Venus and the Virgin

Tuesday May 10th 2011
The Virgin at La Salette, France
“MAY is Mary’s month, and I
Muse at that and wonder why:
    Her feasts follow reason,
    Dated due to season—
Candlemas, Lady Day;        5
But the Lady Month, May,
    Why fasten that upon her,
    With a feasting in her honour? …”    

 From the May Magnificat by AE Housman

If you were a visitor from another planet and your pod landed in Europe, you might be able to guess that the stone building with the tower that you found in every village and town was a place of worship.

Montserrat, Catalunya

The altar, the quiet, the attitude of the people within – all these would give you clues to the nature of the building’s use.

But if you were to hazard a guess at the nature of the religion these Europeans were following, I think you would be likely to send this mistaken report home to Planet Zorb.

“The earthlings in this place seem to worship a mother goddess. She is depicted as young and beautiful and usually holding a baby earthling. Sometimes she has a crown of stars, and sometimes she stands on stars… Sometimes she is very, very sad.”

The love of the Virgin Mary goes deep here – and I believe the adoration of the holy mother is much older than the Catholic Church would like us to think.

Here’s an example of the connections between the ancient goddesses and the mother of god.


May is Venus’ month. She rules the sign of Taurus through which the Sun now glides, and she is also Taurus’ tutelary deity. (to see previous posts on tutelary deities click here) The planet Venus was always associated with the feminine. In Babylon, where astrology was born, this was the goddess Innana’s planet.

Stella Maris under
the pentacle.

The Babylonians were well aware of the five-pointed star that that Venus traced in the sky, and so the pentacle was associated with the mother goddess. Over a period of eight years, if you plot each station (retrograde or forward) of Venus on the circle of the zodiac, you will create a perfect pentacle.

The Virgin Mary is sometimes called Star of the Sea (Stella Maris) and when she is depicted with a star, it is traditionally five-pointed.

If our visitor from planet Zorb, noted the the Virgin’s pentacles and took note of the European Union symbol which is visible all over the continent, not least on every license plate, he might find further evidence of the continent’s penchant for the goddess.

No wonder certain Protestant
groups thought the stars were a sly
takeover of the European
project by Catholics!

Here’s the rest of the poem.

“…Is it only its being brighter
Than the most are must delight her?      
    Is it opportunest
    And flowers finds soonest?
Ask of her, the mighty mother:
Her reply puts this other
    Question: What is Spring?—
    Growth in every thing—
Flesh and fleece, fur and feather,
Grass and greenworld all together;
    Star-eyed strawberry-breasted
    Throstle above her nested
Cluster of bugle blue eggs thin
Forms and warms the life within;
    And bird and blossom swell
    In sod or sheath or shell.
All things rising, all things sizing
Mary sees, sympathising
    With that world of good,
    Nature’s motherhood.
Their magnifying of each its kind
With delight calls to mind
    How she did in her stored
    Magnify the Lord.
Well but there was more than this:
Spring’s universal bliss
    Much, had much to say
    To offering Mary May.
When drop-of-blood-and-foam-dapple
Bloom lights the orchard-apple
    And thicket and thorp are merry
    With silver-surfèd cherry
And azuring-over greybell makes
Wood banks and brakes wash wet like lakes
    And magic cuckoocall
    Caps, clears, and clinches all—
This ecstasy all through mothering earth
Tells Mary her mirth till Christ’s birth
    To remember and exultation
    In God who was her salvation.’

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  1. Christina says:

    One of my readers has just pointed out to me that the Vision at Fatima was on May 13.

    This put me in mind of a very excellent book I read last year about the astrology of apparitions of the Virgin. It’s by Courtney Roberts and it’s rather a meticulous bit of research.

  2. P says:

    Thanks for the book rec, Christina.

    (Sorry for the lengthy comment. My Merc in Gemini, I guess. Oh, BTW, you’re not doing Madhuri Dixit’s horoscope for May, per chance – ‘No’ is a perfectly acceptable answer for this loyal reader)

    It was only after you pointed out the Mother Goddess connection that I saw it (shame on me – I’m born in Purva Phalguni – the Goddess’s sign in Vedic astrology – at least that’s what the priests at a famous temple in Madras / Chennai told my Grandad when I was born. I ought to at least try to suss out these things!). Anyhoo, it’s a fascinating article: Wicca’s a biggish thing, I suppose, if one is trying to be pagan. My question, tho, is whether there is the concept of a universal mother goddess in European pagan traditions.

    This occurred to me as in Hindu / Indian / whatever philosophy, the spirit of the universe is feminine. My interpretation is that essentially, we are ALL under the Great Mother’s protection (the chance of being smashed to smithereens by a meteor notwithstanding).

  3. Christina says:

    Madhuri Dixit – I forgot, but yes I will! -she’s another dancer in the rain.

    Yes, there’s some argument about the Mother Goddess, but I think it’s widely – if not always – accepted that there was a universal mother goddess before the Greek/Norse/Celtic deities that we’re familiar with.

    Two old books – Robert Graves’ The White Goddess and The Golden Bough – are good places to start.

    From an Indian perspective, this will be familiar territory, because, the argument is that Aryan tribes brought the idea of the god of thunder and the Olympians to Greece and melded that with the indigenous mother goddess cult. This is why you see traces of the goddess in all Greek mythology. Just like India in fact. Demeter is especially ancient.

    On my first trip to india, I had this feeling that the beliefs we Europeans have bubbling under Christianity and secularism are very very close to Hinduism in its broadest sense. It’s obvious that some of the gods share roots with the Greek gods.

    The thing that really got me going was the concept of darshan, which is of course something you see at every Spanish/Greek/Italian fiesta when the image of the saint is paraded through the town.

  4. Christina says:

    The goddess hypothesis is not uncontroversial. See this book When God Was a Woman.