A few months ago I had a dream about a great wave. In the dream I was one of many people on a group of large but ramshackle rafts that had been constructed out of scraps: things like shipping containers, old playground equipment, etc. We were out to sea and in some kind of dire situation when. On the horizon, I saw a giant wave building in approach. We had enough time to see the wave, to feel the swell pull us down and then up the vertical face of its solid, moving, cliff of water; and enough time to think something quick like, “oh wow” or, “holy fuck” or, “I guess this is it?” before we were swallowed and funneled –– pressed flat down into the abyss. Underwater my eyes were closed: I have a fear of being underwater at real depths; and I didn’t know which way to swim to reach the surface. Then, a hand touched my shoulder. I opened my eyes, my feet touched the silky sandy bottom, and there was a man with an eagle tattoo across his abdomen pointing up and miming, “Go!” I pushed off and kicked like hell and broke the surface with burning, empty lungs. There were only a few of us who made it.
Seasoned archetypal astrologers will look at this dream and see a few themes: Neptune is the ocean, the wave. Saturn is the gravity, the real possibility of death. Some might say that the eagle and the man are manifestations of a Solar hero/ine. And Pluto is the mystery of the depths, the chaotic loss of control, and the portal of renewal. As astrologers, we understand also that there might be different meanings, experiences, or interpretations of this dream which are all archetypally fitting and relevant. This is what we refer to as the multivalence of the archetypes.
Multivalence translates roughly to having many levels, and each of the planetary archetypes from the Moon to Pluto are, by many calculations vastly multivalent. How is this possible? I don’t know? How is any of this possible? Don’t make me try to answer that! All I know is as the years have crawled by and my practice has deepened, I have grown to know the planetary archetypes as closely as family: I can recognize their handwriting whether they’re in a rush or taking their time. It’s what some refer to as the Archetypal Eye.
Working with this knowledge of archetypal multivalence I will now introduce our major players for today: Saturn and Pluto. Saturn, with its 29-ish year orbit, is archetypally linked to themes of boundaries, death, time, endings and finality, maturity and elder-hood, patriarchy and conservative regimes, control, hard work and reality (as opposed to fantasy), things that take time, things that last, hard-earned wisdom, and security. Pluto, with its 250-ish year orbit, is linked to themes of the death/birth/rebirth mysteries, change, chaos, sex, obsession, possession, what’s been hidden, kept secret, or occluded; magic, the occult, power, the underworld, destructive and regenerative transformation, the biological and scatological processes of death, sex, and rebirth, the cycle of compost: from putrefaction to consumption to fertility, and so on.
Historically we have seen Saturn-Pluto alignments correlate with periods of conservative empowerment; tension and aggression from conservative or controlling factions; depth work on the part of people attempting to heal old, repressed, or taboo cultural wounds; and slow-built resilience from oppressed people who have built strength through time and maturity to compost whatever power had been holding them down. When the Saturn-Pluto conjunction came into this tight alignment, Uranus –– the planet of quick change, breakdowns, breakthroughs, and the trickster –– which is at the end of a 12-year square to Pluto, began its much shorter square to Saturn. At the same time the Saturn-Pluto conjunction was joined by Mars and Jupiter. Mars, bringing the heat of quick decisions and emergency, and Jupiter contributing to the vast expanse of the emergency. With the added complexity of Uranus square Saturn-Pluto (plus Mars and Jupiter) we are seeing a global emergency erupt, and in the wake of that an overwhelming scale of unequal power dynamics have been revealed through breakdowns in crucial systems, such as public health and the economy. The political side of this is particularly here in the United States where our Executive branch has become a trickster on steroids careening us into a dire situation where the ship’s captain, working on a thin but massive sense of self-importance, claims there is no iceberg, while we sink.
Let’s take a breath. These things take time to digest. How’s your body? Do you need to stretch? Take a sip of water? Make some toast? Look at a tree or flower out your window or in your garden? You can come back to this any time –– we have time.
I have spent much of the past five years studying Saturn-Pluto movements and Saturn-Pluto people. Partly this has been my way of coping with the knowledge that this time was coming, though I didn’t know exactly how it would unfold. Partly I have been drawn to the combination because I have it in my birth chart, in a wide conjunction tied tighter by an inner planet, Venus. I love Saturn Pluto. I love the way it lays bare whats happening under the surface, beneath the face and the masks of the every day. I love that it meets us at our depths and doesn’t ask us to pretend or lie about how hard or powerful life can be.
The social and historical areas where I’ve been most drawn to work with this combination are in a period I spent learning about the Zapatista movement –– whose famous 1994 uprising took place under an exact square –– and in restorative justice processes, which has many Saturn-Pluto correlations from Dine (Navajo) healing circles, to work in prisons, and RJOY (Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth). Restorative justice is a very good example of the way we can create a container (Saturn) to face the unfaceable (Pluto) and build community that has the ability to transform harm into healing (Saturn-Pluto). (For a great piece on Saturn-Pluto correlations with restorative justice look for Max DeArmon’s essay, “Forging a New World: Collective Karma and the Saturn-Pluto Archetypal Drama.” in Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, no. 5 ).
So, how do we get through this wave and make it to the surface? Saturn-Pluto is intense, deep, at times scary, and awesome. One question I ask myself when working with this dynamic is, “how can I show up in this situation with deeper integrity than I thought I had?” or, “in what ways is this pushing me harder, deeper, and slower (agonizingly) than I ever thought possible and how can I step down into this path with honor?” In these times I think a lot about elders. How can I honor elder-hood by patiently, deeply, and naturally stepping into it myself? How can I honor the natural processes of the Earth by living in tune with its rhythms of compost, chaos, and fertility? How can I tune in to time as a depth perception?
For me these days this looks a lot like working on boundaries: no, I cannot be on zoom, facetime, or texting all day even though I’m lonely; no, I cannot dissociate into endless TV shows for weeks on end; no, I cannot forget to eat, eat all day, or eat only toast with butter and honey, and a dusting of cinnamon (even though it’s really one of the best/yummiest foods IMHO); no I cannot sustainably drink a glass of wine or a cocktail every night –– it makes me groggy and crabby the next morning and isn’t even fun when I do it all the time. With boundaries comes creativity: yes to long mornings, yes to slow walks and staring at the treetops (I am lucky to be able to do this in my neighborhood), yes to the entire BBC miniseries of War and Peace and also yes to finally reading it? Maybe? Yes to phone calls instead of texting. Yes to crying when I need to let the feelings roll out and down my cheeks. Yes to carving out time and courage to write this and put it on the internet…eek! But, yes to it, because I don’t know when I will have another chance: life is sweet but severe and time is final.
This was a long one. Thanks for sticking with me. Saturn-Pluto is a slog, but here we are. I extend my love to all of you. If you want, you can take a minute to sit and enjoy one of my favorite songs of the moment: Tender by Blur. This is what I like to listen to on my porch when the sun is fading and I’m rounding out another day of solitude and so many other things.
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Join me tonight at 7:00 pm Pacific time for an astrological conversation with Rick Tarnas, Chad Harris, Laura Michetti, and myself. For more information visit the Facebook event page: Gimme Shelter: Reflections and Strategies for our Current World Transits
After tonight the recording will be available on the PCC Forum website.
*Edit* The recording of our presentation is now available here.