Thoughts on Pluto as it retrogrades today

Willow ArleneaArt by Willow Arlenea. Pluto has been slowing down for the past month or so in preparation for making its station, and we have seen a dramatic increase of violent acts including several mass murders during that period, particularly around the time of the New Moon in Aries.  Planets don’t actually move backwards, but because in astrology we look at the movement of the planets from car it is not astronomically correct.  Astrology places the human being at the center of the universe and analyzes planetary motion from that perspective.

When a planet is preparing to change direction it slows down, just as a car must slow down before it makes a U-turn.  At a certain point it is said to be “stationary”, and it is most stationary on the day that it changes direction, which in Pluto’s case is today.

Pluto, despite its small size, is dramatically powerful in astrological terms and it’s easy to become afraid of its usually intense effects.  But if we take a longer view of the planetary influence Pluto doesn’t have to be frightening.  Pluto seeks nothing less than total transformation and the elimination of anything that is no longer serving us, and the changes that occur under Pluto events, even though they may be very difficult, always change us for the better.  It was Pluto who wrote the old adage, “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.”

When Pluto is powerful in our life, either in our natal chart or when Pluto is affecting one of the planets in our chart by transit, we have lost control.  There is no solution but to let go.  I always tell the story (and forgive me if you’ve heard this one before) of the first time I went tubing when I lived in Colorado.  The guide said to keep all of your limbs inside the tube and let the water carry you, but I was too frightened so I kept trying to reach out for the rocks, trying to slow down my travels, which resulted in the tube being smashed against the rocks.  When I finally did let go, the tube was able to travel the path of least resistance through the water and I had a glorious ride.

But Pluto also requires that we become empowered.  It’s not enough just to let go if we allow ourselves to be weakened.  Pluto often pits us in circumstances where we must fight – for our money, for our job, for our family, for our life sometimes. There are often power struggles and battles for dominance.  We can’t control the circumstances, but we can control our choices and how we will react to those circumstances.  Pluto asks, where in your life have you allowed yourself to be diminished?  What in your life isn’t working for you?

Pluto also can bring out our compulsive and hidden behaviors, and dredge up old memories to be processed and released.  Unlike Chiron, which reveals the actual emotional experience, Pluto sometimes goes into the depth of the soul and forces us to confront the original source.  Repressed memories, sexual compulsions – during Pluto cycles we may find ourselves facing a dark side of ourselves that we prefer to keep safely in the basement.  Pluto demands nothing less than the absolute Truth.

When Pluto entered Capricorn last year it was a bit of a psychic shock after the glee of the Sagittarius cycle (1995-2008).  It has taken a while for the general population to get used to this new and more contracted experience, but gradually we are starting to see an adjustment.  The retrograde passage of Pluto will slow down this adjustment as Pluto completes its work through the early degrees of Capricorn.  Capricorn is the reality check – which structures in our life are solid, and which are based on whimsy?  Anything built on shifting sands will not survive the Pluto in Capricorn period.

Venus is tightly involved with Pluto this year as well as she squares Pluto three times during the retrograde cycles of both planets.  Venus presides over the way we relate to others as well as our personal values and how well we value ourselves.  Over the past few weeks since Venus began her retrograde cycle I’ve been seeing more clients dealing with relationship issues.  Some have been avoiding relationships – others have marriages that have been failing for years and need resuscitation.  Relationships are a critical part of our spiritual growth – they are often the crucible in which our spiritual evolution is processed. In the mirror of the Other, we see ourselves more clearly.  This kind of soul work does not require a husband or a wife; the intimate interaction between souls can occur between any humans on any level.

Venus made the first square to Pluto in early February at 2 degrees Aries/Capricorn.  The second square to Pluto occurred yesterday (Friday) at 3 degrees, and the final square in the cycle will take place in early May at 3 degrees.  There’s no question that this Venus/Pluto cycle will challenge relationships, but there is a purpose behind the challenge – anything that is not working in our relationships will be brought to the forefront.  There are likely to be power struggles, and the need to accept that which is behind us and that which is lost.

There is also the need to balance the needs of the Self relative to the needs of the Other, and this will be highlighted at the Full Moon in Libra on April 9th.  Over the next week this need for balance will become more obvious as we enter the shadow of the Full Moon.  It’s a delicate balancing act, but one worth mastering as we work with the shamanic process of Pluto to strengthen and empower our souls as they learn the dance of partnership.

The Queen and the First Lady, and a look at the Obama marriage

Michelle ObamaQueen Elizabeth is not known to be particularly casual in her willingness to break from protocol.  Royal etiquette is quite clear: “Whatever you do, don’t touch the Queen!”  So Britons were shocked to see Michelle Obama put her hand on the small of the Queen’s back in a gesture of affection to which the Queen responded by placing her own arm around the First Lady.

Dressed in one of her famous “J Crew Ensembles,” Michelle Obama is charming her way across Britain just as she did the US, and her popularity is soaring.  I have been waiting to profile her, hoping we would find a birth time, but so far none is available.  I can wait no longer!

Michelle Robinson Obama (1/17/64, time unknown, Chicago) was born with the Sun in Capricorn, the sign of hard work, diligence, and achievement.  The individual with a Capricorn Sun is driven to achieve something that the world around them recognizes as success.  There is a strong streak of practicality and ambition in any Capricorn.

We don’t know the exact placement of her Moon, which could be in either the late degrees of Aquarius or the early degrees of Pisces, but Venus in her chart is in Pisces.  Venus describes the way we relate to others, and that Pisces Venus reflects Mrs. Obama’s compassion and empathy.  Pisces is the soft side to her tough Capricorn exterior which is a lovely combination for a skilled political wife and especially for the First Lady of the United States.

Mrs. Obama’s Mercury is in Capricorn, identifying her as a shrewd and practical thinker with a good head for business.  Mercury is in a harmonious sextile to Venus and possibly her Moon, giving her a skill in communicating and an ability to express herself (Mercury) to others (Venus) in such a way that she is able to make her point without offense.  This is a marvelous aspect for anyone who deals with the public, and certainly would have helped her during her legal and administrative careers.

Mars in Mrs. Obama’s chart is in Aquarius and it appears to be unaspected. Mars represents our drive and desire, and when Mars is unaspected it operates freely without being encumbered by any other planet, and in these cases we see it at its best and at its worst.  Unaspected Mars is not afraid to venture forth where others fear to tread, and we saw this very clearly with President Bush II who also had an unaspected Mars.  For Mrs. Obama, though, the unaspected Mars has probably been very useful since she has a remarkable dearth of hard aspects in her chart.  It is the hard aspects (90 and 180 degree) that energize the chart and create the tension that generates change and evolution.

Uranus and Pluto are conjunct in her chart, as they are for everyone born between 1962 and 1968.  This generation carries the principle of transformational (Pluto) revolutionary change (Uranus) within their individual personality.  This is a group of people that are not willing to let well enough alone – they are out to change the world.  Barack Obama, born in 1961, does not have this Uranus/Pluto revolutionary fervor so Mrs. Obama likely provides the inspiration that fuels his Aquarius ascendant (ruled by Uranus).

Looking at their charts, it’s easy to see the attraction between them.  Sun signs are one of the least important pieces of the compatibility puzzle; Mrs. Obama’s Pisces Venus is exactly (within 1 degree) trine the President’s Venus in Cancer.  Her Aries Jupiter (abundance and positive feelings) is exactly trine his Leo Sun, revealing how good he feels when he’s with her. His Virgo Mars is closely trine her Capricorn Sun, showing the energizing effect he has on her.

Still, as in every good marriage, there are a couple of wrinkles between the charts of the Obamas.  Her Mars opposes his Mercury, and she very likely is often irritated (Mars) at the way he talks to her (Mercury).  Her Venus is square to his Moon, and it’s likely that he finds it difficult to express his true feelings (Moon) to her.  But overall, their interplanetary influences are overwhelmingly positive, and that helps to make for an enduring marriage.

Skywatch for April is posted!

SkywatchYou can read the whole article on my website, but here’s the info for the first few days of April:

The first week in April we are building towards a challenging square of Venus to Pluto that is a new peak for the tension that began with the Aries New Moon on March 26th which also formed a square to Pluto. Pluto is the planet represented by the Underworld, and the presence of Pluto typically signifies a deepening of the intensity with which we approach the day-to-day matters of our life.

The planets that have been challenging Pluto over the past week are in the fiery sign Aries which is impulsive and highly energized. Rather than a slow burn, Aries explodes and then the fire fizzles out quickly. Venus, representing relationships and the things we value, has turned retrograde and is passing back through Aries where it is causing us to look back at unfinished business.

The first square of Venus to Pluto in this waxing cycle occurred in early February and any issues raised at that time will be brought up again by the second square on the 3rd. This is a good time to willingly explore the issues in our relationships that give us problems, as the door to the underworld of hidden meanings and motivations is open now. If we don?t pass through the door willingly, we may be pulled in there anyway by the intensity of this dynamic. The waxing square is an opportunity to learn something new ? to begin a new cycle of evolution.

Pluto will be turning retrograde on April 4, so it is at a stationary point in its cycle where its motion is imperceptible and it appears to be at a standstill. Planets are at their most powerful when at their ?station,? as they gather the strength needed to change direction. If Pluto is prominent in our charts, or if we are going through a Pluto transit to our own birthchart, we are likely to experience life at a more intense level than usual, with more of a sense of urgency.

On the 4th, as Pluto changes direction to travel retrograde, Mercury will form a sextile to Jupiter, a harmonious aspect that facilitates our mental understanding (Mercury) by providing us with a more expansive viewpoint (Jupiter). This will help to facilitate the Pluto process of getting to the root of the matters in which we are involved.

Also on the 4th, Mars will oppose Saturn in a face off that pits our individual desires (Mars) against our responsibilities and the requirement that we respect authority (Saturn). Mars is in compassionate Pisces now where it does not have the advantage of being able to utilize all of its tools of warfare and when stressed, there may be a temptation to slip into more passive-aggressive behavior rather than confront problems openly. Try not to succumb to this temptation, because Pluto is ruling this time period and demands that we are as honest and true in our actions as we can possibly be. We are likely to feel that our impulse to action (Mars) is slowed for a few days, and that is absolutely normal under the Saturn influence.

You can sign up on my website for your own subscription to Skywatch, which includes a translation into English each month,

Live-in relationships and the sixth house

sixth houseJeffrey Kishner has a great article up today that illustrates the flexibility of house rulership in the astrological world of symbols.  It’s easy when we’re studying astrology to become rigid about certain things, like house rulers.  For example, we tend to always put relationships in the seventh house of marriage and partnership.  But relationships can fall under quite a few houses:  casual romances in the fifth house, making a home together in the fourth, sexual intimacy and joint financial ventures in the eighth, creating a business together in the tenth, and developing a solid friendship in the eleventh.

But when we’re living with someone else, the mundane realities that we find in the sixth house come into play.  As Jeff writes:

So much of a long-term relationship is the sharing of life on a day-to-day basis. The mundane, daily activities — grocery shopping, fixing up the house or apartment, taking the kids to soccer, reading the paper — are 6th house activities. They’re routine.

The routine can be comforting — it is often what draws people into relationships (e.g., “I want someone with whom I can share my bed every night”) — but it can also be stifling. Perhaps the question of whether an affair is “real” is whether this relationship can survive the 6th house experience. If you leave your boyfriend/husband for your lover and move in together, the habits might be different, but this is also when many of his flaws become apparent — those habits that annoy you.

The little details can be endearing, or they can drive you crazy.

Of course, you don’t have to live together if you are in a long-term relationship, even if you’re married. There are couples who choose to stay in separate residences so that the passion of their relationship isn’t weighed down by the humdrum routine of daily life. But most couples choose to live together. An affair is appealing because the romance exists on another plane, in which you don’t have to see each other brush teeth, wake up with bad hair, go through the stomach flu. Yet, could it be that as long as you haven’t integrated the romance into your 6th house, you cannot know if it can move “to the next level?

I like Jeffrey’s later analysis that we fall in love in the 5th, and have to manage the day-to-day details of living together in the 6th before we can really establish the partnership of the 7th.

Anything that falls under the realm of human life can be experienced through the lenses of different houses.  Our job may be a career and the expression of Self through dharma in the tenth house, or it can be just a job in the sixth house of the mundane details of life.  Children are usually found in the fifth house of creative self expression, but they may also be soulmates in the seventh or friends in the eleventh.

These subtle nuances are what makes astrology and all study of human behavior an art, rather than a science!!