This weeks big transit for me is the Mercury-Pluto conjunction. The energies of the conjunction started getting more acute on the 7th of February when Mercury was at 25°, with Pluto at 28°Capricorn, and went exact on the 10th of February.
It’s been an interesting week to see the way this conjunction has been playing out in the world at large, and also in the astrological community.
Mercury is the winged messenger. It symbolises communication, mental processes, the exchange and sharing of information and data. So it’s discourse, the words we use, the language we speak, the information we take in, process and share. It’s details and analysis, getting down to the nitty gritty. It’s associated with teaching and learning but also quick movement. It has a trickster side too, and is associated with deception. It’s also the ruler of commerce, money, astrology and divination in general.
Pluto is the planet of the deep, the dark and the hidden. It embodies power and intensity which can manifest as power struggles, controllling behaviours or obsessions. Pluto pushes what’s been buried, avoided or bottled up to the surface, which if ignored can be harmful, like an unattended to wound. Its destructive and regenerative qualities often bring profound transformation through a death and rebirth experience (metaphorically) which can be painful if avoided, but if embraced is ultimately purgative, cathartic and empowering.
So this conjunction had the potential, among other things, to highlight power struggles and control through discourse in relation to data, information and learning. It’s a good time for doing deep probing investigative work, uncovering what’s lurking beneath the surface, or having deep conversations and speaking about taboo subjects. Facing or exposing those shadowy dark thoughts and corners of the mind that we don’t usually want to face at this time is more likely to help with healing and transformation.
In reflecting upon this transit and some of those key themes, a couple of news stories caught my eye.
The first one is about Google’s AI bot called ‘Bard’:
Bard seeks to combine the breadth of the world’s knowledge with the power, intelligence and creativity of our large language modelsGoogle, 6th Feb 2023, ‘An important next step on our AI journey’ , https://blog.google/technology/ai/bard-google-ai-search-updates/
Google plans to include some of Bard’s features in it’s search engine. If you didn’t know already, AI is a hot tech topic.
Google created an advert designed to showcase what Bard can do by answering a question about the James Webb Space Telescope. The ad was released on Monday 6th February. Unfortunately for Google, Bard made a factual error in its response. Not surprisingly this prompted criticism on Twitter about the company’s fact checking abilities. What’s more, this credibility upset caused shares in Google’s parent company (Alphabet) to drop by more than 7% on the 8th, just as Mercury was only 2° away from Pluto (thats $100bn wiped off shares). Very Mercury-Pluto!
But there’s also a connection in my mind to another news story that hit this week…
Bing and AI
On 7th Feb Microsoft announced a new version of the Bing search engine and Edge brower. What’s relevant here is that they have incorporated AI into it, their OpenAI ChatGPT technology.
To empower people to unlock the joy of discovery, feel the wonder of creation and better harness the world’s knowledge, today we’re improving how the world benefits from the web by reinventing the tools billions of people use every day, the search engine and the browser.Microsoft, 7th Feb 2023, ‘Reinventing search with a new AI-powered Microsoft Bing and Edge, your copilot for the web.’, https://bit.ly/3XmQx6r
This has been a much talked about AI, with very impressive results to date. It’s interesting how they talk about it as a reinvention ‘empowering people’, in a way that echoes the Pluto-Mercury theme of empowerment through information exchange.
But what struck me in relation to the Google news item, was the Plutonion theme of power struggles relating to Mercurial information, data gatheringand exchange invovled, in terms of the competition between the two companies. This new Bing update has been touted as the first real threat to Google’s search engine which has had a virtual monopoly on internet search up until now. Google has an approximate 92% search engine market share compared to 3% share for Bing. It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out in the future. Will Bing become a serious alternative to Google? Who will win in the search engine wars?
The Whole Sign House Debate
My third musing is less about mundane events and more about personal relationships involving the astrological community and learning fields.
There has been some friction in the past concerning the system of whole sign houses. Most astrological historians and scholars agree that the whole sign house system was used by ancient astrologers from around 75BC. Quadrant houses were also used in some techniques. But there has been an argument put forward by astrologer Deborah Houlding that this technique didn’t exist, and was ‘made up’ by astrologers during the revival of Hellenistic astrology in the 1990’s.
This debate has flared up occasionally in the past, but this week it really blew up following an online webinar given by Deborah, which prompted a response video from astrologer Chris Brennan on his Astrology Podcast. There have also been multiple tweets from various professional astrologers defending whole sign houses on Twitter. I won’t get into the weeds of this. I personally use whole sign houses, but this post isn’t about my personal opinion on the debate. I’ll post the relevant links to the videos below if you want to know the full details so you can make up your own mind, and you can also check out Twitter for other opinions.
What’s interesting to me purely from an astrological perspective and as a student of astrology is that this is happening during the Mercury-Pluto conjunction. We can see the themes of intellectual power struggles, finding empowerment through communication, the sharing and analysis of information and details about something that has been bubbling under the surface for a while. The deep dark Plutonian wounds and pent-up energies of the debate were being discharged. The shadow side of this planetary combination can make this mucky, bringing destructive talk, attempts to destroy verbally or control through deceptive words.
If you watch both of the videos involved and follow the chat on twitter I don’t think you can fail to see the Mercury-Pluto themes rolled up in this, whichever side of the debate you fall on.
Let’s hope the Pluto quality of death and rebirth means this debate will be positively transformative for the wider astrological community and astrological historical knowledge in the long term.
Whole sign house debate videos involved:
- Astrology Podcast: Deborah Houlding and Whole Sign House Denialism
- Astrology Podcast: Demetra George Responds to Whole Sign House Denialism – YouTube
- Deborah Houlding: The Sign, the Whole Sign, and Nothing But the Sign … Really? https://bit.ly/3XikUeo
- Google Twitter: https://twitter.com/Google/status/1622710355775393793
- Google blog: ‘An important next step on our AI journey.’ https://blog.google/technology/ai/bard-google-ai-search-updates/
- New Scientist ‘ Google Bard advert shows new AI search tool making a factual error’ https://bit.ly/3HUhQ2i
- Microsoft Blog: ‘ Reinventing search with a new AI-powered Microsoft Bing and Edge, your copilot for the web’ https://bit.ly/40LopNp
- Statcounter: ‘Search Engine Market Share Worldwide’ https://bit.ly/2k0I1gU
- BBC News: ‘ Google’s Bard AI bot mistake wipes $100bn off shares’ https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-64576225