Assuming that Brexit, Trump, the popularity of Le Pen in France, the re-emergence of nationalist Russia and the crumbling of the EU, and separatist movements like the SNP which was a forerunner to Brexit, are less a cause and more a symptom of the times, it seems worth looking at what’s coming.
Below is from my Astrological History of the world on Saturn Pluto conjunctions and hard aspects. Next post I’ll try to disentangle my thinking on the post-truth, conspiracy theory, nationalist/fascist phenomenon of the moment. Apologies for its gothic tone so near the festivities.
Tremendous resistance to adversity and a formidable defensiveness come to the fore when these two tough, essentially masculine energies come together. Their appearance in tandem is usually an invitation to a walk on the dark side of life. Saturn, rigidly disciplined, status-driven, melancholy and authoritarian, has no reason to mellow when combined with Pluto’s power–hungry need for control. If anything, both planets become more entrenched when their energies are merged. Achievements of substance can occur, but only through slow, patient hard labour and usually a good deal of suffering, too. Stamina counts when they are around; some sacrifice is always demanded.
Liz Greene, the Jungian analyst and astrologer, talks of the obsessiveness, intense frustration and self-destructive quality of Saturn–Pluto contacts—purification through ordeal by fire. At the macrocosmic level of world events, they often coincide with wars, massacres and assassinations, as in 1982 with the Falklands War, in 1947 with the bloody partition of India and Pakistan, and in 1914 with the First World War.
At a mythological level, both planets have a connection with death. Saturn as the Grim Reaper points to the inevitability of disintegration through time, or of the cutting short of a lifespan through misfortune. Pluto, ruler of the underworld, oversees the passage to the next life, through the vale of darkness to rebirth in another realm. Saturn forces his father to face his own mortality by castrating him, but then refuses to face his own, preferring to eat his children rather than hand over the staff of authority when old age comes along. Saturn’s great strength in stability and structure is also a weakness when faced with transitions or situations demanding flexibility and compromise. Pluto in a slightly different way is also incapable of giving way gracefully. A world view based solely on power sees only the victorious or the oppressed. There can be no quarter given when compromise is seen as a sign of weakness, a lowering of defences as potentially life-threatening.
Astrologically, Saturn–Pluto also represents the magician, giving the ability to wield occult power at a practical level for good or ill. They do have positive uses in their awesome strength and their ability to withstand extreme pressure and put up with mass misery and suffering. But they do have to be seen as a pairing where good emerges only after times of great endurance. ‘The night is darkest just before the dawn’ is a saying that could be used to describe their energy. In Egyptian mythology, Nut, the great goddess, opens her legs every morning to allow the Sun to be born and swallows it again every night. Saturn–Pluto resists letting the light in to begin a new day and allowing the cycle of waxing Sun and waning Moon to continue on its endless wheel.
Saturn–Pluto creativity always walks on the dark side. During the 1947 Saturn–Pluto conjunction in Leo, notable emerging literature included The Plague by the arguably pessimistic existentialist writer Albert Camus; The Diary of Anne Frank by a young Jewish girl killed during the Holocaust (written during the Saturn–Uranus conjunction of 1942–43); and Tennessee William’s dark sexual tragedy A Streetcar Named Desire. In the following conjunction in Libra in 1982, Chilean novelist Isabel Allende’s riveting but shocking The House of Spirits came out alongside two major works about the Holocaust, Thomas Keneally’s Schindler’s Ark and Primo Levi’s If Not Now, When? Thomas Mann’s novel Death in Venice (later made into a film by Luchino Visconti), about an older man’s fascination with a young boy in the midst of a deadly epidemic, coincided with the 1913–14 Saturn–Pluto conjunction in Cancer.
In 1883 in Taurus, Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra emerged as his sanity crumbled. In 1818 in Pisces, Mary Wollstonecraft’s Frankenstein created a terrifying monster. One conjunction further back in 1787, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was writing his masterpiece Don Giovanni. This opera combines rampant sexuality with a stark examination of death and the forces beyond the grave; Mozart wrote it when the Saturn–Pluto conjunction was in Aquarius, his own sign perhaps reflecting the composer’s fear of his overwhelming father, who died that year. The opera finishes with the reckless Giovanni being pulled inexorably towards death as a result of his failure to accept responsibility. Mozart himself died four years later, aged just 35.
Freedom of choice is not a Saturn–Pluto concept, so heresies, or beliefs that do not fall in line with the established order, come under pressure during these conjunctions. In 1616 during the conjunction in Taurus, the Italian astronomer and mathematician Galileo, was threatened with torture by the Inquisition unless he agreed not to teach the Copernican system which put the Sun at the centre of the solar system. He recanted to protect himself in 1633, but the sentence passed on him was, staggeringly, only formally retracted by the Pope in 1992 (during the Saturn–Pluto square).
In 1517 in Capricorn, Martin Luther, Protestant reformer and famously outspoken critic of the Church, nailed his thesis denouncing the sale of indulgences to the door of the Wittenburg Palace church, for which he was excommunicated. But his determination was such that by the time of the next conjunction in Aquarius and Pisces in 1551, his Lutheran followers were assured of their freedom to practise their religion.
In the history of the past 2000 years, there is no shortage of assassinations and violent mayhem, but the Saturn–Pluto effect does appear to coincide with particularly epic acts of murder or execution. Most famously this century, the assassination, on the conjunction in Gemini in 1914, of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary and his wife by a Bosnian Serb student in Sarajevo, triggered the devastating First World War. The beheading of the English king Charles I after the English Civil War took place during the Saturn–Pluto conjunction in Gemini in 1649. The trial of Mary Queen of Scots in 1586, with Saturn–Pluto in Aries, led to her execution a year later. Two other English monarchs met untimely ends during Saturn–Pluto pairings: King Edmund of England was murdered by an outlaw in 944, with the conjunction in Cancer; and King Edward the Martyr was murdered in 978, with Saturn–Pluto in Virgo, probably by servants of his stepbrother, Ethelred II, who succeeded him.
Russian history also resonates to these bleak moments, not surprisingly perhaps since the beginning of the Vanangian Empire of the Ros (the Swedish name for seamen, hence ‘Russia’) occurred as Saturn and Pluto came together in Aries in 849, when Vikings took Kiev. In 1016 in Sagittarius, St Vladimir I, Great Prince of Russia, died; on taking the throne his son murdered his brothers. During the conjunction in Aries in 1584 that sent Mary Queen of Scots to the scaffold, Ivan the Terrible of Russia killed his son in a fit of rage, and then died himself. In 1881 in Taurus, the tsar was assassinated; his autocratic son Alexander III took over, reversed his father’s liberal reforms and adopted repressive policies, persecuting Jews.
The Roman Empire is also littered with murderous moments during these tough conjunctions. In ad 10 in Libra, Augustus lost three Roman legions, massacred by the German leader Arminius. In ad 79, on the next conjunction in Aquarius, Vesuvius erupted, burying Pompeii and Herculaneum in molten lava. Two years later in ad 81, under the same influences, the emperor Titus died, succeeded by his brother Domitian, suspected of hastening his end. In 113, with Saturn–Pluto in Aries, Emperor Trajan mounted a campaign of spectacular conquest, reaching the Persian Gulf. In 175, in Gemini, Cassius suppressed a rebellion and declared himself emperor, only to be killed by one of his centurions. In 243 in Virgo, Gordian III was murdered, while campaigning in Persia, by his army commander, who became the first Arab emperor. In 280, in Sagittarius, Emperor Probius was killed by mutinous soldiers, rebelling against his severe discipline.
This century and last – war
Events of the three Saturn–Pluto conjunctions in each century are a chilling reflection of their destructive, unyielding, repressive energy. Good can emerge, but only after times of endurance, and usually great suffering. Most recently in 1982, when the conjunction was in Libra, the Falklands War between Britain and Argentina flared up. Israel also invaded the Lebanon; and the Sabra/Chatila refugee-camp massacres aroused international anger and condemnation. At the same time, Solidarity, the Polish workers’ organization, demonstrated against martial law, only to have the Soviet authorities tighten their repression.
In 1946–48, with Saturn–Pluto in Leo, the messy partition of India and Pakistan led to massacres and killings; six million people were forced to move state. With the start of the Cold War, the Iron Curtain descended between Russia and Western Europe, a fitting symbol of Saturn–Pluto’s utter determination to build defensive barriers. Japanese and German war-crime tribunals were ongoing, bringing to public awareness the extent of the atrocities of the Second World War. World War 11 indeed started on a Saturn square Pluto.
Back in 1914, the conjunction in late Gemini then Cancer began with the assassination, as we have seen, of Archduke Ferdinand, leading to the appalling destruction of the First World War. One conjunction earlier in 1882, Saturn–Pluto in Taurus saw the outrages in rural Ireland when 10,500 families were brutally evicted. Tsar Alexander III was at the same time exerting an iron rule in Russia, forcing Orthodox beliefs on the population, and persecuting dissidents.
Saturn–Pluto’s repressive tendencies were also on display in 1819 in Pisces, when freedom of the press was abolished in Germany and universities placed under State supervision in an attempt to check revolutionary and liberal movements. The Peterloo Massacre took place in England at the same time: the militia charged a crowd in Manchester for listening to speeches on parliamentary reform and the repeal of the Corn Laws.
During the recent Saturn in Gemini opposition to Pluto in Sagittarius, the suicide plane attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 killed 3000 people, triggering America’s War on Terrorism.