Venus stations retrograde soon, on July 22. The planet stations direct on September 3.
Consider committing to using this sacred interval to achieve an important desire.
40 days and 40 nights—it’s how long the Buddha sat under the Bodhi Tree before reaching enlightenment. Jesus fasted this long in the desert while resisting the Devil’s temptations. Moses spent 40 days and nights on Mount Sinai, listening to God then carving His Ten Commandments into stone.
A few thousand years before these events, 40 days and nights was how long it took Ishtar, the Queen of Heaven, to transform, from Evening Star to Morning Star, again and again. This wonder still occurs whenever the planet Venus appears to go backward (or retrograde). For six weeks every 18 months, Venus retrograde offers an auspicious time for positive changes and enlightenment.
Yet what today’s astrologers typically say about this period is “Watch out! Difficulties with all things Venus lie ahead—she’ll screw with your relationships, your money, your beauty, your overall happiness!”
Venus could entice you with an exciting new love who seems to offer everything that’s missing from your life—until you realize he’s worse than any jerk you’ve ever been with. And forget about old lovers—they’ll be knocking on your door, but don’t open it! Don’t make any drastic changes to your appearance—you’ll regret it. And that expensive thing you want to buy? You’ll pay more for it than it’s worth. Invest your money now and you could lose your shirt.
As if Venus were standing at an engine grinding out these same dull fates year after year! Alas it’s what happens when you take the sacred out of astrology. The gods—who used to use planets to send us divine messages—are now caught in some mechanical assembly line, having lost all intelligence and creativity.
And this is why, often enough, the dire predictions about Venus retrograde come true. Without a devotional approach to this sacred interval, we can easily fall prey to its subconscious traps. We can make bad decisions about money or love, especially if we’ve been neglecting our Venus needs. As the original Venus, Ishtar set the pattern—within which there is broad room for wild creativity.
What’s your best outcome? During the 40 days and nights of a Venus retrograde, quite simply, you can transform. You can use the supportive weeks ahead to become a better, more radiant version of yourself. As Rumi, the 13th century Sufi mystic, wrote:
What nine months of attention does for an embryo
forty early mornings will do
for your gradually growing wholeness.
Take my 40-day Venus Retrograde challenge
Forty is a magically recurring number.* The Ancient Egyptians were first of many spiritual traditions to believe the dead require 40 days to cross to the other side. During the plague of the middle ages, ships entering Venice had to sit for 40 days before docking—a practice called “quarantine,” from the Italian quaranta giorni, or “40 days.” It’s during the first 40 days after childbirth that mothers most need to rest and heal. Yogic science says it takes 40 days to rewire a habit. The Prophet Muhammad taught that 40 days of prayer is transformative.
Where can you use this magic? You may not have a choice. During the pre-retrograde shadow (where we are now), you may become obsessed or inflamed about some Venus matter. High emotion is a clue the Goddess is involved. But you can also work from Ishtar’s strength and patient calm. You can target a bad habit for extinction, decide to anchor a positive new one, or reach for a longed-for milestone. You can improve your relationship with your money, your love, or your creativity—you can become enlightened.
Below is the template for Ishtar’s journey over the next few weeks. Especially with Venus in the Underworld, you don’t need to synchronize yourself like a machine. Follow your inner timing and flow. Just observe how you organically pass through the retrograde milestones–the turning inward, the erupting of shadow, the snap of new clarity, the gathering of new strength.
|Venus enters her pre-retrograde shadow
|Discover and set your retrograde intention. Make a plan to support this. Commit to at least one activity, however brief, that you'll do each retrograde day.
|Venus stations retrograde at 28 Leo
|Begin your 40-day commitment. Especially with Venus in Capricorn, be willing to work for your success. Address important goals that will increase your self-respect.
|Venus disappears as Evening Star
|Ishtar's underworld journey begins. Be prepared to meet your crazy sister, Ereshkigal, your shadow (if she hasn't already erupted).
|Venus is conjunct the Sun
|A fertile, inseminating moment, when your view of matters may shift. A new clarity may appear.
|Venus emerges as Morning Star
|Nurture the radiant strength that begins gathering inside. Venus' actual appearance depends on your horizon line--a moment eagerly awaited by ancient priests.
|Venus stations direct at 12 Leo
|Celebrate how far you've come! You're free to make new choices based on your 40 days of transformation. Be strategic about your future steps.
|Venus post-retrograde shadow ends
|Well ... to be honest, I've not found the post-retrograde shadow to be all that relevant. Nor did the ancients. Once Venus was visible, she had a warrior's strength.
Take some time to think about your retrograde intention. Treat these six weeks with the same reverence you’d bring to any sacred ritual or commitment. For some Venus rituals you’re asked to gather several Venus objects (see the wonderful Venus Santeria Ritual–a perfect gesture for this time). Yet the magic in the objects is the same magic that’s already inside you. It’s the act of gathering them that draws you into the properly reverent mood. Honest reflection can do the same.
Remember that Venus is a goddess of pleasure. If you’re giving up a guilty addiction, make sure to replace it with something you enjoy. If you’re forging a new habit, like daily meditation, experiment until you find a style of meditation that’s so pleasurable, you look forward to it. A common sign that meditation is working is the spontaneous arising of bliss. Yet this won’t happen if what you’re doing feels like a chore. So commit to 40 days of meditation discoveries. Try a new style each day.
Reciting a daily prayer (or affirmation) can be quite powerful. So can a 40-day program of journaling your gratitudes. Free yourself from resentments with a 40-day forgiveness practice. A fine target is to boost your prosperity. There’s no better magic than what you’ll find in Tosha Silver’s Abundance Change Me prayer (even better—start her eight-week course, It’s Not Your Money).
Maybe you just want to better your relationship with Venus. Early Ishtar prayers are useful. I recommend those written by the High Priestess of Ur, Enheduanna, civilization’s first identifed author—who set the template for all magical poetry to come. And who–when she was banished–called on Ishtar to restore her political power. And Ishtar did. ***
Choose a daily commitment that is challenging enough to actually change you–yet easy enough that it’s not too hard to keep. Your daily practice is the boat that carries you toward your major Venus Retrograde test: meeting your Divine Feminine Shadow.
Why you need a Venus Retrograde rant
Venus isn’t really going backward. This is an illusion in our planet’s sky. We’re like fevered dreamers, entering the space of an ancient trance. This is an internal time. It’s best to temporarily release the need to stir things up in the outer world as you attune yourself to the inner. As any good Jungian knows, this is where raw power abides. It’s stirring in the subconscious, like a volcano readying to erupt. **
The Queen of Heaven knows this. Dressed in her best, the Shining One descends to grab some power from her Underworld Sister. Ereshkigal figures this out and is furious. During this part of the retrograde, there is a rumbling in the psyche—individually and collectively. The Queen of the Great Below has her Heavenly Sister stripped of jewels and garments at each of 7 Underworld gates, until Ishtar stands before her naked, utterly vulnerable, without pretense. Ereshkigal roars. She has Ishtar killed. Her corpse is hung on a meat hook to rot. The Dark Sister keeps raging.
Here is your moment of retrograde passion–when your neglected Venus needs make themselves known. There will come a morning, an afternoon or a weekend when you find yourself at a breaking point. You can’t stand it. Life is no fun. You’re angry. You’re lonely. You’re disappointed. You’re overwhelmed. Whatever it is, listen. And don’t just politely listen. Give your Dark Sister a pen or a keyboard and let her go to town. Let her rant and rave. Ask her to articulate everything. All the unmet desires and needs. Make a long list. An impassioned list. Begin each sentence with “I want,” or even better, “I demand.”
(“I demand more attention, I demand more money, I want my voice heard, I want my partner to kiss and cherish me, I desire more time to do my own thing.”)
Save this rant. Frame this rant. Keep it someplace special. Later, when the passion has cooled, take it out and have a clear-eyed look. These are messages from the Goddess who’s been trapped inside your subconscious. Her complaints are a minefield of unpolished gems. They are your deepest Venus secrets, what you need for happiness now. The words may be a little rough or even childish—but the power behind them is true.
Ishtar has taken this journey before. She made arrangements. As part of the plan, the King (as conscious mind) sends a charming eunuch to listen to every word Ereshkigal says with rapt attention. Once She’s been heard, She reluctantly allows the waters of life to be poured on Ishtar, reviving Her. With renewed clarity and fertility the Queen of Heaven returns to the upper world.
(And yes, in some versions of this tale, Ishtar’s upper world lover–who wasn’t exactly mourning Her– is suitably punished and sent to the Dark Realm to take her place. Hence, the archetypal warnings about old lovers & bad boyfriends. )
Ereshkigal and Ishtar (each an aspect of the One Goddess) aren’t always battling. They’ve been doing this Dark Sister Act for over 5 thousand years. Sometimes Girls Just Want to Have Fun. They want to play, shake things up. The planet Venus draws closest to Earth during her retrograde—which means this is a time when the Goddess likes to enter the world. She whispers in people’s ears, prompts unusual actions, challenges cultural norms. Look for her involvement beyond love, money, and happiness. She’s into women’s empowerment, nature, the arts, beauty, fashion, social etiquette and international diplomacy.
As when—during the 2009 Venus retro in Aries, Michelle Obama commits an unthinkable break in protocol and hugs the untouchable Queen (“we were just two tired ladies oppressed by our shoes”). People still talk about that. Or when—during the next Aries Venus retro in 2017—President Trump can’t stop talking about “the most beautiful chocolate cake you’ve ever seen,” while deciding to launch missiles over dinner with President Xi Jinping. That same month the “Fearless Girl” statue becomes a sensation—broadcasting that girls can do anything, even stare down the Wall Street Bull.
Individually we’re likely to meet Trickster Venus in a sudden new desire. During one retrograde, my college-senior son called to say he’d gotten a nose ring. This is a Libra Moon who’s had a quiet, scrupulous sense of style ever since he was five—piercings and tattoos were never part of his look. “I just had to do it,” he said. But for weeks after, he looked in the mirror and wondered if he did the right thing. That’s the trouble with Venus retrograde inspirations. Our sudden reinventions may not look so good in the light of the upper world.
Over the years I’ve broken many Venus retrograde rules. I bought crazy outfits that later I never wore. Once I put a green streak in my hair and I looked like a hag. I said yes to an old love—launching 14 years of trouble and storms—but also some of the best opportunities of my life. I wouldn’t do a minute differently. I’ve had a colored streak in my hair ever since—I just found a better color.
Once when Venus stationed retrograde in Gemini, I was printing one of my Venus Unleashed reports, when I heard an ominous crack from the printer. The next ten pages looked like someone had thrown miniature mud pies at them. Was it Venus? Gemini is one of my favorite signs for Venus, even though most astrology books have little good to say about her. I find her an artful courtesan, seductively witty and playful. Gemini does rule printers and printing.
I took the printer to the repair shop, where alas, I’d been too many times. But this visit was different. The technicians took it and began working on it right away—unheard of—and odder still, they diagnosed the problem, had the part in stock, and fixed it before I’d left the store. One of the technicians approached me and asked if I had a sense of humor. “Some days,” I replied. “Do you work around a lot of chocolate?” “No,” I told him, “maybe I eat a square or two in the afternoon.” “Well, it’s the strangest thing: your printer smells like chocolate. All of us in the back room can smell it!”
Keep your eyes open–the Goddess will likely be visiting soon. I hope you’re inspired to take my Venus Retrograde challenge.
This time she’s in Leo, a sign concerned with self-expression, creativity, love and fun. How might the Leo retrograde go for you? This is easy to research. Every eight years you experience Venus retro in the same sign and house of your chart. This consistency means that over a hundred year period, Venus retrogrades through just five signs. These are your Venus transformation zones! They also represent the five points of the planet’s beautiful star pattern in the sky. Here are a few recent and upcoming retrogrades:
|January 23, 2006
|July 27, 2007
|March 6, 2009
|October 8, 2010
|May 15, 2012
|December 21, 2013
|July 25, 2015
|March 4, 2017
|October 5, 2018
|May 13, 2020
|December 19, 2021
|July 23, 2023
|March 2, 2025
|October 3, 2026
|May 10. 2028
Know your own Venus. A fabulous way to get the most from the retrograde is to deepen your awareness of your own Venus. You’ll find great support and unique insights in my Venus Unleashed report!
More Venus on Mooncircles:
* In truth it’s 40-ish. Six weeks is technically 42 days. The precision of calendars is man-made. We’re talking about a natural rhythm, which means “give or take a couple days.” Linguists tell us that in the Bible, the word “forty,” whether indicating days or years, was similarly approximate–it just meant a good amount of time had passed.
**This is a sacred time—but not a time for mindless superstition. If you have to do something Venus-y, like get married or buy something big and expensive, inspect the details carefully. If all still looks good, don’t stress unnaturally. During every retrograde, life goes on.
*** Scroll to the end of this cute little pdf, where you’ll find the opening lines of “The Exaltation of Innana.” Ishtar and Innana are the same goddess. Ishtar is the Akkadian name, Innana the Sumerian.