A new era is dawning – we will see Pluto in Aquarius from March 2023 (until early June, after which it retrogrades back in to Capricorn). This is when we’ll get an inkling of the kinds of changes to come (watch the news for Pluto in Aquarius themes). It then occupies Aquarius from Jan. 2024 (with another retrogradation Sept. to Nov. of that year). What will this signify for us? How will it actually impact our lives? I have been researching this issue for the past two years and the changes are going to be huge.
As astrologers are keenly aware, this planet presides over death, mortality and destruction. He is the power of Change that occurs with time, that which transforms the material world, and his underlying intention is regeneration, rebirth and resurrection. Following the breakdown and disintegration of any situation (whether abstract or material) there is the possibility of new life and restoration. We can see this happen in Nature throughout the seasonal cycle, as regenerative powers do their thing. With Pluto in Mundane Astrology, however – and as we’ll see later – things are not necessarily that simple.
Aquarius is the sign of brotherhood par excellence and embodies the power of the collective and humanity itself. In the zodiac cycle, the soul has passed through the personal and social ambitions of Capricorn to arrive at humanity itself – Life and Reality perceived through the group ego; ‘us’ and ‘we’, rather than ‘me and mine’. Aquarius isn’t just the dignity of the socialised individual (also an Aquarian concern) but the dignity of the human race itself, or what it ultimately means to be a Man or Woman. In Mundane Astrology, Aquarian themes are triggered when there is concern with human rights and humanitarianism, co-operation and co-operatives, socialism and society at large. It’s the old Mr Spock principle: ‘the needs of the Many outweigh the needs of the One’. (For Leo, of course – the opposite sign to Aquarius – it is the other way around.)
The Mundane Pluto
As mentioned, what Pluto seeks at an archetypal level is the breakdown and resurrection of outdated structures. On a mundane chart – often the hardest to make any reliable forecasts for – we need to look at the underlying themes connected to the planet and sign, so let’s first take a look at Pluto transits through previous signs and the main themes at work.
PLUTO IN VIRGO (1958-1970)
Pluto’s entry into Virgo coincided with a decimation of the workforce in the manufacturing sector. For one, in the UK, employment in manufacturing began a swift decline (c. 1966) from which it never recovered. One threat to the labour market is automation – machines taking the place of people. The term originated with the Ford Motor Company in 1948 but it wasn’t until 1961 that actual robots were introduced – on a General Motors assembly line – into the workplace. This ties in exactly with Pluto’s transit through Virgo (along with, it must be said, Uranus). Later developments were the invention of industrial computers (the PLC’s, or ‘programmable logic controllers’) in 1968 and the appearance of robotic “Stanford Arm” in 1969. From this period onwards, robots on assembly lines, and far less human workers, would proliferate.
PLUTO IN LIBRA (1971-1984)
This phase in human history saw a re-evaluation of personal relationships and gender politics. The term ‘permissive society’ had entered the parlance, and Pluto in Libra provided us with a threat to the institution of matrimony. Marriage break-ups in the West were on the increase in the early 1970’s; divorce rates had soared into six figures by 1972 in the UK, for example. In the US, divorces peaked in the 1970’s and early 1980’s (sitting nicely in the Pluto-Libra timeline). As the New York Times pointed out, this ‘occurred at the same time as a new feminist movement, which caused social and economic upheaval.’ (Germaine Greer’s polemical and angry, The Female Eunuch had been published in 1970.) Instead of marriage, we had ‘living in sin’ (Pluto quite likes sin) as a practical alternative to matrimony when older values underwent serious change. We also experienced the rise of Women’s Rights as a philosophy and the striving for gender equality (‘equality’ being a Libran keyword).
PLUTO IN SCORPIO (1984-1996))
When Pluto moved into Scorpio the world held its breath – nuclear conflagration seemed like a real possibility due to unresolved tensions between superpowers America and Russia. (Ronald Reagan was quoted as saying ‘we might be the generation that sees Armageddon’ and this type of scaremongering was filtered through popular culture (like TV’s Whoops Apocalypse!, and films such as War Games, When the Wind Blows, Threads, and The Day After). There were other Scorpio themes: practitioners of the occult were under threat as a wave of hysteria took off regarding the (unproven) ‘satanic ritual abuse’ of children, which had gone global by the late 80’s. Plus, according to some Christians, rock fans were unwittingly hearing devilish ‘backmasking’ (secret ‘satanic’ messages in the grooves or their LP’s.) Sex itself even became a dangerous pursuit in some quarters of society, with the emergence of the AIDS epidemic.
PLUTO IN SAGITTARIUS (1996-2008)
Sagittarius ‘rules’ religion on a mundane chart and this Pluto transit underpinned plenty of apocalyptic, millenarial thinking by two major Western powers – the US and the UK. The Bush administration was heavily influenced by the Christian Right and its ideas about the end of the world (for Evangelicals, Jesus was returning in 2000.) Pluto also exposes the dark underbelly wherever it exists: for example, cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic church received full scrutiny (and more robust action) from the mid 1990’s onwards – especially in the US and Ireland. Plus, religious-inspired terrorism reached a crescendo. In 1996, Osama bin Laden issued the first of two fatwās that declared a holy war against the US (whose results arrived in the Al Qaeda attacks of 9-11 in 2001).
We’re now seeing Pluto in Capricorn (2008-2024), the sign which represents the Father archetype. In mundane astrology this means traditional, ‘patriarchal’ power structures and authorities like governments, political elites, dictatorships, police forces, armies, financial institutions, Big Business and corporations. In short, it is the Establishment. The System. In some cases, the Father principle is being undermined by Pluto, for the time-honoured, patriarchal approach by the powers-that-be can only work if the values Capricorn embodies are accepted by society as a whole. These days, we’re no longer prepared be accept the word of Authority and power elites on their own terms. More and more people are disenchanted with political leaders, especially when they see the System as being basically rotten. Hence the rise of many protest movements, like Occupy Wall Street, about perceived corruption and privilege within the System.
If Pluto was just about exposing darkness and corruption in high places and we could all simply revolt and bring governments down, we would have our Utopia. But Pluto empowers, too, and it empowers and even exaggerates the archetypes of the sign it is transiting. Hence we’ve see the rise of demagoguery, far-right politics and the unforgiving hand of Authority. On another tack, we also had the Financial Collapse of 2008 when Pluto was just getting started in Capricorn. Capricorn on a mundane chart is also about the power wielded by banking systems, for here is the Establishment yet again with its control over our lives. Pluto’s entrance into Capricorn thus coincided with an undermining of the System, as the issue of toxic loans and the so-called sub-prime market wreaked havoc and led to the Crash. Also, by late December 2010, people were ready to take to the streets – and thus began the so-called Arab Spring, arising from a catalogue of grievances about authoritarian repression, another effect of Pluto in Capricorn.
Pluto in Aquarius- The Last Time
If we look at the last time we saw Pluto in Aquarius (1777 to 1797) there is the humanitarian activist and politician William Wilberforce busily campaigning to abolish the slave trade. (The first country to actually do so was Denmark, in 1792.) As Wikipedia tells us, 1787 saw Wilberforce work with other campaigners who ‘persuaded him to take on the cause of abolition, and he soon became the leading English abolitionist. He headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for 20 years until the passage of the Slave Trade Act of 1807.1 We can thus see Pluto’s reforming energies (via Aquarius) all too well in Wilberforce’s ‘causes and campaigns such as the Society for the Suppression of Vice, British missionary work in India, the creation of a free colony in Sierra Leone, the foundation of the Church Mission Society and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.’2 This is Pluto in Aquarius, humanitarian zeal with a vengeance, though of course, he wasn’t alone in this. (Incidentally, when Pluto moved into Pisces – empathy for all of God’s creations, not just humans – the RSPCA was formed in 1824 at the tail end of the Pluto transit, 1797-1823.)
Aquarius is concerned chiefly with groups and collectives, of course, hence the idea of getting together with fellow workers for mutual benefit. In the United Kingdom in 1777, a co-operative of tailors appeared in Birmingham whilst, prior to this, a consumer cooperative was formed in 1769 in East Ayrshire, Scotland, when ‘local weavers manhandled a sack of oatmeal into John Walker’s whitewashed front room and began selling the contents at a discount, forming the Fenwick Weavers’ Society.’3 Plus, according to the Guardian, in 1795, there was the ‘anti-mill’ flour mill in Hull, UK, ‘one of several early English co-operative ventures … set up by local people angry at the high prices charged by commercial millers.’
On the same theme, another example of Pluto in Aquarius is the birth of the Labor Movement in the US after the first recorded strike (of New York journeymen tailors) in 1768 (when Pluto was in Capricorn). Thus, the Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainer (shoemakers) signalled the start of active trade unions in 1794 (with Pluto now in Aquarius). Hence, strength in numbers, a typical Aquarian theme. Here is how the History website describes the origins of the Labor Movement:
‘The labor movement in the United States grew out of the need to protect the common interest of workers. For those in the industrial sector, organized labor unions fought for better wages, reasonable hours and safer working conditions. The labor movement led efforts to stop child labor, give health benefits and provide aid to workers who were injured or retired.’
It would be an understatement to say that the so-called Rights of Man were very much an issue during this phase of history. One major legacy from this Pluto in Aquarius phase are the two famous Declarations of Human Rights created in the wake of the American and French Revolutions. In fact, it is possible to speak of an actual ‘humanitarian spirit’ at large in the late eighteenth century when the planet of reform and renewal was in the sign of brotherhood and humanity.
I will cover this subject in the part two, together with a comprehensive look at what to expect this time as Pluto enters Aquarius in the Digital Age. A new ‘human revolution’ is underway, but what will that mean? Will it be as moral and ethically based as what happened in Wilberforce’s day? The Aquarian themes of co-operative power, humanitarianism, brotherhood and teamwork all sound wonderful, but won’t there be a dark side, too, with Pluto in Aquarius?
This article was first published in the Summer 2022 edition of Diamond Fire magazine
Images (CC License) credits and sources: European Southern Observatory (ESO) – http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso0602a/
Plus: MumblerJamie – https://www.flickr.com/photos/184393744@N06/49356551127/