Originally published in the 2020 edition of the Wellbeing Astrology Guide in Australia.
As the two heavyweight planets of the solar system move into a perfect conjunction, it’s important not to lose our sense of humor. Think of it this way: the dark lord, Pluto, is dancing - his partner, Saturn, holds the scythe. They are merrily swinging through our lives, cutting down the overgrowth, as we watch open mouthed and voiceless. Will it be as bad as some say? There may be no way of knowing ahead of time. We can work ourselves into a fright, or feel our way towards what is ending, acknowledge and honor those aspects of our world that will fade away. As Alfred Hitchcock used to say “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” We are at a time of collective ending, already glimpsed in powerful environmental disturbances, political extremes, wild inventions. It is the ending that precedes a new beginning.
Called by Destiny
Some of us will have a role to play in laying foundations for the new cycle. Those born between the 12th and 17th of April, October, July and January may be singled out by destiny. This can take the form of testing, being exposed to stress and pressure that can break or make an individual. It is a rare moment of intensity, and worth moving through layers of doubt, of fear, to step into greater power, a larger potential. A particular destination may be sealed off, irrevocably blocked. Others will find that a new path beckons, and have only to take the first steps as it reveals a shift in focus. How we respond to the unlooked for changes in our lives will in many ways determine what comes next. A rare strength can emerge in each of us, followed by heightened opportunities, since Jupiter, the planet of abundance is also present in the same sign. The dates above are based on the position of the Sun in a birth chart but there are many other points that can be affected besides these. Having a detailed birth chart based on an exact time of birth, will reveal much more.
The Growth of Power: Seen and Unseen
Large planetary cycles are in effect well before the exact conjunction. We have been immersed in Saturn Pluto for at least the past 12 months. The exact conjunction on January 12 2020 is a key moment, marking the invisible coming together of these two energies, The full power of any planetary conjunction is never immediately knowable, and this is even truer where Saturn and Pluto are involved. On a symbolic level the conjunction corresponds to the New Moon, the moment where the Moon disappears form the sky. Each conjunction unfolds over many years, a roughly 33 to 38 year cycle. Pluto rules what goes deep and is often unseen, accentuating the mystery. Another key point in any cycle is the Opposition, which is symbolically like the Full Moon. The last opposition occurred in 2001, a year that reshaped our boundaries and sense of safety, it is important to see this conjunction as a long term influence in the larger world, and often in our own lives.
Whatever has too much power will be challenged. The experience of tyranny, the corruption of money, the obliteration of individual freedom, can all be part of this cycle. Certain aspects of the collective and individual psyche become top-heavy, overgrown and dangerous both for society, and for the people in it. This is what played out in the First World War, a time of major upheaval and destruction that culminated in the deaths of millions, and gave birth to a fully modern century. However this combination of planets is more variable than others, and the cycle can act through a more hidden shift in power as well. This happened in the early 1980’s, a time of financial contraction in Australia, and the policies of Thatcher and Reagan elsewhere in the world, which broke the power of the unions and opened the door to the creation of concentrated wealth. It led to the increased footprint of big business, the growth of multinational corporations. This new cycle could consolidate that financial power even further, or tip it over into redistribution of resources.
One of the most tragic aspects of the last Saturn Pluto conjunction was the emergence of HIV, and the AIDS epidemic in the western world. While we now know that the virus had crossed the barrier from animal to human in Africa as early as the 1920’s, it didn’t reach global awareness or affect large numbers until the early 80’s. It’s difficult to imagine the grief and horror, the phobic responses of the larger world, as this ‘new’ illness unfolded. It decimated the homosexual community, killing mostly young men in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Many women and children also died, but in much smaller numbers. In the first years, the disease was a virtual death sentence. An almost archaic fear, and initial rejection, required a push into activism, into awareness, empathy and consciousness. The much more tolerant society we now live in was in part born out of the painful losses of this time. Saturn Pluto forced us to confront fear, aversion, hostility and rejection. There was no choice other than to ‘eat shadow’ to look at otherness with new eyes. The 1982 conjunction was in the sign of Libra, of otherness, and soon after Pluto slipped into Scorpio, the sign most connected to sex death and rebirth.
Recently this cycle has heated up the fault line between Islam and other religions, polarizing very different visions of the world. It was strongly activated in the 1948 division of Palestine and Israel, and the partition of India and Pakistan the same year. It exploded into global consciousness after the 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center in New York, the time of the last Saturn Pluto opposition. In March 2019, with the incoming conjunction only 3 degrees apart, a lone Australian shooter killed 49 worshippers at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. Hate and violence erupted in a quiet part of the Southern Hemisphere. Saturn and Pluto can trigger long-buried antipathies, emotions that can be manipulated for political ends. This happened during the opposition phase of the cycle in the early 1930’s, with the rise of Fascism, anti-Semitism, and a powerful propaganda machine. In the 1960’s the opposition phase of the cycle nourished the anti-war and civil rights movements, particularly in the United States. The presence of Uranus conjunct Pluto helped lead to breakthroughs about truth in government, about race, sex and otherness. It also intensified the excesses of the Cultural Revolution in China. Pluto and Saturn can deepen any positive changes that occur, or push radical shifts even further. Our work is to find the right container for these forces, to acknowledge it is their time.
Saturn Pluto in Australia
Pluto has to do with birth as well as the death of things. The conjunction in the late 40’s bought a worldwide baby boom. The exceptional fertility of the post war years may have been a response to the tremendous destruction of World War 2. These conjunctions also have brought leaps in the population of Australia through immigration. Saturn Pluto conjunctions in Taurus in1851, and In Leo in1946-48 both brought large numbers of newcomers to Australia. The first wave came with the Gold Rush. After the traumas of World War 2, Arthur Caldwell, the first Minister of Immigration stated in 1947: “we have 25 years at most to populate this country before the yellow races are down on us.” The government actively sought out immigrants from Great Britain, and took in Baltic State refugees form Eastern Europe, while Greeks fleeing their own Civil War poured into Melbourne. The catch cry then was “Populate or Perish!” It is likely, barring some major catastrophe that another leap in population will come to Australia in this new cycle. Given climate change, innovative technology will be necessary for this to happen with any level of comfort.
Pluto in Capricorn
Capricorn is the steward of the realm, the one who distributes resources, keeps things running, so that all can thrive. Saturn’s sign tends to the land, and even in difficult circumstances can bring abundance. It is the sign of systems, of government, of institutions that have served over time. Pluto entered Capricorn in 2008, a year that the financial markets won’t soon forget. Many of the world’s financial systems soon revealed rot at the center. The correction that followed is not complete. The world is looking for new guidance, for rulers worthy of the task. Good governance is wanting, and for now, feckless leaders, braggarts and bullies use fear to maintain imbalance. Too many resources are creamed off at the top, and the land is diminished, abused and polluted, while the air becomes un-breathable. There is a danger here, of feeling there is no choice, and leaving power in the hands of the unworthy. Citizens are turned into slaves for the dark stewards, for money and work, electronically tethered, tracked, and monitored. Pluto often makes things worse, much worse, before they get better. With Saturn coming to meet Pluto in January 2020 the urgency of this time is heightened. Because Saturn marks the ending of things, the boundary of any place or time, it’s meeting with Pluto will also bring a line in the sand. Systems can topple, quickly or over time. Our attention will be realigned to what truly matters, to the state of our earth and the billions of living creatures that call it home. At it’s best this cycle calls forth a leader who builds a new world. Before that happens, a lot of the old one may get knocked down. These is what happened to the all-powerful Catholic Church, the last time these two planets came together in this sign. Each of us is called to find a new sense of conscience, and purposeful action. Cities and civilizations, banks and even mountains, may tremble, then rise, reborn, in a new form.
Many of you may have already listened to the recording of a workshop I gave at Norwac last May that goes into greater detail about this planetary cycle. If you haven’t it can be purchased here.