Archetypes in the sky
Individually, the planets embody primal archetypes and carry universal themes. We call these a planet’s significations; through archetypal or historical association, planets come to signify a great number of things:
- The Sun: fathers, kings, hunters; gold, ginger, magnificent rooms.
- The Moon: mothers, populace, gatherers; silver, onions, roads and highways.
- Mercury: scribes, tricksters, children; multi-colored gemstones, walnuts, markets.
- Venus: lovers, musicians, jewelers; lapis lazuli, apples, beds.
- Mars: soldiers, surgeons, smiths; iron, garlic, sources of heat.
- Jupiter: judges, philosophers, benefactors; sapphires, strawberries, courthouses.
- Saturn: elders, hermits, farmers; lead, cumin, mountains.
Astrologers expect a planet’s many significations to manifest in the area of life described by the house it occupies. Saturn passing through the 10th house of career might point to working alongside, or for, elderly persons. If it were Venus passing through the same house, that might instead signify a career in luxury retail, music, or hint at romantic entanglements in the workplace.
Contacts between the planets
Planets orbit the Sun, but from our vantage point, they appear to orbit the earth. The path they trace is fixed in our sky and, behind it, we find the constellations of the zodiac after which the zodiac signs were named.
Sometimes planets form shapes with one another as they move about the zodiacal circle. When this happens, we say they aspect one another, which simply means the two planets begin to interact in a way described by the shape they inscribe.
If two planets are on opposite sides of the zodiacal circle, astrologers interpret these planets as being in open conflict. A full Moon is an example of two planets in opposition: the Sun and Moon are on diametrical opposites, with earth standing in the center.
The spatial arrangements of planets, or the shapes they inscribe in the zodiac encircling the earth, guide the astrologer in interpretation. When two planets are positioned a third of the zodiacal circle apart from each other, they form a line that could represent one side of a triangle. Even though the triangle isn’t complete, the line formed by the two planets starts a geometric pattern associated with harmony and stability in Western philosophy. By creating one leg of a triangle, these planets assert an intention of harmony and cooperative engagement, signifying their willingness to work in unison.
Planets’ placements and the geometric patterns they create indicate their relational dynamics and intentions. Planets may form a hexagon (60° apart, considered moderately helpful), a square (90° apart, tense and frustrating), or a triangle (120° apart, expediting and supportive). They may also be found aligned with one another (0° apart, significations merged like striking two bells simultaneously), or opposite one another (180° apart, open conflict).
The art of interpretation
The true magic of astrology unfolds in the act of interpretation. As planets wander through the houses, they pick up new meanings and leave their unique impression, modified by the zodiacal signs they occupy and the aspects they form with other planets. An astrologer’s job is to weave together house themes, the archetype of the planets, and the modifying influences of activated signs, into a coherent and fluent interpretation of dynamics in play.