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  • Writer's pictureKarey Pohn

Planets and Positions

In astrology, the sun and moon also count as planets, since the word “planet” originally meant “wanderer,” and the planets were seen to wander among the fixed stars of the constellations.  The ancients were aware of 5 different planets—Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, along with the Sun and the Moon, which gave them a total of seven planets.  Since that time, three more planets have been discovered with the aid of the telescope—Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, and they are part of the scheme of things in modern Western astrology.

Each day, at each moment, a unique configuration occurs in the heavens, because the earth and the planets are always moving.  If we mark down these positions, along with what degree of which constellation was rising on the eastern horizon at the moment of one’s birth, we get a horoscope—a two-dimensional snapshot of the heavens, called a birth chart or natal chart.  This chart gives the location of the planets as to what degree of each sign they are in, and the rising sign (ascendant) gives the location of the different houses, and where they fall in terms of the different constellations.

The different signs are each ruled by different planets, and so are the houses; thus if you know the different planetary archetypes, then you can get an idea of what the sign is like that the different planets rule and also what kind of things each house relates to.  Lisa Dale Miller, an astrologer and therapist, sees the planets as different energies, with the signs representing different filters that these energies express through—or different lands where different rules apply, while the houses describe the areas or places in your life in which they act.  Her focus is on delineating old patterning, along with past and current life trauma that can hinder the experience of a full and joyous life.  [Link to website]

Laurence Hillman likes the analogy of acting, and sees the different planets as actors, the different signs as costumes and the different houses as different stage sets or scenes where the action plays out.  A common example L. Hillman gives is the same planet (actor), Venus, if she is in the sign (costume) of Pisces may be clothed in a medieval flowing gown, while if she was in Scorpio, she’d be wearing leather and carrying a whip.  And the house placement (scene) would reflect where this actor is acting in your life, for example Venus in the fourth house would be in the home, while Venus in the tenth house would be at work.   L. Hillman’s zodiac chart is very handy in this regard. [link to Twelve Principles Chart].  He notes that “either you do the gods or the gods do you” and in his practice L. Hillman seeks to make the archetypes in a person visible, and helps clients to find ways for these archetypal energies to constructively express themselves in a person’s life. 

Tarnas’s major focus is on the aspects—the archetypal combinations or the relationships that the different planets, especially the four outer planets have to each other.  Tarnas’s (2006) epic work Cosmos and Psyche is truly profound and in this section I will only begin to skim the surface of this very deep work. Tarnas's main student, Matthew Stelzner [Link to website] focuses on these archetypal combinations and helps clients identify and then work with the energies that they represent.

I have had the opportunity to study with Richard Tarnas [link to website], Lisa Dale Miller, Laurence Hillman, and Matthew Stelzner in the last few years, and since I am a beginning student of astrology, and because astrology is not the focus of this dissertation, I will stick mainly with Tarnas’s focus for simplicity's sake. When discussing the different cultural pieces, I will occasionally and tangentially mention the significance of the signs and houses.

Astrology begins to let you see archetypally, and you do not need to know all that much in order to begin looking at the world through archetypal eyes.  And the view is well worth it.  If you know the meanings of the different planetary archetypes, then you can put them together and see how they affect each other.  I like to think of it like the learning to sing sequence in the Sound of Music (Wise, 1965): “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start; when you read you begin with A, B, C, when you sing you begin with do, re, me,” and in astrology we begin with the different planetary symbols.  And just as Maria substitutes one word for each note, we can substitute different words for the different planetary symbols, called glyphs, and see how they interact with each other.  It is similar to an algebra problem in this way where you substitute different numbers or meanings in the case of astrology for different symbols, but unlike algebra, where letters can represent any number, in astrology, the planetary glyphs or symbols have very specific meanings.

We will be dealing mainly with Saturn and the trans-Saturnian planets, which Rudhyar (1976) calls “the planets of the unconscious” (p. 23) and “ambassadors of the galaxy" (p. 151).  We are mainly concerned here with the four outer planets—Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, which simplifies things even further.  Saturn and the more newly discovered “trans-Saturnian planets” are known as the transpersonal planets, because they move so much slower than the other planets, which are known as the inner planets or the personal planets. The outer planets are called transpersonal because of their meaning, not just because of their velocity or movement. Jupiter takes 12 years to go through the zodiac, staying in each sign approximately 1 year, while Saturn takes twice as long, 28-30 years to make its way around, and the outer planets take even longer—Uranus takes 84 years, Neptune 165, and Pluto 248 years respectively.  Since these planets remain in an individual sign from 7 to over 20 years they have a “generational” effect because they leave their imprint on an entire generation. 


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