The Rite of Venus

The Officers of the Temple

Venus. Blue Robe.

Taurus. Orange Robe.

Libra. Green Robe.

Pisces. Crimson Robe.

Luna in Taurus. Silver Robe.

Saturn in Libra. Black Robe.

No officer has any weapon.
Venus is throned,
and on her right are Libra and Saturn In Libra,
on her left Taurus and Luna In Taurus,
while at her feet lies Pisces.
Her throne is an oyster-shell, as in the picture by Botticelli.
Before it a veil. Without, an altar; and without the temple, a further veil.

The Rite of Venus


Full light.
Venus, seated before altar,
Libra and Taurus at its sides.




Brother Libra, I command thee to declare the Secret of Venus.

Recites Swinburne’s Hertha.

All present recline and sleep.

Having ears they hear not. Brothers Taurus and Libra, let the veil be drawn.

They do so.

Part I

Venus is enthroned on high, swathed in masses of red hair and roses.
The altar is covered with roses; there is a small flame thereon.

Taurus and Libra draw the inner veil apart.
Libra returns and kneels.

 Daughter of Glory, child
 Of Earth’s Dione mild
By the Father of all, the Ægis-bearing King!
 Spouse, daughter, mother of God,
 Queen of the blest abode
In Cyprus’ splendour singly glittering.
 Sweet sister unto me,
 I cry aloud to thee!
I laugh upon thee laughing, O dew caught up from sea!
 Drawn by sharp sparrow and dove,
 And swan’s wide plumes of love,
And all the swallow’s swifter vehemence,
 And, subtler than the Sphinx,
 The ineffable iynx
Heralds thy splendour swooning into sense,
 When from the bluest bowers
 And greenest-hearted hours
Of Heaven thou smil’st toward earth, a miracle of flowers!
 Down to the loveless sea
 Where lay Persephone
Violate, where the shade of earth is black,
 Crystalline out of space
 Flames the immortal face!
The glory of the comet-tailed track
 Blinds all black earth with tears.
 Silence awakes and hears
The music of thy moving come over the starry spheres.
 Wrapped in rose, green, and gold,
 Blues many and manifold,
A cloud of incense hides thy splendour of light;
 Hides from the prayer’s distress
 Thy loftier loveliness,
Till thy veil’s glory shrouds the earth from night;
 And silence speaks indeed,
 Seeing the subtler speed
Of its own thought than speech of the Pandean reed!

Libra returns.






Libra and Pisces

Brother Saturn, what is the hour?


Sister Pisces, from whose house are we come out?

From the House of Death.

Brother Taurus, what is stronger than death?


Brother Libra, what is the place?

The Mountain of Venus, that hangeth from the navel of the Universe over the Great Abyss.

Let us celebrate the Rite of Venus.

Luna plays a waltz tune.
The Probationers dance together.

Children of Love, what is the hour?

A confused murmur.
It is the hour of love.

All sink down together. The lights go out. A long pause.

Part II


Venus is brilliantly illuminated; the rest remain dark.

Little brother, what is the hour?

The dawn is at hand.

Little brother, what is the place?

It is the holy mountain of our Lady Venus.

Children, awake and rejoice.

Awake and rejoice.

How shall we rejoice?

As our Lady hath appointed.

As you like it.

Wherein shall we rejoice?

In our Lady Venus.

In what you will.

Thy will, our lady, and not ours be done!

Mistress, let the adorations be performed!

Children, array yourselves before me, and rejoice in the adorations of my beauty.

They form, each with his partner.
Libra disappears behind veil.
Taurus recites invocation.

Salutation to Hathor, holy cow in the pastures of Evening.
Salutation to Hathor, in the Mountain of the West; in the land of perfect Peace, Salutation.
A devouring fire is thy soul, and the corpses of the dead are enkindled at thy breath.
Salutation to Hathor, the child of Isis and of Nephthys!
Salutation to Hathor, the bride of Apis, of Apis that hath the beetle upon his tongue!
A devouring fire is thy soul, and the corpses of the dead are enkindled at thy breath.
Salutation to Hathor, whose necklace is of the Souls of the blessed ones of Amennti.
Salutation to Hathor, whose girdle is of the Souls of the blessed ones of Seb!
Salutation to Hathor, whose sandals are of the Souls of the blessed ones of Nu!
A devouring fire is thy soul, and the corpses of the dead are enkindled at thy breath.

Returns to his throne.

Brother Libra, art thou silent?

A pause.

Brother Libra, where art thou?

Libra still hidden, recites from Swinburne's Atalanta:

We have seen thee, O Love, thou art fair; thou art goodly, O Love;
Thy wings make light in the air as the wings of a dove, (etc.)
... Famine, and blighting of corn,
When thy time was come to be born.

appears and confronts her;
All these we know of; but thee
Who shall discern or declare? (etc.)
… Wilt thou utterly bring to an end?
Have mercy, mother!

Nay, brother, thou art the chiefest of my chosen.


Yea, brother: in the end all turn to me, and all return to me.

 Isis am I, and from my life are fed
All showers and suns, all moons that wax and wane;
 All stars and streams, the living and the dead,
The mystery of pleasure and of pain.
 I am the mother! I the speaking sea!
 I am the earth and its fertility!
Life, death, love, hatred, light, darkness, return to me —
  To me!

 Hathoor am I, and to my beauty drawn
All glories of the Universe bow down,
 The blossom and the mountain and the dawn,
Fruit’s blush, and woman, our creations’s crown.
 I am the priest, the sacrifice, the shrine,
 I am the love and life of the divine!
Life, death, love, hatred, light, darkness are surely mine —
  Are mine!

 Venus am I, the love and light of earth,
The wealth of kisses, the delight of tears,
 The barren pleasure never come to birth,
The endless, infinite desire of years.
 I am the shrine at which thy long desire
 Devoured thee with intolerable fire.
I was song, music, passion, death, upon thy lyre —
  Thy lyre!

 I am the Grail and I the Glory now:
I am the flame and fuel of thy breast;
 I am the star of God upon thy brow;
I am thy queen, enraptured and possessed.
 Hide thee, sweet river; welcome to the sea,
 Ocean of love that shall encompass thee!
Life, death, love, hatred, light, darkness, return to me —
  To me!

performs a sleepy sinuous dance by herself, and returns to Venus’ throne lapsed into herself, and as if exhausted.
Rise, rise, my knight! My king! My love, arise! See the grave avenues of Paradise, The dewy larches bending at my breath, Portentous cedars prophesying death!

She is interrupted by the Violin of the throned Luna, who plays her unutterable melody. [Beethoven: Romance in D]
Pisces manifests distress.

Brother Libra, what is this song?

My soul is an enchanted boat,
Which, like a sleeping swan, doth float
Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing;
And thine doth like an angel sit
Beside a helm conducting it,
Whilst all the winds with melody are ringing.
It seems to float ever, for ever,
Upon that many-winding river,
Between mountains, woods, abysses,
A paradise of wildernesses!
Till, like one in slumber bound,
Borne to the Ocean, I float down, around,
Into a sea profound, of ever-spreading sound.

Meanwhile thy spirit lifts its pinions
In music’s most serene dominions;
Catching the winds that fan that happy heaven.
And we sail on, away, afar,
Without a course, without a star,
But by the instinct of sweet music driven;
Till through Elysian garden islets
By thee, most beautiful of pilots,
Where never mortal pinnace glided,
The boat of my desire is guided;
Realms where the air we breathe is love,
Which in the winds and on the waves doth move,
Harmonising this earth with what we feel above.

We have past Age’s icy caves,
And Manhood’s dark and tossing waves,
And Youth’s Smooth ocean, smiling to betray:
Beyond the glassy gulphs we flee
Of shadow-peopled Infancy,
Through Death and Birth, to a diviner day;
A paradise of vaulted bowers,
Lit by downward-gazing flowers,
And watery paths that wind between
Wildernesses calm and green,
Peopled by shapes too bright to see,
And rest, having beheld; somewhat like thee;
Which walk upon the sea, and chant melodiously!

Venus manifests distress. Pisces slips away to the throne of Luna.

Luna plays her conquering melody. [Wieniawski: Polonaise in D]

Oh! Oh!

Holier than pleasure is pain; nobler is abstinence than indulgence; from sloth and faith we turn to toil and science; from the tame victories of the body to the wild triumphs of the mind.

It is the ruin of the temple.

For from thee cometh the Utterance of the Present; but of the Future no word.

And thou wilt?

The Word.

Saturn comes out and dances his dance, and falls, clasping the hem of Libra's robe.

Who is this? These are not my dances; these footsteps tread not my measures; not me he worships by the paces and pauses of his feet!

Saturn drags Libra backwards into the dusk.

The Probationers group similarly;
Mars with Mars and
Venus with Venus.
Some, too, stand isolated.

Brother Taurus, art thou faithful, thou alone?

Seductively yet ironically.
Knowest thou not me?

Yea, my beloved, Lord of all my doves.

Venus, our Lady!

Come unto me!

She half rises and draws him to her.

Within the veil?

There is no veil before my shrine!

She unfastens his robe. As it falls he leaps up with the Caduceus, as Mercury, and tramples her beneath his feet.

In the Beginning was the Word; and the Word was with God; and the Word was God!

All come forward;
Saturn with Libra linked;
Luna and Pisces linked;
and bow to him.

The treason is accomplished.

The mind is nobler than the body.

Friendship is holier than love.

Nature is overcome by wit.

How shall we adore thee?

As you like it.

What shall we sacrifice?

What you will.

Luna plays a moto perpetuo [Ries: Moto Perpetuo]
All, bowing in adoration to Mercury.

Brother, what is the hour?


Let us depart unto the work of the day.