The planet of love, socializing, relationships, pleasures, beauty, art, music and grace – Venus seems to be the talk of the town. It would make sense that wherever she ends up in a horoscope she gets what she wants, one way or another. It is for her harmonious nature, even amid adversity, that she is known as the lesser benefic.
But beyond the friendliness and coquetry, Venus represents our inner desires to share with another being; she shows what we have plenty of and, therefore, what we give of our own abundance. This stems far back in ancient times before the Goddess ideology was gifted to an external planet and instead referred to our own: Mother Earth.
Previously it was Gaia, who was the Earth herself, abundant and life giving. She was immortal, primordial, elementary. It was her desire for a companion that led to the birth of her Son-Consort who would introduce the concept of death, duality and disruption. This Son-Lover-Consort, who was both child and husband, was associated with the lunar cycles while Gaia herself was symbolized by the Moon. This is how the moon can represent both mother and child.
There was a shift in perspective of the Mother Goddess: the nature and immortal life-giving aspect became separate from the temporary life of creatures on Earth. The themes of life were then given to Venus the planet who was recognized as the daughter of the Moon. Other names were attributed to the Goddess ideology: Inanna in Sumer, Ishtar in Babylon, Astarte in Canaan, Isis in Egypt, Aphrodite in Greece, and Freya in Scandinavia, among many others.
There were always two sides to the Goddess: the morning star when she ruled as Goddess of War, Death and the Underworld; and the evening star when she was presented as the Goddess of Love, Pleasure and the joys of life. Whereas the Moon went through her three phases of the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone, these Goddesses were all-encompassing, a newer take on the female model.
The relationship to Venus’ position (as morning star or evening star) to its meaning could be derived from tales of Inanna and her male consort Dumuzi, who was represented by the waxing and waning moon. The two are described as being enamored and love-making increasingly more as Venus and the Moon made contact in the evening. This phenomenon can be seen in the night sky as the waxing Moon approaches, and sometimes even eclipses, Venus during its monthly cycle. Conversely, as Inanna is acting as Lady of the Underworld as the morning star, Inanna grows jealous as her lover now only meets when he is weakened, that is, when the Moon is waning after reaching his max power at the full moon. Inanna resentfully chooses Dumuzi to be her replacement in the Underworld, and so the Moon vanishes from sight during the new moon.
The themes of this story were prevalent among most ancient cultures, hence the various names of the goddess in different societies. There is always an independent, warrior-goddess who has a husband and is capricious in her interactions, seesawing from a loving goddess of marriage, fertility and motherhood to a quite talented, respected goddess of combat and warfare.
Another fascinating point to make is the contribution of the Goddess’ roles to the other personal planets, namely Mercury and Mars. Her connection to Mars is probably the most obvious. For example, Ishtar was multifaceted as protector of the people: wielding many weapons, symbolized by the lion, called Lady of the Battles, Queen of Attack, Lady of Victory, Queen of Hand-to-Hand Fighting and the Guardian of Law and Order.
Ishtar’s connection to Hermes (Greek version of the Roman Mercury) came directly from her labrys, a staff with a coiled serpent design. Hermes’/Mercury’s staff, the caduceus, is also represented with a snake (or two) coiling round the center shaft. Ishtar’s staff represented her control over life, namely to restore life or take it away; as the staff of Hermes the caduceus was known as Psychopomp, Conductor of Souls. Ishtar was also known as the Eye Goddess and had several Eye temples built in her honor, some filled with figurines loaded with eye symbology. Mercury is known as the planet of perception and mental acuity.
Unfortunately, the Goddess image began to decline in importance as the Son-Lover-Consort ideal slowly began to take priority. This lined up with a change in life style during the Bronze Age as people settled in protected towns for safety against invaders. Males rose up to claim they represented the Son-Consort of the Mother Goddess incarnated in flesh, sanctifying this claim via marriage to a Goddess priestess. He would then claim his progeny to be further manifestations of the Son-Consort, and so the Son (aka Sun) became the Father and ruler of the family and subsequently society. The Goddesses were then said to do the bidding of their husband, leading to the multifaceted warrior goddess conjoined with the fertility goddess motif of life and death. Eventually their significance was demoted even further to just Goddesses of love and beauty, pleasurable things and creature comforts.
Clearly Venus is the goddess of plenty. Her symbolism started as the very Earth itself, shifting to the Moon, becoming daughter of the Moon and even sharing her war-like qualities with Mars and healing prowess and omniscience with Mercury. She was the giver and the take of life, the lustful consort, and the joy of life itself. When it comes to sharing, socializing and relationships, who of the planets would know better than the daughter of the Mother Goddess herself?