People tend to fixate on Venus’ role as the big boss bitch of love, and while this isn’t totally untrue, it might help to greet her as an arbiter of “like” as well. What does it mean to like something — to agree with it, choose it, savor it, deem it important because it delights your senses and synchronizes with your values, which are other things you’ve deemed important because they agree with you? What does it mean to like someone — to be drawn to them, to find common ground with them, to appreciate the phenomenon of their being, to deem them worthy of your attention and kindness?
Venus Retrogrades create a window in time that, among other things, gives us more flexibility to move the goalposts on some of those things. Sometimes the goalposts are moved for us when we’re confronted with scenarios we didn’t necessarily choose, but yet find us just in time to help us clarify where we stand.
The bigger lesson in all of this is that the very nature of pleasure requires that goalposts be moved at all. And of all the flavors Venus Retrograde comes in (currently at least, as its cycle brings it back to roughly the same fives place in the zodiac each time), Venus’ journey through Gemini is perhaps the most curious, flexible, and adaptable one.
In other words, it’s not that deep. And yet it really is! Venus in a Mercury-ruled air sign is like a bee pollinating the flowers — it’s about mingling, synthesizing, and sipping the nectar of several flowers in order to concoct a honey with a complex variety of notes. We might be reassessing relationships on the basis of whether we find them sufficiently interesting, and we might dip our toes into new (or old!) artistic mediums. We might witness our tastes shift in search of novelty, and we might reengage with culture in a way that honors the multiplicity of our values.
This Venus Retrograde also just so happens to take place right around the time the North Node is entering Gemini and kicking off a new series of eclipses here. These two things probably won’t be entirely unrelated. If anything, the retrograde will have us examining and rearranging our values and loves in preparation for the ensuing eclipses of the next year and a half. What we deem important during this time will likely play a role in the nature of the hard left turns we’ll be making later on.
Fittingly enough for a Mercury-ruled Venus Retrograde, this one contains considerable movement, phases, and subtle mutations. I’ll get into the granular nitty-gritty timeline down below, but it’s worth appreciating the deep symbolism of the Venus Retrograde cycle on its own terms too.
40 Days & 40 Nights: The Venus Retrograde Dance
A Venus Retrograde period spans roughly 40 days. Where have we heard that one before? Maybe just about every seminal religious and spiritual text, cultural tradition, and post-modern self-help guide.
Forgive me if I can’t say any of these things definitively, because I’m definitely not a historian or religious studies expert. But chances are pretty good that the connection between Venus and the number “40” in the New and Old Testaments is not an accident. Allegedly, some scholars think Jews, Muslims, and Christians fixated on the number 40 because Venus’ elliptical forms a pentagram every 8 years (8×5=40), and it returns to its starting point every 40 years, with a 40-day regression. The Egyptians were also hip to the fact that the Sun’s annual cycle could only be perfectly measured in 40-day cycles.
The “40-day” concept can be found in just about every kind of culture and discipline you can imagine: from Moses wandering the desert for 40 days, to the 40 days of Lent, to 40 days and nights of fasting in Jewish and Hindu traditions, to 40-day kundalini sadhanas, to the 40 philosophical days in traditional alchemy (of purification and purging), to the 40-day drying period in Egyptian mummification, to the 40-day biblical floods, to the 40-day mourning period observed by Russian Orthodox and Christian Filipinos, to the impersonation of the Aztec god Xipe Totec for 40 days prior to the sacrificial ritual — the list goes on. All of these things involve themes of purification, of existing in a state of energetic incubation in order to pass completely from one cycle to the next. Is it any small accident that the average pregnancy lasts 40 weeks from the time of a woman’s last period, or that 40 days is the commonly accepted length of time required for a new habit to set in?
Venus knows all about passing through cycles. Venus actually has two personalities: the warrior-like morning star and the more “traditionally” Venusian evening star. Because of the way Venus interacts with the Earth and Sun, it’s constantly moving on an elliptical that causes it to appear in the evening sky, disappear from view while it’s obscured by the Sun, then reappear in the morning sky (it’s actually referred to as “Lucifer” in this phase, which is Latin for “light-bearer.” Sort of gives new meaning to the phrase “Lucifer, son of the morning,” doesn’t it?). Venus begins this cycle when it makes its inferior conjunction to the Sun in the midst of its retrograde, which occurs roughly once every year and a half. At this point, Venus is transitioning from its evening star phase into its morning star phase, though it dons an invisibility cloak for about a week in between.
If we’re not sugarcoating things, this moment has long been associated with dramatic, explosive, and sometimes violent news events, but it could also simply be a time when we emerge from our own incubation period, taking no prisoners or shit from anybody. In mythology, Venus (or Innana) is described as descending into the underworld as an evening star during the first part of the retrograde, experiencing a rebirth down below while she’s out of view, and then emerging anew as a morning star.
Venus Retrograde 2020: A Play-By-Play
Because Venus is hanging out in a Mercury-ruled sign this whole time, we can look to what Mercury’s doing to further describe the nuances of what Venus is going through. Beyond that, Venus is also making some important aspects to other planets and is even getting zonked by an eclipse. Here’s a complete timeline of her journey this year.
Venus enters Gemini: April 3
The retrograde cycle is not yet in play, but Venus has entered the house. Which house? Whatever house coincides with Gemini in your chart. Appropriate themes begin emerging.
Venus enters its pre-shadow: April 9
The foreshadowing begins. Mercury moves into Aries on the 11th, lending a brashness and impulsiveness to Venus’ whims. During the bulk of the preshadow, Venus is chasing Mars via an applying trine that never completes. Our longing for a desire that feels frustratingly out of reach will, perhaps, inspire us to get a little creative with each other. This is probably the hornier phase of the retrograde.
Mercury enters Taurus: April 27
Venus and Mercury are now exchanging signs but are not aspecting each other. This “together apart” vibe comes with a sense that we’re going nowhere fast and we might as well try to devise new ways of spending “quality time” with each other and our pet projects.
Venus stations retrograde: May 13
Venus spends most of May barely moving in a square to Neptune, with its exact station taking place mid-month. Mercury moves into Gemini on the 11th two days before the retrograde officially begins. This long, drawn-out Neptune square takes hold as Venus and Mars begin to move apart. A dangling carrot led us down the rabbit hole, and now we’re faced with the experience of living out a fairytale or myth. Not everything is as it seems, but being momentarily transported into an alternate reality reacquaints us with a feeling of enchantment again. Once Mercury is hanging out with Venus in the sign of its rulership, the math of the equation begins to make more sense and there’s more range to explore our options and move about with flexibility. This is the bee at its busiest.
Mercury enters Cancer: May 28
By now, Venus is under the beams of the Sun. She’s beginning her descent into the underworld and is disappearing from view. Cancer is a mute sign, and Mercury is less overt in its messages here. Rather, impressions are felt. Mercury is getting ready for a retrograde in this sign, which emphasizes the backwards-looking nature of retrogrades in general with a dose of Cancerian nostalgia. Can we go home again? Can we rekindle an old flame? Can we ever go back to the way it was? A longing for something familiar pulls us deep into ourselves.
June 2 – 5: ?!!?
As of June 2, Mercury is in its pre-shadow phase. On June 3, Venus makes its inferior conjunction with the Sun at 13 degrees Gemini and squares Mars. On June 5, there’s a lunar eclipse at 15 degrees Sagittarius, closely opposing Venus. This is a critical activation and turning point, and there’s a lot that gets clarified and jostled loose at this time. On one hand, Mercury’s shadow creepin’ suggests this won’t be a one-and-done process. But the Venus/Sun conjunction helps us arrive to the heart of the matter and see things with an almost embarrassing level of intimacy, and the square to Mars (who rudely tempted Venus all through April with suggestions of harmony) suggests that actually, we’re not all on the same page. In fact, our dissatisfaction will serve as the impetus for change.
Mercury stations retrograde: June 18
At this point, Venus has newly emerged as a morning star. And as you would have it, Mercury is stationing retrograde right as Venus is getting ready to station direct. Venus knows what she wants and she’s not afraid to ask for it now, but the supply chain is getting all tangled up. There are logistical knots to work through, conversations that need to be revisited, and possibly some growing pains associated with owning the desires we’re learning to name.
June 25: Venus stations direct
It’s not quite over, but we’re done with the audit. As Venus slowly begins to pick up speed over the next few days and recover the same ground again, the makeover is getting its finishing touches and is nearly camera-ready.
July: Venus climbs out of shadow
Throughout July, Venus is gradually returning to business as usual. This time, there’s an eerie callback to the temptations of the preshadow phase, except Mars is the one chasing Venus by sextile this time — another harmonious aspect that never completes because Mars is the one slowing down ahead of its retrograde. Venus is more sure of her worth and what really turns her on this time anyway, and she’s not going to wait around for the sake of potential just to get blue balls again. Mercury stations direct on July 12, bringing a little more clarity into the fold as it resumes forward motion.
July 29: Venus leaves its shadow
Oh hey, and Mercury leaves its shadow on the 26th. We’re in the clear, but not exactly. Venus completes its final square to Neptune just as it exits the shadow in late July, slipping out of this liminal space through the same shimmering fantasy threshold that it entered it with. Now that it’s on the other side of it, things look quite different, but clarity doesn’t have to look dull at all. Perhaps it’s all the more magical now because of the illusions we were in dialogue with this whole time.