Shadows: Lamenting Rivers and the Daughters of Fire
In Praise of Brighid
The Aquarius new moon on 11 February at 19.06 GMT, sees a stellium of 6 planets, a Centaur (Chariklo), and a major asteroid (Pallas Athene) in Aquarius. Slow moving social planets Jupiter and Saturn will be visiting the new moon point at 23 ° Aquarius 3 times each, over the next year and into early 2023. This longer-term influence indicates that February’s new moon is a real game changer and possibly the most important new moon of the year. Whatever is highlighted or seeded during this time will be expanded, evolved, and grounded to lay the foundation for emerging realities.
As an air sign, Aquarius is involved with the mind… the open mind. It is community focused, abstract, and humanitarian. Co-ruled by Uranus and Saturn, the futuristic visions of Aquarius may be shared in an instant through its favoured medium, the internet. Esoterically Aquarius conceals secrets relating to the interplay between the astral and physical realms, suggesting collective developments in psychic ability and the transmitting of information through etheric and astral planes.
Asteroid Vesta, while not part of the Aquarius line-up, is opposing Neptune and squaring the nodes of the moon in a grand cross configuration. Vesta and Neptune were initially in opposition in December 2020, around the time of the winter Solstice. Whenever the nodes of the moon are prominent in an aspect pattern, matters relating to karma and the repeating of cycles are highlighted. Neptune inspires dreams, spiritual inclinations, transcendence, and mystical union. In its shadow aspect, Neptune can be deceptive, illusionary, and ungrounded. In the past year, we have felt the shadow aspect of Neptune in the halls of smoke and mirrors presented by mass media in a version of reality that has at times felt unreal.
Unlike Neptune, Vesta represents single pointed focus and concentration of energy. In her book on the asteroid goddesses, Demetra George says that Vesta is the High Priestesses archetype that kick starts the process of transformation through the compression of energy that gains traction, is released, and springs forward in a burst of psychic energy.
Collectively we have all felt the compression of energy through lockdown and other restrictions of covid-19. As the restrictions lift, the tension accumulated during the past year will need to be released in one form or another. February’s new moon may shed some light on the direction the energy is being pulled to. For personal guidance you can look to see what part of your chart is being highlighted by the new moon degree.
In astrology, the placement of Vesta by house and sign describes what we are committed to and what area of our lives we are called to devotion and service for a cause greater than ourselves. Vesta pursuits and practices are those which we cannot not do, it is in effect our sacred vocation. A blocked, repressed, or wounded Vesta shows up as distortion in that area of our life.
In mythology, Vesta, Keeper of the Sacred Flame, refused to marry either Neptune god of the sea, or Apollo god of the sun. Instead Vesta pleaded with her brother Jupiter for the right to remain a virgin. Her request was granted and the priestesses who served her thereafter were known as the Vestal Virgins. In the temple of Apollo, the role of the Vestals was to tend the sacred flame upon which the fate of Rome depended. In earlier times, the Vestals were in service to the Moon goddess, channelling and transmitting Her fertilizing powers through the sexual act. The purpose was not solely for physical pleasure but to disseminate the transformative energy of the moon to human men, thereby offering humanity a transcendental experience of the goddess.
Distortion of this archetype continues today through corruption and control of sexuality, the fall out of which is painfully felt in the lives and relationships of modern men and women.
Symbolically, Vesta is not only involved with sexuality and points to any part of our lives where we are in sacred service or devotion to a higher cause.
On February’s new moon we are astrologically just past the point of Imbolc. Celtic goddess Brigid and Roman goddess Vesta are both honoured at this time of year in association with Imbolc and the purification rites of Mensis Februarius in ancient Rome.
Both goddesses are ‘Keepers of the Sacred Flame’ and represent the awakening of the land and rising of shakti or kundalini energy.
It is interesting to note that both Vesta and Brigid are ancient goddesses who were appropriated by their respective patriarchal religions: The original sacred sexual priestesses of Sumer were eventually appropriated by Apollo’s priests and denied their sexual rites, while Brigid was incorporated into the Christian canon as St Brigid of Kildare. Originally both goddesses were solar deities and are involved with the change over from matrilineal to patrilineal power.
For reasons that I hope to at least introduce in this article, I believe that fire, or solar feminine energy much repressed within patriarchal culture -unless it falls under the sway of patriarchal structures- is rekindling in modern women in a way that engages their intellect and feminine sexual power, or Shakti. This is the sacred union of the Sun and the Moon resulting in the birth of the divine child.
In March 1807 when asteroid Vesta was discovered at 29 ° Virgo, the nodes of the moon- karmic indicators were on the Gemini/Sagittarius axis- north node 13 Sagittarius 15’ ° and south node 13 Gemini 15’ °. On 16 April 2021, Vesta will be at 6 ° Virgo, the south node will be 13 Sagittarius 15’ ° and the north node will be 13 Gemini 15’ °. This nodal opposition signifies a meeting of past and present indicating that Vesta in Virgo themes are being redefined and refined in the collective consciousness.
In 1807 women were turning their attention to social and political concerns. For the first time women’s voices began to filter through the creative and cultural channels, and while it would be at least another hundred years until they could vote, their influence was nevertheless felt in the political sphere. Women’s voices were particularly strong in the anti- slavery movement; The Abolition Act, passed in 1807 -the same year as Vesta’s discovery- abolished the Slave Trade but not slavery itself. It was abolitionist women however who played an important role in keeping the anti-slavery movement alive in the 1820s and it was newly formed women's groups who pushed for total abolition in the British Empire.
This is Vesta’s power in action. As the only Priestesshood in Rome, the Vestals worked as part of a group with 6 tending the sacred flame at all times. Before the patriarchal take-over it was similarly 6 Vestals who lay with the King’s men on the solstices in a sacred cave, the results of which produced the successive heir to the throne if the King’s consort did not conceive that year.
In 1791 as a precursor to this rising Vesta energy, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, the seminal English-language feminist and human rights work. Challenging the notion that women exist only to please men, she proposed that women and men be given equal opportunities in education, work, and politics. She writes:
Is one half of the human species, like the poor African slaves, to be subject to prejudices that brutalise them… only to sweeten the cup of men.
Archetypally Wollstonecraft’s challenge of patriarchal dominion is an echo of Vesta’s mythology in her refusal to devote herself to the sweetening of Neptune or Apollo’s cup and instead determine a life beyond the confinements of traditional feminine roles - wife (Juno) or mother (Ceres).
Vesta- type women are modern virgins who belong to no man choosing instead to offer their devotions to a higher cause… although that’s not to say that Vesta women are celibate or single, simply that they are contained within their own energy.
In ancient times a Vestal could give of herself without self -sacrifice through the practice of periodic rejuvenation, for example by bathing in the sacred springs. The old meaning of virgin is 'she who is whole unto herself' and in that way the Vestals kept their virginity intact, undiluted, and undefiled by the usual interpersonal dynamics and contractual agreements of society.
The inner function and meaning of Vesta is self-renewal and regeneration, inner union with self.
Wollstonecraft’s Vesta is in the 11th house of groups and the social collective. Ideas she brought forth in the 19th century still carry weight today in issues relating to feminism and human rights. She also had her north node in the 11th house indicating that her soul’s purpose involved expression in the social field.
In applying Vesta, or shakti- feminine fire- energy to political, social, and collective causes, the power to open and loosen rigid, controlling, self-serving or authoritarian patriarchal structures is realised. Women have been conditioned into believing that solar energy, fire, is a masculine quality and unless women express themselves through the archetype of Pallas Athene, daughter of patriarchy, their fire expression is often denied or rejected. At the heart of this consciousness is a deep-seated fear of the feminine.
An empowered woman who channels her sexual energy for a purpose beyond physical satisfaction of her partner is deemed to be a dangerous figure in patriarchal culture. Archetypally the prostitute is permitted to express sexual energy beyond the role of wife and consort, however her sexual energy is commodified and therefore owned. Modern prostitution is a shadow side of the Vesta archetype, as is compulsive behaviours such as promiscuity and shame based sexual practices that involve degradation, humiliation, or suffering.
The Vesta shadow is seen in the image of the desexualised nun or religious woman who has chosen to cut herself off from the world and her sexuality. Vesta is also seen in the image of the lonely spinster and sometimes lofty academic who has chosen to reside in her head rather than her body.
In eastern teachings, it is Shakti who activates the consciousness and awareness of her consort Lord Shiva… without her he would remain inactive. Shakti brings divine transcendence to immanence… like the Vestals who brought the sacred to the earthly realm by opening their bodies sexuality to receive and transmit the divine.
Feminine energy-in both women and men- has the ability to encompass both human and divine, body and spirit, light and dark, sacred, and profane. When a cause is lit with the spark of Vesta’s flame, as Mary Wollstonecraft demonstrated, the effects in the social and collective spheres are transformative and enduring.
Last year as Pluto and Saturn moved through Capricorn and we entered the threshold of the age of Aquarius we began to see old structures breaking down. Aquarius demands this.
Women may if they choose to set up their own groups, schools, sisterhoods, and Priestesshoods. We no longer need permission… Vesta is returning.
Many women are finding that they do not fit neatly into the socially ordained roles of the past. A modern virgin in the old sense of the word, 'whole unto oneself' means only that she is no longer dependent or rather co-dependent on anything or anyone outside herself for her economic, emotional, mental, spiritual, or physical health.
She is also free to cultivate her solar energy and use it to whatever purpose she chooses.
In 1987 Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor wrote in their seminal book The Great Cosmic Mother:
We are the wise women returning at this dangerous hour because women worldwide are and always were the guardians of the living Earth, as are all the surviving native tribal shamanistic people who still commune with the spirits.
We who still commune with the spirits are also opening to new ways of communing with each other. Though physical women’s circles and sisterhoods are wonderful and nourishing, we are also finding that like hives of bees we are sharing information and wisdom through telepathic and astral channels. This extra sensory function and perception is supported by Aquarian energy coming through in accelerated waves at this time.
The sabian symbols are 360 words or phrases that represent the vibration of each of the degrees of the zodiac from Aries 1 to Pisces 30. They were birthed in 1925 by Marc Edmund Jones, spiritualist and Astrologer, and gifted clairvoyant Elsie Wheeler. Often deeply resonant the sabian symbols can unfold layers of meaning for the Astrologer and non- Astrologer alike.
On the Aquarius new moon on 11th February, the sun/moon point is 23 ° Aquarius. The sabian symbol for that degree is –
Bridging physical and social distinction: Two (wo)men communicate telepathically.
The keynote for this symbol is:
‘the capacity to transcend the limitations of bodily existence where an effort should be made to enter a realm of consciousness in which the communication from mind to mind can take a more direct form, because the minds then operate within the One Mind of humanity’.
This ‘technique’ of transcendence is not without a cautionary warning however, as participating on the astral plane can bring confusion and many failures, as well as illusory claims and self-deceit.
While Neptune opposes Vesta and the karmic past and future rise in the space of this ancient duel, we are wise to be conscious about what we are participating in. Bearing in mind that there can be much deception involved with Neptune, we must be careful about what we are feeding with our precious shakti power. This is why it is vital at this time to get fully into our bodies and connect with the wisdom therein, and in particular with our wombs which have recorded all details of this ancient stand-off between a consciousness that opens to all aspects of life and one that limits this expression through control and domination.
Neptune is very seductive; he can lure us into a state where we feign enlightenment by bypassing the necessary steps to truly reclaiming ourselves. The gap between how the feminine in both men and women has been presented sexually, emotionally, mentally, and physically is often vastly different from our inner realities. If we are to reconnect with our truth and divine energy, we must become aware of the ways in which we may be deceived by ourselves and the cultural conditioning to which we have been indoctrinated.
Aquarius offers the promise of liberation, but it can also take us away from ourselves through information overload and coercion from the collective consensus whether manufactured or genuine. It is to ourselves and the inner function of Vesta that we must turn for self-renewal and regeneration to strengthen and steady ourselves upon the matrix of shifting consciousness and collective awakening.
Daughters of Fire
Shadows: Lamenting Rivers and the Daughters of Fire
Karen Smith is an Astrologer, Writer, and Shamanic practitioner, living in Scotland. She holds an MA in Myth, Cosmology, and the Sacred from Canterbury Christ Church university where she received a distinction for her work on indigenous and modern perceptions of menstruation.
Karen has been running women’s circles and moon lodge for several year and also works with mixed groups in Wheel of the Year gatherings. Her love of mythology and symbolism informs her practice, and she is particularly interested in bringing the astrological chart alive by incorporating the asteroids, Centaurs, and other bodies beyond the traditional planets. Her sessions are intuitive and at times channelled.
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