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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Monday, December 03, 2007

Pluto and Saturn

After a fast cold snap over the weekend, which saw snow burying our city, warm rain now drums relentlessly outside. Only a white dot of snow remains here and there, and they will be gone by the time the sun is fully up. Wind speeds of 70 kmh are forecast for today--just like this time last year, when many trees in Stanley Park were blown down, shutting down a section of the seawall until just a few weeks ago.

I feel storm warnings within me as well: clouds darken over the scene of peace and composure built with such diligent effort over the years. Dark feelings swirl like whirlpools in the apparently calm water of my soul.

As an astrologer, I link this feeling to the impending (indeed already underway) transit of Pluto over Saturn. Those of us born in 1959 are collectively feeling the effects of this transit, for we all have Saturn placed between 0 and 8° of Capricorn in our birth-charts--the place in the sky that Pluto is now approaching. As I type these words, Pluto is crawling through the end of Sagittarius, and will enter Capricorn by the end of January 2008. After that, it will soon retreat again as it turns retrograde and moves backward in the sky, shifting forward again in September, and reentering Capricorn in late November 2008, where it will then stay for some years.

Pluto, god of the underworld, was lord of the dead. He only ever came to the surface of Earth on two occasions: once to have a wound healed, and once to abduct Persephone, the virgin daughter of Demeter, goddess of grain, to force her to become queen of the dead. The themes of death, wounding, and the compulsive aspect of relationships are all germane to Pluto's activities.

An excellent guide to the psychological aspects of transits of Pluto (and the other outer planets, Uranus and Neptune) is The Gods of Change by Howard Sasportas. Among other things ruled by Pluto are what Sasportas calls the "belly emotions". He gives a great illustration of what these are.

Imagine that you have a date to meet someone you really want to see. The appointed time comes, and the person does not show up. Minutes go by, half an hour, an hour. How do you respond?

For many of us, the first response is at the "head" level. We rationalize to ourselves why our date has not yet shown: stuck in traffic perhaps; or unavoidably detained in a previous meeting.

As time passes, we may move to the "heart" level: concern for our missing date. Has something happened to him or her? An accident? A family emergency? Gee, I hope she's okay...

But beneath these are the "belly" emotions: primitive, instinctive feelings linked to self-preservation--feelings that civilized, cultured people seldom exhibit or even acknowledge. Anger, resentment, and yes vindictiveness: "She can't do this to me. I'll show her--she'll pay for this..."

Sasportas, trained in psychology, describes how such moments connect us to our earliest life, when survival was not something we could take for granted, utterly dependent as we all are on someone else's care at that time. When you're helpless, a "no show" of food or attention can mean death, or at least severe suffering. The emotions connected with that type of experience are, let's face it, rage and hatred. "If I get out of this alive, I'm going to make those bastards hurt. Let's see how they handle being starved and abused. They'll think twice next time..."

These sentiments aren't polite. But they are real, and they form a system of subterranean rivers underlying our interactions. And the less in touch we are with our "belly" emotions, the more likely that their eruption will cause us severe distress, and the more likely that they will run our lives covertly, shaping our destinies without our real knowledge or consent.

All Pluto transits are stressful, since they tend to represent situations in which the belly emotions are aroused: the fight for life. A transit to Saturn is especially stress-prone, since Saturn represents the structure in our lives. In particular, it shows where we feel insecure, and how we adapt to feelings of weakness and inadequacy. Threats made to these spots provoke the strongest reactions of fear and resistance.

I think about chess, a game I used to play a lot as a teenager. In chess, all the pieces can move anywhere on the board, except the pawns: these foot-soldiers, once advanced, can never go back. A pawn only ever has three options: advance, hold, or die. As a player, when you move a pawn, you're irreversibly committed. As a game progresses, the pawns, through movement and casualties, form into more or less rugged patterns, often referred to as your "pawn structure". They form living shields, protecting each other and the more important pieces behind them. One chess strategy is to "attack the base"--going after the pawn that anchors a pawn formation. Having your pawn structure attacked and liquidated is generally catastrophic: an agonizing stripping of your defenses.

I think of another image: the cruel way in which conches are removed from their shells. A hook is passed into a part of the animal that cannot retreat far enough into the shell, and then the conch is hung by this hook, so that its shell is slowly pulled from its grip by the force of gravity. The home and protective covering of the conch is inexorably ripped from its grasp, leaving it naked on the hook.

This focused and inexorable attack on one's defensive base is, I think, the pattern I would associate with the transit of Pluto over Saturn. Emotionally it will be the feeling that comes from seeing someone raise a hatchet over your fingers where they cling to the edge of the cliff from which you're dangling.

Where we build these defenses is different for each of us. Astrologically it's shown by house placement. I was born with Saturn in the 3rd house of siblings, neighbors, thinking, speaking, and writing. Saturn is our career planet: I'm a thinker and writer. I can hear the Jaws theme come up as Pluto makes its way to my Saturn, dug in and entrenched from long years of effort and consolidation. Who will win the confrontation?

That answer is easy: Pluto always wins. Pluto wins because whatever (and whoever) is born necessarily dies, and no force in the universe can stop that. Even mountain ranges, high and jagged, eventually are worn away to flat desert. Stars are formed, only to become, eventually, cold cinders. Death and life feed on each other.

One prediction I can make: for those of us born in 1959, the coming few years are going to concentrate our minds on issues we find to be grave and important. Pluto and Saturn share one quality: that of being serious.

Can we let go of things that, without our realizing it, have outlived their usefulness? When a wrecking crew suddenly shows up to tear down the house where you've lived for decades, how do you take it? How does it affect you? How fast do you recover--if you do recover?

In the end it all depends on your attitude. The more you identify with your house, the more painful the demolition will be. The more you can let go, the sooner you can breathe the air of a free man or woman.

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