FEBRUARY 2009 PLUTO CAPRICORN CHRONICLES
by Alex Miller
Investment firms closing, banks bought up, government bail-outs of financial institutions, housing market collapse, stock-market implosion. Are we all ready to cry “Uncle!” yet? Well, hold on to your hats, because there is much more, and likely much worse, to come, as Pluto begins its 16- year passage of Capricorn. Whenever Pluto transits a sign, it turns its attention to the things that sign rules, leaving no stone unturned and scouring these areas thoroughly, revealing secrets, corruption and abuse, and overhauling everything concerned from the ground up.
Pluto has just finished its sojourn in Sagittarius, a sign ruling religion, politics, philosophy, and sports, among other things. During the past 13 years there, muckraker Pluto brought us the child sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church; the renewed rise of religious fundamentalist political philosophies such as the Taliban and al Qaeda (as well as increased power for the Christian Right here at home, with point man Dubya); and scandals in the world of sports such as steroids in baseball, basketball referees betting on games, and NFL star Michael Vick’s dog-fighting ring. The ramifications of this passage have ranged from mildly entertaining to deadly, but Sagittarius is a mutable fire sign. It’s adaptable, it bends with the Plutonian winds, it has its lighter side, and much of its emphasis is on ideas and the rarefied atmosphere of intellectual discourse, which is often at a certain degree of remove from harsh reality.
But harsh reality is Capricorn’s stock in trade. It’s cardinal, earthy, pragmatic and no-nonsense. The sign rules governmental structures, big business and finance—all areas on which Pluto will now focus its ruthless desire to get to the bottom of it all (ed. note: for Maya's take on Capricorn, see here and here). Every aspect of these institutions is up for review, and any aspect that isn’t working will be jettisoned as Pluto grinds its karmic wheel finely. There isn’t a single degree of the Sign that Pluto won’t criss-cross at least four times, providing ample opportunity to expose the problems and root out their causes.
That may sound good, and doubtless we’ll all be the better for it in the long run, but first we have to survive the short run, and from what Pluto has shown in its brief preview of Capricorn in 2008, this won’t be fun.
On January 26, 2008, Pluto set foot in Capricorn for the first time since 1778. Wanting to avoid the rush, the stock market had already been under-performing for most of the month, and just two days before, the national Association of Realtors announced the largest drop in existing home sales in 25 years. Cancer (Fourth House/home) being the polarity to Capricorn, the initial impact of the economic downturn would be felt in the housing market, reverberating into the banking industry (which provides mortgage financing), and from there via the credit/debt system throughout the global economy. In an effort to stave off the looming emergency, the Federal Reserve Board made two half-point cuts in the prime lending rate, to 4% and then 3.5%, on January 22 and January 30, neatly parenthesizing Pluto’s January 26 Capricorn ingress.
0 Capricorn is the only degree in the first decan, or tenth, of Capricorn, from which Pluto makes no aspects to Deep Space points. A moderate lull in the developing crisis ensued during February, but on March 10 Pluto progressed to 1 Capricorn, its eventual station degree. From 1 Capricorn, it forms a square to the supermassive Black Hole at the center of Galaxy M-87 at 1 Libra, the largest anomaly of its type of which we are aware. This Deep Space behemoth has an estimated mass of more than three billion suns, and holds more than 100 subsidiary galaxies in its gravitational thrall. Contact with even a typical Black Hole evokes dramatic change and turmoil, a complete revamping of existing circumstances, startling reversals and devastating losses, as well as record-setting events. Contact with M-87 is like comparing a Howitzer with a pea-shooter.
On the very day that Pluto reached this degree, Wall Street announced that the Dow Jones Stock Exchange had fallen to its lowest level since October 2006, a radical drop-off of more than 20% of market value from its peak just five months before. Also on the March 10, the Federal Reserve Board held an auction of $50 billion-worth of assets from the TAF (Troubled Asset Fund), a previously little known program which would achieve infamy by the autumn. Within the week, on March 16, came the first major bank collapse, as investment firm Bear Stearns, approaching bankruptcy, was bought up by JP Morgan Chase, backed by a $30 billion loan from the Federal Reserve. Also on March 16, the Fed cut the prime rate by another quarter point to 3.25%, and followed this just two days later with an almost unprecedented three-quarter-point cut, to 2.5%.
On April Fool’s Day 2008, Pluto made its retrograde station, heading back toward Sagittarius for a spring and summer that would show some slight rebounding in the stock market. But attentive investors noted more warning signs, such as the July 13 authorization by the Fed allowing the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to lend additional funds to mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, should such loans become necessary, and raising the credit limits of these quasi-governmental institutions.
And then Pluto turned direct on September 8, 2008, preparatory to its final ingress into Capricorn—and the financial feces really hit the rotating cooling device.
The day before the actual station, the Federal Housing Finance Agency took control of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were in danger of imminent collapse due to mortgage defaults and foreclosures, and placed them in government conservatorship. Now financial institutions began falling thick and fast. On September 15, Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Bank of America signaled its intention to buy out failing Merrill Lynch for $50 billion. The Dow promptly plummeted 500 points. The following day the Fed authorized loans of $85 billion to shore up AIG, one of the world’s largest insurance and investments brokers. On September 17, the Fed instituted a ban on short selling (a practice used by speculators when stock prices are expected to decline) for stocks of all companies in the financial sector; the Dow lost another 450 points that same day.
On September 19, the Treasury Department released $50 billion from the Exchange Stabilization Fund to guarantee investments in money market mutual funds, and on the 20th submitted draft legislation to Congress to empower them to buy up troubled assets. On September 25, Washington Mutual Bank closed, with the FDIC facilitating the transfer of their operations to JP Morgan Chase, and on the 29th, Citigroup announced its intention to purchase Wachovia’s banking operations with FDIC assistance. However, on October 3 Wells Fargo made a better deal for the company, without outside assistance, which was finalized on the 12th. Also on October 3, Congress passed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (see my article, The Wall Street Bailout Bill in the November 2008 Daykeeper Journal), giving Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson almost carte blanche disposal of $700 billion in public funds for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), designed to purchase defaulted mortgages and bad investments from financial institutions.
On October 7, the FDIC more than doubled its deposit insurance coverage to $250,000 per depositor, and on the 8th the Fed dropped the prime rate to 1.75%. Further cuts in the prime rate on October 29 and December 16 reduce the prime lending rate to .50%. On November 12, Secretary Paulson announced that the Treasury Department had decided not to purchase illiquid mortgage-related assets from financial firms after all, thus opening the floodgates for a steady stream of hat-in-hand businessmen, from life insurance companies to auto makers, all petitioning the government for financial relief.
Throughout the autumn and winter, Wall Street and other global financial markets reacted unpredictably to the crisis, in typical Black Hole fashion, with both record gains and losses, but the overall trend was an unmistakable downward spiral. On September 29, the Dow dropped 777 points, the biggest single-day loss in the market’s history, representing $1.1 trillion in market value. This was followed on October 13 with its largest single-day gain, a surge of 936 points. From a high of 14,165 in October 2007, within a year the Dow fell to under 9000, a staggering loss of some 39% in market value.
Pluto returned to Capricorn on Thanksgiving Day 2008, but Americans had little to be thankful for, as the economic crisis deepened, with job losses skyrocketing and all key economic indicators failing across the board. By Inauguration Day, Pluto was back at 1 Capricorn in exact square to M-87, and even the hope engendered by a new administration couldn’t slop the slide. The Dow dropped another 332 points that day, the worst Inauguration Day performance in its 118-year history. A total of 2.6 million jobs had been lost in 2008, the worst year since 1945.
As Pluto re-entered Capricorn, it set off the event horizon trip wire of the Black Hole at 5 Capricorn, an anomaly which governs the entire first decan of the sign. Although any time a celestial aspects a Deep Space anomaly it has observable effects, when it does so while under a Black Hole’s orb of influence, those effects can be markedly more severe, the manifestations increasingly bizarre. Being already in the grip of the reality-transforming Black Hole, any additional stresses or pressure can produce truly startling results. Particularly during the first five degrees of Capricorn, as Pluto descends from the Light World into the unstable and unpredictable realm of the Underworld, we will be stripped of the accouterments of our security, of reality as we know it. Non-essentials will be removed layer by layer, until we are left naked and defenseless in the pit of the Black Hole’s gravity well.
As Pluto furrows these first five degrees, we can intuit a pattern to events based on additional galactic points which it will aspect. The square to M-87, likely to be the most volatile aspect of the period, will repeat again June 23-August 15, 2009, and finally from October 18 through November 24; these time frames may signal further extreme changes in business, financial and governmental structures.
While Pluto is at 2 Capricorn (1/22/09-3/2/09; 5/10/09-6/22/09; 11/25/09-12/22/09; and 8/16/10-10/12/10), it will make only one Deep Space aspect, an inconjunct to the Pulsar at 2 Leo. This should provide a breathing space of sorts, with new information coming into the system causing reappraisal and re-evaluation of the situation. Plans to deal with the crisis will be formulated and implemented, though their effectiveness is in doubt.
The trend toward collecting and assimilating data, and proposing solutions, continues with Pluto at 3 Capricorn (3/3/09-5/9/09; 12/23/09-1/20/10; 7/1/10-8/16/10; and 10/13/10-11/24/10). From there Pluto will be squared one Pulsar at 3 Aries and trine another at 3 Virgo, but also inconjunct the Black Hole at 3 Leo. The Aries and Virgo Pulsars could indicate feeling the pinch in military and health-related expenditures, while the Leo Black Hole signals more dramatic shifts in monetary matters are in the cosmic cards, particularly as regards disposable income and the entertainment industry, or money spent in the pursuit of pleasure.
From 4 Capricorn (1/20/10-2/26/10; 5/19/10-7/1/10; 11/24/10-12/23/10; and 8/26/11-10/7/11), the crisis deepens, as Pluto opposes the Black Hole at 4 Cancer. More than any other, the opposition aspect can engender awareness of the situation, a crystal-clear understanding of the true extent of the mess we find ourselves in. More trouble in the housing markets is indicated, and food distribution problems or shortages could ensue.
Ironically, once Pluto actually reaches its conjunction with the singularity, or center, of the Black Hole at 5 Capricorn, we may begin to discern a light at the end of the tunnel. Whether that light is the dawn of a new day, or an oncoming train, remains to be seen. But from its 5 Capricorn position, Pluto is also in aspect to no less than three Quasars, square one at 5 Libra, sextile another at 5 Scorpio, and trine a third at 5 Taurus. Quasars promote stability and achievement. Particularly in the financial polarity of Taurus (real estate)/Scorpio (investments), their activation may indicate that the dramatic changes the Black Hole evokes now may be of a more positive nature than the ones we’ve already experienced. In a later edition of these chronicles, we’ll take a look at likely developments as Pluto begins its return through the next five degrees of Capricorn to the Light World of everyday reality, a reality that in many ways is likely to bear little resemblance to what has gone before.
We may wish we’ve seen the worst of it this year, but Pluto’s here to tell us, “You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!”
Alex Miller (formerly Alex Miller-Mignone)
is a professional writer and astrologer, author of The Black Hole Book and The Urban Wicca, former editor of "The Galactic Calendar," and past president of The Philadelphia Astrological Society.
His pioneering work with Black Holes in astrological interpretation began in 1991, when his progressed Sun unwittingly fell into one. Alex can be reached for comment or services at email@example.com.