The planets manifest their energy-principles in all sorts of hues, tones and manners of phrase, filtered according to the sequence of the zodiac signs. There is an underlying pattern to this sequence, which we shall be looking at now. These are the genders, modes, elements and planetary rulerships lying within the twelvefold division of the zodiac.
Understanding these, we come into a clearer grasp of the way the zodiac signs behave as they do.
The zodiac signs
These reprocess and filter planetary energy. The signs themselves reveal psychic patterns and life-potentials which, when functioning freely and openly, are all balanced and whole in themselves, and have their own ways of manifesting completeness and enlightenment. But they each have characteristic ways of becoming obstructed, corrupted, twisted and hampered as well – and these aspects of the human psyche, and of society and civilisation, we are all nowadays well accustomed to. When you observe the workings of the signs you will see both their characteristically advantageous and disadvantageous qualities at work, even at the same time. Yet these pros and cons are of our own creation, related to our own convenience, wishes and expectations: the signs themselves represent qualities of energy-processing which are in themselves unprejudiced and neutral in their preferences, just like a cloudy day with sunny periods. If these change-modulations cause us happiness or difficulty is a choice resting with us.
It is interesting to pay some attention to life-statements connected with the signs. Each sign has its characteristic life-statements, or attitudes of heart and mind which somehow fundamentally summarise what that sign is about, or the kinds of experiences which get associated with them. Life-statements themselves are human things, associations with certain kinds of situation, memory and energy: they can express different facets of a sign's qualities, and show different open or closed responses to them. Thus, for example, Capricornian life-statements sound like this: "Yes, but we ought to do what we said we would do", or "If you keep on working at it you'll get there in the end", or "What would people say if we were caught like this (with our pants down)?" or "I'm always feeling stuck and I can never leave what I'm doing, whatever I feel like myself". Aquarian life-statements might be: "I could be different from who I am now, and life would become a lot better", or "People are always trying to tie me down, and no one will let me hover around the edge of their group" or "If only everybody got together and stopped just leaving it all to me, the world would be a much better place".
It is necessary to look deeper than the surface to see sign energies coming through, for sometimes people can behave quite the opposite to what one would expect of a particular sign – yet, underneath, they are working with the same issue. For example, in response to Capricorn's conformism, there might be a strong feeling of rebellion against anything which smacks of authority, or a semiconscious aversion to being held to roles or tasks: "If he thinks he can expect me to work extra today, I'm going to take the day off, just to teach him a lesson". Or in response to Aquarian energy, someone might say "I can't be bothered with all these big ideas, I'm going off to do my own thing" or "These people think they're being so wonderful with all their committees/family life/group-sharing, but they don't realise my freedom is getting trampled on!" In other words, a sign represents a gaggle of issues, charged notions or archetypes, towards which different people can react in different ways, depending on their current disposition. To add to the confusion, many of these issues are projected outwards on others and on circumstances: Aquarius can be a principled social reformer or a racist.
Typical situations arise where the flavour of the sign is acted out. In Gemini, couple relationships can show their dilemmas and divisions, because each person wants to do things their own way. In Virgo people set about getting their lives in order and tidying up – or making a higgledypiggledy mess. Spontaneous socialising can break out in Sagittarius after Scorpio's focus on nitty-gritty realities – or seriously anti-social behaviour can arise. When Saturn moved into Sagittarius in late 1985, a worldwide terrorist flap suddenly created a widespread fear of international travelling. Shortly afterwards, the crashing and destruction of various American and European space-launching shuttles and rockets caused a major setback in the space programs, and a collapse of freedom-seeking space-exploration aspirations. Sometimes these kinds of symbolic events can be so literal in their adherence to astrological imagery that it is rather uncanny to witness them unfolding: one wonders why, after so long, astrology is not in wider use, to warn of such things. The Berlin Wall fell on a Saturn-Neptune conjunction – a direct hit! Who said we weren't puppets?
These life-statements and omens can be picked up by a symbolically-watchful eye and ear. Similarly, it is worth keeping an eye on our own thoughts and feelings, for we ourselves can provide all the cues and prompts to enlighten ourselves on the working realities to which astrology alludes. It is a matter of lateral association, keeping ourselves tuned to symbolism hiding within events, big and small: if the milkman delivers the milk late when Moon is in Pisces, he is perfectly in tune with the cosmos, and there's nothing amiss! He'll probably be back in gear when Moon moves into Aries – unless there is something bigger going on.
Substrata: from outside to inside: zodiac signs, elements, modes, genders and traditional planetary rulerships
The signs are linked with each other in so many patterns. Here we shall look at the contributory factors which interlace the zodiac: the genders, modes and elements, followed by planetary rulerships.
There are two genders, yin and yang (female and male), of which there are six signs each, alternating in sequence. There are three modes, cardinal, fixing and mutable, of which there are four signs each, running in sequence. There are four elements, earth, air, water and fire, of which there are three signs of each. Twelve is a wonderful number, since it subdivides neatly to produce an interesting geometry. First, we shall look at the relationship each sign has with all the others.
By looking at signs sequentially, as a cyclic series, we see how each sign affects the sign following it, and feeds out of that preceding.
A sign tends to react somewhat to the sign before it (just as generations of people do), acutely aware of the pitfalls the last sign fell into. Yet it also stands on the ground the previous sign laid, working from that sign's experience. It tends to look down on its predecessor, underrating the latter's contribution – probably a self-justificatory ploy. Meanwhile it does not see or acknowledge the possibilities that the following sign can open up, and yet is unconsciously seeking to become like it, to move towards what, to that subsequent sign, is normal reality.
This contrasting of neighbouring signs (30°, ) takes place within a certain leeway, for while they contrast one another, they are also intimately linked, their themes leading on from one another. You can observe this contrast of theme quite easily when a planet makes an ingress into a new sign: the atmosphere changes sharply and discernibly, while there is also a distinct feeling of sequentiality and follow-on.
Signs at sextile (60°, ) to one another (next-door-but-one neighbours) are different from each other in emphasis and approach, but they share many similarities of energy and viewpoint, tending to support one another quite fruitfully: they share the same gender, and a different element and mode – thus, for example, Virgo and Scorpio each internalise their experience and inwardly dwell on its ins and outs as a matter of habit, the first to understand and intelligently adjust to it, the second to get to the bottom line of gut-level truth and to deal with it, and hence they can work easily with one another if two planets are activating each other between these two signs.
Signs at square (90°, ) to each other can either conflict or meet to work with each other and apply themselves to a task at hand, facing up to things which, for other sign-combinations, might be uncomfortable or unproductive: they share the same mode, but they have a different gender and a contrasting element. Thus, Aries works with courage and willpower, while Cancer works with security and sensitivity – energies which can clash or undermine each other, yet while they can conflict, both are necessary to each other to overcome each others' weaknesses.
Signs in trine (120°, ) have a similarity of aims and ways, a natural harmony of being which is mutually reinforcing, not very dynamic but easygoing. They get on well, but they might not have much to say or do together: they share element and gender, but not mode. Thus Capricorn and Taurus both are earthy, grounded in approach and set on their course through life, yet the former is motivated by reasons of social propriety while the latter is motivated out of an urge for self-determination – they have a harmonious contrast.
Signs at quincunx (150°, ) to one another suffer non-communication and dissimilarity: they have different modes, genders and elements, and they find difficulty forming any common ground. Thus Pisces tends towards selflessness and beliefs of personal insignificance and universal participation, while Leo tends toward self-centredness and a belief that the universe revolves around it. This dissimilarity of issues can work either way, and doesn't have to be a problem, as long as there is some clarity around what the issues are, what they entail, and what to do about it.
Signs in opposition (180°, ) to one another work at opposite sides of the same question, and each has the other hidden within it, and can learn a lot from the other. Each represents the other sign's unconscious tendencies. Each calls the other into question, yet the meeting is dynamic and charged with potential: they have the same mode and gender, but are of a different element. Thus Sagittarius takes a wide world-view, and generously believes in altruism, social beneficence and friendliness, while Gemini takes a changeably-detailed world view related always to itself and its immediate environment, looking after its own life and being affable when nothing is demanded.
Yet together this lot form a family!
Yang and Yin – genders
Signs alternate through the zodiac, yang and yin. Yin is the feminine principle, working through the water and earth signs, and they are the givers of shape: these signs assimilate presented reality and work with it, making sense of things, grounding and shaping them. They operate receptively, giving substance and stabilisation to energy-impulses coming from yang signs. Yang is the masculine principle, and it works through the fire and air signs, the movers: these signs create anew, energise and stimulate motion and alteration. They operate proactively, giving life and mobility to the forms embodied by yin.
Yang and yin, ancient Chinese terms, are used here, because they do not have the same sorts of loaded connotations which can accrue around terms such as masculine/positive and feminine/negative. Yang and yin point to the two gender-energies within each of us, regardless of the bodily forms we have taken on as males and females. Yang and yin complete one another, and through their joining, creation comes about. The signs alternate gender in order to keep a balance of energy.
The yin signs exercise beingness, while the yang signs exercise doingness/becoming. The cardinal signs, which start each season, endow that season with a gender. Summer and winter, begun at the solstices, are yin seasons in that they represent a state of beingness, living with a given situation which has already come about and is there to be got on with. Spring and autumn, beginning at the equinoxes, are yang seasons in that they inaugurate a process of becoming, of changing into something other than what was, creating a new state of being. Thus an intricate pattern builds up, even when looking only at the genders.
The three modes
There are four crosses of three different modes, cardinal, fixing (fixed) and mutable. These crosses involve signs at opposition and square to one another: they work with each other to create transition and 'chemical reaction', each in their own way, in the zodiac. They represent modes or styles of operating in life. Each modal cross has a sign of each element – and each triangle of elements contains representatives from the three modes. Each modal cross has two yin signs opposing one another, and two yang signs at square to them, also opposing each other.
The cardinal signs
The cardinal signs work to summon, concentrate and set energy in motion – the particular energy represented by the element involved in each cardinal sign. They find, define and initiate activity – good at starting things and poor at completing them. They seek to make things move in chosen directions, to make facts catch up with principles or potentials, and to get involved in things. They bring character to the seasons they initiate. At the beginning of each cardinal sign, a process starts as an urge to develop the qualities of the element involved, and by the end of the sign a feeling develops that things are by now happening, moving along – yet still, the real work must be carried through (by the fixing sign which follows). Thus winter, initiated by Capricorn, is an earth season, even though the work is carried on after Capricorn by Aquarius, an air sign, and Pisces, a water sign.
The fixing signs
This 'real work' is tackled by the fixing signs: they must fix and hammer down the energy already in motion, to ensure that it achieves something. They are intensely involved with what is already present, given, what has come to pass. Here potential becomes actual, something to live with, work through, make something of. The element involved shows what has to be lived and worked with. At the beginning of a fixing sign there is a sense of engagement, in the middle (at the cross-quarter point) the activity is happening and the work must be done, now or never, while at the end of the sign the full implications are grasped and the work must be stabilised and nailed tight. Thus, while Aquarius seeks to make things different, and to institute a new idealised or planned-out order, it works still with earthy, consolidative Capricornian themes as an undertow and, regardless of its wishes, it must recognise earthy factualities.
The mutable signs
The mutable signs adjust, regulate and perfect what has come to pass. They put things into their proper place and context – cars are fine, but it's the travelling they are used for which gives them significance. The fixing signs have been too involved to see clearly the fullness of all that has come about, while the mutable signs release their grip on things and stand back to gain perspective. They put things into context, seeing things anew, finishing things off, clearing up the mess, adding finer touches and ensuring that some lasting benefit is accrued from the activity-melee which the cardinals started and the fixing signs made happen. They also learn from mistakes made, developing an overall viewpoint. They ask questions and develop answers. At the beginning of the mutables there is a releasing of tension leading to a questioning, at the middle there corrections, perfections and reflections to be made, and at the end there is a waiting and preparing, a generating of future perspective and a foundation-laying for what is to arise next. This sets the prelude to the following cardinal signs. Thus the mutables prepare the future and identify its potentials.
The different modes find different kinds of difficulties. Cardinal signs are fine at starting things, but they can get addicted to making things happen, a kind of restlessness or drive which can get stuck, regardless of objective developments. There can be a habitual moving on without completing things, believing that initiating things or getting involved is all there is. Yet there is more. They can become tied up in feeling that the situation before us is insufficient, or they can seek to impose intentions and wishes on life. Letting go of the future, of attempts to arrange things as wanted or thought best, is a good cardinal sign therapy.
Fixing signs can get stuck in the doing of things, in the process of living out involvements, without being able to stand back and see why they are doing it. Ends justify means, and review of previous decisions is deemed unnecessary. They justify things by saying that they must be done, but they cannot disentangle themselves sufficiently to see that things can also be done another way, or might be well left to sort themselves out. They have trouble releasing standpoints, their hold on things, fearing loss of identity if they do not have commitments and trajectories to adhere to. A relentless driving force can come into play, which does not necessarily adjust easily to changing circumstances.
Mutable signs can build up complex reasons why they are as they are, using rationalisation to explain things, and sometimes covering up what's underneath. Releasing, letting things be and dropping things can become a habit which is mistaken for enlightened behaviour: it can become a habit of yielding or shrugging shoulders, where greater tenacity might be in order. It's all relative for a mutable sign, and changeability can be an attachment, an excuse for not facing things full on. The flexibility of the mutables gives space for new energy to enter the situation, however, and for fresh atmospheres to start brewing, as a prelude to the following cardinal sign.
The four elements
The modes and elements represent the warp and weft which makes up the zodiacal tapestry. They constitute the set of linked issues and archetypes which characterise each and all of the signs, which work as sieves letting through specific facets of a planetary energy.
The modes represent stages in the wave-motion of a cycle, while the elements represent qualities of energy in themselves. The fire signs represent the principle of energy or light, vivifying and bringing out into the open whatever possibility is around, amplifying it. The earth signs represent the principle of solidification and organisation, the structuring and gelling energy which makes things work properly. The air signs represent the principle of mobility and interrelation, intermixing, loosening up and ideationally distinguishing this from that. The water signs represent fluidity, the melting and the soaking up of energy, sensitising, joining and causing energy to flow together and merge.
Strictly speaking, there is a fifth element, ether, which represents space, consciousness and the emptiness within which all forms play, but astrology does not formally build this in to the zodiac, since it is formless and all-encompassing. The four elements symbolise the four states of matter: plasma, solids, gases and liquids (respectively), each with its own way of embodying energy in form.
Earth. Well, it's all very well everybody going round getting inspired, discussing things and sorting things out, but what about the real, down-to-earth things which need doing? This applies to spiritual issues as much as money and blocks of stone: realism and proportion. In ploughing through earthy experiences we really have to prove our mettle, drop our fancy ideas and presumptions, and get on with creating some results. "I'll believe it when I see it." Life would get very complicated if things were not practically organised, timetabled, legislated for, maintained, consolidated and set up properly: erratic, fitful activity achieves but gusts of progress.
We need houses to live in, and the crops need growing, and the bills need paying. Even the most metaphysical of issues needs making into something recognisable and utilisable. Earth signs involve the state of mind and spirit required to keep things on the move ongoingly, and they come to grips with concrete questions. We have to develop a constancy, a focus and practicality if things are going to work, and we need to make decisions and commitments, fix times and terms, prerequisites and parameters. Everything needs fixing up properly, say the earth signs.
The earth signs are about sticking to our course and objectives, and persevering: even in relaxation and enjoyment the earth signs are diligent and realistic – even their humour relates to real-life predicaments. They can suffer habit or indulgence too. Earth signs find out how things work, functionally, and they mould them, build them up, alter them, knock them down and sort out the rubble, shift things to where they are most usefully kept, and bring things to some sort of concrete outcome. Like farmers, we have to learn to keep on going, regardless of what our fancies or whims say, regardless of our emotional states. In earth signs we have to apply commonsense to keep the world ticking. No messing around. Or, at least, not too much.
Like water signs, earth signs involve receptivity, yet there is not the same vulnerability as water signs: the innate stability of earth keeps us going. But underneath there is sensitivity, and the smallest nuances can matter greatly. Earth energy does not budge if resisted or threatened, but keeps on chipping away at things. Changing course or letting go is valid only when it is proven that it is most sensible to do so. Earth signs seek to make things last, to preserve the experience and to go into things fully. There is a need to foresee eventualities and likely outcomes, and to be ready for them. Energy can get stuck though, through a lack of nimbleness. Perseverance leads to results, but it also costs in terms of lost freedom or joy or love. There is more going on than meets the eye, and there are greater possibilities than those already attained or demonstrated, and greater alternatives than those routinely followed. Gilt-edged securities have their value, but they earn profit slowly.
Air. The air signs contribute mobility to any planetary energies involved with them. While the earth signs, which precede the air signs in the zodiacal sequence, are committed and solid in their approach to life, the air signs are detached, and look at things afresh, from new angles. They loosen up stuck energy, and toss issues between extremes or alternatives, widening out the possibilities inherent in life. They perceive choice and dilemma, and while they are often not in a position to execute what they have seen or chosen, or willing to stick by what they see and describe, they unearth the options, so that energy can be liberated, let loose, to explore situations more spontaneously and freely.
The air signs are relativistic: there is a tendency to react to whatever is the given case, and to take the opposite, or a contrasting, viewpoint, for the sake of opening out the issues involved or just for the hell of it. When a fixed situation changes, a quick adjustment is called for – an adjustment to whatever is going on at the moment. As in the case of sailing, the sails must be adjusted to catch the best of the wind at any moment. In this way there is an element of fickleness or dilettantism, a staying on the edge of things. This is a favourite air-sign ploy – avoidance of the heavy stuff, of the real muscle of any situation – but the air-sign initiation is also about finding a middle course between extremes, stabilising energy yet also allowing it to fly free, as it will, to find its place. This involves handling paradox and seemingly irresolvable opposites! Yet the air signs stay tuned to immediate changes and help us keep on course by adapting to them.
Air signs follow ideas and philosophies, and they use these as the yardstick by which to judge life and the world. Sometimes these thought-worlds or projections take over from objective reality – the tendency to complement givens with their opposites can become a dominant pattern, though air-signs' idea-projections into the world can also have great value in terms of they way they can clarify or change things. The three air signs are all placed at points in the zodiacal sequence where sideways changes, perspective and adjustment are needed in order to facilitate movement, to redistribute energy, to bring fresh breezes and induce flexibility: placed between earth and water signs, they dry out all the sogginess and muddiness.
Water. Out of the detachment of the air signs arises the feelingful involvement of the water signs. Standing back from experience takes something away from it, for it is the very experiencing of life and its pathos which is its essence. We humans have a deep need to be affected, moved and permeated by what happens in our lives, for existence is not merely a theoretical proposition deserving observation, it is a whole experience which is here to move us, open us and influence us from inside out. We need passion, immersion and dedication, a direct feeling of life and its ins and outs, if we are to find real benefit, say the water signs.
Water signs bring out our sensitivities and vulnerabilities. A measure of protection from the cruel onslaught of life is needed. Otherwise, while being affected by life, we might also be overwhelmed by it, lose our way and be obliterated or drowned. Water always flows back together: it follows a downward direction to reunite all its tributary parts and become one with itself – the sea, or what Buddhists call 'the ocean of wisdom'. The ocean is the vastness of the Unknown or the Unknowable: from the air we can see all things, except what lies under the water – and there is more ocean than land on planet Earth! Through our finer sensitivities we derive new experiences of depth and profundity: simple, small things matter, and care for genuine human qualities and feelings makes human life more human. The water signs are subjective, even to the extent of being overly self-preoccupied, but they also represent the personal, the intimate, fragile and unguarded treasures of life, which are both hard-won and easily lost assets.
In water signs we feel ourselves to be one with all things: yet we have to fight to retain a sense of self in a tough, uncaring world. When the world loses its harshness and jagged edges, the water signs flow out openly and bring warmth and unity to all, and qualitative benefits accrue. But when the icy blast is on, the water signs hold on tight to what feels safe and protectable, with a tenacity which strengthens as the pressure grows, until bursting point or implosion. At this very point, the essence of living is let out: when the tears roll, people are awakened, yet when the pretences are maintained, the meaning of life is lost. For life needs meaning, and all beings need closeness, belonging, community, family and care, if their existence is to become fulfilled: objective, quantitative realities have little meaning when feelings are involved.
Fire.Fire energy converts forms into living energy quickly, totally and indiscriminately: it does not hang around and wait for permission, for the right conditions or the support of the majority, for it just burns, and once started, it cannot be stopped. The fire signs energise things, making them move, roll, transform, come out, blossom, explode and happen. Fire is individualistic, and it wants progress, now. Resistances and obstacles are not validated, except as challenges to be overcome, and as causes for action. Fire brings out issues, expresses creativity and initiative, sets things boiling or gives them sufficient impetus to work through to the goal.
But fire also works fast and does not pause long enough to take in the situation. There must be action now, and the trail of destruction left behind can sometimes counterbalance the new opportunities which have been created. Nothing is hidden, and there are no reservations. Anything moving too slow is by-passed. Fire energy does not rest. Energy can be fitful, enthusiastic and inspired with genius or, at times, depressed, volatile and negative. But results happen. The direction is upwards – which is why the earth signs follow the fire signs to remind us of ground-control and the foundations we need to stand on if we are successfully to soar high into the rarified heights. The fire signs whip up a spark of life and courage to get us out of the doldrums and the spongy morass which the water signs can fall into. The fire signs change things.
In distinction to the self-involvement and instinctual defensiveness of water-signs, the fire signs are other-involved – and paradoxically, the water signs care for others while the fire signs care for themselves. There's nothing wrong with me, says the fire sign, for I am a wellspring of all things good, and everyone will benefit (even if they don't think they will!). This sense of rightness, confidence and power is the enlivening aspect of the fire-signs – yet also, the things overlooked, whizzed past and avoided are important too, and sensitivity and listening are necessary too, and an overlooked weakness of fire signs. They can be too busy enacting the dramas they feel impassioned about to notice some of the subtler nuances of what is around them. Which is why the subsequent earth signs are needed, to stabilise things somewhat.
The four elements give very useful ways of looking at the zodiac, and they simplify an otherwise apparently-complex twelvefold situation, when it comes to looking at how each planet is modified by the signs. Essentially, all three fire signs have similar energising effects on any planet, but they each have a different mode, and thereby energise planets in their own way. Getting to know this basic style of energising, we can then move through to understanding each sign in itself: thus, Aries (cardinal) creates some distance from the past by independently asserting itself and following the impulse to move forward, and Leo (fixing) simply does what it believes in with unceasing energy, creativity and ballyhoo, moulding the world in its own way, while Sagittarius seeks to support social causes, invest energy or capital and stimulate general progress – with a secret personal control agenda thrown in.
This interwoven pattern of genders, modes and elements thus makes for a fascinating pattern in the zodiac where, even though three main factors are involved, all the signs have their own uniqueness in the way those factors are combined. Next we shall look at a further dimension, the planetary connections with the signs.
Planetary rulerships. Outer circle – the zodiac signs; middle – the traditional rulerships; inner circle – exaltations;
innermost circle – suggested outer planet connections with the signs.
The astrological signs are further qualified by their special rulership relations with the planets. These not only contribute to our picturing of the signs, but also suggest a system whereby we can understand how the planets work through the signs – or at least, through specific ones.
Astrological tradition, handed down to us through Ptolemy in Alexandria, in ancient Greek-ruled Egypt, and through Arabic and European medieval channels to the present day, has given us a symbol language and a set of manipulations and rules for using these symbols which are still surprisingly workable today. A few astrologers say that many astrological rules (such as rulerships) are outdated or chauvinistic (of the male kind), but I believe that it is our understanding of these rules which needs to change, not the rules themselves. There is something perennial and trans-millennial, which transcends cultural history, in the structure of astrology.
It is true to say that a planet has importance and validity in every sign of the zodiac, but rulerships and so-called detriments, exaltations and falls (dreadful archaic terms, but there is no modern replacement!) typify the pattern of working of each planet as it travels through the zodiac. They give examples or archetypes of the most representative kinds of qualities, assets and difficulties which a planetary energies can manifest through the signs. Also, they give an inroad into the otherwise complex field of understanding planets in signs.
Amongst the personality-building planets (the planets visible to the naked eye in our sky), Sun and Moon each 'rule' one sign, and Mercury-to-Saturn each rule two signs. This is an ancient pattern of rulerships which is not only interesting but also very revealing. When Sun, Moon or any planet are in a sign they rule, they are at home: they are in a sign which embodies their particular kind of contribution to the energy-tapestry of time. Thus, we can call Pisces a Jupiter sign, implying that the energy of Jupiter is highly compatible with that of Pisces. When Jupiter is in Pisces (as in 1986 and 1998), it expresses one of its most archetypal facets, it becomes itself, naturally.
Each of the planets (except Sun and Moon) has a home in a yang sign and a yin sign. This reveals a yang (male-archetype) or a yin (feminine-archetype) side to that planet's action. For example, Jupiter is at home both in Sagittarius (yang), which relates to social and material prosperity, and in Pisces (yin), which relates to inner wealth and vision ('treasures in heaven'). We could say that Cancer and Leo, the two signs ruled not by planets but by Moon and Sun respectively, are a similar pair, creating a soli-lunar pair of signs involved with existential, beingness-related issues.
Now in mainstream astrology, the discovery of Uranus, Neptune, Pluto and now Chiron into the planetary family has caused astrologers to assign them rulerships too. Uranus is at home in Aquarius, Neptune in Pisces, Pluto in Scorpio, and Chiron has not found a conclusive home yet (we need to give this question more time!). Some astrologers have forgotten the old rulerships of Aquarius (Saturn), Pisces (Jupiter) and Scorpio (Mars), rating the outer planets equally to the personality-building planets. This is not entirely astute, because the newer-discovered outer planets operate in a rather different energy-sphere to the traditional, visible planets – there is significance in their later discovery in recent centuries (and there is also some evidence that the ancients actually knew about these 'newly-discovered' planets too).
It is valid to use both the old inner-planet sign rulerships and the newer outer-planet ones, for these planets work on different levels, and through each other. The outer planets (Chiron to Pluto) cannot express themselves clearly into the world and the level of human personality except through the personality-building planets (Sun to Saturn), since they work through the unconscious only, in themselves, and the unconscious, to communicate, must exprreess itself through the medium of the conscious. The inner and outer planets work on different energy-octaves, and thus they can complement but they don't necessarily replace one another in terms of rulerships.
It seems best at the moment to allow Chiron to live without a sign rulership – we might be a little neurotic in looking for one, seeking to fit Chiron into a traditional system it might not want to fit into. I have heard astrologers linking Chiron to Libra, Sagittarius, Virgo and Pisces, all for different reasons, and my personal feeling is to sit on this question for a longer time and look more closely before forming conclusions.
One interesting pattern worthy of note is that the outer planets each could be seen to have connections with at least four signs, which manifest different facets of these planets' workings. This pattern gives credence both to old and new sign rulerships, and there is some meaning to it (this is an idea sparked off by Dane Rudhyar, one of the great figures of 20th Century astrology). Uranus can be said to hold influence over Capricorn, Cancer and Leo as well as Aquarius, and in doing so, it demonstrates the full profile of uranian influence – for change is facilitated first through resistance to change, through a buildup of pressure, which takes place in Capricorn and Cancer. Neptune can be said to influence the four mutable signs, Gemini, Virgo and Sagittarius as well as Pisces – while Pisces has obvious connections with Neptune, the three other signs, dealing as they do with reality-systems in their different facets, with mentalistic holding-together (Gemini and Virgo) as well as with intuitive letting loose (Sagittarius and Pisces), and with transition, demonstrate different possible Neptune connections. Pluto can be said to influence Aries, Taurus and Libra as well as Scorpio: the resistance to change manifested through Libra and Taurus is as much a part of that change as Scorpio and Aries are. Think about it, for this pattern has interesting implications.
Opposite to the home signs are the so-called detriment signs. This is an unfortunate traditional term (like 'fall', later on) which suggests a value judgement which is not really there. Astrology has no 'good' or 'bad' attached to it. When a planet is 'in detriment' (for example, Jupiter in Gemini or Virgo, opposite Sagittarius and Pisces, its home signs) it expresses itself at least as strongly as it does in a home sign, but it shows some of its excesses, insufficiencies and rough edges. These need working on if the planet is to move its energy well. So, Jupiter in Gemini, for example, takes the lust for experience which Sagittarius possesses, and turns it into intellectual seeking and knowledge, which in turn can lead to some heady disconnection from reality and reliance on concepts and rationalisation in place of the hearty belief-power Sagittarius lives with. Jupiter in Virgo can attach itself to down-to-earth practical considerations, which can lead to great results, but also this can block the vision, perspective and faith which Pisces works with – Virgo tends to doubt things. In general, signs opposite one another reflect contrastingly different sides of the same question, for each sign has its opposite hidden paradoxically within it.
When a planet is in a home sign or a detrimental sign it is strong, demonstrative and typified in its expression, quantitatively, and any issues arising are powerful ones. When a planet is in its exaltation or fall, however, the message given is not about strength of flow and quantity, but about quality, nuance or style of expression. When a planet is exalted, its energy expresses itself in a fine, progressive and subtly skilled way, or, at least, it has the potential to do so.
Fall signs lie opposite the exaltation signs, and when a planet is in its fall, it can tend to express itself in a way which can be subtly inappropriate, insensitive, convoluted or reserved. Somehow the goodness of that position struggles to get through: yet a fall, like a detriment, gives material for us to work on, and it can be moved into conscious operation as we awaken. For example, Jupiter is in exaltation in Cancer, through which it expresses itself in a munificent, caring, protective and sheltering manner (a great mother archetype, wonderful for caterers and social carers), while when Jupiter is in fall in Capricorn, it manifests as an overworking, account-bookish, tightly-grounded manner (a relatively mean father archetype which seeks to justify or question the need for caring by looking at its usefulness and feasibility).
Sun is exalted in Aries, and in fall in Libra: the integrative, expressing energy of the Sun works well in Aries, but in Libra it all depends very much on what others are up to and what they think – which can be a bit like sunshine obscured by clouds. Moon is exalted in Taurus, endowing a caringness, instinctual sensuality and enjoyment of comforts, and it is in fall in Scorpio, where it does not want to acknowledge or fully enjoy its needs, for fear of letting out a wild dragon of wants or dependency. Mercury is exalted in Aquarius, where abstract thought and enquiry prevail, and it is in fall in Leo, where it thinks it knows it all and cannot listen. Venus is exalted in Pisces , where compassion and a healing of wounds can arise, and it is in fall in Virgo, where love and relationship are more of a chosen thing, starting from an initial reticence. Mars is exalted in Capricorn, where it works long, systematically and hard, and it is in fall in Cancer, which can be impulsive, having difficulty applying itself to the procedural issues around making things work. Jupiter is exalted in Cancer, and in fall in Capricorn, as mentioned above. Saturn is exalted in Libra, where it is judiciously detached, fair and diligent in its relating and balancing of conflicting demands, and it is in fall in Aries, where a fear of loss of self or of personal inadequacy can obstruct progress and involvement.
A planet in a home or exalted sign can bring difficulties if there are blockages attached to that planet, or excesses or unawarenesses: it is not an automatic advantage to have a planet at home or exalted. Home signs in particular harbour a lack of self-awareness, an automatic kind of energy-expression which does not see what it is doing or its effects. Exalted planets can behave as if their way of doing things is the only way, and they cannot see beyond this (though this is myopic rather than arrogant). On the other hand, a planet in detriment or fall is faced with the outcomes of its acts, and it presents challenges which foster awareness and a self-correction of behaviour in a willing, seeking person, thus becoming a positive influence once learned and addressed.
Planets and elements
Each planet tends to sit more comfortably in signs connected by element to its home signs. Signs of the same element reflect three different facets of the same kind of energy expression.
Thus, Jupiter, being at home in Sagittarius and Pisces, which are fire and water signs, tends to find power in other fire (Aries and Leo) and water (Cancer and Scorpio) signs. Jupiter in fire signs demonstrates its stimulative, investing energy-expression, while in water signs it demonstrates its sensitivity, empathy and understanding. Similarly, Mercury (at home in Gemini) is mental, theoretical and intellectual when in air signs, while in earth signs (at home in Virgo) it is dextrous, skilled, informed and factual.
On the other hand, when in signs unconnected by element to their home signs, planets function perfectly well (if channels are open), but they find less power or originality. Thus, Jupiter in the earth signs embeds itself in practicalities which, while they often do work, can restrain jupiterian zest. In air signs Jupiter creates ideas and beliefs which are sophisticated, yet they might be pie-in-the-sky and not directly applicable. Or Mercury in water signs gets caught up with feeling-sensitivities, becoming both more responsive and losing its impartiality, while in fire signs it can form conclusions and spout them out quickly, often missing the subtler mercurial refinements such as tact, and making for an unwillingness to learn anew.
A reminder: no planet is better or worse in any sign, and preconceived notions of how they are going to work, or whether they will produce pleasant or intolerable results, will prove themselves, on observation, often to be incorrect. When a planet passes through a sign, it expresses a quality, that's all, and that quality is a necessary part of the whole scheme of things. Hard times make good times good, and good times give meaning to the hard times: yet these perceptions themselves relate to the way we individually or collectively judge the energies and situations arising through time. Pain and difficulty are directly related to the degree of resistance and obstruction we put up.
The zodiacal tapestry
With the background picture given above, it is possible to gain significant inroads into understanding how time moves as the planets visit different signs. It's all a matter of keeping an eye on your ephemeris, noting what happens in your experience when planets change signs, and accumulating a stock of conscious, noted experience, to which you can increasingly refer as you grow and develop in your use of astrology.
The signs represent themes. When a slower-moving planet changes signs, the themes which are counted as important in the collective psyche themselves change. Sometimes events can come along to precipitate these theme-changes (for example, although terrorism has gone on for some time, the Reagan-Gadafy power-battle in early 1986 featured the terrorism issue, caught the energy of the time, and made it into a big theme, big enough to cause people to change their behaviour as a result – a manifestation of Saturn in Sagittarius at the time).
Thus, while themes can be progressing over a period of time, they can become charged issues only when there is some planetary energy, modulated by a sign, to support that charge. Government leaks, or atomic leaks, have been happening for a long time, but the presence of Pluto in Scorpio (issues around secrecy and control) and Neptune in Capricorn from 1984 to 1995/97 made these issues charged ones. Being outer planets, affecting the collective unconscious, Neptune and Pluto influences percolate into public consciousness through poignant events which raise the symbolism of the time. Often, these issue-outbreaks are sparked off by aspects formed by faster-moving planets to slower-moving planets, causing ripples and wobbles in the collective psyche, where fears, ghosts and insights suddenly arise to jolt people out of their normal complacent everydayness.
A theme or charge can hang around latently until an aspect sparks off a symbolic event which gives it energy, bringing it out into the open as an issue which everyone has to face. One such event was the death in 1997 of Princess Diana, the 'people's princess', just as Neptune was transiting into Aquarius. The hardened cult of materialism which had grown in the 1980s, while Neptune was in Capricorn, gave way to more public, social values and expressions of popular feeling, catalysed by the untimely and poignant death of but one person. Death happens all the time, but this death tweaked an important nerve in public consciousness, far beyond the extent to which it should have affected people.
Theme-changes take place with the faster-moving planets too, but they are more fleeting in timing and less profound in overall implication. Each planet works on its own level, with its own level of significance in the way it affects time and life on Earth. If you are in a close relationship, watch how the Venus cycle affects it: you might find your relationship pulls together when Venus is in Cancer, and becomes more separated when Venus moves into Leo. This can be gradually healed when it is in Virgo, and it can find new interrelatedness and togetherness when in Libra. Jupiter, spending a year in each sign, brings up social issues and atmospheres changing approximately yearly: Jupiter in Aries (1987) brought an atmosphere of initiatives, competition and activation, while Jupiter in Taurus (1988) encouraged more ongoing, steady growth and realism. Watching Moon is a way of familiarising ourselves with the basic patterns and sequentiality of the signs, because changes of sign take place roughly every two days – immensely observable!
Then there are concentrations of planets in certain signs, or in certain kinds of signs (we shall examine these in more depth soon). The permutations in planetary movements over time are infinitely varying and very interesting. The concentration of outer planets in Capricorn-Cancer in 1989-90, pinpointed especially when faster planets swung into this alignment, gave much excellent experiential data on what these signs are about, on many levels and from many angles. A little astrological deduction would suggest that the Capricornian issues of institution, tradition and structure money and law, order and chaos, stability and disintegration, agreements, constitutions and social purpose – came up against the sensitivities of crowds of people expressing their feelings. This was played out in Tienanmen Square in Beijing, and at the Berlin Wall and the city squares of Central Europe – the crowds came out, and the soldiers were faced with the choice to shoot or not to shoot, to maintain order.
The Cancerian issues involved the security and integrity of people and nations, of welfare and food, of resources, fuel and sustenance (Greenpeace and rights movements), of the people. The stern father and the protective mother principles clashed. God and Babylon suffered wobbles and weaknesses (Uranus, Neptune and Saturn in Capricorn) while Goddess and small people offered openings and solutions (Jupiter and Chiron in Cancer). The choices for us, as individuals, groups and nations, were to allow and bring about fundamental structural change (perestroika), or to resist change, hang onto knowns and conventions, and thereby to manifest the breakout of unknowns, disruptions, shocks and collapses. The question of the time was: do the people serve the system or does the system serve the people? This is a big one, and it was not fully resolved in 1988-89 – the question has been commuted to another day, yet it has not gone away.
We all have all of the signs working through us. Planets in our birth charts highlight the issues of certain signs more than others in our own lives, but the archetypal issues of all signs come up sooner or later and affect us all individually, though in differing ways: selfhood-relatedness issues (Aries-Libra), self-determination or involvement (Taurus-Scorpio), knowledge/flexibility and belief/power (Gemini-Sagittarius), security-organisation (Cancer-Capricorn), myself-and-us all (Leo-Aquarius), practical competence and intuitive insight (Virgo-Pisces).
A grasp of this cycle of archetypes can help us understand a lot about life and function better. We can then start seeing the part that particular perspectives play in the totality of life, learning to persevere through them when necessary, and to choose our timings for doing things or working things out. Thusly, we can move into closer accord with the flow of time. It really helps, in manifold ways.