Ishtar & Aphrodite – Part I

It seems particularly apr to begin this article with a reference to Gustav Klimt’s “The Die Jungfrauen” (The Virgins) 1913  shown above because it celebrates the stages of a woman’s life and the intertwining rhythms and themes which I would like to explore in reference to the understanding of Venus.  This work isn’t to read as a single moment in time, but as depicting the evolution into womanhood. The curator at the Klimt Museum notes that there ” are six women in the painting (or one woman with four sides to her persona) and all of them seem to be intertwined. The lines are clear and the human themes of love, sexuality, and regeneration are obvious in the circular cyclical shape of the work. In painting The Virgins the different life stages are represented by the same woman. Dislocated body parts in outrageous poses move as if underwater. The empty shell of a woman’s dress at the bottom gives birth to a child (the next generation) via a cascading waterfall of colour.”

In order to understand the essence of a thing, it behooves us to discover and contemplate its origin. But Aphrodite is not a thing, she is an archetype used to inform us of the meaning of the planet Venus. For those wishing to avoid a psychological approach, Plato’s Forms will adequately explain the relationship. Not everyone will be happy when I suggest that the better an astrologer understands the essence of the signs and planets, the better astrologer he will be. . I would suggest that it isn’t enough to say that astrology is a symbolic language. It is that too, but one needs to know what the symbol points to in all its wealth of meaning.

There is a view among some so-called traditional astrologers that astrological delineation is a more or less a mechanical process. Any reference to myth or spirituality is seen as a betrayal of tradition. I think the reverse is true. The history and expression of astrology since earliest antiquity, and indeed even during the Paleolithic period, has always been imbued with a soul and I contend that it should be approached in this spirit.

Contemplating the origins of astrology fascinates me personally, but this is something that astrological thinkers have to do a great deal of. In order to know why there are twelve houses with specific significations, we need to go back to the beginnings of horoscopic astrology and indeed to that which preceded it.  The same is true of the signs.

Most constellations look nothing like what they are purported to represent, yet the record shows us that for the most part there was a surprising degree of agreement on what they were. Why is that? We also gain a great deal by studying the earliest interpretations of the planets and the cosmologies that inform them.  However, the understanding we have cannot be universal, unless we can truly understand the root essence of the meanings allocated to planets. Authentic astrology is rigorous and works on more than one dimension. As will become evident, with Venus the core meanings are in the Venus cycle and her associations with the feminine.

The Evening Star – Venus in the Pleiades star cluster April 3, 2012.© 2012 Alan Dyer

In the case of Venus, most modern and contemporary astrologers subscribe to the European understanding of the Roman Venus. She is absconded from Greek mythology to Rome. from Aphrodite to Venus. Not much else changes and she seems not just rather domesticated but separated from some of the most basic elements of the real feminine.  This is the Venus we see in the newspaper columns and in popular star sign books, where Venus is almost always spoken of romantic. But even serious modern astrologers have a very narrow view of Venus. Presumably, William Lilly only had access to Classical and Medieval sources.

Lilly wrote: “”[QUALITIES OF MEN & THEIR PROFESSIONS.] Musitions, Gamesters, Silk—men, Mercers, Linnen—Drapers, Painters, Jewellers, Players, Lapidaries, Embroiderers, Women-tailors, Wives, Mothers, Virgins, Choristers, Fidlers, Pipers, when joyned with Moon, Singers, Perfumers, Semi lers, Picture—drawers, Gravers, Upholdsters, Limners, Glovers, all such as fell those Commodities which adorn Women either, in Body (as Cloaths) or in Face, (as Complexion-waters.)”

The list contains musicians, indeed all the decorous arts, and among the Venusian professions we have wives, mothers, and virgins. The portrait is suitably one of harmony, peace, and beauty. There is absolutely no doubt that all this belong to Aphrodite, but it is missing key feminine qualities on a grand scale. This is a somewhat sanitized version of the feminine and I’m reminded of the old English nursery rhyme: “sugar and spice and all things nice – that’s what little girls are made from.”

The Venus Tablet of Ammisaduqa is the sixty-third Tablet of the Astronomical omen series Enuma Anu Enlil. The tablet records the heliacal risings and settings of the planet Venus (Ninsianna) for a period of twenty-one years. (British Museum).

The original ‘Venus” was Innana or Lilith and was associated with the planet Venus and her phases. She was the Queen of the Night with a ferocious libido and her story passed down to us in the Babylonian sources is one of the earliest and most articulate representations of “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Hers is a chthonic force that has no truck with the rational. She is a Kali – dishing out death while giving birth. – a goddess of Creation, Destruction, and Power. Indeed, the two are so similar, that it’s quite plausible that they derived from the same source.

In The Epic of Gilgamesh, Innana travels to the underworld, dies and is resurrected. This is a reference to the Venus cycle. Her period of visibility, including her passage as morning and evening star, is very close to the traditional period of the gestation cycle of 260 days, associating her with creation and childbirth. She is not visible for about three months of the year (about 105 days) which would correspond to Innana’s ‘death’ or passage to the underworld.

When Innan rises (as does Venus) she is rising before the Sun, ready for war. During this phase, she is also known as Lucifer and Phosphorous. This fire turns to more sensual pursuits when she is the evening star, behind the Sun. Here we once again see the Garden of Hesperides. The Mayans also placed multiple significance on the Venus cycle, identifying it with the gestation cycle and the growing cycle of maize. I recommend an article by Erika Reiner and David Pingree that provides a great deal of detail on this matter.

There is an important distinction to be made regarding Innana and her ‘successors.’ Inanna is not a Semitic deity. This is of some importance because of the cultural milieu. The early Sumerians clearly had a goddess-based religion. It is in her and her closest forms that the feminine has the capacity for its fullest expression. The more Patriarchal cultures of Greece and Rome to some extent recreated Venus in their own image – or more precisely in the image of a domesticated feminine who could occasionally be quite naughty, but a not a woman who occasionally expressed herself as a raging volcano. This is why the cultural milieu is always relevant in deciphering these things. What is most striking is that the traits of the physical planetary Venus have been minimized. Classical or Hellenistic astrologers and those who followed did take the phases of Venus into account and this was true until at least the 18th Century. But Innana has been stripped of her chthonic and primal nature.

Kali_Devi 1770 Print Colored etching on paper,

The writer in the Encyclopaedia Britannica states: “Ishtar / Innan’s primary role in Sumer was that of fertility. However, she evolved into a far more complex character, with association with death and the underworld and all kinds of catastrophic disasters in short order. She was a goddess of contradictory connotations, of comfort and wrath. fire and fire-quenching, rejoicing and weeping, justice fair and enmity. As a goddess of Venus, delighting in physical pleasure,  she was the protectress of prostitutes and patroness of the alehouse. Part of her cult worship almost certainly involved temple prostitution.”

With the inception of Islam, there is a monumental shift in the meaning of Venus. Illustrations of the Islamic Venus, lack any real sensuality. She has the image of a beardless man and is mostly associated with music and dance, although she is considered the lesser benefic and Islam is said to be “under Venus,” in the same sense that Judaism in under Saturn.

Venus is the star in the Crescent of Islam. If we also consider Isis as an element of the Primordial Goddess, we can see how these Semitic, Mesopotamian. Egyptian and Roman manifestations of the goddess inform the culture as well as show how the feminine force was interpreted. Some cultures hold the goddess as a divine creator, while others perceive her in a more subservient role. No doubt this is a reflection of cultural views of women. Nevertheless, I would say one ignores or underestimates the power of the feminine at their peril. It is not an irony that an acceptance of these traits enhances the more traditional ones. It is easier to understand Venus as the evening star if you know where she has come from and where she will return.

To what extent anyone wishes to take this to heart is, of course, a personal matter.  Nevertheless, the full spectrum of Venusian power will be better appreciated by examination of the essence and roots of the archetype and the close relationship to the planet Venus, in all her phases.  I suspect it may also cause some to more closely examine the phases of Venus, which has been a core element in traditional astrology from the very beginning. Discussion of this subject can only provide a deeper understanding and illuminate both tradition and cultural bias.

Clearly, the main elements of this article require a later expansion – for example, the Venus phases themselves.. The Lunar cycle and the Venus cycle are intertwined and to a lesser extent, so are the phases of Mercury. is the c The intent of this article is to raise some of the main issues regarding the interpretations of Venus.

Salt of the Earth

Alchemical Symbol for Earth

Alchemical Symbol for Earth

This is the final part of an introductory series on the four Elements in Astrology

Earth is among the four classical elements in ancient Greek philosophy. It was associated with qualities of heaviness, matter and the terrestrial world. Earth is the tangible, the solid. The elements remain very much the same in several cultures. In some, the Quintessence is also present as the source of all things. This is the primary meaning of the pentagram.

The Earthy Tripicity consists of Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn: Fixed, Mutable and Cardinal, respectively. Consider some of the qualities attributed to each sign: the Bull is latent potency – see the word Aleph inPan God the Hebrew alphabet. Virgo is the harvester, the anaylist, separating the wheat from the chafe. Capricorn is the Sea goat or Pan. The latter was at the top of his pantheon, dweller in wild places, half man half goat. He is the model for Satan, with cloven hoofs. Such was the malignant interpretation of monotheists with the intent of rendering the pagan gods extinct.

Earth is also physical sensuality  – in Water we have feelings,empathy and intuition. In Air we have intellect, discernment and the realm of ideas. In Fire we have Spirit, the forge and the will. In Earth we have nourishment, groundedness and perhaps most importantly the tangible — what can be known by the senses

Empedocles proposed four archai by which to comprehend the cosmos: fire, air, water, and earth.  The word archai is the root of the word Archetype. Plato uses the term Forms.

Plato conceived of  the elements as geometric forms: what we have previously discussed as Platonic Solids. The cube was assigned to the the element of Earth in Timaeus.

I wonder if it is too exotic to think of our association of Earth in the term ‘square deal.” We mean that it is what it appears to be and grounded in reality. We use the term ‘square’ to refer to a reliable, as well as a dull person.tree-roots

Probably it is; but when we use the term Salt of the Earth it has a universal meaning. Although the origin comes down to us via the New Testament, we use it to refer to someone who is completely reliable, unassuming, down to earth , humble and good hearted.

The meaning of Salt and Earth are closely related in Alchemy. In alchemy, Earth is primarily cold, and secondarily dry. Further, the chemical substance salt, was associated with earth and its alchemical symbol was a downward-pointing triangle, bisected by a horizontal line. It’s the same as the usual symbol for Earth.6-Ways-to-Be-Salt-of-the-Earth

Aristotle tells us that Earth is the heaviest of all elements. Reasoning from his theory of natural place he concluded that any earth–laden substances would drop rapidly  to the center of the cosmos.crystal-cave-1 Nat Geo

In Greek and Roman mythology, various chthonic gods and goddesses represented the Earth, seasons, crops and fertility. These belong to the element of Earth in her cycles. Among the better known are Hades and Persephone.

Chthonic pertains to spirits of the underworld. Many ancient cultures believed caves were the gateway to the underworld, which was not to be taken negatively in most cases. The idea of *going deep* to be raised up is a recurring theme.

The Triplicity itself is of course a cycle, from Cardinal to Fixed, to Mutable These expression of Earth are distinct from each other while sharing the same essence. Never make the mistake of taking these archetypes in the sense of Sun sign astrology.

Finally, a physician who was not also an astrologer was considered a charlatan prior to the 18th Century. Astrology, theory of the element and medicine all go hand in hand.

Buddha: Entangled by Roots

Buddha: Entangled by Roots

In Traditional Western medicine , each of the four humours is associated with an element. Black bile was the humor identified with earth, since both were cold and dry. An excess of black bile lead a more serious form of Melancholy. It is crucial to note, however, that determining the humour (s) was a skill. Diagnosis and decumbitures were astrological To be clear, someone might have their Sun in a certain sign, but they may not have the corresponding humour as dominant.