There must be a lot of people with planets in the last 5 degrees of mutable signs who are mightily relieved. Just as Pluto was about to give them some heavy treatment, a bunch of astronomers in Prague stripped it of its planet status, and reduced it to a dwarf. A friend with Moon 27 Sagittarius was on the phone immediately. Now he would not have to move, his family life would not experience meltdown, demons would not arise from the depth of his unconscious and torment him. Pluto, now just a spherical block of ice like so many more in the Kuyper Belt, had just been awarded the same status as the asteroid Ceres, and the next dwarf planet out there, Xena (note 1), which is in fact larger than Pluto.This demotion of a planet is not new. Ceres was discovered in 1801 and was awarded the status of a planet, but as many more asteroids started to be located, then it was demoted again. New astronomical advances have similarly shown many large objects beyond Pluto, and scientists began questioning whether Pluto, which is minute in relation to the gas giants Uranus and Neptune, should really be a planet.

It is relevant to ask: how is Pluto taking all this? The answer is – not very well at all. The evidence of Pluto’s discomfort could be found not far from Prague – in Vienna. On the day before the decision about Pluto’s status was made, Natascha Kampusch escaped from an underground dungeon concealed in the garage of one Wolfgang Priklopil. Kidnapped by this wolfish man at the age of 10, she had been kept as his slave for 8 years. Distracted by his cell phone whilst Natascha was vacuuming his car, he failed to see her make her escape. And when he realized she had done so, he took his black BMW to the nearest railway line, and threw himself under a train.

The story of this abduction and escape riveted Austria, Europe and indeed the world. It had all the elements of a fairy tale. Like Little Red Riding Hood, the girl was wearing a red outfit when dragged off. She dreamed of chopping the Priklopil’s head off with an axe. Wolfgang. But it is of course the mythological symbolism that catches the astrologer’s eye. Just as Pluto ripped Persephone from Demeter’s arms and dragged her into the Underworld, Priklopil dragged Natascha off to his dungeon. She was there for a Venus cycle – the 8 years it takes for Venus to return to its exact phase in relation to the Earth. On her return to the surface, Pluto’s status was diminished, but Demeters’ – Ceres – status was advanced.

So, yes, Pluto experienced some discomfort. But not enough for my friend with the moon at 27 Sagittarius to start celebrating.

It’s an odd thing, but Austrian newspapers at the time triumphantly showed pictures of the passports of both the victim and the perpetrator, and armed with a magnifying glass it was relatively easy to see both their birth dates. A study of the solar horoscopes for them both reveals fascinating information.

See chart: Natascha Kampusch: 17 Feb 1988 Vienna. 0 Aquarius AS/Equal House

Natascha was born around the New Moon in Aquarius with the Sun sextile a Mars/Jupiter trine in fire signs and Venus in Aries. No victim here but a fighter and a winner. As she herself put it in her first address to the media: “He was not my master. I was just as strong… he took on the wrong one (person) — and he and I both knew that.” Obviously having someone like Priklopil as your only companion for 8 formative years is going to mess up relationships, and her Venus in Aries in precise square to Neptune shows her as an angry victim who anyway had to grieve the loss of the only man who she has ever related to in her lonely years in the 9 foot long 6 feet wide dungeon that was her home. As she said: “It was Wolfgang (Priklopil)’s own decision to throw himself under the train. I sympathize with Wolfgang’s mother. I can feel with her and put myself in her position. I, and both of us, think of him”. Well, yes. It must be difficult not to.

It is interesting that someone with such an incredible story is born just a few days after Saturn and Uranus simultaneously entered that sign of hardship – Capricorn. With Mars on the degree of the Galactic Centre and soon to progress onto the Saturn/Uranus conjunction, perhaps it picks up the energy of this black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. Obviously this stellium shows extreme experiences at the hands of men – extreme hardship and extreme cruelty. The only man she has known, and intimately, was a psychopath. Yet at the same time, this powerful Mars, trining Jupiter in Aries, shows someone who combines bravery and spirit with an incredible self-discipline learned from her years of incarceration.

Pluto might be expected to be prominent in her chart; it had just turned retrograde in Scorpio, and Mercury, also retrograde, was to go back to 12 degrees Aquarius to make the exact square to Pluto. There it dwelled in progressed square to Pluto (within a degree) from the age of 3 to the fateful age of 10 at which time she was led underground. Pluto at birth is semisquare Mars, and really this was a time of undiluted horror for her – in a tiny room without windows which she was not allowed out of night or day for the first six months of her captivity.

Interestingly her Ceres is a 17.26 Aquarius conjoining Mercury, and at the exact mid-point of (and precisely septile to) Mars on the one side and Venus on the other. Ceres is the Roman name for the Greek goddess Demeter, who lost her daughter to Hades. The gods intervened and returned Persephone to her mother, but unfortunately she had eaten that fateful fruit of love, the pomegranate, whilst in the arms of Hades, and is condemned to periodically return. Just after progressed Mercury, now direct, conjoins Natascha’s Ceres, she also escapes and is returned to the world.

There is evidence that if you want to escape, it is good to wait for good aspects to come along, rather than bad. When Natascha found the right moment (Note 2), the Sun was at 0.11 Virgo and in precise trine to Uranus and Saturn. The moon was at 26.24 Leo in precise trine to Mars and Jupiter. And for those who are beginning to get interested in Ceres, it was at 17.26 Aquarius at birth and at the moment of escape it was at… 17.26 Aquarius. No orb. One Ceres cycle.

So who is this guy Wolfgang Priklopil, who spent the midnight hours building the concealed dungeon and equipping it with advanced electronic surveillance systems until ready to pounce on his captive?

See chart: Wolfgang Priklopil: 14th May 1962 Vienna. Ceres 19.43 Gemini. AS 0 TA

This is someone who robs innocents from their mothers. Venus is at 19.33 Gemini – just 10 minutes of arc from Ceres. The Mercury/Venus conjunction in Gemini obviously gives a predisposition for schoolgirls. Mercury looks blameless enough, but it actually goes stationary by progression on the Venus/Ceres conjunction, dwelling on them within a degree from the age of 5 to 19. What goes on in these years? Mercury moves from retrograde to direct motion at 11.51 Gemini which is exactly where it is in 1998 when he abducts Natascha. Trine Saturn at 11.21 Aquarius. A great planner. Quincunx Neptune – imaginative. Finally, Wolfgang left this world when progressed Mercury returned to degree of birth Mercury. He did not get very far.

His grand achievement – the abduction – took place as Natascha was going to school on the morning of March 2nd 1998.

Abduction: 3rd March 1998 School start. Vienna

The abduction took place just after a solar eclipse at 7.55 Pisces which was exactly opposite Priklopil’s Pluto. This was his moment of destiny – the time when he took an irrevocable step into the dark side. The eclipse conjoined Jupiter and squared transit Pluto, which at this point was exactly square his natal Pluto. As Priklopil is born with Pluto opposing Jupiter, this was a unique moment. In fact, the astrological detective could – if presented with Priklopil’s date of birth at the time of the abduction – have seen that this was the time when his dark fantasies about imprisoning a schoolgirl would be activated. The abduction chart and the natal chart echo major themes of domination and imprisonment. The fact is detectives visited Priklopil’s house to question him, but never searched it. The abduction also took place with an exact Venus/Mars sextile, echoing the same sextile in Priklopil’s birth chart.

Natascha Kampusch has a lot of catching up to do. She has chosen to limit her contact with her parents, who had divorced prior to her abduction. At present communication with them is limited to the phone. A live interview had the highest viewing figures ever in Austria and generated huge licensing revenue, which Kampusch is reported as having donated to women in need in Africa and Mexico. She has granted other interviews in return for a package including housing support, a long-term job offer, and help with her education. (Note 3) She’ll probably manage all right if her horoscope is anything to go by.

One of the main consequences of the new dwarf planet status of Pluto, is the promotion of Ceres, and the iconic story of Priklopil and Kampusch emphasizes the power of Ceres, making a strong case for its inclusion in the standard astrological chart along with the other major planets. Judging from its effect in this story, and a glance at the charts of people I know well, it seems Ceres is very connected with the mother archetype and the motherhood role. One client I know has Ceres between Uranus and Pluto and claims, because of extreme childhood experiences, that her mother is a psychopath. Another returned to his mother country after many years when his Sun progressed conjoined Ceres. The Greek myth points to the connection of Demeter with famine, and embedded in Ceres is the latent tendency for extreme contrasts between nurture and abandonment and loss.

As regards Pluto there are probably other stories coinciding with the date of its demotion from the pantheon of the gods. As a rule events in the field of astronomy tend to be reflected by events on earth. When Voyager flew past Uranus, the space shuttle Challenger exploded. When Voyager flew by Neptune, millions joined hands across the borders of the Baltic countries, dissolving the borders and the domination of the Soviet Union. The New Horizons space probe (Note 4) will arrive at Pluto in 2015. Expect to see an interesting demonstration of its effect.

As the years go by – if the Prague decison holds – Pluto will be redefined in school text books. It will lose some of its iconic power. Will the atom bomb go the same way as Priklopil? How will psychology fare? But right now it is firmly enconsed in the horoscope, and – sigh of relief – clients are still having traumas and crises. Clearly, as astrologers, we have not lost a planet – we’ve gained two. Now where is Ceres in my horoscope… not to mention Xena!

Adrian Duncan 19th September 2006

1. Xena’s position is currently 21 Aries – noticed anything? – and an ephemeris can be found at

2. Natascha escaped at 12.53 on August 23rd 2006.

3. Wikepedia:

4. An Atlas V rocket carrying the New Horizons spacecraft on a mission to Pluto lifted off at Cape Canaveral on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2006 at 14.00.