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Alison Chester-Lambert - Ceres, Mother Earth Goddess of Growing and Grieving

In August 2006, the International Astronomical Union announced a re-organisation of the way we view our solar system. Big new discoveries had led to definition and labeling issues. Surprisingly, even the word ‘planet‘ hadn‘t got an official meaning. So when new planets were being discovered outside of Neptune‘s orbit they had a problem. Do they re-write the schoolbooks every time a new planet is discovered or draw a line under the existing known ones and invent a new category for the discoveries? They decided to invent new labels and in the process re-categorised the asteroid Ceres. Suddenly she found herself in a new box with Pluto, Charon, Eris, Haumea and Makemake. Now she has the lofty title of Dwarf Planet… but what does this mean?

 

Ceres the dwarf planet

In 1801, a planet the size of Texas was discovered in the gap between Mars and Jupiter in our solar system and named Ceres. However, when other objects were also found there soon after, it was called an asteroid belt, and the newly named planet was demoted to the title of asteroid (1). Ceres‘s position in the sky was no longer reported on, and the world lost interest in her.

Then in the 1970‘s someone began to plot her position in the sky again, and an astrology book was written about her and others in the Asteroid belt (2). Very slowly, the astrological community was waking up from a deep sleep regarding knowledge of the goddesses (planets) that the Asteroid belt contained. A big prod came in 2006 with the previously mentioned surprise announcement from the I.A.U.

Then in 2008 a report in New Scientist(3) added fuel to the fire by suggesting that the planets Ceres and Pluto were once ONE, or at least came from the same place. This is in spite of the fact that there is a vast distance (up to 4 billion kilometers) and four planets in between them! This report was mind-numbingly spooky since this is EXACTLY the case in mythology. Ceres had a daughter or younger emanation called Proserpine. Pluto makes Proserpine his queen and she rules the Underworld with him.

The New Scientist report entitled “Has Pluto sent us a message in Ceres?” says: “Does Pluto have a wayward cousin lurking in the inner solar system? The dwarf planet Ceres…..may have been born in the same realm as Pluto, but travelled all the way to the asteroid belt.” Apparently the two planets are made of the same stuff, and this doesn‘t occur anywhere else in the Solar System.

The spiritual meaning of Ceres

Putting it simply, Ceres represents the unconditional bond, nurturing and love between the source and the progeny, or the mother and child and the ‘rights of passage‘ that go with it. In addition, because she represents both the abundance and absence of these things, she is there when the bond is in crisis and loss occurs. She is found in the presence of Mother Nature and in the growth of crops and grain in particular She is the growth of a seed into maturity, and then it‘s separation and preparation for re-birth. This might mean the cycle of human life; from a seed - to a baby - to a maiden – to a mother; or that of agriculture and grain in particular. She is a symbol for separation and dying, and the mourning and grieving that goes with it, but she is also the energy that is with us as we prepare for re-birth, a new beginning or a regeneration.

The earliest civilizations believed that the human soul went through a cycle of death and rebirth just like corn does. Her myth is one of many concerning the death and re-birth of vegetation, and it exists to encourage us to believe that human life does not end in death.

Our soul is here to learn and grow, and it is a sad fact that sometimes the greatest growth comes with great pain, because usually we have to see something end or pass before we grow into something new. Pain and spiritual growth are proportional to each other. Ceres comes to us not just for the light of birth, but also for the dark of death. She takes our hand and walks with us through the Underworld of the darkest of nights, and her gentle sensitivity teaches us of our soul, and the reason for it‘s existence. We see and feel the intensity of a flower. She tends us while we grow.

The myth of Ceres and Proserpine

Ceres was originally known to the Greeks as Demeter meaning Earth Mother, (4) and going even further back, to the ancient Egyptians as Isis. The best and longest account of the myth is told in a Greek song (5) called “Homeric Hymn to Demeter” which was written in the 7th Century B.C.E.

In a nutshell, the story describes the agony and mourning a mother (Ceres) goes through, when her daughter (Proserpine) is abducted and taken into the Underworld to become Queen and wife to the Pluto. Eventually Proserpine is returned to her mother, because Ceres withholds all crops and food from the human Upperworld. The other gods cannot allow the human race to die, so they broker a deal that means Proserpine will spend part of her life in the Underworld, and part in the Upperworld. The object of this hymn was to explain the Mysteries of life and death in an indirect way, since it was forbidden to speak of them directly.

Pluto has a golden chariot, which is not exactly a symbol of destitution and poverty and he did rule a third of the world, so not all was a complete disaster! In the Greek version, (5) Proserpine could still see the “star filled sky,” the “fishswarming sea” and the “rays of the sun,” so she had hope. I think it might be important for us to reflect that she could still see life on Earth from the Underworld.

Ceres made it a terrible year for humans whilst she grieved and yearned for Proserpine. Soon, the human race was near the brink of extinction and things were getting serious. If the entire human race died, then the gods would not get their worship. Humans get their vegetation courtesy of the gods, but then the gods get something back from humans. Homage and adulation by humans is an act of focus that generates an energy (spirit) which then passes into the Ether and feeds the universal spirit of the Godness. The god/desses desperately need this worship-generated energy, and it jeopardizes their way of living if they don‘t get it. Therefore, Jupiter intervened and instructed Pluto to let Proserpine go. Jupiter assented that she should spend a part of the year underground and part in the company of Ceres.

The myth is at pains to point out that humans are here to endure the gifts that the god/desses give us and we don‘t seem to recognize the fortune in this. That although something may feel tragic and terrible, eventually with time and persistence something good will come of it. She insists her way is the “greatest boon and joy for immortals and mortals alike,” and that contact with her gives something of value.

The Eleusinian Mysteries and life after death, A guide into the Underworld

Ceres showed the mortals how to perform certain sacred rites and rituals, which were associated with love and the secrets of life and death. Whoever was initiated in these rites would “get a share of things” once they died and went into the “dank realms of mist.” Once a human has seen these things they are sent “Ploutos, - wealth personified, who gives riches to mortal humans.” These rites were called the Eleusinian Mysteries.

Greek society had moved towards masculine or yang culture where individual importance and survival was becoming most important. Science and thought were controlling the more bestial natural ways.

Nature or feminine energy such as Ceres‘s, is willing to sacrifice single life in the knowledge that it is part of a Collective and ultimately the Collective must be protected. As society became more focused on analytical self-development, it would have been inherently natural to maintain an appreciation of Mother Nature and Ceres as a kind of opposite to the prevailing cultural trend.

Probably to maintain the sacredness and importance, the exact content of these rites has remained a mystery, but in the Hymn, we have a few clues.

Persephone is referred to as a young seedling, and is in fact a different manifestation of the same cycle. The seed and young seedling (Proserpine), the mother plant bearing an ear of corn (Ceres), the withering plant after harvest (old crone) and then the seed again. This can be put into human terms – human seed, embryo, baby, maiden, mother etc. These are different stages of development of the same Earthly process – life form emerging, growing and decaying. It is likely that the Mysteries explained this.

In it‘s simplest form, the myth explains the seasons. So when the myth talks of Ceres‘s mourning whilst Proserpine is underground, it could be a metaphor for Mother Nature mourning whilst the seed is underground i.e. in the Underworld. This is the time when things must rest, and go out of sight (death) before resurrection.

This is the fundamental message of the Mysteries. That humans also share this cycle or pattern. Death is not a finality, it‘s a preparation for re-birth as one life leads to another. How this year‘s crop provides the seed for next years, after a period in the Underworld. A seed will always promise new life. Like Pluto, Ceres not only represents the life and death cycle, she protects it She will stay with us and wail and mourn with us during the loss, but always she seeks to grow.

The Freemasons state (on more than one website) that Plutarch, a famous ancient Greek philosopher and initiate, says in his “Immortality of the Soul” that the soul at the moment of death goes through the same experiences as those who are initiated into the great mysteries. The word and act are similar: we say telentai (to die) and telestai (to be initiated). (6)

WHY WILL CERES BE IMPORTANT IN THE 21st CENTURY?

How Ceres will be needed in food supply in 21st Century Ceres was introduced into Roman worship along with 2 other old Greek deities in 496B.C. because the Italians were suffering drought and famine, and needed some help(4). Ceres must have been useful because 6 years later they built her temple in Greek style, with priestesses of Greek origin. She was designated a Goddess of the working or common classes, which gave her nationwide popular appeal.

Ceres the planet was originally discovered at the beginning of an agricultural revolution caused by new ploughing methods devised in the early 1800s. She has very strong associations with grains of corn in particular.

The sudden and surprising announcement of her elevated status to dwarf planet in 2006 could only mean that her energy was going to be keenly felt and much needed after that. We started to understand just how much in 2007, when it was announced by United Nations scientists that in order to feed the world‘s population, we would need to grow as much food in the next 50 years as we did in the last 10,000 years! The global population will rise from 4.4 billion in 1980 to an estimated 9 billion in 2050. (7)

From 2006 in the U.K., it became quite common to see gardening programmes on the TV entirely devoted to the growing of vegetables rather than the previous fashion of gardening makeovers, and the American president and U.K. Prime Minister, Gordon Brown made impassioned pleas for people to not waste so much food.

There were food riots in third world countries as the price of staple grains such as rice trebled in a number of months. The changing climate conditions that brought about the loss of the world‘s food crops was not of Ceres‘s doing, this was all the work of Sedna. Ceres was actually helping to reduce the impact of the worsening weather conditions, as we found out in England in 2007, when Ceres saved the potato and wheat harvest from failure due to flooding. (Ceres was introduced in Rome to assist with drought conditions, so she is obviously useful for either!)

The saving of the crops from the floods of 2007 was clearly shown in the astrology of the time. Transiting Sedna and Neptune were in a long running square aspect (20° Tau and Aqu) and between them were flooding large parts of England. The weather forecast looked dire and the rain was relentless. Then in August Ceres edged in front of Sedna, standing between Sedna and the Earth and stopping Sedna‘s influence. Within hours the rain stopped. The fields dried out, and a miracle happened – the harvest could be brought home. The image of how Ceres did this still brings tears to my eyes; it is a shame that at the time, so few of us knew of her brave and timely protection.

Growing babies, child abduction or separation and Madeleine McCann

The terror of abduction is something that mothers in the 21st century struggle with and will identify with most readily. The abduction of Madeleine McCann from a Portuguese holiday resort in May 2007 was extremely well publicised all over the world. In addition, no one will forget the sadness and support that we all felt. Kate and Gerry McCann were on a global stage, expressing the anger, anguish, bewildered grief and mourning, which Ceres suffered in the myth. Madeleine‘s horoscope has a close Sun-Ceres conjunction trine Moon, and there was a very significant Ceres energy involved on the day of her abduction.

“To enter into the figure of Ceres means to be pursued, to be robbed, to be raped, to fail to understand, to rage and grieve, but then to get everything back and be born again.” Carl Jung

Ceres, cycles and the passage of time

Ceres gives us an understanding of nature, her cycles and the passage of time…including patience! When she was introduced to the Italian peasants, it was made most clear she was a goddess for the plebians. The daily work of the farming community all revolved around the natural calendar. There was a yearly plan and it could not be hurried. Sowing, weeding and harvesting were all at set times of the year, and this gave the working classes stability, routine and order. They had to stay with their land. This teaches patience and an acceptance of the dominance of a greater will than our own. Ceres says the 21st century is the time to re-learn this skill!

Ceres supports us through death and bereavement

Death of a loved one is a heartbreaking sorrow which no words of mine can bring comfort to. In addition, the terrible pain of bereavement is an awful and tragic experience. However, somewhere along that wretched journey there is a time when the bereaved desperately want to know “Why?” In addition, maybe understanding an individual loss in the context of the great cycle of life can in time offer some solace, as we then understand that the soul of our loved one is only out of sight for a while. They will return to live again, and this is promised to us by the presence of Ceres. Her rites show us a better way to understand what death and the Underworld is really all about. Maybe, if we understand that there will be a re-birth we can find it more bearable.

We need to change our image of the Underworld and our horror of death

Our culture lives in fear and horror of the perceived atrocity of the Underworld and a little man with red horns and a toasting fork. The Ancients Greeks had no such pre-occupation. The Catholic Church introduced the horrors of a place of burning hell fires and purgatory. They got the images from the volcanoes of Italy, which are prevalent and lively in that area. For all civilizations will constellate their deities from their survival needs and fears. Where water is needed in an arid desert, a deity of rainfall will emerge and in a volcanic region, the worst thing that can be imagined is the red-hot molten river spewing out of the ground.

No such place existed for the more ancient civilisations. This can be seen in a vase from the Ancient Greece (8) showing a one-off rare scene of the Underworld with the winged souls of the dead filling a giant container with the individual waters of knowledge from their own vessels. It is a calm and peaceful scene.

We live our lives enduring pain and enjoying happiness. As the Book of the Dead (9) points out, we must drink, eat and make love. As we do this, our soul is constantly gathering experience and wisdom. When we die, our soul, spirit and mind return to their separate places in the Multiverse. The soul joins the collective soul and pours into it all the wisdom and experience it has learnt – some pour for longer than others do!

Does it help the bereaved to understand the context in which their loved one has passed on? I think so. It can be understood that their death contributes to a cycle of life in which they continue to play a major role. That single life is not meaningless; it continues to have great value.

Another way of looking at death is to see ourselves as simply extensions of each other. Different stages of the same energy. There is no “individual,” and so no “individual” death. We are all connected. Life flows through the generations, which are born from each other.

Certainly, as the years unfold in the 21st century, there will be a changing attitude to death and it‘s circumstances. In England, initiatives have been announced to promote home deaths. They want to open up discussion between the dying and their survivors, so that fear and taboo will not prevent the death rites being as respectful and honorable as possible.

Currently, our taboo and discomfort at talking about and accepting the imminent death of a loved one, meant that their dying moments are in a resuscitation unit, far from the gentle hands of their loved ones, as medics vainly tried to hold back the inevitable tide of death. I think Ceres will slowly introduce us to the idea of letting loved ones go with dignity and peace. Home birth has become an aspiration….now home death needs to be!

Ceres and the parent-child bond, parent-child issues

In astrology, she is clearly a symbol of the parent-child bond. She is as much about the care and nurturing we give our progeny, as she is about the farmer‘s care and nurturing, which gives a good harvest of wheat.

In the early 21st century, it is likely that we will all experience parent/child bond issues, as Ceres makes herself known. I know of no one who hasn‘t already struggled with strong mother/daughter psychological issues to do with control and breaking free.

Carl Jung said, “Every mother contains her daughter in herself and every daughter her mother. Every woman extends backward into her mother and forward into her daughter.”(2)

This will be hard for some daughters to take on board, and yet it is true that daughters carry the epi-genes and spiritual and soul inheritance of the whole maternal family lineage. The matriarchal energy is passed on from mother to daughter, generation after generation. Yep…you are your mother!

A few might have experienced more profound sorrow or grief at separation from a parent or child, and for these unfortunate souls, reflection on the deeper meaning of Ceres may bring some understanding or comfort.

Other Ceres issues can include family miscommunications, Ceres-style revengeful or devouring mothers, or the isolation of being alone with a child.

Some final thoughts

If there is one reason for our lives here on earth, then it has to be that we should know and understand ourselves better. Unfortunately, this is also one of the hardest things to achieve! The reason for pain is this - it is in our greatest pain that we achieve our greatest growth towards the goal of knowing ourselves. We wouldn‘t bother otherwise.

There is no greater love on earth than the love of a mother for a child. When this love takes us to our own ‘underworld‘ of death and humility whilst we are still living, then we are truly in the greatest pain known to mankind. A personal hell on earth.

Surely then, this is when the strangest of things can happen. We grow. Our soul grows. We can see and feel the intensity of a flower. We can experience a side of ourselves that would be unknowable otherwise. We see our soul, and the reason for it‘s existence. The darkest hour has the greatest light. In addition, Ceres takes our hand. She walks with us and tends us in this pain. She tends us while we grow.

 

References

  • (1) Watanabe, S. (Jan 07 2002) A Texas Sized Space Rock NASA (06/09/2006)
  • (2) George, D., Bloch, D., (2003) Asteroid Goddesses Berwick, Maine. Ibis press.
  • (3) Shiga, D. (19 July 2008) Has Pluto sent us a message in Ceres? New Scientist, 199 (2665), pp 10.
  • (4) Seyffert, O (1894) Dictionary of Classical Antiquities Ceres (07/09/2006)
  • (5) Nagy, G., (5/11/2001) (Translation of) Homeric Hymn to Demeter, The University of Houston, (12/8/2007)
  • (6) L. Da. Costa Jr. W. Bro. Helio., (16/10/1999) The Chamber of Reflection. Grand Lodge of British Columbia. 
  • (7) Sample, I., (31/8/2007), Global food crisis looms as climate change and population growth strip fertile land. The Guardian [20/7/2008]
  • (8) Boardman, J., (1980) Athenian Black Figure Vases. Singapore: Thames and Hudson.
  • (9) Faulkner, R. et al (1998) The Egyptian Book of the Dead. San Francisco: Chronicle Books LLC

Biography

Alison Chester-Lambert is a professional astrologer and proprietor of the Midlands School of Astrology in the UK. She has developed and teaches astrology according to her own model called “Multiverse” astrology. See web site for theory. Alison also writes horoscopes for radio and several English magazines.

She has close natal contact with all the Dwarf and Trans- Neptune planets (Pluto, Eris, Ceres, Makemake, Haumea, Sedna) and has carried out years of serious research on them, resulting in her book called “Starry Messengers”. This article is an excerpt from that book.

Alison’s birth data. 27/5/1955 Nottingham, England. 17.04 hrs.

For a consultation, to buy the book, or to contact phone 01827 68288 (from England) or 0044 1827 68288 (from other countries). Mobile 07767 810889

Web site: www.midlandsschoolofastrology.co.uk

e-mail: alison@midlandsschoolofastrology.co.uk