X Marks The Spot
In the previous article, we covered a lot of ground as we tracked the Pluto in Leo generation through each successive phase of their life cycle, charting their collective journey from childhood to elderhood. This will prove quite useful to us as a backdrop against which we can now begin to compare and contrast their collective soul evolution with the generation of souls that came after them. And it seems somehow ironically appropriate to begin an article about the Pluto in Virgo generation by first talking about the Pluto in Leo generation!
Because irony, appropriateness and living in the long shadow of our predecessors are all too common themes of the Pluto in Virgo generation. And here I can most appropriately use the first-person plurals of “our” and “we”—for I am a card-carrying member of said Pluto in Virgo generation. I’m a part of that cohort born between 1956–1972 that was identified as distinct from the Baby Boomers that came before us. They branded us as Generation X. And it felt very much like a branding—not like Guccci or Nike—but like having a red-hot iron stamping a mark of ownership on your ass.
Yup, we GenXers are a generation with a giant chip on our shoulders. And of course, we have set it up for ourselves this way. Why else would a collective of souls choose to incarnate under the Pluto in Virgo signature? We have all come into this life to learn Virgo-inspired lessons of humility, service, duty, criticism, analysis and improvement. This is our generational cross to bear, so perhaps the “X” designation is symbolically more appropriate than we might think.
Collective Soul Purpose
Let’s recall what we’ve already established about Pluto as a generational planet:
Pluto in any sign represents our collective soul purpose: a mostly unconscious process that leads us—as a generation—to compulsively and habitually approach certain aspects of life in a similar way, as described by the sign Pluto was transiting when we were all born. This gives us our generational signature—a constellation of qualities that we possess and share with our cohorts that seem distinct from those who came before and after us. It represents the karmic issues we are trying to work out together over the course of our lives (and perhaps many lifetimes). It provokes in each of us as individuals the need to grow, change and evolve. And our individual efforts, harnessed as a collective force, in turn effects some necessary changes in society and imparts some valuable contribution to the continued evolution of our culture.
So what is the “constellation of qualities” that characterize the Pluto in Virgo generation? We are a cohort of souls who incarnated in this lifetime to learn lessons of service to our society, to our culture and to other individuals. We are an earthy generation that is grounded, practical, detail-oriented and analytical. Our symbol is the Virgin—paragon of purity—and Pluto in Virgo can be obsessed with the ideals of perfection and the urge for self-purification. But as always, when dealing with Pluto’s “all or nothing” archetype, a rejection of these ideals is equally likely to manifest in our character. Having been born with an acute sense of our own flaws, as a result we possess a unique ability to find faults in others. This is surely a characteristic that has given Virgo a bad rap amongst the other signs of the zodiac.
But this hypercritical quality that Virgo possesses is ultimately necessary, and practically invaluable. For we must consider the sign of Virgo in relationship to the sign of Leo which it follows. Only then can we understand its deeper role. The Leo archetype is fiery, yang-oriented, outward-moving, possessing a sense of a “special destiny” to discover itself through self-expression and creativity. It feels compelled to create, and believes everything it creates is inherently the best. Leo is possessed by the compulsive urge to rise to the top of the pyramid—like its symbol the Lion, king of the jungle—and secure its place as the apex predator.
The problem is that just because Leo “believes” its creative output is superior, this is often not the case. The shadow of the archetype—selfishness, self-absorption and narcissism—often blinds those under the influence of Leo energy to the fact that they are not as amazing as they think they are. Excessive pride and arrogance can be Leo’s undoing, causing its overly willful types to meet necessary resistance, to suffer setbacks and receive harsh criticisms. They get toppled from their self-designated thrones and are thrown back onto themselves in order to learn the quintessential Leo lesson: you are not the only ones blessed with the divine right to creative self-expression. You are not the ultimate authority on everything. You must allow for and support everyone else’s right to creative sovereignty. This is the higher level of self-awareness that Leo is being called to achieve, and to be sincerely humbled by the process.
And it is the Virgo archetype that represents the epitome of sincere humility, which is why it necessarily follows Leo. This is part of the inherent wisdom encoded in the zodiac. It represents a complete cycle, with one archetype evolving into the next, symbolizing the entire process of human development. What Leo needs to continue to evolve is Virgo. After being toppled from their throne, the Leo type must learn the Virgo traits of being self-critical, working hard at self-improvement, getting better at understanding others, realizing you are not special or superior. They need to find ways to be of service to others, not just selfishly serving themselves. This is why the transition from Leo to Virgo is considered one of the most challenging in the zodiac. It represents a total inversion, where one goes from feeling they belong on top, to realizing they actually must serve from the very bottom.
By the same token, this is why the transition from the Pluto in Leo generation to the Pluto in Virgo generation marks one of the most jarring and difficult periods in the entire 248-year cycle. And the dynamic interaction of these two generations over the course of their shared lives will likely be a critical factor in determining if society as a whole can evolve into a more balanced and harmonious relationship, as promised by the next generation, Pluto in Libra. Our goal must be to comprehend this continuity of archetypal development that is “baked-in” and deeply encoded into this astrological approach to generations. This is the real gold of this model. And as we now endeavor to track the Pluto in Virgo generation against the backdrop of our previous exploration of the Pluto in Leo generation, we can start to mine the “precious metals” of an inter-generational insight.
Born into Crisis
“Whatever is born or done at this particular time has the quality of this moment in time.”—Carl Jung
The Pluto in Virgo generation (1956–1972) was born into an era of radical change. The supercharged cultural milieu of the 1960s was a battleground of ideas and ideals. For the Pluto in Leo generation, the period represented a pivotal phase in life: it was their coming-of-age as young adults (their semi-sextile aspect), a time to critically examine themselves and their society, to question authority, to rage against the machine and stick it to the Man. But for them it was just that—a phase. When the era ended, they would move on to their next phase of life.
But for those of us born during this era, these qualities would be imprinted on our souls for life. These would be the themes we would be collectively destined to explore over the course of our entire life cycle: to critically examine ourselves and our society, to question all forms of authority, to rage against the machine. But like every Pluto-defined generation, these goals and values begin within us as mostly unconscious urges and desires. We are compulsively drawn to explore these themes, because we have likely been doing so for lifetimes. And in our past lives, we’ve likely gotten it wrong. Which is why we’ve come back again and again: to continue to improve, to grow, to learn the lessons of the Virgo archetype so that our souls can evolve.
Again, as we saw in the previous article on Pluto in Leo, where the generational characteristic suggested by the astrological approach perfectly aligned with the characteristics identified by the conventional models (ie: Pluto in Leo sounded a lot like Baby Boomers), here too we can begin to see that the qualities attributed to the Pluto in Virgo archetype sound like classic Generation X. And again, credit where credit is due: the conventional model is getting it right. The demographers are putting their fingers on the pulse of something palpable in this new generation that is distinct from the one that came before it. They are simply unaware of the profundity of the zodiacal procession of archetypes that is at work “under the hood” so to speak. But armed with the astrological model, we can begin to appreciate this deeper code and start to integrate it into our understanding of what is generationally unfolding.
Growing Up Fast
The other interesting feature of the astrological model is that it yields a unique insight into the unfolding phases of a life cycle by tracking the planet Pluto’s progression in aspect to its position at the birth of a generation. And as we learned with our exploration of the Pluto in Leo generation, the second phase in life is indicated by the semi-sextile aspect—the time when Pluto has progressed 30º from the position at birth, and thus into the next sign of the zodiac.
For the first-wave Pluto in Virgo cohorts, born in 1956 with Pluto at 0º Virgo, they would be the first of their generation to experience their semi-sextile aspect in 1972, when Pluto moved into 0º Libra. And here we can detect a subtle shift taking place: where the first-wave Pluto in Leo kids a generation earlier had their semi-sextile at age 19 (in nearly perfect parallel with the traditional seasonal shift from the “spring” of childhood to the “summer” of young adulthood), we see the first-wave Pluto in Virgo kids approach this milestone at age 16, and the last-wave kids reaching this same milestone at age 11.
This fact is due to Pluto’s elliptical orbit. It actually picks up speed as it approaches its perihelion—the time when it is moving closest to the sun. So this quirky phenomenon of Pluto’s highly elliptical orbit actually gets encoded into the astrological model of generations by causing those born during its “fast times” to experience shifts in life cycle phases at progressively earlier ages, causing the sense of having to “grow up fast.”
And it can certainly be said that the typical GenX kid had the experience of growing up faster than their Baby Boomer parents or elder siblings. The protective environment of the Boomer era 1950’s childhood had eroded away by the time early GenXers were coming of age in the 1960’s. By the 1970’s a new term entered the American lexicon: latchkey kids. According to a recent study, Generation X “went through its all-important, formative years as one of the least parented, least nurtured generations in U.S. history.”1 If we examine the changing cultural mood through the lens of Pluto’s transit through the zodiac, we can get a deeper insight into the nature of this phenomenon.
When Pluto moved from Virgo to Libra in 1972, the tone in the culture naturally shifted to a focus on relationships. Finding the right partners became paramount. For many adults, this meant experimenting with different relationship dynamics and exploring possibilities outside of the strict confines of marriage and monogamy. Not surprisingly, divorce rates skyrocketed during this time, resulting in a vast increase in single-parent homes. The situation was compounded by the fact that many women were now choosing to enter the workforce (another result of the Pluto in Libra focus on women’s rights and greater social equality). Additionally, the implementation of the daycare system we know today was still years away. This produced a unique moment in history where many children returned home from school to an empty household, retrieved a key from under a doormat or behind a planter, let themselves in and basically learned to take care of themselves for hours on end. So here we have a cohort of souls (who came into this life to work on issues of self-esteem and self-improvement) being left alone (a cue that they’re undervalued) and forced to raise themselves (creating the necessity for self-care). This created the conditions for the Pluto in Virgo generation to begin learning their lessons early. The message was clear: look out for yourself, because nobody else is.
So for the Pluto in Virgo generation, the first phase shift in their life cycle, the semi-sextile aspect, occured between ages 11–16. The semi-sextile aspect possesses the quality of a “building potential” whose energy isn’t easily accessible, but requires “conscious effort” to be realized. As it represents a relationship between two adjacent signs, which are fundamentally different in every way (by modality, element and polarity), the semi-sextile can act as a mild irritant, urging us to scratch an itch that we can’t quite reach.
So the Pluto in Virgo generation (born with the innate propensity for self-analysis, self-criticism and self-purification) must work to integrate Libra qualities (relationship to others, balance, fairness and equality). And as this phase shift is occurring during their puberty and early adolescence years, they are necessarily going to be exploring relationships—and thus experimenting with sex—much earlier than previous generations, with many in this cohort losing their virginity well before their “Sweet 16” birthdays. Not so sweet and innocent. Growing up and witnessing an increasingly liberal society—as 1970’s America was—this generation absorbed those values at an early age, engendering the promiscuous aura that permeated the era.
Consider the shift in portrayals of typical American families on television. We went from the unquestionable stability of the nuclear family portrayed in Leave It To Beaver to the new hybrid family of The Brady Bunch, where divorce and remarriage forced awkward mergers with unfamiliar step-siblings. Or compare My Three Sons, where the widower father never even considered remarriage, to Eight Is Enough, where the widower father of course remarried, forcing new relationship dynamics with a new mom. Or consider Alice and One Day At A Time, two shows which portrayed single working mothers raising teenagers—an unthinkable “situation” just a decade earlier. These characterizations represented a major shift in the culture that had taken place within the span of a single generation.
La Grande Mort
As we continue to track the first-wave Pluto in Virgo cohort, we find them encountering the next phase shift in life—the sextile aspect—in 1983, as Pluto moved swiftly into Scorpio. And again, they are encountering this phase much earlier than their predecessors. Whereas first-wave Pluto in Leo cohorts were age 35 at this juncture in their lives, these leading-edge Pluto in Virgo cohorts were age 26—nearly a decade earlier.
This represents a significant shift, especially in light of another important astrological factor—the 1st Saturn Return (the cosmic deadline for getting your young life together)—which occurs at age 29. We could argue that for the Pluto in Leo generation, having the luxury of already having had their 1st Saturn Return before their second phase shift (the sexitle), gave them a “leg-up” if you will. They were likely more grounded, more well-established on a career path and thus more equipped to reap the benefits that the sextile phase of life offers: a more harmonious integration of the qualities that the new sign offers, as it naturally resonates with their natal Pluto signature. For Pluto in Leo, their sextile phase during Pluto in Libra represented the epitome of the peace and love mood of the 1970’s.
For Pluto in Virgo, the encounter with their sextile phase should have facilitated a similarly graceful shift into Scorpio and a harmonious integration with it’s qualities: a sense of social empowerment, a deepening of relationships, the opportunity for radical sexual exploration, and a time to contemplate the depths and mysteries of the soul. But true to their collective archetype, rather than being empowered, they were humbled—by a deep recession that gripped America in the early 1980’s, just as they were entering the workforce. Rather than being sexually emboldened, they were restricted—by an AIDS epidemic that suddenly turned promiscuity into a death sentence. At least it was indeed a ripe time for contemplating the depth of the soul—if you like staring into a nihilistic black hole and the prospects of nuclear war, global warming and mass extinction. Rather than experience the sublime joy of “la petite mort”—that quintessentially French notion of a post-orgasmic “little death”—this generation inherited “la grande mort”—a socio-political milieu that portended the apocalypse.
What was called for in this new era was self-restraint, abstinence and purity—essential characteristics of the ideal Virgo archetype. Sex was now seen as a “guilty” pleasure. The Pluto in Virgo generation had the experience of being denied the hedonistic freedoms and pleasures that their predecessors promoted, flaunted and enjoyed just a decade earlier. It seemed totally unfair, but by then, this generation was starting to expect that from life.
As we compare and contrast the Pluto in Leo (Baby Boomer) sextile experience to the Pluto in Virgo (GenX) sextile experience, we gain our first glimpse of the “diagonal” or “ladder” phenomenon that unfolds and it begs the question: is this an example of generations aligning with the unfolding of culture, or culture aligning with the unfolding of generations? Let’s double-click on that.
The first notion presumes that each generation simply encounters a continuum of unfolding historical events and adjusts to them accordingly. The second notion implies that each generation actually creates (or at least modifies) the culture and thus changes history. If we take the astrological approach and assert that each generation—as represented by the cyclical unfolding of the 12 zodiacal archetypes—is incarnating as a collective of souls with a purpose of evolving themselves and their society, then we must necessarily align with the second notion. It offers us the benefit of living in an ensouled worldview, one in which every life matters, versus the scientific rational worldview that we are living in a material universe devoid of any objective meaning or purpose. Which matter truly matters?
This is a tricky question for Pluto in Virgo types, because part of their collective programming is a compulsive need to be analytical, rational, practical, discriminating and grounded. The scientific, rationally-minded approach appeals to their Virgo instincts, being ruled as they are by information-savvy Mercury and rooted in the Earth element. The notion of an ensouled world seems to defy easy classification and tidy categorization, and so it might be quickly dismissed out of hand by this highly suspicious cohort. Anything too mystical is inherently suspect to them, reflecting the dynamic relationship that the sign Virgo shares with its opposite sign, Pisces, the natural mystic of the zodiac. This is actually an important point, because in order to produce the conditions necessary for soul evolution, each individual (and thus collective) must embrace Pluto’s opposite sign, incorporate it and bring it back into its own sign as a means of promoting the necessary growth. So eventually, all the Pluto in Virgo folks need to engage with the Pisces archetype and learn to integrate its boundary-dissolving lessons as a means to evolve their Virgo compulsions towards compartmentalization.
But as 20-somethings in the early 1980’s, they weren’t ready for all that just yet. They were facing a sagging economy, a bleak job market, famine in Africa, environmental catastrophe, the threat of nuclear proliferation and an AIDS crisis. No time for dreamy escapism, this was a time to get down to brass tacks. Their unconscious programming urged them to be practical, shrewd and resourceful. And in a lot of ways, they made the best of a bad situation. They learned to play the game, and some actually figured out how to game the system. With a critical eye (and often cynical sensibility) they saw society for what it was, and they worked it.
And they worked hard at it, in determined defiance of the “slacker” label that the Boomers tried to brand on their collective psyches. They were used to that kind of treatment. They knew better. They bootstrapped, self-started and became the first of a new class of entrepreneurs. They let their Pluto in Leo elders blaze ahead and take much of the credit while they followed behind doing much of the heavy lifting.
By the time the last-wave Pluto in Virgo cohort experienced their sextile phase in 1992, they did so at age 23, younger still than the eldest of their own generation. They would be wise to take the sage advice of their generational role model, Ferris Bueller: life was moving pretty fast for these youngsters. And there was a profound sense that they were “missing out” on the promises of a nation and getting “short-changed” on many of the social advantages enjoyed by those who came before them. As an increasingly disadvantaged generation, they would seek to find an outlet to vent their frustrations, signalling to the culture their uneasy collective intuition that something was rotten in Denmark.
Punk, Hip Hop & Grunge
One of the most fascinating insights into the values of a generation is to observe the distinct shifts in the tone of the art they create—which can be discerned most notable in their music. In the previous article, we pinpointed the “Classic Rock” genre as being pure Pluto in Leo. But in the late 1970s and early 1980s, two distinctly new genres began to emerge— “Punk” and “Hip Hop”—representing a major shift in tone and style. Trading in the theatrics and grand performances of stadium rock, these punk rockers and hip hop artists embraced a more stripped down, bare bones aesthetic. There was biting social criticism, deep lyrical cynicism and a general self-deprecating approach. It wasn’t so much about performance, spectacle or virtuosity—it was about “the message.” Clearly, the first-wave Pluto in Virgo artists were beginning to imprint the culture with a new Virgo-inspired sensibility.
Among the first-wave of the Pluto in Virgo generation were artists such as hip hop pioneers Grandmaster Flash, Kurtis Blow and Chuck D, pop icons Prince and Madonna, punk rocker Syd Vicious and the new wave band members of U2, REM The Cure and The Smiths.2 The middle of the generation birthed artists who would evolve yet another distinctly Pluto in Virgo genre—“Grunge”—in bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails. The “nevermind” grunge aesthetic is another perfect example of Virgo’s penchant for criticism, cynicism and self-deprecation. The proliferation of all these new genres, and the emergent character of a new youth generation that identified with their ethos is one of the clearest distinctions to be made between the Pluto in Leo and Pluto in Virgo generations. It perfectly captures their contrasting generational values and approaches to life.
In 1995, first-wave Pluto in Virgos entered into midlife slightly ahead of schedule. At age 39, they encountered their square aspect as Pluto entered the sign of Sagittarius. The square aspect is characterized as a “crisis of action.” It presents us with dynamic challenges that demand a release of energy. It’s the optimal time for doing life’s great work and coincides with our peak earning years. So here we have a practical, analytical and technically-minded Pluto in Virgo generation being called to integrate the enthusiastic, expansive, growth-oriented and globally-minded energy of Sagittarius. And it is at this nexus in the mid-90’s that this generation would rise to meet its collective destiny, by becoming the architects and builders of a game-changing technology called the world wide web.
Now, claims as to who “invented” the internet vary widely. Vice President Al Gore (himself a self-aggrandizing Pluto in Leo cohort) once famously bragged to have created the internet. Of course, the internet was “invented” by the Department of Defense—with the help of a handful of American universities—back in the early 1970s, motivated by their desire to design an effectively decentralized communications network that could survive a first-strike nuclear attack from the USSR, and allow for the USA to coordinate a second strike in return. Yeah, the original impetus for the internet is pretty dark.
But over the ensuing two decades, the internet remained a rather closed technology—used mostly for a narrow range of governmental and academic applications. It wasn’t until 1995, when the US government opened access to the internet to private companies and allowed them to sell domain names for the first time. This was the beginning of the world wide web as we know it. And this would become the big collective project of the Pluto in Virgo generation: a perfect marriage of their innate technical, detail-oriented skill set, coupled with their place in life as middle-aged managers experiencing their “call to action“ square phase while under the influence of the globally-minded, world-building energy of Sagittarius.
Of course, these Pluto in Virgo types never sought to take credit for this accomplishment. It’s just not their style. But they deserve it. They are indeed the generational architects and engineers of this ubiquitous technology that has become indispensable to 21st century life. The innate talents of this cohort—hard working, detail-oriented, shrewd, practical—served them well in developing and evolving this innovative technology. And they were handsomely rewarded for their entrepreneurial efforts. Consider some of the most successful of these cohorts, like Jeff Bezos—the founder of Amazon—who recently became the first person with a net worth exceeding $200 billion. Or Elon Musk, who parlayed his PayPal fortune by not only revolutionizing the auto industry with his Tesla Motor Company, but single-handedly jumpstarting the American space program with his ambitious SpaceX initiative. Not bad for a couple of kids from a latchkey “slacker” generation.
Built on the backbone of the world wide web, the internet information ecology exploded across the millennium, and by the early 2000’s, began moving beyond the desktop and into the hands of millions of people around the world via smart phones and global cellular networks. It’s not hyperbolic to call it a “digital revolution.” Not since Gutenberg’s printing press have we seen a new technology create as big of an impact on society. Of course, the humble opinion of the Pluto in Virgo generation is like: “Yeah, it’s pretty good. But it could be better. Let’s keep iterating and see if we can improve upon it.” Notice how concepts like “iteration” and “improvement” are quintessential Virgo characteristics.
Don’t Panic, It’s Organic
Never content to rest on their laurels, this insecure and introverted generation can’t help but compulsively work towards self-improvement. Which gives us an interesting perspective on yet another recently evolved cultural phenomenon: the explosion of the “self-help” industry. The Pluto in Virgo generation is compulsively motivated to improve their physical and mental health. They’re obsessed with therapy and healing trauma. They’re passionate about diet and exercise. They fanatically embrace organic foods and veganism. They enthusiastically practice yoga and mindfulness. Sure, previous generations had paved the way by exploring these terrains—Alan Watts brought eastern philosophy to the west in the 1960’s, health food stores and co-ops began cropping up in the 1970’s, and Jane Fonda embodied the aerobics fads that swept through the 1980’s. But for the Pluto in Virgo generation, health and wellness is more than a passing fad—it’s a life-long, self-defining pursuit.
Of course we always have to consider the “all or nothing” quality of the Pluto archetype. So for every Pluto in Virgo “raw, organic, whole food vegan” there is a “fat, sick and nearly dead” cohort who has opted to reject those same unconscious ideals. But either way, the issues around health and wellbeing are core values of this cohort. As a generation raised on processed foods and microwaved tv dinners, they got more nutritionally savvy as adults and rejected the empty calorie offerings of the industrial food complex. Instead they sought to realign with a more holistic lifestyle. In turn, they raised their kids to be health-conscious little buddhas. As they made their way into midlife, they had begun to radically shift cultural perceptions around diet, health and wellness.
By 2008, as the last-wave Pluto in Virgos had their midlife square, and the first-wavers embraced the next phase trine, things for the most part seemed to have turned out better than expected. From the rather stark standpoint of their disaffected youth in the 1980s to the relative stability of the late 2000’s, there was a generational sense of being on the right track. In 2008, at age 52, the first wave Pluto in Virgo cohorts embarked on the trine phase of their lives—the most beneficial of all aspects, where the innate talents and abilities of the generation are most easily activated. Pluto was moving into Capricorn—another practical, grounded earth sign that resonates perfectly with their Virgo sensibilities. At the stage in life when we are collectively called to move on from our roles as managers and step into roles of leadership, we are supported by the resonating and sympathetic energies of Pluto’s trine aspect.
And in the fall of 2008 it seemed as if this generation was arriving right on cue, when Barack Obama not only became the first African American to be elected president, but was poised to be the first Pluto in Virgo member to occupy the White House. But as befits a soul collective born under a crisis signature, their generational leader was about to inherit a crumbling house of cards.
The financial crisis of 2008, and the Great Recession that followed, placed an incredible burden on the incoming Obama administration. To say that government oversight of the financial and banking system had been woefully mismanaged by the outgoing administration is an understatement. But all the blame can’t be placed at the feet of the Bush administration. The problems of the financial crisis had their roots in Clinton era deregulation, and can be traced all the way back to economic policies first introduced by the Reagan administration. But in 2008, as Pluto (with its archetypal desire to transform anything that has failed to evolve) moved into Capricorn (symbolizing the very structure of society itself), the entire global financial system seemed to be imploding before our very eyes. The voodoo economics and financial shenanigans were laid bare. The chickens had come home to roost. And it wasn’t a pretty picture.
Interestingly, much of the back room maneuvering and closed session deal-making that resulted in the TARP program and the most massive corporate bailout in US history was largely engineered by Bush administration cronies in the frantic months between the elections in November 2008 and Obama’s inauguration in January 2009. The first Pluto in Virgo president inherited an utter train wreck from his Pluto in Leo predecessor, thus reinforcing the archetypal theme that the transition from Leo to Virgo represents the most challenging phase in the entire cycle of the zodiac. And we could argue that only a Pluto in Virgo president could be adequately equipped to handle such a shit show of a situation.
Barack Obama was indeed the quintessential Pluto in Virgo president. Meticulous, cautious, well-spoken, practical, humble, self-effacing—he really was the perfect embodiment of all those archetypal qualities. He provided a steady hand at the wheel of the state at a time when we could have easily driven off a cliff. While short from being perfect—for he was not without his faults and shortcomings—most of us can agree that he proved to be the right man for the job at the time. And even his staunchest detractors should at least appreciate the fact that he was ever-willing to own up to his mistakes, admit his failures and shortcomings, and promise to try harder. These are the kinds of classic Pluto in Virgo qualities that were woefully lacking in Obama’s Pluto in Leo predecessors, not to mention his successor—who arguably represents the singular embodiment of all of the very worst qualities of the Pluto in Leo archetype.
Which is a perfect segue to our current moment in history and what has been coined the unfolding “meta-crisis.” While it seems a ridiculous understatement to say that something very profound shifted in the American body politic during the 2016 presidential election, we need to take a closer look at this pivotal event from our generational perspective. After 8 years of Pluto in Virgo presidential leadership, both political parties nominated a Pluto in Leo candidate to be Obama’s successor. Now there are obviously a lot of political factors that contributed to that scenario, but it is interesting for us to examine its symbolism.
First, it represents a return to power for Pluto in Leo—that generation with unbridled faith in its own supreme leadership abilities, believing they can do it better than anyone else. Second, it signals in our nation some collective unconscious desire to regress, to retreat to a more conservative position, to resist the uncertainties of change and the march of forward progress. It would seem America’s political machinery decided to throw the country into reverse, or perhaps even worse, to keep driving forward while only looking in the rear view mirror. Kinda how it’s felt these last few years, no?
In the process, we seem to have lost our generational momentum. The clock was turned back on the progressivism of the Obama era with the election of Donald Trump and his promise to “Make America Great Again.” And regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election, we will still have a white, male Pluto in Leo president for at least the next 4 years (provided the winner lives that long).
So as we consider the current state of affairs against the backdrop of the Pluto in Virgo generation, we are left to wonder if Barack Obama will turn out to be this cohort’s only president. Will this quiet, humble generation of social servants accept the fate of a truncated time at the helm, having their collective claim to reins of power once again usurped by that pesky Pluto in Leo generation that just can’t seem to leave well enough alone and go gracefully into elderhood? And will they further be leap-frogged in the next election cycle by a younger generation coming up behind them that seems to be gathering political momentum, fueled by the social turmoil that has recently unfolded?
It’s quite possible. That would be so characteristic of Pluto in Virgo.
“Ah, whatever, nevermind.”
Back in 2012, fellow astrologer and Pluto in Virgo cohort Armand Diaz wryly referred to our generation as a “comic sleeper cell”—which seemed to me an apt moniker at the time. We had thus far proven to be a group reluctant to step up and take the mantle, resigned to stay out of the limelight, content to continue working behind the scenes, reconciled to let others take the credit for our prodigious efforts, all because we somehow lacked the self-esteem to stand up for ourselves.
But as a member of this generation, I feel like 2020 has been our collective wake-up call. I think a lot of us are looking around at the situation and realizing we might be the only ones who can fix what seems to have been irreparably broken.
“Hello, hello, hello, how low?”
We are a generation built for crisis. We came into this world with a collective soul purpose to serve, to improve, to help, to purify. We’ve stood by for far too long and let others bungle what we know we could have done better (if only we could have been bothered). It would seem that our country—and indeed the entire world—is really in need of our commitment to service, our wealth of experience, the practicality of our wisdom and the humility of our leadership. Perhaps it’s time for this cosmic sleeper cell to wake up, and answer the call of our cosmic duty.
1 Wikipedia page: Latchkey kid. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latchkey_kid
2 While this distinct generational shift is overwhelmingly apparent in the artists who are born on either side of the dividing line between Pluto in Leo and Pluto in Virgo in 1956, in the spirit of “full disclosure” we have to observe that many of the progenitors of punk and new wave—like members of the Ramones, the Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Police, The Talking Heads—were in fact last-wave Pluto in Leos. There are several ways to look at this phenomenon. One is to observe that many artists are indeed “ahead of their time” and sensitive to “something in the air” before the rest of their contemporaries. Additionally, the astrological model also provides us with two other generational “sub-cycles” by tracking the transits of the other two “generational planets” Neptune and Uranus. For example, most of the artists mentioned above are in a distinct subset of Uranus in Cancer, which has its own archetypal signature that would further identify this generational subset. Unfortunately such an analysis, while deeply insightful, is simply beyond the scope of this series, as just focusing on the main factor of the Pluto cycle is challenging enough. My hope is to explore the impact of these other generational planets in a subsequent series of articles, once the main thrust of this inquiry has been thoroughly digested.