PLUTO RETROGRADE

Hold tight, another retrograde is almost upon us. This time, it's Pluto's turn, beginning its retrograde on April 30 (AEST) and ending on October 8.

Only last month, astronomers (not astrologers) published findings from a 2015 NASA space probe in which they claim to have discovered a colony of ice volcanoes on the planet’s surface. “Ice lava,” ejected eons ago, has frozen into bizarre, “hummocky” terrain near the blast sites. Like dormant volcanoes on Earth, Pluto’s might still be active, meaning the planet’s core could be warmer than previously thought. Heat+water=the ultra slim possibility of microscopic life there.

But we astrologers have long known that Pluto is very much alive with a dark, strange, “hummocky” influence on us, an influence that will be making itself felt even more keenly as Planet Underworld begins its yearly retrograde next week. Retrogrades refer to transits where a planet looks like it’s moving backwards in the sky relative to us. They manifest, accordingly, in wonky ways: a Venus retrograde, for example, tends to make romance more difficult, while a Mercury backspin might flummox communication.


Let’s dig more deeply, then, into Pluto and its retrograde transit to see what it could mean.


“Dig” is the operative word with Pluto. Its influence on our personal lives is like that of the bulldozer, unearthing the past, secrets, lies, fantasies, hang ups. Yet, as one of the outer planets (along with Uranus and Neptune), Pluto’s real impact tends to be less personal and more political, less selfie and more social. Its movements are usually thought of in terms of “revolution.” For instance, think back to Pluto’s last notable transit–its massive conjunction with Saturn to start 2020 just before the great upheaval of Covid. That’s Pluto. It changes our personal lives almost by default because it changes life in general as we know it.


On a symbolic level, Pluto connects to Hades and the Underworld in all its sexy and/or criminal valences. It’s far from the light, but it brings things into the open that you don’t want to be seen. Discovered in 1930, Pluto made its way into the astrological lexicon during the high-water mark of Freudian psychoanalysis. As if by osmosis, the language around Pluto has taken on a Freudian flavor. Words like drive, instinct, obsession, and the Unconscious are often used to describe it.

Currently Pluto, whose orbit around the Sun takes about 250 years, is ensconced in Saturn-ruled, commercially-minded Capricorn, where it entered in 2008, when the world economy convulsed due to shady subprime lending practices in the US real estate market (again, that’s pure Pluto: huge change, underhanded dealings emerging). With the Underworld Planet only 1.5 degrees from Aquarius when it goes retrograde, this is the last time in our lives that Pluto will “station” retrograde in the Goat.


A “station” refers to that balance point during a retrograde when a planet starts moving backward or forward relative to us. Each retrograde will have two stations—the first, when, say, Venus, heads backward, and the second, when it jolts into its more normal direction again. These brief stations are perhaps the most important moments in the retrograde cycle and we tend to feel them most the week leading up to and after them.


In the case of our upcoming Pluto retro, the Gravedigger Planet first stations on April 30. The day before, communications-director Mercury in Taurus will “trine” Pluto, inaugurating a series of three such 120 degree angles over the course of the transit (the other two will occur late May and early June, with the same degree 28 Taurus to 28 Capricorn). When the Messenger Planet makes its trine to Pluto, we could experience our first wave of illicit forms of communications being unearthed. In politics, for example, damning text messages might surface. In romance, damning text messages might surface, too, so be forewarned. One theme for this Pluto retrograde, then, is what we might call “dark communication,” recurring late April, late May, and early June. These three trines, while potentially painful or scandalous, might ultimately be functioning to clear a path for us to move forward personally, professionally, or romantically.


In addition to dark communication, this 30 April station marks an invitation to get obsessive, to dig into things. Again, think Pluto. Do not check your fascinations, drives, or sick joy when it comes to probing into research topics or conservations. This is a time for morbid curiosity, of going into the tomb and staring into the crypt, with a mix of horror and wonder. This morbid curiosity could manifest somewhat innocently–watching Soft White Underbelly until 3am on Youtube each night–or it could be less innocent: talking with family, friends, and/or partners about difficult secrets long buried in the King’s Chamber in the pyramid of the past.


Because this retrograde occurs in commercial Capricorn, the Cardinal earth sign, prepare yourself, as well, for themes related to money and/or earthiness. Retrogrades are times to reassess, reflect, rework, reimagine. Around 30 April, you might, therefore, be pulled toward rethinking your spending or consumption habits. You could also find yourself wanting to connect to the earth or nature in a deeper way–gardening, composting, planting or replanting, uprooting, putting roots down.

While everyone will be feeling this retrograde station, some will be impacted more than others. The Cardinal signs (Libra, Cancer, Aries, Capricorn) will be particularly affected by this transit.


To take it to an even more granular level: if you have planets around 28 degrees of the Cardinals, or if you were born at the tail end of them, you could especially feel the Underworld’s influence. So those who were born around 16 to 19 January, 16 to 19 April, 21 to 24 October and 17 to 20 of July might experience this Pluto station on 30 April most of all. We will check back in on the retrograde in October when the Bulldozer starts moving forward again.