What Determines How They're Used? Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved

by Donna Cunningham


Many astrologers view Mars-Pluto aspects with trepidation. We can understand why, when both planets are labeled "malefic." Named for the god of war,,/

Mars represents such often-disowned functions as anger, aggression, and competitiveness.

Pluto represents our will to power, and because power is so often abused, is typically disavowed and projected onto others.

We all have both Mars and Pluto in our charts and need to integrate and express them constructively in order to be whole and free. Our collective unwillingness to own these planets within ourselves can make life difficult for people who have the aspect. Family, peers, and the collective project their shadow side onto Mars-Pluto people and then act on the projections to squelch overt expressions of this aspect.


Delving into the lives of individuals with this aspect, we find that some of them emphasize Mars' characteristics more-and seem to do better-while others come down heavily on the side of Pluto.

With Mars emphasized, these can be dynamic, courageous, and even downright sexy folks who live life with a good deal of spunk and zest and who make an intense impact on their world. They can be strong leaders, often on a crusade. The better qualities of Pluto come into it as well, for despite opposition and obstacles that would crush a lesser soul, they stay focused on very demanding goals, which often involve righting the wrongs around them. Magicians of a sort, once their intention is set, they seem to have a magnetic power to attract just the people, situations, and information they need in order to achieve their aims.

Others with this combination turn Mars' energies in on themselves and get hung up in negative expressions of Pluto. Fueled by painful histories, they can be bitter, brooding, shame-ridden naysayers who poison their lives-and the lives of those close to them-with perpetual grievances and resentments that they can hold onto for decades. Distrustful of people, of God, and of life itself, these alienated souls may isolate to armor themselves against further betrayals. When isolation becomes too agonizing, they may latch tightly onto a highly significant other and build walls to enclose the two of them. Some pursue destructive actions for revenge or to defend what they view as rightfully theirs.


There can be a considerable difference between men and women in the ways Mars-Pluto aspects are used.

Since men tend to be Mars-like-both by conditioning and to a certain extent hormonally-they're more likely to express the Mars-warrior side. No matter how much we may have evolved, there's still a pervasive expectation that men's positions in society will be the dominant ones.

Given this collective expectation, some men with this aspect seize upon domination as their right and become Alpha males-war-like, whether in the military or not, or rising to positions of power in their workplace. Napoleon Bonaparte had a trine from Mars in Virgo to Pluto in Capricorn, while drug lord, Manuel Noriega had a tight square from Mars in Libra to Pluto in Cancer.

Despite decades of progress, it's still not the done thing for women or girls to be too openly angry, assertive, ambitious, or competitive-all functions of Mars-and therefore many women learn to be covert in seeking power and control. Fearing disapproval, they often resort to subtle expressions of Pluto to get what they want. They may seduce, manipulate, and co-opt by "helpfulness," or engage in psychological blackmail to gain the upper hand in relationships.

Women whose charts have Mars-Pluto combinations are in an unenviable position. They yearn for a certain kind of power-usually, the capacity to transform what they discern to be inequitable in their surroundings, especially abuses of power and betrayal of trust. When it arises from painful personal experiences, as it often does with this aspect, their anger over corruption can be strong. Yet, should they be too vocal, they're labeled, not just as angry but perceived as dangerously unfeminine. However, with supportive chart patterns like trines and sextiles from other planets, with hard work at healing their wounds, and with the right opportunities, women with this aspect can become advocates for change, whether on the family, local, or societal level.


In any chart, what determines whether Mars or Pluto is the stronger? In part, the answers may be astrological-what kind of aspect is it and how close? What other planets aspect Mars or Pluto-and do those planets aspect both of them or only one? What signs and houses are involved? Are Mars or Pluto in the potent Gauquelin sectors 10 either side of the Ascendant, Midheaven, Descendant or IC? If so, which of them is closer to the angle? Naturally, you'd take into account all other planets aspecting Mars as well as any planets in Aries or Scorpio in order to get a clearer picture.

I don't believe astrology holds a pat answer for this puzzle. People with Mars-Pluto trines can as easily misuse the combination as can hard aspects-and hard aspects don't necessarily make you a hard case! Over the years, I've observed that orbs too wide for most astrologers-10 for a Mars-Pluto conjunction--can produce results as devastating-or as transformative-as the tightest of aspects. Study the natal chart for checks, balances, and mitigating factors. However, my work with clients suggests that the answer isn't so much in the chart as in the soul. Foremost, the answer lies in the extent of childhood wounding to Mars and Pluto functions. For some, events have been far more traumatic than for others. Alcohol or substance abuse adds central nervous system irritability and "liverishness," making it harder to access Mars' energizing potentials. When childhood experiences set the person up to attract traumatic adult experiences that mirror the childhood ones, the wounds are worn even deeper and become harder to heal.

Experiences and healing efforts after childhood also modify the aspect's effects. What opportunities, supports, and role models outside the family have people with this aspect had for developing the healthier expressions of the aspect? Most importantly, have they clung to destructive patterns or worked hard to overcome them, by their own capacity to heal themselves and with the help of therapists and healers? Success also helps ease their anger and alienation, giving much-needed peer validation and a sense of power and control over their lives.

Donna Cunningham AUTHOR: Donna Cunningham