My supermarket is a cornucopia –– shelves of fresh vegetables from Kenya, South Africa and Spain, glistening fruit, vacuum-packed meat (as far from the carcass as possible), smoked salmon from Scotland and Alaska, pimentos from Alicante, olive oil from Tuscany, yoghurt from Thessaloniki, rye bread from Sweden, chocolate from Switzerland, sardines from Portugal, tahini and pomegranate syrup from Lebanon, dates form Iran, mangoes from Pakistan, soy sauce from Japan, noodles from Thailand…
We are in lockdown here by the way, so there are shortages: loo roll, pasta and seeds. Otherwise the abundance continues. Mind you there are no bargains to be had — at all. Everything is full price.
We have been living in an age of extraordinary abundance in the rich world. If you could afford it; you could find any foodstuff you liked in the big cities from New Delhi to Buenos Aires, London to Hong Kong. Truffles flown in from Perigord, yes please! Sea cucumber from the Gulf of China, here it comes. For years, we’ve been telling ourselves to shop local, of course. And that has been abundant too — luscious cheeses, crisp apples, hand-picked mushrooms from secret places in the woods, organic herbs, sauerkraut made in a stone crock, peaches and cream.
And then there are the restaurants, the cafes, the tapas bars, noodle shops. Would you like broth brewed for 24 hours, beer brewed in the basement, steak marinaded in lingonberry and vodka.
One of the goddesses who often holds that horn of plenty is Ceres, the goddess of agriculture and abundance, motherhood and nurturing. The minor planet is named after her. The other gods sometimes shown with the cornucopia include Fortuna, Gaia, Hades and the nymph Maia.
The secret of the horn, said to be the horn of a she-goat (but origins vary), was that it would always be magically refilled.
During this time of plenty, in those same cities, people have gone hungry. Not everyone has benefited. And then there’s been the food waste…
Now, during lockdown, people are beginning to think again about where their food comes from, who picks it, who delivers it, who stacks those groaning shelves. And wondering how all those long supply chains are going to keep working in the current crisis.
Ceres, goddess of agriculture
This set me wondering about the astrology associated with this, and naturally I turned to Ceres. She takes just over four and a half years to make her way through the Zodiac, so you’d have trouble directly associating her with food abundance or shortage. She makes a conjunction with the planet of restriction, Saturn, every six years or so. The last time was in 2014, and a conjunction with Pluto every five years. The last time was in 2015.
I can’t find a time when these three made a triple conjunction — except this year on January 12. My software does not go into BCE.
I looked back on this site to see what I’d written about Ceres — and I was quite startled to read this article — Ceres, Food and Revolutions. It’s about the Arab Spring, which began with food riots in Tunisia. At that moment Ceres was at 23° Capricorn, the degree of this year’s epochal triple conjunction. As Malcolm X pointed out: A hungry man is an angry man.
I have no doubt there will be food shortages this year, but having looked back at the list of famines over the last 2000 years, I note that it’s a rare year that you find all the citizens of the world well fed. Right now there are ongoing famines in South Sudan and Yemen. The good news is that widespread hunger has steadily declined through the last 200 years, despite spikes such as the great famine in China in the 1950s.
Ceres will be turning retrograde soon, as she does most years. In 2020, she’ll spend most of her time in Pisces, one of the fertile signs, and associated with both floods and droughts. Since 1980, Ceres has turned retrograde in Pisces in 1988 (famine in Sudan), 1997 (famine in North Korea), 2011 (famine in Somalia and the year of the Arab uprisings). But keep in mind that you can find famine somewhere in the world most years.
So I looked back to see if there were any association between Ceres Rx in Pisces and famines. In fact, Ceres Rx did seem to crop up in two signs more frequently — Taurus, the sign of the earth and Pisces, the sign of sacrifice.
Specifically, Ceres was retrograde in Pisces during the Great Famine of 1316, just before the Deccan famine of 1629, which was caused by a series of crop failures, during the hungry 1690s, at the start of the Great Famine in Ireland and the Highland famine of the 1840s, in 1919 when there was famine across Russia, Persia, Central Asia, and East Africa, and in 1942 when there was hunger around the world caused by the war.
You don’t need to be an astrologer to see that the virus, lockdown, and locusts will cause a problem with the food supply across the world. If you can’t find the people to harvest the crop or get the crop to market, you’re in trouble. Add to that the loss of crops through natural disasters, and we may begin to see serious shortage. The coming entry of Mars into Aries does not bode well for fires.
The other issue in countries without robust and flexible support systems in place will be unemployment caused by the response to the virus.
The people who will suffer most are the global poor, but there could be belt-tightening (a Saturnian activity) all round. This is another part of the stress test.
There is a thread that connects all these things, of course, and that is our lopsided relationship with nature. Which brings us back to the conjunction of Ceres, Saturn and Pluto.
Just to end on a less gloomy note — this is a transit, a transition. There is a place on the other side once we get through.