Planets in astrology are categorized differently than in astronomy. Although the International Astronomical Union reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet in 2006 (and therefore on a par with Ceres and Eris) to modern astrologers Pluto is still a full planet, and a powerful one, at that.
Astrological Pluto is the most distant planet from the sun in our solar system. It was discovered by Clyde William Tonbaugh on the 18th February, 1930, at the Lowell observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. Percival Lowell was an American businessman, traveler, and astronomer who predicted the existence of a further planet beyond Neptune after extensive research several years earlier. Pluto was named as a result of a suggestion by 11-year-old Miss Venetia Burney, of Oxford. (Walt Disney’s dog, by the way, was in 1931 named after the planet, not the other way round.)
Pluto is comparatively small, with an equatorial diameter of 2370 km, 18.5% that of Earth's, while its biggest moon Charon has a diameter of 1208 km, 9.5% that of Earth's. Its mean density is 1.86 g/ cm³. It has an average distance from the Sun of 5960 million km, and an eccentric elliptical orbit of 248 years which is also highly inclined relative to the ecliptic; and therefore to the orbits of the other planets. Pluto's orbit sometimes even takes it inside the orbit of Neptune. Its average diurnal movement is 15 seconds of arc, with a maximum of 2.5 minutes of arc.
The Greek god Hades (Latin Pluto) was the ruler of the underworld, the kingdom of the dead, as well as of the riches that lie under the earth. After he and his brothers defeated their father Cronos (Saturn) they divided the world among themselves. Zeus (Jupiter) became ruler of the heavens; and Poseidon (Neptune,) ruler of the seas. Hades' kingdom was especially feared. The Greeks believed that people lived on as shadows of their former existence and that they continued to unconsciously carry out tasks that they had previously done on earth. Hermes (Mercury) accompanied the dead across the river Styx which marked the edge of the conscious world. The other side was guarded by Cerberus, the hound of hell which prevented anyone who had entered the underworld from leaving it. Apart from Mercury, only a select few were ever allowed to leave the underworld after descending into it, including Heracles, Odysseus and Psyche. For mortals the world of Hades was a kingdom of no return.
Because the figure of Pluto was more feared than revered, he is a relatively rare figure in the worship of ancient Greece. The best-known of myths of Hades concern his wife Persephone (Proserpine), daughter of Demeter (Ceres), the goddess of agricultural fertility. This myth has several different versions, but was central to Greek religion in the form of the Eleusinian Mysteries dedicated to the goddess Demeter.
Essentially the story concerns the abduction of Demeter's daughter Persephone by Hades, who takes the girl to the underworld, consummates his passion, and makes her his queen. Persephone fasts as a means of showing her distress at this treatment. Demeter meanwhile frantically searches for her missing daughter, only to learn of the abduction. Demeter asks Zeus, in his capacity as supreme ruler of the gods, to order Hades to release the girl, but Zeus declines. In grief and retaliation, Demeter causes a massive drought that makes all plants on Earth wither. Zeus, fearing that there would soon be no more humans left to bring him sacrifices, finally commands his brother to return Persephone, provided she has eaten nothing underground. Before Hades releases Persephone, however, he tricks her into eating some pomegranate seeds, a symbol of female fertility. The gods broker a compromise, in which Perspehone would spend two thirds of the year on earth and one third with her husband in the underworld. Although the couple produce no children, Persephone gains considerable power as the goddess of the underworld as well as the symbol of nature's annual regeneration.
Since the time of the ancient Greeks, this myth has been interpreted on several levels: as a symbol of the seasonal agricultural cycle, as a metaphor for the soul's descent to earth and return to heaven, and as the light and shadow of human consciousness.
Because of its association with Scorpio, to which medical astrology assigns the reproductive and eliminative functions of the body, modern astrologers assign sexuality and elimination to Pluto, as well. Pluto is also the modern ruler of things similar to these processes, and to the god Hades in mythology, such as abductions, rape, cemeteries, and the dead. Furthermore, Pluto is the modern ruler of radioactive substances.
Pluto, Uranus and Neptune are the so-called generational or spiritual planets which point to a realm beyond the limits of the material world symbolised by Saturn. Pluto in particular touches on a realm of being that most people find deeply disturbing. The time of its discovery (1930) was also a time marked by the rise of National Socialism and the discovery of nuclear fission (1938). For this reason, Pluto is associated with mass movements and processes of transformation that lead to deep changes on a collective level.
Pluto stands not only for crises but for the process of long suppressed or forbidden things coming to light which is a prerequisite for healing and becoming whole. Pluto is the symbol for transformation in the sense of a far reaching metamorphosis which can release powerful and archaic energies in a way most people would never have thought possible. Whether these energies are used to serve society or to further self-interests is another question.
Pluto themes are power and powerlessness, domination, dependence that can lead to emotional entanglement, sexuality and taboo subjects. In the best sense Pluto stands for personal transformation through getting to the core of a matter, releasing outworn habits, and enormous powers of healing. Pluto also points to collective necessities to which individuals must yield.
Its long orbital period means that Pluto is in the same sign of the zodiac for a whole generation. Due to its highly elliptical orbit this can vary from 12 to 32 years. For this reason, Pluto's house position and any aspects to personal planets are more important than its position by sign in an individual's horoscope. The house position indicates the area of life in which an individual will undergo deep transformational processes, but also where they have access to great inner riches. It shows where they will be confronted with the themes of power and dependency, too.
Aspects between Pluto and slow-moving outer planets are generational, such as the longstanding Pluto-Neptune sextile that affects post World War II births.
When Pluto is in aspect with another planet or axis or in transit, it intensifies and deepens these horoscope factors, involving them in processes of death and rebirth which can lead to transformation of the themes associated with the horoscope factors. This process is often very painful because it requires relinquishing something which has outlived its usefulness and becomes obsolete. In the end, this can be a healing process that leads to a greater degree of wholeness.
- Wikipedia: Pluto (astronomy)
- Wikipedia: Pluto (mythology)
- Underworld Gods (Theoi Greek Mythology)
- Pluto no longer a planet? What are the implications for astrology? (Dieter Koch, 2006; Astrodienst)
- Living with Pluto / Part 1 (Interview with Liz Greene, by Nicholas Campion, 2001; Astrodienst)
- Venetia Phair Dies at 90; as a Girl, She Named Pluto (NY Times, 2009)
- Pluto and the Developing Landscape of Our Solar System (IAU, 2013)
- How Big Is Pluto? New Horizons Settles Decades-Long Debate (2015)
- Video: New Horizons Found Something Strange on Pluto (Elderfox, 2020)
- Pluto in Astrology: Meaning and Significations (Chris Brennan's Podcast#336; Video/Interview wth Tarnas, 3h43m, 2021)
- Donna Cunningham: Healing Pluto Problems, 218 pages. Samuel Weiser, York Beach ME; 1986; 1992 ISBN 978-0877283980
- A positive book, deep and with understanding
- Forrest, Steven, 2012. The Book of Pluto: Finding Wisdom in Darkness with Astrology, 2nd ed., Seven Paws Press
- Sasportas, Howard, 1990. The Gods of Change: Pain, Crisis, and the Transits of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, Penguin Books
Notes and References
- Photographed by "New Horizons" on July, 11, 2015
- In the meantime, we know six moons of Pluto
- From a vase in the British Museum, 5th century BCE
- Albrecht Dürer, 1516
- In size, they are much smaller than the earth's Moon