Tracing the stars #2: Planets, placements and rulership

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A horoscope divides the sky into distinct zones known as houses and zodiac signs. But that’s not all – horoscopes also offer a coordinate system for mapping stars, planets and other celestial bodies. Let’s look at how to plot planets and interpret their placements in a horoscope.

Planets

Astrologers work with planets in our solar system, like Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus. They also treat the Sun, Moon and Pluto as planets, because they are near enough to Earth that we can see them move around in space.

A planet, thus, is any celestial body that appears to move across the sky. This separates a planet from fixed stars, which are further away from Earth and only shift by around 1° in the sky every 72 years.

How can we map planets onto our horoscope?

To map the position of a planet in a horoscope, we need to know at what angle it appears in the sky. This angle changes constantly, so we always need to create a horoscope for a specific time and place.

Let’s say we want to record the position of the Sun at noon in London. At this time of the day, the Sun will be right at the Zenith, so we can draw the Sun at 90° South.

That said, you don’t need to draw a horoscope by hand or do any complex calculations to find the position of a planet. Today, most astrologers use software to create a horoscope chart for them.

When you map a planet on a horoscope, it will be in one of the houses and zodiac signs. The house and sign of that planet can tell you a lot about the person, company or event that you’re creating the horoscope for. But before we look at these placements, let’s go over what each of the planets represents.

Symbolic meaning of the planets

The Sun

As the centre of our solar system, the Sun shows how and where we direct our energy and focus. It represents our vitality, self-identity and consciousness.

The Moon

Being closest to the Earth, the Moon embodies the idea of emotional connection. What we feel, how we relate to others and how we express our needs and desires are all related to the placement of the Moon.

Mercury

Mercury is the planet of communication and short-distance travel. It represents our ability to learn, soak up new information, be analytical and express our ideas in words and images. Mercury is also known as the messenger.

Venus

Known as the planet of love, Venus rules the areas of beauty, attraction and interpersonal relationships. It invites us to share joy with friends and intimate partners, and seek harmony and balance across different areas of our life. Venus also stands for our values and beliefs, and how we deal with money.

Mars

Fiery energy is the home turf of planet Mars. From the energy needed to start a project to qualities like drive and determination, Mars represents a strong forward motion. The planet can be associated with our desire to fight, aggressive behaviour, sports and dedication to a specific goal.  

Jupiter

As the largest planet in our solar system, Jupiter embodies the ideas of growth, expansion and wisdom. It is connected with our sensory system and our higher ideals. This includes our ability to develop a philosophy for our own life, find meaning and pursue the truth.

Saturn

Just like the rings shield Saturn’s inner core, the planet focusses on stability, security and protection. How we maintain the status quo and how we restrict ourselves or others depends on where the planet is placed. Saturn embodies life tests and the self-mastery we develop through challenging experiences.

Uranus

Named after the chemical compound Uranium, Uranus symbolises sudden discoveries, radioactivity and explosivity. It is linked to innovation, spontaneous ideas, and rapid change, as well as freedom and technical progress.

Neptune

Neptune is associated with universal love, imagination and empathy. It shows our sensitivity, our perception of the invisible and also whether we intuitively separate lies and truth, or fall victim to deception.

Pluto

Pluto is the planet of power and transformation. It invites us to deeply change and explore who we are in the context of taboos such as death or sexuality. Pluto is also closely linked to manipulation and hidden power dynamics.

Symbols of the planets in a horoscope

Sign, planet and house affinity

You may have noticed that the planets represent many of the same ideas as the houses and zodiac signs from part I of this series. And indeed, they are linked by common themes (this is known as affinity).

Originally, affinity was derived from the geometrical order of distance between the planets and the sun, and the speed at which a planet travelled. Today, astrologers prefer to connect planets, houses and the zodiac by overarching psychological themes, as shown in the table below.

PlanetHouse (Domicile)Zodiac signsOverarching themes
Mars1st houseAriesBeginnings, Initiative
Venus2nd house, 7th houseTaurus, LibraValues, Wealth, Beauty, Love
Mercury3rd house, 6th houseGemini, VirgoExpression, Movement, Organisation
Moon4th houseCancerEmotions,
Sun5th houseLeoIdentity, Visibility
Pluto8th houseScorpioPower, Transformation
Jupiter9th houseSagittariusExpansion, Growth
Saturn10th houseCapricornStructure, Security, Protection
Uranus11th houseAquariusFriendships, Innovation
Neptune12th housePiscesThe Invisible Realm, Mystery

Planets in houses and zodiac signs

Now that we’ve understood how planets, houses and zodiac signs work, we can finally tie these three concepts together in the context of a horoscope drawing.

To start making our first interpretations, we need to understand that:

Planets show us what quality is present, houses show us where that quality manifests and zodiac signs show us how that quality is expressed.

It’s easiest to show this with a quick example. Suppose Mars is in the 2nd house in Virgo. As we’ve said earlier, Mars embodies qualities such as drive, determination, initiation and fighting. We also know that the 2nd house is the house of finance, values, beliefs and assets, and Virgo represents a pragmatic, clean, analytically and organised way of doing things.

Combining this knowledge, we deduce that a person or company with this placement could:

  • Initiate (Mars) money matters (2nd house) in a pragmatic way (Virgo)
  • Fight for (Mars) their beliefs (2nd house) systematically (Virgo)
  • Be determined to pursue (Mars) wealth (2nd house) through analysis of stock markets (Virgo)
  • Dedicate their entire day (Mars in Virgo) to the construction of a home (2nd house)

These are just some ways in which this placement could unfold – in practice, you probably want to look at multiple placements before considering the impact of any one quality in a particular domain of life or business.

That said, this is a nice starting point on which most of the astrological analysis builds.

Let’s look at one more example before you get to interpret the first placement on your own. Suppose a person has placement of Venus in the 6th house in Aries. Based on the meanings above, they might:

  • Seek to harmonise (Venus) your Health (6th house) through Sports (Aries)
  • Love (Venus) Working (6th House) With Drive and Determination (Aries)
  • Build tools (Venus) for Cleaning (6th house) With Intense Dedication (Aries)
  • … and so on

Now, over to you: how might Pluto in the 10th house in Sagittarius manifest? Please leave a comment with your interpretation if you’d like to get feedback.

Planetary rulers

As stated earlier, the position of planets depends on the time and place for which we create our horoscope. Each planet will fall into each house and zodiac sign at some point in time.

The zodiac sign with which a particular planet has an affinity is known as the domicile (or home) of that planet.

For example, Mars has an affinity with Aries, so Aries is the domicile of Mars. The Moon, on the other hand, has an affinity with Cancer, so Cancer is the domicile of the Moon.

The domicile

When a planet in a horoscope is in its domicile, the quality of that planet is reinforced. Essentially, this planet is on its home turf, so the attributes it represents are strengthened.

For example, Mars in Aries reinforces the fiery, initiative-taking quality and fighting spirit, while Neptune in Pisces intensifies the dreaminess, mystique and invisibility.

The exile

The contrary occurs when a planet falls into a zodiac sign that reinforces qualities opposing that planet. These qualities can be derived from opposing signs in the zodiac. The opposing signs are:

  • Aries – Libra
  • Taurus – Scorpio
  • Gemini – Sagittarius
  • Cancer – Capricorn
  • Leo – Aquarius
  • Virgo – Pisces
(Notice how the signs are diametrically opposed in the horoscope drawing)

When a planet is in the opposing sign of its domicile, we can say that the planet is in exile. For example, Mars in Libra, or the Sun in Aquarius.

Planets in exile can be challenging to manage. Someone with Mars in Libra may, for instance, need to learn to deal with aggression in a balanced and harmonious way. Or a business with Saturn in Cancer may struggle to build structures and systems for managing negative emotions of customers and employees.

In the upcoming articles of the tracing the stars series, you’ll learn about elements and modalities and get everything you need to analyse your own business horoscope. Continue reading part III!

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