The discovery and naming of Orcus in 2004 brings to astrology a second planet representing the Roman god of the underworld, and an enigma as difficult to discern as the underworld itself.
The February, 2004, discovery of Orcus, then known as 2004DW, was quickly overshadowed the next month by the dramatic announcement of the discovery of Sedna, and astrologers, myself included, quickly scrambled to get up to speed with Sedna, leaving 2004DW (Orcus) aside until it had a name.
Like the true god of the underworld he is, Orcus lurked in the background, giving few clues to his real nature while we were preoccupied with other things.
By early 2005, when we turned to look at Orcus, the superficial part of this new planet was clear enough.
He was discovered by the same astronomers who had discovered Quaoar and Sedna, no surprise there. The planet's name, however, belied the mystery which anything from the underworld contains.
It was easy enough to see how Orcus was named. It's orbit is the same 248-year period as Pluto's orbit, and it's just a little smaller than Pluto. So it's easy to see how the astronomers took a quick look at Roman mythology, and seeing that the Roman god of the underworld had more than one name (in fact, three names: Pluto, Orcus, and Dis Pater), they simply grabbed one of the other underworld god names, Orcus, and named their new discovery.
For the astronomers, that was the end of it, quick and tidy. However, for astrologers it was just the beginning.
Dis Pater (Latin for "wealthy father" -- think sugar daddy), Pluto, and Orcus are all names for the same Roman diety, the god of the underworld. So we have an underworld god with three distinct names. Two of those names are now assigned to two different planets which are almost the same size, and have almost the same orbital parameters.
In astrology, things like this are significant indicators of the meaning of a planet. The teaching in Western astrology is that each planet represents an energy which naturally resides inside all of us, and that each planet's energy is unique and different.
Jupiter and Venus for instance are similar energies, but have important differences, and the same can be said for the Sun and Mars in terms of astrological meanings.
Applying this same principle to Pluto and Orcus, the similarities are easy to spot, but the differences are not yet jumping out of the shadows of the underworld, as befits an underworld god.
The similarities are straightforward. Pluto represents the journey deep inside to our core, our depth, and at the most profound level to our soul. (Talk you your friendly local Scorpio about that -- hm-m-m, a friendly Scorpio? They do exist.) That is our personal underworld. Both Pluto and Orcus would have that in common, the journey to our core.
Discovered: Feb. 17, 2004
Named: Nov. 22, 2004
Diameter: 1600 km
Distance from Sun: 150,000,000 km
Orbit: 248 years
Compostion: rock and ice
Mass: 6.2 - 70×1020 kg
Density: 2.0? g/cm³
Surface gravity: 0.2348 - 0.5254 m/s²
Moons: none discovered yet
Where they would differ would be what one does at the core once one gets there. After several decades of observing Pluto, we now know that the Pluto experience at the core is one of death, rebirth, transformation, and regeneration.
What one does at the core with Orcus would have to be different, and here is where the mystery of the underworld presents itself, at least to me. I've been following Orcus in the charts of my clients for over a year now, and it's not altogether obvious what's going on either by natal position or by transit. Orcus is holding tight onto his secret.
So far, the most significant observation I have is that there is no dramatic observation to be made as yet. This is particularly true with transits involving Orcus. They're pretty quiet, at least amongst the people I'm seeing.
Now I do not pretend to say my clients are a representative cross-section of society. They are not. The majority of society, the clueless cement heads, don't bother with me (thankfully). But it appears that for the spiritual seekers, who are my clients, Orcus is pretty low-key so far.
The heart-wrenching drama which is often associated with Pluto transits and natal placements isn't showing so far with Orcus in these evolved folk.
Perhaps some of the rest of the underworld god myth is at work here. For instance, one theory I've been seriously exploring is that Orcus, when handled constructively, governs accessing and bringing forward the spiritual wealth from the core of one's being. That isn't necessarily dramatic but it is profound. And it is not inconsistent with the charts I've seen over the past year or so.
But we're still in early days here with this planet. It took us decades to figure out Pluto, so perhaps patience is required for Orcus as well. Join in the discussion about Orcus at this website's New Planet Forum.
Moving along, Orcus is equally enigmatic in mundane astrology, the astrology of world events and human evolution.
We only have 1,500 years of ephemerides for both Pluto and Orcus (Click here for your free Orcus ephemeris), but a unique pattern is visible for the relative geocentric positions of Orcus and Pluto, a pattern which simply does not exist in the traditional 10-planet world we knew in the 20th Century.
For the period of 600 CE to 2100 CE Orcus and Pluto never get closer to each other than approximately 51° (a septile), and never get further away from each other than approximately 150° (a quincunx). Through a cycle of about 248 years (their orbital cycle around the Sun), these planets approach each other and then back off, but never conjuct or oppose one another in the geocentric ephemerides available.
This slow forward and back relative movement reminds me of a the 18th Century dance, the minuet. So our gods of the underworld dance a stately minuet over the centuries.
In astrology, nothing is chance. Everything is for a reason, but I hesitate to jump into this minuet with a theoretical meaning in mundane astrology for a couple of reasons.
First, the ephemerides we do have suggest there may be a longer cycle, perhaps 40,000 to 45,000 years long at work for these two planets, and we just don't have that kind of long-term ephemeris available for *any* planet.
Secondly, given that Orcus is not flashing his meaning in neon lights for all to see in a natal chart, I am prepared to be patient in mundane astrology.
Thirdly, there are several other new planets which have been discovered, but not named, and there are still further planets which have been discovered but not announced, and likely there are significant planets still to be discovered.
It is that third reason which gives me pause. We may have as many as ten new planets by the end of this decade, and their inter-relationship(s) will greatly redefine 21st Century astrology, both natal and mundane, in ways we cannot yet imagine.
I'm prepared to wait to see what comes down the pipe. There'll be lots of time to reasemble astrology when we actually know what the planets are which we are dealing with.