Snow White & the Huntsman: Dark Venus Rising
Originally published in the digital edition of The Mountain Astrologer magazine.
When a subject rises to prominence in the zeitgeist of mainstream culture, the importance of that subject and its full meaning are not always what they appear to be on first look. For instance, in early 2011, when the “13th sign” was “discovered” (again), the cosmic intention probably wasn’t to throw a bunch of Sagittarians into an identity crisis. Demetra George makes a very eloquent case for the reason Ophiucus was suddenly getting so much attention in her audio presentation Ophiucus, 2012 and the Galactic Center. George makes it clear that when an issue like this takes center stage it’s worth taking a closer look in an effort to discover its full meaning.
So when the recent Transit of Venus in 2012 started to gain a lot of traction, I decided to delve into the subject, with my sights set on understanding the story behind the story. And it just turns out that what I found has something to do with another trending topic: The Mayans and 2012.
As a prelude to 2012, in 2011 we all learned quite a lot more about the Mesoamerican cultures via hype about the Mayan calendar. And in June of 2012, Venus took center stage through her rare and visible Transit in front of the Sun on June 5. The public was instantly enamored by the transit of Venus, uploading images to Facebook, blogging, and taking time out of the day to view this rare astronomical event in large gatherings both outdoors and online.
In Western astrology, our understanding of Venus stems from her mythological roots as the “Goddess of Love.” Venus is commonly associated with relationships, romance, courting, flirting, likes, dislikes, and pleasure. When astrologers look at a person’s natal chart, they look to that person’s Venus placement to learn about how they experience such matters. But Venus has a rich and complex mythological history which hasn’t always been exclusively associated with these “lighter” subjects. Like any archetypal symbol, Venusian energy manifests in what we might describe as light and dark expressions. Astrologically there are times we can identify in which the potential exists for the shadow side to rise a bit closer to the surface of consciousness so that we can learn more, understand and ultimately heal the broken and disparate parts of our psyches, both individually and collectively. For Venus, one of those times is her retrograde cycle, which occurs once every 584 days.
Venus turned retrograde May 15 and remains so through June 27. As Erin Sullivan points out in her classic book Retrograde Planets, a Venus retrograde cycle represents “the need to see aspects of oneself which are normally hidden from view.” 1 During this time we re-evaluate our likes and dislikes, our values, and our approach to relating. When she moves forward again, we have the potential to emerge from this introspective journey with renewed strength and vision.
But our understanding of the Venus retrograde cycle gets more complicated when we consider Venus symbolism in ancient Babylon and the Mesoamerican cultures of the Mayans and Aztecs. Each of these ancient cultures experienced Venus as more than just a beautiful goddess with a focus on relationship. In Babylon, Venus was known as Inanna, a goddess who was thought to incite war. In the Mesoamerican cultures, Venus was also associated with war. Graphic imagery from the archeological site El Tajin depict her on what we might call an “underworld journey” that includes gender transformation, giving birth to a “sky monster,” sacrifice, death, and a renewal that begins with her rising from the underworld covered in blood and the bones of the dead, ready for battle. 2 It was at the time of Venus’ heliacal rising (just before Venus’ station direct) that the Mayans sent their armies marching to war. 3
Many astrologers have corroborated this darker side of Venus noting a relationship between Venus’ heliacal rising and outer (mundane) world events. Bruce Scofield has pointed out the following more recent world events that transpired as Venus made her heliacal rise (appearing at the horizon just before sunrise):
- The Watergate break-in (June 1972) and the Iran–Contra scandal (November 1986)
- The coup to remove Mikhail Gorbachev from power (August 1991)
- The violent siege at the Branch Davidian ranch in Waco, Texas (April 1993). 4
The 2012 Venus retrograde cycle (which includes the heliacal rising June 12) is an exceptional one, in that it occurs simultaneously with several other important astrological events including the rare Transit of Venus, Neptune stationing in Pisces, several eclipses (or occultations), and later in the month, the station of Saturn in Libra, and the first exact square of Uranus and Pluto, just to name a few! 5 You can read more about these events in my blog post, “A Perfect Storm.” So what does all of this have to do with Snow White? Quite a lot as we’ll see.
On the weekend just before the Transit of Venus (which occurred on a Tuesday), the film Snow White & the Huntsman made its opening debut in the number one spot at the box office. 6 Composed of a rich tapestry of symbolic imagery, Snow White and the Huntsman was released in concert with some of the strongest planetary alignments in June 2012. Let’s explore them in some detail.
In this fresh take on the classic tale, we find the convergence of our historically rich understanding of the Venus archetype (including her underworld journey and her association with war and aggression at heliacal rising) and the Uranian impulse to freedom. In addition, Neptune in Pisces figures prominently, as does Mercury conjunct Venus, all of which are found in the film’s release at midnight on June 1, 2012. 7
As a revision of the classic fairy tale, this film already finds itself squarely planted in the heart of the Venus retrograde process. For during these cycles we get to look back on old stories, old myths, old internal beliefs and values that relate to Venus’ domain. In this film, we get to take a look at our understanding of gender – how we experience and express ourselves through male and female bodies.
We like to associate Venus with all things feminine. But we learn from the earlier myths that Venus has not always been understood so one-dimensionally. The Mayan image of Venus transforming into a man, and back into a woman, and her association as a war goddess is a far cry from the restrictive social mores prescribed to women in Victorian England, for instance.
As history unfolded and patriarchy became more prominent (see: The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History and the Dawning of A New Era), women’s roles in the culture became more restrictive. But in the last few hundred years in Western culture, a distinctly Uranian process has slowly been unfolding around the issue of women’s rights and gender issues. Driven by the Uranian impulse for freedom, the need to address inequality became more and more pressing. Beginning during the Uranus-Pluto square of the late 1700s, noticeably with Mary Wollestoncraft’s publication of Vindication of the Rights of Women, status quo beliefs about gender roles began to be challenged. 8
Over time, and subsequent Uranus-Pluto cycles, this impulse has led to a complete transformation of our understanding of the supposed inherent or innate nature of specific personality traits with specific bodies (male or female), leading towards more and more freedom of expression. Uranus teaches us that it isn’t really important whether a female or male body expresses in a certain way. What’s most important is that we all have the freedom to express in any way that feels “innate and natural” to each of us as individuals. Some of those expressions may line up perfectly with the ones painfully carved out and enforced during this last very long patriarchal cycle. And others may not. The point is that we individuate enough to know what is distinctly ours, and what is not. Getting there is point of the Uranian process of individuation.
This individuation process figures prominently in Snow White and the Huntsman due to its release in the heat of those concurrent Uranus-Pluto cycles, this time the Uranus-Pluto square, unfolding in the context of what Richard Tarnas describes as “diachronic patterns in history.” 9 In such cycles, we see patterns emerge and events occurring with the same planetary alignments, pointing to a continual evolutionary process that we can track during subsequent cycles of the same alignments. With this particular Uranus-Pluto cycle, we are tracking the conjunctions, squares and oppositions over time.
In June 2012, the Uranus–Pluto square takes place in the midst of several other major cycles, perhaps the most notable being Venus’s prominent placement in the heavens through her rare transit of the Sun while retrograde in Gemini. This focus on Venus alerts us that we are now in the middle of an important time of deep introspection and re-visioning of what it means to find oneself on Planet Earth in a female body. This issue, which arises as part of the Uranian impulse to freedom, also finds expression through the planet Venus’s association with gender. Venus retrograde suggests an opportunity here to retrace our steps in order to reclaim what has been lost, hidden, or suppressed. The Grimm fairy tale “Snow White,” one of the most popular fairy tales of our times, is the perfect vehicle for such an exploration.
Not Your Grandmother’s Snow White
From the very beginning this film aims to give its female heroine more strength, more complexity, and more freedom than previous versions of the story. In one opening scene we see Snow White’s mother prick her finger on a rose thorn in the dead of winter. As three drops of blood fall from her finger onto the snow, in a visual feast of contrasting imagery and the rich polarity of life and death, she wishes for a daughter who has “skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood, hair as black as a raven” and noticeably, “the strength of a rose in winter.” This last line is new. In the classic Grimm tale, her wishes are all related to Snow White’s physical characteristics.
We can spend a lot of time with this image alone, in which we see the complex engaging of nearly all of the planetary archetypes that were in full expression during the weekend the film was released. Saturn (exalted in Libra and conjunct the Moon in the film’s release chart) represents winter; the rose and the wish for beauty represent Venus; the blood represents the foreshadowing of the dark Venus emerging from the Underworld, bathed in blood at heliacal rising; and the combination of the archetypes of Saturn, Venus, and Libra is seen in the image of the strength of the rose in winter.
In the three drops of blood that fall onto the snow (which show up two more times in the film) we see a nod towards the virgin-mother-crone cycle, with Snow White the young girl, her mother, and Queen Ravenna the reluctant crone. In the image of the mother’s wish we find a mother longing for something better for her daughter – something she didn’t have as a woman in her time. This is a mother who envisions a new set of options for her daughter, and thus, for all women. Her (new) emphasis on the strength of a rose in winter reflects a desire for Venusian expression to now include something more than surface beauty – something formidable as well as captivating, like a rose. Previous versions of the tale, and specifically the 1938 Disney version, have no emphasis on strength as one of Snow White’s assets. 10 Though the emphasis on strength appears as something new, the Venus retrograde cycle reminds us that it might just be something forgotten… as we find the Venus from ancient mythologies imbued with fierceness as well as grace.
I use the word heroine with this Snow White. I would not use the same word with the Snow White from the original Grimm Fairy tale, nor from the Disney film. This Snow White becomes a heroine, rather than just a helpless victim who is saved by a male hero. Her story finds her on the classic hero’s journey, ultimately reclaiming her power and her own authority, brought back to life by a kiss, yes, but then rising to challenge and defeat her adversary, restoring justice to her kingdom. 11 This is not your grandmother’s Snow White!
As we turn to the Dark Queen Ravenna, intensely portrayed by Charlize Theron, we find shadow Venus in an unchecked expression of power fueled by all of the rage and grief of the wounded feminine. Seemingly speaking for the wounds of all women throughout time, Ravenna speaks near the film’s opening of the ways that “men use women” as if this is an unquestioned fact of life that all women must sooner or later come to terms with. Ravenna is shown to be deeply scarred by violent experience at the hands of men, and her wounds have closed her completely to the idea that any man could do anything but hurt her or fail her. We see one flashback set of images that point to the cause of some of Ravenna’s wounds, but the fact that the film doesn’t explore them in detail is important. These are meant to be understood as the wounds of all women, of wounds to the feminine itself, throughout history. Both the Venus retrograde cycle, and also the strong presence of Pluto (through exact square to Uranus) in the film’s opening chart point to this psychological underworld excavation.
The film alerts us to our need to take a conscious underworld journey (Pluto and Venus retrograde), both as individuals and as a collective (Neptune in Pisces), before we can heal the wounds to the feminine (Venus). The film shows us an example of both a successful journey (Snow White) and an unsuccessful one (Queen Ravenna).
Ravenna symbolizes what can happen when we don’t acknowledge and face the anger and grief trapped in our unconscious – here as it relates to the wounds to the feminine, and more deeply, to gender expression in general. Our unconscious wounds begin to fester when we ignore them or deny them, and can then express outwardly through our actions, the source of which is often obvious to anyone outside of us who is taking notice, but rendered invisible to ourselves. Deep inner work (Pluto), introspection (Venus retrograde) and healing (Pluto and Neptune) can lead us into balance (Venus).
After killing Snow White’s father early in the film, Ravenna claims the role of surrogate mother to Snow White, schooling her in the harsh lessons of life for one born into a female body. But Snow White instantly rejects and sees through Ravenna’s “mothering,” in no small part because she has already been witness to the many horrors of Ravenna’s actions. Snow White knows innately that there is a better way – and specifically is visibly wary of rejecting the masculine (or all men) outright, perhaps because of a good relationship with her own father. Snow White’s process is that of understanding and integrating a balanced masculine-feminine relationship within the psyche. From the start, she’s wary of the potential for imbalance which Ravenna so clearly displays.
Ravenna blames all men for the faults of a few. This recalls dark Venus as the “feminist man-hater” image that arose in the culture during the Uranus–Pluto conjunction cycle in the 1960s. Snow White’s successful integration of masculine and feminine begins with her suspicion of Ravenna’s vitriolic hatred of all men. But Pluto’s signature here points us to the necessity of conscious shadow work. The shadow masculine is firmly rooted in Ravenna, perhaps through her own suppression, though she remains unconscious of it, and doesn’t make the obvious association of her actions with the very actions she’s wounded by. She is an example of one who is the victim of masculine violence, who takes on the role of aggressor herself, rather than seeking healing. Ravenna sets her sights on conquering the ultimate expression of male power that she can think of – kings and their kingdoms.
But Ravenna is of course plagued by her unchecked shadow’s never-satiated hunger for power, and famously, a neurotic obsession with maintaining her beauty. In a distinctly Venusian signature, Ravenna desires to enchant (Venus and Neptune) others, to be the “fairest of them all,” while at the same time having no intention of enjoying the Venusian graces of communion and ultimately intercourse (whether sexual or otherwise). Overcome by her own shadow, Ravenna is unable to express Venus’ highest aim to achieve rapport with others.
The Journey Out of Shadow
Snow White finds herself on a different path – the hero’s journey – and thus has a completely different encounter with her shadow. Snow White escapes the tower where she has been held captive while fending off Ravenna’s brother, who appears to have intentions of rape (Mars square Venus in the film release chart). As she flees, she finds herself plunging into the ocean (Neptune in Pisces), a symbol of the luminal space we must pass through on the descent into the underworld. In Greek mythology, as we enter the underworld, we must cross over the River Lethe, of forgetting (Neptune). The actress portraying Snow White, Kristen Stewart, does a wonderful job of expressing, only through her facial expressions, the fear and vulnerability that one faces when making such a leap. 12
Snow White is guided by two small black and white birds, symbolizing both Uranus (birds, flight, and the escape to freedom) and Mercury (in psychopomp form as guide to the underworld). 13 The fact that the small birds are black and white is important for Snow White’s journey alerts us to the importance of integrating the dark into the light.
As she plunges into the ocean, Mars here, in square to Venus, speaks of the need for an uncomfortable integration of courage into one’s actions. Real courage is not ease. Real courage is facing the fear and taking action anyway. This actress, with the Sun in Aries sextile Mars, is well-epuipped for the role. 14
As Snow White emerges from the ocean, she’s met again by the two birds, and finds a white horse kneeling on the beach, waiting to carry her to safety. Pursued by a gang of men on horse which includes Ravenna’s brother, Snow White is chased into the Dark Forrest, where she must leave her horse, who seems to willingly sacrifice himself (Neptune in Pisces) to save her. He is swallowed by a kind of quicksand muddy muck – an image of beautiful white engulfed by the darkness, sealing Snow White’s descent.
As she runs headlong into the Dark Forrest, now fully immersed in the underworld, she falls and is drugged (Neptune) by some kind of plant spore, the gas of which is instantly hallucinatory. She is overcome by dark nightmare imagery (Pluto and Neptune) and falls to the ground in surrender and sleep.
Just three days from an exact station in Pisces on June 4, Neptune’s presence in the film is pervasive. Neptune rules fantasy and fairy tales, fairies, altered states, enchantment (with Venus) and Hollywood – land of dreams. Fairies have a role later in the film, revealed to be hidden inside the feathers of the two black and white birds. It’s implied, as they step out from under the birds feathers that they may have been her real guides all along. In true Neptune fashion, nothing is as it appears, and none of this is made explicitly clear. But it doesn’t matter much. The essence of the dreamlike and enchanted quality of Snow White’s reality is well conveyed and reminds us of the confusing terrain inherent to any hero’s journey.
Neptune also relates to deception, and with Venus, Mercury, and Pluto in the mix, we find trickery and also lies that are diabolical in nature. The ultimate example of this in the story is of course the Queen’s disguise as she delivers the poisoned apple to Snow White (Neptune also ruling poisons and toxins). In a plot twist for this version of the story (spoiler alert), the Queen disguises herself as Snow White’s childhood friend (and potential suitor) William. As Snow White leans in to kiss him, the audience is not yet aware of the Queen’s disguise. Before her identity is revealed, we are left briefly wondering what it means that the kiss between Snow White and William is happening now, before she is poisoned. For it seems that William is most likely to be the prince who we expect will later save her. Importantly, it’s clearly Snow White who instigates the kiss, visibly full of desire, love and longing for the physical connection (Venus). That kiss is our first clue that something new is afoot, and when the apple is revealed, we’re then allowed to start connecting the dots. The apple transforms into something rotten, and Snow White falls to the ground choking, as the Queen morphs back into her own shape. Just as she is about to plunge a dagger into Snow White’s heart, Snow White’s allies show up to fight the Queen, who fragments into a flock of ravens and flies back to her castle.
Ravens, one of the more prominent images in the film, are associated with the Queen Ravenna. An important underworld symbol and therefore somewhat associated with Pluto, the raven is also associated with Mercury, again through Mercury’s psychopomp aspect. Like Mercury, ravens in many cultures’ mythologies are messengers, often carrying portents of death. In Norse mythology, we find a direct affinity between Odin and Mercury. Odin is most often depicted with his two raven messengers, Hugin and Munin, perched nearby. The Queen’s name – Ravenna – is a play on the words raven and ravenous, and also perhaps an indirect reference to Snow White’s “raven black hair.” As the Queen tells Snow White at the begging of this tale: the two of them are forever linked by fate, and by Snow White’s heart. We could say that the Queen has an important Underworld message to deliver to Snow White – one which is a matter of life and death: That if Snow White fails to access her courage (Mars) along her dark journey, or fails to use her wit and cunning (Mercury) to defeat the Queen, she will face her own death, and be forever engulfed by the underworld.
The Heart’s Triumph
Now let’s turn to Snow White’s heart – the object of the Queen’s desire. Outwardly Ravenna wants to “consume” Snow White’s heart in order to live forever. Snow White’s heart represents pure intent, evidenced by several scenes in which Snow White’s presence alone emanates compassion and healing. Venus is often associated with the heart and the heart chakra, and we could say that Snow White represents the highest expression of this aspect of Venus. That the Queen must consume Snow White’s heart in order to live forever points to the age-old teaching that the dark cannot last in the presence of the light. But things get interesting when we bring our attention back to the Mesoamerican cultures. For in the Mayan culture, it is thought that during the common practice of human sacrifice, the heart was removed, and sometimes eaten. With this Mesoamerican Venus resurrected for the telling of this tale, and in the zeitgeist with the focus on the Mayan calendar, the image of human sacrifice and the cutting out of hearts is an important one to think about. Though I will table this for future discussion, it’s important to note here.
Another turn in this telling of this Snow White tale comes thanks to the presence of Neptune. In one pivotal scene Snow White is shown to have compassion even for Ravenna, and also Plutonian insight into Ravenna’s wounds. Snow White’s compassion has a distinctly Neptune sextile Pluto flavor, in that Snow White’s understanding leads to her compassion. This is quite a relief, for so often these fairy tales have black and white portrayals of good and evil, with few exceptions. With Neptune stationing in Pisces when this Snow White was released, we gain understanding of how the Queen gave in to her dark side, but are then led to have compassion for her, rather than just unadulterated hatred. The film does fail to fully commit to this idea in the end as much as I would have liked. Near the finale, when Snow White defeats the Queen there is a moment when it seems as if Snow White will actually say something to express her compassion, but only does so through look, gesture, and a brief but noteable silent pause in the film. Instead she then says simply, “you can’t have my heart.”
Neptune in Pisces relates to martyrs and saviors. Christianity, Buddhism and Islam all took hold during cycles when Neptune was in Pisces. 15 The original story of Snow White finds her cast as a Christ-like martyr who is saved by a prince. Not quite a messiah herself, she does still “rise from the dead,” but the hero work is left to the men. In this new telling of the tale, there is a clear focus on the idea of sacrifice, beginning with the white horse who delivers Snow White to safety, and ending with Snow White’s deep sleep, which to all parties concerned looks a whole lot like death. Snow White is still “resurrected” in this tale with a kiss. But this kiss is not one delivered with the heroic intent of saving. It’s worth noting here that in one of the earliest version of the Grimm fairy tale, Snow White is healed “by accident” as the prince, carrying her glass coffin, hits a bump and dislodges the apple from her throat. Later versions had the prince saving her with a kiss.
But the healing kiss in this film is delivered by the huntsman in a moment of drunken vulnerability (Neptune). Overcome with grief at Snow White’s apparent death, echoing his earlier loss of his first wife, he deems himself unworthy of her love, having been unable to protect her. This is a nod to the natural Virgo polarity to Pisces (by opposition in the zodiac) through which we wrestle with the ideas of worth and worthiness. One ultimate expression of this is forever embedded in the psyches of those who grow up Catholic: What specific actions (Virgo) make me worthy of God’s love (Pisces)? In the end, the Pisces archetype teaches us that all are worthy of God’s love. But it is the huntsman’s act of humility (Virgo) and surrender that becomes the gift of life for Snow White, again demonstrating the film’s commitment to delivering a fresh take on this old story that brings in healing at a deeper level than we’ve seen in previous versions.
The Snow White story often finishes with a happy ending shortly after Snow White is resurrected by the Prince. But this film finds its heroine rising “from the dead” pissed off, inspired by the new awareness of her enemy’s vulnerability (that it is Snow White’s own pure heart that is the real weapon), and empowered to lead her people into one final battle to take back their kingdom. This is the phoenix image associated with Pluto, but also the dramatic image of Venus at heliacal rising, arising from the underworld bathed in blood and ferociously calling the troops into battle.
As Snow White reigns victorious, with the help and sacrifice of her allies, the film’s strong and revisionist ending has Snow White alone on the throne, no prince at her side (though present as bystanders among the celebratory audience). This victory is her’s. She has successfully navigated the underworld, faced the dark wounds to the feminine aspect of the psyche, and reclaimed her full power – one that is also deeply rooted in compassionate heart consciousness, as well as her strength. She has fully bloomed into the rose her mother envisioned.
In perusing several reviews of this film online, the recognition of the importance of this ending is distinctly absent. I would like to underscore it here. Culturally, we are profoundly influenced and informed by our mythologies. Our fairy tales of the past, with one-dimensional portrayals of good and evil, and disempowering roles for women, have been part and parcel of the wounding patriarchal system. Venus, alerting us that now is the time to balance the score, claims her rightful throne here, in a full expression of powerful beauty. I sense here a sea-change, matched in this moment by the dramatic configuration of the planets in the heavens. As the most recent “War on Women” heats up in 2012, evidenced by political attacks on women's rights, the simultaneous presence of such a healing image gives me great hope for the future.
(All URLs were accessed in June 2012, unless otherwise noted.)
2 Bruce Scofield, Considerations, Vol. 3 No. 3, 1986.
3 Sullivan, Retrograde Planets, p. 88
5 The four occultations are the lunar eclipse on June 4, the transit of Venus on June 5, the Moon occulting Pluto on June 5 as well, and the Moon occulting Jupiter on June 16-17.
7 I’m using 12:00 a.m. for the release chart, based on the first showing of the film in Hollywood, California.
8 Wollestonecraft’s manifesto was published in 1792 during the Uranus-Pluto opposition. Natally, Wollestonecraft has a Mercury-Uranus sextile b. 4/27/1759 (time unknown). Richard Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, Viking, 2006, pp. 149–150.
9 Ibid, p. 149.
10 Disney’s Snow White premiered December 21, 1937 in Hollywood, CA, and opened February 4, 1938. Source: imdb.com. The first feature-length animated film, this was a milestone, and established the tale as a central component to the popular “modern mythology” of its time. The premiere chart has Aries on the MC with Mars at 0° Pisces in the 8th house. And more notably Saturn in Pisces Trine Pluto in Cancer within 1° (a family film based on a dark story) and Saturn sextile Jupiter at 0° Aquarius (visionary innovation through a grand tale of epic proportions!). Also note Venus in Sagittarius widely trine the Moon in Leo. This was a very bubbly Snow White whose cheerful song “Whistle While You Work” rose to the top of the Billboard charts in 1938 (Source: http://tsort.info/music/yr1938.htm).
11 Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Princeton University Press, 1949.
12 Interestingly, Stewart’s first role was was a short, nonspeaking part in the Disney Channel TV production. The film is released with Neptune exactly conjunct Stewart’s Venus, and Pluto conjunct her natal Uranus within 1°. Birth date 4/9/90, time 11:39am (source on time unverified by AstroTheme).
13 Mercury is exactly conjunct Venus in the film release chart, and both are square to Mars.
14 Kristen Stewart, b. 4/9/90, Los Angeles, CA (Birth time unknown). Source: imdb.com.
15 Neptune in Pisces cycles and the rise of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam: 47 AD - 61 AD cycle: 58 A.D - Emperor Ming-Ti introduces Buddhism to China. 374 A.D. - 389 AD cycle: Theodosius the Great, Roman Emperor from 379 to 395 is known for making Nicene Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire. 538 A.D.- 552 A.D. cycle: Buddhism enters Japan. 550 AD – St. David brings Christianity to Wales. 701 A.D. - 716 A.D. cycle: Muslim expansion. By 715, the Muslim empire stretches from Pyrenees to China, with Damascus as its capital. This research on Neptune cycles by Steven Forrest, from his AP program Dreaming the Volcano (available only to students of the program).