As with any craft, the longer you're in it, the deeper you want to go into its components to get better and better at it overall. Most people understand that after you've been doing something a long time and can do it in your sleep, you can get bored with your craft. I've been doing astrology long enough to fall prey to the boredom, I'm sure, but I never get bored.

Instead, I get confused.

I know all the puzzle pieces in astrology. Insert planet A into sign B and all that. Some people might say I've even gotten pretty good at twisting those pieces around into little pockets of meaning (I did write a book and all, I suppose). While many people spend time trying to figure out the next new puzzle on their horizon such as midpoints or sesquiquadrates or the elusive triple-yod-summersault-dismount trickybob, I like to dig as deeply as I can into the elegance of the core components of astrology: the planets, signs, and houses; to re-enchant myself with the foundations themselves. I know it's time for another excavacation when suddenly everything I seem to know about one of these components simply dissolves when I try to pick it up. File empty. These days, ask me about Venus and I'll search my brain's database, only to find that the files have been stolen and a sticky note left in its place: "I.O.U."

And then, like a good little Virgo with Capricorn Rising, I panic and fret while all the while trying to fake it so I can keep my reputation in good standing. Yes, yes, Venus, yes. Be right with you. Just, um, gathering my thoughts and opening up my programs. Wait, where's my laser pointer and my headset?!

Venus de milo It's not that I've forgotten the keywords. I can recite them just as well as the next good little astrological monkey. Venus: Relationships, Charm, Beauty, Creativity, Art, and so on. But it's not enough to parrot the words inherited from every beginning astrology book one's read. This 8th house girl has to know WHY? What are the roots that have birthed these branches? It's come time for me to dig into the very soil from which our modern understanding of the Venus archetype has grown. So I'm dutifully going about it in Gemini south node fashion: a stack of books and a list of mp3 workshop recordings, and back to the myths themselves to do my own distillation process. Hopefully when I stir them all in the 8th-house pot, the themes, truths, and patterns will rise to the Neptune-in-Sagittarius-conjunct-my-north-node frothy top.

Is it a coincidence that I've got the Venus Research bug as it retrogrades in Scorpio, the sign of research and mysteries, over my Midheaven? Goddess, I hope not!

I hope to have more to offer in the future, but my preliminary findings (one with Cap Rising must talk like that to sound official, you do understand) have drawn my attention to the trouble with the white-washed Venus that has been most celebrated. Venus wants to make everything 'pretty', just like herself, right? She wants us all to get along and play nice, or at least pretend to play nice. I'm not interested in standing on a feminism soapbox here as much as I'm interested in wholeness, as in, don't just show me the pretty parts, show me all of it (even you, Venus). It's not about finding the tabloid dirt on Venus to prove how ugly she really is. What really intrigues me is the definition of beauty itself, beyond the symmetry of faces or the argument of pastels over fluorescents. I found this paragraph from Anne Massey's book Venus: Her Cycles, Symbols & Myths to be particularly provocative:

Our view of Venus has become sanitized over the centuries, removing whatever we as a society are not comfortable accepting. This would naturally account for the fact that we still like to place women on pedestals where we can admire their beauty (and no doubt lament the lack of our own in some way by comparison, I'd like to add). Fashion magazines are a prime example. The faces of women who grace the pages have been airbrushed to the extent that there appear to be no lines, creases, or imperfections, let alone a wrinkle or a laugh line. With each brush stroke, a part of the woman's personality has been erased. (italics mine, bold added)

Venus is retrograding through Scorpio right now (I think I mentioned that!), creating a seemingly perfect time for us all to ask questions about the raw truth that lies beneath any image of beauty or any bonds of love. In marital love, for example, we recognize the lines from the age-old vow: "for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until death do us part." Well. We can certainly recognize Saturn's stamp on all of that. After all, until death do us part is pretty committed and serious. But we can recognize Venus in it too, I hope (especially in Scorpio). The depth of the passion in a commitment like that has to be profound.

We don't like to think about it, but Scorpio knows the frightening truth of love in the face of poorer, sickness, and death. As Venus retrogrades through this sign, perhaps we are being shown what is terribly beautiful in its power and horror, not just pretty or easy. Singer Lily Allen (May 2 1985) has just lost her baby at 6 months pregnant, while Venus in Scorpio retrograded right over her Pluto. Love meets horror and loss? You betcha.

So what is my point, that Venus, and especially Venus in Scorpio, is actually ugly, frightening, painful and ultimately ends in death? No, it's even worse. That the face of Venus that is love, human love, contains all those things, Scorpio or not. Retrograde or not. It also contains timelessness, ascension, safety through the howling winds that life blows at us sometimes, vulnerability in the best sense, and every love song you've ever heard. Let's honor its raw and provocative power that isn't always pretty, but supersedes prettiness with its elegance and flawed purity.

This is one of the best Venus in Scorpio photos I know, and surprise, surprise, it has nothing to do with leather, vampires, or heavy eye makeup:

photo credit: unknown. Do you know? Please comment and let me in on it!

So how does the chart reveal the similarities but the differences alike? There are a few theories, such as the idea that twins 'split up' the chart's energies and express some traits stronger than their twin or that environmental factors make up the other half of the astrological picture, that external stimulus and life events dictate how each twin uses their chart to respond to life. Or is it the core of modern astrology and the belief in free will: that no one can predict what an individual soul's choices will be, only their lessons, struggles, and strengths?