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The Square Dance of Change


March 16, 2015 at 7:53pm PDT / 02:53 UT (17th)
Uranus direct at 15° 18' Aries, Pluto direct at 15° 18' Capricorn

Uranus and Pluto are no cosmic lightweights. They are the pair that were active in the sky during "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" of a decade, the 1960s. Conjunct at that time in the Mercury-ruled, earth sign of Virgo, the 60s marked the genesis and starting point of a very long cycle between these two planets: a long, slow dance performed as they inch their way around the zodiac wheel, a dance that will last over a century.

Because the genesis point in their cycle began in Virgo, Virgo-influenced themes have and will continue to be central in this time of great change and upheaval during this opening square, "turning point" phase in their cycle. Healthcare and other wellbeing issues, including alternative forms of healing, workforce and job challenges, nutrition, food production, hygiene, changes in the way we work and structure our days, and the more esoteric mind-body-spirit connections — are all associated with this earthy sign that falls in opposition to ethereal Pisces. This current, super intense, opening square between these two dynamos first came into preliminary focus in 2010 and will be in potent, "acute" effect through 2015.

The square aspect in astrology is associated with conflict, stress, and change, big change — all the more so given who is squaring off. Astrologer Dane Rudhyar noted that an opening square in a planetary cycle, as this one is, signals a time of "crisis in action" and a call for "managerial, forceful activity" — or in other words, time to take the bull by the horns! Personal bull as well as collective bull that is, for outer planet transit effects are both individual and global. The fundamental drive with the opening square is the building of new and better foundations that will support the escalating growth of this waxing, building phase. A passionate strong will is often associated with square aspects; but with this, also comes a need for flexibility. What was begun, the seeds that were planted, during the previous conjunction phase, the beginning of the cycle approximately fifty years ago, is revealing itself more and more, emerging via the growing tension and unrest that is in evidence all around the globe.

"When the forms of an old culture are dying, the new culture is created by a few people who are not afraid to be insecure."

—Rudolf Bahro

Uranus, the Awakener

Uranus is the "awakener," our astrological wild card. Functioning primarily as a catalyst for change, Uranus liberates by pulling the carpet out from underneath our carefully planned lives. Disruptive and destabilizing, but also progressive and innovative, Uranus is associated with technology and science, its use and misuse. Uranus is also like white noise, the static that disturbs the signal. He is the higher octave of our trickster Mercury. The lovely photo here shows Uranus in its crescent phase and was taken by the Voyager 2 spacecraft.

All planets in our solar system rotate on an axis, an imaginary line that runs through the center of the planet from north to south. Imagine a knitting needle thrust through a spinning ball of yarn and you'll get the idea. This axis is sometimes on a slight tilt, which is what creates seasonal changes on the planet. As far as we know, Uranus is the only planet that rotates on its side; and if you are familiar with the way in which the astrological Uranus operates, you will recognize this as fitting. Scientists think Uranus was knocked on its side, by the way, when an object, about the same size as Earth, collided with it. So eccentric Uranus, like its associated zodiacal archetype, orbits the Sun in its own unique manner, rolls around the Sun like a barrel, rather than a top, and its moons, instead of orbiting the planet from left to right, go over the top of it and then under. If we could see them, they would resemble the lights on a ferris wheel.

The rings of Uranus shown here — Saturn is not the only planet with rings — were discovered back in 1977 when Uranus occulted (passed in front of) a star and scientists observed dips in the brightness of the star. Their observations suggested that Uranus was surrounded by at least 5 rings. Four more rings were discovered in a subsequent occultation, and then two more were found by Voyager 2, making the total count of 11 rings for Uranus.

"You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope."

— Thomas Merton


Both Uranus and Pluto are de-structuring agents that, while operating in very different ways, both clear away the old to make way for the new. "Similar to a snake shedding its skin," astrologer Howard Sasportas noted, "something pushes at us from deep within, impels us to move beyond old or outworn phases of life and leads the way to further growth and evolution." With Uranus it is usually the carpet swiftly pulled out from underneath us. While Pluto, as Sasportas wrote, "makes sure that we let go by obliterating the old form entirely, until there is nothing left. Demanding that a cycle end and a new one begins, Pluto leaves us with little choice other than to change or die."

Pluto, Lord of the Underworld

Pluto represents the potentially destructive, titanic forces of nature, human nature included. Elemental, volcanic, seismic — Pluto is chthonic, he rises from the depths, transforming everything in his wake. He is a deep bass note, almost out of range. If you've ever heard the ground groan and rumble during an earthquake, you've heard his voice. Pluto is the deeper "octave" of Mars, the God of War and Passion. They co-rule that intense and passionate sign, Scorpio.

Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has been but a tiny light even in the largest of telescopes. The Hubble Space Telescope, however has now pieced together an image map of Pluto, shown here, that shows never-before-seen detail. The new map is so clear, astronomers have even been able to detect changes on the dwarf planet's surface by comparing earlier Hubble images. While the view isn't sharp enough to see craters or mountains, if they exist, it does reveal a complex-looking and variegated world with white, dark-orange, and charcoal-black terrain. The overall color is believed to be a result of ultraviolet radiation from the distant Sun breaking up methane that is present on Pluto's surface.

Astrologer Robert Pelletier wrote an excellent description of transiting Pluto, the effects of which we are definitely seeing in our world, in particular since 2008 when Pluto first entered Capricorn and began drifting towards its series of world-changing squares to Uranus.

Pluto is the urge to sacrifice oneself to the demands of an evolving social structure or to use every available resource to determine the form of that evolution. Pluto refers to subtle individualized sources of energy coalesced into a massive reservoir of power. It is the power that is available to large organizations, which have the economic leverage to control the destiny of man. It describes the awesome political, religious, and sociological upheavals that periodically bring about a reexamination of the values that had previously sustained man. When this dynamic is used positively, it eliminates the parasitic growths that would otherwise destroy its host, man. When used negatively, it is the festering malignancy that reduces man to little more than his former animal nature. Pluto can thus represent either the advancement of each member of society or the destruction of the creative force by individuals who prey on society to satisfy their personal lust for power."

The story of how Pluto was discovered, just as it was entering into an opening square with Uranus, itself reveals much about its cloaked and mysterious workings. Here's an excerpt from a interesting article on Pluto's discovery at Oracle's ThinkQuest site:

Percival Lowell was an astronomer who began looking for the ninth planet he called Planet X. He built a private observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, hoping to find this planet. He had to prove it existed, and he was positive he could. Lowell tried many searches to find Planet X in his observatory, but had no success. His first search ended in 1909, but he started a second search in 1913. He and many other people searched for Planet X from 1913 to 1915. In 1915 Lowell published the results of his search. Unknown to him, that very same year, two small pictures of Planet X were recorded at his observatory. No one would discover those pictures for another 15 years. Along with the two small pictures of Planet X, Lowell also discovered 515 asteroids and 700 different stars no one had ever seen before. Even though he found all this, Lowell was still very disappointed that he didn't find Planet X. He died the next year, not knowing that he actually discovered the new planet.

Years passed before the next search for Planet X began. In December 1929, Clyde Tombaugh, an amateur astronomer, was hired to search for the planet. He took photographs of the solar system every one or two weeks, looking for anything that shifted against the background of stars. The method worked and Tombaugh, a 24-year-old lab assistant from Kansas, finally discovered Planet X on Feb. 18, 1930. Lowell had missed Planet X because he never expected it to be so small. The photo shows Clyde Tombaugh, at age 22.

"Crisis is opportunity riding a dangerous wind."

— Chinese Proverb


This extended square dance between Uranus and Pluto has produced a whopping seven exact squares, all falling within five degrees in a three-year period. The first exact square occurred in June 2012 and the last will fall next Monday, on March 16th. There was a "near miss" alignment in the summer of 2011 which coincided with the emergence of the Occupy Movement, but we began to see Uranus-Pluto upheaval "events" from the moment Pluto left Sagittarius to enter Capricorn in 2008, the Global Financial Crisis happening in the fall of that year.


A businessman plays red rover with Occupy Wall Street protesters (November 2011).

The blending of Uranus and Pluto is probably the most transformational and potentially explosive of all the planetary combinations, all the more so when activated through one of the most intense, action-oriented of all aspects, the square. The last time these planets fell in this same challenging arrangement was in the 1930s. At that time Uranus was in Aries, as it is now, and Pluto was squaring, not from Capricorn, but from the sign opposite, Moon-ruled Cancer. Two seminal events of the 1930s were America's Great Depression, and the rise of Nazi fascism in Germany. This 1930s square also, interestingly, followed on the heels of Pluto's discovery in 1930.

"The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn't the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility."

— John Lennon

Over the past few years as these "exact square waves" have broken shore, we have definitely witnessed a crescendo in the "Uranus-Pluto noise" — bringing us new seminal events, ones that echoed historical themes of the 1930s, and also a recapitulation and renaissance of the events and themes that played out in the 1960s as well. The road we've been on (and will contine to travel for a while longer) has not been smooth, we are living in a time of turbulence, crisis, and conflict. Change, while difficult and often painful, is necessary for us to grow and develop. The old skin must be shed.

But that's so easy to say isn't it? And yet so hard to live, hard to live with such uncertainty. Whether we meet our Uranus-Pluto crises kicking and screaming, hanging on to the old life for dear life, or we bravely let go and allow those wild waves take us where they will, big change, regardless, is here.

We have known for a long time that we must move toward becoming "one," toward becoming a global village. We must become an integrated system of life. Knowing that is one thing. Actually doing something about it is another. This crisis is the global opportunity to become what we need to become — and in that, it is the great turning point of humanity.

If you can imagine that through an archetypal lens, then you can envision many paths through a forest opening up. Always the new paths descend as the old are removed — always. That, too, is the silver lining. You have to learn how to perceive the new paths.

— Carolyn Myss


For more about the final alignment (with Mars also involved, conjoining Uranus and squaring Pluto) on March 16th, here's my thoughts in a separate post: Sailor's Warning: Mars and the Final Uranus-Pluto Square.


Uranus Square Pluto Exact Alignment Dates 2012-2015

  • June 24, 2012: Uranus direct at 08° 23' Aries, Pluto rx at 08° 23' Capricorn
  • Sept 18, 2012: Uranus rx at 06° 57' Aries, Pluto station direct at 06° 57' Capricorn
  • May 20, 2013: Uranus direct at 11° 14' Aries, Pluto rx at 11° 14' Capricorn
  • Nov 1, 2013: Uranus rx at 9° 26' Aries, Pluto direct at 9° 26' Capricorn
  • April 21, 2014: Uranus direct at 13° 34' Aries, Pluto rx at 13° 34' Capricorn
  • Dec 14, 2014: Uranus rx at 12° 35' Aries, Pluto direct at 12° 35' Capricorn
  • March 16, 2015: Uranus direct at 15° 18' Aries, Pluto direct at 15° 18' Capricorn


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The woodblock print at the beginning of this essay was by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), a Japanese ukiyo-e artist. Titled "Rough Seas at the Whirlpools of Awa” it is from Hiroshige's series, "Famous Places in the Sixty-Odd Provinces." It depicts the waters between Awa Province on Shikoku Island and the smaller island of Awaji, where the Inland Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet, infamous for its dangerous currents and whirlpools.

The image of crescent Uranus was taken by the Voyager 2 spacecraft. This image was taken through three color filters and recombined to produce the color image. JPL manages and controls the Voyager project for NASA's Office of Space Science. It is from JPL's PhotoJournal website.

The photograph of the businessman trying to break through the line of Occupy protestors was taken by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Information about the rings of Uranus and its unique way of orbiting the Sun is from the University of Tennessee's physics department AstroWiki on Uranus; and the very entertaining site, Bob, the Alien's Tour of the Solar System.

The information on the discovery of Pluto and the photo of Clyde Tombaugh is from this article at Oracle's ThinkQuest site. The montage of Pluto is from the Hubble Space Center's. Here's further information on this spectacular photo montage: New Hubble Maps of Pluto Show Surface Changes.