In the art of astrology, the sky is viewed as a giant sphere, which on paper translates into a circle. Astrological charts reflect this view, and are circular in shape, and operate on the ideas of cycles and turning. Because the chart is circular and involves ideas of movement, there are certain points on the circle, as seen on any chart, that have special significance. These points are evenly spaced around the chart, and are four in number, based around the intersection of the veritcal and horizontal axes of the sky. Each one of these points, called “Angles,” has a spcial significance. There are two Polarities of Angles. The first of these Polarities is the Polarity of Interaction (Self vs. Other), made up by the Ascendant and Descendant, which describe how you express yourself to others and how others express themselves to you.
The first Angle is the Ascendant, and the Sign that lies on this Angle is rising over the eastern horizon (the left of the chart). This is also called the Rising Sign, and is one of the three aspects of an astrological personality. It represents how your Sun Sign expresses itself to the rest of the world, and the mask that you wear when out in public; it is how you appear to others, and how your energy manifests.
The second Angle is the Descendant, and it lies opposite the Ascendant, setting over the western horizon (the right of the chart). The Sign here shows what it is that you seek when interacting with others; what you look for in your relationships, what qualities you seek in companions, and what energies manifest themselves in your relations with others.
The second Polarity of Angles is the Polarity of Function (Role vs. Actor). This polarity deals with how you as an individual interact with the larger world around you, and is made of the Medium Coeli (Midheaven) and the Imum Coeli (Undersky), which describe how you fit into larger society and how you as an individual fit into your own life.
The Medium Coeli is the Angle highest in the sky at the time of the chart, and so is also called Midheaven. This Angle represents your role in the world at large, and your utmost public face (not the Ascendant mask you wear, which appears even to close friends; this is the public self that even strangers can know, such as your internet profiles). It also represents how you fit into society as a whole, including your job, social circles, social class, race, gender, among other things.
The Imum Coeli is the Angle lowest in the sky at the time of the chart, and is also called the Undersky, as it was not visible during the time of the chart. It lies directly opposite the Medium Coeli, and represents your “backstage” and role, and corresponds to your private self, and how you express yourself outside of the public eye. It represents the emotions, feelings, and thoughts of you as an actor in the great social game, playing the role of the Medium Coeli.
The purpose of the art of astrology is to better understand oneself and the world around you. In fact, that is the purpose of every esoteric art; to attain a new understanding of the life that you live and what makes it – and you, as an integral part of your life – work they way it does. Astrology explores this understanding through the use of astrological charts: explaining and understanding different parts of yourself, an event, or another object based upon the position of planets and zodiacal signs at certain times. In this way, astrology is unique among esoteric arts, because it not only deals with static interpretation, but also of changing interpretation, by adding a concrete element of time into the mix.
Most commonly, astrology is used in the context of natal, or birth, charts, in order to help discover what astrological forces acted upon someone at the moment of their birth. These forces do not wholly or completely define who you are, and the position of the astrological planets, and even the very evolution of the art of astrology, are merely manifestations of the universe’s consciousness, or animus mundi, in the corpus mundi. The state of the universe at the time of birth affects the shape of that child’s life, expressing itself through biological and social factors, as well as bringing its own addition to the soul into the mix. These factors coming together, as expressed in a natal birth chart, represent the shape of one’s life. A more fundamental aspect of this shape is one’s personality, the baseline of which is laid down by three astrological Signs, and is then modified over the life course. These three Signs are the Sun Sign, the Moon Sign, and the Rising Sign (or Ascendant).
The Sun Sign – the Sign that the Sun was passing through at the time – is the most well-known of the three Signs, and is often used as the primary, defining factor of one’s personality. The Sun Sign defines one’s conscious perception of oneself, one’s purpose, and one’s sense of their own identity. It represents the present, and the progression of the years. It is the realm of the mind. It represents how you manifest to yourself.
The Moon Sign – that which the Moon was in at the time – represents one’s inner self and the subconscious; those parts of ourselves that we are not aware of, and those most private feelings that no one else is aware of. It also represents the past, and the passage of months. It is the part of one’s personality most in tune with intuition and emotions, and is the realm of instinct. It represents how your subconscious manifests itself to you.
The Rising Sign – the Sign that was emerging on the eastern horizon at the time – is also known as the Ascendant, and represents one’s outer personality and appearance; the mask that everyone has and presents to the world. It also represents the future and the passage of days, and represents how you attempt to achieve your purpose. It is the realm of perception. It represents how you manifest yourself to the rest of the world.
In order to truly understand someone’s astrological personality, they must understand these three Signs and how they interact. Common characteristics in any of these Signs indicate that that trait is particularly strong in someone’s personality. In interpreting the three Signs, one looks at the Sign’s meaning, and then at the position it occupies; for example, a Leo as a Moon Sign indicates that one is naturally creative and that they have a sense of pride deep inside of them that they may not be aware of, and are emotionally secure and assured. Leo as a Sun Sign indicates that your drive is to be creative, and your purpose is to display your abilities to the world. Leo as a Rising Sign indicates that outwardly you focus on elevating yourself in the eyes of others, and appear prideful or even arrogant, and are confident and self-assured, and in pursuing your Sun Sign’s purpose you are creative and confident.
Astrological Signs represent the medium of expression, while the Planets represent the energy of expression and the Houses represent the site of expression. If an artist is venting his frustration with society using spray paint on a concrete block, frustration is the planet, the concrete block is the House, and the spray paint is the Sign. The spray paint is serving to express the energy of anger. In Astrology, that is the role of the Signs. Each Sign represents a particular way of expressing energy, and adds a little bit of its own energy to the mix itself.
The most common use of the Astrological Sign is in determining one’s Sun Sign. A Sun Sign is the Zodiacal/Astrological Sign that the planet of the Sun was in during the time of the Astrological chart. The Sun Sign represents the prevailing trend of the chart, from which other things modify it, as the Sun as a planet represents the energy of Identity, and so whatever Sign the Sun is in is how the chart’s primary identity – and by extension, how the person or event the chart is for – expresses itself. The Sun Sign is the only factor in many horoscopes, but a true astrologer will tell you that just the Sun Sign means nothing. You need a full reading with Planets, Houses, and other Signs in order to fully understand a chart – and that is the art of Astrology.
In the art of Astrology, the planets are the elements that tell you what is going on in a chart, and represent the primal energies of the universe. The Signs of the Zodiac – commonly referred to as the “Sun Signs” – tell you how the energies of the planets are translated into what we see before us. The Houses tell us where this translation is taking place.
In order to illustrate this, let’s take an example. If the Sun, the first planet, is in the Sign of Scorpio, this means that you Sun Sign is Scorpio. Why is this the case? Because the Sun is associated with identity and consciousness – it represents you at the fundamental level. Therefore, the energy of the Sun – the energy of identity and purpose – is expressed through Scorpio as undergoing transformation and cyclical change. Therefore, the energy of the Sun is expressed as Scorpio. Now, let us say that the Sign of Scorpio is in the Third House: the House of Communications. This means that one’s identity as a Scorpio is manifested in interactions with other people, and your transformative abilities are strongest when communicating and interacting with others – perhaps you even spread your transformation onto them.
Following the above example will allow you to fully interpret a planet in a chart. Without knowing a planet’s house and its Sign, you cannot do very much with it.
Like I said above, the Planets represent the primal energies of the universe. Everyone has some of each planet in us, which is why each planet appears on every Astrological chart. The primal energies associated with the nine major planets are below:
Venus: Attraction (as the opposite of Action)
The first seven planets, from the Sun to Saturn, are the planets visible to the naked eye, and so what were used for most of history in astrology. The three following it, the Trans-Saturnian planets, are all not visible to the naked eye, and are associated with breaking free of limits, taking on a different character from the other planets. The latter three major planets, then, to an extent transcend the “primal” energies of the other planets, breaking free of the restrictive nature of the other planets and the Astrological world.
There are other planetoids and asteroids that matter in Astrology, was well, but have lesser impact than these nine planets, though act in much the same way.
These nine planets tell a story, if you look at them in order. First, one is born in the Sun, and receives an identity. They are nurtured and cared for by the Moon, who gives one the gift of emotions. As one emotes, one begins to think about what one emotes, and so learns Mercury‘s Thought, and breaks free from the parental planets of the Sun and Moon. This thought allows for the phenomenon of attraction and interaction with others to take place as one arrives at Venus. In order to please the Venus in one’s life, one must take action, like Mars. However, in doing so, one must also learn to keep one’s actions in check, and so learns the morals of Jupiter. These morals set down the limits of Saturn, until you are able to break free of them with the power of Uranus, and then slowly unify the shattered fragments together and transcend with the power of Neptune, before finally transforming oneself into a new, better being with the forces of Pluto.
That is the story of the planets, from birth in the Sun to the transformation of death in Pluto. It is the journey of life, broken down into energies, and symbolized by the planets.
Transformation, Renewal, and Rebirth
Pluto is the last of the Trans-Saturnian planets, and also the last of the entire set of planets. Like Uranus and Neptune, Pluto is associated with breaking free of the limitations of Saturn, but in a different way than the previous two. Uranus seeks to smash asunder the barriers, Neptune seeks to transcend, surpass, or dissolve them slowly, and Pluto seeks to eliminate the retrictions by transforming them irreversibly.
Pluto is the planetary Ruler of Scorpio, which is fitting, as Pluto is most commonly known as the god of Death. He is also, however, a god of Life, and in ancient worship was actually revered as representing the balance between these two halves of existence. He ruled the Underworld, and yet at the same time, cornucopias were made in Pluto’s/Hades’ honor, representing fertility by depicting his penis (yes, that is what cornucopias really mean).
Pluto is, then, a symbol of both life and death, and more importantly the transformation that occurs when one passes between states. Pluto is a planet of large transformations and of renewal. If life did not die, then nothing would be renewed; everything would remain stagnant. The cosmos would stop progressing, and eventually would wither away. Pluto represents the forces that transform, reshape, regenerate, and renew. The planet’s energies change everything around them drastically, and not always for the better, for Pluto’s energies include both creation and destruction. An excess of Pluto typically leads to excess destruction, but at its best, Pluto is the balance between the two that allows for existence to continue to exist. It is the constant change and transformation that fill our lives, allowing us to change form, personality, and spirit.
Transcendence, Unity, and Empathy
Neptune is the second of the Trans-Saturnian planets, and takes the freedom embodied by Uranus to its next logical step: transcendence. Neptune is the planetary Ruler of Pisces, the Sun Sign of the mystic, and shares many things in common with this Sign. Neptune represents the freedom from the limits of Saturn that comes by passing through them and uniting with what lies beyond them. Neptune represents, essentially, the coming together of the universe, and unity in its purest form. Like the mystic, Neptune represents the loss of the individual in order to merge with the greater universal consciousness, and thus bring one’s existence into harmony with everything else.
Neptune is associated with intuition, leaps of insight, empathy, and the supernatural. The energies of Neptune are what allow people to see into other worlds, to experience sensations beyond the physical, and to understand the larger picture and purpose of life and the universe. Neptune is a sensitive planet, and grants people with the ability to perceive what is going on around them to the point where they become one with their surroundings, sometimes unable to differentiate themselves from the mass. Neptune represents the knowledge that can only come by losing oneself completely.
Uranus is the first of the Trans-Saturnian planets. Saturn was considered to be a planet of limitation in part because it was the farthest planet visible with the naked eye, and for a long while was considered to be the farthest planet, making it literally an astrological limit. Following the discovery of the first planet, Uranus, however, these limitations were shattered.
Saturn represents the outer limit of consciousness, and Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto all represents the awakening of a higher sense of consciousness, and so work on a different level than the preceding planets; a higher plane of awareness.
Uranus is the ruler of Aquarius, and itself embodies the ideals of all of the Trans-Saturnian planets. Uranus is the liberator, whose consciousness is finally awakening. Unsurprisingly, Uranus is associated with our ability to break free of the limits and restrictions imposed upon us by Saturn. Uranus is also associated with change and inventiveness, such as that divinely-inspired creativity associated with Aquarius. Uranus is a rebellious planet, breaking free of its bonds, doing things that no other planet would ever think of doing.
Uranus also represents individuality, as distinct and separate from the masses. This individuality that Uranus represents encompasses the uniqueness of every individual; what makes everyone special, everyone different, and what makes every single person break from the rigid order associated with Saturn and its associated sign, Capricorn.