The Queen of Heaven
Ancient Tales of Venus
by Terry Lamb
Venus, one of the most visible and beautiful of the planets, has been observed and honored since the most ancient of times. The Greeks, Mesopotamians, Chinese, Mayans, Romans, Egyptians—all paid homage to her at critical points in her cycle. She is known as Aphrodite, Isis (Iset), Inanna, Astarte and Ishtar, to name a few.
Venus orbits the Sun inside the orbit of the Earth, traveling at nearly the same speed of our planet. On cloudless nights we can observe her as either the morning or the evening star. As she circles the Sun, she moves either closer to theSun (lower in the sky at sunrise or sunset or further from the Sun (higher in the sky at sunrise or sunset. For a few days every nine months, she is so close to the Sun that we cannot see her; her light is eclipsed by the light of the Sun. Critical in that period is the time when she descends into the Sun to change from the evening star to the morning star, when she reverses direction in the Zodiac for 40 days and emerges from the Sun's rays in the morning sky dimmed and red as if ravaged in the Underworld.
One of the stories of Inanna tells the tale in metaphor of Venus's cycle in the heavens. Inanna, Queen of Heaven, Lady of the Evening and Lady of the Morning, was the great goddess who was married to Dumuzi. She clothes herself in her jewels and shield to enter the Underworld, on her way to the East. She cautions her loyal servant, Ninshubur, to protect her from death while on her journey. Neti, the gatekeeper, leads her through the seven gates of the Underworld, where at each gate she is stripped of her jewels, shield and clothing, one by one. When she reaches the Underworld, she is killed by Ereshkigal, Queen of the Underworld. After six days, she is rescued by Ninshubur, who convinces Ereshkigal, as she is giving birth, to give to her Inanna's corpse, to whom they give the food and water of life. Once alive, she leaves the Underworld, battered and bloodied, but alive.
Inanna is wed to Dumuzi, the Shepherd/Sun King (she travels always with the Sun). As Lady of the Evening and Morning, she appears sometimes as the morning star, others as the evening star, as she orbits the Sun. Once every 18 months, she descends into the Underworld (turns retrograde) to go from the West to the East (Venus descends the skies changing from the bright, western evening star to the dimmed eastern morning star, during part of which time she cannot be seen and is transformed). She goes through seven gates (seven Moon signs—the Moon passes through seven signs), then she is slain and lays dead for six days (her light is lost in the Sun). She re-emerges brought back to life and ascends to the world of light (rises above the Sun as the morning star, brightens and then turns direct in her motion).
In other cultures, her cycle was also extremely significant. In the Native American Muskogan culture, she is depicted as an eight-pointed (brighter) star in the evening and as a seven-pointed (dimmer) star in the morning. During the time that Venus disappears into the Sun, the Elders of the nation meet in a special enclave. During this enclave, they receive guidance on behalf of the tribe, which they impart at the end of Venus' disappearance.
Every five cycles, Venus returns to the first point at which she retrograded, forming a five-pointed star, which has been used by the Native Americans to make dream-catchers (a hoop with a five-pointed star woven into it).
Venus was a very important planet to the ancients and to currently existing cultures which preserve their heritage. Although much of her significance has been lost to modern Western culture, we may be wise to heed the wisdom of the ancients in this as in so many other things.
1My thanks to Daniel Giamario for his insights into the story of Inanna/Venus and to Tis Mal Crow, Muskogan medicine man for the insights into his nation's customs and beliefs.