As our merry band sets out from the Prancing Pony, we find ourselves crossing a threshold into the next sign of the Zodiac, Pisces. While Aquarius only has a domicile ruler and not a regent, when we move into Pisces we find ourselves back in a land with two rulers.
Pisces, Kingdom of Venus, Domicile of Jupiter
A discussion of important Venus symbolism is required here. This one escaped me for a long time; I can't believe that in almost 20 years of reading astrological and theological texts that the defining feature of Venus has gone unremarked! (If it was anywhere, it was probably in Lewis' The Discarded Image) And that is this: Venus is the wife, lover, and consort of the Sun.
Like me, you may have imagined that it is the Moon and not Venus who is the Sun's wife, partner, consort, etc. I mean, it makes sense, right? The two Luminaries! The Lights are a pair! But no, the Moon is not the Sun's wife and partner. The Moon herself is actually untouchable, which we'll see soon; her true nature is Mystery and will never be revealed to us.
To unpack Venus' status as lover and wife of the Sun, we must return to the Thema Mundi and the order of the planets (back in part one). Recall that the order from Earth up goes: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. Notice how Mr. Sun there is situated about halfway up. If we take him as the center (which is the basic meaning of the Sun anyway) we have three below him (Moon, Mercury, Venus) and three above him (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn). 6 + 1 = 7. This also highlights the Sun's essence of pontifex, as Bridge and Unifier from heaven to earth and back (remember that second Face of Aquarius? It's a Six = Sun!). In astrology, the planets below the Sun's orbit are called inferior planets, and the planets higher than the Sun are called superior planets. And no, value judgments based on verticality don't come into play here; we humans foolishly love to equate low with bad and high with good. As if anyone with an ounce of Mercurial sense couldn't see that the poles change places all the time! Flip flop! What do you think this whole Lord of the Rings story is about anyway???
Caveat: when it comes to the retrogradation of the planets (when they appear to stop and turn backward in their orbits; the Lights are exempt), the inferior, or shall we say, "inner" planets are more troublesome and difficult in their significations than the "outer" planets. This has a little something to do with their speed, for the Moon, Mercury, and Venus are the fastest of the bunch. We've already encountered Mercury's speed factor in the story!
Now, we're going to set the Moon aside for now during the inner planet discussion because she is not bound to the Sun the way the other two are ("There shall be one Mistress here, and NO Master!" Now you know why she painted her body white!). But Mercury and Venus are really tight up to the Sun and close to him, and as such, they are never very far away from him on the Great Wheel. Where he goes, they go. I forget at the moment the maximum distance away from the Sun that Mercury can get in terms of degrees, but Venus can never be more than about 46 degrees in front of or behind the Sun on the Wheel. We can simplify and say that Venus and Mercury will always be either in the same sign as the Sun or in the sign immediately in front of or behind him.
The Sun-Mercury relationship can be unpacked in a few exciting ways, but we'll get there once we come to Rohan. For now, let's look to the Sun-Venus bond, and, from our perspective, Venus is even closer to the Sun than Mercury is. (Yes, from a heliocentric point of view that's flipped, but I'm not writing this from the surface of the Sun. I know, the dream is ruined.)
An important equation: Sun = Red. The Light and heat of the Sun is understood to redden things that get close to it, or things that its beams touch. (Sunburn, anyone?) In Alchemy, when the Work enters this solar phase, it's called the reddening of the Work: the rubedo. And now you know why rubies are called rubies! And to which planet they belong. I'm going to bet that they're all over crown jewels across the world. But like a jewel in the crown, Venus is also red because of her proximity and relationship to the Sun. Ever heard a woman called a Scarlet Woman? How about the Woman Clothed with the Sun? What color hair does The Little Mermaid have in Disney's film? Did you know that mermaids are Venus symbols? And that mermaids also are symbols for prostitutes? Well, mermaids would simply mean sex in general, but we have Moon and Venus trouble in our culture and therefore tend to hate Venus, poor Lady. Besides, prostitution is slavery (human bodies should not be assigned monetary value) and therefore has no place in Venus' world. But, a quick and easy cultural reference for spotting Venus is simply to look for the woman with red hair in most stories. Jolene, Jolene, Joleeeeeeeene, I'm begging of you, please don't take my man! (She even has eyes of emerald green, another Venus color! Girl's doubling up!)
Those of you thinking ahead will also note that Mars is also in the same proximity to the Sun as Venus, he's just on the other side. And what color is Mars? And what Mars substance makes blood red?
Things could get a lot more sexy and graphic here with this Venus discussion, and I even invoked Mars into the conversation, and he looovvvveeesss Venus. Although, unfortunately, for about one thing only it seems, but I digress. Those born to her Kingdom of Pisces share a love of sexual union, but only insofar as this suits their need to Unify and create wholeness. Pisces-Venus is no wanton slut - that's more Mars' game (in some of the Arabic texts he's described as a fornicator when lacking dignity in a horoscope). Remember how Mars likes to disperse and "spread it around?" I'd say he's Lust, not Love. (c.f. Crowley's attribution of Lust to the Sun's sign of Leo in the Thoth Tarot. Discuss. 555-4455.)
Venus shares a drive to Unity with Her Husband the Sun, the pontifex. And I'm tempted to say that she does it even better than He does, since it is Love which endures his Death (you know why he dies?).
Go ahead, imagine the face of someone you love so dearly that has died. What do you feel?
Are you smiling yet?
Bringing Life together is Venus' essence, for she is fidelity itself, Love's draw to be Near. ("It's not the pale Moon that excites me, that thrills and delights me. Oh no, it's just the nearness of you.") It is unsurprising that Venus' major signification in astrology is love and marriage. Most of the comedies in Shakespeare's canon fall under the heading of Venus, for they end in marriages. Happy ending! Hell, even LOTR ends that way for a number of characters, if not explicitly then implicitly.
The glyph for the sign of Pisces is two fish bound by a cord. They're often described as swimming in opposite directions, but I think direction is tangential to the fact that these are two entities bound by love. There's a nice twist on the old binding spell, eh? Turns out Love is the ultimate binding agent! If I were to put true marriage anywhere, I wouldn't place it in Libra where it usually gets attributed. No, no, I'd put it in Pisces. That's soul love. I can see where the thinking leads one to think of Libra as being the natural place for marriage; after all, Libra rules binding words. But as we'll see with Return of the King, Libra is Saturn's Kingdom, not Venus'. Venus is the domicile ruler of Saturn's Kingdom, so it is she who is doing his work by, but she's not calling the shots or making the rules. And she is classically not Saturn's friend, daughter though she may be. They don't work under the same rules. The dude had to have his balls cut off in order for her to come out of them, so this is telling you that the father-daughter relationship is....complicated.
(James Hillman in Aphrodite's Justice writes that Venus is the very essence of "complication", which etymologically means "to fold together." Back to unity. Sex does tend to complicate things, doesn't it? Of course, that's the point.)
So, a little fishy diversion so that I can bounce an idea off this whole Libra-Pisces-marriage thing. Take Crowley from his Book of Thoth to start us off. When writing of the Death card of the Tarot (which is Scorpio), he says: "This card is attributed to the [Hebrew] letter Nun, which means a fish; the symbol of life beneath the waters; life traveling through the waters." He goes on to point out that fish (and the gods associated with them like Oannes and Dagon) were the central symbol in spiritual technologies that emphasizes reincarnation and resurrection.
One of the new ways in which I'm reading and experiencing Pisces is taking a cue from this equation of Fish and Soul, especially in relation to Death. I imagine fish under the surface of a glassy pond as souls yet to come through into incarnation, or souls having left this world. Surface of water = Death. And remember, too, Water = Mirror. (Take a think on that one next time you're doing your hair after the shower. I know I do.) Pisces, being one of the two Kingdoms that straddles the spring equinox (Aries is on the other side), is understood to be situated at the Crossing. This is also true of Virgo, which is situated at the Crossing of the autumnal equinox (which is Libra). Pisces and Virgo, therefore, are said to give birth to the signs that represent the equinoctial seasons. Let's see...where do we know of a story where a Virgin gives birth to the Dying Son? I mean, Sun? Do we have any wine and water and bread/wheat imagery, or perhaps fishes and shepherds and flocks related to a Cross(ing)? I can't quite recall...
At any rate, Pisces is well acquainted with the glassy surface of the Birth-Death Threshold Crossing.
My next step now is to puzzle out that cord binding the fish, which to me is Love, and thus I come to Pisces = Soul Love.
Soul Love is beyond sex, beyond the genitals, beyond bodies, beyond our idiotically puny definitions of love that have resulted from the Sauron Division Culture. I do think the happily ever after/soulmate thing can work (see the Ten of Cups), but like all things magical, one cannot lust for result, and we're given a whole lotta crappy results to bewitch us by the aforementioned SDC (monoculture). But, and it's a big but, Love and Death come as a package; James Hillman spent his whole life unpacking the Soul's love for Death (if you don't own Dream and the Underworld yet, get it!); Freud picked up on the strange union of Love and Death (Eros and Thanatos). Like the Germans, it's not all smiles and sunshine.
Yet here with Pisces, the symbolism is telling me that we're upon a Mystery wherein Love crosses the Death-barrier and can both push into it and bring things out of it. And I suspect that also doesn't look the way this Western culture has mediated it to you, either.
So, back to marriage. Here in Pisces we have the Kingdom of Venus in which Love unites two souls together, or they are already bound together (please for the love of God can we give some dimension and perspective to the term "soul mate?") and they must find each other in this level of reality. When we do, LOVE! Notice how, if we operate by Libran standards, two people can be bound together even if they are not Soul-Bonded? This seems a very dangerous thing, and probably not optimal for overall health and happiness. I have made humongous Libra-generated mistakes by making unwise attachments, and lemme tell ya, folks, it does NOT end well! I mean I guess two people can "learn" to love each other, and maybe soul-bonds can by forged (aka, by hard work - should love be difficult?), but there's something here that gives me pause.
Let's play with this: what are the similarities and differences between "unite" and "bind?" Which feels more Venus, and which feels more Saturn? Is binding always bad?
Now we move on to the domicile ruler of Pisces, Jupiter. Grand, fatherly Jupiter here is in service to Venus. It is he who accomplishes Venus' work of marrying souls by being as cosmic, wise, spiritual, and hopeful as can be. Yet in Pisces, Jupiter has a particular feeling and dynamic to him that he does not experience elsewhere. Remember how I said that Venus is never very far from the Sun and that she stays with him through his Death? Well, here, Jupiter must watch Venus die with the Sun because she is united with him, and there's nothing the Good Father can do about it. His little girl must be lost to him. This leads one to the classic reading of the Pisces Kingdom as full of love (Venus) and hope (Jupiter), but wherein its natives feel helpless to do anything or make a difference because there is an inevitability of Death at work here. Venus will die with the Sun. (Another kiss for those of you who have already figured out who these characters are!) This dynamic also leads its Piscean natives to FEEL EVERYTHING; they feel emotionally into and unite with all of creation (the Big Good Father), yet cannot fight back against the feeling that one just "can't do enough" to save all the little fishies out there in the world. And if anyone can reach into you and touch your soul, it's Venus. And yes, she suffers for it; the walls are porous or non-existent for her (Pisces people have to erect some sort of emotional coping structure - my guess is that it may look like a jellyfish's body rather than the Great Wall.)
And now to the Vale of Tears. Feelings so strong often make Piscean natives weep. Through the Trilogy, the scenes in which we see characters weep in the film correspond to the Faces Venus rules. Venus = weeping. Venus is a water elemental, a being born of and made of water. Venus brings wetness (and yes, that kind, too). In astrology, in fact, she is understood as one of the rulers of the water element itself a dignity she shares with Mars - remember that in Capricorn Mars brings the water with his effort? He's a water master! I have wept at the scene closing the first film where Frodo tries to leave Sam but he follows and almost drowns for loving Frodo so much. Damn it, I'm tearing up now as I write.
Though, you know who's important to you in your life by knowing who would make you cry if they died. For whose loss would you weep? This is Venus talking, telling you who is Lovely and Beautiful to you in this world, and who to cherish. Hey, remember how Madonna's "Cherish" video is set at the shoreline (where Venus was born and where she rules) with a bunch of mer-men (Venus)? Fuck, that just hit me...I love that song. "Gimme faith, gimme joy!" Spoken as Aphrodite herself! (Venus = Faith and the sensate particulars which render God knowable - colors, smells, sounds, ritual - and keeping the Sanctuary clean).
Maybe you still weep for the loss of some people. I sure did, but the more I make them part of my daily life through ritual, remembrance, and dedication, I just sigh and then smile more. But hey, She wants you smiling, too. Ask your beautiful fishies on the other side if they want you to cry in sadness or go smell the roses, orange blossoms, and gardenias. (I'm talking long term. The funeral and its aftermath are another matter. See beloved John O'Donahue's "For Grief" in his To Bless the Space Between Us. Radiant, beautiful soul!)
For my own part, I will say that I cry all the time (yes, She is strong with me), but it's Beauty that moves me to tears more than anything. And that's also why I cry all the time; it's our responsibility to see Beauty in the world, as my dear Friend of the Fish tells me. Maybe Beauty makes us cry because when we are moved by it, we see our Source and want to go Home. The cord pulls.
PISCES FACE ONE
The first Face of Pisces is ruled by Saturn and is the Eight of Cups in the Tarot, and boy, is this Face a tough one! It's rulership by old malefic Saturn lends it some pretty grim imagery, and our characters in LOTR go through a helluva time in this episode.
Pisces is a water sign, but with Saturn as ruler of this elemental Face, what we are left with are pools and swamps of stagnant, stinking, toxic water. You know, the kind that mosquitos lay their eggs in and which breeds pestilence. Images of miasmic poison abound - Saturn in astrology is said to rule poisons and narcotics, an attribution we also see connected to the Death Kingdom of Scorpio, itself a rather Saturnine place. Mars, ruler of Scorpio, is also a pharmakon (Greek for "drug, medicine.")
As a contrast, pick up Coppock's 36 Faces and read his delineation of this Face. It's a lot more constructive and positive. Austin is a good Blacksmith.
Tolkien, however, sticks with Crowley's interpretation and foregrounds the really crappy Saturn bits. In this case, even though we are in a Mercury-ruled number (8 = Mercury), big, heavy, superior Saturn overpowers light little Mercury, and we see Frodo get stabbed and poisoned (by the Nine's leader - remember how the Nine are connected to the Fallen Moon Kingdom of Scorpio? The venomous stinger?), a wound he will carry unto his death.
We also see a Saturnine action going on in this episode when we see Sarumon first begin to destroy the forest, killing the Living Trees to feed their bodies to his flaming furnaces. Keeping in line with Mercury and his connection to industry and craft (remember the Seven-Eight tier on the Tree of Life?), another possible reading for this Saturn-Mercury episode could be "industry and craft which kills." Although this begs the image of what a harmonious arrangement of the two could look like.
We get more of Mercury's nature as, like before, the Nine must be speedily outrun (even on the Mercury instrument of bridled horse), but first we meet Frodo's vessel of delivery and the very Queen of the Kingdom herself, Arwen!
Let's back up a minute. Earlier, we see Aragorn singing a song about Arwen herself while the group is camped for the night, which makes sense because we are in Her kingdom. She calls it out of him! (Did you know that's what "education" means? When in your life has Love called something out of you?) He's sad, and the song is sad, which resonates with the Saturn (melancholy) rulership of this face.
Our first glimpse of Arwen in the film is moving in its luminous purity. She arrives to us as the Evening Star herself, radiant and soft. And she says, "Hear my voice. Come back to the Light." Have you ever needed Love to say that to you? I will openly admit to having wept at this moment. "Come back to the Light." The Tolkien-Jackson hive mind really set us up for a spectacular moment here!
Once Arwen has Mercurially outrun the Nine and crossed the river which borders Rivendell, Frodo lets out a death-rattle gasp and is about to let go, which causes Arwen to weep (Venus again). And she says one of the most amazing, stunning, heart-wrenching, Beautiful things that is the absolute essence of Venus captured:
"What Grace is given to me, let it pass to him! Let him be spared! Save him!"
Now, I'm even crying again writing this, because let's remember that both Lewis and Tolkien experienced firsthand the horror that was the First World War, a demonstration of cursed soullessness that prompted them both to write stories which would redeem this fallen state. But, hearing Arwen say those words, I cannot help thinking that Tolkien would have heard these words said on some desolate, senseless battlefield in Europe where men were holding their dying brothers and wailing in grief.
Maybe he even said them himself.
How many mothers do you think were saying that?
How many do you think are?
PISCES FACE TWO
Once into Rivendell, we're in the second Face of Pisces, which is ruled by Jupiter and is the Nine of Cups in the Tarot.
The action in this episode is characterized by Jupiter, and indeed we meet our Jupiter Domicile Ruler of Pisces, Lord Elrond. We know he is wise, and he's the go-to guy for medicine, healing, and as we'll see later, some nifty chemistry (which by now you should just be reading as Alchemy).
Naturally, since Gandalf is also a Jupiter figure in this story, he's there in Rivendell, too, marking the reunion with Frodo and Sam. He updates Frodo on what happened to him since they parted ways in the Shire, which involves us seeing how Gandalf made his prison break from Eisengard.
The Eagle has always been a symbol of Jupiter, so it's no surprise that we see the Eagles' action in connection to Gandalf. While Gandalf knows how to call them, it should be made clear that he does not command them! They are the embodiment of God's Grace! He can only ask for their assistance; he has no guarantee if they will even show at all. He's essentially saying a prayer into the moth. Moths and butterflies in folklore are said to carry your message to the Great Spirit if you whisper it to them as they pass. I learned from the Radio Lab episode called "Black Box" that the physical structures of the future butterfly are already in the caterpillar before it even goes into the chrysalis. What does that make you think about Gandalf our Good Father and Destiny?
Jupiter in astrology is a signification of Faith. It is most certainly not Knowledge - that would be Mercury. Faith-Jupiter picks up where Knowledge-Mercury ends, which speaks to the priesthood as a classic career delineation for Jupiter. (Watch The Father Brown Mysteries - a great example of Mercury-plus-Jupiter in one; notice Mercurial Agatha Christie's character Poirot struggle with Jupiter's realm of Faith in Murder on the Orient Express - the stellar David Suchet portrayal. I weep at that one every time, too! They all Loved that girl and her family so much!)
So next time someone says, "Why didn't they just take the Eagles to Mordor and skip the whole journey?" you'll know you're in the presence of a fool.
Our list of Jupiter characters is rounded out by a third as Frodo finds Bilbo has made it to Rivendell. And lo! He has finished his history book! The reunion is bittersweet, though, as the weight of Bilbo's actions crushes his heart upon seeing Frodo nearly die because of them. Bilbo weeps, saying he's sorry for everything. Venus and tears again.
It is in this episode that Tolkien gives us another temporal clue which indicates that multiple time frames are happening across Middle Earth. When Frodo emerges from his NDE (near death experience), Gandalf lets him know that it's 10AM on October 24. Being an astrologer, that date immediately rang in my ears as the date when the Sun enters the sign of Scorpio in the Tropical Zodiac (it's actually somewhere from the 21st-23rd, depending on the year). So we know for sure that it's autumn, and the surroundings of Rivendell make that clear. But we know that the journey began just after the winter solstice (Dec. 21-23ish), so if everyone were on the same time frame, that would mean the Hobbits have been on the road for almost a whole year! And we know they haven't been; Frodo will mention at the end of the story that the whole ring journey took 13 months (that's an important number), so what's up?
Let's look back to Elves = Saturn = Three. Remember how I said that the Triplicities in astrology describe the elements? If you were to connect the signs of a particular element in the Zodiac, you'd end up with a triangle, as the signs belonging to each element are 120 degrees apart on the Wheel (three signs multiplied by four elements gives you the total twelve). Taking Rivendell for Pisces, that would mean that the Elf Time is one point of the triangle behind the rest of the world: Scorpio is the sign 120 degrees earlier than Pisces. Or, we could look at it as being two points of the triangle ahead of where the gang is now. Either way, the Elemental Elves are moving through Time at a different rate than the rest of Middle Earth and that movement is based in their own image of the Triangle. We know, too, that the elves are leaving Middle Earth, their life energy dying away just like in the fall. The bonus documentaries on the Trilogy DVD contain the designers explaining this when they get to the part on Rivendell; and if you watch The Hobbit, you'll notice that when Bilbo gets to Rivendell, it's a Green Summer there.
PISCES FACE THREE
The last Face of Pisces is ruled by Mars, and it is the Ten of Cups. Being a Mars-ruled Face, we can expect to see some conflict.
This episode sees Elrond hold the secret council wherein the delegations of elves, men, and dwarves convene to decide a plan of action to achieve the One Ring's destruction. Destruction is an apt topic of conversation for a Mars-ruled Face! Naturally, quarreling results, and if there's one thing that Venus dislikes in her Kingdom, it's quarreling! Frodo really gets moved by Her spirit, and seeing the writing on the wall, he steps into Her role and commits what may be seen as an ultimate act of selfless love by volunteering to take the Ring. And just like that, the quarreling does a 180 and Unites everyone there! Men, dwarves, and elves come together in marriage to help Frodo. Once the Fellowship is "married," notice that Elrond enunciates the ultimate Jupiter-Venus "binding." He tells the members of the Fellowship that they are bound by no oath and only have to go as far as each of them feels in their hearts to be right. Any one of them can leave at any time.
Take a note, Libra.
An interesting note provided by Boromir: having ever dwelled in the presence of the Shadow, he states that there is evil there which doesn't sleep. In Shakespeare's Macbeth, a Scorpio story loaded with Mars themes, we see a few examples of Macbeth and his Lady living in a state of sleeplessness. Mars, it seems, especially when up to no good, denies the body of life-affirming rest and sleep. Too much adrenaline in the system corroding and degrading body and mind. While it seems to be yet a Mystery as to why we sleep, we know that if you don't sleep, you die. If you don't dream, you die. Sleepless = Death = Sauron. Remember how the Moon is Fallen in the sign of Scorpio? Another kiss to you who guesses what the Moon is!
A final note before we leave Pisces. This episode contains that iconic bridge scene where Arwen and Aragorn share their lovers' moment. The Sun and Venus, uniting as one - on a bridge no less. Just a wee bit of symbolism there; bridges and thresholds are both places where these two live, and to top it off their love is bridging a gap between two very different Beings. To close us out, some final essential words of Arwen-Venus:
"I would rather share my lifetime with you than face all the immortal ages of this world alone."
UPDATE 6/18/17: Chris Knowles' blog The Secret Sun has a very, very timely and quite mind-bending post as part of a series right here that speaks awesomely to our topic of Venus and her kingdom. These stories are not just for the screen.