At Christmastime in Alpine Europe, tradition tells of a demonic goat-horned figure called Krampus, who carries chains and a bundle of switches, and punishes children who have misbehaved. He plays companion in a sort of double act to the figure of St. Nicholas, who doles out gifts and protection to the good kids. If Jupiter in Capricorn is St. Nicholas, or our modern Santa Claus— a benevolent, all-knowing, jovial and ever-so-slightly mischievous father-figure, who rewards obedience and good behavior—then Jupiter conjunct Pluto in Capricorn is most definitely his shadow, Krampus. These days, we are all feeling like naughty kids at Christmas, terrified that the evil goat-man is gonna snatch us. But what have we done wrong? What are we being punished for?
One look at Krampus and there’s no mistaking his resemblance to the hell-dwelling Satan of the Christian imagination. What has caused the Western psyche to associate the goat with bad deeds? And who got to decide what separates good behavior from bad in the first place?
The concept of a Horned God has inhabited the human mind since time immemorial. He appears in his earliest form in Paleolithic cave art, and is found in pre-Christian mythical and spiritual traditions all over the world. Pan, Faunus, Dionysus, Pashupati, Cernunnos and Capricorn are just some of his names. In the pagan worldview, the Goat God is an earth deity: lord of the woodlands, mountains, wilderness, the animal kingdom and the hunt. He is a symbol of male fertility and virility, the archetypal masculine principle in its raw state. He protects and presides, over both the earthly realm and the afterlife. But to the collective, after hundreds of years of church intervention, paternalism and shifting attitudes about man’s relationship to nature, he has become a monstrous specter of sin and wickedness, what we think of as the “darker” side of our nature. Can we see repression at work here?
From a Jungian perspective, the Horned God is a manifestation of our own inner masculine qualities; for women, this is called the animus. When integrated on a conscious level, and no longer relegated to the shadow, he becomes our inner protector, mediator and guardian, and allows for original and authentic creativity. But if he is repressed, or denied, he becomes the destructive masculine or the abusive father, punishing and cruel, or even predatory and sadistic. He becomes the devil. This is, in my opinion, part of what Jupiter and Pluto in Capricorn are asking of us: to do the inner work of healing the wounded masculine in all of us and looking at our relationship to its symbols in our life.
As it happens, the Devil card in the tarot is a perfect encapsulation of this transit, that can give us insight into what those symbols might look like on both an individual and a collective level. How have we become enslaved to money and material possessions? To work, productivity, achievement and power? Do we have a sense of entitlement that is justified? Do we feel dominated by someone or something, or perhaps feel the need to dominate, ourselves? What about unhealthy attachments to people or things that chain us to them in a metaphorical sense, or create fear and anxiety that is soul-killing? What are our addictions and how are they keeping us in bondage? Are there socioeconomic or interpersonal power dynamics that are wildly out of balance? How do you feel in the presence of men, regardless of your gender identity?
The Devil card asks us to look at the ways in which our fears and attachments hold us back from our potential. It also asks us to come to terms with our shadow self and whatever is hidden in our psychic closet. And to let go of the need for control. Hard Capricorn work! Deep Plutonian excavation. But a Jupiterian opportunity for growth and expansion on the other side. If done with patience, guidance, forgiveness and self-acceptance, it’s the kind of work that frees us from the cages of our own creation and gives us a sense of wholeness.
And so the Krampus question answers itself. We are not being punished. This pandemic is not a punishment, but it is a consequence of the ways in which we have designed our world, and it is exposing all our fears and addictions and vulnerabilities and attachments that are also the result of living in these times. If there is any demon we are running from, it is a side of our own psyches we refuse to give ourselves access to.
Amidst this very real and very threatening crisis, we are being given an opportunity. This is the beginning of a new 13-year Jupiter-Pluto cycle that will end and begin again in February 2033 in Aquarius. Now, in Capricorn, the archetypal work is the healing of the sacred masculine and redeeming of the divine feminine. Conjoined to the two planets this time is asteroid Pallas Athena, goddess of wisdom (with her own association to goats). I see her here in the role of Sophia, the inner feminine counterpart to the Horned God. Where both can be integrated and co-exist, there is real hope for transformation and individuation.