Vestal Solstice: The Sacred Space of Self

Dear Friend and Reader:

Northern Hemisphere summer begins Monday with a series of planetary events, and as often happens, events in close proximity describe a theme. When the Sun makes its ingress into the cardinal sign Cancer, it will be conjunct an asteroid called Vesta.

Vesta Goddess Firedance. Photo by Pakalil.

This magnificently complex asteroid, I believe, holds the key to understanding how we might go about healing our often injured, burdened and confused sense of our sexuality. In one word, the method is devotion.

In this article I’ll do my best to describe the qualities of Vesta in a way that makes it possible to feel and experience them — and to put them to use in our relationship experiences. Vesta is primarily about tending the fire within. That fire, and that experience of constantly caring for it, becomes the focal point for organizing space; that is, the psychic space of our lives, our priorities, and our beliefs.

Vesta is represented by a hearth (actually, a chevron, though in mythology it’s a hearth), and that hearth is the center of the home. We make our homes, comfortably or not, primarily within our psyches. The fire is the core fire of human existence, which is inherently sexual and creative. We use this fire for light, for heat, for creative purposes (you could say, to prepare our meals, whatever form they may take on the physical and nonphysical levels of existence).

Honoring this would give our daily lives and our relationships, whether sexual or not, a central concept to work with. Vesta is inherently about one’s relationship with oneself, which is the thing we share with others no matter what form that sharing might take. It may seem a paradox, but there is a touch of the impersonal to Vesta, which to me is about a boundary between self and other that gives everyone a little extra space to be who we are. Yet there is something collective about Vesta as well: we all share the same inner fire, whether we recognize it as the same thing or not.

In the solstice chart, the Sun meets up with Vesta in Cancer, a sign associated with nourishment, nurturing, emotions, mother and the experience of incarnating. The Sun is about expression. It is the source of all light in the astrological system; it is the central point that holds the solar system together and provides an anchor for awareness and for one’s tangible place in the world. So Sun/Vesta in Cancer is one version of the full expression of Vestal energy.

Sculptures of Vestals, aged between 6 and 10 when appointed by the emporer, Vestals would serve for 30 years, learning the sacred rites for 10, performing the rights for 10 and teaching the rights for the last 10.The Vestal who lost her virginity was thought to jeopardize Rome itself. Photo by Ess Pea.

The next day, there is a New Moon, with Sun, Moon and Vesta in a precise conjunction. This is the first of many potent lunations (including three eclipses in July and August) that defines the current stretch of time. Happening so close to the beginning of a season (with the Sun still at solstice), this New Moon activates events that occur on a large scale that feel personal; and personal events that reach past our individual lives toward a collective experience.

Remember, this can be subtle, and noticing that anything of this kind is happening requires inner sensitivity and a sense of context that could truly be described as spiritual.

At the same time there is a conjunction of Venus and Mars in Taurus. A Venus/Mars conjunction brings together the male and female principles, and in Taurus there is the recognition that we each contain both, in our psyches and our bodies. The Taurus connection describes this as a resource that we possess and can share with others, once we take ownership of it ourselves. This is a clue. Much of our sexual pain comes from trying to experience our sexuality without actually being in possession of it first.

This event, too, is occurring in one of those subtle zodiac positions that connects personal events to collective ones — at the precise midpoint of Taurus, where the Sun is on Beltane. You can be sure that plenty of other people are experiencing something similar to what you are. Here as well, we get a sexual theme; Taurus is about sensuality, self-possession, physical contact and a property called biophilia. This is about resonating with life, which we get in part from the connection between Taurus and Venus. I covered this quality fairly recently in an article called “Kaleo: Venus Unbound.”

Let’s take these two factors individually, the Vesta aspect and the Venus/Mars aspect; and then let’s see what they add up to.

Vesta: Tending Fire, Holding Space

I had my first conscious experience of Vestal energy one autumn when I moved into a house in Hurley, New York. I love this experience because it’s an example of how an event in life can open the door to something supposedly mystical or mythological.

Ceremonial fire in the Chironian. Photo by Eric Francis.

At the time we moved in, my housemates and I didn’t have a lot of money, so we couldn’t start up the oil heat; but there was a very nice wood stove and a big pile of wood to go with it. However, the wood was wet, because it was pretty old and the season had been very rainy.

It’s possible to burn wet wood, but it takes a lot of work to get it going, and to keep it going. (It’s also a lot less efficient.) Once the fire was started, it was essential to keep it running hot, and to cycle the firewood into the kitchen so that it would have a chance to dry off next to the stove, if possible. This became a 24-hour devotion. The stove had to be tended at least every three or four hours. Being a few years into my astrology work, the Vestal symbolism of tending a hearth was not lost on me. This activity was similar to what the Vestal Virgins had as one of their primary responsibilities: to keep the sacred flame in the city’s central hearth going all the time.

As mystics, we regard outer fire as a symbol of an inner fire. The inner fire is the individual creative source within the psyche. Vesta, the asteroid, is associated with various forms of devotion, such as to work. (Most astrology books you read that mention Vesta will associate it with things like staying late at the office, and avoiding social interaction.) I view Vesta as the place where we must tend to our creative and sexual fires. Basically, it’s how one becomes an artist, a craftsperson or a lover. One must constantly apply attention to the creative flame, otherwise it can flicker out, burn too hot or go out of control. It’s not something you can do occasionally and get the same results. People with regular jobs often think of artists as ‘workaholics’. But that is an idea that disconnects the concept of work from that of personal development.

Many of Vesta’s best results come specifically from the art of devotion itself. As we progress we learn that we have the choice of what we devote ourselves to.

Lakshmi Girl celebrating Vesta on the vernal equinox in the Chironian, in Rosendale, New York. Photo by Eric Francis, March 29, 2007.

The flame and embers provide a source of heat, of light and of energy. They become the central organizing principle around which one’s life is organized. We all use Vestal energy, though most people express it in devotion to things that are not necessarily associated with their true calling. So the idea here is to identify some aspect of that calling and then tend the flame continually, a little bit every day. Then true creative gifts can emerge, and begin to take on their vital role in the world.

In the sign Cancer, the focus is on the home. It’s also about cultivating the devotion to self-nourishment. This is about taking care of yourself, not ‘rewarding’ yourself. The work associated with Vesta is of a specifically self-nourishing kind, even though in the short run it may require more effort than seems worth it. The key is to work the devotional angle, rather than the effort angle; Vesta is my college fiction professor saying on the first day of class that to be a fiction writer one must write one word a day. That means, you return to the project daily.

The sexual aspect of Vesta involves making contact with the sexual dimension to all of existence. The inner flame lights up the space inside us, and there, we can do our healing work. It also creates an inviting environment where others can seek contact, healing and rest. Vestal erotic practices involve holding the space open for others, witnessing their processes and experiences, and giving oneself sexually to sexual pleasure of others, as a gift of healing or love. This has nothing to do with romance, which tends to be narcissistic. Vesta is about standing back a little and allowing others to experience the heat of your inner fire, so that they may experience their own, or light it up for the first time.

Vesta is also about practicing compersion: holding space for the pleasure of others, that does not directly involve you. But this is another article, or maybe a book.

Venus and Mars: Exploring Inner Completion

In our relationships, we’re usually taught to seek in others what we allegedly don’t have in ourselves. This is the cause of enormous chaos, which is largely driven by compulsion, false expectation and by being cut off from both self-knowledge and human contact. The world plays a very mean game of turning emotional contact and sex into a commodity, without ever really saying what the price is.

Tempio di Vesta. Photo by Marco Chiaraluce.

There are other themes contained in a Venus and Mars conjunction. For example, our over-identifying with prescribed gender roles frequently creates setups where it’s difficult to recognize the common ground we share with others. This common ground would be the basis of our relationships, if we would allow it to be.

Venus and Mars conjunct in Taurus is about seeking some experience of how we contain our opposite polarity. This is literally true; for example, both males and females produce hormones of the opposite sex. Heterosexual-identified people can and often do experience sexual fantasies and attractions to people of either sex. Psychologically, we often emulate or express a diversity of gender attributes. Many of us envy the opposite sex in small and large ways.

Venus and Mars conjunct in Taurus bring this quality into focus, particularly at such a powerful time as the solstice. Taurus, and a conjunction, both point to an interior quality, something that we all contain within ourselves. It happens that this is something we seek in others all the time. The combination of Venus and Mars conjunct, and the Sun and Vesta conjunct, suggest that more than needing something, we all actually possess something that we can share, if we take care of it regularly.

Wouldn’t that be novel? Wouldn’t that be a new, useful definition of self-esteem?

Yours & truly,
Eric Francis

Another no-go for Endeavour launch

NASA’s probably hoping the third time will be the charm, since the two space shuttle launches have been scrubbed in the past week, most recently Wednesday.

The United States flag waves in the breeze as the space shuttle Endeavour sits on launch pad 39-A Tuesday morning June 16, 2009 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP Photo/John Bazemore).

The Endeavour is on the launch site at Cape Canaveral, Fla., but a hydrogen leak caused NASA to scrub the early morning launch less than four hours before takeoff was scheduled, according to The Washington Post.

The leak — in a hydrogen vent line that is attached to the shuttle’s external fuel tank — is the same problem in the same place as the one that caused the first launch, set for last Saturday, to be scrubbed. According to the Post article, repairs had been made after that leak, including replacing the hookup and two seals. That did the trick back in March after a similar leak showed up, but not this time.

Endeavour’s mission will carry the Japanese contribution to the International Space Station, the module known as Kibo that includes a “front porch” that will be used — no, not for sitting in rocking chairs — for experiments in space. The website has a day-by-day schedule for Endeavour’s 17-day mission.

It Came From Outer Space!

When a kid — especially a boy — gets a scar, he’ll usually come up with a story to tell his friends that’s much more interesting than the truth. Say, “I was attacked by pirates” rather than “I tripped on my shoelace and fell.”

One in a million… A teen in Germany has been hit by a meteorite as it hurtled to Earth at more than 30,000 mph and lived to tell the tale. Photo:

But a German teen named Gerrit Blank won’t have to bother with that, since it’s pretty hard to beat the truth: “I was hit by a meteorite.”

Gerrit, who is 14, caught a glancing blow from the streaking space rock as it plummeted to the earth late last week. He wound up with a three-inch scar on the back of his hand, according to a June 12 article in The London Telegraph. It reports that Gerrit saw a ball of light headed his way, then “a red hot, pea-sized piece of rock hit his hand before bouncing off and causing a foot-wide crater in the ground.”

The rock has been confirmed by scientists as having originated in space, making it a pretty rare thing: A meteorite that survived a trip through Earth’s atmosphere, where they usually burn up.

So, how rare is it to be hit by a meteorite? The odds usually applied to the incident are one in a million. In fact, the folks over at dug into their archive and found only one other recorded incident where a person was struck by a meteorite. That was in 1954, when napping Alabama housewife Ann Hodges got a rude awakening after a 3-pound meteorite fell through the roof of her home, bounced off the furniture and struck her in the hip, leaving a bruise. also tracked down a few near-misses over the years, including a spectacular 2004 event when a meteor weighing a ton and bigger than a fridge blew up in the night sky over Chicago, showering the Windy City with bits of space debris.

Extraterrestrial ice, made fresh on Earth

Word to the wise: If you’re invited over to a place called the Ice Physical Properties Laboratory for drinks, don’t get your own ice.

Post-doctoral researcher Mathieu Choukroun prepares an ice sample for study. The ice lab has special equipment and techniques for creating and working with ice. ( NASA/JPL).

That’s where scientists with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are endeavoring to recreate the kinds of ice that have been discovered on frozen moons like Titan and Europa, according to an article posted Tuesday on the JPL web site.

Take, for example, Titan. Surface temperature? Oh, about minus 290 degrees. “Cryovolcanoes” belching a cocktail of “super-chilled liquids” onto the surface. The possibility of rich organic chemicals that might be “possible precursors to life.” To learn more about all this, JPL scientists are working to reproduce the kind of ice that would be found on that satellite of Saturn.

“We’re trying to shed light on processes that have occurred in the evolution of these bodies and understand what is happening on them now,” JPL planetary scientist Julie Castillo said in the article.

Sometimes it’s the elements that go into the ices — such as ammonia or various salts — that the scientists are looking to replicate. But there are also different types of ice, like “clathrate hydrates, water ices that form at low temperature and under high pressure and have molecules of different gases locked inside their ice crystals,” the article reports.

The goal of such experiments? Not to develop new novelty ices to flavor drinks down at the local bar, that’s for sure. Rather, it’s the continuing search for insight into where life might be found in our solar system and galaxy.

“Ice is found nearly everywhere in the universe and comes in many forms,” Castillo says in the article. “Where there is ice, there is often water, and where there is water, there is the possibility of life.”




Weekly Horoscope for Friday, June 19, 2009, #771 – BY ERIC FRANCIS

Aries (March 20-April 19)
The Sun is about to move over the angle of your chart that grounds you to the planet. Despite your reputation as a feisty, self-assertive player, the real you is someone who needs the security of home and the comfort of a family. Recognize where this exists already, and create it where you can. The extraordinary astrology of the days right around the change of season emphasizes that you are the central focus of that experience. You are the one who must light and maintain the home fires, and then the people you seek and crave will be drawn to you. This involves your home, but it’s also about maintaining a psychic and emotional position of allowing everyone around you to feel at home, with who they are and with who they are becoming.

Taurus (April 19- May 20)
You have so much you want to express, and much that you need to express. Say it while you feel it. Let people know how much they mean to you. This is the kind of generosity that requires nothing except the presence of your heart. That presence is not a fleeting thing; it’s your true devotion, of the nature of an eternal flame. You are giving at this point in your life from a place of self-awareness and actually having something to offer. As you extend that gift, you will feel its presence more and more, and you’ll notice the quality that is generally filed under ‘spiritual’ — the more you give, the more you realize you have. Work with this for a while and it will turn some of your less functional beliefs about yourself upside down.

Gemini (May 20- June 21)
You may be wondering what you have to give up. This question has nagged you for the past month or more. Part of you has one idea and part of you has another idea, but I wonder why you’re thinking about this at all. One potential reason involves the depth to which we are indoctrinated into the idea of sacrifice. Offering willingly is one thing. Offering from a sense of owing others is another. The difference can become obscured if we lack a healthy sense of self-worth. In my experience, the first obstacle to self-worth is figuring out that you might be lacking in the stuff. As long as we keep telling ourselves we’re fine, we will overlook the issue. I suggest you phrase it as a series of questions, beginning with the words “what if?”

Cancer (June 21- July 22)
Vesta and the Sun move into your sign over the weekend, followed by a spectacular New Moon. Venus and Mars are conjunct in your house of hopes and dreams, solid and dependable Taurus. All of this rates as an invitation to wake up to yourself, and to be aware of your presence in the world. Many other people recognize your value, your place and the meaning of what you have to offer; the missing piece is you stepping into that awareness yourself. Over the next few days you have a lot, and I do mean a lot, of help from the planets. If you notice feeling something different, if you wake up and notice that you are different, let it happen.

Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)
Your charts are taking on a larger-than-life quality that they frequently do this time of year, though at the moment you have a spectacular opportunity to act on it. If you are planning a business move of any kind, this is the time to reach upward. The key to success in this venture will be remembering that it’s not about you; you are involved, but what you are here to create is really something much greater. The key is to see yourself as part of that something, perhaps a large part, perhaps a small part, but in any event a significant one. One reason this is true is because you are the one who takes the initiative that enables something to actually happen. Be aware: the time is nigh.

Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)
Focus on bringing a key project to fruition. Remember that you may not be the one doing most of the work, but you are indeed the one in a central position of communication, which is to say coordination. You may not have ultimate authority, but you have access to everyone, mainly because they are the ones coming to you. This is not merely a neutral role, however. There is a theme involved. Your job is to remind people why something needs to happen. To do that most effectively, you need to open your eyes and be fully aware of the larger context involved. Nothing is happening for its own sake right now; nothing in the world. This theme of for a larger purpose is spray painted in every corner of the sky.

Libra (Sep. 22 – Oct. 23)
These past few months may have resonated with more potential than success; with more crisis than creative opportunity. But think of all that as preparation; consider how much more aware you are now than you were just a few months ago. Now comes the moment of truth: focusing your priorities and making sure that you put your potential to the best possible use. The sky is about to light up with an opportunity. As I have been suggesting in the other signs, it may not be specifically about you. Your job is to hold space (Vesta theme) for something much larger to occur. How large is large? Look around you. Look at what you say you support, and what you know feeds the world. If it’s within reach, throw your support behind it.

Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)
We live in a world where many, many people thrive on taking and a sense of entitlement that twists the mind if you think about it. Working most of my adult life as a journalist covering crimes committed by corporate and government officials, I have seen this over and over; but we don’t need to look that far. You can witness this in some of the most ordinary transactions. I suggest you take every single opportunity to reverse that trend: every opportunity to give, to love, to set free, to share, to express the truth; to offer rather than withhold; to include rather than exclude. Forget the ditty about how ‘it comes back to you’. Do it because it’s your soul’s calling to offer what only you can offer. Be grateful that you have so much, and take a few days off from wanting more. There is more to want than that: for example, a community and a world where everyone has just enough, particularly a sense of belonging.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 22)
You are being called upon to give yourself totally not to any one relationship, but to every relationship. One of the big problems on our planet is that we live in a hierarchy of love. Some people are ‘more important’ than other people, and we can act in very strange ways because of this. The outcomes of this situation, however, prove the point that we really don’t know what role people have, and it’s fair to doubt that we have any discernment at all. Monday’s New Moon is calling on you to suspend all discernment and make sure that you are offering what you can to every situation you are in. I cannot tell you why, or how; I can only tell you what I am reading in the planets. You are a born humanitarian and you know it. This is not merely a dream.

Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)
The astrology for the past two years has not been easy for Capricorns; at best you are questioning every belief you ever had. At worst you are looking at the world wondering whether there is any justice at all, even as you do your part to create that justice. Here is what I can tell you about your astrology right now: a large door is swinging open in these very days. You have the power to heal many of the wrongs that you see. Most of that comes from having a sense of perspective; there would be far less injustice if people could only see it for what it is. You can see it, and unlike many who get ground into the dust trying to make a better world, you are uniquely equipped to do your part.

Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)
Everyone has the gift of healing. When you get a little cut on your hand, have you ever marveled at how your body knows how to repair it? Your role might be to make sure the injury stays clean for a while, but then the body does its part. That is how being a good healer works. There are ailments you are suffering that will yield to this formula; there are injuries that others are suffering to which you can offer your consciousness and support. Monday’s spectacular New Moon in your 6th solar house — the house of healing, service and your best work — resounds with one message from ancient wisdom: let food be thy medicine, and let medicine be thy food. Practice this and you will help many.

Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)
Pisces is blessed with natural access to a cosmic dimension of existence. In this respect, yours is the strangest sign of the 12, because so many things that matter so little to others make the greatest difference to you. At the same time, it’s also true that things that hurt others minimally can cause you the greatest emotional and psychological damage: things like subtle deception. Due to the ongoing conjunction of both of your ruling planets combined with Chiron in Aquarius, the world is becoming more like you are; more able to embrace your viewpoint; and more willing to give you space to exist. Move into that space now. You don’t need to take it, or take anything: the way is open.

Leave a Comment