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Planets, Houses, Signs & Aspects

Understanding the conventions of astrology, and how it works.

Apart from hereditary and environmental influences, the state of the Solar System at the moment of an individual's birth, plays an important influence on the individual. The Planets, which includes the Sun and the Moon, are regarded as the basic life-forces that take different forms, based on their zodiacal positions, and their relationships to each other.
Astrology is able to present a comprehensive personality of an individual, and gain insights of events, based on the Natal Chart - through synthesis of the roles of the players (Planets) and their qualities (Signs, Houses and Elements).
Beginners tend to confuse, especially in understanding the different roles. Simply put, each Planet has a Function, that influence the personality. The Signs extend How the Planets will function. The Houses show Where these "extended functions" will take effect. For example, the Moon (emotion) in Aries (Action oriented) will be extra active and fiery - in the 5th House (Pleasure and Creativity) would affect Love & Romance. In other words, the planets provide you with the pleasures of fiery romance, and extra active love life. Finally, the Aspects are Relationships between two Planets, that forms a "resultant function" working together - for better, or for worse.
The sections below will clarify and further explain the basic differences between the Houses, Signs, Planets and Aspects.
The Planets, and other Celestial Bodies
Although the Sun and the Moon are technically not planets, astrological conventions followed for centuries consider them as "Planets". However, the Sun (being the most massive) and the Moon (being the closest celestial body) are associated with important functions and are considered "luminaries".
The Sun represents the core of an individual, the "inner self" and the "conscious mind". It sets the shades of an individual, which colors everything else.
Sign equivalent: Leo
Earth's orbit from Sun: 149,600,000 km
Period (Earth - Sun): 365.25 Days
The Moon represents the feelings and emotions of an individual. It also influences, one's mobility, versatility and adaptability to change.
Sign equivalent: Cancer
Orbit from Earth: 384,000 km
Period: 27.32 Days
Mercury represents the sense of reasoning and common-sense of an individual. It influences one's spoken and written words, putting in order and evaluating, and the process of leaning and skills.
Sign equivalents: Gemini and Virgo
Orbit from Sun: 57,910,000 km
Period: 88 Days
Venus represents the sense of beauty and enjoyment of pleasures of an individual. It influences one's aesthetic awareness, love of harmony, and taking pleasure in relationships and eroticism.
Sign equivalents: Libra and Taurus
Orbit from Sun: 108,200,000 km
Period: 225 Days
Mars represents courage, determination and the energy to drive an individual. It influences one's agression, readiness for action, and freedom of spontaneous impulse.
Sign equivalent: Aries
Orbit from Sun: 227,940,000 km
Period: 1,9 Years
Jupiter represents optimism, hope and the sense of justice of an individual. It influences one's meaning and purpose, faith, and basic philosophy of life.
Sign equivalent: Sagittarius
Orbit from Sun: 778,330,000 km
Period: 11,9 Years
Saturn represents conscience, moral conviction and the rules (principles) of an individual. It influences one's experience of "reality", and lends qualities like earnestness, caution and limitations.
Sign equivalent: Capricorn
Orbit from Sun: 1,429,400,000 km
Period: 29,5 Years
Uranus represents intuition, sudden inspiration and lightening insights of an individual. It influences one's openness for all that is new, unknown and unusual.
Sign equivalent: Aquarius
Orbit from Sun: 2,870,990,000 km
Period: 84 Years
Neptune represents the supersensory, mystical experiences and the transcendental of an individual. It influences one's perception, illusion and all kinds of pseudo-realities.
Sign equivalent: Pisces
Orbit from Sun: 4,504,300,000 km
Period: 165 Years
Pluto represents the regenerative powers, and capacity of radical change of an individual. It influences one's dealing with power, both personal and non-personal.
Sign equivalent: Scorpio
Orbit from Sun: 5,913,520,000 km
Period: 248 Years
Apart from these ten "classical planets" that are recognized by all modern astrologers, there are some celestial bodies that do not find equal acceptance amongst astrologers. Some Asteroids like Chiron and Eros are widely acknowledged, but observations of other greater asteroids like the Ceres, Pallas, Juno and Vesta do not find equal popularity.
Many astrologers also refer to a collection of "points" that are of symbolic significance, like the Part of Fortune. Besides the Lilith and the Nodes of Moon which find wide acceptance in astrological circles, there is very little agreement amongst astrologers on their importance and how meaningful they are.
The four Elements, and twelve Signs
The entire Universe is, traditionally believed, to consist of four elements: fire, air, water and earth. The four elements are regarded as four basic principles of life, and each of these elements represent certain basic "temperament".
Natives of fire element are spontaneous and impulsive. Their emotional response is quick, have lively imagination, and apply their energies whole-heartedly.
Fire signs: Aries, Leo and Sagittarius
Natives of air element are quick and animated. They intellectualize their feelings and emotions, and apply their energies is very diverse ways.
Air signs: Libra, Aquarius, Gemini
Natives of water element are sensitive and psychic. They have rich imaginative and emotional lives, and apply their energies into the depths.
Water signs: Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
Natives of earth element are grounded, quiet and slow. They have deeply rooted emotions, slow to change, and apply their energies with endurance.
Earth signs: Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo
Vedic Astrology also takes into account a fifth element, the "aether" - which is known as the 'quinta essentia' in Western astrology. This represents the soul or the spiritual being of a person, and stands apart - not depicted in the horoscope and often overlooked.
The four elements occur in three states: cardinal, fixed and mutable, which represent their qualities.
Natives of cardinal signs have an urge to take the lead, and to shape things. They are initiators, and act according to their goals and aims.
Cardinal signs: Aries, Libra, Cancer, Capricorn
Natives of fixed signs have an urge to build, and organize things efficiently. They emphasize on preserving "status quo", and act in response to circumstances.
Fixed signs: Leo, Aquarius, Scorpio, Taurus
Natives of mutable signs have an urge to renew, and to seek change. They easily replace one thing with another, and act in accordance to unfolding processes.
Mutable signs: Sagitarius, Gemini, Pisces, Virgo
The combination of Elements and its State, gives us twelve different basic types. Each of these 12 basic types, or the Signs, belong to a particular Element in one of its States. These Signs have varying associated qualities that provide a "general backdrop", for other qualities provided by the different Planets in different Signs. This makes each individual complex and unique with varied combination of qualities.
The interplay of the Elements (in their States) with the functions of the ruling Planets, provides the expression and characteristics of each Sign.
Cardinal fire; Ruled by Mars
Willpower, impulsive, initiative, courage, energy, activity. Often rushes headlong into things.
Fixed earth; Ruled by Venus
Sensual, pleasure-seeker, steadfast, strives for security. Sees red when provoked for a long time.
Mutable air; Ruled by Mercury
Mental type, witty, communicative, mobile, takes pleasure in learning. Rarely touches down.
Cardinal water; Ruled by the Moon
Emotional type, stubborn, seeks safety and closeness. Very much a family person.
Fixed fire; Ruled by the Sun
Glamour, generosity, organizer, the center of attention. Likes to take the lion's part.
Mutable earth; Ruled by Mercury
Precise, differentiates, does what is necessary, utilitarian. A critical point of view.
Cardinal air; Ruled by Venus
A sense of beauty and proportion, tactful, seeks balance and harmony. Sometimes hovers between the scales.
Fixed water; Ruled by Pluto.
Corrosive, passionate, piercing, extreme situations. Frequently quarrels with the spirits he called.
Mutable fire; Ruled by Jupiter
Free spirit, carefree, love of movement, cheerful. Wanderlust, often seems to be elsewhere.
Cardinal earth; Ruled by Saturn
Enduring, has a sense of purpose, proud, ambitious. Can get stuck in craggy heights.
Fixed air; Ruled by Uranus
Communicative, humanitarian, progressive, fraternal. Universal spirit with occasional astonishing obstinacy.
Mutable water; Ruled by Neptune
Sensitive, compassionate, helpful, sociable. Very adaptable, hard to get a hold on.
The system of Houses
The astrological houses show us which spheres or aspects of life receive more weight than others in a horoscope. They are not named, and numbered from 1 to 12, and varies from individual to individual, because it is calculated according to the exact time of birth and the geographic position of the place of birth.
1st House (Ascendant): The individual personality
The first house tells us about our "outer self", how we present ourselves to the world - the Ascendant, or the Rising Sign of an individual. The planet ruling the Rising Sign is of utmost importance for horoscope interpretations - as it signifies our immediate, instinctive reaction.
2nd House: Values and Possessions
The second house (and its occupants) tells us about our acquisitive urge to material means, and how we deal with possessions - including our own body.
3rd House: Communication
The third house (and its occupants) tells us about manner of communication, and the relationships (like siblings) that represent our daily life.
4th House: Roots and Origins
The fourth house (and its occupants) tells us about our origin, the circumstances influencing childhood and youth, and how we relate to "family" and "hearth and home". This house also signifies "fatherly image", and our relation with our real father.
5th House: Pleasure and Creativity
The fifth house (and its occupants) tells us about our creative expression, sexuality and eroticism. It describes how we relate to children, pleasure and simple fun.
6th House: Work and Routine
The sixth house (and its occupants) tells us about the circumstances surrounding us in our daily lives, including the work environment and daily routine. Relation with subordinates, and bodily hygiene and care also belong here.
7th House: Relating
The seventh house (and its occupants) tells us about our selection of partners, and describes the partnerships and relationships we seek.
8th House: Loss and Common Property
The eighth house (and its occupants) tells us about our attitude to common goods, and how we deal with material loss. It has an affinity to death, which is the ultimate material loss.
9th House: Philosophies and Far Countries
The ninth house (and its occupants) tells us about our spiritual learnings, philosophy of life, and views of the world - often influenced by journeys to foreign countries.
10th House (MC): Occupation and Calling
The tenth house (and its occupants) tells us about our choice of profession, our sense of calling, and has an influence what we become. This house also signifies "motherly image", and our relation with our real mother.
11th House: Friends and Acquaintances
The eleventh house (and its occupants) tells us how we relate to friends, benefactors and teachers - people who wish us well or from whom we can learn. This house also signifies our relation with the society we live in.
12th House: Beyond the Personal
The twelvth house (and its occupants) represents those spheres of life that is beyond our control, where we step back for a greater whole or lose ourselves in one. This house describes ourselves in hospitals, prisons, psychiatric institutions, monasteries and any other retreats.
The transition of the planets from one house to another, is not as clear as the transition rom one sign to another. It is a common practice to consider planets occupying a position near the end of a house, to be interpreted as occupying the next house.
The relationship of Aspects
Aspects are angular relationships between planets in the horoscope that indicate how the energies of the planets will "play out". Not all, but only certain angular relationships are considered as Aspects - which alter the individual interpretations, and are represented by "blended" interpretations - in according to the nature of the aspect.
These angular relationships are measured as angles within the ecliptic circle, and usually includes angles to the ascendant and midheaven. These relationships influence how the planets work together. The aspects are regarded as having intrinsic qualities: harmonic, dynamic, or neutral - based on how the energies of the relevant planets will "play out".
An aspect is said to "work" or become operative, within a few degrees either way of being exact. This margin of "play" is called "orb". An allowable orb, is the the amount (of degrees) by which the planets can deviate from the exact number (of degrees) defined by the aspect, and still be considered to have the influence of the aspect. Most astrologers consider an orb of 5°-6° for major aspects and 2°-3° for minor aspects. However, if one of the planets involved is Sun or Moon, an orb of 8°-10° is commonly used. For obvious reasons, the smaller the orb, the more potent is the influence.
Listed below are the major aspects:
Conjunction - 0°
Nature: Generally regarded to be harmonious.
Planets in conjunction are blended together, and intensified - the "blended" interpretation depends upon the planets involved and how close the aspect is. The Sun and Mercury, for example, is harmonious - and if they are very close, Mercury is said to be "burnt" or "in combustion". It depends on the compatability of planets involved. Mars and Neptune are incompatible and hence their conjunction is "disharmonious", whereas the conjunction of Venus and Moon is harmonic.
Opposition - 180°
Nature: Generally regarded to be "disharmonious" or dynamic.
This aspect indicates a fundamental polarity or duality. An opposition between two planets, depending on the planets, creates tension between them - often with negative results. However, it often has quite a motivating and energizing effect.
Square - 90°
Nature: Generally regarded to be "disharmonious" or dynamic.
This aspect implies restrictions and challenges. The planets involved seem to be "blocked" and leads to irritation, achievements delayed - the problems that arise from the square keep on turning up, like a bad penny.
Trine - 120°
Nature: Harmonious.
This aspect is considered the most fortunate of aspects, and the planets involved work together in a complementary fashion, enriching one another. The flowing energy brings luck, opportunities, and innate creative talents. However, this pleasant aspect is mostly taken for granted and indicates laziness, due to the tendency to sit-back-and relax.
Sextile - 60°
Nature: Generally regarded to be harmonious.
This aspect represents an easy flow of opportunities or ideas. Depending upon the planets involved, they collaborate well and work comfortably together. If acted upon, this aspect will help realize an individual's goals.
Listed below are the minor aspects:
Semisquare - 45°
Nature: Generally regarded to be "disharmonious" or dynamic.
Sesquisquare - 135°
Nature: Generally regarded to be "disharmonious" or dynamic.
Semisextile - 30°
Nature: Neutral.
Quincunx or Inconjunct - 150°
Nature: Neutral.
Quintile - 72°
Nature: Harmonious.
Biquintile - 144°
Nature: Harmonious.
It should be noted that the influence of "minor aspects" is very mild, barely noticeable, almost insignificant. While harmonic aspect tend to be mildly beneficial, the "disharmonious" or dynamic aspects tend to make difficult, awkward, or uncomfortable. The minor aspects are generally interpreted to add depth and detail to the overall picture.
General Notes
Sun Signs
All discussions regarding Signs normally refer to "Sun Signs" - because Sun gets a lot of attention, in astrology. Sun, being the most massive of planets, has a huge influence and creates the "backdrop" of influences due to other planets. The Sun Sign is referred to the position of the Sun at the time of birth. However, the positions of the other planets are equally important. This is what makes the Natal Chart important.
For example, Venus represents "Love and Romance" and the sign in which Venus is posited (in Natal Chart) would influence one's style and preference in the matters of the heart - overpowering Sun's influence in the matter. This is the reason that there cannot be a "pure" Aries, or a "pure" Gemini, or any other sign. Sun Signs provide an approximation - a general "backdrop".
Typically, "Sun Sign Astrology" is a subset of astrological interpretations, considering only the Sun and ignoring the positions of other planets. Newspapers, magazines, and even online publishers (including us) has made this model popular, but it is not particularly as accurate as astrological interpretations should be based on Natal Charts.
Rising Signs
The Sun Signs (with or without the positions of the other planets) provide a snapshot of our "inner self" - our likes, dislikes and preferences. But this is seldom what is percieved by others.
We are percieved, or seen, by others in the manner in which we present ourselves. This preference, knowingly or unknowingly, is influenced by the Ascendant, or the Rising Sign. This is our "outer self".
For example, we may be revengeful - but do not want to be percieved by others as such. What mask we would wear, is influenced by the Rising Sign - which cannot be calculated without the exact time and location of birth.
Typically, when we talk about signs, we generally mean the Sun Sign - as the only sign that matters. Actually, each individual has two signs - the Sun Sign (inner self) and the Rising Sign (outer self).
Retrograde Motions
All the planets revolve around the Sun in the same (anti-clockwise) direction. But, astrology deals with the position of planets as viewed from the Earth - being the center of the Zodiac circle. With this reference frame, some planets would appear to be moving backwards - at times. This happens, for example, when a "slow moving" planet is overtaken by a "fast moving" planet. This motion, which makes the planet seem apparently moving backwards, is known as the Retrograde Motion.
After some time, the planet would again appear to be moving forward. At the start and end of the Retrograde Motion, the planet would seem to be fixed - not moving at all. These are known as Retrograde Stations.
A retrograde motion, depending upon the planet, has a different (at times complex) interpretation - some of them (like Venus Retrograde) are particularly influential.
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