The Astrology Podcast
Transcript of Episode 412, titled:
With Chris Brennan and guest Demetra George
Episode originally released on August 12, 2023
Note: This is a transcript of a spoken word podcast. If possible, we encourage you to listen to the audio or video version, since they include inflections that may not translate well when written out. Our transcripts are created by human transcribers, and the text may contain errors and differences from the spoken audio. If you find any errors then please send them to us by email: email@example.com
Transcribed by Andrea Johnson
Transcription released August 16th, 2023
Copyright © 2023 TheAstrologyPodcast.com
CHRIS BRENNAN: Hey, my name is Chris Brennan, and you’re listening to The Astrology Podcast. Joining me today is Demetra George and we’re gonna be talking about the myth of “The Descent of Inanna” and how it’s connected with the cycle of Venus retrograde. So, hey, Demetra. Thanks for joining me today.
DEMETRA GEORGE: Hey, Chris. Yeah, this is fun. We’ve been talking about some of this over this past week, and I’m glad we’re having a chance to discuss it more thoroughly.
CB: Yeah, so this is something that’s come up over the past few weeks. Because part of the premise is that Inanna was one of the most revered and popular goddesses in ancient Mesopotamia, and she was a goddess of love and fertility, but also a goddess of war. And you’ve given lectures on Inanna before. I remember attending a lecture of yours back in 2005 where you talked about how this ancient myth of “The Descent of Inanna” was connected with the Venus retrograde cycle. And what was interesting, recently, that both you and I noticed and a lot of other astrologers noticed, is that on July 21 the Barbie movie was released, and that was the same day that Venus stationed retrograde. And at that time, a couple days later, there was an article being passed around by a writer named Meg Ellison who pointed out that there was actually a bunch of striking parallels with the myth of Inanna in the Barbie movie, which it wasn’t clear that they were deliberate but they may have just come up accidentally. So I thought that we could talk about all of those topics today to see how it’s all intertwined in some weird and kind of interesting way.
DG: Right. It’s a fascinating premise that we’re going to embark on here. On one hand, the myth of Inanna speaks about her descent to the underworld and her return, and within that, the nature of her relationship with her husband, Dumuzi. But that myth of the dying and resurrected goddess or god was an ancient myth that manifested in many different cultures using different deities, and many cultures had different versions of that. And so, on one hand, it’s an archetypal story, but there are specific characteristics to the Inanna myth in particular that seemed to be reflected in the Barbie movie. So we’re trying to hold the vision that it’s both a larger story than only Inanna and yet many of the particulars are right there with Inanna’s story.
CB: Yeah. And I guess part of the nature of archetypes is sometimes they bubble up in culture and transcend different times and different cultures and show up independently in different ways. So let me read the article, since it gives the premise. I’ll just read the intro of the article ‘cause it outlines it pretty clearly. And I should mention—since we’re gonna be talking about the Barbie movie and some of the story—that there will be spoilers. So if anybody hasn’t seen it yet, and you want to avoid spoilers, you should probably watch the movie first before listening to this, if you care about that. But if you don’t care about spoilers then listen on. All right, so here is the article. It was published on a website called wildhunt.org, The Wild Hunt: Pagan News and Perspectives. And it was published by a writer named Meg Ellison on July 23, 2023—so a couple of days after the movie came out—and it’s titled “‘Barbie’ is the new Inanna.” I’ll just read the opening paragraph.
She says, “Once upon a time there was a beautiful goddess-queen who became obsessed with thoughts of the underworld and decided that she had to see it for herself to understand the inexorable mystery that draws all living things towards their death. She succumbs to the same end as all living things. Yet help reaches her, and she escapes back to her unpleasant and lovely realms unscathed but changed by her experience. Upon her return, she discovers her lover has taken her throne, covered himself in her glory, and upended her kingdom. She must take it back from him, and exchange him for her own presence in the Underworld as no one is allowed to escape death The goddess-queen in question here is Inanna, [the] ancient Sumerian fertility goddess and principal character in the first story written by an author who signed her name in human history. Two thousand years before the common era, a woman named Enheduanna committed to clay tablets the story of traveling to the underworld. This story has many versions, many translations, and the original meanings are somewhat obscure to us across the gulf of time. The most recent version of this story is Greta Gerwig’s new film, Barbie.”
So that’s the opening of the article. It’s just this amazing article. And I wanted to give a shoutout to that writer, Meg Ellison, ‘cause the rest of the article is just brilliant where she just shows some of the parallels with the Barbie movie. But two of the most striking of course are the opening, where you have this goddess-type character who’s living in this idyllic world, and then she starts thinking of death basically, which is true in both the Barbie movie and the Inanna myth. And then also some of the other parallels later, especially the coming back and finding that her lover had usurped her kingdom, which was also very striking in both stories. So where should we start with all of that, in terms of talking about some of the parallels? Should we start with talking about Inanna and some of those things?
DG: Yeah, let’s do a little thing on Inanna. There have been a number of academic and astrological suggestions that the cycle of the planet Venus—which the ancient Mesopotamians had studied very carefully from at least the 2nd-3rd millennium BCE—we have both artistic and textual evidence that the story of Inanna is a metaphor for the cycle of the planet Venus who they identified with Inanna in her direct and retrograde motion. And what was so fascinating was that the release of the movie Barbie happened on the Venus retrograde and that one of the critical points in the story of Inanna is her descent to the underworld, and in the cycle of Venus, the retrograde motion starts her descent. And so, we’ve wondered, was this deliberate? Probably not. I don’t see—even if the writer of the movie was aware of the Venus-Inanna parallel—that she had any control of when there would be the US release. And even if she could have convinced the distributors and producers to use astrology to time that, that’s very unlikely. So it’s just an expression of the incredible synchronicity and a beautiful manifestation of a totally popular and well-seen movie about Barbie’s descent to the underworld that would happen on the Venus retrograde that classically is linked within Inanna’s descent to the underworld.
CB: Right. The synchronicities are crazy.
CB: Here’s the chart, for example, for July 21, 2023, and we see Venus there at 28 Leo. And within 24 hours of that, she switches to stationary retrograde, and then turns around at 28° Leo and goes retrograde for the next 40 days and 40 nights. So the movie was released literally right on the Venus retrograde at 28° of Leo. And as I did research for this—which I talked about more extensively in a podcast with Nick Dagan Best on my Patreon—I did some some research and went back and found out that Greta Gerwig herself, who was the writer as well as the director of the film, she was actually born on the day of a Venus retrograde as well, when Venus stationed retrograde in Virgo on August 4, 1983. So we can see Venus stationing here at 9° of Virgo. And not only was she born on the day that Venus stationed, but also it’s the same eight-year synodic cycle; ‘cause Venus repeats its retrogrades every eight years in the same sign minus 2°. So this was one of those increments of eight years, 2023 relative to 1983. So that’s kind of crazy and not accidental. And then something else I noticed recently—
DG: Right. It’s like unbelievably believable.
CB: Yeah. To make it even weirder, this book titled, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer, by Diane Wolkstein and Samuel Noah Kramer, this was one of the first books that really published the full myth of ‘The Descent of Inanna’, and it’s the main reference book that most scholars have drawn on over the course of the past 40 years for talking about this myth, and it’s influenced a lot of the contemporary discussions about it. And guess what—this book, according to Amazon and according to Google—was released on August 3, 1983, which not only was within days of Venus stationing retrograde, but also that was within a day of Greta Gerwig being born. So she was actually born almost the day that this myth was published in the first place in one of its most popular modern forums, which, again, is just another crazy bit of synchronicity.
DG: Exactly. So we have the release of the book, the birth date of Greta Gerwig being virtually the same with the Venus retrograde signature, and the Venus retrograde being the day on which the Barbie film was released in the US.
CB: Right. Yeah, that’s just um crazy. And then the last bit of Venus retrograde craziness that ties Barbie in with it is that Barbie was released in 1959. And I went back and I was reading a biography about this, and it said that Barbie herself came out in March. She was first debuted at a toy fair in March of 1959, but initially the launch wasn’t a success and the founder was really depressed and disappointed that it wasn’t received well largely by the businesses she was trying to sell it to, like Sears and other ones that were sort of male-dominated businesses that didn’t think there would be a market for an adult doll that was marketed to kids, so the founder was disappointed. But then later that summer, through advertising and marketing and word of mouth and other things, Barbie became wildly popular, and that summer of 1959 was when Venus went retrograde in Virgo and Leo, which is the same retrograde cycle that the 1983 retrograde was under when Greta Gerwig was born, and it was the same retrograde cycle under which the Barbie movie was eventually released in 2023. So Barbie herself is also tied in with this Venus retrograde in Leo cycle going all the way back to 1959.
DG: Right. So there we are. And that might be a good time to show the correspondences between the Inanna story and the Venus cycle itself, so that our listeners have, besides just saying, “Oh, Venus retrograde this and that,” they see it within a larger cosmological and mythological context.
CB: Yeah. All right.
CB: So let’s get into talking about Inanna and talking about the myth. So should we jump right into the myth itself?
DG: Well, let’s just set the place of Sumeria being in the ancient Near East where present-day Southern Iraq is now more or less, just so people can visualize it geographically. And this is one of the earliest civilizations, it’s sometimes called the ‘cradle of civilization’, and this is where we see the ‘invention’ of writing that occurred with these little notches on baked clay tablets. And some of the earliest pieces of writings on the tablets were not only their myths and “The Descent of Inanna”—those hymns of Inanna were among the earliest literature that was inscribed on these tablets—but this is also the same time that we have the first astrological evidence of astronomer-priests looking to the skies, seeing the movements of planets that they believed were one of the various manifestations of their gods, and writing down what their movement was and then making correlations to the events that they saw on Earth. So we have in this time period, where the myth of Inanna arose, not only the cradle of Western civilization, there are other things going on in the Eastern civilizations, but we’ll keep our focus on Mesopotamia. Not only was it the cradle of that but it was the origin, the seedbed of Western astrology. And those two factors we have to hold in our minds simultaneously.
CB: This is the very, very earliest strata of Western astrology, like the very earliest origins going back to 2000 to 3000 BCE.
DG: Right, exactly.
DG: And even before we had evidence of writing there were artistic depictions of their goddess Inanna shown, and her symbol was the eight-pointed star and the five-pointed star. And five and eight are very important numbers in Venus’ synodic cycle and synodic return cycle. And do you want to say just a couple words about that, or we can get to that later?
CB: No, I think this would be a good opportunity to do that and just reiterate that. So we talked about this a little bit more extensively in the Venus retrograde episode I did in June with Nick Dagan Best and Patrick Watson. But just to show a diagram from that—in terms of the eight-pointed star and the eight-year cycle, what you have to know is just that Venus will go retrograde in roughly the same signs of the zodiac approximately every eight years. So, for example, Venus is going retrograde in Leo from July to September 2023, during the summer, in the northern hemisphere in 2023. And if you go back eight years and you look at an ephemeris, or if you just cast a chart for the same timeframe of July through September of 2015, you’ll see that Venus also went retrograde in Leo back then in 2015 as well. And if you go eight years before that you’ll see that Venus also went retrograde in Leo back in 2007, eight years before 2015. And it just keeps going back in time in these eight-year increments where you’ll have this repetition over and over again every eight years. So that’s one of the reasons that eight-year thing is such a dependable timing technique with Venus retrogrades, and you can actually see repetitions of events happening in eight-year increments as a result of that in astrology. It’s incredibly striking then that in this super early phase with the Goddess Inanna that was associated with Venus that they actually made her symbol an eight-pointed star.
DG: Right. Exactly, exactly.
CB: So here’s one depiction of that from Mesopotamia that shows the Sun and the Moon and Venus up in the top left-hand corner, and you can see the eight-pointed star that represented Venus. And the assumption is that that eight-pointedness refers to the synodic cycle of these eight-year repetitions of the Venus retrogrades.
DG: Right. So we can set out an assumption that as early as 3000 BCE the ancient Sumerians had already studied and understood the cycle of Venus, particularly with the eightfold quality, and put that in their art alongside the images of the goddess a good five-six-seven hundred years before the first writing was set down. They’re already probably making correlations but they started writing those correlations down between the movements of the planets and events on Earth.
CB: Yeah, yeah, which is just the basic premise of astrology. They started noticing this property of nature where when certain things would happen in the sky, certain things would happen on Earth at the same time. But then, by extension, also they probably started noticing that when the same things happened in the sky in eight-year increments there would be a similar repetition on Earth every eight years, especially during the Venus retrogrades. And eventually they started writing these things down or passing them on as part of an oral tradition through statements about what had happened and records of it, but also probably through stories.
DG: Yes. Okay, so moving closer to speaking about Inanna, on one hand, we can tell the story of Inanna simply, but what I’d also like to do is put out a notion that has an idea that has been floating around the astrological community for at least 30 years here and there. I first became aware of it and was teaching it in the 1990s, and I think it was in 2005 that you heard the talk that I gave at that particular time.
DG: And so, what we’re going to present right now is not discovered right now but it’s been part of the background discussion among astrologers for a number of decades. And one of the early people to talk about it was Ronnie Gale Dreyer in her book, Venus: The goddess and the Planet, but it was also in circulation earlier than Ronnie. And we discovered last night—it appears in some academic publications as well that even predate that—that they were associating the Inanna stories and astral myth to be connected with Venus.
CB: Yeah, it seemed like there were citations going back to the 1970s and ‘80s. And it seems like a common agreed-upon thing in some of the academic scholarship at this point that the myth of ‘The Descent of Inanna’ was tied in with the astronomical cycles and visibility of Venus.
DG: Yes. So I’m going to say Venus/Inanna here. Inanna was known as the goddess of love and the fertility of the land in her Evening Star appearance. and she was known as the goddess of battle in war in her Morning Star appearance; and Venus’ general visibility in the skies was either in the west as an Evening Star or in the east as a Morning Star. And so, that understanding was there early on and the Evening Star appearance was this love and peace and harmony and the Morning Star was battle and war and assertiveness. And the story of Inanna was that she was the Queen of Heaven and of Earth, and as a young woman it became time for her to marry. And she was presented with two alternatives, one was the farmer for whom she had affections, but her brothers and father said, “No, no, no. You actually want to marry the shepherd Dumuzi,” and she was persuaded to make that choice, and they became married.
And there was this celebration of their marriage that was part of what would become in ritual the sacred marriage rite. And one of the ideas is that because she was the goddess of not only love but of the fertility of the land, that if the goddess Venus/Inanna was satisfied and loved, and fulfilled in love and sexually happy, then likewise the crops of the Earth would flourish in growth. And so, Inanna’s Venusian well-being was what was critical in Sumeria having an economy of grain production that led to having prosperity and food to feed the people. So those two elements of Inanna were totally intertwined.
CB: That’s really interesting.
CB: As I was reading more about this over the past two weeks, I was understanding better how, one, in these early agrarian societies, growing crops and food, on the one hand, was part of sustaining the population. But also, if you had an overabundance, if you had extra crops lying around once you met the basic needs of the populace, if there was an excess then you could sell those off or trade them, and then there would be extra wealth and prosperity as well.
CB: So there’s that aspect of it, but also that they were directly linking or making a parallel between human fertility and the fertility of the land and sort of treating those two things as intertwined or one in the same symbolically.
DG: Yes. And then this is much, much later, we get Venus as the ruler of Taurus (the productivity and fertility of land and money and economic prosperity) and Venus as the ruler of Libra (having to do with relationship and union with the other). So we see these 2,000-year-later planetary assignments of Venus to zodiacal signs that wouldn’t be articulated till way into the future from the story. Already the qualities associated with Venus are well-developed in what Inanna represented, the significations of Inanna. So Inanna gets married, they have a sacred marriage between the king and Inanna. And there are indications that in the centuries afterwards, each year when Venus became an Evening Star and first made her rise in the western skies in the evenings and rose, this was the goddess of love shining down from the heavens, and that it was a time when animals should start coupling and people should start coupling. And the king and the high priestess would have a ceremonial union—whether it was literal or symbolic is up to debate—and then this would ensure the fertility of the land.
And as the planet Venus rises higher in the western sky for the next 180 days after her initial evening rise, Inanna comes into her full glory and power, and she matures from a young girl to a goddess-queen in her own right. And one could surmise, if we’re looking for astrological interpretation, that this represents Venus in her phase as Evening Star—direct in motion, moving relatively fast, gaining in elevation—of having a more ‘lovely, loving, peaceful, harmonious, cooperative, supporting union with the other’ orientation. And as she reaches her height of power, being at the height of her creativity and productivity that’s supported by her connection with another. Okay?
CB: Sure. Would this be a good time to show the diagram?
DG: Yeah, that would be wonderful to have the diagram as an aside while we’re speaking.
CB: Okay. So this is the diagram, for those watching the video version, which depicts the synodic cycle of Venus. Which ‘synodic cycle’ means its relationship to the Sun and how the different phases in the relationship to the Sun actually dictate the different parts of Venus’ overall cycle of appearance, as well as its movements direct or retrograde, and its speed fast or slow. So the starting point that we’re talking about here is coming out of the conjunction with the Sun, when Venus is direct, down at the bottom of the diagram, which is marked zero, and going into ‘number one’, which is when Venus makes her evening rise, where she becomes visible as a star on the western horizon, just after sunset in the evenings. So this is a diagram that you and I and Paula Belluomini designed. So a shoutout to our graphic designer Paula for putting this together based on Demetra’s specifications.
DG: Yes. And thank you, Paula, for all your wonderful work and being available last minute to do this.
DG: And I should just be making an aside here. There’s a lot—keep the diagram up, Chris, if you can.
DG: There’s a lot of discussion in our community of should the cycle begin at the superior conjunction or the inferior conjunction; there are reasons given for both. But for this story I have chosen to put ‘number one’ at the evening rise because this is where Inanna is a young girl and she gets married, and this is where the story begins. So then we’ve moved up to ‘point two’ on this diagram, which is right at the height of this curve where Venus has reached her highest elevation in the western sky at night at around 48°. Some cycles it’s 47, 46. Each cycle is a little bit variable but this is the average. And at that point, she hears that her brother-in-law Nergal, who lives in the underworld with her sister Ereshkigal who’s the Queen of the Underworld, that he’s died, and she thinks that she should go down there to attend his funeral rites.
CB: Right. So this is where—in terms of the specific myth of Inanna or what’s called “The Descent of Inanna” into the underworld—where it starts, where it opens saying that she set her mind on the underworld or the great below. So the very beginning of the Sumerian myth says, “From the great heaven she set her mind on the great below. From the great heaven the goddess set her mind on the great below. From the great heaven Inanna set her mind on the great below. My mistress abandoned heaven, abandoned Earth, and descended to the underworld. Inanna abandoned heaven, abandoned Earth, and descended to the underworld.” So that’s why, for our purposes in trying to connect where in Venus’ cycle, in your interpretation, it would begin you and I both agree basically that the story of the descent begins at Venus’ maximum elongation, and then especially when she stations and turns retrograde.
DG: Yeah. Right. The idea of the descent begins at that point.
DG: And it takes her a while to get it together to actually embark upon her journey, but the idea that I should go on this journey happens.
DG: And we might all reflect upon situations in our own lives where our life is going really great, we have a wonderful relationship, that relationship is stable enough that our creative energy can be used for other creative projects that we’re doing that are flourishing. And then there are those first uncomfortable feelings like, “Is this all there is? Is there something else I could be doing? I wonder about this thing over there? I wonder what that would be like that I could do instead of what I’m doing?” And so, it also internally marks the curiosity for the unknown, that something other than what you have that’s like really good. It’s like if it’s not broken like don’t start tinkering with it. But there are many times when our lives are not broken but our impulses are aroused to start moving towards something else.
DG: And this is the point at which Inanna finds herself as she considers the trip.
CB: Right. Also, in which a person sometimes is living in the height of one’s life and having a good life and being at the height of youth or prosperity or other things, but then there’s like an intrusion of something else and of thoughts of something negative. Like the most negative thing for most mortals is contemplation of death. And that’s what was so interesting in the Barbie movie.
DG: Yeah. Right, exactly.
CB: The whole opening of the movie is she’s living in this paradise where every day is like the best day, and she just hangs out with her friends, and they’re having dance parties and stuff.
[first clip from Barbie trailer]
Barbie 2: “This is the best day ever.”
Barbie 1: “It is the best day ever. So was yesterday, and so is tomorrow, and every day from now until forever.”
[end of first clip from Barbie trailer]
CB: And then all of a sudden she’s in the middle of a dance party and she says—what does she say? She says, “Hey, do you guys ever think about dying?”
[second clip from Barbie trailer]
Barbie 1: “Do you guys ever think about dying?”
[end of second clip from Barbie trailer]
CB: And everything screeches to a halt and then she’s like, “Okay, never mind. I was just joking.” But this point in the story is contemplation of that or even of tragedy or something along those lines.
DG: Right. And as a woman, and with many women in the audience, as she thought about her death, what we found very funny was her feet went flat, so she couldn’t wear her high heels anymore, and she began to see the horror of cellulite on her legs. And this evoked this recognition and laughter of so many women in the audience. “Yeah, we totally get the point in our own aging when those things start to happen.” So in preparation for her journey, back to Inanna in preparation for her journey, do you want to say something else? I want to talk about her decking herself out.
CB: Could you explain—if we could back up just a second—this initial part, astronomically, of the cycle?
DG: Oh, yeah.
CB: What we’re talking about in this part of the cycle—after evening rise, when she makes her first appearance on this entire stage up to maximum elongation—what’s happening at that point is Venus is appearing in the night sky as literally the brightest star in the sky.
CB: There’s no other object that’s brighter than Venus besides the Moon and the Sun during the day, but Venus literally is like the brightest star at that point, right?
DG: Right. And she’s rising higher and higher in the sky until her elevation is around 48° from the horizon. And anyone, if you’re looking at your chart—what I’m gonna say now is the simple version, it’s a little bit more complex, but just leave it for this at the moment. If you have an Evening Star Venus, where Venus is behind the Sun, and there’s a difference of 48° between your Sun and your Venus, then when you were born Venus was at or near her maximum height in the sky as Evening Star in her full power and glory, as the woman who was not only creative, but a woman who was in love and loved and supported by that relationship.
CB: Right. And in an actual chart, if you’re looking at a chart—here’s the chart for July 21, 2023, and Venus never gets more than a maximum of 48° away from the Sun in the zodiac. So when she was about to station retrograde, if you just animate the chart and move it to sunset, which is when the Sun hits the degree of The Descendant, it then sets underneath the horizon; and right after sunset it becomes dark out. So what happens right after sunset is then all of a sudden the stars become visible in the sky again at night, after being invisible during the day, and one of the first stars that you would see at this point shortly after sunset would be Venus, which will always be right over there on the horizon shortly after sunset on the western horizon.
DG: Right. But at the height of her elevation she will be around 48° distant from the Sun. And this is like 50 days between her greatest elevation and before she turns retrograde, so it takes a while for her to get from her peak point to when she turns retrograde. So back to the preparation period, she has thoughts of going there to the underworld, and she decks herself out in all of her symbols of power. She’s going to go as the Queen of Heaven on this great journey, and she has to look like a queen. And she has a headdress on and lapis lazuli beads around her neck, and these egg-shaped beads on the tip of each breast in a breastplate, and a ring, and a gown. And then the part that both Chris and I, our eyes pop wide open on, was her measuring rod and measuring line by which she would measure the heavens and use the measurement of the heavens as a tool for building temples that were in alignment with the stars and constellations in the sky. And we’ll jump into this with Enheduanna in a little bit, but let’s get through Venus retrograde and then we can go back.
DG: So Venus decks herself out, and from that high point she starts getting lower in the sky each night. She’s still in the western sky, she’s at her highest point, but she starts going down. And then we have the point about 50 days later that she stands still and turns retrograde, and 14 days after that she sits in the evening sky and we can no longer see her, and that is her descent. Now for people who are born during this period, starting gradually from post-maximum elongation, going down to when she stations retrograde, right up into the heliacal set, from a psychological point of view she hears this call into the unconscious realm of emotions. It’s something beside the bright, happy world that Barbie has been living in; you know, ‘every day is a Barbie day’. And Barbie has the idea she has to go to LA, right? Which then becomes associated with an underworld reality, and she’s curious.
And so, in psychological interpretations of this phase, I’ve read astrologers posit that it’s a curiosity with a hidden world of sexual mystery and taboo. Or sometimes you’re unwillingly abducted from the upper world of safety and security and normality where you have to confront demons of fear or suffering. Or you have interests that are not in alignment with social norms and it’s difficult to engage in nice, normal relationships, and you’re forced to acknowledge your own uniqueness and go into that world that is often considered not only unknown, but a little bit taboo, a little bit frightening because there’s a call to connect with the deepest part of your soul, the truth of who you are; on an inner level, the truth of what you desire and feel. And this is also part of this descent process for people born from the time of the retrogrades of the heliacal set—that these can be the emotions that they experience internally about their sexuality, their self-worth, their esteem, their ability to socialize with the norm of the population; that, for people born there, is a periodic and returning theme during the course of their lives. Or as we go through this sequence like every 18 months, everyone has the opportunity to experience that during this phase of the cycle. It’s beginning the descent but you haven’t stepped off the cliff into the abyss quite yet; that happens at the heliacal set.
DG: We can look at the diagram and you can comment.
CB: Yeah, so at this point we’re at the heliacal set. And what that is astronomically is after Venus goes retrograde at a certain point, it gets close to conjoining the Sun. When Venus is retrograde, the Sun is still moving direct, and at a certain point they’ll meet up at the same degree in the zodiac, and they’ll make a conjunction while Venus is retrograde and moving backwards. And when Venus gets too close to the Sun, it goes from being visible in the night sky to all of a sudden being invisible and disappearing.
CB: So this was sometimes referred to as being ‘under the beams’ of the Sun in later Hellenistic astrology, but it was associated with this period of invisibility basically, which then in the myth of Inanna seems to be associated with her actually going to and entering the underworld. And some of those themes of the underworld and what the underworld represents archetypally or symbolically seem to be very much connected with this part of the Venus retrograde, the very center point of the Venus retrograde, which are these themes that have to do with a ‘dark night of the soul’ or exploring concepts of darkness, whatever that means, in different ways, or things that are hidden or private or internal.
DG: Yeah. And if we could go back to the diagram for a moment, I’d just like to say between the retrograde station and the heliacal set is a period of about 14 days for Venus, and in the myth Inanna starts entering into the gates preceding the underworld. And her sister Ereshkigal, when she realizes Inanna’s coming says, “Block all the gates. and when she arrives at each one, open them only a crack. And before you let her in, make her give up and set aside one of her symbols of power.” And so, at each one of the gates she has to relinquish her headdress, her beads, her breastplate, her gown, her measuring rod. And in the sky, as she gets closer to the horizon, we see her become dimmer and dimmer and dimmer right before she disappears under the Sun. And so, um that is the prelude. And, again, if we personalize it for people born during this phase—
CB: I don’t think we introduced the concept of—well, you’re talking about the natal connection with that.
CB: Is that something you want to explain or go into?
DG: Well, I have been talking about that generally.
CB: I just didn’t know. People can look up in their birth charts, or they can use Astro-Seek to look up—
DG: Yes, they can use Astro-Seek to look it up. And we can explain that in a little bit after we get through the story. We can just put up Astro-Seek and show them how it works.
CB: I mean, maybe it would be better to explain all of that at that point then. Or you’re going to do every part of the cycle?
DG: I don’t think so. Because people forget what happens with each phase once you start giving them. But I said at the maximum height, people are at their power and glory, they’re fully supported by another, they’re in their thing, and then their curiosity brings them into making the descent. And as they get there they find, “Oh, I was gonna go on this grand adventure. But now, all of a sudden, I’m losing my power, the status I once had; the way I was viewed by society. I’m losing that entire identity.” And there’s the feeling of being exposed and undefended, vulnerable, misunderstood, not able to assert one’s authority in the way that one had, and it can lead to great fear and uncomfortability. And on the positive level of that interpretation is also the possibility that if you divest yourself of all your posturing, your pretensions, your designer clothes, your hair color, your conventional attitudes, you can become totally transparent to another person at the deepest level of your being and you can accept that from another as you start removing the outer adornments of one’s persona. And so, these are some of the issues that happen psychologically at this particular stage of the cycle. Then she disappears, and she’s in the underworld.
CB: The things I wanted to mention with the gates that I thought was really interesting about this story is that it actually says repeatedly in the myth that there’s seven gates that Inanna has to pass through in order to enter the underworld. And I thought that was really interesting that there’s seven gates because in later Hellenistic astrology, there becomes a theme of after a person dies that their soul ascends through the planetary spheres, and it has to give up seven qualities from each of the planets before it goes back to the stars.
DG: Yeah. Right.
CB: And I can’t help but think of this as like an earlier precursor to that, like 2,000 years before Hellenistic astrology. But it’s interesting because, again, it’s like dying and going to the underworld and then giving up these seven qualities. And I wonder if that was connected with the seven planets or what that was connected with.
DG: Right. There are a number of different theories floating out there by various astrologers, but explaining them is more than I’m able to do justice to.
DG: So letting people know that they can scout around and see what has been said.
DG: So she gets to the underworld, her sister Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld, is obviously not at all happy that Inanna has come to her realm. And she says, “Okay,” she’s now stripped naked, “bring her low before entering the throne room where I’m sitting.” And so, Inanna, from being like at the height of her power and glory and decked out in all of her finery has nothing, and she’s pushed on the ground and brought into Ereshkigal’s throne room. And Inanna makes her sister rise from the throne and then scrambles up and sits on the throne herself.
DG: And this is seen as a moment of total arrogance, or there may be other interpretations of what her sister Ereshkigal feels. But she gives her the ‘eye of death’, so to speak, the seven judges show no mercy, and she is turned into a corpse and she’s hung on a tree or a rod, like on the meat hook to rot. And I’ve heard it said, “Inanna, you come to the underworld, you have to die like everyone else. There is nothing special about you,” and so there Inanna is. And it can be the case at that exact conjunction, when Venus is retrograde and within the Sun—and this little interval lasts for about seven days total—that things that we’ve experienced in a romantic or sexual or other relationship feels like death, like we want to die, like someone has killed us. There’s just such pain and suffering and feelings of degradation or betrayal and total isolation; it can feel just awful. And yet always at that inferior conjunction it was always a time of initiation, where one literally did go through a death and the seeds of renewal, of being reborn as something else not defined by relationship with the other when we get to the morning star, and we’ll see how that unfolds. But we see when Barbie goes to LA it’s like no one thinks she’s special. And then at a certain point like she falls on the ground face-first. It was like she’s dead, right? Okay, like this is literally like Inanna’s moment of death. Do you remember it?
CB: She becomes mortal, and she has all of a sudden all these imperfections and everything’s going wrong, and everybody seems to hate her and treat her poorly. And then, yeah, at one point she just lies face first on the grass and wants to call it quits.
CB: Wants to give up.
CB: And that’s like the middle of the ‘dark night of the soul’.
DG: Exactly, exactly.
CB: Which is connected here with the retrograde conjunction between the Sun and Venus.
DG: Yeah. Meanwhile, before Inanna stepped into the underworld, to her faithful servant, Ninshubur—I said that correctly—she said, “Listen, if I don’t come back in a couple of days, go get help.” And so when she doesn’t return, her servant goes and entreats the different gods, “Inanna’s died in the underworld. You have to help her.” And several of the gods say no. If she had arrogance to think she could go to the underworld, that’s what happens to people, and she got what she deserved. But her father Enki realizes that if Inanna were to die the crops would not grow on the Earth and the world would become parched and barren and the people would die. And here we have reflections of the later Demeter and Persephone story. He said, “Okay, we have to do something about this. We can’t allow the world to die.” So he sends the water and food of life.
CB: And in the later Akkadian version of the story they really emphasize that even more in the story of Ishtar, which is like the later Akkadian version of Inanna. They emphasized that all procreation on the Earth stops when Inanna’s in the underworld. And not just like animals, but also humans and plants and everything else stop basically having sex or stop growing, and it leads to the world starting to die basically.
DG: Exactly, yeah. So that’s a reoccurring theme throughout so many world mythologies of this point in the cycle.
CB: Yeah. And it also very directly connects Venus with procreation and everything directly connected with it in terms of the astrological meaning at this early stage.
DG: So she’s allowed to be revived, she is allowed to be released but only on the condition that someone else takes her place. That’s the deal that they make. So let’s look at the diagram again. After seven days in the invisible realm, with Venus conjunct the Sun, she then makes her heliacal morning rise in the eastern sky early in the morning. We last saw her in the western sky in the evening, but now she shows up on the other side of the sky first thing in the morning. And initially, as she rises, she visually appears very faint; she’s not very bright yet. She’s still barely coming out of the rays of the Sun, and often there may be a reddish cast or glow to her. And in the myth they say that when she returns she’s battered, she’s bloody, she’s weak, but, hey, she survived and she has been reborn. And so, it’s that after being in a cataclysmic trauma where you thought somehow you were dead for sure, you find out that by some miracle you’ve survived and you’re crawling out of the rubble; you’re crawling out of the pit in which you had fell.
CB: Right. And astronomically at this point, this is after the retrograde conjunction with the Sun and that period of invisibility. Venus, which had been not visible in the night sky at all for like several days suddenly becomes visible again, but at this point she’s switched sides and she’s no longer visible in the evening, but instead all of a sudden she starts becoming visible in the mornings right before sunrise. And so, after descending into the underworld on the heliacal evening set side she emerges in the morning as a Morning Star right before the Sun, and this is connected with this emergence of her from the underworld in the myth.
DG: And so, what one might experience psychologically is, “Hey, I must be stronger than I thought. I made it right. I survived.” And there’s this newfound, first feelings of self-esteem that come from the realization of survival. Sometimes you’ve been really ill and you think you’re gonna die, everyone thinks you’ve died, but somehow you squeak through; and you’re not well yet but you’re well enough to know that you’re gonna get better. And the feeling of just joy and relief that suffuses you and confidence in your own ability to get through what seem to be unfeasible, that has been inculcated within one. And so, as she moves from her heliacal rise, then 14 days later about, she turns direct in motion, and now she feels strong enough to start racing back to her husband Dumuzi and letting him know, “Hey, I’m okay. This is great. I’m coming back to be with you.” And as she starts that journey the demons of the underworld who’ve been charged with finding her replacement are asking Inanna, “Hey, how about your servant? Can we take her to the underworld?” “No, no, no. She’s my faithful servant.” “Hey, can we take this other person that’s with you to the underworld?” “No, no, no. I need them.”
DG: And she keeps preserving the lives of those who have been loyal and supportive of her.
CB: The deal is that she can leave the underworld but she has to find a replacement.
DG: Yes, yes. And then she finally discovers her husband Dumuzi and he is having a grand old time, so to speak. He’s sitting on her throne, he’s lavishly clothed. He has all these slave girls entertaining him. It seems not only has he not missed her, but he didn’t do anything to try and find her or save her, and that he has taken over her position of power. So we might reflect back to the Barbie movie for a moment here, Chris, of when Barbie returns to Barbieland and finds Ken.
CB: Yeah, I mean, that’s one of the most striking parallels to me between the myth of Inanna and what happened in the Barbie movie. Barbie comes back from the real world, she gets back into Barbieland, but all of a sudden she finds out that Ken, in her absence, has taken over her kingdom and has completely remade it in his own hyper-masculine, patriarchal image basically. And her finding him on her throne, having taken over her kingdom, is just like an incredibly striking parallel with this 4,000-year-old myth.
DG: Right. And all of her Barbie emanations now groveling and serving Ken and his buddies.
CB: Yeah. Let me show that paragraph from the myth. So it says, “The demons followed her to the great apple tree in the plain of Kaluba.” And that, just as an aside, is another interesting thing about the Inanna myth. An earlier precursor to the myth is this whole story about a tree that is planted and about this serpent that’s associated with the tree, which is just like very clearly a much earlier parallel to the story in the Bible about there being the Garden of Eden and a tree with a snake in it. I was really just struck by that and struck by how a lot of these earlier Mesopotamian stories end up influencing and showing up in different ways later in the Bible. All right, so they follow her to the great apple tree in the plane of Kaluba, and it says, “There was Dumuzi clothed in a magnificent garment and seated magnificently on a throne.” Which is just really funny if you just think about Ken, when she gets back, is like dressed in this fur coat.
CB: He’s looking extravagant and ridiculous. It goes on and says, “The demons seized him there by his thighs. The seven of them poured the milk from his churns. The seven of them shook their heads; they would not let the shepherd play the pipe and flute before her.” And then it says, “Inanna, she looked at him; it was the look of death. She spoke to him; it was the speech of anger. She shouted at him; it was the shout of heavy guilt. How much longer? Take him away. Holy Inanna gave Dumuzi, the shepherd, into their hands.” So this is what happens in the story when she gets back. She sees him on her throne and she’s angry at him.
DG: Right. So I might ask some of our listeners if they’ve encountered a situation in their life where they’re rushing back to be reunited with their beloved after having survived an ordeal, and they find themselves totally abandoned and betrayed. There may be a flash of rage and anger and vengeance that overtakes them. And Inanna says to the demons, “Take him away,” and so he’s banished. And there are variations in the story here based on the different versions. But I just might want to stop a moment and talk for a moment about some of the qualities, the characteristics of Venus direct as the Morning Star.
CB: So at this point we’re at the direct station.
DG: We’re at the direct station as we’re moving towards the maximum elongation. And so, she starts moving forward at the direct station. But when she comes into her full power as the Goddess of Battle and War and assertiveness and taking control of the situation, I would guess that she would be closer to her maximum elongation because then she’s highest in the sky. And there’s some correlation between being higher in the sky and being more at the height of one’s power.
CB: Okay. Can I show what that looks like in the chart?
CB: Okay. ‘Cause it is important to relay this astronomically back to what people see in charts. So here’s again the day the Barbie movie was released, July 21, and we see Venus as an Evening Star because the Sun is at the Descendant and it has just set at night. And then Venus comes out as a bright star just after sunset and will be around the Descendant and around the 7th house for a period of time before Venus herself sets in the evening and becomes invisible. So if we move the chart forward—so I’m gonna advance the chart until we see in this Venus retrograde the Sun moving through Leo. Venus stations retrograde and begins moving backwards in Leo. She eventually gets close to the Sun and enters ‘under the beams’ and enters the underworld, the middle-point of the retrograde cycle. When Venus is exactly in the underworld is the conjunction with the Sun, which in this instance occurs at 20° of Leo on August 12.
And then what happens is after that conjunction she switches sides with the Sun, astronomically, and then eventually she she’s not appearing anymore in the evening. But instead, just before sunrise, later in August, we’ll see Venus appear as a Morning Star, where she’ll rise up over the Ascendant or over the eastern horizon just a little bit before sunrise in the morning as a bright star. And then the point that we’re at now in the story is Venus stationing direct eventually. She’ll station direct at 12° of Leo, and then eventually she’ll get even more distance from the Sun at her maximum elongation. And that’s the point you’re talking about right now where she’s as distant from the Sun as she can get and as bright as she can get as a Morning Star.
DG: Right. So then she spends 180 days as a Morning Star, and one might say that this is the time, when in Sumeria, Venus was the Goddess of Battle and War, and she’s fully in charge of her life. She has power as an autonomous individual rather than power that is supported by another. I was reading late last night a morning hymn to Inanna; it shows her as um dispensing justice. And every day the people would come to her with their concerns, and to the wicked she would punish them, and to those who were righteous she would give them blessings. And so, she is in a position of meeting out justice to both the worthy and the unworthy, and that’s the part of the autonomous, independent, self-contained qualities that are associated with Venus at her greater distances from the Sun direct in motion.
CB: Okay. Just to expand on that or clarify, it’s just that in Hellenistic astrology and later traditions, they made this distinction between an Evening Star being supposedly more feminine versus a Morning Star Venus being more masculine.
CB: And what we’re saying is we may see traces of that in the earlier Mesopotamian tradition where they’re treating Venus as sometimes having these qualities of being like a goddess of love and procreation and things like that, which may be connected with the Evening Star phase, but then there’s these other treatments of Venus of being a goddess of like war and justice that may be more connected with the Morning Star phase.
DG: Yeah. Yeah, the Sun was mythologically a god who oversaw oaths and ensured justice. And so, there’s definitely those qualities of Venus here. And a feminine archetype is the Amazon that has been linked not only to Venus in Aries, but Venus as a Morning Star. We could put that archetype there.
CB: Yeah, to put it in ‘Barbie’ terms, it seems like the Evening Star phase is the ‘standard’ Barbie or the ‘Margot Robbie’ beginning of the movie Barbie. But I saw this image recently of a doll that was a Barbie, but it was like put by an artist in the form of the Hindu goddess Kali—
CB: Which is like this warrior goddess who’s holding like a sword and a severed head and stuff like that, and that’s more the Morning Star phase of Venus.
DG: Off with his head.
DG: Also, the activism impulses and actions toward social activism and refusing to tolerate abusive relationships on multiple levels and taking a stand for that may also be qualities that are associated with this phase of Inanna/Morning Star Venus.
DG: Then what happens is Venus now starts from her maximum elongation at eight, she starts getting lower and lower in the sky. And as she approaches nine, here at about 10° distant from the Sun, she sits beneath the horizon, and she stays invisible this time for about 80 days. At the retrograde invisibility it was seven days from heliacal evening set to heliacal morning rise; now it’s 80 days. And during that time period she starts getting lonely. She slowly has a change of heart. “Well, maybe he wasn’t such a jerk after all. Maybe there were some good qualities about him. I’m sort of sad I’m all by myself. So what? I did all this stuff. I’m lonely and I don’t have anyone to sleep with or eat with or do things with or talk to.” And it’s that period of regret following sometimes the breakup of a relationship. Initially, ‘I’m done with it, get out of here,” and for a while you’re really strong in your newfound freedom and autonomy. And then there comes a time when you start getting kind of weepy and sad and distressed over the isolation you find yourself in.
And so, this starts a longer period of mourning for her lost love. It’s accompanied by Dumuzi’s sister who joins her, and sometimes this is called ‘lamentations’ that go in this stage, and then they get the help of a fly who tells them where Dumuzi is. And Inanna decrees that, “Okay, there’s a new deal. Dumuzi’s sister Geshthima has to spend half the year in the underworld and take his place, and the other half he can come back to the upper world and be my mate.” And so, this transition—back to the diagram for a brief moment, if we can look at it—is that at the end of the superior conjunction period to the Evening Star rise where Dumuzi comes back, Venus reappears as the Evening Star Goddess of Love. They are reunited and then they celebrate the sacred marriage and the cycle begins again. And, at the end Barbie has the fight with Ken and has him stay away, but in the end, she says, “Well, we can still be sort of friends. I don’t have to have girls’ night every night, right? There can be some Ken nights.” And so, there is that rapprochement to relationship and making space once again for Ken to be part of her life, and in a similar way for Inanna with Dumuzi.
CB: Yeah, that’s perfect. And astronomically there’s a really interesting piece here. And I think that’s connected also in terms of some of the relationship stuff because I saw this news article about why are there all these breakups that are happening this summer of all these different celebrities, so that even the news is picking up on it during the retrograde. And I think part of it has to do with when Venus is retrograde. The Sun and Venus, when they conjoin at the inferior conjunction, they’re actually moving in opposite directions. So that conjunction comes and goes relatively quickly, and there’s like this wrenching motion where they pass in completely opposite directions very fast.
And that’s almost astronomically/symbolically like a breakup, where two people are sort of being ripped apart; whereas when Venus and the Sun conjoin when Venus is direct, it’s actually more of this motion of two planets coming together and running forward in the zodiac and occupying the same space but doing it in tandem for a period of time, which is kind of what a relationship is if you think about it in time. It’s two people occupying the same space and time and deciding to move forward in unison at the same time for a period of their lives; and that’s kind of like the superior conjunction. And there’s something there that’s sort of embedded in this astronomically that I think may explain some of the relationship stuff, and it also may connect with things like the sacred marriage at the beginning of Inanna’s story and different things like that.
DG: Right, right. That’s brilliant. Thank you for those insights. And just to reemphasize for people, if you have Venus conjunct the Sun, and Venus is retrograde, it will always be at the inferior conjunction. And if you have Venus conjunct the Sun, Venus is direct, it will always be the superior conjunction. So that’s a really easy way for you to tell which Sun-Venus conjunction you have or what part of the cycle it is.
CB: Right. Yeah, so that is basically the connection. That’s both the story of Inanna—and the story itself seems to be connected with the Venus retrograde cycle—and then also the story of how it weirdly connects with the Barbie movie. And that was actually a debate I was having with Nick Dagan Best. Did Greta Gerwig, who wrote the script, have the myth of Inanna in mind when writing this? And he thought the answer was yes because it’s a pretty well-known story historically. But I keep watching interviews with Greta Gerwig, and people keep asking her questions about whether such-and-such was a reference to something. And while it obviously was a very deeply referential movie in many respects, especially referencing other films like 2001: A Space Odyssey at the beginning, I’ve seen her respond to certain questions where people are making connections and saying, “No, I didn’t actually make that connection. But that’s still very interesting and is compelling or striking even though I didn’t do that deliberately.” And I wouldn’t be surprised it could kind of go either way with this, but it’s not a given that she did do it deliberately. Because one of the things about archetypes is they kind of bubble up in culture repeatedly in different ways because they are archetypes and they exist out there as these sort of transcendent notions that blend into our reality sometimes.
DG: Right. Because she was born under a Venus retrograde there may be a part of her own Venus nature that is acutely aware and sensitive of this Venus/Inanna archetypal drama. Whether or not she knows that externally or not, on an inner level of psyche she is familiar with that.
CB: Yeah, that makes sense. So what is the premise? I always ask this question to different astrologers but they have a hard time coming up with something on the spot. But what is an archetype? It’s like a transcendent idea that comes forth in different ways into reality and culture at different periods. But because it exists out there as a pattern it’s something that does just show up in different cultures independently, not through direct influence.
DG: Generally, yes. But one of the ways I’ve understood it, probably using a Jungian definition, is that in the same way that every human has certain external features in common—we have two eyes, two ears, one mouth, 10 fingers—there are also internal structures in the mind that are common to all individuals. Almost like molds in which you cast bronze things in or cast clay things in there are these molds that exist in mental structures, and the contents inside these forms are myths and dreams and symbols and so on. And so, while everyone has the potentiality of all of the general forms, which particular ones arise in the course of a person’s life is something unique to each person. And this is where astrology, mythic astrology, plays into this, in my experience.
If you have a mythic deity like Venus at a prominent position when you were born conjunct your Sun or Moon or on one of the angles, then of the whole collective of possibilities that are potentially there through you that is the particular one that individualizes in your lifetime, in your lived experiences. And so, that’s one of the ways I see the connection between the potentiality of all archetypes—they’re common to all beings—and the particular ones that get expressed in a particular life; because we can’t do all things that are possible all at once for every person. And that’s like why the Greek dramatists were so powerful because they spoke to some of the basic scripts of the human condition. And in the same way you’ll have multiple theater groups, they all take the same play but they each give it their own flavor—flavor of costuming and setting, and what they emphasize, and how they bring it forth in interpretation—likewise we have these different dramas that are available to humans through which to live our lives and develop some consciousness, but we each give them our own particular flare and details.
CB: Right. One of my favorite examples is kind of like how you have Shakespeare’s version of Romeo and Juliet as a play but then in 1996, you have that movie that was by Baz Luhrmann or somebody who did like a modern version.
DG: Shakespeare in Love.
CB: Well, I was thinking of Romeo and Juliet.
DG: Oh, Romeo and Juliet.
CB: The one with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes where instead of swords, the different gangs had guns. But it still works archetypally and ends up being the same thing, but it’s just in a different presentation.
DG: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
CB: So there’s things like that. And also that same concept happens in different cultures where for some reason different cultures keep telling different versions of the same story, sometimes independently.
DG: Right. ‘Cause that story is a form that is common to all humans everywhere during all times.
CB: Right. And by extension and it’s not just—I’m hearing somebody right now in the back of my head saying, “Well, that’s because they heard the story from another.”
CB: But part of our premise here is that even if somebody was on a desert island isolated somewhere and they created a new civilization there, some of these archetypes and some of these dynamics of archetypal stories would still arise independently there, even if they hadn’t heard them from another culture because these are things that are somehow inherent in human culture or in the universe that will arise organically on their own.
DG: Precisely. I mean, that’s one way of making sense of what are archetypes, and I think it’s a good explanation. There might be others, but I think this is a good one that holds together.
CB: Yeah. And so, in astrology, one of its main attractions for us as astrologers is that it becomes a means of accessing the archetypal realm and seeing when different archetypes are operating, and being able to identify them both in natal charts, as well as in events and event charts. That’s really cool.
CB: So there was one other thing that came up that was really close parallel with the Barbie movie that I thought was interesting. And one of the things that was talked about in a lot of the literature I was reading about Inanna and her counterpart in the Akkadian tradition, which is the goddess Ishtar, is that there were a lot of like contradictory meanings for Inanna and Ishtar where they would signify one thing, but they would also signify its opposite sometimes; so there were a lot of contradictions that were inherent in the goddess. One of them that we’ve mentioned repeatedly is, on the one hand, Inanna was the Goddess of Love, but on the other hand, Inanna was also a Goddess of War, so that you have that ‘Evening Star’ and ‘Morning Star’ side to her. Do you remember what some of the other contradictory meanings or indications of Inanna were?
DG: Yeah, but I did want to point out what I had said to you earlier, that there is a statue or relief sculpture of Inanna/Ishtar that they called the ‘bearded’ Ishtar; and there was the goddess with her breasts depicted but she also had a beard. And this is sort of the integration of the male/female as dual aspects within one entity and sort of holds the Goddess of Love and the Goddess of War. There’s a word here that I don’t know of showing both qualities simultaneously.
CB: Yeah, and that was a really interesting one. There was an association with Inanna in the Mesopotamian tradition of associations with transgressing gender norms, and one passage talking about men becoming women and women becoming men. In one article I was reading they talked about celebrations of the goddess involved transgendered and transvestite cultic personnel. And in another paragraph it talks about some androgynous aspects of Inanna and it says, “The carnivalesque festivals of the goddess where associations when reversals of age species, status, and sex all came into play, when social rules were in abeyance, and were possible times of institutionalized license.”
DG: Is that like the Saturnalia in Roman times?
CB: Kind of, yeah.
DG: It was the same idea.
CB: So I found this amazing paragraph where this author sums it up, and I’m gonna read that now. It was by a Mesopotamian scholar named Joan Goodnick Westenholz in an article or a short chapter she wrote in a book titled, The Babylonian World, and the chapter title was “Inanna and Ishtar in the Babylonian World.” So this is basically her concluding paragraph, and I found it really striking. She says, “We have traced the development of the conception of Sumerian Inanna and her Akkadian counterpart, Ishtar, from their first appearance in the cuneiform records, and we’ve examined the diverse elements of the personality of the goddess. We have seen that her most archaic and basic aspect of astral dimorphism is the source of the ambiguities and contradictions in her character, including her apparent androgyny. In like manner, she held dominion over all polarity of behaviors, from capricious to caring, and represented both order and disorder, structure and anti-structure. Her bipolarity was founded on a natural phenomenon. The planet Venus appears twice in its course, once in the east and once in the west, as Morning and Evening Star. Her very mutability may have intrigued the ancient Mesopotamians and led to the conception of a Inanna/Ishtar as the one and only divine entity able to embody such opposing aspects.”
And I thought that was really striking because that’s the conclusion to this article about Inanna. But if you think back to the Barbie movie, the culmination of the Barbie movie was this dialogue or this speech by the figure who played the mother in the movie about the tensions that women constantly had to reconcile, reconciling these completely dueling opposite things that they were expected to do in society.
DG: Right. I remember that now.
CB: And it was really this crucial culminating moment about how hard that is, but how women constantly have to have one foot in both worlds.
CB: And that’s just a huge additional parallel here that I think was coming through in the archetype of Inanna um that appeared in the Barbie movie at another moment that’s worth thinking about.
DG: Right. I wish I could remember. It was a very long speech. Then as they tried to get all of the women to fight back and get their power back, parts of that speech were reiterated to women who are still in the subservient role to get them to say, “Hey, wake up you,” reminding them.
CB: Yeah, I think I just found it. Do you mind if I read it real quick?
DG: No, that would be good. I would love to have it refreshed. It went on for a number of sentences, but it really encapsulated the condition of being a woman in society.
CB: Yeah. And the actress’s name was America Ferrera who played Gloria in the movie. So the title of this article—I found it on townandcountrymag.com—is “Read America Ferrera’s Powerful Monologue in Barbie.” In the movie it says, “It is literally impossible to be a woman. You are so beautiful and so smart, and it kills me that you don’t think you’re good enough. Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong. You have to be thin, but not too thin. And you can never say you want to be thin. You have to say you want to be healthy, but [you also] have to be thin. [But] you have to have money, but you can’t ask for money because that’s crass. You have to be a boss, but you can’t be mean. You have to lead, but you can’t squash other people’s ideas. You’re supposed to love being a mother, but don’t talk about your kids all [of] the damn time. You have to be a career woman but also…be looking out for other people.”
“You have to answer for men’s bad behavior, which is insane, but if you point that out, you’re accused of complaining. You’re supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you’re supposed to be a part of the sisterhood. But always stand out and always be grateful. But never forget that the system is rigged. So find a way to acknowledge that but also always be grateful. You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line. It’s too hard! It’s too contradictory and nobody gives you a medal or says thank you! And it turns out in fact that not only are you doing everything wrong, but also everything is your fault. I’m just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don’t even know.” So that’s it. And obviously me reading it as a man does not have the same power that it had in the movie, so I apologize for that ahead of time. But at least I was really struck by that being in some ways the culmination of the movie or one of the culminations; there were many things.
DG: As we get to that, as we move toward that point, yes.
CB: Yeah, and just that this other Mesopotamian scholar—that’s literally the main thing that she focused on in Inanna and how she concluded her article talking about the contradictions of the goddess, and, yeah, that we see some of this tied in with the basic astronomical difference of that Morning Star versus Evening Star phase of Venus in trying to reconcile those two opposing realms.
DG: Right. And always the integration of opposites, you know, dark and light, the yin and the yang, and the wholeness. And so, Inanna represents the wholeness, and within her contains the polarities that are continually in flux and moving back and forth. And we see that in her cycle going up and coming down, going up and coming down, appearing in the east, appearing in the west. And of Venus, I meant to say that we see those dualities embodied in the cycle itself.
CB: Yeah, that’s amazing.
DG: Can we just say a word or two about Barbie and feminism?
DG: That was one of the things that struck me when I was watching the movie.
DG: And I was probably 13 when Barbie came out. So I wasn’t 9 or 10 playing with Barbies, but I did play with them, being older with younger children. So I had the ‘Barbie’ experience of dressing the dolls up and parading about with younger children that I was caring for and being a mother of.
CB: Right. ‘Cause Barbie came out in ‘59.
DG: ‘59. I was 13 then.
CB: And then also during the course of the early-to-mid-1960s second wave feminism developed at that point.
DG: Yeah, right. So I was gonna say before I saw the movie, when I thought of Barbie I said, “Oh, the sexual objectification of women,” right? And that was sort of a dismissive attitude I had toward the whole thing even though I played with them with children. And then in the course of the movie, they say, “But wait a second, Barbie sparked feminism.” And the movie started out with all the little girls playing on the beach with their baby dolls, right? And I remember being seven and having Tiny Tears and feeding it with a bottle and then squeezing out and changing diapers, and I would do that for hours at a time. And so, the little girls, the models they were given of what they could be as mothers, and this was all the role-modeling, the playing that was culturally permissible and was the consensus. And then when they said in the movie, “Hey, we gave you know Barbie, the president, and Barbie, the lawyer, and Barbie, the athlete, and Barbie, the doctor,” Barbie presented young girls with multiple different roles that they could aspire to. And Barbie herself didn’t want to be a mother and have children because she wanted to develop her own identity and career. And so, Barbie came out in 1959, and the early 60s was the very first beginnings of feminism. By 1963, Betty Friedan had published The Feminine Mystique, and the question is, is this all there is for women of being a homemaker? And so, it was almost as if on some level Barbie was a foreshadowing of what would then quickly spark into a raging women’s consciousness, liberation, feminist movement. And then Barbie ended. So Barbie began with the little girls playing with baby dolls. Barbie’s last line was, “I’m going to see my gynecologist.”
And as I began to think about that another groundbreaking book that came out in the beginnings of feminism was Our Bodies, Ourselves, and that has to do with women’s reproductive health. And Barbie, who came into LA and announced that she didn’t have a vagina at the end of the movie, she’s going to a gynecologist to have an examination apparently. And Our Bodies, Ourselves said, “Have you women ever looked at your vagina?” and most women had never even dreamed of holding up a mirror and looking down there. And that marked a major shift in women’s attitudes to their bodies and taking responsibility for their own health, especially reproductive health that had been given over into men. And so, I thought that those two feminist pieces of the Barbie movie—never in my mind would I have put that on Barbie until I saw it in the movie. And then my perspective that had been one way suddenly did a 180° flip where I began to see the opposite side or another point of view of holding those opposing views. And I’m curious about other women’s responses and reactions to that possibility that beyond Barbie being presented in one way that it also is a foreshadowing of feminism.
CB: Yeah, I mean, looking at the history, it seems like Barbie always had one foot in both worlds, on the one hand, having some good feminist ideals, and then on the other hand having some ones that were maybe not that or were coming from a different place. And I was watching an interview with the director Greta Gerwig, and when asked if she grew up playing with Barbie, she said, “Well, my mom was kind of anti-Barbie.” And so, she says, “When I first was exposed to Barbie, I was exposed with the concept of Barbie as well as the arguments against Barbie at the same time.” So it seems like she incorporated that into the movie, both the arguments for Barbie, and the positive and feminist attributes, but also some of the arguments against or the things that were more regressive or more patriarchal or what have you. And you made an actually really interesting point to me. I was reading a biography and it said that the creator of Barbie in 1959—she was partially trying to pattern Barbie after and imitate some of the Hollywood actresses of the 1950s and that was part of why Barbie looked the way that she looks. But then you made the point that the most famous Hollywood actress in the 1950s that she would have been patterning after would have been Marilyn Monroe.
CB: And Marilyn Monroe, you pointed out, was born with Leo Rising, with Neptune in the 1st house.
DG: Right. And Marilyn Monroe being statuesque, with those beautiful long legs and totally blonde, and the high perky breasts, it was almost as if Barbie was modeled after Marilyn Monroe’s body type; and she was the penultimate symbol of the sexpot or the sexual woman of the 1950s at her height. But then remember when we looked at the charts? We had the chart for Barbie’s release that had 9 Gemini rising.
DG: And then we saw—is it possible for you to get the Barbie chart, Marilyn’s chart, and Margo’s chart all up?
CB: Sure. Let’s look at Marilyn’s chart first and just explain it.
DG: Yeah. But we should have the Barbie chart. I think that goes first.
CB: Okay. Let me pull that up. There it is, Barbie chart. And I didn’t know there was a time, but you came up with a time for this, which was like 10 AM.
DG: Yeah. Yeah, that’s when the toy show opened, in which the doll was first premiered and shown. And it’s on astro.com.
CB: So it’s March 9, 1959, at 10 AM, in Manhattan, New York, with Gemini rising.
DG: Right. So look at that 9 Gemini rising. And we can go back to this chart, but I just want to point something out here. So now let’s go to Marilyn’s chart and look at her Sun at 10 Gemini. So Marilyn’s Sun is conjunct the Ascendant of Barbie.
CB: Wow, okay.
DG: And then let’s look at Margot Robbie’s chart.
CB: There it is. Can you see this?
DG: I can.
DG: And Margot’s Venus is at 8 Gemini. So there you have Barbie with 9 Gemini rising, Margo’s Venus is at 8, and Marilyn’s Sun is at 10. And they both connect in there of how you have the image being based on Marilyn and then Margot who’s portraying Barbie, her chart being linked to Barbie’s chart and to Marilyn’s chart. There’s a triple intersection.
CB: Yeah, that’s incredible. That’s an incredible connection between them.
DG: Yeah. And I would love to see that expanded into more discussion and more words by someone.
CB: Yeah. Because it was so striking that Venus stationed retrograde at 20 Leo the day the Barbie movie was released, I was looking for the Leo connections and was surprised that it wasn’t as prominent in the actual Barbie chart. But then when you showed me Marilyn’s chart, which is a timed chart, which has Leo Rising, I thought that was really interesting and striking. And one of the things that’s interesting about 1959 is prior to 1959 all of the Venus retrogrades started in Virgo and they ended in Virgo. So Venus would station retrograde in late Virgo and then it would station direct in early Virgo. But in 1959 that was the very first year where Venus stationed retrograde in Virgo, but it stationed direct at 29° of Leo. So it was the first Venus retrograde that dipped into Leo and then that was the summer that Barbie became popular and took off. And then of course that’s the connection or the Leo connection where in 2023 Venus stationed retrograde at 28 Leo, activating that exact same degree from the summer that Barbie became popular.
CB: Which is also kind of close to Regulus. So there might be some kind of Regulus connection as well.
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CB: All right, so we’re back from a break, and one section that we wanted to talk about was these myths surrounding Inanna go back to 4000 BCE, maybe 3000 BCE; and certainly some of the astrological connections may have already been in place by 2500 BCE or so. But then there’s another important figure in the history of astrology that’s actually tied in with the Inanna’s myth and story, which is this woman, this priestess who lived around 2300 BCE named in Enheduanna. And she’s really important because she’s actually the first person in history that’s recorded to have written poems and to have written hymns and to sign her name to them as the author. So she’s actually the earliest named writer in history at least in terms of the cuneiform tradition and in terms of other writing traditions west of there. Yeah, so she was Enheduanna. And what else do we know about her? So she was a priestess.
DG: She was the daughter of King Sargon, so she was a princess. She was a daughter of the king of the land—and he was the king of the Akkadians who superseded the Sumerians—and she was a priestess.
CB: Let’s talk about that Akkadian part more because it puts it as a really important turning point in the history.
DG: Right. A really important transition from Sumerian script to the Akkadian script.
CB: Right. Up to this point the Sumerian people were occupying roughly modern-day Iraq, and it was the Sumerian people who had this goddess Inanna and referred to Venus as Inanna and had stories about “The Descent of Inanna” and other things like that. But then all of a sudden at this point, around 2300 BCE, there’s this new king that comes along from the Akkadian Empire. He sets up the Akkadian Empire and Akkadian was a specific language.
CB: And that creates this new dynasty and this turning point where it goes from the Sumerian kingdom to the Akkadian kingdom. And right in the middle of this is his daughter at the time, the king’s daughter.
DG: Right. Now we know she was a princess, she was a priestess of Inanna, and she wrote, we know for sure, the poem called “The Exaltation of Inanna.” And another poem that we know for sure that she wrote was “Temple Hymns to Inanna.” And there is some suggestion that she was the person who translated the Sumerian version of “The Descent of Inanna” into Akkadian. And for our interests what’s really important was that she was an astronomer and has an early connection with astrology as well.
CB: Right. And this was something that was first pointed out by Ali A. Olomi earlier this year in a lecture on his Patreon where he suggested that she was an overlooked figure that may have been the earliest reference to a woman astrologer in history because of a possible connection with astronomy and astrology through a device that she’s said to have mentioned in one of her poems.
DG: Right. Which is the measuring line. So let me just take it back a few steps. The main architectural building of ancient Mesopotamia was the ziggurat, and those are similar to the pyramid-like figures that we’ve seen in Egypt and also in the Mayan and certain Central and South American cultures. And the ziggurat was both the temple for the religious rites to take place; it was also the storehouse for the grain that was grown and stored and then would be doled out over the course of the year to the members of the city, as well as the excess grain then traded for economic purposes. And at the very top of the ziggurat was one of the astronomical observatories where the astrologer-priests would go up and look at the stars and the planets, and those were used for making the correlation between the appearance and the rising and setting of stars and planets and the correlations to what happened on Earth. And somewhere along the line I heard that there were seven layers to the ziggurats which may have represented the seven planets, but I’d have to go back into those archaeoastronomy papers to know for sure.
So we have the tradition that astronomical observations took place in the same building as the religious rites and temple rites took place. And also, the temples were used for other divinatory purposes, one being that of dreams, which is the oldest and most basic form of divination. And the king would go into the temple to sleep and request a dream from the gods, and when he had a dream in the temple with a request, that was considered a god-given divination. So what’s recorded is what they call “The Dream of Gudea” who was a king around 2100 BCE. He was told in his dream to build a temple, and he saw a woman raising the building plot and she studied the clay tablet on which were set down the constellations. And at the goddess Nanshe shrine Gudea was told that the woman was the goddess Nisaba, and she was studying a tablet of the stars to build a temple in accordance with the stars.
And so, one of the ways that happened was that there are these measuring rods and cords, and that the lines of the astronomical configurations between stars and their angles were then through these cords sort of brought down to the Earth and laid out as the lines to build temples in accordance with the stars. So in the research about Enheduanna there’s an early cuneiform tablet associated with her where it’s written that, “The true woman who possesses exceeding wisdom, she consults a tablet of lapis lazuli. She gives advice to all the lands. She measures off the heavens. She places the measuring cords on the earth.” And so, this is suggestive that not only was Enheduanna a princess and a priestess, she was also an astronomer involved with building temples. But when Inanna went to the underworld one of her symbols of power was the measuring rod and the measuring cord. And so, this shows the continuity of astronomical skill running from the goddess Inanna through one of her priestesses, Enheduanna, and also that concept was in divine or divinatory dreams given to kings. And that sort of links the astronomy that was being practiced at that time. In this case it’s not only through a female lineage, but definitely a female lineage was one of those with the goddess and her priestess.
CB: Yeah, that seems really important. And there was some shift that was happening here between the Sumerian and Akkadian Empires—that I’ve seen traces of references to but I don’t know enough about—where they almost seemed to talk about this being a shift towards more of a patriarchal culture possibly; where maybe goddesses like Inanna were at a higher level in the earlier Sumerian culture. Is that true, or is that being overplayed? I don’t really know.
DG: Okay, well, this is what I can say: one of the texts about Inanna was called “Inanna and the Huluppu Tree.” And you mentioned this at the beginning of the podcast, but it could bear repeating that just like the Greek myths, different authors had different fragments of the story, and it’s at some later point where collators take together the different fragments and string them together in a narrative, and then the narrative takes place. But originally the narrative may have existed in the oral telling, but to the extent it’s written down is questionable.
CB: But as separate stories, you mean?
DG: Separate stories, right. So in “Inanna and the Huluppu Tree,” which is a different set of cuneiform tablets, Inanna is sitting in her garden, and in the garden, the center of the garden, is a tree. And at the top of the tree lives the Zu bird with its young, at the base of the tree the serpent is coiled around it, and in the center of the tree the dark maid Lilith lives. And then Gilgamesh, the Babylonian hero, marches into Inanna’s garden, he takes his ax and he cuts down the tree. The Zu bird flees, the serpent flees, and Lilith flees to the desert where she’s exiled, and Gilgamesh takes the trunk of the tree and builds his bed for Inanna out of it.
And so, one could read into that that Inanna is ruling in her garden with all of the ancient goddess symbols—the bird and snake goddesses; the birds on their heads, the snakes coiled around them; the goddesses nursing snakes at their breasts—that this was a very prominent form motif in early Sumerian art. And Gilgamesh—who represents the Babylonians who superseded the Akkadians, who had in turn superseded the Sumerians—comes and he chops down Inanna’s tree, and he then takes over power. So that can be one interpretation of a shift from a predominantly goddess-centered culture to one of the diminution of the goddess to more of a patriarchal-centered culture. And there can be other interpretations, but that’s one of them that some people who have put forth that theory will look to as being primary source evidence.
CB: Okay. Yeah, I was thinking more of just some traces of scholars talking about how the goddess Inanna was treated differently apparently in the Sumerian culture versus in the Akkadian culture in different, sometimes subtle ways, but possibly suggestive of something.
DG: Yeah, Gilgamesh becoming the new hero is definitely the sign of what that something else was.
CB: Okay, right.
DG: ‘Cause he’s recorded in myth.
CB: ‘Cause in the Sumerian version, it’s like Inanna wants to build out of the tree her bridal bed because she wants to get married and become a woman and do the things necessary for that with the bed, and she asks different gods to do it and they won’t. So she finds Gilgamesh, who’s like a low-level character, and then he does what she wants and then it’s really her story, but elsewhere it becomes Gilgamesh’s story.
DG: Yeah, yeah. It’s in the preamble to the “Epic of Gilgamesh” where this story is now put—whether that’s where it was when they uncovered the tablets, I don’t know, or if that’s where scholars decided to put that story, in the preamble of “Gilgamesh.” But “Gilgamesh” is some centuries later than the Sumerians where Inanna was originally elevated. Then Inanna became melded with the Babylonian Ishtar. Even though they had different qualities, they were sort of smashed together, and Ishtar was associated with Venus. And then as the culture moved north to the Assyrians in Syria, that goddess of love associated with that planet was Astarte, that was worshiped in Phoenicia, Canaan, Northern Syria, that then became linked with Aphrodite as the Phoenician culture was brought to Crete and the port cities of Greece. So there’s a continuous line between Inanna in Sumeria, Ishtar in Babylonia, Astarte in Syria with the Assyrians, and Aphrodite in Canaan and Phoenicia. She arrives particularly in Corinth and Greece and then Cyprus as well. And each one of these goddesses was the goddess of love and that was associated with the planet that we call Venus.
CB: Okay. That’s a really important point ‘cause that brings up the point that in the Greek astrological tradition they didn’t start calling the planet Venus ‘Aphrodite’ until about 400 BCE. whereas there was this very long tradition in Mesopotamia prior to that that associated the goddess Inanna with the planet Venus that goes back to like 2000-3000 BCE long before the Greek tradition. And then what happened in 400 BCE around the time of Plato is that some unknown Greek authors deliberately tried to pick specific gods in the Greek pantheon in order to associate those Gods with the Mesopotamian gods that the planets were named after.
CB: And so, there was this deliberate attempt to link those two traditions, but it meant that it was based on or was predicated on the much earlier Mesopotamian tradition.
DG: Absolutely. And, again, some of the stories are similar. The planet that the Greeks called the ‘Star of Hermes’, which we know as Mercury, was associated with the Mesopotamian god Sin who was—that’s Nabu who is the god of scribes. Okay, so we have Mercury, writing, and Nabu being the scribal tradition. It’s like, “Oh, yeah, we have a god that’s associated with letters and numbers and writing and communication.” And the Babylonian god Marduk, who is the King of the Gods, who had a council of gods, who slayed the dragon Tiamat, who wielded the thunderbolt, the Greeks said, “Oh, yeah, we’ve got one of those. That’s Zeus. We’ll call that the ‘Star of Zeus/Jupiter’.” who likewise battled with a dragon and had a council of gods and gave decrees and wielded the thunderbolt. And so, were the Greeks borrowing the characteristics of their gods from the Babylonians, even before they knew about astronomy of the planets? Was it transmission between cultures?
Because there was definitely some trade and commerce happening. Was it an archetypal emanation of basic forms? That becomes a question that can be discussed all around about. But when the Greeks received the knowledge of the Babylonian astronomy and planetary and star identification, and they sought to integrate it into their own culture, they sought the names of their own gods that had the similar qualities to the Babylonian gods to link the names to the planets. I’ve spent like a lot of time trying to find the first mention of this in the Greek literature and that shows up in Plato’s work, the Epinomus, or Epinomus—depending on how you want to pronounce it. E-P-I-N-O-M-U-S—that most scholars now think was written by one of Plato’s students called Philip of Opus (O-P-U-S) who was an astronomer, and that’s the first time you see the names of the planets articulated in any of the Greek writings.
CB: Right. Because before that they had other descriptive names.
DG: They really didn’t know the planets, but they knew a couple of stars that were on Achilles’ Shield, and they had an idea of the rising and setting of some of those stars in terms of agricultural and navigational purposes. They may have had some hints about Venus being ‘morning’ and ‘evening’, but no identification of the planets is distinct from any of the stars in the sky until the 5th century BC. And if you look in Greek texts—you can look in the Greek texts, I’ve been searching for a long time—you’re not going to see those planetary names show up.
CB: So one of the points that you’re making that’s really important here though is that the Greeks at this point, around 400-500 BCE, their mathematical astronomy was way behind the Mesopotamians. ‘Cause the Mesopotamians had been doing it for a thousand, two thousand years at that point, going back all the way to 2000 or even maybe 3000 BCE, whereas the Greeks really didn’t start developing a mathematical or complex mathematical astronomy until they started getting this exposure to Mesopotamian culture from 500, 400 BCE forward, and that was the point at which the names of the gods were deliberately picked to match the Mesopotamian names with the Greek ones.
CB: So part of what’s important about that, and part of what we’ve done here in this episode, is that the Greeks picked those names, and so Venus became known as Aphrodite—or the planet became known as Venus/Aphrodite.
DG: The ‘Star of Aphrodite’.
DG: And that’s an important distinction.
CB: And that starts giving some mythological associations from the Greek tradition with that.
CB: But part of the side effect of that that I think is really important is then you lose some of the earlier Mesopotamian mythological associations that those earlier cultures would have had with Inanna and Ishtar. So part of what we’re doing in this episode, by looking back to the earlier tradition, before the Hellenistic tradition, is showing how you actually have to go back to some of the very source root cultures and you’ll find other additional archetypal myths and qualities associated with the gods and the planets that are actually still very real and very pertinent and can provide valuable insights into astrology today.
DG: Right. One of the classic ones is the association in the Hellenistic texts of Saturn associated with seaside trades, with water, with navigation. This is something Schmidt used to always talk about. It’s like how does Saturn get associated with navigation and maritime trades? And in the Mesopotamian culture the planet that was associated with Saturn was Ninurta, and he was the Lord of Irrigation. And that whole culture happened because they learned how to take the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers and make channels in order to irrigate the lands and, hence, early civilizations happened. So there was some memory of Saturn’s association with water coming from the Mesopotamian god Ninurta. But then the Greeks—maybe they never really knew or they had forgotten, “Yeah, they put maritime trades under Saturn significations.”
CB: Right. And it starts running up against the more conceptual nature of Hellenistic astrology where they start treating Saturn as a cold and drying planet.
CB: So you run into a contradiction with the new conceptual structures in astrology versus the earlier mythological tradition.
DG: That’s true, yeah.
CB: So to bring this point back home to Enheduanna, Enheduanna, who was this priestess and poet in 2300 BCE, in one of her hymns to Inanna one of the things I think is interesting is she really starts emphasizing the contradictory characteristics of Inanna. And I just wanted to read one passage really quickly from a book titled Inanna, Lady of the Largest Heart by Betty De Shong Meador, who’s written actually two books on Enheduanna, and this is one of them. And there’s another one that’s actually even more extensive, but here’s part of the passage of one of the hymns. She says, “Mistress, you outclass Enlil and An. Your praiseworthy path shows forth. Without you [there] is no fate fixed. Without you is no keen counsel arrived.”
DG: Oh, interesting.
CB: And that ‘fate fixed’ point is actually important because Inanna’s partially associated with divination and other things as well. So she continues on and part of the thing is this is actually a poem, and you can catch some of the poetic rhyme that the translator tried to convey, but probably not all of it ‘cause it’s really hard to translate poetry. But that’s also what’s so impressive about Enheduanna. She’s not just a writer, but also a poet who’s invoking and who’s using Inanna as her personal deity. So she says associated with Inanna is “To run, to steal away, to cool the heart, to soothe are yours Inanna. Fitful wandering, speeding by, rising, falling, reaching the fore are yours Inanna. To smooth the traveler’s road, to clear a path for the weak are yours Inanna.”
Then she goes on, “To straighten the footpath, to make firm the cleft place are yours Inanna. To destroy, to build, to lift up, to put down are yours Inanna. To turn man into woman, woman into man are yours Inanna. Allure, ardent desire, belongings, households are yours Inanna. Wealth, brisk trading, quick profits, hoard, even more are yours Inanna. Prosperous business, abundance of money, indebtedness, ruinous loss are yours Inanna. To teach, watch over, supervise, scrutinize, are yours Inanna. Life, vigor, fitting, modesty, male guardian spirits, female guardian spirits, disclosing sacred spots are yours Inanna. To worship in lowly prostration, to worship in high heaven are yours Inanna. The word of rejection, the word of riddance are yours Inanna.” And then it breaks off and there’s some lines missing. So that’s just a part, but it sort of brings it around where even this slightly later author of 2300 BC is emphasizing these contradictory complex characteristics with Inanna as part of the core understanding.
DG: Right. And it’s also demonstrated in the astronomical cycle of Venus that she rises up to her maximum elongation and then she falls down to sink beneath the horizon. She rises up and she falls down. And so, the astronomy of the planet is completely coincident with the qualities ascribed to the goddess.
DG: They’re not separate.
CB: Yeah. And in the totality of the cycle it encompasses everything.
DG: It encompasses all of that: visible/invisible, high/low, left/right, morning/evening.
CB: Yeah. And during the course of different parts or different phases of the cycle or during the course of experiencing it, we experience some of those differing things.
DG: Yeah. One thing we should do before we close—unless you have more you want to say here—
CB: Just the last thing about Enheduanna.
DG: Okay. And then we should show them Astro-Seek.
DG: So they can see the dates of the Venus critical dates—this being an easy place to find them.
CB: Yeah. So the last thing about Enheduanna is at one point, in one of the poems, Enheduanna has this thing where she seems to go into a plea to Inanna, where it almost takes the form of a prayer or a magical invocation of Inanna. It sounds like Enheduanna had something bad happen to her. There was some sort of wrongdoing on the part of a man who she names in the poem, and who some of scholars think was actually a real man, who may have somehow cast her out of her priestess role or somehow been able to usurp her power and cast her out of her role somehow or her temple. And it’s actually really interesting because in this poem there’s this echo from the myth of Inanna itself that sounded almost sort of like feminine rage.
CB: Or specifically feminine rage at injustices experienced at the hands of men, as well as maybe a wish for revenge or vengeance. And I thought that parallel in Enheduanna—if that’s true that it was part of her own personal story—may have been part of the other reason why it’s connected. There would have been a repetition there between Inanna’s myth and what actually happened in the life experience of Enheduanna—as the first woman author that we know of whose work survives named—and then seeing a similar myth passed on in later times during certain Venus retrograde cycles where sometimes that’s a topic that comes up. For example, a large part of the critical focal point of the Barbie movie in the second half was her being wronged by her former partner, by Ken basically.
DG: Right. Yeah, the Barbie movie. Yeah, we said the first part was Evening Star Venus, and the second part was Morning Star Venus where she claims her power.
DG: Fights back, gets angry, fights back, exacts justice. Brings the order back into place.
CB: Yeah, so that seems like an important aspect also of the archetype and of the myth, and what’s coming forth as part of that and something that’s kind of important to pay attention to as part of the Venus retrograde cycle to some extent.
CB: All right, I think that was the last thing there. So one of the astronomical things that you found really useful is that Peter from the website astro-seek.com has created what he calls a Venus Rose Cycle Astrology Online Calculator where you can actually look up Venus’ phases and all of the different parts of this cycle, both in your birth chart as well as for the current year or any point in time. So you go to astro-seek.com/calculate-venus-cycle and you have to set the date of what year you start from, and then it will generate a list of all of the relevant Venus dates when it hits different crucial points in the cycle. So right here we can see when we come up to the current one, the current year, that, for example, it shows us that on June 4, 2023 Venus reached her greatest elongation on June 4 at 28° of Cancer. And then the next day she ingressed into Leo on the 5th of June, and then eventually she reached maximum brightness on July 10. She had her evening station, the retrograde station, around July 23, and so on and so forth.
DG: Right. Her heliacal setting—her evening setting on August 8. ‘Cause the interior conjunction or inferior conjunction happens on August 13 here, the very bottom, the last entry—all the way down. Scroll all the way down.
CB: Well, I just recalculated it for 2023.
DG: Oh, you just did, okay. And then the morning rise happens on August 17, the greatest elongation on October 23. Before that you have the morning station on September 4. So you can go and you can track the cycle not only for the current year, but you can put in your own birth year, and by just running your finger along the dates to find your birthday see which of these critical points was before and after, of being able to find where on that cycle you were. And one of the teachings that I did probably in the ‘90s, maybe the early 2000s when I was doing this teaching was suggesting that whatever natal Venus phase you are, you have a particular resonance with Inanna’s situation at that corresponding point in her story. And so, I would just ask those of you who are interested to research that and then to be able to communicate, does that speak? Can you relate to that? And I’d be curious to know. It was like workshop work I was doing in the past that I probably haven’t for quite a few years now. But I’m glad Chris remembered I gave this talk in 2005 or something. So you dug out all of the notes that we’ve got here in the last week.
CB: Yeah. Well, I just remembered it ‘cause you gave it in early 2005, and I had just started learning Hellenistic astrology and getting into ancient astrology. And then I was living in Seattle, going to Kepler, and I saw you come and give this lecture in Seattle for the local astrology group there. And I just loved the lecture and was really struck by it. And, also, that was part of the timing of when I ended up going to Project Hindsight; it happened after that. So what you’re saying with this is that people should use that table on Astro-Seek and then find their birth date, and then look at what the date leading up to that astronomical event is for Venus and what the next important was after that, and figure out where they were born in between two of the points in the cycle, and then that’ll be their natal signature.
DG: Right. And then to see if they can relate to the Inanna story at that particular point. If you’re moving towards or are at the maximum elongation it’s an Evening Star. Do you hear the first calls of descent? Are you in the underworld, being totally in pain and anguish? Are you suffering at the zero, and mourning the absence of your lover at the other point? And so, see if you’ve found that you have a life and you go through different spaces but somehow, “Oh, I’ve been here before. Why is it that I always end up here?” And then things happen and you move on, and then at some x-point again, “Oh, yeah, I know this spot.” See, as I said, if you have a particular resonance with that point in the story, or you can even track it currently. And if you’re going through certain situations in the ‘unfoldments’ in your life in Venus-related things, see if the current phase resonates to the experiences you’re having relative to whatever sign and house and aspects your natal Venus is.
CB: Yeah. And I think even if a person was born and part of the cycle is in the more difficult part of Inanna’s story that’s not necessarily always gonna be a negative interpretation.
CB: But sometimes those parts of the cycle especially that are ‘under the beams’ or retrograde have to do with internalization or sometimes things having to do with invisibility or even feeling invisible perhaps or being more internal.
DG: Right. One of the things we didn’t say that’s important is the Medieval astrologers associated especially Venus retrograde conjunct the Sun (invisibility) with interests and participation in the occult esoteric matters, initiation, magic, Hermeticism, Gnosticism—all of those experiences. And there is going to the heart of the mysteries of death and regeneration that happens right at that inferior conjunction. The ‘secret stone’ of occult and esoteric inquiry, the quest for the eternal life, the fountain of youth, of dying and being reborn—how do you affect that transformation, not necessarily literally, but in all the themes of one’s life? And at the superior conjunction—how do you get over your rage to enter into a place of forgiveness and a renewal of trust and interaction with the other? And that also is a very profound spiritual transformation that can occur. And so, it would be very valuable to look at the whole cycle in terms of the spiritual potentialities that exist right behind the more literal, earthy manifestations of human condition.
CB: Yeah, for sure. As well as psychological interpretations.
CB: That’s a really good point about occult though. ‘Cause the word ‘occult’, if you go back to its actual roots, just means ‘to be hidden’.
CB: And that’s exactly what’s happening to Venus when she’s ‘under the beams’, she’s hidden. And so, that keyword of things that are ‘occult’ would be a good one.
DG: Yeah, hidden knowledge.
CB: Right. Or mystical knowledge, or other things like that. Internal states, including even just like psychotherapy.
DG: Right. The unconscious realm. You can have powerful psychotherapy. And one of the things Liz Greene said about the Venus retrograde conjunct the Sun is that it’s very powerful for the artist’s imagination, and sometimes it’s the fantasy of eroticism or of sexual romantic love that is more pleasurable than the actuality of it. And it can be the case that those images in the imagination get transformed into art and literature and music and that’s another possibility of that Venus retrograde conjunction.
CB: Okay. I meant to read one brief concluding remark ‘cause I wrote something out.
CB: But I just wanted to say that retrogrades are about looking back into the past and reflecting—or at least that’s part of what they’re about, especially Venus retrogrades. And in the same way that Enheduanna looked back and found things about the ancient story of Inanna that resonated with her present circumstances, we can also look back and learn from the stories of the past and use that to better understand the present and the future. So that was the note that I wanted to end this episode on. All right, well, this was amazing. Thank you so much. Yeah, going back to what you’re saying earlier, I’m glad I saw you give that lecture in 2005, and I can’t believe how this has come around because I had seen that lecture and been so moved by it. And then when I went and saw the Barbie movie and saw it was released on the day Venus retrograded—all those themes just came forth, just sort of gushed forth in the movie, and that’s all I’ve been thinking about for the past few weeks. So I’m glad we got a chance to talk about this and share it with everybody through this discussion.
DG: Yeah, thank you, Chris. It’s been wonderful as always speaking with you and with all the listeners to the amazing astrology podcast that keeps on giving.
CB: Yeah. So what do you have coming up? And where can—
DG: Oh, what do I have coming up?
CB: Find more information about your work?
DG: Yeah, the second half of 2023, I wanted to return to more of my mythological work that I had been doing prior to Hellenistic astrology. And so, this totally fell into my program for this year.
DG: But in October I’m giving a four-week class through Astrology University. I’m calling it “Ariadne and Phaedra: Into the Labyrinth of the Heart,” and I’m exploring their story and its conjunction with the Greek hero Theseus, again, dealing with the issues around relationship angst and abandonment and redemption, and tying that in with looking at ancient history, archaeology, ancient literature, and arts. And in some ways it’s the teaching I wanted to do on the road in Greece this year but it just didn’t come about. So I’m transforming that into a four-week class. Everyone will look up their asteroids in their chart and see where they fit into that story.
I’m doing asteroid talks on magical transformations for Jeffrey Wolf Green’s webinar conference in October, October 7, where I’m looking at Hecate and Circe and Medusa and some other goddesses, and then doing a much more expanded talk on that topic for the AstroMagia conference that happens in November. And I have a list of about 30, not only practitioners of magic from myth and legend, but also from history. So I have asteroids for Agrippa and Paracelsus and Albertus Magnus and John Dee and Raymond Lull, and a list of 30 of them that I’m starting to research in the charts of people who have an interest in astral magic. And anyone who has that interest, who’d like to send me their birth data for my research purposes, that would be wonderful.
And then finally in December, I’m doing a live in-person retreat for three days exploring mythic asteroids and how one moves from myth to interpretive principle. And it’ll be hands-on where people will get their list of 23,000 asteroids and how to figure out which two or three are the ones that speak most strongly or whose archetypes come most to the surface. So that’s sort of what’s on my plate. And then continuing with Tony Howard’s classes for his Astrology University school and the history of astrology, and also introduction to Hellenistic astrology. So all of that you can connect with through my website. If you’re interested, follow the bricks.
CB: Yeah. And I was just looking at your website, which is demetrageorge.com, and you have so many different classes and recordings there, but at the bottom it listed your book. And I just remembered another good resource for people that were interested in a lot of the stuff we just went into is in volume one of your book, Ancient Astrology in Theory and Practice, you actually went a lot into the solar phase cycle of the planets and spent a lot of time talking about a lot of the things that we talked about briefly here in this episode.
DG: Right. So I think there may be a hundred pages on risings and settings of the conjunctions, and all of that that’s sort of the astronomical underpinning, to be able to make greater sense of the myth that is the more emotionally vibrant part of connecting with meaning in your life.
CB: Nice. Amazing. I’m so glad you did that treatment ‘cause I tried to deal with that briefly in my book.
DG: Right. Yeah, I know. So that was wonderful to finally be able to have a clear understanding of how those cycles unfolded.
CB: Cool. All right, well, people should check out your website demetrageorge.com. I’ll put a link in the description.
DG: Yeah. And I think if you go on, you’ll get like a little thing to sign up for the mailing list. So there’s mailings that come out at least every month, sometimes more, announcing new classes and courses. So if you get on the list then you’ll get an email announcement of what’s happening and that will be more a direct way you can also register if you’re interested.
CB: Yeah, that seems really important, your newsletter, because I noticed a new one just went out today. But you don’t post as much on social media, but you actually post long articles pretty regularly on your newsletter, so it’s definitely worth signing up for.
DG: Yeah. In today’s newsletter there was a snafu between announcing a course on the lunation phases, but giving the title for the chart calculation course. So that’s what we were straightening out right before we started today. But we’ve had a really great response to how to hand-calculate a chart. And a lot of the students, probably close to 100 of them as far as I know, are in the process of learning how to do those calculations. And that’s a self-guided course that people can decide to purchase and do on their own at any time.
CB: Nice. And we talked about the importance of that in our last episode on Heliodora, who was the first Greek astrologer who was a woman that we know by name in history prior to Enheduanna—or after Enheduanna. Thanks a lot for joining me today. I really appreciate it. This was great.
DG: Right. It was a pleasure. Okay, bye.
CB: All right, well, thanks everyone for watching or listening to this episode of The Astrology Podcast. and we’ll see you again next time.
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If you’d like to learn more more about my approach to astrology then I’d recommend checking out my book titled, Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune, where I go over the history, philosophy, and techniques of ancient astrology, taking people from beginner up through intermediate and advanced techniques for reading birth charts. You can get a print copy of the book through Amazon or other online retailers, or there’s an e-book version available through Google Books.
If you’re really looking to expand your studies of astrology then I would recommend my Hellenistic astrology course, which is an online course on ancient astrology where I take people through basic concepts up through intermediate and advanced techniques for reading birth charts. There’s over 100 hours of video lectures, as well as guided readings of ancient texts, and by the time you finish the course you will have a strong foundation in how to read birth charts as well as make predictions. You can find out more information at courses.TheAstrologySchool.com.
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