Contempt is the tell-tale sign of an afflicted or badly placed Pluto in a birth chart. The subtle or not so subtle put-down which makes others feel they are beneath consideration or worthless. That plus a pathologically stubborn stonewalling of any pressure to change, or gain insights. As if shifting ground would bring humiliation; and taking in feedback would mean allowing an intrusion into heavily protected, private space. Though Plutonic types are often invasive of others themselves. Their status quo is defended fiercely, almost desperately, since it gives an illusion of stability, albeit for an essentially lonely state where there is no trust in the world or close relationships.
Power, control, possessiveness are the Pluto keywords and it really all comes down to a fear of submission, which latter would induce shame, obliteration of identity and a sense of being without value as a human being. Staying on top, which comes across as a smirking superiority and arrogance, is a defensive measure. Intimacy in relationships is tricky since deep connection feels like an invasion. “Where there is power there is not love.”
Vengefulness which is a Pluto/Scorpio trait is the inability to let go – of hurts and outworn relationships. Jealousy is a fear of loss, though often it kills the very thing that is prized. Manipulation is another trait which is a passive-aggressive way of exerting control, since it avoids confrontation which Pluto fears might lead to total destruction. There is volcanic anger inside Pluto, most often kept out of sight, being sensed by others, but not often acted out.
In mythology, Pluto is the god of the underworld (Hades) though he originally started as the god of wealth – gold, silver, diamonds. Since they came from underground he took over that realm. There was an 18th Century Plutonic theory that the earth was formed due to intense volcanic heat acting on rocks; while the opposing Neptunist theory was that the earth was formed from water with sediment laid down forming the land.
So Pluto is definitely of the earth and of hard substance, even when melted by intense heat.
He is most associated with the abduction of Persephone, the virgin daughter of Demeter, goddess of the harvest (Virgo), whom he tempted down to his lair with pretty flowers and then wouldn’t let her go. Demeter’s maternal grief was such that the seasons stopped and nothing grew. Faced with extinction Zeus (Jupiter) stepped into and brokered a deal whereby Persephone returned to her mother for the six months of summer and went back to Pluto in winter. The paradox of this story is that although it sounds initially like rape, it was also Persephone’s induction into adult womanhood, forcing her away from her jealous mother who wanted to keep her as an eternal child. Both Persephone and Demeter were central to the life-and-death nature rituals, dying in winter to be reborn in spring. The Eleusian Mysteries, over which they presided, were carried out in great secrecy, open only to initiates.
Pluto came to stand for not just wealth, but also sex, control/possession, secret societies, elites and the transformation process which involves actual as well as symbolic death. He was not known for promiscuity – and in some myths had a helmet of invisibility.
Where Pluto is in hard aspect to Sun and Moon or in 10th/4th or even 8th house, the individual grows up with a strong feeling that they have no choices in life; they are pawns on someone else’s chess board. That is a difficult pattern to break, and often for women with domineering fathers, it takes them into their forties – after the tr Pluto square natal Pluto – to step into their own identity where they are free to say ‘I am’ and ‘this is what I want’. For some the dominance/submission balance flips in early adult life and they become a control-freak themselves. But even where it doesn’t, there’s always a power play running at an unconscious level. What’s that old expression? – “There’s no one as powerful as a victim.” That’s Pluto in one of its manifestations.
Pluto by transit has a different feel since it is like being mown down by a steam-roller, completely flattened and buried in the mud, before emerging slowly to see a scarred landscape where the old has been demolished. Acute frustration and powerlessness of a scary variety can become all-consuming.
On second thoughts it isn’t different. It tells you what a natal Plutonic type is defending against all the time. In spiritual lalaland, Plutonic transformation is always talked about as if it was the ultimate desirable process. Yet it is gruesomely difficult and painful, a stripping away of everything that brought security, self-worth, identity, with only the light at the end of the tunnel (usually not visible for a long time) promising hope of a better rebuild on the far side.
The biblical myth of Job and the Sumerian legend of Inanna’s descent into the underworld are more truthful descriptions of what happens in the symbolic death and rebirth journey.
A strong natal Pluto has a significant upside – is good in crisis, doesn’t panic, gets a grip where everyone else is losing control, is often quite prescient so has ideas ahead of their time. But it has to be lived out. Overly submissive Plutonic types who were forced to be puppets on someone else’s strings early on and continue in adult life to be ‘nice’ and placatory, are continually hurt by the hostile responses they attract. They don’t understand the power signals they give out unconsciously, since they are still living with the inner image of themselves as a useless doormat. Owning power in a healthy way is not easy especially for women, and most resist turning into the controlling adult who made their childhood a misery.
The most useful motto for Pluto is – ‘influence not power’. That and finding the right lifestyle in which Pluto’s intensity, capacity to regenerate situations and cope with crisis can be used constructively. Yet for all that there is something impenetrable about Pluto and difficult for the individual to grasp in their birth chart, which may be to do with its darkness and inherently primitive/primeval nature.