This post originally appeared for my monthly Star-Crossed column on the awesome Little Red Tarot, which publishes a ton of other great stuff about astrology, tarot, queer magic etc, for your reading pleasure.
At one point or another in our lives, everyone gets sucker-punched by someone else’s bad intentions. For people with Pluto strong in their birth charts, betrayal isn’t a one-time life lesson – it’s the story that repeats over and over, undermining your ability to trust.
The other day, a strong-Pluto (aka Plutonian) client in her 30s told me, “I don’t think I’m supposed to have relationships. I’ve shut myself off to that possibility.”
We had been discussing the parts of her life that were going so great: a new programming job that had her solving interesting, difficult, useful problems; organizing for a voting rights project; being part of a fabulous community; living in an apartment she loved; the sly-eyed tortoiseshell cat who strolled across her keyboard as we talked. She seemed and felt on top of her game, except in one specific area: intimacy.
I’ve shut myself off to that possibility. That was Pluto speaking – or rather the voice of a person with Pluto strong in her chart. She’d been badly hurt and told herself it was because she was unlovable, cursed, doomed from birth. To gain control over her monstrous desire for love, she decided to close that door. On the day I spoke with her, she’d been leaning hard against it for over a decade, fighting to keep the monster locked away.
But the simple fact that she said those words to another human being is evidence that the monster was getting ready to break the door down.
Pluto is the oozy twenty-tentacled beast under your bed.
It’s the sense that your own shadow is stalking you. It’s the undertone in your lover’s voice that makes you suddenly sure she’s cheating. It’s the silent flare of rage that makes you hit unfriend on your BFF’s Facebook page.
Transits from Pluto to a sensitive point in the natal chart are often responsible for our most devastating break-ups, the ones in which we find our mouths full of death metaphors: she killed me, I died, no idea how I survived it, after that everything went dark for a long time.
Aspects from Pluto to personal points in the natal chart can reveal the vestiges of abuse, the bruises that seem never to fade. It can reveal the family scars of slavery, exile, rape, ethnic cleansing, and on and on. Pluto aspects make us hyper-aware of power dynamics, secrets, and what other people are really up to. Major Pluto aspects to Venus, the Ascendant, and the Moon make relationships incredibly intense, deep – and often so scary or painful, we don’t want to go there at all (yet keep getting drawn back in).
If this sounds like you, you’ve probably got either a strong Pluto or 8th house – or Venus, Mars, or Moon in Scorpio. Pluto symptoms include paranoia and a sense that in love or close friendship, you get swallowed up by jealousy, hungry-like-a-wolf sexual intensity, neediness, manipulation, or those dark bad feelings you’ve tried to keep buried.
Pluto isn’t really a monster – or if it is, it’s a useful and necessary monster.
Those ‘it killed me’ breakups are the ones that got us to quit our crappy job, move away from home finally, or quit dating sociopaths. Pluto-brand crises get us in touch with what we really care about and force us to feel and confront the old hurts that are ready to begin to heal.
When I was first learning about astrology, I convinced myself that if I got my life lived ‘right’, I could get over my long list of personal failings. When I started counseling others, I thought if I showed them how to live their lives right, they’d get over their issues and be happy and healthy, and I would have saved them. It’s embarrassing to write it out like that now, and sad to think I believed people had to be fixed in order to be whole.
Monsters scare us because we’ve shoved them so far into the shadows that we imagine they look and act much worse than they actually are.
That twenty-tentacled beast under your bed really weighs twenty ounces; what you thought was a growl, was only its fearful mewling. Learning to be whole with Pluto is about crawling underneath your bed with your monster, holding one of its slimy flippers in your hand and letting it confide its garbled, hairy secrets. Another way to say this: stop fighting the fear and sit with that horrible, awful, no-good part of yourself. There’s a scared kid in their somewhere who wants to be seen, heard, understood and accepted, just as it is, brokenness and all.
To the Plutonian client who had given up on relationships, I said what I always say, what I’ve gleaned from Pluto’s tutelage: though Plutonians often feel doomed to relationship misery, they have the greatest gift for intimacy that astrology can offer.
Plutonian need reveals a Plutonian capacity for depth. Plutonian self-hatred can grow into a skill for accepting others without judgment. Plutonian fear teaches us to be truthful with those we love. Plutonian pain means you’ve already survived the worst; why not try again?
Plutonians who have befriended their monsters and brought good love into their lives have the kinds of rock-solid, deep-loving relationships the rest of the world envies.
A Pluto meditation from one of my teachers:
Why do folks talk about trust like it means absolute trust? Trust a person like you’d trust an old staircase. Take it slowly. At each step, pause. Ask: can it hold my weight? If it holds strong and you want to, try the next step.
My brain likes to follow this with an E. L. Doctorow quote about writing. It might as well be about love or any other journey into the unknown.