This is a reprint of Eric’s article that appeared in Planet Waves (March 23, 2007).
VESTA is fast approaching the Great Attractor in Sagittarius, which will push this energy into prominence as she reaches the 200th anniversary of her modern discovery. Vesta is an asteroid, the brightest asteroid, and the Great Attractor is an intergalactic point so massive that it’s pulling a million or more galaxies toward it at an extremely brisk pace. The GA is both a magnifier, spreading the effects of things far beyond where we can see them; and a polarizer, which tends to divide opinions, feelings, push us into taking sides and generally raise awareness of dualism. It has shades of extreme Sagittarius and supersized Gemini.
Since I began writing about Vesta in the Scorpio chapter of the Spiral Door, I’ve been having a series of close encounters with Vestal energy. The most unusual one has involved the clients I’ve worked with in New York City and upstate. Astonishingly, nearly every single one has had a prominent Vesta placement in their chart, and many have had themes of this asteroid come up in their lives.
Vesta is a goddess represented by a burning pot of oil, a chevron with flame. But she is not the goddess of fire; rather, she is Goddess expressing herself as fire. Vesta is not a character in mythology — her servants are. Rather, she is an elemental force that must be tended, within and without, and tending that flame becomes one of the closest things to an organic religion in existence.
The Vestal Virgins of ancient Rome were the keepers of the sacred hearth of the temple, as well as the public hearths of the cities of the empire. They served from about the age of seven (or at least before puberty), for about 30 years, during which they were supposedly sworn to celibacy. Notably, this is a term of service of about one Saturn cycle. Vesta’s primary energy is devotion. As with all astrological factors, this can be for good or ill; it can serve the greater good or not. She has, however, strong leanings toward service, and a true steadfast quality. She is the one willing to work around the clock for years. Generally, any difficult or long-term task will benefit from Vesta.
What you will read in most astrology texts is that Vesta is about the sublimation of creative or sexual energy into work, and work as a substitute for relationship. But this delineation, while often true, is what I would call off-center. It’s not the core of the matter. The core of the matter is the core flame, the hot coals of the goddess burning within us that need constant tending. We do, however, have a cultural issue: in many cultures, work is the most appropriate expression of Vesta energy because nearly every other channel has been closed off, deemed inappropriate or is fraught with complexity.
Because homes used to be organized around the hearth (and are still often arranged around its modern equivalent, the kitchen), Vesta has the theme of defining space, and the use of space. This works on the level of a house, but also of inner space. Vesta is about how we allocate our personal resources, including relationship resources, which among them include sexual resources.
Vesta is about doing this consciously, as part of the tending of the flame. Part of tending the flame is what we do with the fire. The core fire is creative, and at the heart of creativity is the creation of life itself, which we do through sex. But we do a lot more with sex: we communicate, we grow, we heal, we discover ourselves, and we discover one another. We can use it to enslave others; we can offer our sexual energy as an act of devotion, of love, of trust.
Shadow expressions of Vesta include using another person for sexual pleasure in a way that hurts them, or sexually abusing someone. Often the multiple lifetime energy pattern of Vesta or the 8th house gives others the idea that this person is available, even if they are entirely inappropriate, immature, or are not in a position to say no, or for that matter, to say yes. So where Vesta is alive, the spirit of consent and mutual agreement is essential.
There is something impersonal about Vesta’s energy. She is about tending a flame as part of a collective responsibility, so it’s an unusual meeting place of the personal and the collective on the sexual or creative level — the creative fire. We could say that our sexual and creative energy is not really our own private property, but rather, something that we bring through us, more or less consciously.
In one meaningful expression, she is the sacred prostitute, sometimes called the temple priestess. Sacred prostitution means offering oneself sexually in the service of creation, or the service of Goddess, as you wish, but often a person is the direct beneficiary. This is the kind of erotic sharing that is neither romantic nor casual. It is 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.
The Third Way is the conscious expression of sexual energy in the service of another person; as an act of healing, or of growth, or of devotion to something larger. There is “another purpose” involved, one that is transmitted directly through the experience. Perhaps the most commonly seen form of Vestal energy is allowing oneself to be used as a childbearing vessel for another person. It is not the energy of “let’s have children” but rather of “I will give you a child.” It may be expressed by a man as the gift of his seed to a woman who has no other appropriate source, as an act of service.
Vestal energy can also take the form of the intentional gift of pleasure, often for the purpose of healing. There may or may not be a fee involved; the issue is the intention. Is the intention to make the fee? That is not Vesta. Is the intention to share oneself, for the good of another? That is Vesta. This quality can manifest in both close personal relationships, where we have just about all felt it at one time or another; or in less personal relationships, where we are able to share ourselves, and do. Often this falls outside a specifically “romantic” context; the reason being that Vesta is not particularly concerned with herself, but rather with the person whom she is serving, and the greater service to the Goddess.
Another Vestal experience we may be familiar with is any time someone consciously initiates another person sexually, as a gift or as an intentional act. The deflowering scene in the film Almost Famous, where several sexually advanced young women initiate the young William Miller (alter ego of Cameron Crowe), is a beautiful example of Vestal energy.
They are initiating him not because they love him (they do) but because they have decided he is ready. The love they are feeling is less about personal love and more about the love of his becoming a man. All conscious rituals of transition into adulthood would be part of Vestal experience, particularly if they are sexual initiations — and these are rare enough to find, but fortunately, easy enough to create. Another familiar example can include when one person offers herself or himself to a same-sex partner specifically for the purpose of initiation into same-sex experiences.
Experiences of sharing or witnessing masturbation are Vesta experiences to the extent they are done in the spirit of holding space for another person’s inner journey. The quality of holding space is essential to the feeling of Vesta. This is most effective if the feeling is slightly detached, a little impersonal, but not casual. The Third Way specifically goes between what we think of as casual and what we think of as personal or romantic. It is another dimension of sexuality entirely.
Any form of sexual ritual has the feeling of Vesta, in part because ritual involves holding space. Ritual is an odd mix of intentional, creative, planned and spontaneous, and the main thing that it requires are participants and a space that is physically, psychically and emotionally open. The openness is rarely an accident; it is held by one who is initiated into the mysteries and has sufficient self-mastery to keep it that way for a while. Sex within a romantic partnership can take on overtones of Vesta when the space is set up consciously, the time is defined consciously, or where there is an element of ritual to the erotic exchange — and then something spontaneous happens within that intentionally established space.
Ritual can also include sexual teaching of any kind, such as a Tantric sex workshop, any form of sex education including sexual health education, and many forms of healing where sexual subject matter or erotic experience may arise. For example, massage therapists who also serve as sexual healers are doing Vesta’s work. Sex workers whose intentions involve raising awareness and the conscious movement of energy (rather than just making money) are serving Vesta as well.
Now, it’s clear that Vestal energy takes many forms, that they all have something in common, and that most of them are rarely spoken of openly. Indeed, the whole matter of Vesta is often hidden from view, be it out of fear, a sense of protection, issues of legality or going against the culture, or because we cannot say these things to another person.
Many people have made contact with this energy at different times in their lives — or have fantasies of doing so. I cannot think of anyone I’ve discussed sacred prostitution with who has not been genuinely interested and felt some personal connection, though this has usually been in a protected space apropos of the subject.
In “real life” Vesta and her related themes are difficult to speak about, and are for the most part not publicly acknowledged (though Madonna has done a good job of it, at various times). Indeed, Vesta goes against the grain of all our outer relationship conditioning and points us to an entirely different sexual and relational dimension. Vesta may be the most controversial form the Goddess takes, though the most practical, and the least spoken of. What we experience more than anything in our culture are the shadow sides of Vesta, which include the accumulation of toxic shame, sexual rage and frustration, and their results — sexual abuse, people using one another for sex without direct consent, unintended pregnancies, and their often very difficult results: particularly abortion and the circumstances that typically surround adoption.
The fact that so many people are denied sexual pleasure and release due to cultural circumstances would seem to be an expression of shadow Vesta. But one is fortunate to know of a temple, to know of priests or priestesses who practice the way of Vesta — they do exist, and resources are available to help warm up the subject matter. I also offer my own resources, including many articles and photos that relate to Vesta without specifically saying her name, available in the Eros section of Planet Waves.
There is one last point on Vesta, one that is not minor. Vesta is about defining and holding space, typically a temple of some kind, and in its most immediate sense, that space is the body. Vesta is about treating the body as a temple. I say this in the holistic sense, as well as in the specifically sexual sense. Maintaining the body’s readiness for life, and for sex, is a vital part of this energy. Keeping the body healthy, clean, and maintaining awareness that it will be shared with others is a basic Vestal ritual. Your reservations about your body, how it looks, sounds, feels and smells, are things to enter into a conscious relationship with. This includes from hygienic and aesthetic perspectives, as well as sexual health: in particular being mindful of reproductive health, and sexually transmitted diseases without using them as an excuse to validate genital anxiety. This takes some practice, and often, some training.
For women, it means being intimately involved in your own reproductive cycle, knowing when you’re fertile, and maintaining a conscious relationship with your own fertility, because you become the one who bears a pregnancy. For men, it means being considerate of your partners, particularly as regards bringing intention to the experience of creating a pregnancy. I recognize how rare this is, and how often the whole thing is left to chance, but carelessness about reproduction is a subject far away from the region of Vesta. In her temple, what happens happens with awareness and intention. This includes maintaining awareness of fear, and understanding its sources.
Here is an illustration of what you might call the paradox of Vesta. She is a planet visible to the naked eye — the only asteroid to be visible any time that skies are clear and the alignment is correct. Though she has fainter light than a major planet, she is visible. And what’s interesting is that there appears to be no record of her in the ancient astronomical or astrological texts. Though the ancients spent a lot of time looking at the sky, and skies were darker and thus fainter objects were more visible, she appears to have been overlooked — though it would seem impossible for the ancient lore-masters and astronomers to have done so.
In another piece of writing, I will be speculating that she was known to the initiates of the Vestal temples, and that her position was cast into the horoscopes of the Virgins, priests and others who were involved in her rituals.
Vesta was “discovered” March 29, 1807 — exactly two hundred years ago next week. We all have the benefit of seeing and exploring this position in our charts. As Vesta crosses the Great Attractor on the bicentennial of her discovery, we can, as well, observe ourselves and the world for the experiences of her energy. They will be there, if we look, and if we are willing to see and feel them within ourselves.