Who is this lusty lady? Do we really know her at all? As Venus moves retrograde in Virgo today (through September 8 )she begs our kindness and our modesty. But to really know her we must first defrock her. Yes, take off her clothes.

My college art teacher once distinguished the difference between nude and naked. Nude implies self-consciousness, the awareness of being looked at, being watched. And the nude model’s poses are rehearsed or posed, from that perspective. We’re trained at nude, in art, magazines, advertising as nude naughtily seduces us into thinking she’s naked. But she’s not. No, nude will always double check her reflection in the mirror, angling for someone else. Meanwhile, naked is naked. As in: the buff. There’s no best angle to get because there’s no trying to “get”. Experiencing naked is happening upon a sleeping beauty in the buff, or a diaper-less baby playing on the beach. We’re so exquisitely surprised when we stumble upon that moment, that accidental naked moment (or any naked moment for that matter) a spontaneous beauty takes our breath away. Stripped of self-awareness, our inhibitions lift and for a moment, we’re just human beings, being naked. When we escape nude, naked is a taste of pure freedom.

Oh, to experience the vulnerability of naked ouch, the criticism and judgment, (usually our own) to our blessed imperfections. We’ve got to be comfortable in our own skin. To brave our own naked reflection. Better run for the concealer and hide those sleep-deprived eyes girls! Retouch our color and pluck those grey hairs. To be brutally honest, Venus won’t travel anywhere without her make-up bag. Goddess knows what artifice can do for a woman…

Hmmm, to capture Venus naked, in her unawares – c’est possible? Surely, it’s not an easy task, although her retrograde motion means she’s unloading her old garb in preparation for a major makeover. Nude and naked, perhaps she’s a walking, talking paradox? The idyllic Venus, a Maxfield Parrish picture with wisps of clouds floating between sea and mountain scapes, a lovely lady with a flowing gown, swinging as a young buck leaning on a Roman column pops grapes and chocolate into her mouth clearly clashes with the reality of the planet, barren, waterless, with lethal levels of sulfuric acid. Ah, love hurts. We get it. Venus has a built in illusion clause, true to loves form, a degree in prettying up for the camera. She has that pesky habit of glamorizing her own self-image just a wee bit, a little air-brush over here, nip and tuck there. She allows us to keep our precious illusions until we’re ready to part with them, one by one…

Will the real Venus please stand up?

Here’s the skinny on our girl: Ancient civilizations feared Venus. When the Aztecs saw Venus rise with the Sun, they took to their houses in fright. “And when it [Venus] newly emerged, much fear came over them; all were frightened. Everywhere the outlets and openings of [houses] were closed up. It was said that perchance [the light] might bring a cause of sickness, something evil when it came to emerge.” The Mayans timed their wars to Venus’ cycle. They made sacrifices to her so she wouldn’t destroy valuables, or worse, steal the Sun, sending the world into eternal darkness. What made Venus – to whom astrology attributes the beloved concepts of relatedness, values, feelings, pleasure and love – so fearsome and wrathful? Is it a case of mistaken identity or a question of seeing what we want to see? (By the way, I call Venus a ‘she’ because she’s the only feminine planet in the solar system. We all know Love isn;t gender-identified)

Happy New Year, Venus!

The cycle of Venus is 584 days. Approximately 1½ calendar years equals one Venus year. As the planet travels through these 584 days, she elegantly patterns a five-fold star, or pentagram, tracing backward and forward to complete. At the inferior conjunction, she’s at her closest point to the Sun, initiating a new Venus life cycle AND at the superior conjunction, she’s furthest from the Sun, holding a balance for awareness. Right now in the retrograde cycle, we’re rounding the final lap of this past Venus year. When she meets with the Sun on August 17 she forms a sort of Venus New Moon. If you’ve moonwatched, you know that New Moons seed new cycles. So it goes for Venus. 7 days later in the morning sky (around August 22) we can see her rise with the Sun and it’s a whole new day for love! We’re starting anew in relationship, and the intentions we carry in our hearts we carry to the future. Yay! First, you know the story: darkness before light. In the 7 days before New Venus emerges from the underworld she appears her darkest. She’s invisible from the night sky and she’s not on holiday. She’s in the underworld. This lady’s going down.

Yes, underworld. Don’t let it scare you, dears. Like any story it’s symbolic, not literal. Sumeria has this wonderful myth of Innana or Ashtar, their personal Venus, aka goddess of sexuality, fertility AND warfare. According to legend, Innana could be found at the local pub bagging hot men OR picking a fight, not necessarily in that order. Innana had this dark sister named Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld, whose brother had died so she decided to pop on in for the funeral. Being Venus (ahem), she had to look the part so dressed in her finest jewelry, wearing lapis lazuli, mascara and even a wig. She just so happened to ask several Gods to search for her if she went missing, you know just in case something went wrong. Was she going down to start a war  or as an act of love toward her sister? The legend is unclear here, pointing to Venus’ uncertain motives. So down she goes passing 7 gates removing pieces of her costume, one by one. By the time she passes the final gate, she is stripped, naked before the Queen. Ereshkigal is openly hostile toward her worldly sister. After all, in Innana’s world of sex and war, death has no place. Without her fighting gear, naked Innana is vulnerable to attack. Ereshkigal kills her sister and grotesquely hangs her from a meat hook.

So when the Gods Enlil, Nanna and Enki were recruited to save our Venus, the first two refused to help, claiming it was her own selfish mess. (Ironically, Innana’s own husband Dumuzi was unmoved to action on his wife’s behalf. Myth makes the point that he was not wearing mourning clothes and was otherwise pleasantly enjoying life, his pleasures undisturbed by his wife’s death.) So Enki went down south to fetch Innana, expressed deep concern over what was troubling Ereshkigal and with heart-to-heart conversation, some food and drink, Ereshkigal revived Innana. With baggage: demons. The demons would follow her until they found someone to take her place. Those demons were hungry for those shadow-y qualities of Venus, laziness, vanity, pursuit of self-interest. Surely her husband Dumuzi was an easy replacement. Heck, I’d deem him a necessary sacrifice, too. But we don’t need to sacrifice our partner during this retrograde period, do we ladies? That would be an evolutionary step backwards…

Innana’s symbolic descent into the underworld begins at Venus retrograde. We’re stripped of our superficial values and asked for our deeper ones. What are they? Are we bound by vanity and self-protection, or is there a place for bare bones death and transformation? There’s no point in posturing or posing, as Innana tragically discovered. Her inauthenticity led to her demise and indirectly, her huband’s. So mightn’t we strip ourselves of our illusions now or be stripped of them later? What do we need to relinquish? Maybe we need to relinquish the illusion of life over death, or our disregard for the natural cycles, the ups and downs of relationship (it’s not always up is it). Can you stand before your lover, naked? Holding an image of perfection – that is, never letting your lover see you without make-up for example or only showing your best face instead of your true one creates false illusions and suffering. The dark needs light, nude needs naked.

There are certain things Western Astrology advises against during Venus retrograde times (see below) and maybe for good reason, but a healthier and more empowering perspective suggests we strip down to our skivvies in heart matters. Really. When we’re nude, we’re participating in an illusion. On a physical level, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to appear our best. Beauty is magical. How wonderful to celebrate, relish and delight beauty! Yet, on a psychological level, hasn’t vanity destroyed enough relationships and started too many wars (hmmm…not just the Trojan War)? How far do we go with preserving our self-image, our pursuit of pleasure and at what cost? Let’s face it, when we’re naked, we’re honest. We’re defenseless and vulnerable. But oh, so powerful. Think of Lady Godiva horseback, long hair whipping against her naked body. Her singular naked act freed England from oppression.

And that’s the naked truth.

Standard notes on retrograde Venus:
Don’t make a major relationship decision, to marry or break-up. Relationships make a 180 degree turn then correct at Venus’ direct
Avoid cosmetic surgery and beauty treatments
Don’t make big purchases
Social events may disappoint
Relationships require extra attention and care
Save your makeover until Venus moves direct
People pursue pleasure with more voracity and criticize other’s aesthetic
Extreme differences in taste appear
Money and personal values clash