Obscure, tiny and slow, Pluto is mysterious and hard to observe, as it moves on the outskirts of our solar system, in the Kuiper belt. Its diameter is smaller than the Moon’s. Its first satellite, observed back in 1978, is Charon, named after the helmsman of newly deceased’s souls.
After the discovery of planet Neptune in 1846, the hypothesis that another planet could exist beyond its orbit was taken into consideration.
In 1894, with the help of William Pickering, Percival Lowell founded the Lowell and Flagstaff Observatory in Arizona. In 1906, willing to unravel the enigma of Uranus’s orbit, Percival Lowell designed a project of research on a Trans-Neptunian planet, which he names Planet X (X the letter, not the Roman number). In previous times, Percival had been convinced that channels on planet Mars were works of aliens, and had been, for this reason, mocked by the scientific community of the time. Thanks to this new project, he was hoping to restore his credibility.
Separately, in 1908, William Pickering announced that the irregularities in Uranus’s orbit suggested the existence of a ninth planet, which he defined “Planet O” (as it would follow “N,” Neptune). Pickering’s researches weren’t convincing, being merely based on hypothesis and had direct observation basis.
In 1911, always separately and with no trace of contact with western colleagues, Indian astronomer Venkatesh Bapuji Ketakar (1854, 1930) suggested the existence of two trans-Neptunian planets, which he named Brahma and Vishnu. As far as planet Brahma was concerned, Ketakar indicated an average distance of 38,95 AU and an orbital period of 242,28 in Terrestrial Time. When Pluto was discovered, 19 years later, both its average distance of 39,48 UA and its orbital period of 248 terrestrial years were very close to what Ketakar had estimated. It is unknown how Ketakar was able to reach these facts. The second planet, Vishnu, was never detected.
Let us go back to Lowell: for his research project, he spent more than ten years photographing the nocturnal sky. In spring 1915, he finally detected two blurry images of a tiny rocky sphere: the legendary Planet X. Lowell’s sudden death in 1916 interrupted his research. In 1925, George Lowell, Percival’s brother, started raising funds to equip the Observatory with a new telescope and to carry the research further.
In 1929 Vesto Melvin Slipher, current Director of the Observatory, was struck by the astronomical drawings of 22-year-old Clyde Tombaugh, a self-thought guy from Kansas countryside. Slipher commissioned young Tombaugh to locate and identify Planet X.
On February 18th, 1930, comparing two photographic plates dated 23rd and 29th January, Clyde Tombaugh discovered the famous Planet X: it was located at just 6 degrees from one of the two positions suggested by Lowell.
The news was spread on March 13th, so that it could coincide both with the discovery of Uranus and Lowell’s birthday.
In 1992, astronomers David Jewitt and Jane Luu, from University of Hawaii, realized that there was another celestial body orbiting around the Sun and it was very similar in dimension to an asteroid, its distance was one and half that of Neptune’s orbit. Soon afterwards, roughly a hundred other small rocky icy bodies were in the most external layers of our Solar System: the objects constituting the Kuiper Belt. In 2005, American astronomer Mike Brown discovered a yet unknown mass, bigger than Pluto, which was coded as 2003 UB 313 and named Eris.
On this occasion, it was deemed necessary to revise the definition of “Planet” and the International Astronomical Society (IAU) listed the requisites a celestial body was supposed to manifest in order to be named a “planet”: i.e. to orbit around the Sun, to have sufficient mass volume to constitute a sphere, to “dominate” its own orbit with no interference with other bodies.
According to the UAI, being Pluto influenced by the orbit of Neptune and sharing its own orbit with a multitude of gas and frozen objects from the Kuiper Belt, it lacked the requisites to be categorized as planet. On August 24th, 2006, UAI downgraded Pluto from planet to dwarf planet, thus re-named by the UAI 134340 Pluto. Numerous were the controversies and debates that followed amongst scientists.
In the meantime, in the same year 2006, space shuttle New Horizons was launched out into space. Hinging on the pictures transmitted by the newly launched space probe, Alan Stern, Nasa responsible for the mission Horizons, backed up by Planetary Scientist Philip Metzger, from Florida Space Institute, objected that the new standards of classifications for planets were not endorsed by any literature, except for a single publication dating back to 1802.
In fact, on their research published on Icarus, Philip Metzler and his research group combed through almost two centuries of literature and demonstrated that the assumptions to consider Pluto a dwarf planet were unfounded.
Stern, Metzler and their fellow scientists deemed it more appropriate to classify a planet by taking into consideration its composition and complexity, rather than sticking to mutable parameters such as the number of celestial objects present in its orbit.
It was only in February 2015, after eight years of journey, that Nasa New Horizons shuttle allowed for the first time the study of Pluto’s geomorphology. The images coming from the space probe showed a dynamic, complex and varied world: mountains, canyons, craters and other geological concretions, which appeared very similar to those observed in the other planets of the Solar System.
Stern and David Grinspoon wrote on the Washington Post: “Pluto is one of those worlds which is big enough to have been modelled into a spherical shape by its own gravity force. Smaller celestial objects, such as asteroids and comets have, as a matter of fact, irregular shapes. One thing is sure: whatever category or label astronomers may decide to apply, Pluto still is a fascinating, surprising object”. In 2017 Alan Stern brought forward the question of re-classification of Pluto ad numerous scientists claim the right to reconsider the parameters of definition and classification of planet.
Oxford, morning, March 14th, 1930. Venetia Burney was having her breakfast, while her grandfather, Falconer Madan, was reading out loud page 14 from The Times. Struck by the news of a newly discovered planet at the furthest edges of the solar system, grandfather Falconer was wondering what name could suit this new celestial body. Venetia, who was already passionate about mythology, suggested Pluto. Falconer Madan previous Director of Bodleian Library of Oxford shared his granddaughter’s idea with an astronomer friend who promptly telegraphed his colleagues overseas. At the Arizona Observatory, the name chosen by young Venetia was unanimously welcomed. The young girl was awarded five sterling by her grandfather.
In the years to follow, Venetia never made a secret of her disappointment on the fact that the name was chosen in honour of the Walt Disney character, whose debut happened in that same year. Venetia is the name given to one of the instruments on board of New Horizons shuttle. P and L, initials of Percival Lowell, who first hypothesized the existence of Pluto, constitute its glyph.
Morphology and Motion
Pluto is mainly composed of rocks and ice. Its dimension is smaller than many other bodies in the solar system: for instance, its mass is a sixth of the mass of the Moon, and its volume a third. Pluto’s orbit, compared to those of the major planets, is rather eccentric and titled towards the ecliptic plane. Its distance from the Sun varies from 30 to 49 UA.
Periodically, during its perihelion, Pluto is closer to the Sun than Neptune.
Pluto counts five known moons (there could be others) or satellites: Charon (the major, which measures half the diameter of Pluto itself), Styx, Nix, Kerberos and Hydra.
Its orbit is peculiar if compared to other orbit planes in the solar system, elongated and tilted 17 degrees.
A day on Pluto corresponds to 6 days, 9 hours and 17 minutes (Rotation), and its orbit around the Sun lasts 248 years (Revolution).
THE MYTHS OF PLUTO
The Sumer: Enlil and Ninlil
Sumerian tale “Enlil and Ninlil” is composed of 154 lines, almost entirely preserved in about twenty fragmented documents.
Before human beings came into existence, Nippur was inhabited by the God of Winds Enlil, the Goddess of Air, Sud, and her mother, Nunbarshegunu or Nisaba.
The God of Winds fell in Love with Sud. Nisaba warned the young daughter against Enlil’s intentions and forbid her to bathe in the rivers. She, negligent of her mother’s ban, disobeyed. One day Enlil saw the young Goddess taking her fluvial bath with her handmaids, reached her on the banks of the river. “My lips have not kissed yet” she exclaimed. Enlil insisted and Sud was unable to break free from his charms. She fell in love and surrendered. She became pregnant of the first child: Sin, the Moon who, being conceived in the skies, was by right destined to celestial realms.
Full of anger, the Gods of the Sky exiled Enlil. He made his way to the netherworld (Kur). Sud was pregnant and in love, so she decided to follow him and from that moment she was called Ninlil. Any person or God who would have gone to the underworld, could only return to the surface if someone could manage to take his place.
Fearing that his son would be forced to remain in the underworld, Enlil concocted a strategy: on the road to the Hades there were three minor Gods (the Guardian, the Man of the River and the Boatman); therefore, Enlil devised three metamorphosis, so that he could from time to time take on the guise of these three Gods. He subsequently could inseminate Ninlil and substitute Sin, his firstborn, with these three Infernal divinities. In this tale, we find the first example of divine metamorphosis.
Ancient Greeks called it Hades (the Invisible).
Ancient iconography depicted Him long-bearded and sombre, sitting on his throne, crowned in black, a sceptre in one hand, a key in the other. He was considered bold, inflexible and inexorable, people were just petrified by the mere name of Him. In previous cults, he was envisaged as copious dispenser of all those hidden goods of the Earth, as He was the One who made wheat sprout, when the seeds die to be reborn in bountiful crop.
Cyprus trees, narcissus, citron trees and mushrooms were sacred to Pluto. Animals consecrated to Him were the Horse, the Snake, the Eagle and the Scorpion. During night time, black animals were offered as sacrifices.
Hades helped his brothers Jupiter and Neptune to dethrone Kronos-Saturn. When the different reigns were distributed, Hades was bestowed with the underworld and the Tartarus: the place where the souls of the deceased landed and the dungeon of Titans. None of the souls of the underworld could make return amongst the living: those that entered, were doomed to remain forever. Foods and drinks also doomed all the living beings to the underworld for eternity. But He could make return on the world of the living thanks to the helm of invisibility, a gift of the cyclopes.
One day, yearning to see the terrestrial world again, Hades emerged on Pergusa plane, close to Mount Enna. It was in those premises that he first saw Persephone, playing with a group of friends. He fell in love at once and rushed to her: in fear she fled, but he reached her and placed her on his chariot.
Demeter, Persephone’s mother, blinded by despair after her daughter disappeared, looked for her for nine long days and nights. She then asked for Jupiter’s help, but he was not available. In her anguish, driven by grief, she conjured a terrible famine: men and cattle died. Jupiter tried then to send Hermes (Mercury) to Hades, sending orders to release the girl, if she would not have taken foods of the dead. Pluto-Hades made no opposition, but offered Proserpine-Ceres a pomegranate, so that she could make return to the underworld; she willingly accepted the fruit, having by then corresponded his love and grown fond of the ideas of reigning over the netherworld.
Demeter, brim-full of love, could finally embrace her daughter again: but, as soon as she realized that the girl had eaten the pomegranate, she unleashed a second famine. Eventually, Jupiter-Zeus suggested an agreement: Proserpine would have spent the number of months equivalent to number of eaten seeds in the underworld. From that moment on, Proserpine would live six months in the Hades and the remaining six months on the Earth, with her mother.
Proserpine or Persephone was not Pluto’s only love. One fine day, Pluto was about to seduce the Nymph Mint, appearing to her in the full splendour of his golden chariot, pulled by four black horses. Mint was on the edge of surrendering, but Proserpine, driven by jealousy, transformed her in the homonymous herb. On a second occasion, while Pluto was busy in seducing the most beautiful of Nymphs, Persephone turned the girl into a white poplar tree.
Pluto in Indian Astrology: Yama or Yamarāja
In modern Indian mythology, we find the equivalent of Pluto in Yama or Yamarāja, God of Death. Yama literally means “that which binds, bondage”. His body is green in colour, his garments are red, and he rides a black buffalo. He holds a noose or o ring used to extract the soul from the body. In the Rig Veda three hymns (10, 14, 35) are dedicated to Him.
According to Vishnu Purana, he is the son of Surya (God of the Sun) and of Goddess Saran or Sandhya, therefore also Shani’s stepbrother (Saturn). He is also called Kala for he declares the moment of death, or Pretaraja, King of the Spirits”. He governs South direction and accompanies himself with a multitude of tormented, dissatisfied souls. To those whose consciousness is dormant, he appears to be dark and red-eyed. To the light of consciousness, he is seen as a cordial friend, good and benevolent, irradiating beauty. Sometimes, he is represented as an old man armed with sward and shield. He drives souls towards astral dimension and governs Naraka, the Realm of the Dead, and the region where ancestors dwell. He demands sacrifice and discipline. Yama represents the cosmic law of Dharma on which the Universe hinges, therefore, he is also named Dharmaraja, King of Dharma. Seated on his throne, he judges the souls of dead people dragged before Him by his messengers and directs them either to Naraka, towards one of the seven Swarga (skies) or returns them to Bhumi (the Earth).
His assistant is Chitragupta, whose task is to list the Karma of all human beings in order to enact those big events that will eventually assist humans in accomplishing their existential design. There are also two brothers; Ashvin Kumar, twin gods of medicine, whereas his own sister twin is Yami. In some myths, Yama and Yami are the very first human beings. In other versions, Yama is the first human being to die and trespass to the next world.
In the Rig Veda, Brahma, willing to assist Humans to find a place to settle and inhabit, offers everyone the faculty to move on any chosen path. Yama was the first to discover the pathway to Infernal regions and to Swarga, thus becoming Sovereign of the Dead Realm.
Yama is the wise judge who assists the deceased in choosing the most appropriate place for his Karma. When a soul reaches the thresholds of Yama’s realm, a Guard introduces the deceased to Yama by the help of Kālaparusha and Mahachanda. Chitragupta recites the biography of the deceased. At the end, Yama helps the soul in considering three main options:
- Drink the Soma and reach the sky of the ancestors, where he/she will become a shining star.
- Return to the world, be re-born and try once again to live, according to the Dharma, not necessarily in human shape.
- Proceed to one of the 21 levels of the Under World for the time necessary and then make return either to the terrestrial world or to celestial spheres.
PLUTO IN ASTROLOGY
Domicile: Scorpio and Aries
Detriment: Taurus and Libra
From a physiological perspective, Pluto is associated to the reproductive system and the anus. It represents the cycle of the seed planted into the earth, rotting away and transforming itself into a new plant, to then mature, fade, rot again and be reborn. In other words, it represents the cycle of life and death.
Pluto remains in each Sign around 20 years: it is a generational planet. His presence in a given Sign has in fact a collective value, as it represents the transition of power to one generation to the following, through the collective subconscious. Pluto is that potent and indivisible energy influencing social events.
The House where Pluto is located, on the other hand, has an individual purport and rules over the field in which that person lives. Also represents the way he activates or refuses his generational influence, to then be able to actuate his own transformational process.
Those aspects that Pluto receives from personal planets shed light on connections between the conscious areas and the unconscious ones.
Pluto is associated with the Invisible, with the forces of the subconscious, with libido, with sexual life, with desegregating or seeking wills, with death and resurrection. Its energy is invisible, but results are powerful. It governs all that is subversive, secret and concealed: asceticism, but also the most dreadful depravity state. As guardian of shadows, it supervises all that is repressed: secrets, inhibitions, occult passions, losses, regrets, but also traumas derived from separations, betrayals, unsolved bondages, negative emotions and taboos. It can embody that area where collective and individual sense of guilt is to be found. In a nutshell, it represents repressed experiences, unconfessed emotions and non-accepted desires. Being the guardian of the unconscious part of libido, it reveals one’s relationship towards sexuality, that potent energy of which people do not like to talk about, that can be at times repressed and controlled, or unleashed and uncontrolled, sublimated or sacralised. Moreover, Pluto also indicates that inner force, or charisma that could influence masses in social changes.
Pluto also stands for riches and money and the relationship with these aspects. There are those that envisage wealth as a resource of individual ad public utility, as a constructive means; there are those who foster a negative relationship and live money as a projection of their own illusions, obsessions or thirst for power.
Being a planet of regeneration and rebirth, of occult and buried memories, in its positive and creative aspects, Pluto reveals secrets inaccessible to rational speculation and orients the person along a process of liberation through consciousness. Pluto assist the native in the overcoming of some dark areas that caused falls, delusions and gnawing doubts. Unfortunately, it is not given that consciousness on one’s one dark side is per se edifying. In some cases, it might dig up unbridled ambitions and thirst for power. To know oneself does not automatically entail to be able to free one’s self.
In fact, in the most extreme and dangerous scenarios, a certain delusion of grandeur might bring about false beliefs in almighty talents and powers and spur one to seek for followers to device destructive plans.
Positive Pluto brings forth energy, will and healthy ambition. It indicates a sound and strong personality, able to reach its own psychic centre and become aware of certain talents that can be made use of, by letting things of the past go. In negative aspect, it reveals despotic, obsessive and manipulating dysfunctions, depression, anguish and inner conflicts.
Pluto is powerfully linked to individual and collective Karma. Past Samskaras can transform old impressions into undecodable obsessions and stir deep shadows; or they can emanate flashes of emotions and create harmonious interplays of lights and shadows. Each time a person plunges into the box of impressions to discern and choose what is to be taken and what can be left and let go, that person frees himself from old karmic patterns. Awareness on those repudiated tensions, which haven’t matured yet to be released, prevent the risk of devastation. Indeed, with the power of awareness, unsettling energies can be either accepted or warded off, until one reaches a state of unity with the world or, at least, a creative adjustment to it.
HOW TO INTERPRET PLUTO
Pluto Sign, as already mentioned, is of collective and generational gist. Anyway, there are individuals that carry strong plutonian features. Strong Pluto aspects in the Natal Chart are as follows: if it is positioned at Anaretic degree 29, if it is in singleton, if it is the rising planet, if it rules the Chart, if it is in conjunction with Sun or Moon, if it is angular or if it in the Eight House. Its strong presence in a Chart denotes a person who is obsessed with objectives, but also the tendency towards manipulation of people and situations. If one is aware of one’s own obsessions and transform them, he manages to evolve and help others towards evolution, as well. Generally, a strong Pluto indicates that at a given moment in life, the individual will have to face a deep transformation: if this does not take place, there could be a chain of smaller transformations. In both cases, the process entails an encounter with one’s inner demons. Plutonian people have a magnetic gaze, emanating an irresistible energy. Oftentimes, they can decipher the most obscure language, they are skilled on decoding cryptic expressions and they can produce very mysterious written texts. They can also have ambivalent attitudes: judging others, inflexibly and destructively, on the one side; indulging in moral and spiritual evolution, on the other. In short, the plutonian nature always entails an inner and outer war, characterized by metamorphosis and uncomfortable borderline situations.
Those with a strong Pluto have the innate faculty to penetrate other people’s intimate worlds, detect weaknesses and, in the worst of cases, have the faculty to annihilate them, whereas, in the best of scenarios, they can really help them in a resolutive way.
In any case, Pluto is present in everybody’s Natal Chart, even if not predominant, it is thus to be analysed. In order to comprehend its arcane, it is enough to take into consideration the astral group that concerns the planet: House, aspects received from the fast-moving planets, ruling planet, dispositors, and so on. It goes without saying, that one can look both at the tropical and the sidereal zodiacs. It is useless to ask which of the two horoscopes work better. Each of the two will tell us something about the same person, but from different perspectives and by taking into consideration diverse aspects and areas of life. In a nutshell, they are both valid.
To sum up, Pluto reigns over the threshold of the visible and the invisible. It symbolizes the mysterious force of the Soul which guards and oversees all that lies at the borders. Pluto energy is a repository of arcane, enigmatic forces, the evil use of which may lead to destruction. The evolutionary employ of that same reservoir, conversely, acts in the deeper strata of the being and promotes unity with Universal Cosmic Energy.