Ceres, the only Dwarf Planet in the inner solar system, is the Mother archetype of astrology. Persephone (asteroid 399) manages the balance between Ceres and the most significant Dwarf Planet in the outer solar system, Pluto. The relationship between Ceres and Persephone is a meditation on ascension- which is often mistaken for an attempt to escape into transcendence- the seasonal reunions of Earth Mother and Earthling Daughter help us place ascension in context of a cyclical ecstatic journey which is anchored by the enduring pain of maternal labor.
Persephone is a slower body than her mother, taking 1947 days to go around the sun compared to 1680 days for Ceres. Their orbits place them in a pattern with only one conjunction every 33 years, which could be seen as a major life stage transit for each generation of maidens, mothers, and crones. On March 22nd 2022, Ceres joins Persephone in conjunction for the first time since 1988 (and before that, 1954). Their next conjunction will be in 2055 (and then, 2089).
Between each single conjunction, Ceres and Persephone form many oppositions over a period of several years. Following the 1988 conjunction, Ceres opposed Persephone nine times between November 2003 and May 2009. After the oppositions are complete, Ceres is “catching up” to Persephone… and almost immediately after reaching her once again, she must grapple with the fundamental truth of this dynamic: To be a mother is to be separated from your child.
The experience of pregnancy is a temporary but thorough merging of a new being into the mother’s identity and it changes her forever. The maximum painful experience of separating once in a physical birth is only the beginning. For a full life to be lived, the mother must let go of her child over and over, a heartbreak every time.
Even under ideal circumstances, where the mother successfully bonds with her child and guides them to mature independence, it is painful to experience a separation where there was once a total, blissful unity. In traumatic circumstances, where the mother’s ability to care for her child is limited by illness, poverty, or abuse, and the child struggles with maturity and independence, separation is excruciating and it can be nearly impossible to find a healthy way to tolerate it. When the maternal bond is broken and the children’s needs do not get met, they tend to either overcompensate for the lack of connection by failing to individuate, or they completely reject the mother with projections of hatred. We see this on a personal level with individuals in families, and we see this on a global level with Gaia and humanity.
The myth of Persephone being raped by Pluto and kidnapped to the Underworld is the version of the story that is told from the perspective of the abused, oppressed, chronically ill mother who hates herself because she was unable to give her child a good upbringing. If she feels that she failed as a mother, then she can only view her child as a helpless victim to whatever experiences life has to offer them.
The asteroids show us that Persephone is not taken, nor does the child abandon the mother. The child is living their own life at their own pace. It is Ceres who moves forward and lets go of Persephone.
When the mother can accept the pain of her own loss without projecting her fears onto the child, then she can view her child as empowered.
Persephone’s empowered choice is to embrace both the nurturing of Ceres, and the shadow of Pluto. Her life path is a cyclical journey of Descent to the Underworld, and Ascent back to Summertime.
Ascension is not a one way trip to enlightenment, and it has nothing to do with bypassing the physical world. It is knowing how to return to your connection with Gaia after being hung naked from a hook in the Underworld.
Ascension is the attitude that we choose in order to orient ourselves to health and wholeness as we navigate the mysteries of being alive on this planet. If we can accept that summer will end without complaint, then we can survive the harshest winter without despair.
The Underworld experience can only benefit you if you understand that it’s not eternal. There are those who take on great damage in the Underworld because they believe there’s no way out.
And then there are those who never develop to full maturity because they refuse to ever acknowledge their shadow. Spending your whole life in the Sun would be as unbearable and unhealthy as spending your whole life in the Underworld.
In the myth of the seasons, the garden of summer is lush and green when Persephone and Ceres are united. Full bloom is never meant to last forever. The barren winter is not a punishment from Ceres to freeze the earth out of spite for her loss, it is the radical acceptance of the mother who knows that she must withdraw her protection so the child can learn how to take care of themself, withdraw her projections so the child can be their own person.