The asteroids are minor planets of the inner Solar System. The large majority of known asteroids orbit the Sun in a diffuse belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The asteroid belt consists of what some astronomers believe to be innumerable pieces of a planet which broke apart and fragmented. Symbolically these fragments represent different parts of ourselves that have become fractionated, disconnected, compartmentalized, and are wounded and hurt.
While the traditional ruler of Virgo is Mercury, many modern astrologers feel the more appropriate rulers are the asteroids and the centaur Chiron. Rulership of Virgo by the asteroids is more congruent with her description and aligns more closely with the character of this feminine earth sign than placing her under the rulership of masculine Mercury, who more appropriately rules the intellectual air sign of Gemini.
Although there are thousands of asteroids, the four largest are the ones most commonly used by modern astrologers in chart interpretations. These asteroids are named after goddesses in Greek and Roman mythology, which represent female archetypes. Each archetype symbolizes a different facet or fragment of feminine earth energy found in the human psyche. Through Virgo, the broken fragments, represented by the asteroids, can be recovered and reclaimed. Using the Virgo powers of analysis, discrimination, categorizing, and healing we can recover, mend and integrate these disconnected parts of ourselves, assimilate them and become whole.
Ceres was the largest of the asteroids, before its reclassification and promotion to ‘dwarf planet’ in 2006. In mythology Ceres is the Roman version of the earlier Greek goddess Demeter. Da mater means “earth mother.” Ceres/Demeter is the goddess of the abundance of the land, agriculture, and the harvest. She is known as the Goddess of Grain. Pagan farmers saw her as the source of all food crops. Ceres’ daughter Persephone learned to tend the crops and nurture living things at the side of her mother.
In the astrological chart Ceres represents the need for nurturing as well as the capacity for nurturing others. Ceres shows what we need from ourselves and others to feel unconditional love. The sign of Ceres in your astrological chart shows how you need to be nurtured and nourished, as well as how you express your propensity to nurture and nourish others.
While the Moon rules the protection, caring and feeding of babies and very young children, Ceres rules the nurturing of older children and the caring for adults. She rules mentoring and apprenticeships, relationships where the Ceres archetype instructs and guides the protege how to grow and flourish.
Ceres rules the growth of crops and animals and their major life cycles including life and death. As the goddess who has control over nature’s resources and natural life cycles, Ceres is associated with environmental and ecological causes in our modern world. Here the care-taking function of Ceres is broadened from interpersonal relationships to instinctive nurturing of the environment and the global community dependent upon it.
Ceres governs mother-child relationships, attachment and dependency. In our culture women tend to express Ceres’ energy more easily than men. A woman with a strongly place Ceres in her astrological chart yearns to be a nurturing caretaker. Men and women with a strong Ceres make good parents.
The dark shadow side of Ceres, expressed problematically, include withholding of nurturance, or over-controlling others for the sake of nurturing. Modern topics that fall under Ceres realm include nourishment, eating disorders, women’s reproductive rights, custody struggles, empty-nest syndrome, environmental issues and work stoppages.
The asteroid Pallas was discovered shortly after Ceres, and is the second largest asteroid. In Greek mythology Pallas Athena is a Warrior Goddess. She was born fully grown and armed from the head of her father Zeus, after Zeus swallowed her mother. She is one of the first goddesses of the new patrilineal and patriarchal culture, where power and inheritance from the mother line was subjugated to the sole power and authority of men. She is the archetype of the daughter who learns to identify with her father and live in a man’s world.
Pallas is a somewhat androgynous goddess who refused to marry. She was known for her absolute chastity. She channeled her efforts into achieving success by aligning herself with the patriarchy, its goals and measures of success. She is willing and able to do the things that will please those in power, even if it means denying her feminine self. The armor she wears walls off her emotional vulnerabilities, and protects her from patriarchal judgments against feelings.
Pallas represents feminine wisdom and intelligence that is holistic and inventive. As a great warrior and political strategist, she has a unique ability to recognize patterns, see a situation in its entirety, and devise a plan of action to achieve a goal. As a warrior goddess Pallas is a protector of those in battle. She uses compassionate wisdom to teach merciful justice and peaceful resolution of disputes. She supports the political and corporate state through her keen and perceptive intelligence and strategic efforts.
Pallas’ intelligence is not only strategic, but also creative. In mythology she is revered for teaching the practical arts and crafts that enabled humankind to develop culture and civilization. As a patroness of the arts, her wisdom inspires artistic vision in artisans and craftspeople. Pallas is also associated with healing and holistic therapies that integrate mind, body and spirit.
Pallas is associated with the father-daughter relationship. She carries wounds from her relationship with her father, her lack of a mother connection, and from her allegiance to male authority. Because she identifies with men more than women, she loses a part of herself, her ability to be feminine. The dark shadow side of Pallas can be seen in selling out to the powers-that-be, or conversely, fear of success. Modern topics that fall under Pallas’ rulership include incestuous and abusive relationships with a father figure, and conversely, women who abuse men.
Pallas helps us devise strategies that allow us to have healthy, productive relationships with those in authority, and an energetic drive to have a career. She is a promoter of professional excellence. The dilemma of professional women who sacrifice relationships or children for career falls under Pallas’ domain. Pallas at her best represents the ability to balance the male and female parts of ourselves in order to live our life fully and creatively while interacting with others effectively.
Juno is one of the two largest stony asteroids. Juno is named after the highest goddess in the Roman pantheon, the long-suffering wife of Zeus/Jupiter. She was one of only two legally married goddesses on Mount Olympus, Venus being the other. Unlike Venus, Juno honored her marriage vows, despite numerous obstacles and her husband’s legendary infidelities.
Juno represents committed partnership. Of the four asteroid goddesses, Juno alone represents steadfast loyalty to a relationship for the sake of the relationship. In her highest and best expression, Juno represents transcendence of the personal ego that committed partnership can offer. Through partnership we can move beyond the separateness of our self by joining forces with another at the deepest levels: physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Juno represents the wife-husband relationship. She symbolizes attitudes towards marriage and other committed, long-term, stable partnerships. If a partnership does not contain mutual respect and support, the shadow side of Juno appears revealing co-dependency and power struggles. In many of the Roman myths Juno acted out her fears of abandonment and infidelity. She experienced the “double standard” and had power struggles with Jupiter in her marriage. She experienced jealousy and indulged in score-keeping and cruelty for retaliation.
Juno represents what we are looking for in any committed personal or professional partnership. Modern partnerships, including long-term commitments without a legal ceremony, and same-sex unions fall under Juno’s jurisdiction. Marriage contracts, separation and divorce are ruled by Juno. Other issues include co-dependence in partnerships, financial dependence, spousal abuse and powerless wives.
The Juno principle is expressed at its highest and best when rather than relinquishing total control of yourself and the relationship, or losing your identity in it, you are able to harmonize and find complete and transcendence with and through the other, your “soul mate.”
Vesta is the brightest of the asteroids and can at times be seen by the naked eye. Vesta in Roman mythology is the goddess of the hearth known as the “keeper of the flame.” The altar of Vesta was placed in the spiritual and secular center of a community, usually in the central town square. The “vestal virgins” were priestesses of the Goddess who tended the perpetual fire in the public hearth. The vestal virgins served their community by keeping the divine flame lit not only in the town center, but also in the hearts of those they were dedicated to serving. Vesta represents the ability to keep the “home fires burning” and to sustain our connection to the sacred source of life within us.
In pre-patriarchal times vestal virgins practiced sexual rites in the temples to initiate disciples and pilgrims into the sacred mysteries. Through the sexual act they channeled the spiritual power of the Divine Feminine and provided the means through which the common man could experience Her. They were not “virgins” in the modern sense of the word, but in the original sense of belonging to no one, of being independent and in sacred service to the Goddess.
In modern patriarchal times accessing the Divine Feminine and sharing Her powers with others through the act of sex is taboo. The collective memory we have of this aspect of ourselves is repressed and distorted. Fully connecting with our Vesta principle is not honored and respected in a culture where God is viewed as a male principle. Rather, female sexuality that is not other-centered is debased and judged as evil. When our Vesta principle is repressed we can experience sexual repressiveness, fear, alienation, frigidity and impotence, or conversely, promiscuity. In our modern times we need to learn how to re-integrate our spiritual and sexual energies.
Vesta represents devoting oneself to being of service to others and a commitment to finding meaningful work. This work is a high calling, not merely a job to earn a livelihood. In our modern society Vesta transmutes her sexual energy and channels it through her creative abilities to do meaningful work. She is dedicated and shows devotion to an altruistic cause that is sacred to her.
Working side by side with her sister vestal virgins, Vesta represents the sister relationship. She demonstrates denial and self-sacrifice for a greater good. She keeps her emotions at arms length in order to meet the demands of her work and achieve her goals. Vesta’s shadow side is using work as compensation for other interests. She sublimates her personal interests for her vocation or career. It can also manifest as sacrifice or denial of the self for a “greater goal.”
Vesta describes our inner center, or focus, where we feel safe and whole. She represents the way we connect with our inner center, which houses our divine flame, and how we maintain it with spiritual purpose. She defines the way we use our inspiration and creativity in the world to be of greater service to our community.
“Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it.”
– Tori Amos