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When I try to conjure up an image of the idea most threatening to our culture, a very Plutonian image arises: that of a naked voodoo priestess writhing in ecstasy while the blood of the headless chicken in her hands flows down her sweaty, chocolate skin. This image does not play well on Main Street. Yet, here we have passion, ritual, death, blood, and an undulating feminine body all in one. Pluto is at home here – totally and uncompromisingly. And need I tell you that we all have Pluto in our charts? We all express the archetypal voodoo priestess somewhere. […] Our internal pantheon includes Kali, Lilith and Sekhmet, goddesses with a fierce, frightening, and sometimes ruthless aspect. Each planet must speak through us in its own voice.
Pluto energy appears not only as horror, destruction, and titillation. The yin aspect is also nurturing and receptive. Expressed this way, Pluto is also a bowl – a creative, dark place. The gardener who frets about destructive underground roots also delights in truffles and mushrooms, treasures from the deep, moist earth. Pluto is also a womb – a life-giving, nourishing, replenishing vessel of new life. Soft folds protect and nourish young life in complete darkness. This image becomes our next criterion for our temple for Pluto: It must be dark. Let us note this on our list.
Transformation through Ecstasy
Pluto also expresses itself in sex, a different kind of sex from that described archetypally by Leo. For Leo, sex is about fun, procreation, and offspring – creating something new; it is essentially about the act of creation. It is like lighting a match – a short, passionate, heartfelt, flaming moment. These are moments only, like the much-celebrated initial weeks of a new sexual relationship.
Plutonian sex is different. It is slow. Plutonian sex requires refinement, lots of time to develop, like Tantra, which is a form of conscious loving. It is painfully transforming at times. The rock star Rod Stewart sings about this:
And sometimes when we touch
The honesty’s too much
And I have to close my eyes and hide
I want to hold you till I die
Till we both break down and cry
I want to hold you till the fear in me subsides.[iv]
This kind of sex is about sleeping with the gods, but it is not always fun. You engage in Plutonian sex at the risk of death, floating in a narrow space of ecstasy between here and yonder. The presence of the unspeakable is experienced as a mysterium tremendum et fascinans – a dreaded and yet alluring mystery, that is both a feeling of awe and a shuddering [v]. This experience can be extremely frightening, particularly if one partner is not ready for such a level of intensity. This kind of sex transcends the physical; to experience it, you must let yourself fall right out of the Leo playpen.
[…] Pluto becomes the planet at the threshold between creation and destruction – the keeper of the gate. In ancient times, when priests entered the holy of holies, they often went in naked, without protection.
This image of disrobing as we enter Pluto’s temple, entering naked and vulnerable, becomes the next design criterion for our temple. We note this on our list.
The Circle of Life
The next clue to our Plutonian structure can be illustrated by a story I recently heard from a client. I was telling her about Pluto, transformation, death, rebirth, and that the butterfly symbolizes all this. She then told me a little anecdote, triggered by the butterfly image: A truck had crashed into her house, and as part of this disruption, she found a butterfly cocoon that had been hidden inside the wall. She assumed the occupant of the cocoon was dead but, just in case it was not, she left it in the basement. Later, she discovered that it had hatched, and she made a point of mentioning that a beautiful swallowtail butterfly emerged from the cocoon. Although a swallowtail is a type of butterfly, the symbolism in the word is noteworthy to me – the striking image of the serpent swallowing its tail, a metaphor for reincarnation, and the cyclical nature of life. My client saw only death in the wake of a traumatic experience, but after a long while in the basement, the butterfly emerged and the cycle began anew.
[…] in the words of T. S. Eliot:
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.[viii]
Pluto becomes the butterfly who looks back at the cocoon and says: “That was me? Ah, that was I!”
So we observe that the next design criteria for our Pluto structure must be a sense of openness. We must be able to circle in-and-out of our imagined temple freely and with few restrictions. Our experience in the temple must also bring us to the edge of death so that when we exit we feel reborn. We take note.
Some have said that Pisces is vaporized water; Cancer, liquid water; and Scorpio (and thus Pluto), frozen water. Even scientists call Pluto the icy planet. Physics teaches us that the difference between water and ice is basically slower molecules in the ice. Again, we see the theme of slowness. As I described earlier, fire is a symbolic representation of the yang side of Pluto. Ice, I would postulate, is an expression of the yin. Life can be preserved in ice for eons.
Let us now add another image to our repertoire. Have you ever felt the burning sensation of dry ice? Have you ever cleaned up the mess after a frozen water pipe has burst? Ever found a cracked flowerpot on your porch after water seeped into the ceramic pores and the pot exploded as the water froze? Behold the power of ice. It behooves us to remember that icy glaciers initially carved our landscapes. This is moving at Pluto’s pace. This energy comes on slowly and sometimes inconspicuously. Yet, Pluto penetrates everything, moves and expands through us – like an earthquake or a volcanic eruption – and shakes us slowly and repeatedly after a buildup of energy.
After a Plutonian experience, we may go into “cold shock.” When we are unconscious, we are out cold, and when we physically die, we really chill out, so to speak. After we throw up, we shiver. A drug addict goes cold turkey in the jail cell. We also murder in cold blood. Obviously, Pluto is comfortable in the realm of cold. […] We add to our design notes: The temple must be cold […].
The eighth principle (Pluto, Scorpio, and the 8th house) is associated with the metaphysical world. It is invisible, secretive, often unconscious power. The more noise we make in the outside conscious world and the less we therefore listen to our inner sounds, the more this unconscious and invisible Pluto energy can really be the source of our actions. In other words, Pluto is profoundly psychological. To delve into this aspect of Pluto, we must therefore quiet down the noise and have absolute silence.
Pluto likes to appear in dreams as nightmares, in meditation as powerful images – and in life-altering psychological insights that take extensive quiet time to absorb into the very fabric of our cells. Pluto is bubbly ferment deep in the belly. You cannot hear the gurgling sound unless you are silent. You must undulate silently.
Being secretive also means being silent. The Scorpio archetype is not chatty. In this silence, there is wisdom. There is the possibility to hear beyond our physical voice to our inner voice. There is the potential for great perception and reception. So, we add this design criterion: The temple must be absolutely silent.
Pluto brings forth into the visible world a deeply psychological and transformational experience. As we change, our old way of being dies.
Philosopher Sir Francis Bacon said that the only way we learn is by experience. Pluto’s house position indicates where in our life we must experience the death of old ways. The sign position reflects how we must do this, and the aspects to Pluto indicate with whom. […]
Our inner celestial stage has ten actors and each is part of the play. To describe the script of this play, I offer practitioners some ideas from my practice:
(1) Find the voodoo priestess in the chart, and determine her relative significance to the rest of the chart. This means finding how many times the eighth principle is prominent in the chart (seen as a strong Pluto, Scorpio, or 8th house). Include all relevant aspects and reciprocities (by house and sign). This gives you an idea of the sort of power you are dealing with. Some people have more to learn about Pluto than others.
(2) While encouraging interaction with Pluto, keep in mind that Pluto is invisible to most of us and especially to the culture at large. Expressing exuberance about Pluto may unleash more onto the world than the client (or the world) is ready to handle. So what should you do in a world where your voodoo priestess is unwelcome? Caroline Casey uses a poignant phrase to answer this question: become “stealth agents for change.” We must play the part within the system – yet not be of . That is true power (another favorite word for Pluto). If a spy does not wear the clothes, speak the language, and know the customs of the country she is infiltrating, she can never succeed in her mission. Once within the system she is penetrating, in true Plutonian fashion, she can strike.
(3) Expand the repertoire of Plutonian ideas. Go from killer weeds to truffles. I have noticed an excited sense of relief in clients who receive “permission” to enjoy the Plutonian taboo areas that are titillating to so many.
(4) Look for mythological subplots in the chart. A Venus-Pluto relationship, for instance, brings forth the archetypal blend of Beauty and Death. Here, point your clients toward the art world […]. Venus-Pluto thinking requires that you view the world around you in a refined way. Superficial beauty is not enough; Pluto demands that the depth of beauty be fathomed. This may include sacrificing for love, delving into the most unconscious layers in relationships, and finding the beauty in suffering.
(5) Psychological work is filled with images. Therapeutic work begins by adding to the culturally (and surely archetypally) prevalent images surrounding death, sex, and transformation. Invite your clients to visit the imaginal temple for Pluto – not as a preemptive measure (“Hey, Pluto, can we be friends?”) but to experience it more fully. Like the ancients, we must enter this sacred place willingly and unclothed.
(6) I like to use the [cold] pond metaphor as a useful therapeutic avenue for those who need to connect to their Pluto in an experiential way. Other techniques – actively chosen in our lives – include painting, sculpting, taking note of dreams, or acting out the goblins that appear in nightmares or in meditation. Healing techniques include the practice of Tantric yoga, cleaning out superfluous stuff around the house, and psychological purging in the therapy room.
(7) I never encourage my clients to wallow in the past. One of my teachers once said, in so many words: “If you have a pile of manure, don’t stir it up; it will only smell!” Instead, we can reflect upon, visit, observe, play with, and add to the images that haunt us. This is how we gain perspective. Likewise, we do not need to stay in the pond. We go there for perspective. Our lives cycle in and out of the pond. Nobody lives in a temple. We visit it and reenter the world nourished, unfettered, and connected.
(8) Remember that, in the end, Pluto also concerns healing. Sometimes, emotional surgery, vomiting, bloody wounds, or even relinquishing a firstborn are sacrifices on the threshold of healing. For those of your clients in the darkest throes of pain, remind them of the value of purging from the body what is already dead. A dead fetus must be expelled if you are ever to create new life.
Finally, let us respect those who have a genuine fear of Pluto realities. This culture does not encourage Pluto energy in any way. If we barge in with too much Pluto, we can cause great damage. Most people prefer a warm swimming pool in the sunshine to a cold pond in the pale moonlight. Also, remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “People see only what they are prepared to see.” So, a little dose of Pluto can go a long way. And that little dose applied, true to form, to change our views on Pluto, may be the beginning to building a temple for Pluto.