Alison Chester-Lambert in writing about Ceres mentions that she was worshiped in Greece as Demeter but before that as Isis in Egyptian myth. The spacecraft Dawn is due to go into orbit around Ceres on 6th March when Ceres is in Capricorn widely conjunct Pluto and square Uranus, although this is an approximate date and if it arrives earlier it will be closely conjunct Pluto and square Uranus. So with Ceres about to be more closely scrutinised, a conjunction coming up with Pluto (significant given the myth of Demeter) and a square to Uranus, we would expect a breakthrough in our awareness of Ceres. At the time of writing this Ceres is widely conjunct Pluto and making a square to Uranus and Dawn is winging its way towards orbit with the Planet.
Chrissy Philp and I run a bi-weekly session for young students and last weekend she chose to present on Ceres. This got me thinking about Ceres and what it represents and particularly (on reading Alison Chester-Lambert’s article from her book) about the fact that Ceres was first worshipped as Isis. I am aware that ancient symbolism often crops up unconsciously in the modern world yet clearly with a purpose. Thus astronomers, whilst in many cases rejecting Astrology nevertheless stick assiduously to names from the ancient mythology when naming planets/asteroids etc. They even act on these planets in symbolically appropriate ways (hence banishing Pluto to the underworld of sub-planets) where he is hidden away and not referred to consciously. I even amusingly worked on a Human Resources IT system for Ernst & Young which was called EYSIS (Isis) and ran on a server called Nile!
So the fact that ISIS is in the news at the moment and that it is the name that has finally stuck to this group is, I think, no coincidence given the approaching conjunction of Ceres/Isis with the Pluto-Uranus square. It also tells us something about this asteroid and its symbolism. The myth of Isis is that she was the sister and the wife of Osiris. Osiris was tricked by his jealous brother, Set, and murdered. Isis was so upset that her tears of grief were said to be what caused the Nile to flood each year. Indeed Plutarch’s account of the story is full of descriptions of Isis weeping and mourning for her dead brother/husband Osiris, but also tellingly Plutarch admits that he deliberately excluded the parts about Isis being beheaded and Horus dismembered – Isis and beheading is therefore, whilst shocking, not a new phenomenon. In the Greek version of the myth, the rape and abduction of Persephone causes Demeter to lament so deeply that the earth itself was barren throughout until a compromise was reached. Both myths have the idea of fertilisation and crops in them but also of healing – Isis’s tears cause the flooding of the Nile which irrigated the fields and crops of Egypt and Demeter is associated with the cycle of the seasons – her lamenting with autumn and winter and her reunion with Persephone bringing Spring and Summer.
What are we to make of this and why is this relevant now as Dawn approaches Ceres? In talking about Ceres Chrissy was illustrating through very exact transits of Ceres her grief and constant weeping at having discovered two baby greenfinches and then losing them a year later when they chose to fly away. At the same time she recently wrote about War and the need to understand the grief of our own “3 year old” inner child if we are to act with compassion rather than judgement towards each other and hence understand how to avoid the sort of judgemental, rational mindset that ignores people’s hurt and instead judges them and decides they must be “dealt with” which means more bloodshed, more hurt and more war and so on in a vicious cycle.
So Ceres seems to be to do particularly with mourning or grieving, yet the mourning or grieving is important and to be respected since it gives birth to new life or restores life energy. It is the inconsolable weeping grief that we feel which causes us to be desolate. Rationality makes little impact on this state. Certainly, telling people that it is childish and they should stop it, does not work. Persephone or Proserpine was raped and taken to the underworld by Pluto, so this is a deeply primal part of our nature, it is not a part easily understood or dealt with by the rational “adult” mind. It is dismissed as indulgent or childish. Yet, failure to grieve represses this emotion and breeds further destruction. In our modern happiness obsessed world where anything other than happiness is seen as depression and therefore an abnormality and a problem, we even medicate grief. In the myth of Isis she searches for Osiris and eventually finds him and hides him only for Set to find him again and cut him into fourteen pieces and scatter him. Isis is again distraught and sets out to restore him once more.
Like the tale of Demeter there is a sense of a constant cycle of mourning and grieving, followed by restoration. Some commentators identify this same mythology with the Virgin Mary cradling both the infant Christ and then the crucified Christ in her arms (there is a painting in the National Gallery where Mary is depicted cradling the infant Christ in her arms yet his face prefigures the scene of his death when Mary again cradles his dead body in her arms).
On September the 1st 1939, at the outbreak of the second world war, Ceres was conjunct Pluto in Leo. Pluto was symbolically taking Persephone down to the underworld and a whole cycle of devastation, mourning and wailing was being initiated. On September 11th 2001 (the destruction of the Twin Towers) Ceres was in Capricorn squaring the exact Mercury rising in Libra and opposing Jupiter in Cancer to form a t-square. It was also opposing America’s sun and conjunct the UK 1801 Sun. It is a shame that America rather than grieving and weeping, chose instead to act on their grief and enlist others in attacking Iraq and Afghanistan. Thus the cycle of destruction and grief was reinitiated. It is the evolution of this that has led to the emergence of ISIS and it can be no coincidence that she is associated with beheading and terrible Plutonic revenge if not respected. Thus Ceres and Pluto seem to be eternally connected and perhaps can only be reconciled if we can respect both.
Milton Erickson, a master of understanding emotions, tells the story of his young son falling down the stairs and cracking his head open. Erickson, instead of reassuring his son that he was ok, told him that it deserved a good cry and sat with him as he cried. When he had cried, he then got him interested in whether it would require more stitches than his brother’s cut and by the time he got to the doctors he was more interested in how many stitches he would get than any concern about the cut. Milton Erickson’s point was that we must first acknowledge people’s emotional reality if they are going to trust us. If we are hurt and upset and someone tells us we are ok, as is the reflex of most parents, then we have to conclude either that we cannot trust ourselves or we cannot trust others since they are telling us we are ok and we don’t feel ok. Erickson had Ceres sextile Neptune in a finger of fate with Mercury.
So could it be that Isis is visiting us in the guise of an opportunity to re-examine our approach to grief? If we respond to ISIS with little emotional intelligence we hold the danger of more death which will lead to more grieving parents and relatives, which will lead to more desire to unleash Plutonic vengence which will lead to more grief etc. With Dawn approaching Ceres/Isis and with a conjunction in Pluto conjunct the Twin Towers chart Ceres and square Uranus in Aries there is an opportunity to wake up to the real meaning of Ceres and to allow her waters to feed a new birth of understanding and empathy and to nurture and sustain life.
My wife has Ceres in Pisces in a close t-square with her Sun in Cancer and Mars in Virgo. With the Moon in Taurus in the 11th house she is a natural earth mother, working out in nature everyday using horses and animals for therapy with autistic children. With Mars opposing Ceres she hates the notion that she is in anyway an earth mother, but acknowledges wryly that it must be the case. Horus the son of Osiris and Isis in many versions of the myth was wounded or damaged. At the same time, four years after our son was born and a year before our daughter’s birth we suffered a still-birth that went to full term. At the funeral my son who was four at the time, was curious to know why the baby’s coffin was being cremated rather than cut into lots of tiny pieces. Perhaps as Isaac’s (our still-born baby) brother he felt like Set (Osiris’s brother) that this was a much better solution to grief – it certainly shifted us from tears to barely muffled laughter.
The chart for Issac had Chiron rising in Scorpio in a close square to Ceres conjunct Uranus. As we begin to learn and integrate the asteroids more, I can’t help feeling that Chrissy is right when she attributes them to Chiron and Virgo. Certainly, the cutting up of and searching for the parts of Osiris to make him whole again echoes the Chiron myth of a wound that cannot be fully healed. The asteroids represent a planet that never formed and remained split into many tiny pieces (very Virgo with its dissection and analysing and its reputation for being unable to see the wood for the trees). The asteroid belt, Chiron, the Kuiper belt and beyond that the Oort cloud seem to represent boundary points – between the inner planets and the social planets, between the social planets and the Transpersonal planets and between the Transpersonal planets and the Cosmos.
In myth, Mercury was the messenger of the gods, the only one able to travel between gods. He rules Gemini – one immortal twin and one mortal wounded twin (thoughts are immortal (Gemini), physical bodies (Virgo) are very mortal). Perhaps the asteroids represent the physical interactions and exploration of our world? Chiron was discovered only a month after the launch of Voyager in September 1977 and now the Universe is littered with unmanned spacecraft and probes (including the first one to land on an asteroid) winging between the Planets sending us back pictures at a time when astrologically we are waking up to the asteroids and their symbolism. Is it possible that the asteroids might also play some role in the brain? Perhaps as physical links between parts of the brain? Only speculation (I am Sun rising in Sagittarius so I think I am allowed to speculate; I am very grateful to leave it to more adept earth signs to verify and research things).
Ceres is very much associated with Virgo and with the idea of planting, Demeter was the goddess of germination. The polarity of Virgo is Pisces and as we all recognise no plant or seed can grow without water. Perhaps this is the point, that the solution to the Plutonic side of Life is that we need grief and tears, because they actually nurture life. I recognise that we are at the early stages of understanding the meaning of the asteroids but it will be interesting to watch as Dawn approaches Ceres what further clues it might reveal about the nature of Ceres.