2016 has been the year that just won’t quit, but in the long view of things, we’re merely at the midway point of a generational cycle that’s been laying waste to our weak global infrastructure. Oh god.
Where do we start with Pluto? It’s a scrappy dwarf planet that struggles to maintain its status in astronomy, but it’s arguably the most heavy-handed, looming presence in astrology. That’s because Pluto is the most outer of the outer planets, taking the longest amount of time to complete a cycle around the Sun (roughly 248 years) and effecting the deepest, most significant changes in the signs and houses it transits.
As a personality, Pluto comes off as majorly shady, but by sneaking off into the forest and lighting the whole thing on fire, he’s almost always destroying with a higher purpose — as nature typically does. Pluto, also known as Hades, or the Lord of the Underworld, is in many ways the grim reaper of the cosmos, identifying the concepts, structures, and systems that are ready to die, and then creating a major opening for humanity among the rubble.
Pluto is almost always concerned with power, and particularly the abuse of it. On a good day, Pluto can be a heavyweight in our boxing ring, giving us the courage and resilience to peel back the curtain and expose what’s underneath. On a bad day, Pluto can be a bit of an atomic bomb, creating violent and dramatic upheaval in order to force us to reckon with humanity’s ugly parts. Regardless of where it falls on the scale of brutality, a Pluto transit is almost always a “pain for gain” scenario that leaves us in stronger shape, even if it takes years to totally vanquish all the monsters under the bed.
Pluto seems to have a thing for monsters, by the way. Every time Pluto transits a sign, it dredges up a bogeyman or two — a sort of crystallization of the themes involved. Pluto was in Libra, the sign of partnership and marriage, from 1971 to 1984 — right around the time no-fault divorce was becoming legal in the United States. By the time it entered Scorpio, the sign of sex, from 1984 to 1995, the AIDS crisis was in full force. Its most recent stay in the realm of Sagittarius — the sign of religion and belief systems — highlighted the destructive potential of religious extremism, symbolized most memorably by 9/11. And then it entered the sign of Capricorn in 2008 — the sign of banks, big business, governments, and institutions.
You probably don’t need to be reminded about 2008. We’re still dealing with the fallout of the global financial meltdown, and the years since then have brought us massive uprisings all around the world in protest of those who abuse their authority. This was most palpable during the Uranus/Pluto squares of 2012-2015 — a continuation of a cycle that began during the popular uprisings of the 60s. What’s different this time around is that Uranus and Pluto are both occupying different signs, and therefore manifesting their revolutionary energy in a different way. With Pluto in Capricorn from 2008 to 2024, we’ve still got our work cut out for us in terms of exposing corruption, limiting the excessive spread of corporate power, and reforming the global economy in a way that truly serves people, and not just a wealthy few at the top. These issues may not magically go away once Pluto changes signs (just like religious terrorism didn’t disappear in 2008), but these years are in many ways the “ground zero” for our collective awakening in these areas — the beginning of a process that always begins with acknowledging the problem, and often by seeing what was hidden.
By the way, can we talk about power without mentioning privilege in 2016? One of the more interesting manifestations of Pluto in Capricorn has been the rise of social justice awareness (is it totally a coincidence that Twitter really took off around 2008, giving marginalized people a platform to bring their ideas into mainstream consciousness and evolve our discussions around race, class, gender, and sexuality?). Capricorn is also, in many ways, the sign of the patriarchy — the old white dude with a big boner for tradition and old-fashioned norms. You do the math.
Here’s another thing that’s interesting to think about: the implications of Pluto in Aquarius from 2024 to 2044. Aquarius is the sign of futurism, technology, science, and the internet. There’s an excellent article on WaitButWhy.com called “The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence.” Ray Kurzweil (look him up) believes computers will reach AGI by 2029 (“artificial general intelligence,” or the point where computers can successfully perform intellectual tasks just as well as a human can) and that we’ll reach singularity by 2045 (a future that’s so technologically advanced, it’d be unrecognizable to us now).
For now, though, we’ve still got the rest of 2016 to reckon with — and that’s going to show up in a big way on Tuesday. Pluto will play an increasingly active role in America’s psychodrama over the next presidency or two (like, way more than normal), and that’s because America as a nation is approaching its first Pluto return (it’ll be exact in 2022). This means Pluto is wrapping up a complete cycle in America’s chart and is approaching where it was at the time of the nation’s birth. You’ve probably heard people talk about what a bummer it is to hit your Saturn return in your late 20s. Now imagine a country going through that, except we’re dealing with the vastly more profound and ruthless Pluto. This is shaping up to be a pretty major turning point for our country, especially in terms of how we use and abuse our power in the world arena (or at home, against our own people).
So, America, what’s it going to be? Here’s to hoping we rise above the fray.