Have you often been scapegoated for being "too dark" or "too intense"? Is black the only color in your clothes closet? Does shadow material turn you on? You're probably a Pluto Babe, like me.
Years ago a fellow student in my Evolutionary Astrology apprenticeship program crowned me a “Pluto Babe.” We were on break and I remember I was wringing my hands over something I had said in class, I think it had to do with how the era of Uranus in Scorpio coincided with the rise of the VCR, a technology which – I argued – led to a massive upswing in the sophistication of masturbation (Uranus in Scorpio = sex with yourself). Or maybe it was that time when the class was discussing Pluto’s function in the composite chart, and I shared about the suicide pact I’d had with my brother growing up – one of many deadly bargains I’d made in order to survive a shitty childhood.
Whatever I’d said, my adrenaline was pumping, my hands were shaking, and I was feeling like a greasy leper in that sea of white-light, New Age moralizing. “Was that too much? Was that too intense?” I asked her. It was not unusual for me to torture myself with shame for the ugly things I’d lived through and the provocative cast those experiences tended to give my thoughts. My new friend dismissed my concerns with a magnanimous wave of her hand. “You’re just a Pluto Babe. Trust me, it takes one to know one.” In that moment of crystallization, I felt seen for who I was. I felt affirmed in my sense that the dark and often brutal truths that came out of my mouth were necessary, even if they were hard for others to hear.
Chances are that if you clicked on a listicle that pairs the Lord of Hell, Pluto, with the playful sexuality of a “Babe,” your personal aesthetic could be described as feral, or you often find yourself in the position of being the realest truth-teller in the room. Or maybe you feel like an alien because you’ve lived through such horrific things that your story traumatizes people when they hear it. Or, possibly, you’re just waiting for someone to tell you that you’re not a bad person for rejecting New Age bullshit and vibrating more deeply to the messy, chthonic realities of ancient earth-based religions.
So here you go: no, you’re not a bad person. You’re a Pluto Babe. Pluto Babes comes in all skin colors, genders, and sexual orientations. What unites us all is the sacred path of embodying the dark.
1) Your personal aesthetic involves occasionally (or all the time) costuming yourself to resemble a zombie, vampire, or other relict creature.
“Hey but Pluto is the planet of depth,” the astrologers out there might be thinking – “why would surfaces matter to a Pluto Babe?”
Here’s the thing – Pluto Babes are the healed version of the Scorpio archetype (in your natal chart, a strong Scorpio planet, heavy 8th house, or prominent Pluto might all result in you being a Pluto Babe). Being a healed Scorpio archetype means no more secrets, no more shame, just straight authenticity. Even if you’re a very private person, when you’ve been the recipient of a funky Plutonian truth, it’s kind of hard not to show that in your comportment.
Example: I once had a client who was a model for gothic fashion designers. She had really epic dreadlocks and changed the colors out every month. As a hair stylist she had made it her mission to give people gorgeous dreads, and she cultivated the urban primitive culture that went with her aesthetic. So, how’s this for controversial – a white woman claiming some identification with dreadlocks and using synthetic hair. But the hair was just the outward sign of an incredibly complicated ethnic lineage, and she didn’t give a flying fuck what you thought, anyway.
Because Pluto connects us to chthonic realities that bypass the rationality of the upper world, we can’t expect the Pluto Babes among us to give some dry accounting of why they only feel comfortable in black clothing, or why Saturday night means adorning yourself with fake blood. Paradoxically, it’s the tattoos and other body mods that might make the more mainstream person sigh, “what a shame,” which announce to the world that the Pluto Babe is without shame.
2) You have survived epic trauma, and instead of becoming bitter you have developed the visceral knowledge that pain is the ultimate teacher, a priceless insight that keeps you grounded in everyday joy.
This brave attitude is at the heart of what it is to be a Pluto Babe. In spite of Pluto’s association with darkness, Pluto Babes are not depressed, and they’re not morbid. Instead they see a lot of beauty in the dark, precisely because they have faced their own darkness.
In our current culture, we love to police one another for having a “victim mentality.” At the same time, we offer very little support to actual victims, whether they’re veterans with PTSD, rape survivors, or the casualties of institutionalized racism. Interesting how that works, isn’t it? Our paranoia of “wallowing” in suffering reinforces our culture’s general lack of accountability to the suffering.
The Pluto Babes are the ones who undertake an underworld journey, in spite of all the social pressure to “just get over it.” They cry, rage, and curl up in the fetal position. They go to therapy and they ask for help. They face their internalized shame and talk back to it; they successfully battle with their demons.
The most salient thing to remember about a Pluto Babe is that after her season in hell – she comes back up. This is precisely why, on the glyph for the sign of Scorpio, the forked tail points to the sky after its dip into the underworld. It turns out that giving your pain an audience is a lot more effective at rooting it out than trying to cover it up with fake smiles and antidepressants.
3) You don’t roll your eyes when someone starts talking about magic and the occult. Instead you understand that reality is infinitely malleable and that almost anything is possible when you apply your personal power to it.
I remember sitting in a shamanic training class and being told that someone can get opened up to shamanic realities in one of three ways: meditation, sex, or trauma. That last one might sound strange, unless you’re a Pluto Babe. Trauma re-arranges reality; when unthinkable loss or violence occurs, new neural pathways open to contain the shock of the unprecedented. As debilitating as trauma can be in its effects, your soul has yet born witness to how dramatically reality can change – which is ultimately a knowledge you can utilize to transform your circumstances.
Much of what we term “paranormal phenomena” is actually a matter of extremely fine perception. People who endure trauma over sustained periods often develop hyper-vigilance, or a heightened awareness of their surroundings. And though having one’s “fight-or-flight” response activated all the time is hell on the nervous system, it often results in a preternatural awareness akin to psychic ability.
When I was a young child, I was raped by my father. Consequently I became extremely sensitive to the sights and sounds of my environment, and especially attuned to the moods of the people in my home. Having foreknowledge of when my father’s PTSD was being triggered allowed me to get my brother and I to safety in advance of a violent scene, and also helped me to thwart my father’s abuse in more subtle ways.
While I would never have chosen to be on the receiving end of my father’s emotional dysfunction, the experience did give me an education in how to manipulate reality on the subtle plane. Often what is hidden from others – from secret sins and emotional weakness, to the magical properties of plants and stones – is plain as day to the Pluto Babe, and we can use that occulted knowledge to bend reality in the direction we choose.
4) You’ve often been scapegoated for being too real, too dark, or too intense, and have had to bear the brunt of other people’s shame.
This is a core experience in a Pluto Babe’s life. Maybe you’ve liberated yourself sexually and all the thanks you’ve received for your taboo-busting personal work is being labeled a “slut” by your community. Or maybe you were the first person to smell corruption in the workplace and your colleagues decided to hang you from the nearest tree, rather than look at how they might be complicit in a crime.
Pluto Babes learn not to expect any gratitude for walking consciously with the wisdom they gain from darkness. I’ve been rejected for my Plutonian commitment to fierce truth more times than I can count. I was the first person in my family to go to counseling and name the demons we entertained at home. In my academic career I was made to feel that I was acting the part of a flagrant witch by choosing occultism as my research topic. And to say I'm typically the blackest sheep in every spiritual community I join is to seriously understate the case …
When I was ordained as a Priestess of Sekhmet I felt like I had finally found the pagan community where my tattoos and Plutonian aesthetic would fit in. My mentor tried to stage a conversation between myself and the High Priestess of our Temple, one of the pioneers of the twentieth-century pagan resurgence. But instead of welcoming me, the great “Lady” waved her arms around and intoned “Sekhmet Sekhmet, Kali Kali” in a sarcastic tone. I was stung, particularly because my affiliation with those destroyer goddesses is rooted in cosmic love, and a passionate commitment to uplifting those most damaged by patriarchy.
I’m proud to say that, even at that time in 2010, I was enough of a Pluto Babe to let the humiliation roll right off my back. The modern Goddess-worshiping community has a fear of anger, violence, and ferocity, and would prefer to believe these qualities belong solely to men. I knew, even if the Temple High Priestess didn’t, that the dark goddesses offer profound gifts to their devotees, and that their destructive powers can be marshalled for healing purposes. To both know deep truth, and know that you will be misunderstood, is a hallmark experience of the Pluto Babe.
5) You’re hot. Not in the conventional aerobicized and airbrushed way, but in a dark, smoldering, chthonic way that radiates your lack of fear of your animal self.
This one might seem obvious – we’ve all heard of Scorpio’s famous sex appeal, right? The thing to remember about the Pluto Babe’s hotness is that it has nothing to do with donning suggestive clothing or one’s likeness to a woman on a billboard shilling beer. The Pluto Babe is hot because of her awareness of subtle realities, like the ones that pass between two individuals in a state of sexual arousal. For that reason, she can still radiate hotness when she’s clothed in a burlap sack, or carrying 200 pounds over and above her societally-determined “ideal weight.”
My weight has fluctuated a lot over my lifetime, but during the period when I was selling vitamins at a health food store I’d say it was about average. One of my co-workers, who spent her breaks jogging around the store to keep up her metabolism, approached me and said in an accusatory tone: “Thea, the men who come into the store – they look at you.”
I laughed to myself because, while I was no more or less attractive than my skinny friend from an objective standpoint, I was the one who had figured out that attractiveness is only marginally related to physical appearance. You’ll find no shortage of people who will argue this point with you, but once you’ve had the Plutonian initiation into your sexual power, it becomes difficult to objectify your body (or someone else’s) as the sole index of personal attractiveness.
This revelation came to me pretty much immediately after losing my virginity: I couldn’t believe how much I had agonized over a surplus ten pounds, when the wild frenzy of subtle energy in play was so completely irrelevant to a mental inventory of my “flaws.”
The Pluto Babe’s hotness stems from her knowledge that sex is an exchange of energy moreso than it is a contest to be crowned “prettiest one.” She identifies with her authenticity and not with what the rapacious beauty industry has told her to value, thus her value is self-defined. Pluto Babes understand on a visceral level that lived enactment of your personal power is productive of some serious mojo.
6) You belong to a subculture or are a member of a minority, but you don’t define yourself through the group identity. You have a sense of humor about your group affiliation and always live true to your authenticity.
I really hesitated about including this point, because in our current Aquarian Age, new minorities are being defined all the time, which can make the terrain of identity politics extremely treacherous. But I have to come out and say that there is something fundamentally politically incorrect about the Pluto Babe.
Don’t mistake me: Pluto Babes can make potent activists, whether their chosen edgy passion is the anti-vaccination movement, Black Lives Matter, or protecting their second-amendment rights. But Pluto Babes frequently run afoul of group politics (see point #4) because they can’t stop telling the truth as they see it. Like the Republican who earnestly questions what the ideological principle is behind his party being both pro-life (when it comes to unborn children) and pro-death (when it comes to capital punishment). Or the outspoken feminist who follows her conscience and campaigns for Bernie instead of Hillary.
Suppressing dissenting ideas to foster group cohesion is a Uranian thing, a real signature of the Aquarian Age. Conversely, Pluto Babes derive their power from their own authenticity, not group affiliation. So it shouldn’t surprise us that the root meaningof the word “authentic” is “acting on one’s own authority.” The Pluto Babe’s critical dissent and raw truth-telling can provide a valuable and much-needed check on the zeal of an Aquarian movement – just don’t expect to be nominated for office. I liken the Pluto Babe’s relationship to groups to that of the shaman who lives on the outskirts of the village: everyone consults him in private but no one invites him to dinner.
I keep thinking of the work of contemporary American writer, Mat Johnson, as a striking example of someone with a Plutonian sense of humor about his racial identity. In his most recent novel, Loving Day (2015), the main character must come to terms with being a “sunflower,” someone with pale skin who is culturally black. He learns to navigate his mixed-race ancestry in conjunction with his teenage daughter, who creates a horrifying art project emphasizing Frederick Douglass’s “white side.” While ultimately this is a funny scene, like pretty much everything Johnson writes, the author uses it to convey the legacy of rape that makes white ancestry so difficult for African-Americans to claim.
Is Mat Johnson a white writer? Is he black? Is he a mixed-race writer, and should we make a new genre for that at Barnes & Noble? Tough questions. All I can say with conviction is that he is definitely a Pluto Babe.
7) Introducing others to shadow material whether as a teacher, healer, artist, or performer turns you on.
Here we are, back to the idea of the healed Scorpio archetype. I like to joke with my clients that Scorpio has two speeds, open and closed. The closed-off Scorpio uses darkness like a weapon or a smoke screen, a cloak of invisibility behind which she roils in her own pessimism and attempts to gain power over others. The healed Scorpio, or Pluto Babe, has gained such richness and transpersonal power from embracing her shadow that she cannot wait to show you yours, hers, ours, and that of the culture at large. She has no need for your power, and trusts that the magnetism she exudes will speak to the people who most need her medicine.
While I certainly enjoy the raw, visceral evocation of the shadow as embodied in performers like Diamanda Galas, you don’t have to go around croaking like a demon and wearing bondage gear to represent the shadow. When I was a college English instructor, I really enjoyed introducing my generally privileged students to literature about race and slavery in America. “Enjoyed” sounds like the wrong word here, but it’s not. I can’t imagine a more profound text than a slave narrative for encapsulating the history of white-on-black violence in the United States, and so I frequently taught texts like Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs. While it was incredibly painful for my students to confront the shameful history of chattel slavery in its intimate details, I also can’t imagine that they ever forgot the experience. If I did my job right, their conception of race relations in America was permanently transformed.
So I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you’re currently a sex worker, root doctor, or taxidermy artist, you’re already pretty comfy with the idea that shadow material stimulates you … but what if you’re just a consumer of this stuff? Do you have an unwholesome addiction to True Crime books? Do you truly enjoy watching body-mod suspension as a type of performance art? Do you wish every musician put as much violence into a live show as G.G. Allin? Just introducing a new friend to an album that would make 99% of the populace recoil can mean you are doing Pluto’s work in the world at that particular moment. Opening up about a sexually transgressive fantasy to a person in a lot of shame over a private fetish might crown you Pluto Babe for a day. When you’re willing to show yours to make someone else comfortable with hers, you’re activating Pluto’s transpersonal power switch and assisting the collective in coming to grips with the messy reality of what it is to be human.
Pluto Babes know that the thing that makes you the most uncomfortable and fearful is also the thing keeping a stranglehold on your joy and power. This is precisely why we’re so dark and intense and ready to challenge you on your least-favorite topic. Nope, we’re not morbid, gloomy weirdoes who hang out in cemeteries because we failed at conventional ways to be cool. We’re radically empowered, shamanically informed conjurers who write our own tickets and use our comfort with darkness to heal ourselves and others. So now, without further ado, let me welcome you to a helluva club.