Pluto is a small planetoid, that’s approximately three billion miles away from the Sun. Because of its size, astronomers have debated whether or not it’s a proper planet, and in 2006 the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto, declaring it a ‘dwarf planet’.
I’m not going to argue with their decision, and when I do birth charts for people and companies I largely ignore Pluto. However in terms of wider trends, Pluto is a serious player. In particular, one should look at Pluto’s passage through the twelve signs of the Zodiac. When we think of star signs, we imagine that a sign lasts for a month – because the Sun appears to take a year to go through all twelve signs. Pluto, by contrast, takes 248 years to do a complete revolution. This means that on average it’s in a sign for 20 years!
For example, on September 10 1912 Pluto moved from Gemini to Cancer. Because of an astronomical phenomenon called retrograde motion, it moved back into Gemini on October 20 1912. On July 9 1913 it returned to Cancer, only to leave again on December 28 1913. The world was on the verge of a big change, but was hovering at the precipice, not sure whether to go back or forward. Finally, on May 26 1914 Pluto made its final entry into Cancer, and it stayed here until the late 1930s.
When Pluto changes sign the world quakes, and by looking at the sign it moves into, one can understand its impact. In astrology the sign Cancer is about the home, it’s also about tradition and patriotism. And whatever Pluto touches, it transforms. In Cancer transformation can be through patriotism, and the ultimate transformation is death. On June 28 1914, barely a month after Pluto’s last, decisive entry into Cancer, Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, and just over a month later the First World War had started.
Pluto in Cancer helps describe the nature of this conflict. Young men enthusiastically joining up, spurred on by their love for their country, and dying in their millions on the killing fields of Ypres, the Somme and Caporetto. So at its worst, Pluto in Cancer can be summed up by the last lines of Wilfred Owen’s famous war poem:
…The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
Putting ‘the old lie’ into English, how sweet and proper it is, to die for one’s country.
Continuing on the theme of death, in the early 1980s Pluto moved into Scorpio. In astrology the sign Scorpio has a special connection with sex and the sex organs, and it was at this time that the HIV/AIDS epidemic started hitting the headlines. And it was hardly surprising, given Pluto’s position in Scorpio, that sex and death formed a strong association in the public mindset.
In January 1995 Pluto moved from Scorpio to Sagittarius. It moved back into Scorpio a few months later, but on November 10 1995 it made the final crossing – and it stayed in Sagittarius for over twelve years, entering Capricorn on January 26 2008.
So what happened between 1995 and 2008? Sagittarius is a sign that likes to enjoy itself, that also likes to travel and explore new horizons. And it’s a sign that’s very communicative, that wants to be in touch with everything going on.
From 1995 onwards there has clearly been a technological explosion, in terms of the kind of gadgetry that was available to ordinary people. The Internet has connected the world, and in some respects transformed it.
News can spread at the speed of light, websites can be created and visited in the blink of an eye. We also had the mass adoption of mobile phones. Everyone has a mobile, not just the moneyed few. And we had new types of communication, in particular the SMS.
There has of course been a travel revolution since the mid-1990s, at least in Europe. Cheap airlines have proliferated, with ticketless travel that can be booked over the Internet. And if you go to any East European capital city on a weekend you can see hordes of Britons getting blind drunk on cheap beer.
Another aspect of the travel revolution, symbolised by Pluto in Sagittarius, is the migration of workers across Europe, especially East Europeans travelling to the British Isles.
From a cultural point of view, Sagittarius can be a frivolous sign, that likes to live for the moment. And over the last dozen years obsession with celebrity has reached fever pitch. Perhaps, in some people’s eyes, fifteen minutes of fame can transform everything, which is maybe one of the reasons why reality television has become so popular. More generally, there is the idea that we can get rich quick, if not through celebrity, then through some other scheme, perhaps involving property.
So if we want to understand what it means for Pluto to be in Capricorn, we should first think about Pluto in Sagittarius. Many of its features, that we’ve taken for granted since the mid-1990s, are coming to an end. The big communication breakthroughs are over, and a technological slow-down is likely. It’s even possible that the Internet will become less of a free-for-all, as government and big business find ways of asserting control. And the days of cheap air travel are almost certainly drawing to a close. Maybe because of high fuels costs, or become of economic difficulties, or just because of changing tastes.
Pluto in Capricorn is going to make people more modest and more hard-working. They’ll recognise that transformations in wealth aren’t usually achieved through lottery wins, property speculation or being picked for Big Brother. And there’ll be a realisation that the future won’t look after itself, that it has to be prepared for. Savings, pension schemes, living within one’s means.
We also have to appreciate that it’s not a time for changing the world. For the next fifteen years, while Pluto completes its movement through Capricorn, the establishment will hold sway, and those that rebel are likely to get stomped on. So if we want to be happy and successful, we must go with the system rather than fight it.
I know, my message about Pluto in Capricorn is bleak and boring, but I’m an astrologer, not a dreamer.