Pluto works something like a Kaleidoscope: with a turn of the stem, the pieces shift, creating entirely new patterns and forms. And so it has acted since we’ve known it.
Pluto was discovered in 1930, at the onset of the Great Depression. At that time, it was about halfway through Cancer, the sign which concerns itself with home, family, and domestic economy. Pluto overhauls the affairs of every sign it occupies, so between 1914 and 1939, these domains were altered forever. Mortgages were foreclosed and homes lost; families dispersed, and new tribes born of affinity or necessity came into being; the internal finances of nearly every country in the world were first inflated and then depressed. From the outset of the Great War until the rumblings of the Second World War, Pluto presided over these global transformations.
Leo is the sign of glorified Self-Expression. It is also the sign of kings: and after Pluto’s transit, from 1939 to 1957, very few monarchs still retained their thrones; and those that did saw vast changes in the scope of their influence and power. Leo rules children, education, sports, speculation, and the arts: in this same period all of these spheres were amplified and transformed. Children born during these years, particularly after WW2, are called Baby Boomers and are accused of self-indulgence and indolence; but it was the first time in recorded history that children were accorded respect and preferences.
Pluto’s transit through Virgo—1957-1969—was shorter, due to Pluto’s erratic orbit; but it was no less dramatic. Joined by revolutionary Uranus for much of the period (particularly the turbulent years from 1963-67), Pluto ushered in changes to healthcare and nutrition; the roles of women, particularly in the workplace; and—significantly—civil rights and freedoms. All were radically transformed.
Relationships are the preoccupation of Libra; and during Pluto’s transit (1970-1982) every form of connection among human beings was explored, exposed, and exploded. New awareness of possibility shifted previously rock-solid societal assumptions about what was acceptable; and alternate styles of relating sprang up and became mainstream.
Scorpio’s scope is mystery, sexuality, crime, and obsession: in its own sign, Pluto is especially powerful, as it was between 1983 and 1995. Exposing the underpinnings of chain reaction—another specialty of Pluto—and conspiracy were very much in vogue; and sexually-transmitted diseases and deviance dominated the headlines. Pluto raises issues and then attempts to resolve them: so research and political reforms as remedy ensued all through the period.
Pluto in Sagittarius intensified our curiosity about the world around us. From mid-1995 until the end of 2007, we became fascinated with all things foreign to our experience and culture. Unfortunately some of that fascination sparked and expanded domination and exploitation—and then exposed them, as Pluto tends to do. Sagittarius is preoccupied with justice and freedom: the spirit, rather than the letter of the law; but Pluto in Sagittarius brought in flagrant and unprecedented manipulations of all matters judicial, which led to their systematic dismantling and reform.
Which brought us to Pluto’s current sign, Capricorn. Capricorn is associated with government and institutions: it rules rulers and rule-makers, so to speak. Not since the days of the American Revolution have we seen such utter revisioning of the structures of power. NOTHING is sacred among what Auden called, “the laws we accept to school our post-diluvian world” since 2008: corruption is rampant; stock markets totter; politicians and media are mistrusted almost uniformly. We can expect a complete reckoning in global economies and ethics, brought on by exposure of brutalities and dishonesty in the years before Pluto moves on into more humane and humanitarian Aquarius in 2024.
What Pluto touches, it changes. In Yeats’s words, “A terrible beauty is born.”