Unbeknownst to many, there are millions of smaller objects that make up our solar system outside of the ten traditional planets. These smaller objects, largely known as asteroids in Astrology, have an undeniably juicy impact in Astrological interpretation.
William Herschel, the astronomer responsible for spotting Uranus, first coined the term ‘asteroid’, meaning ‘star-like.’ Most of these objects sit on the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter and range from 6 meters to nearly 1 kilometer across. Although the asteroids are many, their mass is tiny: cumulatively, the mass of all known asteroids would only amount to 4% of the mass of our Moon.
After discovering a new asteroid, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) is responsible for giving each asteroid body a name and number. While there are likely more than several million asteroids in existence, only about 5%, or 21,000 asteroids, have been named and numbered.
Many asteroids are named after famous mythological figures (5143 Heracles, 7088 Ishtar) while others relate to pop culture (3834 Frank Zappa, 342843 David Bowie), countries and city names (916 America, 945 Barcelona), and even colors (4955 Gold, 12016 Green).
Beyond the smaller objects, there are a group of asteroids sometimes referred to as the 'Big Four': Ceres (1), Pallas (2), Juno (3), and Vesta (4), which were the first four asteroid bodies discovered in the early 1800s. Once we move through a few of the asteroid basics, we'll look more at the main interpretative themes of the 'Big Four' asteroids and why you should start including them in your chart, pronto.
WHY ASTEROIDS MATTER
A lot of people ask: “Why would you add more objects to the chart? Aren’t there enough planets already?” If the thought of suddenly injecting your natal chart with 20,000 celestial objects makes you shudder, worry not.
Firstly, based on the asteroid rules we'll look at later in the post, you're unlikely to come up with more than a handful of asteroids that have a serious impact in any given chart.
Secondly, although you’ve got to make an independent assessment of the use of asteroids - and I encourage you to do so -the following are the core reasons that asteroids can be incredibly useful.
DEPTH & DETAIL
Working with asteroids in a natal chart adds a layer of depth and richness that just isn’t there otherwise. To me, working with the ten classic planets is like having a beautiful banquet table setup for a sumptuous meal: dinnerware, cutlery, glasses, place cards and all the food. Asteroids are the minute details that can transform the dinner into an unforgettable affair: the background music, the topics of conversation, the wine, the scent of the flowers, the sauces and side dishes. While some may view asteroids as just the ‘cherry on the top,' I assure you that hasn’t been the case in my experience. A tightly placed asteroid can give you laser-precision insight when you're wondering why your seemingly innocuous Venus or Moon has given you so much trouble.
ACKNOWLEDGING THE FEMININE
Traditionally, there are only two feminine planets: the Moon and Venus. The Moon signifies emotions (among other things), and Venus signifies beauty, sex, and love (among other things). All other planets are masculine (Sun, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter) and one is gender neutral (Mercury). It’s somewhat limiting as a statement on the place of women in the world, no? Like anything else, you cannot divorce Astrology from the cultural paradigm that produced it, and unfortunately, Astrology was birthed from a mindset that was not particularly lady friendly. Working with asteroids, and particularly the ‘Big 4’ asteroid Goddesses (Ceres, Pallas, Juno, Vesta) levels the playing field considerably, allows for a more balanced representation of the feminine archetype, and recognizes the importance of the varied roles women play throughout their lives.
Asteroids offer valuable insight into traumatic events as well as unexplainably problematic natal chart planets. Many of us have experienced tremendously painful events to happen in our lives that hold no apparent connection to the astrological transits of that day. From time to time, I've found that the trigger point I was looking for was due to an asteroid tightly conjoined to transiting planets. If we ignore the possibility that these asteroids have a profound insight to impart, we could be missing out.
Equally, a decent-looking planet, in an okay sign and house can give us perpetual troubles; sometimes, a sneaky asteroid can be the source of our foibles.
All of that said, not all charts have significant connections to the asteroids. It is not unusual to find that no asteroids make substantial links within a chart. The name of the game is to stay curious and open-minded.
ASTEROIDS IN ASTROLOGY: HOW TO USE THEM
HOW TO WORK WITH ASTEROIDS - GETTING STARTED
First, you’ll need your birth chart. If you don’t have this to hand, you can make one on Astro-Charts.com, where you'll have the ability to easily include the 'Big 4' asteroids in your chart.
More sites and books for Asteroid reference links are included at the bottom of the post for you.
RECOMMENDED ASTEROID RULES
One of the most common errors Astrologers make when first using the smaller asteroid bodies is based on orbs. I mainly concentrate on asteroid conjunctions to natal chart planets within an orb of 1 to 1.5 degrees maximum. As a rule, I don't generally look at other aspects.
The only exceptions to the 1.5-degree orb for me are the 'Big 4' asteroids Ceres, Pallas, Juno, and Vesta; these I give a more substantial orb of 3-4 degrees, and I consider all major aspects (conjunction, square, opposition, sextile, trine).
Start by checking the placement of asteroid bodies on the following planets and points: (in order from most to least important)
- Sun, Moon, Ascendant & Ascendant ruler: these asteroids tend to be more impactful than other placements.
- All personal planets: Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
- Although you can check the planets Uranus, Neptune & Pluto for asteroids, these placements aren't as impactful unless the outer planets themselves are in close contact with the Sun or Moon.
- Asteroids that are tightly conjoined Chiron can accurately describe or enrich our understanding of our Chiron material.
- Asteroids on the North and South Nodes, Midheaven (MC), and Imum Coeli (IC). If you're using Placidus houses, you may also check asteroids found on all four angles of the chart.
Nota Bene: Many of us might fall in love with the idea a particular asteroid: Eros (433), the God of erotic love, is a perennial favorite. Unfortunately, most of us will not have a strongly aspected Eros, but we can still note the sign and house position of prominent asteroids for interpretation. As an example, Eros in Aries in the 6th House may be 'turned on' or erotically charged by working independently, starting their own business, or forging ahead in careers that require courage and challenge. They might even get tangled into endless paramours with their colleagues and subordinates.
THE BIG FOUR
If you're unsure about diving into the entire pantheon of asteroids, you can start off more slowly by including the 'Big 4' into your chart: Ceres, Pallas, Juno, and Vesta. Below, I've summarized these four asteroid bodies so you can begin to understand how they interact in your own chart.
CERES - The Great Mother
Ceres was the first asteroid discovered, and appropriately its asteroid number is 1. Ceres, like Pluto, is technically a dwarf planet by astronomical classification but is also considered an asteroid; Ceres is the largest of the asteroids. In 1801, an Italian priest and astronomer named Giuseppe Piazzi sighted what he initially thought was a comet, but which later turned out to be an asteroid. Piazzi lived in Palermo and chose to name his discovery after Ceres, the Roman Goddess of Agriculture, who was thought to originate in Sicily.
Astrologically, asteroid Ceres bears a close resemblance to her Goddess equivalent. Ceres, or Demeter in Greek mythology, was the Goddess of Agriculture who delivered the gift of grain to humanity and was commonly depicted with wheat in her hand. Ceres is most famous for her timeless story of love, loss, and redemption involving her beloved daughter Persephone.
Asteroid Ceres has particular ties in Astrological interpretation to food complexes, whether that results in self-denial or self-indulgence; both polarities can be a way to suppress a perceived lack of nurturance. As one of the great mothers of mythology, asteroid Ceres can also help describe the nature of our relationship to our mother or mother figure, as well as how that relationship manifested psychologically: did we receive the nurturing we needed? Could we count on our mother figure to understand and meet those needs?
A prominent placement of asteroid Ceres can make one come across as nurturing, caring, and attentive to the needs of others; occasionally, this spills over into the pattern of the smothering or 'devouring mother' (Ceres had a mighty hard time letting go of her daughter Persephone). Challenging aspects to Ceres can create issues of low self-esteem and difficulty overcoming the psychological impact of our mothering experience.
The symbol for asteroid Ceres is a scythe or sickle, emphasizing Ceres' connection to food and agriculture.
Ceres Themes: food complexes (eating disorders, body dysmorphia), one’s style of nurturing, childbirth, mother-child bonds or lack thereof, self-esteem or lack thereof, separation or loss from children, lessons around letting go, the cycle of birth, death and rebirth.
PALLAS - Goddess of Wisdom
Although asteroid Pallas was likely first sighted in 1779, it was not properly discovered until 1802 when a German astronomer, Heinrich Olbers, found her lurking in the night sky near asteroid Ceres. Pallas' asteroid number is 2 as it was the second asteroid discovered.
While the asteroid is commonly called Pallas, an alternative name for this asteroid is Pallas-Athena. The myth goes that Pallas was the dear childhood friend of Athena; Athena took up her friend's namesake as an epithet in remembrance when she accidentally killed her. The mythological goddess Athena strongly correlates with the astrological significance of asteroid Pallas.
Pallas-Athena is a woman made in a man's vision: as the daughter of Zeus, she was famously born out of his head fully grown and wearing armor. She was renowned for her wisdom and strategic skill, as well as her connection to healing. Virginal and unmarried, Pallas-Athena reserved her energies for the tasks at hand - and very rarely lost. Due to her cunning mind, Pallas-Athena often beat Mars in battle, despite his physical prowess.
Astrologically, a prominent asteroid Pallas can make one a top-level consort or strategist; in a woman's chart particularly, there can be a strong tendency towards a tough-as-nails 'alpha-female' countenance. Occasionally, this asteroid features in the chart of folks that push the boundaries of gender expression to its limits, as in the case of David Bowie, who has asteroid Pallas in the 1st House.
The symbol for asteroid Pallas is said to represent Athena's spear.
Pallas' themes: alpha-females, issues with the father/father-figure, the suppression of femininity, the combination of creativity with strategy, creative intelligence, the healing arts, kundalini energy, desire for accomplishment and excellence, the ultimate consort-counselor, androgyny.
JUNO - Goddess of Marriage
After being discovered in 1804 by a German Astronomer, asteroid Juno became the third asteroid found, and hence her asteroid number is 3.
Juno, or Hera in Greek, was the wife of Jupiter and the much-revered Queen of Mount Olympus who exemplified the proper ways of a married woman. Unfortunately for Juno, this meant putting up with Jupiter's never-ending string of dalliances and illegitimate children. Often humiliated by these secret trysts, Juno would craft brutal paybacks for Jupiter, which never really succeeded; whatever blow Juno dealt Jupiter would be returned to her ten-fold.
Asteroid Juno is as much the indicator of what we want in a marriage or the type of person we seek as a partner as it is a potent totem for the complexes that can creep into our most committed partnerships. Aspects to asteroid Juno can tellingly describe how we relate in intimate partnerships; challenging aspects may indicate difficulty with fitting into the kind of hyper-monogamy personified by Juno's mythological tales.
If asteroid Juno is prominently placed in the birth chart, we can expect that the native will be drawn into marriage as soul-level work. Equally, the house where Juno is present can indicate an area of life to which we are 'married'.
The symbol for asteroid Juno is a star on top of a royal scepter, as Juno was the 'Queen of the Heavens'.
Juno's Themes: partnerships of all kinds (business, love, etc.), marriages, infidelity, jealousy, issues within marriages, power dynamics in partnerships, using children as a tool of manipulations, standing up for the powerless (children, etc.), intimacy vs. manipulation, relating to others, our capacity for sensitivity, empathy and connecting to the ‘other’.
VESTA - Spiritual Servant
Asteroid Vesta became the 4th asteroid discovered in 1807 when the same Heinrich Olbers who discovered asteroid Pallas spotted Vesta in the sky. Vesta is a very bright asteroid and is easily seen with the naked eye for many parts of the year, so it's surprising that it took so very long to discover her.
Vesta, or Hestia in Roman mythology, is the Goddess of the Hearth and the keeper of the sacred flame. Vesta's roots lay in the ancient hierodules or sacred sex workers, who were later forced into celibate spiritual service, à la the modern nun. It wasn't easy being Vesta or one of her temple attendants: if the sacred fire which was meant to ensure the safety of Rome and its people went out, the Vestals were buried alive in underground cellars and left to expire.
On the other hand, Vesta and her team of supplicants were granted extraordinary privileges for women in the age of ancient Rome, and in the words of Jules Cashford, as virgins, they were 'closed to distractions' and therefore 'open to revelation'.
If asteroid Vesta is prominently placed in the chart, these folks can have focus galore and the ability to dedicate themselves to a long-term goal or service; challenging aspects can deny the same. There can also be too much of a good thing: occasionally, Vesta types can end up as fanatics instead of devotees.
The symbol for Vesta is emblematic of the sacred flame she so carefully tended.
Vesta's themes: focus, dedication, single-mindedness, tunnel vision, spiritual work or service, high-minded spiritual pursuits/service, the archetypal nun, self-integration, the unmarried and the childless, sex as sacred, sex and shame, the interplay between sex and religion.
Asteroid Website Resources:
- Full Asteroid Listing by Number - All 21,000 asteroids! Search the page to find asteroids that interest you.
- Wiki page for checking out Asteroid meanings - conveniently sorted and categorized into numerical groups.
- Asteroid Insight and Meanings – tons of asteroid info, courtesy of yours truly over.
- Asteroid Goddesses by Demetra George - particularly useful for learning more about the 'Big 4'.
- The Astrology Book by James Lewis - an encyclopedia format book covering Astrology and a handful of prominent asteroids, too.