Mythologically the planet Venus is related to the Roman Goddess Venus and the Greek Aphrodite, both of which are known for their beauty, love and grace. Yet ironically, the Goddess of Love was born of violence.
In Greek mythology, Aphrodite was born when Kronos (Saturn in Roman mythology) castrated his father, Ouranos (Uranus), whose semen fell into the ocean. From this, Aphrodite (Venus) instantly rose full grown from the sea. The name Aphrodite comes from the Greek aphros, which means the "sea foam" produced by the violent churning of the ocean waves. Although we use the Roman names for the planets, some of the richest mythology and insight about the corresponding gods and goddesses come from the ancient Greeks.
The Mayans and Aztecs of Central America also saw the planet Venus connected to violence. They believed that when Venus goes retrograde, she morphs from a woman into a man, gets seduced by the goddess of love into tarnishing "his" purity, and fathers a sea monster child. Then "he" loses in a ritual game of ball and must be sacrificed by the Sun, after which "he" is reborn as a "she." This sequence was mirrored by the Mesoamerican cultures through real-life competition, warfare and human blood sacrifice leading to fertility rites. (For more about this fascinating astrological system, read Bruce Scofield's Signs of Time: An Introduction to Mesoamerican Astrology and Day-Signs: Native American Astrology from Ancient Mexico. See the bottom of this webpage for more recommended reading about astrology and mythology.)
Oh, Those Golden Girdles!
In modern day Western culture, we tend to focus on Venus' gentle side ― and who wouldn't! It's so much easier to deal with someone who is diplomatic, fair minded, beautiful, graceful, soft and sexy. To the Greeks, Aphrodite was the goddess of sexuality, desire, love, joy and beauty. To the Romans, Venus was originally an agricultural goddess of gardens and vineyards, and later adopted more of Aphrodite's traits as these cultures merged.
Aphrodite/Venus is well known for her Magic Girdle or embroidered belt, made of gold filigree crafted lovingly by her husband, the smith god Hephaestus/Vulcan. When she wore it, she was irresistible! Other goddesses sometimes borrowed this girdle when they wanted to turn on their love light. When we wear the Girdle of Venus, we surround ourselves in an aura of love, desire, beauty, magnetism and charm. This is the natural beauty of our spirit that shines through, no matter what our physical appearance looks like. (There is also an atmospheric phenomenon called The Belt of Venus, in which the horizon glows pink just before sunrise or after sunset.)
When Bunnies Go Bad
Sexy Aphrodite might be compared to a Playboy bunny, but she's no fluffy bunny! She was one of the central figures in the terrible Trojan War, which began as a competition between Aphrodite, Hera and Athene to determine who was the most beautiful. When Aphrodite won, chaos ensued and the Trojan War resulted.
And she was not one to trifle with or ignore! In Greek mythology, anyone who scorned her worship was struck with some kind of curse or perversion from her domain. For example, Narcissus was made to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water because he had belittled the love from others. Anyone who spurned Aphrodite or preferred others over her could be cursed with "unnatural passions," sexual misbehaviour, unrequited love, tragic love and other similar forms of punishment. When we disrespect the sanctity and importance of love and intimacy, the result can be that we lose touch with our heart and therefore the Heart of Life.
Follow Your Heart
Loyalty and fidelity were not high on her priority list, but following her heart was. She was unhappy in her marriage to Hephaestus, who was reportedly lame, weak and ugly. (She had not chosen him, but the marriage had been arranged by Zeus as a reward to him.) She had an affair with Ares/Mars and was caught in the act by her husband, whose plea to the Olympian gods for justice was laughed off. Hephaestus divorced her as a result.
Following one's heart is not without its consequences, but without it we are only going through the motions that are put on us by others. We have to make a choice ― to pay homage to Aphrodite/Venus or risk the consequences of her wrath. Her central message seems to be: It is crucial to honour love above all else. If you dishonour or disregard the workings of the heart, you will eventually suffer for it.
Recommended Reading on Venus in Astrology and Mythology
Venus: Her Cycles, Symbols & Myths
There's something for everyone in this book! For the beginner, Anne Massey has several chapters to understand Venus' basic meaning in the natal chart. For the more advanced astrologer: Did you know that Venus Retrograde has a complex 5-point cycle that repeats in the same 5 signs every 4 years? This book explains the intricate and fascinating cycles of Venus, with case studies and an ephemeris. This book is highly recommended! Venus: Her Cycles, Symbols & Myths by Canadian astrologer Anne Massey.
Mythic Astrology, by Ariel Guttman
Mythic Astrology Applied, by Ariel Guttman
Mythic Astrology and Mythic Astrology Applied, by Ariel Guttman, both give information on the Greco-Roman gods and goddesses. Mythic Astrology has a more spiritual information focus, whereas Mythic Astrology Applied shows how you can work with these energies in your life.
Making the Gods Work For You, by Caroline Casey
I've heard excellent reviews about Caroline Casey's book, Making the Gods Work for You. She introduces you to each of the planets and shows you how these mythical energies manifest in your life and how you can work with them constructively.
Astrology of Fate, by Liz Greene
The Mythic Journey, by Liz Greene and Juliet Sharman-Burke
No library that includes astrology and mythology is complete without at least one book by Liz Greene! Her Astrology of Fate gives an in-depth exploration of the myths behind the 12 modern Zodiac signs. Her book The Mythic Journey : The Meaning of Myth as a Guide for Life, written with Juliet Sharman-Burke, focuses on mythology rather than astrology. But it gives an excellent way to learn more about how mythical archetypes are expressed through us. Mythic figures from many different cultures are used. Beautifully presented with colour pictures of mythical art. Both books are highly recommended.
Signs of Time, by Bruce Scofield
Day Signs, by Bruce Scofield
Bruce Scofield is recognised in astrological circles as probably the foremost authority on Aztec and Mayan astrology. These ancient civilizations created fascinating calendar systems and shaped their cultures around the Venus retrograde cycle. His books, Signs of Time: An Introduction to Mesoamerican Astrology and Day-Signs: Native American Astrology from Ancient Mexico are excellent reading for anyone wanting to learn more about this fascinating astrological system.
Mythastrology, by Raven Kaldera
Raven Kaldera provides an extensive tour of mythology in Mythastrology. Spanning many different cultures and pantheons, she gives a mythological view for every planet-in-sign combination. Even if you think you know a lot about mythology, you'll learn something new about yourself with this book!
Asteroid Goddesses, by Demetra George and Douglas Bloch
Asteroid Goddesses: The Mythology, Psychology, and Astrology of the Re-Emerging Feminine is an enduring classic on "the Girls" - the goddesses whose names grace the asteroids. This is an expanded edition of the original book, with updated ephemerides of 16 asteroids from 1930 to 2050. Highly recommended.
The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell
The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell
Although not exclusively about Venus, Joseph Campbell is an excellent resource for mythology in general. Campbell was a brilliant mythologist who left a priceless legacy of books, interviews and knowledge. It was Campbell's book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, that inspired George Lucas' legendary Star Wars series. And Campbell's The Power of Myth is a classic that belongs in every library. To explore the passion of mythology, you can't do better than Joseph Campbell.
© 2005 Wendy Guy, All rights reserved. This content may not be copied or used without the expressed permission of the author. Image of The Birth and Triumph of Venus by Francois Boucher via Wikiart.org.