Venus on the mudflats

I philosophise sunsets, born that I was under a Ray of Venus Vesper direct  [1] and I much prefer sunrise. I would have also liked being the other Venus which might have made me less of a poet perhaps. I find the heavens evocative in the way they bring one in touch with their own self, that one can admire a celestial body thus, without words, by simply feeling, and who is to argue with that. 

It is incredible, how the orbital patterns of the heavenly lights transcribed onto human consciousness, those seemingly inscrutable mandalas, reified into lexicon as the pathways of deities or demons. Humanity has persistently tried to infer meaning from the ephemeral radiance of celestial bodies. Bastions of this wisdom, embedded all that knowledge into stories which capture our imagination and sculpt our consciousness into varied expressions or sometimes seek to explain the impressions we make. I am deeply intrigued by esoteric astrology and astronomy, because I find it preceded Psychology in trying to understand motives and intentions. The appropriation of the esoteric by religions the world over, helps capture the creativity of beings to transform the abstract onto a material plane. According to ancient Greek and Egyptian sources, the periodicity of stars and the flooding of the Nile for example, was predictable, ever since 1 A.D., in fact the heliacal rising of Sirius and the Nile floods can be confirmed by astronomical calculations [2] Even so, the Dog star according to astrologer/mathematical astronomer Ptolemy, who was known to fabricate data [3] attested to the star as being the nature of a planet like Mars, Mercury, Saturn etc [4] which have their own connotations in astrology and Ptolemy was a practical man, an Astrologer. Even so, when a celestial body like Sirius for instance, comes to be associated with something ominous, as in Virgil’s Aenid (and my earlier blog post about Moretum shows how credible he could be) or something magical as in Walt Disney’s (Freemason) Blue Fairy in Pinocchio or gets a bad boy makeover in Harry Potter’s Sirius Black [5], shows quite clearly, that we love to be in the grip of fictions and we enjoy them. Alas, what we feel in reality, are not fictions, they are simply inexplicable as of now.

I tried writing about Venus today; I have been trailing her myths ever since last year when I read a study, based on the descent of the Babylonian goddess Inanna, into the underworld [6]. It is a beautiful mythology about the path of Venus relative to the Earth and the Sun. Isn’t it beautiful that, plotted from a geocentric perspective, Venus returns to the same place in the sky after about eight years in thirteen Venusian orbits (8 x 224.8 days) Over these eight years, the position of Venus thus, relative to the sun and earth occurs five times, hence the pattern has been compared to a Pentagram. Either way, Venus appears for one part of each cycle as Venus Lucifer or morning star and Venus Vesper or evening star. In between, it disappears for a while. The heliocentric orbit of Venus’ is tilted and slightly elliptical. [2] Watch this amazing video created by Guy Ottewell that shows all three [7]  

Most impressive is how our descriptive knowledge of systems burgeons along the ages, for it is only a few centuries old that we know of the Venusian Ashen lights visible through a telescope, as first observed by the Italian astronomer Giovanni Riccioli (1643) who discovered, a faint glow on the night side of the planet Venus [8]. [I have made a mention of this in my poem, hence the reference] Many would go on to report observing these ‘Ashen lights‘ that appear intermittent, yet, despite 700 nighttime observations undertaken in 1988 [9] and 190 positive sightings, they could not establish conclusively any existence of this glow. In fact, the Pioneer Venus Project (1978), whose main objective was to investigate the solar wind in the Venusian environment, sent an orbiter and a multiprobe into the Venusian atmosphere [10] and found no evidence of such lights.

Source: Page 2~

In the 1960’s, a task group for Venus nomenclature was established under the direction of the Working Group for Planetary System Nomenclature of the International Astronomical Union ~ This group was charged with formulating a systematic plan for naming the features elucidated by the Pioneer Venus altimetric and imaging systems, as well as those features seen in a proliferating number of high-resolution Earth-based images and they chose a theme in keeping with the age-old feminine mystique associated with Venus: features would be named for females, both mythological and real, who were famed in the mythologies and histories of all world cultures, where circular, craterlike features would be named for notable historical women, whereas other features would bear the names of goddesses and heroines from myth and legend [see the chart on page 202 in 11]. 

Our reliance on the mythical to perpetuate a fiction and then the process of rendering the real, mythical, rests in this limited lexicon which in turn channels us in ways that prevent an individuation of sorts. I am sometimes exhausted that we are caught in descriptions, technicalities, where I would much rather learn a different way to communicate. Which brings me again to Venus, recognising something that cannot be seen in her relative position to Earth, those beautiful spirals the heavens draw in the sky, the subtle conscious awe that it permeates into the knowledge that one Venusian night lasts 300 Earth days, that the clap of thunder clouds can be heard from across the side of a planet, that the temperatures can be as high as 470­ºC, that life does not follow a singular description and we cannot define everything, but this environment cannot be hell, for we simply understand so little. It was in 1947 that Soviet scientist Gavriil Adrianovich Tikhov became the first ‘astrobotanist’ when he set up a department at the Alma Ata Observatory in Kazakhstan in order to study the plants he felt certain were growing on both Mars and Venus (It isn’t simply sci-fi imagining like Robert Pattinson in his little garden of Eden in the movie High Life or Matt Damon in The Martian growing potatoes in Faeces), so it may be interesting that  in 2019, ultraviolet patches were discovered in Venusian atmosphere and in 2020, a potential biomarker too, Phosphine, that indicates the presence of anaerobic entities [12] Perhaps, knowledge might help us to steer towards new ways of envisioning life, lives of others, that is.

Currently, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is developing an atmospheric balloon, Shukrayaan-1 (Shukra, Venus, the minor benefic in Vedic astrology, Yaan refers to journey in Sanskrit; to be launched in 2024 or 2026), while a joint mission to the surface has been proposed in a collaboration between the Russian space agency and NASA (Humour aside, but it is rather nice to see such a joining of forces in a space race for science) We will learn more of Venus for certain, but how will this guide us in our own evolution is a question left yet again to those nebulous notions of Metaphysics. 

Venus on the mudflats

In a manner of setting, the sun has no equal
It warms as it wanes orange on the horizon.

A matter of wonder: what independent soul
may have sprouted this very moment, in genesis

of having swallowed celestial signatures,
simply, children of an evening star Inanna,

those that would climb a mountain for a cloudy
solitude, so at some amber dusk when the tide

ebbed in the plains below, they would watch
from afar, the ashen lights of their hearts, finally

float like soot to soil and slip under fertile deltas
of sweet inundation. Count to ten, the Universe

whispers on the tail of a sunset breeze. There are
forty nine Canadian geese on the mudflats ......

I enjoyed reading through the references I have used here. For those of you interested in the poetry of the Mesopotamian goddess Inanna, check the Gutenberg archive [13] I believe the poem of the courtship of Inanna and Dumuzi [14] rates as one of the most erotic ever written that even succeeding ancient texts of other traditions simply could not replicate despite their pantheon of delectable deities and fascinating myths. Even so, in the descent of this Venus into the underworld, an analogy to Venusian orbit, the disappearance of Venus is mentioned in lines 41-47 when Inanna says to her trusted Nincubura, her second in command, to watch out for her, in a strange allusion to Iron ore produced from the decomposition of vegetable matter: “When you have entered the E-kur, the house of Enlil, lament before Enlil: “Father Enlil, don’t let anyone kill your daughter in the underworld. Don’t let your precious metal be alloyed there with the dirt of the underworld. Don’t let your precious lapis lazuli be split there with the mason’s stone. Don’t let your boxwood be chopped up there with the carpenter’s wood. Don’t let young lady Inana be killed in the underworld.” It is a beautiful myth with so much esoteric knowledge hidden in its poetry, which could help emphasise rather than reduce to mere caricature why we appear besotted with the stars. Here’s to Venus and everything beautiful.

And in trying to reach the planet of diamonds and sapphires, here's the poetry of Earth's inhabitants, ever so plodding in their pursuit of knowledge (sometimes, bereft of wisdom, is it any wonder why it gets spirited into myths eventually?)

Members of the Pioneer Venus
team responsible for developing the
probe instruments soon learned that it
would not be easy to acquire the large
Type IIA diamond they required. A
dealer told them, "You can't go out
and buy it, it has to show up in your
box." He explained that there are
10 or 12 dealers' boxes in London,
boxes of the only persons in the world
who deal with the South African diamond producers.
Dealers pick up the
diamonds that have been placed in
their boxes, sort them, and decide how
much to offer for them.
He spoke of rumors that several
large diamonds had been found in the
sands of the Orange River delta in
South Africa, the most likely source of
the kind of diamond needed for the
probe window. Large stones are rarely
found in the diamond mines because
they are often broken by the mining
techniques used.
The dealer said: "What, I'll have to
do is go to South Africa and wine and
dine people who put the diamonds in
the boxes and tell them what my
needs are." That is what he did, and
the Pioneer Venus instrument designers soon had
two large type IIA diamonds from which to make their
spacecraft windows. One of the diamonds was cut and
ground, and the outside circumference
faceted; several windows were made
from it. One had 32 facets, another
had 16 facets. The outside circumferences
were faceted to prevent the
microcracks that would develop from
grinding the stones into a circular
So the large diamond from South
Africa became the window (fig. 2-1)
through which an infrared radiometer
would view the atmosphere of Venus.
Other windows for the net flux
radiometers were cut from the same

Source: Page 25, Pioneer Venus, 1983, original document, NASA


On Ptolemy ~ Alexandrine astronomer/astrologer Claudius Ptolemy, in books VII and VIII of the Almagest, (Latin title Syntaxis mathematica),  listed the positions and brightness of some 1022 stars and is based entirely on the work of Greek astronomer Hipparchus. He comments on the color of only six of these stars—Betelgeuse, Aldebaran, Pollux, Arcturus, Antares, and Sirius—and assigns the color red to each. In particular, for Sirius in the constellation Canis Major, he states its location, on the dog’s mouth, as well as its relative brightness and color: bright and red [15] Now the star Sirius is known to be bluish white. Scholars are busy trying to find out if the colour of Sirius changed from reddish of antiquity to the bluish white of today, based on one single source, Ptolemy’s Almagest [16] This brings to mind the reliability of sources we deem authentic, authoritative, factual and it also reminds me of an observation attributed to Mark Twain, who noted that we be careful when we read health books lest we die of a misprint !