Ceres, the Earth Mother: The Journey Through Grief to Advocacy
Ceres is often described in astrology writing as a benevolent but somewhat impersonal nurturer. In my experience working with Ceres in client charts, though, she more often symbolizes the suffering of women and children under patriarchal privilege.
The description of Ceres as a sort of less emotional Moon/Mother archetype accords with her mythological role of Earth Mother and harvest goddess. (Bread nurtures us, but it won’t rub our temples and tell us everything is going to be all right when we’re feeling down.) But it also paints a falsely rosy picture of a complex and challenging feminine archetype.
The Myth of Ceres and Proserpine
In the myth, Proserpine is abducted by Pluto and taken to the underworld. Ceres/Demeter goes to Mount Olympus and demands help from Jupiter in finding her missing daughter. Jupiter initially feigns ignorance to protect his bro.
“Sorry, can’t help you,” he says. “She was probably asking for it.”
Ceres says, “OK, Jack. You see those humans down there, your little pet project? Watch what happens when I make the crops stop growing.”
“Fine,” Jupiter says.
Pretty soon the people of Earth are dying of starvation. Jupiter makes some late night calls to Pluto down in the underworld.
“Bro,” he whispers, hoping Hera won’t hear him and think he’s calling that nymph he swore he wouldn’t contact again. “We got a problem. I hate to do this to you, but she’s gonna find out one way or another. You know how those women are. They’re like hound dogs once they get on the scent. Can we work something out, bro? Please? It’s just not going to look good for my kingship if I let all the people die.”
A deal is brokered:Proserpine will spend half the year in the underworld with Pluto, and half the year above ground with her mom.
There’s something distinctly unsatisfying about that ending. I mean, does Proserpine want to be with Pluto? Is she a proto-goth chick who digs that underworld aesthetic? Does she secretly hate her mom because she’s always working and never makes time to have fun with Little Miss P? Does she dig older men with power?
We don’t really know. What we do know is that Ceres/Demeter is the big loser in the power struggle with the patriarchy. Sure, she gets shared custody in the end. But she still loses her daughter. You know Proserpine ain’t gonna be the same young maiden she used to be when she comes back from her first season in the underworld.
Recently designated a dwarf planet (a distinction she shares with Pluto and Eris), Ceres was the first of the four “goddess asteroids” to be discovered, by Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801. Ceres has an orbital period of 4.6 years and her orbit lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
In the chart for her discovery, Ceres is retrograde in Taurus in the 10th House, part of a Grand Cross in the fixed signs, and exactly conjunct the malefic fixed start Caput Algol. She is opposed by Neptune in Scorpio in the 4th House and almost exactly square (Saturn 0°04′) in Leo, which opposes Venus in Aquarius.
This is not a ‘nice’ chart. (For more on the dark side of Ceres, check out Darkstar Astrology’s article Planet Ceres & the Dark Triad.) In fact, I would argue that Ceres’ nurturing qualities are often hard won. Nick Anthony Fiorenza writes:
“Astrological placements of Ceres reveal areas of life in which we nurture and receive nurturing, but also how we may withhold our capacity to nurture or resist being nurtured ourselves, which is based around issues of self-worth and self-esteem. Ceres reveals our ability to be in universal flow—the unification of giving and receiving as one flow of energy through ourselves. Ceres asks for acknowledgment of our inner needs, to have self love and self worth. Ceres is of concern and caring for others as well as for all life, and for the Earth herself.”
Loss, Grief and Healing
I have found Ceres prominent in the charts of clients who have had multiple abortions and are still struggling with the emotional scars from these experiences of loss. I have found Ceres prominent in the charts of people who lost their mother early on, were orphaned, or have suffered the death of a child. I’ve found that a strong Ceres placement in the natal chart can also indicate a native who has suffered from malnutrition or toxic food. often these people become ‘food security’ activists – devoting time and energy to promoting awareness of pesticides in the food supply or working to ensure that inner-city children have access to fresh produce.
Many of these natives will eventually become healers or activists who work to resolve these same issues for others. But initiations into Ceres’ cult always seem to be deeply painful. Which means these natives must first submit to feeling the grief that accompanies their loss before they can properly access Ceres’ nurturing energy.
Our society sucks at dealing with grief. Unlike so many other cultures, we have virtually no rituals or traditional guidelines for how to handle it. I have encountered many individuals with a prominent Ceres who are stuck in a semi-permanent state of resignation or low-level despair. They know what they have lost, they’re doing their best to get over it, but their persona is suffused with a sense of, “What’s the use in trying to change things? They just overpower you and take what they want in the end.”
Natives with a prominent or afflicted Ceres need support in handling their grief, which is often buried beneath layers of either resignation/apathy or people-helping niceness.
These natives have the potential to reshape society and help the women and children of the future live better, more joyful lives. But to access Ceres’ warrior energy, they need rituals for dealing with their loss.
Ceres and Roe v Wade
To keep this piece at a readable length, I’m going to focus on one hot button way that an afflicted Ceres can show up in the natal chart. I’m writing this piece as we wait to find out whether alleged abuser and self-proclaimed beer enthusiast Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice.
Astrologer Stephanie Azaria pointed out that the January 31, 2018 Leo lunar eclipse – in which the eclipse Moon was exactly conjunct Ceres (0°02′) – coincided with the 45th anniversary of Roe vs Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion in the USA. If confirmed, Kavanaugh would certainly vote to overturn Roe vs Wade.
Our society’s ongoing discussion about terminating pregnancy needs to evolve far beyond where it is today. The “Christian” right wing stance that abortion is murder is a ridiculous oversimplification of the issue. As is the feminist left wing stance that the fetus is a part of a woman’s body and she has the right to do whatever she wants with her body. (See below)
I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know this: Every client or friend I know who has ‘had an abortion’ has struggled with the energetic repercussions of that choice. And I would say that all of these women continue to struggle until they carry out a ritual honoring their own grief and honoring the soul that (probably) would have incarnated through them had they not chosen to terminate the pregnancy.
We need rituals designed by women and communicated by women to women to help those who have made or will make the choice to terminate a pregnancy to process the personal grief they experience and move through the societal/ancestral shame projections they will inevitably deal with (even or especially if the client is in denial of these projections).
The “Right to Life” Agenda Is Full of Holes
The “pro-life” platform has so many problems, I won’t try to list them all. I will list three, however:
- Legal/ethical – They obviously don’t believe abortion is the same as murder; if they did, they would have to envision sending all women who have had abortions in the past or who have them in the future to the electric chair or to life imprisonment.
2. Moral – How can you claim to love unborn babies so much when you don’t give a shit about living children? I mean, maybe some of these people love their own kids, but if you care that much about children, you would be adopting as many orphans as you could possibly feed. You’d have entire churches out feeding the undernourished kids in our inner cities and trailer parks, looking for homes where children are being physically or sexually abused and fighting to rescue these children from the hell they live in every day. You’d be sending squads of missionaries to the slums of Rio de Janeiro and war-ravished countries like Afghanistan – not to preach the King James Bible, but to feed and clothe and heal the children. You would open your homes and your churches to the homeless, spending your money on mental health services and vocational training programs rather than lobbying your congressperson to repeal Roe vs Wade.
3. Scientific – I often get asked, “What does astrology say about when the soul enters the body of an unborn baby?” My answer: Depends on which astrologer you ask. The fact is, we don’t know the answer to that question. I personally believe the soul of the child occasionally checks in during the early months of pregnancy and settles in ‘permanently’ at some point in the last trimester. But I have no way of proving that scientifically.
4. Realistic – We all know what happens if Roe v Wade is overturned. Sure, some more kids will be born. Many of them will be born into a nightmare of neglect, abuse, and malnourishment. And women will continue to terminate pregnancies. They’ll just do it in ways that are less safe. Some of them will die in the process. The burden of shame most of them carry on through life will be heavier…
Deciding to Potentially End or End a Potential Life Is a Heavy Choice
My problem with the left wing stance that abortion is only about a woman’s ownership of her own body is that it ignores the reality of abortion. Whether because we don’t and seemingly can’t know scientifically if we’re just removing a blob of tissue or if we’re actually depriving a baby of being born; or whether it’s the projected shame of society onto the woman who is terminating the pregnancy; or whether it’s the weight of family and ancestral shame and negative belief systems…
The energetic reality is that abortions come with a psychic/spiritual price tag — and this price needs to be acknowledged. I believe the rare prominence of Ceres in key astrological charts in 2018 indicates that we as a society need to be able to have real, constructive conversations about these issues.