Ceres at the Crossroads
The legacy of Goddesses in all Her forms will be lit by the Full Moon in Aquarius occurring on August 20, 2013 at 6:45 pm here in the Pacific Northwest of the United States of America, as Ceres will be conjunct the Sun and Mercury in Leo at the time of the lunation. This Full Moon will be about us recovering our authentic creative Self, a process which involves a Shadow integration that has it’s roots in the story of Goddesses. Ceres is a dwarf planet that has the Roman name of the Greek Goddess Demeter, who is commonly known as a Goddess of fertility and the earth, but in more ancient times was also known as the Mother of the Dead, similar in a way to the Sumerian Mother of the Underworld, Ereshkigal (Shlain, p. 31). The “Venus of Laussel” above was discovered in a cave in Southern France and believed to be at least 22,000 years old, from a time in which Goddesses were sacred to the hunter-gatherer people of the time on Earth. Researchers into myths of the Goddess such as Anne Barin and Jules Cashford (The Myth of the Goddess) believe that there were two prominent myths of the time, one involving a Mother Goddess who was linked to fertility, the sacredness of life, transformation and rebirth, and a second myth involving a Hunter who was more connected with survival, including the ritual act of taking life in order to survive (Shlain, p. 31).
Ceres is an archetype that not only goes all the way back to the original Great Mother, but also moving forward through time she encompasses many of the most prominent Goddesses of myth such as Isis and Hekate. Eventually, around the time documented by Homer or so, Ceres as Demeter became a Goddess who was regulated to being simply a sister of Zeus/Jupiter, instead of his Great Mother. This is in part due to invasions of the ancient Matriarchal cultures of Goddesses by invaders who became increasingly Patriarchal over time and re-wrote myths from the perspective of masculine Gods holding power over the Goddesses, bringing some cross-pollination to myth between cultures of the time in the process. As a result, we can see many parallels in the myths between cultures who came into contact, such as the fact that Isis made Osiris whole again by synthesizing his fragmented pieces of his body together again, and in other myths Demeter (Isis) put the severed limbs of Dionysus (Osiris) back together again (Jung, p. 237). In his book, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, author Leonard Shlain constructed a theory proposing that the development of alphabets and written records coincided with the subjugation of Goddesses and the ascendancy of Gods as sitting atop the hierarchical power pyramid of myth:
Poseidon, the Olympian god of the sea, presided over what had traditionally been considered the quintessential feminine essence: water. Many bulls inhabited his home in the deep. The image of a bull inside a body of water or in an underground labyrinth is evocative of the female’s reproductive organs. In the myth that precipitates Cadmus’s fateful journey to Greece, a bull carries a terrified young woman out to sea on his back. Initially, she trusted the intentions of a creature that had been associated with her gender for eons. Zeus chose to rape her at Crete, the island culture consecrated to the Goddess. Europa’s violation by a feminine totem is allegorical: it is the incident that initiates the mythical transfer of the alphabet from Phoenicia to Greece. With the beginning of alphabetic writing, women would have reason to fear the bull, which came to represent lustful virility.
–Leonard Shlain, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, p. 125
Shlain further depicts mythic plot lines developing in accord with the work of Homer, whose stories such as The Illiad “glorifies masculine values and denigrates feminine ones,” as it is focused upon “the deeds of men, and the story line is drenched in male-death consciousness” (Shlain, p. 127). The oppression of Goddesses becomes even more apparent when we consider how Gods became more important to the birth/release of many Goddesses more so than a Mother Goddess, such as Aphrodite being born from the severed testicles of Uranus by Kronus, Athena being released into the world from the head of Zeus, and Demeter, Hera, and Vesta being freed by Zeus from the belly of their father Kronus who had devoured them:
The birth stories of these three goddesses [Aphrodite, Hera, and Athena]- remnants of the Magna Mater- are so peculiar that they could only have been devised by a male mind intent on changing the perceptions of society. Each goddess emerged from the insides of a male, though this required convoluted plot twists . . . Not only did all three goddesses, Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, enter the world by way of a man instead of through the birth canal of a woman, but none of these examplars of the Great Mother was nutured during childhood by a mother. This resulted in the paradox that these three representatives of the Great Mother were themselves motherless! New myths are frequently imposed on a culture by the needs of a dominant ruling class. What better way to discredit women’s roles in the creation of life, and by extension, the Great Goddess, than to have your goddesses born of gods? The Iliad, the Theognis and the Old Testament turn barnyard commonsense upside down by asserting that birthing is a man’s job . . . The death throes of the Great Mother can be read between the lines of these sexist credos.
–Leonard Shlain, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, p. 130-131
Ceres being such an vital aspect of the herstory of myth on our planet is significant at this time, as in astrology we are experiencing a Full Moon in Aquarius, with the Leo Sun being conjunct the planet Mercury as well as the “dwarf” planet Ceres. The Leo Sun and Ceres have actually been conjunct this entire past week during a lot of intense astrological energy, with Jupiter in Cancer in a full opposition to Pluto in Capricorn and coming into a first quarter square with Uranus in Aries, plus the Grand Water Trine we have been talking about still occurring, now more prominently involving Jupiter in Cancer, Chiron in Pisces (with Neptune), and the North Node of the Moon in Scorpio (with Saturn). Demetra George is my favorite author concerning the astrological meaning of Ceres, and many of the issues that Demetra associated with Ceres in her book Asteroid Goddesses are connected with the modern oppression of women and femininity that have clear connections to the mythstorical oppression of Goddesses by Gods. For example, as Ceres is a Goddess of food and nourishment, she can be connected with the eating disorders many modern women have experienced, disorders that are connected to a psychological complex rooted in misogyny and the oppressive depiction of women in media such as movies, commercials, and popular music.
Demetra also analyzed how the pre-Hellenic versionof Ceres was a universal archetype of the Great Goddess that emerged in Crete and Greece in association with figures such as Isis, Ishtar, Inanna, Gaia, Rhea, and Tara. Ceres as the Great Mother in Crete was integral to fertility rituals such as being the corn priestess at the Autumn Equinox who lays with her lover Iasion in a field in order to birth Plutus, who was the god of wealth found in the Earth, “a symbol of that rich bounty that the earth produced when it was so honored by the Sacred Marriage” (George, p. 45). In the later versions of myth, however, after Demeter takes her younger lover Iasion out to a field during the marriage ceremony of Cadmus and Harmony, Zeus angrily strikes him dead with a bolt of lightning upon discovery.
Similar to this re-write of the myth, Demetra George also described how it was not until Homer’s Hymn to Demeter that the rape of Persephone appears in myth, as it had “no precedent in the earlier cult versions” (George, p. 45):
Historically, Persephone’s rape symbolizes the power struggle that was occurring between the patriarchal cultures (Pluto) and the indigenous matriarchal goddess cults (represented by Ceres). The final outcome of the story points to a clear victory for the northern Zeus worshippers. The Great Mother not only had to stand by and watch her daughter being raped and abducted, Ceres was also forced to share her beloved Persephone with the enemy. Hence, she had to abdicate a portion of her powers over the birth and death rituals, a dominion that was eventually wrestled from her in its entirety.
–Demetra George, Asteroid Goddesses, p. 45
In the popular version of the Persephone myth, Ceres/Demeter is no longer identified with the powers associated with Hekate, and in fact Ceres deep in grief comes into contact with Hekate, looking for guidance.
Hekate is often depicted as a crone goddess representative of the triple goddess, a goddess of the moon, magic, and plant medicine, a goddess who stands at the crossroads. In stunning synchronicity to today’s full moon in Leo and Aquarius, Hekate in the Persephone myth directs Ceres to seek guidance from Helios, the Sun God and seer, who gives Ceres the knowledge that Pluto took Persephone to the underworld under the blessings of Zeus. Today at the time of this Full Moon, many of us are standing at our own crossroads, coming into knowledge of the root causes or sources of intense personal issues and experiences that are coinciding with the intensity of outer planet transits we have been experiencing: in particular that Jupiter in Cancer has now come into the full first quarter phase of it’s square with Uranus in addition to a full opposition to Pluto in Capricorn.
But what does this mean, you may ask? For one, Jupiter in Cancer, considered an exalted aspect by ancient astrologers, entering such intense aspects with outer transpersonal planets difficult for us to integrate on a personal level but which consistently correlate with cataclysmic and paradigm shifting events in our human collective, has been coinciding with many of us having to realize once again how many of our beliefs we hold dear are ultimately speculative in nature. I am not debating that there is an actual Truth, only that we humans tend to believe what we believe and on this level of relativity two people can view and interpret the same experience completely differently, arguing from a perspective rooted in belief systems that on the surface seem to hold no common ground. This experience can feel especially debilitating when one is feeling oppression from a belief system connected to a dominant culture that one knows is not actually the Truth, but which still holds tremendous power of control over us nonetheless (or at least will try to control us). We could be finding ourselves in a similar position to Ceres, enraged at the violation to our own divine femininity inside of us. However, the version of her myth involving the descent of Persephone to the underworld also holds an important moral lesson, as Ceres had been extremely possessive of Persephone prior to her descent, and she reacted to the loss of her daughter with anger and bitter vengeance, refusing to nourish the Earth with food, flowers, and vegetation out of protest. Ultimately, Ceres had to come to a place of letting go of her attachment to having Persephone with her at all times, as well as come back to a place of being productive with her unique calling and gift of food and nourishment that sustains life on our planet. This does not mean we need to be mushy and passively accepting of oppression we experience or witness, but it does mean that we can be more productive and effective when acting from our hearts instead of out of anger or bitterness. Going through the raw pain of crises does at least give us an opportunity to open more of our heart in the end of the process if we do our deep work.
As a result it is fascinating to me that the Sun has been conjunct Ceres at this exact time, an event that typically is not drawing a huge amount of attention from astrologers, although it most likely will be briefly mentioned in numerous “Full Moon reports,” such as something along the lines of “mother issues” or “baking bread” for someone. Traditional astrologers barely even acknowledge Ceres, as they have a deep learning of astrology that can work limited to only the original seven planets of the Sun through Saturn. However, even amongst the modern late 20th Century astrologers who have taken great leaps of thought with our ancient study of astrology, with the exception of Demetra George and others of like-mind, Ceres has not been developed to a great extent as an astrological archetype. Astrologers do use her, but I find that she tends to draw less attention as a general rule, and many question the validity of even paying much attention to her in the first place.
One reason many question using the asteroids (although again, Ceres is not even an asteroid! She is now a dwarf planet on the same level of Pluto!) is why we should integrate the myth of a particular culture with a particular myth, to an asteroid that some astronomer just chose to give a certain name to. However, in answer to this argument Ceres has a knowing smile. At the 2011 Evolutionary Astrology conference near Portland, Oregon I witnessed Demetra George giving an electrifying talk about the mythology and astrological significance of Ceres, following a trip Demetra took taking astrology students to the specific locations of the myth. Demetra shared with us that when Ceres was discovered in 1800 by the astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi, she was discovered in an astro-lab that was near the exact site of Persephone’s abduction in myth.
In actuality, although Ceres has still not generated a tremendous amount of astrological writing, since the 2006 astronomical controversy in which Pluto was demoted to dwarf planet status, and Ceres was elevated to dwarf planet status, Ceres is today on the same level playing field as the other celestial bodies that modern astrologers tend to obsess over since Pluto isn’t going anywhere in terms of astrological significance. In Asteroid Goddesses, Demetra George presented an ingenious thesis for the astrological meaning of Ceres that I have found is deeply compelling and typically makes sense in the context of natal birth charts. In this book Demetra associated Ceres with the signs of Cancer (nurturing issues), Virgo (productivity issues), and the Taurus-Scorpio axis (issues of attachment and letting go for transformation).
Again, as I spent time outlining the subjugation of the Great Mother for a reason, it is important to take our Ceres placement in our birth charts in consideration of the context of the oppression of women in our global culture and the effect this has had on our individual growth and development. For example, Demetra George brought up the fact that hospital births in which the infant is separated from the mother in a sterile and isolated hospital crib first came into dominance in the 1930s, and as a result contributed to the plethora of relationship issues that have been handed down to ensuing generations since that time. If we do not receiving the nurturing we need as an infant, a child, and/or an adolescent, we in turn have difficulty nurturing others in relationship, including our own children, and as a result a psychological complex such as an “attachment disorder” can be transmitted down the line of generations of family karma. It is possible, however, with deep work and processing, to overturn complexes like attachment disorders we can become stuck to in our development, and as we each do our own unique personal work in this manner, and support others in their own deep work along these lines, we can help add to a great paradigm shift of anti-oppression work in the world around us.
When we talk about integrating our Shadow into helping us actualize our unique Self, this is exactly what we are talking about: becoming aware of the rejected feminine aspects of ourselves (even if we are a macho dude) that have been cast off or suppressed in the face of cultural conditioning. With Ceres lined up with the Sun and Mercury in Leo at this time of a Full Moon in Aquarius, we have a clear sign from above that a more authentic version of our actualized creative Self could become available to us at this time. In Asteroid Goddesses, Demetra George wrote the following about having Ceres in the natal birth sign of Leo:
Ceres in Leo people identify nurturance with self-expression. Ideally, the parents will foster in the child a sense of pride, confidence in his/her abilities, and an appreciation for the creative efforts of others. These people can nurture others by helping them to express their creativity- thereby making a unique impression upon the outer world. Self-acceptance is based upon one’s ability to create and share something he/she takes pride in. The inability to do so may bring self-rejection and a lack of self-confidence.
–Demetra George, Asteroid Goddesses, p. 64
Since we are at a Leo-Aqurius lunation, it brings up the natural square to the Taurus-Scorpio axis that Demetra George wrote about Ceres ruling, associating it with issues of abandonment and attachment. The reason people enacted Eleusinian rites of death for so long based upon the myth of Ceres and Persephone was to overcome a fear of death in the collective, as well as perhaps to gain a sense of the transformation and regeneration available in the process of death. In Esoteric Astrology, Alan Oken and others have talked about the significance of the Taurus-Scorpio axis involving a death and destruction of form that helps humans open themselves to the heart-centered opening of the fixed cross. It is through death of form, of learning to let go of attachment and experience rebirth, that we learn to open our hearts as well as come into closer contact with our Soul nature:
To prepare for the moment of death, one must learn to experience “little deaths” every day through the process of letting go. While letting go may seem frightening at first, it is actually a necessary part of the cycle of life/death/renewal. In this transformative process, nothing new can be reborn until something old first dies. Thus, whenever we cling to a person, thing, or situation that has outlived its purpose, we only prevent ourselves from experiencing the abundance of renewal. At this point, a Ceres transit will inevitably come along, denoting our need to confront our fears of dying and to realize the truth of the Ceres-Scorpio death secret- that release is the precursor to rebirth.
–Demetra George, Asteroid Goddesses, p. 55
Back in February of 2013 during a time of incredible planetary Pisces energy, Mercury and Ceres both stationed retrograde in square to one another- Mercury around 20 degrees of Pisces, Ceres around 20 degrees of Gemini. Since Mercury is now conjunct both Ceres and the Sun in Leo at this time, if we have been doing the work to let go of what has served its purpose, we may be experiencing a renewal of energy. In contrast, if we have held on tightly to something that has outlived its purpose, we may be experiencing an intense climax of energy requiring us to make a definitive decision to let go of what is clogging up the process of transformation that could otherwise be available.
This point of 20 degrees of Gemini that Ceres previously stationed retrograde at this year is significant as it is the Heliocentric north node of Ceres. During her talk on Ceres at the 2011 Evolutionary Astrology Conference, Demetra George pointed out that Ceres has Heliocentric nodes in square to the nodes of Juno and Pallas Athena, all on the mutable cross: Ceres at 20 degrees of Gemini (north) and Sagitarius (south), Pallas Athena at 23 degrees of Virgo (north) and Pisces (south), and Juno at 20 degrees of Virgo (north) and Pisces (south). As in traditional astrology this means that all three of these Godesses have Heliocentric north nodes ruled by Mercury, and south nodes ruled by Jupiter, Demetra synthesized that the evolution from “faith to reason” is at the evolutionary core of the feminine in our solar system. At first I was surprised to hear this, as it seemed to suggest the divine feminine should become more rational and less intuitive, and then upon more thought I realized that this would be exactly the evolutionary point. Thus the divine feminine could gain strength through developing its rational side while drawing upon its great powers of faith, not neglecting its intuitive abilities. Becoming more rational, developing the ability to objectify our experiences instead of being overridden by emotional responses to our experiences, ultimately will help all of us come to a better understanding of the oppression the Shadow side of our Self has experienced. As a result, we can ultimately realize and actualize more of our whole Self in the world, coming into a stronger embodiment of our unique power of creation and expressing more of the full Virgo sense of productivity associated with Ceres. This also means carrying the Leo-Aquarius meaning of this Full Moon out into appreciation and sharing in joy of the work of other creators around us, instead of viewing other creators with envy, jealousy, or competitiveness. Enjoy this Full Moon and soak up its lunar rays!
George, Demetra. (1986). Asteroid Goddesses. ACS. (with Douglas Bloch)
Jung, Carl. (1967 edition revised from original 1912). Symbols of Transformation. Bollingen.
Shlain, Leonard. (1998). The Alphabet versus the Goddess: the conflict between Word and Image. Viking.