Blessings to all. Vesta, the Goddess Asteroid of Priestessing now meets Eris, the Dark Goddess of Discord (I read it as Chaos) at 22 Aries. This is an extremely powerful alignment that affects us all, particularly those who identify strongly with the need to Serve and/or Embody the Fierce Feminine. I´m going to begin this piece with a mythological analysis of Eris, followed by the astrological interpretation.
Unless you´re over the age of 80, you´ve got Eris in Aries. The mythology of Eris shows her to be an exiled, snubbed, feared creature – Daughter of the Night, the Creatrix of Strife. Much of this is linked with Eris´exclusion from the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, and subsequent events that led to the Trojan War. Essentially, Zeus (uber-patriarch) thought that Eris would be a troublemaker at the wedding and so excluded her (and her alone) from the guest list. As part of her revenge, Eris threw down the Golden Apple of Discord at the wedding feast, inscribed with the words “for/to the most beautiful”. The Goddesses Hera, Aphrodite and Athena each claimed the apple for Herself. They turned to Zeus, who refused to adjudicate, and later to a shepherd named Paris. Paris was already known for his fairness in prior dealings with the gods. And so the Goddesses stripped themselves naked before him, offered him bribes (talk about a male fantasy narrative) and asked him to declare who was indeed, the fairest. Paris eventually took Aphrodite´s offer – the chance to marry the most beautiful maiden in the world, i.e. Helen of Troy. And all of that led to to the Trojan War. It is interesting to note that the great warrior Achilles, son of Peleus and Thetis (whose wedding kicked off the whole thing), is famously killed during that war as well.
Let´s just say the Apple of Discord packs a powerful generational punch.
Now, bearing in mind that much of Greco-Roman mythology is deeply patriarchal – it´s easy to see why a woman who would not ´fit in´ with the rest of the gang would be seen as troublesome and something to exile or avoid entirely. It´s easy to see why she gets projected upon as something that causes Strife, when – from a different perspective – her actions actually lead to far larger-scale events that change the course of history (or herstory, if you prefer). I´m pretty sure Eris would not have stripped to find male approval of her Beauty, nor would she have paid to receive that validation. In that sense, she is the Dark Goddess – the Fierce, Feared, Forgotten Feminine that Patriarchy seeks to stamp out. It seems to me that Eris, as an agent of Change, shakes up the status quo in ways that disallow unequal or unjust dynamics of power to persist. That of course depends on which level of consciousness we understand Eris operating from: at the personal or the collective level. We do not know if she cast the Apple of out sheer spite, or if she did so to reveal the vanity and weakness of the Gods themselves.
That being said, She´s probably my favourite Greco-Roman Goddess. Rather than Discord, I see her as a force of Chaos. The necessary energy that destroys the old – no longer in need, or in imbalance – to make way for the new. That kind of change is frightening for most people. Especially if they know they´re holding onto a world, or worldview, that is starkly out of balance with their sense of truth, authenticity, power and Selfhood. That comes through especially with Eris´ position in Aries. Unless you´re over the age of 80, you have Eris in this sign in your birth chart.
Now, let´s have a look at Vesta.
Vesta is the Roman Virgin Goddess of the hearth and home. Sacred flames lit Her temples, tended to by her Priestesses, the Vestal Virgins. Whilst Vesta was a goddess, her concerns were seen to be purely Earth-based, focused on the material, day to day concerns of the here and now. Some ancient scholars equated her with the Earth itself, whilst others argue that her role was that of a Protector. The sacred flame of Vesta´s flames were seen as the spark of the life infusing and sustaining the entire community. There´s plenty of symbolism associated with Vesta and her importance in the ritual life of Roman civilization. It becomes interesting to see if, or how, these themes play out in astrologically analysing Vesta and her placements.
Personally, I would like to believe that Vesta´s flames and the all-woman Vestal Virgins had access to the women´s mysteries and a metaphysical understanding of creative, sexual life-force (i.e. kundalini energy). Perhaps that theory will be confirmed, we´ll see.
The Vestal Virgins were an all-woman college of full-time temple priestesses. They were chosen as girls from the patrician class between the ages of 6 to 10. The moment they took their vows, they were freed from the control of their father. The Vestals enjoyed a greater degree of freedom than other women of their time, however, they had to stick to an absolute vow of chastity for 30 years. They could then choose to marry if they so wished, but often did not as marrying one who had committed herself to the Goddess was seen as unlucky.
The punishment for violating the chastity code was to be buried alive or having molten lead poured down one´s throat.
Quite a powerful disincentive.
Bear in mind that my understanding of the Virgin archetype has less to do with the idea of not having sex, and more to do with having sovereignty over one´s own sexual, creative and reproductive faculties. Some authors also associate the Virgin with the idea of Virgin Birth, i.e. Parthenogenesis. But that´s a different piece for a different time.
The Vestal Virgins also performed other duties, such as the preparation of a kind of sacred bread (mola salsa) that was sprinkled upon animals prior to ritually sacrificing them to the Gods. They also officiated over public events, tended to the temple´s sacred fire and participated in the preparations for various feast days (e.g. Roman New Year – March 1, Lemuria – May 13, Vestalia – June 7-15, and so on).
Coming back to astrology …
In Aries, Vesta brings our focus, intensity and passion to the cause of the Self. That Primal, Fundamental, Wordless understanding of Who You Are. It is that Spark that arises out of Nothing and puts all into Motion and Being. And that flame is called to burn brightly.
With Eris and Uranus in Aries, these fires have been lit for some time now, particularly with the Uranus-Pluto squares. So many of us have begun to rapidly accelerate in our process of Awakening and Self-Knowing.
Vesta calls us to Serve the Self. To allow it to awaken in ways that resonate with your deepest impulses and most primal sense of who you are. In your bones, in your gut, in your womb, in the parts of you that feed back into the Void. That is the place from which your Sacred Flame begins to burn.
But what do you Feed the Flame? What allows your inner, sacred Flame to Burn?
There are three ways of looking at that. One is through the external use of energy, i.e. through sacrifice of other objects. In the past, that would have been animals. Another is through an inner process that – like the Vestals – sees power accessed on the condition of restriction. A third way, perhaps the one that appeals the most to this current generation – is to feed the flames with an expression of your own passion, your own being, your own sense of self.
In terms of the Priestess & Goddess Movement, I see many of use who resonate with the Archetype to trying to find ways to negotiate between the 2nd and 3rd option. Especially as so many have been taught that sanctity and purity can only come through self-negation, suffering and sacrifice. But that is a far larger question that what we´re discussing today.
We live in a different age than the Vestals did. We need not serve in a ritually prescribed form as they, nor do we need to suffer such punishment for transgression. We can now find different ways of being True to the Sacred Fire Within, without sacrifice – in the older sense of the term.
In the day to day level of reality, Vesta in Aries refers to a need to fully Embody one´s being, so that one can in fact, discover new ways to Serve. Sometimes Being is simply Enough. Others can see Vesta in Aries as a call to disown the Self or to deny it, one that resonates with older ideas of what a priestess ought or ought not be.
What you choose is ultimately, what you resonate with. Each road will lead you someplace.
Getting back to the astrological conjunction –
The energies of two mighty Goddesses come together as one. The rage of Eris and her outrage at the injustice of the world and status quo awakens us with a mighty roar. Vesta appears, with her calmer, albeit, more sustainable fire – as if to say –
Yes, Dear Sister. Roar. But don´t burn yourself out. Rage. But find a way to make it real. Embody. But find a way to weave into into the everyday.
Eris herself turns towards Vesta and questions her in turn:
But why dear Sister would you limit yourself to the words of men? To laws that would punish you so? Why would you boil yourself down to a single pinprick, a singularity? Why not simply Be – Untamed, Wild, Uncontrollable … and Free?
The difference between the two, borrowing a phrase from someone dear to me, is between the lamp that lights a home, and a raging forest fire. One is intensely personal, and the other is at the collective level. Each has its place, its purpose and potential. This conjunction brings with it a chance to find a path of mediation , a reconciling of the two. I suspect this process will be more visible at an internal level.
Some of you might simply feel more grouchy or irritable today. Others might try to let it go without getting to the root of it. Some others will look for the deeper lesson and in so doing, potentially re-acquaint themselves with a Self they thought they lost. There are many potential ways this can play out. I´ve shared my experience with this alignment in the Postscript below.
Those of you with placements near 22 degrees Aries, Libra, Cancer or Capricorn (Cardinal signs) will feel this alignment intensely! Eris and Vesta are also making a sextile to Kassandra and Damocles (23 Aquarius). Those of you with placements near 23 Virgo will be experiencing a powerful Yod or Finger of Fate. One that challenges you to speak your truth, claim your mantle of power – or step away from it entirely. (And sometimes, saying No and Walking Away is the right thing to do). Eris and Vesta also trine Lachesis (21 Sagittarius), indicating the need for powerful emotional release, recognition of deep-trauma or energetic stagnation in matters pertaining to religious systems, academia / higher education, foreign travel, teachers or mentors, and so on. Tears that well up from your innermost being, at this time, can be powerfully cathartic.
I hope this mythological and symbolic analysis of Eris and Vesta has been of benefit and interest. Much of the historical research I used was available online – and Wikipedia is an awesome place to start. I also ended up looking at the Ancient History Encyclopaedia. Quite an interesting resource.
Blessings to All,
Post © Bairavee Balasubramaniam, 2016. Feel free to share this article using the Share button on Facebook or Reblog on WordPress for personal, non-commercial use. For any other purpose, please get in touch with me first. The interpretive material in this article is based on unpublished original research, and so I ask you to cite this piece if you would like to incorporate it into your own work or writings.
Image: ´Priestess´ By Leticiabanegas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Used for non-commercial purposes under fair use policy.
Postscript – my personal experience with Eris/Vesta :
Normally I don´t comment about a who-said-what kind of thing. But it fits Vesta conjuncts Eris (article below) quite well. A man inboxed me with regards to some aspect of ritual worship. I explained I did not work in that understanding of spirituality, but that I would answer what I could. He wanted to know if I did Vedic astrology, and I explained how I grew out of it. After dozens of readings as a child (and seeing it with family, and with some clients who never really felt it ´fit´), I opted to be a Western astrologer. As I´ve said before, which system you choose is up to you. They read different parts of the story, through different lenses.
This provoked an intense reaction from the man, saying how I had missed out and how Western astrology was shallow. And questioned how I could ´like´ Hindu gods because they were astrological. He started trying to pressure me with demands to answer his questions which, really he did not want to have answers for. To him, it was a need to prove that his system was better than mine. It was more of a bombardment that I neither had the time, nor the interest to handle.
I simply said that I wasn´t here to answer a pop quiz. And that it was an imposition on my time. I would block him if he persisted.
He laughed at the fact I identify with the priestess archetype and claimed I needed spiritual practice and that he was a panditji. So I should learn from him. (The unspoken assumption being that I had to yield to invasion of my space and time despite my clear lack of interest)
I simply responded that he neither understood what a priestess was or what she did.
To which he claimed to understand the Goddess, feminine energy and Devi worship.
Now, up to this point, I had been firm, but polite. I simply concluded with the following:
” Truly, a man who persists in imposing himself upon a woman´s time when she has said no?
Goodbye and I hope you find clarity. “
I realize that the old anger I had, that reaction I would once have instantly flared up with when seeing this kind of misogyny (and boy, do you see in in so called realized male Masters who claim to know the Feminine) – was gone. Just a cool detachment. Ready to cut the cord without turning back. Able to simply say no, without giving into the need to be liked, accepted or wanted.
Yeah, Eris! Go, Vesta!
I had been thinking about my role as a priestess, and what that meant to me. Which is why I haven´t been writing as much. I parted ways from someone significant to me (in my spiritual life) as I discovered she neither had the time or headspace for the path I was walking onto. One where I was less open to the manipulations of others, or the fantasies of my own ego (and yes, we all have it). One that came straight from the Dark Void, the Womb of the Dark Mother.
I didn´t know if what I was doing was right or wrong, because so much of my work was linked with the approval of this early mentor. And I questioned myself, bitterly, brutally – even to the point of wondering if I should just leave all this and get back into academia and/or a job at the UN.
I´d been in a state of not-knowing and not-being, and well, I was waiting for the spark to appear. The catalyst that would shift me out of my limbo. Something that would help me find my own answer.
Without my head, without (what is tradtionally understood as) the heart, something that comes from a place deeper than my gut, womb … at the heart of the Dark Core. That first spark of Awareness that says …
HERE, I AM.
Thank you Mr. Diehard-Feminine-Indian-Astrologer Guy.
You made my night 😀