Of the Virgin, Venus, and the Moon – An Excerpt from Will-Erich Peuckert’s Book on Astrology

Will-Erich Peuckert, Astrologie, W. Kohlhammer Verlag, Stuttgart, 1960.

Who was Will-Erich Peuckert (11 May 1895 – 25 October 1969)? To answer this question, we may look to Wouter Hanegraaff who writes that “First and foremost, Peuckert is known as probably the most important twentieth-century pioneer of the discipline known as Volkskunde, variously referred to in English as ‘folkloristic’ or ‘European ethnology'”. (Hanegraaff, Will-Erich Peuckert and the Light of Nature, 2009). Peuckert published monographs on Paracelsus, Jacob Boehme and Rosicrucianism. Pansophie, one of his major works, was in fact a unique synthesis of the history of Western Esotericism in the early modern period. Late in life, Peuckert also published a book on astrology, applying his unique approach to the subject. The following is an excerpt from the second chapter, Mond – Venus – Mars:

The moon has certainly been a very important planet for early civilisations, in the South even more so than the sun, whose rays seem hot and cruel. And if the sun glides through the firmament in an unchanged manner, the moon is ever changing, is very small, gets bigger, rounded like an apple, is waning, gets smaller, and eventually disappears completely. Such change is attracting people’s attention. This is how it was for the old Germans, who needed the moon as an important tool to measure time (in Tacitus’ Germania, it says in chapter 11: if nothing out of the ordinary happened, they gathered at certain intervals, on the days of new moon or full moon). It was the same with the Celts, who sacrificed to the Great Goddess on moon nights, and with the peoples who were ruled by women [‘weiberzeitliche Völker’] and who bowed in humility before their Moon Goddesses, and with the Semites. Everywhere the moon was observed and people served it. Especially amongst the North-Semitic tribes, the Akkadians and the Babylonians, it is noticeable that they distinguished between two groups. Sun, Moon and Venus were in one group, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn the other. In the veneration of the first group, there was a difference: the South-Semites, who were the Arabs of the Minaean Empire, from Saba and Hadhramawt, as well as the North-Semitic tribes of the Akkadians and Babylonians, and the West-Semitic people of Canaan, the Jews, the Syrians and Phoenicians used to call sun and moon by the old names of Schamasch and Sin. But the North-Semites saw the sun as male and the West- and South-Semites saw it as female. The opposite view occurred as the former saw the moon as female and the others the sun as male. At Larsa and Sippar, the old Babylonians served a Sun god; the West-Semitic nomads in Ur, Harran, and Syria worshipped, just like the South-Semitic tribes, and venerated the star of the night [the moon] as highest deity. Therefore, Sinai is made a holy mountain and dwelling place of Sin, the Moon god, Horeb the sacred place of the god Horeb, who is called the dryer or desiccator, because the West- and South-Semitic tribes saw him as the lord of the low tide.

It was believed that, in the beginning, this group of three was a group of four: one stellar parental pair with Mercury as their son and Venus as their daughter. In the stereotypical South Arabian lists of deities, usually three or four deities can be found. First mentioned is the planet Venus ‘Athtar’ (masculine), second is the moon under different names (masculine), last is the sun ‘Schams’ (feminine). “In the Hadhramawtian, Katabanian, and Minaean conjuration, we find another, fourth, deity; after Hommel, the Hadhramawtian Haul (hebr. Hol) as well as the Katabanian Anbaj (Babylon. Nabiu) should be identical with Mercury … According to the Moon Hymn of Ur, here the moon was the father, and because the sun is female in all the moon religions, (as opposed the moon is masculine in all sun religions). Amongst the Arabs, just as in German, the moon ‘qamar’, is still masculine, the sun ‘schams’ is feminine, and because she is in the typical South Arabian understanding of deity the only female deity, she becomes the divine mother. This correlates with the Harranian idea of god, because after Zimmern, the Harranian Moon god Sin has a wife, ‘Queen’ Scharratu (probably the female Sun) and two children, a daughter Ishtar (Venus), and a son Nusku (Mercury). In Sippar, Schamasch, the sun, being the father, has a ‘bride’ kallatu, who is Aja – after Hommel the female moon – and two constant companions, Kettu (feminine) and Mescharu (masculine), who Zimmern sees as their children. The latter ones are possibly Venus and Mercury, because in Babylonian theology, Venus is the daughter and Mercury the son of the god.”

This certainly very old, and maybe even arch-Semitic system, underwent some change which is not entirely unimportant for our problem. In more recent times, the female stellar deities merged into one; in the field of the South-Semitic tribes, which are the Minaeans and in Saba, ‘both of them are thought of as the female sun, Venus is not female as usual, but has become male, and Mercury has been eliminated. In the genealogical system, the sun seems to represent the mother as well as the daughter, and the two masculine stars will have to be perceived as father and son’. Amongst South- and West-Semites, this is the clear expression of a son-of-god idea. But this proposition voices another, very important one. We know from history what became of this son-of-god idea: it grew into the belief in a redeeming son of god, the Messiah who was born in Bethlehem. But I do not want to talk about the genesis of this Jewish-Christian central thought here. I would like to conclude: because the idea of a son-of-god was of importance, because it has become the basis of a religion spanning the globe, the star on which this is based must have been of importance. And this star, Venus, is standing out in another context.

The North-Semitic tribes underwent a similar but different development ‘whereby in the Babylonian religion Ishtar become the actual goddess; as mother and daughter she has a double nature, like the South Arabian, female Sun. Mercury didn’t play a role in the official triple goddess symbol, but one of the two great stars become the son-of-god instead. Therefore, the son-of-god idea seems to be a general, arch-Semitic one, but here Venus, who was the star of the son-of-god in the South, was made into the star of Ishtar, the stellar incarnation of the magma mater at a time when women ruled [‘weiberzeitlich’].

Amongst all nomadic tribes and herdsmen, the man is featuring strongly. Looking after large herds needs a strong man and not a feeble woman; the merchant’s journeys through the desert, which were known to the Minaeans or Sabaeans, were only possible for men, due to the gangs of robbers and predators. And because the early Semites were all nomads or herdsmen, their culture was based on the masculine leadership [‘männerzeitlich’] and therefore the male god is predominant. But as the Assyrian or Babylonian Semites became planting farmers along the streams, life forced them to venerate the female deities who were responsible for growth and prosperity. Did they give Ishtar the Venus-star out of the magna mater? Or was it that they took both of them over in their connection from earlier ones? I would like to believe the latter, because the fact that the moon became the star of the son-of-god indicates that this thought that was unique to the Semites was still valid and could become some kind of competitor to the belief in the magna mater. If, to continue my former thought, this belief in times when women ruled amongst the field-planting North-Semites was created on the shores of the two streams, or if it invaded from the outside,  – there is one conclusion one cannot deny: that during the time when women were in charge [‘weiberzeit’] through their veneration of the stars a new culture became visible and that the Virgin with the ear [of corn], and that Venus and the moon in an epoch when women ruled, were given their names and even more than that.

Even more than the Virgin with the ear [of corn] is the moon representative of the time when women ruled. One could argue on a purely rational basis that the female physiology is similar to the phases of the moon and has been entirely equal in former times. But maybe, apart from the physiological observation, there is a second conclusion, pointing towards the new moon, with its growing, ageing and dyeing, and its resurrection. Where it was understood as an image – and a guarantor – of birth and rebirth, there its connections to women and their functions are coming into the foreground, and there they also not only regulate them in connection with the moon with its coming and going, but he becomes the star of the virgin and the magna mater. We know from Crete, as well as from the Middle East which creatures where sacred to it: plants like the lily, narcissus, and poppy, – the Cretan seals show them, then herbs, whose planting has always been in the hands of women. Amongst the animals, it was the cat; lions or cats pulled the cart of Cybele, and her German ‘stepdaughter’ Freya travelled with cats even as late as the tenth century. The legend of Baldr’s funeral as well as the Husdrapa, show that. Sacred to the moon was also the pig, which was so much despised by the Jews, because it was the sacred and sacrificial animal of the cults during the time women ruled, as well as aquatic animals. Not only Venus Anadyomene was born from the sea, the Cretan seals show an overabundance of sea creatures. And, at last, there are hare and rabbit who are sacred, possibly because of their fertility. All these creatures are, according to contemporary astrologers, those who are ruled by the moon and are susceptible to its influences. From all that has been said, it is easy to understand that the moon has been connected with the female body parts; according to Brandler-Pracht, belly, stomach, intestines, bladder, the glands and the lymph glands connected to it, also fat and semen, the genitalia, and the female breasts. After the antique teaching (Hermippos I 14) the moon rules over the embryo in the last months of pregnancy; after the Chaldean [teaching], which Cicero (De nat.deor II 118) passed on to us, the whole pregnancy is ruled by it and it also brings birth. Contemporary astrologers agree that the moon influences the birth to a high degree. Therefore, the moon does not only become the Mother of the Cosmos, as the old ones said (Plutarch, De Iside et Osir. 43; Macrobius, Sa I 17, 53) but, in the birth chart, it shows the mother of the unborn and her fate. […]

I have already been talking about the central, great goddess who encourages all growth. She used to be called ‘μητηρ’, the magna mater, or Great Mother. The women of Babylon who worked on the fields worshipped her as Ishtar, amongst the Syrians she was called Astarte, and in Ephesus she was Diana of the Hundred Breasts. In the Acts of the Apostles ch 19 it is told how Paul met her. When, during the time women ruled [weiberzeit], tribes tried to depict her, they gave her form of a tall woman who held a lily or an ear [of corn] (spica) or – on Crete – a poppy in her hands. When they projected her onto heaven, they did it as Venus or as the goddess with the ear, the virgo spicifera, as the Latin world would call her later. This is because the Latin speaking people – as did the Greeks – transformed her: from a mature and birth-giving woman into a virgin, from a magna mater to Artemis, to the virgin Kore and Diana – and only the ear [of corn] was left to signify her as the giver of fruitfulness, [or] as the proud goddess of the North-Semitic farmers, who was devouring young men. The ear [of corn] indicates this, as well as her North-Semitic name: Ishtar means ‘Virgin’ amongst the tribes who planted wheat and managed the fields along the Euphrates. 

Contemporary astrology doesn’t know about the magna mater nature of the Virgin; although it has borrowed the context, it doesn’t understand it any more. It only says: “If one would like to seek for an objective symbol for this sign, one could think of the ear of wheat or the sheaf of grain. This is why the brightest star in the constellation of Virgo is called Spica, the ear [of corn]. We have to imagine the ‘Virgin’ as a farmgirl, a reaper or gleaner, holding an ear of grain in her hand.” We will not hold it against the quoted astrologer that he – clearly sensing the opposition to rustic man – made the virgin into a farmgirl rather than into  a woman who was a planter in pre-farming times, as it has often been shown by Bachofen and some contemporary ethnologists.