You may have heard the Sanskrit word ‘dharma’. As with many Hindu or Buddhist concepts, it is difficult to translate directly and its meaning is also influenced by the many cultures in which it exists, from India to Japan. It derives from the Sanskrit verbal root ‘dhri’, which means ‘to hold, maintain or preserve.’ Popular translations include ‘true purpose’, ‘living according to the law or teachings’, ‘quality or characteristic’, and ‘religious or moral duty’. All point towards a particular way of being or doing, an alignment. To the western mindset, the meaning of dharma is often directed towards achievement, following its cultural association of purpose with direction, goal setting, drive and action. In my perspective that’s a distortion from the core of dharma’s essence, filtered through the patriarchal mindset. So what is dharma? And how is it relevant to current astrological energies? Let’s explore, starting with the planet Venus and the Earth.
In astrology the planet Venus represents what we desire, love, enjoy, find pleasure in, the flow of giving and receiving, and our self-worth. Perhaps you can see how these all correspond to relationships, which is also a Venus realm. At core, Venus represents our creative potential, to connect with and create that which we desire, find harmonious or beautiful. Astronomically, Venus’s orbit around the Sun, in combination with the Earth’s orbit, creates the five-petalled mandala we know as the ‘Flower of Life’. I explore this in depth in my book Sacred Pathways – Discovering Divine Feminine Archetypes in You. For simplicity here, let’s just say, this Venus-Earth rhythms create a template for earth life. When that rhythm changes (as it’s about to) we are offered the opportunity to travel a new spiral of creative potential. The sign of Capricorn is where this upcoming rhythm change is about to take place.
Earth sign Capricorn has been the focus of profound change in our lives since 2008, due to Lord of the Underworld Pluto’s presence there. Wherever Pluto plays a field of core transformation is generated. In the final earth sign of the zodiac, Capricorn, this involves a testing for integrity, a reset of our personal and collective structures, and the necessary destruction of what no longer serves our evolution. Pluto represents power. This dwarf planet was discovered in 1930; at the time scientists split the atom and as the Second World War was brewing. We can clearly see the requirement of responsibility for power involved in both.
Capricorn is the sign of maturity, responsibility and authority, with its shadow of control. It is the sign said to represent ‘Father’ and as such, reflects our western patriarchal heritage. In my perspective however, the most potent symbology for Capricorn is the shaman. Like the Capricorn image of the sea-goat, the shaman travels all the earth realms, from the depths of the ocean to the mountain peak. He/She is the true parent archetype, the one who holds the wise perspective for both individual and tribe, understands the interconnectivity of life, honours the earth rhythms and the gifts of nature. Now, as the old ways of using power are being decimated, Pluto offers us this shift from patriarchal father to shaman, from control and ‘power over’ to mature response and ‘power with’. As we face global challenge, Pluto also reveals the response-ability of each one of us to pull the plug on inner father patterning – our fears, doubts and attempts to control, our ‘should’ and ‘must’ – in order that we mature in authenticity and integrity, so we evolve in our individual contribution to our collective awakening.
It is with this background that we approach Venus moving retrograde through Capricorn. In her cycle with the Earth, Venus creates a new ‘star point’ in Capricorn every eight years. (reflect on 2014 events to see the growth potential of this placement in your life in the last Capricorn ‘star point’ cycle) In this current phase, Venus will disappear from our sunset skies as Evening Star and reappear as Morning Star in early 2022. Her absence from our view occurs due to her closeness to the Sun. She’s in the Sun’s bright light, where she will be seeded with new consciousness. In our psyche, this is reflected initially as a potential lack of feel-good and enjoyment. In the early stages of this process it’s as if Venus has gone underground, and with her, our sense of self-connection or capacity to relate well dives inwards. It’s not that it’s gone; it’s merely that the old ways of being, creating, doing and relating no longer feel sustaining or satisfying to us. We are being called to renew our self-appreciation, our capacity to connect with others, and our creative potential.
So how does this planetary activity relate to dharma? As I mentioned before, if we take the patriarchal perspective on dharma, particularly in achievement-oriented Capricorn, it’s about the potential to uplift our patterns of structuring, organising, doing and controlling, and in a mundane sense, our work life patterns. It may even indicate a shift in what we do as a job, career or vocation. It certainly points to necessary change in working relationships. The energy of Capricorn is directly involved in how we build something, either internal or external. We can see how what we have built both personally and collectively, inwardly and externally, has been decimated, particularly over the last two years. External structures have or are crumbling; internal structures – our belief systems and security framework – are being eroded. We cannot avoid this process, much as we might want to. It is natural. The key lies in how we use the energy of what has been destroyed to create a new way of being and doing, to energise the shaman within. If we view dharma through the lens of ‘true purpose’ there are clear pointers to what is being activated.
Through the lens of astrology, each of us has a true purpose. Not as some prospective clients ask, ‘What is it I’m meant to be doing’ or ‘What does the universe want me to do?’ but simply as your unique way of being and doing. One could call that ‘being true to oneself’. When we are in alignment with that unique way, our true nature, we naturally feel good, we enjoy, we appreciate life. Not only that, we contribute to the collective, as a unique facet of humanity. When we are not in alignment, we lack fulfilment and the collective is lacking one of its jewels. Alignment is not a static state; it is constantly growing and evolving, with a particular flavour of individuality. One could call it: a unique expression, but more than that, in its fullness, it is also a unique way of contribution. It may express differently throughout a lifetime as it evolves, yet it will maintain its core essence. For instance, as a student I was skilled in languages; my parents wanted me to be a diplomat or translator. As I evolved, I came to realise the essence of that skill is in illuminating the language of energy not of vernacular, although clearly it also involves communication. Can you see a similar thread in your life? This is where uplifting your dharma is calling perhaps.
It is supportive to share the shadow energies of earth sign Capricorn here too. For the energy for renewal arrives as we are transmuting old structures. With its symbology of the sea-goat, Capricorn portrays the self-expression of public identity, the interface between who I am and who I am in the world. More than anything, Capricorn wants to make what it knows within as true manifest. Its intent is to climb the mountain, to achieve a worthwhile endeavour and make a difference to its family or tribe in so doing. The way this is achieved portray Capricorn at its highest potential, or in its shadow. Capricorn naturally understands the qualities of authenticity and integrity, and the shadow emphasises their lack. No wonder so many public identities are falling apart with passage of Pluto through Capricorn. Think of big business with its ethos of ‘the ends justify the means’, government as controller rather than wise manager and contributor to humanity’s wellbeing, parent as stern taskmaster rather than guide and guardian of a child’s maturing process. All display the Capricorn shadow. It’s a theme of power plays. Equally, when we unthinkingly toe the line to authority, try to control a situation (or another person) rather than respond honestly, when we either ‘should’ on our self, or lack responsibility for our life and play victim, when we work purely for money or success without real fulfilment, we are expressing Capricorn’s shadow.
Venus journey though Capricorn plays out all these themes in our lives, with the playing field indicated by the house in your birth chart ruled by Capricorn. We will also see this playing out collectively too. The attempts to control through fearmongering, false authority plain for all to see, the demand to ‘Do as I say not as I do’. Whatever the circumstances, the quest is for deeper fulfilment inwardly. That fulfilment is reflected back to you in how you express and contribute in the world, your dharma, your unique way of being. Ultimately that is how evolution finds its ground, through each of us individually. We are currently navigating the darkest days; spring is certain. Not as ‘normal’ but as renewal.
As Venus traverses Capricorn, she meets with Lord of the Underworld Pluto three times exact (11 December, Christmas Day and 3 March). This connection may well initially highlight how our usual ways of enjoyment, connection and relating no longer fulfil. Or simply present feelings of lack, or an inward rather than connective orientation. This triple connection with Pluto is taking us through a process of dissatisfaction, emptiness and then fertility for new expression. Venus also connects with Mystic Neptune in watery Pisces three times by sextile (30 November, 5 January & 24 February). This presents an initial phase of disillusionment, or simply we’re too tired or ‘can’t be bothered’, yet there is also a deep calling to have faith in the inner process, to ‘let go and let God’. This is followed by a vast potential for renewal through inspiration, intuition, synchronicities and an expansion of trust in life’s natural beneficence. With Venus’s retrograde journey through Capricorn spanning 19 December to 29 January, with the retrograde shadow expanding that to 19 November through 2 March, this is a lengthy process. We cannot rush it, control it or drive it forward (as Capricorn shadow would like). Neptune suggest we simply respond to what appears as it does so, seemingly passive yet actively surrendered to ‘in the moment’ response-ability.
Key questions to reflect on during this entire process of uplifting your dharma
Venus in Capricorn:
- What is it I most love to do or share?
What do I most enjoy?
When/where do I feel most myself?
What do I really want?
How do I want to feel?
What deeply fulfils me?
Where am I most self-connected?
What is my core response-ability in relating?
With Pluto in Capricorn (particularly around 11 December, Christmas Day and 3 March)
- What must I do?
What do I do that does no longer comes from my core integrity?
What rules (inner/external) have I taken on as real that are not?
Where do I ‘should’ or ‘must’ on myself?
Where do I do powerlessness?
Where am I most authentic?
Where in my life do I face a choiceless choice to transform?
With Neptune in Pisces (particularly around 30 November, 5 January & 24 February)
- Where am I called to let go?
Where is open-heartedness most needed?
What would more willingness support in my life?
Where is deeper trust called for?
What would forgiveness do?
What about vulnerability?
What spiritual/soulfully creative/nature-based practice would most support me now?
As we approach the final days of this process, Venus aspects show us the potential harvest of our journey. Between 26 February and 3 March Venus travels with her consort Mars, planet of will and drive, Priestess Vesta and Pluto, all in Capricorn trine the Moon’s North Node in Taurus and sextile Mystic Neptune in Pisces. This is a wonderfully nourishing and balancing line-up, a true feel-good appreciation of life’s abundance of potential, where the heart is fed through a new awareness of stability, deeper self-trust and recognition of one’s soul journey. Venus and Mars are known as the Divine Lovers, so the potential is this new way of being and doing feeds into our relationships too. As these aspects are also held within the emerging blessings of Jupiter conjunct Neptune in Pisces, exact on 12 April, there is a true breath of fresh air emerging from the dark of the underworld. That breath is the uplifted dharma of each one of us, birthed through willingness to face and embrace the unavoidable process of change we must encounter. Are you willing? Through the exhaustion, despite the uncertainty? This Venus journey opens a new eight-year cycle. She promises renewal; she’s cultivating soulful maturity in you; she’s supporting the uplift of your dharma.