Mars – Pluto is in many ways rather under-represented in the astrological parade of stellar combinations. It is one of the less discussed pairings, compared to say, Venus – Pluto, who attracts all sorts of special mentions and lyrical insights by comparison.
Why should this be? In part it is because the two signatures are rather sympatico; that is to say, Mars and Pluto have similar styles even though they have very different expressions. Some astrologers denote Pluto as a higher octave of Mars, and this is not surprising. Both planets are concerned with self-interest first and foremost, but Mars is considerably more forthright and direct in its methods of securing the prizes it covets, while Pluto prefers more subtle, some might say devious, methods to reap the spoils of life. And when these placements combine, they can give enormous drive to achieve one’s ambitions, and manifest one’s dreams.
And this is all very well. The type of society that we all inhabit in the world today are particularly suited to such methods, indeed, capitalism and the Western model of living is predicated upon the very basic constructs of Mars with Pluto.
Early ideas about the Mars-Pluto contact
This underlying energetic theme has long been understood. The first writer on the astrological Pluto – Fritz Brunhübner wrote in 1934: “unbending strength of mind, iron will, courage and self-confidence.” In its worst manifestations: “depraved, stubborn, brutal, free from scruples… they are also plotters, indulging in extortion, in brutalities and cruelties of a vindictive nature.”
Somewhat later, Reinhold Ebertin discussed Mars – Pluto as being, at worst – “The attainment of one’s own objectives by means of ruthlessness to others, brutality, cruelty.” He named it the principle of superhuman power, force, brutality, and though these initial observations were made when Pluto research was in its infancy, he is nonetheless close to the mark. Mars – Pluto does give enormous drive and energy, and these can work in one’s favour if applied judiciously.
As ever, our ideas about stellar combinations do evolve over time, and this is true of both Mars and Pluto, the former because our understanding of gender roles is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and the latter because our understanding of Plutonic drives, increasingly nuanced. It is not so simple to say that Mars-Pluto results in superhuman force, as though that is the whole story. What, after all is superhuman force, if not a powerful drive to achieve one’s aims, to get one’s way? Yes, it is to a large extent Mars on steroids, but this is only one half of the equation, because this is Mars underpinned by Plutonic force, and naturally, these combinatory pictures work both ways, so Mars influences Pluto too.
Alone, Pluto is a subterranean force, but essentially, he is the principle of anxiety. This makes his effects not only subversive but also enigmatic. Anxiety is itself an amorphous term, so it is best to go deeper and understand the impulse of Pluto which is – in part – a kind of death-awareness. We don’t really have a very easy means of describing this phenomenon in English, but the French do, they call it l’appel du vide, the call of the void, and it is best understood as that strange sense one experiences standing next to a high drop, or the edge of the train platform, that one could just jump, and it would be terrible and final, even though one has no intention of doing so. Pluto is in many ways the archetype of l’appel de vide since it encompasses the death-anxiety or unconscious death-wish that is innate to us all.
Indeed, a 2012 study concluded that the higher one’s sense of existential anxiety, the stronger the call of the void, and that paradoxically it occurs as a means of affirming one’s appreciation of life. So, this Plutonic sense of death in the midst of life, is in a way, a mechanism whereby one can stay alive more fully.
So, you might therefore see, that Pluto’s anxiety has this paradoxical principle, the fear of loss, of destruction, of ruin is what drives Plutonic anxiety and at the same time it is what reinforces one’s sense of both spiritual and material wealth and of one’s innate human richness.
Mars’ Patterning of Pluto
We can thereby see quite easily how Pluto works on Mars, the anxiety about loss and ruin, about death and destruction is what fuels the infernal fires which in turn power Mars energies to reach stratospheric levels. One fears annihilation, negation, and this pushes one to ever greater effort to, one might say, build a barrier against such nihilistic forces.
But it works in the counter-dimension also. The expression is the same – superhuman force – but the impressions are entirely Martian if you like. One’s Plutonic anxiety is about Mars’ themes and principles. So just as Venus – Pluto manifests as a fear of not being attractive enough, of financial ruin and destitution, of stress related breakdowns, Mars anxieties are Mars in scope and style. This means that there are deep-rooted fears of violence, of men, especially those who are charismatic or smooth, of sex, independence, pain, about accidents, about being subordinate, about being pushed around. So, these principles form the provenance of the Plutonic flavour where there is a combination with Mars.
The Gender Gap
Naturally though, it is a crude stroke which paints these dynamics without any distinction in the charts of both men and women. Crude and nonsensical. Or at least, it does not divulge the key nuances which drive the behaviour. While a fear of accidents might afflict both sexes without any distinction, can the sexual issues that Mars brings to the bedroom be equal in both men and women? And what of independence? And more importantly than this, what is the triggering dynamic? As we shall see this is key.
A woman must contend with very different pressures than a man with regard to sex and independence. Often there are hidden costs to a woman’s independence that a man would simply not have to consider. A man can usually go about his business without any regard to limitations or payoffs. That is to say, his independence is not indemnified. A woman’s independence is – sadly – very often entangled in complex social obligations: many of them jealously guarded by men. For example, a woman cannot simply walk the city streets after dark. She ought to be able to, but if she does, she risks assault. And furthermore, she risks being castigated for doing so. Ironically, it is rarely the assaulter who is blamed when a woman is attacked, since a man is expected to be predatory, while a woman should “know better”. We live in a world where effectively men are the gatekeepers of women’s’ independence, so it is in a sense a nonsense to expect Mars-Pluto aspects to behave the same in the charts of both sexes.
Mars is of course, a male archetype (Pluto is more ambiguous), so it is – in keeping with any primary male archetype – Sun, Mars, Saturn, Uranus) a much more straightforward expression for men. To some extent men are expected to manifest Mars energies, while Pluto’s part in the mix remains for the most part covert, so the average man with a Mars – Pluto combination can hide behind the pedigree of “normal” male behaviours.
The same generous standards do not apply to women with the aspect.
The Origins of the “Problem”
If we go back to the early home – the proving ground for all astrological contacts – we expect to see classic Mars precepts in evidence, underpinned by Plutonic forces, that is to say, Mars with Plutonic strings attached, and with resultant anxieties. This remains true regardless of the aspect between them. Just because one has a trine, it does not mean that the initial impulse is not promulgated by anxiety, or fear of annihilation, one’s response to that anxiety is one of positive overcompensation. This might therefore seem like an asset, but it only masks the underlying compulsion. This is why responses to compulsion might seem like a boon, but they in fact make it harder to fix the underlying problem, because there is not much payoff to challenging the behaviour. So, a Mars-Pluto trine might give overt energy, drive and enthusiasm, but that is a response to a deep anxiety that is less likely to be addressed because there is little or no resistance to the expression, which feels, subjectively at least, positive and enjoyable.
It is not therefore so simple as to say that the manifestation of Mars-Pluto is a problem. In good aspect particularly, it feels to the native like a blessing, and others might even be envious of one’s determination and drive to achieve success, but nonetheless, there are always downsides, even to good aspects. There are further detriments to any planet in association with Pluto (and to a lesser extent Mars), and there is decidedly a detriment to being the opposite gender to one’s archetypal expressions. Which means that there are levels of peril associated with Mars-Pluto, and one of these is “being female”.
The psychic trap of Mars-Pluto begins with masculine energies which are experienced in the early home environment. Sometimes there are brothers who teach uncomfortable lessons about male energy and sexuality, or about male expectation. Sometimes other male relatives are the harbingers of troublesome insights into how men behave and what they expect from women.
Sometimes that understanding can come as the result of outright abuse, as in the case of Oprah Winfrey who was raped at the age of 9 and endured repeated sexual assaults between the ages of 10 and 14. Usually, and hopefully, the lessons of Mars-Pluto are not so unsubtle. Consider poet Elizabeth Barratt Browning who grew up with 8 brothers. Perhaps the insights about male sexuality are difficult but not threatening, as in the case of actress Julie Newmar – who played the early role of Catwoman – whose brother is gay. Her Mars squares Pluto from the 3rd house of siblings. She has put much of her enormous personal drive and energy into promoting LGBT rights.
Typical expressions of Mars-Pluto in the female chart
Nowadays it is easier for women to embody Mars energy, but this does not preclude the problems of the gender gap, nor the issues of Pluto’s involvement. Mars – Pluto can manifest as a very strong sex drive (“People call me lesbian, bisexual or heterosexual, but I know who’s in my bed and that’s it. I have a huge libido and a great sex life.” Mel B. Mars opposition Pluto) which is de rigueur for a man, but can be considerably more problematic for a woman, who is expected to be chaste, demure, and never lascivious. But the lessons of early life do not lend themselves to such expressions. The woman with Mars-Pluto is all too aware of sexual undercurrents, and is at the same time motivated to succeed, and if their consciousness is less robust, then they may not be too concerned with how they get to their exalted position in life. Often their familiarity with the male dynamic will cause them to be “one of the boys”, and they will be assertive, confident, and comfortable with moving into male spaces in a way that makes other women, and often men, uncomfortable. Whatever the aspect, this does not make for a shy and retiring wallflower, and usually the problems emerge at the other end of the confidence spectrum. Too much Mars can damage a woman’s perceived femininity, at least in the image stakes. They can move too comfortably (although that is a rather ridiculous concept) in the male world. Think of Hillary Clinton, who with Mars conjunct Pluto in the 9th house and Leo, used her career as a lawyer to position herself for high political office and a subsequent attempt to break into the all-male President club. She moves in that domain with as much self-assurance and confidence as any man, and indeed, many of the criticisms of her are focused on her perceived lack of femininity – from, one suspects, insecure men most often.
Coming Full Circle
But make no mistake, this overt confidence and assurance is a reaction to difficult early home lessons, whether they be promulgated by Pluto’s subtlety, or his rapacious dimension. Pluto was, after all, the primordial rapist. Fear of sexual transgression, of being trampled, left out, or of losing independence or autonomy are at the root of the expression. Most often the compensation mechanism is confidence and assuredness, even with hard aspects, because this is how the fear of personal annihilation is most simply defused. With Mars – Pluto, masculinity is suspect, men might be weak, manipulative, or have hidden and lascivious motives, so one can either become prey, or can instead beat them at their own game. Difficult experiences with masculine undercurrents underline the ongoing need for vigilance. This presents an apparent dichotomy, but it is not so strange in truth. Mars – Pluto women project strength and confidence outwardly, while inwardly they are feeling the fear. It is as though they armour themselves with Mars on the outside while on the inside, Pluto holds sway, and they sense that were they to lose that outer confidence, then they would quickly spiral out of control and be annihilated.
The Safety Conundrum
When dissected into its constituent parts, Mars – Pluto women were subject to conditions in the early home which destroyed their trust. There may have been sexual transgressions, exhausting but covert dominance battles, or outright controlling behaviours which damaged her sense that life is fair, and relationships are equitable. Perhaps there were brothers (or step or half-brothers) who subtly dominated the matrix of family time and attention. Whatever the cause (which can be discerned from placements, constellated points, and rulers) the result is an all-pervading safety-anxiety which can dominate almost all aspects of life. But since safety and trust are such profound imponderables, the Mars-Pluto woman finds it almost impossible to admit that there is an issue, even ofttimes, to herself. And this consequence is only exacerbated by Pluto’s natural exposition, which depletes openness and vulnerability at the best of times.
Thus, life can become an exhausting series of battles against an almost existential sense of fear, of imminent danger, of situations and outcomes which might become calamities. Usually, the suspicions are centred upon men, who are seen as threatening, self-centred, and dangerous. It is for this reason that the Mars-Pluto woman will often be compulsively drawn to men who are powerful, strong and have an air of charisma and danger about them. Such men are deemed to have the necessary protective qualifications and might allow her to relax her vigilance, especially around other men.
But Pluto Never Sleeps
Eventually though, her anxiety around men is transferred to her partner, as her compulsion around safety continually probes him for any sign of weakness, that he might not be up to the task of keeping her safe, which is her new fear. If he remains strong then she can relax, but her anxiety is such that the Pluto is again projected onto the man (Mars), and over time, this continual scrutiny undermines his confidence, since to question is to doubt. Her worm of insecurity eventually corrupts him too. This doubt extends to the bedroom as well, because the Mars-Pluto woman’s anxieties about sex make it very difficult for her to let go, in spite of her high libido. Sex then becomes a minefield of disappointment where sexual acts (Mars) are too tightly orchestrated (Pluto), and the spontaneity and fun are smothered under Pluto’s anxiety. Her partner senses her secrecy and uncertainty about sex and his jealousy is aroused. This is why so many Mars-Pluto relationships degenerate into suspicion and unrequited interest. To some extent, the woman’s fears about controlling and abusive men becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, as is so often the case with Pluto’s contacts.
Too Much Control
At root, this is the underlying issue for Mars-Pluto in both male and female charts, but the manifestations are often different as a result of gender expectations and roles. Mars-Pluto energy in the female chart is very difficult to address because the underlying anxiety is so frightening to examine. But as ever, shining a light is the only true cure. But it is a nonsense to suggest that any one aspect can be “cured” in isolation from the entire constellation of the chart. The anxiety must be addressed rather than simply being pandered to, at the same time a trusting connection with the world must be carefully nurtured. On a more practical level, perhaps the best advice for the Mars-Pluto woman is, rather counterintuitively and perhaps disappointingly, to avoid the kinds of men who seem magnetic and alluring, since in the female chart especially, Mars comes with all sorts of strings attached, and when one of those strings leads to Hades, then it cannot easily manifest paradisical bliss. True, it may result in transformation, but not without enormous anguish and the very kinds of fear and distress which seem so threatening and which magnetise the attraction in the first place. This woman is usually attracted to the type of man who is the least likely to emancipate her from her inner tensions.
But what she will find is that Pluto masks the good in people as much as it magnifies the bad. And the irony here is that we should not say that the fix for this woman is “the right sort of man”, rather it is avoiding the wrong sort of man, who paradoxically feels right. This is nothing that she does not know of course, but it is presented as a head over heart equation that seems pregnant with disappointment and a sense of having settled. But it is not really, rather it takes time for Pluto to be soothed, time and patience, and Pluto work, is a lifetime’s work, at the very least. Hardest of all is acknowledging that one’s confidence and drive are the result of fear of being dominated and destroyed, but ironically, accepting and reconciling one’s fears might be the only fix. Letting down one’s barriers and discovering that one does not automatically become a victim of something wicked or predatory may be liberating and transformative and ultimately life-changing, but it does take a different kind of confidence to take that leap of faith, and every sinew of this aspect rebels against it. It is a very tough call, and one that is rarely made.