April 29, 2009

To follow up on a recent blog about Mike Brown’s recruitment for a name for the moon of Orcus, here is a posting of an article I wrote for Major Sky Magazine (you can check out how to get it on my site) to keep you up to date with the latest on that astronomical/astrological mythic news.

Recently, astronomer Mike Brown posted in his blogs that he was accepting suggestions for a name for the moon of the Trans-Neptunian Object, Orcus, whose fate as a dwarf planet remains in limbo. The name he ultimately accepted to submit to the International Astronomical Union (IAU) was Vanth.

Okay, so why should we care two hoots about the name of a moon orbiting a Trans-Neptunian Object that does not yet have planetary status, albeit dwarf, though it someday might? Should we as astrologers care what astronomers and the dogmatic IAU think? Good questions.

First, let’s back up for some background character development for Orcus and his satellite, Vanth. Orcus is, for the time, the eighth largest Kuiper Belt Object, though when discovered he was fourth. His orbit is much like Pluto’s in dynamics, except for one key factor: the orbits of Orcus and Pluto point in different directions. (Check out JPL’s orbit plotter by going to:;orb=1;cov=0;log=0;cad=0#orb. Scroll out until Orcus comes into view and have fun checking out the edge of our solar system). Thus, Mike Brown described Orcus as the anti-Pluto. Should we care?

Absolutely! Mike Brown, though he will assign you the characteristic of delusional for believing Pluto is a planet, cheerfully engages with astrologers. Attentively, he selects names to propose to the IAU, acutely aware of the eternal social and cultural impact such nomenclature assignment creates. Last November, while speaking at the University of Arizona, here in Tucson, he stated that the discovery and naming processes of Eris almost made him a believer in astrology. He’s on our side, from his own scientific side of the fence.

Vanth comes to us from Etruscan mythology where she is a chthonic figure typically appearing in funeral art. A daemon, she functions as a guide to the underworld and is often portrayed waiting for the arrival of the deceased, frequently grieving. She pals around with other demons more notably Charun, the name from which Charon (Pluto’s binary companion in orbit) is derived. She commonly carries a torch, key or scroll as seen in her depictions of slaughters and murders. While often shown as a solitary shamanic-like escort to the underworld, she appears at the time of death for many, unlike Charon who waits at the River Styx. By most accounts, she is considered a more benefic rendition of Charon, seemingly reaching out to those enduring a traumatic death. In her role as psychopompos, her torch sheds light to guide the path to the underworld and her scroll contains the fate of the departed. Some depictions show her rising out of the ground.

Orcus has captured the attention of many astrologers, Chiron, Nessus and Pholus innovator, Melanie Reinhart, for one. Orcus now stands in late Leo (his position can easily be found in Solar Fire software, on various sites such as, and also in my Galactic Trilogy CD) and is virtually opposite the yet to be orbitally refined, likely dwarf planet assigned the colloquial working name, Snow White.

Out there in free shareware land is a nifty astronomical program going by the name Stellarium. If you download this freebie, you can locate Pluto and scroll in on it using the wheel on your mouse. As you close in on Pluto, Charon pops out from the side and you can examine the radius vectors of both objects (distance to the object), determining which is closer. When Charon stands closer, symbolically he must be addressed first, before attempting to deal with matters Plutonian.

In classical mythology, all souls went to the underworld for judgment. Once in the underworld a soul’s fate could be assigned to the lovely Elysian Fields, the dreaded realm known as Tartarus or Hades itself. First one had to gain access to the underworld by paying Charon his due. Without proper payment or propitiation a soul was forced to wander the River Styx for a hundred years, not only a waste of eternity, but a drudgery.

With Orcus and Vanth, we now observe a more optimistic guide into the realm of the afterlife, yet the significance of the guides in the case of Pluto and Orcus cannot be neglected. While we often discuss the astrological nature of Pluto, and now Orcus, and the forced hands of fate they render, the nature of comprehension of the underworld journey and its shamanic significance dramatically and beneficially increases with the application of Charon and Vanth. Just because a person endures a Pluto or Orcus influence, transformation, evolution and enlightenment does not automatically result. The clients of astrologers prove this every day. There are hundreds of ways to apply Pluto poorly, and those observing Orcus note similar, but less severe effects with this body. Consider the underworldly guides. To apply the underworld deity, one must create clear intent, be willing pay one’s own way, so to speak, and persist on the path no matter what and must deal with the guides before being permitted into the core of the issue.

If a poll were conducted of working astrologers, many to most would avow the significance of Pluto. Those applying Orcus would provide similar testimony. For a person seeking to smoothly execute such an underworld transit, wouldn’t a guide be lovely? Charon and now Vanth await those ticketed for a transformational journey.


Want to Name a Moon & Have Celestial Immortality?

March 25, 2009

Dwarf planet co-discoverer Mike Brown is looking for suggestions for naming S/1 90482 (2005). More clearly this nomenclature refers to the first satellite of the minor planet 90482, which was found in 2005. 90482 used to be known as 2004 DW but quickly received the name Orcus, an underworld deity whom Mike Brown refers to as the anti-Pluto. Rather than hear it from me, it’s best to read his blog:

A couple of things to keep in mind. Because Orcus maintains a semi-major axis of 39.172 AU, reasonable close to the semi-major axis of Pluto, Orcus is a plutino. A plutino is a Trans-Neptunian Object or Kuiper Belt Object that maintains an orbital resonance of 3:2 with Neptune. As Neptune orbits the Sun thrice, Orcus and Pluto do so twice, plus or minus a reasonable margin of time. This means the moon’s name should reflect underworld mythology consistent with the naming protocol for plutinos and their followers (Charon to Pluto, ferryman at the River Styx) and the name cannot have been used for an asteroid as Persephone and Prosepina have been previously consumed. Keep in mind that you have to provide a rationale or a mythic logic as to why this name should apply as part of your submission.

Mike Brown has promised to send the best suggestion he receives to the International Astronomical Union for acceptance, which given his naming history, is quite likely. So, if you’d like a little celestial immortality, you too can join the ranks of astrologers who have submitted names for new objects that have been accepted by astronomical “authority,” including Melanie Reinhart, Robert von Heeren, Zane Stein, John Delaney and me.

I urge you to read his blog using the link above before submitting. Have fun. The deadline for submissions is April 5th.