The planet Pluto, so the news is told, was discovered by accident ... in a world where "accidents" are more mythical than the Lord of the Underworld himself.
Twenty-two year old astronomer Clyde Tombaugh was actually on a wild goose chase when it happened, unaware, of course, that his whole mission was based on a mistake -- or that he was about to step into history. He was studying photographs of the night sky over Arizona, pictures taken nearly a month before, searching for an elusive Planet X whose existence was believed to explain discrepancies in the predicted orbit of Neptune.
(It was later learned those discrepancies were derived from an error in estimating the mass of Neptune itself ... but Pluto the planet, apparently, was on a date with destiny.) It was the afternoon of February 18, 1930. The Sun was in the final, critical degree of Aquarius ... the sign of accidents and surprises. Mercury was approaching a conjunction with Mars in that sign -- like a messenger bringing the news of an impending coup to the old ruler of the Scorpio sign.
Appropriately, the Moon was in the sign of Scorpio -- soon to be ruled by the newcomer. In the Solar Chart of the day, Pluto itself resides in the 5th House -- of self-promotion awaiting a trine with that Scorpio Moon. Of course, at that moment Pluto's rulership of Scorpio had not yet been established -- but remember what I said a few paragraphs back about this world ... and accidents.
Pluto, for whom this new planet was named after a few months of dithering, was the Roman god of the dead, resident of the Underworld, Supreme Being in the realm of the afterlife ... kingdom of shades, shadows, and spirits. To the Greeks, Pluto's mythological counterpart was Hades ... the name of both the god and the region he governed. Let the very name of Hades conjure up visions of a remote, icy, grim and forbidding place -- with a landlord to match, for that's how it was perceived by the ancients -- who were maybe onto something.
The gods back then had personalities all too human. Hades (Pluto) and Poseidon (Neptune) were brothers, swallowed alive by their jealous, paranoid father Cronus (Saturn), who rightly feared they would depose him. It was a fate that sent both these divinities down twisting paths of psychological illness that lingered even after they escaped their father's innards and fulfilled his darkest fears.
After the revolution, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus (Jupiter) the third brother in this family drama drew lots to determine how to divide the world. By this method, Zeus took dominion over the sky, Poseidon the sea, and Hades the underworld. Being gods they apparently knew this was no time to discuss a triumvirate. Each of these guys needed his own space.
If ever Hades had a "social" side, this territorial arrangement pretty much squashed it for good. He became a recluse, a hidden force, nursing grudges and resentments that would make any wise man shudder. His emotions -- including his capacity for empathy and compassion -- shut down completely as he withdrew, with apparent satisfaction ... being something of a loner, to his own digs ... dark and cold as they were, to arrange whatever comforts and entertainment he could find.
The other divinities weren't exactly eager to draw him out of his shell again. Invitations out were non-existent. His name wasn't even spoken in whispers ... because nobody wanted to risk a visit. His unapproachable manner, which kept others at a distance anyway, locked down entirely in his virtual isolation. He became literally an invisible, unmentionable presence ... around but never "there." Folks preferred to keep it that way.
He had power and reputation -- but no popularity at all. His unrelenting fury, expressed on occasion by criminal acts toward women, didn't make him someone to confront, befriend, or try to reform. If he was happy to keep to himself, the societies of gods and men alike were happy to let him do so.
The legend of Hades, of course, includes his violent abduction and imprisonment of Persephone, the young daughter of the goddess Demeter (goddess of the bountiful harvest) It's Persephone's return above ground to be reunited with her grieving mother that brings on the seasons of spring and summer ... and her need to return to Hades as part of the plea bargain that gained her this half-measure of freedom ... that legend says causes autumn and winter to descend on the land again. The changing moods of the earth goddess are thus on display for everyone to witness.
The energy associated with this planet and its passages, however, are never ones to take lightly. If you can take anything for granted with Pluto ... it's that change is afoot. Irresistible. Implacable. Permanent. Often accompanied by chaos, upheaval, ... and even death and violence. When Pluto's cold presence moves through your world, life is never the same again. Like the owner of some spooky Midas touch, Pluto often kills what he contacts ... sending it straight into the recycle bin. Only later, to everyone's astonishment, it returns ... refreshed, renewed ... born again.
It can take a lot of time, perspective, and objectivity to appreciate Pluto -- and his back-handed gifts. From the pain of death and loss ... comes improvement. Life springs back ... better than before. Like the irony of a burned forest nourishing a new crop of stronger, healthier trees in the wasteland ... evolution's fortifying process moves forward. That can be mighty cold comfort (no pun intended) when you're caught in the midst of the misery. In the depths of winter, Life's promise is that from the frozen desolation, spring will come again.
We're heading into it now, of course. One by one the days of autumn peel away, and time moves us relentlessly toward Winter Solstice. Spring waits on the other side.
Hold on to that guarantee.
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