Last week, as retrograde Venus disappeared below the horizon, Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld, erupted, in the form of a 17-year-old girl, who captured the knee-on-the-neck murder of George Floyd in a 9-minute video that ignited a nation into seven days of rage and counting. The collective anger is raw and real, coming from centuries of deep inequality, injustice, and pain.
If you’re taking my Venus retrograde challenge, Ereshkigal may have erupted within you too—over this, and/or more personal matters. We now reach the midpoint of Ishtar’s journey, the Sun/Venus conjunction. In astrology circles, this is also known as “combustion,” considered a weakened state for Venus. It occurs whenever she’s within 8-10 degrees of the Sun (this is happening now, from May 28 to June 9).
“Combust” means the planet Venus literally disappears—overwhelmed by the light of the Sun. Tribal cultures around the globe took this as a sign that the goddess Venus was on a journey in the underworld. What she does down there depends on which myth you follow—though all agree the climax comes when Venus conjuncts the Sun (occurring June 3).
After this conjunction, combust Venus is transformed. She goes from Evening Star to Morning Star or the other way around. Sun/Venus conjunctions occur twice every 18 months. You can also find them in your birth chart or by personal transits and progressions. So what do they indicate?
Here’s where astrology gets maddening. If you Google around, you’ll find two very different views.
- The traditional take is that during combustion the Sun’s overwhelming power agitates, burns, and depletes Venus. She’s rendered invisible or blind. Her beauty is neither seen nor appreciated. Her love life is turbulent; there’s a greater possibility of divorce. She may have to sacrifice love for money, security, or power.
- Modern astrologers strike a much cheerier note. They describe this conjunction as a celestial blessing that makes you beautiful, charming, kind, creative, harmonious, popular, and prosperous. During Sun/Venus progressions and transits, you’ll step into an oasis of happiness. You’ll be showered with gifts.
So different! Which is correct? First—let’s be clear. Both are extreme and neither is literally true. No astrologer living or dead studied the world and came up with their predictions after recording years of empirical evidence. Astrology has always been an art of symbols and imagination. And it helps to have an informed one. In this case, it helps to know a little astronomy and mythology—for there are two very different Sun/Venus conjunctions.
Two Venus Stars: Days of happiness or rage?
When Venus is combust—within 10 degrees of the Sun—she’s transforming. She’s in the underworld, dissolving and re-forming as either Evening Star or Morning Star. Looking at an astrology chart, how can you tell which conjunction is which? It’s easy!
If Venus is retrograde, she’s becoming a Morning Star. If she’s direct, she’s becoming an Evening Star. Each runs a different pattern.
|Morning Star||Evening Star|
|Venus is in the underworld approximately||two weeks||two months|
|Venus orbits||between Earth and Sun (her “interior” or “inferior” conjunction)||behind the Sun (her "outside" or “superior” conjunction)|
|Venus is the archetypal||Warrior|
expressing assertive masculine energies
expressing receptive feminine energies
|This Sun/Venus conjunction||begins a new 18-month cycle.||marks the 9-month midpoint of each cycle.|
Given the Morning Star’s proximity to sunrise, its associations with light, fire, vitality, power, the chase, and war are understandable. For millennia, how Venus the planet must have inspired Paleolithic hunters leaving their camps in the predawn dark. Later, in the time of Mesopotamian kings, this bright star rising sent armies marching, riled up for conquest under the emboldening fury of Innana/Ishtar.
As Evening Star, Venus is a vegetation goddess, more central in the religions of agrarian people. She’s fertile and feminine. Under Her gaze weary farmers left their fields anticipating an evening of relaxation, nourishment, and entertainment. The delights of dining and socializing are pleasures still linked with Evening Star Venus. Lovers can see this bright planet from their bedroom windows.
Not every Venus retro conjunction is as crazy as the Venus retro of 2020. And that’s an important point. The fire that erupts each time will vary with the kindling gathered in the previous months (in the 18-month cycle that’s ending). This Sun/Venus transit is revelatory—it exposes what’s been ignored, denied, or swept under the rug too long. It has an archetypal pattern–yet the particulars will vary (which is why literal predictions typically fail). Gods are creative and so are we.
Battle-ready Ishtar is an obvious forerunner of the fierce Kali, worshiped centuries later in India. Divine Feminine anger is both terrifying and purifying. The rage of the Goddess has always been purposeful. It’s designed to set things right, to restore an important balance in Nature. As one Sun/Venus cycle ends, there’s old business to clean up. Before another begins, new power must be summoned.
Here’s how the great Mesopotamian High Priestess, Enheduanna, described Ishtar’s rage four thousand years ago. How these words resonate with the fury burning through our cities as I write this today!
hurl a hot storm
people stumble dazed and silent
face the terror of holy power
chanting a dirge
they meet you at the crossroads
…a gouging storm-bull, you gouge
a rumbling storm-roar, you thunder
…before you my Queen
…all the great gods
fly away to the ruins
flutter around like bats
wither at your smoldering glance
cower beneath your scowl
The secret to turning this “combustion” into something positive is a feminine one. The way to meet this Great Rage is to listen. Collectively and individually, we need to listen to Ereshkigal—Ishtar’s Dark Sister, the Queen of the Underworld. She strikes with pinpoint accuracy. Always she erupts with the right subconscious material. The Sun serves to light up–make conscious–what’s been trapped in shadow. Here the Divine Masculine serves the values of the Goddess. Through this alliance She is summoning power.
The Sun/retro-Venus conjunction typically brings a bright moment of clarity. The kind that sounds through the body and mind like a great temple bell. Realization. You lock in on some truth. And you know what you need to do about it.
That occurred this year on the day the conjunction was exact, when several Divine Masculine avatars—former presidents and generals—spoke out in support of the peaceful protests and against the current president’s autocratic tactics and threats. Perhaps the most stunning rebuke came from Trump’s former Defense Secretary General James Mattis—who’d sworn he’d never speak against a sitting president—yet couldn’t stand silent any longer.
What happens when the Divine Masculine doesn’t serve Her? That’s when the most negative predictions for “combustion” are fulfilled, when a weak and agitated Venus disappears. There is truth to this version too.
You can see it in the riots this past week, in the chaos of masculine energies, the criminal destruction and looting, the increased brutality and force, co-opting the Goddess’ righteous rage demanding compassion, equality, and uplifting action. (Avatar for the weak Venus: Ivanka Trump, handing her father the Bible that he awkwardly waves after clearing a peaceful protest with pepper gas and rubber bullets.)
During Venus retrogrades, negative combustion can take over the inner world as well. Whenever the ego co-opts our righteous feminine anger, it loses its power to set things right. We might need something re-balanced in a personal relationship, for example–but our approach may be dangerous and counter-productive. Without proper awareness (the right use of the Sun) we can damage ourselves and others.
Evening Star Venus: The Lover
About Innana/Ishtar, Enheduanna, the High Priestess of Ur, also wrote these lines:
Inanna placed the shugurra, the crown of the steppe, on her head.
She went to the sheepfold, to the shepherd.
She leaned back against the apple tree, her vulva was wondrous to behold.
Rejoicing at her wondrous vulva, the young woman Inanna applauded herself.
Imagine—in the time of the ziggurats, the original phallic towers—this was sung in the temples. The priestess Enheduanna was the daughter of Mesopotamia’s first emperor—King Sargon—a ballsy ruler who conquered and united more city-states than anyone had ever done before. And yet, this very king, submitted himself to Ishtar. He declared it was Her power that made him king. Under Her flag, he went into battle and never lost. His empire continued after his death, through the brief successions of two sons, until his nephew took the throne. That fool abandoned Ishtar and declared himself a god. His kingdom–protected only by his ego–was quickly overthrown.
Celebrating Innana’s sexuality was the same as celebrating the fertility and prosperity of the people. The appropriate metaphor for this Sun/Venus conjunction is the sacred marriage. Sun and Venus co-mingle. One’s essence pours into the other.
Re-enacting this sacred union was an important Mesopotamian ritual performed for centuries between earthly kings and their goddess avatars. This was how humanity and heaven were harmonized. This was how abundance and the continuity of life was assured. Is it far-fetched to think this commingling of king and Goddess is what transformed ancient Mesopotamia–from the harsh desert it used to be (and is again)–into a fertile garden of unparalleled beauty, prosperity, and strength?
This is why astrologers, myself included, tend to say wonderful things about this (Evening Star) Sun/Venus conjunction. More often than not, this is the one you’ll see in birth charts, as direct Venus is more common (she’s combust for two months; it’s two weeks for Venus retrograde). I’ve seen many clients enjoy subtle and striking gifts from this aspect. Others may sense an indefinable extra “something” about them–maybe a little more radiant, beautiful, kind-hearted and friendly, or talented. Often it just feels good to be around a Sun/Venus person. They’re likeable–which, among humans, definitely increases the flow of personal and professional benefits.
Yet the enduring message of the Venus cycle is that all gifts must be renewed. The Goddess must be served. For prosperity and happiness, Her virtues must have primacy in the culture and the psyche. All too often humanity neglects Her temple–preferring the hot ambitions of the Sun. The trick with this aspect is to bring the potency of the Divine Masculine into harmony with the Goddess of the wise and beautiful heart.
That’s paradise. And when this doesn’t happen, at some point, expect Ereshkigal to roar.
It’s easy to envision great things when you see a Sun/Venus conjunction coming up in your chart, especially by progression. Maybe you’ll win the lottery, get a dream job offer, or your soul mate will arrive. But these events aren’t typically what happens.
What happens is actually better than that. It’s more like you find yourself suddenly dancing or standing in a beautiful garden. You’ve arrived. Even if things aren’t perfect, all is right with your world. You’re at peace. You’re satisfied and truly happy. Life is going in the direction of your dreams. This is the true prize! And yet it’s easy to miss it. We’re trained to focus on displeasure more than joy. Sun/Venus conjunctions remind us to notice and receive all the gifts the gods have sent our way.
Observation is always the best astrology teacher. Don’t take my word for any of this. Investigate your experiences with this pair of living deities. There are several ways to do it:
- To research past and future conjunctions in the Venus cycle, go here. Remember “inferior conjunctions” ignite the Morning Star Warrior, “superior conjunctions” the Evening Star Lover.
- Check your birth chart. If Venus is within ten degrees of the Sun, you were born with a “combust Venus.” Is it a Morning or Evening Star transition?
- Yearly you get one Sun-to-Venus conjunction and likely one Venus-to-Sun conjunction by transit (each lasting about a day). It’s nice to note—year after year—what happens on this day. You will likely get a gift or message from the deities.
First, identify the sign and degree of your Venus—then look in this ephemeris (select the appropriate year and month) for the day the Sun reaches this same degree. This is your annual day of sacred happiness!
What happens when transiting Venus conjuncts your Sun? First identify the Sun’s degree and check the ephemeris for the date Venus reaches this degree.
- If a Sun/Venus conjunction occurred in the first 90 days after your birth, there will come a year-in your life when you get a long Sun/Venus conjunction in your progressed chart. This is usually a wonderful period.
You can again use the ephemeris to roughly calculate this. If 90 days after your birth there was a Sun/Venus conjunction (when they were in the same sign at the same degree), count how many days after your birthday this occurred. You’ll get the progression in the corresponding year of your life. So if a Sun/Venus conjunction occurred 30 days after your birth, you’ll get the Sun/Venus progression when you’re 30 years old.
- There could also be a year when your progressed Sun or Venus conjuncts your natal Sun or Venus. It’s easiest to find these dates with astrology software.
It’s always a great time to check in with your Venus.
Mooncircles offers a few great ways to do that.
You can start with this article, “Can’t relate to your Venus? This is for you!” You’ll find my take on Venus in each sign.
I highly recommend my Venus Unleashed report, personalized to your birth chart, and based on the delicious insights of many people who share your Venus placements.
Venus is still retrograde–until June 24/25. More info here: “Transform! Why Venus Retrograde is important”
Performing the Venus Santeria Ritual–is always a good Venus gesture. Traditionally it’s performed on a Friday in May–but I’ve found that it works whenever you have a sincere desire to awaken the magic within your Venus.