From the Great Above she opened her ear to the Great Below.
From the Great Above the goddess opened her ear to the Great Below.
From the Great Above Inanna opened her ear to the Great Below.
My Lady abandoned heaven and earth to descend to the underworld.
Inanna abandoned heaven and earth to descend to the underworld.
— Inanna’s Descent into the Underworld, 2nd Millennium BCE
The Sun enters tropical Scorpio on the 23rd of October, and as the solar month begins, the skies are without Venus. She arises neither in the East nor the West, neither morning star nor evening.
Where has the Queen of Heaven gone? To the underworld she went, having slipped down the sewer tunnels in search of her sister, her dark mirror.
Every cycle is a sequence, every sequence, if experienced by living, feeling, beings — is a story. The story of Venus’ disappearance in the West, invisibility and subsequent emergence in the East, is a famous one. It is the story of Inanna’s descent into the underworld, and her relationship with her sister, Ereshkigal.
As the Sun enters Scorpio we jump into this story at the end of its first act, after the descent of Venus-Inanna into the underworld, the loss of her brilliance and power, and the confrontation with her shadow-sibling.
The Sun’s time in Scorpio tells the rest of the tale. Venus reaches the nadir of the underworld on October 26th, beginning the slow trudge back to the land of the living, and then ascends once more, purified and triumphant, with the direct station on November 16th.
Though it is Venus’ chthonic journey which dominates the scene, other significant changes occur, as well. On November 6th, the Head and Tail of the Dragon shift into Cancer and Capricorn, where they will be well into 2020. The same day, Uranus takes a step back into Aries, and finally, on November 8th, Jupiter enters Sagittarius, where it will reside for more than a year.
By the time that the Sun enters Sagittarius on November 21st, things will be much changed, with Venus risen again in the East, shining upon a road ahead quite different than the one behind.
Scorpio I: October 23rd-November 1st
The Sun’s time in the first decan of Scorpio illuminates and energizes hungers. Not merely the hungers of the body, but also those of the heart, mind and spirit. Here we struggle with the price of satisfaction.
The skies this year are stocked with important events. A dramatic Full Moon on the 24th is followed by the dead-center of the Venus retrograde on the 26th. Mercury then conjoins Jupiter on the 29th, and enters Sagittarius on the 30th. Finally, Venus opposes Uranus and then returns to Libra on the 31st.
Full Moon in Taurus
This Full Moon sees the Sun and retrograde Venus in Scorpio opposite the Moon and Uranus in Taurus. Perpendicular to the opposed Sun and Moon are the Head and Tail of the Dragon.
This Full Moon draws together several ongoing themes: the Venus retrograde, Uranus in Taurus, and the eclipse cycle. It is a point of great volatility, for both better and worse. Uranus’ signature breakdowns and breakthroughs will certainly be in play. This lunation hits emotionally charged tangles with a shot of lightning, catalyzing latent changes and setting off charges.
This Full Moon is in the lunar mansion of Ashwini, whose power is represented as a pair of divine doctors. It is said to be a good time to take medicine, and yet the electrifying course of treatment this Full Moon offers is a bit intimidating. Nonetheless, a bit of defibrillation may be just what the heart needs, if not what it wants. The medicine is change. The process is shedding skin. The virtue is fearlessness.
The Venus-Sun Conjunction
On the 26th, the Sun and Venus conjoin at 3 Scorpio. This is Venus’ closest pass to Earth, and at this point her power drills deepest into our planet, revealing the depths of the heart’s underworld.
In astronomy, this is the dead-center of Venus’ retrograde; in myth, this is the middle of Venus/Inanna’s journey. It is at this point that shining Inanna, Queen of Heaven, meets her dark sister, Ereshkigal, Queen of the Depths.
In the story as it is written, Inanna commanded and demanded her way into the underworld, but was stripped of her power, bit by bit. The Judges of the Dead pronounced her guilty and she was sentenced by Ereshkigal to hang, lifeless and rotting, on a meathook, impaled on the grief and rage of her dark sister.
Yet at this darkest moment, a prayer goes out, and is heard by their father Enki. Enki creates two beings, neither male nor female, and sends them to the underworld with the food and water of Life, and important instructions to sympathize with Ereshkigal’s pain. Grieving Ereshkigall is grateful for their compassionate sentiments, and offers the pair of intersex beings many great boons. The beings refuse all gifts but one — the lifeless body of Inanna. Her sister consents, and the two give Inanna the Food and Water of Life, restoring her.
Although the tale, as written by the Sumerians and the Akkadians, pictures bright, celestial Inanna as the protagonist, cruelly impaled and imprisoned by her sister and saved by a sympathetic Enki, it is worth our time to see the story from Ereshkigal’s point of view.
Ereshkigal resides at the bottom, the nadir. The lowest point, which all waters seek, the place where everything collects. The heaviest feelings find their way here. It is the underworld of water, not fire, and it is home to Ereshkigal, the chthonian Aphrodite, and Venus Cloacina, our Lady of the Sewers.
It is the bottom, the lowest point in the heavens, the Imum Coeli, the private place, the underworld, where history is stored, where the dead go, where pain and wisdom collects. Ereshkigal is there to witness all of this, to feel all of this. Few that come to visit her are happy to do so. They come kicking, screaming, wracked with disease, wounded. Suffering is the gate through which one passes to meet her.
She is not celestial Inanna, whose lovers are chosen by whim, and whose glory is proclaimed by all. The people cannot see Ereshkigal through the veil of fear they cover her face with.
Ereshkigal passes judgment on the dead, sees their sins. She is Inanna’s responsible older sister who has taken the dark, serious role, while her younger sister exalts in freedom and power, choosing her pleasures… as they please her.
What Ereshkigal requires is an understanding of pain. Yet who has the strength to bear it but her? Perhaps, if anyone, her sister could understand. Yet her sister will not. She tries to seize the power that comes from pain, the underworld sovereignty, without having paid the price.
And so in seeking that dark and majestic power, she is made dead, and placed upon the hook. For this is the way she will come to know the power of the underworld.
The writings say that Inanna’s father mourned her, and created two magical beings to save her. They traveled to Ereshkigal’s throne room and sympathized with her dark pain, and upon being understood, for their boon, they chose the body of Inanna.
I do not believe this version of events. I believe that Inanna, impaled upon her sister’s truth, came to understand her, and offered her own sympathy. I believe it was through her foolhaardy hubris and subsequent ordeal, that she was initiated.
The turning point in Inanna’s journey is becoming the rejected, owning the suffering. This is, ironically, the successful realization of Inanna’s desire to possess the power of the underworld, for those potencies arise from the acceptance of the negative.
This story hovers around the days surrounding the 26th. It is a time to honor suffering, both your own and that of your fellow beings. It may feel, as it did for Inanna, like a cruel hook, but it is both a temporary and necessary ordeal.
After this point, the slow ascent begins. Look forward to the inevitable rise, yes, but do not rush past this nadir moment, for there is truth here which is nigh-impossible to grasp anywhere else.
On the 29th, Mercury conjoins Jupiter at the very end of Scorpio. With both planets in the Scorpion’s clutches, the mind may be drawn toward the negative, but in order to redeem and restore. This configuration will be of great help in the underworldly work which Venus has laid before us this month.
Shortly afterward, on the 30th, Mercury enters enthusiastic Sagittarius, changing the tone rather dramatically. While Mercury in Scorpio drills downward and cuts through, seeking hidden truths, Mercury in Sagittarius shoots upward like a bottle-rocket, illuminating what’s above. Mercury in Sagittarius spurs bold, sweeping pronouncements and longs to spread inspiration’s flame. The swift planet is at this point high in the sunset skies of the West, but on its way to a retrograde, due to begin on November 16th.
Sword and Scale
On October 30th, Venus opposes Uranus for a second time, catalyzing the insights and changes which have been brewing. Immediately after this jolt, Venus regresses back into Libra.
This is the beginning of the ascent, in which the task set before Inanna is to find someone to take her place in the underworld. A sacrifice of the heart must be made, but who? We are allowed to leave our pain, our sunken place. We can and should peel ourselves off of whatever hook we’re stuck on, but we mustn’t forget. Erishkigal will have her due. It is a thing required by both truth and justice.
In Libra, retrograde Venus seeks out imbalance in order to rectify it. What changes need to be made in the world, in relationships, in the self? Each has its own balance, its own imbalance.
Having felt pain, and recognized injustice, what can we do to achieve homeostasis? To incorporate the unfair into the fair, the imbalance into a greater equilibrium, and the ugly into the beautiful? Courts, mirrors and conversations will be needed to answer this. How to give the darkness its due without being impaled by it, how to honor the Lady of the Sewers without drowning in filth.
From this point onward, Venus will creep slowly from the shadows back to visibility, extricating herself one day at a time from the underworld’s grip.
Scorpio II: November 2nd – 11th.
The Sun’s time in the second decan of Scorpio contains the exact mid-point of the season, the place between equinox and solstice. This year, while Venus slowly ascends, several celestial events of consequence take place. Uranus, the Nodes and Jupiter all change signs between November 6th and 8th, and a New Moon in Scorpio on the 7th resets the lunar cycle.
Head and Tail
After a year and a half in Leo and Aquarius, the Head and Tail of the Dragon change signs on November 6th. Rahu, the Head of the Dragon, sidewinds into Cancer, and Ketu, the Tail, slips into Capricorn. The Nodes will be in Cancer/ Capricorn until 2020, with plans to bring a plethora of eclipses to both the Goat and the Crab.
A Promethean Retreat
On the 6th, Uranus retrogrades back into Aries, the sign where it spent 2011 until May 2018. This drop backward pulls the innovative, disruptive planet back into the previous phase in order to finish up the process. Uranus will be back in Aries until March 6th, 2019, when it re-enters Taurus with plans to stay until 2025.
The New Moon in Scorpio
The New Moon in Scorpio, which occurs on the 7th, bears witness to important shifts. The Nodes changed signs only the day before, and so did Uranus. The day after the New Moon, Jupiter will also make an important shift. Meanwhile, Venus is less than a week out from direct station, and Mercury not far from a retrograde. There is much in process, some things just beginning, while others are almost, but not quite, concluded. Do not try to plaster a plan on top of the coming lunar cycle, but instead prepare yourself to move with it. Re-orient to the present and let it lead the dance.
Jupiter Enters Sagittarius
Jupiter enters Sagittarius on November 8th. The big planet has been in Scorpio for more than a year, blessing those who ply the subtle tunnels between and beneath the well-lit spaces. Jupiter’s entrance into Sagittarius shifts that auspicious spotlight so that it falls on those who relentlessly seek excellence, who journey in search of truth, and who would set wildfires with wisdom’s flame. Jupiter is at peak strength in Sagittarius, and will be the bright, hopeful counterpoint to the dour and frightening Saturn-Pluto conjunction which hovers about next year’s skies. Jupiter will be in Sagittarius until December 2nd, 2019.
Scorpio III: November 12th-21st
The Sun’s time in the third and final decan of Scorpio shines a light on the process by which desire dies and is reborn. It is thus all-too-appropriate that this year is host to the end of Venus’ retrograde and return to celestial effulgence as the morning star. Yet two other significant shifts occur, and within the same 36 hour period. On the 15th, Mars enters Pisces, and on the 16th Venus stations direct and Mercury stations retrograde. With one planet changing sign and two changing direction, this pair of days significantly alters the atmosphere, pace and themes of the season.
Mars Enters Pisces
Mars enters the sign of the Fishes on the 15th. Mars’ exodus from Aquarius is, this year, more significant than usual, as it ends the planet’s overextended stay in Aquarius, and moves us thoroughly and truly beyond the bounds of the Q3 retrograde.
In Pisces, Mars weaponizes the imagination, leading both to fusillades of poetry and deluded cavalry charges. Be thoughtful about which dreams you fight for while Mars is in Pisces, as the lines between imagination, inspiration and illusion are fuzzy at the best of times. When in doubt, err on the side of compassion. Mars will be in Pisces until December 31st, when it enters fiery Aries.
Venus Stations Direct
Retrograde since October 5th, Venus assumes forward motion on the 16th, calling an end to the Queen of Heaven’s underworld ordeal. From here, Venus takes up her role as the morning star, intent on leading the charge for beauty and equity.
At this point we emerge from the sewers somehow cleaner. Returned to power, it is important we not forget the truths revealed in the depths. The underworld’s hard-earned treasures require that we remember their price.
In the myth of Inanna’s descent, she was allowed to return to surface only if she could find someone to take her place down below. After a bit of godly drama, Inanna consents to share her husband, Dummuzi, with Ereshkigal. He becomes a male Persephone, who spends half his time in the realm below, and half in the world above. Through this sacrifice, Inanna shares Ereshkigal’s loss, and Ereshkigal shares Inanna’s joy. It is balance, a just arrangement obtained through descent and ordeal. Consider what this equilibrium might look like in your own life, what pleasure you might leave in the underworld while Venus is visible as the morning star for the next nine months.
Mercury Stations Retrograde
Shortly after Venus’ direct station, Mercury stations retrograde. Though this could be interpreted as the trick of some cruel good, the two retrogrades are not even remotely equal in weight. In fact, this Mercury retrograde may be decidedly positive for a number of people, as the vast majority of it occurs in Sagittarius, right next to recently ingressed Jupiter.
In many ways, it is an appropriate time for Mercury to turn retrograde, to process the recent past and to rethink expectations. 2018’s Mars and Venus retrograde stories have played out and Jupiter, Uranus and the Nodes have all recently changed signs. The territory up ahead does not look like what we’ve just left behind. It must be understood on its own terms, but in order to understand it we must first explore it. That exploration begins with Mercury’s retrograde station, and will extend well into the Sun’s time in Sagittarius.