What is Venus Retrograde?
Venus turns retrograde (or backwards) for about 6 weeks every year and a half. When she does, she pulls us into an inward journey, an exploration of the deeper mysteries of love. Relationships reach a crisis point at which clarity can come, followed by a deepening of intimacy or possibly an end to the relationship. Each Venus retrograde period is an opportunity to learn a new set of teachings about love and apply them to your own relationships (including close friendships).
Venus Retrograde 2015: Virgo and Leo
This year Venus begins her retrograde journey in 0º Virgo and travels backwards into Leo. I’ve decided on the story of Rapunzel as an apt metaphor for this journey: a tale of an adolescent girl who has lived in a tower all her life, and just wants to get out and have some fun. At certain junctures of Venus’ journey I’ll be posting articles about Rapunzel to illuminate the meaning of this transit. Stories evolve in the telling and this story is hundreds of years old, so along the way, I’ll compare various versions and interpretations of the tale that may add their own particular meanings, from the Brothers Grimm to Disney.
The Story of Rapunzel
There once was a girl who had lived her whole life in a tower, isolated from the world. Ah, but I begin too late. . . I must start at the beginning. This story really begins with a pregnancy, so we can understand why Rapunzel was in a tower and how she got her name.
Once upon a time. . .
There lived a man and his wife who lacked a child and were unhappy. They lived near to a witch who kept a garden behind her wall. The wife craved rampion (a leafy green vegetable) and asked her husband to take some from the witch’s garden as she felt she would die if she didn’t have it. The husband did so and was caught. The witch demanded his first-born child for his thievery, predicting that his wife would soon bear. When the child was born, the witch took her away, naming the girl Rapunzel, after the rampion her mother had craved. She hid the child in a tower, isolated from the world.
What does it mean?
Rapunzel is the product of a craving, which can be interpreted two ways: one is that, because a pregnant woman needs nutrition, her cravings are taken seriously by her husband, who risks all to feed her what she wants. This is therefore a story about appetites and their cost. The other possible interpretation stems from the fact that, in some versions of the story, the mother craves parsley, a known abortifacient. Perhaps the mother doesn’t really want a child and just wants to have sex without conceiving and therefore she is made to pay for her “sin” by losing her child. In either interpretation, the mother is subject to cravings, longings, desires that the husband is bound to fulfill and that cost them their child. Rapunzel is a product of longing and the name given her by the witch is ironic.
Mother Gothel, and the feminine craving for youth and beauty
The witch herself is a character full of meaning. In some versions she is a witch or a sorceress, in some a simple herbalist. In some she lures the husband to steal the rampion so she can claim the child. But in none of the older versions (Grimm’s German version or the Italian or French versions) is it explained why the old woman would want to take a child and raise it. The Disney version handles this by giving her a uniquely modern motivation.
(Warning: Disney movie “Tangled” spoilers are peppered throughout this article series!)
Disney begins the story with a magical flower that an aging woman finds. The flower keeps the woman young and beautiful and she conceals it under a basket, keeping it only for herself and singing a song to evoke the magical healing properties of the flower. She does this for hundreds of years. Then one day, the queen of the land, who is pregnant, grows deathly ill. She needs to get well, and fast. The king, hearing of the flower, sends his soldiers to take the flower and it is harvested and used to heal the queen, who safely bears a daughter. The magical healing qualities of the flower have come out in the baby’s hair, which is golden. The old woman, who is called Mother Gothel in the Disney version (and Dame Gothel in Grimm’s), appears and steals the child away. Mother Gothel knows that if Rapunzel’s hair is cut, even once, it will lose its magic. She hides the child in a tower which Rapunzel is never allowed to leave. Mother Gothel renews her youthful appearance and health each time Rapunzel sings a song that works the magic.
Rapunzel grows up believing Mother Gothel is her mother and knows nothing of her loving and distraught royal parents. Each year, they celebrate their beloved child (and grieve her loss) by sending lanterns into the sky. Each year, Rapunzel sees the beautiful lanterns and is drawn to them, but doesn’t have any idea they are for her. Rapunzel is the archetypal lost princess, with no idea that she is beautiful, magical and lost. She has all the power of primal innocence and Mother Gothel’s purpose is to entrap and exploit it, as a natural resource. Mother Gothel is the “bad mother” figure that appears in so many fairy tales and their Disney versions.
Distorted mother love and the Moon in Scorpio
The Disney version interests me because of the complex dynamics between Rapunzel and Mother Gothel. It’s especially interesting because this year’s Venus Retrograde period begins while the Moon is in Scorpio, a position associated with mothers who can be overprotective, manipulative or controlling.
Mother Gothel is the only mother Rapunzel has ever known. She pretends to love the child but really wants only to control and contain her and have access to her magic hair. “Mother knows best,” she sings, in a litany of things in the outside world that Rapunzel should be afraid of, justifying her imprisonment in the tower. Gothel’s every move in the course of the story is in defense of her access to the hair, a symbol of lushness and sexual beauty. She “protects” Rapunzel by keeping her in the tower, securing the girl’s obedience by pretending to be a loving mother. But as Rapunzel grows up, the tower will no longer contain her. Mother Gothel’s exploitation of this natural resource will come to an end.
Adolescence and the budding of sexuality
Rapunzel is conceived as a transgression (the husband has to climb a wall to get the rampion, which is protected/imprisoned behind it) and then is hidden in a tower, where she cannot transgress. But as the story moves on, she does transgress. This is the nature of adolescence: it is a time of desires and transgression. More in the next post.
And more about Venus Retrograde here.