We have an entire sky within us, our fiery strength and heavenly origin: Luna which symbolises the continuous motion of soul and body, Mars speed and Saturn slowness, the Sun God, Jupiter law; Mercury reason, and Venus humanity
~ Marcilo Ficino

Gods? Ideas? Archetypes? Principles? Deciding what we call the intelligent processes in the cosmos, represented by the physical bodies and orbits of the planets, will depend upon our background and mindset. The authors feel that exploring the planets as 'gods' is appropriate because:

  • The term conveys that the first principles of astrology are living, purposeful processes with 'minds of their own';
  • 'gods' connects us immediately to mythology, the richest source of knowledge we have about these archetypal forces which are present in all people;
  • the term implies that the universe, rather than being an inanimate, mechanical 'thing', is alive, interconnected, and pulsating with energy, stories, and meaning;
  • it conveys that each of us is also a living microcosmos, also bursting with stories and purposes;
  • it reminds us that however much we understand about life, she remains a mystery, and that ultimately 'we propose, but the gods dispose'.

The solar system is a unitive, integral whole, each planet being an essential part of that whole. Therefore, each planet or 'god' plays its unique role within the system; each planet represents a particular function in relation to the whole. The word 'planet' derives from the Greek meaning 'wanderer', and in ancient times they were the mysterious wanderers of the night sky. But they were not wandering just anywhere; it was discovered they were headed in a purposeful direction, one which mapped out a very definite cycle related to every other cycle within the solar system. Likewise for human beings, the planets represent parts or functions of the whole psyche, each having its own essential energy and purpose, and forming the focus of a different 'side' or 'sub-personality' within us. The planetary model of the psyche envinces its rich complexity, and allows us to identify and learn to value all the different parts of ourselves. Every birth chart features all 10 astrological 'gods', which represent the following functions:

SUN - ☉ - self-integration, vitality, conscious authority

MOON - ☽ - unconscious emotional response, rhythm, receptivity

MERCURY - ☿ - communication, mental faculties

VENUS - ♀ - sociability, love, beauty

MARS - ♂ - self-assertion, competition

JUPITER - ♃ - expansion, opportunity, search for meaning

SATURN - ♄ - structure, limitation, responsibility

URANUS - ♅ - originality, deviation, urge to reform

NEPTUNE - ♆ - idealism, inspiration, transcendence

PLUTO - ♇ - regeneration, death and rebirth

Astrologers also include other factors in the chart: the Moon's Nodes ☊ ☋ and the asteroid Chiron ⚷ .

The Moon's Nodes (or the Dragon's Head and the Dragon's Tail) are the two astronomical points where the lunar orbit around the Earth intersects with the Earth's orbit around the Sun. The Lunar Node cycle is 19 years. The South Node (Dragon's Tail) indicates patterns from the past from which the individual is moving away; the North Node (Dragon's Head) indicates the direction towards which the individual is developing. The North Node is always opposite the South Node, and together they represent an axis which also relates to important contacts or associations in the individual's life.

Chiron is a large asteroid discovered in 1977 between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus. Studies of this body so far suggest that it relates to the archetype of the wounded healer, to teaching and healing work, and to the development of 'heroic' qualities in the face of life's seemingly random injustices.

To understand the meaning of each planet, we observe its physical features, its position in the solar system relative to other bodies, its mythology, and its observed behaviour over time. Each planet will express its own nature according to the zodiac sign it occupies (e.g. Sun in Aries, Moon in Taurus) and its house position in the birth chart (e.g. Sun in the seventh house – relationships, Mars in the tenth house – career). The zodiac signs, the houses and the planetary aspects are explored in Chapters 5, 6 and 7. But first look at each planetary 'god' in more detail.

☉  The Sun

If you would create something, you must be something
~ Goethe

The Sun is our nearest star. It is a self-luminous ball of fire which is the source of almost all the solar system's heat, light and energy. From this we may reasonably infer that the Sun is the self-vital principle in any entity. At the biological level, the Sun represents the life-force. At the psychological level, the Sun is the core of individuality, the principle of self-integration that directs and unifies the many different 'selves' within us, the inner guiding light and source of authentic life direction and self-expression. The Sun represents the central focusing point (focus derived from the Greek word for 'fire') of the individual, and hence its association with kingship, authority and creative power.

Just as the Earth orbits around the Sun, the Sun itself is travelling at 1000 miles per second, with the solar system in tow, around the galaxy. The Sun is 'going somewhere' and taking us with it whether we are conscious of it or not. Hence the Sun in the chart symbolises the inner mind which, when it is focused, will know its own unique life direction.

In Greek mythology the solar principle is Apollo, a name which literally means 'not many'; in other words, unific, one. The Christian Church incorporated the pagan Sun-god imagery into the heart of its festivals. Christmas marks the winter solstice, known to the ancient world as the time of the rebirth of the Sovereign Sun, Sol Invictus, the unconquerable spirit, as the days start to grow longer once again. The period around Easter, with its theme of death and resurrection, marks the beginning of the solar year as days become longer than nights.

All heroes and heroines of myth, fairy tale and legend express the essence of the solar ideal. By courageously engaging with the many ordeals of life, we declare our purposes, discover our integrity, and develop confidence self-expression. When we are in touch with our solar centre, we enjoy life – and we know ourselves to be creative and authentic. When we compromise ourselves too often, we distance ourselves from this centre and end up feeling depressed, devitalised, alien to our real selves. Strongly solar individuals have a commanding presence; they're in the world to be noticed and to be appreciated. They can also be arrogant, vain and tyrannical. If we were to describe the Sun as a character in a novel, he would be the benevolent king, the charismatic leader, the noble and much-respected teacher whose message to all is carpe diem – seize the day. The Sun is the main protagonist in our life drama. Solar figures in myth and literature include King Arthur, Hercules and Perseus, to name a few.

The Sun rules the heart, both in the physical and psychological sense. The heart is the central organ of the body, pumping the essential life force – the blood – throughout the entire system. Likewise we feel our essential self is in our heart, the seat of courage, love and generosity. 'I put my whole heart into it' is what we say when we dedicate ourselves to something wholeheartedly, from the Sun's point of view. The Sun rules fiery Leo, the sign occupied by the Sun in high summer in the northern hemisphere, when its physical heat has reached its maximum. The Sun is exalted in Aries, the first sign of the zodiac, marking the beginning of northern spring, ushered in by Easter, 'the Resurrection', when the days begin to get longer and light triumphs over darkness. By contrast the Sun is said to be in its detriment in Aquarius, the opposite sign to Leo, and in its fall in Libra, the opposite sign to Aries, which brings in the autumn and the beginning of night's victory over day.

The Sun by sign shows the characteristic way in which we centre ourselves as a conscious, purposeful individual - how we 'make up our minds'. In Fire signs, the Sun expresses its will to live with eagerness and enthusiasm. The Sun's essentially intuitive nature and its capacity for inner knowing is emphasised in this element. In Earth signs, the solar purpose is to build and consolidate, to achieve in concrete ways. In Air signs, the Sun manifests its light through thought and communication. In Water signs, the heroic impulse expresses itself through the realm of feeling and profoundly subjective experience. The Sun by house placement shows the specific area in life which becomes a crucial focus for our personal drama. Aspects to the Sun reveal the gods we encounter – through help or hindrance - on our life's journey. For example, the Sun aspecting Mars (aspect means 'to look at' and in astrology it signifies the dynamic relationship between planets, the way the 'look at' each other) by conjunction makes one a warrior, ready to lead and fight for valued causes; the Sun in a square aspect with Saturn demands that one grapple with authority and responsibility.

☽  The Moon

I trust that you will grant this boon
O lovely Goddess of the Moon
~ Old Celtic Ritual

Swift-moving Luna circles the Earth every month, marking out the ebb and flow of daily life and causing the tidal motions of the seas. Every month we witness her phase as the mysterious crescent Moon changes size and position in the night sky, finally reaching bright fullness and then gradually waning until out of sight completely. The Moon represents this transitional nature of life, the way that one phase organically gives rise to the next, providing us with the experience of connectedness, of being part of some ongoing process. At the most basic psychological level, this ongoing process is our personal past, our family and culture. And more specifically, it is a process that begins with the mother-child bond, that primary relationship where we first experience dependence, containment, and our instinctual needs being met. 'Mother love' is a 'boon' to the infant – his or her survival, and growing sense of identity, depends on it.

The Moon symbolises the flowing, receptive, feminine aspect of life. The female menstrual cycle is, of course, a lunar one – a month (Moon) long. The Moon represents the impulse to protect and nurture, how we 'mother' and look after ourselves, the daily habit patterns we establish which we take for granted. Solar energy is fiery and immediate whilst lunar energy relates to the body and the binding processes of nature. If we are not grounded in our experience in the specific context of our lives, the Sun cannot achieve its purposes. Hence the equal importance of the Sun and Moon in astrology, and the reason why they are referred to as the two 'lights' or luminaries.

Whilst the Sun relates to our capacity for focused, conscious decision-making, the Moon relates to 'diffuse awareness', to the qualities of our unconscious life and our imagination. The Moon is our most natural and spontaneous response to life, our 'gut level' reactions, how we listen to others and to our own needs, what we need to feel comfortable within ourselves. The Moon is the 'inner' you, the you that has characteristic moods and private feelings which do not ask to be rationally understood but simply accepted and experienced. She is the feminine, feeling atmosphere, the anima of our life drama.

In mythology, Diana the huntress represents one aspect of the Moon. She demands respect for the unconscious, instinctual side of life, and for the sacred procreative power of women. The goddess Hera signifies another aspect of the Moon, tat of the power of matriarchy and the familial bonds which are the basis of all civilisation. In fact, the lunar goddess is usually understood in three identities, reflecting the waxing, full, and waning phases of the Moon: the maiden (Persephone), the matron (Hera), and the crone (Hecate).

The Moon by sign shows the characteristic way we feel good about ourselves, the way we nourish ourselves and seek intimacy with others. If you Moon is in a Fire sign, you need passionate play and a safe place to explore your crazy inspirations. If you Moon is in an Earth sign, you need physical affection, order and material security, and good food! If you Moon is in an Air sign, communicating and gaining understanding through the 'digestion of concepts' feels nourishing. If your Moon is in a Water sign, you need deep emotional understanding, non-verbal closeness and sympathy. The Moon by house placement shows the area of life we inhabit instinctively, where we feel 'at home', and where the ebb and flow of life will be keenly felt. Aspects to the Moon significantly qualify the nature of our instinctive responses. If the Moon were a character in a novel, she would be the enigmatic poet, the writer's muse, the devoted mother, the nanny, the therapist and healer, or the professional gourmet cook. A typical Moon type is William Wordsworth (Moon conjunct the Midheaven), the poet who wrote 'I wander lonely as a cloud ...'

The Moon rules maternal, full-breasted Cancer, the poetic muse and nourisher who protects and looks after the world as her children The Moon is exalted in Taurus, the earthy sign of fertility and nature's bounty. The Moon is said to be in its fall in Capricorn, the sign of structure and worldly responsibility. In Scorpio, a sign known for its controlled, brooding intensity, the Moon is in its detriment.

☿  Mercury

A little learning is a dangerous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring.
~ Alexander Pope

Mercury is the swift-moving planet closest to the Sun. In Greek mythology this is Hermes, the Messenger of the Gods, who transverses the boundaries of duality with ease, even being allowed to enter the Underworld with impunity. With wings on his feet, Mercury represents mental activity: language, communication, interpretation, the ability to gather facts and to see relationships between things. It is intellectual curiosity, ingenuity, mobility and adaptability. Although Mercury's province is the nervous system and the activity of mental processes in general, the potential depth of thought will depend on its sign placement and aspects.

Mercury's close proximity to the Sun highlights his role as 'divine conduit' or conductor of solar consciousness, and his psychological function as translator. Its connection with the body is through the five senses, those centres of receptivity that gain knowledge of our world, and through the nervous system that sends messages between the brain and other parts of the body. Mercury makes connections and allows us to put information together, in order to make sense of ourselves in the world. Through Mercury we experience curiosity and apply our minds to learning and communicating. But Mercury is also the trickster and the 'prince of thieves' who lives according to his wit on the boundaries and byways of life. We refer to Mercury as 'he' but this god was always seen as androgynous, easily manifesting through either pole of the masculine-feminine spectrum. Mercury is especially active in the market place and in the arena of politics and theatre, where swiftness and brilliance of intellectual argument can win any debate. Mercury's energy is inventive and clever but distinctly amoral – ethical concerns belong to other gods. His purpose is to show forth and to bring together the inherent opposites within human nature and life itself.

Mercurial individuals are quick thinkers and fast talkers, often extremely intelligent and learned, and usually wiry and restless with a sensitive nervous system. An excess of Mercurial energy makes one over-cerebral and clever in a trivial way. Mercurial types tend to waste energy through too much thinking and talking. If Mercury were a character in a novel, he would be the inquisitive young student or whiz kid, the suave bisexual raconteur, the roving reporter, or the crafty, nomadic merchant. A Mercurial figure in literature is Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream, the clever and swift-moving fairy servant of Oberon who, with sleight of hand, makes people seem other than they are. Mercury is the rational principle we employ in our life drama which allows us to learn, to communicate, and sometimes to get by on our wits.

Mercury by sign shows the characteristic way we think and talk. Mercury by house placement reveals specific areas of interest and where we find we express our mental nature best. Aspects to Mercury will qualify our rational energy and the nature of our communicative expression. Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo. In airy Gemini Mercury's innate curiosity, mobility and talkativeness are most evident, whilst in Virgo, an Earth sign, he manifests in a more systematic, practical and diligent manner. In Fire signs Mercury is immediate and visionary but sometimes dogmatic in expression. In Water signs Mercury is imaginative, penetrating and receptive. Mercury is in its fall in moralising Sagittarius, a sign which likes the big picture and for whom careful analysis does not come easily. Mercury is in its detriment in dreamy, intuitive Pisces, a sign that shuns the tyranny of exact definition. Mercury completes its orbit around the Sun in 88 days.

♀  Venus

Give beauty all her right!
She's not to one form tied;
Each shape yields fair delight
Where her perfections bide.
~ Thomas Campion, Beauty Unbound

Venus is the goddess of love and beauty, of Aphrodite of Greek mythology whose grace brought a wondrous, vitalising energy into the world. Aphrodite's mythical birth can help us understand her energy; she arose in the sea's foam which was created by the severing of her father Uranus's genitals after his conflict with Cronus. This suggests that Venusian energies of diplomacy and appreciation of difference can help to resolve the tensions between warring aims – the old versus the new, the status quo versus change, responsibility versus freedom. This mythic image may also suggest that real beauty is intimately connected with the intense struggles inherent in human life. How do we resolve these struggles? First, we must honour both viewpoints. Venus helps us remain involved in that struggle so we can find out what we really want. Venus represents the need to relate, the desire for love and affection, the urge for co-operation and the appreciation of beauty. Venus is also connected with what we value most, whether this be ideals, relationships, works of art or money.

Venus's rulership of both Taurus and Libra points to her dual nature. Through Taurus we see her lusty side and the showing forth of beauty through physical form. If we remember how hot and steamy it is on Venus, we get a sense of the sexual passions which the great goddess can arouse. Venus displays beauty through colour and form and also through scent and touch. This side of Venus is often seen as the seductress whose romantic appeal can ensnare, but it is true that intense, cathartic relationships always teach us an enormous amount about ourselves. Love and sexuality were always seen in ancient times as bringing a healing reconnection with the vital life force. Through Libra, Venus expresses her beauty in a more idealised and civilised way, through tolerance and the delight in difference. The Libran side of Venus seeks respectful relationships. Here she expresses the urge to enjoy loving connections with others through social encounter, teamwork, fair play, harmony and the reconciliation of opposites.

Venus represents the part of us which easily attracts what we want, rather than going out in 'hot pursuit' (a job for Mars). When we are doing what we love, we radiate vitality and please others – we are popular. Hence, Venus is a 'lucky' energy, bringing us the nice things in life. Strongly Venusian individuals are sociable and friendly, love pleasurable social pursuits and artistic environments, and need others through which to feel balanced and completed. Too much Venus can result in over-indulgence, superficiality, and promiscuity. The function of Venus in the body can be seen in its rulership of the kidneys which cleanse and balance fluid levels. If Venus were a character in a novel, she would be the beautiful romantic heroine – an artist, singer or dance whose beauty challenges us to passionate, open-hearted encounter; or Venus might also be the kind-hearted, devoted friend who loves and reflects without undue criticism, allowing the other to benefit from truthful, egalitarian friendship. Venus is what we value, attract and enjoy in our life drama.

Venus by sign shows the characteristic way in which we express our affection and our aesthetic and social values. Venus by house placement shows the area in life where we most readily seek enjoyment and express our love of beauty and diplomacy. Aspects to Venus will qualify our need to give and receive affection and our impulse to express beauty. In Fire signs Venus expresses itself through romantic, passionate play and creativity; in Earth signs Venus needs to show affection through demonstrativeness and practical service; in Air signs Venus enjoys lighthearted contact and the delight of verbal interchange; and in Water signs she seeks intimacy and depth with others. Venus is in its fall in self-centred Aries and suspicious Scorpio, and in its detriment in analytical Virgo. Venus completes its orbit of the Sun in 225 days.

♂  Mars

Who is bolder than a lover fighting for his loved one? Mars surpasses
The other Gods in fortitude since he makes people strong
~ Marsilio Ficino

Mars is the 'red god', the god of War, the energetic, self-assertive impulse within the human psyche which is necessary for survival. Greek mythology portrays Mars (called Ares) as brutish, short-tempered, impulsive and always accompanied by his cohorts Deimos (Fear) and Phobos (Fright). The Romans felt the role of Mars was more positive: Honos (Honour) and Virtus (Virtue) always accompanied by the Roman Mars. But earlier myths show Mars as a deity connected with vegetation, fertilisation and the renewal of nature. This earlier link highlights instinctive passional and sexual essence. Mars rules Aries and Scorpio, signs connected with spring and autumn when we see transformation taking place in the natural cycle through rebirth and death. The later portrayal of Mars as a god of War contains the qualities of fierce bravery and the courage to face death – to die for one's cause, one's homeland, and to possess arête, the Greek word for honour. In many ancient cultures the spilling of blood pleased the gods and ensured a prosperous harvest. In the natural world, Mars' dynamism expresses itself through the impulse to defend territory and through the sexual drive in animals, ensuring the survival of species. Mars compels the sap to rise in plants. In the human body the Mars principle also expresses itself through the sex drive, the muscles, the red blood cells and adrenaline. This ancient link to natural, elemental power can be seen in images of 'the green man', the wild, tenacious, revitalising spirit of the forest which was also embodied in the story of Robin Hood. The red planet was always associated with iron and steel. Recent visits to the planet now show that a high proportion of its soil is in fact iron oxide.

The energy of Mars is separative; through this god we say 'no' or 'yes' and then we initiate action. Through Mars we claim or 'rights' and defend our personal worth, much as a cat or dog marks out its own space. When we are thwarted, Mars is our anger – and the way we express that anger. When threatened, adrenaline surges through the body and we suddenly find the energy and courage we need to protect ourselves or to push forward against all odds. This is Mars in action, and like all competitive athletes, he wants to win. But Mars is not just the instinct of self-assertion and competition; we need Mars in order to 'do' anything – Mars is a servant of the Sun, the energy we call upon when we carry out the purposes of the inner hero. Whatever we may decide to do – bake a cake, write a book, learn the game of tennis or pursue a high-powered career – we need Mars to make it happen. A deficiency of Mars produces the 'door mat' personality, someone who cannot defend themselves. When Martial energy is repressed (for example, by strong aspects from Saturn), it can give rise to depression and listlessness. If Mars were a character in a novel, he would be the champion athlete or boxer, the brave soldier or trouble-shooter, the confident, risk-taking entrepreneur, or the skilled surgeon who uses a knife to cut out what is not wanted. A typical Mars type is the champion tennis player John McEnroe (Sun square Mars) who also displays an excess of Mars (Mars opposed Jupiter and square Pluto) in his temper. Mars is the energy we use to get what we want and to defend our achievements from attack in the drama of life.

Strongly martial individuals are go-getters, people who love a challenge and are unafraid of vigorous, even dangerous, confrontation. An excess of Mars makes one contentious, quarrelsome, over-aggressive, violent. The martial arts of the East express an important dimension of Mars. They teach the art of self defence and emphasise the need for disciplining our personal energy. Karate is aggressive, even dangerous and potentially lethal, whilst t'ai chi is gentle and essentially non-aggressive, more to do with the harmonising of the receptive and projective energies in one's aura.

Mars by sign shows the characteristic way in which we express our self-assertion and drive to succeed. In Fire signs Mars is impulsive and dramatic; in Earth signs Mars is more focused and practical; in Air signs Mars is very observant and expresses through ardent communication; in Water signs he is passionate, moody and works in fits and starts. Mars by house placements shows the area in life which will be especially 'energised' by our ardent desires and courage to pursue them. Aspects to Mars will qualify this personal energy, and will show how Mars is hindered or enhanced by the other gods. Mars completes its orbit of the Sun in 687 days.

♃  Jupiter

A faith that cannot survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets.
- Arthur C. Clarke

Jupiter is a powerful sky god, the mighty Olympian king we know as Zeus in Greek mythology. Always invoked as the greater benefic (an astrological terms from the medieval period meaning 'he who bestows benificence'), Jupiter is the god whose blessing one seeks for the success of any enterprise. In mythic tradition he is the great law-giver, supremely masculine and creative, bestowing opportunity, growth and benevolence. Jupiter – or 'Jove' as he is often referred to – gives us the words jovial, joy and jubilation; the very idea of 'en-thusiasm' – en-theos, meaning suffused with the energy of the gods – is a Jupiterian one, and indeed Jupiterian individuals are usually bursting with zeal, new ideas and positive feelings. Due to the positive outlook they bring to life, luck is seen to be with them more than any other planetary type.

In mythology, Zeus was forever seeking new lovers, much to the annoyance of his wife and consort Hera, and begetting important children out of wedlock. This part of his story represents the untameable, prolific nature of divine creativity of which humans partake through the prerogative of our intuitive mind. Jupiter is that energy which urges us to expand and to explore beyond the confines of our familiar culture. The Jupiter principle within us also seeks meaning; it urges us to find a rational basis for communal belief – and such beliefs are the very foundations upon which societies are built. Paradoxically, Jupiter is that part of us which bestows faith, the sense that we are connected to all of life in a coherent, intelligent manner, but it also gives us the need to discover the truth for ourselves, to arrive at a personal understanding of the larger ideals that bind society together. To discover the enjoyment of intellectual understanding, to conceive of an idea and follow it through to fruition, is a distinctly Jupiterian experience. We feel powerful and godlike! Strongly Jupiterian individuals are the leaders in society; they may also be generous philanthropists or flashy movie stars whose personal dramas are projected out onto the world screen for all to see.

Too much Jupiter makes us 'big-headed' and 'too bi for our boots'. In fact, an excess of Jupiter can be very dark indeed: it creates over-indulgence, arrogance, personal inflation and the tendency to 'play god', to feel that we are above the law. Jupiter's excesses may also lead to waste and sloppiness. In the body Jupiter is associated with the liver and the metabolism of fasts and sugar, so Jupiter's excesses are quickly evident when they become unhealthy for us. In the negative Jupiter type we can see the tyranny of moral certitude, for the religious or political fanatic often forgets he is part of the mortal human race. Through statistical research, Michel Gauquelin found that Jupiter tended to be prominently placed (angular – that is, found near the Ascendant or the Midheaven) in the birth charts of leading Nazis.

If Jupiter were a character in a novel, he would be a powerful governor or president, a wise priest, a lawyer or judge whose knowledge and advice others seek, or a famous, charismatic actor. Mr Toad in The Wind in the Willows is an archetypal Jupiterian figure: he is wedded to his enthusiasms, his behaviour is ostentatious, but his warmth and generosity make him loveable and, in slippery circumstances, help him to land on his feet. A typical Jupiterian type is the colourful politician and highly successful fiction writer Jeffrey Archer (Sun conjunct Jupiter). Jupiter is the part of us that seeks meaning and benevolent increase in the drama of our life.

Jupiter by sign shows the characteristic way in which we gain and enjoy opportunity and the way we express beliefs and religious faith. Jupiter by house placement shows the area of life which is both blessed by fortune and plagued by over-expectation.

Jupiter rules fiery Sagittarius, the sign of the Archer, who forever propels his arrows onwards and upwards on a journey of discovery. Jupiter is the co-ruler of Pisces, another sign connected with religion and compassion. In Fire signs Jupiter is speculative, enterprising, independent; in Earth signs Jupiter expands ambitions for material security and status; in Air signs Jupiter is philosophical, sociable and enthusiastic about ideas; in Water signs Jupiter is intuitive, magnetic and charitable. Jupiter completes its orbit of the Sun in 12 years.

♄  Saturn

Saturn is not simply a troublesome planet to be avoided; with perseverance and endurance we may find in his dark, heavy, ambivalent moods a way through and beyond the shallowness of the present.
~ Thomas Moore

Saturn is Chronos, Father Time, chronology, the ancient ruler of fate, limits, responsibilities and structure. Traditionally depicted with a scythe and known as the Grim Reaper and the Lord of Karma, Saturn has always inspired dread and fear, for this is the god who brings obstacles and trials and who is related to pain, loneliness and endings But by surviving and finally learning through such trials, we become stronger and chisel out a real identity. Without Saturn, Jupiter's propensity to expand would soon render our experience meaningless; and, in fact, Jupiter's urge to grow immediately invokes Saturn's function, which is to define and to give finite structure, to make things manifest and tangible. Saturn's purpose within the human psyche is to give endurance, determination and discipline so that our purposes can be achieved.

Saturn evokes in us the fear that we won't be up to the demands of life, that when put to the test, we will be found wanting. Saturn's position in the horoscope indicates the way we are likely to handle anxiety. But, more positively, it shows where our centre of gravity is, and where we are mot inclined to 'put our weight' behind things and 'earth' our vision. Our hopes and wishes do not manifest themselves magically, but rather they require of us hard work – blood, sweat and tears – and a patient, systematic approach. Saturn's work can be alchemical, in that with time and hard work we turn the base metal of ourselves into gold.

In mythology Saturn is a jealous god who devours his children in order to maintain his rule and authority. Through the trickery of his wife Rhea, Saturn is overthrown by his son Zeus and is then relegated to the background, to the kingdom of the Golden Age. This story reveals the quality of the senex, the old man who stands for the past, the status quo, and the old order. The negative qualities of the senex are arrogance, pride and cruel retaliation against anything fresh and innovative. But the principles we rebel against remain firmly rooted in our psyches and therefore within our essential identity. This is a positive contribution of Saturn the senex.

Saturnine individuals are serious, conservative and self-controlled; they may suffer depression and repress emotional need. But these individuals can also be very self-reliant, dependable, resourceful and wise, and their integrity offers a sense of stability and comfort to others. Just as Saturn can be supportive to others, its role in the body is to structure and support through the skeletal system, as well as giving boundaries and definition through the skin and connective tissue. Saturnine individuals usually feel a strong need to make a useful and recognisable contribution to society. If Saturn were a character in a novel, he would be a sublimely rational scientist, a judge, a builder or farmer, or an ancient hermit living on a mountain-top. A typical Saturn type is the Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Saturn exactly rising) who emphasised the need for every individual to assume personal responsibility.

Saturn by sign shows the characteristic way in which we experience authority, obstacles and fear in life, as well as the kind of tasks which help us develop discipline and maintain commitment in order to realise our goals. Saturn by house placement shows the area of life where we have to work the hardest, sometimes over-compensating for a sense of inadequacy but other times successfully journeying through phases which reward us with a more substantial sense of self. When Saturn aspects another planet, that energy will be restricted, disciplined, turned inward.

Saturn is the ruler of ambitious, earthy, aspiring Capricorn. Saturn also co-rules Aquarius, a detached air sign dedicated to impartial analysis in the service of truth. Saturn is said to be in its fall in Cancer, a sign of fluidity and emotional need, and also in Leo, a sign devoted to enjoyment of the self and its creations. It is in its exaltation in Libra, a sign that loves the justice and beauty of exact, intellectual principles. In Aries, a sign whose impetuous energy resents the stability of Saturn, this planet is said to be in its detriment. In Fire signs, Saturn strives to develop self-confidence and faith in his visions. In Earth signs, Saturn is dogged and purposeful, aiming for solid, material accomplishment. In Air signs, Saturn seeks security through objective experience and rational certainty. In Water signs, Saturn strives to transform emotional fears into depth of understanding. Saturn completes its orbit of the Sun in 29 years.

♅  Uranus

The heavenly vision of Uranus may sometimes seem impersonal and cold, yet it offers us greater freedom through a new and broader perspective on our lives.
~ Liz Greene

The discovery of Uranus by William Herschel in Bath in 1781 completely upset the neat planetary symbolism of the past many thousands of years. Until that time Saturn was understood to be 'the ring pass not', the outermost boundary of the world prior to the Fixed Stars. The meaning of Uranus is congruent with this idea of breaking through boundaries and the disarrangement of fixed structures. Uranus was discovered as the world was entering its most radical phase, with revolutions erupting in Europe and the newly colonised America. A spirit of rebellion was born, aimed against the fated sense of class distinctions and oppression. The demands of Uranus could be heard in the familiar slogan of the French Revolution – 'liberté, egalité, fraternité'. Uranus is the energy within the human psyche which rejects the limits of the status quo in the service of individuality and independence, and it sees these as inalienable rights of every individual.

There are two myths which tells us something about this energy. Ouranus was the great sky god whose marriage to Gaea, ruler of the Earth, produced the Titans. Ouranus rejected his offspring as ugly and imperfect. He was later overthrown by his son Chronos, who was subsequently ousted by his own son Zeus. We see in this how the impulse to rebel creates its own rhythm: the new order eventually becomes the status quo which must be confronted and overthrown. The other myth is that of Prometheus who defied Zeus in stealing divine fire from Mount Olympus to give to man who was stumbling in the darkness of earthly life. This fire is the creative power of 'nous' or mind, which freed man from complete bondage to his animality; this was the beginning of true human culture. Prometheus's act of challenging divine law was an enormous risk, and he was cruelly punished by Zeus afterwards. Uranians are risk-takers: with insight that sees beyond normal boundaries, and with courage to shock society with radically different views, they are the visionaries who take society towards a brave new world. But they often pay dearly for their boldness.

Uranus is that energy within us that seeks new break-throughs, new freedom, new understanding. But whether or not we integrate Uranian energies wisely depends upon how well we have learned the lessons of Saturn, whose practicality and realism help us avoid a continuing round of anarchic chaos. Aspects between these two gods are important in telling us how these two energies will negotiate their respective needs within us.

Strongly Uranian individuals are often seen as eccentric outsiders who bring a message society needs to hear. They often defend the underdog, and remind society that everybody has a 'mad' – or acutely original – bit which needs acceptance. If Uranus were a character in a novel, he would be the social reformer, the mathematical or astronomical genius, or the outspoken playwright whose insights irrevocably change our view of the world. A typical Uranus type is Sigmund Freud (Sun conjunct Uranus) whose genius opened up the whole new frontier of man's inner mind. Another Uranian is the highly eccentric comedian Spike Milligan (Uranus exactly rising in Aquarius). Uranus is associated with the nervous system in the body, and in the natural world with lightning and earthquakes.

Uranus by sign shows the characteristic way in which we deviate from the norm and attempt to express our originality. Uranus by house placement shows the area of life which will see many changes and sudden new perceptions. When Uranus aspects another planet, that energy will be challenged (creating an inner tension) or 'electrified', in some way speeded up, by Uranus's independent spirit. In Fire signs, Uranus is indomitable and awakens the pioneering urge. In Earth signs, Uranus is obstinate and awakens constructive resourcefulness. In Air signs, Uranus is ingenious, persuasive and awakens mental energies. In Water signs, Uranus is intuitive and intense, and awakens the imagination.

Uranus rules Aquarius, a sign whose viewpoint is often challenged and prophetic. Its fall is in Leo, a sign which values individual nobility and kingliness. Uranus completes its orbit of the Sun in 84 years.

♆  Neptune

Although we often speak of 'finding ourselves', that is, of discovering our unique identity or defining ourselves through self-chosen attributes and achievements, Neptune is the opposite: it is the urge to lose ourselves, to dissolve or transcend the boundaries of the isolated ego.
~ Howard Sasportas

Neptune is the God of the sea who rules the watery depths both of nature and of man's emotional imagination. The discovery of this planet in 1846 punctuated a period in which many Neptunian developments occurred: the consolidation of steam power for travel, the use of anaesthetics for pain relief, the rise of spiritualism, and the increase of a social conscience which brought homes for the poor. Neptune represents the oneness of all life from which springs the sense of an invisible, mystical bond between ourselves and others - and this is the source of compassion, our capacity to feel in and with another.

Water is a substance in which things dissolve and which seeks to erode boundaries. This is a Neptunian quality, and within the human psyche it is that urge to merge, to experience blissful union with another. In human experience we can see this primarily as the intrauterine condition of the foetus, whose existence is an unawakened symbiosis with the mother. Falling in love is a kind of Neptunian romantic 'spell' where we long to belong utterly to the beloved. Likewise, the goal of all religions is essentially a Neptunian one: union with the Divine. Pantheistic religions exalt that state of oneness with nature. Anathema to all these ideas of oneness is that of struggling separately in an objective world of piecing definition, where we have to develop self-reliance and earn our sense of self-worth.

Neptune's province is the unseen world of fantasy and myth, dreams and visions, that realm of magic and beauty that transcends everyday limits. It brings the capacity for inspired artistic creativity and is strong in the charts of artists, actors and musicians, as well as highly gifted healers and therapists. But it is a tricky energy to use in ordinary life, as Neptune's longings for perfect love and the elimination of pain often remain operative in an unconscious way, adopting circuitous escape routs to avoid the harsh lessons of the school of life. For this reason, it can make us gullible, prone to delusions, and less able to discern what is objectively real. This pertains especially to people with very weak ego structures and who take escape routes through drugs and alcohol. Saturnine realism and discipline is an invaluable antidote to Neptunian vulnerability.

Neptunian energy projects a fragile yet beguilingly charismatic appeal. Sometimes the whole gamut of its expressions may be observed: grandiosity and selflessness, glamour and unworldliness, sensuality and saintliness, artistic inspiration and a sense of unworthiness. Neptune can ensnare us in a victim-saviour dynamic, or it can uplift us through consciousness-expanding experiences. In the body Neptune rules the lymphatic system which recognises and destroys foreign entities. If Neptune were a character in a novel, he would be the inspired musician or artist, the saint or mystic, the seductively glamorous movie star, or the down-and-out alcoholic. A typical Neptune type is the inspired composer Mozart (Sun opposed Neptune). Another example is Jung (Sun square Neptune), the psychologist who explored the archetypal depths of the unconscious through experiencing his own psychotic breakdown.

Neptune rules watery, enigmatic and versatile Pisces. Its fall is in Virgo, a sign which strives for analytical precision. Neptune by sign shows the characteristic way we express or imagination, compassion, and desire for romantic and spiritual unity. Neptune by house placement shows the area of life we are prone to romanticise and where we may have to experience sacrifice. When Neptune aspects another planet, that energy is especially sensitised, maybe weakened, but always endowed with a dreamy, imaginative quality. In Fire signs Neptune holds a passionate optimism and idealises the drama and nobility of the human spirit. In Earth signs Neptune holds a romantic vision of practical service and material wellbeing. In Air signs Neptune idealises relationships and holds a utopian view of social harmony and the power of reason to redeem mankind. In Water signs Neptune idealises intimacy and yearns for a deep sense of belonging. Neptune completes its orbit of the Sun in 165 years.

♇  Pluto

The nature of Pluto is similar to that of the Hindu god Shiva, the creator and destroyer: it begins by breaking down a structure, then it creates a new one in its place.
~ Robert Hand

Pluto is the powerful elemental force which impels the growth and evolution of all life forms. It represents the unseen forces that work away below the surface and which periodically erupt into conscious awareness. This last planet in our solar system was discovered in 1930, a time which ushered in the use of atomic power. Of course, plutonium is the active ingredient in the atomic bomb. This discovery marked a pivotal point of no return in mankind's history: we will use this power creatively or destructively? This was also the period that saw the rise of fascism, of large-scale gangster networks, as well as a more widespread acceptance of depth psychoanalysis.

Pluto is Hades, god of the Underworld, who kidnapped the young and innocent Persephone to be his wife and consort in the realm of the dead. Demeter's agony at the loss of her daughter created a horrible drought and nothing would grow. Zeus therefore ruled that Persephone was allowed to return to the world for two-thirds of the year, but her marriage to Hades was irreversible. Her descent and transformation are the crux of Pluto's energy: it rules the fundamental transformational process of life – birth, sex and death. At the deepest level, Pluto is the mystery of death and rebirth.

Pluto's realm is that of intense upheaval and transformation and the cathartic release of energy we can observe in natural disasters, the birth process, or a psychological breakdown or breakthrough. Pluto's energy is Freud's id and the biological and psychological drives which push us relentlessly towards transformation. Change can bring fear, and Plutonian individuals tend to be control freaks, obsessive in their need to dominate or restrain others. Underneath this resistance is fear of the overwhelming force of their own primitive urges. Societies also resist, or attempt to contain. Plutonian urges through the phenomena of taboos: certain behaviours are outlawed (eg incest, polygamy) Plutonian power can be abused, and those with a prominent Pluto know this instinctively. They therefore can be suspicious and secretive, expecting the worst from others through experience, or through being tuned into their own darkest thoughts. Plutonian individuals who have suffered damaging abuse need to find a way to use their experience, for they can become powerful agents of healing for others.

Plutonians are often attracted to mysteries and want to get to the bottom of things; hence, they are often found in police work, scientific and medical research, paranormal studies and psychoanalytical work where an essential quality is the courage to face pain and difficult truths. Whilst coming through these underworld journeys can be painful, we can emerge with a sense of having retrieved a bit of buried treasure. If Pluto were a character in a novel, he would be a secret agent, a magician or alchemist, a wealthy tycoon living behind the protection of private guards, or a powerful political leader. Two very different Pluto types are Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (Sun conjunct Pluto), the therapist for the terminally ill and author of On Death and Dying, and the revolutionary Chinese leader, Mao Tse Tung (Sun/Moon = Pluto).

Pluto by sign shows the characteristic way that we experience the force of our basic urges, and are impelled towards transformations. Pluto by house placement shows the area of life that will be empowered and changed through Plutonian intensity and regeneration. When Pluto aspects another planet, that energy will be greatly intensified and will be a source of passionate desire and penetrating insight. It is in its fall in Taurus, a solid, imperturbable Earth sign that resists change. In Fire signs Pluto's power comes through an intense desire to be creative, and to affect others through personal expression. In Earth signs Pluto's power comes through an intense desire for material order, efficiency, security and permanence. In Air signs Pluto's power comes through communication and an intense belief in the regenerative influence of ideas. In Water signs, Pluto's power comes through an intense desire for intimacy, emotional maturity, and the healing power of love. Pluto completes its orbit of the Sun in 248 years.

⚷  Chiron

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding
~ Kahlil Gibran

Discovered in 1977, Chiron is an asteroid or comet which was caught in the solar system's gravitational pull between the orbits of Saturn and Uranus. After 20 years of observation and research, it has been recognised as a very important dimension of the birth chart. In Greek mythology Chiron was the greatest of the Centaurs, that race of half-horse and half-human beings which represent the primitive force of the instincts being guided by conscious intelligence. Chiron was a great teacher and healer who suffered the misfortune of being accidentally struck by an arrow of Hercules. The arrow was tainted with the blood of the Hydra so inflicted Chiron with an agonising and incurable wound. Due to his immortality, he could not escape his pain through death, and so he turned his suffering into the wisdom and healing powers which benefited many.

Transformed by his wound, Chiron became a civilising force for his own race and directed them into more orderly, respectful habits which allowed them to enjoy comradeship with human beings.

Chiron represents the wound which life's inherent unfairness brings to everyone. That unfairness is often due to historical and social realities, such as war and natural disasters, and therefore it is difficult finding anyone to blame. The great Centaur's response to his never-ending pain was to accept it, learn from it, and offer others the benefit of his excruciating experience, for after enduring such pain he could understand others' suffering and teach with profound compassion. Chiron represents the wound which spurs us on to grapple with seemingly pointless suffering. Chironic wounds can make us bitter and cynical about life, for suddenly the universe appears to be anything but benign. But by 'staying with' the pain, and sharing the struggle with others, we can find resources within that help us to make sense of the most inexplicable experiences. This is Chiron's heroism – making a choice that brings out inherent nobility. By choosing to respond with integrity and wisdom, we can become a source of healing for others. Chiron's orbit around the Sun is approximately 50 years.