Uranus and the Roots of Sexuality
originally published in The Mountain Astrologer, June/July, 1998
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Most astrologers, when asked to identify which planets are most intimately related to sexuality, would point toward the obvious - Mars and Venus. Mars is generally considered to govern the libido and overall level of sexual vitality, desire, passion, the more initiatory and assertive aspects of sexual experience, and the goal-oriented quest for orgasm; while Venus is concerned primarily with the capacity for sensual and erotic pleasure, sexual receptivity, romance, the art of foreplay, the dalliance of afterglow, and the overall aesthetic quality of the experience. If men are from Mars and women from Venus, this is primarily because on a hormonal level, Mars is primarily driven by testosterone, while Venus at her juiciest is saturated with estrogen - a clever alchemical arrangement designed to ensure survival of the species, and make the human experience a bit more interesting. On the physiological level, it is inevitable that when Venus and Mars form strong aspects between the charts of two potential lovers, sexual interest will be stimulated, and unless otherwise obstructed, two-step toward consummation.
The best sex, however, requires a balanced participation of both Venus and Mars within each partner, regardless of gender, and is more than just a mating dance set in motion by hormones. Ultimately what is sexually attractive about a potential partner is not their physiological readiness to have sex, or even their sexual prowess, but who they are as a whole person. It is not just the exchange of bodily fluids in the heat of the moment that makes sex so compelling to us all, but the possibility of touching, one whole being to another, with all veils and barriers down. When we connect with another person in this way, something fuses inside of us, and we connect more deeply with ourselves. We feel completed, and within this heightened sense of wholeness, somehow more tangible to ourselves. The sexual dance that leads to this feeling might be orchestrated by Mars and Venus, but the capacity of any given individual to connect with a sense of wholeness, and live from this place, is the province of the planet, Uranus.
Uranus describes a primal energy that moves at the core of our being to generate genuine individuality, creative vitality, and personal charisma. Uranus is the planet of "soul" in the sense that it propels us on a deeply personal quest to reconnect with that within us that is uniquely our own, and then grow a life that springs from those roots. When Uranus is functioning at an optimum level, sex becomes not just a biological act, nor merely an avenue to intensified pleasure, but a compelling gateway to a more integrated sense of self.
Mars and Venus together create the sexual experience. When Uranus enters the sexual arena, it creates an opportunity for us to participate in a more primal, and transcendent dance that has been going on since the beginning of time. In fact, if we trace the cosmogenesis of human sexuality back to its roots, using the stories of Greek mythology as our guide, we find that Uranus sits at the very heart of the creative vitality that permeates this entire Creation, as well as our own capacity to create, re-create, and pro-create as whole beings - gods and goddesses in our own right.
Uranus in Myth
It might seem odd that a god that was castrated should be associated with sexuality, but Uranus' career actually began long before the Olympian coup d'état which lead to his neutered condition. According to Robert Graves, the name, "Uranus," was a masculine form of "Ur-ana," whose name originally meant "queen of the mountains," "queen of summer," "queen of the winds," or "queen of wild oxen" (depending on how the original Greek was translated), and who represented the goddess in her "orgiastic midsummer aspect." (1)
Uranus, whose name came to mean "the sky," seems to have taken his position at the head of the Greek pantheon, after an early invasion of northern Greece by the Indo-European tribes of Central Asia. According to Graves, Uranus was modeled after the conquering tribes' sky god, Varuna. The fact that the name chosen for this "new" Greek god was the masculine form of a feminine deity hints at the existence of an earlier matriarchal culture that was usurped and assimilated by the patriarchy, probably around the time this invasion took place circa 2100 BC. (2)
While I have not been able to find any additional references to the actual existence of a pre-Hellenic goddess called Ur-ana, the association of her name with Uranus by Grave is at least suggestive of a linguistic link connecting Uranus to the "orgiastic midsummer aspect" of sexuality that Ur-ana represented. In any case, it can safely be speculated that foremost among the matriarchal values in place at the time of the Indo-European invasion that brought Uranus to power would have been the celebration of human sexuality, which was intimately connected with the fertility of the earth. In pre-Hellenic times, this celebration could have easily been the domain of Ur-ana, a largely forgotten forerunner to a legion of more familiar fertility goddesses.
Be that as it may, even in the more familiar patriarchal version of the myth, Uranus can be associated with the very essence of sexuality, an essence which existed before the Creation, and which evolved through several generations of deities and god-like forces before it finally reached the level of sexual expression capable of being experienced by ordinary mortals. The story begins at the very beginning, with Chaos (Ka-os), the primal force out of which Creation sprang.
The name is one, of course, we can easily identify with Uranus in his astrological association with unpredictability, breakdown, breakthrough, revolution, anarchy, etc. Although Ka-os and Uranus are distinct mythological entities, it seems safe to speculate that the same archetypal principle is at work in both, and that the innovative creativity that springs forth out of chaos that we identify with Uranus is the same primal energy that set the original Creation in motion.
The word, ka-os, in Greek, can be translated as "gap," or "chasm," or "yawning void," all terms which imply separation, since to create such a "yawning void" there must be a splitting apart of some kind. This primal splitting apart precipitates the duality which underlies all of earthly existence, and gives rise to the possibility of the dance of male and female we associate with sexuality. Even in homosexual or lesbian relationships, there must be a polarity of some kind in order for attraction to exist. This polarity is a direct outcome of the presence of Ka-os at the dawning of Creation - an outcome which is represented mythologically, by the birth of Eros, who emerged as one of Ka-os' original offspring.
Hesiod, the Boetian poet of the late 8th century B.C. describes Eros as "the most beautiful of all the immortal gods, who loosens the limbs and overcomes judgment and sagacious counsel in the breast of gods and all humans."(3) In the Homeric Hymns and the later Olympian myths of the 6th and 5th centuries B.C., Eros is portrayed as the son and consort of Aphrodite, but according to Hesiod's account, he is also one of the five original primal forces generated by Chaos, along with Gaia, Tartarus, Erebus, and Nux.
The first of Eros' siblings is Gaia, or Mother Earth, the living planet upon which the mating dance of Eros was to take place in countless ways and endless permutations, the sum total of which constituted the evolutionary process which culminated (at least so far) in the human kingdom. It is at this point that Uranus first appears in his familiar guise as the sky god, son and consort to Gaia, and becomes more overtly central to the process of Creation. While the matriarchal culture of early Greece would have considered a sky god incidental to the evolution of life on Earth, in the patriarchal version of the Greek myths promulgated by the Indo-European invaders after 2100 B.C., Uranus eventually became a supreme deity of the Greek pantheon - albeit one soon to be deposed by Chronus.
After giving asexual birth to the Mountains, and Pontus (the Sea), Gaia mated with Uranus, conceived and eventually gave birth to three generations of primordial offspring. This mating is described by Graves and others as the fertilization of earth by rain. Graves' description is especially poetic, but can also be taken as a description of the teleological processes of nature which made the earth hospitable to life:
At the beginning of all things Mother Earth emerged from Chaos and bore her son Uranus as she slept. Gazing down fondly at her from the mountains, he showered fertile rain upon her secret clefts, and she bore grass, flowers, and trees, with the beasts and birds proper to each. This same rain made the rivers flow and filled the hollow places with water, so that lakes and seas came into being. While Graves describes this process in anthropomorphic terms, as through Gaia and Uranus were a pair of star-crossed human lovers, the actual mechanism by which the earth was made habitable for living creatures was far more tumultuous, as we might expect, given Uranus' reputation for wild unpredictability. Before rain could actually fall, and fertilize the earth, there was a stormy period of stifling darkness, in which Uranus clung tightly to the earth, rumbling with lust and possessive volatility. During this stage of the process, Uranus impregnated Gaia, but would not allow their children to emerge from their mother's body. As Uranus hung possessively over her, Gaia was able to conceive her children, but not give birth. (5)
These offspring - the teleological forces that eventually shaped the evolutionary process on earth - were, at this point, essentially trapped within the earth. First among them were the Titans, six pairs of prototypical deities, whose later mating ultimately produced the Olympian pantheon with which most of us are more familiar. Next came the three Cyclopes - Brontes (Thunder), Steropes (Lightning) and Arges (Bright) - described by Hesiod as "strong and abrupt of emotion," (4) and the three Hecatonchires - Cottus, Briareus, and Gyes - each of whom had one-hundred arms and fifty heads. It makes one wonder if Gaia and Uranus has their blood types checked before they started having children.
In any case, as these cataclysmic, primordial forces rumbled through the earth. kept in check by an overbearing and brutish sky god, who refused to release them from Gaia's womb, an unbearable tension began to mount that demanded relief. As Hesiod tells it:
From the moment each child was conceived, Uranus kept it well hidden, refusing it access to light, deep in the womb of the earth, gloating over his actions, as Gaia groaned in her travail. But she planned a treacherous scheme: first inventing gray steel (till that day unknown), she fashioned a terrible sickle. She told her children the plan, hoping to stiffen their courage, through sorely disturbed herself. (6)
The plan in question, of course, was the conspiracy which lead to Uranus' castration. This coup d'état was led by Chronus (Saturn), the youngest Titan, who then took his father's place as foremost among the gods and goddesses of his generation.
While this bloody sacrifice has all the makings of a modern-day Oedipal soap opera, more importantly, it released the Titans, the Cyclopes, and the Hecatonchires from their captivity, and set the evolutionary process in motion. It was also Chronus' castration of Uranus that caused the heavens to separate from the earth, so that rain could fall and living things could grow. Picture a stormy sky, crackling with thunder and lightning, finally releasing its tension in a downpour after an interminable period of ominous rumbling, and you finally come back to Grave's poetic image of Uranus showering fertile rain upon Gaia's secret clefts.
Echoed here is the original separation that Ka-os wrought, except that this time, it occurs not on an internal archetypal level, but externally, where separate entities take separate forms. It can come as no surprise that Saturn was the one to effect this separation, since astrologically, Saturn is the planet most closely associated with the building of form.
Saturn (or Chronus, from whom we get the word "chronology") was also responsible for setting time in motion, thus creating a context in which evolution becomes possible on the most literal of levels. Within this context, sexuality becomes a rhythmical process of coming together and moving apart, for the first time, actually involving two separate beings in relationship to each other. Before castration, Uranus was an extremely volatile and intensely introverted energy too potent to be contained within the realm of divinity, much less the realm of human affairs.
Through the act of castration, Saturn renders Uranus' potency more accessible, thereby making possible, not just human sexuality, but also individuality, genius, community, co-creative intercourse, technology, and culture - all evolutionary developments we have come to associate with Uranus. Uranus untamed was embodied by the terrible visceral reality of thunder and lightning in a dark, foreboding sky. Uranus tamed by Saturn became electricity running through a wire, neurological synapses firing in harness to instructions given by a central brain, and the kind of sexuality that could be experienced by two individuals coming together in the heat of magnetic attraction.
The truth of these statements is reflected in the mythology immediately following Saturn's attack. Uranus' energy is so potent, that even in castration, he fathers yet another generation of children: the giants (perhaps the crude forerunners of those we consider geniuses, "the movers and shakers," so to speak); the Furies (the obsessive ideas which drive ordinary mortals to madness, and stir the movers and shakers into action); and Aphrodite (Venus - perhaps the reincarnation of Ur-ana), who governs the realm of sensuality and erotic love.
Before Saturn stepped into the picture, Uranus was incapable of producing anything but chaos, destruction, and catastrophe. After castration, this unmanageable intensity begins to find an outlet through creative obsession, passion and sexuality. As primal and as out-of-control as these energies can sometimes be, they are at least within the realm of sustainable expression in the world of form where they must function. Saturn is thus the agent by which Uranus' energy is "stepped down" so to speak, to the point where it can be utilized by mere mortals on planet Earth.
Saturn is finally overthrown by Jupiter (Zeus) with help from the Hecatonchires, the Cyclopes, and Prometheus, Uranus' grandson, who later steals fire from Mount Olympus to bring back to humans on earth. The full ramifications of these mythological developments are beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that the original primal potency of Ur-ana, Ka-os, and Uranus, the all-embracing sky god, live on long after his castration at the hands of his successors. The story does not end with Uranus' dethronement, but is carried forward in different ways by Venus, who impels us to explore our sexuality, and by Prometheus, who propels us on a personal vision quest to recover the soul-fire and the primal potency that was lost in the earlier part of the story.
Uranus in the Birthchart
This primal potency can be seen to operate most obviously wherever Uranus is prominent in a chart (angular, conjunct or in hard aspect to Sun, Moon, Venus, or Mars). Regardless of where Uranus sits, however, each of us will experience a cyclical process of deepening relationship to our sexuality as Uranus triggers its natal placement by major transiting aspect.
When Uranus sextiles Uranus, around age 14, we enter the rites of puberty and begin to discover our identity as sexual beings. When Uranus squares Uranus, around age 21, there is usually some rude awakening, about the necessity for approaching our sexuality in a more responsible way, or about the deeper consequences of sexual union. Here Saturn's "castrating influence" can begin to be felt. By the time Uranus trines its natal position, around age 28 (just before the Saturn return), we will have apparently settled comfortably into what one of my students referred to as Saturn's "harness." Many of us by this time, marry and have families.
When Uranus opposes natal Uranus, there is usually a crisis of some kind which in retrospect, serves to reawaken an inner restlessness that had been subdued under the yoke of responsibility. We feel a longing, undefined as yet, to reconnect with the passion that fueled our youth, and are propelled on a Promethean vision quest to recover that which appears to have been lost in the business of everyday life. By the waning trine, around age 56, we will either have found that connection, or we will begin a process of disengagement from the life force which underlies both our sexuality and our passion for life. By the waning square, around age 63, we will face a new crisis, which forces us to assess the legacy we are leaving for those who come behind us. This legacy will be evidenced both through our children and our grandchildren, and through the creative works that have occupied our days to this point. The waning sextile, at age 70 will bring a letting go of all that we have created, and the beginning of a final passage through Uranus' gateway into other dimensions of our being. By the time the cycle has completed itself, the full meaning and purpose of this incarnation within the larger scheme of things, will reveal itself, whether we are here to witness it, or not.
Uranus in Real Life
While each of us will, in our own way, move through this generic cycle, our experience of Uranus, and the stories that we have to tell will be as unique and as varied as one might expect from a planet associated with individuality. Here, to demonstrate the wild and amazing range, are but a few.
In exploring the cyclical history of her Uranus transits, (7) one student with Uranus rising, came to associate her Uranus with a wild "firewind" that fanned the flames of her sexuality, whenever it was triggered. Her experience of this firewind was not limited to explicitly sexual expression, but instead seemed to fuel and intensely erotic awareness, in which she felt a sensual connection to all of creation - the rocks, the trees, and the animals in the wild. This Uranian firewind is inherently a wild, and untamable energy, which at times has unpredictable consequences, but to her it frequently brought strength, a heightened sense of aliveness, increased creative resourcefulness, the desire to live life as an adventure, and great joy - all qualities which incidentally enhanced her sense of herself as a sexual being. Unlike Mars and Venus, which tend to play out their sexual dance in a more literal way, Uranian sexuality has the flavor of multi-dimensionality, as befitting an outer planet present at the dawning of Creation.
Another student, whose Uranus sits alone below the horizon, square to Venus in Virgo in the 8th house, traces her Uranus story through her first "illicit" love affair to her courtship and eventual marriage to her current husband, an intensely creative composer and symphony conductor. For her, sex was a delicious enticement to stay in her body, a visceral invitation to a restless spirit, stuck with the necessity for living life in material realms she would otherwise not have chosen to enter. It was also a pathway to liberation, a vehicle through which the physical body could transcend its earthly function, and commune with other-worldly beings. As Uranus conjuncted this woman's South Node, she experienced an erotic relationship with a channeled being who had first contacted her in childhood, accompanied by the smell of jasmine, and who she felt was "the other half of me." Such melodramatic, yet transcendent mystery is the stuff of which Uranian sex is fashioned.
Another woman, with Uranus opposed her Moon in Scorpio in the 8th house experienced her Uranus, at its best, in the freedom to "sleep only when tired, wake only when refreshed, eat only when hungry, and make love when the desire was there." Here it is not hard to picture a cat, one of earth's most sensual creatures, languidly basking in the sun, living life as a series of hedonistic delights.
Beneath whatever liberating pleasures can be associated with Uranus, however, also comes a hidden challenge. The erotic strength that Uranus brings must be channeled effectively and responsibly, lest it return to its chaotic roots. Infused by Uranian strength, ordinary mortals experience the archetype of the Magician at work within them, transforming the everyday world into an extraordinary arena for awakening, enlightenment, and creative breakthrough. When Uranian strength is not channeled effectively or responsibly, however, it turns inward and becomes self-destructive, precipitating a "downward spiral" into a psychological and spiritual hell of one's own making.
When transiting Uranus was square this same cat woman's Uranus and Moon, for example, she experienced the terror of having her freedom taken away, and the languid, domesticated feline inside of her suddenly remembered its wilder ancestral roots. Committing herself to a mental hospital shortly after the birth of her daughter, this woman wrote of that period, "an air of futility hovers around my existence like vultures waiting to devour a wounded animal struggling to fend them off," and that she felt "life pressing in around me like some sort of steel trap." Here her story echoes the experience of Gaia being suffocated under Uranus' overbearing love, and the need for radical change.
Shortly after being released from the hospital, this woman experienced a profound shift in consciousness which propelled her on a passionate life-long quest for a deeper connection to herself through immersion in wilderness. Evidently, for many people, Uranian sexuality is a gateway to a much larger relationship to life than can be contained in ordinary packages.
A fourth student, with Uranus conjunct Venus in the 1st house, spent his childhood living out the wilder, more untamed expression of Uranian abandon. At 13, he was a pinball wizard, who liked to ride roller coasters as a meditation practice "until he could do it peaceful like a leaf floating." A little farther into adolescence, he became a hard-core trickster-in-training who stole cigarettes and lighters from baseball players on the bench, and then graduated to stealing cars. As Uranus sextiled his natal Uranus, he got caught by the long Saturnian arm of the law, received a year's probation and suddenly "became a good citizen." While "castration" is perhaps too harsh and loaded a word to use here, even in a metaphorical sense, there is in his story, beginning at this point, a most definite re-enactment of the mythological dethroning of Uranus by Chronus.
When Uranus squared Uranus, "wild exuberant independence (Uranus) met the laws of cause and effect (Saturn)," and he had his first child, out of wedlock. Deciding to adopt his illegitimate daughter, from this point forward he began settling down, and assuming the responsibilities of parenthood. Throughout this process, Uranus underwent an inevitable transformation from its most primal, most treacherous, and most unsustainable expression into a more manageable, and more subterranean undercurrent. In his words, he "started out like Pecos Bill riding cyclone CHAOS (Uranus) for the sheer fun of it and ended up a little light to the bit, but definitely harnessed."
As in the myth, where Saturn appears to triumph, but Uranus lives on in his offspring, all three of this student's children, now grown and on their own, have taken the Uranian archetype of untamability further than their father was able. His daughter, born out of wedlock, became a "lesbian anarchist who kept the phone bill paid at the bookstore where the government sent agent provocateurs." His first son, an actor gifted with uncanny intuition and spontaneity, "plays great soulful piano improv riffs on our living room upright," taking his particular brand of Uranian genius into the Neptunian realm of theater arts. Meanwhile, his second son seems to be a more Promethean character, with good "interpersonal and street survival skills" that ensure him an honored, if not legendary place within the community, now on a "walkabout" (Uranian vision quest) in Germany to reconnect with his roots, and find his particular brand of soul fire. While Pecos Bill, the father, might currently be in Saturn's harness, the raw energy of Uranus lives on, one generation down the road.
Regardless of the particular form our Uranus story takes, it inevitably tells the tale of a life-long process of self-discovery, in which our sexuality, and the youthful passion that fuel it, become a gateway to a deeper and more meaningful connection to all of life. As Antero Alli points out in his wonderful two part series on the sexual reality of planetary forces, (8) our sexuality is a delightful, profound and complex phenomena, not easily explained solely on the basis of the obvious surface dance between Mars and Venus. Looking more deeply into Uranus' role as a sexual planet, I believe we can catch a glimpse of this dance at its roots, where the wild, chaotic, orgiastic energy that initially fueled the larger Creation, lives on in each of us.
1) Robert Graves, The Greek Myths: Volume One, London: Penguin Books, 1960, p. 32.
2) Barry B. Powell, Classical Myth, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995, p. 58.
3) Hesiod, Theogeny (118-121).
4) Graves, The Greek Myths: Volume One, London: Penguin Books, 1960, p. 31.
5) Hesiod, Theogeny (139)
6) Hesiod, Theogeny (156-162)
7) In my correspondence course, I often have my students trace memories related to the transits of planets to their natal position, e.g. transiting Uranus to natal Uranus, in order to cultivate a more personal association to the symbolism of that planet. I call this process "taking a cyclical history."
8) Antero Alli, "Planetary Forces as Sexual Realities," The Mountain Astrologer, Oct 1995, pp. 53-59, and Nov 1995, pp. 70-76.
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