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.
Astrology 101: Signs and Planets
What does it mean to have a Gemini rising sign, a Capricorn Moon, or your Venus in Leo? Astrology buffs may already get it, but you may be wondering about the significance of planetary positions in your birth chart. Understanding how sign and planet energies blend is key to comprehending how interpretive astrology works.
Why Are Planetary Positions Important in Astrology?
Astrologers examine and interpret how a planet’s energies combine with those of its resident sign. This synergy produces certain effects based on the date, time, and location of a person’s birth. Think of these combined energies like an equation: planet plus sign equals meaning. For reference, Mystica Astrology briefly explains the qualities represented by each planet. Astrostyle also offers an extensive guide to each of the astrological signs.
The Basics of Interpretation
While celestial energy combinations are an important basis of astrological interpretation, looking at how they specifically play out in someone’s chart can also be useful. A key starting point is the primal triad consisting of the Sun, Moon, and Ascendant signs. Together, these three compose the core of an individual’s personality. The three planets that follow, Mercury, Venus, and Mars, represent concerns in our personal day-to-day lives. The five outer planets exert long-term effects and can impact generational groups due to their longer orbits.
An Example of Basic Astrological Interpretation
For an in-depth example of how interpretation can work, let’s examine the natal chart of an individual born on August 14, 1976. For brevity’s sake, we’ll only look at the first six planets and points in this chart:
- Sun in Leo
- Ascendant in Aries
- Moon in Aries
- Mercury in Virgo
- Venus in Virgo
- Mars in Virgo
The Primal Triad and Its Meanings
The Sun speaks to one’s personality, ego, and self, but it can also represent the search for identity. Meanwhile, Leo represents creativity, generosity, loyalty, and charisma. With these two energies combined, the individual in our example prefers to be passionate, generous, devoted, and expressive.
Yet the Sun is just one component of the primal triad. You’ll notice that this person’s Ascendant and Moon are both in Aries. The Ascendant, or rising sign, signifies our external selves: the masks we wear and how we present ourselves to others. Conversely, the Moon stands for our inner selves, emotions, and deepest needs.
Aries symbolizes energy, drive, will, and direct action. Others may view an Aries Ascendant personality as direct and straightforward. Those with an Aries Moon value emotional independence, direct expression, and the desire to act. Because this individual has the same rising and Moon signs, outer presentation and inner emotions won’t usually conflict with each other.
Mercury, Venus, and Mars
Astrologers also view Mercury, Venus, and Mars as critical planets. Mercury stands for communication, thought language, information gathering, and analysis. Venus represents desire and attraction on many levels: love, sexuality, and even our preferences in art, politics, and culture. Finally, Mars symbolizes human drives, motivations, aggression, and even how we choose to fight.
In our example, the natal chart shows that Mercury, Venus, and Mars are all in Virgo. As you may remember, Virgo is the sign of details, service, practicality, and modesty. This individual likely prefers a precise approach to communication and easily keeps track of details. Partners shouldn’t expect showy romantic gestures, but they’ll enjoy dedication and lasting commitment. Virgo energies temper Mars’s natural aggression, resulting in someone with focused, disciplined, and sustained efforts in reaching goals.
Putting It All Together
It’s one thing to know what zodiac signs your planets and points are in, but it’s quite another to recognize potential interpretations. That’s part of the fun with astrology: divining meanings and possibilities. Everyone deciphers details differently, but basic principles can help you understand the core meanings behind planets in your natal chart.