been called a rose, a star or pentagram. As Venus and Earth meet in a synodic cycle (synod means “meeting”), one point of the star is formed. Imagine looking down on the solar system as the motion of Venus relative to Earth draws a five-petaled flower in the sky. Around the world and through time the rose has been linked to the goddess, representing both desire and love.
This geometry is due to something astronomers call orbital resonance between Earth and Venus. Earth orbits the Sun eight times for Venus’s thirteen cycles around the Sun. This resonance, combined with the phenomenon of retrograde, an apparent backward motion, create the geometric pattern. Venus also turns on her axis exactly twelve times during this time, always presenting the same face to us when Earth and Venus are closest.
A Venus cycle begins at an inferior conjunction with the Sun, when Venus is between Earth and Sun, nearest to us and invisible, and in the middle of the planet’s retrograde period. Retrograde motion is an apparent backward motion caused by different planetary rates of speed. Since it takes eight years to complete one fivefold pattern, this creates an 8/5 ratio. 8/5 equals 1.6, which is a close approximation of the Golden ratio of Phi. This ratio is said to be pleasing in art and architecture and was especially prized during the Renaissance. In music these numbers relate as 5/8, which is called a sixth, and relates to the harmonious tuning of strings.
The Phi ratio can be seen in the well-known series of numbers noticed by Leonardo Fibonacci of Pisa, Italy. The spiral formed by this series of numbers is logarithmic and appears in nature in everything from whirling galaxies and hurricanes to sea- shells and sunflowers, so it should really come as no surprise that this ratio appears in the orbital resonance of Venus and Earth.
Because the exact alignment is off only fifty-six hours, the pentagram shape of the Venus Rose moves slowly backward in the sky. As the star pattern precesses through the zodiac signs, which are related to the seasons, different spots in the zodiac are impacted. The pentagram ticks through the whole zodiac in 1,215 years. In our time the zodiac signs (not the constellations), impacted by this fivefold pattern are: Aries, Gemini, Leo, Scorpio and Capricorn. Although this is advanced astrological work, it is possible to overlay a template of this star pattern on a horoscope and reflect on how Venus may be subtly awakening someone to the deep stirring of emotional unfoldment.
Venus Solar Transits
Venus is between the Earth and Sun and, like us, is tilted on her axis, a whopping 178 degrees compared to our 23 plus. Periodically, every 120 years or so, the Sun, Earth and Venus align horizontally. This creates what astronomers called a Transit of Venus, not to be confused with the ordinary motion of the planets in the sky. Astronomically, a Venus Transit is similar to the Moon eclipsing the Sun, but because Venus is so close the planet looks like a small black dot passing against a fiery background. Rather than blocking the Sun’s light like the Moon does during a Solar Eclipse, we witness the passage of Venus as the planet moves across the face of the Sun. Since Venus is the only goddess among the planets it may be that her appearance on the surface of the Sun serves to temporarily heighten the influence of the divine feminine.
Venus Transits are rare events, unlike Lunar and Solar eclipses which occur roughly every six months. But like those eclipses Venus transits also occur in pairs eight years apart. In 1,215 years, the amount of time required for the Venus Rose to circle through the zodiac, Venus will transit across the face of the Sun twenty times, or ten pairs eight years apart. On June 8, 2004 Venus passed across the surface of the Sun, and the second in this series will occur in June of 2012. As we approach the closing of an important cycle related to the Sun and the Galaxy in 2012, a Venus Transit could be seen to contribute the energy of love to the passage.
If we only look at Venus as a harsh rock-strewn planet, shrouded in toxic clouds of sulfuric acid, we risk missing something grander. The same could be said for life. For me the larger significance, available to us all, is that Creation is encoded with exquisite mathematical proportions and harmonies. Resonance is not random but rather expresses the intrinsic quality of existence. As Plato said, “God ever geometrizes.”
In earlier times myths were the way people transmitted their most sacred truths. How we experience Venus through her cycles, myths and astrological interpretation may have to do with the innate harmony of the spheres and the Dance of the Rose we do with her, as a planet and in our personal and global relationships.
I am always awed by the subtle and profound manner in which truth is communicated to us, and I believe that the Divine is revealed as we cultivate an attitude of stillness and reflection, paying attention to the nature of Nature. As we recognize the beauty of the orbital resonance existing between Earth and our sister Venus, we can reflect upon the deeper meaning of number and vibration which occupied the minds of the ancients. The Venus Rose is an exquisite example of what has been called the Music of the Spheres. Whether we choose to dance to this music is up to us.