Venus & the Pentagram
The planet Venus has long been associated with all that is beautiful and lovely, with the feminine, the goddesses, and harmony. This is age old symbolism for this planet and there have been many instances in various cultures of systems of worship that revolve around Venus (and its orbit).
So how perfect is what I'm about to introduce to you? It's 98% perfect; suitable enough for Venus' harmonious realm, but you'll definitely have to put your thinking cap on. It’s rather technical, but it’s really cool, so it’s worth a few minor brain twitches.
Astronomy and Earth’s side of the story Astrological observations about the planets, physically and symbolically, are made with us, the observer from earth, in the center.* What is actually happening in the sky and what appears to be happening as an observer from earth are often very different. Keeping that in mind, let’s go over some important definitions to know:
Sidereal orbital period (cycle): The number of earth days that a planet takes to make one full orbit around the sun (as observed from the sun). For instance, Venus orbits the sun about every 225 earth days.
Synodic orbital period (cycle): The number of earth days that a planet takes to reappear at the same point in the sky, as observed from earth. For instance, it takes Venus almost 584 earth days to return to the same place in the sky.
Conjunction: when any planet is in the same place in the sky as the sun, as observed from earth. o Inferior conjunction: when any planet aligns in the same place in the sky as the sun and it is in front of the sun, as observed from earth. o Superior conjunction: when any planet aligns in the same place in the sky as the sun and it is behind the sun, as observed from earth.
Venus and the pentagram**
As I said in the example above, it takes Venus almost 584 days to reappear in the same spot in the sky as observed from earth. So, let’s say that you are looking up at the night sky in your backyard at 10 pm and Venus is an inch to the left of your big pine tree. In about 584 days, go out in your backyard again and it’ll be in the same place at the same time of night. This is called the synodic cycle (period) of Venus.
Venus conjuncts the sun twice during every synodic cycle: once as inferior (in front of the sun), and once as superior (behind the sun). The inferior conjunction is typically considered the beginning of Venus’ synodic cycle.
This 584 day cycle feeds into a larger 8 year cycle. At the beginning of each synodic period of Venus, the earth, Venus, and the sun are aligned. It takes 8 years for Venus, the earth, and the sun to align 5 times. If you were to trace a line behind earth and Venus as they run around and meet across the sky 5 times, you would see this symbol:
A five pointed star, frequently referred to as a pentagram. Now, none of these numbers are perfectly even. It’s not 584 days, but more like 583.92 days, for instance. So when Venus comes back to repeat the approximately 8 year cycle, the beginning point has drifted just a touch. But it’s nearly perfect.
What does it mean that Venus traces a pentagram in the sky? Ultimately, whatever you want it to mean.
It is difficult to trace just how the symbol of the pentagram and the spiritual or astrological meaning of Venus became connected, or if there is any historical evidence that any peoples have connected them together at all, other than the observation of this shape it traces in the sky. The pentagram is a 5 pointed star that has been seen and used in dozens of various cultures and religions, from Paganism to Christianity, all throughout history. It is and has been a significant symbol throughout the ages and has represented ideas such as perfection, the symbol of the human being with arms & legs outstretched, health, good fortune, protection, the five wounds of Christ, the four elements plus spirit, and it contains the golden ratio.
Symbols mean what you want or need them to mean. In my studies, I have seen (as I'm sure many of you have) the same symbols and stories repeated in various cultures through time, each containing the core of the old and an emergence of a new story that speaks to the present culture. They are common themes central to the human experience such as stories of sacrifice, quests, and saviors or heroes.
In my opinion, any symbol or story that has lasted so long and morphed into so many meanings has embedded itself in the unbroken thread of human mystery and deserves reverence. The fact that the pentagram has had so many meanings seems to me to heighten its significance instead of diluting it. Its beauty and inspiration is available to anyone who wants to weave another story about it into the fabric of time and into the story of their own life.
*Most forms of astrology are geocentric, meaning they place earth in the middle as the observer. However, a few forms of astrology do not, such as heliocentric astrology which puts the sun at the center.
**Sometimes a distinction is made, especially by neo-pagans, between a pentagram and a pentacle. A pentagram is a 5 pointed star. A pentacle is a 5 pointed star enclosed in a circle.
For further study
http://www.lunarplanner.com/HCpages/Venus.html (great animated graphics of the pentagram as well as lots of information and musing on harmonics such as the 8:5 ratio)