Mars, Venus, Orcus,Troy and Kiev: messages from the deep for 2022 (II)

The key unfolding astrological dramas of February 2022, and beyond into March, are the conjunctions between Mars and Venus in Capricorn, then Aquarius, all mixed in with Pluto and its much spoken about return. In simple terms, every time the goddess of love and the only female gendered planet in the solar system, and the fiery masculine god of war square up, we are bound to feel it not just in our relationships, but in all aspects of polarity. This opposition is playing out on the world stage in the Ukraine, where the east/west stand-off has now tragically erupted into war. To continue with the exploration of the motifs in the Odyssey (see ‘The Journey of Odysseus: messages from the deep for 2022’) and using it as a lens through which to view present events, the best analogy to today is the besieging of Troy and destruction of the surrounding countryside by Menelaus of Sparta and his Greek allies (including Odysseus) in what became known as the Trojan War. To weave in the mythology with the astrology, the Trojan War (Mars) was catalysed by the actions of Venus/Aphrodite, whose granting of Helen of Sparta to the prince of Troy was the spark that lit the conflagration. The edges of this current Venus/Mars conjunction are hard, and this clash of opposites is sadly being felt in a very real way by the people of Ukraine. However, the unfolding astrology thankfully holds the promise of softening in the form of Jupiter and Neptune in Pisces, and the opportunity for transformation though the involvement of both Pluto and the centaur Nessus on both personal and collective levels.

Venus and Mars have been dancing around in Capricorn since last year, occasionally coming into contact with Pluto, which itself has been transiting Capricorn since 2009. This transit has been the major signature of our times, the astrological impetuous to reveal all that is corrupt and no longer serving us. Over the course of 15 years of Pluto in Capricorn, every aspect of polarity has been explored and inequalities exposed through the lenses of gender relationships, black lives and white privilege, the poverty of many versus the wealth of the few (‘Plutocracy’), so much so that the world outlook has changed beyond all recognition. This powerful transit is now slowly coming to an end, but not before one final denouement – what is being called America’s Pluto Return. On February 20th, Pluto returned to the same place in the sky where it was on July 4th 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed, offering the US an opportunity to dive deep into its soul as the year, and the return, continue to unfold.

The first hard edge conjunction between Venus and Mars took place on 16th February 2022, at a time of heightened tension between Russia and the West over (eastern) Ukraine. The situation is politically complex and beyond the scope of this post, but in energetic terms, the Ukraine is highly significant as its capital, Kiev, is located on what arguably should be the Prime Meridian. The so-called Nilotic Meridian stretches from South Africa up to the Arctic Circle covering the longest landmass of the planet, and is peppered with many sacred and resonant sites usually involving lions. Kiev is therefore both physically and energetically an omphalos, or navel point, and therefore the perfect energetic nexus for polarity on every level. Symbolically, it could be seen as the present-day equivalent to Homer’s Troy, with both cities acting as magnets for conflict in antiquity and today.

Geopolitically, the conflict in (eastern) Ukraine could be view as the latest in a long term stand-off between East and West. The dance between Mars and Venus is mirroring this opposition, inviting us to draw back the veil and look deeply at our relationships on every level, both personal and collective, human and non-human, and to continue to evaluate that which is important, to winnow out that needs cherishing from that which is to be released. Though the pandemic seems finally to be loosening its grip, we are still collectively being held in the balance, suspended between worlds both geopolitically and psychologically,  while we take the time for the necessary introspection and integration of all that it brought forward.

The Earth itself has been restless over the last few weeks, blowing some of the strongest winds on record through the UK and beyond. Just before Valentine’s Day, when the winds swept though and when Venus and Mars also began their opposition, a more subtle and deeper opposition took place between two transpersonal minor planets – the Centaur Nessus and the TNO Orcus. Nessus is also involved in the unfolding of the Mars/Venus conjunctions into next month, warranting a deeper look at this intriguing astrological alignment.

Orcus is a minor planet that crosses the orbit of Neptune (TNO) and was only discovered in 2004. This creature from the depths has an orbit the mirror image of Pluto’s and is therefore perceived as a co-ruler of the Underworld. In Greek mythology, the name is evocative of Horkos, the daimon of oaths, presumably the inspiration for the horcruxes in the Harry Potter series, magical objects capable of holding fragments of the soul. This dwarf planet has a highly transpersonal resonance, bringing up from the deep some of the most hidden aspects of our being, that which is both bound and broken by oaths and curses. Melanie Reinhart[1] describes Orcus as a healer and protector of the matrilineal line, bringing forth an ecological resonance, for be in service to the female is to be in service to the Earth herself. For example, during the 2010 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Icelandic volcanic eruption, Orcus was involved in a series of oppositions with Chiron that perfectly mirrored the unfolding of the ecological catastrophe. Due to the highly elliptical orbit of both these bodies, it should be emphasised that these oppositions are rare – truly a gift from the Underworld.

Oppositions between Nessus and Orcus are more frequent than those between Chiron and Orcus, so it is only really by looking at the broader astrological context that we can flesh out meaning. The mythology of Nessus takes us more deeply into the symbolism of the Venus/Mars opposition we are experiencing by casting a different light on the gender relationships. In Greek mythology, Nessus was the Centaur who indirectly brought about the death of the hero Hercules by using his wife Deinira as an unwitting instrument. As he lays dying, fatally wounded by Hercules in retaliation for an attempted rape of his wife, and Nessus gives Deianira a love potion made from his bodily fluids saying that it will keep Hercules faithful to her. Some years later, fed up with her husband’s infidelity, she surreptitiously smears it on his signature lionskin shirt – but instead of inducing love for her, the potion brings on a terrible affliction that scalds and burns his flesh. Driven mad with agony, Hercules rips off his own skin and eventually throws himself on a funeral pyre to escape the pain. The combination of Nessus and Orcus points to the ending/release from a collective and very ancient curse and this has great pertinence for our relationships, both human and ecological, and for the current geopolitical polarities playing out on the world stage. The power for transformation and release is enhanced by the dance between Mars and Venus, especially as they will both conjunct Pluto, lord of the underworld, before moving into Aquarius. Now is the time to add all the grief, grievance and pain caused by betrayal, corruption and inequity into the alchemical mix, to allow it to dissolve and distil into potent medicine for the emerging new vision.

Wind is a major theme in the Odyssey, no doubt because the prevailing winds around the Aegean are both powerful and perilous, and winds were the cause of the lowest and most dangerous point on the hero’s twenty-year journey. It was the south wind blowing without pause that sent his ship back to the treacherous clutches of Scylla and Charybdis. Here calamity struck, dashing the last of his men on the rocks and smashing his only surviving ship to pieces. Odysseus himself only survives the maelstrom by tying himself to the remains of the ship’s mast. Stripped bare, grief stricken and alone, the hero is then left to drift for nine days in a state of limbo – akin to our current collective situation. Unable to move forward, we too are being forced to descend to the watery underworld of the collective subconscious, to dive deep and retrieve the treasures that await us, and which will eventually propel us forward.

So, for now, we leave Odysseus drifting at sea alone and bereft, stripped down to his soul and unaware of what the future might hold. As the year progresses, the hard edges of the conjunction will be gradually softened to allow the dissolving of tension that our desperate clinging onto the past (Capricorn) is causing. But the wheels of the heaven will keep turning, moving both Venus and Mars into Aquarius for the next stage of their dance. Significantly, this will take place in the first degree of Aquarius, the same degree of the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction of the December Solstice of 2020, beginning the twenty year cycle that is also the signature of the story of Odysseus.

[1] See for her article on Orcus

Picture credit: ‘Deianira’ by Evelyn De Morgan

The Journey of Odysseus: messages from the deep for 2022

The astrology of 2022 holds the tantalising promise of the birthing of that dream that has been slowly taking form during months of relentless oppositions in 2021, both astrologically and literally. Whilst researching the main celestial events of the year, I was struck by how archetypal astrologer Vanessa Couto used the story of Penelope, wife of Odysseus from the Greek epic, to explore meaning in them.[1]  After all, astrology is one of the ways we can begin to understand cosmic order, to see the bigger picture of which we are just one minor part, and when combined with mythology, the stories that arise from the collective unconscious, we can really start to attune to the whispers of the World Soul and hear them more clearly and coherently. Having recently read the Odyssey (a lockdown project!) the idea of exploring the unfolding astrology of the year and its resonance with global events, then seeing them through the lens of the mythological adventures of Odysseus began to grow on me. But why the Odyssey and why now?

The Odyssey is the second work of Western literature, which along with the Illiad, tells the epic story of bronze age heroes, kings and their wives preserved in the oral tradition of the Aegean but collected and written down by Homer in around the eight century BCE. These tales of love, loss and passion, framed around the events of the Trojan War, still hold us in thrall today for they are archetypal stories, masterfully told. Penelope is just one of the vivid female characters brought to life by Homer, but there are many others including Helen of Troy herself, Circe and Calpyso, all of whom were famed throughout the ancient world, holding in their stories a piece of our collective past.

The epic is focussed round the story of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, who participates in the Trojan War and then is beset by many adventures on his return. In fact, he is away from Ithaca for 20 years, which as Vanessa points out, is the timespan between significant conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter,[2] the masters of time and rulers of the ages. These conjunctions have been considered as auspicious from ancient times at least, and the key themes and dangers associated with them have been preserved in the myth of Uranus and Saturn, as told by Hesiod. We saw one of these conjunctions at the Winter Solstice of 2020, which was also in the first degree of Aquarius – one of the signs of the dawning of the Great Age. Why it took Odysseus 10 years to journey from Troy to Ithaca, a distance as the crow flies of approximately 1000 km, was impossible to say, but nobody other than Vanessa, as far as I know, have matched the timespan of his absence with the epoch marked by a Saturn/Jupiter conjunction.

The present epoch making cycle began then around 2020 – 2021, and it was in 2020 that an exhibition of Troy took place at the British Museum, vividly bringing the Homeric stories to life with artefacts of the times and paintings depicting the characters and their passions. The Trojan War, which Odysseus was eventually dragged into, famously begins with the Judgement of Paris, Prince of Troy. He was asked to decide which of the goddesses Athena, Aphrodite or Hera was the most beautiful, and though all of them tried to bribe him in various ways, it was the offer by Aphrodite of Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world, that swung Paris’ decision in her favour. The subsequent abduction of Helen, for she was already married to Menelaus of Sparta, is what sparked the Trojan War. But actually it did not begin here – it began with Eris, the goddess of discord.

In the version told by Homer, Eris was the daughter of Zeus and Hera, but known for her troublemaking ways, she alone of all the gods was not invited to the wedding of an important couple called Peleus and Thetis. Snubbed but not disheartened, she arrives at the wedding party and tosses an apple into the revellers inscribed with the words ‘To the Fairest One.’ The dispute that immediately broke out between Aphrodite, Hera and Athena, all of whom laid claim to the apple, and as mentioned above, it was Paris who was chosen to settle it. The ensuing war lasted 10 years and resulted in the destruction of Troy, so Eris certainly achieved her desired aim.

In 2005 a dwarf planet from the Kuiper Belt was given her name Eris, and during 2020 and 2021, this dwarf planet made a series of meaningful conjunctions with Pluto, Lord of the Underworld, bringing up from the deep all that is disharmonious and buried in our collective unconscious. These conjunctions occurred alongside a series of oppositions between Saturn and Uranus in 2021, the relentless grinding together of giants, mirrored below in lockdowns, the clashing of polarised views on how we should collectively deal with pandemic, and a host of other issues. Eris and Pluto have not yet finished their dance, so it will be interesting to see what else they bring up from the deep this year, and in what other way this resonates with the journey of Odysseus.

 But now to the astrology of January 2022 to see if the Odyssey is helping us to hear the voice of the World Soul this year. In December, Jupiter moved into the watery realm of Pisces, where it will slowly move towards Neptune (already there and happy in its home sign) in a conjunction that promises the birth of a new way in April. However, though the birth pangs have started, the process of bringing something new into being takes time and can be both painful and difficult. To the Greeks, Poseidon was the god of the sea, and in the Odyssey, he has a particularly antagonistic role to play, constantly thwarting the hero’s return journey with his storms. In revenge for blinding his son, Polyphemus the Cyclops, Poseidon, also known as the great Earthshaker[3] sent particularly large waves and turbid seas to dog Odysseus’ voyage, eventually leaving him shipwrecked and alone on the island of the Phaeacians.

We too have been reminded of the awesome and unpredictable power of the sea, for on Saturday 14th January 2022, the great Earthshaker struck again when the eruption of Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’api sent a plume of debris up to 20 km into the sky, burying the northern part of Tonga’s main island under ash and triggering a tsunami that reached the shores of New Zealand, Australia and Japan. According to Nasa, the eruption was hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bomb, obliterating a entire island in the north of Tonga and affecting more than four-fifths of the population with falling debris. [4] Volcanic eruptions, especially ones that occur in or very near to a subduction zone, such as this one, are not unusual, but still when the World Soul speaks, we do well to listen.

The Tongan islands exist as a result of plate tectonics and the volcanic lava produced through subduction zone processes, and new islands have been formed as recently as 2015 by profusive eruptions. Soil enriched by volcanic minerals have allowed agriculture to flourish on these remote paradise islands, which are also protected by off-shore barrier reefs, allowing human inhabitation to take root. However, humans have tried to dominate and control the natural environment in time honoured fashion, and overfishing, deforestation and damage to coral reefs have ensued, as well as a tragic decline in sea turtle populations due to over hunting.

Like Odysseus we have been reminded to respect the sea, and the fiery land, and all that they bring and take away. The themes of deep emotion, sensitivity, hope, psychic connection and dreaming are carried through Pisces, the river of the zodiac, and amplified by Neptune currently in this sign, but also delusion, sacrifice, and deceit. As the unprocessed emotions erupt from the depths, propelled by the fire of the spirit, they threaten to overwhelm and subsume us if we do not pay attention to both emotional and psychic hygiene on the inner planes, and to the proper care and custodianship of our environment on the outer. Odysseus paid the price for his own actions, for it was his greed and deceit in the cave of Polyphemus that led to him wounding the Cyclops and provoking the wrath of Poseidon. We too do well to heed the voices coming from the deep, carried on the foam of the oceans and the regularity of the standing waves.  It remains to be seen how the theme of Odysseus and his wonderings will add more meaning to the voice of the World Soul as expressed through astrology and world events as they unfold throughout the year. Let’s see what next month brings!

[1] See Vanessa Couto, ‘At Penelope’s Loom: Astrology of 2022,’ available at

[2] As above

[3] Homer, ‘The Odyssey,’ translated by E. V. Rieu and puplished by Penguin Book ( p. 123)

[4] ‘Tonga volcano: eruption more powerful than atomic bomb, says Nasa,’ BBC News 25.1.2022, available at

Ragnarok: When one world ends and another begins

We are living in times of great upheaval where the pandemic has triggered the breakdown of our world as we knew it. Daily events can be described as ‘apocalyptic’ in the true sense of the world, for apocalypse literally means the disclosure or revelation of knowledge. In all areas of life from the political, institutional, social, spiritual, economic and ecological, corruption and inequality are coming to the surface, highlighting the flawed premise of separation on which our world view is based. We are drowning in lies and misinformation that fuel the fires of delusion and deception, but in these uncertain times, one thing is certain. Things are changing and the only choice we have is to embrace the chaos and begin to pick out of the wreckage the pieces worth saving and bring them with us into a new world of our making.

This is not the first time that humans have lived through apocalyptic times and our mythologies are replete with stories of breakdown, and breakthrough, that can serve as valuable navigational tools. None is more pertinent for our current situation than the Norse tale of Ragnarok, the Twilight of the Gods, originally told in an Icelandic poem dating back to the late tenth century. Just substitute certain humans into the role of the gods and the parallels are obvious, though the final interpretation will depend on your own viewpoint and perspective.

The word Ragnarok means ‘fatal destiny’, implying that the process of breakdown, though excruciating and often deadly, is also inevitable. The golden age of peace would have lasted if only the gods had kept their passions under control! But they could not. The world order, kept in place by oaths sworn in the presence of the powers of the earth herself, had been disregarded and abused. The gods of the Aesir had tortured the envoy from the Vanir (elder gods) in order to extract her gold, they broke their promise to the giants who had built their celestial dwelling, tricking them out of what they owed. Once they greedily broke their sacred promises, the fabric of their world began to unravel, ushering in an era of perjury, violence and warfare.

The Twilight of the Gods however, was long since predicted, for it was known that one day the giants and all those who had been banished to the subterranean regions would rise and overthrow the established order. Heimdall had been appointed to stand guard day and night by the rainbow bridge at the entrance to Asgard (the dwelling place of the gods). The giant wolf, Fenrir, had been bound in chains to stop him bringing about destruction and war, but the fateful day could only be put off, not averted for good.

Inevitably, it was a combination of factors that brought about Ragnarὄk, but of course the archetype of Trickster had to play a major role. Trickster is he who uses misinformation, manipulation, lies and tricks for his own end, but in so doing hold up to the mirror to us all and reveals those places where the shadow has taken control. In Norse mythology it is Loki who plays this part, and because of his own weakness and need to be everyone’s favourite, he committed a heinous crime.

Balder was the favourite of the gods, the son of Odin and Frigg, and was full of light and radiance. His mother loved him so much that she made everything on earth swear an oath never to harm her beautiful son. But his invincibility and popularity aroused the jealousy of Trickster, and Loki conspired not only to kill Balder but to ensure that the gods did not manage to bring him back from the Underworld through their otherworldly powers. His role in the death of their favourite was discovered and the gods bound him in chains, but this only strengthened his hatred and resolve. Though it would inevitably also bring about his own destruction, he broke his chains and joined the side of the demons and giants who hated the gods of the Aesir and were their sworn enemies.

Meanwhile, the situation on middle earth continued to deteriorate. An ancient giantess birthed a whole host of wolves, one of which chased the sun and swallowed it, bringing on hideous winters, storms, famine, pestilence and warfare. Brother slew brother, children no longer respected the ties of blood. Finally, the wolf Fenrir broke free of his chains, making the whole earth tremble and shaking the World Tree Yggdrasil from its roots to its topmost branches. Mountains crumbled and split and the entrances to the subterranean world of the dwarfs was cut off for good. The serpent Midgard stirred up giant waves from the depths of the oceans and the giants, roused from their place of banishment, arrived in ships from the north and the south. There was no turning back, for the shadow had been unleashed on a world that had long since sought to bury it. Heimdall sounded his horn signalling the beginning of Ragnarὄk, summoning the gods to meet with the armies of the giants on a field near Valhalla. It was to be a battle to the death.

In the midst of the fray was the god Odin with his golden helmet and holding his magical spear, Gungnir. He flew round the field like a hurricane, accompanied by the Valkyries on their dazzling chargers, and made for the wolf Fenrir with his sword raised. Alas, the wolf opened his massive jaws and swallowed the father of the gods! One by one they fell – Thor, Heimdall, Tyr, even Loki, all perished on the battlefield that day. Now that mankind had no protectors, they were driven from their hearths and swept off the face of the earth. Easily, just like that.

Then even the earth began to lose shape. Stars came adrift from the sky and fell into the void. Flames spurted from the fissures of rocks and there was the hissing of steam. All living things including plants were blotted out and the waters rose and boiled, covering over the earth and all traces of the place of the final battle. The world had ended. Ragnarὄk had played itself out.

But, gradually, in the midst of chaos and destruction came renewal. The world began to birth itself afresh and solid land emerged from the waves. Mountains rose up and the waters came under control, forming waterfalls and fountains and fertilising barren land so that the fecund green mantle gradually returned. Crops grew, and some animals returned, even a new sun appeared. And with it a new generation of gods. These gods had already been in existence but never shared in the passion and quarrels of the old gods, not committing perjury or violence or other crimes, and the radiant Balder was reborn. Hoenir, Odin’s faithful companion also survived, and he studied the runes and read the secrets of the future.

A small number of humans started to reappear. They had taken shelter in the branches of Yggdrasil, which the conflagration had been unable to consume. Throughout the apocalypse and days of destruction their only food had been the morning dew, the dew from the leaves of Yggdrasil that had once filled the valley with the memory of yesterday. This precious dew was collected by the Norn called Urd, one of the three sisters who tended the World Tree and wove the web of destiny that controlled life itself. In a daily ritual, she carefully poured the precious dew into her well, the Well of Memory, so that it may be used to grow the flowers of the present and assist them to reach out to the future.

If we carefully tend the World Tree and it’s well, taking nourishment from them both, then we too will return after the chaos has subsided. This time we might bring with us a host of new gods that are both within us and without, both imminent and woven into the fabric of the universe itself. Who do not commit perjury or wage warfare or other crimes, but listen to and uphold the rights of the earth, and in doing serve all life forms, both human and other than human.

References: The Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology

Images: ‘Then the awful fight began’ by George Wright

‘Heimdall an der Himmelsbrucke’ by unknown

‘Loki’ by Arthur Rackham

Venus Retrograde in a time of Lockdown

The planet Venus, associated with love and beauty and all that governs relationships, reached her highest point in the night sky on March 24th and has been descending ever since, mirroring precisely the descent of the world into Coronavirus lockdown. On May 13th she will turn retrograde in the next stage of a complex series of motions during which she will set as an evening star, disappear from view, perform an interior conjunction with the Sun, then rise as the morning star before turning direct again just after Summer Solstice. For millennia human beings have tracked the movements of Venus and correlated them happenings on Earth, but the timing this year seem particular poignant as we contemplate love, loss and all that we value in a time of lockdown.

Inanna/Lilith, British Museum (author’s photo)

In Ancient Sumeria the planet Venus was worshipped as a personification of the goddess Inanna, queen of heaven and earth. The story Inanna’s Descent to the Underworld is the oldest epic poem in world literature (written down around 1700 BC), and, remarkably, it can be interpreted as an allegory of the visible movements of the planet. Thus when we weave together the story of Inanna’s descent with the planetary movements of Venus, linking both with events in our personal and collective lives, we renew afresh the sacred bond between heaven and Earth. And on a personal level, Inanna’s story is a poignant description of the maturing of the soul through relationship, with love, loss and reflection on all that we value, with a powerful message for us all.

In the ancient Sumerian version of the story of her descent, pieced painstakingly together from 13 fragments,  ‘Inanna, from the great above, set her mind toward the great below, abandoning both heaven and earth to descend to the netherworld.’ [1]Before beginning her mythic descent, she was careful to don all her accoutrements of power, and to instruct her messenger Ninshubur to get help if she does not return after three days. This preparation period and initial descent began on March 24th when the planet reached the highest point, and correlates to when lockdown began in ernest. We too had to seek out our power objects and prepare practically, psychologically and materially to go deep into the uncertainties created by pandemic.

On 28th April, Venus attained maximum brilliance, a breath-taking site in the night sky just after sunset and right next to the silver sliver of the crescent moon. Now entering the second stage of lockdown, we watched anxiously to see if the peak of the pandemic has really been reached, and to calibrate our own lives to the restrictions imposed.

Venus at maximum brilliance, 28th April (author’s photo)

Finally, after approximately seven weeks, Inanna, in full regalia, arrives at the gateway of the underworld. This corresponds to the time when the planet starts its retrograde motion, May 13th. For us, as we go into a potential easing of lockdown, we must be particularly vigilant and reflect on all we have lost and gained throughout this time, of the gifts and sacrifices we have received and endured. As Melanie Reinhart says, ‘We are ‘given the opportunity to plumb the depths of our relationships, finish unfinished business, release the past and renew our capacity for love.’ [2]The myth offers us very clear guidance on how can we can do this, for now Inanna must descend through each of the seven gates, and as she does so she is asked to surrender all the carefully collected symbols of her worldly power, just as we have been forced to surrender ours. The following could be used as a journey through the chakras, or as a contemplation of what the different power symbols mean to us, and how they relate to our own personal losses during the Coronavirus pandemic.

At the first gate, she must surrender her crown.

At the second, her rod of lapis lazuli was removed.

At the third, the lapis lazuli stones from around her neck.

At the fourth the sparkling stones of her breast,

The fifth the golden ring of her hand,

At the sixth the breastplate of her breast,

And finally at the seventh, she must surrender her robe.

For it is decreed that she must enter the Underworld naked.

Each time she asks the gatekeeper, ‘Why pray is this?’ And each time he replies, ‘Extraordinarily O Inanna, have the decrees of the netherworld been perfected, O Inanna do not question the rites of the nether world.’[3] This is a reminder that what is demanded of us now is nothing short of unconditional surrender to the situation we collectively found ourselves in, to remain willingly present in the liminal zone, perched somewhere between a world of fact and of illusion. We must enter this stripped bare, peeled away so that only our inner essence remains. This time period lasts 40 days, the length of the retrograde cycle, the proverbial time for mediation and reflection also incorporated into later traditions, including Lent.

Planet Venus (Wikepedia Commons)

On the May 28th Venus will set as the evening star one last time before disappearing from view. This is the time of the greatest danger for Inanna, who now naked and vulnerable, comes face to face with her sister, the dark goddess Erishkigal, seated on a throne next to the Annunaki, or the seven judges. As she stands before them, they pronounce judgement on her. This symbolises on a personal level the confrontation with our shadow, our inner self, that which we keep cloaked. What inner reserves have we discovered, what has emerged for us once the ego has been laid bare?

June 3rd is the interior conjunction between Venus and the Sun, the time period when the planet is behind the Sun and no longer visible. This is the time when Inanna, now turned to a corpse, is hung from a stake for three days and three nights. This is the time to bear witness to not only our own soul, but the World Soul, the most poignant moment of all. We are required to sit with ourselves and engage as little as possible with external relationships, to listen to the inner voice and the voice of the Earth herself. There is the potential for unresolved grief to surface, that which has not been processed, all that has been denied and suppressed.

However, there is hope on the horizon. Three days have passed and Inanna has not returned, so the faithful Ninshabur, as instructed, and goes out to sound the alarm. He turns first to the god Enlil, who refuses to help, then next to Nanna, who also does nothing. Finally he goes to Enki, the ruler of the abyss and the waters, who is so troubled on Inanna’s behalf that he fashions beings called kurgarru and kalatuttu from dirt and gives to them the food and water of life. They find the corpse of Inanna, and ‘sixty times the food of life, sixty times the water of life they sprinkle upon it, and Inanna rose.’ [4]

After three days and three nights of being hung on a stake, Inanna rises again (note, this myth predates Christianity by about 2,000 years!) This reminds us that during a liminal period, times of great change and flux, we should take special care to nourish both body and soul with good food and allow tears, the waters of life, to gently dissolve the grief and mend the wounds of the psyche, to console that which was previously not consoled.

Akkadian Inanna (Ishtar)

Thus brought back to life, Inanna prepares to leave the underworld. This is marked by the heliacal rising of Venus as the morning star on June 10th. But beware, the danger is not yet passed. In the original Sumerian tale, when Inanna returns she brings with her a whole army of demons, who cause havoc wherever they go. This fragment of the poem breaks before it ends, so we need to look at another text, the ‘Dream of Dummuzi’ to find out how we can safely exit the underworld without unleashing our demons.

In the Akkadian version, Inanna is only allowed to return when she has sent a substitute in her place, in keeping with the laws of the netherworld. She ponders who this could be, and when eventually she sees that her consort Dummuzi has been occupying her throne in her absence, oblivious to her suffering, she fixes her eye of death on him.

A great wail of mourning goes out, let by his sister (Geshtinanna) and this touches Inanna’s heart, who now feels the grief of her consort’s death – by her own hand. Now softened, she decrees that Dummuzi will spend half the year in the Underworld, going down when called, and alternating with his sister, who will go down for the other half. The natural order has been restored, breaking the cycle of destruction, ushering in forgiveness and seeds for new potential. This coincides with the time that Venus turns direct (also in Gemini) on the 25th June, just after the Summer Solstice.

This year, a solar eclipse occurs on the exact day of the Solstice (21st June), which is also on a dark moon. This extremely fiery and powerful combination seems set to melt even the most frozen of areas, especially as Jupiter makes another conjunction with Pluto around this time. At the lunar eclipse in January, the Saturn/Pluto conjunction ushered in the beginning of the Coronavirus lockdown in China. As Jupiter tentatively enters the dance again (Jupiter will come into full conjunction in December), this could be time of great upheaval, maybe as lockdown fatigue really takes hold. Only if we take the opportunities offered for reflection, for release and for taking personal responsibility will this be the breakthrough that we are hoping it could be. Working with the retrograde cycle could then really have collective as well as personal impact.

Pattern made by orbit of Venus

The orbit of Venus is highly regular with eight Venusian orbits round the sun corresponding to five of those of Earth’s. This means that every eight years, the retrograde cycle will repeat at the same place in the zodiac. So the last time Venus went retrograde in Gemini, the esoteric ruler of Venus, was in 2012, when a very rare transit of Venus across the sun was also seen. [5]If we look back to what we were doing exactly eight years ago, we gain a deep perspective on the nature of our soul journey, and of the potential for any unfinished business from that time that may need addressing. It seems significant that the much talked about prophecies around 2012 never seemed to materialise. But maybe something was set in motion then which is starting to come to fruition now?

[1] Inanna’s Descent to the Netherworld’ in ‘Sumerian Mythology’ by Samuel Noah Kramer, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1972

[2] Melanie Reinhart, ‘Venus: Queen of Heaven and Earth,’ (2009) at

[3] ibid Samuel Noah Kramer

[4] As above

[5] See Melanie Reinhart at

Spring Equinox: Bran and the Cauldron of Resurrection

The sap is rising, bulbs are emerging, blossom is exploding into life and buds forming at this time of balance between the light and the dark. As the days continue to lengthen, it is the light that has the upper hand but the power of darkness is still strong, urging us to integrate and acknowledge that part of our shadow that is holding us in stillness, even nourishing us like the moist and fecund Earth holds the seed. Dandelion starts to push through the loomy soil, along with burdock, borage, chickweed and violet, all packed full of nutrients and cleansing potential to prepare our systems for the energy of summer. And in the night sky the Spring Triangle is visible, comprised of Arcturus in Bootes, Spica in Virgo, and Regulus in Leo.

Sheelah’s Day is celebrated around Equinox in honour of Sheelah-Na-Gig, the goddess of fertility and sexuality, of green wildness and powerful life force. In the Celtic tree alphabet (f for Fearn), this time is ruled by alder, the tree of Brân. Said to have fought on the front line in the Battle of the Trees, this mother-of-all-trees is also closely associated with the goddess Sovereignty, who in her capacity as the regenerative and destructive power of Nature and ruler of the Equinox and Solstices, ultimately births, marries and lays out in death all sacred kings of which Brân was but one.

Brân was known as one of the three blessed kings of Britain and has an ancient pedigree preserved in several of the tales collated in the Mabinogion. Though written down in the Middle Ages, the tales were based on an ancient oral tradition where Brân was known as the Celtic god of regeneration, and has the illustrious pedigree of descending from both the house of Llyr (god of the sea) and Belenos (the sun god). The legends tell us that Brân possessed a magical cauldron with the power to bring dead warriors to life, but without restoring their speech. He received this cauldron from giants, or otherworldly beings, in return for his kindness, and it was so huge that it needed to be carried by wheeled vehicles such as chariots.

In a story related in the tale of ‘Branwen, the Daughter of Llyr,’ Brân gifted this cauldron to the Irish king Matholwch after he married his sister Branwen, but was dishonoured by another brother who had not been involved in the decision making process. Brân hoped to ward off war between the two kingdoms with his peace offering, but the Irish king refused to accept the cauldron as a gift in kind, reduced Queen Branwen’s position to that of a servant, and waged war anyway. Brân himself was poisoned by an arrow in the devastating battle that resulted and died. On his deathbed he instructed his followers to cut off his head, which was still able to talk even after removal. They solemnly and carefully carried the head back home with them, which was said to speak all the while.

This Cauldron of Resurrection was one of the sacred objects of the Celts and features later in Arthurian legend when King Arthur sets out on a quest to retrieve it. Indeed, in ancient times it was considered to be a gift of the goddess Sovereignty herself, the goddess of the land who bestowed plenty and abundance and presided over the magical gift of rebirth. In medieval times, the story of Branwen’s dishonouring by the Irish king is told in terms of her brothers, and her status is also reduced to that of a kitchen maid in the tale, symbolic of the withdrawal of powers by the goddess Sovereignty.  It is poignant that an object as magical as a Cauldron of Rebirth could no longer prevent petty wars between kingdoms as a result.

This theme is one that weaves through Celtic mythology, though in later times it is often edited out or watered down: the gifted abundance of the land is dependent on mutual respect between the land, the goddess of Sovereignty, and the people and mediated through the marriage between the land and the king who swore to uphold and protect her. When this sacred trust is broken, the gifts of the land and the Otherworld are withdrawn.

There is a powerful message here for our times. Alder rules from 18 March to 14th April, at time of writing, the period of lockdown in many countries due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic worldwide. The entire world is in the grip of the Wasteland, resulting in no uncertain terms from our abuse of the Earth and failure to take heed of the dire consequences of our actions and choices. Alder, like the cauldron of Brân is also known as the tree of resurrection through its association with the growing power of the sun, and its apparent ability to survive in, and therefore ‘conquer’ water. This year, Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection in the Christian church, falls on the 12 April, right at the end of the lockdown period imposed.

Brân was also associated with another magical symbol, that of the singing head removed from his body after he died in the futile battle with the Irish king. There are many legends surrounding this oracular head, but one of them says that it was buried on the hill where the Tower of London now stands, facing out towards France to ‘protect from invasion.’ Brân’s sacred bird was the raven, and to this day six of these birds are resident in the grounds of the Tower to protect ‘the Crown and the Tower,’ and superstition holds that if the ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it. During this time of resurrection, we are being given an opportunity to examine the collective actions that have brought us to this current Wasteland. The old stories are very clear in their warnings. We ignore them this time at our peril.