O Blest unfabled Incense Tree that burns in glorious Araby. Half buried to her flaming breast in this bright tree she makes her nest. .. With fume of sweet woods to the skies, pure as a saint’s adoring sighs and warm as a prayer in paradise, her life-breath rose in sacrifice!
Pluto is the final god of alchemy, and as an archetype is in many ways the deepest, darkest and most mysterious of all. It is a metaphor for the universal life force which impels all evolution and transformation. To my mind, of the three gifts presented by the Magi to the child, myrrh has greatest affinity with Pluto.
The Egyptians recognised the antibacterial properties of myrrh, and it was a primary ingredient in their elaborate and skilful mummification processes. This enigmatic tree resin has a unique association with death and the afterlife – with the soul’s journey, its judgement, and its rebirth into new life. Myrrh and Pluto are symbols of the death and resurrection of Christ, the phoenix bird dying and being reborn, her old life and wounds burned away in the purifying fires of her fragrant funeral pyre, revealing the unblemished gold of the spirit.
As lord of the underworld, Pluto has dominion over all things that are hidden from surface appearance. His treasures are the mysteries that lie at the core of birth and death, destruction and creation, erotic power and elemental transformation. Pluto is a compulsive power that burns and consumes, and then transfigures and resurrects. It is abundantly represented in myths of descent into the underworld that purge, transform and remake – Hades and Persephone, Inanna and Ereshkigal, Isis and Osiris; and with gods of destruction and regeneration, death and rebirth – Dionysus, Shiva, and the primal creative and destructive mother goddesses Shakti and Kali. Pluto represents to us what is dark and myserious, taboo, what lurks beneath the thin veneer of civilization and the ego, and the hidden power beneath the surface of the Earth, that is periodically unleashed with great, uncontrolled fury.
Freud’s “broiling cauldron of the instincts”, and Darwin’s ideas of the biological struggle for existence are expressed in literature such as Golding’s Lord of the Flies, revealing that beneath the thin veneer of social convention lies a terrifying and overwhelming force – chthonic, dark and uncivilized urges borne of hatred, jealousy and desire that drive to acts of violence and murder. Repression of such urges only empowers their machinations from below the threshhold of consciousness, and their influence upon society can be seen in oppression, war, violent uprisings, cruelty, and a lust for power and control. And while it could be argued that the criminals and ‘evil-doers’ of society are at least free and not enslaved to societal repression, freedom does not come from merely acting out these darkest urges. Evil doing is in all of us, even if we don’t always act it out, and the criminal or despot does humanity a great service in bringing such taboos to the surface and revealing them in the light of day. It is from here we are all given opportunities for liberation.
Pluto draws up to the surface that which is ripe for elimination, it reveals to us the truth of our wounds and impurities, our fears and darkest impulses, and their unconscious workings that serve to defeat us. If we are ready, and strong enough to face our own heart of darkness, we too can blaze like the phoenix and be liberated. Fear and denial are the shackles that bind us for, as Carl Jung said, “Only the man who goes through this darkness can hope to make further progress”. To allow the passing away of what is outgrown and no longer necessary for survival is to experience a horror of one’s own extinction, the death of the self. However it is only down and through this underworld process that we can reemerge transformed and free.
Pluto and its sign Scorpio are associated with sexuality and procreation, and Scorpio rules the reproductive organs. The Galactic centre, womb of the Great Mother, is flanked either side by the signs Sagittarius and Scorpio. Looking into the sky, Sagittarius’ arrow and Scorpio’s stinger face each other – and appear to deliberately point out the location of the Galactic centre, locus of the first emergence of matter into physical manifestation in our Galaxy. This is incredible since even today the ‘great womb’ of the nuclear bulge cannot be directly seen due to accumulations of interstellar dust (an indication of Scorpionic secretiveness!). Sagittarius mythologically aims his arrow to the heart of Scorpio, Antares, and Scorpio is then transformed into her creative state, the soaring Eagle (Aquila), releasing creative energy in the form of matter – all symbolic of the energetic process of creation at the core of the Galaxy. (You may note in the diagram that Sagittarius’ arrow actually misses Antares by about 5 degrees – if we are to look to a time when the arrow is true through the heart of the galaxy and into Antares, we have a date of approximately 13,865 BC – could this be the period of the creation of the Zodiac?)
Pluto in the natal chart touches all of us with opportunity to become engulfed in the phoenix flame, and be transformed alchemically from base metal to gold. Like many people, my life has been punctuated by upheaval, rage and sorrow – and I have experienced periods of profound transformation. Success is leaving behind negativity, coming out of the flames each time feeling only Love. Then it is fruitless to take up arms, or fight. We can focus with clear intention on what we are moving towards, rather than what we normally react against.
Through Pluto we can find the imperfections in the self, and they are easier to deal with than the imperfections of others. Finding fault in others generates negativity, a competitive power-driven, ego-filled desire to dominate, and keeps the cycle of karma and suffering alive.
Our World is now in process of transformation, and the urge is away from Darwinian competition that is ‘red in tooth and claw’ towards an enlightened co-operation that seeks harmony and inclusion. Our final tests, our final opportunities, are imminent. During this time we have an opportunity to face whatever it might be that we secretly hide. Declaring the truth loud and clear is dangerous; it stirs up old ghosts, inner and outer. Yet better this than ignoring and neglecting them. Open the doors and the windows of the heart, become transparent and the beast that lurks within will diminish to no more than a kitten.
Pluto’s fire purposes to set us free of the imprisonment of our nature, to set us above astrological symbolism, and liberate us. In this way, astrology itself is required to evolve and become a purified version of itself in line with our own evolution. When we are healed of fear, guilt, envy, violence – all of these things – then we are FREE and we will begin a new and enlightened day.
Images: Christian the Lion – please watch short clip it’s beautiful – http://www.youtube.com/embed/pNv2A4Kfx4k
Quotes: The Phoenix, George Darley