Posted by: Donna Cunningham | July 26, 2009

6 Things You May Not Know about Pluto

Healing Pluto Problems, by Donna Cunningham©2009 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

 At a conference banquet years ago, Bil Tierney conducted a mini-roast and dubbed me Our Lady of Pluto. Healing Pluto Problems may be my best-selling book of all time. First published in 1986, the hardcopy version remains in print in English and several other languages. People are still writing and calling to say that the insights it gave affected them profoundly and put them on a path to transformation. (It’s available through at 1-800-423-7087.)

 I’m glad the book is still helping people, but I wish I had the stamina to update it and put out a new edition.  It would have much more information about the healing tools I’ve learned in the 23 years since it was published—tools like flower remedies, homeopathy, and lightwork that can accelerate the process of insight and releasing old psychological scars.

 It would give you more of a longitudinal picture of what Plutonian people are capable of as they mature and grow. I’ve learned a great deal more myself over the past 23 years, livin’ la vida Pluto.  Some of what I’ve learned is shared in my ebooks (available at Moon Maven Publications), and to give you a taste of the new insights, here are a few excerpts:

 From a Chapter about Pluto in the career houses (2nd, 6th, or 10th) in The Outer Planets as Vocational Indicators (The Outer Planets and Inner Life, v.1):opil1cvrmini

 “The house Pluto occupies in the birth chart can represent areas of life where we fail for spite. That is, we may chronically set ourselves up to fail in those areas in ways that are painful, frustrating, and mystifying to us on a conscious level. On the unconscious level, the motive is often to get back at potent childhood figures who considered that area crucial. The behavior is self-destructive, like the scorpion’s sting. For some Plutonians, however, extracting vengeance is more important than doing well.

 “With Pluto in the vocational houses, failing in the career can embarrass the parent or other authority figure, a form of revenge. (“You said I’d never make anything of myself. Well, I’ll show you….”) Parents can’t control whether their offspring succeed or not, and the more parents demand success, the greater the sting when their offspring fail.”

 From a chapter about Venus-Pluto aspects in Outer Planet Aspects to Venus and Mars. (The Outer Planets and Inner Life, v.2)

opil2cvrmini“In lists of famous people with Venus-Pluto aspects, you find many who married well in order to do some dynasty building. In researching the charts of the wives of presidents and politicians, I was fascinated to see how many of them had Venus in combination with Pluto—so many that I dubbed it the First Lady Aspect.

” Those who have it include Pat Nixon and Betty Ford with the trine and Eleanor Roosevelt, Hillary Clinton, and Maria Shriver—first lady of California—with the square.  Many British Royals share the aspect—Elizabeth II, Charles, Philip, Sarah, Duchess of York, and Prince Edward’s wife, Sophie Rhys-Jones. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has the trine, and by all accounts his wife has been an excellent support in his career.”

“…One superb use of a Venus-Pluto aspect is as a heart healer on a professional level. Self-help guru John Bradshaw, who taught so eloquently of the shame that comes from growing up in an alcoholic household, had Venus and Pluto conjunct in Cancer in the 3rd house. Psychologist Arthur Janov, who also had the conjunction in Cancer in the 3rd, the house of communication, developed a technique called The Primal Scream—a quite literal expression of the aspect. Betty Ford’s dedication to helping people recover from addiction can be seen in her close trine between Pluto in Cancer and an exalted Venus in Pisces.

“For all of us, love can be a healing vital force in transforming ourselves, so there are those with Venus-Pluto aspects whose loving hearts help heal those who are fortunate enough to encounter them. That possibility is realized when love heals rather than rescues—empowers rather than enslaves. People who are able to do that are the Venus-Pluto folks who love you and then let you go—it is those who love and then take hostages that represent the more troubled side of these aspects.”

 From Aspects between the Outer Planets: (The Outer Planets and Inner Life, v.3):

 “The genopil3cvrminieration born with Pluto in Libra during parts of 1971-84 was the first to experience widespread fragmentation of the family. As they grew up, divorce statistics gradually reached as high as 50% in some areas of the U.S. With Libra as a keynote, many of those with Pluto prominent labored to keep peace between their warring parents. They were often caught in the middle in a bitter aftermath, suffering through stressful situations such as dual custody, their parents’ serial marriages, multiple step-parents, and fathers who moved away and lost contact following the divorce.

“Even if their own families remained intact, they had friends, classmates, and cousins who suffered such losses and who struggled to adjust to a divided family. Their expectations about commitment were shaped by this climate. Those with the Saturn-Pluto conjunction were among the youngest and thus could have been affected at an earlier stage of development stage by a family breakup, Many of them were grief-stricken, and, as a result, fearful of getting involved in adult partnerships.

“For the Pluto in Libra generation, attractiveness, even physical perfection, is a talisman against romantic woes. Though this particular talisman works no better than most, these people can be obsessed with looks and with costly, ever-changing fashion. The incidence of anorexia and bulimia continues to rise, and breast implants are a growth industry, even among teens. From childhood on, the media has bombarded them with the message that the only way to find love and social acceptance is to be beautiful. For those who fall short of this ideal, the cost in self-esteem is immense.”

 Though brief, I hope these excerpts have given you some new insights. To order any of these ebooks, visit Moon Maven Publications.

More Posts about Pluto on this Blog: 

More Posts in the “Things You May not Know” Series:moonbkltcvr

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  1. Very interesting Donna, I think the concept of where we ‘fail for spite’ is something I shall definitely be looking into in more detail as I just thought of someone with a 10th house Pluto and it explains so much – now off to look at other Pluto’s. Thank you 🙂

  2. I can totally relate to what Susana said. When I read that piece about “failing for spite”, it was one of my biggest Aha moments. It explained so much about my drive to discover “what I wanted to do when I grew up” while at the same time failing to be successful at my many jobs and passions. With an unaspected 6th house Pluto in Virgo, I am still struggling with this behavior. Most time I do not know what to do with my Pluto, how it is supposed to act for good or for bad. The lack of aspects really makes it difficult to relate to it and see its manifestation in daily life. Recognizing it has been the first step into reclaiming my potential.

    As far as your comment on not having the stamina to review and expand “Healing Pluto problems”, the first thought that came to mind was that this was a job for an assistant/researcher/editor and you review the finished version. Just a thought

    • Thank you, Fabienne and Susanna. The thing about failing for spite is so true, in all my years of observing people through the lens of the birth chart–even though it’s not at all conscious in the minds of people who have this dynamic. Mostly, they wish with all their hearts to succeed, but it’s a compulsion…one, thankfully, that we can work on and rid ourselves of. Donna

  3. Wow, I just got a big fat painful insight out of the concept of Pluto’s house as where you fail out of spite. In this case “it hurts so good.” Great opportunity to sort some things out from that aha! As ever, thanks so much, Donna.

    • As ever, Joyce, you never flinch away from truth–you have my respect for that. Donna

  4. In getting ready for a reading I just re-read your whole Pluto book Donna! As always, it had that great combination of solid research and personal vignettes/touches which kept me reading and reading….good work, and happy blogging! (PS I’ve just started a new blog on South Node Astrology…and have you seen Julie/Julia the movie? It’s about a blogger who turns her blog into a book…and more….I thought of you and I and our committment to “blogging along…!)

    • Goodness me, a sudden flurry of comments from people who have suddenly read that article from ages ago. I guess someone linked to it, but wow, what depth these comments are coming from. Thanks Elizabeth–glad that book is still meaningful to people, given that it’s almost ready to celebrate its Saturn return!

      Oddly enough, I was just talking to someone this morning about how I have no intention of writing any more books, but that I have a suspicion a book is being written on this blog anyway. Loved Julie/Julia, an utter delight. It’s available now on the On Demand channel for Comcast cable subscribers. Donna

  5. I can see where I have failed for spite also (10th house), but I feel to be at a turning point with this, ready to follow my own deep desires for a rewarding career of deep contribution to those that suffer, and can see how some of that failing for spite lead me into life circumstances (Chiron’s wound) that is now to be a catalyst in my life calling.

    It is such an interesting paradox, this. The failing for spite seems to have been a neccessary part of the journey, and then some key Pluto transits have transformed my fears around abusive power, and shown me that power can be embodied in a responsible and compassionate way, as long as the ways we have experienced abusive power is allowed to heal.

    I am learning to allow myself to be powerful in pursuing a service career, wheras in the past I would equate all forms of power with those that hurt me in the past, and shun taking a powerful/leadership role in the world because I didn’t want to be like them.

    But now I can see that seeing abusive power up close can be such a great teacher for developing empathy, and for how to carry power in the world responsibly, ethically, and compassionately. We can empathize with what it’s like to be powerless, and keeping that in our consciousness daily, is our greatest power to help others.

    • Amazing, Grace! And, amazing grace, how sweet the sound of a Plutonian type who goes through all that pain and finally GETS it. My Pluto is pretty strong too, and I so relate to all you said there. What an immense burden that spite can be, and what a blessing to let it go. Donna

  6. I scored 57 on your test, I never knew I was so Plutonian & I do love to fail at things Im really talented for & then hating myself for it & feeling like a loser 😦 I’ve got a first house Pluto in Libra in conjunction with Venus, Mercury & AC…. Im not sure what it means, it’s not too good

    • Zlica, it’s really complicated, but if you can get hold of my hard-copy book, Healing Pluto Problems from the publisher (RedWheelWeiser) or used on or, it’s an entire book about being a Plutonian. Donna

  7. Wow! I love this site, Donna! Looks like I have to find more time for lots of very interesting and informative reading. Thank you; thank you.

    • Welcome, Sue. If you’re looking to catch up, do download the index to 325 of Skywriters’ posts, sorted out by category and with live links. Donna

  8. Venus square 3HPluto and 9H Moon here. There are some things that I’ve done similar to the woman in your story. I definitely used to let a guy totally absorb me to the exclusion of my friends. I have also let my friends come between me and a man, though. I feel that’s another possible consequence of this aspect as well: the friend who is jealous of your relationship because she’s afraid it will end your friendship or you won’t be available for her. The friends/love tug of war comes through in your story and I know that earlier on in my life it seemed like an impenetrable mystery — how to be a good friend to both sides and keep both happy and keep my integrity? My ex-husband used to demand that I show who I was more loyal to and virtually exiled my male friends (which, silly me, I hadn’t quite noticed until he planned a surprise birthday party for me and only invited my female friends).

    What I’ve learned is to have clear boundaries. In the past couple of years I’ve been lucky to find men mature enough to understand that I need to spend time with my friends, male and female. My big issue has been to keep my feelings about my guys to myself and not share them with some of my female friends; ime, they often plant the seed of doubt in me about the guys I’m interested in. The thing that I have to do is to remind myself, over and over again, to keep mum about my budding romances. My male friends, on the other hand, have been priceless when it comes to advising me about men and what makes them tick. Their advice, for whatever reason, is often more detached and hence more trustworthy.

    This replicates my childhood. I was my grandmother’s favorite and she destroyed my relationship with my father (whom she hated) by various means, one of which involved subtly accusing him of inappropriate sexual behavior and engaging in other not so subtle tactics. My grandmother is about to die soon and I need to talk to her about this but haven’t quite wrapped my mind around HOW I can tell her that what she did was wrong without my being venomous. But my budding relationship with a sweet and gentle Scorpio (!) has made me think that I have to lay that to rest so that I can be truly loving.

    Lastly, up until very recently, I had a hard time believing that I was sexy to men. Right before I turned 40 a female acquaintance mentioned that after 40 men no longer see you — to my surprise, it became easier than ever to draw men’s attention. I think I’m beginning to conquer my Pluto–that’s the only explanation I have. Anyway, thanks for letting me share.

    • It sounds like you’re working hard on the aspect and finally getting a handle on it. Great work, Eme! The 40s, with transiting Pluto square natal Pluto as part of the midlife cycle, often brings great growth and mastery of the natal Pluto patterns. Donna

  9. Oh, sorry, I put this comment in the wrong entry. It was meant for the Venus/Pluto article. Oops!

  10. Transits of Pluto, particularly opposite or square natal Sun:
    Pluto is the planet of transformation. Death is the ultimate transformation. I don’t necessarily speak of physical death, although my father died at Pluto opp his sun, mother just past a conjunction, brother at a square, etc. A major Pluto transit doesn’t mean one will die. Or that anyone close will actually die.

    The greater lesson is preparation for death. HH Dalai Lama does a talk on “Facing Death and Dying Well.” The Tibetan Book of the Dead describes the process of death and what to expect. The practice of meditation alters brain activity, preparing one to recognize and guide oneself through what is truly a natural process. Think of it as Lamaze for dying to better cope with fear and pain.

    Western culture, unfortunately, considers Death a taboo subject, to be ignored and denied at all costs. How silly to deny the one event that is absolutely inescapable.

    If I knew someone who was entering, for example, an opposition of transiting Pluto to their Sun, particularly if they were older, I would say: “Please prepare. It is time. Better to face death with understanding and acceptance, than fear and denial. Death may not come with this transit, but it will eventually. Now is the best time to prepare oneself.”

  11. How does this work in a native with Pluto conjunct ascendant, square to t he MC?

    • It’s a very powerful position affecting with way you present yourself in both your career and dealing with people you encounter in your personal life, especially first impressions. You’d come across as a Plutonian type. You might get new insights with my book, Healing Pluto Problems, which is available at the publisher, RedWheel/Weiser. Donna

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