Venus, By Way of the Dream World

“All transits and progressions will start to express their energy, or effect, at the deep levels of the unconscious. The first indication of this may occur in the dream world as ideas and energy bubble up to levels of consciousness.” — Bernadette Brady, “Predictive Astrology: The Eagle and the Lark”

Venus/Aphrodite love charm, hematite, 3rd c CE

I’ve been observing the connections between the movements of the planets and my dreams for the past several months, and have noticed a particular connection between the movements of Venus and my dreams ever since I made a Venus talisman earlier this year, when transiting Venus was in the sign of Pisces. The energy of Venus finds easy expression in the two signs that she rules: Taurus, which is oriented towards the material and sensual pleasures; and Libra, which is oriented towards mental and intellectual pleasures. But Pisces is the sign where Venus is traditionally considered to be Exalted, a watery and boundless domain where Venus is said to express her full range of sensual, artistic and relational harmonies.

Venus in Pisces talisman: paint rags and juniper berries cast in wax

I wanted to capture and make permanent a bit of Piscean Venus energy with a talisman because my natal Venus is in Aries, which is traditionally considered to be in the sign of its detriment. Here, Venus’ relationship to the body and all of its incarnate pleasures is a bit more contentious. This is because the natural energy of Venus to receive pleasure is slightly uncomfortable in the sign of Aries, which, being ruled by Mars (the God of War), is more focused on outward action and the independent pursuit of one’s desires. My Venus is wearing a chainmail suit and, placed in the 6th house of physical health and daily routine, is stuck in line to get the flu shot at CVS.

Venus in domicile with Libra and Taurus (left), Venus in detriment with Aries and Scorpio (right), from "Introduction to Astrology" by Abu Ma'shar, 1403

In late April, I had a Venus return — this is when transiting Venus comes back to its position in your natal chart (once every 19 months or so), and themes related to your natal Venus are emphasized. Because I’d been tracking Venus’ movements in the sky alongside my dreams, I paid attention for any Venusian themes to emerge. Around this time, I had a dream whose connection to Venus was not immediately obvious: in this dream, my identity was Phosphorus — as in, I just was Phosphorus. I had my same human form, but I wore bright neon clothing and continuously danced around, perfectly at ease and joyously celebrating my identity as this bright and glowing substance. Knowing nothing about phosphorous other than having a faint recollection that it’s some sort of rock, a Wikipedia search quickly revealed its Venusian connection:

“The name Phosphorus in Ancient Greece was the name for the planet Venus and is derived from the Greek words (φῶς = light, φέρω = carry), which roughly translates as light-bringer or light carrier."

Venus Phosphorus with sign of Venus (left) and Scorpio (below), Agate, 16th c.

In other words, phosphorous is a glowing rock, and when it was discovered in Ancient Greece, it was named after the brightest “star” Venus (the planets were called “wandering stars” before it was discovered that they were in fact, planets.) Because Venus is visible in the morning for the first half of her synodic cycle, and is visible in the evening for the second half of her synodic cycle, the early Greeks believed these to be two different astronomical bodies. Venus’ appearance as a morning star was called Phosphorus, while her appearance as an evening star was called Hesperus. Later Greeks concluded that they were in fact a single astronomical entity, and the mythology of Phosphorus and Hesperus were absorbed into one goddess: Aphrodite, later to be known as Venus.

(Note: sometimes you will see the word Lucifer in place of Phosphorus, because this is the literal Latin translation for “light-bringer” — but it’s not to be confused with the Devil.)

White phosphorus

It’s quite simple to spot how Venus appears in your own chart just by looking at it: if Venus is behind the Sun in zodiacal order (for example, if Venus is in Aries and the Sun is in Taurus) then you have a morning star Venus; if Venus is ahead of the Sun (for example, if your Sun is Aries and Venus is in Taurus) then you have an evening star Venus. Even though we now know these two faces of Venus emanate from the same astronomical body, the quality and meaning of Venus can vary depending on her morning or evening star status. In “An Astrological Study of Psychological Complexes”, Dane Rudhyar elaborated on their differences:

“Venus Lucifer, as morning star ‘rising ahead’ of the Sun, refers to a type of emotional activity which might be said symbolically to run ahead of the self…It describes a person who goes out to meet the world (and especially other human beings) with an eager expectancy as if life itself depended upon the results of the meeting… The individual ‘feels’ situations and persons in an act of almost immediate ethical judgment. They are good or bad — for him and at that particular time. He acts as he feels he must act, and there often emanates from him a strong contagion of feelings, a ‘warmth of feelings.’

Venus Hesperus and Venus Phosphorus by Evelyn De Morgan, 1882

Venus, as evening star, is a symbol of feeling after the act; that is, of the type of emotion which results from and is a judgment upon an action having been performed…The judgment is either esthetical (it considers the value of the relationship between all significant factors in the case) or legalistic (thus according to traditional standards and precedents). Indeed many persons with Venus rising after the Sun may be highly emotional, but this emotionality is not as spontaneous and immediate as when Venus is morning star in a birthchart.”

The tradition of seeking insight from dreams is not only a feature of modern psychotherapy, but one that dates back to Ancient Greece, where patients suffering from illness would practice dream incubation. The sick in search of healing made pilgrimages to various healing temples called Asclepions. There, they slept on temple floors in hopes of being visited by Asclepius, the god of medicine, and being cured or having the cure revealed to them in their dream. The patients made careful records of their dreams until a “symptoma”, a coincidence with the dream of a priest occurred. When both the priest and the patient had the same dream, the patient was considered to be cured, often with overt and immediate physical relief.

Asclepius and his serpent-entwined staff, red Jasper, date unknown

Records preserved from these ancient healing temples illustrate the healing dreams of many thousands of patients. In one instance, a crippled man was healed because Asclepius appeared to him in a dream, circumambulated him three times in a horse-drawn chariot, and then let the horse trample on his paralyzed limbs. This man left the temple with the power of his limbs restored, and no medical treatment was given. In place of the principle of causality we find that of analogy, the idea that like is cured by like, which later became the basis of homeopathy (poison = remedy).

In my own natal chart, Venus is a morning star. Why would she appear to me in a dream, with me assuming her (veiled) identity as a morning star? Perhaps this was a gentle reminder from the goddess of love to not disparage any of her forms — whether she appears in detriment, fall, domicile or exaltation — the sign she inhabits in any one natal chart is perfectly right for that individual. Maybe my talisman conjured her, only to be reminded that she’s exactly the kind of Venus that I need, in detriment or not. Whether it was the talisman or simply my receptivity, perhaps Venus appeared this way in my dream to show me that these planetary archetypes can teach us, and transmit knowledge to us, if we pay attention. Perhaps we don’t need to travel to the Asclepions and sleep on the temple floors as the ancient Greeks did. Perhaps we can court this divine intercession in our dreams, with talismans, invocations, or simply a willingness to listen.