The Unconscious Made Manifest – Pluto’s Path Through the Signs

by Marilyn Muir, LPMAFA

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Pluto as a planet remains a very controversial topic in astronomy and astrology circles. Pluto was the third new planet-sized body discovered in our solar system within recent history. A few large asteroids had been discovered in the asteroid belt prior to Pluto, but they were not planet-sized. From ancient times until 1781, our solar system consisted of seven bodies: our Sun which is a star, our Moon which is a satellite of the Earth, and the five planets other than the Earth (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn). The Earth is common to us all, not visible as an external (to us) body, and is under our feet, so it is the center of any geocentric (Earth-centered) astrology wheel. These seven bodies are visible without technical aid. With the advent of telescopes and other astronomical equipment, our ability to see farther into space permitted the discovery of Uranus on March 13, 1781, Neptune on September 23, 1846, Pluto on February 18, 1930, plus the hundreds of thousands of cosmic discoveries to date and counting. Astronomy is truly expanding the knowns of our universe. That means astrologers get to figure out what it all means in terms of human experience.

For many years, Pluto’s status as a planet was continually challenged and finally, with the discovery of more planet-like bodies at the edge of our solar system, the IAU (International Astronomical Union) on August 24, 2006 demoted Pluto to dwarf planet status. Dwarf planet is a new classification of bodies in the Kuiper Belt region which is the inside edge of the Oort Cloud, located at the outer edge of the solar system. In the Kuiper Belt, you will find a vast number of bodies made of both rock and/or ice, some of which are or may be larger than Pluto. Dwarf planets are rocky bodies and comets are more icy bodies. At such vast distances, it takes time to identify and categorize these bodies.

In the meantime, astrologers worldwide have been building definitions of the three recently discovered planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, as well as thousands of asteroids, planetoids, dwarf planets and comets… too many at this point to count and define. Many IAU members still challenge the change in Pluto’s status because so few members (5%) participated in the voting process. Astronomers are still quibbling over the designation, so astrologers everywhere have to personally determine whether Pluto is to be treated as a planet when reading an astrology wheel or should be dropped in stature to the new dwarf planet status. Because I used Pluto successfully as a planet for over 35 years astrologically, I choose to follow my own research; to me Pluto is still a planet.

Huge in distance and orbital travel because it is so far out from the center of the solar system (our Sun), Pluto has a very eccentric orbit and has every reason to be at the center of controversy with passionate views on all sides. Pluto is…

  • huge in the time it takes to make one full orbit, 248.09 years
  • huge in distance from the Sun, average 39.5 billion miles
  • eccentric because when at perihelion (closest to the Sun) its distance is 29.7 billion miles and when at aphelion (farthest from the Sun) its distance is 49.3 billion miles.
  • eccentric in that it is tipped seventeen degrees to the ecliptic (plane of the other planet orbits)
  • eccentric in that the orbit has a very odd shape when compared to the other planets
  • eccentric in that during its orbit cycle it slips inside Neptune’s orbit for about twenty years, most recently between February 7, 1979 and February 11, 1999.

Astrology What does Pluto represent astrologically? Be aware that we have not had the opportunity to consciously watch Pluto through each of the signs because it has not completed a full cycle through the twelve signs since its discovery. It was discovered partway into Cancer in 1930 and has only traveled the signs between Cancer and early Capricorn up to this point in 2010. We must rely on our historical records (textbooks) for the balance of Capricorn and the rest of the signs up to the middle of Cancer in order to fully understand what Pluto might mean to our current and future circumstances. That which was not visible and therefore unconscious has become visible and therefore conscious.

Myth After much controversy (apparently Pluto is always controversial, which gives meaning in itself), Pluto was unanimously named by the astronomical community for the Roman god of the underworld. The Greek counterpart to Pluto is Hades and as is common, the myths of both cultures have merged to be applied astrologically.  Pluto was a full brother to the Roman gods and therefore his namesake deserves full billing and authority. After Saturn (father) was defeated, the myth says the three brothers, Jupiter, Neptune and Pluto, were in control of the world and divided it into three separate parts: the skies, the seas, and the underworld. Jupiter ruled the skies, Neptune ruled the seas and Pluto ruled the underworld.

Definition Just what would one do as god of the underworld? Physically Pluto rules everything that is buried or beneath the surface, such as caves, mines and minerals. Psychologically Pluto rules every human emotion or drive that works under the surface such as passion, obsession, possessiveness, deep, dark secrets. In other words, Pluto rules the unconscious in mankind. It rules the kidnapping and rape of the maiden (goddess) who became Pluto’s queen of the underworld. As well, Pluto represents the descent of the hero in mythology to confront his own darkness and death in order to be resurrected or saved. While Pluto can represent the depths of human behavior and depravity, it also represents the concepts of transformation, revelation, resurrection and salvation, once we have faced our own negativity. Pluto rules the extremes of human behavior and experience. How in the world do you turn that into interpretation of human experience?

Pluto rules the depths of humanity, some of which is known and much of which is hidden. The more we uncover and bring to light, the more it must become consciously known. It is quite psychological in definition and has a tendency to play roto-rooter with the dark part of our psyche when activated. Pluto stirs up all that desires to remain hidden so it can be viewed, acknowledged, embraced and healed. I particularly like Pluto’s application to psychology and psychiatry both from a patient’s perspective and from the healing perspective, which are two sides of the same coin.  This is what I call the can of worms that exists in each of our psychological basements. We all have a personal can of worms. Occasionally one or more surfaces and we are forced to confront and to embrace our own darkness. The best way I have found to understand the depth and the breadth of Pluto’s rule and activations from this very human, psychological perspective is to look at the development of techniques of psychiatry/psychology through the signs.

The subject of psychology as a philosophical concept dates back to many ancient civilizations, but was not a codified or completed study. From my reading (and I am not a trained psychologist or psychiatrist), formalization of the field of psychology seems to have begun in earnest in the early 1800s. It developed throughout the 1800s as pioneers researched and developed concept by concept to build the framework for what would become the established field of psychology.

  • In the late 1800s, Pluto in Taurus would emphasize a slow, thorough research and technique, building step by step, very earthy and practical, with strong sexual themes, which to me suggests Freud’s approach. Pluto was invisible at that time – therefore, trying to make the unconscious conscious was a laborious process.
  • Move a generation forward to Freud’s successors, Carl Jung and Alfred Adler. When Pluto traveled in Gemini, the approach to therapy was more mental, intellectual, conversational, exploratory and dualistic. Teaching and the role of teacher/student expanded. Pluto was still not visible and was therefore still unconscious. This was still a period of intense research, but was now more intellectual in nature.
  • Pluto moving into Cancer emphasized family background and involvement, clan all the way to nationalism, and the superior race thinking prior to World War II. Pluto became visible, therefore conscious, partway through this sign. 1930 was during the Great Depression, with enormous impact world-wide as man’s foibles emerged into our consciousness, a more emotional security approach.
  • When Pluto moved into Leo, the focus shifted to self-identification, the id, the ego, the search for self, and the approval of self and the negative and ego-maniacal Axis world leaders of World War II.
  • Once Pluto entered Virgo, therapy shifted to analytical processes such as Transactional Analysis. Perhaps you remember the phrase “I’m Okay, You’re Okay”.
  • With Pluto in Libra, therapy shifted to the relational, teamwork, group therapy, with the counselor at times sharing or participating with the patient or a group of patients.
  • When Pluto moved into Scorpio (the most powerful position for Pluto), digging and delving into the unconscious, past lives, deep-seated sexuality issues, bringing such issues to consciousness, plus hypnotism and even confrontive therapies emerged.
  • Pluto’s journey through Sagittarius turned to philosophy, self-help, alternative and trans-cultural techniques, mood elevators, excess as in “more is better”.
  • In 2008, Pluto entered Capricorn which is a very practical, organized, no-nonsense energy and will look at duty, responsibility, authority and obligation. We might experience ”less is best”. Look at what we are learning about the abuse of authority, lack of oversight, lack of regulation and boundaries just in our day-to-day lives. These are the concepts that can become part of the therapies developed as Pluto passes through the no-nonsense sign of Capricorn.

As mentioned, in previous passages through the signs Pluto was not visible (had not been discovered) so it operated in a more unconscious manner. As that Pluto’s issues are visible, we must bring those same old issues to full consciousness. Astrologically, will our previous delineations hold up or will we find that adaptation or change is necessary? Pluto’s astrological passage through the balance of the signs is in front of us. The current cadre of astrologers will be those who must provide the new or revised material.

Remember too that the old myths are not just fictitious stories. They were ancient mankind’s archetypes for human behavior. Psychologist Carl Jung was an astrologer, and he felt that astrology and its use of the archetypes of the myths were the psychology of the ancients.

It is possible to pick a topic that Pluto rules other than psychology and do the same basic viewing sign by sign. If you do take the initiative, I would love to know about your findings so I can learn from you as well.

Recommended Reading:

“Astronomy Declared Pluto a Dwarf Planet – What is Pluto Astrologically?”

Published on EZINE online June, 2010, republished with slight editing.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.