Pluto by Fritz Brunhubner
Reviewer: Deborah Houlding

This review was first published in the Skyscript Newsletter, # 4, November 2022 pp.25-28.

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I’ve found it impossible to discover significant details about the circumstances of Brunhubner's life, and this is a research project begging for more attention than I can give it. His birth data is recorded by Astro*Databank – contributed by Julie Baum, the translator who made his German text available in English. He was born in Nuremberg at 10:46 am on 3 July 1894 and died there on 9 March 1965. The entirety of his entry in Holden’s Biographical Dictionary of Western Astrologers reads (p.98):

German astrologer and lecturer who entered the field of astrology in 1926. Ellic Howe says he has identified an article by Brunhubner that appears in the German magazine Zenit in May 1932 as being the prototype formulation of the presently accepted astrological influence of the planet Pluto. Brunhubner elaborated this into a 138-page book two years later. He joined the AFA in 1958.

This scant information doesn’t do justice to how Brunhubner's personal ideas set a new template in astrology. While my own interest in the outer planets is somewhat ‘luke warm’ I find his text fascinating, not least because of what it says about the world as Brunhubner saw it, as an astrologer noticing the influence of Pluto all around him during the rise of the Third Reich in Germany in the 1930s.

So what can you expect from the book, and why do I argue that if you invest in any book on Pluto, this is the one to get? The copy I have is the AFA revised edition of 1971 (the first edition was published in 1966, as a translation of the German book published in Nuremberg in 1934). This is a very nice-looking hardcover book, especially if (like me) you enjoy books with an authentic feel to them: the type is facsimile monospace with simple formatting, straight off the typewriter. I happen to think the cover is inspired: plain design, dark maroon cloth, with the single word of the title – Pluto – emblazoned in gold. As Brunhubner reminds us, Pluto may be the mythological god of the underworld, but he is also associated with the bounties of the Earth, related to rich ores and mineral wealth.

Two Prefaces commence the book, as written in 1934. The first, by a German colleague, praises the originality of the work and stresses its research value regarding a very recently discovered planet. The second, by the author, explains the previous research he has collected and presented, and why he felt captivated to do so by “this trans-Neptunian, lonesome wanderer”. He gives sensible disclaimers and provisos, stressing that the planet is so new that it has only been observed in one zodiac sign, so it will take generations for its effects to be fully understood. He does not want the book to be considered a textbook, or an exhaustive treatise, but only a “stepping-stone for further investigation” and “a stimulation for further intensive investigation and research”. But all of this became lost on his readers because what Brunhubner proposes in this text has been wholly adopted by the modern astrological community, with no noticeable development or alteration.

The Table of Contents is as follows:

1.   Astronomy
2.   Mythology
3.   The Symbol of Pluto
4.   Which sign is ruled by Pluto?
5.   Pluto-Janus
6.   The Characteristics of Pluto
7.   The Physiological Effects of Pluto
8.   Correspondence
9.   Pluto in the Signs
10.   The Aspects of Pluto
11.   Pluto in the Houses
12.   Examples of Delineation
13.   The Transits of Pluto
14.   The Pluto Type
15.   Various Observations
16.   The Message of Pluto
Appendix of chart data

Although offered tentatively, Brunhubner’s survey of his subject is wide-ranging and deep, and it really is persuasive as well as informative. Chapter 1 explains the astronomy of Pluto’s eccentric orbit and why its existence was calculated before it could be telescopically observed. I am struck by his remark that “The Lowell Observatory, at Flagstaff, Arizona, USA, had been searching for Pluto for several years and it was finally found on 21 January 1930, as an object of the 15th magnitude”. This is not the discovery date given by modern astronomical sources, which claim Pluto was discovered on 18 February, 1930. Yet, Brunhubner’s research seems careful, and he was a contemporary with a vested interest in getting his information right, so I wonder about this, unsure what to make of it.
Pluto discovery charts

According to Brunhubner, Pluto was discovered on 21st Jan 1930 (left); he considered it very relevant that on the day of its discovery Pluto was opposed by Mars – like two hostile brothers about to fight over rulership of Scorpio: “Unfavourable aspects between them almost always bring unrest, quarrels, strife, deaths and catastrophes”. Modern sources usually date the discovery to 18 Feb 1930 (right); however, source notes on Astro*Database show that Prier Wintle in Considerations (November 2001) also gave the discovery date as 21 January 1930. So ... when Pluto ingresses into Aquarius in late March 2023 will it feel its own effects (Pluto transiting Pluto’s natal Sun)?

Brunhubner also gives the early explanation of how Pluto got its name:

As reported in ‘Science’, vol.7, 1930, Pluto had been called simply Planet X at the time of its discovery. After publication of the discovery of the planet a little English girl, eleven year old Venetia Burney, of Oxford, submitted the first proposal for the name Pluto. Her father telegraphed this name at once to the Lowell observatory, and as this was the first to arrive, in Flagstaff, it was accepted.

Venetia Burney, the girl who named Pluto

Venetia Burney was born on 11 July 1918, with the Sun at 18°Cancer, the degree where Pluto would manifest when discovered in 1930 (so she was having a Pluto transit of her own Sun at that time). In later years she gave an interview clarifying that she chose the name from an interest in mythology (not because Pluto was her favourite Disney character as so often reported: the cartoon character was not ‘born’ until the following year).

… I was having breakfast with my mother and my grandfather. And my grandfather read out at breakfast the great news and said he wondered what it would be called.

For some reason, after a short pause, I said, “Why not call it Pluto?” I did know, I was fairly familiar with Greek and Roman legends from various children's books that I had read, and of course, I did know about the solar system and the names the other planets have. And so I suppose I just thought that this was a name that hadn’t been used. And there it was.
Photo credit: Wikipedia

There is a discussion on the ideas proposed to form a glyph for Pluto, and what those ideas were based on, followed by an exploration of the mythology of Pluto/ Hades. Brunhubner presents the themes of the myth very effectively, reminding us that “Sometimes Hades-Pluto was called ‘the door-keeper’ and was pictured with a key in his hand”, but he doesn’t rest his argument on myth.

There are many original and creative proposals, giving, for example, theoretical reasons as well as chart illustrations of why Pluto appears to have associations with the pineal gland. But what is most impressive is the number of case studies Brunhubner refers to, which shows his ideas are mainly shaped by his observation of what people experienced at times when Pluto crossed over sensitive chart points. Many of these are retrospective assessments for times when Pluto’s existence was unknown. He includes details of his own experiences too: his father and younger sister both died under Pluto transits; the father of an acquaintance died when Pluto squared the Moon in the 8th; a comrade was taken prisoner when Pluto opposed his ascendant and aspected the ruler of his 12th house; he suffered a fall off a galloping horse resulting in unconsciousness when Pluto squared his 8th-ruler, Mars.

Having demonstrated beyond doubt his practical skill and good knowledge of astrology, Brunhubner then shares details of visions he experienced whilst fully enmeshed in his Pluto research. He believed Pluto’s triggering of certain elements of his chart made him particularly attuned to its vibration at that time, with a recognition that its appearance came as a warning of devasting and destructive forces about to shake up the world. My own nervous system went cold as I read the final pages (published in 1934), and the strength of the ominous warning he gives there about how the influence of Pluto was about to transplant the whole of international, political and economic life, and bring massive strife and upheaval over the wrestle of change-over and global power.

How very sadly right he was on that.

One of the few, hand drawn chart examples, for "Director Dahlem, February 11 1870, 6:35 am, Aschaffenburg" – many other examples are given and the data for several full charts are included for which the reader is expected to draw their own map. (Brunhubner used Placidus houses).

The notes on this chart read:

Director Dahlem, discovered very extensive petroleum and potash fields in Sinngrund and Schippach by use of the divining rod (deep in the earth). Pluto conjunct Jupiter, sextile Uranus, sextile Sun, sextile Mars.

On the day of this discovery, August 28, 1928, transiting Pluto was in exact conjunction with radical Uranus, sextile radical Pluto and Jupiter, trine radical Sun and Mars. Pluto was therefore in aspect with all factors pertaining to divining in the radix horoscope

Places symbolised by Pluto (extract from places listed, p.28):

Below: Pluto (the 'Gatekeeper') holding his sceptre and key, by Agostino Carraci. 1592; source: Wikimedia Commons.

Pluto holding his sceptre and key, by Agostino Carraci. 1592; source: Wikimedia Commons

Warning for 1942 (p.90)

Warning for the world (p.92)

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© D. Houlding. This article was first published in the Skyscript Newsletter, issue 4, October 2022.