I have just finished revising Lesson 22 of my Astropoetics correspondence course on the dwarf planet Ceres, and wanted to share part of that with you since it seems quite pertinent to the present times.
Ceres - a Roman goddess of agriculture - is known mostly through the story of her Greek counterpart Demeter. Demeter is famous for withdrawing the fertility of the Earth in order to bargain for the return of her daughter Persephone from the Underworld after her abduction by Hades. The agreement worked out between Demeter and Zeus returns Persephone to the upper world for part of the year - an arrangement that is evoked as the mythological basis for the turning of the seasons.
Modern astrologers associate Ceres with mothering, as well as the wounds associated with meddlesome or neglectful mothering - particularly eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or weight issues; abandonment issues; and issues associated with sexual abuse.
On a more global scale, Ceres may be implicated in growing concerns about climate change, genetically modified foods, and population growth (7 billion and counting) that places increasing stress on the planet's natural resources and life support systems.
There is another side to Ceres, however, that gets less astrological press. After Demeter learns of her daughter's abduction through conversations with Hecate and Helios (Moon and Sun deities respectively) she doesn't immediately respond. Instead, she puts on a disguise and wanders incognito through the human world.
Eventually, she winds her way to the town of Eleusis and gets a job as a nanny to Demophoon, heir to the throne of King Celeus. By day, she goes about her day job, but at night, she works in secret to make Demophoon immortal, anointing him with special oils and dipping him in fire.
After a while, she is discovered and reveals her true identity, commanding that a temple be built for her on the spot. It is only then that she retires into the temple to mourn for her daughter, and begins to withdraw the life force from the Earth, forcing Zeus and Hades to the bargaining table.
After the dust settles and the seasonal compromise is reached, Demeter's temple at Eleusis becomes the site of a mystery school, where supplicants learn the secrets of immortality - secrets that largely remain secret to this day.
in contemplating this myth, I have come to believe that in addition to her more outwardly visible manifestations such as the psychology of mothering and climate change, Ceres also governs the secret inner workings of transformation and healing - precisely those aspects of deep change that cannot be measured in an increasingly evidence-based world and whose true efficacy defies rational explanation.
In some way that is not immediately obvious, those souls with Ceres prominent in their chart will transmute deep inconsolable grief, irrevocably loss, or the unspeakable tragedy of a Hurricane Sandy, or a Fukushima, or a Newtown massacre into another magnitude of strength. This does not happen in the limelight of public discourse so much as it happens in the secret chambers of hearts that have been violated by catastrophe and loss.
Astrologers have long assigned the process of death and rebirth to Pluto - who is in fact Ceres' divine adversary in the myth. But I have come to believe that the inscrutable mystery of the passage between death and rebirth - the bardo state - belongs to Ceres. We see the death; we see the rebirth - what happens in between is beyond our scrutiny.
Nearly 50 years ago, Timothy Leary (who had Ceres conjunct Pluto within 3 minutes of arc) wrote The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead - meant to be a guidebook for those who wished to explore that mysterious space between death (of the ego) and rebirth of a more liberated being - using LSD as a catalyst. Gushing with enthusiasm in the introduction to his book, Leary says (p 30):
Here then is the key to a mystery which has been passed down for over 2,500 years – the consciousness-expansion experience – the pre-mortem death and rebirth rite. The Vedic sages knew the secret; the Eleusinian initiates knew it; the Tantrics knew it. In all their esoteric writings they whisper the message: it is possible to cut beyond ego-consciousness, to tune in on neurological processes which flash by at the speed of light, and to become aware of the enormous treasury of ancient racial knowledge welded into the nucleus of every cell of your body.
Today, most of us cringe in embarrassment at the caricature that Leary became, while nodding secretly to our psychedelic roots. But as Ceres moves into her power as a dwarf planet on a par with her nemesis Pluto - after 205 years of secret gestation in asteroid status - the question remains as potent as ever:
How is it possible rise above the petty concerns of a beleaguered ego and access "the enormous treasury of ancient racial knowledge" within in order to meaningfully serve a world badly in need of every single one of us to step up to the plate?
Are we not in a kind of bardo state now? The old order - built on fossil fuels, capitalism, war, and the myth of limitless expansion - is dying. The future is uncertain. To be alive on the planet now is to be in a liminal space - between death and rebirth.
Could it be that Ceres' promotion to dwarf planet status at this juncture signals her readiness to be a guide through the bardo state into a more sustainable, more humane civilization, more fully integrated into the whole web of life?
Perhaps a closer look at the placement of Ceres in your chart holds some hidden key to how you can best negotiate this rite of passage, as well as to any potential part you might play as catalyst and co-midwife to the birthing of the new.
At least that is where I try to take Lesson 22 - drawing from examples both of those like the XIVth Dalai Lama, who did access his Ceres in a positive and constructive way, and those like Adolph Hitler, whose failure to do so was catastrophic for the collective wellbeing of the animus mundi.
Individual Lessons Now Available
If you wish to learn more about Ceres, my 36-page lesson is now available as a stand-alone PDF file for $10.
There is also a series of provocative questions meant to serve as Cerean meditations designed to take you more deeply into the secret mysterious heart of this relatively inscrutable archetype.
Also available in PDF format are the first 22 lessons of my correspondence course - each from 30-40 pages, with engaging homework assignments - for $10 each. Here is a list of available lessons .
The lessons posted are not currently available as downloads from the website itself - except to students of my correspondence course - but if there is a lesson that interests you, Email me (please state which lesson you want), and I will be glad to make sure you get it.
Each lesson comes with the option of a response from me to the homework assignment. For an additional $150, I will provide a written response plus a 90-minute phone session to talk about whatever questions you have, or whatever life issues have been raised in the course of your interaction with the lesson. To purchase to lesson plus homework response: Email me(state Ceres+response).
What is Ceres asking of you?