by Marilyn Muir, LPMAFA
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
When a budding astrologer (or very interested fan) starts to delineate (read) sky maps, they discover that some parts are very easy to understand, and other parts are more difficult. This is probably a true statement of just about any subject you might choose. However, astrology has so many parts that can be read so many different ways, it is always good to have helpful hints to simplify any part of it. In this article I am going to attempt to simplify the readings of the ten planets through a classification system sometimes referred to as a hierarchy. We will begin with what a planet is and what bodies will be included in this article.
Astrologers refer to ten planets in a sky map for ease of reference, even though the astrologers are fully aware that two of the bodies included in the count are not actually planets and one has been recently demoted by the astronomical community. The Sun (which is included in the count of ten) is a star, not a planet. The Moon (also included in the count of ten) is a satellite of the Earth, not a planet. The Earth, which is a planet, is not included in the count because it represents the common point on which we stand. The sky map is constructed with the Earth at the very center of the cosmic pattern and is referred to as the “geocentric” approach. Why? We are interested in what is going on over here where we are, a unique map, and not anywhere else in the solar system. Note: “geocentric” comes from geo (Earth) centered.
Pluto has recently been demoted to dwarf planet status but remains in my count. Why? In my 47+ years as an astrologer, my experience indicates that Pluto does act like a planet regardless of its classification, so I choose to keep it in that category. Other astrologers and astronomers might disagree with me and I don’t have a problem with that. Feel free to read their opinions as well. Diverse opinions educate you and keep the process honest. The ten bodies (planets) we will be discussing for the balance of this article will be the Sun (star), Moon (satellite), Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and possibly dwarf planet Pluto.
Any one of the ten planets is a large physical object within our solar system. The nine planets from my original school lessons, including the Earth, orbit our Sun (star). The Moon is a satellite of the Earth but is the closest celestial object to us. It is roughly one quarter the size of the Earth and has a tremendous and measurable effect on our land and water tides. Each individual object has mass, location, movement, speed, direction and an effect on its surrounding space. Each exerts an influence within the system and… it is a well-known scientific fact that the planets have a direct influence on the Sun, particularly the largest planet, Jupiter. (Look up solar flares and activity and their causes on the world’s largest library, the internet.) The bodies have energy and influence and exert energy and influence. Astrologically, it is quite simple to see their influence on each other regardless of the distances involved. Here is an analogy that might help you understand how humans are affected.
Once upon a time I was married, and my husband and I had four children. He influenced all of us and all of us influenced him, both as a collective and as individuals. Each was influenced by each other person in the family and also by being a family. We did not have to be in the same room. The marriage and the family existed, and the influence of the family existed regardless of physical proximity. When we were together in pairs or as a collective, we were influenced by the existing physical and psychological energy. When we were apart, that influence remained but it would not have been physically provable at that precise moment. Proof of effect would exist more in the psychological arena. Lack of physical contact in no way nullified the effect.
The distances involved in our solar system are tremendous. The solar system is a family of objects that influence and interact with one another despite huge distances. It should not be difficult to see the analogy and the inherent logic in this example despite the scale. Large Jupiter can physically affect the much larger and more powerful Sun approximately 484 million miles away – celestial distances can be huge by comparison to a human family. The principle remains intact.
Astronomically, the planets represent ten component parts to a single operating unit, the solar system. Astrologically, the planets represent ten component parts of a person (person as solar system). (Note: there are other applications, but I’m staying with people.) The words we would use to describe the parts of a celestial body and a person would be different. Here is one example.
The Sun is the heart and core of our solar system and provides the gravitational force to hold us together as a system. Remove the Sun and everything else would become space dust. As the center and centralizing force of the solar system, the Sun is the governing factor. It produces light and heat and, therefore, is the life-giving force of the whole system itself.
Human analogy: The Sun is the heart and core of the individual, the centralizing factor, the place of identity and individuality, the governing factor, the ego, the self-identity, the individualization of one human from another, or the lack of those factors. (Not everyone does all those attributes well). It is the life-giving principle that represents the person’s inherent energy, health, and constitution. That should be sufficient for an illustration of the human application of Sun energy. Each planet describes a specific function within the individual and there are literally hundreds of books of information for each planet. The planets represent ten basic drives within the individual and they collectively describe the individual. Each drive represents a myriad of subjects.
All ten energies exist within the individual, but not all ten energies are operating at their optimum or are successful every minute of every day. I often use the analogy that we all live on a very large schoolhouse (Earth) and we are all a work in progress. There would be no purpose to attending school if you already knew how to function perfectly, would there? Each planet is individual and must be studied deeply to understand its influence, impact and purpose in any human. Each planet is related to each other planet and must also be viewed for its impact on the whole. That takes time and some skill to develop.
Some of the planets are quite personal and are referred to as the “inner planets.” The further out from the Sun they orbit, planets become less personal and more cultural. We can go even beyond that level. Some planet energies move into the evolution and development of humanity as well as impact on the individual. My way of explaining these differences is to divide the planets into three logical stages of human application: personal, cultural and generational. All ten belong to the individual under study but the outer three bodies tend to develop through the generation into which we are born.
- Start with the Sun in the center of this person/system and move outward towards the edge of the system.
- The dynamic Sun is the heart and core, the identity.
- Next comes Mercury, our communication energy.
- Next comes Venus, our relational and value energy.
- Next is the Earth (common to us all) and its satellite, the Moon, our emotions and family urges. The ancients saw Sun as father and Moon as mother because they looked equal in the sky and both gave light. Sometimes the Moon is inside our orbit and sometimes it is outside our orbit, but it is very close and personal.
- At this point we must turn our backs on the Sun and start to move into the darkness of outer space. The next planet we reach is Mars, our assertive and aggressive urges which reflect our initial and very personal acts of courage (or lack of it).
All of these planets (and their corresponding connections) are all intensely personal energies and illustrate the development of the individual.
In order to get to the next planet, we must first step over the asteroid belt, which is thought to be the remains of a disintegrated planet. This is a giant leap for us, fraught with danger because of the distance, the darkness of space and the potential danger of the asteroid belt.
- This step requires far more of us in faith and courage than the baby steps we have taken up to this point in our personal development. Jupiter represents expansion and faith, the traits and experiences necessary to get there.
- The next planet, Saturn represents contraction, form, structure, and traditional boundaries. We stretch ourselves to reach Jupiter and then we evaluate what we have done with Saturn. We expand and then we organize.
Jupiter and Saturn require that we step outside our personal development issues and join the culture we live in. We must be flexible, adapt and change as we join society. These are also called the business planets and the two expand and also limit that expansion. Saturn was the last planet visible to the naked eye. This is as far as most of the ancients went. These seven bodies hold most of the history of astrology.
There are artifacts that show the ancients knew there were more planets and they knew they did orbit the Sun, but for whatever reason they chose not work with them. The three outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, were discovered quite recently and have been added to the original seven. We know less about those planets. We have had less experience with them, and some of their nature is still a mystery to us.
- Uranus was first to be discovered in 1781, circa the American and French Revolutions.
- Neptune came along close to the our Civil War.
- Pluto was discovered in 1930 close to the beginning of the atomic age.
These three planets were not invented by modern man, they were discovered. That which was invisible (unconscious) became visible (conscious).
Because their orbits are so long and so distant, the three outer planets take many years to move through a relatively small area of space in comparison to the closer planets. As such, they influence large groups of people in a similar way over a long span of time. For example, I was born with Pluto in Leo, a twenty-year period in which every person born in the world had that position in common. That tends to indicate a generational influence, less personal in nature, than the inner planets previously described.
As we move away from the personal inner planets, it becomes increasingly difficult to describe them using personal terms. We must expand from an I/me perspective into an enlarged context. We move first from our comfortable inner world to the culture and society around us, and ultimately to our position within the evolution of our species and our world.
- Jupiter and Saturn, the cultural planets, are easier to describe for an individual if you remember these are the influences that encourage us to take our place in society.
- Uranus, Neptune and Pluto represent the collective into which we were born.
It is not an easy thing to know and to describe our place within the collective, but astrologically this is represented by the sign energy. How do we do this? Look to the individual house placement: occupation and rulership, particularly of the three outer planets, to determine how their collective energies will describe us in a more personal way. It is truly that easy.
Let me sum up.
- The Sun is in the center. Our identity is at our center.
- That identity influences our ability to communicate (Mercury),
- to relate (Venus),
- to emotionally bond (Moon),
- and to assert our individual existence (Mars).
- Each of these are intensely personal energies.
- Our desire to expand (Jupiter)
- and organize (Saturn)
- are fulfilled through our interaction with society and are viewed as cultural in nature.
- Humanity’s evolution and progress is shown by the outer planetary influences (generational: Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) and the personalization of those energies is more easily described through the house those planets each occupy or rule.
First published on AFA Today’s Astrologer v 73#9 July, 2011, republished with slight editing.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.