V is for Vesta

When I was writing about Juno, I mentioned how astrologers often use mythology to figure out what a newly discovered asteroid or other body might symbolize. But unlike the other Olympians, the few myths featuring Hestia don’t have much of a storyline. Over the years, I’ve read that Hestia was the first-born of Kronos and Rhea, making her the first swallowed and the last regurgitated. She had a throne on Mount Olympus, but when Dionysus came and there weren’t enough thrones to go around, she voluntarily surrendered hers, saying that she was content to sit by the hearth. I’ve read that Apollo and Poseidon wanted to marry her, but she turned them down, vowing to remain eternally a virgin. (What myths might have been told had she accepted one of those proposals?) The Roman poet Ovid tells a myth of Vesta, in which the goddess was almost attacked by Priapus as she slept, and was saved only because a nearby mule brayed loud enough to wake her. (He also describes her as Saturn and Ops’ youngest daughter—mythology is rarely consistent about details.)

Vesta.
Vesta. (Photo credit: nasa.gov)

Looking over Vesta’s rulerships, I started wondering how many of them came directly from the mythology of the goddess and how many came more from what we know of her Roman priestesses, the Vestal Virgins. Now one way or another, every planet and asteroid has something to say about your sexuality, but issues involving virginity, celibacy, sublimation, and so on tend to be Vesta’s territory. Certainly Hestia was a virgin goddess, but when writers describe her, they usually start with “goddess of the hearth” and get to her virginity later. But the very title of the Vestal Virgins puts their virginity front and center, as do the descriptions of the priestesses’ lives and their roles in Roman society. By comparison, Athena is also a virgin goddess, but I haven’t read much about virginity in descriptions of the asteroid Pallas except for occasional references to sexuality sublimated into creativity.* Whether it’s from mythology or archeology, Vesta’s astrological meanings often have a sense of the spiritual threading through them: dedication, devotion, solitude, sublimation of sexual energy into spiritual practice.. Vesta is perhaps most often summed up as “focus,” which comes from her principal role as goddess of the hearth: the Latin word for hearth is focus.

The astrological glyph for Vesta.
The astrological glyph for Vesta.

I’ve only recently started understanding how Vesta may work in charts. It’s one thing to read about focus, dedication, and self-integration, or Vesta’s downsides of alienation, burnout, and inhibition. It’s another to try to see how that plays out in real people’s lives, including my own. My Vesta conjuncts my Midheaven, but it took me the longest time to realize that that might mean that I needed solitude and opportunities for single-minded focus in my career, not that I should be considering becoming a nun. In general, I think Vesta’s house location shows areas of life in which we need to be alone periodically, areas in which we commit ourselves without reservation to what we’re doing, in single-minded focus. Vesta’s sign has been harder for me to understand in charts. My Vesta is in Scorpio, and various astrological writers have said that means focusing on discovering secrets. Sure, I’ve been known to try to ferret out secrets; I’m sure many people have, regardless of how many planets they have in Scorpio. And I’m also capable of focusing on my knitting—which isn’t a specifically Scorpionic activity—as well as many other things in life. So I have a ways to go yet in understanding the astrological Vesta, but I figure at this point, it’s a matter of quietly paying attention and watching for the insights. Which sounds completely appropriate to Vesta.

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*I don’t know enough about the minor asteroids to know if Artemis’ virginity has anything to do with the asteroid Diana’s astrological meanings.

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