Much to my surprise, this blog will be Part 1 of 2, because it turns out there are more things in heaven and earth than I had previously dreamt of in my philosophy. So, off we go… “Then as part of the game she completely forgot Where she’d hidden herself and she spent The rest of her time trying to find the parts.” —Howard Jones, Hide and Seek
Over the years there has been (and still is) a lot of talk about “the rise of the feminine” and “the Divine Feminine” and “the return of the Goddess”—important and big subjects that I can’t always make heads or tails of, especially when they get confused with actual women, the actual equality of actual women, and actual violence against actual women. Talking about “the Feminine” is not the same as talking about actual women. There’s a big difference! And, when it comes to the rise or return of the Divine Feminine, I’m not necessarily seeing what everyone else seems to be seeing. One particular kind of femininity seems to be rising at the dangerous expense and fall of another extremely important kind of femininity. To explore this terrain, I want to consult the two main go-to gals of the basic astrological pantheon: the Moon and Venus. And, to be sure, I am writing mythically, about mythic figures, not literal ones.
A PLACE IN THIS WORLD
When people talk about “the Feminine” or “the Goddess” or “the Great Goddess” in particular, it’s almost always the Moon they’re really talking about, whether they realize this or not. A great deal of femininity is contained in the Moon, for sure. She is the Great Goddess, the Queen of the Night, the Great Mother, the Nurturer, the Caregiver. The list goes on. In astrology, the Moon is exalted in the earth sign of Taurus in part because of the innate connection between Mother Moon and Mother Earth.
More specifically, the Moon is about home, emotional security, safety, comfort, and a quality of nurturing and caring for the “tribe,” the whole family. The Moon is about what feeds us and nourishes us. It’s tricky sometimes, because people can get used to discomfort—they become comfortable being uncomfortable—and so the Moon’s sense of security is not necessarily about soft pillows and relaxation and bubble baths (that’s a preview of Venus). It’s more about what is familiar, and what is familiar is not always literally comfortable. It’s just familiar. The Moon simply provides us a place in this world, a sense of belonging, a shelter, a place to call “home.”
The Moon has an inclusiveness that can sound like love and compassion, because the desire and appeal of including everyone and making everyone feel at home can be quite lovely and profound. The more, the merrier, at least from the Moon’s perspective. The Moon’s inclusiveness is what allows community to form, and the Moon is the archetype behind the notion that “it takes a village.” The village, together, inclusive, taking good care, belonging, no child left behind.
An extremely popular young adult book right now is “Divergent,” by Veronica Roth. Currently being made into a movie, its trailer features Kate Winslet proclaiming, “The future belongs to those who know where they belong.” What happens, though, when you are exactly where you belong, but you don’t quite fit in? Uh-oh. As “the rise of the Feminine” continues, especially within the context of humanity reorienting to a “global village” perspective, the Moon is getting an abundance of air time. The trick, though, is that the Moon may be inclusive, but is by no means unconditional. What if, like the book’s female lead, one is “divergent” and does not quite fit the Moon’s mold? What is the difference between belonging and fitting in, and why does it matter? Enter: Venus.
EVERYTHING IN ITS RIGHT PLACE
Both the Moon and Venus are extremely feminine, but Venus is altogether different than the Moon, as you will see. It’s time to leave the child behind. If the Moon is what nourishes us, Venus is about taste. Venus is what and how we love. Again, not in the sense of compassion-love, but more in the sense of, “I love that book!” or “I love that color!” or “I love that shirt!” Venus is the goddess of love and beauty, and her make-up container also includes harmony, balance, the scales, proportion, fun, froth, charm, appeal, desire, pleasure, art, music, socializing, cosmetics, accessorizing, aesthetics (particularly when looking nothing short of fabulous), and the entire, essential, superficial keeping-up-appearances arena of life. Venus is the goddess of the five senses, which connect each of us with the sensual world around us and allow us to see, hear, taste, touch and smell it all. Venus brings us to our senses. Whether you are bending down to smell a beautiful rose, or quickly turning away from the disgusting and revolting milk that you just discovered went bad last week, your aesthetic responses are all thanks to Venus. Without Venus, we’d probably just eat the fuzzy, moldy, green cottage cheese. And we’d all wear scratchy burlap trousers while doing it. And we'd all belong to the Clean Paper-plate Club.
Again, Venus is the goddess of beauty. Beauty! Wow! What would we do without beauty? To see just how vital beauty is to our lives, check out movies like “Children of Men” and “WALL-E” and “District 9” and the recent “Elysium” to see wrecked worlds that lack beauty. Venus’ beauty, though, is not about beauty really being found on the inside and all that. No! Absolutely not. To say that it’s what's on the inside that really counts, what really matters, is to say the entire world around us, out there in all its aesthetic splendor, doesn’t really matter, and that the majesty of epic redwood trees is not beautiful, because real beauty is what’s on the inside of those trees. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Nature loves to show off her beauty, and we can take a lesson or two from her. Oh, hell, we need her whole graduate studies program!
See, Venus has more to do with “cosmos” than with beauty being in the eye of the beholder. “Cosmos” is about beauty and order. Not order in the sense of control and rigid structure, but order in the sense of pattern and arrangement. There’s an inherent order to things, a design. Like, when you look up into the sky at night, and the arrangement of the stars into constellations inspires us to imagine pictures. Nice! Or, when creating a flower arrangement. You don’t just throw all the flowers on a plate and let them lay there. You have a suitable vase, and you work those flowers into a beautiful arrangement. You fuss and you play, and if they aren’t beautifully arranged, you aren’t done. It’s an art. It’s a sense, an aesthetic and cosmetic sense. Everything in its right place. Things fit together in a harmonious and pleasing fashion. It’s a composition, like arranging musical notes on a staff, creating harmony with a melody. Music recordings credit an Arranger, because how a piece is arranged is essential. Someone knows how to put all the parts together in a pleasing fashion. It’s a talent and a skill, and “The Lord of the Rings” movies would be entirely different without it. (Imagine!)
Moreover, when for example I listen to the luminous Sarah Brightman and the glorious Italian stallion José Cura sing their breath-taking duet “There for Me”—and bathe and luxuriate in its beauty—it sets the world right. Everything in its right place. There’s order. There’s cosmos. I feel excited, alive, and deeply, deeply reassured at the same time. I can relax. And despite the “Repeat 1” option in iTunes, that sense doesn’t last forever. It’s not supposed to. Sometimes it feels too short-lived. And yet, it’s not “beauty fades” in the sense that it withers on the vine, gets decrepit and ugly, and finally dies a miserable, flailing death. No, it’s more of a rest, more about beauty sleep. The cosmos chills out and rests. Sleeping beauty. Beauty is high maintenance, after all! Who ever said being beautiful was easy? Beauty needs sleep and rest, and we find beauty again in that down-time.
Venus also brings style. While the Moon has a style all her own, it’s not really about style, if you see what I mean. Do you look better in autumn colors, or spring colors? Maybe you can rock the winter colors like nobody else can. It’s about style. Your style. Too much Moon in the fashion industry, and we’re looking at a whole bunch of really baggy clothes that don’t fit. Too much gap in them, or it all becomes one big banana republic. The Moon’s inclusiveness prefers more of a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s easier to take care of so many people that way. This became clear to me not too long ago when I had coffee with a friend, and I was wearing a new shirt. She said, “Shawn, it’s so nice to see you wearing a shirt that actually fits!” There’s a depth to that statement that went through me when she said it, a depth that applies to everything, not just my shirt. A shirt that fits is really nice, and a life that fits and is pleasing is altogether incredible.
Beauty is rarely, if ever, discussed in “the rise of the Feminine,” except when it's considered a "myth" in the inaccurate and dismissive sense of that word. That's when Venus’ beauty gets linked more with a Barbie doll, considered merely superficial, and then thrown in prison (like in the show “Orange is the New Black”), lost to Time being served, where she must pay her dues in order to possibly be taken seriously and released. When Barbra Streisand (a Taurus) named her recent album "Release Me," perhaps it was more than just the unreleased songs from her vault she was talking about. She has the right idea. (And even if she only meant the songs, the wisdom of the unconscious and the imagination has its ways of revealing the essential greater truths.) See, all of this is still dazzlingly, wonderfully feminine. Yes, this is the Feminine that can sound so much like luxury that it can be hard to embrace, especially in a society severely lacking anything resembling economic equality, gender equality, and social equality in general. But remember I'm not talking literally. Beauty is a myth, in the finest and truest sense of the word (something that never was, but always is), and it begins in the imagination. Work from there. And, if the shoe fits...
The epic move we have made in the last three decades from “local” to “global” has uprooted folks and resulted in an anxious longing to belong and a desire to not be left behind or excluded. Why be different? Why diverge? Why risk it? Note: Venus has her Joy in the 5th House of the astrological wheel, the House of risk-taking! This is a big clue. In today’s world Venus’ "fitted" exclusivity can seem downright unfair and unbalanced. Recently, a sushi bar in Virginia banned anyone under 18 (because children and teenagers in the restaurant just didn't fit their style), and was deluged with protests. Yet, with our society (and the world) in a state of such imbalance, where genuine equality is sacrificed for mere tolerance (which rarely wears the ring of truth), how can we discard the very essence of “balance” itself?
I’ll pick up there next time, and mingle the Moon and Venus with each other, to see their differences even clearer—and to bring fitness and food into the mix. Comments on this post are entirely welcome.