The Zodiac Dispatch: Asteroid astrology
In this month’s column, astrologer and member Clarisse Monahan explores how asteroid energy is used alongside traditional planets
Eleanor Bach’s Ephemerides Of The Asteroids: Ceres, Pallas, Juno, Vesta (1973) is the Gender Trouble of astrology. It’s a technical but paradigm-shifting work, which alters the discourses that make our sense of horoscopic selfhood intelligible. Unlike Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, Ephemerides has one mere review on Amazon. Sometimes prophets are only respected in distant lands, if at all. So, I’d like to raise and briefly explain Bach’s unique voice.
Emerging alongside the women’s liberation movement of the 1970s, Ephemerides takes the energies of that particular moment to critique the inherent chauvinism of an astrology dependent on a patriarchal imaginary (father/ Sun, war/ Mars, time-keeper/ Saturn, etc). If Gloria Steinem wanted equality in the workplace, Bach wanted it in the cosmos, too: ‘Women are saying today, we are not just vehicles of pleasure (Venus), or emotional weather vanes utterly dominated by our menstrual cycles (Moon).’
But Ephemerides does more than ideology critique. It seeks to counterbalance astrology’s masculine cosmic tilt by providing the tools for a new feminine cosmography. How so? Let’s put it this way: up until her book, a typical ephemeris – which astrologers use to determine where planets are located at any given time in any given year – would chart the courses of well-known planets. That is, mostly masculine energies. Bach’s ephemeris started charting four new feminine characters in our astrological drama: Ceres, Pallas, Vesta, and Juno.
While these asteroids had first been discovered in the 19th century between Mars and Jupiter, their symbolic astrological weight had not been developed. Bach’s Ephemerides helped change that by providing the blueprint for a new branch of asteroid astrology that represented ‘new voices of the dormant feminine, recently activated and now demanding power, recognition, justice and equality in our society.’
In more progressive circles of augury, asteroid astrology is now used alongside traditional planets to deepen the understanding of a birth chart and to complicate notions of the feminine that inform and constitute all of us, since we are hybrid selves. Perhaps the asteroid energy that most strikingly represents this hybrid selfhood is Pallas, named after the Greek goddess of war and wisdom. In terms of astrological influence, Pallas energy is crafty, brilliant, clever and savvy, especially in close proximity to a natal planet. As a mix of war and wisdom, it’s also an androgenous energy, which can manifest accordingly in a birth chart in the form of our gender presentation, dress or demeanour.
Unlike Pallas’s 21st century vibes, Vesta is more about the hearth and home, but not in terms of a housewife cooking for a distant husband. No, Vesta is more about self-sufficiency and self-reliance. Its placement can promote a robust hearth inside us. Likewise, Ceres, the largest of these four asteroids, is associated (mythologically) with earth, mother, and harvest. But Ceres energy in a chart manifests more as a care-giver to interests and notions, helping them take root and grow. Her energy is matriarchal, not maternal.
And finally there is Juno, wife to philandering Jupiter, whose energy is shown in areas such as the fight for equal rights in all its forms. Mythologically associated with the sacredness of the marriage contract and fierce loyalty to it, her modernised influence manifests as a broader loyalty to the social contract.
If asteroid astrology is of interest, check out Bach or work that has developed in the wake of it, like Demetra George’s Asteroid Goddesses. And, if you ever get around to Ephemerides, leave a review on Amazon, so she has more than one.