It is a truism that if you were to ask an astronomer in mid-March where Venus was he would march out and point out to you from the evening sky something resembling an aircraft with a landing light on. He might tell you that at this time of year Venus gets closer to the horizon each evening, and closer to Earth until it appears larger than any other planet can, despite being in its thin crescent phase. On April 1st this year, he might tell you, it will be in inferior conjunction with the Sun.

Ask the same question of an astrologer and as likely as not he or she will dive into a bag and produce a large well-thumbed ephemeris, bearing proudly its accumulated coffee and ink stains, which will be pored over, showering cigarette ash liberally in the process, to pronounce, equally correctly, that Venus is retrograde in Aries, and will conjunct the Sun on April 1st. He certainly won't look up at the sky, or probably even connect the strange glyphs and numbers he studies to any actual orbiting planet.

If to an astronomer Venus is a boiling hot, hostile, volcanic planet, almost identical in size to the Earth, shrouded in cloud, roughly corresponding in appearance to our ideas of Hell, to an astrologer it is closer to Western ideas of Heaven, as Venus presents the goddess of beauty, and embodies harmony, love and unity.

Venus is interesting to astronomers because its day is longer than its year, for instance; it has an almost exactly circular orbit;  and it rotates east to west, or retrograde, the opposite direction to the Sun, Earth and all the other planets. Astrologers, on the other hand, might refer to its sigil, which symbolises the circle of spirit, containing all spiritual potential, lifted by the cross of matter, the manifestation of the union of the elements; and the myth of Venus which inspires its interpretation.

Both views are correct in their way, though each could learn from the other, and this book sets out to explore both. It would be helpful for an astrologer to distinguish an inferior conjunction to a superior one (when Venus is on the far side of the Sun),  as most do not, since inferior conjunctions might be said to denote a period of soul-searching, profiling one's needs and desires. The closer Venus is to the Sun, the greater the emphasis on desire. It is easy to deduce when this conjunction is inferior because Venus will be retrograde. Since this is caused by Venus overtaking the Earth it must therefore be on our side of the Sun.

The more we know about the movements of all the heavenly bodies and their interactions, the more we can bring to our understanding of astrology, and make observations that will add to our knowledge. We know that the Moon has phases, though few of us consider which one applies when considering a chart, but what about the phases of Venus, or Mercury? A few astrologers seem to make no connection between the symbolic interpretation of the numbers and symbols in their ephemeris and the actual movements of real observable planets in the skies. It is not surprising then that many of us know nothing of the other planetary bodies orbiting our Solar System, sometimes confusing them with the so-called fixed stars (otherwise known simply as stars) which lie far beyond.

These planetary bodies include comets, asteroids and the planets' moons, and since they orbit the Sun just like the ten known major planets it is logical that they too must have some astrological effect. At present this is largely unrecorded. At any rate it must be worth having a look at them to discover whether we might choose in future to take account of them in our individual astrological studies.

 This page was last updated on 12/06/03