Myth's of Woman's Roles: Woman as Lover or Mother
In our modern "civilized" society, woman's role as a loving person is divided. The sensuous, erotic function (woman as lover) has been disassociated from the maternal role (woman as mother). One example of the suppression of the sensuous aspect of the mother-child bond is the use of plastic pacifiers. Few people feel it is socially acceptable for a mother to breast-feed her child openly in public, but if she is apparently enjoying the process, it is considered somewhat pornographic and even incestuous. Yet science tells us that women are not divided biologically. There is a physiological behavior that is common to both lovemaking and nursing, as well as natural childbirth. The hormone oxytocin is released during orgasm, lactation and childbirth.
Why has modern society developed such a separation between erotic and maternal love? While mothering is generally held as the initial model of social relationship, the sexually expressive woman is often associated with wildness, primitive behavior and a less-than-civilized order of being. We find endless support for this divided image of woman in religion, law and social standards, but the most obvious evidence can be traced back to ancient mythology.
Women in Myth
In Greek mythology, the goddess of mothering was Demeter, "Mother Earth" (Ceres was her Roman name). The Greeks and Romans also held Demeter-Ceres to be the goddess responsible for civilizing humanity through agriculture (cooperation with the Earth). The Greek goddess Aphrodite (Venus), on the other hand, was symbolic of the sexual attraction that leads to reproduction. Aphrodite-Venus was also considered a disturbing influence on the socially-approved state of matrimony. In ancient myths, Venus herself was not happily married; she conducted numerous extra-marital affairs and spent much of her time causing unlikely partners to fall in love with each other.
This mythological division is likewise symbolized in astrology. The planet Venus represents attraction, the biochemical-hormonal level of sexual reproduction and the earliest stages of social interaction via the senses. In astro-mythology, Venus is primarily interested in the sensual pleasures of relating. She promotes sexuality for procreation, yet she is never the goddess of its consequence, pregnancy. Astrology considers the asteroid Ceres and the Moon as the rulers of childbirth and mothering, and all the responsibilities they entail. Venus is often associated with prostitution ("the oldest profession"), while Ceres and the Moon represent what some have called the "second oldest profession," motherhood.
Venus and Ceres in Conflict
The ancient myths show Venus in constant conflict with Ceres, symbolizing a disjunction between female sexuality-sensuousness (love between adults) and maternity (love between mother and child). In our own lives, this conflict has become unavoidably apparent in the issue of birth control, which essentially allows sex without the reproduction that leads to mothering. It is therefore not surprising to find Venus and Ceres as prominent features in astrological charts drawn for events and people involved in birth control. It is particularly common for such charts to show Venus (female sex/reproduction) and Ceres (mothering) in aspect to Saturn (the planet of control or limitation) and Chiron (the wounded healer).
The first woman to open a birth control clinic was the American feminist Margaret Sanger. Sanger's British counterpart was Marie Stopes, who opened the first birth control clinic in England. Both had strong aspects involving Ceres, Venus, Chiron and/or Saturn in their horoscopes.*
When the first oral contraceptive drug ("the pill") went on sale in the United States in late 1960, Venus was conjunct Saturn in Capricorn, and Ceres was conjunct Chiron. In early 1970, when congressional hearings and the media focused attention on the pill, Venus, Ceres and Chiron were all conjunct. In the decision of Roe versus Wade of January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court ruled for the first time to legalize abortion nationwide. At this time, Venus was square to Chiron and in semi-square with Ceres.
The person mainly responsible for inventing and promoting the "morning after" abortion pill, RU-486, was Emile Baulieu.** At the time that Baulieu developed RU-486 (early April 1980), Ceres and Chiron were conjunct. When the patent was obtained for RU-486, Ceres was square Chiron, and Venus was square Saturn.
Reuniting Venus and Ceres
Venus and Ceres epitomize two aspects of the feminine nature that are biologically integrated but that have been deliberately separated on the social level. To accept them as joined implies a concentration of power that threatens the status quo. Consequently, most modern cultures (which are patriarchal) have developed morality structures that promote the distancing of women's sexuality from the civilized ideal of motherhood. Women are "kept in their place" when the power of their love is divided, and they are deprived of biological autonomy through restrictions against birth control.
Life wasn't always like this. There is evidence from earlier cultures that shows there was once an acceptable synthesis of sensuality and maternity. Can we hope for a future that would re-synthesize this deep and natural connection? Only when women have the right to govern their own bodies can they face and resolve the socialized differences symbolized by Venus and Ceres.
By Valerie Vaughan
*Margaret Sanger was born with Venus in sextile to Ceres and opposed Saturn. Marie Stopes was born with Ceres opposed Saturn, and Venus opposed Chiron.
**Emile Baulieu’s birth chart shows Ceres precisely conjunct his Ascendant, and Venus is trine Chiron.