“The descent into the shadow is inescapable and essential to the authentic Birth. It is one of the holiest of mysteries, the place where the greatest treasures are to be found. When you discover the diamond hidden at the heart of this paradox, it irradiates your whole being with an ever-expanding joy, wisdom, and hope.” – Andrew Harvey, The Hope
We’re now deep into the season of Scorpio, the sign of emotional depths, darkness, all things secret, hidden, mysterious and taboo. The Sun entered Scorpio on October 23rd, the Scorpio New Moon is November 5th, and the Scorpio holiday/holy day, the true Halloween — Samhain or Hallowmas — falls on November 7th.
Samhain is the midpoint of the Scorpio season, and the halfway point between the Fall Equinox (September 22nd) and Winter Solstice (December 21st). Considered one of the “gates of power” in the wheel of the year, Samhain is when the veil between the seen and unseen worlds is the thinnest. Our ancestors, our magical allies and spirit guides, all the invisible forces are most accessible at this time.
In the Northern Hemisphere, Samhain marks the transition from the abundance of the harvest, to the scarcity of winter. Although many of us live disconnected from the Earth and her cycles, on a genetic level, we’re wired to respond to nature. Our bodies know that this is a time for slowing down, turning inward, and reflecting on life’s deepest mysteries. As the leaves fall from the trees, the air turns chill and the days grow darker, we’re drawn to confront our own mortality — the great mystery of death.
Scorpio, the sign associated with Pluto, Lord of the Underworld, rules the process of death and rebirth. The purpose of the Scorpio season is to reflect on death — the only certainty of our lives — in order to put us back in touch with what really matters. With the awareness that we’re going to die, that those we love are going to die, how do we live our lives?
Astrologer Jessica Murray, in her fabulous Halloween lecture, talks about the transition from Earth-based spiritual traditions, in which death was considered a sacred part of the natural cycle, to the “Sky God religions” (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), in which “death came to be seen as a non-inevitable calamity of which humanity was the cause as well as the victim.” As a consequence, death is now associated with fear, seen as taboo rather than a sacred process.
In order to reconnect with natural cycles, and with our own power, Murray calls for “reclaiming Halloween from the candy industry” and inventing our own rituals to honor the mysteries of the invisible realm. By honoring death, we can tap into the Scorpio power of regeneration and renewal — the rebirth that inevitably follows.
“In the broken-open heart you will find a fountain of deathless passion that will never run dry.” – Rumi (quoted in The Hope by Andrew Harvey)
Since October 8th, Venus, Goddess of Love, has been Retrograde — appearing to travel backwards through the sky. For most of her Retrograde journey, Venus is in Scorpio, and therefore will be making an exceptionally long tour through this sign — from September 8th to January 7th (with a brief detour back to Libra from November 7th to 29th).
Venus rules the heart and the heart chakra, and Venus in Scorpio is on a mission to break open our hearts.
A few weeks ago I got to hear the amazing astrologer David Pond speak at the Oregon Astrological Association. He posed the question, “When you fall in love, are you taking a risk that you’ll get your heart broken?” His answer was an emphatic NO — “It’s not a risk, it’s a guarantee.” The heart is designed to break, and heal, and break and heal. That’s just how it works. The alternative is to close our hearts and live shut down, in isolation and fear.
Venus in Scorpio puts us in touch with the intense feelings that have the power to break open our hearts — grief, sorrow, passion, love, ecstasy. While Venus is Retrograde, we’re likely to be revisiting and reviewing past experiences (particularly relationship-related) that trigger these feelings, so we can release them, resolve the past, and move more fully into the present. (Yes, all “re-” words apply during Venus Retro.)
This heartbreak serves us on a personal level, by opening us to a wider range of emotions and genuine intimacy with others. Without experiencing the depths, we don’t get to feel the highs. But heartbreak also serves the collective. If we are able to transform our world, it will be through the heart — because enough of us have opened to the truth that we are all truly connected, and we feel moved to act from love and compassion on behalf of the Earth and her inhabitants.
So often I notice myself closing down my heart to the suffering in the world. I’ll get an update from In Defense of Animals, and quickly follow their instructions to email a letter to some official about putting an end to yet another ridiculous assault on the lives and well-being of animals. But rarely do I allow myself to really FEEL the suffering of the animals — the elephants “trained” by bull hooks in circuses and zoos, the chimps caged and tortured in laboratories, the wolves shot at by men in helicopters.
Fear takes over — the fear of feeling too much, of getting lost in despair, of falling into the Underworld and not returning — and the heart shuts down. But more and more I’m coming to understand that this numbness is a place of powerlessness, not of protection.
Andrew Harvey writes eloquently about the necessity of heartbreak in The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism (which obviously has had a huge impact on me since I keep quoting from it — please read it!!):
“The door into empowered servitude… was through facing the cruelty, the injustice, and the agony of the world head on and letting them shatter the heart open. The detachment and serenity so prized by the old patriarchal mystical systems could not be enough for a crisis so enormous. The authentic rebel of love would have to let himself be penetrated and broken open by love.”
May the heartbreak engendered by this Scorpio season, by Venus’s Retrograde journey and extended Scorpio tour, inspire us all to be “rebels of love” — to emerge from the Underworld with renewed passion and compassion for life and the living, to meet the crises of the world with open hearts and the strength that comes from feeling connected with our invisible allies.
- Emily Trinkaus