“Three-Headed Dog”: PLUTO’s RETROGRADE and the NODAL SQUARES 2023

[image:Alex Russell Flint]

Having spent only a mere five weeks breaking ground over the initial degree of Aquarius, Pluto, the resident bad boy of the Kuiper Belt, returns to the celestial terrain of Capricorn, from where he is poised to inflict his final deconstructive strokes upon humanity’s preoccupation with status and control, apparent seniority and ‘expertise’, rampant corporate wealth, centralised control, and pervasive hierarchical structures.

As the overseer of profound psychological processes such as transformation, rebirth, and power, Pluto embarks on its annual retrograde phase, spanning roughly six months from June to January, prompting us to retrace our steps through the intricate web of control dramas that have unfolded in recent months. We embark on a reflective journey, assessing where we have faltered and gained ground in our interaction with the world, where we have reclaimed personal power, addressed deep-seated traumas, and simultaneously delved deeper into our feelings of impotence and ineffectiveness.

Pluto strips us down to our very core, excoriating aspects of our lives, layer by layer. Whether through sudden and dramatic events or gradual and subtle shifts, Pluto compels us to confront fundamental issues and undergo profound, irrevocable transformation. There is no turning back once Pluto’s ‘Black Hand of Fate’ takes hold, as it eradicates what we have left behind and renders it meaningless. Any encounter with Pluto demands our utmost attention and seriousness, urging us to move forward regardless of the circumstances beyond our control. Our awareness of mundane realities becomes blurred as we are steeped into a broader, more essential reality.

When Pluto aspects the Lunar Nodes, it brings down the full weight of transformative experiences that affect the entire destiny of the masses, casting a deathly pall over our lives. These experiences can manifest externally through wars, economic recessions, or widespread illness, or they can emerge from within, requiring deep introspection to uncover their source. Sometimes, these profound transformations occur on the public stage, while other times, they remain hidden in the private realm, only revealing their impact months or years later. Regardless of the speed at which the process unfolds, Pluto’s ultimate goal remains the same: to precipitate necessary transformations, somewhat intertwined with reincarnation and fate, even if they are not always desired.

With Pluto squaring the Lunar Nodes, our job is to observe those who embody the spirit of their times, whether positively or negatively. These individuals are often deeply connected to the zeitgeist, and their mission is so intertwined with extraordinary power dynamics that they have the capacity to turn the world around.


When Pluto is retrograde, it appears to be moving backwards in its orbit. Its collectivised, tribal force becomes more internalised, making it a time for all humanity to undergo deep introspection and self-reflection. Our goal, both individually and as a species, is to transcend unknown quantities within ourselves and bridge the gap between our lower, survival-oriented urges and our higher, evolutionary purpose. Achieving this allows us to get more in touch with our real destiny, which is essential to rise out of our dark, ignorant impulses and become better people.

However, relinquishing toxic elements in our psyche that are no longer necessary for our survival can be challenging. As a species, it seems we are hard-wired to do nasty things. Our collective memory is filled with ancestral traumas in which our predecessors had to “kill or be killed”, wounds which continue to play out until they are healed. The retrograde forces us to look at our scars, go beneath the surface, confront deep psychological issues related to why they are even there, and see if we can re-member what has once become dis-membered.

Pluto’s influence brings forth profound themes that can challenge us, whether we are aware of it or not. These include aspects such as the exploration of control and manipulation, intense obsessions and compulsions, the unveiling of hidden secrets and subconscious motivations, the potential for unhealthy power struggles, emotional volatility, brooding, and a tendency to harbour negative emotions like hatred, jealousy, disgust, and the inclination to hold grudges or seek revenge. Our ego often becomes fixated on external notions of dominance, making it difficult to pause our relentless pursuit and instead turn inward to confront our shadow self. Embracing the necessary stages of disintegration, death, and renewal is a vital process in our growth and transformation.


Embarking on the profound inward journey of our soul is undoubtedly a harrowing endeavour, yet one that is crucial in order to confront the trials that lie ahead in humanity’s plight to evolve. As Pluto enters its retrograde phase, we sense a shift in the power distribution within our relationships, prompting us to examine our ego integrity and face up to the symbolic processes of disintegration, death, and renewal that are necessary for our soul growth. This introspective journey is a solitary one, without prior rehearsal. Although we undergo similar experiences every year, each retrograde period is distinct and unique since Pluto covers a different portion of our horoscope. Recurring themes in our relationships can serve as persistent reminders that unresolved issues will continue to resurface until we muster the courage to confront and address them. It is a haunting truth that if we fail to effectively tackle these problems, they will persistently shadow our path, nudging us towards their resolution.

Below, we track Pluto’s back-and-forth motion during this 12-month spell. Those with personal planets/points between 27°53′ (Cardinal) and 00°22′ (Fixed) signs feel the pinch most.

When Pluto enters its retrograde shadow zone, it forms a close aspect with any natal planets or points within that zone three times: first when it enters the shadow zone, second when it stations retrograde, and third when it exits the shadow zone.
Here are the specific dates to note:
• Pluto enters retrograde zone/shadow on January 8, 2023, at 27°♑︎53′
• Pluto stations and turns retrograde on May 1, 2023, at 0°♒︎ 22′Rx
• Pluto stations and turns direct on October 10, 2023, at 27°♑︎53′
• Pluto leaves retrograde zone/shadow on February 1, 2024, at 0°♒︎22′

This triple hit of Pluto’s partile aspect can bring about intense, life-transforming experiences for those with natal planets or points in that zone. The energy of Pluto, which is already intense and transformative on its own, is further amplified by the three-part recurrence over the same degree, putting us through deep and profound inner change, often accompanied by extreme drama, heavy loses, complete metamorphoses and upheavals of our exterior world (see ruling planet).

Pluto’s triple swipe over a natal planet/point at any degree within the retrograde shadow creates a potent and transformative experience that can feel overwhelming. It’s like facing a three-headed dog (Cerberus), with each head representing a different phase of the process. Over the entire course of the journey, one must confront and integrate each phase to fully transform and grow.

The more isolated we feel during this process, the more unfamiliar the experience becomes. Without close contact with others, it becomes challenging to relate our personal changes to the collective human experience. Consequently, we may feel disoriented and disconnected. Pluto operates independently, unearthing suppressed aspects of our inner psyche and bringing them to the surface for integration into our whole being. This can lead to a sudden break from the past, often perceived as a metaphorical ‘death.’ Yet, a new beginning emerges once we can successfully graduate through the obligatory five stages of grief.

The retrogressive journey of retracing our steps and ascending to a higher realm demands immense inner strength. Over the next 2-3 years, as Pluto subtly transitions from Capricorn to Aquarius, our species begins to enter into a whole new domain of power struggles. During the transformative process, the lower vibrational aspects of Capricorn, such as excessive materialism, attachment to patriarchal social roles, obsession with authoritarian control, emotional rigidity, and resistance to change of hierarchical systems, have the potential to fall away and dissolve. By releasing these tendencies, we can embrace higher expressions of Capricorn energy, including a new, more responsive sense of self-discipline, perseverance, integrity, wisdom, and an innate new sense of social accountability aligned with our true purpose. This no-nonsense shift allows those who are able to move forward and immense personal maturation and a positive contribution to their own lives and the world at large.


Perhaps the darkest aspect we will experience collectively is this year’s Pluto’s square to the Lunar Nodal axis at the anaretic degree of Capricorn. It presents one of the most intense and gruelling aspects during Pluto’s retrograde since all points force evolutionary change but in seemingly disparate directions. This square, which continues throughout July-August, carries a deep unconscious urge to forge alliances with “influential individuals” or organisations, driven by a primal instinct for survival. This transit is followed by tremendous upheaval not seen on this planet for decades due to Eris’ conjunction to the Aries North Node (Dragon’s Head).

Pluto squaring the Lunar Nodes is perhaps the most difficult transit involving the nodes since they are both involved in intense, transformative processes that push us to confront our deepest fears, entrenched karmic patterns, and obstacles to our soul growth. Here’s how Ebertin describes it:

From ‘The Combination Of Stellar Influences’, Reinhold Ebertin

Despite its challenges, this collective pull toward our most base, most insidious survival instincts can seriously impede our evolutionary progress. Rather than nurturing unity and a collaborative sense of security, this alignment gives rise to the worst psychological and karmic burdens, leaving us feeling so weighed down by even the closest associations that we feel like we’re about to implode. Uncomfortable enmeshments and messy entanglements in interpersonal power struggles become palpable and hard to deal with. When everyone starts to annoy you and cramp your style, it may be a sign that you need to take a step back and reevaluate the situation.

Instead of letting Cerberus, the formidable three-headed dog of Hades, consume us, it’s worth examining how we sometimes invade each other’s space and impose upon their prerogatives. This may be a time that calls for forced solitude to regain our composure and clarity. By creating space for ourselves, we can break free from our interpersonal frustrations and gain a fresh perspective on the interactions at hand. It’s an opportunity to reflect, restore our inner balance, and approach these challenges with renewed patience and understanding.

[art: Pablo Prade]

Ultimately, connecting with valued persons – those who are aware of their power and are not likely to abuse it – can help us release toxic transgenerational baggage and make significant gains. However, it’s important to be cautious. Such resources are difficult (but not impossible) to find during heavy periods of crisis. Any gains through this period will require hard work and cannot be sustained if fueled by ego or the desire for social power and status. It is likely that we may see the worst in others, even the best of those we know in our lives From now until January, a significantly transitional phenomenon unfolds. It’s essential to embrace standing in your own power, ensuring others don’t manipulate or drain your energy reserves. Triggered psychotic tripwires in others can lead to some seriously chaotic situations.


Engaging in manipulation, seeking revenge, mistreating partners, or avoiding addressing underlying issues related to or emotional, physical and mental well-being will only accelerate breakdowns. The nodal square from Pluto amplifies suppressed feelings of disempowerment, which can manifest as distorted desires for power and control. This not only affects personal relationships with feelings of inferiority or paralysis but also carries the potential for widespread mass psychosis. It is crucial to recognise the severity of the situation, as it has the potential to surpass previous challenges and echoes the Pluto-nodal squares of 2015.

Hence, tiptoeing through the minefield of the next few months is a tenuously precarious journey, and looking at just the transits of this next month (discussed in our most recent lunar eclipse Cosmic Bus episode) is going to take some mindful consideration and a little foresight. Before launching into drastic action, it’s important to ask yourself, “What’s it worth?” – Is it worth taking a heavy risk for potentially light, superficial gains, or is it better to play it safe? Is safety even possible? Are the short-term benefits worth the potential long-term consequences?

Consider what you truly value in this life anymore. You will be asked/pressured/dumped with the situation where you must let go of dead weight in order to move forward. Is it worth sacrificing your values for success or money? Is it worth sacrificing your relationships for career advancement or social status points? Is it worth sacrificing your health or your humanity for a few extra hours of work?

Big, gun-to-the-head style pressures during Pluto’s ultimate Rx period through Capricorn – it’s up to each individual to determine what’s truly worth pursuing in their life. Most of all, take the time to reflect and make conscious decisions based on your inner values and spiritual priorities rather than getting swept up in the chaos and distractions of the world around you.

If you’re not on the Cosmic Bus, you can check it out here; my support for you is a two-way highway, and I expect that you appreciate my work as I appreciate yours. Blessings xx