When Pluto was “demoted” from planet to dwarf planet status, astrologers shrugged. Why? Because everything counts. So why be bothered about what a celestial body is called?
Looking at this debate from the other direction though, maybe Pluto wasn’t demoted. Maybe the “real planets” were being elevated in stature. And certainly when one looks at size, a difference seems obvious. Neptune has an approximate diameter of 30,531 miles. Earth, a mere 7,900 miles. Pluto? At 1,430 miles in diameter, Pluto is so small that seven moons of other planets (Titan, Ganymede, Io—even Earth’s own Moon) are larger. Still, much debate was stirred up when on August 24, 2006 the announcement came: with the stroke of a scientific pen, Pluto had been moved from the “planet” column to the “dwarf planet” column, leaving Neptune as the last “true planet” orbiting the star we call our Sun.
But as time has gone along, the idea that Neptune stands at the edge of our planetary solar system becomes more evident, obvious, startling and metaphysically important. In fact, the effects of Neptune’s immense magnetic resonance, which has become better known since 2006, is frankly far more interesting than Pluto. And, it affects how we see Pluto, whether we’re coming at the subject from a scientific or metaphysical position.
Astrologically, Neptune divides “what we can know” from “what we cannot know” as fact. Neptune thus becomes the symbol of trust—our ability to trust and issues of trust—as a personal, life-long lesson. Neptune also stands for all things which cannot be counted on or concretely defined, making Neptune the “higher harmonic” of Saturn, symbol of all things tangible, predictable, regulated, structured, structural and able to be worked on.
Out beyond Neptune lies a region called the Kuiper Belt. In said Kuiper Belt reside many objects, all of which, traveling slowly but consistently along orbital paths, appear to arouse experiences or situations that we have a “sense” of but don’t control. For some 70-plus years, Pluto (a card-carrying member of the Kuiper Belt crowd) has, for instance, been associated with energies which transform us at an “elemental” level—nuclear power being just one form thereof.
But it’s really only when we consider Pluto as the secondary ruler of Scorpio that we can see how it typifies Kuiper Belt vibes. The process of choosing what and how to invest ourselves in and take emotional risks for—that’s Mars, primal ruler of Scorpio. But once the risk has been taken? Then comes the Plutonic Effect, changing how we feel about ourselves, given what we’ve chosen and been through. This “reflective/reflection” quality is the Kuiper Belt hallmark.
We’re going to discuss two classes of objects, the first of which are the Cubewanos—Kuiper Belt Objects (KBO’s) which go about their orbital business without Neptune’s enormous magnetic resonance having any appreciable effect on their celestial cycles. Metaphysically, these thus embody independent influences which, though beyond our control, get dealt with whenever they present themselves (generally by transit, unless focally highlighted in a natal chart), without all the Neptunian quandary.
One good example of a Cubewano is Deucalion, which as a symbol appears to be all about situations and choices which, in revealing our sense of morality and ethics, allow us each to determine how we will guide our own path through life.
There are other Kuiper Belt travelers which are affected by Neptune. These are called Plutinos, not to be confused with “Plutoids.” (And please—I don’t name these things! But yes, Pluto is a Plutino.)
Just to review here for a moment: Neptune is secondary ruler of Pisces, the primary ruler of which is Jupiter (a fact you’ll need to know later, so store that in your bio-RAM). Associated with Pisces and the twelfth house, Neptune symbolizes the terrible if wonderfully confusing, frustrating, bewildering world of fantasy versus inspiration, delusion versus reality, and the problematic fine line which separates the blissful salve to one’s soul from that abject misery which lives on to haunt memories.
What divides them is how much you know about your feelings. And how your feelings work (i.e., Jupiter’s “knowing-ness” in emotional form)…all of which leads to the Neptunian outcome, an outcome which, like that bequeathed to Pluto by Neptune, has a “resonant” quality. Thus all things which come from trials Piscean and twelfth house give us either cause to reflect in humble gratitude…or lots and lots of time to repent in painful leisure, hounded and imprisoned by our battered ego.
So what exactly is the relationship between Neptune and these Plutinos which makes the Neptune part so important? Well, curiouser and curiouser (as they say in Alice in Wonderland). It appears that all the members of this rather exclusive Club Plutino cycle through their orbits while tied to the mystical, mythical shroud of Neptunian enticement/despair. How? Through that impressively vast Neptunian magnetic resonance effect alluded to above.
Plutinos also cycle through life in what’s known as a “2:3 orbital resonance with Neptune,” meaning that for every two times a Plutino goes around the Sun, Neptune travels three times around the Sun.
What this implies metaphysically is rather interesting. Have you noticed that lessons come around time and again in life, particularly lessons having to do with things having to do with the 8th house/Scorpio (Pluto) and 12th house/Pisces (Neptune)? Astrologers have long commented on the “helix” quality of life cycles—and in particular with regards to major transits made by Neptune and Pluto or to Neptune or Pluto in our natal charts. If you encounter a lesson at some point, given enough time, you encounter a similar lesson. Given the science of Neptune resonance and the orbits of Plutinos, does this tell us why such lessons repeat in something we might refer to as a “phases” formulation’?
Pluto has an orbital period of 248 years. Neptune 164 years. So no one (to date) lives through an entire cycle. And that’s perhaps just the point. There are stages to life and learning. We often don’t “get” the whole of a lesson the first time around. We think we do, but then the same sort of challenge presents itself, testing us from a different angle—which is exactly what a transit is: the angular harmonic between a planet in motion and you (an individual encoded as a unique “manifestation” of time/space). In reflecting the moment of your “coming to be” in time/space, your horoscope allows astrologers to “tell cosmic time” through following the motion of planets (asteroids, Cubewanos, etcetera) like the hands on a clock, knowing that their position tells us when the effects of that celestial body and its movement through space will reach Earth.
The two against three thing brings up the entire concept of Systems Theory—a way of thinking which relates everything Which Is (and isn’t, but let’s not go there) in terms of mathematical progressions. Suffice it to say here that two is the number of duality, cause/effect, action/reaction, I/thou and two halves making a whole.
Three is the number of triads, triumvirates, the Holy Trinity, triangles, trilogies and “three” as a cosmic “voicing of the concept”: the idea or thought (Gemini) which if chosen and committed to leads to the effort of (four) building from the ground up (Cancer). Three is also the input or outcome which affects a duality or conflict or challenge or interaction created by the “two-ness” of it all, however that is framed—between you and someone else, between you and yourself (inner conflict) or in choices, development of ideas, etc. Three can also be the essential result OF having gone through the “two” process—as in taking “a next step” (from two we would step to three).
In astrology, two is generally conceived of as the 180-degree opposition or polarity, 180 simply being 360 (degrees of a circle) divided by two. Metaphorically, this becomes all we must “face” or “face up to” in becoming who we should be—and both the challenges and rewards which come from that conflict or agreement, neither one of which is all good or all bad. After all, bad ideas are still bad ideas even if someone endorses them, right? Is that person really your friend or not?
The polarity expressed by oppositional signs (Aries/Libra, Taurus/Scorpio, Gemini/Sagittarius, Cancer/Capricorn, Leo/Aquarius, Virgo/Pisces) always speak to possible growth—and it doesn’t matter which “side” of the polarity you come from: Gemini can collect as many things as it desires but in the end, does that work? Or does the idea Gemini develops work in real time, real world conditions? Both questions are answered through Sagittarius, just as the Sagittarian urge to understand why some things work and why others don’t and the oh-so Sagittarian urge to “put it out there” depends on one’s Gemini communication skills.
There simply is no time off to being a good person, is there? (Answer: apparently not. There’s always more to learn, do, and grow to be, understand and put into practice!)
Against this we have the astrological “three”—the number of the 60-degree trine and hence the Grand Trine, which is three trines locked together in a triangular or “pyramid” formation. Often thought of as a figure of fun and grace, the energy of the Grand Trine is ever-flowing. In practice however, Grand Trines (or even just a single trine) can indicate areas of life where the ever-flowing quality of the trine is difficult if not impossible to escape, solve, hone or otherwise break out of.
Modern astrology, particularly western (tropical/psychological) tends to see the so-called “hard aspects” (the square, opposition and inconjunct/quincunx) as those which in the end are the most beneficial. Through challenge that we achieve. Sugar-coating gets us nowhere.
Bearing this in mind we return to the 2:3 orbital resonance factor and begin to see that perhaps it is through the conflict presented to us by difficult issues/qualities revealed by Plutinos which modify or perhaps “solve” ongoing (“three” oriented) Neptunian mysteries. Through Plutino transits and natal placements come those lessons we need in order to live a life which has survived the inborn habit to abandon ourselves to longings. By owning or owning up to who we really are (aren’t—and maybe were never meant to be) that accepting “realism” may well hold the key to understanding—and reaching—fortuitous ends to our individual Piscean quests.
So saying, who are the Plutinos? Well obviously there are more than several of them. But at the moment the best known in this group are Pluto, Orcus and Ixion. Pluto we know fairly well. And Orcus we will leave for another day. This leaves us Ixion, a fundamental figure in Greek mythology. Descended from war god Ares, the first thing we can suspect about Ixion is that as a symbol, it incorporates something of a conflict factor. Seeing that the other name for Ares is Mars, this also begins to tie Ixion into the Plutino concept, with Mars being the initiator of all things Scorpio, where Ixion’s fellow Plutino, Pluto, “rules” the outcome.
The whole “what I am (and do)” versus “what I should be (and do)” conflict of polarity is the flesh and foundation of Ixion’s story. As a youth, Ixion (already king of his own realm) takes a bride and is approached by the new father-in-law for the agreed-on bride price.
Instead of paying, up Ixion sets a trap, one which causes his new father-in-law to fall into a pit filled with burning coals. Thus does our young king not only choose to be an oath-breaker, but also a torturer and murderer. Important to the myth is also that in doing all this he becomes the first human in Greek mythology to shed kindred blood, recalling the story of Cain and Able. With Ixion this was plainly a calculated move—and one which even on its surface showed a horrifying lack of regard for the value of someone else’s life.
Before we go on, let’s also remember that every point is in every chart. So we all have a little bit of Ixion in our souls, spirit, mind, mentality…however you want to phrase it. And this quotient is never about “the other guy”—they have their Ixion in their chart, you have Ixion in your chart. Don’t want to face that idea? Well if not, that may well be part of your challenge, one which is evidently likely to manifest particularly when you are in close emotional quarters, whether that pertains to blood family or not.
Moreover, nothing in the myth suggests that Ixion wasn’t clever. We are therefore called upon to consider whether he knew he was the first human to deliberately spill kindred blood, understanding that to commit a crime which had no precedent would allow him to avoid punishment under the “no law, no crime” theorem. (Intent? What intent could I have if I didn’t know it was against the law?)
In the story, since the denizens of Ixion’s native land had to deal with their king “under the law” (the hard-core Saturn reality), they could neither convict nor absolve (ritually purify) Ixion of his crime. There were no parameters for judging him. Still, being reasonably aware that Ixion was dangerous and by any account fully capable of harming others without regard for their (Neptunian) integral human nature, the citizenry booted Ixion’s kingly derriere out of the realm, dethroning and exiling him in one.
From this we learn that where Ixion appears in the chart (by sign, house, close aspects and condition of the planet ruling the sign on the cusp of the house in which Ixion is placed) we get a picture of where/how we will each meet up with conflicts testing our ability to retain full cognizance of the “other.” Such conflicts are likely to feel like someone else is imposing some rule on us but at the core of all is our sense of entitlement. And it would be some “mythic fantasy” about ourselves (Neptune, remember?) which gives rise to that internal conflict, particularly your natal Ixion is focal to an angle or another planet. Or both (ouch).
So Ixion goes wandering about. Limited information survives, so we know not whether he was repentant and philosophic, whiny and self-pitying, or some mixture of angry, morose, covert, secretive and/or bent on revenge during this time. Our only hint comes from the fact that at some point Zeus (aka Jupiter) takes pity on Ixion, deciding to purify and purge him of guilt…after which Jupiter/Zeus invites Ixion to come hang around Mount Olympus for a while.
This in itself is an interesting commentary as it asks us to contemplate Jupiter as the planet of knowing. In Sagittarius, where Jupiter is sole ruler, we find out how well our ideas function by putting them to work in new and variable ways. Sagittarius is a fiery “frictional” sign which seeks to imagine, interpret and understand all possible outcomes (good, bad and indifferent) so as to test parameters and improve on same. In watery Pisces, however (where Jupiter is rules the “how we go into it” thing) Jupiter presents itself as emotional (not intellectual) knowing, setting the stage for Piscean imaginings also both good and bad—from fantasies to beliefs to sacrifices to mercy to imprisonment, addiction, elation, guilt, disappointment and inspiration.
In other words—the Piscean Jupiter asks us to forgive and feel more while at the same time warning us that feelings may not be entirely comfortable, and that we had best know who we’re forgiving. How we deal with such? That’s the Piscean test. And out of such tests come Results of the Neptune Kind. Our knowing and accepting our emotions, and the responsibility we have to know our emotions is our Jupiterian/Pisces peril: those who abandon same will sooner or later always lose out. In Pisces (and the 12th house of any horoscope, whether Pisces is on the cusp or not) we are ultimately elated or deceived not by someone else, but by our expectations and illusions of an idyllic state which in not being real, ends up disappointing us.
But who’s fault is that? It’s our chart. It’s our idealized expectation, romantic fantasy or spiritual belief. And it’s the denying or failing to accept the realities, boundaries and responsibilities thereof which brings on the Neptunian disillusionment. It’s not “them”—it’s us. It’s our chart.
So back to Mount Olympus. This idea that Zeus/Jupiter wipes the slate clean of guilt for Ixion (the “purification” factor) is important. It’s also very much about this whole idea of Jupiter as primary ruler of Pisces, and why forgiveness itself must be based on reality. And why would that be? Because no sooner has Ixion been cleansed of his wickedry and remorse than he falls in serious lust with Hera, Zeus (Jupiter’s) wife.
However Jupiter was no fool. He saw what was going on—though he didn’t want to believe that Ixion could possibly be so disrespectful as to have designs on the wife of his host. This disbelief is again very Piscean and highly interesting considering that Jupiter and Neptune rule Pisces and in the Olympian pantheon, are brothers.
In this image, Jupiter also reveals that our struggles with belief are not simply limited (as many think) to “spiritual” issues. Pisces is about the emotional spirit we embody and struggle with. And which we never really escape. It’s our conscience against our yearnings. It’s our instinct and vulnerabilities. In Pisces we experience the longing to be protected, our fear of being overwhelmed and the lurking truth that within each of us lies something of the Beast—which can be delightfully wicked yet horrifyingly awful by turns. Pisces is always the two fish going in opposite directions bound by a thread of golden truth. One fish goes with the current, taking the easy way…the other fish struggles against the current, trying to understand, to grow, to do better. In us, they are simply and the same fish and life’s situations are the flow of our current.
Because Zeus/Jupiter sees but isn’t sure, he sets his own trap, allowing Ixion to experience that what you put out comes back to you. Taking a cloud, Zeus creates the image of his divine consort (aka wife) Hera, imbuing said cloud with the very allure of Piscean longing, belief…even a little delicious touch of quaking vulnerability.
Apparently either unable to tell a cloud from the real and quality thing, or so driven by his animalistic self as to be unable to think with either his head (or either head, more likely), Ixion does the deed, thus betraying the very hand which granted him salvation. And in doing so (those Greeks being very thorough with their tales) Ixion fathers a monster named Centaurus, a creature “unloved by the Graces and (having) no honor among men or gods” (www.pantheon.org/articles/i/ixion.html)—a fine mythic lesson on what happens if/when we abandon ourselves to, or misuse power (however disguised). Where that comes from a lack of boundaries, ingratitude or a lack of ethical standards…well, apparently there is just no happy ending.
Jupiter (Zeus) then punishes Ixion by affixing him to a winged wheel alive with searing fire. Revolving through the air like some maniacal gyroscope gone berserk, the wheel subjects Ixion to eternal fiery torment while simultaneously/continuously disorienting him, making it forever impossible for Ixion to regain any semblance of human bearings (fixation), reducing him to a state beyond redemption (fixing). Thus stripped of his humanity and ability to choose anything, Ixion is reduced to unceasingly crying out from his totally helpless state: you should show gratitude to your benefactor!
This is the lesson, one about primal creation and responsibility: we are given life and gifted with abilities. And in existing, are asked to be and do something decent (yea verily positive) during our time on Earth, fixating not on ourselves to the extent that we harm, damage or otherwise compromise others. We know when we are tempted to do so, and we all know the allure of temptation which asks us to do an irresponsible thing. Will we abandon our sense of intent? Will we down that draught of pure selfish desire at injurious cost to another?
Sometimes we choose correctly, sometimes we don’t. And sometimes…sometimes we ask ourselves which is which. Such are the questions posed by the position (sign, house, aspects, etc.) of Ixion in our chart. No matter where Ixion is, it appears to recall certain Piscean/12th house ideas…and yet Ixion clearly also poses conflicted questions of choice—which rather sounds like the Gemini/Sagittarius (and 3rd/9th house) polarities. Taken with Pisces/Virgo (surrender/retrain self-responsibility) does this mean Ixion is connected with the step-by-step mutable processes which forbid all-or-nothing choices? Or perhaps in being secondary/outcome definers the whole Neptune/Plutino (and perhaps KBO) tribe are about horoscopic houses, not signs?
Much research needs to be done before anyone even begins to decide this on its face. Meanwhile it does seem apt to understand Neptune in one’s chart if Ixion is an issue. It may be a difficult task. Or hard to accept or get a real fix on your Ixion. And perhaps taking a hard look at the Jupiter factor is important too, as through Zeus, the story of Ixion seems to rest on a very Jupiterian sense of opportunities gifted and squandered—and what comes of that. Perhaps when any of the three (Ixion, Jupiter, Neptune) is activated by or activates one of the others by transit our “Ixion Factor” comes into play?
And can we change this? Can we actually alter our “Ixion fate’? Considering this as a Kuiper Belt object and thus defined as beyond our control, we may not be able to change the course of our life. In other words, we are likely to encounter situations which raise Ixion (Neptune and Jupiter) issues no matter what we do. But we may have one good clue in learning how to handle Ixion—that clue being Jupiter (knowledge, knowing), the only point in those being seriously discussed here which lies within our metaphysical “mortal grasp.” Through Jupiter’s partnership with Neptune in Pisces (and the 12th) and its sole rulership of Sagittarius against Gemini choice, we each clearly are given the capacity to learn and to know not just right from wrong, but fantasy from the reality, moral from immoral.
A lot of that is simply about moderation: the maintaining of a grip on the balance—an idea otherwise known as personal judgment.
Nobody says this is easy. Far from it! Often imaged as a fog (reminiscent of Zeus’ cloud), in Pisces one must walk a path of altruism, knowing what you know, while knowing you can’t know everything. Or sometimes anything! And still, we are required to try—and to try without allowing ourselves to get distracted by falling prey to the desires of our ego. Life has repercussions. Pisces as a sign and the 12th house of any chart tells us where we will face the emotional tests (or imprisonment) from such. And what stands between us and security or an Ixion-like fate which condemns us to burn, lost beyond redemption merely because we could neither observe nor abide by Neptunian mortal ethics and Jupiter’s wholly knowing mandates.
Discovered on May 22, 2001 at 5 Sagittarius (a sign it will continue transiting through until November 6, 2021) Ixion has an orbital period of 249.95 years. When discovered, it stood conjunct Pallas (wisdom) in Jupiter’s sign of Sagittarius (knowledge gained through friction-producing effort) with both directly in opposition to Medusa (fear of/fearful knowledge) in Gemini, sign of choosing. This in itself is yet another poignant commentary on the Ixion story since the once-beautiful and very human Medusa also came to grief when she offended Pallas Athena by succumbing to (yes…!) Neptune while on duty as a priestess in Athena’s temple.
Just considering this against the original Ixion story…does this mean “Ixion offenses” specifically have to do with honorable responsibilities or positions of honor we take on then compromise in the name of some personal passion? Maybe so.
Looking at this more astronomically, the patterns of Neptune (the planet controlling Ixion’s orbital motion) seem of peculiar interest, too. In the case of fellow Plutino Pluto, the perihelion (Pluto’s closest approach to the Sun) occurred in 1989, when Neptune was at 9 Capricorn. For Ixion, this moment of perihelion will come in 2070—when Neptune will be at 9 Cancer, directly opposite its Pluto/perihelion point. That Pluto is soon to conjunct this 9 Capricorn come 2012-2013 seems a fascinating touch—particularly for those interested in the finale-and-recommencement of the Mayan calendar.
Whatever its position by transit, Ixion would appear to make a statement in any natal chart, with its effects being far more noticeable if in conjunction (particularly tight conjunction) with any planet, node or axis. Much study needs to be done, but by any stretch or measure, Ixion is a point which recalls and tests our very conception of what it means to be wholly conscious while in the process of choosing how to go about being purely and mortally human.
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