Art by ©Milana Vujkov

Forty Days, Forty Nights – Goddess Descends

Notes On Alchemical Psychology is a series of texts dedicated to personal creative therapeutic work, merging the old ways & the new. This one is an astrological essay – this time on Venus turning retrograde, as of today, in the sign of Capricorn, while in a tango with Pluto, the God of the Dead.

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;

LORD BYRON, She Walks in Beauty, 1815

There is something about cosmic phenomena that, in the end, is undeniable. We know that we depend on Earth’s good graces, affecting our lives in their entirety. We see the Moon each night changing face, mastering tides and moods – the female fertility cycle in sync with the number of days it takes from one New Moon to the next. There would be no us if it were not for the Sun, as our heliocentric world, with all our crops, as well as beings big and small, revolves at its command. Even if we do not perceive the majesty of this dance in poetic terms, there would not be a single one of us who would deny, upon contemplation, that there would be no existence, as we know it, if not for these palpable heavenly bodies that effectively manage our lives.

Nevertheless, somehow, this line of thought quickly becomes murky when we arrive at the other significant presences in our solar system, interconnected, and equally undeniable. Even more dubious seem the effects of other stars and constellations, evidently somehow linked to our system, in a symphony of celestial forces we can only imagine, but hardly grasp.

How do they impact our lives? If at all.

This is the point where astrology, in all its many conceptualisations, becomes not only a matter of art, tradition, belief, or magic, but a scientific question. Hence, there might be some merit in revisiting the frequently glossed-over parts of the bios of the founding fathers of modern astronomy. Kepler, Copernicus, and Galileo, as many others, were essentially astrologers, doing their field work.

Somewhere in the ego-fest that was the Age Of Enlightenment, we forgot the luminaries, so we could acquire ownership of own our inner Sun. Now we live in a microscopic universe, with macroscopic ambitions, and little to no relation to the giants who began inhabiting these spheres eons before we arrived. The arrogance of denying personhood to entire worlds, while reclaiming it for our human selves, could be attributed more to the tragicomedy of our inner wiring, than mere ignorance; but this paradox seems to be further buried under an ever increasing paperwork of furious perpetual virtual movement to no-where, one the Cartesian (and capitalist) mindset enshrines.

Eight years is how long it takes for the planet Venus to arrive at the exact same zodiacal spot it previously went underground (in mythological & symbolic terms). Its sidereal orbital period 225 days, its synodic cycle (when observed from Earth) 584 days – the time Venus needs to return to the same place in our visible sky. At the beginning of each synodic period, Earth, Venus, and the Sun are aligned. In the eight years, they align five times, tracing a pentagram in the heavens.

Venus then turns retrograde every 18-19 months, at different points in the zodiac, which means that the planet begins moving backwards in the sky, an illusion caused by the relative motion of the Earth and other planets as they orbit the Sun, first explained by Copernicus. She is retracing the last fifteen to eighteen degrees she had already passed, in reverse motion. All this happens over a period of approximately forty days. Probably not a coincidental temporal reference in monotheistic religions, particularly Christianity, in terms of the length of time during which the gravest temptations and trials occur, as well as relating to periods of fasting. This is also an interesting connection considering Venus’s affiliation with Lucifer (or Phosphorus), the “light bearer”, the name she had been assigned with as the Morning Star, when rising before the Sun, as opposed to Venus appearing in the evening sky, setting after the Sun, as the Evening Star (Hesperus). There, after reaching its peak nightly luminosity, she soon begins her retrograde journey, and the beginning of a new cycle, in middle of which she goes dark, and disappears from the sky – only to return, as the light bearer, reborn.

It terms of her retrograde motion, when Venus reaches the final, stationary degree, as any other planet, she turns direct. To understand this period, and its possible impacts, remember the events in your life from eight years ago. Or sixteen. Or twenty-four. We live in cycles, which hopefully become spirals of ascent.

Venus is now at the very end of the earthy, unflappable sign of Capricorn, joining Pluto moving at glacier pace through the sign of the Goat, transforming our collective hellscapes, one generation at a time. Face to face with the God of the Underworld, the Goddess’s retrograde motion begins.

To comprehend this particular retrograde fully is to understand what the conjuction of Venus and Pluto, a notoriously testy combo, brings forth. Having one in my chart, I am aware that I might be perhaps too biased, but I do have the benefits of insider insight. These patterns also often travel through family lines, in search of confrontation, a resolution, and ultimately, a healing. I have observed this combination of planets repeat itself in various aspects in my maternal line, and it slowly became clear to me how it manifests, in various timelines and modalities. In terms of relationships, and particularly love relationships, the Persephone myth often assigned to the union of the two planets in astrological literature, truly does apply. A part of a person seems thus, in some way, abducted, dragged into the shadow landscapes of relationships, unwilling, and often, unconscious, and once they taste the pomegranate seeds of the knowledge of the unspeakable, they never can return completely to what they were before they had descended. But when they do accept their lot, and return to the world of the living, they bring about with them incredible growth and fecundity – for themselves, and for others.

To put it in Capricornian terms, i.e. bluntly, in honour of the sign in which Venus now goes dark – it was the romantic relationships that were the downfall of the women in my family, causing ripple effects far up the family tree. Love did not nourish them, it burned them alive. Of course, in turn, they were, in some cases, the cause of similar emotional catastrophe in others. An anguish and consequence that go far beyond the expected blows of unrequited, forbidden, or doomed love.

Venus and Pluto pairing is love taken to the extreme, on fire or frozen, never mild. This is also transposed to all other matters of the heart, what we value, cherish, enjoy. Recurring themes – possessiveness and jealousy, rendering the natalities with this signature either objects of envy, or internally suffering comparisons through a never-ending pattern of triangulations. Obsessive, or obsessed over, Venus/Pluto has also a lot to do with money. Too much, or too little. Love that impoverishes, or love traded for riches. Value attached to beauty creates a femme fatale aura, an extremely attractive, or utterly repellent presence, with no middle ground. Relating, itself, becomes a matter of life and death.

However, Pluto is the God of the Underworld, and that is where gold and all precious stones abide.

This is an intense internal state of affairs, requiring a consistent transforming and transmuting of a darkened Eros into creativity, and on a broader scale, preparing fertile ground for something different to mature, a compassionate, wise, integrated, and quite wonderful new existence. In its peak glory, Venus/Pluto bestows an alchemical talent for transforming anything into beauty, and for seeing beauty and worth in all.

Venus in its retrograde motion is often linked to the story of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess of love & war, descending into the Underworld to meet and make peace with her estranged and grieving sister Erishkigal. In the process, she must abandon all her regalia, and enter the hellish realms her sister dwells in, setting aside all her powers. As in Babylonian myth, this is the time we pay our dues, both to ourselves, and to others. We learn to love and embrace what we deem as ugly aspects of our own personalities, ones we and others discarded, and the anguish and pain we buried in order to be able to function in the sunlight, seemingly undisturbed by the faint cries of our rejected ‘twin sister’ below.

Like any other personal planet re-evaluating its realms, Venus retrograde urges us to dive into the difficult aspects of its themes. Venusian shadow aspects are often much harder to navigate than our intellect (Mercury) and drives (Mars), as they involve our own love natures, our sensuality, all things close to our hearts – including daggers buried deep, a long time ago. We are challenged with feelings of being unloved and undervalued, past resentments and regrets, issues of money, or lack thereof, property and familial entanglements, and all the shards we left unattended, festering in our emotional bodies.

This thorny journey is now, in its entirety, coloured by a Plutonian hue – forty days and forty nights of a retrograde more potent than most, in all its manifestations. A perfect time for the ghosts of the past to be redeemed and laid to rest. And an even better one to let go of all that makes us feel lacking in life’s joy, no matter the investments we made – in time, money, or even, love.

It is the tough, discerning, businesslike Capricorn Venus making its ultimate calculation, almost despite itself, of what it most genuinely cherishes.

AUTHOR: ©Milana Vujkov

Disclaimer – These notes follow a personal journey, and are offered as philosophical & creative inspiration. Although I am a psychologist by education, the material within them is not therapy or substitute for therapy. However, they are dedicated as temenos for accessing the therapeutic numinous, in hope of being of good service to your soul in exploring the potentials of each moment in time. My astrological musings are a sum of knowledge of a great many teachers, old and new, a lineage of wisdom I was lucky to have received and am lucky to pass on, in my own philosophical (re)interpretation, thus these words should be taken more as a (hopefully) thought-provoking piece of stellar mapping, less as an astrological forecast.

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