By Zhiwa Woodbury
In times such as these we now inhabit, the mysteriously chthonic power of winter solstice – driving us inward during the darkest, longest night in the deepening cold of winter – takes on particular resonance. Amplifying that resonance exponentially this year, the heavenly sovereign Saturn will be led back into his kingdom, Capricorn, by the Sun itself. This initiates us into an epochal shift, as Saturn marches towards Pluto over the next two years, coming into orb (within 10 degrees) next solstice before Jupiter, son of Saturn, joins the fray, all in Capricorn, and the royal father and son reach exalted status together on the winter solstice of 2020, marking a rite of passage into Aquarius and the fabled Aquarian Age. A lovey destination through these next 3 winter solstices, perhaps, but a treacherous landscape to traverse, thanks to Pluto!
THERE IS A LOT OF ARCHETYPAL HEAVINESS HERE! Let us try to unpack it just a little bit, because you will be hearing a lot more about this incredible synchronous energy over the next few years. Hold on to your wizard hats! The portal presaged by the 2017 Great American Eclipse is opening up, and there will be no turning back.
Archetypally, Saturn is the sovereign lord that imposes structure, the exalted father archetype associated with “father time” (chronos) and karma – actions have consequences. In ancient Rome, Saturn was honored with gladiator combat, thought to be a remnant form of the human sacrifices he demanded in primeval times. Capricorn is the realm he rules, because it too is associated with fatherhood and imposed control. The first time I intuited that Donald Trump was going to be president was when I listened dumb-founded to Ivanka Trump, dressed in white, introducing him at the Republican Convention, her silken hair softly blowing in the carefully-staged breeze, while she uttered the phrase “my father” approximately once every 40 seconds. I remember thinking to myself, “in these uncertain times of widespread insecurity, when everyone is demanding radical change, how is Hillary supposed to compete with the father archetype?”
Pluto shares Saturn’s chthonic power. Indeed, Saturn was once connected with the Roman equivalent of the underworld figure Pluto. Pluto is associated with Freud’s id, and with the underworld’s coal and oil burning in such excess as to raise the grimy specter of end times. Plutonium too, of course, is Pluto’s power emerging from below, which we have already used to create hell-on-Earth once, in The Land of the Rising Sun. All of these underworld energies, unleashed in servitude to industry, war and patriarchy, have now brought us to the brink of an apocalyptic abyss. Those who are ‘woke’ peer into that chasm in awe…
Welcome to Winter Solstice Season! As the pagan chant goes: “We are the old people. We are the new people. We are the same people, stronger than before.” It’s up to all of us to keep the light alive, even if that means getting down low to blow on the embers.
The last century saw 3 Saturn/Pluto conjunctions: one at the start of WWI, the birth of industrial warfare; a second marked the unholy partition of Pakistan and India – splitting the peaceful kingdom of Kashmir in two (1947); and the last was in 1982, a time of deep economic dislocation and the highest unemployment since the Great Depression, giving birth to laissez faire capitalism, the demonization of big government, and the advent of globalization (the first meeting to discuss ‘free trade’ was held in Geneva that year). Ronald Reagan broke the unions and delivered the “free press” into the clutches of corporate control (e.g., eliminating the fairness doctrine, which gave birth to conservative talk radio, and eliminating limits on concentrated media ownership). The Falklands War broke out, Kilauea erupted, and the first non-human “Man of the Year” from TIME Magazine was a computer. Times Beach was evacuated because of dioxin levels. That’s very Saturn/Pluto! All-in-all, a pretty horrible year. In the index to Richard Tarnas’ ground-breaking book Cosmos and Psyche (2006), the “Saturn-Pluto alignment” entry includes: Cold War, conservative empowerment, evil, world war, international terrorism, massacres, Middle East crises, political corruption… well, you get the idea.
This is not to say it has to unfold that way!
The whole point of looking back at these archetypal patterns projected onto the screen of history is to break out of them. Karma is a matter of choice, after all. Think of Cosmos and Psyche as a symbiotic arrangement, with energy and information flowing both ways. Yes, we must be on guard, things are quite likely to get worse before they get better – Fukushima alone stands testament to the “Great Unraveling” we see in the world today. But these are unprecedented times, with accelerating forces and vast information accessible by our psyches at both the individual and collective levels. Plus, we’re far more interconnected than ever before, actively generating a world wide web of collective Psyche – an animating force that used to be unseen and largely inaccessible to individuals. So take heart! It is getting darker, but all is not lost – isn’t that the spirit of the winter solstice, fortified by timeless myth?
Yes, take heart… Capricorn is Saturn’s realm, after all – not Pluto’s. And the return of Jupiter to join his father at a critical time promises a powerful alliance of archetypal energies. Jupiter is large in influence and benevolent in effect – he’s associated with abundance, elevation, and great good fortune! He has our back here. We may well see this paternalistic power that has been rising in the world now crest with Saturn in Capricorn, evidenced by women rising en masse to demand paradigm shifts in sexual power, and Pluto will surely have some effect in breaking that structure down as he and Saturn make three close passes.
The potential is there for a chthonic transmutation into something else we’ve never before imagined, something quite beneficial, even. Instead of looking to the last 3 conjunctions of these cosmic titans, we can consider the last time Pluto and Saturn came together in Capricorn, when Martin Luther nailed his theses to the church door, sparking a revolution in thoughts and beliefs that broke down the oppressive religious hegemony of that dark age. Similarly, if enough of us will it into being, this promises to be a time of tremendous shifts at the global scale. At the time, Martin Luther was just one person with almost no following, a nondescript preacher who had no idea what he was about to spark into being.
The dance of Pluto and Uranus that’s been the most significant archetypal alignment of recent times (2009-2017), preparing the ground for this celestial battlefield in Capricorn, was marked by exposure of corruption at levels never before witnessed (Snowden, Panama Papers, etc.). Our worldly rulers are now laid bare before us, almost totally exposed (wait for it…). Tarnas touches on Saturn’s dominant role in the observed cycles of crisis and contraction historically timed to Saturn/Pluto axial alignments, noting that “Saturn presses things to their conclusion and defines them in their finitude” (211).
What might that look like over the next two years?
Here in the States right now, Special Prosecutor Moeller is almost a caricature of the Saturnian authority figure, and he’s been busy methodically investigating all the corruption (e.g., money-laundering, influence-peddling) surrounding the ascent of our paternalistic agitator-in-chief, Donald Trump. And Trump is Pluto personified – pure, primal id. How might this conflict play out over the next two years? What will the general election in 2020 look like in its wake?
Note well that when Saturn and Jupiter exit the battlefield of Capricorn together on the winter solstice in 2020, they will leave Pluto behind – presumably to lick his wounds. And they, and we, will definitely be changed by the encounter.
What part will you play? We all have the power to look within this time of the year and connect through primal awareness with the numinous luminosity of individual and collective spirit – psyche and Psyche. It is that dynamic, that bipolar interplay of cyclic forces, that will see us through any crisis. And it is that flame which the masses huddled in their homes have been keeping alight down through the ages. It begins with the intentions we are setting for ourselves now. This winter solstice, light a candle and set an intention strong enough to illuminate our path through these next three years.
Zhiwa Woobury is on the editorial board of Immanence.
Image of Saturn from NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute. https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA11667