AS I WAS PUTTING TOGETHER TOPICS for my June ’18 newsletter events in the life of American actor, Roseanne Barr, became headline news. It’s not every day you lose your job, your sponsorships and your representatives in the span of twenty-four hours. Such catastrophic events, self-inflicted or circumstantial, must have had a powerful astrological signature. Which indeed was the case with Ms Barr who had the great misfortune to have transiting Pluto squaring her natal Saturn. And Saturn is not alone in her natal chart: it is conjunct Neptune and squared by a Mars-Uranus opposition. Her crime? A racist tweet, no doubt punched out in a matter of seconds with no thought of the consequences. And that’s all it takes sometimes to have your whole world cave in on itself: a momentary lapse of concentration.
The expression – physician heal thyself – is one all too familiar to astrologers in the field. Clients you work with frequently mirror the challenges you yourself are facing. In this way the astrology becomes a two-way street: in your endeavour to help your client, you help yourself. And in recent months I have been inundated with clients struggling to cope with the baffling effects of Pluto-Saturn – a struggle not unfamiliar to myself. Which is why, finally, when Pluto met Saturn in Roseanne Barr’s life, I felt compelled to talk about it here.
LET’S START AT THE BEGINNING with keyword principles. Pluto’s principle is transformation and Saturn’s limitation. Right from the outset, based on these two words alone, you know a transit of one to t’other is not going to be fun.
Saturn in a natal chart represents those things we do not find easy; where we encounter struggle; where our greatest lessons in life lie. It is best understood in comparison with the Jungian shadow– that which we fear in ourselves and project out onto the world. Saturn presents us time and again with those very circumstances we find so difficult in order for us to confront our weaknesses and fears, and in the process overcome them. It can take a lifetime.
Saturn in its previous incarnation – before the discovery of Uranus in 1781 – was the outermost planet in the solar system. There was nothing, apparently, beyond Saturn. It was as far as you could go: the limits of perception. Hence its keyword principle: limitation.
If you look up the word limitation in a thesaurus, you’ll find a string of equally difficult concepts: constriction, blockage, compression, obstruction, shrinking, tightening, stenosis, impediment… And Saturn represents all these things. Of course, it is essential to set boundaries, to respect rules and laws and the natural order of things, which are also part of this planet’s brief, but even Saturn in its best aspect is not a planet we enthusiastically embrace.
Saturn is often portrayed as an old man with a scythe, Old Father Time. This depiction relates to Saturn’s association with Chronos, the Greek god of time, who is sometimes confused with Cronus, the Titan king who devoured his children. Yet there is a connection between Saturn and Cronus too in that he stood for the “ravages of time which consumed all things”. And Saturn in astrology has much to do with things coming together in time, with karma. We reap the harvest of our former actions through Saturn, whether they have been perpetrated in this lifetime or previous incarnations.
In Ms Barr’s case natal Saturn is placed in Libra in the eighth house. Thus, the principles of limitation, the area where her fears and weaknesses lie, where she has most to learn, are to be found in relationships (Libra) and shared financial resources (eighth house).
Libra, of course, cannot really be summed up in a single word any more than the eighth house, and we cannot forget that Saturn is exalted in Libra – it acquires a certain dignity in this air sign. Libra’s principles of justice, balance and mediation provide a velvet glove for Saturn’s iron hand.
The eighth house is also more than “shared financial resources”. Ruled by Scorpio and Pluto, it is the area in which we confront the dark side and where we lose ourselves or surrender to circumstances and are fundamentally changed by them. The eighth house correlates with obsessions, addictions, compulsions, financial entanglements, sex, intimacy, magic and mystery.
With Saturn in Libra in her eighth house, Roseanne’s greatest lessons in life are going to revolve around intimacy and money. She has fought her addictions, this we know, embraced her dark side, loved and lost, known poverty and riches, reinvented herself and lived to tell countless tales. She has probably been to “hell and back” in more than one relationship.
Saturn is not alone in the eighth house, it is conjunct Neptune and caught up in a T-square with Mars and Uranus. Indeed, this configuration dominates her chart: it is both a blessing and a curse.
It is Roseanne’s Mars-Uranus opposition that provides the means to outrage and shock; here we find Roseanne the risk-taker, the activist and the iconoclast. Mars-Uranus squares, conjunctions and oppositions draw us toward danger, sometimes physical danger but more often than not they attract situations and inspire behaviour that invites controversy.
Neptune’s square to this Mars-Uranus opposition brings an element of glamour into the mix; it suggests she is someone motivated by instinct, she responds to the mood of the moment. Saturn’s conjunction to Neptune could be seen as a controlling factor – keeping the “madness” at bay – and also enabling her to turn dreams into reality, to ensure her genius does not go unrecognized. Yet Saturn may also crush her spirit and cause her to doubt her value as both a woman and a creative artist.
Saturn-Neptune combinations have an aura of sacrifice and submission about them. In an individual natal chart, depending upon their position, they can inspire situations in which the person is forced to give up something that is dearly prized and may have taken years to develop. There is something of the prison about this combination, whether the individual finds themselves in a prison of his or her own making or quite literally spends time incarcerated in gaol or some other kind of institution.
So, into this difficult mix we must now add a transit of Pluto.
Pluto takes 248 years to orbit the sun and therefore return to its original position in a natal chart. None of us will ever have a Pluto return. So lengthy is its journey that it spends up to four years connecting with a planet or point in a natal chart.
Our keyword for Pluto is transformation. And there is something rather positive about the notion of transformation. However, Pluto transits are aimed at transforming us at core level, and that process takes you into some dark and difficult places. Like the addict who must reach rock bottom – abandoned by friends and family, no income, no job, no home, no self-respect – Pluto’s action is to strip away aspects of our existence, prompting us to dig deeper and deeper into our resources until we have nothing left but our core selves.
Something is always taken from you during a Pluto transit. You may lose a limb or an organ; you may lose your job, your home or someone you love; you may lose your reputation and your standing in the world, your power, your looks, even your mind.
A Pluto transit is not something you can plan for. Whatever is taken from you is not something you can prevent. Pluto’s cloak of invisibility means you never see your downfall coming.
This is not the whole story, however, In the same way that Pluto’s underworld kingdom contained two realms – Hades and Elysium – a Pluto transit can bring about extraordinary good fortune and great honour. People accomplish stupendous feats during a Pluto transit, they can become princesses and future queens (as was the case for Princess Diana who married Charles during a transit of Pluto to her Libra Ascendant) however, there is always a sting in the tail of great success. It will come back to bite you in the derriere, often years and years down the line. And we all know how the fairy story ended for Diana. We can also see how the role she played transformed the monarchy. And, of course, the late Princess had a natal Mars-Pluto conjunction.
When Saturn is the focus for Pluto’s transformational axe, the very pillars of your existence are removed. Your worst fears are realized, your greatest weaknesses exposed. Pluto initiates you into a world where you have no bearings; nothing similar has happened to you before, and if it has, the route you took to find your way out is now redundant.
Roseanne has faced loss and loss of face before. She is a Sun Scorpio, after all, and born with the ability to rise like a phoenix out of the ashes, but surely nothing she has experienced in her sixty-five years has been on the scale of her recent fall from grace.
I do not know Ms Barr, and I do not know what actual effect these recent events have had on her. But I do know from my long experience working with clients undergoing a transit of Pluto to Saturn (whether by conjunction, square or opposition) that it pulls not only the rug out from beneath you but removes the entire floor.
Pluto and Saturn can be likened to two tectonic plates colliding, forcing the earth to quake, crack and ultimately reassemble itself. Transformation by another name.
Roseanne is roughly half-way through her Pluto-Saturn term of trial. Pluto must clear Neptune by at least two degrees before she can breathe easy. So, she is looking at a period of two years to be out the other side of it. In the September-October of 2019, Pluto will be stationary (almost to the minute) of her natal Saturn, making this the most critical period of all for her metamorphosis.
I have no doubt Roseanne will come back, stronger and more impressive than ever. I wonder whether she might use her journey to the abyss and back out again to help others work their way through their devastation. It is hard to see this becoming the focus of a sit-com, but she might become a kind of Oprah figure, a TV mentor to the lost and wounded. Now, that would make a positive sense of that Saturn-Neptune conjunction. Of course, we shall have to wait and see. Her journey is only just beginning. Who knows where it will take her.
One last point. According to the Ancient Greek poets, Pindar and Hesiod, Cronus was the ruler of Elysium. In this relationship between the two mythological figures we can perhaps see how Pluto and Saturn can work together to take you to a beautiful place. Out of loss, struggle and near annihilation, comes serenity, peace and a new life.