Astrologer Laura Craig

Pluto in Capricorn: It’s Been a Long Time Coming

So this is what the US Pluto return feels like. Not to mention every-fuckin-thing going retrograde and eclipse season kicking off soon. One headline reads: 100,000 dead so far from COVID 19. And in other news, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd are now household names and unwilling martyrs—a dubious honor that neither of them asked for. Those tragic, senseless deaths, coming to light one right after the other, seem to have been a final straw for the beleaguered black people of this country. Black people who are just trying to live, but are harassed, silenced, pursued, and murdered, by racists and the racist institutions of the United States.

Pluto in Greek mythology is the god of the underworld and its hidden treasures. In modern astrology, the planet has a correspondence to wealth and riches (so many of which are ill-gotten), power and greed. Pluto also holds our shame, our fear and our shadow. But I also interpret it as our survival; the rebirth that comes out of destruction and decay. Being the farthest out in our solar system, it moves the most slowly, taking around 250 years to complete a cycle. It may be small, and it may be unfathomably distant, but do not doubt its power over the collective unconscious.

The late degrees of Capricorn have been well-trodden territory this year, as Jupiter, Saturn and Pluto have all been transiting over that point, and continue to do so. What is it about that little corner in the sign of the Patriarch that we can’t seem to free ourselves from?

In the birth chart of America (I use the Sibly chart), Pluto is at 27 degrees Capricorn. It rules our Scorpio 12th house (as does Mars in our Gemini 7th), which paints a fairly dark picture. But it is ruled from above by an exalted Saturn in Libra in the 10th, which says to me that this country can achieve true justice, honor and fairness, as long as it can do the hard work of making reparations for its past. 

In the year 1530, Pluto was at 25-27 degrees Capricorn. Spanish conquistadors Francisco Pizarro and Hernando de Soto, made rich from the African slave trade, overtook the Incan empire, toppling a civilization which had flourished in power for over 300 years. They took the gold and silver of this “new world,” and in exchange, brought infectious disease and genocide. European colonization was entering its glory days of manifest destiny, and the world would be forever transformed.

In August 1619, a ship called The White Lion arrived at the ironically named Port Comfort in Virginia, bringing with it the first African slaves to the colonies; slaves who, along with subsequent shipments, would eventually come to replace the unpaid labor of the Native Americans. The lunar nodes were at 24 Capricorn-Cancer that year. 

The next time Pluto was at 25-27 Capricorn was 1776, as self-proclaimed patriots rose up in defiance of the tyranny of the English King. America won its war of independence, and again, the world would never be the same. 

Right now in Virginia, the summer air is fragrant with the scent of magnolia. It is also filled with plague and protest, as our capital of Richmond (and former capital of the Confederacy), and cities all over the country, erupt in demonstration against police brutality. In the cosmos currently, Mars joins Ceres as she completes her cycle. He also approaches a square to his natal position, stoking the flames of deep-seated grief, pain and anger. Of generations of bodies, used, abused and sacrificed to this land. Our Ceres has the look of a tortured Billie Holiday (natal Moon 22 Capricorn) belting out the sinister words of “Strange Fruit”: there is “blood on the leaves and blood at the root.” She has been singing this song, and living its reality, for years, and she is tired. 

The Sun exactly conjunct our natal Uranus on the Descendant ignites a spark: passions and buildings go up in flames. Retrograde Venus, also under intense pressure from Mars, hovers over our collective Gemini 7th house of “The Other.” The faultlines in the relationships between races are once again exposed, and the age-old debate is revived: which is more effective, peaceful protest or violent uprising? But, you see, they tried taking a knee, and look at how far that got them. Our Venus avatar in this scenario, Martin Luther King, Jr. (natal North Node 27 Capricorn) even admitted, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” And our Mars, Malcolm X (natal Jupiter 22 Capricorn) said “I am for violence, if non-violence means we continue postponing a solution to the American black man’s problem—just to avoid violence.” Mars just might have the advantage here, but it’s anybody’s guess.

Pallas Athena and Saturn are on the critical degrees of 0 and 1 Aquarius—there is rebellion, and it is organized. This is a new, savvy generation of protestor, the grandchildren of the Panthers and the freedom fighters—it may look like chaos out there, but they are careful and they are prepared, and they are carrying the banner of their forebears, in hopes that this time there will be true equality, and true liberation, for all people.

Pluto got as far as 24 Capricorn this past February and then went retrograde on May 1. It will station direct in October and then start again on its path. Due to its slow motion and next year’s retrograde, it won’t reach 27 until February of 2022. In other words, what is happening now is far from over. But it has been written in the stars forever and must come to pass. How we choose to respond to it, to learn from it, and to survive it, is the personal work that each of us must do. 

After being denied service at a whites-only motel (and then arrested for protesting), singer Sam Cooke (natal Sun 1 Aquarius, Saturn and Mercury in Capricorn) was inspired to write the lyrics to a song that would come to be an anthem to the black experience and the Civil Rights movement. Like Billie before him, there is pain and exhaustion in his voice when he sings it, but there is ultimate, persistent hope as well, as he reminds himself: “It’s been a long, long time coming, but I know, a change is gonna come.” Maybe this time it will. 

Mercury in Cancer

Winslow Homer, “Boys in a Dory 1880”

(May 28 - Aug 5) 

Mercury leaves Gemini for Cancer today, and along with him, as always, go our minds. We are traveling from one changeable sign to another, only, instead of the rapidly updating newsfeed that is Gemini, we are moving through the fluctuating landscape of moods and emotions. This is because Mercury is in the Moon’s sign now, and will answer to her for the duration of his stay. And as she will be tracing her own path around and around the zodiac during this time, we can expect to tune into a variety of channels.

Science is now saying that we have a “second brain,” housed in our digestive system, and that it communicates with the brain in our head in mysterious and fascinating ways. So this whole time we’ve spoken colloquially about “gut reactions” or “trusting our gut,” we didn’t know how right we were. There is an intelligence in our stomachs and we know it. Actually, we feel it. Cancer of course rules our stomachs, so while Mercury is there, he is sitting at the helm of human instinct. His role is not to intellectualize as before, but to intuit. 

If you find yourself feeling nostalgic, thinking about the past, or telling stories about loved ones who are gone, don’t be surprised. The Moon and Cancer hold our memories, and tie us to our ancestors. Mercury may be trying to re-connect you to them. As you go about your days, and as the occasion arises, allow your thoughts to drift, and trust them to take you where you need to go. Do your best thinking (or crying) in the shower, as the water washes over you; or while you cook your favorite meal, or walk your dog, or watch your kids play. Tailor your music to your moods and let it keep you company throughout the ups and downs.

With a retrograde coming next month (more on that later), we will have extra time to feel into this energy and bathe in its healing waters. Wherever Cancer falls in your chart is where Mercury will be calling on your lunar intelligence—to learn from the past and to listen to your gut.


Roman fresco of Diana

In Greek mythology, Artemis was the chaste moon goddess, goddess of nature and the hunt, and of maidens and midwives. She was known by her bow and arrow, and dogs, deer and bears were sacred to her. And she’s one of my most favorites. 

Fathered by Zeus, but born in exile to her mother Leto, Artemis delivered her own twin brother Apollo, as there was no midwife available in far-off wolf country. As soon as she knew her own mind, Artemis entreated Zeus not to make her marry, so that she might always remain a virgin. She also requested a bow and arrow, and a knee-length tunic, for ease of running and hunting. Ever the doting dad, he granted her wishes. And thereafter, Artemis followed her own path. 

If you call on her, you probably won’t find her on Olympus with the rest of her siblings and cousins—highborn and powerful as any of them though she be. She prefers the woods and the mountains, and the company of her dogs or her maidens, running free under cover of night. You might also find her at the bedside of a woman in labor, or a sick child. Artemis was invoked for the protection of young girls: her initiates, “she-bears,” danced naked or in honey-colored robes, celebrating the end of carefree girlhood before donning the veil of marriage. The moon goddess would give her blessing, in a ritual she oversaw but never herself participated in. 

Artemis-Diana is a solitary figure, but her solitude is shrewdly self-determined, not the result of exclusion. She guards her chastity so carefully because, to her, it contains her power and affords her autonomy. “Whole unto herself,” she is unattached and unconstrained. Maybe it’s her lunar nature, or maybe her being a twin, but Artemis is a multi-faceted figure and an interesting manifestation of the Greek consciousness. She is proud and independent, as well as loving, nurturing and fiercely protective of those she loves, and capable of great wrath when crossed or betrayed. With the mighty hunters, her body and heart met their match but still prevailed, at a price—just ask Orion and Actaeon. 

We can see Artemis in fictional characters such as Jo March in “Little Women,” Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games,” Peter Pan, or the nuns of Nonnatus House in “Call the Midwife.” Historical ones too: Queen Elizabeth I, The Virgin Queen, had the Sun in Virgo and asteroid Artemis at 0 degrees Leo. Many generations later, Diana Princess of Wales was born with Artemis conjunct her Sun in Cancer. The archetype runs throughout history in the many who have asserted their bodily autonomy, or stood up for the protection of young girls, women’s health or animal welfare. And it is alive and well in birth charts today: a child of Artemis may have a love of nature and animals, or be great with children (think of your favorite camp counselor), though she may be ambivalent about having her own. They can alternate effortlessly between the masculine and feminine spheres, or even embody both energies in equal measure, but may never feel fully at home in either. Sometimes they are the sibling that diverges from the family path, or that fights to get out of the shadow of the Golden Child and carve their own identity. In love and relationships…it’s complicated. They need to have a great deal of freedom to be themselves, and a partner that meets their very high standards. They are children of the adolescent moon, and are here to learn about life with a sense of innocence and idealism, combined with a nocturnal wisdom that can seem a mystery in our Sun-worshipping world. 

As it happens, the waxing crescent moon is traveling through the last degrees of its home sign of Cancer, where in the wee hours of tomorrow it will conjoin asteroid Artemis at 0 degrees Leo. It seems right and fitting that we honor the Princess of the Night, the “goddess with a bold heart,” as she watches over us all. 

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