In astrology, the planets are like voices within us as we act out the dramas of our lives. They represent the various human drives we have in common, although we express them in our own individual ways (according to other factors mentioned later).
Sun be, stand apart as an individual, shine, create, lead, execute, integrate
Moon secure, nest, nurture and be nurtured, bond, be part of a family or tribe
Mercury communicate, express, connect, listen, understand, learn, think
Venus value, appreciate, attract or gravitate to what’s attractive, socialize
Mars survive, compete, act, do, accelerate, defend or go on the offensive
Jupiter expand, grow, make progress, reach out, adventure, take risks
Saturn define, organize, plan, target, mature, control, be responsible and accountable
Uranus march to one’s own drummer, experiment, shock, awaken, rebel, intuit
Neptune believe, dream, imagine, pray, heal, psychically receive, escape, rest
Pluto reproduce, renew, transform, unload, let go, dig underneath, dominate
The Sun and Moon are not truly “planets.” They’re technically called “luminaries” or the “lights.” The Sun is our star, and the Moon is earth’s satellite. The Sun doesn’t actually move; we revolve around it, just as the Moon revolves around us. It looks like the Sun moves from our vantage point, in two ways. As the earth rotates on its axis, making a complete spin in 24 hours, the Sun appears to rise in the east and set in the west, disappearing from the view of a particular place on the earth. Additionally, as the earth revolves around the Sun, it appears to us that the Sun is near various constellations (mostly named for animals) in the belt we call the zodiac (notice how the word zodiac has the same root as the word zoo). These stars form a backdrop for our seasons and for the movement of the all the planets. We say the planets move through the zodiac signs or that a planet is in a sign (e.g., “my Sun is in Libra” or “my Venus is in Scorpio”).
Earth and the other planets orbit the Sun in predictable cycles. Earth’s cycle is one year (by definition). Since Mercury and Venus are between the earth and the Sun, their orbits are quicker (about 1/3 and 5/8 of earth’s year, respectively). The other planets’ orbits are beyond earth’s orbit and longer than our year: Mars (2 earth years), Jupiter (12), Saturn (30), Uranus (42), Neptune (164) and Pluto (248). The Moon moves through all 12 signs in a month (the word month shares a root with the word moon). The various planets move through the signs at their own rates, creating cycles within cycles. The exact configuration of a particular moment is not repeated for thousands and thousands of years! Each person’s special blend is unique, shared only by someone at born the same moment (“astral twin”).
You might think of the planets and signs like cards in suits and each person has a distinct hand dealt to him or her. You might have pairs, a straight or a flush. You might have a lot of trump cards. Or you could get a bad hand. You can’t change the deal, but you can learn to play your hand better or maybe even just bluff! By understanding what tendencies you have thanks to the planets’ positions at your birth, you can make better informed decisions, capitalize on your strengths and learn to shore up your weaknesses or avoid your pitfalls. You can work with the power of your planets or succumb to their paths of least resistance, according to your free will.
So you see astrology does not lump people into 12 groups; it shows how each person shares some traits with other people and ways in which each of us is an individual. The 12 signs show ways of behaving or of expressing the planets’ voices. Anyone can tap into any of these approaches, though most of us are inclined to “specialize” in just a few:
Aries assertive, competitive, impatient
Taurus persistent, patient, slow & steady
Gemini flexible, communicative, mindful
Cancer protective, nurturing, securing
Leo playful, creative, executive
Virgo cautious, discerning, serving
Libra balancing, relating, mediating
Scorpio manipulative, transformative
Sagittarius inspiring, informing, multitasking
Capricorn consolidating, organizing, planning
Aquarius social, experimenting, humanitarian
Pisces sacrificing, healing, helpful
Some planets move quite slowly through the zodiac, hanging out in a particular sign for many years, creating “mini-generations,” for example:
Pluto in Leo (1939-1956) – will power, creativity, manipulation, need to let go of ego
Pluto in Libra (1972-1984) – relationships as a transformative experience, intensity in love
Neptune in Libra (1942-1956) – idealistic about partners (“Cinderella complex”), martyr/savior
Saturn and Neptune together in Libra (1952-1953) – chaos vs. order, manifest visions
Neptune in Sagittarius (1971-1984) – high ideals, spirituality, education as saving grace
There are further sub-generations according to your Saturn sign and Jupiter sign. You share your Jupiter sign with most people born in the same year, which is the basis of your Chinese astrology sign. The quicker planets (those closer to the Sun) and the luminaries are more individual in their expression. Your Mars, Venus, Mercury, Sun and Moon signs define your distinct, unique expression of your generation’s tendencies.
The Sun and Moon are the most important heavenly bodies; their signs have the most impact on our lives. People who have the same birthday as you but in a different year will have the Sun at the same degree of the zodiac circle as you but their Moon sign will not necessarily be the same.
The rhythm of the interaction between the earth, Sun and Moon forms the Moon cycle each month. At the New Moon, the Moon passes by the Sun, although we don’t see this because the Sun’s bright light blocks out the Moon. It increases in size and rises and sets later and later. A week after the New Moon, the First quarter Moon looks like a half moon setting in the morning. The halfway point of the cycle is at the Full Moon, when we see the entire Moon’s face as it reflects the maximum light of the Sun back to us. These two are at opposite extremes from our viewpoint then, and the Moon rises as the Sun sets (and vice versa). The next two weeks, the Moon decreases in size, rising and setting later and later. The Third Quarter Moon appears as the half moon setting in the afternoon. A week later we have another (invisible) New Moon.
The Moon phase in which you’re born* forms a basic imprint for your instinctual response to life:
New [0-45°] begin, initiate, conceive
Crescent [45-90°] further, propel, grow
First Quarter [90-135°] adjust based on instinct
Gibbous [135-180°] accelerate, advocate
Full [180-225°] confront, culminate, fulfill
Disseminating [225-270°] spread, share, teach
Third Quarter [270-330°] adjust based on experience
Balsamic [330-360°] complete, thread together, unwind
* To determine the moon phase you were born in, look at your chart and see how far the Moon is ahead of the Sun. Look for the Moon symbol (it looks like a crescent) and the Sun (a circle with a dot in the center). Go clockwise from the Moon backwards through the zodiac back to the Sun. Add up 30 degrees for each sign you count backwards over, then add the number of degrees of the Moon’s position in its sign. The final number of degrees to add will be 30 minus the degree of the Sun’s position, to show how many more degrees there were in your Sun’s sign to the end of that sign. Find the total you arrived at in the brackets above.
The Sun-Moon interactions show the importance of changes in the positions of the planets relative to one another. When planets are certain fractions of the sky apart (called “aspects”), their drives either reinforce and support one another or they can clash. Picture the planetary voices as singing in harmony or hitting discordant notes. These connections add another layer to the potentials the planets indicate for our personalities and the circumstances of our lives.
The planets not only represent our inner voices but they can also relate to circumstances and people we draw into our lives. The sign placements of the planets of our birth chart can tell us things about our family and social lives. The Sun is representative of your father, the Moon is associated with your mother. Venus can represent a female love interest while Mars can show a male love influence. Jupiter indicates teachers, Saturn points to authority figures, and Mercury can be schoolmates, neighbors, siblings or cousins.
Throughout your life, you play out the dance the planets interwove in the weeks and months following your birth. Where the planets were when you were 10 days old indicates circumstances and developments when you’re 10 years old, and so on, as each day represents a year of your life. This system of “progressions” shows your progress, or at least changes in your focus and issues. The planets always keep the nature of their signs at your birth, but they take on additional characteristics as they move into other signs as a result of these progressions.
As the planets move around the sky (called “transits”), they change signs and move around the circle of your chart. They connect for a time to your planets, activating the tendencies shown by those planets. This is the basis for predictive forecasting using astrology.