Pluto has a heart! Scientists looking at the first images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which just arrived in the Pluto zone after three billion miles and nearly ten years, have spotted a heart-shaped region on the frosty planet. They’ve nicknamed it “the heart.” Who would have thought that the mythical god of the wintry underworld, custodian of the afterlife, would have a soft spot? Echoes of Vodou cross my mind’s ear.
He did have a heart. In Roman mythology the god Pluto fell in love with Proserpina, daughter of the grain goddess Ceres. He abducted her and carried her off to his underworld kingdom. In despair her mother ceased production of food on the earth. This finally persuaded Pluto to release his wife on condition she spend three months a year with him. Those three months became winter.
Haitian Vodou lore comes to us more often in symbols than narrative. A serpent, a heart, an erotic dance movement, a color, a melody, a martial beat… The symbols are universal, that is, their meaning works across boundaries. And so, when I look at the image traveling back from the spacecraft, I see Èzili Freda, Vodou spirit of romantic love, the woman who can capture any male heart. She’s got Pluto.
Featured image: Ritual diagram for Èzili Freda superimposed over NASA image of Pluto’s heart. To see the full image and read more about the New Horizons, go here.