Algol and Pluto: Two Astrological Hobgoblins

In traditional astrology the fixed star Algol, head of the ghoul or demon, is considered the most baleful of stars. In modern astrological practice he is generally ignored, he has been replaced by Pluto. Astronomically both have something in common. Let us have a closer look.

Algol, is an eclipsing binary (actually there are three) star, Beta Persei α, β and γ. The brighter star, Beta Persei α is regularly eclipsed by Beta Persei β so that every few days its magnitude dips from a magnitude of 2.1 to 3.4. The following animation demonstrates this quite well.

Eclipse pattern of Algol, source Wikipedia

Eclipse pattern of Algol, source Wikipedia

Now any form of eclipse with a diminution of light is considered a form of debilitation and so with a little imagination it is not hard to see this constant eclipse, it occurs roughly every 2 days, as the baleful winking of the ghoul’s eyes.

Now, most are aware of Pluto having been degraded to a ‘dwarf’ planet. You might understand why if you compare the size of Pluto to the Earth. Relative to the Earth, Pluto has a radius of 0.18 and a mass of 0.0022 (the Earth having the value 1). It is tiny!

Comparison of sizes between Earth/Moon, Pluto/Charon, source Wikepedia

Comparison of sizes between Earth/Moon/Pluto/Charon, source Wikepedia

Not as widely known is the discussion whether Pluto and Charon form a binary dwarf planet! Unique in our planetary system. This reasoning has some factual basis:

  1. Pluto and Charon rotate around one another
  2. The centre of mass is outside of both bodies, each can so to speak be viewed as being the others moon!
  3. They are gravitationally locked so like the Moon with the Earth they always show the same ‘face ‘ to one another. This is because Charon is half the size of Pluto. Its gravitational field has an enormous influence on Pluto.

So like Algol, where Beta Persei β constantly eclipses Beta Persei α, we have ‘Pluton’ where Charon constantly eclipses Pluto roughly every 6 days. This at a magnitude of 13.65 (compared with Algol’s 2.1). Most of Pluto(n)’s bugbear qualities have been associated with his name (Lord of the Underworld) but seen from the above standpoint, this may in fact be grounded in Pluto’s continually eclipsing nature.

So both Algol and Pluton are binary systems that constantly eclipse. They are the hobgoblins or bugbears in astrology ready to grab you and pull you into the dark closet where they hide. The only difference is the quality of light that is eclipsed. Algol at its weakest magnitude is 4 times brighter than Pluton. Compared to Pluton it glows. Just to give you an idea of the quality of light:

  • Sun – magnitude ; -26.73
  • Full Moon – magnitude; -12.6
  • Sirius, the brightest star in the sky – magnitude; -1.4
  • Saturn – magnitude; 0.24
  • Algol – magnitude; 2.1 to 3.4
  • faintest stars visible with the naked eye under optimal conditions – magnitude; 6.5
  • Neptune – magnitude; 7.7
  • Pluto – magnitude; 13.65

This is where the traditional astrologer and the modern astrologer have their differences. The traditional astrologer considers light, only where there is light can there be an influence. The modern astrologer likes to speak of ‘energy’, but what exactly this ‘energy’ is is often unclear. It is certainly not in the form of light. Maybe in the form of ‘ecliption’ (for lack of a better word)?


14 thoughts on “Algol and Pluto: Two Astrological Hobgoblins

  1. Energy is just a modern translation of the word “light.”
    Light is energy and because light is costant, – Tommaso Campanella wrote that nothing could be added in the world after Creation, because Creation is perfect by definition- energy is mass – i.e something we can perceive with our senses, in our every day life.

    Have a nice holiday,

  2. Hello Margherita,
    I at first thought so too, but I suspect that modern astrological usage is nebulous. It is a borrowed idea, taken from physical science and is used as a synonym for ‘force’. But as we see Pluto is for all practical purposes invisible. It is tiny. And with Charon together has a gravitational field that is imperceptible and the same goes for its magnetic field (if that what is meant by energy)
    My question is, does Pluto really have an effect or is it hype. Or if there is an effect, on what is it based? Lack of light? That is where the thought of a steady eclipsing, similar to that of Algol, came to mind.

    Also a nice holiday today!

  3. Dear Thomas,
    you are breaking an open door, obviously.

    Pluto’s lack of Light is a very fascinating theory, I should think about it- always in Evil there is an astonishing beauty.


  4. Hello Margherita,

    Are you familiar with Goethe’s Faust 2? The Classical Walpurgis Night that Goethe describes draws an interesting parallel between the beautiful and the ugly. You’ll find a short quote in the article on the ‘Three Sisters’


  5. Hello Margherita,

    It is interesting that Mephistopheles assumes the image of Phorkyias, ‘daughter’ of Chaos. I find the parallel of the three sisters, born in darkness, for the three outer planets an interesting one. Perhaps one should indeed explore this. Interesting is also that Pluton is also considered a Kuiper belt object, and can be seen as a ‘comet’ on ice and as it doesn’t move into the solar wind has no tail.


  6. Great post, Thomas.

    My tuppence worth:

    Pluto is not a planet but a progenitor comet, a Kuiper belt object composed of material left over after the formation of the other planets.

    Pluto is the shadow of a star; it was discovered on February 18, 1930 occulting the fixed star Wasat. Robson describes the influence of Wasat as “connected with chemicals, poisons and gas (and) violence, malevolence, destructiveness as a first principal,” synonymous with the influence of Pluto; there results a translation of light (or shadow, a diminution of light) from Wasat to Pluto.

    • Hello Andrew,
      I was thinking about Wasat and Pluto while sitting in the train today. It is a provocative idea, but if you try to find a logical conclusion then you would have to say that if Wasat and Pluto are identical then you can ignore Pluto! But to be fair with the idea one would have to see which fixed stars were near to Uranus and Neptune when they were discovered.
      best regards,

  7. Hello Andrew,

    That is an interesting idea, a translation of light! That would be an argument for only allowing only conjunctions and oppositions with very tight orbs. Slowly it all adds up. Progenitor comet, that is the word I was looking for. In my reading I have come across both viewpoints. Thank you. 🙂


  8. Very interesting article, and I love the idea of Pluto being a winking binary like Algol Thomas! There has to be something other than his size that packs Pluto’s punch! 😉

    I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the ‘New Horizons’ space mission launched from Cape Canaveral in 2006 in an attempt to fly around Pluto.

    New Horizons is now about halfway between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn, more than 743 million miles from Earth. It will fly past Pluto and its moons in July 2015 before heading deeper into the Kuiper belt of icy rocky objects on the planetary frontier.

    Pluto was discovered in the 18th degree of tropical Cancer. Interesting to think that Pluto will be approaching his ‘Half Return’ in the 15th degree of tropical Capricorn when the space mission probes his secrets in July 2015 isn’t it!

    Oooooo’er! Pluto won’t be the only one winking and blinking then! 😦


  9. I wrote that Pluto is the *shadow* of a star (Wasat), the influence of which star is synonymous with the influence ascribed to Pluto due to its occultation of Wasat; not that Wasat and Pluto are identical. Also, Pluto is compositionally a progenitor comet, not a planet; whereas Uranus and Oceanus (Neptune) are officially classified as planets.

    The stars associated with the discovery of Uranus are those that form the belt of Orion (Cingula Orionis), and are associated with energy and industry, hunting and seeking; while those associated with the discovery of Neptune form the swan of Cygnus, and are associated with dreams, culture, and a contemplative nature.

    Alfred J. Pearce, in his book The Science of the Stars (1881), wrote:

    “Uranus and Neptune not being known to the ancients were left out in the cold. As they are more remote from the Sun than is Saturn, they should have the same houses and exaltation as Saturn.”

    In his Encyclopedia of Medical Astrology (1933), Cornell wrote:

    PLUTO—The Planet Pluto—This planet will not be considered in this Edition of this book, as very little is known of it, and at present is considered by many Authorities to be a hypothetical planet. It is also doubted by some Writers as being a part of our Solar system, and is said to be outside of the Earth’s Zodiac in the greater part of its orbit. (See Planets). Mr. E. H. Bailey, Editor of the British Journal of Astrology, writes in the October, 1931 issue of his Journal, and says—”I have no belief whatever in the alleged influence of this planet. It is a very great question whether it is a member of our Solar System … and I would warn my readers not to accept anything at the present time. It is far too early to lay down definite information with regard to a body which may, or may not, have any astrological influence.” Also in the November, 1932 issue of the British Journal, Mr. Bailey further says—

    “Several correspondents have written me asking for my opinion respecting this planet, and whether I consider it has any real influence in Astrology, and if so, in what way its influence will be felt. Also what sign it rules. To be quite candid, I must confess that I have little or no belief in this planet, and from the evidence which I have obtained personally, and what has been sent to me by students, I see no reason whatever to include it when dealing with horoscopes. It is far too early in the day for students to lay down any definite information as to its influence, real or imaginary, yet one would think from published statements that certain students were fully aware of its action in horoscopes, and knew nearly all there was to be known about it. A number of horoscopes have been sent to me from readers, in which they allege that certain events have been shown by this planet, but in all the cases sent, I have been able to detect the real cause without incorporating Pluto, or any other hypothetical planet.”

    It is ironic that, seventy-five years after Bailey wrote these words, Pluto was demoted as one of the solar system planets.

    Are the changes we are now witnessing in our world reflected principally through the Saturn-Uranus opposition or through the ingress of Pluto into Capricorn? As reluctant as I am to admit it, it seems more likely the latter. The parallel of the three sisters holds some appeal for me, otherwise we might as well include every other object in trackless space as well.

  10. Hello Andrew!
    I am happy that you followed up on my slightly provocative 😉 question! Like you I am at the moment inclined to pay a little more attention to the three sisters than I have previously. The image of Pluto as an eclipsing binary planet (dwarf or not) captures my fantasy. Particularly the parallels that are in Faust II and also the idea of ‘dark matter’. And yes adding all the Kuiper belt objects along with asteroids is a bit too much. After all the Phorkyads were only 3 and no more!

    best regards,

  11. “La bellezza si ammira per se stessa: ma la grazia è irresistibile.” Giusto (Right) “Questo significa che la Grazie è più potente della bellezza.” This means that the Grace is more powerful than the Beauty…
    Oh yes…

    • Hallo Anonymous,

      Are you saying that one or both of the two are beautiful or graceful? Could you please explain your logic?

      PS, in future please refrain from using the web address of the comments section as a surreptitious website link. Otherwise I will be forced to treat your comments as spam.

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