Astro Journal

The Saturn Pluto Cycle: Archetypes and History

Take a deep breath – we’re about to dive into the murky depths of the current zeitgeist and it ain’t pretty. As I said in the Astrology of 2019, Saturn Pluto alignments have the potential to become your worst nightmare but it doesn’t have to be that way. The best way to deal with these transits is to be as conscious as possible and that requires knowledge. So let’s jump in…

The Saturn Pluto cycle correlates with times in world history characterised by the transformation of power structures, economic contraction, natural disasters, epidemics, and war. The most obvious synchronicities of historical events happen at the beginning of the cycle at the conjunction, and then at each hard angle with the squares and the opposition at the peak.

The whole cycle recurs every 33 – 38 years due to Pluto’s elliptical orbit, with each cycle building on the events of the last. Each alignment within the cycle lasts about 2 years, with an orb of influence fading in and out at either end. For more on how this works read: Astrological Cycles & the Collective.

We’re currently experiencing a conjunction between Saturn and Pluto. This is the end of the cycle that began in 1982 and represents the beginning of a new era. We’ll have a closer look at what that means in another post, but first we need to understand the archetypes involved in this alignment:

The Saturn Archetype

The Saturn archetype represents the reality principle and includes our experience of restriction, limitation, structure, boundaries, physical manifestation and time. It’s associated with security and stability, organisation, control, judgement and the law. As well as authority, responsibility, wisdom, tradition and the past, maturity, old age, and death.

Saturn energy is slow, heavy and dense, bringing repression, defeat, failure and endings. But also increased patience, effort, endurance, and concentration, all necessary for building structures that last. As the Lord of Karma, Saturn also represents necessity, harvest, and reaping what you sow.

Saturn is linked to Kronos, the Titan who castrated Ouranos, and then swallowed his own children. But to the Romans, Saturn ruled over a Golden Age of abundance. For more read: Saturn Keywords, and Saturn Myths.

The Pluto Archetype

The Pluto archetype represents the principle of transformation, power, primordial instincts, the underworld and the chthonic depths. It’s associated with mysteries, the occult, the collective shadow and mass movements, taboos, secrecy and depth psychology. As well as extreme elemental forces, such as nuclear power and volcanoes.

Pluto energy is intense and purifying, working at the deepest levels to breakdown old forms to create new life. It manifests through the serpent power of Kundalini as the cycles of life, death and rebirth, bringing regeneration through destruction, decay and fertilisation.

Pluto is linked to Hades, Lord of the Underworld, and his queen Persephone. To the Romans he was Pluto, while the Egyptians had Osiris and his dodgy brother Set. For more read: Pluto Keywords, and Pluto Myths.

Saturn Pluto Alignments

When two archetypes align we tend to experience similar events and feelings, and these can be tracked through history. When Saturn and Pluto get together, they combine the principles of control (Saturn) and power (Pluto), with some fairly predictable results. At best, these represent times when we can develop the constructive use of power. But at the negative end of the spectrum, control becomes repression and power is used to punish and destroy.

It is possible to work with these energies in a positive way but that requires a certain amount of self-awareness and consciousness. Unfortunately, Saturn Pluto alignments tend to trigger our worst fears and this makes people less conscious and more reactive, so we see a lot of negative manifestations around these times. The list of possibilities reads like a catalogue of worst-case scenarios:

  • War, terrorism, extremism, genocide and ethnic cleansing.
  • Increase in authoritarian and repressive regimes, tyranny, civil unrest and mass violence.
  • Mass unemployment, economic recession and depression, austerity and hardship.
  • Strengthening of borders, extreme nationalism, and issues with immigration.
  • Abuse of power by governments and institutions, draconian punishments, violation of human rights, erosion of civil liberties and freedom.
  • Increased use of propaganda, surveillance, and secrecy.
  • Increase in conservatism and the far-right, paranoia, conspiracy theories, conformity and ‘group think’, scapegoating and shadow projection.
  • More destructive earthquakes.
  • Epidemics of nasty diseases.

If you’ve been watching the news recently, some of this may sound familiar. In general, we tend to see more power struggles and conflicts over territory and resources, and the breakdown of long-standing structures. This is especially true for the current conjunction because it’s happening in Capricorn, the sign that Saturn rules.

These times have a fated feeling, as if we’re bound by overwhelming and impersonal forces that we can’t resist. This is true to a certain extent, but we have more power and choice than we realise.

The positive side of these alignments gives people the determination and courage to make necessary changes that might involve some hardship or difficult choices. We can reform systems and deepen our wisdom and understanding about life, as well as bring past crimes to justice.

Defendants in the dock at the Nuremberg trials

We’ll have a look at how to cope with Saturn Pluto in a more constructive way in another post. But first, a handy table with the dates of the last three Saturn Pluto cycles:

Alignment Orb of Influence Exact Aspect Dates
Conjunction 1913 – 1916 Oct 1914 – May 1915
Square 1921 – 1923 Jan – Oct 1922
Opposition 1930 – 1933 Feb – Dec 1931
Square 1939 – 1941 Jun 1939 – Apr 1940
Conjunction 1946 – 1948 Jul – Aug 1947
Square 1954 – 1957 Dec 1955 – Oct 1956
Opposition 1964 – 1968 Apr 1965 – Feb 1966
Square 1973 – 1975 Aug 1973 – Jun 1974
Conjunction 1980 – 1984 Oct 1982 – Jul 1983
Square 1992 – 1995 Mar 1993 – Jan 1994
Opposition 2000 – 2004 July 2001 – June 2002
Square 2008 – 2011 Nov 2009 – Aug 2010
Conjunction 2018 – 2021 Dec 2019 – Jan 2020

Here are some of the historic events that coincide with these alignments…

Conjunction: 1913 – 16
  • The start of World War I – seen as ‘the war to end all wars’, a way to purge the old world and create something new from the ashes. But it was just carnage. It transformed the power structures of the world and set up the events to come in the rest of the cycle, and beyond.
  • Franz Kafka wrote The Trial and In the Penal Colony.
  • H.G. Wells wrote The World Set Free, predicting the atomic bomb.
Square: 1921 – 23
  • Mussolini became prime minister of Italy and quickly turned into a dictator.
  • Stalin became General Secretary of the Communist Party and from there, finagled his way into power.
  • Hitler became leader of the National Socialists in Germany.
  • Economic recession in the United States and other countries, following the end of the war.
  • Freud wrote The Ego and the Id.
  • Kafka wrote The Burrow, and T.S. Eliot wrote The Waste Land.
Opposition: 1930 – 33
  • The economic contraction of the Great Depression which started in the US and spread worldwide.
  • Rise of the Third Reich and the Nazis in Germany.
  • Stalin triggered a massive famine in Ukraine that killed millions of people.
  • Japan invaded Manchuria and China in the first Sino-Japanese war.
  • Freud wrote Civilisation and Its Discontents.
Square: 1939 – 41
  • The start of World War II when Hitler invaded Poland driven by delusions of the supremacy of the Aryan race. A classic case of eruption from the collective unconscious and possession by atavistic, regressive forces that led to massive destruction and the so-called Final Solution.
  • America declared war on Japan in response to the attack on Pearl Harbour.
  • Creation of the nuclear bomb and the start of the Manhattan Project.
  • Albert Camus wrote The Myth of Sisyphus and The Stranger.
  • John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath.
Duck and cover…?
Conjunction: 1946 – 48
  • The start of the Cold War following the power vacuum left at the end of WW2, and the lowering of the Iron Curtain.
  • Start of the nuclear arms race and atomic bomb tests in the South Pacific. Two bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945 right at the start of this conjunction when the Sun was conjunct Pluto.
  • Rise of communism in China under Mao, and the communist takeover in North Korea.
  • Juan Peron introduced totalitarian rule in Argentina.
  • Independence of India and the partition of Pakistan.
  • Creation of the State of Israel.
  • Apartheid in South Africa.
  • The founding of NATO, the UN, the IMF, and the CIA.
  • The Marshall Plan and the rebuilding of Europe out of the rubble of the war.
  • The Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals.
  • George Orwell wrote 1984, and Arthur Miller wrote Death of a Salesman.
Square: 1954 – 57
  • Creation of the Warsaw Pact by the Soviet Union in defence against NATO, and the strengthening of communism in Eastern Europe.
  • Following Khrushchev’s ‘secret speech’ against Stalin, Hungary revolted and thousands were killed and many more fled as refugees.
  • Suez Crisis erupted when Egypt was invaded by Israel, then the UK and France.
  • Pakistan became the first Islamic Republic.
  • Ingmar Bergman released his film The Seventh Seal.
Opposition: 1964 – 68
  • This alignment coincided with the Uranus Pluto conjunction so it was particularly intense, seeding multiple uprisings around the world and the counterculture revolution.
  • Rise of the civil rights movement and the Black Panthers with race riots around the US.
  • Start of the US war in Vietnam.
  • General Suharto became dictator of Indonesia after a coup that led to a massacre of up to a million people.
  • Cultural Revolution in China launched by Mao which led to the death of millions.
Square: 1973 – 75
  • Stock market crash following the collapse of the Bretton Woods monetary system.
  • Oil crisis triggered by an embargo on shipments to the US.
  • Economic stagnation in most of the Western world.
  • Defeat of the US in Vietnam.
  • Watergate scandal and impeachment of president Nixon in the US.
  • General Pinochet took over Chile and installed a fascist government.
  • Rise of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, which led to the genocide of millions in the ‘killing fields.’
Skulls at the Nyamata Memorial in Rwanda
Conjunction: 1980 – 84
  • Rise of conservatism and the neoliberal economics of free-market capitalism.
  • Economic recession and massive rise in unemployment in the US and UK, overseen by Reagan and Thatcher.
  • Reagan announced the ‘Star Wars’ programme, calling the Soviet Union the evil empire.
  • Escalation of the Cold War and the global nuclear arms race which led to widespread fear of nuclear apocalypse.
  • Rise of state-sponsored terrorism around the world, including Central and South America, the Middle East, and Afghanistan, and the rise of Islamic extremism.
  • Iran-Iraq War.
  • Falkland War between the UK and Argentina.
  • Israel invaded Lebanon.
  • AIDS epidemic began to spread.

Note: The first Iraq war – the Gulf War – was in 1990-91, in between the conjunction and the square, when Saturn was in Capricorn last time, sextile Pluto in Scorpio.

Square: 1992 – 95
  • Bosnian War which involved genocide and ethnic cleansing through massacre, forced deportation, and concentration camps.
  • Rwandan genocide.
  • First World Trade Centre bomb.
  • Osama bin Laden’s first call for jihad against America.
  • Taliban came to power in Afghanistan.
Opposition: 2000 – 04
  • Another economic recession.
  • Terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on 9/11. This triggered the War on Terror and led to the second US invasion of Iraq, and war in Afghanistan.
  • Increased use of propaganda to justify the Iraq war based on the lie of weapons of mass destruction that never existed.
  • Erosion of civil liberties with the introduction of the Patriot Act.
  • Opening of the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay and increased use of so-called ‘extraordinary rendition’ of suspects.
  • Putin became president of Russia.
  • Massacre in Darfur of hundreds of thousands of Sudanese by their own government.
  • AIDS reached pandemic proportions around the world.
  • World Court trials at the Hague for war crimes in Bosnia and Rwanda.
Square: 2008 – 11
  • Another economic recession triggered by the subprime Credit Crunch.
  • Violence around the world, including Tibet, Congo, Middle East, South Africa, Iraq, Burma (where there was an uprising followed by a cyclone disaster).
  • War in Gaza.
  • Earthquake in China.
  • Earthquake in Japan which led to the Fukushima disaster.
  • Wikileaks published the Collateral Murder video that revealed the truth about US actions in Iraq, as well as other documents.
Conjunction: 2018 – 21
  • Now!
  • We’ll have a look at this in detail in the next post…

Out of interest, other relevant books written during Saturn Pluto alignments include: Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

You may also like to know that the Black Death erupted and spread during the conjunction of Saturn and Pluto in 1348-51, which led to cultural and economic changes that transformed Europe and England. Also many of the Crusades by the Roman Catholic Church coincided with these alignments, as did Genghis Khan’s invasion of China in 1211-12. And way back in 410-12, the Roman Empire was invaded and sacked by the Huns, Vandals, and Visigoths.

The more things change, the more they stay the same!

If you’d like to explore this further, I recommend Cosmos and Psyche by Richard Tarnas.

Next week: a closer look at the Saturn Pluto Conjunction

Images: Nuremberg; Explosion; Skulls

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10 thoughts on “The Saturn Pluto Cycle: Archetypes and History

  1. Jessica Davidson…

    I’ll say it as no-one else has thus far …you are talented, articulate, concise, brilliant…the research, the knowledge…across the board fab. You are not an astrologer? I beg to differ…your grasp of astrology – not least highlighting the consistent nature of Saturn and Pluto (combined) to de-construct and re-contruct…and very abrubtly cause absolute carnage and therein confusion whenever they hitch up…that’s astrological nous right there Jessica…

    I am an astrologer (…many many years deep) and I loved this article…fascinating too to see that epidemics tend to surface when Saturn and Pluto conjunct…poses the question…why? Why the conjunction…yes it’s the most powerful impactful aspect/transit..but surely there is more to it than that…??

    Thank you Jessica Davidson…;-)


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Hagan – I’m glad you enjoyed it. I am an astrologer, just not a professional one. In other words, I don’t do readings.

      But you ask a good question: why? I ask that all the time! Why does any of it work and how? Lots to ponder…

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Because Pluto destroys who rules (Saturn).
      Me astrology student (not professional) since 1965.


  2. Dear Jessica, could you give us, born with an opposition (1965), any idea of how this influence will be felt?

    Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Renata – I’m not a professional astrologer but I’ll have a go…

      If you were born in 1965 your Pluto is in Virgo and Saturn is in Pisces, so the current Saturn Pluto conjunction could trine your Pluto and sextile your Saturn, depending on the degree. These are harmonious transits so they should manifest in a more positive way – generally a time to make constructive changes to your life and transform it for the better. How it manifests depends on the house position of the opposition and whether the planets make aspects to any other planets. For clues, you could try these posts:
      Saturn Transits through the houses are all here.

      I haven’t done Pluto transits yet – I might do them later in the year…
      Best of luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sometimes it feels like I am doing the wrong thing in life or I already did this. Still trying to figure it out. Cryptic but real. 🙂

    You are just getting warmed up for the next 10 years.

    PS this type of stuff I am really good at and you nailed it.

    Liked by 1 person


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