A Ficinian Response to Love in the Nineties: A Dialogue between an Astrologer and a Student
by DARBY COSTELLO
Originally Published in Sphinx, Journal for Archetypal Psychology and the Arts London, 1993, Volume 6
SYLVIE: Vita, hello! How unexpected to see you here in this café in the middle of a rainy Friday afternoon. I didn't know you lived in this area. But I won't intrude as I see you are working on something.
VITA: Not so much working as musing. Please sit down and join me for a coffee. How have you been? We last met at Erica's dinner, I think. You were with that interesting Russian man.
S: Yes. I was. No longer, I might add. This business of falling in love. I wish I could stop it happening. I begin to think it is some kind of trick. I fear that there is something I must figure out or I'll keep getting tricked forever. Somewhere I hear the gods laughing -it's as if I keep missing the point; I don't know the secret. If only I could find the secret of this trick I'm sure I would be able to laugh with them.
V: Yes, wouldn't that be delicious! But what happens?
S: I seem to be caught in a loop and I have no idea how to break out. After the end of this last affair, in which I invested more of myself than even I imagined possible, I wanted to die. Day after day I thought of suicide, how I would do it, what it would mean to the various people I knew. For months I was numb with pain. I kept telling myself I was already dead, so what was the point of killing myself? There had to be another solution. Actually I remembered something you said once about the secret of love being only given to those who had faced death in some way. It keeps coming into my mind, so isn't it a fine coincidence that I've met you here, and today?
V: It is. Tell me more about this feeling of death.
by Darby Costello
In the early sixth century a bishop from Padua wrote an epithalamium - a marriage poem - for a bride and groom. In this poem, Cupid went to see his beautiful mother, Venus, in her lush garden, complaining that their 'old empire' had been lost, and now 'cold virginity' possessed the world. 'Arise! Shake off your sleep!' he tells her. But she replies that she will not leave her garden yet; 'We shall be all the stronger for our rest. Let the nations learn that a goddess grows in power when no one thinks of her. (1)
In our world today it is not 'cold virginity' that has driven Venus into her hidden garden, but our ongoing anxiety and our terrible over-stretched busy-ness. And perhaps, underneath this, a loss of reverence for the invisible powers that the gods and goddesses used to personify. Today we ask each other and/or our parents and leaders to personify the gods and goddesses we have lost. Not only do relationships suffer but also our human capacity to take pleasure, soul nourishing pleasure, in the beauty of the world as it is. The longing for things to be different, people to be different, ourselves to be different, seems to be a disease of the time we live in.
In my consultation practice as an astrologer I have sought to understand this sense of collective distress in myself and in others and to bring it into consciousness rather than be submerged by the communal free floating anxiety, which most often gets projected onto one or another person, group or community. We are in such a precarious, changing world and it feels so unsafe to so many people. A lot of the work I do with clients involves noticing where these distressed, anxious, busy, thoughts, images and feelings invade the private gardens of our lives. Do we pay appropriate attention to the beauty that is Venus' gift as it shows in our charts? Do we relate personally to the dimension that is her realm in ways that further joy and beauty in our lives and in the world around us? And, is this a thing worth doing, or is it selfish in a world full of such confusion and distress?
To address these questions, it is worth returning to the deities associated with the planet Venus - when living deities were still associated with the planets! Four thousand years ago the Mesopotamians already knew that the morning and evening star were the same. At different times the goddesses Inanna and Ishtar were the planet's deities.