Vesta is an important baby planet (recently reclassified) in your personal astrological birth chart. We associate her with the Vestal Virgins of Ancient Rome, who worshipped Vesta in their temple, under the authority of just one man, the Pontifex Maximus. The all-female environment and the power and control issues with the male in charge, give us Vesta’s meaning.
These were six hand-picked women, chosen by the Pontifex Maximus (the chief priest of Rome) and after the time of Augustus, from 27BC-AD 14, the Emperor himself. They were aged between six and ten. They had to be free of physical or mental deformity. They had to agree to be virgins, for at least 30 years – after which they were set free.
Professor Corey Brennan, from the American Academy in Rome, says, “They had no family; they were totally on their own. This was unique for women in Rome,” adding that “they were also constrained by their positions as guardians of the sacred fire”.
Vesta ruled fire and Romans thought that as long as the virgins kept the flame alive, Rome was protected. Allowing the sacred fire to die out would lead to the Vestal responsible being stripped and beaten.
The Roman historian Livy documents cases in which Vestals were condemned to death. The Vestal virgin Minucia was accused of having “an improper love of dress”, while others were killed based on the testimony of temple slaves. History tells us more than one was buried alive. Yet, strangely, the virgins led privileged lives and received a substantial pension from Rome. Unlike other Roman women they were not the property of their fathers or their husbands.
VESTA AND SATURN – DAUGHTER AND FATHER
Astrology is based on a Roman family tree, and Saturn is the father of Vesta. Perhaps it’s not surprising. He is a symbol of fear and the Vestales were undoubtedly living in fear in their temple. At the same time, men were terrified of being accused of having sex with any of them – the punishment was dreadful. No wonder something as basic as a love triangle, or jealousy within a marriage, can trigger such tremendous, raw feeling. A very old archetype is being triggered whenever Vesta is at large.
This archetype made it all the way from Ancient Rome to the Middle Ages, and today, into modern times – when adultery can still end a marriage and so many professions are still female-dominated, yet with male superiors in charge. In your birth chart, you will see Vesta symbolised by a tiny fire symbol – the sacred flame. Vesta is about the ‘heat’ which can arise in all-female environments where there is competition for male approval or male attention. This asteroid requires special handling, unless you want to be sent back into the Middle Ages in the dark days before men and women figured out gender politics.
HOW VESTA TURNS UP IN YOUR HOROSCOPE
Sometimes a man marries a woman and starts a family, only to find that he has ended up surrounded by females – with daughters, rather than sons. It is also common to find Vesta in female-dominated professions like women’s magazines (with a male publisher at the top) or in airlines, where a male pilot flies the plane and female flight attendants outnumber him. This is the chart for Sir Richard Branson, below. He was born with Vesta at 10 Taurus (the sign ruling business), Hygiea at 10 Sagittarius (the sign ruling travel) and Diana at 9 Aries (the sign ruling self-promotion). Even his airline is called Virgin. He is frequently shown promoting himself in the company of women, plural. Virgin’s branding has long been linked with its glamorous female attendants, en masse. Sometimes astrology can be staggering, it’s so literal!
GENDER POLITICS AND VESTA IN THE SIGNS AND HOUSES
By sign and house, Vesta shows you where you will encounter gender politics. Situations with one male – and two or more females – need careful handling when Vesta appears in your birth horoscope. If you find Vesta in Cancer and the Fourth House, your family will be dominated by women/girls with one man – usually your father – the lone male. If you find Vesta in Leo and the Fifth House, then a baby boy may be born to a single mother with daughters/sisters for company. If Vesta is in Libra and the Seventh House, you may attract love triangles or men with baggage – the classic ‘other woman’ scenario. Where is Vesta in your chart? If she turns up in your Eighth House you may get into financial or property situations (repeatedly) where you, as a woman, are dealing with other woman (or perhaps, the Other Woman) in relation to a man – and the deal at stake.
As you can see in this extract from my e-guide Asteroid Astrology (free to Premium Members) Vesta, found in 1807, made her debut in the same year as the opera La Vestale. She is asteroid number 4 in your birth chart and she is prominent in the chart of novelist Jane Austen, who was born with Vesta at 19 Aquarius in the house of groups, Saturn at 19 Libra in the house of marriage and Mars at 19 Capricorn in the house of ambition. Austen pulled all this together (from her personal life) into the enduring story of a family of girls, all looking for husbands, in the timeless bestseller Pride and Prejudice. Both Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bennett played the Pontifex Maximus figure in Jane Austen’s story of the ‘virgins’ – the Bennett sisters. Austen’s way of handling Vesta in her chart was to see the funny side – and to write a classic romantic comedy. Vesta is often best handled with a rich sense of humour, and perhaps that is why Pride and Prejudice has flourished for so many years.
LOVE IN A COLD CLIMATE. NANCY MITFORD, DIANA MITFORD AND VESTA
The Mitford sisters were another classic example of a Vesta family, as the only boy in the aristocratic clan was tragically killed during the war, leaving all the Mitford girls with their father (Farve in Nancy Mitford’s novels, Love In A Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love) as the head of the household.
The sisters handled Vesta’s heat with varying degrees of success. Nancy, Diana, Jessica, Unity and Deborah (Debo) were often at war with each other, as well as fiercely loyal when Farve was threatening them with punishment. Vesta can turn up when we see feminism in action, but she is also there, when you see a toxic atmosphere resulting when women or girls compete with each other, for a man’s approval.
Nancy was born with Vesta in a conjunction with Apollo, in the Sixth House of work, and also the body. Vesta was at 24 Virgo and Apollo was at 23 Virgo on the day she arrived. Her sister Diana was born with Vesta at 23 Aries and Uranus in a square at 24 Capricorn. Both sisters were involved with men, later in life, who brought love triangles with them. Nancy was fascinated by a Frenchman who could never belong to her exclusively – and who in fact, broke her heart – and Diana found herself embraced by Oswald Mosley and his complex private life.
If you are a woman and you have a pattern of being drawn into relationships with men who have former wives or girlfriends who cannot let go (and whom, tellingly, they cannot release) or you fall in love with people who are married or dating other women – have a look at Vesta in your chart. Are you repeating family patterns? If you are a man and you find yourself surrounded by daughters, former wives or new wives who are at war with each other, look at Vesta in your chart for clues. This is the Nancy Mitford horoscope, below.
CHICKS, GROUPIES, GIRLS AND ELECTRIC LADYLAND
I always guessed that Jimi Hendrix might have Vesta making exact patterns in his natal chart, because of the cover of Electric Ladyland. There is a particular kind of ‘guy’ both in the music industry and other professions too, who delights in the ego massage and attention, of a group of women creating a harem atmosphere around him. Women do not exist as individuals to them, they are merely all ‘girls’ as part of a generally pleasant, personality-free, mass of ladies. You see Vesta a lot in astrology, too, because it is typically dominated by women, yet frequently puts men at the top of the profession. Ahem!
Jimi Hendrix was born with Vesta at 16 Aquarius in the house of groups (and groupies) sextile Bacchus – the pleasure asteroid – in Sagittarius, in the house of travel. And touring rock bands, of course.
Bacchus is crucial. If you’re going to use Vesta in your astrology, you can’t ignore the other asteroids too, or indeed any of the other heavenly bodies of modern astrology. They all complete the Roman family tree of our planets and their close relatives. Bacchus matters just as much as Vesta, especially if you are reading the birth chart of a promiscuous man who cannot commit. It may be that his pleasure principle (Bacchus) is tied to his need to have an Electric Ladyland.
MEN WHO DON’T PUT OUT
Men who don’t put out – who are religiously celibate (sometimes literally so) – often find themselves surrounded by women. Why so many female friends? Why so many panting admirers? Perhaps it’s because the power of playing Pontifex Maximus to the ‘virgins’ comes from never actually choosing one to be the harem favourite. Once a choice is made, the game is over. How can you tell if a man has a Vesta problem? Simple. Join forces with the other women and see what happens when it’s (all of you) having a joke at his expense. Vesta men tend to run screaming from feminism as it can feel so threatening.
FATHERS, WIVES AND DAUGHTERS – VESTA IN FAMILIES
It should come as no surprise to find out that not only King Henry VIII (with his six unfortunate wives) as well as Prince Andrew, have strong Vesta patterns. Henry was born with Vesta at 11 Virgo in aspect to the Moon at 10 Aries. That’s almost an exact quincunx. Andrew was born with Vesta at 22 Sagittarius exactly trine Hygiea at 22 Leo, the sign of royalty, no less. Knowing that ‘Vesta is in the house’ in families can help all concerned consciously manage the situation.
HANDLING VESTA IN YOUR PERSONAL HOROSCOPE
What works with Vesta? A sense of humour. Tolerance. Time. Tact. A frank acceptance of the reality of the power issues, when one male is surrounded by two or more females. Vesta can sometimes produce a very painful, even poisonous atmosphere. Perhaps it’s not surprising. In modern life, we have to find creative and thoughtful ways to cope when Vesta is in the house. Sometimes, awareness is all you need. Just realising that you are having transits to your Vesta can stop you from buying into a potentially toxic situation (if you are a woman) when an old boyfriend wants you to become involved with his new family.
Kurt Cobain is another example of a Vesta man. He left behind a wife and daughter, tragically, when he left the planet too young. He was the Pontifex Maximus. I find it interesting that he also used to frock up! Maybe that was his way of handling this asteroid in his chart – he literally removed his male status from the harem. Kurt was born with Vesta at 24 Scorpio, in the house of wills, testaments and legacies, exactly trine Chiron at 24 Pisces. The sign and house you find Vesta occupying, and the sign and house of any corresponding horoscope factor, making aspects (allow one degree) usually tells you the story. Sometimes astrology is really very simple. Just read the poetry of the signs and the houses they rule, in the natural zodiac/horoscope.
BILL CLINTON AND WOODY ALLEN – WHEN VESTA HURTS
Bill Clinton was born with Vesta at 6 Aries, Mars at 6 Libra and Neptune at 6 Libra. He is the only male in a family with two other females. He and Hillary survived his affair with Monica Lewinsky, but it remains a classic example of what can go wrong if Vesta is allowed to hurt. Obviously the other factors in the chart are the key here – Libra rules marriage. They all survived, and in fact Jupiter will cross Mars and Neptune at 6 Libra as Hillary runs for President. It’s a remarkable time in his life.
Woody Allen, whose chart is shown below Bill Clinton’s, was born with Vesta at 12 Pisces, the North Node at 13 Capricorn, the South Node at 13 Cancer (the sign of family) and Chiron at 13 Gemini. That is a huge Vesta pile-up. One suspects that the Vesta stories in Allen’s life end up in his scripts, because Gemini rules writing. Note that Vesta is tucked away in the house of secrets.
For better or worse, Vesta is a key player in the lives of both these famous saxophone players, Mr. Clinton and Mr. Allen, below! How does Vesta work in your own chart – and the charts of the men or boys in your life? If you are a man, how do you handle the female overload that can happen when Vesta turns up in your chart? As with everything in astrology, the first step towards handling these chart patterns is knowing they exist in the first place. Sometimes, sidestepping Vesta games is simply the best thing – and the obvious thing – to do. And of course, you can also cross the road to avoid the next Vesta type you meet. Women can act out the toxic side of Vesta’s ruthless female competitiveness and betrayal, just as much as men can act out the power-tripping, controlling side of this pattern, too. The key is self-knowledge which is why astrology can be so useful.