When you are asked “what’s your sign?” and you say Gemini (or the sign you happen to be), your answer reflects your Sun sign. This, in Western culture, is the most well-known and referenced of the planets. Every other planet will get its due further down on this page.
The Sun represents your Self, basic personality, ego, and self-expression. It rules the sign Leo and is exalted in Aries. It moves about one degree per day, spending roughly a month in each sign.
You might be curious to know that the Sun was only thought of as the most important planet from the 1930s onward! And, that takes us to the next thing, which is not a planet at all, but is:
The Rising Sign (or Ascendant)
The Ascendant has been likened as “your astrological mask,” the face you present to the world.
In this case, the ascendant moves, on average, one degree every 4 minutes, but that can vary, especially the further you were from the equator. It spends an average of 2 hours in each sign, again variable. It is the place on the horizon where the Sun would be rising if it were rising, such that, if your Sun sign were 12 degrees Cancer, and you were born at sunrise, your Ascendant would be exactly the same. If you were born at sunset instead, your Ascendant would be the opposite, or 12 degrees Cancer.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the most common Ascendants are Leo, Virgo, Libra, and Scorpio. In the Southern Hemisphere, the most common are Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, and Taurus. Without going into too much detail, that has to do with the fact that the Earth’s axis is pointed 23 degrees, exactly in the same direction throughout its orbit. (Not that we terrestrials necessarily know that, since it’s the earth’s revolving around the Sun that makes us think otherwise).
The ascendant is only known if the time of day of birth is known, although many advanced astrologers have learned the art of rectification, which is a way to determine the birth time from life events. Some are so good at it that they can come up with a more accurate time than what’s on the birth certificate!
More ancient and Eastern traditions had/have the Moon as the most important planet. (In Astrology, every celestial object that’s relevant is thought of as a planet). The Moon represents your emotional side, unconscious, and dreams. It is the ruler of Cancer and is exalted in Taurus. Some have thought the Moon to be the most “favorable planet,” followed closely by the Sun, Venus, and Mercury.
The moon spends roughly 2 1/2 days in each sign and a degree every two hours. A transit is defined as how a planet moves through time, and because Moon transits relatively quickly, the sign it happens to be in often colors the “mood” of a space, whether that be one’s workplace, one’s social milieu, one’s family, etc.
Mercury is the planet that rules mental affairs and communication. You may have heard of something called “mercury retrograde,” which happens when Mercury appears to go backwards through the sky and the zodiac, causing all kinds of problems with communication. (It does this three times per year for approximately one month). Mercury rules both Gemini and Virgo and is exalted in Virgo, also.
Because Mercury’s orbit is interior to the earth’s and is very close to the sun, it will never be more than 27 degrees from the Sun, or one sign away from the Sun, so that one can make an educated guess of one’s Mercury sign from knowing their Sun sign.
Venus is the planet of love, of course; how you love others, and there is much variation in that through the signs. Venus also rules one’s feminine sign. It can go retrograde as well, but usually only every two years and not for especially long. Venus can never be more than 47 degrees from the Sun, or at most two signs.
Venus rules both Taurus and Libra, so, like any other planet, if you happen to be born in Venus’ rulership that’s considered to be very favorable for you and anything related to what Venus covers. (This applies to all planets and their rulerships.) Venus is exalted in Pisces.
Mars represents physical energy, action, war or conflict, independence and initiative, and one’s masculine side. Mars rules both Aries and Scorpio and is exalted in Capricorn.
It goes retrograde some of the time and takes close to two years to go through the zodiac, just as it takes to go around the solar system.
Jupiter‘s most well known for being the planet of good fortune and luck. It can also represent excess. But generally, it’s known as representing growth, expansion, opportunity and travel, and education. Jupiter rules both Sagittarius and Pisces and is exalted in Cancer.
Jupiter takes nearly 12 years to revolve around the Sun, and thus, spends an average of one year in each sign. It spends roughly four months out of the year retrograde. This is the first planet that we talk about “Jupiter return,” in which Jupiter returns to the sign of your birth, usually occurring at the ages of 12, 23-24, 35, 47, 59, etc. Jupiter return is considered a very favorable time.
Saturn is considered almost the opposite of Jupiter, representing one’s “shadow side”! It’s the area of life where you have to “pay your dues,” where things are delayed, father time, discipline, rules and regulations. Saturn is where we inevitably have to do the most work.
Saturn rules Capricorn and Aquarius and is exalted in Libra. We hear a lot about the “Saturn return,” which happens every 29 years and is considered a major life event where a lot of changes need to be made. Saturn goes retrograde for more than four months out of the year and spends an average of 2 1/2 years in each sign, making it much closer to a “generational planet”:
Like Uranus, which takes 84 years to go around the zodiac and spends an average of 7 years in each sign! These generational planets generally mean that most people born in these seven-year periods hold many things in common, at least pertaining to what each of the outer three planets have to do with.
Uranus was discovered at about the time of the French Revolution and American Revolution, so its most well-known representations have to do with revolution, though it also rules invention and originality and radical ideas.
Uranus rules Aquarius (along with Saturn) and is exalted in Scorpio. Uranus reaching the opposite place from where we were born (in other words, halfway through our orbit) signifies the mid-life crisis and generally passing through that allows us a greater degree of independence, understanding the world objectively but living through more subjective interpretations about our self and life. 84 years is considered in some quarters to be “the life cycle.”
Neptune, discovered in 1846, takes twice as long as Uranus to go around the zodiac, 165 years, and spends 14 years in each sign. This is truly a generational, or transpersonal planet that affects those of us in the same sign similarly in the things that Neptune rules.
Neptune rules Pisces (along with Jupiter) and is exalted in Leo. But the signs Neptune was in that are most relevant to those of us living at the time of writing were Libra (about 1942-1956), Scorpio (about 1956-1970), Sagittarius (1970-1984), Capricorn (1984-1998), and Aquarius (1998-2012). Like Uranus, it spends roughly 5 months out of the year retrograde.
Like Saturn, Neptune is a challenging planet, because as it rules dreams and intuition, spirituality, inspiration and ideals, and mysticism, it also pertains to addiction (especially to alcohol), illusion and fantasy (loss of reality).
Pluto is possibly the weirdest, and in some ways the most powerful of the transpersonal planets, of all. Not discovered until 1930, it’s possible its effects didn’t fully manifest until it was discovered, which may have made profound differences in our reality before-and-after.
Pluto may represent the soul’s journey (in a different way than the Moon’s Node, which we’ll get to), destruction and regeneration, sexuality, power, large and collected forces, and money.
Because Pluto’s orbit is so elliptical, it spends between 11 and 31 years in each sign. The relevant generations, and my own “take” on them, are Cancer (the “greatest generation”), Leo (“baby boomers”), Virgo (“Generation X”), Libra and Scorpio (“millenials”), and Sagittarius (?)
We are done with the major planets, although we have the Midheaven, the North and South nodes, and Chiron to discuss.
The Midheaven, like the Ascendant, mostly has to do with the way the Earth is pointing. It’s the point on the Sun’s ecliptic where it would be at its highest (noon) point. If you were born at that time of the day, your Midheaven would be the same as your Sun sign. It’s the cusp of the 10th house (you’ll see that in the Houses section), and generally has everything to do with career and place in society, as well as how we define ourselves outside those areas.
North and South Nodes
The nodes are becoming a more popular topic nowadays, and the book Astrology For The Soul (Jan Spiller) is a great tome for understanding it.
But to define, in astronomy, the Nodes is a little complicated. First of all, the Moon revolves in a plane around the Earth. The Earth revolves around the Sun in a plane. The Moon’s plane is slightly tilted relative to the Earth-Sun plane — about 5 degrees. If it wasn’t, we’d have both a lunar eclipse and a solar eclipse each and every month.
The points where the planes intersect are known as the Nodes — the North and South nodes — and they are at opposite points in the zodiac. The nodes move backwards through the zodiac, taking about 19 years for a full orbit. The Nodes are about our evolutionary journey.
The South Node signifies where you came from — the skills you learned in a past life. These skills are not all that valuable to you in this lifetime, although we all draw on them to a degree. The North Node has to do with the things — lessons — we are here to learn in this lifetime, but that are challenging to us. We spend our entire lives learning the lessons of the North Node and of this lifetime.
The North Node is exalted in Gemini.
Chiron is a small planetoid between Saturn and Uranus with a highly elliptical orbit, taking 50 years to go around the Sun and zodiac and spending more time in Aries than any other sign.
Chiron relates to our “inner wound” that we have to heal in this lifetime, and, hopefully, be able to heal in others.