The Continuing Discovery of Pluto

The Continuing Discovery of Pluto

NEXT WEEK, if all goes according to the cosmic plan, the solar system will have three new members, at least in terms of what we call planets. The International Astronomical Union (IAU), now meeting in Prague, is set to vote on a strongly supported proposal that counts as planets the asteroid Ceres (discovered in 1801), Charon, long considered the main satellite of Pluto (discovered in 1978, not to be confused with Chiron, discovered the prior year), and a trans-Neptunian object called 2003 UB313 (discovered in 2003, and unofficially called Xena).

It was Xena that seems to have crystallized the whole discussion: in 2003, a guy named Mike Brown and his scientific team discovered something in our solar system larger than Pluto, and also a great deal brighter. Though many things have been discovered since Pluto, this was the first that was actually bigger, and for some odd reason, bigger seems to count.

It was orbiting way beyond Pluto and was calculated to take about 557 years to go around the Sun once. Until that announcement, made just last year, it seemed fairly easy for many astronomers and nearly all astrologers to dismiss most of the other 320,000 catalogued bodies orbiting our Sun as somehow less than planets; as somehow less-than-significant little bits and bobs.

Much of the struggle has been focused on Pluto. For years, the discussion had been brewing about demoting Pluto to something called a Kuiper Object rather than a planet, because beginning in 1992, many new, small objects had been discovered in its region of space. Pluto has had a dual status for a while, as both planet and Kuiper Object. Astronomers have been bitterly divided on the issue of whether to remove the “planetary” status, with the plutophiles in one camp and the plutagonists in the other. Astrology, for its part, has handled the presence of new objects, whether asteroids or minor planets, largely by ignoring them. But there is no discussion among astrologers about whether Pluto counts as a planet — even the thought that it might not is laughable.

The discovery of Xena pushed this issue as well, basically compelling the astronomical community to make a clear decision on Pluto. Meanwhile, Pluto’s counterpart in the inner asteroid belt, Ceres, was once considered a planet, but met a fate similar to what nearly happened to Pluto: other objects were discovered nearby, and it was given the diminutive name “asteroid,” along with her many sisters. This was often cited as astronomical precedent for downgrading Pluto to something other than a planet.

The first agreed upon definition of a planet in more than two millennia has several criteria. One is that an object be sufficiently large that it’s able to hold its own roundness by gravity; it cannot be a star, that is, nuclear fusion cannot be occurring in its interior; and it must not be orbiting another planet. The reason the twins of the Pluto/Charon system are considered planets and not a planet plus its moon is because the center of mass of the system is outside both of them. In other words, they orbit a common exterior point rather than one orbiting the other. In contrast, with the Earth/Moon system, the center of mass is inside the Earth, and the Moon is clearly in orbit around our planet.

The Bell Curve, and Warning Bells

So, with this week’s development, we have something resembling actual news: Pluto, under the proposal, would remain an official planet. Xena/UB313 would become known as a planet, somewhat controversially opening the way for many other newly discovered bodies to have this distinction. According to Xena discoverer Mike Brown, the proposed guidelines, as stated, would include potential inclusion of an additional 44 known bodies, on top of the nine we now call planets. These would include many of the minor planets familiar to Planet Waves readers, including Sedna and Varuna — which are not being decided upon at this point.

Under the current proposal, Ceres gets promoted from asteroid to planet, returning to that which she once was. Few people are aware that Ceres, while an asteroid, comprises fully one-third of the total mass of the asteroid belt. While size is not everything, this puts her in a class by herself.

And the big surprise: Charon, long said to be Pluto’s moon, is a planet in its own right. The four will now be described as “dwarf planets,” but this is merely descriptive, a way of noting they’re smaller than Mercury. Indeed, they are all smaller than Earth’s Moon. Yet as any astrologer who has worked with Pluto knows, in terms of real-life impact and experience, size matters not. Pluto may be the smallest thing culturally known as a planet, but clearly has the most profound effects. Case in point, it was under a Pluto influence, combined with Saturn, that the Sept. 11 incident occurred. There are scores of other examples, some of them on this scale, from the Saturn-Pluto cycle that reveal the stunning, unstoppable influence of Pluto.

But let’s step back and look at the whole scene of planetary discovery, which is rarely ever mentioned in the media so few people are even aware that it’s happening. Consider this. In 1977, Chiron was discovered and given minor planet catalogue (MPC) number 2060. In other words, it was the 2,060th minor planet catalogued since Ceres was discovered in 1801. This alone is a fairly steep bell curve.

Yet by 2000, just 23 years later, Varuna was discovered beyond the orbit of Neptune and given MPC number 20,000. Just two years after that, Quaoar was discovered and given MPC number 50,000. Now, in 2006, the count stands at well over 320,000 catalogued objects orbiting our Sun. We could say this is happening at a pivotal moment in world history, the moment of critical mass on so many other issues: ranging from the planet heating up to oil running out; from a growing water crisis to a global climate increasingly dominated by war — all facts which every bell in the universe is urging us to confront.

If astrology in any way reflects the shape of the human psyche, whatever you may think of minor planets, the sheer increase in their rate of discovery tells you something about the changing nature of the climate on Earth and the inner world of humanity — and how incredibly fast things are developing. By accepting three of these objects as planets, science would be playing some excruciatingly slow catch-up, but by the proppsed definition, leaving the door open to a rush of progress.

Part of why the new definition of planet is progressive is because it leaves the door open to new discoveries — which other proposals going around did not [see The Wanderer by Arwynne O’Neill].

Indeed, at the same time, the movement in astronomy to “get rid of Pluto,” seems to have lost a lot of momentum very fast. Yes, many consider Pluto and its relatives little more than antique flash-frozen dust bunny popsicles drifting in the nether-regions of space. The American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan has banished Pluto from its Hayden Planetarium.

In an astonishing editorial on Thursday urging astronomers to toss Pluto as a planet altogether, The New York Times opined of the current proposal, “Pluto would still count as a planet but would be shunted into a new category called ‘Plutons’, which would include any object that meets the definition and has an orbit beyond Neptune’s. Two other bodies already qualify as plutons, namely Charon, which had been considered a moon of Pluto, and a recently discovered ice ball somewhat bigger than Pluto. Many dozens of distant ice balls may ultimately qualify for planethood.”

God forbid. Let’s forget that life is made from water. We need to keep things (such as cosmology) simple so the Times can grasp what’s happening.

It is interesting and perhaps not surprising that New York is one epicenter of the Pluto denial trip when it was so intimately involved with Pluto processes in the form of Sept. 11. Yet consider this. New York City has two astrological charts. Sept. 11 occurred at the Pluto return of one of them, and at the Pluto opposition of the other. On its most dramatic turning point since the American Revolution, it was under multiple Pluto influences — and this is the city that declares Pluto persona non grata.

I tell you, I spent a good part of the week deeply concerned about what might happen if scientists followed suit, and went into denial about the Pluto archetype — which is clearly a prime mover of human progress and evolution, even if that comes at a cost. I breathed a deep sigh of relief that scientists, who are really mystic-priests gazing toward the heavens looking for signs, kept their rational and spiritual bearings, and have recommended that Pluto remain at the forefront of consciousness. While the final vote by the IAU General Assembly happens next week, a unanimous recommendation by the committee charged with the task is a strong statement.

The Goddess is Now

Three new planets is a lot of news for astrology to handle. Science has acknowledged nothing of the kind since 1930 (if you don’t count the faux announcement that Chiron was a planet in 1977; it turned out to be a huge comet, and is now known as a centaur, one in a special class of small objects). It was not until more than 40 years had passed, including the Depression, the Holocaust, World War II, the McCarthy Era, the Cold War, the Sixties, Vietnam and the Nixon Administration, that astrology got around to considering Pluto seriously.

It’s enough to make you wonder whether astrologers really are a bunch of sticks in the mud who cannot handle progress. The eminent Raphael’s Ephemeris did not list Pluto in its planetary tables till the mid-1970s.

Three new objects to consider is particularly a lot to process for those astrologers who have not been working with minor planets. In essence, astrologers are being informed by that great authority of science that they now need to modernize their thinking, which will compel some to look at all their charts, and all their clients, and themselves, in a new way. Others in the rear guard will go on with business as usual, figuring that a moon of Pluto, a forgotten asteroid and an oversized ice cube can’t be that important anyway.

At the same time, three additional archetypes have called themselves to prominence in a time of profound transformation in world history, all of which are directly or indirectly associated with goddess or feminine energy.

One is officially named for a traditional goddess (Ceres, the Roman goddess of fertility, whose domain includes food, grain, nourishment, mothers and the pain they endure around their children). Ceres made her appearance in 1801, at the dawn of the industrial age, and was in a sense the harbinger of such changes as mass-scale agriculture. Discovered by the Sicilian astronomer Giuseppi Piazzi, she was named for one of the patron goddesses of the island. She represents the qualities of nurturance and nourishment, describing both how we were nourished as a child and the ways we nourish others as adults. Ceres often provides a meaningful commentary on the qualities of one’s mother and one’s tendencies as a mother. But the literal association with grains and food cannot be overlooked. Today, the world still survives principally on wheat, rice and corn. Of note, Ceres was discovered the day that the modern United Kingdom was born, Jan. 1, 1801, the day the Act of Union took effect.

Another is nicknamed for a modern-day goddess of television (Xena, a postmodern bisexual warrior-princess who transcends time and space, and can draw the blood of the gods). Unlike any other planet, she is at least for now, named for a figure from popular culture.

A third (Charon, the ferryman who takes souls across the River Styx), was eloquently described by one of the great 20th century astrologers as having an association with the goddess Minerva, who represented wisdom, weaving and storytelling — the “higher aspect” of Pluto.

It’s going to take a while to sort all of this out, and I write as one who has cast Ceres and other minor planets into every chart since I began the full-time practice of astrology 12 years ago.

I’ve been asked where Chiron fits into all of this, and the answer is that on the scientific level, it does not. Chiron is classified as a Centaur, the first of a class of minor planets with a specific description not covered by the current discussion. From the standpoint of astrology, we know that Chiron is one of those small things that means a heck of a lot, and has us on notice to take our time with the process of integrating the newly recognized planets. We need to look for the subtleties, and be open to new information as it emerges.

The use of new points in the chart always develops with practice; Chiron has provided at least one crucial service that will be very helpful now: those astrologers who have been working with it have some experience integrating a new archetype into astrology as a conscious process. Chiron has also shown it’s possible to work well with objects that have two or three simultaneous definitions.

Most of us became astrologers long after Pluto was considered legitimate, which began as a gradual transition through the 1970s. But Chiron is something to which most astrologers who use it have adapted long after they began the study of astrology — and the discovery is still continuing.

Two Planets, One Point

So: with all this news, where do we begin? I’ll cover Xena and Ceres in upcoming editions; for now, I suggest we begin with the continuing discovery of Pluto. What impresses me the very most in this week’s developments, besides the very acceptance of minor planets as the real thing, is that we now have a binary planet to work with: the Pluto/Charon system.

The most sensitive astrologers have long noted that Pluto has two very distinctive aspects. It’s true that all archetypes are complex, but Pluto is curiously dualistic, and at the same time, unconsciously so. To give the example most of us are familiar with, Pluto is experienced by the thing that rips through most people’s lives with the delicacy of the Lord Shiva, leaving nothing the same in its path. As photographer Billy Name said to me in the wake of Sept. 11, only Pluto could drop the World Trade Center like marionettes.

But then we have the Pluto of spiritual evolution; the planet most akin to what we think of as the soul; the place in the chart where we can look for the highest mission, spiritual or otherwise, in life. There is nobody who’s experienced it who tell you that Pluto is anything other than the most compelling force for personal growth, change, development and self-realization.

These two seemingly diverging aspects are revealed in the sign with which Pluto is most often associated: Scorpio. This is the sign of both death and regeneration; of sexual surrender and the agony of possession; of liberating trials by fire, and situations where one is owned and subsumed by the other. In addition to being associated with death, Scorpio is the sign associated with the genetic code and the transfer of humanity through the generations, an image illustrated into the Death trump card in the Thoth Tarot long before the genetic code was really understood by science.

Isabel Hickey, in her 1973 pamphlet, Pluto or Minerva: The Choice is Yours, wrote what was probably the first coherent delineation of Pluto in the English language, emphasizing the dual nature of Pluto, which she proposed represents, “The energy in us which is unknown on the surface but which works in the depths of our being. It rules the underworld in us, as well as the highest part of us. In its lowest aspect it can be working silently within and unknown under the surface and then erupt with violence.”

She describes two different methods of operation of this planet. “The highest aspect of Pluto (Minerva, goddess of wisdom), works in a different fashion [than the lowest]. It changes the individual from within and comes imperceptibly like the dawn of a new day. It changes the individual so his is never again in the same state of consciousness. Purged of the dross, he is refined and regenerated.”

Most people experience this dualism as a combination of enforced change from the outside, and deep evolutionary movement from the inside.

What is interesting is that Hickey came up with this delineation in 1973, after much observation of her clients — but five years before the discovery of Charon. In later commentary shortly before her death, she noted that with the discovery of Charon (which was not immediately named), the Minerva aspect of Pluto had emerged from the cosmos as a distinct, tangible entity, and had in a sense been borne out.

Hickey also made a worthwhile point in suggesting that while the primary association of Pluto was with Scorpio (its modern rulership), the planet appeared to have its exaltation (a second form of rulership, more of a strong harmony) in Pisces. She said that in her experience, which spanned several generations, Pluto had a close archetypal association with Neptune, and needed to be thought of as operating much in the same manner. A decade later, Jeff Green stated a similar point: that Pluto works largely as an unconscious process, below common awareness, which is typically how Neptune works as well, at least until something calls it into focus.

For his part, Green proposed the notion of a “polarity point” of Pluto. In teaching how to interpret Pluto, Green said that one needed to consider the natal position as a representation of the past evolutionary impulse, and then consider the opposite house and sign as the current evolutionary necessity. He was the first astrologer to go on record proposing that the lunar nodes, which are themselves a strong polarity system in the chart, are closely associated with Pluto. (What Green told me he did not know was that through several formative years of his life, Pluto in fact had a minor planet situated at its polarity point — Pluto and Chiron were in opposition from the late 1950s through the mid 1970s, and made 11 exact opposition aspects. This is something he said he was not personally aware of and not concerned about). Yet for Green, the idea of Pluto having two distinct natures was primary in his theory of the planet.

More recently, Richard Tarnas, in his book Cosmos and Psyche, suggested that an alternate dimension of Pluto is about Bacchus, the god of wine, revelry and divine madness — hardly something any astrologer had proposed to date. On the one hand, we have the Pluto we’re all familiar with — the Shiva-like entity one which can create upheavals and can set things back to zero with very little effort. Then, Tarnas suggests, there is the other side: in historical eras where Pluto is prominent, we see either the emancipation of the Bacchus archetype in sexual revolution, experimentation with drugs, or some form of widespread celebration of life (such as when in aspect to Uranus); or conversely, the suppression of these things (such as in eras when Pluto in aspect to Saturn).

The 1960s (counting from 1960 through 1972) is the most stunning example of the dual nature of Pluto. During this time, Pluto was aspected by Uranus, and a long stretch of liberation of humanity and its creative and libertarian impulses occurred. There was a sexual revolution, an explosion in arts and culture, and a general spirit of revolution that affected many countries, with no special reason why events should be connected. Yet at the core of these years, Saturn entered into the mix, and is associated with vicious policies in Vietnam and Cambodia, and the many human disasters associated with them. The liberating, celebratory aspect of the Sixties is associated with the Uranus-Pluto conjunction. The dark, desperate quality associated with the core years of that era is associated with the Saturn-Pluto opposition, which was exact from 1965 through 1966.

The Saturn-Pluto opposition next occurred Aug. 5, 2001, one day before George Bush was informed that Osama bin Laden would attack targets in the United States.

Again and again, these cycles play out in history going back thousands of years, with remarkable predictability, indeed, millennia before the discovery of Pluto; that is, long before the Pluto archetype was a conscious entity in astrology, it is documented to be a deep, intractable influence on the affairs of humanity.

Transporting the Soul

In all instances, whether we think of the “other side” of Pluto as the soul, as Minerva or as Bacchus, we have the image of Charon: something that transports us from one place to another, however it needs to do so.

One factor in determining how this will work seems to be that Pluto manifests in one’s life in relationship to the density level you occupy at the time, and the density level of other planets involved in the transit. The more dense one’s psyche is (oriented on the negative qualities of Saturn), the more devastating the transits of Pluto will be experienced. The more open one is to change and transformation (such as the life-affirming properties of Uranus), the more Pluto is experienced as a process which not only transforms, but transports us from one place to another; from one space of being to another.

It’s as if Pluto is constantly pushing us to be lighter, more aware, less attached in the world and more grounded in Source. Pluto gives a constant reminder to let the necessities of growth guide us, and to work consciously to acknowledge and experience, then to transcend, the dark emotions for which humans are so famous: jealousy, control, aggression, rage, and a self-centered world view. Pluto could be said to teach the lesson, “To be what you are, you must go through what you are not.”

Yet the extreme dualism of light and dark persists, and now we have an astronomical metaphor to go with this. Pluto is now recognized as having a twin soul or counterpart of equal astronomical importance, a planet in its own right: Charon. The two occupy the same point in any astrological chart to the arc minute. They are so distant from the Sun and so close to one another that they are indistinguishable in any chart.

Charon has always been there, working below full awareness. For the first time, astrologers need to address the fact that two planets, two distinct expressions of energy, occupy one point. Based on this, it seems we need to completely rethink Pluto, from scratch, setting aside our previous assumptions or at least consciously leaving them open to question.

But let’s add one last thrilling point, not to be overlooked. Two additional moons of Pluto were discovered last year, and named just two months ago: Nix and Hydra. While Pluto is not being considered a quadruple planet (Nix and Hydra don’t meet the qualifications for planetary status, so they are in a sense satellites of the Pluto/Charon binary), all four objects orbit the same center of mass (barycentric point), which exists outside all of them. In other words, all four objects in the Pluto/Charon system orbit the same point. Pluto is a complex system, with many facets, and four separate known material points; all of which revolve around the same basic idea — an idea not contained in matter, but rather in space.

Before and After Pluto

In examining some of the complexities of Pluto, it seemed like a good idea to go back to the year of the discovery, 1930. Every time a modern planet has been discovered, including Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and Chiron, events of the discovery era have a close association to what becomes the meaning of the planet. This was an extremely interesting year, with enduring effects. The Empire State Building was begun (another New York metaphor). The first night game was played in Major League Baseball. Twinkies were invented and marketed — arguably the first junk food. Frozen foods were put on the market for the first time. Polystyrene was developed, Scotch tape went on the market, the motion picture rating system came into being, and the appropriately plutonian “The Shadow” radio program premiered.

On the very day of Pluto’s discovery, a cow called Elm Farm Ollie was the first to fly aboard an airplane, and the first to be milked on an airplane. This was part of a quest to learn more about the effects of aviation on animals — a kind of comical precursor to experiments that would later be done in space. The same year, Greta Garbo — the very incarnation of Pluto’s icy beauty, or perhaps Minerva’s — became the first female movie star to utter a line in a talking film: “Gimme a whiskey with ginger ale on the side — and don’t be stingy, baby.”

Pluto is often said by astrologers to have been the signal that the great dictatorships of Hitler and Mussolini were on the rise. The year of discovery, 1930, was the first year that the Nationalist Socialist party gained a plurality in the German parliament, and it was just three years after the discovery, in February 1933, that Hitler became the unelected chancellor of Germany. These facts are frequently raised in astrological discussions of Pluto.

What is lesser known is that in Latin America, four different countries experienced military coups e’detat in 1930 — that is, forceful overthrows of governments leading to dictatorships. All had distinctly different natures: some were long-lasting, creating a dynasty (such as in the Dominican Republic), and some were short term, but all of them happened, and 1930 was the point of origin. At this point, Latin America was undergoing a massive transformation from agricultural to industrial society, and the world economy was racked in depression.

In addition to the Great Depression, the Earth’s climate was also in turmoil; it was the Dust Bowl phenomenon that in large measure kept the United States in economic desperation.

Wikipedia writes, “The Dust Bowl was a series of dust storms in the central United States and Canada in the mid to late 1930s, caused by a massive drought and decades of inappropriate farming techniques. The fertile soil of the Great Plains was exposed through removal of grass during plowing. During the drought, the soil dried out, became dust, and blew away. The wind blew the dust to the east in very large black clouds. The clouds made the sky appear black all the way to Chicago. Eventually the soil was completely lost when it blew out to the Atlantic Ocean. Beginning in 1934 and lasting until 1939, this ecological disaster caused an exodus from Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and the surrounding Great Plains, in which over 500,000 Americans were homeless.”

What I have not seen mentioned yet is that the discovery occurred the same year Gandhi began the Satyagraha movement, or the nonviolent liberation of India from British imperialist rule. Early in this year, indeed within weeks of the discovery, Gandhi laid out his basic philosophy of nonviolent resistance to oppression. He then put the government of England on notice that a kind of revolution would begin, and then nine days later, with 78 men and no weapons, started the famous salt march.

This was both an initiatory and pivotal event in the struggle for Indian independence, as 24 days later, he had two million people walking behind him. Sixty thousand were arrested, and hundreds of thousands were willing to give themselves up to authorities. This was perhaps the first applied use of civil disobedience in human history, certainly in known history. Gandhi borrowed heavily from the work of the 19th century writer Henry David Thoreau, but added his own specific ideas appropriate to the place and time — and to practical action rather than theory. The Indian government was thrown into freaked-out disarray, meeting a force so much larger than itself — the people.

In a startling synchronicity, Gandhi is documented to have walked 248 miles with the millions behind him. Pluto’s orbit is 248 years, and is the planet associated with “the millions.”

The protest involved resisting a tax put on salt by the British, an issue Gandhi chose because he felt it was one everyone could relate to. Part of his protest involved handling salt, a mineral, himself, rather than leaving it to the sole British corporation charged with the privilege of doing so. While not particularly important in itself, the salt tax struck a common chord with the population and catalyzed the movement that would eventually set India free without a single shot being fired.

“He defied the law by making salt,” Wikipedia states. “It was a brilliant, non-violent strategy by Gandhi. To enforce the law of the land, the British had to arrest the satyagrahis (soldiers of civil disobedience), and Indians courted arrest in millions. There was panic in the administration and Indian freedom struggle finally gathered momentum both inside and outside of India. The picture of Gandhi, firm of step and walking staff in hand [shown in link above] was to be among the most enduring of the images of him.”

This image was seen around the world, transcending national boundaries. But speaking of images, Pluto itself was the first planet discovered with the use of a photographic plate.

Gandhi was assassinated under a major Pluto aspect, the Saturn-Pluto conjunction of 1948.

It is true that Gandhi’s nonviolent movement did not endure, indeed, this is one of the great tragedies of modern times. His assassination forebode those of others who would stand up for peace and reveal how easy it is for violent intentions to silence them. India went on to practice horrid persecution against the Muslims and then to become a nuclear power, facts which would no doubt have horrified Gandhi.

But what Gandhi showed us, in the very moment that fascism was on the rise, was that there is a viable option. Nonviolence works. There can be revolution against a great world power without killing others, yet only by the will of the people. This will requires true commitment to sustain. It is much easier to take the dark road of Pluto. It is much more convenient for those who cannot bother changing themselves, and far more profitable for those who are called “plutocrats” — the rich who run the world.

But Pluto belongs to everyone. We all experience its transits and must learn and grow where Pluto is located in our charts. As any astrology student knows, denial of this force is not the answer. It just comes back with greater emphasis until the lesson is learned or the message is received.

It appears that we have, in the past decade or so, withstood an attempted retrograde revolution in science by those who would push Pluto back into the unconscious, and who would take away both its challenges and its gifts. They would, at the same time, seemed to say that the time of discovery is over by implying that there are no new planets. If the International Astronomical Union votes next week to accept the unanimous recommendation of its seven-member committee assigned with the job of sorting this out, we will not only preserve Pluto as an accepted factor of human consciousness, we are also invited to recognize its other aspect, whatever you may call it: Satyagraha, Minerva, Bacchus or Charon, the transporter of the soul.

And for that reason, we may keep open the most meaningful choice we have as humans.++

Additional Research: Melanie Andrews, Paloma Todd and Kirsti Melto.

Resource: 2006 12-Planet Aspectarian by Tracy Delaney. This gives the aspects to Ceres, 2003 UB313 and the Pluto-Charon system. Not available in stores; put away your credit card. This is the only one of its kind, and it’s a gift from Planet Waves.

Xena/2003 UB313 Ephemeris: Have a little look, it’s short. Xena doesn’t move so fast, but it does move eventually. Unless you were born before around 1930, you have Xena in Aries. Xena has moved just 23 degrees in about 80 years.

The Proposed New Solar System: A little chart so you’re less confused, with a diagram showing the 557-year orbit of Xena.

The Wanderer: The Many Definitions of a Planet by Arwynne O’Neill

Beyond Belief: Timeline of the Discovery Year of Pluto by Paloma Todd

Goddesses of Astrology: Very, very basic article with section on Ceres by Eric.

More Minor Planet Articles by Eric.

Weekly Horoscope for Friday, August 18, 2006, #624 – By ERIC FRANCIS

Happy Birthday Leo!

As Hunter S. Thompson said, “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” Strange is perhaps an understatement, in a world where nothing stays the same from day to day or even hour to hour. But pro is something you can relate to, and you do seem to be highly adaptable to your circumstances these days.

You may feel like you’re watching your life in a curved mirror. It is, at times, difficult to see yourself — or to see others for who they are. But I trust that you’ve begun to notice the effect that close individuals are having on your inner development. I suggest you consider that it’s coming in two different forms: one that you can see and feel tangibly, and one that may not seem so obvious.

It’s as if there is a focal point of the relationship, and then an entirely different relationship that is reaching you on an even deeper level. The focal point may be a sense of purpose, or a role that you play, but that’s like a conduit or a place to grasp the situation mentally. In truth, it may not even be particularly comfortable all the time, and you may have some insecurity associated with the situation.

But it’s the larger scene that counts, the aspect of the encounter that’s perhaps less obvious or entirely in the background, but which is the real basis of the story. If you look back you’ll see that this has been there for a long time. But certain recent developments, perhaps over the past year, have called it into focus in an entirely original way.

A great deal of your focus now needs to be on clearing out ideas about life that were important to you a long time ago but which need to be replaced. Old values which take up space generally serve to do little other than limit the adventure of existence. The astrology of the moment is calling on you not to so much as find yourself, but to be yourself; though that ‘being’ will have the definite quality of ‘finding’. In truth what is going on is a kind of aligning.

While you are purging out many layers of the past, as regards to what mattered the most, there is something of your inherent truth that is coming back to you. This return of inherent truth will have that distinct quality of familiar and yet unfamiliar, as if you are re-learning or becoming re-acquainted with something you’ve known well in another lifetime. As the seasons progress, the sense that you are in possession of an ancient mastery of some kind may become obvious to you, while at the same time, so much that seemed to make a great difference begins to stand aside under the influences of your new commitment.

What you’re likely to discover is that as the aligning process occurs, certain relationship situations that seemed tense, difficult, or like they were forcing you to work harder than you really wanted to begin to shift. The person you are becoming will, in a curious way, harmonize with situations that have felt difficult. You will most likely see that they have been providing a kind of example for you, a place you can aim your consciousness, and an environment which you can grow into the person you are so quickly becoming.

Through this process, you don’t need to be certain; you have your intuition, and you also have a certain measure of experience that tells you that you can trust people and what they want — and that you can trust the effect that the relationship is having on you. This is an extended time when words may fail, and when expectations are useless, but when the more unusual life becomes, the more beautiful it becomes.

Aries (March 20-April 19)
You’re not the only one with resources or the willingness to work for what you believe in; make sure everyone is holding up their fair share of what needs to be contributed, whether it be money, ideas or effort. You’ve got plenty to offer, which will be all the more meaningful when everyone sees the benefit of making the kind of investment you’ve got planned. Be diplomatic, but insist that others who want the benefits participate in bringing those things to fruition. Though you’re doing most of the work at this point, others will feel better for having had their positive influences. Family Focus:Exceptionally mature kids may seem like they’re losing a grip on reality. In truth, a new reality is coming through.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
Welcome any guests or visitors this week, and accept that their presence may have a profound influence on your life. If nobody shows up from the outside, those with whom you share emotional or physical space are in a sense your most important teachers. More is changing than you can yet imagine; the forces of nature are at work behind the scenes, setting you free from so many past circumstances. Surely you must sense some deep change coming — though you seem to feel quite at home in your skin. That’s a fine combination. Family Focus: Make sure children know that their home really is their own.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
You’re finally free of entanglements and complications that have hung you up in small ways, mostly emotionally, for well over a month. You now face the challenge of unfamiliar territory, which is a lot easier than feeling stuck in the same old place. Someone you’ve met recently seems to be outdoing any recent experience of ‘strange but true’. Treat this person with respect; they’re likely to wind up as a mentor or guide. Don’t run, even if that’s what your instincts say — rather, listen and feel. Family Focus: Adults besides parents play a vital role in your family this week, particularly older friends and grandparents.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
Subtle movements of the Moon tell a new story every hour, but the overall trend is steadily guiding you toward a more fulfilling life. True, it may feel like the demands have never been greater, but in reality, you’ve never had more to offer the world. While you’re blessed with good fortune, devote yourself to discipline, particularly as regards to your time and energy. You will not enjoy life fully till you have enough for yourself, particularly time, and to do that you must be very clear about your boundaries. Family Focus: The people you love, and who love you, are your greatest wealth and your reason for being alive.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
This week is the anniversary of the famous Woodstock rock concert, a moment in history when people came together for peace, love and fun. Woodstock demonstrated that it’s possible for human beings to gather in a spirit of both celebration and freedom, and that there need not be strict rules of conduct if people mind their own affairs and keep the community in mind. Yes, Woodstock was a Leo, and you can embody the spirit of passionate celebration. You may wonder whether such is still welcome on our planet, but if you have any doubts, I suggest you teach the world a few lessons. Family Focus: A partner or loved one appears to finally be overcoming a long spell of insecurity.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
You no longer need so much support for a project or idea. You’ve discovered pretty much everything you can learn from others at this point, and I trust you feel validated by people you respect. What I suggest you notice is that this works both ways: you’re having a profound effect on certain friends who are depending on you as a direct link into reality, and an orientation point in their healing process. You may be inclined to underestimate your role, but you don’t need to do anything except calmly accept that you make a difference. Family Focus: This is the week to bring up a subtle emotional matter that you’ve wanted to talk about for a long time.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
There’s no doubt who your friends are, or whether they’ll stick with you. It’s true that recent emotional turmoil or psychological clashes have made you wonder what’s happening beneath the surface. But notice that they don’t really seem to be affected in anything other than a positive way. Borrow some of their steadiness and loyalty to help you ride out a moment of uncertainty in your life — a moment that won’t last long, if you understand that with every beautiful possibility comes a shadow, and every shadow hides a dream. Family Focus: Plan a little time apart from a partner in the next two weeks — it will do you both good.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
With Jupiter finally moving forward in your sign again, you have your cue to put your plan into action. You’ve held back a long time, for reasons involving both practicalities and emotional hesitancy, or a concern that there wasn’t room for you. If you look carefully, you will see none of those concerns are what they once were. You’re not only welcome to take your space and invoke your agenda, which means assuming an expanded leadership role in both private and public matters; others are welcome to get out of the way and allow you to be who you need to be. Family Focus: Parenting is a team project, involving both adults and kids.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
You’re clearly in no mood to suffer fools, but remember your manners. The point is, you do know what’s right; you do know what’s going to work and what’s liable to flop; and you have not skimped on considering the best interests of everyone. But not everyone has the self-confidence you typically possess and which seems to be running at an all time high. I suggest that you avoid an urge to be bossy or persuasive, and stick to your specialty: brash, thundering charisma. Family Focus: A close partner is willing to make a compromise or sacrifice you’re not expecting.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
Key factors are now aligning to your advantage in a business partnership situation, and all of them involve commitments and decisions by others who are willing to support you. It also looks like a fine week to heat up your erotic life, with words with some individuals and deeds with another. Be aware that someone close to you may be willing to give more than they really can afford. So if you have your doubts, I suggest you ask openly. Meanwhile, where a crucial project is concerned, begin slowly, warm up the teamwork gradually, and work past one minor crisis that largely involves your own insecurity. Family Focus: This is the best time of the year to do long-term financial planning or handle confidential money matters.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
Please do not be timid in matters of love, sex or romance in the coming weeks, and please don’t be shocked when others are direct with you. This is not time for anyone to be prim and proper, displays which are more often than not a cover-up for guilt. Rather, this is a rare moment in the history of the world when being absolutely real is the only thing that works. Real starts with the words, “I want” and “I feel.” We’ve always been told these things make us self-centered, but when people know where you stand, they can participate with you on their own terms. Family Focus: A third adult may factor prominently in a one-on-one relationship.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
This has been a productive summer, for sure. You’re finally gaining some momentum. But the time has come to shift your strategy in the direction of creativity rather than technical perfection. The measure of how successful you are needs to shift to how much fun you’re having rather than how effective you’re being. And in matters where the creative process matters at all, a gram of an idea is worth a metric ton of effort. The beauty of it is, your colleagues and coworkers will agree, and take on some of that work for you. Family Focus: Take unexpected developments in stride, with a mellow attitude.

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