|Article Title: The Many Faces of Pluto
- by Marion March
|[This article first appeared in the Summer, 1984 issue of Aspects Astrological Magazine]
Ever since I started studying astrology some 18 years ago, I've been fascinated by the small, way far out but oh so powerful planet Pluto. [Editor's note: recognized as the largest object in the Kuiper asteroid belt, debate rages on in the astronomy community about its status as a planet.] In those 18 years I've observed Pluto's action in over 500 private charts, and thousands more of well-known people. The deeper I probed, the ore convinced I became that Pluto is the most multifaceted of all the planets.|
Pluto is the most distant planet from our Sun (3.74 million miles). Too small to ever be seen with the naked eye, Pluto was the last planet to be discovered in our solar system (1930). Pluto's orbit is more eccentric and its inclination from the plane of the ecliptic than that of any other planet. At perihelion (nearest distance to the Sun) it is closer to the sun than Neptune is at aphelion (greatest distance from the Sun). It is also the slowest moving of all planets, taking nearly 248 years to traverse the zodiac.
Pluto stays longest in Taurus, the probable sign of its detriment (about 32 years), and shortest in Scorpio, the probable sign of its dignity (approximately 12 years).
Rulerships of planets in certain signs have been assigned according to which of the attributes or traits of that sign the planet best expresses. After observing Pluto since 1930, astrologers are still debating whether it rules Scorpio or Aries. The majority lean to Scorpio and personally I am convinced that the divergent qualities expressed by Pluto correspond to Scorpionic traits.
I see Aries as impulsive, while Pluto is compulsive (Scorpio). Aries is ardent whereas Pluto/Scorpio is passionate; eager versus intense, independent versus progressive, dynamic versus penetrating, arrogant versus sarcastic, quick tempered versus vengeful, hasty versus deliberate, zesty versus incisive - all keywords that fit both Pluto and Scorpio to a tee.
Even Pluto's glyphs are controversial, since there are at least 6 of them still in use. The most used stood for the first two letters of the word Pluto, as well as the initials of Percival Lowell, the astronomer who had pursued and investigated the mysterious planet for years, but died before its actual discovery. is considered a more evolved glyph than . Astrologer Isabel Hicky referred to it as the higher side of Pluto and called it Minerva. On the European continent or are most often used, which shows their early assignment of Pluto as the ruler of Aries. Some Scandanavian charts employ this glyph for Pluto: , symbolizing the melding of solar and lunar forces, and some astrologers utilize these two glyphs: , .
The literal meaning of the word Pluto is riches. Its implied meaning is also surplus, might, treasure, fortune and blessing. The riches supposedly were the fertile earth, the depth of which Pluto, also known as Hades, ruled. In Greek mythology he was the son of one of the Titans, Cronus, and his sister/wife Rhea. After the fall of the Titans, Pluto's brother Zeus (Jupiter) and his sister/wife Hera took over the heavens, Poseidon ruled the waters and Pluto/Hades everything underground.
Just as there are diverse glyphs for Pluto, the mythological tales of this god abound. As Hades he was also called the "Unseen," the god to whom all must go sooner or later; but the living shrank away from giving a face to one who became their lord upon death. He was accorded universal respect and given reverence by those who cared for the condition of the departed.
In early tradition his realm was in the West (Odyssey, book X), since the Sun set there. Later it was placed underground and everyone, after being properly buried, arrived at one of Hades' rivers.
Pluto is also depicted as the King of the Underworld, seated on a throne of sulphur from which flow the streams of Lethe (oblivion), Cocytus (lamentation), Phlegethon (river of fire) and Acheron (river of shadows) - all four of which traverse the kingdom of the dead and flow into the sacred river Styx.
The best-known Pluto/Hades myth relates to Persephone, daughter of Zeus and Demeter, goddess of fertility. Zeus gave Hades permission to take Persephone as his wife, whereupon he snatched her while she was picking flowers and bore her off in his black chariot to his kingdom. Demeter's grief while searching for her daughter caused all nature to wither and famine threatened earth. Seeing the blackened soil, Zeus relented and sent Hermes to fetch Persephone back, but she had eaten part of a pomegranate and was already beholden to Hades. A compromise was reached and Persephone spent part of the time with her mother where she remained the carefree young girl picking flowers. The rest of the time she reigned with Hades where she was considered a tragic but fearsome queen.
In some myths Pluto was an inexorable god, goading the unwilling into his realm with a pitchfork, hated by gods and men alike. The souls of the dead, accompanied by Hermes, were met by Hades' dog Cerberus, who guarded the gates so no one could ever again emerge. After judgement, the souls were allocated to Tartarus, a place of torment in the lower underworld. If virtuous, they were given a place in the joyous Elysian Fields. For heroes there was also an alternative reward: eternal life in the far off Isles of the Blessed, where the Golden age was recreated.
A pleasant aspect to life after death is also reflected in Hades' identification with Pluto as the giver of wealth, food and corn. This connection leads to one more face of Pluto, namely as the mysterious son of a goddess, with Demeter's name most often mentioned. That would make Demeter his sister (as daughter of Cronus and Rhea), his mother-in-law (mother of his wife, Persephone) and his mother.
As the story goes, a young Cretan hunter named Iasion mated 3 times with Demeter in the fertile and plowed fields. The goddess bore the child Pluto - the bearer of riches - and in thanks the earth gave forth a manifold harvest.
Pluto the Goddess
The most fascinating discovery is that there is a female Pluto in mythology. According to most mythological references "Tantalus, who offended the gods by serving them the cut-up flesh of his son Pelops at a banquet, was himself the son of Zeus and his mother was Pluto, a sea nymph." Some go into even greater detail: "Tantalus' mother was Pluto, the rich one, a daughter of Cronos. Thanks to her, Lydia was famous for its gold - gold in the veins of its mountains and in the sands of its rivers. No name better suited the greatest goddess of this land than the name Pluto."
Myth and reality, how far apart are they in this world where everything is interconnected? Where does mythology end and folklore or history start? How much of this is inherent in the archetype of Pluto? Pluto is the prince of darkness who rules the nether world; Pluto the "unseen" yet respected and revered god; Pluto the tempter who snatched innocent Persephone and offered her a pomegranate; Pluto the relentless one, goading his victims with a pitchfork, reminiscent of Christianity's symbolism for Satan; Pluto the great goddess of riches.
Pluto, the smallest planet with the most eccentric orbit, discovered at a time when scientists were studying the possibility of splitting the atom and found that by bombarding Uranium with neutrons at a suitable speed, it can be transformed into PLUTOnium, an element not found in nature but needed for a new form of energy - atomic energy.
So here we have Pluto's main ingredients - the androgynous male/female figure, the great earth mother as well as the ruler of the underworld. In natal chart delineation, I use the Sun, Mars and Saturn as the 3 planets describing the father or male urges, the Moon Venus and Pluto for the mother or female. The bearer of riches to the point of surplus, very visible and "seen" rather than the hidden, underground and "unseen."
What better way to describe certain covert sexual urges that seem to burst forth from some unknown depth within us than through the allegory of Pluto god of the dark underworld, seducing his beloved with the forbidden fruit? What better comparison to Pluto's need to exert power or be in control than the god Pluto sitting in judgement over which soul should go to Elysium (heaven), or Tartarus (hell), or live in eternity (Nirvana).
What better explanation for "transformation," astrology's favorite keyword for Pluto, than the reality of Uranium being transformed into Plutonium shortly after the discovery of the planet.
Astrologer Liz Greene feels that the outer planets (Uranus, Neptune and Pluto) tune into the collective unconscious (a Jungian term). I agree with her, particularly where Neptune and Pluto are concerned, and I feel that the Einsteins, Bohrs, Fermis and Oppenheimers of the world "tuned in" when the time was right to discover a new energy, while astronomers simultaneously found a new planet to rule or astrologically explain that energy. They became the vehicles to bring the subterranean forces to the surface or into the conscious world.
By tuning in to the collective unconscious we can also see why the mythology of the Greeks is closely related to the folklore, fairy tales, the Bible, the Talmud, the Vedas, the Koran and son on.
The pomegranate, a beautiful flowering tree that only produced fruit when protected, a fruit whose seeds were said to have medical (aphrodisiacal?) properties, is no different from the apple Eve ate. [Editor's note: the fruit referred to as an "apple" in the King James Version of the Bible in English is a translation of the word for "pomegranate. Medieval artwork for the story of Adam and Eve makes it clear that it was well understood that the fruit the text references was a pomegranate.]
To relate it to Pluto, it is the forbidden fruit of any age, especially that which is inherent in darkness, night or secret places, all truly Plutonic attributes. It could represent the stolen kiss of the Victorian age, necking or petting in the backseat of a car during the 30s and 40s or some sexual orgies of today. The incestuous relations of the gods may raise our eyebrows, but were totally accepted then, just as homosexuality was taken for granted during much of the Roman Empire.
In the Upanishads (Indian), the creation of the world is the work of a supreme creator. As such, he breaks himself in two parts, male and female, and thus becomes two people. The female thinks, "How can he who just begat me mate with me? Maybe I'd better hide from him." So she transforms herself into a cow - but he changes into a steer and mates with the cow, and thus it continues in the name of creation, procreation and transformation.
The Snake vs. the Phoenix
The collectively attuned Pluto can understand why Scorpio's symbolism of the snake was changed into a phoenix. In Indian myths and religions, the powers of Kundalini are like a snake, coiled at the bottom of the spine, waiting to uncoil its force and reach upward to illumination and insight, or downward to violence and self-destruction. The snake was therefore revered and feared. But Christian ethics and especially Freud's later equation of snakes with sex in a sinful-or guilt-ridden fashion, ruined that symbolism for us in the Western world.
We felt much happier with the phoenix, that sacred Egyptian bird with reddish plumage, the color of the sun and the face as white as the Moon. The phoenix self-immolates by placing itself on the burning altar (martyrdom of Christ) and then rises from its own ashes as a young and healthy bird, to fly away again into a new life (resurrection). That symbolism still means death and rebirth, but in a language we can understand today.
Death or Transmutation
The collectively attuned Pluto knows that death is a form of transmutation or a changing of form and as Pluto's energies seep into our conscious level, people like Elizabeth Kubler-Ross (author of On Death and Dying) can advocate ideas like death with dignity and find willing ears. Doctors can find ways to transplant organs and overcome the body's natural rejection and extend one person's physical life through another's physical death. They can also use Pluto's obsessive traits and prolong life beyond its point of sense or reason through machines and other technical means.
The collective unconscious is no guarantee of good or bad. It is a collection of everything: past, present and future. Atomic energy can become atomic destruction through a bomb; sexual equality can come into our awareness as well as sexual misuse through exploitation, child pornography, sado-masochism, etc.
Since Pluto is so far away from earth, its symbolism is slow, deep, probing and far reaching, both for the individual and the masses. Its meaning cannot be timed, because it advances and retrogrades in a restricted area of the horoscope for nearly two years. It is more like a seed sown which sprouts and pierces the earth's surface in its own good time (free will!).
When talking of the transcendentals, we might say that Uranus indicates awakenings, Neptune illuminations, and Pluto transformations by making a transition to a new state of being. For this reason I feel that the higher vibrations of the transcendentals are only achieved after the personality is formed.
The child may use the energy Uranus symbolizes to rebel, to be different, to shock, but not to fulfill some unique function. Few children will think of illumination or enlightenment in their growing years; they might use Neptunian themes to dream their dreams, to imagine their imaginary playmates, or to put a veil over realities they cannot face.
How can children think of Pluto as transforming when they have not even formed? It is only at an appropriate point in time that Pluto can project outward or inward. Pluto, planet of mystery, can become our eventual bridge between the spiritual and material world (the riches versus the unseen), and therewith embody the principle of transition or transformation. Pluto, planet of sex, can be the force to insure the perpetuation of life. In Pluto the process of re-creation and death seem to merge. The Plutonian energies often demolish or destroy in order to reconstruct the new from the rubble of the old - by tearing down the old and accepted concepts, it forces us to make way for the new.
Pluto - Cog in the Wheel
Where is the difference between Adolf Hitler - Libra Rising, Pluto in Gemini in the 8th house, quincunx the Moon and Jupiter, conjunct Neptune - and my uncle, born the same day, in Feurth Bavaria one hour earlier? He has the same Ascendant and the same Pluto aspects, but was blown to pieces by a grenade during WW1 at age 17. According to his brothers, he was a gentle soul who would not hurt a fly. Or the similar Pluto of the humanitarian doctor and musician Albert Schweitzer, also with Libra ascending and Pluto in the 8th house, [here] involved in a grand cross with Saturn, Mars and Uranus.
Can Pluto tell us why Sissy Spacek, with Virgo rising and Pluto in Leo in the 11th house, inconjunct Mercury and opposition Venus, became a well-known actress, while Richard Speck, Virgo Rising, Pluto in Leo in the 11th house trine Mercury and opposition Venus, became a mass murderer?
Obviously Pluto is not the key to a person's total personality or behavior; it is but one of the cogs in the wheel. Yet those who tune into that extra vibration (which is neither higher, lower, better or worse) can be propelled into mass consciousness.
Pluto's transit through the signs of the zodiac is too long to have personal meaning and should be viewed in a historical sense, as its meaning applies to a generation. It can give that generation common ideas and ideals, leading into a collective destiny.
A cursory glance at history in capsule form reveals that less happened when Pluto was last in Scorpio, 1737 to 1759, than many another time. No wars, no famines, no great scientific discoveries. But Bering sighted and explored Alaska in 1740. The previous pass of Pluto in Scorpio, 1491 to 1503, while Michelangelo sculpted the Pieta and Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, Columbus discovered the New World, Vasco da Gama sailed around Africa and found a sea route to India, while John Cabot explored Canada - again, no reports of pests, volcanic eruptions or other great disasters.
Could it be that instead of upheavals, major earthquakes, Armageddon and other catastrophic events predicted for the 1983 to 1995 stay of Pluto in Scorpio, we will discover new worlds in outer space? Is it our instinctive fear of the mysterious and unknown that makes us wonder which face Pluto will show next?
Could Pluto, ruler of the 8th house of public resources, bring the long overdue total change in the world's monetary systems? Or could it be a new approach to medicine? The holistic trend started with Pluto in Virgo could come to fruition through new medical discoveries, leading to less surgery and more natural healing. A new physical method of birth control for men rather than women might also be in the offing, as well as new understanding and acceptance in Third World countries to limit their child bearing [and consequent population problems].
It is Pluto's house position, its aspects and the house which it rules that will show us where and how we can personally best meet the challenge of our destiny; and when we find it, we have to solve the problems unaided and alone.
Pluto can be the redeemer, a word which, according to the dictionary, means "to change for the better, to release and to reform," and can represent another way of transforming. Pluto is like a volcano (volcanic is a synonym for the word plutonic), something below and waiting to erupt. Which way will you let it erupt?
The choice is yours!
World Book Encyclopedia - Greek Mythology
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Mythology, by Michael Stapleton
MacMillan Everyman's Encyclopedia
New Columbia Encyclopedia
Larousse Encyclopedia of Mythology
The world's Mythology, by Veronica Ions
Minerva, by Isabel Hickey
The Outer Planets and Their Cycles, by Liz Greene
"Mythologisches," an article by Fritz Gehre, in "Astrolog," April 1983
Copyright: Marion March
Bio: Marion March
Marion March is a noted teacher, lecturer and writer on astrologer, as well as a valued astrological counselor in her own right, and the mentor of many younger astrologers. With Joan McEvers, she is the author of a series of comprehensive instructional books: The Only Way to Learn Astrology in five volumes, which has gone through many editions, and has been translated (and published) in several languages besides English including German, Spanish and Portuguese.