"As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste." —Sulamitis, from the Song of Songs of Solomon
On June 5 (June 6 in some time zones) Venus and the Sun form a precise conjunction, called a transit of Venus. Venus and the Sun align about once a year—though this one is different due to the fact that Venus will not pass above or below the Sun but rather directly cross its path. Considered one of the rarest predictable astronomical events, transits of Venus arrive in pairs separated by eight years; the pairs themselves are divided by more than a century.
Events in astrology gain influence by being unusual—though this one will also be spectacular. If you can see the Sun during the event and use a special viewing filter, you will be able to watch Venus cross the disk of the Sun. (Happening at 9:08pm, it will be too late in the evening in New York.) We most recently experienced a transit of Venus in 2004. The June 5 event may be related to something that you experienced or a phase of your life that began eight years ago.
The world will not experience another transit of Venus until 2117, 105 years from now. It's a bit ominous that, barring some life-extending genetic therapy, nobody who sees this one will be alive to see the next one.
Speaking of omens, this kind of rare event indicates a check-in point with the state of humanity. It's the single most distinct astrology element of 2012, a year that may break the record for how much prophecy has hung on its back. Yet we do stand in a moment when one logical use of celestial divination would be trying to figure out what's going to happen to civilization on our planet.
By any objective measure, we are in trouble. It's not that our national and global problems don't have solutions. It's not that there are insufficient resources. The crisis involves lack of leadership and ethics, and a very bad case of greed. Anyone trying for a solution must outsmart what amounts to a cabal of heavily armed thieves who are holding the planet hostage.
We face numerous hotly polarized situations, many of which come from a prevailing condition of inner division that has a grip on the human psyche. Which brings me to why it's so excellent that this event is happening in Gemini. I believe that the political mess we face is a reflection of the deeper elements of our consciousness. Many of these are based on what I will broadly term gender issues.
In recent years, the political machinery has been using gender and sexual orientation—and sex in general—as some of its most effective wedges. Yet with the atmosphere heating up, with fracking consuming the United States and headed to Europe, with the economy in an extremely fragile state and our genetic code under assault from supertoxins-for-profit, worrying about who has the right to married seems like a distraction.
Trying to blast reproductive rights back to the 1950s (as evidenced by the movement to repeal not just Roe v. Wade, which preserves the right to abortion, and also Griswold v. Connecticut, which preserves the right to contraception) is often described as throwing red meat to the conservative base. It's typically analyzed as a political ploy that skews the discussion away from real problems and also preserves the jobs of politicians.
We all know there's a severe imbalance on the planet, and there are many spiritual theories going around as to why that might be. Instead of treating the sex and gender issue as a symptom, I would propose that it may be a lot closer to the cause. People in political leadership are not known for their powers of deep introspection or their sexual integrity. Often, they are in conflict and project that conflict outward as attack, attempted control, and manipulation of people's private sexual lives. People not in positions of public trust drive one another insane with this stuff as well.
This inner turmoil manifests many other ways, including lack of sensitivity for the Earth (the consequence of which is often accurately described as rape). Nearly all of the most potent toxins of industry attack the female reproductive system first, though we're all soaking in an ocean of hormone-disruptive chemicals and all feeling the effects to some degree.
The transit of Venus presents us with a compelling metaphor and also a palpable moment of transition. It's a junction (literally, a conjunction) where we can make a conscious choice. Think of this as starting within, where most (some would say all) of our conflict originates. Think of it as an inner reunion between the masculine and feminine elements of ourselves, appropriately happening in the sign of the interplay of opposites—Gemini.
Venus is a feminine symbol and the Sun a masculine one. When Venus intersects with the disk of the Sun, it's a little like the Sun is being penetrated by potent feminine energy. Both will change in the process. My astrology colleague Adam Gainsburg (Soulsign.com) has been describing this as the emergence of what he calls the solar feminine.
"Despite the dominance of solar gods at the root of western civilization, the metaphor of light as we experience it is actually more akin to the feminine principle than to the masculine," Adam said in an e-mail to me. "Light shines, radiates, illuminates. But from our viewpoint on Earth, the Sun also sets and takes the light with it each evening. This ebb and flow of light is precisely what the feminine is: the flow, the dance, the ever-changing pattern of light into dark and back again."
With the transit of Venus, he said, "what becomes illuminated is how your feminine aspect self-radiates into the world—what you uniquely have to give to the improvement of our planet." He adds, "The solar feminine is, literally, our 'light body.' She's the one inside each of us who leaves nothing uncovered, nothing unfelt. We experience the full range of our actual feelings as her body." Yet the Sun is expressive, so this is about being moved to take creative action.
"The Solar Feminine is a confrontational idea for many religions because her very existence fundamentally challenges the fragmentary, long-held assumption of masculine spiritual superiority. By reacknowledging her, we begin to reempower her. The solar feminine shines not just through the success and expression of women, but through the power of a man's emotions received in his heart."
I think what Adam may be describing is a process of men becoming more receptive and women becoming more expressive. That would help balance things out—and at least it gives us a clear idea of what to reach for. While there have been plenty of ways in which our culture has slipped backwards in gender relations (especially when you factor in politicians), I believe there is a gradual balancing out of masculine and feminine energies within many individuals and in many relationships. With this eclipse-like event, we have an opportunity to deepen and accelerate that process.
The story of transits of Venus over the past few centuries gives us another metaphor to work with. Last year a book was published called Transit of Venus: 1631 to the Present (Powerhouse Museum, paperback, $24.95), by Nick Lomb. In Transit, Lomb describes the progression of how each successive event was seen by human eyes—and some of the implications.
No one is known to have seen the 1631 Venus transit—it was night in Europe. Kepler missed that would there be a second transit of Venus eight years later. Two people are known to have seen the 1639 transit: Jeremiah Horrocks and his friend William Crabtree, viewing from England.
Edmond Halley (of Halley's Comet fame) expected a Venus transit in 1761. He urged astronomers who would be alive at the time to observe the event. His calculations were off, but other astronomers worked out the correct timing. This was the first global scientific event, with 176 astronomers watching from 117 far-flung locations.
Eight years later, there was another transit—he second of that pair. The British crown saw the need for calculations from the South Pacific as the perfect political cover to look for islands to expand to. This adds the geopolitical expansion to the process. The desirability of observing the 1769 event from Australia led to the founding of New South Wales; modern Australia owes its existence to a transit of Venus.
In 1874, a Brit named Richard Proctor estimated that up to 400 different calculations were presented to the Royal Astronomical Society in London. More people observed the 1874 transit than any other previous one, reflecting the expansion of technology, science, education, industry, trade, and population. It was also the first one documented in photographs.
The corresponding transit eight years later in 1882 was widely observed and better documented in photos. The US sent out eight teams, including to South Africa and San Antonio. They made 1,380 measurable photographic plates (four times as many as in 1874).
The 1882 transit was visible throughout US for almost the whole event. Amateur astronomers set up telescopes in parks and on sidewalks of New York City, collecting dimes from those who wished to look. In Meriden, Connecticut, a fire alarm bell was rung when it started, and people went to a local man's house where he'd set up seven telescopes so people could look. Some 6,000 people observed the transit form that yard.
That takes us up to the 2004 transit, the most recent one. For the first time, we were able to observe the transit from space, with much vaster knowledge of Venus and the solar system. Not only could the general public observe, but hundreds of amateur astronomers could produce their own stunning photographs (some appear with this article). For the 2012 event, many more people will be aware of what is happening, and due to that knowledge, and the availability of inexpensive viewing equipment, this will be the most-viewed Venus transit of the Sun in history.
There is something in this rare event that's about the exponential expansion of awareness. If (at lest from an astrological viewpoint) we understand that awareness to involve the balancing of male and female energies, we can cooperate spreading that energy in an exponential way.
There is one other beautiful message from this event that I picked up while researching the chart for the Venus transit. I cast the cart with 1,000 asteroids and newly-discovered bodies, and noticed that there is a minor planet precisely conjunct both Venus and the Sun when the transit happens. It won't be visible—but it will be there. The planet, really an asteroid, is called Sulamitis. It's a fast-mover (less-than-four-year orbit) so its presence is something to take note of.
I did a little research and discovered that Sulamitis is the female character in the Song of Songs of Solomon, a book from the Bible that stands out in that it's not about laying down the law or describing the anguish of some tribe. Rather, it's a passionate love poem presented as a dialog between a man and a woman.
The story has many twists and turns, but ultimately its theme is devotion and what it means to be in love, with a comment on how authentic balance between male and female energy feels. With this event happening in Gemini, the first place to seek and find that balance is inside ourselves. I could not think of a more beautiful visitor than Sulamitis to stand guard over this rare event, at this vital opportunity for rebalancing our hearts, souls and our relationship to the Earth.
Additional research: Amanda Painter