Astrological Musings

Part I: A history of the use of Asteroids in Astrology

Ceres was first discovered in 1801 and immediately classified as a planet. Shortly thereafter, several other bodies were discovered and classified as planets beginning with Pallas in 1802, Juno in 1804, Vesta in 1807, and later Astraea in 1845. When Neptune was discovered in 1846, it was much larger than the other bodies and was therefore retained as a planet and the others were demoted to the asteroid belt along with thousands more asteroids that were discovered over the next 200 years. The “major” asteroids languished there until in a surge of interest in women’s issues in the 1960s and 1970s inspired the later use of the asteroids in astrological analysis.

We could argue that the modern women’s movement in the US began in 1966 with the founding of the National Organization of Women (NOW) (it incorporated formally the following year) when the Uranus and Pluto were exactly conjunct in Virgo, setting off cultural revolutions of various kinds around the world. In the mid to late 1970s the feminist movement inspired research into the history of women in societies that were matriarchal in nature, and the subsequent return of goddess worship in the form of neo-pagan rituals. In 1976, with Saturn trine Neptune, Merlin Stone’s book When God was a Woman retold the Judaeo-Christian story from the feminine perspective, reaching back beyond the god Yahweh to earlier matriarchal cultures and female deities. This groundbreaking work opened the doors to the study of earlier goddesses and their applications in women’s issues.

In the astrological pantheon of the time Venus was the only feminine archetypes. The love goddess that we know as Venus is significantly watered down from her origins as Innana, Ishtar, Hathor, Ashtoreth and Astarte, various incarnations of the same pagan goddess, slandered in the bibles and expunged from history They were powerful goddesses associated with fertility and sexuality and considered more powerful than their male counterparts. This must have terrified the priesthoods. Ashtoreth, the Hebrew incarnation of this goddess, was called the female demon of lust. The Greeks called her Aphrodite, but their patriarchal society necessitated the diminution of her powers and she was relegated to her role as the goddess of love and beauty. The Romans stripped her power as Venus even more, resulting in the cartoon character we have today.

The Moon of course is not a planet and although it deals with the emotional nature and the quality of nurturing, those are not exclusively feminine qualities.

The feminist atmosphere of the 1970s made its way into the field of astrology, and in 1986 the groundbreaking work by Demetra George called Asteroid Goddesses made four new feminine archetypes available to astrologers. The four major asteroids she covers are Juno, Ceres, Pallas and Vesta, but there are thousands more (both male and female), each with their own astrological symbolism. The use of asteroids by astrologers is not all that common (although I worked with them briefly in the late 1980s but ultimately found they didn’t really speak to me). With the inclusion of Ceres into the planetary pantheon the other asteroids are likely to make their way into the astrological language as well.

I have always had a particular affinity for Astraea (the Starry One), the goddess of innocence and purity and the last of the immortals to live with humans after the other gods had retreated to Mount Olympus as a result of the wickedness of man. She was a goddess of justice, and is often depicted as holding the Libran scales although she is also associated with the constellation Virgo. Perhaps she will return to play a role in the difficult times that are to come.

As I’ve written elsewhere in this column, the inclusion of Ceres into a new category with Pluto, astrological god of transformation, likely indicates a new element of the transformational process. Tomorrow’s column will explore the archetype of Ceres and her astrological functions.

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