Pluto Transits through the ages - part 1

The effect of Pluto is to transform and to root out what it is hidden. It is the planet of the underworld and is the ruler of Scorpio. Pluto's orbit of the Sun is irregular. It was in the sign of Taurus from 1852 to 1884, but in Libra only from 1972 to 1984. In this article I propose to look at some of the effects of Pluto starting from when it moved into Gemini in 1884. Some of us will have known people born between 1884 and 1914 which makes this Pluto transit a little more personal, though the people we may have known from this generation will no longer be with us.

Things do not just start happening when a planet moves into a particular sign, just as they do not stop once a transit has ceased. They will have been bubbling under for some time but they become emphasised during a transit.

Gemini is associated with communications, travel, learning. The railways were already in existence when Pluto moved into Gemini, education had started to improve for (nearly) everyone with the Education Act of 1870, London University had been founded in 1836, and a college for higher education had been established in Manchester (soon to become Manchester University) but with Pluto's transit of Gemini things in this area started to move forward more quickly.

Women had received a very slight education up until this time. The upper and middle classes expected their women to be an adornment to the home for which they did not need an education. In the late 1880's it began to be accepted that women could go to universities though they could not receive degrees until many years later. Better education gave women more opportunities to question the status quo. This led to the movement for women's suffrage.

Marconi made the first wireless broadcast in 1895. People began experimenting with flight in 1893 though the first successful flight was not until 1903. In 1903 blood groups (blood being the body's transport system) were finally recognised and by 1907 the principle of blood matching was established. (Until then it was hit or miss if your blood transfusion worked!)

In the late 1890's and early 1900's the so-called red brick universities were established, together with the semi-federal University of Wales.

In 1914 Pluto moved into Cancer, the sign of home and origins. As the transit progressed homes became transformed with the loss of family members in the Great War. It became necessary for women to take on “men's work” which gave them a taste of independence and meant that when the war ended some of them were unwilling to return to their old life, mostly domestic service. As a result of the loss of domestic help, women had to learn how to run the home differently. Some families had to cope with the return of a “man of the house” who was (permanently) physically or mentally injured by his experiences during the war.

It was during this time that the Women's Institute was founded in Britain in Llanfair PG (1915). And in 1922 the name “Marie Stopes” came to the fore.

In the global sphere “home” caused upheaval. Russia was in turmoil and “home” there was probably the least safe place; a part of Hitler's ethos was to claim back the German homeland and then to add to the homeland to make it more secure. In India people wanted to reclaim their home and the campaigns for independence intensified while Pluto transited Cancer. It was also during this transit that Ireland achieved it independence, though with six counties in the north choosing to remain as part of the UK.

Pluto itself was not discovered until February 1930, during this transit of Cancer.

Pluto moved into Leo in 1939. Leo is associated with rulership, and with creativity, children and recreation. While Leo can be a natural leader, it can tip over into arrogance and worse. The early years of Pluto's transit of this sign were all associated with the need to stand up to dictators and thwart their ambitions. After the War the Labour Party looked to take up the social issues related to Pluto's transit of Cancer, the resolution of some of which the war had interrupted. During the introduction of the NHS one group who felt their leadership was threatened was the doctors. There were the post-war power struggles with Russia and the occupation of European countries that had once been independent, even a different geographical shape. In Japan the Emperor had ceded his traditional powers and his country was occupied by America. For nearly everyone the years from 1940 until the mid 1950's were a time of restriction, shortages and defeat. Not much of the Leo fun.

As people returned to civilian life they settled down and produced children. A lot of them. In fact, the “baby boom”. Dance halls and cinemas had been popular recreations during the war and they remained so at this time. There was full employment in the 1950's so people had some spare cash for leisure activities. Newly available household appliances freed the housewife from some of the drudgery (in 1950's Britain many women were housewives whether they wanted to be or not). Television became widely available to fill leisure time, there was rock and roll, and suddenly a new age group, teenagers.

Wartime immigrants brought some of their own traditions with them, as they do. More foreign restaurants began to appear in the provinces, not just in London. Coffee bars opened, catering to the newly-discovered teenagers, and Frank and Aldo Berni founded Berni Inns in 1955 (eating out that didn't challenge the British palate too much)

Pluto passed into Virgo in 1957. Virgo is associated with work and relations with colleagues, health and service to others. The Welfare State was flourishing. While people from the former Empire had settled in the UK over the years, many more people from the (now) Commonwealth came to work, particularly in the Health Service and other public sector areas. Sometimes working relations did not proceed harmoniously because of cultural differences. In 1965, it became necessary to pass the first Race Relations Act. Trades Unions had been active for a long time but it was during this transit of Pluto that they became much more dominant and industrial relations were a constant theme during this transit and into the one beyond, resulting in changes in employment legislation. People began to be less deferential to the “establishment” or anyone in authority, with the Profumo affair dealing a blow to the standing of the kinds of people who had previously been respected. In the workplace there was something of a “Jack is as good as his master” atmosphere.

The Angry Young Men wrote plays about Angry Young Men, and some people were shocked at the lack of respect for country shown in these plays. The Kitchen Sink Dramas came on to the scene featuring (northern) working class protagonists for the first time. These plays brought into the light issues that were not much discussed in “respectable” homes (abortion, unmarried mothers, as they were known at the time) and they were unsettling for many people.

Overseas aid and work with developing countries was promoted by organisations such as Oxfam. Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) became popular among some young people (often pre or post graduates) though the ethos of VSO was very different from that of activities undertaken in modern-day Gap Years.

Environmental issues had been discussed at various times before the war but people began to become more aware during Pluto's transit of Virgo. The Keep Britain Tidy (a very Virgoan-type sentiment) campaign started in 1960, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature was founded in 1961, Friends of the Earth in 1969 and Greenpeace in 1971. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list.

Changes of benefit to mental, emotional and physical health included the contraceptive pill (approved 1960), the Decriminalisation of Sexual Offences Act 1967 which was a partial lifting of the ban on homosexuality, and also in 1967 the Abortion Act was passed.

And what of the late sixties when London and, to a lesser extent, the provinces, swung? Pluto in Virgo seems an unlikely transit for that to happen. I can only think that the Pluto in Leo generation whose transit got off to such a grim start and who were coming of age around this time had their bit of Leo fun now.

To be continued

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