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by Deena Grier

When I began to prepare this talk, I felt that I had to get a grip on the astronomy of Venus retrograde. Astronomy and I have never been good friends, but of late, we’ve begun to form an uneasy alliance. Erin Sullivan’s book, Retrograde Planets, was an enormous help. So I studied diagrams of Venus’s retrogradation — an event which occurs about every eighteen months. And I began to absorb the fact that the entire cycle is way more than the five wimpy weeks we see in the ephemeris. In fact, the whole thing could take up to a year. Bearing in mind that Venus can never be more than 48° from the Sun, we can see that point in mid-August of 2002, it’s retrograde conjunction with the Sun around November lst, and its direct conjunction in mid-August of 2003. Amplification of this is found in Sullivan’s book, but isn’t a requirement right now. There’s something far more interesting inherent in the retrogradation of Venus.

If we do an obsessive search through the ephemeris, we find that Venus retrogrades in the same sign every eight years: in Scorpio this year, in Scorpio in 1994. Hmmmm…. And plotting out the five retrograde cycles over that eight-year period, around the zodiac, we discover that each of its stations is 72° away from the last.. A quintile pattern!

Now, the quintile is one of those aspects — along with its partner, the bi-quintile or 144° — that is a little obscure and difficult to grasp. The problem is that everything you read about the quintile speaks in metaphysical, almost magical terms. If you’re a highly Saturnian type like I am, you may find your eyes glazing over. Although of late, Neptune’s been helping me some. And I do have a quintile in my own chart.

It seems that the quintile has a lot to do with inspirational knowledge. It’s a kind of “ah-hah!”. In his book, Harmonic Charts, David Hamblin finds it tied in somehow with language and knowledge — especially that knowledge which has a connection to “the higher mind” . But, with that metaphysical orientation, the words he uses are all very earthy, grounded ones. For example: “making, arranging, building, constructing, structuring and forming”. Hamblin believes these are especially apparent in all forms of art and style. So perhaps we can say that quintiles are related to the metaphysical manifesting as the physical, or more simply, giving form to the creative impulse.

But back to that zodiacal circle with its five cycles of Venus retrograde. Linking the retrograde stations together by either diagonal lines or from one to the other, gives us either a pentangle — or five-pointed star — or a pentagram — a five-sided figure.

In either case, there is an obvious link to that idea known as the Golden Mean — that proportional ratio that underlies all of art and nature. The most obvious example of this is what you see when you cut an apple in half horizontally and observe the five-pointed star created by its seeds. When we think of art and nature, we could be thinking of Venus’ rulership over Libra and Taurus — one the intellectual, the other the physical — art and nature.

So, does this mean that every time there is a Venus retrograde cycle, the whole ideal of art and nature is invoked? All of the thinking behind the Golden Mean — which is also referred to as the Divine Proportion? Quite possibly. Although some of the more mundane examples might be quite a stretch. My friend who walked into a branch of the Gap and said “ah, it’s all boring stuff this year” was perhaps manifesting the real thing. His fashion taste was not invoked. Moreover, he was questioning it.

As I write this, the current cycle is winding down and Venus is on its station direct. We also now know that there was another Venus retrograde cycle in October of 1994. So this has been a time to look back, re-assess, review, re-discover all that was going on with our urges for connectedness, with our desires to express ourselves creatively, with our needs for relationship, for re-examining what we like and do not like.

Any Venus retrograde cycle brings these things back into consciousness and oftentimes, we find ourselves vaguely disenchanted with all the things that are available to us: our relationships, our amusements, our social roles, and often our taste. Venus is, after all, the arbiter of taste. We go to the stores and we yawn. Nothing pleases. We go to a party: we slip away after a half hour — boring people. We pick the wrong chocolate out of the chocolate box — convinced it’s a coffee cream, we discover it’s that loathed marzipan.

The world around us reflects it all back and the news of the day can be grim. Currently, it is the covert negotiations around a threatened war with Iraq, it is the nationwide debate over the Kyoto Accord, it’s Health Canada approving the use of a growth hormone in our own Canadian cows. It is also — most strikingly from the chart drawn for the moment of Venus’ station R. — the hostage-taking in a Moscow theatre by the Chechyn rebels. Everything has a strong Venus in Scorpio flavour. And it is square Jupiter, semi-sextile Pluto (which is in trine to Jupiter) and ruled by Mars in Virgo and Libra. So we have the analytical energy of Virgo working on the psychological flavour of Venus followed by the highly principled and compromising but not very powerful Mars in Libra.

How this works out on the arts is interesting. The films PunchDrunkLove and Frida are especially good examples of a retrograde Venus in Scorpio. The former has all the Scorpio overtones of excessive actions, sex, credit cards, covert violence and passionate love. And while it has drawn critical acclaim, it hasn’t drawn the audience — it’s a little too funky, a little too weird. The second film, Frida, involves Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera — passionate communist surrealist artists — and brings the whole question of fidelity and loyalty in relationships up for us to examine. Frida is damaged goods — a young, beautiful and talented artist, she is severely maimed in a bus accident. Yet, her inner beauty (a good Venus in Scorpio concept) shines through. She loves, she is loved.

But what about those souls born with Venus retrograde? What is their story?

In childhood, they are shy, often socially inept, but oddly bright — picking up on things that will make adults remark with delight. They have difficulty fitting into the normal kid-groups: they badly want to, but often it doesn’t quite work out. Because they are outsiders in some way, they seem to be more sensitive to the needs of others, showing a lot of natural compassion for those who are going through hard times.

I remember my own son, born with Venus retrograde in Aquarius, showing up after school with two boys in tow. Their mother had run off, their father, an alcoholic, had fallen from a balcony and was hospitalized and they had run away because the threat of being taken in by the social services loomed on the horizon. By the time they arrived on my doorstep, they had been sleeping under a porch in the neighbourhood, were being fed by other kids, and were desperately cold and frightened. We set them up in the basement for a couple of nights and then were obliged to seek outside help. But the fact remains that it was my son who figured we could do something to help.

In adolescence, that social ineptness remains. They can seem to be a little gauche and awkward, lacking the grace that ought to be the natural condition of Venus. It’s not that the Venus retrograde person doesn’t know how to give affection — sometimes they give too much and it isn’t received. But their taste in those of the opposite sex or even in the same, is always going to go against the norm. In fact, their taste is just “different”. With that intrinsic sensitivity, males with this configuration often tune into women very easily.

Later as the cycle develops, especially if Venus is ahead of the Sun at birth, they begin to express the more masculine sides to their identities. Both parts are built into the Venus retrograde psyche and in a sense it gives them an edge. They see a different kind of beauty — a sometimes dramatic reflection of that quintile pattern we talked of earlier. They are often highly artistic — although not necessarily in ways you might expect.

Venus retrograde’s physical side can sometimes manifest as multiple relationships. One example I know of is of a much-married man (four wives), three of whom were unable to conceive, while the fourth and presumably final, wife, already had children from a first marriage. But it can, equally, swing the other way, producing an almost celibate lifestyle. Further, life sometimes denies some of the expected things like marriage, home and children. Alexander Ruperti in the out-of-print Cycles of Becoming suggests, in rather high-flown prose, that those born with Venus retrograde need to move all Venusian efforts to a higher level. Try telling that to an unhappy teenager or a thirtyish woman who doesn’t seem to ever find the right partner! But Ruperti isn’t wrong. As astrologers, we need to counsel these people differently because they certainly “move to the beat of a different drummer”. Mostly, we need to listen closely.


With Venus now direct and conjoining Mars, a new flavour is developing. I have watched in amazement as a woman I know has worked her way through this cycle. She had been laid off from her job in the U.S. city where she had been living for 3 years.and had been looking for work for nearly 10 months. Her original move west in 1994 had taken her to Vancouver, exactly 8 years ago on the last retrograde station of Venus in Scorpio. She had never worked in Vancouver in her chosen field for any length of time and now, on the retrograde was seriously considering moving back to Canada to — as she put it — ‘finish the job”. Her 6th house cusp is at 6° of Scorpio, the degree of Venus’ retrograde Sun conjunction. Shortly after Mars approached Venus Direct, she found herself with an offer in Vancouver and shortly after that a second offer. Now she has returned to Vancouver to “finish the job”. The upward spiral effect of these retrograde cycles can, I believe, offer an opportunity to go back over past experiences but in a positive way. As the spiral moves upward, we bring to it greater knowledge, experience and self-awareness.

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