Venus is the second planet from the Sun, located between Mercury and Earth. It is the most notable light in the sky, after the Sun and Moon, and has been referred to as Earth's sister planet. Nearly the same size as Earth, Venus orbits around the Sun in a nearly circular path of 225 days. Venus also rotates on its axis in the opposite direction of the Earth and most other planets, turning from east to west, and so slowly that one Venus day is the equivalent of 243 Earth days, longer than its year. In so doing Venus only shows one side of itself to the Earth at its closest orbital proximity.
As a planet nearer to the Sun than Earth, Venus is considered an inferior planet and is never seen to be more than 48° of longitude away from the Sun. As Venus moves along its orbit, it appears from Earth's perspective to periodically slow, stop, and then move backwards. This so-called retrograde motion lasts approximately six weeks, which ends when Venus seems to stop briefly and move forward again. The retrograde motions of Venus happen at regular intervals, taking place five times within the greater eight-year Venus cycle.
It is this eight-year cycle that is recorded on the Venus tablet of Amisaduaq, the tablet of Mesopotamian omens based on the movements of Venus. It dates from approximately 1750 to 1650 b.c.e. and is the earliest known astrological document. In addition, the tablet emphasizes the first and last visibilities of Venus, those times Venus is seen rising just prior to the Sun or setting after it. In the first instance Venus has not been visible for a time, as it has been too close to the sun. Its first visibility is the first morning it can be spotted rising before the Sun, heralding the coming dawn. Similarly, the last visibility is the last time Venus was seen setting on the tail of the Sun. It then disappears for a time behind the Sun's light. These two distinctly different sightings were important as they recognized the dual nature of Venus.
The Sumerian Inanna was the goddess of love, fertility, desire, and attraction. She presided over the passions, some of which were destructive ones such as jealousy and anger. Inanna also claimed possession of the Tablets of Destiny, giving her control of the universe. She was the most powerful of deities. Sumerian poetry describes her as Queen of Heaven, Lady of the Evening, as well as Lady of Light, associating Inanna with the planet Venus as both the rising and setting star. Her dual nature ruled over both love and hate, light and dark as seen in her mythology, which includes stories of her descent into the underworld as well as her return to the land of living. The ancients equated the disappearance of Venus with her descent into the underworld. There she had to face herself at her most vulnerable, die, and then rise again as Queen of Heaven and Earth.
When the Akkadians settled in Sumerian territory Inanna's name changed to Ishtar. Babylonian poetic descriptions of the descent of Ishtar are nearly identical to the myths of Inanna with the exception of a more forceful warrior like temperament in Ishtar. Thus Ishtar also had the dual characteristics of love and attraction as the evening star as opposed to lust and hostility as the morning star. This was reflected in Babylonian astrological omens where good or evil outcomes were indicated by Ishtar's placements.
While the Mesopotamian lands repeatedly changed hands to be led by the Assyrians and then the conquering Persians, the goddess associated with Venus changed names to the Syrian Astarte followed by the Persian Anahita. The goddess continued to be seen as the source of all waters and fertility on the earth, the holder of wisdom and benefactress of the human race. Beautiful, bright and adorned with gold, she was the seductive goddess, symbolizing the tradition of temple prostitution. Astrology centered on the reading of omens also continued in Babylon, however by the sixth century b.c.e. the planets began to be seen as either malefic or benefic, rather than dependent on season or rising time, and Venus became overwhelmingly benefic.
The Greeks received knowledge of astrology and the five wandering stars from the Babylonians. In equating the planets to their own pantheon of gods they equated Ishtar with Aphrodite, their goddess of love and beauty. The fertility aspects of Ishtar were seen in Demeter and her mythological descents into the underworld equated with Demeter's daughter Persephone. In addition, Athena was the Greek holder of wisdom as well as the patron goddess of righteous warriors, associations formerly held by Inanna/Ishtar. However, the volatile temperament of Ishtar was fully present in the Greek Aphrodite as indicated by myths displaying her jealousy, anger, and posses-siveness.
The planet Venus was called the star of Aphrodite in fourth century b.c.e. Greece, recognizing it as the home of the goddess. Sometime during the Hellenic period of Alexandria, the flourishing Greek astrology began referring to the planet as simply Aphrodite. Vettius Valens, who recorded an Anthology of Hellenistic astrology in the second century c.e., wrote that the nature of Aphrodite was desire and erotic love, and that it signified the mother and nurse. The star represented priestly rites, parties, weddings, friendships, jewels and ornaments, music, beauty, the arts, as well as a variety of colors. It gave gifts of businesses, involved markets and weights and measures, bestowed favors from female royals or relatives and assured an excellent reputation. It was lord of the neck, face, and lungs, and ruled sexual intercourse. It also indicated the giving of nurturing or pleasure to another. It was the lord of precious stones and the oil of fruits, its color was white, and it belonged to the nocturnal (lunar) sect, along with Ares (Mars) and Hermes (Mercury, as evening star).
Hellenistic astrology included basic functions of the planets, and if one is to assume that Ptolemy's record is representative of astrologers for that period, then a relationship was present between the basic qualities of matter and each of the planets. Aphrodite is listed as temperate (slightly warm) and moist, meaning that it has an active power that attracts as well as a passivity that can include others within its boundaries. Its basic nature was unification and reconciliation. In a solar (daytime) chart Aphrodite is out of, or contrary to, sect so the unions it represents do not come together naturally, but through thought and choice. Whereas in a lunar (night) chart Aphrodite is in sect and relational things come together more easily.
Just as in modern day, Aphrodite ruled the zodiac signs of the Bull (Taurus) and the Balance (Libra), and was exalted in the Fishes (Pisces). It had additional rulerships of Trigons, Bounds, and Faces—divisions that for the most part do not exist in astrology today. Aphrodite as a nocturnal planet was a trigon lord only in a night
chart where it ruled all of the feminine signs: the Bull, the Crab (Cancer), the Virgin (Virgo), the Scorpion (Scorpio), the Goat-Horned One (Capricorn), and the Fishes. As for rulerships of bounds and faces (or decans), tables can be consulted to determine these, as they require exact degrees of signs to determine.
Astrology was introduced to the Romans by way of imported slaves. They embraced the Hellenistic practice without alteration, except that they renamed Aphrodite for their goddess of fertility, joy, and beauty—Venus. Through their association with the Alexandrian Greeks, the Romans came to view Venus primarily as the goddess of love and the planet Venus as her abode. Eventually the planet would be thought of as Venus herself, a substitution for the goddess, and the name for the second planet remained Venus on into modern day.
Classical astrology of the Middle Ages had some similarities to the Hellenistic, however the associations for Venus show quite a few variations between them, particularly as to the rulership of body parts, but also in a propensity to expand on the negative, underworld significations of Venus. It represented the force of attraction as well as love and beauty and ruled physical beauty, parts of the face, the throat, the female sex organs, and sense of taste. Like Hellenistic Aphrodite, Venus symbolized women, art, music, and relationships, and was fertile and creative. However, it also signified adulterers, flirts, incest, infertility, kidney and venereal disease, prostitutes, and scandal.
The system of essential dignities had Venus ruling Taurus and Libra and exalted in Pisces, a practice that has not changed throughout history. The classic dignities also included tables of Triplicities, Terms, and Faces that varied according to the practice of the astrologer. William Lilly gave the diurnal, or daytime, triplicities of Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn to Venus; while the Dorothean, or Ptolemaic, tables added the water signs Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces to that list. Venus had no nocturnal triplicity rulerships. The terms were signs divided into five parts by degree. The terms of Venus are best consulted in those tables. The faces were essentially decans, or 10° increments of signs. Venus was in her own face in the first 10° of Cancer and Aquarius, the second 10° of Virgo, and the third 10° of Aries and Scorpio.
Vedic astrology, or Jyotish, has some similarities to the Hellenistic methods of astrology. Venus rules Taurus and Libra, and is connected to the wife, marriage, women, beauty, art, and music. Venus is called Sukra (Shukra), but is seen as a male god. The deities associated with Venus are Lakshmi, the goddess of love and pleasure, as well as Indra, the thunderbolt warrior god who also represents desires and yearnings. Sukra rules the face, kidneys, and reproductive system and is associated with harmony, flowers, happiness, and pleasure as well as laziness, vanity, and addictions. He represents love and the ability to relate to another. Sukra's colors are multicolored, his gemstones are diamond and white sapphire, and his day is Friday.
As a benefic, Venus enhances the house in which it is placed as well as providing a good influence on planets associated with it by house or aspect. Sukra (Venus) is a friend to Mercury and Saturn, is an enemy to the Sun and Moon, and neutral with Mars and Jupiter. In the zodiac sign of a friend it is joyful, contented, glad, and rejoicing. In the sign of an enemy it is sleepy, drowsy, and numb. Sukra (Venus), as in western astrology, is exalted in Pisces. Jyotish defines the exact degree of exaltation as 27°
of Pisces (sidereal) and similarly the exact degree of debilitation of Venus is 27° of Virgo (sidereal). As it moves toward the exact degree the intensity of its benefic or debilitated state is increased.
Venus also rules three of the 27 Nakshatras (lunar mansions): Bharani (0 to 13°20' Aries, sidereal), Purva Phalaguni (13°20' to 26°40' Leo, sidereal), and Purva Ashadha (13°20' to 26°40' Sagittarius, sidereal). All three of these Nakshatras share a sense of passion that requires one to learn restraint.
Today's western astrology combines many of the historical attributes of Venus. The planet is associated with the Greco/Roman goddess Venus and rules love and marriage as well as harmony and the ability to attract. The modern Venus is quite feminine in nature, represents grace, elegance, and beauty as well as money and material goods. She is the patron of the arts and music, and reflects one's ability to navigate social situations. Relationships, the capacity for affection, friendships, sensuality, and sexuality all belong under her domain.
The sign that Venus is posited in at birth indicates how one relates to others, what one finds attractive and one's capacity for love and harmony. The house in which Venus resides, as well as the houses the planet rules, describe the areas of life that are most profoundly impacted. For instance, harmony or money issues may be more important in those areas. In addition, the attractive nature of Venus usually brings a love of, or interest in, those things represented by those houses.
The shadow side of Venus recognizes that overindulgence brings out some negative traits, which can be indicated by retrograde motion, or aspects with another planet, as well as placement in a difficult house, such as the twelfth. For example, Jupiter aligned with Venus may seem to be a lucky placement. However, the expansive nature of Jupiter may influence Venus to overspend and to be vain or lazy.
As in the Hellenistic and Jyotish traditions, Venus rules the zodiac signs of Taurus and Libra, is exalted in Pisces, in detriment in Aries and Scorpio, and in its fall in Virgo. Physically, modern Venus rules the female sex organs, the glands, blood in the veins, the throat, and the kidneys. She is associated with the voice, etiquette, sweets, flowers, perfume, copper, Friday, and the number six.
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