The Astrological Ceres and the Rhythm of Self-Care

  The planet Ceres

The planet Ceres

I’ve been casting around for a way to introduce the research I’ve been conducting into Ceres, the (dwarf) planet located between Mars and Jupiter, and the largest object in the asteroid belt.  I have enough data for a book, so much so that I can’t even decide what should go into a shorter article. 

The Ceres reading, or what I call the “Food Tour” of your astro chart, that I recorded with Chaweon Koo for her YouTube show, Witches & Wine, has given me that extra push to start writing about this material. 

Ceres in the natal chart covers a lot of diverse territory.  First and foremost, Ceres says something very definite about your mother’s physical and emotional life.   Ceres in Cancer?  Maybe Mom stayed at home or otherwise considered “Mom” to be her full-time career.  Ceres in Aries?  Oftentimes these Moms are athletic; sometimes they are activists.  Ceres carves out distinct territory from the natal Moon, which speaks more to the quality of your emotional experience with home and family, and less to specific details like Mom’s career or hobbies. 

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So – what purpose does it serve to understand something about Mom’s life as separate from your own emotional experience of her?  Fair question.  When I first began probing into how Ceres could be applied to every natal chart, I created an altar to the goddess and asked her to communicate with me, because I’m a pagan and it just made sense to start here. 

Ceres showed me an image of breast-feeding.  It’s hard for me to write anything after that short sentence because I just want to underscore it three times and add exclamation points.  As newborn infants, we have no idea of our body being separate from mother’s body.  Mother is warmth, rhythm (the heartbeat we hear in the womb), nutrition, comfort, and everything else about this new world all rolled into one.  Even if we were bottle-fed instead of breast-fed, our earliest experiences revolve around mother’s body and mother’s rhythm.  Because as infants and small children we lack verbal language, mother’s movement through the world – her moods and energetic preoccupations, her dominant emotions and physical habits, her way of being in her body, and even her unresolved traumas – becomes our language.  It is communicated into our psychological make-up the same way that mother’s milk is expressed into our bodies.     

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Because mother is our first introduction to both food and the rhythm of life, it turns out that Mom’s biography in our early years has a disproportionate effect on our adult relationship to things like diet, exercise, and self-care.  I’d even go so far as to call Ceres a kind of “alien” energy in the natal chart, as it originates so completely with our first experience of care (unlike Moon energies with which we bring in so much of our individual karmic inheritance).

Perhaps an example is in order here.  One of my long-time clients has Ceres in Cancer in the 8th house.  Her mother was an emergency room nurse, so we see the 8th house emphasis in Mom’s constant exposure to death at the hospital and the Cancer emphasis in her nurturing role as a nurse.  My client has struggled with deadly (8th house) food allergies and sensitivities, but has also pulled off more than a few magical transformations (again 8th house) when it comes to her health, by using nutrition.  She’s shared with me about eating dirt, and bugs, in her quest to get at the core of our disturbed relationship to food and the earth from which it comes.  One of her services as a healer is to live with her clients for up to a week so that she can address the energetics of their relationship to food, and then work to transform emotion-based habits into more positive rituals for self-care. 

  The astrological glyph for Ceres

The astrological glyph for Ceres

So, I wouldn’t cast Ceres as a “job” planet the way that Saturn is, but it certainly is convenient if we manage to find careers that conform to our personal rhythm (Ceres).  In the example I used above, my client’s natural resonance with intimate healing interventions, absorbed from her mother’s career as an emergency-room nurse, has played out beautifully in her own work as an energy healer of great depth and intensity.  The locale may have changed, but the 8th house Cancerian rhythm is the same. 

I have natal Ceres in Leo in the 3rd house.  My working theory is that Ceres is in domicile in Virgo, exalted in Aquarius, and therefore in the sign of its fall in Leo.  (I am aware that adding new dignities to the ancient and elegant system of astrology is not so blithely accomplished, but my intent here is to use terminology that many people will understand).  In other words, I don’t think I have Ceres in a great place as far as what I believe the highest expression of this planetary energy to be.  Ceres functions naturally and well in conscientious Virgo, a sign with a good grasp on the idea that daily routines (or daily rituals) are full of meaning and thus the building blocks of meaningful lives.  Ceres in socially-conscious Aquarius seems to invoke the ancient role of the grain goddess as the protector of the resources of the plebians, the agricultural class that worshipped her.  You can think for just a moment about the global food situation and perceive that it could benefit from economical, earth-conscious Virgo and collective-minded Aquarius, toward meeting the food needs of all the people on earth. 

  One of my Mom's ceramic Suns

One of my Mom's ceramic Suns

The Ceres material really opened up for me when I considered how much better Ceres in Leo described my own mother than my natal Capricorn Moon in the 8th house.  First of all, my mother was an artist.  What’s more, she dubbed herself the “Sun Lady” (Leo!), and some of my earliest memories are of clinging to her long skirts, or crawling under tables, at the craft fairs (3rd house!) where she sold her ceramic wares.  The artist was a healthy expression of the Leo energy; less healthy was my mother’s shopping addiction, which involved scouring thrift stores for designer clothes (Leo).  My mother had to erect a special shed in her backyard to hold all the posh clothing she’s collected over the years. 

And as far as food – food was “fun”!  I didn’t realize until I was old enough to have friends over that most of what we consumed was party food.  I lived on sugar and chips and drive-through dinners.  We had a “snack hutch” packed with Little Debbies and a freezer full of Hostess cakes and Entenmann’s cookies.  My Mom maintained her thin and glamorous appearance with an eating disorder.  Dark Leo: doing something “fun” so much that it’s not fun anymore.  Our food was all flash and zero nutrition. 

  Sadly, we had a pantry that closely resembled the contents of this picture, and downing pre-packaged sugary cakes are my most visceral childhood food memories ... 

Sadly, we had a pantry that closely resembled the contents of this picture, and downing pre-packaged sugary cakes are my most visceral childhood food memories ... 

Often when I conduct these Ceres readings and ask the client about their mother’s life prior to giving birth to them, they draw blanks.  They don’t know and they never thought to ask.  So I will make some speculations, and encourage them to probe into their family history.  Invariably, I will receive a call or email back from the client, attached to a “Wow!  I can’t believe how much my mother’s story resonates with the placement of Ceres in my natal chart.”  Perhaps Mom wasn’t particularly equipped for motherhood and nursed some deep resentment about the role (Scorpio).  Perhaps Mom gave up a life and career she loved in order to accommodate motherhood (Pisces).  Perhaps Mom had a difficult time making ends meet and worked long hours (Capricorn).  These are all just examples, incidentally, not phrases I would insert into a Ceres “cookbook” for interpretation.  But whether your Mom was grieving a lost child or confused about her sexuality at the time of your birth, those emotional preoccupations and embodied habits become your natural and often unconscious patterns, your “rhythm” through life.   

I can’t tell you how many people contact me for a Ceres reading who are fit and slender, have an expert consciousness about health food and nutrition, and have tried all the popular diets, but who are STILL wondering if there’s some “secret” I can offer them that will lead to peace-of-mind when it comes to this aspect of self-care.  This continual striving toward perfection and wondering if your food can do “more” for you is unfortunately an effect of our consumer culture, which sells our Great Mother’s most natural gift to us as a product with exciting features like “weight loss” and “energy boost.”  (Not to mention this orthorexic trend sure sounds a lot like shadow Virgo, in line with the bizarre demotion of Ceres from planet to sub-planet which has played out twice now in its cultural reception.  We resist claiming the archetype of the grain goddess to our peril). 

  The Chthonic goddess Demeter-Ceres

The Chthonic goddess Demeter-Ceres

The big secret is that Ceres is an EARTH goddess, an ancient agricultural deity, associated with the sign of Virgo from Manilius forward and allegorized as the Green World herself by Renaissance philosophers – and she works to deepen our connection to Earth.  That’s it, that’s the big secret – that’s what’s missing from your self-care routine.  If you have a farm and you milked the cow that put the butter on your table and you harvested the potatoes you’re about to eat with greens from your garden, you already know this in your bones.  You know exactly what it took for the Earth to produce the bounty we take from her body every single day, as well as the amount of human husbandry required to reap that bounty. 

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In that lived knowledge of agricultural processes, a natural gratitude arises because our needs are met so completely by this spinning rock in space that the vast majority of us take for granted.  Eating with consciousness is eating with gratitude, and opens the door for our daily food intake to become a meaningful ritual as opposed to a transactional duty in which we exchange mastication for perks like muscle tone and increased vibrancy.  The “something wrong” most of us feel about food is the absence of grounding in the knowledge that the Earth Mother provides, an idea that would have been a natural feature of meal-times in ancient cultures when the struggle for sustenance was a daily affair.

This is not in any way to say that we live in so much abundance that we should just appreciate our food and stop fretting.  Contemporary food production is deeply out of step with ecological values and sustainable farming practices.  The modern American diet is composed largely of processed chemical components that hardly qualify as “food.”

Deep in our ancestral memory we have the sense that eating food is a communal activity that fosters social cohesion (remember the exaltation of Ceres in Aquarius!), which only compounds our culture's problematic relationship with food.  No wonder then that many of us reach for the frozen dinner instead of the raw ingredients when we have only our selves to feed.  This is nothing to beat yourself about, in my opinion – we have only been eating this “new way” as urban dwellers instead of farmers for just over a hundred years, so it makes sense that so many of us feel alienated by the prospect of cooking for one.      

  Image depicting the relative size of Ceres (bottom left) compared to Earth and Earth's Moon.

Image depicting the relative size of Ceres (bottom left) compared to Earth and Earth's Moon.

There is a contemporary astrological tenet that holds that the technology for perceiving “new planets” will appear to us as the human race is collectively evolving that archetype.  Thus Pluto appeared to us in the early 20th century as the collective grappled with new psychological concepts like the sub-conscious and the id.  I find it telling that Ceres first dawned on us in 1801 at the onset of the industrial revolution, when Western culture was transitioning from a farming to a manufacturing economy, and the agricultural class was driven to the cities in hordes. 

There has been a recent spike of interest in Ceres since NASA’s Dawn mission returned images of the planet, and the spacecraft is currently orbiting Ceres now.  Not to be a Captain Bring-down or anything, but Ceres is also a fierce destroyer goddess who withheld the Earth’s ability to grow food when she felt like her sovereignty had been violated.  My own interest in this planet and the mythic and astrological material it brings through is tied directly to my concerns about imminent environmental collapse.

  Let us not forget the scythe of Ceres and its winnowing power

Let us not forget the scythe of Ceres and its winnowing power

For many of us who spend our lives in front of a screen for work, daily meals become perhaps the only time that we have the opportunity to remember the Earth which sustains us.  I firmly believe that transforming one’s individual consciousness around food will lead to changes in the collective, and that this same consciousness will lead to global change that respects the limits (hey there Virgo, whaddaya know … ) of this Green World’s abundance.

  Margaret Fuller referred to Ceres as the "all-kindly, patient Earth-Spirit" in her book  Woman in the Nineteenth-Century  (1845).  See more at  www.americanrenaissancetarot.com

Margaret Fuller referred to Ceres as the "all-kindly, patient Earth-Spirit" in her book Woman in the Nineteenth-Century (1845).  See more at www.americanrenaissancetarot.com

A Ceres reading can help you transform your individual consciousness around food by discovering your personal rhythm, and by uprooting any negative associations around self-care that you might have absorbed unconsciously from Mom.  Ceres in the chart also provides a window into how to evolve the boring routines of daily life into meaningful rituals.  Last but not least, the totality of Mother as SOURCE in your early years seems to bear directly on your later understanding of personal deity – patron gods and goddesses, from Mother Mary to Bast to Yemaya, are uncannily described by Ceres in the natal chart. 

A great big shout-out of thanks to all my clients who have let me undertake Ceres research with them, and a big shout of welcome to anyone reading this now who is interested in a “Food Tour” of their natal chart.  Still priced at only $33, click here for details!

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