I have an image in my head that features Pluto as Santa Claus. He’s just arrived in the state of Capricorn, and he’s sitting there benevolently on his Santa chair. We sky-watchers are lined up at the velvet rope, waiting to sit on his knee and tell him our fondest hopes about what we want out of the next sixteen years. And what do you want Pluto in Capricorn to bring you, little girl?
I’d like to see the crumbling of the patriarchal order, please, Santa.
As astrophiles know, Capricorn is the sign of authority; whether it is expressed by corporations, governments, fathers, bosses, or civilization-defining ideologies (patriarchy). Since Pluto (death) moved into Capricorn about a year and a half ago, things haven’t been going too well for our various top-down institutions. The most obvious casualties have been banks and, though it’s admitted only in hushed whispers, capitalism itself. (The transit is working on a psychological level, too. We all carry within us, to one degree or another, the oppressive parental complexes we inherited through the father-line. See Paul Levy’s excellent essay on the way abuse is handed down from one generation to the next.)
Quite secure in its dominance for the last five thousand years, patriarchy coincided with humanity’s cosmological shift from Earth goddesses to sky gods at the dawn of what historians call Recorded History. But since the recent Pluto ingress, challenges to the rule of Father Right have picked up a lot of steam. From the Gaia-inspired environmental movement to the influx of women politicians into the old-boys’ club in Washington, one senses a shift in the wind.
Old-fashioned marriage is another of these Capricorn institutions. With the ring; the veil; the old man “giving the bride away” to the new man; the virginal white gown, originally an assurance that any children the bride bore would be her husband’s, so as to carry forth his land and title… It’s amazing how intact these traditions have remained, despite the fact that just about everything they symbolize would presumably be repellent to modern young thinkers. Accordingly, one often hears dismissive comments about the decision to wed; such as “It’s just an excuse for a party;” “We’re doing it for our parents;” “No way am I taking his name.”
But just try wresting that white gown from the bride’s white-knuckled hands.
Over time, in the liberated West the patriarchal imperatives of the wedding rite have been hazily romanticized and its auspices in chattel exchange apparently forgotten. Even so, the steely mandates of Capricorn preside over each nuptial reenactment. The cells remember what that white gown means. On the soggy floor of the collective unconscious there is a storybook full of centuries’-worth of Cinderella imagery: a girl’s best chance at happiness under a rigged system.
Of course, as the statistics make embarrassingly clear, post-honeymoon married life — at least, in the USA –bears scant resemblance to the institution’s ‘till-death-do-us-part raison-d’être. Nevertheless there is something important going on here, as evidenced by the intense charge surrounding even the most ambivalent weddings. The ceremony seems to address an aching societal need. In this desperately fragmented age, the idea, if not the reality, of “traditional marriage” allows its adherents to identify with a rite of tribal cohesion (Capricorn). Marriage was a way to keep humanity glued together — for better, as they say, or worse.
This is the first layer of group psychology we need to consider if we are to understand whence opponents of same-sex-marriage get their fierce adamancy. In no other cultural debate do the resisters of change seem fueled by so primal a fear.
The passage of Proposition 8 in California last year, just as Pluto re-entered Capricorn, was a telling piece of business. Politically speaking – and Capricorn is an inherently political sign — it doesn’t take a whole lot of analysis to figure out that “respecting the sanctity of marriage” is not what this fight is about. If it were really about respect and sanctity, the neo-Anita Briggses of the Central Valley would be clamoring to outlaw heterosexual divorce.
But we aren’t hearing anything about divorce; nor are we hearing anything about heterosexuals.
During the campaign to prohibit gay marriage, much was made of the fact that thousands of self-professedly “apolitical” Californians – not to mention plenty of out-of-staters– came out of the woodwork to mobilize, to phone bank, to wear spanking white tennis shoes at the mall to collect signatures behind an ironing board festooned with little flags.
These folks don’t strike me as the demographic that marches for peace. I don’t get the feeling that you’d see many of them protesting nuclear proliferation. I’d hazard the guess that the same-sex issue inflames them far more deeply than do the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is it not remarkable that the urge to render exclusive the man-woman version of marriage strikes deeper into the second chakras of this group than does the issue of war? Go ahead and bomb foreigners with my tax money; no problem. But don’t be messing with those two little plastic statues on the wedding cake!
Some of those seeking to ban gay marriage use the old separate-but-equal argument, the one used in reference to water fountains in the Jim Crow South. Some offer up rational-sounding appeals for religious tolerance. But underneath everything it’s about power (Pluto).
Patriarchal marriage is the bedrock of civilization, as the past several millennia have collectively come to be called in the West. Riane Eisler has persuasively argued in The Chalice and the Blade that the subservience of women to men in a union derived from the father-line is the paradigm for every other dominance-based institution to come down the pike.
Thus “traditional” marriage, though its modern adherents may wish they could have their wedding cake and eat it too, keeps intact the template of vertical stratification (Capricorn) that underlies the entire social order. But only when it has the crucial male-female architecture. To open up the gender part of the model undermines its whole point: the power structure.
This explains why the Mormons fought so hard for Prop 8. At first blush, it might seem ironic that a sect historically notorious for polygamy would have made themselves the standard-bearers for “traditional” marriage. But Eisler’s theory reveals the perverse consistency of their logic. The dread of homosexual marriage comes from a fear that marital gender roles are not ordained by Mother Nature (or as some would call Her, God). To hang on to male supremacy the Mormons and their ilk have to fight for their definition of marriage. To not do so would be to concede that the man-and-wife thing is not a divine invention but a cultural construct, intended to keep men in power. In fact, the Mormons are the perfect leaders of this reactiona
ry movement: nowhere in America is male dominance more unapologetically obvious than in Beehive City.
But the old Capricorn institutions are in grave danger, and those who uphold them know it. The transit has in its cross hairs all such structures that have grown stale and corrupt. Banks, corporations and trickle-up governments are up against the great wrecking ball of the solar system. If patriarchal marriage represents the firmament upon which all the others rest, it will be the last to go.
It isn’t just the homophobes who are holding on. Most people alive today probably cannot imagine a theory of social construction outside of the hierarchical class model. But the visionary within each of us can imagine it.
Humans will always need social cohesion, but hanging onto the old ways of getting it is futile. If outmoded societal forms are falling apart it is because they are past their prime. Better to wait and watch for signs of the fresh versions of Capricorn; ones that don’t involve the oppression of one group by another.
Lay it on us, Santa Pluto.