May 6, 2010

Grieving With Demeter: The Astrology of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Explosion

As Holly Moeller of MIT’s The Tech duly notes, the timing of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster is both ironic and tragic, spilling barely one month after President Obama opened coastal waters to offshore drilling, and now threatening millions of ocean creatures in the midst of spring birthing and migrating.

The spill also corresponds with interesting star-crossings, which involve such key mythological characters as Chiron, the wounded healer, and Ceres (or Demeter), the earth-goddess in charge of initiating spring.  On April 20th, the day of the oil rig explosion, the planet Chiron entered the sign of Pisces.  According to astrologer Mary Plumb, “Chiron is the shamanic journey, the wisest teacher, and the traveler out of ordinary time. Pisces’s greatest strength is to open the doors of perception, and, if conditions are lined up, can bring a glimpse of interconnectedness.”

Plumb notes that Pisces usually carries distress and sensitivity – the ability to deeply feel universal truths, and the willingness to descend into deep, hidden sorrows.  This transit encourages the exploration of nature, our emotional world, spirituality, and the planet as a whole entity.  During the weeks leading up to the transit, Eric Francis observes that “we experienced a volcanic eruption at Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland, Goldman Sachs is being sued by the feds for baby fraud, and then air traffic throughout northern Europe got scrambled by the volcanic dust cloud. For nearly a week, airports across Europe were closed and the skies were silent: an astonishing event here in the modern world, and due to a natural phenomenon.”  The synchronicity of these events, in conjunction with current astrology, offers insight into how we might work with these collective experiences of grief and destruction.

But Chiron and Pisces are not the only star players here.  In late March, the planet Ceres, symbolic of the mythological earth goddess Demeter, came into conjunction with Pluto, the powerful lord of the underworld. Mary Plumb notes, “Pluto rules hidden things and the journey into darkness to see what is there. Ceres is the goddess of grain and all that flowers on the Earth. She is known as the goddess of agriculture and is connected to the environment. And now, as she travels with Pluto, we are witnessing acute devastation to the environment.” As you’ll recall, Demeter plunges into grief and devastation every year when her daughter Persephone descends into Hades for six wintery months.  Demeter is the mother-goddess of creation and sustenance, while Pluto symbolizes death and destruction.  Plumb suggests that these two planets together imply “grievous loss, the deep pain of attachments and separations.”

Jamie Funk has this to say:

“The minor planet Ceres has been mentioned a lot lately in relation to the environment because she is has been in conjunction with Pluto, and they do have a strong link in Roman mythology. Ceres struck a deal with Pluto to share her daughter Persephone. Lynn Hayes stressed this association in The astrology of the Horizon oil rig explosion: ‘The elevation of Ceres has brought about a new global awareness about the needs for environmental balance.  Perhaps this explosion (Pluto) will facilitate even greater awareness about our tenuous ecological balance (Ceres).’ Associating Ceres with the environment is nothing new in astrology.  From the Wikipedia page, Planets in astrology: ‘Ceres, as the Goddess who has control over nature’s resources and cycles, may be known also in astrology as the planet of the Environment. Going back to mythology, an early environmental villain is the figure of Erysichthon, the tearer up of the earth, who cut down trees in a grove sacred to Ceres-Demeter, for which he was punished by the goddess with fearful hunger. In this sense Ceres became an emerging archetype in the social response of becoming aware of the recent Climate Change, and is entering our collective consciousness as a need to take care of our natural and irreplaceable resources in the 21st Century.’”

Astrologer Eric Francis notes that “Pluto itself rules mining and deep underground. Deepwater Horizon was working the Tiber oilfield, ‘the deepest oil and gas well ever drilled’. This is so very Plutonic, pushing the boundaries to the extreme, penetrating deeper than ever before. Pluto does demand payment for journeying to his underworld.”  Francis also predicts a long recovery from this disaster, as long-term transits do not bode well.  Jupiter is moving into conjunction with Uranus, which could increase the ambiguous, unpredictable, and spontaneous nature of the event.

Many Americans view astrological predictions and synchronicities as self-fulfilling prophesies – too soft and simplistic to hold any weight.  However, contemplating these large, complex, and cumbersome world events from an astrologer’s eye can help ease confusion and isolated suffering, adding elements of collective connection, emotion, and mystery.  As we reel from this environmental tragedy, I suggest we take on this kind of universal worldview, honoring our interdependence, our ability to grieve together, and this whole-systems mythical story in which we all play our small part.

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