Jessa Crispin On Retro-Venus Reads

Filed in Horoscopes

Lang Leav

 In the run-up to Venus Retrograde, I was re-reading Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady like an inoculation. Like, these are the stakes, girl. You can either hole up in your house with your dignity and your 87 rose bushes, or you can warble on to your exes like Poor Lord Warburton and Poor Caspar Goodwood, following Isabel around Europe for years after she turned down their marriage proposals. “How about now?” they keep asking her. “Do you want to marry me now?” Even after she marries someone else. “How about I marry your step-daughter, that’d be cool and not at all stalkery, right?”

They showed up in cycles, the two rejected suitors, and I bet if someone clocked it, every time they showed up to give her sad cow eyes again, Venus would be running backwards.

James, with his Ascendant at 0 degrees Virgo and his Venus in Pisces was not about to sully himself with romantic love and sexual contact, but he got it. That dude understood what terrible fools we make of ourselves for love, how we get stuck and trapped and choose really badly, and his books are just the perfect amount of poison to shake you out of complacency.

So let’s do a Venus in Leo Retrograde reading list, yeah? Something that will help us use this time well and keep us from buying international airline tickets, I’m so sure that guy was the one and I really need to tell him in person right now. Keep our brains occupied. And it’s true that most love self-help is a nightmare of heteronormative, sexually regressive terribleness (eat it, Why Men Love Bitches), we can find a few good books worth reading.

Why Love Hurts by Eva Illouz

Let’s jump right in, yeah? Too often we think there is something wrong with us that needs to be fixed before we can really love. And that’s where we stop thinking. We don’t think enough about society, about how our culture’s confusing messages about love and sex and romance and marriage (marriage is death a trap a hell from which no escape is possible versus marriage is super important if you don’t get married you are an enormous failure) puts pressure on us.

Illouz is brilliant, and she takes a sociological viewpoint to show, actually, it’s not you and your daddy issues, it’s culture that is keeping people romantically unsatisfied. Marriage, love, and relationships are all in the process of being redefined, and people are miserable in the process. There’s no big fix, no big idea on how to survive this, but it at least lets you see if you’re alone, it’s not your fault.

Communion by bell hooks
Straight Sex by Lynne Segal

How do feminists think about sex and love? Because let’s face it, we don’t always fall in love with the enlightened. People are indoctrinated with stupid ideas about gender, and sharing your home, your life, your time with these people, who suddenly expect you to behave in a really specific way just because of your chromosomal burden can be a nightmare.

This goes for men in heterosexual relationships, too! There are still women you’ll be totally into only to find that they expect you to provide, they expect you to hide your emotions, they expect you to perform your masculinity in traditional ways, and that’s not okay, either.

Both bell hooks and Lynne Segal think through these issues, hooks focuses more on how to find and live with love while still living up to your own ideals, and Segal writes about how our sexual behavior and the way we think and talk about sex is still trapped in old gender stereotypes.

The Allure of Chanel by Paul Morand

It’s important to remember Venus is not just about relationships. It’s also about pleasure, beauty, connection, fairness, empathy. And so we should talk about a woman who worked out her Venus in Leo perfectly, and that would be Coco Chanel.

I mean, yes, she was terrible sometimes. She moved in with a Nazi during the occupation of Paris for godsake. But. She was all about beauty. Practical beauty. Beauty that suited women themselves and didn’t just decorate them and make them useless (unable to breathe, walk, or hold their heads up straight) because useless is how men liked their women back then.

But Chanel was Venus in Leo, it was conjunct her sun. That dignity, that sense of royalty, that desire for adoration ruled her life and career. (And her loves — she did not have relationships, she had romantic affairs. And as soon as the magic wore off, her men were discarded, even dukes, even Igor Stravinsky. She never married. Can you even picture Chanel married?) And I like her own memoirs, as told to the poet Paul Morand, the best, even though it is full of lies. But of course a Leo would prefer the performance over the real thing.

It’s important because Chanel asks us, what do you do with your Venus? It’s fine to just sit back and use it to think about your next hairdo, but how do you turn it into a verb? How do you create from that space? She did it her whole life, she can be our guide.

Venus in Exile by Wendy Steiner

Oh, I love Wendy Steiner. And here she contemplates the removal of traditional Venusian ideals from art, literature, and the public sphere during the 20th century. When we think of beauty and love as cheap — and when beauty becomes bait for sex only — what happens? How do we feed those needs inside of us, how do we even acknowledge they are there?

It was published more than ten years ago, but it’s still relevant. I mean, the greatest love story of our time is a guy who ties up some woman and hits her while he bangs her? And it’s not, here’s the love I have for you so much as, here are the helicopters and cars and properties I can make available for you. We’ve replaced Venus with provocation, and there are consequences for that.

Which is not to say Steiner wants women to go back to being useless decoration. Beauty has to be rethought, so that it is not equated with weakness or passivity anymore. But for that to happen, Venus has to be invited back in, talked to and listened to.

Jessa Crispin is the editor of and She is a tarot card reader, specializing in issues with creativity and writing. For more information, go here. Her first book, The Dead Ladies Project, about love and travel and art, is forthcoming from the University of Chicago, October 2015.


Image: Lang Leav

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41 thoughts on “Jessa Crispin On Retro-Venus Reads

  1. This week has been interesting with the cop. Since our first date all week last week he was in touch with me. On his days off, although he was still in touch with me, he never initiated another date. I was confused. So, I called him on it. Although I got my answer, we got together the next day, had fun and it ended, he isn’t contacting me as much. Let’s see what happens. Busy with work “things”… so maybe this is how it suppose to go until I get a job.


    Sun in Virgo, Venus is in Leo (House 10) with the Sun, Mercury and Jupiter…

  2. I have to ask now that we are talking about this:

    WHO saw Trainwreck? Comments?

    I hated it! The worse story about a girl who blames one word (monogamy) for her excuse to go out and sleep with so many men while having a boyfriend.

  3. How apt.
    Just been reading conversations with god part 2
    About relationships too tired to quote here but its in alignment with how coco Chanel operates!
    I agree with coco chanel, love is to be fresh but I have Venus in the 5th anyways.

  4. Spent way too much time inwardly sliding into love zombie mode in the past so, for me, the current strategy with retro venus is to call on my inner warrior each time the LZ thoughts arise. Makes me stride like a woman

  5. These look interesting. I won’t get to any of them in retro-time but as relationship dynamics and our selves within this is an endlessly fascinating research task for me, I will look for one or two.
    Also a nice way to analyse/sublimate the energy swimming around in my chest right now.

  6. That’s weird. Yesterday had to go out and buy two roses for the garden. It wasn’t oh I fancy a rose here or here it was a deep earthly need to provide scent and colour that only a rose does. I ached for roses. So I bought a bright creamy yellow climber to adorn a rather barren tree and a pink double patio rose to be frivolous about the front of the house. Bliss.

  7. Also would like to add here that the Venus Retro reading list is amazing and I can’t wait to read all of these!

    I indeed had the urge to drive down to Nashville and make my presence known to Sagittarius boy and then was like…nah. I’d rather reform my entire romantic existence and see if he’s still relevant in October…

    Plus I’m still in love with my ex and since the retro I’ve been feeling that pulse so much harder. Yikes. What a delightful problem to have 😉

    • Hey akapluto.

      I second what everyone else has said about self-help love books.

      Waste of time and head space.

      BUT, there is one book that helped me enormously. Not sure if it’s self-help as much as just stating the obvious very clearly and eloquently. Book is “He’s just not that into you”

      No acts, no nastiness. Just really telling it like it is. By the way, the title could easily be reversed to “She’s just not that into you” with gender flip, so could be just as good a read for men.

      Instead of telling you “what to do” to ‘win’ someone’s heart, the book highlights fact that sometimes the nicest of people just are simply not into each other as romantic partners, and that it’s okay. No need to FORCE something that’s just not there. So, anti-Love Zombie, which is good!

      • Haha…

        Lady L,

        LOVE that you mentioned this.

        Read that book 2 TIMES! And I have my own copy that I refer to in moments of Love Zombie despair.

        I do have SOME reservations about it, as I have seen in real life many exceptions. However, those are rarities and that book taught me never to bet on being an exception!

        I force that book down every Neptunian’s throat… lol

  8. Yet another Synchronistic post…I just started re-reading “Why Men Love Bitches” and I am very divided about it.

    I would LOVE to hear a sound off from all you fine, elevated people (especially Mystic) about what is right and wrong about this book.

    I’ll start: I think it’s great that this book tells girls not to compromise their basic needs or bend over backwards for men or revolve their lives around a man. I’ve been quite guilty of this.


    I think it sucks that it tells you you must forever be elusive and out of reach to keep a man’s interest…I mean, I only know a few couples who have been together happily for over 12+ years and NONE of them pull any of this shit. They are perfectly nice and real with each other.

    I think this whole “I only want what I can’t have” attitude is a societal DISEASE.

    Also, she opens the book saying “90% of the men” she spoke to prefer women who are a “mental challenge”. OK…so who are the other 10%? And isn’t our society mostly pretty warped right now? Is this really the majority I want to partake in? When have I ever fit in the 90% of ANYTHING?

    And once more on the other hand, I can’t help but agree with many points on this book as just common sense. Self esteem, boundaries, not selling yourself short, having your own life and accomplishments…these are all great points. So what makes this book seem so sinister to me…?

    Sound off, anyone? I’d especially like to hear what the dudes/queers/etc have to say.

    • I got nuthin’, luv – didn’t read the book and the title alone is enough to put me off it entirely.

      The premise of reading a book to figure out how to be a “dreamgirl” is laughable to me, probably because my approach is to just do me. If you like what I’m about and want to get together, awesome. If not, I’m certainly not going to read a pseudo-pop psychology book to try and figure out how I can get into your head, know what I’m sayin’? Just be yourself and let the chips fall wherever they do, because it’s disingenuous to try and deliberately craft yourself into something you are not in order to make guys want you – the energetic motivations do not align with me at all there, sorry to say.

      It seems on the face of things like this would be another one of those “how to snag a man” books… I don’t care if they’re couching it as “empowerment”, it just seems like the same shit in a different package. ‘

      Oh wait…is that bitchy of me?? 😛

      • Also: Books of this ilk are inclined to make sweeping generalizations…do all men really love bitches? REALLY?

        People are individuals, and the sooner we start relating to each other on that basis, the better. This does nothing to foster better understanding or communication, IMO.

        • Too true, LV!

          The author does make it clear that the word “bitch” in the title is tongue in cheek and by her definition means “Babe In Total Control of Herself”. Which is cool and all. BUT this still is a book that steers you away from your own natural being and introduces a secondary line of thinking (dare I say a manipulative one?) when dealing with men.

          LV- the way you describe your own dating/mating habits is what this author is idealizing. However, you arrived at that state naturally and aren’t following a set of rules (and let’s not get started on that book, “The Rules”!).

          • “Total control” – I think that more or less says it all, don’t you? IMO, it’s not about control freaking out via manipulative games…such things do tend to lead to fuqed up relationship dynamics where power struggles become the norm, as it sets the fundamental energetic foundations up all wrong, IMO. What about just being real, honest, and vulnerable?? I don’t like artifice – I have an extreme aversion to it, actually. What I seek is only self-awareness; not total control. And I do so on the basis that it will help me make decisions that ultimately serve my Highest Good. My own personal definition of love entails stripping away this concept of being in total control, as love is always a risk even in the best of circumstances. You never know when it will strike, or who it will be with, or if your feelings will be reciprocated…part of the beauty is in keeping your heart open even when one doesn’t know how these things will ultimately play out. IMO, I think that although this book may get you companionship, I doubt it would get you real love. And as such, it more or less equates to false advertising…it has the word “love” in the title, does it not?

            • Such good points. Reading this book I feel like the title should be “How to get a basic dude to stay with you even though he’s an unenlightened ape”

      • Hah ha exactly ! that is serious warped marketing .. like be a hard self actualized bitch that follows her own story but buy this book to find out how to do it because you obviously don’t have a brain to figure it out…Ive tried the whole bitch act thing and it does work to a certain degree but if its an act then the walls crumble and what goes around comes around karma packs a punch ! so yea I’m more into having a decent self esteem so I don’t have to play bitch act or attract guys that think that is a challenge. I think the most attractive thing in anyone point blank is – Authenticity – Be yourself . Now that is kryptonite ! because when we focus on that as our outcome then we are naturally well adjusted and attractive and your not head-fuqing yourself with all the rules on how to behave. Ugh can’t stand self help love books written by marketing majors…

        • I know…the irony…the irony…

          I have become more of the self actualized person that this book idealizes but not because of this book! Only through real trial and tribulation and, uh, therapy.

          WMLB makes good points but at the end of the day if I’m so self actualized and awesome why would I waste my precious time reading about how to get dudes? Are dudes reading about how to act to snag a chick?

          Why Women Love Assholes?

  9. so betrayed and broken hearted right now: in shock for the past week. Is this a thing? Let me get off the Lord Warburton and Caspar Goodwood bandwagon and move the fuq on. The pain is quite excruiciating.

    • We’re all going through it, This IS what Venus Retro is about. Take the advice it is all you can do.

      I’m going to celebrate my freedom, meditate on the nature of love in relation to myself and what I want and whine and moan into my pillow but not to any exes

  10. Love this post. I actually first discovered MM this winter because I was searching for something else by Jessa Crispin, and one of her posts here turned up in the results. Long live the astro reading recs!


  11. I read something recently, in a local artsy newspaper of all things, that was so profound and struck me in the right way. I have Venus in Capricorn in the 8th house, no less, so I can be pretty – um – intense and, at my lowest, uber needy and materialistic. As in, your diamonds give me more security than your devotion. Gulp.

    But anyway, I read this:

    “When we say we need someone or ‘you complete me’, we’re not really acknowledging that we are a whole and they are a whole, too. It’s not that you need someone to be fulfilled. You’re already a complete being, a whole. Now just find another ‘whole,’ another complete being to have a relationship with. They’re not your other half – you’re sharing each other’s company as complete wholes in and of yourselves.”

    I mean, damn. 🙂 This concept is like Love Zombie anti-matter, lol.

    • Yea I think this is super important to get your head around if you have a track record of co-dependant “Im happy if your happy” type behaviour…but I think its quite natural to crave another half …Unless you are born androgynous , we are always seeking to balance our masculine/feminine via another person. This is not static either sometimes the roles shift . There is that element of wanting to return to the womb the ultimate feeling of connection for all of us and sex is def part of this . So I think its natural .What I am understanding is the more we feel connected to source energy – the energy around us and in our bodies that connects us to all that is..we stop trying to reach for the destructive or false hit of filling a void and start connecting with people on a more satisfying level…

  12. ugh, not Coco Chanel. She called Elsa Schiaparelli a farm girl, a hack, a fraud. GRRRRRRRRRRRR.
    I don’t know Elsa’s astro but she had cooler friends, better art, and didn’t need Nazis to get ahead.

  13. “I mean, the greatest love story of our time is a guy who ties up some woman and hits her while he bangs her?”

    Funny, I was just thinking about this topic and wrote as much in a piece just a few days ago – not as a judgment of BDSM, you understand, but in the sense that I think the biggest mistake we tend to make is mistaking INTENSITY for INTIMACY. They are not the same.

      • I disagree ..I think this is a love story or it would have no impact on the masses ..yes its completely ridiculous with the helicopters and showey wealth but I think the concept behind it is timeless. Love /pain/control and submission. Yet the chemistry pure and simple is what draws us in otherwise it would just

        be boring as bat shit watching people fuck and whip and sign contracts..I think intensity cannot be acheived without intimacy. I think porn is killing peoples senses but worse is the fact that it is isolating us. I think what we crave in our culture is romance and intimacy over anything . Romance and our imagination is what sets us apart from animals . Aah hopeless romantic 101

        • Greed, egotism, manipulation, delusions of grandeur and the consciousness of us having to die one day are also what sets us apart from animals.

          There is no love in that book. It reads like a comedy slash tragedy of errors. If that’s seen as a modern benchmark for either love, intimacy or quality erotica, may I suggest higher standards and a wider reading list.

  14. Oh lawd, bell hooks ‘Communion’ was my favorite book a lifetime ago. Her love trilogy was fantastic.

    Though my body is literally ACHING for, ahem, ‘communion’, I’ve gone into hardcore create mode while wrapped in anti qi vamp invisible cloaks. The love will come when it comes and it wilk be epic and of this era, not the past.


  15. I’m going to read this again in the morning when I’m not addled on beer. Mystic, this is the most profound writing I have read from you in years. It’s as beautiful as what you are describing about others and ourselves.

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