|The Return of Persephone by Frederick Leighton.
Golden-bright Persephone, Demeter’s beautiful daughter, was picking flowers one day in the wide, scented valley of Enna in Sicily when Hades, the prince of hell, burst out of the ground and grabbed her and pulled her down into his dark realm.
Demeter was heartbroken. She wandered the world searching for her beloved child, and because she was the goddess of fruitfulness, the world became barren as she grieved.
Eventutally, and after many adventures, she went back to Sicily and found Persephone’s girdle in a pool. This was the clue she needed. Demeter realised that her child had been stolen and by whom. To get her back she had to appeal to Zeus himself, the king of the gods, her brother, and Persephone’s father too.
A deal was struck. Demeter could have her daughter back, but only if Persephone had eaten nothing in the underworld. Hermes, the messenger god, one of the few beings who could pass between the worlds unharmed, went to fetch her. But it was too late, she had eaten six pomegranate seeds.
Still, Demeter was too powerful a goddess to cross. A compromise had to be reached. And it was. For one third of the year, Persephone would be a wife and for the rest of the time, Demeter could have her daughter back. Persephone became a queen underground, and a girl again every spring.
|Demeter Mourning – Burne Jones|
Now there are many variations, embellishments and flourishes to this story. Some say, Persephone had to stay underground for six months. Some say that while Demeter wandered the earth, she taught humans agriculture. Some say that Hecate, the goddess of entrances, witchcraft and cross-roads, was Demeter’s ally in her hunt for her daughter, and became Persephone’s companion in her sojourns in the underworld.
Robert Graves, author of The White Goddess, saw Persephone, Demeter and Hecate together as three faces of the triple goddess: girl, mother, crone.
Perhaps for the ancient world, one of Demeter’s greatest gifts, for she was a benefactor of the human race, was the Eleusinian Mysteries, a religious initiation which took place annually for at least 2000 years. The Greater Mysteries were a ten-day event that took place around this time of year. They included re-enactments of parts of the story of Persephone and Demeter, for example eating the seeds of the pomegranate, and shouting rude words in honour of Baubo, an old lady who made Demeter laugh when she was at her most gloomy. The Lesser Mysteries took place in January/February and included the sacrifice of a piglet, an animal sacred to Demeter.
The central myth of Persephone’s Abduction is the same though. It is about the abduction of a child, and her reunion with her mother, and it tells the story of the seasons in the Northern hemisphere.
Here are some of the themes:
•Grief and Shock
•Mother-daughter love/infinite love
Demeter is, of course, called Ceres by the Romans, who were partial to bringing the cults of foreign goddesses – Cybele and Isis as well as the Olympians – home and reworking them into Romans.
In Rome, as well as building a cracking great temple to Ceres, who became one of their most important goddesses, there was “the world of Ceres”, a pit with a stone lid, was ceremonially opened three times a year – August 24, October 5 and November 8 – and offerings were left for the goddess of abundance.
Ceres was worshipped not only as a goddess of agriculture but also as one of the guardians of the gates of the underworld. The point is that she managed to retrieve her daughter from death itself. Hers is one of the few classical myths with a happy(ish) ending. It seems that her powers were conflated with those of Hecate at some point, because she as well as her role guarding the gates of death, she was worshipped at crossroads too.
But how does this relate to the planet called Ceres and her place in astrology, because, as we know from other planets – Uranus and Neptune, for example – you cannot simply transpose the myth into the astrology?
The previous post went some way to discussing the theme of mother love, but today I want to show you a few examples of Ceres at work in stories of abduction and underground. You can see that Ceres represents the child as well as the parent – good or bad.
Here is the chart of Madeleine McCann, the little girl who was snatched from a holiday flat in Portugal in 2007. She has a conjunction of the Sun, Ceres and Lilith in Taurus natally. On the day she was abducted, transiting Ceres reached her mother’s North Node. Natally, her father has Ceres in exact opposition to Saturn, the grim reaper himself. On the day of her loss, Ceres was approaching that opposition having just come from a conjunction to his North Node.
Here is the chart of Joseph Fritzl who imprisoned his daughter for 24 years, treating her as a sex slave from the age of 11. Ceres-Pluto-North Node in Cancer, the sign of parenting, in trine to Jupiter, the planet which overdoes it, in Scorpio, sex. She was kept in a basement. On the day that sealed Elisabeth into her prison, Ceres was applying to his Venus in Taurus, which is locked into that Pluto-Jupiter. Venus is the girl-child.
Like Madeleine McCann, Elisabeth Fritzl has a Sun-Ceres conjunction, but hers is intercepted by violent Mars. (Her Lilith is at 0° Pisces (the sign of imprisonment) conjunct her Venus – her stolen girlhood. But we’re focusing on Ceres here.)
Here is the chart for Amanda Berry’s dramatic escape from underground imprisonment by the devil himself. Ceres is at the furthest point in the sky from Pluto and right at the top of the chart. And look at the T-square. The Moon is just contacting Uranus, the planet of surprises, triggering the T-square to action. Mercury aka Hermes, the messenger who brought Persephone through the underworld, is sextiling Ceres. Mars is urging him on. Amanda Berry and her fellow prisoners were reborn.
Finally, do you remember the miners who were imprisoned underground for weeks in Chile in 2010? And their escape? I wrote about it at the time: here is the link. Their release came under a Ceres transit. She opened the portal of hell and released them.