My Venus Research Results
Part One, by Dana Gerhardt
Felicity sat on the fence of her family's ranch in Wyoming, her eyes scanning across miles of wide open fields and flat land. "I am so f.king bored," she complained, tossing her thick mane of blue-black hair across her shoulders. With a heavy sigh, she wondered if she would ever get out of this hellhole of a town full of nobodies. She wanted to explore the world. Maybe then she would finally find the place where she belonged.
If a 9th house Venus in Cancer were a romance-novel heroine, her story might begin just this way. Astride the family fence, looking out at a wider world, she surrenders to her deepest longing, the central paradox of her nature: her 9th house desire for freedom and her Cancer need to belong. Felicity's tale was in fact written by a 9th house Venus in Cancer. The author was one of hundreds who responded to a brief note appearing at the end of my last Venus article (which launched this planet series two years ago): I'm currently working on a book about Venus. If you'd like to participate in my research, I have a juicy questionnaire which will help you explore your Venus placement and help me verify what the goddess wants us astrologers to know. Email if you're interested.
I expected a dozen, maybe twenty or thirty brave souls would reply. That number would surely dwindle once they saw my questionnaire with 32 open-ended questions probing into all facets of the Venus experience-love, relationship, aesthetic tastes, creativity, finances, sex, sorrows, and happiness. Having worked for years in market research, I well knew the odds against getting respondents to complete a lengthy survey, especially one so intimate. I hadn't planned on joining the ranks of Michel Gauquelin with a vast statistical project. (1) Mine would be qualitative, not quantitative research.
Quantitative speaks in percentages. It requires a carefully controlled sample and non-ambiguous questions, focused to support or disprove some in-going hypothesis. Qualitative is used when a researcher isn't sure what she'll find. It's exploratory and subjective, as when gathering a dozen people in a focus group to discuss potato chips or lighter fluid. The patterns and design of the study become clear only after the talk gets going. The data gathering instrument is not a computer, but the mind of the researcher, who must become like a sponge in a bucket, fully immersed in whatever shows up.
Quickly I was more than immersed. I was drowning. I was inundated with surveys for months. When the same article appeared a year later on the Astrodienst website (and I forgot to delete my author's note), more Venuses stepped forward to volunteer. After some dropped out and I had to turn others away, I tallied up 426 completed surveys. This in itself was a finding. It affirmed that interest in the Venus archetype was compelling enough to drag many otherwise busy people through an extensive self-revealing questionnaire. Happily, quite a few reported that just answering the survey had brought them closer to Venus. This was indeed my hope-that the questions would reward both the respondents and researcher with a new awareness of her presence.
Delighted as I was, many days I was afraid to enter my office. The intimacy, depth and sheer number of the responses was daunting. Like many practicing astrologers, I was oblivious to my own transits. Eventually I realized that by transit, Neptune was squaring my Venus. I could have hoped this would lift the veils of creative inspiration, bringing a feeling of timeless absorption as I spent days reading questionnaires and nights receiving dream messages from the goddess herself. Sadly we don't often get the transit we want; we get the one that shows up. I got the "lost" Neptune transit. Imagination froze and I went blank. Any understanding I thought I had of Venus disappeared. I'd alternate between reading questionnaires and avoiding them, feeling perpetually at sea with the project. Once my Neptune transit was complete, virtually on the day it lifted, a vision of how to organize and report the results arrived like a storm. As is often true of Neptune transits, a part of me, shrouded in unconsciousness, had been working all along. The result is "Your Venus Unleashed," not a book, but a computerized report designed to give the reader the best of what I'd experienced, deep immersion in the Venus archetype. It contains what I've learned on my personal Venus journey over the past five years, but more importantly, it's filled with the voices of my generous research participants, who allowed me to quote (with anonymity) their insights and experiences.
Many stories brought tears to my eyes, like this one from a Gemini Venus conjunct Uranus. Gemini is the messenger and Uranus can bring flashes of otherworldly knowledge; combine that with a very psychic Moon/Neptune conjunction in the 12th house, and it's not surprising that this woman works as a channel. Quite literally in the following account of a happy memory, her Gemini Venus became Love's messenger.
"For a long time I've known that life continues after death. I needed no proof; it was simply a part of my awareness. Within hours of my daughter's Beloved being killed by an impaired driver, I began to hear-as if they were dropped into my mind-the words and music 'I will always love you' and I had an image of a dozen dark red roses with one white rose. Please understand, I rarely get clairvoyant messages. I 'know' things; I don't 'see' them. At first I ignored the words but they kept repeating-not the entire song, just 'I will always love you' with the image of the roses over and over. I finally decided to act on my intuition. On the way to my daughter's home, I arranged for the red roses with the one white one to be sent to her, writing on the card, 'I will always love you.' No signature. The moment I finished writing, I heard deep within me, in Arthur's voice, 'Thank you, Mother.' I was flooded with such a feeling of love and gratitude I could hardly contain it. It may seem strange that such an unhappy occasion was also an occasion for happiness, but I'll never forget how glad I was for this sign of continuing love and how grateful I was to be able to help."
In the three happy memories shared by respondents, themes related to their Venus sign, house or aspects often appeared. The same was true when I asked about three unhappy times, for if Venus defines what brings us joy, she also defines our sorrows. Venus can be saucy and sexy, but as the principle of receptivity, she is tender and sensitive too, exposing herself by what she cannot bear. The following anecdote comes from a Venus in Libra. It's a small event, but likely it lingers in memory because it confronts themes so central to this placement-the attunement to others, the desire for beauty and harmony, and the horror of anything rough, rude, or ugly.
"When I was a teenager, I went to boarding school, leaving my sweet boyfriend behind. When I came home for the Christmas holidays, I had caught the measles from an epidemic at school. My face was all swollen. In those days in the country we didn't have a phone. My sweet boyfriend showed up without me having had a chance to tell him not to come. I did hide in my bedroom as I didn't want him to see me so ugly, but my mother insisted I show up. She insisted so much that it became more uncomfortable to hide than to appear. I felt profoundly unsupported by her, profoundly humiliated to briefly show up and to watch the horrified expression on his face, which was, in fact, the last time I ever saw him."
If only the mother of this Venus in Libra had known some astrology! When I drafted my questionnaire, I didn't know which questions would be most productive. Happy and unhappy memories were telling, but the most imaginative portraits of each sign's Venus came from two questions in particular: I asked people to describe someone whose feminine expression they most admired and to describe their idea of a goddess-either one met in real life or imagined. These answers were often strikingly on sign, with women and goddesses of independence and strength appearing for the Venuses in Aries, compassionate and nurturing women/goddesses for the Venuses in Cancer, and for the Venuses in Leo, bright laughing women/goddesses expressing themselves with confidence. Although the following account is not typical of the Venuses in Aquarius (who tended to admire independence, unorthodoxy and the capacity to love unconditionally), it's quite appropriate for this sign. Who else but Venus in Aquarius would describe a goddess ET!
"Yes I have met a goddess. One rainy night our sky-watching group vectored in a craft in Britain and I, along with two other men, one from the BBC, were sent to investigate the unusual lights about a quarter mile away. We came upon a most perfect woman floating over the mud in the field. She came within a foot of my face, repeating my greeting back to me. I found I could not move my body; neither could the others. Frozen to the spot, we were silent, calm and stunned. She moved on. After a minute we found we could move again. The three of us agreed we had seen an ET Queen or a Goddess. She was shorter than 5'6" and of perfect form and face. Her movements were superb, full of grace and her cloak glowed with radiance. She acted regal but without false ego. I'm still impressed by this and it occurred over ten years ago."
By research standards, my sample was healthy, but hardly representative of the population as a whole. I heard from women and men, but predominantly women. Ages ranged from 17 to 79, with the majority being between 40 and 65. All had an interest in astrology and many were involved in creative Venus-ruled professions. That the sample was self-selected limits my authority to generalize about everyone's experience of Venus. But which signs elected to participate is itself an interesting finding. For each sign, the average number of surveys completed was roughly the same-with four notable exceptions. The Virgo and Scorpio samples were nearly double those of the other signs; the Taurus and Libra surveys were almost half the average.
Why had I heard from so many Venuses in Virgo and Scorpio and so few in Taurus and Libra? My theory on this evolved over time, until it eventually led to the finding I consider most important. At first the sample skew made simple astrological sense. Virgo and Scorpio are the signs most associated with research. Virgo has the patience and analytical curiosity to complete a lengthy survey. Scorpio enjoys probing beneath the surface into psychological patterns and causes. What's more, in the article carrying my invitation, I had expressed confusion about my own Venus in Scorpio, prompting many others with a Scorpio Venus to commiserate.
But why were the Taurus and Libra samples in such short supply? As Venus-ruled signs, these might have been most eager to explore Venus matters. I suspected the tone of my article had driven the sample in the opposite direction. I had been dissatisfied and mystified by my experience of Venus, inadvertently skewing representation toward the traditionally unhappy placements. Venus is in detriment in Scorpio, in her fall in Virgo; in Taurus and Libra, she's more regally disposed. Perhaps my sample merely confirmed astrology's system of rulership and detriments. Those with a well-placed Venus were busy enjoying their happy lives and had little need for further exploration. Those with troubled placements were more amenable to recounting and hopefully unraveling their difficulties. (2)
Yet once I read through the surveys, I no longer believed this. Many of the Virgos and Scorpios had wonderful Venus expressions. The level of their sensuous awareness and creative engagement indicated a strong alignment with Venus in their daily lives. These signs weren't at all bad for the goddess. In fact, I later discovered that among the Sumerians, Virgo and Scorpio were the two constellations most associated with Venus (as Inanna/Ishtar). (3) Among Venuses in Aries, a sign also in detriment, I found a passionate sensibility that was reminiscent of early historical descriptions of this archetype-as both a goddess of love and of war. The group with Venus in Pisces, a sign considered favorable for Venus because she's exalted here, did have a special Piscean flavor of creativity, idealism, and supernatural leanings. But the group's overall blessings fell into the same bell curve as the other signs, with a few at the fringe seeming inordinately graced or cursed, and the rest enjoying an average range of Venus ups and downs. In survey after survey, difficulty or ease with the Venus archetype seemed less conditioned by sign or house than by life experiences-which often showed a greater correlation with aspects to Venus. But the real meaning of these experiences was decided by free will, that is, by the individual's attitude toward what had occurred.
So what caused the Virgo/Scorpio and Taurus/Libra skew? I now believe it was astrology itself. My readers are astrologically savvy people. I suspect those with Venus in Taurus and Libra were less inclined to participate because they were generally happy and inspired by what they'd heard or read about their Venus. Those with Venus in Virgo and Scorpio were left dissatisfied or mystified by astrology's experts. In their questionnaires, many respondents were openly angry with these judgments; others agreed ("Yes I'm cold and picky," or "Yes I'm withdrawn and vengeful. Am I doomed?") Often enough, I found myself delighting in someone's unique portrayal of Venusian sensibilities throughout a survey, only to find at the end, when I asked for an opinion of their Venus placement, the individual would fall sadly into line, thinking he or she was cursed.
This led to what I felt was my most significant finding: astrology has some cleaning up to do. We've got to look beyond the cultural Venus stereotypes. And we need to abandon our habit of naming "good" or "bad" placements. Assessing planetary weakness or strength, quite valuable in horary judgments, (4) has less relevance in natal astrology. In birth charts, detriments, falls or exaltations aren't particularly useful, except as they make people feel blessed or cursed. Better is determining why a person was born with a particular arrangement of Venus sign, house and aspects. I've come to believe that whatever this is, it's the ideal position for that person's feminine expression. It is their assignment, the road to their happiness. Helping that person travel this road in confidence and joy is a good use for astrology, although it requires new listening and new learning. The more questionnaires I read, the more convinced I became that every Venus placement is beautiful. It was simply my job to discover why. This is indeed a Venusian approach, as her core values are acceptance and appreciation.
Consider Venus in Virgo. Astrology books typically portray her as an uptight school marm, cold in love, full of criticism. But as a group, the Virgo Venuses I found were more sensuous than any other sign-if sensuality is measured not by how quickly one falls into bed with a lover, but how developed are one's senses, how attuned one is to the pleasures of taste, sight, touch, and sound. The Venus Virgos loved quality more than criticism. They were so at home in the natural world, that shy as they indeed were, they enjoyed being naked to a much higher degree than any other sign. How should we write this up for a cookbook? Consider the following description from one of my Venus-in-Virgo participants:
"My Venus is strong, willowy, and magical. Amazonian. Very grounded yet full of life force. She can perform seemingly impossible feats. She is a loner. Connected to nature. Out in the moonlight conversing with stars. She has the kind of eyes you fall into and don't want to climb out of. She is pure openness and fluidity. She can't be held or possessed, only delighted in-if you are fortunate enough to encounter her. She is strangely powerful yet timid, rare as a unicorn and equally as shy."
The portrait is fanciful, but captures Virgo's femininity better than anything I've seen in an astrology book. Venus in Capricorn is another sign often mistreated by astrologers. This Venus is typically described as unaffectionate and reserved, tending to marry for status more than love, choosing partners who can bring her material advantages. Among the Capricorn Venuses I looked at, I found little indication this was true. The problem with most Venus interpretations is they do nothing more than drape a Sun sign in a dress. Because Capricorn Suns can be stodgy and calculating, the same traits are presumed of Capricorn Venus. Such thinking altogether misses the Venus archetype, whose qualities are universal. Venus brings everyone access to pleasure, passion, abundance, joy, creativity, sexual potency and self-love. The challenge is discovering how her values best thrive in a particular sign. The possibilities are more diverse than is usually imagined. Consider the following portrait from a Capricorn Venus. The person whose feminine expression she most admired was not some Donald Trump in a dress, but someone earthy, responsible, and beautiful by being both sturdy and soft, who valued tradition and was willing to work. These are also Capricorn traits.
"I admire my grandmother-a formidable old lady. She was very hard and very strong. She had a hard life as many of her generation had and she'd been widowed and therefore single for all but 6 years of her adult life. She embodies women for me as she demonstrated such strength of character. So fierce in some ways-a former nurse, a single parent, a meticulous housekeeper and cook-yet so feminine in others-always dressed correctly, always jewelry or hats or brooches, always the right coat, always dignified. There were handmade lace mats all over her house and hand knit shawls for babies she adored. Her display cabinet held remnants of bridal bouquets from both her daughter's and daughter-in-law's weddings."
Who knows whether the grandmother described actually was a Venus in Capricorn. Beauty lives in the beholder's eye, so the portrait reveals a kind of feminine beauty that inspires a Capricorn Venus. Another Venus sign often labeled as less than passionate is Gemini. It's believed that androgynous Mercury, who rules this placement, somehow dilutes her sensuality. I found the opposite was true. Clever, playful, and flirtatious, the Gemini Venus group was delightfully adept in many Venusian arts. Even more than Venus in Libra, who's often praised for her social charms, the Venuses in Gemini had no qualms about walking up to people and turning on the charm (while Venus in Libra was more reticent and sensitive, being more easily mortified if she was rejected).
Contrary to astrology's party line, Mercury gives Venus a special advantage. That's because of this truth: Love and Sex are intimately connected to the Mind. Knowing this was actually Cleopatra's secret weapon. (5) She was no beauty-her nose was hooked, her lips were thin, her body was squat. But she rolled herself up in a rug and had this delivered to Julius Caesar. When he unrolled it, Cleo immediately began dazzling him with conversation, speaking in perfect Latin and Greek, charming him with poems, stories and laughter. She conquered him that night. Like Cleopatra (who, by the way, adored libraries), Venus in Gemini has mad skills. She is the ultimate courtesan.
But then every Venus has mad skills. To discover your own, you must learn to approach her as a lover. See her as Don Juan deMarco sees women. (6) "I see women for who they truly are-glorious, radiant, spectacular. . I am not limited by my eyesight. Women react to me the way they do . because I sense out the beauty that dwells within them until it overwhelms everything else and then they cannot avoid their desire to release that beauty and envelop me in it." Your Venus merely wants the same from you.
"YOUR VENUS UNLEASHED",