Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Transit of Venus 2012

The Transit of Venus is a rare astronomical event that occurs when the planet Venus crosses between the sun and the earth. The last Transit happened in 2004, and after June 5-6, 2012, the next one will be in December 2117. I'll be 140 years old then.

Transits of Venus can only occur in June and December, the solstice months. The Transit is not an eclipse; it does not block out the sun.
The 2004 Transit of Venus, photographed by Jan Herold.  Creative Commons
In a post related to the 2004 Transit, astrologer Susan Custer wrote that the Transit of June 1761 was one of the first events in world history - if not the first - over which scientists across the world worked together to share their observations. This caused the world (at least the science world) to have to think about global interconnectedness - astrologically appropriate, Custer maintains, because Venus is the planet of relationships.

I'm a Higher Power believer and a Goddess worshiper, and I also have a scientific mentality. I don't place any faith in astrology, but I am a folklore junkie, and there is no aspect of folklore I appreciate more than goddess lore. The rare Transit of Venus, then, seems like the perfect time to discuss she whom the ancient Romans called Venus.
William Adolphe Bouguereau, 1879; alterations by  Lieutenant Waaxe. Creative Commons. 
I said in the Bowl of Light review post that the Polynesians traditionally associate women with the West/sunset/death (but also healing) and the planet Venus. This resonated with the "If I Die Young" post, in which I wrote (based on sources I name there):

"The ancient Romans held the rose to be a symbol of Venus; its petals reminded them of a woman’s genitals. Venus the Rose-Goddess was Christianized as Saint Rosalia, the patron saint of Palermo. Like many European Pagans who associated the goddess of love with death, the Romans also considered roses a symbol of death. This association was not considered negative; rather, death was seen as a return to the goddess, the source of life. Being taken back by the goddess could lead to rebirth."

Venus, Kris Waldherr writes in The Book of Goddesses, "was born of sea foam and water and was described as 'the star of the sea' [Stella Maris in Latin] by her worshipers. As the goddess of love, she was 'the queen of pleasure;' she was also honored as the mother of the Roman people."

The title "Star of the Sea" explicitly links Venus with other goddess figures, including Mary the Mother of Jesus. The Roman emperors especially liked to claim symbolic descent from Venus, similar to the Japanese imperial family's claim (held right up to the 20th century) to be descended from sun-goddess Amaterasu. A major Italian city, Venice, is still named after her.

In Much Ado About Nothing, Claudio - wrongly believing that his intended bride, Hero, has cheated on him - tells Hero:

"You seem to me as Dian in her orb,
As chaste as is the bud ere it be blown.
But you are more intemperate in your blood
Than Venus..."

...and means the goddess' name as an insult, a synonym for slut. Claudio expects a virgin bride, like Diana, the virgin moon goddess.

According to The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets by Barbara G. Walker, for centuries, Venice's duke would mark the Christian feast day of the Assumption of Mary (August 15, still a public holiday in Italy) by casting a golden ring into the sea. This was a holdout from ancient times, when Roman rulers would symbolically marry Venus once a year.

Note once again that ancients didn't really have a problem conflating "mother" and "wife." Nor did the supposed dichotomy between Jesus' virgin mother and the sexually adventurous Venus give them much pause. They still understood that women, goddesses and the moon all had phases.
Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1614. "The Death of Adonis." Public domain.
In Classical Roman myth, Venus had many consorts and lovers. Her version of the Annually Dying and Returning Vegetation God is Adonis, a beautiful young hunter who is annually slain, and then Venus and Persephone argue over who gets to keep him. Where the drops of his blood touch the earth, red anemones bloom.

I wrote in "Blood Sugar Sex Magik:"

" [A witch friend of mine said,] 'One of the classic ways of sexual magic is to invoke Venus, and should you wish more information on this subject, I suggest you summon her and beseech her for an interview. But beware of her price.' That price sounded rather ominous, so I chose not to invoke the wrath of the goddess by disturbing her."

Why was I afraid of Venus? I'm not afraid of her anymore. Whatever her price is, I'll pay it. She already holds my heart in the palm of her hands anyway.

Besides Venice, Venus also gave her name to Venus observa, the Latin term for the missionary position. It's used mainly in church documents. (It would make a cool band name, if it's not already taken.)

Venus at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What great information, Erin. I didn't become aware of the transit until later in the day yesterday, at which point a number things I'd noticed made sense.