I’ve been thinking in recent weeks about Pluto leaving Capricorn (where it’s been since 2008) and entering Aquarius next week on March 23. (It will revisit Cap a couple times through 2024.) Pluto moves slowly, which means we see its effects more in broad cultural and generational trends rather than the day-to-day of our personal lives. That said, there are definitely personal events that bear Pluto’s signature — usually when it comes into contact with a sensitive planet or point in one’s own chart.

Pluto has been nicknamed “the irresistible force” and it compels us to change at very deep, fundamental, foundational levels; it insists we address the unseen root beneath the soil’s surface, the hormones and DNA that drive our biology, our most primal emotions and instincts, the problem at its source…you get the idea.

As Lord of the Underworld in Greek mythology, Pluto presided over the realm of the dead, and in astrology the events and processes associated with Pluto feature a decisive level of change. Yes, that can relate to literal death. Most of the time, however, it describes an insistent, existential- or soul-level imperative to evolve, and the metaphorical death of what had been before. Pluto entering one’s conscious experience will not be satisfied with simply taking a different route to work.

To change in a Pluto situation usually means to say yes to being more fully, authentically alive. Sometimes it means witnessing something (or someone) ceasing to be. Consider, for example, some of the hallmarks of Pluto’s journey through Capricorn these last fifteen years.

In that time, we’ve seen major shakeups — in some cases, full on collapses — in several of the interrelated global/social realms associated with Capricorn, such as big business, government, and global finance. Pluto has been a bulldozer, turning up the soil to show us all the crud these systems were built on, leaching, and covering up. And it has been asking us, collectively and individually, to make choices based on what is being laid bare and dismantled.

Remember the Arab Spring uprisings and Occupy Wall Street protests circa 2010-2012? Those events characterized a square (an aspect of tension requiring action for resolution) between Uranus in Aries (planet of revolution in the sign of Self and action) and Pluto in Capricorn. It was an incredibly compelling time. Spaces — physical and metaphorical — opened up, and collective momentum built to effect change, with debatable degrees of success.

The longer-term ripples and consequences of that time are varied, and deserve a much closer look than I can give here. I mainly wanted to offer a touchstone for conceptualizing Pluto in Capricorn before thinking about how it might manifest in Aquarius. Especially since, at the beginning of this week, I noticed a news story that seemed emblematic of Pluto’s last moments in Capricorn.

Have you seen the news about two major banks — Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank — collapsing, creating fears of another financial panic? (Google it for more details, or check out the free NYT story I’ll post in the first comment.)

I think this news item caught my eye initially because world financial systems have been a primary canary in the proverbial Pluto-in-Capricorn coalmine all along. Pluto entered Capricorn during the “Great Recession” of 2008, after all. And now, with Pluto mere arc minutes away from leaving Capricorn for Aquarius, these banks collapsing offer a little reminder — lest we forget — that we still have much work to do to address the weak spots and hidden toxins in our global systems and institutions.

In the NYT article, reporter David Leonhardt notes:

“In the short term, the government may indeed need to step in to avoid a spreading crisis. But the less immediate questions may be uncomfortable for the bankers: How can the people who caused this crisis bear financial responsibility for it? And how can the U.S. economy end this cycle of booms that benefit banks and busts that hurt everyone else?”

Leonhardt then quotes Noah Smith, an economist and Substack writer, who offers this context:

“In 2008, the bankers who made the bad decisions that led to the financial crisis generally got to keep their (very lucrative) jobs after getting bailed out. And their banks continued to exist as well, and even got government to guarantee them some profits going forward. Even as normal people suffered mass unemployment and the loss of their careers and livelihoods, many of the people responsible for the disaster kept collecting million-dollar checks and being in respected positions of power, now with government guarantees. If that seemed unfair, it’s because it was unfair.”

I think we need to pay particular attention to this idea of fair and unfair, specifically in how it applies to entire groups or communities of people (and well beyond our banking systems) because Aquarius is, in part, the sign of groups. It’s also the sign of technology and innovation — and if you haven’t noticed how egregiously our tech can have unintended negative consequences, I would say you’ve been willfully ignoring it.

I had already been wondering about the potential for Pluto to show us, even more starkly than we’ve seen so far, just how wide the chasm is growing between the “haves” and the “have nots,” when I saw another astrologer write the following last month about Pluto about to enter Aquarius:

“What we do know is that there will be a more egalitarian baseline of life, a more level field, and perhaps a great increase in social services. What we will need to watch out for is the homogeneity of modernity reaching critical mass — loss of personal identity. There will also be astronomical leaps in space travel, technology, and perhaps even greater connections forms with life outside of this planet.”

I’m not naming that astrologer because I don’t want to appear to make a personal attack; I really just want to consider these ideas. She’s very successful with her astrology business, so I assume she gets a lot right. But making predictions is a tricky thing, and I don’t possess her confidence in being so decisive.

There’s a lot of talk about how Aquarius is the sign of “brotherly love,” the collective, and egalitarianism (think “Age of Aquarius”). And that can absolutely be true — if we make choices supporting those ideals. But everything in astrology has its light/creative and dark/destructive sides, and I recall my former astrology mentor Eric often noting how Aquarius can just as easily signify *elite* groups as it can humanitarianism.

In an email weeks ago to Amanda Moreno, an astrologer friend of mine, I wrote, “I’m kind of thinking that we need to be on our toes about the elitist, wealthy, corporate powers swooping in to further exploit what Pluto is undoing and laying bare… and same with extremist groups in various forms that have come out into the open and gained traction in recent years.”

She replied in agreement, noting that it’s important to remember Saturn is the traditional ruler of Aquarius, and represents hierarchies and structures in that sign. (Uranus, the modern ruler of Aquarius, describes liberation from hierarchies and from set forms.) She further articulated what I had been considering: that as Pluto in Cap has “revealed all of these gross, entrenched power structures and shown the fault lines in all of them,” the “super elites in power” are “influencing policy to kinda codify what’s in their best interests.”

This is where I see both the challenge and the opportunity in Pluto’s upcoming sojourn through Aquarius. People who have money and power often have the knowledge, resources, and opportunities to consolidate it for themselves — even when the rest of us are watching and agree it’s unfair.

In that light, what will it take to harness the collective power that truly does exist in our middle and working and survival-level classes of society? To respond to whatever imbalances Pluto dredges up in our communities by prioritizing inclusion, equanimity, and the wellbeing of each individual?

Are we ready and willing to do the hard work necessary to fill the vacuums created by our collapsing institutions with systems that work better for all? Are we ready to begin growing out of the escapism our technology offers — indeed, has enslaved us to — so we can use it even more fully to benefit the entire planet and all that lives on it?

Those are big, intimidating questions. As with any big issue or looming change, sometimes all we can do is ask, “What choice can I make today, right now, that affirms my life and creativity in a way that does not harm someone else?”

And when we’ve answered that, we must ask, “Can I also make that choice in a way that actively helps someone to see — and supports them in achieving — their own life-affirming options that do not harm others?”

Along the way, we will need to confront the myriad ways well-meaning groups can devolve into infighting about who’s being harmed the most, or the “right” way to help others, and lose sight of the bigger collective picture. When becoming empowered slides into gaining “power over” others, that’s a red flag to step back and broaden one’s perspective and do some soul-searching.

Pluto will be in Aquarius for about 20 years. I expect we’ll have plenty of opportunities in that time to tip the balance toward the positive, creative, humanity-affirming potentials this planet and sign combination represents.

Are you with me?

With love,


Sign at the Occupy Portland encampment here in Maine in October 2011. I like how this cardboard sign is a reminder that solutions don’t just magically appear — we have to actively look for (and then implement) them, no matter what the astrology looks like. Photo by Amanda Painter.

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