C is for Ceres

I figure it was a natural progression. Over the years, my view of God/gods has moved from seeing him as literal to seeing them as archetypal. I also first learned astrology with a psychological emphasis that lent itself handily to being archetypal. So it wasn’t much of a stretch as a Pagan, to view the planets as aspects of the gods they were named for.

Not that everything meshed perfectly. One major difference is that there are only ten planets and they’re named mostly for gods not goddesses: Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.* The signs of the zodiac are split 50/50 between feminine and masculine, yin and yang, but there’s a definite tilt toward the masculine in the planets, even if you consider (male) Neptune’s astrological properties to be feminine. However, many of the asteroids between Mars and Jupiter are named for goddesses. While any asteroid can be added to a chart if its location is known, the most popular are Ceres, Pallas, Juno, and Vesta. And of these four, Ceres comes first: the first asteroid to be discovered and the first one I recognized in my own life.

Color View of Ceres
Ceres. (Source: Hubblesite.org)

Making this comparatively quick connection with Ceres astrologically was a bit ironic, since I’d never felt much of a connection to the goddess Demeter (Ceres) herself. Demeter is always listed as the goddess of agriculture, but what she’s really known for is her devotion to her daughter Persephone, a devotion so intense that when they’re separated, she essentially “dies.” As a child, I just thought Demeter wasn’t all that interesting, which I thought about some of the other gods and goddesses. But as I got older, and some of my friends began talking about their dreams of marriage and children, I started wondering if there was something wrong with me because I didn’t have those same dreams. And as I came to realize how that ideal of all-consuming motherhood worked (or didn’t) in real women’s lives, Demeter’s focus on devotion and care seemed more like a curse to me. But then, I knew women who lived for that level of connection to others. Trying to put this all together, I finally decided I just wasn’t all that nurturing.

Ceres glyph
The astrological glyph for Ceres.

Not surprisingly, given the goddess it’s named for, the astrological Ceres indicates nurturance: how we nurture others and what we recognize as nurturing us. Like any planet, an asteroid doesn’t necessarily function trouble-free: Ceres can also symbolize our difficulties with giving and receiving nurturing. Ceres is always in the sky somewhere, meaning that we all have some capacity for nurturing.  What differs from chart to chart, person to person, is what form that capacity takes. Ceres’ sign shows what kind of nurturing comes most naturally, the house indicates what part of our life Ceres is most active in, and the connections Ceres makes to other planets shows how other parts of our personality help, hinder, and flavor this ability to provide practical care for others.

Studying Ceres in my chart and those of other people is what taught me about different kinds of nurturing. My own Ceres is in Gemini, an air sign associated with information, communication, and learning. It was one of those “duh!” moments when I realized that I care for others by providing them with information (Let me tell you about this book I heard of that’s about your problem! Here’s a useful website!). My mother’s Ceres was in Capricorn, an earth sign concerned with propriety, custom, and achievement—and I began to see her insistence on the importance of having proper manners and fulfilling responsibilities in a new light. I’d grown up associating nurturing with a sort of distorted emotional fusion that doesn’t come naturally to either air or earth (or fire, for that matter, and it isn’t the healthiest expression of water), and it was a relief to see a way past that limiting definition. In learning about Ceres the astrological body, I found the goddess herself to be more real to me.

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*The term planet has a broader definition in astrology than astronomy. Astrologically, the Sun and Moon function the same way as Mercury, Venus, Mars, etc. do, so they’re all called planets. As is Pluto, regardless of its astronomical reclassification. Despite now being a dwarf planet, same as Pluto, Ceres still tends to be grouped with the asteroids, not the planets.