Venus Retrograde: Breaking Hearts & Shedding Skins

Venus as an evening star, setting after the Sun. I shot this at Joshua Tree a couple years ago less than an hour after sunset.

“I used to think a broken heart was something you had to put back together, like a favorite dish that fell on the floor and would never be the same again. Now I see that heartbreak often comes from the need to expand. Like a snake shedding a skin, your heart is just too big for the cage you’ve been keeping it in.”

I wrote that June 5th, 2014, six months after a Venus Retrograde that coincided with the last time my heart was broken. A year and four months later, one month after the Venus Retrograde of 2015 I met the love of my life and left LA to move in with him in Portland.


Venus goes retrograde about every eighteen months and during that retrograde period she makes a conjunction with the Sun. A conjunction is when a planet occupies the same degree of the zodiac as another from our viewing position on earth. With the Sun a conjunction has a heightened meaning because when a planet conjoins the Sun it disappears from our view, it becomes eclipsed.

During these planetary eclipses the planet ceases to reflect the light of the Sun to us here on earth and engages in a private dance with the Sun. Traditionally the loss of light is seen as a death, and the emergence of the planet on the other side of the conjunction as a rebirth. It’s as if the planet is reseeding itself. In the endless cycle of becoming, it is at this point that the planet and its significations must die in order to be reborn.

Venus is no exception to this phenomena, but because her orbit, like Mercury’s, lies between us and the Sun, she appears to us to make two sets of conjunctions with the Sun in her orbit around it. One conjunction happens when she is on the other side of the Sun, and hence, as far away from us as she can get. The other conjunction occurs during her retrograde cycle, when she is as close to us as she can get. The conjunction at the farthest point away from us is called a superior conjunction because it is considered closer to the heavens and the closer conjunction is called an inferior conjunction, because it lies closer to us, and hence to earthly, or base matters.

Traditionally the superior conjunction is considered, well, superior, as if the effects at this point were granted a sort of celestial, and hence more profound significance. In practice, I have not found this to be the case. In fact, there is something to be said for the deep earthy significance of reconnecting Venusian powers to our immediate, pressing, and selfish concerns. Venus is a planet concerned with the arts of love, both ethereal (superior conjunction) and sensual (inferior). It’s impossible not to read a deep mistrust of lust and the senses in traditional texts, which connect Venus to women and femininity.

Classically the conjunction of a planet to the Sun is considered the beginning of its cycle, which stands to reason, because of the death/rebirth cycle represented by an eclipse. However, in the cases of Venus and Mercury, which each enjoy two conjunctions with the Sun in their orbit, there is a question about which conjunction starts the cycle. Traditionally the superior conjunction is considered the beginning of the cycle, but more recently astrologers, notably Adam Gainsburg, have questioned this, placing the beginning of the cycle with the inferior conjunction during the Venus retrograde.

Adam’s model rescues the morning star Venus (when Venus emerges from the inferior conjunction she will rise as a morning star before the Sun in the mornings) from traditional disfavor. Traditionally, you see, a morning star Venus is considered to operate against her more favorable traits. She is considered a warrior Goddess in this incarnation, which is less about love and more about a fight. Adam’s take is that a morning star Venus is engaged in personal rather than collective concerns, and as an evening star she is engaged in collective concerns. Because those collective concerns are the ones Venus (and women in general) are rewarded for, passivity, receptivity, appreciation, and gentleness, it stands to reason that when Venus stands up and demands to be recognized for her efforts she would be considered unruly, selfish, and base.

In our current time, however, the effort to rise up and protect all female identified peoples and our bodies could be considered a question of the survival of the species. The fact that women are organizing around these principles to fight for healthcare, the right to choose, and a host of other considerations is a necessity, and if that makes us base, well, I’m pretty sure I speak for a whole lot of us when I say, SO FUCKING WHAT.

Honestly, I’m less interested in which conjunction starts the Venus cycle and more that her cycle actually provides the choice of either. Talk about messing with the binary. What if her cycle (and Mercury’s too, but that darling bi/trans/othering planet really deserves their own post) actually represents less a chronological continuum with a beginning and ending point but rather an inward and outward breath? What if it has less to do with getting somewhere and more about being with wherever you/we are actually at?

I am, of course, writing this on the very day Venus approaches the inferior conjunction with the Sun in Aries, which is the sign in which she is in detriment, because Aries is ruled by Mars, and God forbid Venus ever gets, you know, actually angry. God forbid she ever rises up and protects herself, sets a boundary, or says NO. It’s sort of double whammy, this particular retrograde cycle and against the backdrop of all that is happening in the world the stakes feel especially high.

As I write this my chest feels very tight, as if these are words I’ve been longing to share for a long time. I keep sighing and brushing tears from my eyes, trying to clear them so I can see the screen in front of me. There will be people who disagree with my take entirely, and that is fine. I’m not actually talking to you. I’m talking to the women who contributed to the epic emotional labor thread on metafilter the last time Venus went retrograde in 2015. I’m talking to everyone who ever had their heart broken and saved themselves and lived to fall in love again. I’m talking to everyone who’s ever been abused, abandoned, or diminished and had to cut people out of her life in order to survive and overcome her trauma. I’m talking to her, but that means you, because we all have a Her inside us, we all have a Venus, and She needs protecting.

She is worth fighting for.

We need to love her and honor her and to do that we need to start with ourselves. There is no better time to do that then at the inferior conjunction of the Venus retrograde cycle. There is no better time to do that than right now, and to keep the practice going throughout her Morning Star phase, especially as she begins her trek back through Aries from April 29th through June 5th.

On a global scale we are watching the effects of what happens when we do not attend to the needs of the people and the people are feeling it. Those in power are feeling it too. Collectively we are all fed up and ready to riot. Nations are preparing for war.

This is a frightening time, and the outcome is uncertain, but there is no backing away from it. As of March 31st Venus will be rising before the Sun in the pre-dawn sky, glowing faintly there at first and then with increasing brightness as she gains her strength for the fight. As of April 30th she will re-enter Aries, the sign of Mars, the God of war. Whatever your part is to play it is time to play it and play it well.

What have you been swallowing against your will in your own life? Where have you been giving up too much of yourself and not getting enough in return? Stand beside yourself and be an ally now.

Goddess Speed, my little dumplings. Let’s make it so.



Sex and the Single Girl

The Sensuous Woman

Little Lonely reading one of the greatest self help books of all time

Can you read the title of the book Little Lonely is holding in her hands?  It’s called The Sensuous Woman, by “J”  AHAHAHA OMG it’s magnificent.  I found it in a second hand shop some years ago and was drawn to it right away on account of the title.  Well, maybe the subtitle: The first HOW TO book for the female who yearns to be ALL woman.  I knew immediately this gem was destined for my shelf.

The Sensous Woman

The inside cover did nothing to dissuade me.

The Sensous Woman

J had me at the pros and cons of wearing a wig in bed.  Though frankly, her advice on that is nowhere near as brilliant as her advice on wearing makeup.  According to J a woman ought always to wear a bit of eyeliner and rouge, as “today there is only one situation a woman is forced to meet sans makeup – an operation – and several hospitals are beginning to relent on their ridiculously rigid surgery rules.  If ever there is a time when a woman needs her spirits lifted, it’s when they’re about to cut her open.”

Werk it, grrl.

And oh my Gods there’s so much more.  What about the chapter “Where to Meet Men,” in which she advises the married woman looking for a lover to “forget supermarket managers and shoe salesmen.  By the end of the day they hate women.”  Solid gold.

But it’s not all dated high hilarity with J.  In fact, she’s got some solid advice for the woman looking to connect with her body and her lover.  It’s actually for that that I really truly love the book, no joke.

Remember last week when I got my head turned by a boy during the Venus transit to my Sun?  I vowed that day to stop putting my Venus in the corner and to remember to take her out and enjoy her, with or without a lover.  It’s altogether too easy when your heart is sore or you’ve been single for a long time to forget that one of the most magical ways of getting your heart and soul back online is not something that requires another person at all.

In fact, arguably, it all starts and stops with you anyway, so without ever leaving your house you’ve got more than enough company to accomplish the job.

And no, I’m not talking about touching yourself, although certainly, if you’re so moved.  In fact, J devotes the entire third chapter to the importance of masturbation, because, as she says, “you must train like an athlete for the act of love.” (her italics, not mine – I love a woman who knows the value of well placed italics!)  But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Actually I’m talking about something much deeper, more immediate, and infinitely accessible.  Something you can do in public and really pretty much anytime you think of it.

It’s very simple, really.  Just the act of indulging in your senses.  Sight, touch, sound, and taste.  J devotes the entire second chapter to nine exercises to get a girl back into her skin and her body.  She’s got everything from applying lotion to your naked body before you sleep (on perfumed sheets!) to nice lingerie, but my favorite is the first one.

She asks you to sit at a table with a variety of everyday household objects in front of you.  You know, like a “leather glove, powder puff, cracker, bar of soap, rolling pin, fur hat, dish of tepid water, terry cloth towel, your wig, silk scarf, slice of bread, velveteen pin cushion, piece of lace, feathers, pearl necklace, leaf of a plant and whatever else you fancy…”  (I’m impressed, I’m only missing one of those items!)

The instruction is to dim the lights and, blindfolded, slowly and gently run your hands over the items for approximately ten minutes.  Afterwards, lean back in the chair and re-create the feel of each item in your mind “so that your fingers actually memorize” what they feel like.

I’ll confess, I only did this exercise once.  But it reminded me quite quickly how easy it is to tap into the profound delight of being in your body.  Touch is one of the quickest, most direct ways of getting back inside your body and into the present moment that there is.  Meditation is a wonderful thing, and I am all for mental contemplation, but physical contemplation is something that can be had at any moment and it’s a terrific work out for your Venus.

Venus is all about connection, the ability to give and receive love.  And it’s also about touch, beauty, and sensual experience.  Just because you’re single doesn’t mean you can’t access her powers.  In fact, it’s especially when you’re single that creating these experiences might be the most important.

So with Venus going through Capricorn (the earth signs are the poster girls for sensuality!) I’m reminding myself to get connected to the here and now through touch.  The feel of my jeans on my belly, the weight of my wool scarf, the crispness of clean sheets.  Touch is grounding, yet every time I give into it, my heart lifts.

Go on and give it a try, My Little Silken Powder Puffs.  It’s OK if you feel a little silly at first, and it’s DEFINITELY OK to laugh, because HELLO, but ultimately what have you got to lose?  Nothing you’re going to miss, that’s what.  Let go of your fears, and your sads and your lonelies and just be here now.

John Mayer has made more than one mess with his words, but he got one thing super right.  Your body IS a Wonderland.

Twilight & the Horror of Venus

I watched the final movie in the Twilight saga the other night.  DON’T JUDGE ME!  No, it’s ok, you can judge me, I know how everyone feels about it.  It’s not like I can’t see how awful it all is and why it’s so upsetting (though frankly I don’t think the films get enough credit for how entertaining they are in their badness) but I really do enjoy the storyline, and even worse (apparently) I actually like Bella.

I’ve discovered this is an incredibly unpopular position to take, but it’s not the first time I’ve been fascinated by a woman that is universally hated.  It’s actually why I read the books in the first place.  Everyone was talking about it so I picked the first book up just to to see why everyone was so furious with her.  I kept waiting for the shoe to drop and to find myself hating her too, but it never happened.  In fact, with every page I turned I liked Bella more.

She’s described as narcissistic, but a lot of people her age are, I certainly was.  I’m inclined to cut her some slack for that.  She’s also described as weak and without personality, but that I can’t see.  I understand why people do, of course.  After all, Bella loves a man who is either stalking her or rejecting and cold.  She identifies herself through the experience of loving him so profoundly that she cannot imagine living without him.  Literally, she actually attempts to kill herself when he leaves her.

Don’t mistake me, I understand perfectly why this is a dangerous story to instill in a generation of girlish hearts.  After all, while those girls are indoctrinating themselves in the myth of sacrificing everything for True Love their boyish peers are learning about girls and how to treat them from internet porn.  We’re raising our girls to sacrifice themselves for boys who are being raised to think of girls as play toys.  Yeah, it’s a perfect storm.  No mistake about it.

Besides, the greatest supernatural twist of the story is that two people who hate themselves somehow manage to fall in love with one another.  That’s the most unrealistic thing about it, if you ask me.  That NEVER works in real life.  I should know, I’ve tried enough times.

But none of that seems to tarnish the shiny bright thing I like about the story.  Like legions of young girls (and their mamas!) I’m drawn to the story not because of Bella’s many sacrifices, but because of her victories.  I don’t see Bella as weak, because Bella knows what she wants.  She is single-minded in the pursuit of it, and Bella wins her quest.  She gets her guy and soothes the savage beast.  Love is revealed as transformative, and more importantly, redemptive.  Through her love Edward is relieved of his self-loathing and anger and released into a profound sense of purpose.  Through his love for her Bella learns to love herself, she becomes confident and strong.  She becomes resplendent.

Twilight is obviously a modern reworking of Beauty and the Beast and I don’t think you can seriously look at this story and its popularity without asking yourself why we need to tell this tale and why we need to tell it now.  I think it’s because Beauty (Venus) really does have the power to soothe what is savage and torn (Mars).  Venus heals, reveals, honors, and raises up.  Venus reconciles, she unifies.  She takes what is broken and she makes it whole.  She shields us from pain and gives us something to fight for (Mars again).  We would be lost without her.

But in our modern world, those qualities are not celebrated or honored.  Instead we equate them liberally with womanhood and mothering.  We hold them in contempt and push them into the corner only to be brought out as prizes to be offered up to action heroes and villains alike.  We don’t protect Venus, we don’t fight for her.  We abuse her, we ridicule her, we tell her we’ll only like her if she wears make-up – but not too much!  If she wears too much we call her a slut.

And it’s not like Mars has it so great.  Mars is equated primarily with revenge, war and killing.  From Rambo to the most recent Die Hard movie we’ve staked our claim on how Mars is supposed to behave and look like.  The functions of Mars, to sever and separate, and to act on what is desired, have been perverted into increasingly grotesque caricatures.  We demand that our men be warriors first, and we don’t even really care what they’re fighting for, just so long as they fight.  Our modern day Mars truly is a beast.

Is it any wonder then that Bella is the spokesperson for Venus in our time?  The true horror of Twilight doesn’t have anything to do with vampires or werewolves.  The horror is that we live in a time where our experience of beauty (Venus) is so narrowly defined that we need to freeze a woman at 18 in order for her to be pretty.  The true horror of Twilight is that the love story (Venus) that defines this generation can only be told by a woman who hates herself and loves someone who hates himself too.  The true horror of Twilight is that love can only be redemptive, not reflexive and that it takes a woman with supernatural strength to experience or express it.

The true horror of Venus is that in this day and age it takes a horror story to tell her story.

Vanity Take One

OMG you guys.  After posting yesterday I was thinking really hard about love and creating it, and it put me in mind of this video I made a few years ago.  Watching it made me laugh really hard, and feel very fondly for my tough little heart going through all the awful things I’ve put it through over the years.

I made this video three years after the very worst break-up of my entire life (and trust me, that’s saying something).  I was just beginning to remember who I was, who I was really, and it was starting to feel like that might actually be a good thing.  I was smoking quite a lot of pot at the time too, so that helped tremendously.

So today’s post is brought to you by me at 37, by way of illustrating how I began disciplining my heart to feel love for myself, no matter how silly or strange or awkward I might be (which turns out to be a fair amount as it happens).

Apocalypse Later

Yesterday I linked to Kate Petty’s excellent post about Saturn and Mercury’s dance through Scorpio and the apocalyptic anxiety it could be forcing us to confront.  What I didn’t mention is that yesterdays conjunction sextiles my Sun which is currently undergoing a conjunction to Pluto and square to Uranus.  In other words, like a lot of my Cancer/Capricorn brothers and sisters, Kate’s analysis really hits home.  Apocalypse NOW, my Little Tomatoes.  Trust me, I don’t want it to be so, but the facts are leading to this conclusion and rapidly.

The question is, what do we want to do about it?

One of Kate’s links will lead you to another link on the same site, a video (posted above) filmed at the beginning of this month by a biologist working towards spreading the word on climate change.

For the first three minutes of this four minute video I simply felt annihilating despair, something which I think lies trapped beneath the surface of most of us these days (though arguably it’s simply a part of the human condition).  It’s everywhere, this despair.  It’s in every major end-of-the-world themed blockbuster.  We’re beginning to take it for granted, that something really bad is coming.  It wasn’t always like that, children’s movies were about golden brick roads, not deathstars.

But it’s like that now.  I look at my nephew and his shiny upturned face and the rush of love I have for him carries a hook with a dreadful undertow.  What is this world he’s coming into?  How can I protect him from it let alone explain it to him?

Fortunately the last minute of the video contained the most important information anyone has yet given me on how to look at this time we are living in.  Guy McPherson follows his prediction of human extinction by 2040 by stating eloquently:

“we have a limited time on this planet, and in fact we’ve always had a limited time on this planet.  Let’s act like that.  Let’s act as if we’re in hospice, as if everybody’s is in hospice, as if the entire living planet is in hospice.  When I see how people act when they’re in hospice, when they’ve been given weeks or months to end I never see people acting as if they need the last dime, as if they need to make a little bit more money as the world burns.  What I see instead is people pursuing a life of excellence, pursuing what they love, acting with compassion and courage and creativity and giving things away acting as if they live in a gift economy.  Let’s do that, let’s do all of that. Pursuing a life of excellence, pursuing what we love, acting as if we’re in hospice.  Acting as if we’re decent human beings…  Let’s pursue what we love, let’s act as if our insignificant lives matter to those around us.”

He’s careful to point out he’s not saying just roll over and take it, he’s actually saying the reverse, DON’T give into despair, surrender to action instead.  I heard it.  Did you?  For me it was in the word hospice.  If we’re in hospice, if our time left is so limited (and let’s fact it, even if the world DOESN’T end in 38 years we are still All. Going. To. Die) then the way I choose to spend my time is by loving people.  By sharing myself and being open to others.  By connecting.

When it’s all over and we’ve returned to the stars I want to feel like I made a difference in my friends lives, in my family’s lives, in the lives of the people I see day to day, moment to moment.  This may seem small, and perhaps it is, but there is real grace in it.  There is joy there, and truth, and besides, small gets a bad rap.  Small can be powerful, small can make all the difference.  It strikes me there’s others out there feeling this imperative.  Brene Brown has been talking about the power of making yourself vulnerable for some time now.  When Cheryl Strayed began writing the advice column Dear Sugar she tapped into it too.

It’s all around.  Love is all around.  It’s easy in a dystopian society to feel apart from it, to feel disconnected and lost.  To feel alienated.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We can choose something different.