The asteroids are small planet-like bodies that orbit the Sun in a belt that lies mostly between Mars and Jupiter. They first dawned on human consciousness in the early 1800s. The first four asteroids to be sighted were given the names of four of the great goddesses of classical antiquity: Ceres (discovered in 1801), Pallas Athene (discovered in 1802), Juno (discovered in 1804), and Vesta (discovered in 1807).
Many more asteroids were soon discovered, so that by the end of the nineteenth century, over 1,000 were known. The first asteroid ephemeris (a table listing planetary positions) was made available to astrologers in 1973 by Eleanor Bach, and it covered only the original four. Today astrologers have computer software developed by Mark Pottenger that tracks the placements of over 9,000 asteroids.
Among the thousands of asteroids known, Ceres, Pallas Athene, Juno, and Vesta have a special place. While these are not necessarily the largest asteroids, they were the first to be discovered, and as such they have imprinted themselves on human consciousness in a significant way. They also complete the female pantheon of goddesses, rounding out the system of symbols begun in the usual 10 planets. Of the six great goddesses of Olympus, only Aphrodite (Venus) and Artemis (the Moon) are represented in the conventional astrological symbol system. The other four great goddesses of Greco-Roman mythology—Demeter (Ceres), Athene (Pallas), Hera (Juno), and Hestia (Vesta)—were missing from astrology until they were reinvoked by their discovery in the early 1800s.
Pallas Athene, the second asteroid to be discovered, was named for the goddess who, instead of being born from the womb, sprang from the head of her father and in her later actions exemplified strengths that are often thought of as masculine. Befittingly, this second asteroid to be discovered represents a second developmental stage in people's lives, when they look to their fathers to provide them with the firmness and independence to leave the home and go forth into the world. This is the time of life when one acquires skills and a sense of competence, and starts to formulate oneself as an independent person. In societies where female children were expected to marry at the earliest possible age, this stage was largely neglected in a woman's development, but it is a stage as important for women as it is for men. For either sex, only when this stage is successfully mastered is one truly ready to embark on the next stage, wherein one becomes a partner in a relationship of equals.
The astrological glyph for Pallas Athene pictures the spear that is carried by the goddess in many depictions. The spear points upward and outward toward the world at large. Like the suit of swords in the Tarot, the spear suggests the intellect, which probes and severs, seeking knowledge, and separating one idea from another to achieve clarity. The glyph also suggests a head upon a body; signifying the goddess's origin, her associations with the intellect, and the movement from the womb center to the head, or from the bottom, or IC, of the horoscope wheel to the top, or midheaven.
Pallas Athene was better known to the Greeks as Athene, the goddess of wisdom. She is said to have sprung full-grown, clad in a suit of gleaming war armor, from the crown of the head of her father, Zeus (Jupiter), and to have immediately taken her place at his right-hand side.
As patroness of Athens, she presided over military strategies during wartime and over justice in peacetime. She also fostered useful arts, including spinning and weaving, pottery, healing, and other areas in which human skill and ingenuity improve the quality of life for all. Another art she fostered was horse taming (an interesting association in light of the interest in horses that many girls have in early adolescence).
Among all the goddesses, the classical Greeks held Pallas Athene in a unique position of power and respect. She walked easily and freely through the world of gods, heroes, and men as their colleague, advisor, equal, and friend.
She was idealized as Athene Parthenia, the virgin warrior queen, and she took neither lovers nor consorts. In the myths, she denied her matriarchal origins, claiming that no mother gave her life, as she arranged for the death of her sister Medusa. In all things except marriage, she upheld male supremacy. The price that was extracted from her was the denial of her femininity. She severed her connection from her mother (Metis), her sisters, the community of women, and her sexuality, and she lost touch with her feminine qualities of sensitivity, softness, and vulnerability.
Pallas Athene is mythologically related to an ancient lineage of goddesses from the Near East, North Africa, and Crete who were associated with the serpent as a symbol of wisdom and healing. She affirmed this connection by placing the head of her dark sister, Medusa, the serpent-haired queen of wisdom, in the center of her breastplate. In the yogic tradition, kundalini energy is depicted as a serpent that is coiled at the base of the spine ready to rise through the spinal canal and emerge from the top of the head as cosmic illumination. This has similarities to the wisdom of Pallas Athene, who emerged from the head of Jupiter.
Pallas Athene's association with both the serpent and the taming of horses suggests that her basic theme has to do with civilizing the forces of nature for the benefit of humankind. As a woman, she represents the force of nature that brings new life into being, the raw energy that underlies aliveness. As her father's daughter, she executes his will, using that force for the good of society. Administering justice, she is able to discern the truth amid tumultuous emotions. Healing illness, she diverts the life force back into the proper channels. As a weaver and potter, she uses cleverness and dexterity to turn raw materials into useful objects.
Through the ages, women have been major contributors to these arts of civilization. However, in some eras—such as the one from which we are emerging—many of the civilized arts, including the law, medicine, and manufacturing, were largely taken over by men, while the role of most women was limited to handmaiden and reproducer of the race.
In the current culture, women who are smart, powerful, strong, and accomplished are like Pallas in that they may not be considered "real women." They are often pressured to make a choice between career and creative self-expression on the one hand, and relationship and family on the other. In contemporary society, Pallas Athene can be seen in the high school girl who is applauded for her victory on the debate team, but who is not asked to the prom.
The danger of the Pallas Athene archetype is one of severing the feminine side and encasing the wounds in armor. This may lead one to further her ambitions with a kind of cold, ruthless, calculating, expedient strategy.
In order to be healed, it must be remembered that even though the Greek myths had Athene denying her female origins, they still made her not a god but a goddess, one whose unique strength has its roots in the feminine powers of nature. Her story enlarges the possibilities for women, telling women everywhere that they, too, are free, if they wish, to channel their womanly life-creating Venus energy not only through their procreative powers but also through their intellects. This is the Pallas Athene way of enriching and enhancing life. Pallas Athene, that productive and powerful goddess, shows that women do not have to be men to be effective in the world. As women, they are able to impart a special kind of life-promoting energy to intellectual and professional pursuits.
As Zeus's favorite daughter, the archetypal "daddy's girl," Pallas Athene points to another issue: one's relationships to one's own fathers. In birth charts, Pallas Athene reveals the ways in which one emulates the father, seeks his approval, wants to interact in his world, and gives him power over one's lives. A strong, well-placed Pallas Athene in a woman's chart usually shows a girl who was cultivated by her father and who has learned valuable life skills from him.
As a woman dressed in the garb of a warrior, Pallas Athene speaks to calling up and expressing the masculine within women, and the feminine within men. This movement toward androgyny balances and integrates polarities within the self and brings wholeness through the reclaiming of a contrasexual identity.
Pallas Athene's serpent symbolism also connects her to the healing arts. In one of her guises she was called Hygeia, goddess of miraculous cures. Her armor and shield can be likened to the immune system warding off attacks. She especially represents the power of the mind in curing disease.
In summary, Pallas Athene represents the part of a person who wants to channel creative energy to give birth to mental and artistic progeny, or children of the mind. She represents the capacity for creative wisdom and clear thinking, and speaks to the desire to strive for excellence and accomplishment in a chosen field of expression. The model of the strong, courageous, ingenious, artistically creative, and intelligent woman, Pallas Athene shows how to use one's intelligence to seek truth; how to achieve in practical, mental, or artistic fields; and how to work to attain worldly power.
Insofar as Pallas Athene is the military strategist and the administrator of justice, her placement in the horoscope shows how to apply one's intelligence to warding off attack and preserving balance and integrity in one's body, mind, and social interactions. This is not only a matter of self-defense, it is also a fundamental principle of healing. The placement of Pallas Athene in a chart shows the healing modalities that are likely to work best.
In addition, the placement of Pallas Athene may suggest how to relate to ones' father and to what fathers stand for, and how to incorporate the qualities of the opposite sex into ones' own makeup. It may also suggest what life was like before a career was chosen.
Dobyns, Zipporah. Expanding Astrology's Universe. San Diego: Astro Computing Services, 1983. Donath, Emma Belle. Asteroids in the Birth Chart. Tempe, AZ: American Federation of Astrologers, 1979.
George, Demetra, with Douglas Bloch. Asteroid Goddesses: The Mythology, Psychology and Astrology of the Reemerging Feminine. 2nd ed. San Diego: Astro Computing Services, 1990.
-. Astrology for Yourself: A Workbook for Personal Transformation. Berkeley, CA: Wingbow
Lehman, J. Lee. The Ultimate Asteroid Book. West Chester, PA: Whitford Press, 1988.
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