Thou art Kāli, the original form of all things, and because Thou art the Origin of and devourest all things Thou art called the Adya [the Primordial One]. Re-assuming after Dissolution Thine own form, dark and formless, Thou alone remainest as One ineffable and inconceivable. Though having a form, yet art Thou formless; though Thyself without beginning, multiform by the power of Maya, Thou art the Beginning of all, Creatrix, Protectress, and Destructress that Thou art.¹
The astrological Pluto (derived from Plouton) is, at best, an unprepossessing figure, something from a terror-filled dream as the stench of death grows ever strong. Indeed, he is Death itself. In Greek myth (known there as Hades) he is essentially a rapist with the power over human mortality. He abducted the maiden Persephone and forced her to spend six months as an unwilling resident of the Underworld. Hades was also the name for the Underworld itself: it means ‘the hidden one’, though no doubt this is connected to reports of the deity’s possession of a magical helmet rendering him invisible to mortals. In Hindu myth, Pluto’s twin is the figure of Kali, a goddess whose name derives from the Sanskrit kala, or time. Thus she stands for the power of Change that occurs with time, that which transforms the material world and like Pluto, she presides over death, mortality and destruction. (Her name also can mean ‘the black one’, which would also be very fitting for our friend Pluto.)
As I’ve hinted, Pluto’s astrological reputation is even more unsavoury than that of Saturn, the astrologer’s bête-noire. He represents a collective, impersonal power that is built into nature itself – the life-death-rebirth cycle we see everywhere (in the seasonal round, as winter gives way to spring; right down to the very cells in your body – the molecules in brain cells are replaced 10,000 times in a life, for example). As the Lord of Death, the god stalks us every day, silently and unobtrusively. Everything has its allotted life span and ‘death’ is built into its very structure, and in this sense Pluto is an ‘invisible’ force. When some facet of our lives is no longer relevant to us – emotionally, psychologically, materially – it will die. Or rather, it really ought to – for as humans we cling to even that which is still hurting us (like, say, a destructive relationship). He represents archetypal energies in the Collective Unconscious that force the ego to face up to its present reality, no matter how unfair or unpleasant. At such times we are just as unwilling a guest as was Persephone in the dark corridors of Hades. No, there is nothing fair, nor pleasant, about Pluto.
But Pluto is also the Lord of Rebirth, for his name – according to the eminent Greek philosopher Plato – means ‘giver of wealth, which comes out of the earth beneath.’ (Hence the word plutocracy – a situation where the richest are the only ones with any power in society.) Not only is Pluto associated with precious metals and minerals, but also the bounty of the harvest, and was revered as an agricultural deity bearing the Horn of Plenty (along with his consort Persephone) in ancient Greek Mystery rites celebrating the rebirth of nature. Here he is, in his other role of the giver of Life – and I’m reminded of the platitude about how the Christian God both ‘giveth and taketh away’, since this also applies to the astrological Pluto.
However, something with so much power must be treated with respect. People who come unstuck because of Pluto (either natally, or when he is active by transit or progression) do so because of this hubristic lack of respect. That is, they identify too closely with the archetypal forces which this planet symbolises. They start to believe they themselves are the source of its power, rather than the fallible human agent for it. Anyone who has practised ritual magick will know about this issue – magickal power is not something one ever possesses; rather, it is something one is simply channelling. Like electricity – one does not ‘have it’, one must make a safe conduit for it.
Pluto In The Real World
At an archetypal level, the current transit of Pluto through Capricorn (until 2023) is affecting the Father Principle at a core level. Capricorn, in mundane astrology, is the sign of established ‘patriarchal’ authority, national/global power structures and Plutocracies (states, Governments, elites, dictators, police forces, armies, financial institutions, Big Business and corporations). In short, the Establishment. What we see right now is Pluto chipping away at its foundations: the Father principle being steadily undermined by Pluto’s spring-clean policy.
This time honoured, patriarchal approach by the powers-that-be can only work if the values Capricorn embodies are accepted by society as a whole. In the Age of Aquarius, we’re no longer prepared to be treated like children, no longer content to accept the word of Authority on its own terms. More and more people are asking serious questions about the world they live in, more and more people are ready to speak out against what is unfair, unjust, untrue and especially when the system under which they’re living is corrupt. Thus the current Pluto transit through Capricorn coincides with various anti-government protests and the undermining of power elites, state hegemony and security forces.
Many of these protest movements are a democratic force simply trying to establish a fair deal for people, but as the British historian Mark Curtis has noted, real democracy is the last thing that governments want! There is, for example, the so-called Arab Spring, which began with a catalogue of grievances about repression followed by angry revolt, and this spread across the Arab world like wildfire. Then there is Occupy Wall Street, about perceived corruption and privilege within the US Finance and Banking sectors. Though protest marches on Washington, D.C. are nothing new, their frequency was much more intense throughout 2008-9, when Pluto was just getting started in Capricorn! By late December 2010, people were ready to take to the streets – and thus began the Arab Spring.
Pluto on the Birth Chart
Pluto on the birth chart is that force which comes into play when something has outgrown its use – when it is metaphorically dead. Pluto (usually by transit or progression) then comes along to sweep away the debris and detritus, removing even that to which we’re still emotionally or materially attached. (Hence its reputation for cruelty and ruthlessness.) So Pluto is about how you handle major, irrevocable change (the death/rebirth cycle). One of the oft used keywords for Pluto is ‘power’ and what we feel about it, how we handle it and use it. (Think again, of how we use electricity, i.e. with care!) Pluto on your birth chart shows where you must get to grips with such power issues, but it’s not quite as simple as that; it may be someone else’s power we have to deal with.
Whilst one tends to be rather ‘driven’ and intense wherever one finds Pluto on the chart, perhaps seeking to control and even transform those issues, it’s just as likely that you’ll invoke power-issues with others – as if they symbolise Pluto for you. In the house Pluto occupies on the natal chart, you can feel powerless to influence things. Pluto often demands we give up our ambitions for control and self-determination (which tends to be easier with Saturn) and simply submit to whatever is there. Sometimes we really do have to. Sometimes there are powerful forces at work we shouldn’t mess with!
Most of the time, however, we can’t simply walk away, and so we have ‘issues’ with our Pluto house. In the 10th? One of your parents (or an employer) is – or was – a formidable force. Maybe they’re simply implacable and you can’t get through to them at all and you just can’t change them. In the 3rd? Maybe a brother or sister has proven impossible to live with – you’re always trying to make them ‘see sense’, but they’re just incorrigible. And it frustrates the hell out of you. This feeling of powerlessness around others can also occur with partners (7th house), lovers (5th house, or in aspect to Venus) and certain friends (11th house).
Obviously, it can work in reverse, where you are manipulated and unduly influenced by others. This often happens when we have ceded our power to someone else, not altogether unconsciously, too. For example, there is a moon-Pluto opposition on the chart of John Lennon, an aspect affecting one’s emotional relationships and, most of all, one’s experience of being nurtured (as the moon signifies the archetypal Mother). With Pluto involved this is all about power, as might expect: Lennon was drawn to ‘formidable’ women, to put it mildly. According to one of Lennon’s former lovers, May Pang, ‘Yoko dominated John just as he had been dominated by his Aunt Mimi when he grew up.’ As writer Peter Doggett observed, ‘Lennon was still the boy who had lost his parents and who believed he could only function if somebody else was in control.’ ²
This whole theme of ‘power/powerlessness’ can manifest through seemingly fated events, too. What are you going to do when something ‘dies’ in your life? Not many of us are possessed of the Zen-like calm that can respond to drastic endings with detached composure. Saying goodbye to one’s job, marriage partner, best friend is – need I point out – far from easy. Most of us feel rather bruised, if we don’t actually go to pieces. You may find this death-rebirth cycle playing itself out on your chart wherever Pluto has cast his shadow. Here you may find endings and beginnings, the challenge of the new and untried as you’re forced to relinquish the past. There is often a sense that there’s no looking back. That bridges have been burned. But remember, wherever Pluto (like Kali) Destroys, it also Creates.
1. In Kinsley, David, Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), p.122
2. Doggett, Peter, You Never Give Me Your Money, Vintage Books, 2010.