It’s a very strange, disorienting sensation to lose your sense of smell and taste.
I have COVID right now. Around day five, I realized I could barely smell or taste anything. I noticed this at breakfast that morning; my coffee was one-note and lacking any savoury aromatics. By dinnertime that day, I had completely lost all sense of smell/taste.
It was like something plucked the smells and tastes away from me. I would take a bite of food and be able to taste it, then the second bite would be like a ghost of the former flavour, and then by the third bite it was gone. Even stranger, this pattern repeated with each food I tried that day. One by one, they were all snatched away.
I tried to have some fun with it at first, taste-testing different things from my fridge. Ketchup? Weird and acrid. Oranges? Just a residual whiff of perfume on the back palate. Kimchi? I could feel the chilies burning my tongue but couldn’t taste a thing. Horseradish? I felt the telltale burn spreading through my sinuses, but I didn’t get any flavour whatsoever.
I’ve become hyper aware of the texture of food, which is actually kind of gross when not accompanied by flavour. I can sense that something is sweet, sour, bitter or spicy based on the physical sensations on my palate, but not being able to detect flavour is maddening. Meat is like chewing on rubber. Chips are brittle cardboard.
I tried and failed to stay positive. Everyone said it would probably only last a couple days. My husband, who’s a couple days ahead of me in the illness and is basically recovered now, is back to smelling and tasting almost at full capacity again.
I’m on day four of no smell/taste and I’m still getting only little ghost flavours. Some things are still blank. Others have some flavour, but I lose it quickly. It seems like my palate is fatigued easily, and I have a very small quota for tasting anything. A few bites and then it’s all gone again.
Although I know intellectually that this will pass, that it will just take time, I’m having a difficult time not feeling despair. “This is my life now,” I think. “I’ll never taste anything again.” My wine career is over. I will no longer take any pleasure from food. What’s the point.
Lest you think I’m being maudlin, you should know that food and wine are baked into me on a fundamental level – an astrological level, actually. I have a Taurus Ascendant, and a mutual reception between the Moon in Libra and Venus in Cancer. My Sun and Mercury are also in Cancer, all in my third house. So, my chart describes someone who’s a food and wine writer on such a literal level that during my first professional astrology consultation, the astrologer asked if she could use my chart as an example for her students.
I started my writing career in wine, then expanded to food. I wouldn’t be here writing this were it not for my relationship with wine and food. Losing my capacity to enjoy and assess food has felt like losing a limb.
So, I’m sitting here feeling very sorry for myself. But in the interest of giving you something to read other than a litany of my woes, let’s talk a little bit about the astrology of getting COVID.
In terms of a single transit responsible for this, my money is on the Venus retrograde conjunct Pluto in Capricorn. “But hang on, Mel,” you might be thinking. “You just said you’re a Taurus Ascendant, which makes Capricorn your ninth house. That’s not exactly associated with health issues.” Nope! It sure isn’t.
However, as a Taurus rising, Venus rules my Ascendant and the Ascendant signifies the body, as it demarcates the first house. I’ve also got the Moon in Libra, my sixth house. The sixth house signifies illness and injury, and in medical astrology the Moon is the body. Being ruled by Venus links it to the current Venus retrograde transit conjunct Pluto. Indeed, I’m having a rather literal VenusRx in the form of a transformative health episode. I’ve also been literally stripped of my ability to enjoy those Venusian things I hold so dear – food, drink, sweet smells (I burn incense offerings every day).
Finally, on the day that I lost my taste and smell, the planets transiting Capricorn (retrograde Venus, Sun and Pluto) were closely opposite my natal Sun, Venus and Mercury in Cancer. In particular, retrograde Venus was within one degree opposite my Sun, and the Sun-Pluto conjunction was within one degree of my natal Mercury. In traditional astrology, the Sun represents our vital force – mine was being blocked by that retrograde Venus. Mercury represents communication of all kinds; though Venus is more strongly associated with food and drink, the ability to taste and smell is the way that food communicates with us, and therefore is connected to Mercury.
Hopefully this helps illustrate the way that transits are often not straightforward, and also how heavily dependent they are on your own natal chart. At first glance, a Venus retrograde conjunct Pluto in the ninth house seems like it would involve something with education, religion, or travel. But when you examine this transit in the context of my natal chart, it makes perfect sense that during this period I would experience an illness involving a loss of smell and taste.
As always, the more you learn about astrology, the richer and more interesting it gets! Like many astrologers, I take some comfort in examining the transits when something big happens. It doesn’t stop me from experiencing that thing, but it helps me make sense of it on a different level.
I’m expecting this situation will not be fully resolved until Venus stations direct at the end of the month. It might even take until Venus is out of the retrograde shadow period, maybe not even until she’s out of Capricorn. I hope not, but my gut – and my nose – suggests otherwise.
In the meantime, I’ll be here sniffing essential oils and praying to Venus to restore my faculties.