Nearly 50 years ago this month, the Soviet Venera Mission approached the planet Venus and later landed there, sending back the first color images of the planet’s surface, unveiling the goddess of love and beauty for a new generation of poets and dreamers.
Stories of the trials and consequences that result from unveiling the goddess of love and beauty abound through the ancient world and well into the age of the renaissance. Take for instance the story of the mortal Anchises, who was loved by Venus-Aphrodite, but was then slain by Zeus’ thunderbolt when he got drunk and bragged about it.
Or the dire consequences for Christian Rosenkreutz when he unwittingly unveiled Venus in the 16th century manuscript describing his initiation in “The Chymical Wedding.”
If we put the pop music of the 20th century in line with these former cultural narratives about what it means to unveil the goddess, then it seems the trials and consequences continue. During the same weeks that the Venera spacecraft made its approach to Venus and then sent back its pictures in February and March of 1982, the J Geils Band had the number one hit on the Billboard charts for their pop rock song “Centerfold,” in which the singer comes to the startling realization that his childhood sweetheart has grown up and landed on the centerfold of a girlie magazine.
Venus is currently lost in the morning light, making way toward a meeting with the Sun later next month. When we see the planet again, it will already be Spring, and the goddess of love and beauty will emerge as what poet George William Russell described as our “purer evening star.”
So now it’s time to consider, while Venus is out of sight for all of humanity, how do we respond to love and beauty when the goddess is unveiled?
All the best!
Mary Stewart Adams
Hear this episode on Interlochen Public Radio, and at my podcast “The Storyteller’s Night Sky.”
Image above from the Venera Mission, showing the harsh surface of the planet Venus.