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Neptune is a cold planet located between Uranus and Pluto. Visible only with the aid of a telescope, it is a large, gaseous planet with a turbulent atmosphere consisting of hydrogen, helium, and methane. This violent environment is caused by a storm the size of Earth, called the Great Dark Spot, which circles Neptune every 18.3 hours.

The unusual events surrounding the discovery of Neptune, an astrological symbol for illusion, are quite fitting for this elusive planet. Neptune was first sighted by Galileo in December 1612. Instead of identifying Neptune as a planet, Galileo believed it was a moon of Jupiter and did not research it further. It was not until 1845, more than two centuries later, that a British astronomer and mathematician, John Couch Adams, theorized that the growing discrepancy between the predicted and observed positions of Uranus's orbit was the result of an unknown planetary body. He immediately began to analyze Uranus's deviations using Newton's Mechanics. In September of the same year, Adams presented his calculations for the positions of the hypothetical planet to James Challis, director of Cambridge Observatory. However, Challis refused to examine Adams's work, probably considering the likelihood of a young graduate student solving such a complex matter to be ludicrous. As such, Adams's theory was given neither consideration nor observation time by an observatory until after a similar hypothesis with nearly identical placements for the new planet was published by French astronomer and mathematician Urbain Leverrier.

An image from the sixteenth century of Neptune, Roman god of the sea, riding a whale. Reproduced by permission of Fortean Picture Library.

Leverrier independently began researching the same theory—the possibility of another planet influencing Uranus's orbit—approximately one year after Adams's calculations were complete and turned away by Challis. After submitting his third letter to the Académie des Sciences regarding this breakthrough, Leverrier became frustrated at the disinterest of astronomers to actually observe the heavens for this new planet. In September 1846 Leverrier sent his predictions to a German astronomer and acquaintance, Johann Galle, at the Berlin Observatory. Within a few hours on or about September 24, Galle found Neptune with the aid of detailed star maps not far from Leverrier's predicted position. Despite the initial dispute between authorities in England and France about who would receive credit due for the discovery of Neptune, Adams and Leverrier became friends.

After its discovery in 1846, it was suggested that Neptune be named after the Roman god of the sea. In the early 20th century, this name was confirmed after astronomers learned of Neptune's watery interior. Poseidon, the Greek counterpart of Neptune, who is pictured as a bearded and majestic male holding a trident, was the brother of Zeus (Jupiter) and Hades (Pluto). After defeating their father Cronos (Saturn) in the Trojan War, the brothers divided the world into three parts. Zeus took com mand of the sky, Hades the underworld, and Poseidon rulership of the sea. Poseidon built a grand palace under the sea, yet spent as much time on land in Olympus as in his palace. This accounts for his importance on dry land as well as the sea. He came to rule not only the oceans and seas that lap at the shore, but also the rivers that moisten the land. Mythology reveals Poseidon as having a violent temper as well as a savage and unpredictable nature. When angered, his rage often displayed itself through storms and earthquakes on land and at sea, making them much feared especially by seafarers. Floods and droughts were also common results of his wrath. Yet, he also brought tran-quility and stillness to the waters as he skimmed over the waves on his chariot.

Neptune's correlation with the sea is quite symbolic when working with this planet in the natal chart. His association with the sign of Pisces was made by the poet Manilius in the first century c.e., who believed Neptune, as god of the ocean, most likely had a bond with the sign of the Fish. This connection was adopted by many modern astrologers, who consider Neptune the ruler of Pisces. As a seafaring god, Neptune's role in mythology connects him with all maritime matters and liquids. As such, boats, sailing, fish, sea creatures, bodies of water, fog, and floods all fall under his domain. Psychologically speaking, the sea symbolizes the collective and personal unconscious as well as all that is part of the subtle, intangible side of human existence. Thus, Neptune speaks to the intuitive mind, inspiration and imagination, dreams and psychic receptivity. Yet, the depth of water often distorts vision causing illusion or disillusionment, and bringing states of confusion, escapism, and suffering.

In the birth chart, Neptune indicates the ability to see beyond the finite self and world in order to experience unity with a greater whole. It seeks to dissolve the limitations and boundaries of the physical world by beautifying life or raising it to a higher level through displays of compassion, service, and creative force. This inner desire is often sought through artistic or spiritual experience. These activities allow one to escape the bonds of the mundane reality for a time. Through suffering, the wisdom of Neptune helps to flow through difficulties, leading towards levels of consciousness beyond the ego and providing the capacity to see the unity in all. Hence, Neptune teaches empathy and the highest form of love. Neptune is the higher expression or octave of the planet Venus. Venus symbolizes personal love and harmonization with others, while Neptune represents universal love and unity with the cosmos. Neptune refines and sensitizes everything it touches such that one steps beyond the crudeness and coarseness within and embraces the capacity for unselfish devotion and giving.

Individuals with this planet prominent in their horoscope often feel a need to merge or submerge themselves in a group, even to the point of sacrificing their own interests for a collective belief (such as a religious or political movement). It is also possible such individuals are susceptible to victimization or an attitude of being the victim. Neptunian people are extremely sensitive to others in their environment as well as to other realms. They can be clear channels for information from other planes of consciousness. However, this sensitivity also makes them susceptible to becoming a psychic sponge, absorbing and identifying with everyone else's feelings and suffering.

Boundaries, then, become paramount in working with the energy of Neptune. A true Neptunian feels connected with everything. They are naturally kind and car ing towards others and display a great love of animals and all helpless creatures. Often individuals with a strong Neptune care for the problems of others as if they were their own and can get so tangled with others' vibrations that they require some degree of solitude in order to revitalize themselves and separate their thoughts and feelings from those of others. Otherwise, it is quite easy for these individuals to become lost in the clouds, unable to separate reality from illusion. This sensitivity supports Neptune's connection with addiction, alcohol, intoxicants, and hallucinogenic drugs as a means of escaping the difficulties of the world and the fear of connecting or merging with a higher source.

Neptune is also the embodiment of imagination and artistic sensitivity. Its gifts include artistic and musical talents, imagination, inspiration, and visionary abilities. Its artistic capacities include film, photography, dance, and painting. This planet is also associated with mysticism and spiritual enlightenment. Thus, matters of religion connect Neptune with saints, nuns, monks, priests, churches, alters, and other dimensions.

Neptune moves very slowly in the sky, completing an orbit of the Sun every 164.79 years, meaning it stays almost 14 years in each sign of the zodiac. Because of its slow movement, its significance in a zodiacal sign is often considered more generational than individual, describing shifts of ideology within society. However, its house placement in the birth chart shows in what area of life it is easiest to delude one's self or where one has and can make use of intuitive sensitivity and creativity in order to fulfill one's highest ideals. There is often a deep sense of mission and a willingness to sacrifice personal interest, rising above the demands of the ego, for the larger good in the attainment of this ideal. Its placement is also where one is most attuned with the higher realms. Negative manifestations of Neptune can include escapism (including addictions), deception (including self-deception), confusion, depression, guilt, and vagueness. Planets in aspect with Neptune are inclined towards fantasy, dreaminess, and a vulnerable nature, making its expression susceptible to disillusionment.

Neptune's glyph, or symbol, resembles the trident that the god Poseidon or Neptune is often shown holding. The crescent is pointing upwards, indicating spiritual receptivity, and is descending to the cross of mater which it rests upon.

—Tishelle Betterman


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Bytheriver. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1986. Hamilton, Edith. Mythology. New York: Little, Brown, 1942.

McEvers, Joan. Planets: The Astrological Tools. Saint Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1989. Valentine, Christine. Images of the Psyche: Exploring the Planets through Psychology and Myth. Shaftesbury, Dorset, UK: Element Books, 1991.

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