TNO Watch: Orcus

Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one’s head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no to-morrow. To forget time, to forget life, to be at peace” —Oscar Wilde

Allow me to announce the triumphant return of the TNO Watch!

For those who aren’t aware, we have far more than just the main 8 planets in our solar system: There are actually hundreds of thousands of bodies that we know of, and more are being discovered daily. Some of the most interesting ones are minor planets out past Neptune, given the designation Trans-Neptunian Objects, or TNOs.

And boy, do I have a good one to talk about today…

The Astronomy: Orcus is in the Kuiper belt, and has a large moon- Vanth. He is a plutino, locked in a 2:3 resonance with Neptune, extremely similar to Pluto’s orbit,except that it is constrained to always be in the opposite phase of its orbit from Pluto: Orcus is at aphelion when Pluto is at perihelion and vice versa. Moreover, the aphelion of Orcus’s orbit points in nearly the opposite direction from Pluto’s, although the eccentricities and inclinations are similar. Because of these similarities and contrasts, along with its large moon Vanth that recalls Pluto’s large moon Charon, Orcus has been regarded as the anti-Pluto. This was a major consideration in selecting its name, as the deity Orcus was the Etruscan equivalent of the Roman Pluto, and later became an alternate name for Pluto.

The Mythology: Orcus was a god of the underworld, the punisher of broken oaths in Italic and Roman mythology. As with Hades, the name of the god was also used for the underworld itself. Orcus was portrayed in paintings in Etruscan tombs as a hairy, bearded giant.  Orcus was chiefly worshiped in rural areas; he had no official cult in the cities. This remoteness allowed for him to survive in the countryside long after the more prevalent gods had ceased to be worshiped. He survived as a folk figure into the Middle Ages, and aspects of his worship were transmuted into the wild man festivals held in rural parts of Europe through modern times.

The Astrology: Since Orcus was only recently discovered, his astrological impact is still being studied by those of us who get off on this sort of thing. Still, from what we know we can glean a few things about how he works. He is a facet of the Underworld, much like Pluto; but unlike our favorite emo planet, Orcus is concerned more with the life-death-rebirth cycle than outright power and death. Orcus is the decomposition of living matter to become fertilizer or compost, enriching the soil so that it may bear fruit again next year. Orcus is fecundity, the knowledge that nothing ever truly dies, he is the law of conservation of matter.

Also interesting is his moon, Vanth, who I think has just as much import as the big guy does. Vanth is concerned with the passage of souls from the world of the living to the world of the dead: She is a psychopomp, being able to get in and out of hell as she chooses. Therefore, Orcus can be seen in that light as well, helping transition to the next stages in our life, helping us grow. Orcus is also the God of Oaths, so we find a connection to Pluto- Oaths can be seen as a pledge, or commitment of power, and Orcus has power over these, enforcing fairness and coming down HARD on those who cheat others, because in his eyes, they are cheating him!

To find out where he shows up in your chart, go to astro.com, put in your birth details and in the extended options, all the way at the bottom there will be a menu of additional objects with Orcus’ name there. Once you see it, click it and generate the chart! Where does Orcus affect your life?

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