Venus Retrograde in Gemini
Venus will station retrograde on May 12 at 21°50′ Gemini, initiating us into a forty-four day period in which the star of Aphrodite will backtrack through the zodiac until stationing direct on June 25 at 5º02′ Gemini. Thus the zodiacal terrain of five to twenty-two degrees of Gemini will receive a thorough excavation from Venus as it moves back and forth across the degree range, digging up some emotional material in need of release or recycling, while also rediscovering ancient artifacts of our psyche that can reveal vital lessons we need to learn in the present. Venus first crossed five degrees of Gemini on April 9 and will not finally move beyond twenty-two degrees of Gemini until July 29.
Centrally, Venus retrograde brings an end to Venus being visible at night and initiates its phase of being visible before sunrise. Venus will descend from visibility as an Evening Star at the end of May, disappear into an invisible and liminal passage of rebirth in the beginning of June, and ultimately reemerge into visibility in its Morning Star phase in which it will bring its light to the pre-dawn sky. As Venus transitions from a nocturnal to diurnal phase, its apparent backward motion is a result of it orbiting in between our Earth and Sun, coming to its closest proximity with us in orbit. In our personal lives, Venus retrograde brings an intensification of all things related to Venus, as its visual descent in the sky reflects a call for an inner descent to dig up the roots of our desires, purging and purifying material that will bring about a reseeding of desire on the other side.
Venus retrograde periods invite us to depart from the usual into exploring the unusual, shedding old desires while coming into relationship with neglected parts of ourselves and new desires emerging from within. Venus when moving direct enjoys uniting and harmonizing elements, such as the pleasures of fresh fruit and flowers, copulation, love, art, music, aesthetics, and whatever we attract and find attractive in relationship. During Venus retrograde, the nature of Venus shifts from seeking social harmony into a transitional space of social norms loosening to allow for deep reevaluation of inner values as well as how we are seeking to fulfill our changing values and needs.
While Venus is normally associated with seductive pleasures that draw us into full sensual engagement in our body, as Venus draws closer to us in orbit through its retrograde its magnetism on our desires increases and creates a potent influence on our daily experiences. Pivotal turning points in stories often occur and important new relationships and directions often emerge as we simultaneously must confront and lay to rest old issues from the past. Emotions and desires become messy and paradoxical during Venus retrograde, a necessary disorder that becomes part of a process of reordering passions.
The strangely magical quality of time brought by Venus retrograde periods corresponds with the fact that Venus shifts retrograde five times every eight years, tracing a five pointed star within the circle of the zodiac like the five petaled form of the rose. Similar to the high level of structure involved in sacred ritual, Venus retrograde periods are so highly structured that every eight years we experience a Venus retrograde period in the same area of the zodiac (a few degrees away each time) at the same general time (a few days away each time). These are the most recent Venus retrograde phases in Gemini:
- May 15 – June 27, 2012 from 23º59′ Gemini to 7º29′ Gemini
- May 17 – June 29, 2004 from 26º08′ Gemini to 9º37′ Gemini
- May 19 – July 2, 1996 from 28º17′ Gemini to 11º46′ Gemini
Evening Harmony by the Sea (1930) by Alphones Osbert
here to me from Krete to this holy temple / where is your graceful grove / of apple trees and altars smoking / with frankincense.
And in it cold water makes a clear sound through / apple branches and with roses the whole place / is shadowed and down from radiant-shaking leaves / sleep comes dropping.
And in it a horse meadow has come into bloom / with spring flowers and breezes / like honey are blowing / [ ]
In this place you Kypris taking up / in gold cups delicately / nectar mingled with festivities: / pour.
— Sappho (translated by Anne Carson)
Venus begins its retrograde phase as a beacon of light set against the glow of stars, befitting its nocturnal nature. As Venus pauses in motion at its stationing, its impact within the astrological atmosphere increases and can draw awareness to longings that can reveal aspects of ourselves that want to become more active during the forthcoming retrograde. Venus will station retrograde high out of bounds in northern declination while engaged in a square aspect with Neptune in its exaltation of Pisces. Venus stationing out of bounds while engaged with Neptune in its sign of exaltation knows no limits and can bring forth free ranging feelings that are untethered to our usual sense of boundaries. There can be fascinating discoveries made by curiously following wherever the muse of inspiration leads, especially in creative fields involving art, crafts, and writing.
Venus formed its first square with Neptune while moving direct on May 3, and will station retrograde on May 12 one degree away. Venus will form a second exact square with Neptune while retrograde on May 20, creating a week of building tension between them following the stationing of Venus. As a result, the first three weeks of May opens a portal into an oceanic, otherworldly passage of imaginal exploration, potent dreaming, and the slow erosion of internal places and parts that had become rigid or stuck. New attractions and yearnings may arise that ultimately prove to be unstable or temporary, but if we remain curious and open to where they are guiding us they can help unlock the key meaning and messages we will need to examine during the next couple of months.
While the influence of Neptune upon Venus can dissolve emotional barriers and inspire flights of imagination, it can also correlate with becoming ungrounded, confused, or lost in illusion. In regard to the COVID 19 pandemic, there has been an unfortunate flood of conspiracy theories recently making light of the gravely serious risk to public health brought by the pandemic. Rather than believing societies can simply reopen economies and return to the way things were before social distancing measures were introduced, we will need to reimagine creative ways to protect public health while also renewing economic production. The opening square of Venus with Neptune reveals the dissolution of the way things have been and that in a rapidly changing climate of transitioning from one reality to another, we will need to sustain a cunning sense of how to adapt and mutate as needed.
The stationing of Venus also involves mediation from the asteroid Vesta, as Vesta in Gemini is applying to a conjunction with Venus as it stations, moving through an exact conjunction with Venus retrograde on May 15. As Vesta in myth is a goddess of the hearth who devotedly sustains the sacred fire, her asteroid mediating the friction between Venus and Neptune can help gather and transfigure their tension into artistic expression or spiritual practices enabling us to receive revelation. Vesta can also help in finding one’s center amidst any complex or contradictory feelings beginning to spiral around us as Venus stations retrograde. While Vesta may indicate the need to regain sovereignty within relationships in which we have begun to lose ourselves, her presence with Venus also points toward our capacity to tend to our hearth fire and the fiery reforging of our desires we will experience during Venus retrograde.
Lyricism in the Forest (1910) by Alphonse Osbert
Venus will be retrograde entirely within in the mutable sign of Gemini, the airy home of Mercury. Venus looping back and forth through Gemini means our curiosity will be stimulated to pursue a wide variety of interests as we are pulled back and forth between competing desires. Venus in an air sign ruled by Mercury is more intellectual than emotional, capable of mediating and holding the tension of opposing desires and conflicting feelings until giving birth to something that transcends the polarity, not unlike the Hermaphrodite Rebis (res bina) found in alchemical text that reconciles the spiritual and material (1). Gemini is a fluid and adaptable atmosphere for Venus, but can encourage a dispersing of energy in multiple directions that delays completion. As Venus gets closer and closer to its regenerative conjunction with the Sun on June 3, we may notice a burning away of inessential interests so we can focus on the essential tension we are working out.
Venus has essential dignity in the earth and water elements, finding delight singing songs by water rippling through forests. Though Venus is out of its element in the air sign of Gemini, since Mercury enters its domicile of Gemini on May 11 it means that Venus will have a full arsenal of Mercurial resources at its disposal during the first stretch of its retrograde motion. As a result, it can be a profound period for artistic creation, especially when experimenting with new techniques and perspectives that may initially give strange results but ultimately helps nurture vital innovation. In particular, Venus retrograde combined with Mercury in Gemini can be potent for any creative work that utilizes the hands, the writing of words to convey meaning, the arrangement of colors and space, the singing of songs, and the harmonizing of sounds. Going for walks to ruminate on feelings, utilizing journaling and conversation to process feelings, and anything else that engages the airy nature of Gemini can be a helpful tool.
We can also expect Venus retrograde in Gemini to be an especially social and relational time, utilizing technology to forge connection even when maintaining social distancing practices related to the pandemic. There is also a dynamically restless side to Gemini forever searching for deeper meaning and connections, forever curious in its questioning of all things interconnected within our reality. The constellational image of the Twins, one mortal and one immortal, further reveals the underlying nature of Gemini that seeks its twin, its sense of a soul mate that is more deeply about its search to embody its authentic self. The magical mirror held by Venus retrograde can provide a glimpse of your dark, immortal twin and authentic aspects of your soulfulness that you can come into relationship with and begin to integrate during Venus retrograde.
Due to Venus being higher than normal in the night sky, we will have opportunities to make a wish upon the star of Aphrodite during the initial phase of Venus retrograde. Venus will be visually set against a legendary group of stars bearing particularly powerful and ancient star stories. Though in tropical Gemini, not only will the entirety of Venus retrograde take place in the sidereal sign of Taurus, her journey will be aligned with the image of the great Bull in the heavens. Venus will station retrograde on May 12 while visibly close to the star El Nath that is the tip of the Bull’s horn. Venus will then descend along the horn of the Bull until re-emerging in visibility near the star Aldebaran in the second week of June, the eye of the Bull that glows with its rosy red hue. Venus will ultimately station direct near the Hyades in the face of the Bull at the end of June, completing a full circuit of ascending to the top of the Bull’s horn before descending back into the head of the Bull.
El Nath, the Bull’s horn located at 22º35′ Gemini, has been described as symbolizing “the force of the Bull” by Bernadette Brady and was described as having the nature of Mars by Ptolemy (2). It’s further notable that Venus will be stationing retrograde within the Egyptian bounds of Mars. The constellational image and story of the Bull is incredibly ancient and has been found painted on the walls of caves by our ancestors from an estimated period of 17,000 years ago. Not unlike how social distancing measures brought by the pandemic have brought a surge of wildlife and nature due to gaining greater space from the encroachment of humanity, Venus illuminating the tip of the Bull’s Horn reveals the importance of respecting the power of nature and coming into relationship with it. As a global civilization we are receiving this sky omen at a crucial crossroads in our collective history, as we are simultaneously needing to ask questions regarding our use of natural resources and the relationship between our civilizations with forces of nature.
Venus stationing retrograde on the Horn of the Bull also evokes the image of Hathor, a bestial goddess and bovine divinity known as the Lady of Heaven, the Lady of Horns, the Lady of All, and the Golden One in ancient Egyptian culture. Hathor is the sky goddess, the mother sky who emphasizes the fertile nourishment of the starry heavens above that is the source of All. Similar to other ancient goddesses, Hathor embodies the triple feminine form of daughter, lover, and mother without giving away her sovereignty to a male partner. Fascinatingly, soon after Venus stations retrograde the Hathor asteroid #2340 will enter Gemini on May 16 and will eventually form a conjunction with Venus retrograde at the same time it is being reborn in the sacred heart of the Sun. When Venus unites with the Sun at 13º35′ Gemini on June 3, the Hathor asteroid will be at 13º17′ Gemini. Further fitting for the rebirth of Venus, Hathor is also a fructifying goddess of rebirth and regeneration who took part in guiding the transition of souls into the afterlife.
Venus will also be stationing retrograde close to the zodiacal degree of prominent stars in the constellation of Orion, although it will not be nearly as visually close to Orion as it will be to the great Bull. One of the closest stars in Orion to the degree of Venus stationing is Mintaka in the belt of Orion (located at 22º24′ Gemini) a star that Ptolemy described as having the nature of Jupiter and Saturn. The other star in close proximity to the stationing degree of Venus is Bellatrix in the shoulder of Orion (located at 20º57′ Gemini), a star that Ptolemy described as having the nature of Mars and Mercury. Bellatrix is known as the Amazon star and has been described as possessing the power of a roaring conquerer, yet will also expose one’s shadow and difficult personal demons in the process of gaining victory (3). Reinhold Ebertin described Bellatrix as having characteristics of quickly realizing plans with “courage, fighting spirit, strategic talents” and “discrimination,” but that it can also bring “the reckless aggressiveness of a belligerent dare-devil” (4).
The star story of Orion from Greek myth bears further warning that taking hubristic action against nature will deliver a stinging downfall, as the great hunter Orion who boasted that he could kill any animal was ultimately killed by a giant scorpion sent by Gaia. In contrast, the star closest to the degree where Venus is stationing, Capella (21º51′ Gemini), embodies the image of a goat held by Auriga the charioteer, a figure who is in relationship with nature. In some traditions the goat revealed by Capella is Amalthea, the goat who nursed Zeus when he was hidden and vulnerable so as to bring about the new order he would later initiate. Bernadette Brady stated that there are other ancient associations of Capella with Artemis and other goddesses, giving it a “nurturing but free-spirited flavour” that will seek independent freedom while remaining in right relationship with nature.
Sappho (1888) by Alphonse Osbert
After Venus slowly moves backward during the second half of May, the star of Aphrodite will descend into an invisible phase of darkness at the end of May before re-emerging in its Morning Star phase in the second week of June. At the same time Venus is descending toward the Sun, the Sun will be moving toward uniting with Venus while stoking desires as the inner influence of Venus becomes intensified. During this period we can unearth buried emotions as part of the process of burning away whatever past issues need to be released. This makes the end of May a time for purifying and reseeding desires that will emerge more fully after Venus reemerges into visibility later in June.
Before Venus disappears, however, we will receive vital insight when Mercury in Gemini forms a conjunction with Venus during the New Moon in Gemini on May 22. Mercury will unite with Venus at the same time it is forming a square aspect with Neptune, triggering new developments in whatever storylines have been coinciding with the drawn out square between Venus and Neptune that began in the beginning of May. This can be another productive time for creative and artistic expression that can utilize the inspirational side of Neptune. We will also be more capable of giving voice to the inner changes in values and desires that have started to take shape with Venus retrograde, though the square from Neptune suggests we will not yet have clarity regarding them.
Vision (1892) by Alphonse Osbert
“The protected space at the heart of the Sun is the sanctum sanctorum, the innermost holy chamber of the mystery initiations.”
— Demetra George, Ancient Astrology
On June 3 we will experience the rebirth of Venus when it is reanimated through its union with the Sun at 13º35′ Gemini. Venus in the heart of the Sun is enthroned in revivifying solar light, and as the star of Aphrodite begins to emerge from its purifying solar conjunction we can begin to gain a clearer sense of our own inner metamorphosis that has been in process. It will be worthwhile to reflect upon the placement of 13º35′ Gemini in your natal chart to gain a sense of what areas of your life may be especially impacted by the renewal of Venus in the first week of June. Moreover, since there will also be a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse at 15º34′ Sagittarius on June 5, the full polarity of Gemini and Sagittarius will be incredibly activated in the first week of June at the same time that the transiting lunar nodes are firmly establishing themselves in Gemini and Sagittarius.
Crucially, Mars in Pisces will form an intensifying square aspect with Venus in Gemini on June 2, a day before Venus forms its inferior conjunction with the Sun. The waxing square aspect between Venus and Mars is one of the many volatile astrological relationships we must come to terms with during 2020, as they previously formed their first square aspect on January 26 and they will form their third and final waxing square aspect on September 4 when Mars will be stationing retrograde. With Mars applying heat in the exaltation of Venus, their contact on June 2 is likely to be eventful and incite potent passions. Since Mars is also applying toward a conjunction with Neptune, there will be an unveiling of illusions as well as rediscovery of imaginal possibilities within relationships. While the square between Mars and Venus can bring conflict, the simmering tension of their friction can also draw out new desires into sharper relief that can help us align with our authentic path as we trek deeper into the retrograde movement of Venus in June.
Muse at Sunrise (1918) by Alphones Osbert
Some men say an army of horse and some men say an army on foot / and some men say an army of ships is the most beautiful thing / on the black earth. But I say it is / what you love.
— Sappho (translated by Anne Carson)
In the second week of June we will be initiated into the Morning Star phase of Venus as it will reemerge into visibility near the zodiacal degree of Aldebaran, the great eye of the Bull. There will be an eruptive potency to this time period with revivified passions and desires ready to be engaged with. Venus in its Morning Star phase is more assertive and outwardly directed, and we will likewise feel more interested in going after what we want. Due to Venus continuing to move slowly in its retrograde motion, however, it will be beneficial to continue reflecting on the changing shapes of desires as they will be continuing to coalesce into new forms in coming weeks.
There will be an intense astrological atmosphere surrounding the emergence of Venus in its Morning Star phase, as there will be an extremely powerful Solar Eclipse at 00º21′ Cancer on June 20, only five days before Venus will station direct on June 25. Furthermore, Mercury will station retrograde in Cancer on June 17 a few days before the Solstice Solar Eclipse. As a result, the normal turning points in narratives that emerge when Venus stations to change directions will be amplified due to it occurring in the middle of an eclipse season that contains the added volatility of Mercury being in its retrograde phase.
Venus will station direct on June 25 at 5º20′ Gemini and will barely be moving forward in the beginning of July when we will experience another Penumbral Lunar Eclipse in Capricorn on July 4. Since the end of June and beginning of July hosts another phase of extremely volatile astrology, it reveals the vital importance of letting the retrograde descent of Venus have its way with you so that you may shed whatever is ready to be emptied. On the other side of Venus retrograde we may not only have a lighter heart and renewed vigor, we may also feel more aligned with our essential values and focused on following our authentic desires forward into the great unknown.
Aphrodite and goose (ca. 460 BC)
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(1) Caton, Gary. (2017). Hermetica Triptycha: the Mercury Elemental Year. Rubedo Press.
(2) Brady, Bernadette. (1998). Brady’s Book of Fixed Stars. Weiser.
(3) Brady, Bernadette. (2008). Star and Planet Combinations. The Wessex Astrologer.
(4) Ebertin – Hoffman. (1973). Fixed Stars and their interpretation. Translated by Irmgard Banks.
(5) George, Demetra. (2019). Ancient Astrology in Theory and Practice: a Manual of Traditional Techniques. Rubedo Press.
(6) Sappho translated by Anne Carson. (2002). If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho. Vintage.