The Unconscious Desires of the Soul of a Nation
On February 20, 2022 Pluto will return to the exact position in the sky where it was on July 4, 1776—the day of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. This is known in astrology as America’s Pluto Return. Over the past 246 years, Pluto has made one complete orbit around the Sun, and is now returning to that exact place in the sky (27º33’ Capricorn) where it was on that fateful day in Philadelphia in 1776.
The Pluto Return is an interesting phenomenon in the area of so-called mundane astrology, which sounds boring, but is actually quite exciting. The term mundane comes for the Latin word mundus meaning world. So mundane astrology focuses on world events and longer historical cycles, such as the history of a nation, or the world transits and alignments of the outer planets. Cycles like the Pluto Return—an approximately 248 year cycle—are much longer than the average human life. No human can experience a Pluto Return.
But a nation can.
And just as a horoscope can be cast for the birth of a person, so too can one be cast for the birth of a nation. The most commonly used birth chart for the United States is the so-called Sibly chart, cast for July 4, 1776 at 5:10 pm in Philadelphia, purported to be the exact time that the Declaration of Independence was finalized by the founding fathers.
The timing of this Sibly chart (5:10 pm) gives America a Sagittarius Rising, with a Cancer Sun in the 8th House and an Aquarius Moon in the 3rd House (using the Whole House system). America’s Pluto in Capricorn is in its 2nd House of values, wealth and self-sufficiency. I’ve always found this an interesting placement for America’s Pluto in light of the fact that the independence that the colonists sought from Great Britain was an economic independence as much as it was a political independence. Because what was their major grip with King George III? Taxes! “No taxation without representation” was the early rallying cry of the upstart colonial revolutionaries. One of the inciting incidents of the Revolutionary War was the Boston Tea Party—an act of rebellion against the tea tax.
Now, revolutions and rebellions generally fall under the rubric of Uranus, which in the USA chart is in Gemini in the 7th House, where it is joined by Mars. This would indicate that America can be a pretty eccentric and aggressive country to deal with in terms of diplomacy—a 7th House issue. Uranus is also in exact opposition to the country’s Sagittarius Rising, adding an extra dose of rebellious spirit to America’s magnanimous and Jupiter-ruled personality.
There are a lot of interesting aspects in the USA chart. But here our focus is on Pluto. If we consider that in this instance Pluto represents the unconscious desires of the soul of the nation, then we can interpret this Capricorn/2nd House placement as indicating issues around a transformation in values—economic values, political values, cultural values. This is one of the key reasons for America “incarnating” at this specific time in history.
And this notion of a values transformation certainly does align with the ethos of the American psyche.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These famous words of our Founding Fathers have echoed through American history. But nearly two and a half centuries later, we are collectively reflecting on this statement in an entirely new light. The very notion of “founding fathers” is the pinnacle of patriarchy, and the cold, hard fact that they only deemed “men” to be created equal seems unfathomable to our post-feminist worldview. But dems da facts, my fellow country folk. Our nation’s credo is based on patriarchal values endowed with a religious authority by the Creator.
Furthermore, these are the same fellas who—13 years later in 1789—would declare in Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution that all slaves would be counted as ⅗ of person in determining congressional representation, which was a concession to the slave owners in the southern states. So yeah, pretty complicated history to unpack. Not to mention the naer genocidal destruction wrought on the indigenous populations during the founding of our nation. This is the dark shadow that lurks in our nation’s deep unconscious, to which we might look to the 8th House Cancer stellium for some insight. And indeed, this Pluto return is also triggering an opposition to the nation’s 8th House Mercury in Cancer, which could be seen as having the effect of transforming our collective mindset.
Tone of the Times
If we take a step back and consider the entire Pluto in Capricorn period (2008–2024) as a transit of America’s 2nd House of values and resources, we might get a better picture as to what is potentially culminating with this Pluto return.
Just as Pluto shifted its transformational focus from globally-oriented and expansively-directed Sagittarius (1994–2008), and into hierarchically-oriented and structurally-directed Capricorn (2008–2024), we witnessed an event that seemed to synchronistically bridge these two archetypes: the near meltdown of the global financial system that resulted in the so-called Great Recession. When both Saturn and Jupiter joined Pluto in Capricorn 12 years later in the spring of 2020, we had another global catastrophe: the coronavirus pandemic. We are currently living under the shadow of both of these events, and their joint impact is placing incredible strains on the global economy, which is in large part pegged to the U.S. Dollar.
So is it coincidence that we are experiencing historic times requiring unprecedented fiscal policies like “quantitative easing”—where trillions of dollars are being printed out of thin air by the Federal Reserve to prop up the global financial institutions and their offshore Ponzi schemes full of complex derivatives and other voodoo economic shenanigans—all during a time when secretive and power-hungry Pluto is transiting America’s house of money and finance? Perhaps. But I find this type of synchrony quite fascinating, and worthy of closer examination, don’t you?
Pluto entering Capricorn, Jan 25, 2008
Pluto/Saturn Conjunction, Jan 13, 2020
Consider the two transit charts above. The first chart shows Pluto entering America’s 2nd House of Capricorn on January 25, 2008. The second charts the much-anticipated conjunction of Pluto and Saturn on January 13, 2020. Both of these charts demonstrate an incredible dynamic tension between America’s 2nd House of values and resources and its 8th House of life, death and rebirth. The theme of the 2nd House is to own, while the theme of the 8th House is to renew. So one message here might be to renew what we own and to own what we renew.
One interesting factor in both of these charts is that Jupiter was also in Capricorn at those times. Jupiter tends to expand and enhance that with which it comes into contact, which is why both these events had truly global implications. The quality of the times indicated by both these events imparted the feeling of a major crisis (Jupiter + Pluto)—with big, heavy, intense, and far-reaching implications.
The connection of Jupiter to the overexuberance and greed of the real estate bubble that triggered the financial meltdown is pretty obvious. Throughout 2007, Jupiter was approaching a conjunction with Pluto in the last degrees of Sagittarius—sign of excessive exuberance and optimism. Everyone wanted to believe that real estate values would always go up, and nothing screams overindulgence like Jupiter in Sagittarius. But the looming conjunction with Pluto signaled that some dark, murky and nefarious doings were likely to have enormous implications. The crisis unraveled during the last days of Pluto in Sagittarius, and dealing with the aftermath has been the work of Pluto of Capricorn.
The difference in 2020 was the presence of Saturn. Historically, the conjunctions of Saturn and Pluto—which occur roughly every 35 years—often signals times of great difficulty and is correlated with war, terrorism and disease. Combine this Saturn/Pluto energy with Jupiter, and you have the perfect storm for a global pandemic. Which isn’t to say that the triple conjunction of Pluto, Saturn and Jupiter caused the pandemic, but that the conditions for such an outbreak were archetypally constellated. Which is why many astrologers were anticipating some big and ominous event in 2020.
Pluto—Unconscious Desires of the Soul of A Nation
So if we consider the last 14 years—from the global financial crisis, to the coronavirus pandemic, and all that transpired in between— you get a sense of the tone of the times, and the tenor of America’s Pluto return. The nation is being confronted with the unconscious desires of its soul.
Pluto’s domain is the underworld, the unconscious, the purgatorial depths, the dark night of the soul. It is often secretive, compulsive, violent and destructive. It is concerned with the power of primordial forces and taboo libidinal desires. It constellates biological struggle, political upheaval and cathartic resurrection. It can be titanic, volcanic, erruptive, and explosive. When we consider that Pluto was “discovered” at the same time the atomic bomb was created, we start to get a sense of Pluto’s enormous and potentially destructive power.
So how does an entire nation undergo a collective dark night of the soul? We are in the process of finding out, as we live through these liminal times of transformation. This is a national rite of passage, a collective purgatory, psychotherapy for 332 million people. It’s intense, it’s emotional, and it’s mostly unconscious. We are coming face-to-face with our collective shadow, digging up the old wounds, the repressed traumas, and the hidden agendas. The transformation is happening. Evolution is inevitable. The choice is whether we embrace it or resist it.
In the chart above for the first exact conjunction on February 20, 2022, we see that Venus and Mars are also conjunct in Capricorn at that time. This may provide some insight as to how the nation might integrate this powerful transit. The union of Venus and Mars invites the fusion of masculine and feminine energy, bringing balance to the polarities and recognizing the necessity of being in right relationship with money and resources. Venus is all about values, and Mars is about right action. Can our country take the right course of action with regard to values and resources? Can we harmonize our personal wants, needs and desires with the requirements of a healthy and highly functional society? Can we enter into this period of tremendous transformation in service to love, balance and harmony?
Pluto’s brand of transformation can take two courses of action. If the necessary changes are embraced, then the transformation can occur by gradual and nondestructive means. But if the necessary changes are resisted, then the transformations are destructive and cataclysmic.
It seems that America as a nation has been resisting some very necessary changes for decades. The seeming paralysis of our political institutions to pass any significant legislation is an indication of this resistance to change. Many of the big structural issues facing the nation—political, economics, educational, technological—have been ignored. Consider our financial institutions that were deemed “too big to fail.” There was an opportunity to massively overhaul our corrupt and broken financial system at that time, but the opportunity was squandered by a lack of political will.
Remember that the Pluto in Capricorn period began in 2008 with a winning presidential campaign slogan: Hope and Change. How did that work out? Just when we thought our nation had turned a corner by electing the first African American president, the shadow side of America’s racist past emerged to show its ugly face. The resulting downward spiral of American culture and discourse has been alarming to many Americans, along with the rest of the world. America seems more like a failed state than the shining beacon of democracy and freedom. Many are wondering if American democracy can survive in the face of an increasingly polarized populace.
This is the test of America’s Pluto return. This is a crucible moment in our nation’s history. We are encountering our collective shadow. We are in the midst of a national rite of passage. The soul of the nation is being tested. Will America survive this crisis, undergo the necessary transformation, and emerge reborn—ready for the next 250 years? Or is this the beginning of the end—a slow unraveling or a cataclysmic collapse?
These next two years will be critical. And the fact that this is all taking place in the sign of Capricorn is telling. Capricorn rules hierarchy, tradition, authority, and status. It symbolizes the very structure of social order. Can the United States maintain its status as a world leader? Or will our authority be challenged? Capricorn can be high-minded, patient, and prudent, but is also susceptible to insecurity, callousness and pessimism. As the soul of the nation takes a hard look in the mirror, which aspects will be reflected back? Will we accept the burden of responsibility, or will we look for a scapegoat?
The scapegoat is one of the symbolic themes of Capricorn, and one we should be on the lookout for during this time. With all the challenges of this Pluto in Capricorn period—the repression, isolation, depression and despair—we are collectively susceptible to knee-jerk, group-think responses and swift solutions. The specter of authoritarianism is a real threat to democracy in these turbulent times. Political repression, rigid social regulations, and cultural paralysis are all constellated by the Capricorn archetype. Pluto just pushes these tendencies to the extreme.
The archetype of Capricorn is balanced by the archetype of Cancer. Both are deeply concerned with security. Capricorn seeks security by external conditions of order, control and authority. Cancer seeks security by internal conditions of protection, nurturing and tenderness. In the USA chart, Pluto in Capricorn is balanced by the Sun, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter all in Cancer. This powerful stellium points us back to our roots, our ancestors, and our history.Could it be that the collective medicine—the soul salve of the nation—lies in this constellation of beneficient planets gathered together in the archetype of the Great Mother?
The shadow side of Cancer is neglect. Is it possible we have neglected this maternal, nurturing and caring side of our national identity? There are two interesting memes floating around in the current culture that are instructive here. One is toxic masculinity, and the other is the future is feminine. Whether or not we agree with either of these notions, they are pointing to an apparent rupture in the self-image of our nation, and the dynamic tension between the Cancer and Capricorn archetypes.
Cancer is the domain of gender roles, expressing the subject sesne of sexual identity versus the objective distinction of sexual biology. The cultural divisions over same-sex marriage and LGBTQ+ issues that have roiled our country for the past decade seem to reflect this constellation in the USA chart. There’s also been a lot of talk about the patriarchy—a Pluto in Capricorn subject—and the desire to transform our top-down social order in favor of a more bottom-up egalitarian framework. All of these issues are being stirred up by this Pluto transit.
It’s also worth considering that the stellium of Cancer planets in the USA chart falls in the 8th House of sex, death and regeneration. This makes America emotionally intense, and a bit insecure about its feeling nature. It also means we have a lot of skeletons in our closet. There’s repressed anger, emotional trauma and a need for deep healing. The history of slavery and genocide upon which this nation was built will continue to haunt our collective psyche until it is genuinely confronted and resolved. Pluto’s opposition to this position has brought much of the subterranean, unconscious and violent material to the surface. The extremely compulsive urges that have erupted recently from all sides are testament to the dark shadow of our nation’s soul emerging from decades of repression.
One of the great symbols of America’s Cancer stellium is the Statue of Liberty. Here this welcoming, maternal image beckons freedom seekers from around the world. “Give us you poor, huddled, tired masses, yearning to breathe free.” This is the perfect sentiment for a Sun, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter stellium in Cancer—welcome home, you are safe here.
But then you get enmeshed in America’s politics, and you come face-to-face with the 8th House domain of this stellium—dirty back-room politics, state secrets and ruthless power plays. It’s dark, ugly, contentious and polarized. Therefore, the soul of our nation is in a constant identity crisis of attempting to unify and rectify the qualities and conditions of its Cancer/8th House Sun.
This Pluto return is also in close opposition to the nation’s Cancer/8th Mercury, affecting our collective thinking. This might account for the way our cultural dialog has taking on such an intense tone of late. It feels like a life and death struggle for survival, and we are grappling to give expression to that terrifying feeling. This is the deep truth of the dynamic tension between the 2nd and 8th House. The 2nd House represents the resources necessary for our biological survival. The 8th House represents the necessary rites of passage that take us through life, death and rebirth. This is an axis of intensity. And with Pluto’s cyclical return to this sensitive point in our history, we are re-experiencing the very birth pains of our nation. This is a collective identity crisis—a necessary step on the journey of evolution of the soul of the nation.
As always, astrology reminds us that the collective is in truth only the aggregate of individuals. We are all participating in this drama together. We all have our role to play. No one is insignificant. As Americans, we are all being called to make a sober analysis of our current national identity. How are we contributing to the conversation? What messages are we amplifying? What character traits are we exemplifying? What does patriotism really mean?
These are hard questions that require deep soul searching. This is the nature of a Pluto Return. This is a test, a trial, a dark night of the collective soul. Will we rise to meet the better angels of our nature? Or fall like Lucifer into the bitter depths of a hell of our own creation?
Choose wisely, my fellow Americans.