After my previous V-Day Plutonian post, I was talking to a long-term counseling client who told me the whole situation would’ve scared her. Wasn’t I scared, she asked, Didn’t I feel violated by unsolicited attention? I can’t say I didn’t feel incredibly unnerved by being the object of someone’s affection. However, my fears were mostly about my own ability to live in the center of my own life. To be nervy, but to not lose my nerve. To trust my own authority.

I’ve seen this as a theme in the lives of people with Pluto-Sun and Saturn-Sun aspects, as well as any first house planets, all shining examples of heroic folks who are learning to trust their own authority, and once it’s earned, it becomes rock-solid and virtually unshakable. But like any Pluto or Saturn, or First House contacts (and gosh, some Second House planets, too), the only way we develop an unshakable bedrock is by being severely tested, shaken or challenged to our core. How else do we discover our true core values, but by having them violated or threatened?, asks my Pluto-Sun square. Saturn chimes in: the only way to have true authority is the hard way- to earn it. You absolutely get what you pay for with Saturn. It’s all pretty painful – hence, a lot of whining about the terribly difficult challenges that often accompanies Saturn or Pluto placements. I’m as guilty of that as the next person. Eventually, after enough wrestling, struggle & inner work, the hero emerges. In that area of life where Pluto or Saturn touch, we earn our mettle.

Traditional astrologers were inclined to see these planets and challenging aspects to them as malefic, or in plain english as, bad. Squares create developmental tension and friction. As do oppositions- though they tend to be acted out in relationship &/or are a lot easier to see. I once gave my smart stepdaughters a little astrology lesson on squares: we stood across from each other, and I said, This is an opposition. You can see me head on, right? Then I stood at 90 degrees and made her keep facing forward. I asked, Can you see me? She said, No, but I know you’re there. That’s how squares are. They ask you to strain. You can’t quite see what they’re up to, but you sense them in your physical space and if you try to get a view on them (remember, you must keep looking straight ahead), it’s uncomfortable. Yet in terms of evolution, the square is one of if not the most productive aspect for personal growth. If you incarnated to grow, the squares are where it’s at. And if you’re going to be successful at mastering a square, one cannot afford to be weak or indulgent, cave in to fits of bad behavior, ie, the less effective expressions of the planet/sign. Otherwise you end up with a huge mess in those areas of life.

First House planets are on a similar heroes journey. When I first began studying astrology I thought first house planets were blessed with Aries confidence and can-do, and these were true leaders. Maybe it was my own predominance of Eastern oriented planets, tying my life so inextricably into those of others, that I wanted to see a First House planet as far freer than I. Then I began taking a really good look at people with planets there. First House folks are not often the shining pillars of leadership-  because they are learning to trust their authority, and depending on other aspects to those planets, that can be difficult. The heroes journey is incredibly demanding (and I’m referencing the Sun & First House), especially if there are squares or oppositions. Planets here have plenty of courage, but fear-facing and making choices – calculated risks in which the person has no idea how things will turn out- is the way to earn authority with those planets.

With Pluto touching a planet, we ultimately earn our authority by having it stripped from us. We are left, through the difficult circumstances and people our own unconscious creates for us to earn our true authority, standing naked in life with not left with one iota of an ego, persona or mask to separate our self from the abyss of total emptiness. When we go over the abyss and realize that we’ve died, but we’re not dead – we’re just different than what we once were- we find a reason for living. Sometimes that reason is simply, as it was for me at one point: I might as well stick around to see how it all ends.

Saturn is equally relentless. With Saturn, we develop authority by facing our endless anxieties, inhibitions, fears and stumbling blocks, and over and over again, endeavoring to see them clearly and with a very high degree of self-responsibility. As we age and respond to the best of our ability to life’s hardships, we recognize what it means to be in integrity with our own spirit. And we locate our spine, our backbone (I can literally feel Saturn’s authority in my body, like a tree trunk that won’t allow me to deviate from making choices that ‘feel right’). Both Saturn and Pluto involve a hefty degree of facing shadow or unconscious material in oneself- and the authority that comes through shadow-facing is self-knowledge.

In my life, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to cave in to the hardship of difficulty. Read: my chart has squares and oppositions galore from the ‘malefics.’ I’ve been in situations that have made me extremely insecure and humble/humiliated and in which I felt I had very little authority to effect but through my attitude and response. In that, I’ve also discovered I have the strength and the choice to use every difficulty to define myself, to learn about who I am and who I am not. ‘Difficult’ planets and aspects offer both choices. Attaining enduring qualities of character is a struggle, but when we befriend our difficult planets and aspects, eventually they become almost endearing, allowing us to fully and finally trust our own authority. Maybe that’s why, when I do readings for people, I am able to see difficulties in their chart(s) as the most interesting and character building (and potentially fulfilling) part of their life journey. After all, with so many of us needing to learn to trust our own self-authority and legitimacy right now– maybe it’s tied into our reason for being here.