The column Out of Orbit features articles which range outside of direct discussion of the archetype of Neptune.

When the planets Saturn and Pluto come together in the sky in hard aspect (0° conjunction, 90° square or 180° opposition), feelings of hardship, danger and mortality are heightened within human collectives as well as within individual lives. Although this archetypal complex can produce an exaggerated internal experience of oppression, repression and gloomy prospects for the future, often world events will occur to bring about such conditions and experiences, or draw pre-existing problems out into greater public awareness and debate.

Saturn glyph 50px
Pluto glyph 50px

One such period of time was from June 2000 to April 2004 when Saturn formed an opposition (180° angle) to Pluto in the sky. During this time the World Trade Center in New York City as well as the Pentagon in Washington, DC, suffered terrorist attacks on the now-infamous day of September 11, 2001. A militaristic and violent response spiraled out of those events with all the iron-fisted certainty, unforgiving moral posturing and vindictiveness that Saturn-Pluto at its most problematic can herald. This combination of planetary archetypes is well known for its capacity to split a person or a group off from others in an attempt to experience moral purity, precisely because Saturn-Pluto so profoundly feels shame, guilt and moral failings. Such difficult feelings of “impurity” and “insufficiency” must live somewhere, and without a good deal of honest self-reflection and dedication to cultivating a sense of self-love and compassion, the reactive move is to find a person or a group outside of one’s identity to be the sinful one, the shameful one, the guilty. Self-reflection and soul-searching is rejected in favor of finding a scapegoat.

And though the enactment of a cycle of violence may stain many memories of 9/11/2001, for just a moment, a great many people in the United States were wrapped up in the spirit of compassion, their hearts opened by the tragedy, the need to help each other, the resounding question: “But why?”

On that day, I lived on the west coast of the US, which awoke to this tragic and stunning news. As I boarded Seattle Metro Bus# 18 for my commute to downtown, I was puzzled that the driver would not accept my fare. “It’s a free ride today,” he said, his hand covering the fare box and his demeanor suggesting his mind was far away elsewhere. While the King County-Seattle Metro transit system decided to give everyone a free ride that day, all across the country and indeed the world, people were coming together in displays of kindness, generosity and human solidarity. In the days following, all air travel was suspended and the financially strapped rail company Amtrak “helped thousands of stranded passengers by honoring airline tickets on trains leaving San Francisco. …Residents of Grace House homeless shelter in Savannah, Georgia gathered what they could and proudly sent a check for $52 to the Red Cross. Prisoners in Louisiana making 40 cents an hour [raised] $11,000 in a few months’ time. Inmates of California’s Institute for Women [sent] hand-sewn quilts and thousands in cash.”[1] In Canada, the small town of Gander, Newfoundland spontaneously played host to over 10,000 stranded airline passengers, whose flights had been diverted on September 11, 2001. In recognition of the overwhelming generosity and hospitality of a multitude of strangers, a group of air passengers set up a college fund for the area’s children, which has benefited at least 134 students as of 2011.[2]

“What really matters now is love. Now I don’t mean mush, I don’t mean sentimentality. I mean that condition in the human spirit so profound that it allows us to rise.” –Maya Angelou

For all the darkness and despair which can be (rightly) associated with the Saturn-Pluto combination, the capacity to bring out the best in people is also possible. When its moral integrity is combined with a compassionate heart, when its awareness of the tragic dimensions of life is coupled with humility and the true courage that vulnerability grants, Saturn-Pluto can evoke from individuals and collectives a capacity to come together against overwhelming odds. As used car dealer Don Forman recalled his spontaneous generosity in rallying resources in the city of Las Vegas, even spending $8,000 of his own funds to help travelers return home after being stranded in mid-September 2001: “The dealership was just like everyone else in the country. We all stood around with our mouths open. We didn’t know what to do. When we started doing this, my employees were ecstatic. They really felt a part of something.”[3]

The Compassion Games—in which “competition becomes coopetition as we challenge each other to strive together to make our planet a better place to live”—were ultimately inspired by the tragedy of 9/11/2001. The Compassion Games put a curious spin on the harsh Saturn-Pluto trope of “The Hunger Games” (in which the impoverished are pitted against each other) and render a Saturn-Pluto which encourages people to face challenges together in both small and large ways, helping one another and their communities. (And YOU can participate in the Annual Games by becoming an Agent of Compassion from now through September 21!)

This more life-affirming inflection of Saturn-Pluto comes shining through in a heartening video from 9/11 Day of Service, an organization which was “inspired by the remarkable spirit of unity, compassion and service that brought together so many Americans and others throughout the world in the immediate aftermath of the attacks. ‘I thought it would be a wonderful thing if we could honor those who lost their lives, were injured, or rose in service, by keeping that spirit of service and unity alive, at least for one day out of the year,’” says David Paine, its founder.[4]

Hope was Born on 9/11

The chart of children born on September 11, 2001 will be something like this:

Transits of Sep 11, 2001











(Depending on the time and place of birth, there will be different sign and planet placements by house, and the Moon will be anywhere from mid-Gemini for a midnight birth to mid-Cancer for a 11:59pm birth, the Moon’s position in the zodiac varying also by time zone.)

Saturn and Pluto in a T-square formation with the Sun almost guarantees a conscious, ego identification with the qualities of Saturn-Pluto, both positive and negative, as described above. Hillary O’Neill, who is featured in the video, quietly emphasizes the courage needed to mature through horrific experiences. She says, “I hope it [9/11/2001] will become a day that people can look at, and they will realize how much things have changed and how the world in general has grown, how things can transform.” Pluto represents the realms of irreversible transformation and Saturn corresponds to maturity. Hillary’s conscious desire (Sun) for people to take a reflective stance, to consider the deep and lasting changes (Pluto) which have occurred over time (Saturn) implies that an evolved and compassionate reconciliation with our shared past has at least as much capacity to bring us closer to one another, as to drive us all further apart. She speaks to the maturity (Saturn) required to evolve (Pluto). Sun-Saturn by itself has a great feeling of responsibility, a desire and a capacity to be a good and conscientious leader who can also be quite humble. In Hillary’s case, we can hear Pluto offering ambition, the capacity to be with massive considerations and not be overwhelmed: “If we all do good deeds, it will add up. Doing something good makes me feel good as well. It makes me realize I have the power to change things,” Hillary explains.

I would like to wish those born on September 11, 2001—some 13,000 people—a very happy 14th birthday, that they may know love, joy, happiness and kindness, first by showing this to themselves, as much as they may shower others with such blessings…for always but always know: You are enough. You are sufficient. You are worthy. And you are beautiful.


[1] Some Good News!, Vol. 5, Number 19, Fall 2001. Retrieved from

[2] In unlikely place, the human face of 9/11,, September 4, 2011. Retrieved from

[3] Some Good News!, Vol. 5, Number 19, Fall 2001. Retrieved from

See also Bessel van der Kolk’s research into trauma and ways of healing with it, which suggests that being able to act, to contribute something to a crisis response seems to help people to adjust to disorienting changes, and to make stress hormones into proper allies rather than overwrought enemies. Interview with van der Kolk here, audio and transcript:

[4] Retrieved from “About Us: 9/11 Day,”