Ceres: Uncovering How to Self-Parent

I used to be much better at pretty and nice. I smiled more, wore makeup, and was perfectly fine talking about the weather for 45 minutes with a stranger on the bus. I’m not sure what happened, if it was the OMing practice, my grad school program, or that I just got so hungry that I couldn’t take it anymore. Yet, I didn’t even know what I was hungry for, but I was ravenous, empty to my bones, malnourished.

My tolerance for small talk is so small I find myself bored with most people, including my family most times (sorry Mom). Without the interest in emotional depth I become phony and revert back to nice mode, disassociated and friendly. I become a shell of myself and deeply lonely.

“You cannot make everyone think and feel as deeply as you do. This is your tragedy…because you understand them, but they do not understand you.” ~Daniel Saint

I wanted something I had never had, and didn’t know what it was until it hit me over the head—that something was emotional intimacy.  The type of connection that allows you to be fully yourself--grumpy, angry, whatever. Then I met my intimacy initiator, he oozed a depth and intensity that I had never experienced before and it felt as if after a lifetime of malnourishment I finally felt full. I met someone who could share the deep internal world I was used to experiencing alone, someone who could understand my inner layers that felt too twisty and dark to show anyone.

Words can’t describe what it felt like to have my shadow and darkness seen and acknowledged, especially by a man. We became friends and for over the course of five years our friendship only deepened. I felt initiated into a part of myself with him I always knew existed, but that had never been experienced with someone else. I liked the new me…she was kind of fucked up and gross, obsessed with things of the soul and darkness. She did taboo, shameful things but never told anyone about them… except him.

Several years passed and even when I had boyfriends, the emotional intimacy he and I shared was always deeper than with my partners. Over five years I continued to love him more and more--it was the first time I had fallen in love with someone’s darkness instead of light. My usual mode of romantic love involved me loving the perfect projections of someone, this was the first time I’d seen someone’s depth and darkness and didn’t want to run.

I convinced myself he loved me as much as I loved him, but he didn’t. He loved the feminine attention I gave him and the comfort I offered, but he didn’t see me as a lover or partner. I came to depend on him for nourishment and a connection to my own depth and without him I finally had to face how to care for myself in the way he had done for so long.

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.”~Mary Oliver

Through loving him and then being hurt, I learned to take care of myself. He gave me the gift of darkness and intimacy that helped me understand what I needed to give myself most. In astrology, knowing how to take care, self-parent, and nourish ourselves is represented by the asteroid Ceres.  Ceres was the first asteroid discovered 130 years before Pluto and her name comes from PIE Ker es root*ker to grow. To me the etymology speaks to the paradox of “growing up” and existing as both child and parent to ourselves.

Mythologically Ceres is the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain (the word “cereal” comes from her name), fertility, and motherly relationships. In ancient Greece she was Demeter whose name comes from “da mater” or mother. (This is also where the word “matter” comes from.) Her greatest importance in mythology is the relationship to her daughter Persephone. Persephone was abducted (though some myths says she went willing) into the underworld by Hades and Ceres spent her days mourning. After threatening to destroy all crops and food, Zeus heard Ceres’ pleads and allowed Persephone to return to her mother. However, Hades tricked Persephone into eating pomegranate seeds (the symbol of sexual consummation) and therefore she could never entirely leave the underworld and would spend half the year there and the other half above ground with her mother.

Ceres and her daughter were the main figures worshiped in the Elysian mysteries as the symbol of loss and return. This week ancient Greece would have celebrated the seven-day festival Cerealia in honor of Ceres. I see this myth as a reminder of attachment as well as an example of the ability to dive deep and then come back into the light.

In psychology, self-parenting is similar how we provide self-care. In psychology Jung’s idea of individuation is the process by which we become whole unto ourselves separate from identifying with our families or anyone else.  To me a major part of individuation is the paradox of becoming both parent and child to ourselves, this is Ceres’ domain. Her identification with her daughter ultimately brought her more into her own wholeness, just as Persephone became more herself after leaving her mother and spending time in the underworld.

The beauty of Ceres is that once we know how to nourish ourselves, we are able to nurture others with the same skills. With my Ceres in Scorpio, my soul needed nourishment of emotional depth, something that I had never experienced until he came along. As painful as the experience of loving and losing him as been, it scares me more to think that without meeting him I might still feel empty and not know what I needed to self-parent.

Understanding Ceres placement can unveil our deepest needs that we didn’t even know we needed, or reinforce our self-care priorities. Here are some examples of what Ceres in a sign might need/crave (though the house placement and relationship to other planets certainly also plays a large role):

Ceres in Aries: sports, ambition, being active

Ceres in Taurus: sensual pleasures, food, friends

Ceres in Gemini: intellect, books, need for communication

Ceres in Cancer: being at home, cooking, stability

Ceres in Leo: sunshine, focusing on self

Ceres in Virgo: keeping day-to-day order, organization, health

Ceres in Libra: beauty, creativity, partnership

Ceres in Scorpio: depth, exploration, soul work

Ceres in Sagittarius: exploring, big ideas, philosophy

Ceres in Capricorn: business, stability, being an authority

Ceres in Aquarius: adventure, consciousness

Ceres in Pisces: meditating, music, communing with the divine

While these may sound similar to needs of the sun or moon, the subtle of asteroids and Ceres cannot be understated. My Moon-Pluto has a need for depth, but it wasn’t until I learned about my Ceres in Scorpio that I knew how to better take care of myself and notice what I was wanting others to do for me.

Now I understand why I had spend so much time in the underworld the past few years as I was learning about myself. I wasn’t receiving the emotional intimacy and depth (Ceres in Scorpio in the 4th) that I needed and felt malnourished on a deep soul level. So, I started hating small talk because I felt so disconnected with myself, I avoided people who didn’t seem to have depth. I spent majority of my time with my therapist friends. I read depth psychology books, and meditated on Jung quotes. Emotional depth became a hungry ghost, my obsession with seeing people’s soul. I dug at people, stabbed at them for searching for more, but my deep need for intimacy couldn’t be satiated externally.

“No tree can grow to heaven unless its roots grow to hell.” ~C.G. Jung

I was desperate for others to fulfill this need and in a sense parent me in a way I didn’t know how to do for myself. In every relationship we have choices around needs, but Ceres asks us specifically to share these gifts with ourselves before we are able to nurture others. When we don’t know our needs fully we rely on others to fulfill them, creating a cycle of feeling that something is missing.

I’ve slowly learned that others don’t have such a high tolerance for this amount of emotional depth, it feels exposing and too vulnerable. Now, I use my Ceres in Scorpio gifts to nurture others into their own darkness, to see their shadow and darkness as beautiful, to love someone through shame and vulnerability.  Mr. Hades/Dionysus himself came along to show me all the beauty of the darkness I didn’t know I wanted and desperately needed. Now this darkness is my gift to share, I journeyed in the underworld and have brought up the seeds of what I learned with me. I returned to the light of day with a new mastery, one that nourishes my more than anything ever had.

This post is an offering to Ceres and the underworld. It was through understanding her and my darkness as Persephone that I was able to find myself. I will forever be grateful for my Dionysus for showing me my darkness…and with it my wholeness and ability to care for my own soul.