In 2022 the United States is undergoing a profound and deeply transformative period in its development, namely the return of Pluto to its natal degree. Pluto’s orbit is roughly 248 years, so this is a cosmic event that no human has ever experienced, but it can occur for longer-lived entities such as nation-states. The historical record for what transpires at these times is mixed at best, and subject also to such interruptions and mutations as major political reorganization. (Is it really valid, for example, to continue using a chart for the Norman Conquest of England for today’s United Kingdom, a different political entity entirely, albeit with a titular head-of-state whose ancestry dates back to those days?) As well, when such charts are used, we may see recurrent themes under successive Pluto Returns for the same country, but not necessarily among all countries.
But for the US, things are considerably simpler – this current conjunction forms our first Pluto Return, so we have nothing specific to go on regardless in determining probable outcomes, other than to review Pluto’s general influences and rulerships. These are diverse, but include decay, destruction and death; rebirth and renewal; waste production and elimination; sexuality and conception; genetic functioning and mutation; vast wealth; criminality; scandal; coercion, manipulation and control; and total transformation. But in a nutshell, perhaps Pluto’s best keyword is “power.”
How long does the Pluto Return last? 2022 is the epicenter of the period, with exact conjunctions of transit Pluto to its natal degree on February 20, July 7 (when it will be in retrograde motion, as in the nation’s nativity) and December 28, but with Pluto’s slow movement, we can certainly extend that time frame to at least five years on each side. Some astrologers consider the Return to be in process during Pluto’s entire duration in the Sign of its natal placement, although with the US Pluto at 27 Capricorn, this would obviously yield a very protracted preamble, and a truncated epilogue.
However, judging by developments and trends since Pluto’s entry into Capricorn in 2008, we might build a case for a slow and gradual ramp-up to the morass where we now find ourselves. A series of headline-grabbing and consciousness-raising crises and movements ensued upon Pluto’s ingress into the Sign of the Goat, and continue to the present day, relating to economic distress and devastation (the so-termed “Great Recession” of 2008); taxation and political polarization (the TEA Party movement of 2009); income disparity (“Occupy Wall Street” in 2011); racial inequities in police enforcement (“Black Lives Matter” in 2013); sexual abuse based in power imbalances (“#MeToo” in 2017); and police brutality (nationwide protests after the murder of George Floyd in 2020, effectively a resurgence and broadening of BLM). More concerning is the recent rise of crime nationally, with Pluto ruling criminality of all types. Overall crime rates for New York City are up 38% in January 2022 alone, and murders up 55% in Philadelphia for a comparable period in 2019, with similar increases in American cities nationwide.
All of these themes have echoes in Pluto’s bailiwick, and most resonate generally to its primary principle of power – be that personal, economic, law enforcement, political, governmental or sexual – and specifically, its imbalance and misuse. Underlying these issues for the US is the fundamental question of what type of government we have, what type of nation we are.
Is this truly a democracy (government by the people)? Or is it in the process of morphing into an autocracy (absolute rule by one man), a kleptocracy (rule by thieves, who enrich themselves at the expense of the population), or kakistocracy (rule by the worst, least qualified and competent, or most unscrupulous citizens, as exemplified by the Trump Administration)? I would submit that, based in the founding documents, the US has actually always been a plutocracy (rule by the wealthy), made manifest by the fact that despite the feel-good sentiment “all men are created equal”, political power was initially vested only in white landowners.
Pluto, plutocracy. It’s even in the name. Over the generations we’ve extended the voting franchise, albeit imperfectly, to former slaves (the 14th Amendment, 1868) and women (the 19th Amendment, 1920), but have we really granted these groups power? Economic inequality and income disparity have grown apace, and now as Pluto returns to its natal degree, we face the question: are we, have we ever been, a true democracy? Or will we affirm our commitment to plutocracy and endorse a slide into autocracy, kleptocracy, and kakistocracy?
Pluto is asking us to make a choice: degeneration and destruction, or regeneration and renewal? Will we extend power to the many, or continue to reserve it to the few?
An examination of the moment Pluto returns to its natal degree may help to indicate which path the nation will follow, but let’s begin with a look at that natal Pluto, and the aspects it makes. In the Declaration of Independence chart for 4 July 1776, Pluto appears at 27 Capricorn, opposing Mercury at 24 Cancer. The framers of the Constitution acknowledged the power of that Mercury/Pluto polarity when they made Freedom of the Press and free speech the subject of the First Amendment. Mercury also rules early education, local commerce and trade, and the Founders stressed the importance of an informed electorate, while small business was the economic backbone of the emerging nation. There is also an exact semisextile to the US Moon at 27 Aquarius; this 30-degree aspect is not a very powerful one, but we can see its echoes in the principal of “power (Pluto) vested in the people (the population, ruled by the Moon)”.
From a traditional perspective, that’s as much as Pluto can tell us. But when we add asteroids and other minor bodies to the mix, we get a clearer picture of Pluto’s role.
The first point to note is asteroid Agita, which is an exact match for Mercury at 24 Cancer. Agita refers to upset, anxiety and agitation, and also to intentional perturbation of the mental state. The result is that the country’s “state of mind”, as it were, the collective mood, is subject to manipulation and control (Pluto) by the rich and powerful (also Pluto), acting through the Press (Mercury) and, latterly, through Social Media (also Mercury) to disrupt, mobilize or agitate (Agita) the populace (Moon, inconjunct to Mercury/Agita).
The Mercury/Pluto opposition is also the spine of a Grand Cross, with squares to asteroids Nemesis at 28 Aries and America at 27 Libra. This identifies manipulation (Pluto) of information (Mercury) as the chief bane (Nemesis) of the country (America). Further refining this picture is asteroid Washingtonia at 0 Taurus, conjunct Nemesis, and asteroid House at 25 Libra, conjunct America. This suggests the federal government generally (via Washingtonia) and specifically the lower legislative chamber (via House, for the US House of Representatives) as probable sources of misinformation and manipulation (Pluto) of public (Moon) opinion (Mercury).
There’s one more point which ties tangentially to this pattern: asteroid Fanatica, which at 18 Libra is wide of aspect to most elements of the Grand Cross (though still within orb), but more closely squared to Mercury. The implication is that extremes (Fanatica) of opinion and rhetoric (both Mercury) will have an undermining effect (Nemesis) on the nation (America), in ways which support the plutocracy (Pluto).
Fanatica may be only peripherally associated with this pattern, but fanaticism is deeply embedded in the soul of the nation as a whole. Conjoined Saturn at 14 Libra, Fanatica appears on the fulcrum of a T-square with the US Sun at 13 Cancer and TNO Eris at 8 Capricorn. The Sun represents the core essence, the inner identity, while Eris connotes strife and discord, encouraging populations to consider themselves as disrespected, marginalized or in some way disadvantaged, and to lash out angrily in response. Saturn represents the presidency, and when this office is wedded to the more extreme elements of the country, as depicted by the union with Fanatica, the soul of the nation becomes truly at risk, and civil strife a real possibility.
When Pluto returns to its natal place this year, those inborn potentials are reenforced and reactivated. But we can also get a read on the celestial temperature by looking at a chart for when this event occurs.
Cast for 11:49 AM EST in Washington, DC on 20 February 2022, the initial Pluto Return seems to bear out the sense of the nation at a crossroads. There are four bodies at station in this chart, resting immovable in the heavens, the still points upon which the rest of the chart revolves. These are asteroids America, Washingtonia, House and Bida.
A celestial station represents a “turning point” for the energies with which it is associated. In this case, we have four national referents for the US, three of them permanent, one temporary, implying that major shifts and changes are underway. Asteroid America, of course, symbolizes the nation at large; it turned direct at 5 Cancer on February 14th, Valentines Day, but there’s no love lost between opposed political camps in this country. (The country’s current issues with agreeing on a set of facts, whether that be medically, with COVID, or politically, with the ongoing BS about a stolen 2020 election, is seen in a square to asteroid Truth at 4 Libra, suggesting the conflict between alternate versions of Truth.)
Asteroid Washingtonia represents the nation’s capital and the federal government generally; it turned retrograde at 4 Scorpio on February 18th. (A square to Mercury at 6 Aquarius with asteroid Nemesis at 9 Aquarius anticipates the threat of ruin which the federal government is exposed to via the proliferation of “alternative facts” in online and cable forums, false or biased information which creates tension and mistrust.)
Asteroid House specifically relates to the lower legislative chamber, the House of Representatives; it won’t turn retrograde until March 6th, but is already at its station degree, and at 16 Scorpio, House has a fraught traveling companion: asteroid Troemper at 20 Scorpio, our celestial referent for the former president. (Opposed Uranus at 11 Taurus, the implication is of some revolution, upset, turmoil or controversy stemming from that quarter, which would certainly be the case if Republicans take back the chamber in the Midterm Elections, empowering the growing cadre of fanatics and Trumpists in their caucus.)
Asteroid Bida is our cosmic stand-in for the current president, and thus a more temporary marker of the nation; Bida will turn direct at 15 Cancer on March 3rd, already at that degree. (Its square to centaur Chiron at 10 Aries is indicative of a wounded presidency, one that cannot be healed, but struggles on with some deformity.)
These placements constitute a quite remarkable display of the power players in the Pluto Return chart. But there are two more asteroids relating to the nation’s government which have a striking tale to tell as well. Asteroid Whitehouse, representing the presidency and the chief executive leading the country, appears at 17 Aquarius, exactly conjunct Saturn, which relates to limitation, restriction and loss. Accompanying this pairing is asteroid Nemesis at 9 Aquarius, symbolizing ruin and destruction or, at a minimum, blocks to progress.
As an ancient symbol of death, Saturn exact with Whitehouse also carries echoes of the passing of a president, perhaps alluding to Biden’s pending mortality. In a close square to asteroid House, this depicts increasing friction between that legislative body and the Oval Office; an inconjunct to Bida suggest an “uncomfortable fit” between Biden and the office he holds. Saturn/Whitehouse also opposes asteroid Agita at 16 Leo, suggesting unrest or ill ease for the occupant of the Oval Office; House at the fulcrum of the resulting T-square identifies the source of the agitation.
The last point to be considered in this context is asteroid Senator, which represents the upper legislative chamber. At 3 Taurus, Senator conjoins asteroid Achilles at 1 Taurus, identifying the Senate as a continued weak spot for the administration (its “Achilles’ heel,” as it were); also conjoined Uranus at 11 Taurus, the Senate seems poised to remain a hotbed of controversy and debate.
That’s all grim enough, but the focus of the chart, as exemplified by the Sun, is even more telling of the major theme of the return. At 2 Pisces, the Sun conjoins asteroid Demokritos at 1 Pisces and Damocles at 28 Aquarius. This shines a spotlight (Sun) on the issue at hand: the looming threat (Damocles) to democracy itself (Demokritos).
At the far periphery of the Sun’s orb we find asteroid NOT, exactly conjoined the MC at 23 Aquarius; and Jupiter, at 11 Pisces, both nine degrees from the Sun (one before, one behind), thus 18 degrees apart, a minor vigintile aspect. This combines politics (Jupiter) with a contrarian, uncooperative or negating spirit (NOT) in highly visible (Sun) ways which are held up for all to see (MC, the highest elevation of the chart).
At 16 Pisces, out of orb of the Sun but still conjoined Jupiter, is asteroid Fanatica, representing extreme views and zealous adherence to a philosophy (also Jupiter). These square asteroid Apophis at 13 Sagittarius, named for the personification of pure evil in ancient Egyptian myth. This is a warning of the effect of political extremism and extremists. Fanatica is also exactly trine House, while Jupiter is also sesquiquadrate TNO Chaos at 27 Gemini, an allusion to the result we can expect if political extremism rules the day.
Lastly, to the placement of Pluto itself. Back at the old stand of 27 Capricorn, Pluto is now joined closely by asteroid Lie at 28 Capricorn, and that pretty much tells you everything you need to know.
Properly pronounced “lee”, asteroid Lie is named for Swedish mathematician Sophus Lie, but has proven itself as a marker of intentional deception and falsehood over fifteen years of examining it in the form of its English-language homonym.
Given the status quo in the country since the Trump presidency, I would suggest that this is a glaring astrological road sign warning that the “Big Lie”, that Trump actually won the 2020 election and had it stolen from him, is alive and well. It’s interesting that Pluto rules criminality, and much news has been made of late detailing just how deeply the stream of conspiracy to overturn Biden’s election ran, and how many forked branches it had. Fake Trump electors submitting fake credentials; 60+ bogus lawsuits to void state results; multiple attempts to coerce various Cabinet Departments to seize election machinery for “recounts”; strong-arming the Vice President to exceed his ceremonial role and reject just enough slates of electors to drop Biden’s total below the required 270, thus throwing the election back to the House; pressure applied to state election officials to “revise” their totals and “find” Trump enough votes for victory; culminating in incitement to riot and insurrection by supporters to prevent final congressional certification of Biden’s win: the list of criminal acts grows almost daily.
This is all part and parcel of Pluto conjunct Lie, and the implication is that this will continue to be a force to be dealt with, a decay and cancer (both Pluto-ruled) at the very heart of our democracy. This is verified by Pluto/Lie’s square to asteroid Veritas at 26 Aries, Latin for “truth”, suggesting that the power (Pluto) of this falsehood (Lie) is in dynamic tension (square) with truth and the facts (Veritas). With Veritas is TNO Eris at 23 Aries, a marker of strife and division, and representing populations who consider themselves disrespected, insulted, or otherwise marginalized, and are fighting mad about it. An opposition from Eris/Veritas to the Moon at 20 Libra creates a wide T-Square with Pluto/Lie, and funnels this deception, manipulation, control, discontent and truth-denying into the American people.
Pluto/Lie also falls on the rough midpoint of the Jupiter/Fanatica square to Apophis described above, semisquare to each. This heavily weights the short-term manifestations of that square toward decay, violence and destruction, though also offers the possibility of renewal and regeneration at some point in the future.
Pluto has one more major pattern with something to teach us about its Return. This is a precise Yod, or Finger of Destiny, with Pluto at 27 Capricorn exactly sextile an exact conjunction of TNO Ceto and asteroid Atropos at 27 Scorpio, forming the Yod’s base, with TNO Chaos at 27 on its Apex, exactly inconjunct these. Yods convey a sense of inescapable Fate, a preordained occurrence or condition, and the phenomenal cosmic timing required to bring all four of these points, each with such disparate rates of movement, into this alignment at just this time, is staggering to consider. This level of celestial precision denotes an important message to be conveyed by the cosmos.
Ceto is a point we haven’t discussed before, named for a mythic sea monster, hideous of aspect, always just below the surface, waiting to strike. Metaphorically, she represents the monster within the psyche, the malformed and maimed elements of the subconscious and the collective which threaten to erupt at any given moment, all the more dangerous for being unacknowledged and hidden. Despite being in the background constantly, we are invariably surprised and shocked when she emerges, reacting with fear, revulsion or terror. She is the mechanism by which we demonize and dehumanize others, as a projection of our own monstrousness.
Atropos is named for the Fate who severs the thread of life at death, and appears frequently in death charts. But in a more general context, Atropos represents endings, completion, and the conditions encountered at the finish.
Chaos is just what it sounds like – disorder, confusion, anarchy, bedlam, pandemonium, a ceaselessly altering state where it’s impossible to find grounding or purchase. But Chaos is also the formless state from which all else emerged, a cosmic seedbed of potential.
Linked in this manner, the message being sent by these energies is a bleak one. Much depends on Pluto’s mission at its Return: is it here to deconstruct and rebuild the country, or simply to destroy it? Regardless, major change is in the offing, and Atropos exact with Ceto signals that the conditions we find at the end involve the horrific emergence of previously denied monstrous aspects of ourselves. We see this everywhere, with white supremist, racist, homophobic and misogynist elements on the rise in the country, an unleashing of our worst inclinations and character traits, leading seemingly inevitably to a state of utter breakdown and chaos.
It’s not a pleasant prospect, this US Pluto Return, but keep in mind that one of the emblems of Pluto is the phoenix, a mythic creature which periodically self-destructs in a flaming incineration, only to rise from the ashes of its former self, reborn and revitalized. There may be a dark period coming, but that does not preclude eventual renewal.