Pluto is the farthest of the outer planets, and his domain is ultimately about power. He is the kingmaker and the ender of empires. Pluto is how we as individuals approach and are approached by power, both internally and externally. Pluto is deep and unknowable, and when he turns retrograde, we begin to see that deep well of power start to churn in unpredictable ways.
Here again, I have endeavored to use charts with Pluto as the only retrograde planet in order to isolate its effects. But while nearly half of us have Pluto retrograde, it is extremely rare for that to be the only retrograde planet, being present in less than 1% of the nearly 100,000 charts I sifted through. Still, from what I was able to observe, there are some clear trends.
- Building Empires – With Pluto retrograde, people tend to turn inward to understand their relationship to power. It can be a painful process, as very few of us have the good fortune to have universally good experiences when we meet powerful forces head-on. Many of us have been traumatized or worse. But for some people, they look inward and see an empire mirrored back at them, and they simply can’t sit back and let that image remain a dream. Take Napoleon Bonaparte, who created a new French empire and whose very name was synonymous with unfathomable power. Or Jean-Baptiste Lamy, the first Archbishop of Santa Fe, New Mexico, who reformed the entire way the religion was practiced and brought the little oddball community back into the larger fold. Or even take Ray Kroc, who took an idea as simple as buying a quick hamburger on the go and turned it into McDonalds, one of the biggest companies on earth and an absolute cultural staple. All of these people left complicated legacies, but the common thread is that they saw a way to build something huge from nothing, and that’s exactly what they did.
- Swept Up – Not everyone with Pluto retrograde was so lucky. Some of those who were already wielding power seemingly walked around with targets on their backs. Pluto retrograde can cause the power we wield to appear twisted to others, and can at times provoke unreasonable responses. These moments often seem random, such as the assassination of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. The knife that pierced her chest was meant for another powerful ruler, but since that ruler happened to be unexpectedly absent, the anarchist assassin chose the Empress instead. Or take the assassination of James Garfield, committed by a man who was denied a high-level political position that he was wholly unqualified for, and decided that Garfield himself was to blame. And while these events were unexpected and seemingly senseless, they would ultimately symbolize the beginning of enormous changes, including the eventual collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As anyone who has experienced a Pluto transit can attest, sometimes we lose the last thing we’d expect, and sometimes it brings with it changes we never knew we needed.
- New Powers – Pluto retrograde certainly isn’t all about empires and assassins. It’s also about reimagining and even redistributing power. Those who have been at the receiving end of abuse of power, looking inward, see that the whole system is broken and look to overhaul everything they can. For instance, Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, became one of the first women’s rights advocates and essentially sparked what would later come to be called the feminist movement. She argued that both men and women were capable of learning if given the same educational opportunities. She envisioned a world in which women focused on improving their minds rather than their beauty. And while it is still very much a work in progress, the world she outlined is much closer to reality than she could have imagined. And finally, while Pluto had juuuust turned direct, I would be remiss in not mentioning Woodstock, the cultural flashpoint that placed the countercultural movement in the spotlight and began a cultural shift that echoes to this day. Fires of change often start with one small spark, and that is what Pluto retrograde does best.
Pluto retrograde is one of the most inscrutable of all the retrograde placements. It can help build empires and it can bring them toppling to the ground. It can cut short our ambitions, but it can also help us create the change we want to see in the world. It can draw fire from strangers and it can redefine people and even entire eras of history. But one thing is for certain – this placement is powerful, and learning to harness it can be what makes or breaks us in this world.
Do you have Pluto retrograde? How have you felt its effects?