Planets in astrology have a meaning different from the modern astronomical understanding of what a planet is. Before the age of telescopes, the night sky was thought to consist of two very similar components: fixed stars, which remained motionless in relation to each other, and “wandering stars” (Ancient Greek/Coptic: ἀστέρες πλανῆται asteres planetai), which moved relative to the fixed stars over the course of the year.
To the Greeks this group comprised the five planets visible to the naked eye, and excluded the Earth. Although strictly the term “planet” applied only to those five objects, the term was latterly broadened, particularly in the Middle Ages, to include the Sun and the Moon (sometimes referred to as “Lights”), making a total of seven planets. Astrologers retain this definition today.
To ancient astrologers, the planets represented the will of the gods and their direct influence upon human affairs. To modern astrologers the planets represent basic drives or urges in the unconscious,or energy flow regulators representing dimensions of experience. They express themselves with different qualities in the twelve signs of the zodiac and in the twelve houses. The planets are also related to each other in the form of aspects.
Modern astrologers differ on the source of the planets’ influence. Some state that the planets exert it directly through gravitation or another, unknown influence. Others hold that the planets have no direct influence in themselves, but are mirrors of basic organizing principles in the universe. In other words, the basic patterns of the universe repeat themselves everywhere, in fractal-like fashion, and “as above so below”. Therefore, the patterns that the planets make in the sky reflect the ebb and flow of basic human impulses. The planets are also associated, especially in the Chinese tradition, with the basic forces of nature.
Listed below are the specific meanings and domains associated with the astrological planets since ancient times, with the main focus on the Western astrological tradition. The planets in Hindu astrology are known as the Navagraha or “nine realms”. In Chinese astrology, the planets are associated with the life forces of yin and yang and the five elements, which play an important role in the Chinese form of geomancy known as Feng Shui.
Treatises on the Ptolemaic planets and their influence on people born “under their reign” appear in block book form, so-called “planet books” or Planetebücher, from about 1460 in southern Germany, and remain popular throughout the German Renaissance, exerting great iconographical influence far into the 17th century. A notable early example is the Hausbuch of Wolfegg of c. 1470. Even earlier, Hans Talhoffer, in a 1459 manuscript, includes a treatise on planets and planet-children.
These books usually list a male and a female Titan with each planet, Cronus and Rhea with Saturn, Eurymedon and Themis with Jupiter, Hyperion and Theia with Sun, Atlas and Phoebe with Moon, Coeus and Metis with Mercury and Oceanus and Tethys with Venus.
The qualities inherited from the planets by their children are as follows:
- Saturn: melancholy and apathy
- Jupiter: hunting
- Mars: soldiering and warfare
- Sun: music and athleticism
- Moon: association with water and travel
- Mercury: money and commerce
- Venus: amorousness and passion.
The seven classical planets are those easily seen with the naked eye, and were thus known to ancient astrologers. They are the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
Sometimes, the Sun and Moon were referred to as “the lights” or the “luminaries”. Ceres and Uranus can also just be seen with the naked eye, though no ancient culture appears to have taken note of them. The astrological descriptions attached to the seven classical planets have been preserved since ancient times. Astrologers call the seven classical planets “the seven personal and social planets”, because they are said to represent the basic human drives of every individual.
The personal planets are the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars. The social or transpersonal planets are Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter and Saturn are often called the first of the “transpersonal” or “transcendent” planets as they represent a transition from the inner personal planets to the outer modern, impersonal planets. The outer modern planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are often called the collective or transcendental planets. The following is a list of the planets and their associated characteristics.
Astrologically, the Sun is usually thought to represent the conscious ego, the self and its expression, personal power, pride and authority, leadership qualities and the principles of creativity, spontaneity, health and vitality, the sum of which is named the “life force”. The 1st-century poet Marcus Manilius in his epic, 8000-verse poem, Astronomica, described the Sun, or Sol, as benign and favorable. In medicine, the Sun is associated with the heart, circulatory system, and the thymus. In Ayurveda, it rules over life-force (praan-shakti), governs bile temperament (pitta), stomach, bones and eyes. In modern astrology, the Sun is the ruler of the fifth house and the zodiac sign of Leo.
The Sun is associated with Sunday. In Chinese astrology, the Sun represents Yang, the active, assertive masculine life principle.
The Moon is the ruling planet of Cancer and is exalted in Taurus. In Roman mythology, the Moon was Luna, at times identified with Diana.
The Moon is large enough for its gravity to affect the Earth, stabilizing its orbit and producing the regular ebb and flow of the tides. The lunar day syncs up with its orbit around Earth in such a manner that the same side of the Moon always faces the Earth and the other side, known as the “far side of the Moon” faces towards space.
The moon is used to characterise the inner child within us, as well as the past and how we have been as individuals rather than how we are now. It is also used to represent the perception one has of one’s mother, so someone with a Pisces Moon would be more likely to see their mother as a Piscean type, even if in reality that was not the case. In the horoscope the aspects the moon makes with other planets and the transits the slower moving planets make to the moon are all said to have a strong impact on how our lives unfold.
The Moon or Luna is associated with Monday, the word Monday comes from the Old English word for Moon day or Moon’s day, and in Romance languages, the name for Monday comes from luna (e.g., luni in Romanian, lundi in French, lunes in Spanish and lunedi in Italian).
In Chinese astrology, the Moon represents Yin, the passive and receptive feminine life principle. In Indian astrology, the Moon is called Chandra or Soma and represents the mind, queenship and mother. The north lunar node (called Rahu) and the south lunar node (called Ketu) are considered to be of particular importance and are given an equal place alongside the seven classical planets as part of the nine navagraha.
Mercury is the ruling planet of Gemini and Virgo and is exalted in the latter; it is the only planet with rulership and exaltation both in the same sign (Virgo). In Roman mythology, Mercury is the messenger of the gods, noted for his speed and swiftness. Echoing this, the scorching, airless world Mercury circles the Sun on the fastest orbit of any planet. Mercury takes only 88 days to orbit the Sun, spending about 7.33 days in each sign of the zodiac. Mercury is so close to the Sun that only a brief period exists after the Sun has set where it can be seen with the naked eye, before following the Sun beyond the horizon.
Astrologically, Mercury represents the principles of communication, mentality, thinking patterns, rationality and reasoning and adaptability and variability. Mercury governs schooling and education, the immediate environment of neighbors, siblings and cousins, transport over short distances, messages and forms of communication such as post, email and telephone, newspapers, journalism and writing, information gathering skills and physical dexterity.
In medicine, Mercury is associated with the nervous system, the brain, the respiratory system, the thyroid and the sense organs. It is traditionally held to be essentially cold and dry, according to its placement in the zodiac and in any aspects to other planets. It is linked to the animal spirits.
Today, Mercury is regarded as the ruler of the third and sixth houses; traditionally, it had the joy in the first house. Mercury is the messenger of the gods in mythology. It is the planet of day-to-day expression and relationships. Mercury’s action is to take things apart and put them back together again. It is an opportunistic planet, decidedly unemotional and curious.
Mercury rules over Wednesday. In Romance languages, the word for Wednesday is often similar to Mercury (miercuri in Romanian, mercredi in French, miercoles in Spanish and “mercoledì” in Italian). Dante Alighieri associated Mercury with the liberal art of dialectic. In Indian astrology, Mercury is called Budha, a word related to Buddhi (“intelligence”) and represents communication.
in chinese astrology, Mercury represent Water, four element. Water is communicative, intelligence and much elegance.
Venus orbits the Sun in 225 days, spending about 18.75 days in each sign of the zodiac. Venus is the second brightest object in the night sky, the Moon being the brightest. It is usually beheld as a twin planet to Earth.
Astrologically, Venus is associated with the principles of harmony, beauty, balance, feelings and affections and the urge to sympathize and unite with others. It is involved with the desire for pleasure, comfort and ease. It governs romantic relations, marriage and business partnerships, sex (the origin of the words ‘venery’ and ‘venereal’), the arts, fashion and social life. The 1st-century poet Marcus Manilius described Venus as generous and fecund and the lesser benefic.
The planet Venus In medicine, Venus is associated with the lumbar region, the veins, parathyroids, throat and kidneys. Venus was thought to be moderately warm and moist and was associated with the phlegmatic humor. Venus is the ruler of the second and seventh houses.
Venus is the planet of Friday. In languages deriving from Latin, such as Romanian, Spanish, French, and Italian, the word for Friday often resembles the word Venus (vineri, viernes, vendredi and “venerdì” respectively). Dante Alighieri associated Venus with the liberal art of rhetoric.In Chinese astrology, Venus is associated with the element metal, which is unyielding, strong and persistent. In Indian astrology, Venus is known as Shukra and represents wealth, pleasure and reproduction. In Norse Paganism, the planet is associated to Freyja, the goddess of love, beauty and fertility.
Mars orbits the Sun in 687 days, spending about 57.25 days in each sign of the zodiac. It is also the first planet that orbits outside of Earth’s orbit, making it the first planet that does not set along with the Sun. Mars has two permanent polar ice caps. During a pole’s winter, it lies in continuous darkness, chilling the surface and causing the deposition of 25–30% of the atmosphere into slabs of CO2 ice (dry ice).
Astrologically, Mars is associated with confidence and self-assertion, aggression, sexuality, energy, strength, ambition and impulsiveness. Mars governs sports, competitions and physical activities in general. The 1st-century poet Manilius, described the planet as ardent and as the lesser malefic. In medicine, Mars presides over the genitals, the muscular system, the gonads and adrenal glands. It was traditionally held to be hot and excessively dry and ruled the choleric humor. It was associated with fever, accidents, trauma, pain and surgery.
Mars is associated with Tuesday and in Romance languages the word for Tuesday often resembles Mars (in Romanian, marţi, in Spanish, martes, in French, mardi and in Italian “martedì”). The English “Tuesday” is a modernised form of “Tyr’s Day”, Tyr being the Germanic analogue to Mars. Dante Alighieri associated Mars with the liberal art of arithmetic. In Chinese astrology, Mars is ruled by the element fire, which is passionate, energetic and adventurous. In Indian astrology, Mars is called Mangala and represents energy, confidence and ego.
Jupiter is the ruling planet of Sagittarius and is exalted in Cancer. In Roman mythology, Jupiter is the ruler of the gods and their guardian and protector, and his symbol is the thunderbolt. The Romans believed that Jupiter granted them supremacy because they had honored him more than any other people had. Jupiter was “the fount of the auspices upon which the relationship of the city with the gods rested.” He personified the divine authority of Rome’s highest offices, internal organization, and external relations. His image in the Republican and Imperial Capitol bore regalia associated with Rome’s ancient kings and the highest consular and Imperial honours.
In the same way, the planet Jupiter is the king of the other planets, a giant in size with spectacular, brightly colored clouds and intense storms. Some astronomers believe that it plays an important protecting role in using its massive gravity to capture or expel from the solar system many comets and asteroids that would otherwise threaten Earth and the inner planets. Jupiter takes 11.9 years to orbit the Sun, spending almost an earth year (361 days) in each sign of the zodiac. Furthermore Jupiter is usually the fourth brightest object in the sky (after the Sun, the Moon and Venus).
Astrologically, Jupiter is associated with the principles of growth, expansion, prosperity, and good fortune. Jupiter governs long distance and foreign travel, higher education, religion, and the law. It is also associated with the urge for freedom and exploration, humanitarian and protecting roles, and with gambling and merrymaking.
Jupiter is associated with Thursday, and in Romance languages, the name for Thursday often comes from Jupiter (e.g., joi in Romanian, jeudi in French, jueves in Spanish, and giovedì in Italian). Dante Alighieri associated Jupiter with the liberal art of geometry. In Chinese astrology, Jupiter is ruled by the element wood, which is patient, hard-working, and reliable. In Indian astrology, Jupiter is known as Guru or Brihaspati and is known as the ‘great teacher’.
Saturn is the ruling planet of Capricorn and is exalted in Libra. In Roman mythology, Saturn is the god of agriculture, founder of civilizations and of social order, and conformity. The glyph is most often seen as scythe-like, but it is primarily known as the “crescent below the cross”, whereas Jupiter’s glyph is the “crescent above the cross”. The famous rings of the planet Saturn that enclose and surround it, reflect this principle of man’s limitations. Saturn takes 29.5 years to orbit the Sun, spending about 2.46 years in each sign of the zodiac.
Astrologically, Saturn is associated with the principles of limitation, restrictions, boundaries, practicality and reality, crystallizing, and structures. Saturn governs ambition, career, authority and hierarchy, and conforming social structures. It concerns a person’s sense of duty, discipline and responsibility, and their physical and emotional endurance during hardships. Saturn is also considered to represent the part of a person concerned with long-term planning. The Return of Saturn is said to mark significant events in each person’s life. According to the 1st-century poet Manilius, Saturn is sad, morose, and cold, and is the greater malefic. According to Claudius Ptolemy, “Saturn is lord of the right ear, the spleen, the bladder, the phlegm, and the bones.” Saturn symbolized processes and things that were dry and cold, and therefore inimical to life. It governed the melancholic humor.
According to Sefer Yetzirah – GRA Version – Kaplan 4:13
“He made the letter Resh king over Peace And He bound a crown to it And He combined one with another And with them He formed Saturn in the Universe Friday in the Year The left nostril in the Soul, male and female.”
Saturn is associated with Saturday, which was named after the deity Saturn. Dante Alighieri associated Saturn with the liberal art of astronomia (astrology and astronomy). In Chinese astrology, Saturn is ruled by the element earth, which is warm, generous, and co-operative. In Indian astrology, Saturn is called Shani or “Sani”, and represents career and longevity. It is also the bringer of bad luck and hardship.
Since the invention of the telescope, Western astrology has incorporated Uranus, Neptune, Ceres, Pluto, and other bodies into its methodology. The Indian and Chinese astrologies have tended to retain the ancient seven-planet system. Meanings have had to be assigned to them by modern astrologers, usually according to the major events that occurred in the world at the time of their discovery. As these astrologers are usually Western, the social and historical events they describe have an inevitable Western emphasis. Astrologers consider the “extra-Saturnian” planets to be “impersonal” or generational planets, meaning their effects are felt more across whole generations of society. Their effects in individuals depend upon how strongly they feature in that individual’s birth-chart. The following are their characteristics as accepted by most astrologers.
Uranus takes 84 years to orbit the Sun, spending about 7 years in each sign of the zodiac. Uranus was discovered only in 1781 by Sir William Herschel.
Astrologically modern interpretations associate Uranus with the principles of genius, individuality, new and unconventional ideas, discoveries, electricity, inventions, and the beginnings of the industrial revolution. Uranus, among all planets, most governs genius.
In art and literature, the discovery of Uranus coincided with the Romantic movement, which emphasized individuality and freedom of expression. In medicine, Uranus is believed to be particularly associated with the sympathetic nervous system, mental disorders, breakdowns and hysteria, spasms, and cramps. Uranus is considered by modern astrologers to be ruler of the eleventh house.
For many astrologers, Neptune is the ruling planet of Pisces. In Roman mythology, Neptune is the god of the sea, and the deep, ocean blue color of the planet Neptune reflects this. Its glyph is taken directly from Neptune’s trident, symbolizing the curve of spirit being pierced by the cross of matter. Neptune takes 165 years to orbit the Sun, spending approximately 14 years (13.75) in each sign of the zodiac. Neptune was discovered in 1846.
Astrologically, modern Western astrologers associate the planet Neptune with creativity, idealism and compassion, but also with illusion, confusion, and deception. Neptune governs hospitals, prisons, mental institutions, and any other place, such as a monastery, that involves a retreat from society. Its appearance coincided with the discovery of anesthetics and hypnotism. In political terms, Neptune was linked to the rise of nationalist movements throughout Europe in countries like Germany, Italy, Hungary, Ireland, and Serbia, seeking independence for their nations inspired by an idealized past of legend. It was also linked to the rise of socialism and the beginnings of the welfare state. Neptune coincided with the utopian ideals of Communism, when Marx and Engels first published ‘The Communist Manifesto’ in 1848.
In art, the impressionist movement began a trend away from literal representation, to one based on the subtle, changing moods of light and color. In medicine, Neptune is seen to be particularly associated with the thalamus, the spinal canal, and severe or mysterious illnesses and neuroses. Neptune is considered by modern astrologers to be ruler of the twelfth house.
To most modern Western astrologers, Pluto is the ruling planet of Scorpio. In Roman mythology, Pluto is the god of the underworld and of wealth. The alchemy symbol was given to Pluto on its discovery, three centuries after Alchemy practices had all but disappeared. The alchemy symbol can therefore be read as spirit over mind, transcending matter. The symbols were chosen given the close association with Mars which has a similar symbol.
Pluto takes 247 years to make a full circuit of the zodiac, but its progress is highly variable: it spends between 15 and 26 years in each sign.
Astrologically, Pluto is called “the great renewer”, and is considered to represent the part of a person that destroys in order to renew, through bringing buried, but intense needs and drives to the surface, and expressing them, even at the expense of the existing order. A commonly used keyword for Pluto is “transformation”. It is associated with power and personal mastery, and the need to cooperate and share with another, if each is not to be destroyed. Pluto governs big business and wealth, mining, surgery and detective work, and any enterprise that involves digging under the surface to bring the truth to light. Pluto is also associated with the day Tuesday.
Pluto is also associated with extreme power and corruption; the discovery of Pluto in 1930 coincided with the rise of fascism and Stalinism in Europe, leading to World War II. It also coincided with the Great Depression and the major proliferation of organized crime in the United States.
In real life events and culture, Pluto has been a major astrological aspect. In art, movements like Cubism and Surrealism began to de-construct the “normal” view of the world. In medicine, Pluto is seen to be associated with regenerative forces in the body involving cell formation and the reproductive system. Pluto is considered by modern astrologers to be co-ruler of the eighth house. Many traditional astrologers do not use Pluto as a ruling planet, but do use the planet for interpretation and predictive work, obliquely making reference to projections of influences from higher to lower dimensional spaces.
Ceres is the smallest identified dwarf planet in the Solar System. It was discovered on 1 January 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi, and is named after Ceres, the Roman goddess of growing plants, the harvest, and of motherly love. It was the first asteroid discovered, taking up about one-third of the entire mass of its asteroid belt. The classification of Ceres has changed more than once and has been the subject of some disagreement. Johann Elert Bode believed Ceres to be the “missing planet” he had proposed to exist between Mars and Jupiter, at a distance of 419 million km (2.8 AU) from the Sun. Ceres was assigned a planetary symbol, and remained listed as a planet in astronomy books and tables for about half a century. The 2006 debate surrounding Pluto and what constitutes a planet led to Ceres being considered for reclassification as a planet, but in the end Ceres and Pluto were classified as the first members of the new dwarf planet category.
Ceres passes through the zodiac every 4 years and 7 months, passing through a little more than 2½ signs every year.
In mythology, Ceres is the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Demeter, and is the goddess of agriculture. The goddess (and metaphorically the planet) is also associated with the reproductive issues of an adult woman, as well as pregnancy and other major transitions in a woman’s life, including the nine months of gestation time, family bonds and relationships. For some astrologers Ceres is the ruling planet of Virgo. Although a mother, Ceres is also the archetype of a virgin goddess. Ceres epitomizes independent women who are often unmarried (since, according to myth, Ceres is an unmarried goddess who chose to become a mother without a husband or partner.) While the moon represents our ideal of “motherhood”, Ceres would represent how our real and nature motherhood should be.
The status of Ceres is unknown at the moment in astrology. The possibility exists that Ceres is not involved with any sign, but it has been strongly suggested as the ruler of Virgo. As in all cases of newer discoveries, Ceres will likely never be used in horoscopes by traditionalist astrologers.
Other solar system bodies
Some asteroids such as Pallas () and Vesta (), as well as dwarf planet Ceres, can easily be seen with binoculars (Vesta even with the naked eye), but these were not recognized as planetary, and perhaps not even noticed, until the early 19th century. In the early 19th century, Ceres, Juno (), and the other two aforementioned asteroids were for a time regarded as planets. Although asteroids have been known to both astronomers and astrologers for more than 200 years, they are often ignored by astrologers. The tradition of some astrologers casting charts with minor planets originates with these asteroids. Since the discovery of Chiron () in the 1970s, some astrologers have been casting the new “planet”, although astronomers consider it a centaur (a kind of intermediate object between comet and asteroid).
In the 21st century, several new planet-sized bodies, including Sedna, Quaoar, Haumea, and Eris, have been discovered, but not yet incorporated into mainstream astrological predictions, although some more avant-garde groups have attempted to incorporate them.
Comets and novae have been observed and discussed for several thousand years. Comets in particular were portents of great interest to ancient people and given various astrological interpretations. Both phenomena are rarely visible to the naked-eye, and are ignored by most modern astrologers.
The near-earth asteroid Cruithne is thought to influence the zodiac and some personal horoscopes. Not to be confused with Chiron, Pluto’s only moon Charon is treated like a “minor planet” or given the same status as a dwarf planet, the title given to Pluto when in 2006 the International Astronomical Union demoted its status from the farthest planet.
Some astrologers have hypothesized about the existence of unseen or undiscovered planets. In 1918, astrologer Sepharial proposed the existence of Earth’s “Dark Moon” Lilith, and since then, some astrologers have been using it in their charts; though the same name is also (and now, more commonly) used in astrology to refer to the axis of the actual Moon’s orbit. The 20th-century German school of astrology known as Uranian astrology also claimed that many undiscovered planets existed beyond the orbit of Neptune, giving them names such as Cupido, Hades, Zeus, Kronos, Apollon, Admetos, Vulcanus, and Poseidon, and charting their supposed orbits. These orbits have not coincided, however, with more recent discoveries by astronomers of objects beyond Neptune.
Other astrologers have focused on the theory that in time, all twelve signs of the zodiac will each have their own ruler, so that another two planets have yet to be discovered; namely the “true” rulers of Taurus and Virgo. The names of the planets mentioned in this regard by some are Vulcan (ruler of Virgo) and Apollo, the Roman god of the Sun (ruler of Taurus). Another version of this theory states that the modern planets discovered so far correspond to the elements known to the ancients—air (Uranus, god of the heavens), water (Neptune, god of the sea), and fire (Pluto, god of the underworld)—which leaves the elements earth and ether (the fifth element of the fiery upper air). In other words, it is claimed that the two planets to be discovered will be named after an earth god or goddess (such as the Horae), and after Aether, the Roman and Greek god of the upper air and stars.