Ceres: Goddess of the Asteroid Belt by Julie Loar
On January 1, 1801, Giuseppe Piazzi pointed his telescope in the direction of the rocky objects that orbit the Sun between Mars and Jupiter and discovered what he thought was a new comet. Piazzi named the object Ceres, after the Sicilian goddess of grain, and Ceres became a planet for fifty years. In 1930, 129 years after Ceres appearance, Pluto was discovered, and he was a planet for seven decades. But in 2006, after the discovery of Eris, who was the tenth planet for a brief time, Pluto was demoted, becoming a dwarf planet, and the first in a new class of objects called plutoids.
Ironically, it was Pluto’s change in status, and the creation of new categories of objects in our Solar System, that resulted in a promotion for Ceres. She was reclassified as a dwarf planet in September 2006, placing her on a level playing field with Pluto, and making her unique (so far), in the Solar System since she is the only dwarf planet in the Main Asteroid Belt. Ceres contains approximately one-third of the total mass of the Asteroid Belt. Unlike the lumpy, potato-like objects with lower gravity we normally expect to see, Ceres is spherical, and with a diameter of about 950 km, she is by far the largest and most massive object in the asteroid belt.
Ceres and Pluto are profoundly linked in myth. In the earlier Greek stories their names were Demeter and Hades. Demeter was the ancient Greek mother goddess of the greening of the Earth. She oversaw cycles of life and death as well as preserving sacred law. Demeter taught humanity the arts of agriculture: sowing seeds, plowing and harvesting. In the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, dated to about the seventh century BCE, she is invoked as the “bringer of seasons.” According to Isocrates, an Athenian rhetorician, the greatest gift that Demeter bestowed was grain, the cultivation of which elevated humans above the animal kingdom and freed people from the seasonal migrations of the hunter-gatherer.
In myth, Demeter’s daughter Persephone (Prosperpina in Latin), was picking flowers in a field when she was abducted and raped by her uncle Hades/Pluto, god of the underworld. This violent act occurred with the complicity of her father, Zeus/Jupiter, which also mythically describes the abduction of the feminine principle that occurred as the patriarchy rose to power.
Demeter grieved for her daughter, and withdrew to search for her. Without her the Earth became barren, and people risked starvation. Zeus sent gods with gifts to influence her, but it was not in his power to command her to make the Earth green. Nor could the king of heaven order the crops to grow on his own, as the nature of her feminine fertility was not within his domain. This strongly suggests that Demeter was an earlier and much more powerful goddess. In fact, when Demeter was given a genealogy, she was the daughter of the Titans Cronos and Rhea, and therefore Zeus’s elder sister, even though Persephone was said to be his daughter.
Their mother, Rhea, finally intervened, and Zeus agreed to bring Persephone back. Meanwhile, Hades/Pluto had tricked Persephone into eating pomegranate seeds, which meant she had to remain part of the year with him. At the end of the tale, Demeter taught humanity the secrets of wheat and cultivating grain, pointing toward the deeper meaning of the story that was ritually reenacted for eighteen centuries in the mystery rites of Eleusis.
Ceres’ astronomical symbol is the sickle, or barley hook, an ancient harvest implement and instrument of reaping. It seems natural to me that Ceres should be astrologically aligned with Virgo and share rulership of that sign with Mercury. Virgo is the only female among the zodiacal constellations, and other than the Gemini twins, Castor and Pollux, she is the only human figure. Virgo is depicted as a maiden, holding a palm branch in her right and a single ear of wheat in her left. Her brightest star is named Spica, “ear of wheat.”
Virgo is one of the oldest constellations and over time has been equated with every important feminine deity, including Ishtar, Isis, Demeter, Persephone, Medusa, Artemis, and Urania. Richard Hinkley-Allen says, “Those who claim very high antiquity for the zodiacal signs (15,000 years ago), assert that the idea of these titles originated when the Sun was in Virgo at the spring equinox, the time of the Egyptian harvest.” Astrologer Bernadette Brady has remarked that, “Whatever image is chosen across time and cultures, what is contained in Virgo is the archetype of the harvest-bringing goddess, pure and good, independent of the masculine. She gives the four seasons and is the source of the fertile Earth.”
Earth is the womb of the Goddess, and her mysteries of generation and regeneration include the seeds that are planted, germinated and the subsequent harvest that results. We reap the harvests of our lives according to the seeds we have sown, and the manner in which the garden has been tended, carefully winnowing the wheat from the chaff as we learn our lessons.
When the sickle is wielded, the crop is severed from the stalk and its connection to the Earth is terminated. As the fruits of the Earth are gathered and consumed, the promise of another harvest is implicit.
The symbolic themes of Ceres and Virgo are roots, fertility, plenty, crops, renewal, cultivation, nourishment, substance, eucharist and communion. Astrologically, I believe Ceres/Demeter represents reclamation and renewal and can reveal what needs to be uncovered deep in the underworld of our consciousness. Examining Ceres place in a natal chart we can ask, what is hidden, lies fallow, or is imprisoned in the underworld of our psyches that needs to come to the surface and be reclaimed so fertility returns and our personal gardens flourish?
Ceres reemergence as a planet, albeit a dwarf, is similar to her myth. Her energy is reappearing from the underworld of our awareness and coming into her own. I believe this also represents the resurgence of the feminine principle, which must be reintegrated into humanity’s psyche. The resolution involves a restitution and restoration of balance.
Based on and excerpts from Goddesses for Every Day © 2010 by Julie Loar. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA www.newworldlibrary.com
About The Author: Julie Loar is the multiple award-winning author of six books and dozens of articles. She has a BS in Psychology, has done postgraduate work, and has been certified in numerous professional training and development programs. Julie was a Human Resources executive in two major corporations, and an independent training consultant, working with large companies. Her latest book, Goddesses For Every Day: Exploring the Wisdom & Power of the Divine Feminine Around the World, (available at Satiama) has won three national awards.
Her popular astrology feature appears in ATLANTIS RISING magazine, and she is a featured contributor on John Edward’s web site, InfiniteQuest.com where she has her own internet TV show. She has traveled to sacred sites around the world, researching the material for her books and teachings. Each year she leads a sacred journey to Egypt. Visit her at http://www.julieloar.co