For the past thirteen years (yes, since before Pluto’s entrance in the sign of Capricorn in late 2008), my life has been one huge, ongoing, indistinct Pluto transit. Most of my placements — not to mention the four angles — are scattered in the four Cardinal signs, which means that Pluto in Capricorn has been conjoining, squaring opposing one sensitive spot after the other, year after year, day after day.
It started with my Saturn/Uranus conjunction in late Sagittarius. Then it was Mars. Then it was the Moon’s turn. Then Chiron. My Virgo Venus was also involved, although the aspect formed by transit was a trine, so it was less dramatic, but at that point it didn’t make much of a difference. Then Neptune. Then my MC/IC axis, and the Sun, and Mercury, and soon it will be my Ascendant and Descendant, falling in the very last degrees of Cancer and Capricorn respectively.
Surviving Pluto transits
Needless to say, my whole existence has been completely overturned, shattered, reconstructed, torn down yet again and rebuilt once more, countless times again and again, over the course of the past thirteen years. Was it terrible? Yes. More than terrible, it was a sheer nightmare at times — sometimes self-inflicted, due to my inability to ditch the self-defeating patterns I was so used to.
Yet, through all the turmoil, upheaval and disruption, I am still here. Not only that, but I found ways to thrive, too. This was possible because, throughout this long and grueling process, Pluto helped me tear down the barriers that separated me from my authentic Self, and thus from happiness. Yes, this is one of the positive and empowering outcomes of a Pluto transit, any Pluto transit: finding out who you truly are, beyond peer pressure, cultural conditioning, past trauma, and then being able to figure out what you really want and need.
But how does one get there?
The higher meaning of Pluto transits: what happens, why that happens, why to you
There is no getting around it: Pluto rules death. To meet Pluto is to feel powerless, at first (and notice how I said feel, not be), in the face of destruction. At the very least, a Pluto transit triggers a domino effect of thorough, coercive change that seems to trump our will and disregard our feelings. Pluto takes what he wants and doesn’t ask for our permission. Pluto doesn’t wait. Pluto doesn’t ask us if we’re ready: we almost never are — that’s a common denominator.
Make no mistake, though: a Pluto transit is not the same for everyone. It depends on how foreign the energy is to you or on the way you have been channeling it prior to the transit. Each one of us is an unique individual, with a celestial blueprint, our birth chart, which is unlike any other. If you know you’re about to experience a Pluto transit, start with examining your natal Pluto and what he is doing in your chart (you can generate your birth chart on AstroDienst).
For me, even though I have natal Pluto in Scorpio in my 4th, which makes me accustomed to depth, crisis and the darker side of human emotions, it was a pretty brutal experience at first, something not too far removed from an exorcism, because I was nowhere near where I was supposed to be. I had just turned 18, I was letting my trauma — and therefore, my dysfunctional coping strategies — get the best of me, and, in doing so, I was literally destroying myself. To this day I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone who is or has been as reckless and self-destructive as 18-years-old me (not that this is something to brag about).
In short, the encounter with Pluto doesn’t necessarily have to be a harrowing, Soul-crushing experience; much depends on our attitude and responses. If we are able to realize, right away, that the whole process is meant to take us in a better place than the one we’re stuck in, it becomes easier to acclimate to it and let it unfold.
Pluto transits are not meant to kill us. On the contrary, they are meant to aid us in reclaiming the lost fragments of the Self. Some parts of our psyche and Soul are hidden, and need to be brought to light; some other elements like habits, beliefs or connections have run their course, and need to be purged.
If there is venom infecting our system, poisoning our blood, numbing our will, it needs to be sucked out. Our inner demons need to be identified, named, tamed.
A Pluto transit is akin to a metaphorical tillage of our psychic territory, combined with a process of radical purification. Pluto’s mission is to search and destroy that which no longer support our growth or allow us to be in control of our narrative.
Sometimes, the enemy is within. Sometimes, that part of us which is trying to spare us further suffering, by lashing out, being defensive, or avoidant, or aggressive, or co-dependent to the extreme, is only doing us more harm than good. This was certainly the case for me, and if it’s the case for you, you will know right away once Pluto starts touching your planets.
Understanding that Plutonian crisis is for the greater good is the first step from caterpillar to butterfly, and the most important step for survival.
The mechanics of transformation
Now, for the specifics. The following scenarios are most likely to happen during a Pluto transit:
- being forced to face our worst fears;
- crisis and unresolved complexes coming to a boiling point until it’s no longer impossible to ignore them;
- deterioration of relationships that are not authentic or cannot keep up with our evolution;
- people’s real motives and hidden dynamics in our relationship with them being brought to light;
- finding ourselves in the middle of power struggles;
- depending on the houses or planets involved, sexual awakenings;
- being forced to uncover hidden resources we didn’t know we had in order to cope with all of the above.
Loneliness is a byproduct of Pluto transits; I would rather consider it a gift, because in the midst of life-altering circumstances, we benefit from the chance to process our feelings and reactions in solitude. Pluto-induced upheaval forces us to spend more time with ourselves in order to go deep within and identify the root causes of our detrimental tendencies.
Pluto is not just the Lord of Death; he rules the underworld in every possible sense of the word: the dimension of those who have crossed over, as well as our personal unconscious. Our ingrained patterns, unresolved issues, repressed trauma and trauma-based conditioning fall under Pluto’s domain, and Pluto’s proximity evokes them from the depths.
To experience a Pluto transit means to have all of this handed to us in such a way that we have no choice left but to face it. It’s like the Lord of the Underworld himself, of all things occult and deadly comes to our rescue in order to help us overcoming what is subtly — or not so subtly — undermining our own power and agency. The paradox of Pluto is such that we must feel powerless so that we can take our power back: first by accepting the metamorphosis, and then by initiating new beginnings.
Sometimes, though, we feel compelled to resist the process instead of going with the flow, because nothing is scarier than surrendering to the unknown.
Control vs. letting go
Among other things, Pluto also seems to awaken, simultaneously, an urge to dictate the order of things; one common side-effect of a Pluto transit are the frantic attempts to preserve the status quo and keep things as they are. Sometimes we are accustomed to what is toxic and dysfunctional, because it feels familiar.
Some of us are familiar with taking the abuse and coping in unhealthy ways; some of us are familiar with having their boundaries crossed; some of us are familiar with depending on others. The list could go on and on: destructive responses to triggers, imbalanced relationships, compulsive behaviours as coping mechanisms…
As painful as these things may be, we don’t want them to change. We don’t want to change. Pluto is meant to challenge this familiarity and push us out of our dark, dysfunctional comfort zones.
Whatever Pluto takes away, it was not meant to stay in the first place, no matter the strength of the attachment we feel. The presence of attachment doesn’t necessarily guarantee a healthy bond —more often than not, it signals the presence of an addiction.
Wherever strong attachment is present, there is probably a reliance on an external source to provide qualities we failed to develop within ourselves: confidence, emotional regulation, protection, strength, not to mention our sense of identity. This is why Pluto, at times, seems to target the very things that soothe us and provide the approval and shelter we are so desperate for, pulling the rug from under our feet.
The more we resist separation and cling on to these security blankets, the more difficult, painful and time-consuming it becomes to let go. The more we refuse change, the more change will be forced upon us.
At first, the fear of the unknown and the urge to resist change are stronger than the natural push towards growth. Depending on our level of attachment to whatever it is we are being asked to give up, tears and pain might ensue. Sometimes, Pluto drags us kicking and screaming. But sometimes there is relief, too.
The sooner we learn our lessons, the better. This might seem a cliché, but giving up resistance and control is key, which translates into being willing to face our fear. Fear of change, fear of loss, fear of the great unknown.
We are afraid, because we are unable to conceive that the death of what we know is not the end of our world. That there is nothing else beyond the boundaries of what we have lived and experienced. That everything starts and ends with and within the things we are familiar with.
It’s not true, and Pluto can truly disclose new ways of being and living, through his radical process of transmutation and transformation. Slowly but surely, if we stop resisting, we start to spot the beautiful opportunities in every mishap. We stop thinking in terms of catastrophe and start appreciating the renewal. Towards the tail-end of the transit, what we used to fear becomes the new normal.
Once we stop being conditioned and inhibited by fear, that’s when life begins.
Practical tips to survive a Pluto transit
THERAPY. I didn’t plan to go to therapy during my perennial Pluto transit; I didn’t plan to meet someone who was studying to become a therapist and fall in love and have this person handing me my ass, but it happened, some six years ago. It was the same person who wanted me to go to therapy because, according to their words, I needed to understand my own mental illness and come to terms with my dysfunctional behaviours.
This person, a mega-Capricorn with a huge stellium in the sign, was damn right. I followed the advice, and joined a group therapy circle for BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) patients.
While I have my problems with the BPD label (in spite of the fact that an inordinate number of men exhibit violent, impulsive and abusive behaviours, it’s almost always women who get diagnosed, while men’s destructive tendencies are not as pathologized) and with the western understanding of human psychology in general, therapy was a pivotal step in my healing journey and so was getting educated about my symptoms and their root causes.
I can’t deny that reading about studies and research helped me tracing my destructive tendencies back to the trauma I experienced as a child; afterwards, it became easier to keep those tendencies in check and develop greater insight into my needs, regardless of my thoughts about the whole concept of “being a borderline patient”.
Pluto pushes us towards introspection; you cannot navigate the muddy waters of this transit if you don’t make the effort to de-construct and analyse yourself.
If you’re going through a Pluto transit, therapy is a step you don’t want to skip. You don’t necessarily have to stay in therapy for years on end, but since Pluto is a force beyond our control, you will benefit from the perspective of a qualified psychopomp-like figure that has the dark zones of the human mind mapped out and can support you in exploring them, at least for a while.
NON-JUDGMENTAL AWARENESS OF YOUR FEELINGS. It’s okay to feel defeated, exhausted or furious during a Pluto transit; it’s okay to feel resentful, sad, clingy. Embracing the reality of your feelings is not going to make you weaker or less “enlightened” — if anything, it’s going to make you more authentic and teach you how to accept yourself as you are.
The New Age myth of “positive thought” conditioned us into feeling guilty for not being happy all the time, and few things are more detrimental to our health than suffocating something that naturally arises from within. Pluto is about confronting the shadow, not feeding it through repression.
Pluto helps us to make the unconscious, conscious, and keeping a forced positive outlook means going in the opposite direction. Listening to our feelings and uncovering the unspoken needs behind their surface is the most constructive choice (if you’re feeling depressed and/or suicidal, please seek help).
JOURNALING. Staying in touch with my own feelings was of paramount importance throughout the whole process; it helped me relieving the pressure as well as processing the events and tracking my own journey. Also, verbalizing your feelings is perhaps the most effective way to develop awareness of them. This is especially true if you have planets in your third house, in Gemini, or a prominent Mercury (I have all of these).
SELF-COMPASSION. You’re doing the best you can, with what you have, so please be easy on yourself. This is not a race or a contest, it’s your own journey and it will unfold at its own pace, which is different from anyone’s. You’re not doing it “right” or “wrong” —Pluto is not Saturn. If you feel you are being excessively self-critical, it’s a good idea, especially during a Pluto transit, to discover where does that tendency come from and what unconscious need or ingrained pattern is it trying to cater to (or who are you unconsciously replicating).
LIVE IN THE MOMENT. It’s easier to feel overwhelmed during a Pluto transit; this is a journey that’s best taken one step at a time. Sometimes even managing to make it through the day counts as a success.
TRUST THE PROCESS. The good things about transits is that they don’t last forever; planets move on — yes, even Pluto — and sooner than we know, the dust settles. Everything unfolds as it’s meant to, and, most importantly, crisis is not permanent.
How long do Pluto transits last?
On average, Pluto spends fifteen years transiting a house — I know this to be true since my mega-Pluto transit began with Pluto entering my 6th house in 2006 and will end with the planet crossing my Descendant in a year.
Transits from Pluto to a single natal planet or point can last up to a whole year, due to the fact that Pluto goes retrograde for several months every year and tends to go back and forth over the same spot. If you count in the period of time when the aspect is within orb of influence while not being exact, however, you can add one more year. Most people can feel a Pluto transit approaching well before the aspect formed to the personal planet is exact; normally, you have a build-up of intensity.
The duration of a Pluto transit can be prolonged if more natal planets are close to one another in the same sign.
What is the meaning of Pluto transits to personal planets/angles?
Every time Pluto transits a personal planet, the way we express the energy of that planet is bound to be radically altered. Here is a short recap of the purpose of Pluto transits to the various planets:
Pluto transits to the Sun: the defense mechanisms of our Ego are stripped away to reveal who we truly are; our sense of self is deconstructed through loss of identity in order to be rebuilt anew, and our self-image transforms accordingly.
Pluto transits to the Moon: we descend into our innermost emotional depths in order to unveil the events and influences that have shaped our responses and instinctive reactions. In the process, we also become aware of our true needs and learn how to express them.
Pluto transits to Mercury: our brains get re-wired. I have written extensively about my Pluto to Mercury transit in this post — Your Mind on Pluto.
Pluto transits to Venus: we uncover the hidden dynamics in our relationships, the power imbalances, the manipulative tendencies we might resort to or put up with in order to be liked and loved, and ultimately learn about true intimacy, trust and compatibility.
Pluto transits to Mars: we release the buried anger we repressed and held inside, perhaps as a result of feeling helpless and powerless in situations of mistreatment and injustice; as a consequence, we learn to be less passive, or less aggressive, or less passive-aggressive, and to harness Mars’ raw power in healthier, effective ways.
Pluto transits to Jupiter: our perspective and personal philosophy, are completely revolutionized in order to integrate the darker, less acceptable sides of life. The encounter with the unknown broadens our horizons in a radical way.
Pluto transits to Saturn: we are met with responsibilities, duties and obligations that force us to “level up” and uncover our hidden resources.
Pluto transits to Uranus: we experience a surge of individuality that pushes us to actualize our need for freedom.
Pluto transits to Neptune: we are given the opportunity to shatter the delusions that stunt our soul growth.
Pluto transits to Chiron: we are challenged to own our wounding, chronic pain and self-esteem issues and to integrate them on a conscious level.
Pluto transits to the MC/IC axis: our worldly and domestic aspirations crumble apart only to be replaced with goals and ambitions that are truer to who we are.
Pluto transits to the Asc/Desc axis: we are asked to redefine the ways in which we present ourselves, and to bring that renewed awareness and confidence in our relationships.
The fear of the unknown is quite possibly humanity’s fundamental fear. We’d rather anticipate consequences, we’d rather decide, we’d rather be free. But have we ever been?
When our responses and reactions are controlled and provoked by underlying memories of past suffering, are we free? When we break ourselves to fit in, dreading the thought of being rejected by people we love, are we free? Are we free, when we keep on choosing the same type of person as a partner so that we can re-enact the abuse and mistreatment we have suffered at the hands of our caretakers? Are we free, when our life choices are dictated by others’ opinion of us?
When we think we are being forced by external events to give up what we need, we are actually being liberated from the things that thwart our free will. Ultimately, Pluto sets us free from our bondages, drags us out from the gilded cages we grew so accustomed to and shows us how powerful we are, how resilient we can become, how to defeat — or perhaps become, in an empowering sense — the very death we fear.
Nothing is the same after a Pluto transit. We are not the same. The very things that fill us with dread become minor inconveniences. We uncover a whole universe of possibilities within us — strengths and qualities we no longer need to delegate to or project onto anyone. Only after Pluto teaches us how to die, we can finally live.
If you are about to or currently experiencing a Pluto transit and would like to know more, an astrological reading will allow you to obtain clarity and information about the timing, purpose and possibilities of your Pluto transit.
Pictured: Image by Aphiwat Chuangchoem on Pexels.