Goodbye Pluto, Hello Ceres

While I was working ungodly hours this week, the solar system was being reordered. I wish someone would promote asteroid Rumpelstiltskin to planet status so he could help me achieve the impossible. He’s a dwarf in the Grimm Brothers’ tale; doesn’t that count?

Not that we didn’t have some warning about Pluto. The International Astronomical Union has been discussing Pluto’s planetary status for years, and astrologers have examined what this would mean for chart interpretations. As one astrologer quipped a few years back, “Not a planet? Tell that to someone who’s having a difficult Pluto transit.”

Pluto is now officially classified as a “dwarf planet,” but this in no way diminishes his importance in natal or transit charts. Far more significant is the symbolism in the act and how it will impact the collective mind. The discoveries of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto over the past three centuries coincided with corresponding events in the world. What collective effect will a planet’s demotion have?

Of course, the astrological community is all abuzz with various guesses. Eric Francis over at Planet Waves says it means we’re in denial and collectively repressing all the dark stuff represented by Pluto. Fellow PiChronic JM thinks it means we will no longer succumb to manipulation by fear.

Looking at the timing of this momentous event, I see the possibility that the Saturn-Neptune opposition is blowing holes in our dear, long-held beliefs. And what about Pluto’s conjunction with the Galactic Core and our corresponding realization that our beliefs are just that? Might the general public start questioning the very foundations of science when the world’s leading scientists have trouble defining something so basic as what’s a planet and what’s not a planet? It might take a while for that realization to sink in, but the seeds of doubt have been planted.

What I find even more intriguing, though, is the promotion of Ceres. Until the IAU’s decision on Thursday, Ceres was just one of several asteroids, all named for goddesses, that some modern astrologers use in chart interpretations but that many ignore. Chiron, which isn’t an asteroid, enjoys more widespread use.

Now that Ceres has special status as a “dwarf planet,” I’ll bet my next twelve paychecks that she gains in visibility among astrologers.

It’s interesting to note the position of transiting Ceres. When the IAU voted on the resolution (according to their published schedule, sometime around 4 p.m.), Pluto was close to the ascendant and so got all of the attention. But Ceres was at 17 degrees Aquarius, closely conjunct Neptune at 18 degrees Aquarius and exactly opposite Saturn at 17 degrees Leo. Venus, meanwhile, was at 14 degrees Leo. Also note: the vote took place the day after the New Moon in Virgo.

Not only do I agree that Pluto should remain the ruler of Scorpio, but I think that Ceres should be promoted as the modern ruler of Virgo.

Virgo is an earth sign, and of the twelve signs of the Zodiac, the only obvious female. It has made absolutely no sense to me that she should be ruled by Mercury. Although Virgos display the analytical, critical thinking skills most associated with Mercury (and often get a bum rap on this account) they are the ones most likely to jump to the aid of those in need, not just with words, but with a practical, down-to-earth solution that really works. And if they’re critical, it’s often because they care about your welfare.

Ceres (the Greek Demeter) may not appear to be an obvious choice for rulership of Virgo, because she is seen as a mother archetype, whereas Virgo is a virgin or maiden. However, if you go back into history, before the Greeks and Romans had a god and goddess for every function of personal and private life, you’ll find that the goddess was both virgin and mother. In lunar mythology, she was virgin, mother, and crone. Even the early Venus archetype was not just the sexy vixen, but a goddess of fertility and abundant harvest.

As to the true identity of Virgo, we have a couple of hints. The Sun moves through the sign of Virgo from approximately August 23 to September 22, which coincides with the fall harvest in the Northern Hemisphere. She is often depicted carrying a sheaf of wheat, which is the hallmark of Ceres. The word “cereal,” by the way, has its roots in the name of the goddess. In French, céréale is the word for grain.

In my experience with clients, Virgos or people with strong Virgo in their charts are most likely to be vegetarians or otherwise concerned with a healthy diet. They typically prefer a lot of whole grains and vegetables to meat, and too much animal fat can upset their delicate digestion.

It’s also fascinating to contemplate the close relationship between Ceres and Pluto in ancient mythology. Ceres was the daughter of Saturn, the sister of Neptune and Pluto, and the sister/wife of Jupiter, with whom she fathered a daughter, Proserpina (the Greek Persephone).

You may recall from Mythology 101 that Pluto kidnapped Prosperpina and took her to the underworld. Mom was worried sick (worry being a notable Virgo trait) and stopped paying attention to her earthly garden, which withered and died. It was finally Mercury who intervened, but he couldn’t get Pluto or Proserpina to agree to a permanent separation. The compromise was for her to spend half the year on earth and the other half in the underworld, and thus the seasons came into being.

In ancient Greece, there was an entire cult devoted to Demeter and Persephone that held initiation ceremonies at Eleusis. These rituals became known as the Eleusinian Mysteries and were suppressed with the arrival of Christianity, no doubt because of the strong sexual connotations.

The discovery of Pluto in 1930 coincided with the development of nuclear weapons and humanity’s ability to destroy the Earth. We’re also destroying the planet through the burning of fossil fuels. While Neptune is usually considered the ruler of oil, the power of the oil industry is more Plutonian in nature and is seen by many as the cause of the resistance to alternative fuels.

Could it be Ceres who will save us? With asteroid Ceres’ new status, will humanity become more aware of the Earth? Likewise, will we start taking better care of our own bodies, as all good Virgos already do? And will we look to plant-based alternative fuels such as biodiesel?

Further, will there be a reunification of the male and female principles? Is it possible that we might be coming out of a collective winter sleep, ready to awaken to the quickening pulse of a new Cosmic spring?

(This article originally appeared on The Pisces Chronicles on August 6, 2006.)

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