Astrolabe in the house – now a museum – of Leonardo da Vinci, Amboise, France
On 24th August 2006 a group of scientists and astronomers got together in Prague and decided to demote the status of Pluto from planet to dwarf planet. Their decision came after a lengthy period of search for the definition of what a planet is.
Several years later I visited the Jodrell Bank Observatory with two children aged 8 and 10. The Observatory has a brand new visitor centre and I was looking forward to seeing how they had reconfigured the site and displayed the old brass observational sextants and other instruments, including the famous mechanical orrery with its planets orbiting the Sun. I was very disappointed. All of these had gone, along with the Planetarium which had offered interactive quizzes and visual high speed trips across the galaxy.
In their place were two very modern buildings with slick display boards, often accompanied by a video but not much else. Equipment and fun experiments in the hands-on area for children had been reduced and the two children I was with soon lost interest as there was little to engage them. In one area, empty apart from displays on the wall and a large modern orrery suspended from the ceiling, we searched out and named the planets. Pluto, long demoted, wasn’t there and I explained to the children why it wasn’t there, also telling them it had been discovered in 1930. The new visitor centre may be state of the art, presenting bang up to the minute modern science, but all sense of the history of discovery behind it had been erased.
This got me thinking about how life, for those heretical beings amongst us who dare to claim we are astrologers, would be without Pluto. OK, so Pluto has been around a relatively short time and its discovery and subsequent inclusion in astrological charts and interpretations is also relatively new. But its discovery, after lengthy research by Clyde Tombaugh, coincided with the start of an era of world war and disruption, brought to a halt by the dropping of the atomic bomb. Astrologically Pluto is often feared, or at least treated with due caution and respect as it can herald big changes and upheavals often leading to transformation. The Hubers, in their book The Planets, describe Pluto as one of the three transpersonal planets saying, “The stimulation of Pluto’s energy makes us experience an expansion of consciousness affecting all of our lives”. Would we want to be without this?
When using astrological psychology, especially with a client, it would become quite difficult to interpret a chart and give a consultation without including Pluto. Symbolically, Pluto offers opportunities in life for us to transform ourselves and our ways of thinking and move on. It can encourage us to go boldly go where we’ve not been before, sometimes plumbing our inner depths and spaces and demanding that we make ourselves anew.
As an astrological psychology consultant I know that real, deep, life-changing experiences or issues can be triggered by Pluto in the natal chart. I’ve been able to support people going through Plutonic changes as they travel through challenging times. But one thing is for sure, and that is that we’ll come to grief if we try to use Pluto’s energy to gain personal power and control over someone or something. But we can learn to use the energies of Pluto, a transpersonal planet, not for ourselves, but for those things which affect the collective, embracing change, transformation and the good clear out and spring clean that goes with it.
Reflecting on my disappointment that Jodrell Bank had changed and become more slick and glitzy, I can raise a smile at the thought of Pluto at work in this complete makeover. Gone is the old, the history and the links with the astronomical past. However, the best part of the visit was a guided walk around the enormous, and famous, Lovell Radio Telescope. Like following the stations of the cross in a church, we were taken to a series to display boards around the perimeter of the telescope. I learned more in the short talks at each than I ever have about – yes – the history of this impressive piece of engineering, once the largest radio telescope in the world but now demoted to the third largest.
In the makeover, the baby wasn’t quite thrown out with the bathwater after all. I wonder – did Pluto get the last laugh here?