Planets (from the Greek planasthai, meaning "to wander") are the familiar celestial bodies orbiting the Sun. They were regarded as stars by the ancients, who referred to them as wanderers because, unlike the so-called fixed stars, the planets were always changing their positions with respect to the background of the celestial sphere. The Sun and the Moon (the luminaries) are also wanderers, and in traditional astrology were referred to as planets. Although they are no longer classified as such by astronomers, many contemporary astrologers still call the two luminaries planets.
Astrological influences manifest themselves primarily through the planets. These basic influences are modified by (1) the signs of the zodiac (i.e., the familiar 12 astrological signs of Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc.) in which the planets are placed, (2) the aspects (geometric angles) between the planets, and (3) the houses in which the planets are placed. An oversimplified but nonetheless useful rule of thumb is that planetary sign positions indicate personality tendencies, aspects between planets reflect how various components of one's personality interact, and house positions show how the personality manifests in the world.
As an example, consider an individual with natal Mercury (i.e., Mercury's position at birth) in Libra in the second house, with Mercury also trine (at a 120° angle) to Mars. In regard to personality, Mercury represents the mind, particularly the aspect of the thinking mind that deals with day-to-day affairs; this is considered the basic nature of Mercury.
Sign: Individuals born when Mercury was in Libra usually communicate in a refined way and have the ability to be highly diplomatic. It is also easy for them to see both sides of an issue, which can make them indecisive, swaying back and forth between the two alternatives.
Aspect: Mars represents the outgoing, assertive, aggressive energies. It also rules mechanical and other kinds of physical skills. Trine aspects often indicate where two influences blend together harmoniously. In this case, Mercury trine Mars shows, among other things, an individual who can tap her or his assertive energies in a positive manner and
express them through powerful communications. This person also has a mind that can easily understand mechanical skills, or any other subject associated with Mars.
House: The second house is the house of earned income and personal possessions. Mercury here shows someone who can earn money with her or his communication skills. She or he also acquires possessions related to Mercury, such as books and other forms of communication media.
The planets have a special relationship with the signs of the zodiac whereby each planet is said to "rule" a certain sign (or signs). The relationship between the planets and the signs is one of kinship in their basic traits and associations. Prior to the discovery of Uranus, a general consensus about these relationships had endured since the time of Ptolemy. The traditional system held that the Sun ruled Leo, the Moon ruled Cancer, Mercury ruled Virgo and Gemini, Venus ruled Taurus and Libra, Mars ruled Aries and Scorpio, Jupiter ruled Sagittarius and Pisces, and Saturn ruled Capricorn and Aquarius. This is still the primary rulership system used in Hindu astrology. After the more recently discovered planets were studied, astrologers gradually came to assign Uranus to Aquarius, Neptune to Pisces, and Pluto to Scorpio, leaving Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars as the rulers of Capricorn, Sagittarius, and Aries. Only Mercury and Venus are still viewed as ruling two signs each.
The planets are classified in various ways, such as according to whether they are inferior (circle the Sun within Earth's orbit) or superior (circle outside the terres trial orbit), exert benefic ("good") or malefic ("bad") astrological influences, and so forth. (See the individual entries on the planets for more information.)
Campion, Nicholas. The Practical Astrologer. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1987. DeVore, Nicholas. Encyclopedia of Astrology. New York: Philosophical Library, 1949. McEvers, Joan. Planets: The Astrological Tools. Saint Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1989.
Astrologers allow individual aspects a particular orb of influence within which they are regarded as having an effect. Nonexact aspects are referred to as platic aspects and are considered to have a weaker influence than partile (exact) aspects.
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