While we gather thoughts and energies for the turning tide of events that will follow the return to forward motion of Saturn and Venus it’s worth having a little closer look at a less obvious story taking place at the moment which has had a big impact on Venus, for all it seems to be going on in the wings. It will likely have been noticeable for anyone born in early to mid June or December or anyone with significant points or planets around 18degrees of either of those signs.
By the way if you don’t know your birth chart this site has everything you need to produce it and to start exploring it for yourself
This story concerns the antics of two centaurs, Pholus and Ixion, who are engaged in a bit of a drama that has affected Venus during her retrograde phase and which she needs to understand and decide how to respond to.
Ever since the eclipses of last November and December Pholus and Ixion have been hanging out together in the degrees of Sagittarius affected by the eclipses and opposing the Venus transit of June. Pholus and Ixion are small, minor planets that can have a particularly powerful impact when they are conjunct or opposing key planets and events. Looking into the symbolism of these two in such a prominent position with regard to the eclipses and Venus retrograde phase sheds light on some of the undercurrents at work.
In order to understand this better it is useful to look into the myths surrounding these two characters. Ixion was the father of all the centaurs and he wasn’t a particularly pleasant or honourable man. Having taken a wife he refused to pay the agreed bride-price, instead tricking his father in law, torturing him and eventually killing him. According to myth this was the first time a human had spilled the blood of another human, a great sin and one from which Ixion could not be purified by the usual ritual acts. In the end head God Jupiter takes pity on Ixion and offers to purify him but once he reaches Mount Olympus for the ceremony Ixion tries to rape Jupiter’s wife. Jupiter is understandably furious and condemns Ixion to be bound to an eternally spinning wheel of flame and placed where everyone can see him. Clearly Ixion demonstrates some unpleasant characteristics including enmity, betrayal, lack of honour and abusive behaviour so it is these kinds of acts that he represents in the unfolding drama of the skies.
Pholus is a centaur and so Ixion is his father – not that we would expect Ixion to have any regard for the obligations and expectations of such a relationship. Unlike Ixion, Pholus is fair, honourable and wise and is a friend of Chiron and Hercules. One day when Hercules was visiting Pholus was given a present of some very intoxicating wine but when he uncorked it the other centaurs fell into a frenzy, running riot and demanding their share. Hercules started shooting at them with poisoned arrows – one of which famously wounded Chiron – once things calmed down a bit Pholus tried to rescue one of the centaurs by removing the poisoned arrow but instead it injured him as well and so he died as a result of his attempts to help. Pholus, then, would demonstrate qualities of compassion, friendship, trust and he also shows events that may take unexpected turns, well intentioned motives backfiring and hurting you. The uncorking of the wine that begins the whole fiasco also shows where things may get out of hand because of some intoxicating presence, or where something might be unleashed which cannot then be controlled or contained.
Bearing this in mind we can begin to tell the story of Ixion and Pholus during the recent (and ongoing) eclipse and retrograde cycles. The story begins in mid-October last year (2011) when it really looked like Venus and Mercury were going to perfect a conjunction, they travel really closely together through Scorpio, getting closer and closer as they move into Sagittarius. However something starts to bother Mercury, he starts slowing down and then, while they are still very close but Mercury is having second thoughts, they run into Ixion and Pholus.
Back in November, at the time of the solar eclipse Ixion and Pholus can be found together close to the North Node at 16 and 17 degrees Sagittarius. Mercury and Venus meet up with them but while Mercury is busy hanging out with (or being distracted by) Pholus, Venus meets up with Ixion. No-one else is really paying much attention and things seem to carry on as they were, but clearly something troubles Mercury and quick-witted and sharp-sighted as he is, he decides he just wants to check this out. That’s understandable, if you passed a nice though maybe a bit naive guy like Pholus looking like he was being persuaded to do something but Ixion you might want to do the same, especially if Venus had spent some time alone with Ixion – he doesn’t have a very good reputation!
By the time of the December 10th lunar eclipse at 18˚+ Gemini Ixion and Pholus are really tight together at 17˚+ Sagittarius. Whatever it is they are up to they are doing it right in the glare of the action, but everyone seems so concerned with the other stuff that’s going on that they aren’t paying them any attention. Mars is forming a t-square to the eclipse and has reached 13˚+ Virgo, the ‘flashpoint’ degree of what will be his retrograde phase. He’s also just completed a rather nice trine to Venus so maybe he’s thinking more about the sweet vibes between them than looking to see what’s going on right before his very eyes. Whatever it is that Ixion and Pholus are up to it does seem to have something to do with Venus – she is at 17˚+ Capricorn so even though they can’t see one another there is a resonance there as they are both on the same number degree.
To me the symbolism reads as though Mars, happy with how things are going with Venus, is now busy watching the Sun and Moon at play. Little does he know that things are afoot in front of his very eyes and that he will have to return to this place and these events in order to understand what was going on. Meanwhile, Mercury, who did see Ixion and Pholus in cahoots, and was also there when Venus and Ixion came together, is trying to capture Mars’ attention and let him know what he saw – which he manages to do towards the end of January. Just as Ixion and Pholus enter 19˚+ Sagittarius, Mercury manages to perfect a trine with Mars – and what he tells him sends him back on his retrograde phase, first confronting Venus before reaching his flashpoint and confronting the Sun and demanding that ‘something be done’.
By the time of the grand trine in March Ixion and Pholus look like they are moving apart, the deed has been done and the gods seem to be just getting on with things – in fact they seem to be having a good time with that earthy grand trine. However, things are not that simple. It seems Pholus might have got wind of what he’d been tricked into and turns back to meet with Ixion again, pulling him back to the degrees where they were first seen together by Mercury. By the time of the May 21st solar eclipse Venus has passed opposite them both and it seems she has seen something which made her do a double take and she now moves backwards to get a clearer look. She’s actually opposite the degrees of the action, so it’s like she catches a glimpse of something in a mirror or shadows on a screen, but she can only watch and try to figure out what has been going on. Come June the 1st she gets some clarity as Mercury meets up with her opposite the degree where they both first met Ixion and Pholus. Mercury spells out to Venus what he has found out. After this Venus has to transit the Sun, the impact of events being fully exposed as she accounts for what has happened and what it means for her.
It’s easy to read this as a straightforward story of love and betrayal, with Venus as something of a fickle woman who seemed to be getting serious about Mercury, but betrays him with Ixion, and then, oblivious to the fact that Mercury found her out continues to flirt and come on strong to Mars. Mercury tells Mars about Venus’s double dealing, and in his anger he confronts her and then confronts the Sun demanding that something be done about it. The Sun obliges and takes Venus to task, showing her the error of her ways and ensuring that she is shamed into being genuinely sorry. Indded, it’s really possible that this accurately reflects exactly what has been going on in some people’s lives. However, with the presence of the subtler qualities of Ixion and Pholus, it seems there is more to this than meets the eye. It’s quite possible that Ixion persuades or tricks Pholus into distracting Mercury so that he can have his wicked way with Venus. After the act Mercury realises what has happened
For most of us, however, this little story represents something deeper and more subtle than a straightforward story of love and lust. Venus, a key player in this, is the planet of love, beauty, the arts, values, self-worth and so on. With Mercury, planet of communication, ideas, teaching it seems as though, at the beginning of November, as they moved together through Scorpio and into Sagittarius there was a coming together of deep intellectual and psychological values and ideas, loving communications and increasing confidence in the ability to communicate some valued philosophical ideas and principles. There is a shared vision of something to work towards which will see the flowering of a sense of self-worth and appreciation of the beauty of others. It’s all very inspiring and intoxicating – and that’s where the influence of Pholus can first be seen.
Perhaps during November there was something in your life that you were getting really excited about – maybe an art project or a new relationship, even just a book you were reading. It all seemed so wonderfully exciting and full of promise. If so, then that was the effect of Mercury and Venus getting so close and then coming across Pholus and his intoxicating wine. If then things started to go wrong, backfire, things were taken the wrong way or things you did simply didn’t achieve the desired outcome – that’s Ixion and his tricks, taking advantage and leading you up the garden path. In some cases this might even have felt quite brutal – Ixion is a child of Mars and his actions often have a clear and direct energy as he tries to force his desires upon the world. That gentle part of you that was so inspired by the conversation with Mercury now feels bruised and betrayed, let down by the very thing that seemed so appealing before – and it will take some months to get over this and start to understand.
At this point, with bruised feelings, betrayed hopes and disappointment in herself, Venus is in no fit state to deal with the usual direct energy of Mars. Mars would normally want to see things happen, he’s open and direct and usually wants to make things real, to bring them out of the realm of ideas. Now, however, he finds his contact with love and beauty a bit disturbing, he is forced to look inwards as Venus won’t engage with him on that kind of direct basis. Unable to be as assertive and proactive as usual he starts to examine areas of his life that need to change with illumination coming only after some soul searching and willingness to deal with what he usually feels are the boring necessities of life. He does at least start to see how his desires can be made real and where things have been preventing him from achieving his aims in the past.
In May we come to a point where we are able to see more clearly how we had been betrayed or taken advantage of back in November and the impact that has had upon our relationships both with ourselves and with others, even on our work and ability to make money in some cases. The retrograde period has demanded a really hard look at that. The contact between Venus and Mercury at the beginning of June hints at all the hopes and possibilities that were there back last Autumn, but this time Pholus’s intoxicating nature is a long way away – something to reflect upon but not to directly experience this time – no great inspirations and notions of magical things this time, it’s all very sober and realistic. Mars is also there, urging us to really get it together and be prepared to do some hard graft, but first Venus needs to do the difficult journey across the face of the Sun, her vulnerability and the abuse she suffered at the hands of Ixion’s dishonour and deceit plain for her to see.
All this ends up playing into the broader theme at work at the moment, it brings some detail into the need for a better union between religion and spirituality, philosophy and action and the work of Chiron compassionately revealing wounds and working to have them healed. A small story of hope betrayed and love abused that adds to the human complexity of these heavenly motions. Our sense of self-respect may well have been challenged, but it is well on its way to mending and finally getting together with Mars and working to put some of that Mercurial inspiration into the world. Just be careful next time you come across that tricksy Ixion – be watching for him and be wary of his lies!