Speculations on the roles and symbolism of the new so-called Dwarf Planets Eris, Ceres and Pluto


As someone said to me recently, these are Interesting Times to be involved at all in astrology.There had been some new discoveries within the Solar System! The first wind I had of it after a long hiatus regarding any involvement with astrology was coming across obscure reports in the Budapest Metro about new bodies in the solar system being discovered – and getting obscure and exotic new names: Varuna, Quaoar and so on. And then, what was this about centaurs???

My curiosity was well and truly piqued.

All of a sudden , our solar system had seemed to expand with a whole host of new bodies that were certainly not at all hypothetical. Most recently, new planetary bodies with exotic new names such as Makemake and Haumea are also joining the new ’club’ of dwarf planets – and there may be more to come, still. Chiron now seen to belong to a whole host of newcomers to the known solar system – Nessus, Pholus, to name a few: these are the centaurs.

Then I got to hear about the 10th planet, UB313 or nicknamed Xena, the important fact about being that it was ‘definitely bigger than Pluto.’ Then also, however, came the news where Pluto had finally been demoted to a new ’second divison’ of planetary bodies, called ’dwarf planets.’

It will be interesting to know which of these new bodies will get to be incorporated as into mainstream astrology in the future, and which may be forgotten about – just as was the case with Ceres originally, as we shall see, until the recent new debate on what should be defined as definitely a ’real’ planet. No doubt, there will still be more redefining yet to come.

Possibly, there was nothing untoward about the redefinitons regaring Ceres, Eris and Pluto especially – the existence of several small bodies within a more externalised Kuiper belt, of which Pluto was a part, did rather question what Pluto, purely as an astronomical body, actually was. As an astronomical body. As an astrological body, it still seems to remain clear that ‘size does not matter’ as far as the formidable power of the planet  goes.

Size indeed might not matter in terms of a planet’s possible power, nor maybe distance either, but acknowledgement and recognition of its power is something else. Sometimes, it is not entirely clear to me how much any planetary body gains in significance depending on the importance attached to it. Perhaps this is why there is still such a yawning gap between the scientific approach which only accepts a totally objective perspective as valid and the other, where subjective perceptions in a magical world of symbolism and belief in these symbols are given equal validity. A rose by any other name. A wave becoming a particle, depending on how it is perceived. In fact, what has just happened to Pluto is a repetition of a process that had already happened once before: in the early 1800’s, Ceres had originally enjoyed planetary status until it was discovered that a whole new belt of small bodies occupied the space between Mars and Jupiter, and so Ceres was demoted to mere asteroid status and forgotten about. How important  Ceres will prove to become now is something that only time will tell, although with its ‘promotion’ to dwarf-planet status, the astronomers at least felt that size does matter. With so many new bodies about, as well as the hypothetical ones sworn blind by the Hamburg schools, it may well be important to be mindful of the warning uttered by Robert Hand about the sheer information overload that may result from having too many planetary bodies to consider (and that is without including fixed stars as well!).

Perhaps it truly was a mistake to assign Ceres to the dustbin status as ‘asteroid’ for so long. However, the challenge with working with asteroids as well as comets such as Chiron must surely lie in recognising a distinct and unique signature for each, as distinct from from bodies already known, such as the Moon or Pluto.

Ceres and the Moon do sound very similar on the surface, being connected with nourishment and nurturing in all their forms. So where is the difference? Here, perhaps, a razorblade edge between either fudging or nitpicking in being able to discern what Ceres - and other new bodies, for that matter - emerges. The question is then whether or not these new planets can provide new insights into a given chart, that cannot be extrapolated from bodies already known. This article does not pretend to have all the answers to either of these questions – just hints and pointers – which may be modified here in time.

In the initial absence of access to the internet on a regular basis, I started with a copy of Demeter George’s book on Ceres, when first trying to understand any of the asteroids. Once again, the challenge was in getting a sense of the unique signature of Ceres as opposed to that of planets already known of – in this case, that of the Moon.

The curiosity was in part a personal one, as I noticed that these planets square each other in my chart. So it was interesting to find out that writers like Ariel Guttmann suggest that hard Ceres/Moon aspects can manifest as food allergies and intolerances and these have certainly influenced my approach to food. As an undergraduate, when generally feeling unwell but not knowing quite why, I purchased a book by one Adelle Davis, the 60’s guru on healthy nutrition. I did not find all the answers in that book, as it happened, but it certainly opened my eyes to the sheer importance of nutrition and how genuinely harmful fast-food diets can be to general health. And according to Demetra George, Davis had these two bodies in opposition! Any food intolerance issue is not something I might have discerned from my natal Moon placement alone, nor from having a Pluto in Virgo placement in common with a whole generation other other people, and not all my contemporaries seemed to share problems such as these. So here was another avenue of inquiry, already enough to make me more curious to want to find out more about the symbolism of Ceres.

After learning of the Adelle Davis connection, it occurred to me Ceres had more to do with food in its link with the science of nutrition, as opposed to the need for food at a more primal level of sustenance. Even the very word for Ceres – ‘cereals’ – hints at this and it would be interesting to know how differently Donna Cunningham would have written her book on the Moon and nutrition, if she had also researched Ceres in attitudes towards these areas, where issues related to the consumption and harvesting of staples such as grains especially, tend continually to crop up.

On a more global level, the sickle symbol given to Ceres also hints that it may have a larger role to play within the world of labour, which at its most basic level, has to be concerned with bringing the harvest of life-sustaining grains in and then sharing it out to others. It would be interesting, for example, to look at the Ceres positions of between differing countries and where there are greater national debts, to get a better idea of how this works out globally.

Ceres has actually been christened by other astrologers such as Michael O’Reilly  as ‘the Goddess of the environment and not unnaturally, in view of recent events, therefore ‘an emerging archetypal force in the 21st Century,’ its role being to ‘enter out collective unconscious as a need to take care of our precious, dwindling recources.’

That there might be problems with the fair sharing out of natural resources is maybe a foregone conclusion at the moment, with unpredictability in the climate due to global warming also possible, let alone the already-mentioned issue of national debts. It has been noted by other astrologers that according to the Ceres myth, there is a 'selfish' side to her grieving: on losing her daughter to Pluto, she was quite happy to allow famine to kill off most mortals (again, it would be interesting to see how Ceres plays a role in actual famines nowadays.)

It does also seem that there are links to be found between the workings of Ceres and Pluto in relation to fertility too, that may well deserve greater attention.  In fact, there is at least one well-known astrologer who maintains that for a woman, choosing the best times to conceive, Ceres may be an even better indicator than the natal Moon and, moreover, a good timer for the birth of a child, as Michael O’Reilly explains at Neptune Café:


Ceres has been linked with experience with inevitable loss on many levels – Demeter pining for her daughter’s loss to the underworld. This can be experienced more immediately, for example, with the ‘empty nest’ syndrome of later life, but for women, Ceres has also been implicated as a marker not just for conception or birth, but for physical processes that would otherwise have, again, be more obviously linked to the Moon: the onset of menstruation, menopause and so on. Links, therefore, with birth, death and renewal, again suggesting a more intimate link between Pluto and Ceres and the sacred links between birth, death and renewal, than otherwise expected.

Yet Chiron too seems to have a link with fertility – with the end of it. It has been linked with the average age at which menopause sets in for women, the age of 51. This is now purported to be a time when many women can now devote their personal energies to self-discovery and personal creativity with greater energy available to spare, as there is no longer any need to devote this to a child.

When Chiron the ‘wounded healer’ was first discovered and there were the first opportunities to discuss its significance in the chart, the ideas associated with it were certainly made to sound quite exciting, when it was called a Shamanic figure, a maveric, uniting the transpersonals with the boundaries and lmitations of Saturn. No doubt this was due to to the prophetic voice of Dane Rudhyar, who predicted as early as the 1930’s that a ‘higher moon’ woud be discovered between Saturn and Uranus. In fact Ceres, along perhaps with the other main asteroids too, seems to act like a ‘higher moon’ as much as Chiron does in acting as a bridge between differing spheres of reality. In this respect, all the main asteroids lying between Mars and Venus may somehow mediate between personal and more social concerns – all the planets up to Mars on the one hand, then Jupiter and Saturn: planets less tied up with personal identity and drives on the other. Their roles as ‘higher’ or more specialised moons is perhaps underlined by the way their symbolism again seem to encroach on some of the more intimately-known cycles and phases of the Moon, particularly in more ‘feminine’ areas of life such as the menarche and the climacteric.  Demetra George suggests that the reason why the asteroids – Ceres most obviously – could easily be linked to the natal moon is because they all to some degree, draw on the primal ‘yin’ energy symbolised by the Moon as opposed to the active ‘yang’ of the Sun.

And what of Eris?

Discovered in 2005, its earlier name as Xena purportedly hints at some kind of an Amazon figure. it is actually bigger than Pluto, which is why both astromoners and astrologers were getting excited about what surely, truly had to be a new addition to the planetary family – until the new rulings already referred to, put a stop to that. So now as we have seen, it is merely a dwarf planet, alongside Ceres and Pluto.

Unlike many new outer bodies, this one was discovered at its perihelion – that is, at its furthest possible degree away from the Sun. At the moment, therefore, it appears to be moving encredibly slowly and appears to have advanced less than 54 degree in Aries over the last 40 years. Also, it has what seems to be an extraordinarily slow revolution – over 500 years. This is something therefore, that seems to put the ‘generational’ effects of the known Transpersonals – Uranus, Neptune and Pluto – really into the shade. What could this incredbily long cycle possibly symbolise?

My speculation - and I don't care how foolish it sounds - is that maybe Eris has an influence on long-term historical events that we barely decipher. Old conflicts, old wars, old progroms, old ideologies - a kind of a post-traumatic bedrock of ccollective experience that influences and shapes our thoughts, assumptions and ideologies far more than we can begin to realise. It does not necessarily need to be hordes of barbarians thundering over the steppes mowing down entire civilisations, or organised pogroms of mass extermination and re-conditioning, it could also be connected with movements that also significantly transform the patterns of life long term, such as the Industrial Revolution.

As it is such early days, it is more than possible that any such ‘gut’ feelings could be wrong. However, it is still interesting enough to be able to speculate.

Indirectly, the idea came from Mike Harding, who posited what he called in his book ‘Hymns from the Ancient Gods, something he called a ‘primal zodiac.’ Harding may, of course, have been looking for a non-Neoplatonic model on which to examine social and industrial movements in search of free will for humanity, outside what could be perceived as authoritarian world views that keep most people firmly in the straitjacket of ‘ours is not to reason why.’ It could be acknowledged that these motives could have been Uranian or Plutonian other than Erisian, but still, there is the recognition for the need to find larger and more long-term frameworks in which to perceive what is happening over the world.

Once again, it was a question, in the absence of much anecdotal experience to draw on elsewhere, of taking the egotistical route of any astrologer who has ever glanced at a copy of their own chart, when trying to understand a new astrological factor. It did occur to me that maybe, this is how Eris is 'working' in my chart. It does not have any close aspects for me natally, it is unaspected, in my 4th House. However, it is on the midpoint of my IC and South Node. So maybe no wonder I was 'looking' for Eris in the most 'past perfect' or past-past perfect parts of the chart there are. Others may of course, may find Eris within totally different contexts, whether or not from being old-fashionedly empirical, or from following their own ‘gut feelings,’or looking to other contexts to understand it other than the long-distance past.

The consensus of a lot of these gut feelings, along with current empirical – or at least, anecdotal findings - is that Eris is promising to be as war-like as its name suggests – at least so far. Here, Zane Stein, who has been making exhaustive research on Eris, quotes some interesting material from one Roy Mackin, on the Middle East troubles:

'..........With reference to UB313 it is found at Aries 7-01 in the Israel chart  trine to the Moon at Leo 4-21 and square to Venus at Cancer 4-48. So, UB313 is extremely important in the Israel chart. Please note also that as I write Transiting UB313 is at Aries 21-20 and the Natal Israel Jupiter/Saturn midpoint is at Aries 22-02 - and so we have a closing conjunction.
was unable to find information concerning the date of formation of Hezbollah other than that Hezbollah was formed late in 1982 and was fuelled by a number of Iranian suicide bombers around October of that year. In these circumstances, the ancients recommend raising a chart for the eclipse immediately prior to the time of first activity. This I did for Beirut on 20th July, 1982 at UT 18H57m and noted that UB313 at Aries 15-41 closely opposes Saturn at Libra 16-21. UB313 also trined the Eclipse MC which fits, in my view, quite well with the symbolism of UB313.’

The recent nuclear test in Korea showed the following configuration: Mars 20 Libra 13 Eris 20 Aries 49. R

Now, the world appears to be a far more dangerous place again and in this context, Zane Stein suggests that Eris seems to be frequently linked to politically-volatile events in world history.

Eris currently is to be found in Aries, but Zane Stein suggests that at the very least, it may have an affinity with Libra. He sees the Eris principle as ‘a kind of unbending, non-logical thing. People fighting for what is right, righting injustices. Conflicts where both sides are sure they are right, beyond any logical reasoning. Sticking by some deep value system that lasts for years, unchanged as the society around the person changes, unchanged even as the person changes in other ways. Perhaps changing eventually....maybe. That 'unchanging' thing makes sense, considering Eris takes over 500 years for one complete cycle.....and so in your natal chart, it takes several years to actually move one full degree…… 'My gut feeling is that Eris is related to the inability to find a middle ground in the Libra-balance, which turns Libra into me-versus-you. And the same gut feeling is about two countries leading up to war, neither one willing to give an in inch, each one sure the other side is in the wrong.'

That last bit was the most interesting observation I thought, and seems to tie in with ideas that may first have been suggested by Roy Mackin, who suggested that Eris 'might have something to do with long-term hatred’ and conflicts that keep on reverberating.
The Libran tie could then tie in with the idea of its having a connection with the defining of partnerships and enemies.

It makes perfect sense when looking at the whole phenomemon of nationalism, which always seem to need to rely on an certain ‘us against them’ mentality. Once again, I can only at this stage look to personal experience from which to look for possible pointers: on my first trip abroad without my family at 15 to France, I remember meeting people who still talked about the battle of Waterloo, apparently still resenting the English for this, as a given. Currently, I am based in Hungary and am aware of the deep antagonism that remains between this country and what was Czechoslovakia, because of the way each country tended to ruthlessly impose its culture and its language – and eventually, its boundaries – upon the latter. And what could possibly be the history between white Hungarians and the deep antagonism that lies between them and the ethnic Nomadic Gypsies, which has been buried so deeply in the past that it can never be forgotten? What happened with the eruptions in what was Yugoslavia and all the different minorities involved?

Returning to the troubles in the Middle East, it can scarcely be forgotten that there have been hostilities between the different religious factions concerned for centuries too, whilst each new generation adopts these ancient definitions of friends and foes as unquestionable givens.

If Eris is about the boundaries between enemies, then it must surely be about the boundaries between old friends and new, too. So it was gratifying to find it strongly placed in the chart for the Treaty of Rome – the birth of the EU. It is opposite a Libra Ascendant, conjunct Sun and Mercury.

It was suggested earlier on that Eris may have as much to do with industrial revolutions as it might with cultural ones. Once again, I am indebted to Zane Stein for providing me with more intriguing clues about the ways that Eris may work. It concerns the two big software empire founders, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. It transpires that both have Eris at 8 and 7 dgrees of Aries respectively, in almost exact conjunction to their natal Moons! So a personal dimension to the influence of Eris in each of their charts is to be expected.

Perhaps this Moon/Eris link would relate to the ability to work with the way the wind was blowing in terms of understanding software technology and the ruthlessness on defending their monopolies over similar computer technologies, but it is less certain where the 'fighting' side of Eris comes in - although, possibly, anybody who works within the ruthless matrix of multinational corporate life may have less trouble with this. Many 'big business expressions, for example, borrow from the worlds of military life, or from competitive sports: 'corporate raid,' 'moving the goalposts,' 'do battle with.' Perhaps too, an Eris that may or may not prove to be in its detriment in astrological textbooks to come, does not cope very well with the Libran ideals of 'win-win' deals from the point of view of negotiation techniques - very often, these seem to be window dressing over a more dog-eat-dog desire to enforce a 'win-lose' endgame result, if many of the textbooks I use at these companies is anything to go by, where every kind of dirty trick and manipulative tactic is described in 'idiot's guide to negotiating,' in unequivocal plain and Tesol English. Obviously the contribution that the Net and computers have made are totaly global, for good or bad. Interestingly, all this goes beyond national boundaries, though in the world of cyberpunk firewalls and ice could become bigger and fiercer virtual realities over time.

It has been predicted for example that the future be dominated not by nations, but by multinational giants, with their own cultures and power bases and alliances. It is already apparent enough that most multinational companies have their own particular culture, which may ‘mould’ each employee far more than is realised – until they change their job and move to another company. After this point, the process of adapting to the ways of a new company can prove to be quite traumatic in some cases.

To summarise then, it seems that the symbolism of Eris and Ceres seem to add much not just to our understanding of processes of loss and renewal – possibly more Plutonic themes, to say nothing of the Moon – but also, may well prove to have much to say on the global arena too. Many people have strong feelings about the perceived threat of globalisation for example, so that the current positon of Eris in belligerent Aries may continue to see a fear of having individual, or national/ethnic identity forcibly absorbed or assimilated into a world of bland, global Borg conformity. It could be a set of fears easy to (sometimes, possibly cynically) exploit as far as a sense of a beseiged nationalism goes. Perhaps, the emergence of Ceres and Eris will have much to say not just about how the global map will continue to be redrawn – along with all its attendant dangers – but how resources may be shared more equally, and how wisely, or not, as the case may be.



1) Here is some information about Eris from Mike Brown's website:

, the largest dwarf planet known, was discovered in an ongoing survey at Palomar Observatory's Samuel Oschin telescope by astronomers Mike Brown (Caltech), Chad Trujillo (Gemini Observatory), and David Rabinowitz (Yale University). We officially suggested the name on 6 September 2006, and it was accepted and announced on 13 September 2006. In Greek mythology, Eris is the goddess of warfare and strife. She stirs up jealousy and envy to cause fighting and anger among men. At the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the parents of the Greek hero Achilles, all the gods with the exception of Eris were invited, and, enraged at her exclusion, she spitefully caused a quarrel among the goddesses that led to the Trojan war. In the astronomical world, Eris stirred up a great deal of trouble among the international astronomical community when the question of its proper designation led to a raucous meeting of the IAU in Prague. At the end of the conference, IAU members voted to demote Pluto and Eris to dwarf-planet status, leaving the solar system with only eight planets.

The satellite of Eris has received the offical name Dysnomia, who in Greek mythology is Eris' daughter and the demon spirit of lawlessness. As Dysnomia is a bit of a mouthful, we tend to simply call the satellite Dy, for short.

As promised for the past year, the name Xena (and satellite Gabrielle) were simply placeholders while awaiting the IAU's decision on how an official name was to be proposed. As that process dragged on, however, many people got to know Xena and Gabrielle as the real names of these objects and are sad to see them change. We admit to some sadness ourselves.We used the names for almost two years now and are having a hard time swtiching. But for those who miss Xena, look for the obvious nod in the new name of the moon of Eris."

2) On the Mars/Saturn/Eris line up of 1968:

* On March 2, 1968, the men of Company C, 4th Batalion, 9th Infantry "Manchus" walked into what was to become one of the worst single encounter loss of life incidents in the history of the Vietnam war. Their loss occurred during an ambush by a large communist force near the small village of Quoi Xuan.
* Two weeks later, the Mỹ Lai Massacre occurred in Vietnam. This was a massacre by U.S. soldiers of hundreds of unarmed Vietnamese civilians, mostly women and children. It prompted widespread outrage around the world and reduced public support for the war in the United States.
* Perhaps April 4 is too far to be considered part of this conjunction, but James Earl Ray's shooting of Dr. Martin Luther King may tie in to this aspect. James began plotting his crime some time before, including making arrangements in advance to rent a room where he would get a good shot at Dr. King.
* The Polish 1968 political crisis reached a head in March, and involved a state-organized anti-Semitic campaign in the People's Republic of Poland, under pretense of anti-Zionism, that drove out most of Poland's remaining Jewish population.
* Recently taking over the reigns of power in Czechoslovakia, Alexander Dubcek set out to reform all aspects of life in the country. The government platform criticized the policies of the past, proclaimed the legitimacy of basic human rights and liberties in Czechoslovakia, and objected to the persecution of people for their political convictions. This led to the people seeking more and more reforms, more freedoms, and came to be known as the "Prague Spring." The Soviet Union, however, saw all this as a threat, and tried to reign in Czechoslovakia and put and end to this break from the party line. When they could not stop what was occurring, they eventually invaded Czechoslovakia to reassert control."

3) The Eris position for The treaty of Rome is 8 47 Aries, so not far from opposing the Libra Ascendant but very closely conjunct Mercury too. Very appropraite for re-defining boundaries!

The Ceres position is approximately 5 Taurus and so makes a Grand Cross with the Moon, Uranus and Neptune. A Europe without Frontiers would go hand in hand with the idealism of the Aquarian Moon, but this configuration maybe indicates that achieving full transparency regarding shared resources may be a problem. Brussels is sometimes resented as being interventionalist in laying down the law to other countries about how to preserve, import and export food.

It has widely been predicted that what will emerge within the EU is one club of ‘top’ countries enjoying full equal status, alongside many other ‘second-division’ EU countries, where restrictions to free trading, employment will continue to be imposed for quite some time to come.



© 2007 Lynda Stevens




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