Venus square Pluto: In Theory and Practice

Dear Friend and Reader:

Today, Venus retrograde is in an exact square to Pluto, inching her way toward the Aries Point. The square was exact at 6:21 am ET and because Venus is slow and powerful in the sky, it’s within exact orb as you read this.

Venus is visible above Earth’s moon, which is illuminated solely by light reflected from Earth. Because of Venus’ nearness to Earth and the way its clouds reflect sunlight, it appears to be the brightest planet in the night sky. Photograph courtesy NASA.

I’ve been working up to this aspect in previous columns all year, and the Venus retrograde series of events are described in the most precise astrological and psychological detail in the Next World Stories editions for Taurus and Libra (the signs with which Venus is most closely associated).

Let’s consider the theory of the square for a moment. Remember that the square aspect is about inner tension that the psyche is trying to resolve and build on. In natal astrology, typically when we’re younger, squares create a kind of split personality. We will jump from one side of the square to the other, living it out in pieces. This can feel like a deep inner division that cannot be reconciled, but it will keep demanding our attention.

As we grow and grow older, if things are going well, we’ll gradually integrate the two sides of the energy dynamic, which results in an increasingly mature, consistent person. If things are not going well, some people will camp out in one side of the square, in denial of a crucial, deeply influential side of their nature. This other, neglected side will erupt from time to time (usually when under transit) and can cause a lot of problems. We’ve all met these folks, we meet them every day and we may even live with one.

With a transiting square, we all go through a similar process. Venus square Pluto is particularly strong because it happens three times in close proximity: Feb. 6, 2009 (with Venus direct), April 3, 2009 (with Venus retrograde) and May 2, 2009 (with Venus direct).

When a pattern like this takes place, nearby standing points in our chart will also be activated repeatedly, and from two directions (from each side of the square). Many people can seem to be going through the same kind of change, crisis or growth process at the same time.

From Aries and from Capricorn

Let’s take the current Venus-Pluto square one side at a time, starting with Venus retrograde in Aries. Here, she is learning to center on herself, and also encountering the fact that this is about the struggle of getting to a point of emotional independence. I am working from the theory that this transit is primarily about what women learn growing up, and what it becomes later in life. I recognize that this topic is clouded with controversy, delusion and deception, not to mention what many mothers (inadvertently or intentionally) taught and teach their daughters about the nature of love, sex and relationships. It also pertains to what boys are taught about girls and women, but no matter how enlightened someone is, it’s nearly impossible to contradict the power of another person’s belief system.

Buddha stands guard over one of the first-ever pregnant mannequins, designed by Ara Sona in the 1970s. Photo by Eric Francis.

Over and over again, by family and by the media, the message is given to girls that you are not complete unless you have a man. Worse yet, one is not socially acceptable unless this is the primary goal of their life.

First wave, second wave and third wave feminism, Suicide Girls and every tattoo parlor in Toledo, Ohio notwithstanding, this message is still given to girls seemingly endlessly. Email me and tell me that things are different now. I will email you back and say this is what I have observed from twenty years of reading tarot and astrology for women, confronting this very crisis, from what I can see primarily turns up as a crisis of self-esteem or not feeling good enough.

Girls are still given the dichotomy that you can either have a relationship or you can have a life. We are once again seeing this drummed into millions of young girls in the form of Hannah Montana: The Movie. This is Cinderella, in modern terms and in grand style, and I really don’t think that many girls are going to miss this movie. Is anyone really looking at the effects of these messages on girls? I can think of one professor who is. Nobody is revealing the end of this new cinematic masterpiece, but the entire structure of the plot is the division against oneself and one’s goals; the man versus the career; personhood put on the sacrificial altar to relationship. Even the premise of the plot is that Miley, in order to have a musical career, has to be ‘two different people’ (Miley and Hannah). She has to split herself in half, and cannot be a whole person, known as such.

We might well question whether the male ego could withstand the notion that one’s female partner could be talented, famous and wealthy, but that is another conversation.

So, back to our astrology. The current square dials in all of these values, which are symbolized by retrograde Venus in Aries. It has an inner searching quality: for the true feelings associated with an autonomous sense of identity, or any sense of identity at all.

I’m not speaking here in metaphysical or cosmic terms, which is to say, I’m not arguing that the soul is ever separate from its source, or that there is not something authentic about this thing we call the ego. I’m speaking about the personality shell that we live in like a hermit crab, often unaware that this is what we’re doing: inhabiting something that we identify with very closely, but which is not strictly who we are. Venus can also represent the emotional body, the subtle intellectual dimension and the desire nature. Venus can represent any set of values with which we identify.

The retrograde emphasizes tuning into the receptive nature of this inner reality, that is, how we are informed by our environments, and take on what we observe; and also, due to the retrograde, seeking something from the past. Hold that thought: I’ll come back to it.

Pluto in Capricorn

Let’s go to the other side of the square.

Pluto, the one we know from astrology, deepens everything, and puts us into contact with what we tend to deny. Pluto’s subject matter runs a fairly consistent agenda from enforced change to transformational processes; soul-type growth; shadow material such as fear; anything hormonal; and death in its many forms, including transitioning from one major personality phase to another.

French existentialist writer and feminist Simone de Beauvoir: “One is not born a woman, one becomes one.” Uncredited photo taken from Spiegel Online, the German news magazine.

On one level, Pluto in Capricorn (2008-2024) is about blowing through the ludicrous ‘traditions’ we live with in our society. Many of those are expressions of stoic, stodgy, joyless and blatantly boring Christian and capitalist values.

Remember that Christianity was foisted upon society along with the murder of the sacred Vodan trees, the slaughter of Mother God, the spilling of an ocean of human blood and the sacrifice of thousands of women as alleged witches, along with many of their cats. After that a real measure of docility could be counted on, but if you ask me it’s never really been complacent.

We don’t know exactly what this New Order replaced, but pre-Christian rituals such as Beltane suggest strongly that there was a more equal emphasis on maleness and femaleness as collaborative, complimentary energies and as attributes of nature.

It is the core of that female self that we are now in a process of dialing in and attempting to recover and explore. This can be lonely; the poignancy of emotional birthing can often discover itself as alone first. But here is the really interesting part: The Aries Point (the first degree of Aries) is involved. As individual and private as this experience feels, it’s widespread, collective and ultimately a public phenomenon. The Aries Point is that place where every private reality adds up to what we all share and must contend with, and where collective movements of society influence the consciousness of an individual. This is not theory. All you have to do is look.

If you want to live in a bubble and think you don’t matter and be convinced that nothing actually affects you and that you don’t have any power, this is precisely the thing to deny. But good luck with Pluto in Capricorn right there.

Combine this with a square to Venus retrograde and we get (potentially, under a best case scenario) a profoundly introverted process of shedding emotional attachments that clutter one’s sense of identity or make it directly inaccessible to oneself. This could lead nicely to an awakening that individuation is a process of building the confidence to take part in society in the ways that you want.

Under this astrology, you’re going to find out who you are, at least one or two more layers in. Who you are may have something to do with who you were before you forgot. In women, this would be who you were before puberty, when you had a true modicum of emotional autonomy and a sense of yourself as a distinct entity in the universe.

For many reasons, most eloquently covered by Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex, that autonomy is systematically stripped away at puberty and another female entity is transformed into: we call that a ‘woman’. This is a social and cultural construction, not a biological entity. In De Beauvoir’s view, the concept ‘woman’ is different than ‘adult female person’. The girl who had many dreams of being an independent person still exists, though she is down there somewhere deep and must be located, recovered, made friends with and nurtured back into conscious existence if we want to know her; if she is to do anything but rage. Often that independent girl rages while the woman who surrounds her must endure so much that she was not planning on.

To Die, or to Mature?

What blocks the maturing process are beliefs, attachments and obligations. We all know about these; what the world does not like to acknowledge consciously is that women are given, take on or are saddled with many obligations that are (on one level) basically impossible to change, mostly because they lack the cooperation of other people who would make that change possible. Many of these situations can only be addressed and worked with. Many are cemented in specifically by inner attachments that create the problem. These attachments seem external (i.e., to a man or the need for men; to ‘succeed in the career world’ instead of doing what you want to do with your life) but they are actually internal in nature. They are so closely connected to the core operating system that it seems that to change them would literally be ‘to die’ and that is in a sense true: one version of the personality would have to die, Pluto-style, and metamorphose into something else.

The cover of the 2005 edition, calling itself a “new edition for a new era”.

Venus retrograde square Pluto is inviting us all to do just that. Have you noticed? Like, have you noticed how deep into core self it’s been relatively easy to go this week? I know it’s not just me because I’m in numerous email correspondences with people saying basically the same thing. The true beauty of this transit emerges as we move from this seemingly private, interior space of questioning and breakthrough into the recognition that we are standing on common territory.

That common territory begins with the body: the biological level of reality. By that, I mean recognizing that female is first and foremost a biological entity; and that as it extends into personality, that includes the relationship we have with our bodies. In many girls and women, that relationship is basically hateful, painful and essentially guilty. Have we weighed the cost of nearly all pleasure arriving with some seemingly mandatory attachment to guilt or shame?

Hand-in-glove with this is the relationship women have to seeking their sense of self-grounding in connection not to themselves but to a man and often struggling profoundly to do it any other way. This never would have occurred to me, had I not learned it from women.

If we’re going to get anywhere, we need to start with biology, we need to start with sex, and we need to start with educating young people. I call upon parents, first, to take this up as Dharma Yoga.

I think that young women, when they get around the time of the Bat Mitzvah (age 13, when a conservative, patriarchal culture begins to consider them women) is that they be given a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves and a very good vibrator. This would be a rite of passage. With this would come a real conversation with an older woman who is not vaguely embarrassed or attached to one viewpoint (it could be the mother, it could be someone else) who explains the basics over a phase of time until the concepts and facts are internalized.

I have heard a stunning number of horror stories involving girls and birth control pills. Nobody seems to be talking about primary and backup methods of pregnancy prevention any more. Girls need to be taught how to use condoms, and told where to find them. The conversation needs to include applying them to bananas until they are good at it, and this thing health workers try to teach in Africa, called condom negotiation.

Boys need to be taught many things about themselves and about women, but the first and most important is that they are 100% responsible for what happens to their sperm.

Yours & truly,
Eric Francis




Weekly Horoscope for Friday, April 3, 2009, #760 combined with Eriscope
April 2009 – By ERIC FRANCIS

Aries (March 20-April 19)
Beneath your familiar personality is another layer of psychic reality, one that you make contact with from time to time. Now happens to be one of them. Gradually you are melting your way through the false floors and into feeling the essence of your existence. Here is the main difference between that and what you think of as yourself: on the essential level, everything about who you are is a flexible possibility rather than a fixed idea. You can melt into the world of potential rather than needing to push yourself there. And with this feeling comes a new sense of your erotic potential: in particular, the feeling that within your psyche you contain all possibilities of male, female, masculine, feminine and every combination thereof. Once you touch that truth, the full expression of who you are is only a gesture away.

Taurus (April 19- May 20)
In order to make contact with the truth of who you are, you’re being asked to give something up. It may be an idea about partnership, a fantasy or something about how you idealize your existence. It may be some piece of yourself to which you’ve been attached for a long time, but not knowing why. The moment of truth may feel like being put through an emotional wringer, and you may indeed be experiencing something akin to isolation and potentially loss. If so, I suggest you do nothing to drown, stuff or hide from your conflict, but rather stay fully conscious and go with it. If there’s a ‘lesson’ here it’s not the kind that takes years to learn. What I see is a moment of fully embracing a hidden, even shadowy side of your sexual nature or desire nature long enough to set yourself free into something much lighter and more nourishing.

Gemini (May 20- June 21)
Among the many sets of pairs that you can use to divide yourself is your ‘public self’ versus your ‘private self’. This can and does lead people to put far more emphasis on their image than on the substance of who they are. It’s true that many people you meet on the street emphasize image precisely because they feel a lack of substance. Maybe you’ve figured out how slippery this can be, the whole business of trying to maintain appearances for the sake of preserving something about your reputation that is actually the opposite of what is true. I would say that now is the time to be known for who you are inside. This would mean presenting a true picture of yourself to the people around you, contending consciously with the fear that you might be judged for doing so. If you wonder what has been dragging you down half your life, it is this fear of judgment, and there is only one way to dispense with that: confront it directly.

Cancer (June 21- July 22)
Once you burrow through to the ethical question that is behind your doubts, you will feel a lot better. You seem to have given up on something that is dear to you, such as a goal or a vision for your life. You seem to be under the heavy influence of another person in this process. I would propose that their influence, if you perceive it as discouraging or negative, can and must have a strengthening influence on what your intentions are. This would be a good time to remind you that having a goal feels like one thing and entering the reality where you begin to accomplish what you set out to do feels like something else. In a sense, one is an idealization and one is a world you must live in. You can, and it can be rich territory. Yet in that world there are certain places you can only go alone.

Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)
The hottest sex is spiritual in nature, so far as I can tell: which is to say, it somehow goes beyond individual love and enters a space that is universal. If you get to this space, if you feel like you have suddenly left the realm of the ‘interpersonal’ and the ‘familiar’ and are in a new cosmos, open up and embrace this dimension of reality. It is indeed reality, though unfamiliar to many. One potentially frightening aspect of this is that in the transpersonal realm, individual ego identity seems to matter less, or not at all. In a sense, anyone could be anything. Second is the connection between erotic experience, death and the inherent transience of relationships. You can feel almost anything you want on Earth, but due to the nature of this plane of reality it is temporary. Let this be your cause for celebration.

Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)
You are about to touch the edge of territory that you can occupy if you want. Other factors have been pointing you here, particularly a person who seems to have a bigger idea of what is possible in life than you may be comfortable plunging into. Or you may be brewing this idea yourself, visioning an experience that feels like it might be deeply pleasurable. I sense you are seeking for the relational aspect. That is, sexual experience is one thing, but most people would say it’s more fulfilling when it’s mingled with meaningful human contact. Your cosmic assignment seems to be making all human contact meaningful. Be aware of when others try to detract from the meaning of some kinds of experiences in order to build up the meaning of others. This is deception, but it’s not always obviously so.

Libra (Sep. 22 – Oct. 23)
If it’s true that you seek self-knowledge through others, then how can you help others seek self-knowledge through you? Would you be willing to do that consciously, and moreover, would you feel up to the task? The more meaningful question, though, seems to be how we can step out of this constant need to mirror and be mirrored in a way that blurs the boundaries between who is who in a relationship. I know that this is one of the easiest ways to seem to escape the boundaries and limits of the individual ego. Yet often we escape one trap and walk into another. Imagine a world where we felt like we actually existed without needing one another for validation. Imagine a planet where we could be a whole person without needing to prove that point by having someone else. That would leave us free to relate as individuals. I don’t think we get all the way there in one jump, but we definitely can take significant steps — and you seem ready for a few of those right now.

Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)
I got an email today from some commenting that for weeks I’ve been mentioning something about a story involving the supposed partner of Scorpios; but what if you don’t have a partner? In that case, the references pertain to your perspective on relationships. If there is not a specific person involved, what is involved is your relationship to relationship itself. Not only can this now change, it seems to dearly need to, and like that progress is probable. If you focus first on healing — whatever that concept means to you — as your first agenda item, you are the most likely to find yourself exploring a world of feeling, sensation and imagination. I think it will work in this order, better than the other way. Healing is an intention you would apply to yourself first, most likely starting with an emotional or relational pattern that you’ve been struggling to get free from. Give it a name, so that you can talk about it; and proceed for a while with this out in the open, rather than veiled.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 22)
I would propose that for most people, sexual reality is predominantly emotional or physical, rather than creative. I don’t mean using costumes or body paint, but hey that sounds like fun. I do mean self-creative, that is, a conscious act of exploring your identity and sense of self and stretching into new places that you’ve never gone before. We think of sex as being procreative, rather than as self-generative. It is both. It would seem that in recent months you’ve gone quite a few old places, and they have been interesting, but now it’s clearly time for something different, and that means daring. Look specifically at what you would fear the most, and consider this a valid possibility. Don’t let your head get in the way: your old agenda, your prior expectations, or the judgments that were laid on you when you were younger. You are more than entitled to experiment with who you are: doing so is specifically who you are. And if you can get to this space of unfettered daring, without clinging to yourself or anyone, other people will very like be interested, and come to you.

Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)
If you express yourself, you will find some clarity. You may feel like you have to hold your silence until you actually know what you need to say, before you say it. I would propose that if you try to get out what you think is lurking in your feelings, you will get part of the way there, and if you revise this a few times you will actually figure it out. Okay, now for the contact point. Consider the sexuality of the parent about whom you know the least; the one who seemed to be absent, vague or to lack the ability to focus on you. I’m aware that the eroticism of their parents is the very last thing they want to think about; many people think it’s disgusting. However, I would propose that how you feel about your parents’ sex relates to how you feel about the fact that you exist. From here, how you feel and what you need to say to yourself will be much easier to access.

Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)
Over the next few weeks, it’s going to become easier to be honest with yourself. The reasons you have to conceal anything from your own awareness have been melting away for a long time. You probably figured out that to be honest with others, it’s necessary to be honest with yourself first; this is one of the few places that emotional reality actually follows logic. If you take this path, it follows further that the person who you are inside is the only person you can actually be in relationship to another. Whether you are losing or gaining ground in your relationships directly involves your ability to be entirely authentic within their sphere. You do not have an alternate self who relates to others; you relate to them as a whole being. There remains the question of what to do with the past. Here is a suggestion: if it is nagging you, and you have to keep stuffing it down, then let it out and be real about it.

Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)
You are being presented with a series of opportunities that will help you directly mediate your freedom. In other words, you are the medium of your own liberation. Other people will be involved and it’s clear that recently, they have been involved. Yet something is different; there is something self-directed that is unfolding. You are no less interested in relationships than you’ve ever been, but Mars in your sign is giving you a relatively rare opportunity to see that you are both the ‘thing’ that desires, and the ‘thing desired’. This may seem pushy. I suggest that the quality of feeling, to the contrary, is about receptivity rather than expression. Notice what your emotions and your senses are telling you. Notice who notices you — don’t worry about why. This experience of feeling and observation opens up a horizon to anywhere.

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