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by Christopher Scott & Rhea Shemazi


This is Part III in a series of articles exploring the astrological and societal significance of  the discovery of the Outer Planets in our Solar System.

First published in Shadowplay #20 - Winter 1989


"... In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstacy.
In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.
In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.
In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not."
- T.S. Elliot "East Coker - 1940"

Pluto is a planet of contradictions and much controversy and has only been known to the consciousness of our world for the last fifty years. As with the previous planets discussed in this series of essays we will look to the Graeco-Roman mythology behind the name of the planet (and the God), linking the messages of the mythic lore with realisations in human thought.

Pluto is known as Hades in Greek myth; this name means "hidden riches". Pre-Mycenean lore places Hades as the brother to Demeter, an association which later variations of the myth depart from. He is also central, as an initiatory figure, in the Eleusinian Mysteries. As ruler of the Underworld, he is initiator of metamorphic change which all individuals must face in the journey towards self-discovery, whether willing or unwilling to undertake the challenges he represents. This is part of the message contained in the descent of (or theft of) Kore into the Underworld, which preceded her transformation and assumption of the power of maturity.

Hades lusted after his niece Persephone (Kore) who was the daughter of Demeter. With the help of the Great Earth Mother (Gaea), Hades arose from the subterranean depths, abducted and raped his niece, dispossessing her of the innocence (and ignorance) of youth, of thoughtless acceptance of the world of the senses.

The assistance from Gaea should not be undervalued as this represents a parental (in the larger sense, as Gaea is All-Mother) permission for the act of violence and abduction committed between Hades and Kore. As the prominent astrologer and psychologist Liz Greene points out "There is a disturbing implication in this mythic theme. It seems to be the Great Mother herself in her phallic form as Hades who is the rapist; and the rape is perpetrated upon her virginal and incipiently erotic daughter."

This incestuous rape has variously been portrayed in modern discussions as a symbol of patriarchal dominance, a metaphor for the initiation of deep knowledge or a symbolic act which marks the separation between childhood and the beginning of maturity. All viewpoints may be partially true, though it could be argued that the meaning of the action lies more in the realm of Mystery. Liz Greene argues that this is a pre-patriarchal myth, which would seem to deny the assumptions of patriarchal dominance - so we must look deeper to find the significance, perhaps to the context of the whole myth, leaning towards an appraisal of the "metaphor for initiation and deep knowledge". Greene suggests "This psychic separation is, I feel, one of the meanings of Persephone's abduction by Hades, where she is torn from the loving and protective embrace of the Mother who both shelters her and denies her the possibility of her own womanhood. This pattern is an archetypal one, a psychological necessity. If one denies or repudiates this fate, then it may be acted out upon one, and nature then may wear the face of Pluto."

The faces of Pluto are the elements in our personal and collective consciousness,which are uncompromising, inevitable and deeply embedded in our instinctual behaviour patterns. In the myth, the inevitability of seeking a balance is manifested in the transfer of power between Persephone (the woman Kore) and Hades. The fruit of this union was the child Dionysus, a God of crisis and wild magic, with special relevance for women approaching the Mysteries.

Persephone becomes co-ruler of the Underworld, dweller in the dark maze from which she draws her power. This dark and fertile energy contains the potential of her own renewal, and that of renewal for the world, for it nurtures the seed-self (in both the agricultural and psychological sense) which will eventually return to the Overworld and the light of the sun. The seed-self is that deepest kernel of individuality which lies dormant within every human being until it is awakened by the challenges on the journey to maturity. This self is the "hidden riches" in the psyche, the Hades within. Another image for awakening this self is that of forging and tempering the inner being like a sword made from the base metal of experience, fired and tempered by the wisdom gained by confrontation with the Mystery.

Persephone partakes of the feast of the Underworld (the Pomegranate) and assumes, in her turn, dominance of Hades. This exchange (and the mutuality of this should be stressed) between Persephone and Hades is a (p)act of interdependence. She becomes ruler of the Underworld, but this has a personal price, that of being bound to that place for half the cycle of the year. Each finds a mirror and balance in the other, a strength and complement which leads to an equal power. In this sense we could say that Hades is the dark soul of Persephone, just as Persephone is the bright soul of the Underworld - each is necessary, and expresses the balance of light and dark which is Reality. In exploring the effects of the planet Pluto on individual and collective humanity, this relationship of self and shadow-self is an important one. A confrontation with, and understanding of, this balance as an internal dynamic is part of all magical training.

This myth shares symbolic motifs with other mythologies, particularly those of Gaelic origin, where the Underworld deities are also ones of initiation and transformation. The legends of Thomas the Rhymer and the Faerie Queen show an example of this symbology and highlight the different aspect of the Mystery which is expressed - the Queen steals Thomas into the underworld to undergo a journey of transformation, an abduction which separates the initiate from the mundane world and ordinary perception. Here it is the male as innocent, but he too goes through a process of transformation, with the Faerie Queen as Initiator and catalyst of that change.

Persephone's initiation is through an act of selfish violence, whereas Thomas's initiation is completed in his act of selfless love - offering the fruit of knowledge (an apple) to his mentor and abductor, the Faerie Queen. By this offering he, unlike Persephone, is freed from his bondage and is able to return to the world in a transformed state. The fruit (pomegranate or apple) is the symbol of both bondage and freedom, of knowledge and connection with the life cycle of the world. Thomas carries the balance of light and dark within himself, while Persephone lives the balance as an integral part of the agricultural cycle, a role she assumed when she partook of the offering from Hades of the pomegranate. Without her abduction there would be no sacred child (Dionysus) or seed of renewal. To balance this, without her return to the world, there would be no spring and the world would be locked in the darkness of winter.

Persephone demonstrates that facet of Nature which can triumph in spite of overwhelming obstacles, and Thomas demonstrates the qualities of human love and trust which proceed from magical apprenticeship, even though he too is abducted. Both show that love and mutuality is possible between apparently dichotomous, polarised forces - be they external (in the world) or internal (within our own psyche). Then too, Thomas is mortal man entrapped by the wild magic of Faerie, while Persephone is immortal Goddess, bound by the God Hades. Thomas can enact the Mystery within himself, a tale which contains the message that we too may undertake this internal journey and transformation; Persephone's fate is inextricably linked with the land cycle and cosmic law (lore). The marriage of forces between Hades and Persephone IS the Mystery, where the tale of Thomas the Rhymer places him as a celebrant of the Mystery.

Initiation proceeds from "perfect love" and a surrender to a transpersonal energy or force - in these myths, the journey may begin as an unwilling one, but that does not in any way detract from the validity of the initiatory realisations which are made by these two figures - Persephone and Thomas the Rhymer. While they come from very different mythologies and cultures, it is interesting to note some of the symbolic parallels and differences - they are very much expressions of the human psyche and so surface in mythic tales of diverse cultures. And the part of the psyche which is affected, which resonates to this energy, is the same in both myths, that which is ruled by the power of the Planet Pluto - the seed-self or "hidden riches" within.

The message of Pluto is a universal one, expressed in the mythologies of many different peoples, particularly those with an appreciation of the uncertainty which exists on the psychological edge, a place of inspiration and terror. One magical viewpoint would place this realm under the influence of the Crone, the Queen of the Hunt, The Witch, or Wise Woman who lives on the edge of civilisation, in the dangerous forest or deep within the wilderness. These archetypes (and their male equivalents) also respond to the energy of the Planet Pluto, just as Hecate in the Rites of Eleusis is the Crone who leads the initiate deeper into a realisation of the Mystery of Renewal.

In Western Kabbalistic Tradition, Persephone and Hades are first encountered on the path between Malkuth and Yesod with Hecate as guardian of their Mystery. Pluto/Hades in his dark glory (the Black Sun or shadow-self) and Persephone as Queen of the Underworld, ruling death and rebirth (the bright-self) are to be encountered on the path between Yesod and Tippareth. These two paths lead to the "hidden riches" within the individual. The paths form part of an ongoing series of confrontations which are resolved in the process of attaining internal balance. This balance is to be found in the dance of energy which is poised at the knife edge between the forces of darkness and light, a manifestation of the power of Pluto. The words of T. S. Elliot, written shortly after the discovery of Pluto, can be applied to this:

"...Here is a place of disaffection
Time before and time after
In a dim light: neither daylight
Investing form with lucid stillness
Turning shadow into transient beauty
With slow rotation suggesting permanence
Nor darkness to purify the soul
Emptying the sensual with deprivation
Cleansing affection from the temporal."

- "Burnt Norton - 1935"

The Planet Pluto was discovered in 1931, a time of brief pause between two major world wars. Since that time the human race has psychically separated itself from connection with the needs of the planet which shelters it and has denied and repudiated the ancient lore - that of karmic balance. As Liz Greene suggests, denial of the pattern of Pluto means that it may be acted out, with nature wearing the face of Pluto. Today that is indeed the case, with such visages as the Greenhouse Effect, the disease AIDS, and the rape of natural resources which lead to adverse weather patterns and failure of the agricultural cycle, a cycle indivisibly linked with the reality of Pluto. These faces of Pluto in Nature are symptoms of a disharmony underlying the whole of civilisation in the twentieth century, particularly in the past fifty years.

Too often, like Hades in the myth, we reach for violent confrontation with selfish motives, and we can only wonder if the planet (and the collective psyche) will have the resiliance of Persephone, if it can find a way to transform what has been done into the seed of a new realisation - that balance between the necessities of technology and the way of nature. The message implicit in the myth of Persephone and the tale of Thomas the Rhymer is that of the Underworld Initiation where responsibility must be taken by each individual for their own path. There is no denying each person's responsibility in the process of rebalancing the Planet Earth (Gaea) or She may, in her dark aspect of the rapist Pluto, Lord of Death, consign our species to the same fate as the dinosaurs. We may, like Thomas, choose to return the gift of life and knowledge to the Lady (in this case, the Earth Herself), in this way gaining a very real spiritual freedom - or we may be bound and buried in the darkness which we ourselves have created. As mortals, not Gods, we must choose the human perspective of these myths of transformation, following Thomas, else the Mystery fades further beyond our grasp, and with it our chance of renewal.

"Sudden in a shaft of sunlight
Even while the dust moves
There rises the hidden laughter
Of children in the foliage
Quick now, here, now, always -
Ridiculous the waste sad time
Stretching before and after."

- "Burnt Norton - 1935"



Lewis, I. M., Ecstatic Religion, Pelican Books Inc, 1971
Rose, H.J., Religion in Greece and Rome, Harper and Row, 1959
Graves, R. G., Greek Myths, Cassell, 1958
Guthrie, W. K. C., The Greeks and Their Gods, Beacon Press, 1950
Greene, L., The Astrology of Fate, George Allen & Unwen (Publishers) Ltd, 1984
Elliot, T. S. - Collected Works, Faber
Paul, H., Pheonix Rising, Element Books, 1988
Stewart, R. J., The Underworld Initiation, Aquarian Press, 1985

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