Astrology is an ancient science and art that has been in use for centuries. The planets are named after the Mediterranean gods of ancient Rome and Greece. This illustrates the awareness possessed by our ancestors of the synchronicity between the activation of life's archetypal energies and the movements of heavenly bodies that seem to measure the timing of these events. The last few centuries have been an exciting time for astrologers. We have witnessed the discovery of the outer planets and watched them conform to the synchronistic meaning ascribed to them by their names, joining and expanding the pantheon of deities that dance through the horoscopes of people and political events. Astrologers have become comfortable with the extended astrological family that now includes Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, and these have been utilised in western astrology for most of the twentieth century. Since the dust has settled from these cosmic discoveries, astrologers have had some time to study the action of some other newly discovered heavenly bodies - namely Chiron and the Asteroids.
The Asteroids lie in a belt that orbits between Mars and Jupiter. It is now known that this belt is comprised of thousands of asteroids, but the first four were discovered many years in advance of the rest. These four asteroids were named after four major Olympic goddesses, which happened to redress the gender imbalance among the primarily male planetary deities that populate the horoscope. Thus it was that Ceres, Juno, Vesta, and Pallas Athena came along at the time of the birth of the women's movement in the nineteenth century. Astrologers do work with the myriad of other asteroids as well, but these four, with their associations to four of the most important goddesses, are the 'standard' ones in use.
Chiron was discovered in 1977, and was named after the wise Greek centaur who tasted immortality. Chiron lies between Saturn and Uranus and occasionally passes within the orbit of Saturn. At first thought to be a comet or asteroid it is now considered a 'planetoid' or small planet-like body.
Ceres is the expression of the Earth Goddess archetype that has been worshipped in many forms by various cultures. This archetype has always been associated with mother earth, harvests, a transformational journey to and from the underworld, rites of passage, and the birth or resurrection of a fertility deity.
The myth of Demeter (da mater or 'earth mother') and the sudden abduction of her dearly loved daughter Persephone by the lord of the underworld contains the same universal symbolism as other Earth Goddess myths. These myths may appear, at first, to be early explanations for the changing of the seasons. They are actually wise, rich, symbolic teachings on such profound themes as loss and renewal, death and rebirth, and the endless transformation that constitutes the very laws of creation to which this universe and everything in it adheres.
On a more personal level, the Ceres myth deals with the severance of the bonds of love and/or attachment. When we experience love as we have known it being taken from us, we can feel as if we have been cast into a realm of eternal darkness, never to return to the world of the living again. We may then be unable to let go of the past, reliving it again and again in our minds - protesting and resisting the present, and demanding that it somehow hand over to us the treasure that has been snatched away.
Yet as with Demeter, who chose to forgo her divinity and wander in the world of humans, after which she was reunited annually with her transformed daughter, it is only when we can give up notions of eternal paradise and immortality that we can relinquish old attachments. Only when we have been humbled by and have accepted those mysterious cyclic forces beyond ourselves that we can be restored to a state of plentitude and abundance in the here and now. Then we can truly understand how our cup must be emptied in order to be filled afresh.
Ceres in the birth chart thus describes what one really cares about, and the way one nurtures others (and needs to be nurtured oneself) in a parental kind of way. It also indicates where one may tend to cling, the kind of separations that can be traumatic, and what one may be required to give up (or share with others) in order to grow. It can also indicate the ways in which we seek for something that seems to be missing, something we didn't get enough of, as well as the ways that can help us mourn such a loss. As with Demeter and Persephone, Ceres can also indicate the kind of experience that constitutes a rite of passage - the most profound transformation: the death and rebirth of the self.
Juno (whose Greek name is Hera) is an ancient Queen of Heaven Goddess dating from that matriarchal period when the sovereign Deity was female and reigned alone, presiding over the mysteries of birth, motherhood, and the various phases of reproduction. Mythology relates how she was seduced by Zeus, married him out of a sense of honor, endured a marriage characterized by power struggles over issues of fidelity and bearing a line of descent, as well as how she went into retreat occasionally in order to renew and center herself. Her myth parallels the history of social upheaval in the lands where she was worshipped. Northern invaders struggled to impose traditions of patrilineal descent and the worship of their chief god, Zeus, upon the indigenous matriarchal cultures of Mycenaean Greece and Crete. Over a period of hundreds of years of cultural conflict, the two divinities were forced to share the altar. Thus, in addition to her authority over matters pertaining to childbirth and motherhood, Juno has come to be associated with issues of socially acknowledged relationship, legal marriage, marital fulfillment through commitment and fidelity, and the struggle for equality within a relationship. She represents, also, the kind of power struggles that involve controlling the partner through control over offspring, or through the withholding of sex or emotional intimacy. Juno can also represent committed relationships entered into out of a sense of duty, guilt, or for social reasons.
Juno represents both the need for relationship and the refusal to accept inequality within the context of a relationship. She represents the struggle to balance the need for intimacy with the opposing need for freedom - needs which both partners have, although one of these needs may be projected onto the partner. She can also represent the need to take marriage as a sacred trust, a way that leads to spiritual fulfillment through the reconciliation of the opposites in a state of union.
On another level, Juno can represent the way in which one feels rendered powerless by conflict in spite of sincere effort and irreproachable conduct on one's own part. The harder one tries, the more inadequate one's efforts seem to be, for there is a tendency to cling to old methods when circumstances have changed and a whole new paradigm is needed before the way clear can be seen. This frustration can sometimes lead to self-depreciation and loss of faith in oneself. Juno thus symbolises the transition state between old and new ways of being, where the old fails to meet the needs of the times and the new is not yet manifest. She describes the need for a kind of spiritual self-rejuvenation that is needed in order to see oneself through times of utter disintegration into the future that awaits. Juno in the horoscope thus represents the ways in which we need to renew ourselves, and where our ability to adjust to changing circumstances is most tested.
Since marriage proved to be this goddess' testing ground, Juno in the horoscope also indicates the qualities associated with one's marriage partner and the ways in which one handles intimacy/freedom needs as well as the jealousy and insecurity that often accompany this balancing act. Juno's position describes the nature of any control issues, the ways in which such power struggles get enacted, and the type of sacred cows that need to be relinquished so that the path to marital fulfillment can unfold. Juno's placement in your chart can refer not only to your mate (or the way that you perceive your mate), but to the relationship and to your own behaviour in a committed relationship as well.
As with goddess-myths associated with the other asteroids, the myths that pertain to the warrior goddess Pallas Athena reflect socio-historic upheavals as well as archetypal themes. One of the most interesting aspects of Athena's myth, as it has evolved, is the changing nature of her birth. In her earliest form she was said to have been born of Lake Triton in Libya, home of the legendary amazons. Her worship was brought to the Greek islands much later by the Libyans themselves as they emigrated across the Mediterranean sea. The story of her birth reflected this migration, for she was then said to be born of Metis - a sea goddess. Further evolution of her myth reflects the encounter of the goddess worshipping peoples with the patriarchal people invading Greece from the north: Metis (whose name means Wise Counsel), pregnant with Athena, was devoured by the invaders' god, Zeus, who later gave birth to a fully grown and fully armoured Pallas Athena from his head. Later versions of this myth omit altogether any mention of Metis, and depict Athena as having been conceived without a woman's involvement.
Later myth also portrays Athena as bringing about the destruction of both Pallas and Medusa in what appears to be sociological evidence of the attempt to destroy goddess worship. (Pallas, Athena, and Medusa were the three faces of the Libyan version of the triple goddess.) In one of these myths Zeus tricks Athena into killing her Amazonian sister Pallas during a friendly competition. Another myth relates how Athena helped King Perseus to cut off Medusa's head by giving him a mirror to use so he could avoid her deadly gaze. Yet, as much as these myths might have been used as evidence of the wise Athena's denunciation of the Feminine, they also contain symbolism that indicates how Athena preserved the goddess trinity. For, upon the death of Pallas, the grieving Athena placed her sister's name before her own. As for her attitude towards Medusa, she bore Medusa's image upon her breastplate and distributed her blood to healers as a regenerative medicine. The symbolic importance of the mirror in the Perseus-Medusa conflict also hints at Athena's wisdom and gift as a mediator in teaching how to reconcile opposites by seeing in oneself the disowned qualities that are projected onto opponents.
Pallas Athena signifies wisdom and creative problem solving in which a holistic view of conflicting or opposite elements (the Masculine and the Feminine) is required. This sense of fairness is backed up by a willingness to defend or fight for the underdog. Thus Pallas Athena is also associated with fighting for causes. She represents the application of practical skill and creative intelligence in order to best be of service. She was the goddess of war (defence, originally) as well as the goddess of wisdom and culture - patroness of the civilised arts such as pottery, sculpture, weaving, architecture, and animal husbandry. Pallas Athena can also represent the denial of one's own gender in an effort to cope with situations that require the skills of the opposite gender in order to survive, as well as the struggle to rediscover and reconnect with essential qualities of one's own sex. Androgynous conditions and healing through feminine wisdom, energy balancing or conflict resolution are also expressions of the Pallas Athena archetype.
The asteroid Vesta (Latin) is named after the ancient Greek goddess Hestia, first born of the Olympian deities and last released by her father Cronos (father Time), who at one point swallowed all his offspring. Thus she denotes the beginning and the end - alpha and omega - and serves as a reminder of the source from which all things originate and to which all must return. She represents the preservation of sacredness and the state of connection to formless Essence. As such, she is the only Olympic deity not worshipped anthropomorphically; she is symbolised only by the altar and its sacred flame. Thus she also represents any sacred space - be it temple, sweat lodge, or meditation corner - that acts as a container in which we may centre ourselves, and feel the presence of Spirit. In ancient times Vesta was worshipped both in the city centre as the flaming altar, and in every home as the central hearth whose embers were literally passed on down through the generations from mother to daughter when the daughter married and established her own hearth. In this manner Vesta came to represent the perpetuation of the spark of life, and of civilisation and one's ancestral and cultural roots.
In early matriarchal societies, priestesses honouring Hestia maintained a connection to this spiritual essence (represented by a sacred flame that they tended night and day). They offered themselves in sacred sexual union in order to teach the divine aspect of sexuality and the need to remain aware of the sacred while engaged in physical life. The priestesses remained unmarried and committed to none but themselves and their worship. Their sons (conceived anonymously during ceremonial summer solstice rites) served as year-kings when there was no royal heir. These customs were finally abolished when patrilineal traditions were enforced and the priestesses were compelled by the Roman king to serve as keepers of the new (patriarchal) civilisation and to observe vows of celibacy. To break these vows entailed a cruel death penalty. In exchange for the relinquishment of their sexuality, matrilineal customs, and true spiritual function, the priestesses (Vestal Virgins) were granted freedom from paternal control.
Vesta's sacred flame represents, in the yogic tradition, the Kundalini force which, when properly awakened and channelled, leads to spiritual development. Thus, astrologically, Vesta has come to represent both spirituality and consecrated (or desecrated) sexuality. This can include a wide range of sexual expressions such as abstinence, renunciation and celibacy, the celebration of spiritually honoured sexuality, sexual idealism, and the sacred whore.
Astrologically, Vesta stands for that which provides us with inner sustenance; the way in which we are pulled back to our core or inner self; and the struggle between this and the demands of the outer world. Vesta represents the way in which we long to bless others with the fruits of the spiritual resources we have found within ourselves, but it is also the need to retreat and preserve our inner sanctuary against any disrespectful intrusion. Vesta is associated with dedication, focus, and commitment. She represents those things that helps us focus, the way in which we dedicate ourselves with heart and soul, and that for which we are ready (or compelled) to make a sacrifice. The things indicated by Vesta's position in your chart may be things that you feel compelled to give up or sacrifice, often out of a sense of spiritual compulsion. Yet they can also be the very things that evoke your dedication - leading to a sense of deep inner fulfillment when you are willing to make some sacrifices on their behalf. You should keep this paradox in mind, for Vesta can express itself one way or the other - or both!
The astronomical body, Chiron (once thought to be a comet or asteroid, now considered a 'planetoid' or small planet-like body) is named after the ancient Greek, centaur demi-god who was horse from the waist down and human from the waist up. Chiron's orbit, unlike that of the asteroids, lies between Saturn and Uranus, and is irregular in that it occasionally crosses inside the orbit of Saturn. This astronomical characteristic is symbolic of Chiron's reputation for being somewhat of a maverick.
Chiron was no ordinary run-of-the-mill centaur at the mercy of instincts and appetites. He displayed such self-mastery and was so wise and gifted in both the arts of healing and the arts of war and statesmanship, that he found himself mentor to heroes and kings and their sons. His service was of such value that he was granted immortality by the gods. Chance would have it that he was accidentally wounded in the foot by one of his own poisoned arrows, carelessly tossed by one of his fosterlings (Heracles). Since by this time he was immortal, the result of this mishap was that Chiron was condemned by fate to suffer eternally the agonies of a poisoned wound that could not be healed. In order to obtain release from his endless suffering, the wise old centaur decided to relinquish the mantle of immortality that had been bestowed upon him. He gave it, instead, to Prometheus (who needed it to be freed from the punishment he suffered for mocking the gods and stealing their fire). In this way, Chiron embraced death and found release from his suffering.
Astrologically, Chiron's placement in a birth chart indicates one's experience of the wound that does not heal, (or the wound that does not seem to heal, because although an important lesson may be learned through dealing with it, the wound seems to spiral around with another lesson on a deeper level). Chiron represents one's experience of woundedness and the nature of the wound. Second, by coming to terms with suffering through an acceptance of one's mortality, one arrives at a greater state of wholeness or healing. Third, Chiron shows how one comes into one's own as an elder or mentor who can provide healing and guidance to others. Thus Chiron also astrologically indicates the ways and means with which you can guide others, as well as the kind of mentoring and healing you seek for yourself.
Legal Disclaimer: Under UK law, horoscopes and readings are deemed to be for entertainment purposes only and do not represent legal, financial, medical or other specialist advice.
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