To ancient astrologers and astronomers looking up at the sky at night, a handful of stars moved across the constellations, while others stayed fixed into place. The ones that moved - the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn - were the wandering stars, messengers to the gods, and divine beings in their own right. Tracking their movements and studying their patterns gave people a glimpse into the clockwork that made the sun rise and the seasons change, allowing humanity to speak the language of the gods. They used maps of the stars to navigate across deserts and oceans at night. They created solar and lunar calendars to structure a year. And they decorated their time holidays and festivals organized around seasonal events, even going so far as to use astrology to predict when to plant, when to harvest, and when to worship.
As time marched on, astronomy separated from astrology and progressed even further. More advanced telescopes were invented and new planetary bodies discovered. The universe opened up before us, and we reacted by peeling away centuries of myth and culture in favour of new scientific thought. We saw Uranus in 1781, Neptune in 1846, Pluto in 1930. And as new planetary bodies were added to the lexicon, debate erupted in the astrological community every time. What did these new planets stand for? What did they do? And should they even be included in our pantheon at all?
Astrology modernized in the 20th Century, and became more of a spiritual or philosophical guide, growing more along the lines of psychology and other social sciences. More emphasis began to be placed on a person's natal chart and the individual personality they were born with, and not just in the perceived effects the planets had on us in our everyday lives.
When you talk about your zodiac Sign (“I’m a Virgo/Scorpio/Taurus/Libra/etc.”), what you are referring to is your Sun Sign, or where the sun was on the day you were born. Most people know their Sun Sign, if only from being exposed to astrology through magazines and newspapers over the years. But most people don't take an actual look at their natal chart, and most don't know that you also have a Moon Sign, Mercury Sign, Venus Sign, and so on, each planet adding another layer of complexity to your personality.
If you haven't already, go ahead and get a copy of your natal chart. I've explained how to get one in this article and video here. Once you do that, bring it up and take a look. As you can see, the outer ring is filled with the colourful symbols of the Signs, and the inner circle is filled with the glyphs for the planets, showing their respective placements in front of those Signs.
So for example, see how the Sun is in front of the Taurus section? And how the Moon is in front of the Libra section? That means the Sun was in Taurus on the day I was born, in the middle of spring, between the Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. Therefore, my Sun is in Taurus ( and "I am a Taurus"). Meanwhile, the Moon was in its waxing gibbous phase, which placed it in the Sign of Libra. Therefore, my Moon is in Libra, I have a Libra Moon, I am a lunar Libra, etc. And the rest of the planets, in their positions relative to the sun and my position on earth, follow suit.
Each of these planets is a different piece of your personality. Your Sun is your ego, your sense of self, the core of who and what you are. That is why you say your Sun Sign is your Sign. But you also have a Moon, your emotional nature; Mercury, the lower mind, responsible for thinking, communicating, and movement; Venus, your feminine side; Mars, your masculine side; Ceres, your caregiving nature; Jupiter, your higher mind, seeking to understand the bigger picture and abstract ideas; Saturn, where you focus your energy towards long-term goals and long-term rewards; Chiron, those wounds which inspire you to heal others; and Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, three planets which characterize the generation you were born into.
Each of these planets cycles through the Signs at different rates. So even though you and your older sister might both have your Sun in Scorpio, the other planets in your charts may be in completely different Signs, giving you both drastically different personalities.
So what does it mean if you are a Cancer, but your Moon is in Taurus? Or your Chiron in Virgo? Or Venus in Leo? Well hold your horses, because there are two things I need to clarify before we get into that!
ELEMENTS OF SYMBOLISM
Each planet has it’s own glyph. Those are the little symbols drawn on your natal chart to denote each planet. From their ancient origins to our modern day, from one author to the next, small changes were made and new stylistic elements added, until they became the modern glyphs we use today.
Specifically, many of our modern planetary glyphs are drawn from Renaissance-era alchemy symbols, which paired planets to an element, such as gold with the Sun and silver with the Moon. These symbols (and our modern ones) were created using four symbolic elements, each of which offer a different kind of meaning to the symbol itself:
○ CIRCLE: Denotes wholeness and unity, the body of something, an infinite cycle, or a womb of creation
+ CROSS: Stands for the earth and nature, physical matter, stability, or a grounding force
☽ CRESCENT: Is the human mind or spirit, and the potential for growth, change, or transformation
↑ ARROW: Wherever there is an arrow, there is energy, action, drive, or forward movement
Keep in mind that symbols are read from the top down. And that even though all glyphs are made up of the same four elements, each means very different things. For example, look at Ceres (⚳) and Saturn (♄). Both symbols are supposed to resemble a scythe, and both are made up of a crescent and a cross. But Ceres is the upturned sickle, a crescent above a cross, so it symbolizes growth and change up and out of the earth. Just as plants grow up and out of the soil, the human spirit grows out of the family roots tying them to routine and tradition. So Ceres is a planet of home, family, fertility, and caregiving.
Saturn, on the other hand, is the downturned sickle, a crescent below a cross. This is where plants grow deep into the earth, giving them rigidity, even after being cut for harvest. Here the human spirit is stifled by the grounding energy weighing down upon it, and change comes slowly or not at all. So Saturn is a planet of limitation, restriction, long-term goals and long-term rewards, putting all of its energy into endurance and permanency.
rulerships and exaltations
If you talk to a more esoteric, spiritual astrologer, they might tell you that each planet has it's own "vibration", or its own "energy".... I'm not one of those. But I am a writer, and I do use the term "energy" as a descriptive term, because sometimes it is easier for people to understand what a planet is when they know what it feels like.
The Moon is soft and supply, receptive and changeable. Mars is violent and energetic, prone to fiery bursts of drive and sexuality. Neptune is mysterious, watery, and elusive. And Saturn is hard as a rock. Each of the Signs has their own kind of energy too. Leo is bright and hot and creative, while Scorpio is darker, moodier, and Gemini flighty and intellectual. Sometimes the energy of a planet and the energy of a Sign line up perfectly, while other times the planet wants to act one way and the Sign another. Therein lies a central question in astrology: Which Sign is each planet strongest in? And which Sign is it weakest in?
This is a question astrologers have sought to answer as long as astrology has been around. The first Babylonian system was divided into Exaltation and Fall. Exalted positions were the best, strongest, or most favorable position for each planet to be in, and Fall was the worst, weakest, and most unfavourable. The Sun was Exalted in Aries because it marked the Spring Equinox and the start of a new solar year. The Moon was given to Taurus, presumably to start the lunar year. Mercury was given to Virgo for the beginning of harvest season. Venus was given to Pisces and Mars was given to Capricorn for unknown reasons. Jupiter, a planet of abundance, was given to Cancer, for the Summer Solstice and the growing season. And Saturn, the god of harvest, was given to Libra for the Fall Equinox and the harvest season. Fall positions ran opposite, and it looked like this:
However, this system left out Gemini, Leo, Sagittarius, and Aquarius entirely, and Scorpio wasn’t Exalted anywhere, and Taurus wasn’t in Fall anywhere. So it wasn't evenly divided by any means.
Perhaps that is what led ancient Greece to devise their own system, divided into Rulership and Detriment. The logic of this system was explained by Deborah Houlding, as she writes, “As in most ancient symbolism, the pivotal point in the underlying philosophy is the relationship of the Sun to the Earth. Hence the distribution of planets to signs begins at the cusp between Cancer and Leo where the power of the Sun is greatest (at least in the northern hemisphere where astrology evolved).”
Rulership (also called Domicile) of the Sun was given to Leo and the Moon was given to Cancer. Mercury was split between the next two signs on either side, Virgo and Gemini. Venus was split between Libra and Taurus. Mars was split between Scorpio and Aries. Jupiter was split between Sagittarius and Pisces. And Saturn was split between Capricorn and Aquarius. Like the Babylonian system, Detriment positions ran opposite. The whole thing looked like this:
By the time William Lily began writing his books in the 1600s, things got even more complicated, as both systems were integrated and more added. The Five Essential Dignities, as they were known, contained not only Domicile/Detriment and Exaltation/Fall, but also Triplicates, Terms, and Decans.
Then, with the discoveries of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto in the 18th to 20th centuries, Rulership became even more complex! Uranus was initially said to be ruled by Scorpio, but was later given to Aquarius and Exalted in Scorpio. Neptune was given to Pisces and is now exalted in Leo. Pluto was given to Scorpio after some decades of speculation, and Exaltation to Aries. So now, the modern Table of Domiciles taught by most astrologers looks something like this:
And not to complain or anything, but I think it looks like crap.
Mercury is Ruled and Exalted in Virgo, and both in Fall and Detriment in Pisces? Both the Sun and Pluto are exalted in Aries, and both are in Fall and Detriment in Libra? Mercury and Venus still have duel rulerships and nobody else does?
I hate it. I've hated it for a long time. I like everything to fair, and even, and organized into neat rows and symetrical categories. So, naturally, I had to get my fingers in their and put together my own, which looks a little something like this:
I use Ceres and Chiron to bring the total list of planets to 12. I gave Rulership of Ceres to Virgo and Exaltation to Cancer. I gave Rulership of Chiron to Libra and Exaltation to Sagittarius. And I feel as though Gemini is a better match for the energy of Uranus, as Capricorn is for Pluto. I did not change any of the other modern Rulerships, but the Exaltations I did mess around with, mostly by moving some of the traditional Rulerships over into the Exalted column. That way, each planet has one Rulership and one Exaltation, without repeating an combination, and without any dual Rulerships.
As I go through each Planet in this series I will be explaining more behind the rationale behind each of the traditional Table of Domiciles, as well as my own reasoning behind my opinions on where things should go. Consider this a foreword to the CQ way of doing astrology!
In this series, we will cover each of these planets in detail, starting with what their energies feel like and what their symbolism means, to what piece of your personality they represent, and the specific placements in your natal chart. I encourage you to do your own research and come up with your own views as you read my articles and others, coming to your own conclusions as to what you think and believe to be true. In my previous series you saw how I view the Signs. But now is where I really start to diverge from the mainstream way of doing astrology.
If you are impatient and want to know what all the placements in your chart mean right away, you can visit my shop to purchase a reading in the meantime. You will go into the planet (and house) series more prepared than you otherwise would have, and you will gain a better understanding of yourself as a result. So feel free to check out any of the linked articles below to get started!