Carl Jung tells of a conversation he had in 1925 with the chief of the Taos Pueblo in northern New Mexico. The chief, Ochwiay Biano, was describing to Jung the strange Europeans who have come west and invaded his world. He said:
“See how cruel the whites look. Their lips are thin, their noses sharp, their faces furrowed and distorted by folds. Their eyes have a staring expression; they are always seeking something. What are they seeking? The whites always want something; they are always uneasy and restless. We do not know what they want. We do not understand them. We think that they are mad.”
Biano’s impressions unwittingly walk us straight into the second house of the United State’s horoscope — and it’s lone occupant Pluto.
His words summon the spirit of Manifest Destiny, the ideological mania that impelled the country’s campaign of brutal conquests, diplomatic duplicity, and diaspora — the seeding of the ‘American Dream’ that displaced or destroyed indigenous settlements from coast to coast.
Psychologist James Hillman, in one of his poetic riffs, described the fuel of American hubris (and its forever recurring fever dream), as a lust for, “Consumerism, mammon, competition, speed, and greed — urban sprawl — cult of the quick, quick fame, quick success, quick fixes.”
Hillman intuited the innocence and arrogance of the dream — born of “willful stupidity, willful ignorance” — wasteful and fearful but most of all angry and entitled.
The United States’ second house Pluto mirrors this fervor for ‘settler colonialism’ — a sprawl that originated with (and was rationalized by) the nation’s already entrenched dependence on slavery; an enterprise firmly established when the colonies were transforming into a nation.
House of Hades
One of the frequent questions I receive from clients — those with a cursory understanding of astrology is: “What in the hell are the houses?”
I try and explain, “Things are happening in the sky, and the houses of the horoscope tell us where it’s playing out for us down here on Earth.”
The origin of the astrological houses is a near apocryphal mystery. As Deborah Houlding explains in her stellar book The Houses: Temples in the Sky, students are wrong to associate the houses with numerological values, or the houses’ seeming similarity to the meaning of the signs of the Zodiac.
The houses have a powerful philosophical basis of their own — distinguished and developed through centuries of historical observation and metaphorical application.
The Zodiac locates the planetary positions in space, as measured and marked by the Earth’s ecliptic, but it is the houses — related to the Earth’s daily rotation — that brings the cosmic canopy down to the Earth. As Houlding notes: “The planets signify, the signs describe and the houses locate.”
You can think about them in a literal way: You walk into a particular house and are overtaken by the ambiance — the decor, lighting, colors, and smells. Each note imparts a general impression of what the house is ‘about’ and who might dwell there.
If your home is a bohemian loft designed for Avant-garde artists and your Christian grandmother from Idaho — let’s say she’s a stand-in for Saturn — comes to visit, you can imagine her reaction — the sort of affect her ‘meeting’ generates.
Another way to consider the houses is alchemically, where the house acts as an alembic or retort — the glass vessel that contains and protects the ignition of elements and compounds.
Planets that reside in a particular house absorb the moods and colors of the house — and also, depending on a house’s juxtaposition to the horoscope’s ascendant — the house will amplify or obscure the planet’s innate function. This later point, borrowed from classical astrology, is important to consider when delineating the complex chemistry of a second house Pluto — natally or nationally.
Over time, modern astrologers defanged the second house and removed from its welcome mat the names assigned the house by ancient astrologers, names such as Gate of Hades, Gate of Hell, or Portal of Pluto.
These underworld descriptors refer to the house’s location in the midnight terrain — the bottom half of the horoscope. Houlding explains how the lower hemisphere “was one that related to the hidden process of renewal, returning fertility which celebrated its appearance at the [chart’s] ascendant.”
The Egyptians considered the nadir — and the lower half of the wheel in general — as the underworld or resting place for the dead. With its passage through this terrain, moving back to rise again at the ascendant, the Sun was imbued with the riches of the second house — the fertile soil and precious metals; the byproducts of Hades’ realm of darkness and renewal.
Considered in this light, or darkness rather — you can see how there is an intensification of consequences when Pluto resides in a house already associated with Plutonic themes.
As mentioned above, this becomes complicated when the second house is considered in light of classical chart interpretations. Making no aspect to the ascendant (the point of sunrise — of manifestation or consciousness), planets in the second house occupy a blind spot within the horoscope.
As Pluto works best unseen, this doesn’t bode well for how an individual or a nation will consciously engage with the themes associated with a planet in the second house. I know from work with my clients, many years will often pass before planets placed in this section of the wheel are embraced or blended into consciousness. Read more
In this 3-part essay, I’ll attempt to put in high detail one of the most convoluted and difficult aspects of the United State’s natal horoscope — the house position of the planet Pluto in the sign Capricorn and the ensuing overture to the nation’s Pluto return — a mega-historical and unprecedented astro-configuration.
Every Person, Place, and Thing Has A Horoscope
In her book Soul Sick Nation: An Astrologer Looks at America, Jessica Murray suggests that “…our individual reality and our collective reality are two sides of the same coin. Every culture is blessed and benighted with its own peculiarities, each of which is tailor-made for every individual who chose to belong to that group.”
This begs the puzzling question of volition regarding one’s birth, the notion that the ‘soul’ zeroes in on where to land and set up shop.
But regardless, and if you are an American reading this inquiry, you can simply pause and sense the atmosphere and mood that’s in the air right now; notice how our government has a particular manner in handling COVID-19. Ponder how compliant some of us are when faced with an invisible enemy, while others have politicized the moment, turning the Republican party into a death cult.
Our compendium of group actions and reactions is part and parcel the American experience. Different from how, say, Icelanders are facing the pandemic.
So yes, a country is an abstract of each unique individual that lives within its boundaries. And with that in mind, yes, every country has a birth chart.
As George Will remarked, it’s quite easy to mark the birth of the United States (a more arduous task — sometimes impossible –for other nations or states). For the US we know the exact date. And historians and astrologers, over the years, have rectified the ‘birth time’ to a near-exact moment.
A blueprint for the collective psychology of a country is marked by its moment of independence — just like a person comes into the blueprint of his or her own being after escaping the womb room of his mother, who as Alexander the Great once put it, “…demands an exorbitant rent for nine months lodging.”
And a Pluto return also demands exorbitant repayment, especially when configured as the planet is in the United State’s second house of accrued wealth, power and ownership.
You’ve most likely heard about — and maybe even lived through — your Saturn return, and this same cyclic formula is applied to all of the planets, including the Sun and the Moon.
Your birthday is a Sun return, the solar “I am” principle is reignited when the Sun returns to its natal position in your chart, coloring your next journey around the Sun.
A Jupiter return is a twelve-year cycle that, for each of us, revitalizes our enthusiasm for life; our Jupiter return confirms that it is OK to trust in the benign nature of reality.
The Saturn return, around the age of 28, is our first attempt to step onto the stage of life as an autonomous being — free from our family matrix — our parents’ binding doctrines.
A Pluto return no one ever lives to experience unless they are a vampire or Rip Van Winkle.
Pluto takes 248 years to make a single orbit around the Sun and return to its place in the birth chart. A person can’t — but a country can.
And the United States is experiencing its Pluto return right now, the exact return — to 27 degrees of Capricorn –will occur in February of 2022.
With Pluto presently located at 25 degrees Capricorn, we are well within the ‘orb’ of exactitude — a whisper away from the 2022 return.
Right Here, Right Now
What makes this present moment doubly emphatic is that Jupiter has recently linked with Pluto, forming a conjunction — just as the coronavirus pandemic gained traction.
Given that the US’s natal horoscope contains a Sun Jupiter conjunction, Americans are predisposed to ‘larger than life’ experiences, a kind of grandiosity embodied in the compelling notion of Manifest Destiny. A tendency that’s also echoed in our Sagittarius ascendant.
This present Jupiter/Pluto moment is akin to the cosmos saying, “Well, since Americans can’t seem to register anything unless it’s inflated (Jupiter on the Sun) here’s a confrontation with death that is time-stopping, all-encompassing and seemingly directed by Steven Spielberg.
You could say that the just-passing Jupiter conjunction to Pluto amplified the prelude to our actual Pluto return in 2022. And with it, all of the themes astrologers associate with Pluto: breakdown, decay, rebirth and titanic shifts in power. All of those experiences feel inescapable, free from the nonsense of partisanship — like an epic equalizer — which death always is.
But worse, especially for Americans, is that this crescendo into a death state is occurring without any logical meaning.
Jupiter conjunct the Sun, in an individual’s birth chart, can be read as someone who has a specific philosophical view intertwined with all of his experiences. Life (the Sun) has meaning (Jupiter) because some higher-order, enlightened type of reason, or divine protector, decrees it.
The problem with Pluto’s subatomic nature is that there is no moral purpose. As Albert Camus wrote in The Plague, the microbe has no meaning.
Pluto moves in the underworld where the forces that link (and unlink) life operate in ciphers, zero-numbers that we can’t track. Regardless of your religious beliefs, no one’s ever returned from the dead to say: “This is what it’s all about Alfie.”
If you recall your childhood mythology lessons, Pluto was the god that ran around in a helmet that made him invisible.
We can ascertain that given this ‘coming attraction’ phase the Pluto return in 2022 will involve a radical dismantling of the ideological framework we — as a culture — base our lives upon.
Given that money is the predominant religion in America, our 2022 Pluto return will cleave the same demarcation as pre-Great Depression America and post-Great Depression America. Post being the operative marker.
Death on the march, indifferent to borders, as typified in a global plague, works in such a mind-numbing, cut and dry manner. Death usually has about it, always, randomness. As in no one knows the time, the place.
But amidst a pandemic, we sort of do know. It comes down to distinctions like: Inside or outside. Solo or groups. Telecommuting or hazard work. Rich or poor.
‘Out there’ is dangerous. ‘In here’ is harmless. Those who can — sit safely indoors and watch fretfully while other souls are removed from life’s chessboard.
Survivors, like Tacitus and Suetonius who documented life after Nero‘s reign, will stay around to remember and assist other citizens with the reconstruction. Read more