The Big Four Asteroids: Ceres, Pallas-Athena, Vesta, and Juno
If you’re unsure about diving into the entire pantheon of asteroids, you can start off more slowly by including the ‘Big 4’ into your chart: Ceres, Pallas, Juno, and Vesta. Below, I’ve summarized these four asteroid bodies so you can begin to understand how they interact with your chart.
CERES – THE GREAT MOTHER
Ceres was the first asteroid discovered, and appropriately its asteroid number is 1. Ceres, like Pluto, is technically a dwarf planet by astronomical classification but is also considered an asteroid; Ceres is the largest of the asteroids. In 1801, an Italian priest and astronomer named Giuseppe Piazzi sighted what he initially thought was a comet, but which later turned out to be an asteroid. Piazzi lived in Palermo and chose to name his discovery after Ceres, the Roman Goddess of Agriculture, who was thought to originate in Sicily.
Astrologically, asteroid Ceres bears a close resemblance to her Goddess equivalent. Ceres, or Demeter in Greek mythology, was the Goddess of Agriculture who delivered the gift of grain to humanity and was commonly depicted with wheat in her hand. Ceres is most famous for her timeless story of love, loss, and redemption involving her beloved daughter Persephone.
Asteroid Ceres has particular ties in Astrological interpretation to food complexes, whether that results in self-denial or self-indulgence; both polarities can be a way to suppress a perceived lack of nurturance. As one of the great mothers of mythology, asteroid Ceres can also help describe the nature of our relationship to our mother or mother figure, as well as how that relationship manifested psychologically: did we receive the nurturing we needed? Could we count on our mother figure to understand and meet those needs?
A prominent placement of asteroid Ceres can make one come across as nurturing, caring, and attentive to the needs of others; occasionally, this spills over into the pattern of the smothering or ‘devouring mother’ (Ceres had a mighty hard time letting go of her daughter Persephone). Challenging aspects to Ceres can create issues of low self-esteem and difficulty overcoming the psychological impact of our mothering experience.
The symbol for asteroid Ceres is a scythe or sickle, emphasizing Ceres’ connection to food and agriculture.
Ceres Themes: food complexes (eating disorders, body dysmorphia), one’s style of nurturing, childbirth, mother-child bonds or lack thereof, self-esteem or lack thereof, separation or loss from children, lessons around letting go, the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
PALLAS – Goddess of Wisdom
Although asteroid Pallas was likely first sighted in 1779, it was not properly discovered until 1802 when a German astronomer, Heinrich Olbers, found her lurking in the night sky near asteroid Ceres. Pallas’ asteroid number is 2 as it was the second asteroid discovered.
While the asteroid is commonly called Pallas, an alternative name for this asteroid is Pallas-Athena. The myth goes that Pallas was the dear childhood friend of Athena; Athena took up her friend’s namesake as an epithet in remembrance when she accidentally killed her. The mythological goddess Athena strongly correlates with the astrological significance of asteroid Pallas.
Pallas-Athena is a woman made in a man’s vision: as the daughter of Zeus, she was famously born out of his head fully grown and wearing armor. She was renowned for her wisdom and strategic skill, as well as her connection to healing. Virginal and unmarried, Pallas-Athena reserved her energies for the tasks at hand – and very rarely lost. Due to her cunning mind, Pallas-Athena often beat Mars in battle, despite his physical prowess.
Astrologically, a prominent asteroid Pallas can make one a top-level consort or strategist; in a woman’s chart particularly, there can be a strong tendency towards a tough-as-nails ‘alpha-female’ countenance. Occasionally, this asteroid features in the chart of folks that push the boundaries of gender expression to its limits, as in the case of David Bowie, who has asteroid Pallas in the 1st House.
The symbol for asteroid Pallas is said to represent Athena’s spear.
Pallas’ themes: alpha-females, issues with the father/father-figure, the suppression of femininity, the combination of creativity with strategy, creative intelligence, the healing arts, kundalini energy, desire for accomplishment and excellence, the ultimate consort-counselor, androgyny.
JUNO – Goddess of Marriage
After being discovered in 1804 by a German Astronomer, asteroid Juno became the third asteroid found, and hence her asteroid number is 3.
Juno, or Hera in Greek, was the wife of Jupiter and the much-revered Queen of Mount Olympus who exemplified the proper ways of a married woman. Unfortunately for Juno, this meant putting up with Jupiter’s never-ending string of dalliances and illegitimate children. Often humiliated by these secret trysts, Juno would craft brutal paybacks for Jupiter, which never really succeeded; whatever blow Juno dealt Jupiter would be returned to her ten-fold.
Asteroid Juno is as much the indicator of what we want in a marriage or the type of person we seek as a partner as it is a potent totem for the complexes that can creep into our most committed partnerships. Aspects to asteroid Juno can tellingly describe how we relate in intimate partnerships; challenging aspects may indicate difficulty with fitting into the kind of hyper-monogamy personified by Juno’s mythological tales.
If asteroid Juno is prominently placed in the birth chart, we can expect that the native will be drawn into marriage as soul-level work. Equally, the house where Juno is present can indicate an area of life to which we are ‘married.’
The symbol for asteroid Juno is a star on top of a royal scepter, as Juno was the ‘Queen of the Heavens.’
Juno’s Themes: partnerships of all kinds (business, love, etc.), marriages, infidelity, jealousy, issues within marriages, power dynamics in partnerships, using children as a tool of manipulations, standing up for the powerless (children, etc.), intimacy vs. manipulation, relating to others, our capacity for sensitivity, empathy and connecting to the ‘other’.
VESTA – Spiritual Servant
Asteroid Vesta became the 4th asteroid discovered in 1807 when the same Heinrich Olbers who discovered asteroid Pallas spotted Vesta in the sky. Vesta is a very bright asteroid and is easily seen with the naked eye for many parts of the year, so it’s surprising that it took so very long to discover her.
Vesta, or Hestia in Roman mythology, is the Goddess of the Hearth and the keeper of the sacred flame. Vesta’s roots lay in the ancient hierodules or sacred sex workers, who were later forced into celibate spiritual service, à la the modern nun. It wasn’t easy being Vesta or one of her temple attendants: if the sacred fire which was meant to ensure the safety of Rome and its people went out, the Vestals were buried alive in underground cellars and left to expire.
On the other hand, Vesta and her team of supplicants were granted extraordinary privileges for women in the age of ancient Rome, and in the words of Jules Cashford, as virgins, they were ‘closed to distractions’ and therefore ‘open to revelation.’
If asteroid Vesta is prominently placed in the chart, these folks can have focus galore and the ability to dedicate themselves to a long-term goal or service; challenging aspects can deny the same. There can also be too much of a good thing: occasionally, Vesta types can end up as fanatics instead of devotees.
The symbol for Vesta is emblematic of the sacred flame she so carefully tended.
Vesta’s themes: focus, dedication, single-mindedness, tunnel vision, spiritual work or service, high-minded spiritual pursuits/service, the archetypal nun, self-integration, the unmarried and the childless, sex as sacred, sex and shame, the interplay between sex and religion.