Pluto and its moon Charon, the most well-known of the Trans-Neptunians
M A R C H 2 0 0 3
by Alex Miller-Mignone
As science probes deeper and deeper into the vast regions of space and those areas closer to home, an increasing amount of information becomes available to astrologers from which to make their interpretations. To some this is confusing; to others exhilaratingbut for all of us, it is inevitable. Knowledge is power, and knowledge changes things.
For millennia, astrologers used the five planets visible to the naked eye, plus the Sun, the Moon, and the Fixed Stars, and folks got on tolerably well. Then telescope technology was born, and Uranus was found, doubling the size of the solar system at a single throw, followed by the asteroids (which were originally identified as planets, and of which there are now some 50,000 named members), then Neptune, Pluto and Chiron.
We now know about a whole range of Chiron-like objects, known as centaurs, which populate the regions between Neptune and Jupiter, as well as the existence of Deep Space anomalies such as Black Holes, Quasars, Pulsars and Masers, lying inconceivable voids of space away, and yet having an impact upon us. All of these can add immeasurably rich levels of interpretation to both personal and mundane events charts.
Since the early 1990s astronomers have been casting a careful eye over the Kuiper Belt, a zone of densely populated space beyond the orbit of Neptune (hence the common appellation for inhabitants of this region, the "Trans-Neptunians"), extending from 30 to 50 AUs, or astronomical units (one AU is the distance from the earth to the Sun, some 150 million km). The Kuiper Belt is the origin zone of SPCs (short-period comets, which have an orbital period of less than 200 years. (LPCs, or long-period comets, having an orbital period in excess of 200 years, originate from the Oort cloud, an astounding 50,000 AU from the Sun.)
Similar to the Asteroid Belt, but with objects much larger in size, the Kuiper Belt may contain as many as 70,000 so-called "ice dwarves," small clumps of rather loosely coalesced material, mainly rock bound up with frozen gases such as methane and carbon dioxide (dry ice) as well as frozen water and methanol (alcohol ice).
Four of these bodies have been given names beyond their astronomical designations, and one of them you already knowPluto. That's right, folks, the International Astronomical Union is preparing to downgrade Pluto from its current planetary status. Far from indicating that astrologers should no longer use Pluto in their interpretations, 70 years of experience with this first, and so far largest, of the Trans-Neps is ample evidence of their importance and usefulness.
The argument for changing Pluto's status seems a sound one. It has always been the awkward step-child of the planetary family. Not only is its composition different from both the inner, rocky-molten-core planets and the outer gas-and-ring giants, but its orbit is eccentrically inclined some 17 degrees off the orbital plane of the rest of the system. And there is precedence for such a demotion; in the 40+ years from their discovery in the early 1800s until the floodgates of the Asteroid Belt were opened in the late 1840s, the four primary asteroids were classed as planets, and listed as such in the astronomy texts of the time. It was only after astronomers became aware of the vast array of like bodies that these were reclassed as asteroids, or planetessimals, just as is happening now with the discovery of Pluto's immense family.
At 2200 km (1350 miles) in diameter, Pluto and its moon Charon (discovered in 1978; diameter 1200 km or 750 miles) are already smaller than the earth's moon (diameter 2100 miles). They are positively dwarfed by some of the larger moons of Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune. But as Mercury has proven for millennia, size doesn't matter, at least in the astrological world.
The remaining three named members of this newest class of astronomical bodies are Varuna (minor planet #20000), which was found in 2000 and takes its name from Hindu mythology; Ixion (minor planet #28978), found in 2001, with its mythic roots in classic Greece; and Quaoar (minor planet #50000), found in 2002, a deity culled from Native American traditions. Interestingly, Pluto, their emissary, was found in 1930, a time period coinciding with the earliest stages of atomic research that has led us into the present nuclear age. Its companions have emerged now as we enter the third millennium, which many consider to be the unofficial start of the New Age of Aquarius.
Varuna is 900 km (550 miles) in diameter and has an orbital period of 285 years. It was discovered 28 November 2000, coinciding with the contested election results in the USA (astrologer Jerome Armstrong has noted that the GOP has its natal Varuna at 19 Sagittarius, conjunct George W. Bush's South Node, which Pluto is currently transiting).
Interestingly, the pre-Vedic deity for whom it was named was seen as a Keeper of Divine Order. Lord of the Cosmos, Varuna was omnipotent and omniscient, an enforcer of contracts who punished mortals who did not keep their word, and was also a Lord of the Dead who could confer immortality. He was thought to be responsible for the movements of the Sun, the separation of day and night, and the maintenance of the Earth's form. After centuries of dominance, Varuna was unseated by the Vedic pantheon of the Indo-Aryan invaders who overran the Indian subcontinent (much in the way Zeus and the Olympians supplanted Cronos and the Titans in Greece), and he was demoted to the rulership of the oceans and rivers.
Russian astrologer Denis Kutalyov indicates that the Kuiper Belt may be seen as a sort of boundary of what is knowable; the multiplicity of objects in this region therefore suggests that the doors to the mystery beyond are legion. He further states that Varuna in particular may be seen as conferring notoriety, not to say infamy, and immortality in the sense of renown.
He backs this up with illustrations as to Varuna's prominence in such impactful "remember-where-you-were-when..." events as the Kennedy assassination in 1963 and the Challenger explosion in 1986. Jerome Armstrong also notes its prominence in the 9-11 terrorist attacks, where it was conjunct both transit Jupiter and the USA Sun. (As an aside here, by way of additional confirmatory evidence, Varuna for the destruction of the Space Shuttle Columbia on February 1, 2003 was at 12 Cancer retrograde, exactly inconjunct the Sun at 12 Aquarius (itself conjunct Black Hole Kybele) and square Black Hole Nemesis at 13 Libra.)
The second of the named "Trans-Neps" is Ixion, discovered on 22 May 2001 and with by far the richest mythic tradition. Ixion was a King of the Lapiths in ancient Thessaly, a descendant of the god Ares, and the first human to commit murder. After his misdeed (he killed his new father-in-law at the wedding banquet) he wandered an outcast until Zeus took pity on him and removed him to Olympus to arrange for divine purification from his crimes.
While a guest at the Olympian table, however, Ixion took a fancy to his host's wife, Hera. Zeus (who should have understood this emotion quite well based on his own antics) was appalled and in disbelief at this breach of hospitality. Just to be certain, he fashioned a cloud into the exact likeness of Hera, which Ixion then impregnated and which gave birth to the monstrous Centaurus (this creature later mated with the mares of Mount Pelion and gave rise to the race of centaurs, which is the designation astronomers have given to a class of planetoids inside Neptune's orbit, and which are probably break-aways from the Kuiper Belt). In punishment for his attempted violation of a goddess, Zeus bound Ixion to a flaming wheel in the heavens which spun in all directions, and forced him to eternally intone the phrase "you should show gratitude to your benefactor."
Although to my knowledge no data has so far been collected on Ixion in charts, based on the mythic context I would expect to see it prominent in incidences of dramatic "firsts," as well as in the charts of serial killers or famous murderers or their victims, and possibly turn-coats or traitors.
The third named Trans-Nep, Quaoar (pronounced "KWAY-o-wahr") is the largest of the three. At 1250 km (745 miles) in diameter, it rivals Pluto's moon Charon, and has a greater volume than all 50,000 known asteroids combined. Discovered 4 June 2002, Quaoar is 42 AUs away from us (about 4 billion miles); light from the Sun takes 5 hours to reach it, as opposed to 8 minutes for earth.
The least fleshed-out mythologically, Quaoar is nonetheless among the most impressive. Taken from a creation story of the Tongva, a Native American tribe from the southern California region, Quaoar is the great force of creation which sang and danced the gods into existence, who then helped him to create the Universe. He has no form or gender, but is usually given a masculine pronoun in reference.
Again, astrological research is lacking, but one might expect to see him prominent in such creation-themed arenas as in vitro fertilization and cloning, as well as, perhaps, in anti-creation areas such as contraceptive and abortion issues. (Possible confirmation? The prominence of cloning in the news and the national debate on cloning legislation throughout 2002, culminating in the unconfirmed allegation by Clonaid in December of the birth of the first cloned human baby, Eve (coming close on the heels of the official announcement in October of Quaoar's discovery).)
Astrologer Jerome Armstrong notes that Ixion and Quaoar are following close in Pluto's wake in early Sagittarius, and connects the rise of the political version of religious fundamentalism with the astronomical exploration of the Kuiper Belt in 1992. He cites incidences as disparate as the rise of Osama bin Laden onto the world stage and the Republican Revolution of 1994, fueled by Christian fundamentalist voters and culminating now with all three branches of government in Republican control. In addition, he cites the ascendance of political Hinduism in India in 1996 with the election of the BJP. One might add to this list the emergence of Conservative majorities in Israel and the UK.
We can think of the Solar System as a vast organism, with the Sun as its heart, the planets as its organs, the asteroid belt as its circulatory system, and the Trans-Neptunian objects of the Kuiper Belt as its skin, with the Oort cloud as the outer limits of its aura. The function of the skin is both protective and interactive. It delimits our boundaries as individuals, but allows us to interface with others, and the environment in general. Perhaps the Trans-Neps perform a similar function, regulating our System's interactions with the wider Universe of which it is a small but precious part, and providing each of us with our own unique access to the mysteries of the cosmos.
Varuna is currently at 12 Cancer, Ixion at 8 Sagittarius, and Quaoar at 11 Sagittarius. Ephemerides of these points are available online through Astrodienst at www.astro.com.
[The author wishes to acknowledge the help and inspiration provided by astrologer and author Jerome Armstrong of AstroWorld.mydd.com for information and links regarding Varuna and Trans-Neptunians which have been vital to the preparation of this article.]
Alex Miller-Mignone is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book and The Urban Wicca, former editor of "The Galactic Calendar," and past president of The Philadelphia Astrological Society.
His pioneering work with Black Holes in astrological interpretation began in 1991, when his progressed Sun unwittingly fell into one. Alex can be reached for comment or services at firstname.lastname@example.org.