APRIL 2009 PLUTO CAPRICORN CHRONICLES
by Alex Miller
As Pluto performs its lazy perambulation through Capricorn, it becomes immediately apparent that it has lost none of its power from its recent demotion to minor planet status. The old forms are breaking down, as they do for any sign through which Pluto progresses, and in Capricorn this means the governmental, business and banking structures which the tenth Sign rules, and which are so influential in our lives.
But the breakdown is only the first step. After Pluto destroys, it builds, and in the meantime, Borg-like, Pluto’s message is, “Resistance is futile.” The pain of transition and transformation only grows the more we resist it. It is counterproductive to try to hold back the plutonian tides that will inevitably roll onto the Capricorn shore, eroding and erasing the former patterns in the sands, and creating a blank slate on which to write new chapters. What can we expect to see from this brave new world, and when can we expect to see it?
As Pluto passes through Capricorn, it encounters two Black Holes which are strategically placed to elicit major periods of crisis and head-spinning transformation, at 5 and 19 degrees of the sign. While the singularity, or center, of the Black Hole is its most powerful region, and the most critical, pivotal point of the anomaly, it has a secondary level of control in its event horizon, the area within which its gravitational pull becomes inescapable, and that translates astrologically into a five degree orb of influence to either side. So from 0 through 10 Capricorn, Pluto is affected by the Black Hole at 5 Capricorn, and from 14 through 24 Capricorn, it falls under the sway of the Black Hole at 19 Capricorn. We’ve already experienced a preview of Pluto’s intentions as it began this trek in 2008, and the view is bleak [see my prior article in this series in the February 2009 Daykeeper Journal]. These periods will wax and wane in intensity, depending on additional aspects Pluto makes to anomalies in other signs while under the Black Hole’s influence, but in general they represent peak periods for the changes Pluto is making as it transits Capricorn.
Further, the process of descent from the Light World of everyday reality into the Underworld at the pit of the singularity, and the ascent back into the Light World on the other side, has a definite pattern, one of loss and breakdown on the way in, and gradual recovery on the way out. This can be best imaged via the mythic tale of Mesopotamian sister goddesses Inanna and Ereshkigal, whose central myth depicts quite well the dynamics of any planet’s progression across a Black Hole.
Ereshkigal was the Mesopotamian Queen of the Underworld, wife of Nergal, God of the Dead, and sister to Inanna, Queen of Heaven. The pair of sisters are inseparable, the reverse and obverse of the same coin; in fact, they were probably originally two aspects of the same goddess. The early Sumerians who first developed their myth (circa 3500 B.C.E.) may have seen them as the conscious and subconscious; one golden and glorious, Queen of the Light World of sentience, the other dark, brooding and threatening to erupt from below the surface, Lady of the Great Beneath.
Ereshkigal and Inanna, though sisters (i.e., in a metaphoric sense, the two halves of consciousness which arise from the same source), are not exactly close. But when Ereshkigal's husband Nergal dies, Inanna feels it is only fitting she make the perilous journey to the Underworld to comfort her pregnant sister.
She knows the way to the Place Beneath is fraught with dangers, so, while leaving her husband Tammuz in charge of her estate (Tammuz can be seen as the egoic projection of the persona which creates a "place marker" for consciousness within the individual), she takes the further precaution of informing her father of her plans, and commands her majordomo to appeal to him in the event she does not return and her husband seems less than anxious to rescue her. Inanna, being fully conscious, is a great judge of character.
When Inanna appears at the gates to Ereshkigal's domain, she announces herself as "Inanna, of the place where the sun rises." To which the porter replies: "Why have you come to the place of no return?" Upon Inanna's seeking entrance to the Underworld, Ereshkigal is informed of her sister's request to pay her respects. In the bitterness at her loss, Ereshkigal charges that her sister shall be treated "according to the ancient laws" of her domain, and a painful stripping of identity ensues for Inanna, who at each of seven portals along the descent must endure the removal of one after the other of her accoutrements of power and position. At one portal she is deprived of her crown, at another her jewels, at a third her mantle, then her girdle, and so on, until she is bereft of all she brought with her, all that which defines her life and the role in the Light World she has left behind.
At each sacrifice the Queen of Heaven importunes her guide: "What, pray, is this?"
Each time the answer comes: "Be silent, Inanna, the ordinances of the nether world are perfect. O Inanna, do not question the rites of the nether world."
Only through surrender and acceptance of the processes of transformation can the subconscious be appeased, but for Inanna, though she submits with head bowed, there is no reprieve. When she finally gains The Presence, naked, beaten and bowed low, Ereshkigal casts the eye of death upon her, and Inanna is left on a meat hook to rot.
Meanwhile Tammuz is having quite the time back in Inanna's palace, lording it over the place and thoroughly enjoying his freedom. He remains deaf to the majordomo's pleas, until at last the worthy fellow appeals to the two Queens' father, the creator god Enki. He considers for a bit, and then, taking the dirt from beneath his fingernails, he fashions two beings, the perfect empaths, and sends them to plea for the return of Inanna's life.
Ereshkigal is in labor when they arrive, and the two so ingratiate themselves to her with their patient sympathy and understanding in her hour of travail that she grants them a boon, whereupon they ask for Inanna's restitution and return. Ereshkigal is happy to oblige, but there is one problem. Apparently, the books have to be kept very closely in the nether world, and the soul count is not allowed to drop by so much as a single spirit once accrued.
You guessed it. Returned to life and the Light World, Inanna promptly dispatches the faithless Tammuz and sends him to Ereshkigal in her place. As she ascends from the pit, the objects which were taken from her are returned one by one, ritually cleansed and renewed.
Inanna’s journey is a perfect metaphor for the processes endured during the passage through a Black Hole. We leave the familiar comfort of the everyday reality we know, gradually losing the parts of ourselves with which we most identify, that which defines who we are, to ourselves and others. Upon reaching “the place of no return,” the center of the Black Hole, we find ourselves at the mercy of powerful forces beyond our control, and realize that acquiescence to what must be is the only course to take. It is a dark hour, seemingly bereft of hope, but then the transformation comes, and we begin to re-ascend to the world we left behind, gradually acquiring the elements that will define our new life. But the world into which we re-emerge is not the same world, because we are no longer the same; the aspects of ourselves which we reclaim as we ascend from the Underworld are fundamentally changed, as is the reality in which we now find ourselves.
When Pluto is the celestial in the grip of the Black Hole, the change factor is greatly magnified, for Pluto is himself an Underworld denizen, an arbiter of transformation, and the changes wrought by this passage are sweeping and irreversible. As Pluto navigates Capricorn, and encounters these two Black Holes, the world as we have known it will change and evolve in ways we cannot now imagine. Who, before Pluto’s passage of Sagittarius, a sign governing knowledge, intellectual pursuits, data dissemination, publishing, and higher education, could possibly have envisioned the astounding transformations brought about by the creation and development of the Internet, the use of which became pervasive during this transit? Books and libraries have become almost passé, as every desktop computer is potentially the repository of the world’s knowledge. Students receive degrees without ever setting foot on a college campus, global communication is instantaneous, the very ways in which we store, transmit, and even think about knowledge have been revolutionized. What Pluto in tandem with Sagittarian Black Holes (there are seven there, more than in any other sign) has done to the planet over the past 13 years is the proverbial tip of the iceberg compared to what it can accomplish in the areas ruled by Capricorn.
Capricorn is the very essence of structure. It is the sign of foundations, the status quo, the Establishment, and the authority in the world which maintains it. It is government, laws and their enforcement, legal authority, business and finance, and all forms of social convention, structure and organization. Fundamental changes will occur in these areas, changes so pervasive as to impact each of us in radical ways.
2009 begins with the sobering news that 46 US states are facing budget shortfalls for the year. California leads the pack with a $40 billion deficit. Government is seriously under-funded and over-extended, and deficit financing cannot continue forever; the loss of social programs and services which are always the first to go in these situations will negatively affect millions of citizens who have no other recourse. And as the job market continues to dwindle, so too do the options, while need increases for the very services to be cut. January saw the loss of 598,000 jobs, the worst monthly performance in 35 years, and in February it was announced that more than five million people were collecting unemployment benefits, the largest number since records began to be kept, in 1967. Many financial experts are now projecting to 2010 as the earliest point at which the economy may begin to rebound, and this coincides with the first time Pluto reaches the singularity of the Black Hole at 5 Capricorn, the pivotal turning point of its passage.
Re-valuation of assets is another key factor, but the stock market and housing equity losses pale in comparison to the hits some banks are taking. To use just one example from the financial sector, CitiGroup, one of the largest banking institutions in the country, saw a stunning drop in asset value from its peak of $254 billion in June of 2007, six months before Pluto first entered Capricorn, to just $19 billion a mere 18 months later, in January of 2009, once Pluto had returned to Capricorn for good, a loss of more than 90% of its former value. These losses cannot be sustained indefinitely without serious long-term damage to the economy.
Signs also operate in polarities, so that what affects Capricorn is also active in its opposite number, Cancer. We have already seen how the current economic crisis had its roots in the housing (Fourth House, Cancer) industry, which via defaulted mortgages spread into the banking sector, and thence to the overall economy in the credit crunch. This began as Pluto first moved into Capricorn last winter, incubated throughout its Sagittarian vacation in the summer, and emerged full-blown with the federal take-over of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac just as Pluto made its station in September 2008.
But this period, extending to the present, has also given us a (literal) foretaste of potential problems to come in another Cancer-related venue, the food supply. April through June of 2008, with Pluto in the first degree of Capricorn, saw a massive outbreak of salmonella in tomatoes, sickening more than 1400 people in 47 states, and causing nationwide recalls of fresh tomatoes in major restaurants and food distributors like McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Outback Steakhouse, Wal-mart, Kroger and Winn-Dixie. Salmonella was back in the news following Pluto’s September station with recalls of tainted peanut butter, found in more than 125 products from 70 companies, causing several deaths and almost 500 reported cases of food poisoning in 43 states. Outbreaks like this are likely to increase as Pluto brings up toxins from beneath the surface and devastates the Cancer/Capricorn pairing known as agri-business. [Author's note—April 2, 2009: As this article is posted, the FDA has announced the recall of approximately one million pounds of pistachio products sold by California company Setton Pistachio of Terra Bella Inc, for contamination with salmonella. Pluto at 3 Capricorn is just days from its retrograde station, exactly squaring the newsy Pulsar at 3 Aries.]
Health care is another likely target of Pluto activating this polarity, with its Moon-ruled Cancer focus on health and body issues and its Saturn-ruled Capricorn focus on big business. Pluto’s natural Eighth House bailiwick already includes insurance, so huge changes are on the horizon for Big Pharma, corporate medicine, and the insurance giants who tie it all together. Corruption and abuse of the system will be exposed, and major scandals will rock these industries, just as the rot at the heart of Sagittarian institutions such as organized religion, politics and professional sports was revealed when Pluto transited that sign. The transformation in health care and how it is provided and paid for will inevitably transmute government as well, as the only logical source of the necessary reorganization and regulation of these industries, and their resultant decline in profitability will further impact the banks which are highly invested in them. When Pluto pulls at one thread of the Capricorn tapestry, the entire fabric is unraveled, and the new patterns Pluto weaves from these threads on its cosmic loom have yet to be defined.
The US, with its heavy Cancer emphasis, is under particular scrutiny from Pluto, which will oppose the nation’s Venus, Jupiter, Sun and Mercury during this passage, as well as squaring its Saturn in Libra, and finishing off with a return to its natal place in the USA chart, at 27 Capricorn. First up is the opposition to the US Venus at 3 Cancer, affecting values, ethics, and personal finances. Pluto has been in orb of this opposition since it entered Capricorn, but the 2008 losses in 401(k)s and IRAs may be just the preamble to what awaits when it forms its retrograde station in exact opposition this April. A national reappraisal of priorities is in order: what do we truly value? What gives our lives meaning? What are our ethical convictions? What role does money play in our lives, and what is truly of worth to us?
It is a founding principle of democracy that government derives its authority from the consent of those governed. As confidence in the current forms fails, what new forms will arise to replace them? As capitalism falters on the reefs of greed, corruption and incompetence, what economic model will succeed it? Pluto in Capricorn is preparing a brave new world for us. What will we make of it?
Alex Miller (formerly 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 email@example.com.