Slow-Moving Signifiers: The Outer Planets in Astrology
The outer planets of our Solar System hold just as many secrets and messages as our closer neighbors. See what can these giants tell us about our lives.
Astrology is big. A quick look at the internet reveals just how ingrained it is into our modern ethos and thought. While much of it focuses on the sun and closest celestial bodies, it discerns patterns and meanings from Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Astrologers believe that these distant outer planets may provide some wisdom of their own.
An Introduction to the Outer Planets
The outer planets exhibit a wide range of physical compositions and environments: gas giants, ice giants, and one icy chunk of rock. These celestial objects represent the vital energies of their mythological counterparts. Since they take a long time to orbit our sun, their effects are seen by astrologers as generational and more long term.
Jupiter: A Jovial and Generous King
With its 12-year orbit around our sun, Jupiter has the shortest transits of any outer planet. This massive traveler inhabits each zodiac sign for around a year, but Cafe Astrology explains that it can retrograde for up to four months at a stretch. This regal celestial body governs generosity, optimism, honor, good fortune, ethics, and as the Astro Codex reveals, higher education. Since its effects in a sign can span for up to a year, they’re thought to impact everyone born during that same time period in similar ways.
Saturn: Growth, Discipline, and Legacies
Saturn makes a complete orbit around our sun in 29.5 years, taking around two and a half years to travel through each zodiac sign. Astrostyle discusses this titan’s key energies: time, maturity, structure, karma, discipline, and prestige. If you’ve heard the phrase “Saturn return,” you likely got the impression that it can signify life-changing events. As the Cut’s Claire Comstock-Gay clarifies, Saturn comes back to its original position in our natal charts during our late 20s, our late 50s, and our mid-to-late 80s. These all coincide with major life transitions or turning points during which we may reassess our life goals and make significant new plans.
Uranus: Technology, Enlightenment, and Innovation
Uranus is a weird planet for many reasons. It’s not just the only one named for a Greek deity instead of a Roman god, but it’s also the only one that rotates on its side. Christened after the primordial sky father, it takes 84 years to orbit our sun and seven years to pass through a zodiac sign. Cafe Astrology mentions that Uranus represents invention, innovation, intuitiveness, and individuality. Astrostyle also nicknames Uranus the “mad scientist” for its association with eccentricity.
Neptune: What Lies Beneath the Surface
Discovered in 1846, Neptune got its name from the Roman god of the sea. This planet completes one orbit around the sun in 165 years, which means that it makes a 14-year trip through each zodiac sign. As a result, those energies impact large generational groups. The Astro Codex mentions that Neptune governs spirituality, dreams, illusions, artistic creation, and even addiction.
Pluto: Secrets, Transformation, and Rebirth
Reclassified as a dwarf planet in 2006, Pluto represents the Roman ruler of the Underworld. Astrostyle comments that it governs the secrets we keep within ourselves, including sensitive matters such as money, shame, and sexuality, yet it also speaks to how we share or hoard our resources. As a symbol of transformation, it signifies intense and sometimes painful changes that end in positive results. Pluto takes around 30 years to move through each sign and 248 years to orbit the sun.
Since astrology is gaining greater traction in popular culture, it’s no surprise that many people have more than a passing curiosity about their planets and signs. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto all display extreme physical characteristics. Their astrological impacts are just as massive, affecting large cohorts of people as they complete their lengthy orbits.
Solar and Lunar Eclipses: Astrological Portents of Change
Humans have watched the Sun and Moon for millennia. Our ancestors knew that these bodies of light allowed life on Earth to thrive, so they saw eclipses as mysterious and terrifying events. Yet modern astrology also assigns meanings to these celestial phenomena. Understanding how eclipses work in astrology requires a brief trip through science and history.
Eclipses 101: Back to Astronomy Class
Eclipses are spectacular yet simple events: one celestial body moving into the shadow of another. During solar ones, the Moon passes between us and the Sun, blocking its light. Lunar ones occur when the Moon travels behind Earth and passes through its shadow.
A total solar eclipse darkens the sky, and the combined sun and moon look like a dark disc with a brilliant outer corona. Space.com explains that a total lunar eclipse produces a crimson or coppery “blood moon.” Some sunlight still passes through our atmosphere, but only red light’s long wavelengths can reach and reflect on the Moon’s surface.
The Moon and the Sun also experience partial eclipses, when one body partly blocks our view of another. Annular solar ones happen when the Moon at apogee passes in front of the Sun, appearing as dark circles with outer rims of gold light. Penumbral lunar ones result from the Moon passing through our planet’s faint outer shadow.
Eclipses in Ancient Civilizations
Historian Gonzalo Rubio reveals that eclipses were often seen as omens in ancient times. Babylonians could track and eventually predict them, but the culture seemed to worry the most about lunar eclipses. They looked for other signs to determine whether an eclipse spelled trouble, particularly to their king. Sometimes, a substitute king would be coronated while an incantation was chanted to combat evil effects. If no other ill omens appeared, the substitute was put to death and the real king returned to his throne.
Eclipses could also signal a deity in trouble or the gods’ displeasure. One even prompted two opposing armies to call a truce. Atlas Obscura’s Natasha Frost discusses the Battle of the Eclipse on May 28, 585 BCE, during which the Medes and Lydians lay down their weapons after seeing a solar eclipse and believing it to be a sign from the gods to stop fighting. Eclipses also made their way into ancient mythologies. According to physics professor Roger Culver, many describe evil entities trying to harm or swallow the Sun: wolves, dragons, frogs, and even a decapitated demon.
Eclipses in Modern Astrology
AstroStyle explains that solar and lunar eclipses occur four to six times each year. It describes them as dramatic astrological turning points, each an agent of change that brings a bit of turbulence or a “cosmic kick in the pants” that signals the need to act.
Solar ones take place during new moons, while lunar ones happen at full moons. This important distinction explains the astrological energies they bring. The Moon sits between the Sun and Earth during solar eclipses, forming a straight line and creating a conjunction. These new moon eclipses signal beginnings, possibly dramatic ones that force us outside our comfort zones. Conjunctions also blend their celestial bodies’ energies, and in this case, it’s the Sun’s ego-focused influences with the emotional ones from the Moon.
On the other hand, lunar ones create an opposition between the Sun and Moon with our planet directly between them. Full moons signal completion, but the Sun-Moon opposition creates tension between logic and emotions. Hidden or “shadow” personality aspects can arise, or we may be called to bring closure to nonbeneficial situations or patterns.
Symbolism in the Heavens
Solar and lunar eclipses fascinate us even in the 21st century. We now know the science behind them, but they still hold special meaning in astrology. As portents, eclipses are seen as calls for growth, change, and closure.