Reflections on Coronavirus and the Saturn-Pluto Conjunction

This ain’t no party
This ain’t no disco
This ain’t no fooling around
“Life during Wartime” — The Talking Heads

To understand something about the astrology of the coronavirus pandemic, not to mention its impact on our world economy, it’s useful to consider the influence of the Saturn-Pluto conjunction that’s affecting our world right now. Although that aspect technically completed on January 12 of this year, an aspect of this magnitude exerts a long-term influence, months or even years beyond its exact completion. As an example, think back to the last Saturn-Pluto conjunction of the early 1980s, and how that led to such long-term developments as the AIDS crisis and the “Reagan Revolution,” among other things.

As astrologers such as Richard Tarnas have pointed out, hard aspects between Saturn and Pluto have historically been associated with dramatic world events and crises, from wars and political upheavals to famines or even plagues. But what I’d like to call attention to here is something a little different from what some others have been focusing on lately, and that has to do with what I’d call the “mood” of Saturn-Pluto.

Whenever these two planets have joined up throughout history, there inevitably seems to emerge a mood of deep seriousness — perhaps even “dread.” If you want a good cinematic expression of what I’m talking about, just check out the original movie Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi, which premiered in February of 1931 literally within days of an exact Saturn-Pluto opposition. That film conveys a powerful sense of Saturn-Pluto dread and foreboding as well as any I’ve seen — which, of course, was a mood definitely in the air throughout society at the time, as a result of the Great Depression. (Incidentally, Lugosi himself was born under a Saturn-Pluto conjunction, so he seems right out of central astro-casting to have played that part!) (See charts below.)

For a more real-world expression of that same sense of dread, though, just think back to when those two planets were in opposition in 2001. Like me, you may remember the mood in the air immediately after 9/11, when there was an almost “end of the world” sense of heaviness permeating the air, a feeling of great uncertainty and fear. Were we all about to be obliterated in some act of nuclear terrorism? I remember just a few days after the Twin Towers came crashing down, I was walking in a local park with a friend when a loud boom echoed through the atmosphere; everyone in the park stopped what they were doing to look up because we all seriously feared that a nuclear device might have just gone off somewhere, most likely in nearby Chicago. In fact, it turned out to be a fighter jet triggering a sonic boom when it scrambled overhead to deal with the possible threat of a passenger jet that had mistakenly wandered off its scheduled flight path (it all turned out to be a false alarm). I also remember how the mood in supermarkets at the time was noticeably different, too — Were the vegetables in the produce section now poisoned by random terrorists using hypodermic needles? It seems all a bit insane now in retrospect, but it was a palpable fear at the time, and it was all very Saturn-Pluto in vibe.

I’m noticing much the same general feeling now, just in a different guise. I went to the supermarket this morning, and while there wasn’t a concern over produce poisoned by terrorists, there was a similar sense of concern among shoppers. Was there going to be a food shortage? Were we about to face a killer pandemic? Is the economy about to crash? When Saturn-Pluto makes the rounds, it’s as though we’re all enlisted to act out the mythic drama of Persephone en masse, as we’re collectively pulled down into the “underworld” to confront life’s darker side.

But as bleak as all that might seem on its surface, there is actually a silver lining to it that we need to remember. To explain what I mean, think back to that time right after 911. As heavy as it was, the seriousness of it also had the effect of shocking many of us out of our superficial concerns into a deeper reflection on life itself. We were suddenly jolted into a solemn awareness of the fragility of life, and perhaps even the importance of community, with a feeling that “we were all in this together.” I’d even say there was a spiritual quality about it in some ways, and I remember how our local classical music station devoted several days to playing recordings of great seriousness, but also of great beauty, like Samuel Barber’s “Addagio For Strings,” Bach’s “Mass in B Minor,” and Mozart’s “Requiem.” As difficult as that period was, there was also an unexpected perception of beauty in that “underworld” that so many of us found ourselves suddenly thrust into.

Of course, not everyone reacted that way, but then that seems to be part of the extremism that accompanies this planetary combo. When Saturn-Pluto comes around, it compels some of us to dig deeper, to be more contemplative and sensitive to life’s presence, and to reach out and be more compassionate toward others, while others are compelled to become more closed off and guarded, more selfish or paranoid. You even see that same extremism in the charts of many people born under strong Saturn-Pluto aspects, where that sense of heaviness and darkness can lead to similarly different extremes, from profound spiritual or creative depths on the one hand, to more constrictive feelings of fear or pessimism on the other.

It goes without saying that each of us has that same choice now — whether to respond to these Saturn-Pluto energies with fear, pessimism, and paranoia, or with compassion and kindness, and a commitment to using that sense of seriousness to dig deeper and draw upon those treasures of the underworld.

But it’s good to remember that while the alignment of these two planets can indeed evoke that “end of the world” feeling, the world has never actually ended any of these times, and somehow we’re still here to tell of it — most of us, anyway. Life continues on after Saturn and Pluto have their time on the dance floor, and it will carry on this time as well.


(Charts with Placidus houses, True node)

(1) Bela Lugosi, October 20, 1882, 3:30 p.m. LMT, Lugos, Romania (45N2 21E54) AA data;
AstroDatabank: Bela Lugosi

(2) premiere Dracula, February 12 1931, Manhattan, NY (40N35 73W59)

Ray Grasse is associate editor of The Mountain Astrologer, and author of several books, including The Waking Dream, Signs of the Times, Urban Mystic, An Infinity of Gods, and Under a Sacred Sky. His website: Ray

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