For many of us baby boomers, the aging process is a bit of a denial. We incarnated as a group with a well developed sense of the magical child, devoted ourselves to self-discovery and have been compelled to make up the rules as we go along. Astrologers call this the Pluto in Leo generation that spans births from 1938-58. The astrological irony of Pluto in Leo lies in combining the archetype of the Eternal Child with the archetype of Death, and this paradoxical union becomes more apparent as we cross the threshold into advanced age.
Between the ages of 50-60 we are now ready to bring consciousness to the process of aging and take our seats as mentors and guides for those who follow. But first we must free ourselves from the grip of the omnipotent child, who vehemently denies the waning of the life force. This heroic task requires mourning for the spirit of youth and grieving for unlived potential. Most of us go through this phase of mourning in our 40’s where we look backward to retrieve aspects of the unlived life and deepen our inner experience through profound self-examination. What we retool as expectation and exorcise as demons during our 40’s actually clear a path for the next cycle of life that begins somewhere around the 50th birthday.
Chiron Return at 50
-Initiation and rebirth
In most natal astrological charts, the return to where the asteroid Chiron was positioned at the moment of birth occurs close to the 50th birthday. The Chiron Return poses the question “What am I going to do with the last part of my life?” and initiates us into the role of elder and mentor. The Return presents the misshapen aspects of ourselves which the body and psyche have been forced to accommodate. Whatever was sacrificed to help us find our niche in the world and conform to worldly expectations now returns to challenge us to reconsider our earlier choices. In the myth of Chiron, with his incurable wound, he trades places with Prometheus, freeing the hero’s imprisoned spirit from a rock in the Underworld. Chiron exchanges his immortality for mortality, choosing death to relieve his suffering. Chiron’s fate embraces both the pain of incarnation and the fires of spirit, which is why the “wounder healer” is used to describe him.
It is hoped that what we allow to die during the return of Chiron are the misshapen, unauthentic, false parts of self that can no longer sustain life. When the wound of living has reached its critical mass, our spirit is liberated and can shine through. We are reborn to live another day, even though we don’t know where we’re headed. At this point we are truly able to begin mentoring and eldering. For the Pluto in Leo generation the task of becoming an elder confronts the experience of the absent father, a common wound for this age group. The heroic quest is to become the elder (father, mother, wisdom holder) we wish we had for ourselves growing up.
Age 50 marks a dramatic shift in priorities and possibilities, where a re-direction is seeded. There is a fresh and lighter sense to things where we can now look forward rather than backward, into an uncertain yet exciting new horizon. Our quest for meaning is colored with a different hue. It does take some time to find our new footing, where old patterns from the past no longer run the show. The veil is lifted between the physical world and the world of Spirit. Our main task is to nurture what is deeply meaningful at this stage of life and allow that to shape our choices.
Progressed Moon Return at 55
A few months before the 55th birthday the progressed moon returns to its natal position and begins its third lifetime cycle. In mythology the 3 lunar life cycle for a woman are youthful maiden, adult woman and crone. The crone cycle is associated with the Dark Moon and the goddess Hecate. At 55 we stand at the intersection of these three life paths—we look back to reminisce about our youth, turn around to see the adult path that is just behind us, and look forward along the new path of elderhood.
For the Pluto in Leo generation, this return is especially poignant because it marks new developments in the family, often synchronous with the birth of a grandchild, a death of a parent, or the marriage of children. Symbolically, the child, the adult and the elder phase meet at the crossroads.
The progressed lunar return also marks another complete cycle of emotional and physiological development for the Pluto in Leo generation. Both sexes experience the body’s natural reshaping and hormonal changes. For women the onset of menopause is obvious, but men are also voicing these changes: the night sweats, the waning libido, aches, pains and mood swings. What begins to emerge is often a more balanced sense of self and a growing comfort with one’s androgynous nature. Men are more expressive in their feminine side and women more expressive in their masculine. Psychologically the vestiges of our unexpressed sexuality are naturally beginning to be integrated. Here at the crossroads we are starting to weave the story of our life, recollecting and remembering.
The Nodal Return at 56
Each nodal return is like a calling, a rendezvous with destiny, a purposeful awakening and a reminder of the soul’s intention. At 56 it marks the beginning of a new soul cycle. Possibilities of a new life are ascending. At this point a more authentic quest begins, where the heroic ego relinquishes the battle with the worldly dragon to seek the solace and comfort of a relationship with the internal world. This nodal return marks the return of inspiration and the re-evaluation of one’s spiritual path. For some, it can mean a total immersion in a religious or spiritual commitment. The emergent spirituality is not an evangelical awakening but rather an assured sense of our morals and values. The nodal return also prepares us for the two major returns at the end of the decade: the Saturn and Jupiter Return.
The Second Saturn and Fifth Jupiter Return at 58 and 60
-Recovery of Wisdom
The end of the 50’s is marked by two potent returns which characterize a return to wisdom—not information or knowledge. For the Pluto in Leo generation this wisdom has always been directed toward the intense search for the Self. The second Saturn return at 58, coupled with the fifth Jupiter return at 60, heralds the era of living fully in the world of the sacred. If the role of elder is to be successful we must fully acknowledge and grieve the loss of youth. Then the role of “container and upholder of sacred knowledge and truth” can be fully lived. Pluto in Leo’s special gift is in bestowing upon a whole generation the potential to recognize the transformational depths of the Self. This indeed is the sacred knowledge that we in this generation have to share.
The second Saturn Return is our entry point into a different phase of life. We ask ourselves, “Who do I need to be now?” Internal and external rhythms are shifting gears. It can either be a period of rough passage or harvest depending on how we embrace or deny the natural process of aging. If we handle the Return with awareness and maturity, the gift of wisdom can gently reveal itself. We examine the road taken and the road not taken. We have the chance to connect the dots to find out how close we have stayed to our path and purpose in life. The task at hand is to reach for what is real and meaningful, no matter what it costs us in terms of change and disruption. There is a need to look at what we feel disillusioned about and let the illusions go, lest these old ghosts feed on us and make us bitter. The wild dogs of ambitious willfulness need to fight elsewhere. It’s a time to slow down and allow more sweetness and companionship into our lives. In the process we aim for developing an attitude of reverence rather than resentment for the life lived so far and gratitude for the blessings bestowed upon us.
If we fail to pay attention to our changing bodies, and assume we can power through the physical limitations of advancing age, in spite of strong evidence to the contrary, the consequences can be quite serious. Exhaustion, depression and depletions of all kinds are common factors during the second Saturn Return and it is wise to give your body enough sleep, exercise, rest and proper nutrition. Chronic or new health conditions should not be ignored as they are likely to intensify during this period if left untreated. Saturn’s gifts at this passage are the time and encouragement to pursue the true opus of one’s life, along with the dedication and conviction to structure the unknown new world ahead.
The Jupiter Return at age 60 marks a deepening transition into elderhood that the last decade has prepared us for. Jupiter supplies the optimism, the vision of the future, and the sighting of the new horizon. The angst of aging has hopefully been addressed and life issues may now be dealt with in terms of reflection, wisdom and mastery. At this stage of life we depend more on what sustains and nourishes us spiritually. We take our seats comfortably as elders of the tribe. The heroic struggles of youth are over. Now the hero turns gratefully toward home, bearing a rich life experience with him.
For many, this is the age where we begin to make decisions about retirement. Pluto in Leo does not retire: it has a lifestyle change. Retirement as it was once known is no longer the preferred option, or even the goal. What do we retire from? Certainly not from being contributing members of society. Our wisdom is our contribution. I have great faith that this generation will rise to the challenge of aging in ways that will dramatically transform the current models out there into something infinitely more humane. Some of us have already begun to dream what that might be. It appears to be our destiny to do so.