In 1801, an astronomer discovered an orbiting body for the second time ever: that was Ceres. She was named for the goddess of agriculture. Two other asteroids were discovered soon after, Juno and Pallas.
In 1807, a German astronomer named Olbers discovered an orbiting body (at the time considered a planet), which he invited a colleague to name: that was Vesta. The brightest asteroid, comprising 9% of the mass of the inner belt, Vesta is supposedly visible without a telescope. We may wonder why the ancients, who had more time on their hands and much darker skies at night, did not note her wandering amidst the stars.
Vesta was the last asteroid discovered for 38 years. In 1845, Astraea was discovered, and the following year Neptune arrived. (This page provides a chronology of minor planet discoveries.)
As an astrological factor, I delineate Vesta as the experience of tending the inner hearth of creativity and sexuality. Her primary quality is devotion. She also represents an organizing principle. Think of how old houses were designed around the hearth as the focal point, and how the hearth is the center of the home’s functions. Vesta describes how we organize physical space, and in a similar way, psychic space. If we devote ourselves to tending our creative processes, to tending our inner flame, we have a way to organize consciousness that is then reflected in our values and our expression of life force.
People with a strong Vesta placement will almost always have an unusual expression of sexuality. By strong placement, I mean making many aspects, conjunct the Sun or Moon, or placed on one of the chart’s angles — such as the ascendant or midheaven. Their relationship lives will ‘just be different’ than the people they know: the typical models of romance don’t quite work, and they will wonder why. Many with this kind of placement will be inclined to think it’s a relationship issue, and feel inadequate; with Vesta, the root of the matter is often how sexuality is processed differently. There is the element of service, and Vesta may be incarnating in her expression as the sacred prostitute.
Sacred prostitution means offering oneself sexually in the service of creation, or the service of the goddess, as you wish, but often another person is the direct beneficiary. This is the kind of erotic sharing that is neither romantic nor casual. It’s not quite a mutual marriage. It’s part of what I call the Third Way. Many people have touched upon this energy, but in my experience relatively few experience it consciously or consistently. Typically, we lack the language and the support systems that make it feasible, and we tend to take everything — and everyone — much too personally.
With a strong Vesta placement, there can also be an element of celibacy: that is, of long gaps in sexual activity, which can be particularly confusing for young women who are accustomed to getting plenty of sexual attention. It helps to hear about Vesta and the particular type of devotion she describes. This will often key in memories of past lives spent as some kind of temple priestess.
You may read other interpretations of Vesta. Martha Lang Wescott, for example, notes the mundane qualities: an obsession with projects instead of people; emotional distancing; hard work and career demands; being impersonal; sublimation of other interests into the career or vocation; sacrifice/denial of self (by others/self) for a ‘greater goal’.
One author I read in The Mountain Astrologer circa 2000 said he noticed intense experiences of shame around Vesta placements, often relating to sex and inappropriate childhood sexual contact. I think all these concepts are valid, and some are rather perceptive, yet what is central to Vesta — and to any planet — is the process that unites all of the seemingly separate definitions.
With Vesta, that process involves the devotion of tending the inner hearth, be it for creativity, healing or service. At the center of our inner space is the fire of the soul that, in the complexities of physical life, rarely seems to burn on its own — it needs to be tended, loved and honored continually, so that it can thrive and flourish. When the flame is tended, the empire of our lives can thrive because there is integrity at the core of who we are, and fidelity to our purpose.
Read this complete essay, which features an explanation of Vesta’s current transit through Scorpio and her conjunction to Venus retrograde.
Yours & truly,
About the Author
Eric Francis is the creator of Planet Waves and author of Book of Blue. He has worked as a professional astrologer and internationally published horoscope columnist since the mid-1990s, specializing in minor planets. He has presented sexuality workshops and written for such publications as the Journal of Bisexuality, Sexuality.org and Loving More magazine. He writes his astrology columns in his fine art photography studio in Kingston, New York.