Venus and Friends

Part of what I'm interested in doing with this blog is making the language of astrology more accessible to people who just want to learn about it in a desultory way. Not everybody is ready to sign up for a class or commit to some serious book-learnin'. One of my first teachers, Karen McCauley, used to have me just feel the energies of the planets we discussed, or meditate on them, which, at the wise old age of nineteen, I assumed was a waste of time. But in the many years that have passed since those first classes, I've found that when studying astrology, just vibing with the energy of a particular archetype is the perfect complement to reading about the planets and the parts of our lives that they rule. You can't even really begin to use astrology in any personally meaningful way unless you can connect to how the different planetary energies feel.

Today's lesson is dedicated to Venus. When we think of the planet Venus, we typically think of love, and that's a good place to start. But romantic love can draw on a lot of other parts of our psyches that are not strictly Venusian. Sex (Mars), power (Pluto), high romance (Neptune), trust (Saturn), emotional neediness (Moon), and exchange of ideas (Mercury) are some of the many other components to a relationship which might get us into a Venusian mood in the first place. We're not usually inclined to kiss someone that we don't trust, or to whom we're not attracted! So what is Venus really about?

Venus makes us feel good, plain and simple. It's an integral component of the equation for attaining those elusive states, FUN and HAPPINESS. In astrology, Venus is given rulership over two signs, Taurus and Libra. In Taurus, we see the face of Venus that is primarily concerned with PEACE. In Libra, we meet the part of Venus that is given over to BEAUTY. I think peace can sound a little dull to younger ears, like a still-point, a no-action zone, an emptiness. Think of Venusian peace instead as those periods in your life, or those moments of the day, when nothing is wrong. For chronic worriers like Cancer and Virgo, or ambitious signs like Aries and Scorpio, or intellectually restless Gemini, such moments may be rare indeed. But we need them, desperately - they are balm to the soul, the everyday graces that make us feel like life is running smoothly and going according to plan. Another simple way to connect with Venus is to think about those parts of life that are easy for us. Do you have a beautiful, comfortable home (Venus in Cancer)? An effortless faith in God (Venus in Sagittarius)? A dynamite relationship with your co-workers (Venus in Virgo)? Or a seemingly endless fund of artistic inspiration and creativity (Venus in Aries)? In each of the examples named, it's all too easy to overlook the magnitude of the gifts we've been given. Venus in Virgo: "Sure I have an easy time at work, but I'm not cute enough to attract a partner." Venus in Aries: "Sure I'm burning up with ideas, but when will the recognition - and the money come?" The trick to mastering Venus is to find contentment in the things that are going right. Venus is about wanting what you already have.

If Venus is sounding a little lazy or unambitious, then you're cluing into another facet of the planetary energy. Laziness can be a danger of too much Venus, and foster the sense that we're so beautiful that we don't have to look after our health, or the conviction that the values handed down by our parents were good enough and don't require any adjustment, or the belief that life is just fine the way it is and there's no sense in trying to make it better. Venus can become stuck and resistant to change, just like the rest of the archetypal energies. But it's my firm feeling that in the West, we don't place near-enough emphasis on the higher expressions of Venus. Sure, lots of people get addicted to money and security (the negative stereotype of Taurus), but then these people aren't really connecting to high Venus either: they're not enjoying what they have beyond the having of it.

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You'll notice that the Empress card in the Rider-Waite Tarot deck features the Venus glyph. In the Tarot, the Empress augurs a time of sensual indulgence and relaxation, a period in your life when there's time to make love and cook a sumptuous meal, and chat the night away with good friends and a bottle of wine. Take a break, the Empress says. Smell the roses. Come home from work early and look your lover in the eyes. Though Venus can function as shorthand for money in the chart, most of the activities I just listed don't cost very much. Human connection is free. Ditto the beauty of the natural world. Playing with a child or a beloved pet just takes time, as does cooking a delicious meal. There's something to the old adage, "The best things in life are free." High Venus is a state of mind, an attitude which allows us to see the beauty in the things that are right in front of us, and to discover peace and joy in the way things are.

One of my favorite Venus words is "local." We might dream of one-day storming the New York literary scene, but Venus is about being satisfied with being the best poet in Peoria. Healthy Venus is thinking that the local offerings of people, entertainment, and opportunities are just as good where you stand as they would be in the next town, or across the ocean. Wise Venus knows that you can just as easily get enlightened in Fresno as Tibet. Venus is the "here" and the "now" in Ram Dass's immortal formulation, "Be Here Now." Astrologers wax eloquent about the spiritual capacity of Neptune, Saturn, and the Moon, but what about chipper little Venus and effortless, everyday happiness? How spiritually advanced or juicy can we really be without ease, grace, and personal comforts? How much would our lives change if we really loved all of who we are, however humble or small we judge ourselves to be? To quote Oriah Mountain Dreamer, "What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?"

As you can see, we've wandered from romantic love to self-love, which is another way of describing the state of being happy with who you are. Venus is associated with romantic love because it allows us to see our own beauty through another person's eyes. Some people just make us feel good - or wonderful or gorgeous or hilarious - and typically we have Venus contacts with these people in chart comparisons (called synastry). So does Venus rule over those heart-pumping grand passions that lead us to dramatic, Romeo-and-Juliet-style expressions of our love? Well, perhaps, with a little stimulation from the trans-personal planets or the South node. But sustainable Venus in action is more along the lines of, "Every time Billy comes into the coffee shop where Carrie works, it puts a smile on Carrie's face." Billy sees the best in Carrie, so Carrie sees the best in Billy. "She's so easy to be with ..." is something we hear a lot from people who are falling - and people who are still - in love. It's another way of saying, "I can open up my whole self and she still likes it! And I reward her for this generosity of spirit by allowing her to be who she is." We don't usually think about any of this consciously, of course. But we get a clue to how Venus operates in our lives when we notice the activities - and people - which put us in a good mood.

I've been sustaining some pretty heavy outer planet transits to my Venus these past few years, and so I thought I'd share my own personal story of taking Venus gifts for granted. Several years ago I did a chart reading for an acquaintance who has since become a celebrity. She's drop-dead gorgeous, so much so that I could easily put aside my own Venusian pride in my appearance when I was in her presence, because it was just so thrilling to orbit her radiance. When I'd tool around Los Angeles with her, the reactions she got were incredible. Not only men but straight women would fawn all over her and make every effort to please her. I'll call her Betty for the sake of convenience. Even before Betty was in films or on magazine covers, she was treated like a celebrity, and she graciously accepted this treatment.

I was tickled when I cast her chart and saw that sexy Venus in Aries was smack-dab on Betty's Ascendant. Venus in the Mars-ruled sign of Aries gives off epic sex appeal, and Aries ain't shy about putting it out there (neither is Betty). The placement of Venus on the Ascendant just ups the ante in terms of how widely that sex appeal is going to radiate. The Ascendant is one of the most visible points in the chart, and so any planet there is on prominent display: in Betty's case, her feminine endowments were her calling card. A first house Sun in Taurus contributed to this charismatic picture (first house planets can't hide their light), with earthy Taurus softening the potential for masculine harshness that comes with Aries rising.

So here I was, in truth fawning a little bit over Betty and singing the praises of her Venus rising, and noting how neat it was that the goddess of beauty was elevated in her chart, since Betty herself resembles Venus incarnate. Now I had noticed that gloomy Saturn in Cancer was squaring that Venus in the natal chart, but Betty was happily married, and about to embark on a career in which her Venusian body was the key to getting jobs. I read the Venus-Saturn square as the challenge of turning personal beauty into a business, and thought that that was that. Overall she was very happy with the reading, but when I asked Betty if there was anything else she wanted to talk about, she floored me.

Her face and mood changed, and a note crept into her voice which told me that this was one of the deep pains of her life: "Why can't I keep any female friends?" All in a flash I had one of those astrological revelations which let me know that my own filtered perspective had crept into the reading and led me to miss something. I have Venus in its own sign of Libra, in the outgoing fifth house and trine expansive Jupiter. I have to struggle not to make friends so I keep enough time for myself and my projects.  Friends?  It took me a moment to even comprehend Betty's question.  Friends? Who except the extremely smelly and socially inept has a problem making friends? I'd never thought about making friends before. I can be stiff, shy, and stand-offish, and I still make and keep friends in spite of some natural awkwardness. How could a woman who looked like Betty help but have a whole gaggle of friends? As it turned out, she'd had so many negative experiences with female friends, and suffered so many betrayals, that she was extremely reluctant to trust women at all (Saturn square Venus). I stumbled through an answer to her question but probably made a mess of it because I was so shocked.

I learned a lot about Venus that day. I learned that one of my own natural Venus gifts is the ability to attract and keep friends. As proof that I'd always taken that talent for granted - I'd never thought about it before Betty confessed her own struggles in the world of friendship! I'd never had to. I'd set up my life so that I always had a ring of people to celebrate my accomplishments with, or commiserate with me over my woes. I never lacked for folks to invite to movies or parties or happy hours. A fifth house Venus in Libra can mean a lot of things - like a dangerous propensity for falling in love with love - but it wasn't until after Betty's reading that I really appreciated my own Libran friendliness and gift for forming relationships.

Now the savvy astrologer will have already noticed that the Aries, first-house emphasis in Betty's chart can be productive of diva syndrome - Aries is extremely self-focused, while Libra, its opposite, is other-focused. Saturn in Cancer in Betty's chart also makes it difficult to show tender feelings and neediness. So without knowing exactly how all of Betty's friendships went south, it's easy to guess that her natural talent for self-promotion (her very star quality) struck her friends as self-centered, and her Saturn in Cancer would have prevented her from letting those friends know just how much she cared. It's easy to feel eclipsed by Betty's radiance, and so the friends in question might have betrayed her out of jealousy, spite, or anger over their unmet needs. Betty's Saturn in Cancer also tells me about her high sensitivity level, and how these broken friendships probably wounded her in a way that might not have phased someone with more social experience. In spite of her exaggerated Venusian beauty, Betty seemed to be lacking in that higher octave of Venus - balance and reciprocity in relationships - as suggested by the placement of her Venus in competitive Aries.

Friends are usually not the first thing astrologers think of when discussing the role of Venus in a chart. We're far more focused on Venus as an indicator of romantic relationships, self-esteem, personal resources and even hobbies (i.e. what you like to do for fun). But I think our friends tell us a little something about all of the above. In most cases, your romantic partner is also your best friend, and the values of our friends reflect what we think is important about life. For the first time in my own life, I've really had to think about what kind of friends I want, and why, and how one goes about attracting them. Check the status of Venus in your life by thinking about your relationship to your friends. Do you feel at home with them - at peace and relaxed? Do your friends reflect your values - at least in part? Do you feel like you have no friends at all, or so many you have no time for yourself? Just a little reflection on your own experiences with friendship can yield loads of information about how much Venusian joy you're letting into your life. We work out a lot of karmic baggage in partnerships, but friendships are supposed to be fun - that is, Venusian - most of the time. If your friends aren't stimulating your personal sense of peace and beauty, then perhaps it's time for an upgrade. Change your friends, change your life. And if you take nothing else away from this post, remember that no one person can have Venus everywhere in the chart, and that even the pretty people have Plutos and Saturns.