Uranus is the collective consciousness, ruling over everything we see in a culture or society. It is our human desire to group together with like-minded individuals, to be loved and accepted despite our differences, and to journey into a better future together. Neptune is the collective unconscious, the emotional waters rolling under a culture or society, which dictate trends in art, fashion, and media. It is the human empathy we feel for others in our groups, which removes all barriers between people, and inspires us to change into what others need or want us to be. Pluto, the last of these generational, social, societal planets, is found even deeper than Neptune, in the depths of our most primal animal minds. As Sue Tompkins said in her book, Aspects of Astrology, "[We] can associate Pluto with collective Shadow issues: those things that our particular culture is unable to acknowledge or "own"."
No matter how complex and advanced we see our human race to be, we are still governed by the same survival instincts as every other living thing we share this planet with. We fight for space, for food, for water, and for sex. We seek to control our surroundings, to have power over external circumstances, so we can guard ourselves from outside chaos and destruction. We have violent, emotional explosions of anger when what is ours is threatened or taken away - and calm, serene moments when we have all that we need, and know it is safely tucked behind lock and key. Our collective Pluto drives propel us to seize land from other people, to fight and kill our neighbouring tribes, or to broker peace through marriage and unity. It is the force behind human civilization, behind our genius in planting and raising food in contained ecosystems, and using that food to feed armies to conquer more land for more farms, all while a royal plutocracy reigns from above. Pluto is humanity's driving force toward hierarchy, and the equally potent drive to tear down those in power to seat ourselves in their place. It is a complex, misunderstood, and frightening aspect of what it is to be a human being, and one we like to think we aren't a part of.
Look at all the corruption and injustice faced by every society today, and you see Pluto there. Racial inequality built on centuries of slavery and genocide, of dehumanizing one group so another can flourish above them. Governments using drug charges and minor offences to imprison minority populations, and enslave them to private institutions. Wars fought for land, oil, water, money, and power over the people. Religious leaders using their institutions to silence a population of devoted followers. Media outlets that control what we see and what we know. Corporate leaders, whose greed compels them to psychopathic-levels of inhumanity to their fellow man. Men in positions of power sexually abusing those beneath them, without guilt or shame or repercussion. Violence, fraud, dishonesty, betrayal, underhanded manipulation, perversion, criminality, sin, vice, and every other human depravity is found where Pluto is immature or unhealthy.
This is the Pluto that so many of us are familiar with, and what astrologers tend to focus on when they talk about this planet. In our own selves, we keep these aspects of our character a secret. We know that if anybody knew about our sexual depravity, our violent urges, how we plan on gaming the system to gain an advantage, that other people could use that knowledge against us. They could outsmart our clever manipulations, or use guilt and threats of anger to control us. With Pluto, you play your hand close to your chest, trust no one, and keep your plans to yourself.
But Pluto has an extreme good to contrast all the evils humanity hides within itself, too. Every monumental achievement humanity has strived for has had this same survival urge behind it - the need to protect our homes, our families, our countries, and fundamentally transform the world into a better place. Herein lies the civil rights movement, sated only by justice, equality, and the tearing down of old power structures. Here are the revolutionaries that take money and power from an oppressive regime and liberate themselves with the choice to choose their own leadership. It is the religious leaders who challenge their institutions for the good of the people. Its people pulling together during a disaster to save whoever they can. It is us, risking our lives in the face of violence and oppression, to save the ones who mean the most to us.
When I was studying Pluto's movement through the Signs, I noticed two things that lined up perfectly: The Ages of Comics, and horror movie monsters. I didn't know what this meant at first, but after some thought, I came to a conclusion about the stories a society tells and how it reflects on that cultural time period. Superheroes portray the absolute pinnacle of everything a person can be - brave, strong, smart, kind, an athletic warrior, and good-hearted person. Horror movie monsters reflect on what we are scared of, and how to fight or conquer these fears. With every Pluto era, the stories we tell ourselves about the battle between good and evil change depending on what we are afraid of, and how we deal with those fears.
The key thing to remember with Pluto is that it, like the cycle between day and night, or of the seasonal year, is a cycle of death and rebirth. Regimes rise and fall, political revolutions come and go, the value of money goes up and down. Religious powers are overtaken by small sects rising up. And even the wealthiest, most powerful people in the world will one day confront their own mortality and pass what they've built onto someone else. Like everything else in life, these things are transitory, impermanent, and a part of a greater succession. It is a planet of traumatic transformation which forces you to endure the chaos and destruction of your old life so that you may grow into someone older, wiser, kinder, and more spiritually enlightened. Pluto will take everything that you think you need away from you, just to show you that you'll be fine without it. It liberates you from your fears, your paranoia, your emotional crutches, and gives you the freedom to rise above your past abuses and onto a better life.
There are two glyphs used for Pluto. One is just a combination of the letters P and L ( ♇ ). The other is a cross topped with a crescent, which is topped with a circle. It was made up by the astrologer Paul Clancy, and is a variation of the Mercury symbol. Both have a cross at the bottom, grounding them to the material world, like many other planetary glyphs. But Mercury has a circle and then a crescent, showing how knowledge passes from our selves into our mind and spirit. Pluto, however, shows how our mind or spirit passes knowledge into our body of self, suggesting that it is divine wisdom or knowledge, or karmic experiences, which changes our definition of who we are.
RULERSHIP AND EXALTATION
Pluto was discovered in 1930, so like our other "newly discovered" planets Ceres, Chiron, Uranus, and Neptune, it has no traditional Rulership or Exaltation position. Sometime in the 1960s, Pluto was finally given to Scorpio to Rule and Aries for Exaltation, sharing these two Signs with Mars. But I - and this honestly shouldn't surprise you this late in the game - believe that Pluto should be Ruled by Scorpio and Exalted in Capricorn.
Pluto was in Scorpio from 1983-95, and in Capricorn from 2008-24. Both of these Signs are associated with money, power, sex, alcoholism, depression, darkness, ambition, higher aspirations, and difficult family lives. They both seem stoney-faced and difficult to get close to, until you are invited into the warmth of their inner circle. Scorpio is seen as the deeper, more psychologically complex of the two, and Capricorn as the tight-lipped professional presiding over their kingdom. The former time period saw the rise of the HIV/AID epidemic, crack cocaine, and a Clinton-led crack-down on drug-related criminal activity, which caused a sudden surge in prison populations all over the United States. The latter began with the Financial Crisis and the Great Recession, and so far has endured terrorist attacks, a second-coming of fascism, floods of refugees, and civil rights activists warring with corporate leaders, police officers, and government bodies of power.
Pluto would have been in its Detriment position in Taurus from 1851-84, and in Fall in Cancer from 1912-39. Neither of these Signs are ones for catastrophic changes, or transformation, or warring over seats of power. They both crave the simple life of home, family, money, and food, and seek the security of permanency. But these time periods were not immune to Pluto's influence, even as they sought to build and protect their homes and family. The former saw the American Civil War fought over slavery and economic control, which was followed by the Western Expansion across Canada and the USA, where the government forcefully removed Native Americans from their land to make way for a wave of European immigrants to settle there. The latter saw two World Wars and the Great Depression, resulting in the first rise of fascism, racist fears, and the need to "protect the homeland" from foreign, Old World invaders. Ultimately, both of these Signs need to learn how to let go of their attachments and allow life to transform them, rather than fighting change every step of the way.
PLUTO THROUGH THE SIGNS
PLUTO IN CANCER (1912-1939) is the Silent Generation, born during World War I, the Great Depression, and the onset of World War II. In the years before this era, millions of immigrants moved from Europe and Asia to Canada and the USA. But despite the large influence of cultural diversity, many felt threatened by those foreigners "invading" their homeland. Horror movies at this time include Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920), Nosferatu (1922), Dracula (1931), Frankenstein (1931), The Mummy (1932), The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939) - all of which have their roots in superstition from Old World, where these wars took place. All of these movies display common themes, one of them being a foreign monster "infecting" or "invading" a helpless, sexually vulnerable, white woman. Having the bad guy be a single, physical monster pinpoints the fear and gives the characters something they can fight against with weapons and physical violence. Enemies were singular and could be remedied by killing them off - things obviously symbolic of the wars of the time.
PLUTO IN LEO (1937-1958) is the Baby Boomer generation, born during World War II and the years after. The end of WWII ushered in the Atomic Age with the development (and use) of the atomic bomb. Society's new fear was then of nuclear warfare on cities of helpless citizens. Horror movies of this era include The Beast From 20 000 Fathoms (1953), Godzilla (1954), Tarantula! (1955), and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958), all of which were stand-ins for atomic weapons and their devastating power. As with the preceding era of movie monsters, having a physical monster to attack reflected the war-like focus characters had on their target. But in this genre their efforts to fight them one-on-one were fruitless, as the sheer size and might of the monsters was overwhelming. Luckily, they created equally larger-than-life superheroes to combat them in the Golden Age of Comic Books. They were aggressive, independent, and hyper-masculinized figures to reflect the soldiers fighting in WWII. Even the female heroes were strong and assertive!
PLUTO IN VIRGO (1956-1972) is Generation Jones. They were born in a time of economic prosperity, but also one heavily divided on issues. Mainstream society believed that families were made up of a husband, a wife, and their children (not mixed race); the man worked and the woman was a stay at home mom. But the Youth Culture movement, made up people in their teens and early 20s, were demanding sexual liberation, racial equality, gender equality, gay rights, and environmental awareness. On one hand children were being conditioned to accept “traditional family values”. But on the other hand, younger, cooler teenagers tempted them with a glamorous lifestyle and independence from the moral policing of their parents. Successful horror movies captured this division with the "white American family under attack" dynamic. Movies of this era include Psycho (1960), Birds (1963), and Night of the Living Dead (1968), where horrible things happen as families are torn apart. Moral policing also spurred the Silver Age of Comic Books with the introduction of The Comic Books Code. As parents and authorities called for comic books to feature less violence and sexual material, it seemed like Superheroes were doomed to die. The genre was steadily replaced with westerns, horrors, humour, and science fiction instead. But new revivals of The Flash, Green Lantern, the Fantastic Four, and The Avengers and The X-Men worked in their favour.
PLUTO IN LIBRA (1971-1984) is Gen-X. Overall divorce rates peaked in 1980 at approx. 50%, killing off what we now call “traditional family values”. Teen culture took over, and family structure changed as divorce rates suddenly soared. A new kind of horror movie was born - one where the monster was not an outside invasion, but was the child of the family. Iconic movies of this type were The Exorcist (1973), The Omen (1976), Carrie (1976), and Halloween (1978). Monsters were family members - children, no less - and the adults had many emotional conflicts about killing them. A similar dynamic, the "teenagers get attacked" motif, developed during this period as well to exemplify the fears of teenage sexuality. Movies of this kind include Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Friday the 13th (1980), and Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). All of this was an allegory for how new counter-culture movements "corrupted" the minds of children and teens, leading to their untimely demise. We saw this too in the Bronze Age of Comic Books, where heroes sometimes couldn't save everyone, or who were up against societal ills insteads of villains. This era began when the Comic Book Code underwent some revisions in 1971, allowing creators to expand their content to more mature audiences. Heroines became more sexualized, heroes more hyper-masculinised, and POC characters became less stereotypical.
PLUTO IN SCORPIO (1983-1995) is Gen-Y, more often called the Millennials. For reasons not quite dissected, media from this era shows strong psychological aspects and an inclination towards mentally or emotionally deranged characters. In horror, this meant that serial killers and psychopaths became the main villains. Movies of this era include The Re-animater (1985), The Fly (1986), Silence of the Lambs (1992) and Seven (1995). Characters overall became more complex and included both good and bad; their personal history was rife with abuse and tragedy. This mirrored the Dark Age of Comic Books, in which superheroes and their stories got increasingly sexual, violent, dark, cynical, and edgy. Frank Miller wrote Daredevil: Born Again (1986), The Dark Knight Returns (1986), and Sin City (1991-92), while Alan Moore wrote The Watchmen (1986-87) and V for Vendetta (1988-89). The Anti-hero, so common at the time, was everywhere. The violence was more graphic than ever before. The aim was to add new psychological elements to their stories, where the heroes were brought down to suffer like mortals did.
PLUTO IN SAGITTARIUS (1995-2008) is Gen-Z. This era began with the conflict between giving into the pleasures of materialism and the idyllic dreams of a fair society and clean environment. But with the onset of the War on Terror, horror movies reflected the public's division on hot issues. The rise of Big Brother made citizens questions just what they were willing to give up for safety, and those monsters made us answer those questions. Movies included 28 Days later (2002), Saw (2004), and The Mist (2007), where the monster represents our own struggles between what we want and what we need, what is right and what is easy, and how we know we should treat one another and how our fears hold us back. A similar division is seen in the onset of the Modern Age of Comic Books, characterized by impulsive changes that battled between the heart of the story and what would sell best. Creators at this time often abandoned the works of previous teams in favour of writing their own stories based on the Silver Age stories they grew up with. Comic books would begin a story, tell it for a while, and then abandon the plot suddenly in favour of a new one. Many older characters that hadn't seen much action were brought back, beginning a trend of "recycling" to appeal to the nostalgia of older generations. Characters kept their hyper masculinized and hyper sexualized images. And they kept the psychological aspects of their stories so their personalities retained their depth. But the stories were changed to emulate the more child-friendly stories of the past, and so became tamer than they once were.
PLUTO IN CAPRICORN (2008-2024) are those babies being born in the aftermath of the World Financial Crisis. As they are still being born over the next decade or so, it is difficult to determine what they are like at this time. We are, however, able to see some trends emerging and guess what their future holds. Commercialization has taken over the film industry, as consumers have found ways to download media for free. Studios are less inclined to take risks with their money, so only invest in content that already has an audience and a fan club. So far we have experienced a new wave of zombie apocalypse movies, books, video games, and television series. But rather than reflecting the public's fears, they reflect a desire to abandon the materialistic, workaholic expectations of mainstream society and to return to survival of the fittest. Villains have gone back to physical monsters that can be defeated with weapons and physical violence. Only now it is a group of characters banding together to face an army of monsters - us, against the world, in an era of global economic unity.
Pluto is a divisive planet, which garners a lot of fear and intrigue from astrologers all over. But in a lot of ways, you can think of Pluto as a wise parent, and ourselves as their naive child. When your mom or dad stops letting you sleep in their bed, you might immediately think your world has ended. You are emotionally devastated, confused, anxious, lonely. You can't sleep at night by yourself. you might cry, whine, pout, get red with rage, or persist that the change not happen. But once you've accepted it, and learned how much better it is to sleep in your own bed, in your own space, as an adult, you wouldn't dream of crawling into your parent's bed anymore! That's how Pluto works. Once you're matured enough to see the change was necessary, you'll wonder why you ever felt afraid in the first place.