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An Example Horoscope, the Author
Key to Planets, Signs and Houses

A Beginners’ Guide                    

The Planets
There are ten planets in our heavens, including the two ‘luminaries’, the Sun and the Moon.

The planets are the one solid reality of the Chart. The rest, the twelve Signs and the twelve Houses, can be recognised as merely insubstantial projections of the planets' natures and movements. And especially projections of the Sun's movements. At the risk of stating the obvious, it simply all revolves around the Sun.

There is good reason for supposing the Zodiac Signs are projections of the stages of the Sun's apparent annual course, supremely majestic as it is. The Signs actually have no material definition or source in the stars of their constellations. These stars just happen, by the ineffable law of synchronicity, to more-or-less reflect appropriate images.

My modified dual-colour symbols for the planets portray their proper astrological characters and emphasise they are effectively no more nor less than the embodiment of their Ruling Sign or Signs.

We look to the planets to find the physical qualities of the Twelve Signs. Their physical make up is the basis or source for the metaphysical, or spiritual, qualities of the Signs and Houses.

What this means in practical terms is that the planets bear exactly the character of the Sign(s) they rule. For instance modern science has only just confirmed the extensive presence of underground water on Mars but ancient astrology assigned Mars to the Water Sign, Scorpio, some time ago and we are not surprised to learn Mars, like Earth, has a fiery heart, reflecting his rulership of the Fire Sign, Aries. The evidence of modern space exploration has been wonderfully graphic in confirming these physical and metaphysical parallels.

The physical characteristics of the planets provide an interesting insight into the nature of the Signs. This material definition of the Signs explains why the position of a planet (the Sign and House it is in and the Aspects it enjoys) will influence the Sign(s) ruled by that planet.

The Rulerships of the planets form a satisfying symmetry. The Sun rules Leo and the Moon neighbouring Cancer. Mercury is the planet nearest the Sun and he rules the next Signs on either side, Virgo and Gemini. Venus is next in the planetary order and she rules the next two Signs, Libra and Taurus. Mars comes next and he rules Scorpio and Aries, followed by Jupiter who rules the next two either side, Sagittarius and Pisces, while Saturn's two Signs, Capricorn and Aquarius, complete the circle. These last four Signs of the Zodiac have dual rulerships. Uranus co-rules Aquarius while Neptune co-rules Pisces. Pluto, then, co-rules Sagittarius not Scorpio, as common wisdom has it. The co-ruler of Capricorn is Earth which also co-rules Aries.

To emphasise the characters of the planets, I have drawn them in the elemental colours of their ruling Signs.

So once we have some idea of the Signs, this will serve us very well in understanding the Planets and the Houses. Indeed, a basic familiarity with the four ‘elements,’ earth, air, fire and water, will give us a good introduction to the twelve Signs – so astrology is not so complex !

The planets are generally a simple embodiment of their Signs but if we recognise the combination of fire and water as the ruling Signs for both Mars and Jupiter is likely to boil over or need to let off steam now and again, we wont be far wrong. These are volatile combinations.

In dealing with the Planets, any knowledge of their characters in Greek mythology also forms an excellent basis for interpretation.

Since the physical is the basis for the metaphysical in astrology, the dimensions of the planets are significant. Distance is less important but the Moon has a special influence, being so close to the Earth. Saturn also has a special sway over Earth due to our co-rulerships of Capricorn.

The Sun is well over one million Earths in size, Jupiter well over a thousand and Saturn about seven hundred. The other two outer giants, Uranus and Neptune, are respectively about seventy and sixty times Earth's size, while the rest are smaller than Earth. Mercury, Mars, Pluto and the Moon are all between one third and a half Earth's size while Venus is nearer eight tenths. But these smaller planets are much denser than the giants which generally are only one fifth, to cloudy Saturn's one tenth, Earth's density. One fifth Earth's density is approximately the density of water.

Finally we should mention the North and South Nodes of the Moon. These are not solid bodies but abstract positions. Yet their significance is considerable. South Node is exactly opposite the North Node on the Chartwheel. These two Nodes represent the points at which the apparent orbits of the Sun and Moon around Earth intersect. Therefore when New Moons or Full Moons occur near these Nodes, we get eclipses.

The Twelve Signs

The Twelve Signs of the Zodiac appear to encircle the Earth. We can think of ourselves on Earth at the very centre of the Chartwheel.

The Twelve Signs are ranged on the outer wheel with each Sign divided into 30° (degrees). Thus 30° x 12 = 360°, a complete circle. So all planetary positions are expressed from 0°-30° of a given Sign. Each degree is additionally divided into 60' (minutes).

The Signs depend on the Planets for their strength. Yet the Signs nevertheless reveal an eternal order. According to this order all Creation, from the planets themselves down to the sub-atomic level, would appear to be patterned.

The Signs are classed into the four elements – earth, water, fire and air. Distinguished by the colours green, blue, red and yellow respectively.

Each element is found in three different stages, cardinal, fixed and mutable : the first, middle and final forms. If we consider the characteristics of these forms in their physical manifestations in nature, we can get a very good idea of their metaphysical, spiritual character.

The earth Signs deal with the realm of physical things and our senses. Aware of the qualities, durability and material value of things. This is an element of stability and worldly sense, practical and industrious.

The cardinal earth of Capricorn, the Goat, is imaged by the raw heights of the mountains, rugged rock and the wealth of minerals the earth holds. Capricorn is also associated with the commanding heights of power. Showing how simply the physical is translated into the metaphysical in astrology.

The fixed earth of Taurus, the Bull, is reflected by the fertile plains where the hard stone has been eroded and washed down to compost with plant-life. Here flourish all the good things we need to support life.

The mutable earth of Virgo, the Virgin, is the final, refined stage of the earth's fruits, including herbs, flowers, medicines and jewellery. Here physical forms have reached their pinnacle and can only change, transcending themselves. As the exquisite virgin ascends to the more emotional, flowing realm of motherhood, ruled by Cancer.
The next element.

The water Signs hold our emotions, our feelings which move us, our motives –words containing the idea of movement. Water is essentially mobile, gently rippling or capable of carrying anything along in its powerful currents. From rain washing the windows to rivers carving the mountains.

The images of cardinal water, Cancer, the Crab, are found in all the initial forms of water : rain, the bubbling spring , the well and the fast flowing mountain streams. These are natural, physical forms for the waters of life. Like our fond feelings for home and the family, these waters are the source of all life.

Scorpio, the Scorpion, defines the fixed stage of water where it is harnessed to a determined course, such as rivers, canals and lakes. Here it is at its most powerful and also a source of great pleasure and fertility but equally it can be dangerous and unforgiving.

Pisces, the Fishes, represents mutable water, water in its final form, the restless ocean and all the creatures, the fish, which are of this element. The next element is air and it is over the sea that clouds are formed, transmuting and transcending again.

The air Signs represent the mental energy of our thoughts and the power of reason which places everything in a logical relationship of cause and effect. Knowing no boundaries.

The Cardinal, first form of air is Libra, the Balance, which is imaged by the free breezes, the winds which blow over the whole Earth balancing out differences in temperature. Just so Libra finds a balance in relationships and weighs up both sides of every question.

Aquarius, the Water-Carrier, is the fixed air Sign, representing the fixed firmament of the sky and the heavens which carry the life-giving rain clouds from the oceans to the land. The countless stars are the image of Aquarius and just as astrophysics now recognises the complex relationships between these cosmic bodies, so Aquarius is the spirit of relationships in society at large, everyone a star in their own right.

The mutable air of Gemini, the Twins, is best reflected in the duality of the air we breathe and use to speak. In the act of inspiration and expiration the air is changed, transformed. The oxygen is removed to burn into the heat and energy we need, just as little words can easily fire us up to great action.

The fire Signs represent the warmth of pure energy and action. Fire has its own immediacy and intuitive impulses, expressing a zest for life for its own sake. It is a consuming, vital energy which transforms situations instantly.

Aries, the Ram, the cardinal fire Sign, shows fire in its first form, flaring up, igniting situations, burning fast and furiously but often burning itself out equally quickly. Aries can be a match for anyone but can equally spark a prettier passion.

Leo, the Lion, is fire in its fixed, middle stage. A fire well-set in its full strength. Its best image is simply its ruler, the Sun, giving light, warmth and life to all creation. So long as it is given due honour and pride of place, the Sun is man's best friend. Discounted and treated lightly, it is withering and remorseless, destroying without pity. So it is with the spirit of Leo and the Sun – found quietly burning in every heart.

The final mutable fire Sign, Sagittarius, the Archer, is pictured in the dying embers of the fire, when, the day's passion spent and experience gained, men traditionally muse on life and death, and where it is the flickering spirit goes. Equally the dying fire speaks of tomorrow and the quests that lie ahead on life's journey, executing judicious plans and the quality of mercy, the prerogative of the strong.

In the ascending levels of the four elements, the mutable fire of Sagittarius most closely approaches the fifth : the quintessential ether, the individual and universal One which lies at the heart of all Creation. When all form, feeling, reason and activity are consumed in the fire of knowledge, tempered by experience, this pure spirit remains. So the wise men tell us.

The definitions for the Signs and Planets in the Keys are based on the broad principle of the synonym. The chosen definitions can be recognised as different facets of a single spirit, different forms of the same fundamental idea.

Above all, the horoscope reveals that we are not one Sign or another.  We are all twelve and more, inextricably mixed.

The Twelve Houses

The other important divisions on a Chartwheel are the Twelve Houses. These are marked on the example Chart on the inner circles.

The most important Houses are indicated outside the outer circle as the Asc. and M.C., at the left and top of the Chartwheel. Known as the Ascendant and the Mid Heaven, they are the cusps, or boundaries, beginning the First and Tenth Houses respectively. They extend to the opposite sides of the Chartwheel to form the Descendant and Lower Heaven. These form the cusps of the Seventh and Fourth Houses. (M.C. stands for the Latin, Medium Coeli, or Mid Heaven, I.C. for Imum Coeli, or Lower Heaven.)

The Ascendant marks the physical line of the eastern horizon where we see the planets rise. This is where we find our Rising Sign. The Descendant is the western horizon where they set.

The Mid Heaven is the highest point the Sun will reach at Noon; the Lower Heaven the position of the Sun at Midnight.

The Houses, then, divide up the apparent course of the planets into twelve, at any time and from any particular position on Earth. It is for this reason that an accurate time and place of birth are so important.

The Houses run in an anticlockwise sequence so that the First House extends below the Ascendant to the next cusp beginning the Second House. The Second House then runs to the next cusp which begins the Third House. This runs to the Lower Heaven. And so on. The Fourth House follows to the right side of the Lower Heaven, the Seventh House occupies the area immediately above the Descendant while the Tenth House lies to the left of the Mid Heaven.

The Twelve Houses reflect the Twelve Signs, so that the First House reflects the first Sign, Aries. It determines, above all, the way we act, as Aries is a very active Sign. The Second House, then, reflects material interests of the second Sign, Taurus, and so on.

The Houses divide the Heavens as we perceive them from our terrestrial point of view, so we find the Houses manifest the energy of the Signs in a more tangible, material way. The rather ethereal energy of the Signs is translated into more specific spheres of life : 1) personality, 2) resources, 3) communication, 4) home, 5) play, 6) work, 7) relationships, 8) changes, 9) speculation, 10) worldly position, 11) society and 12) our inner life. However, these more material definitions should not be understood too narrowly, as often the differences between the energies of a House and its corresponding Sign overlap a good deal.

The cusps beginning each House are particularly strong and significant positions for that House. So planets on or near the Ascendant line are more evident in the personality than those later in the First House. The Sign on the cusp of each House has the same special significance, e.g. the Rising Sign.

Finally, the Aspects. The Aspects are energy connections between the Planets which follow basic geometric angles.

The Major Aspects are : Conjunction 0°
Opposition 180°
Square 90°
Trine 120°
Sextile 60°

Then there are Minor Aspects which are variations on those :
Semisextile 30°
Semisquare 45°
Inconjunct 150°
Sesquisquare 135°

Quintiles are Minor Aspects of 72°, one fifth of a circle. Biquintiles, 144°, and Semiquintiles, 36°, are also generally recognised.

Oppositions, Squares and Semi-squares are marked in red, Trines and Sextiles in dark blue, and Quintiles, Biquintiles and Sesqui-quintiles in green.

The Major Aspects operate within a considerable orb. That is to say, the Aspect does not need to be exact. It still applies within several degrees either side of the exact angle. For instance, instead of just at 180°, an Opposition is still effective if the planets are at 170° or 190°. Astrologers differ in the size of orbs they allow but my experience is that all the Major Aspects operate within an orb of 10° either side.

There is no difference between Oppositions and Sextiles in this. The energy connects – even with the smallest planets, and not least with tiny, distant Pluto.

The Minor Aspects, however, operate only within orbs of 2° either way.

The Conjunction is rather different and my experience tells me a 20° proximity maintains an effective connection. Conjunctions involving the Sun and Moon may well extend wider.

Naturally any Aspect will be stronger the more exact it is.

We should remember these Aspects only show particularly marked connections. Even a wholly unaspected planet will not be uninfluenced by the other planets. However, it will find it difficult to focus and integrate its energy effectively within the Chart.

There is no clear agreement precisely what kind of connection each Aspect represents. My own conclusion is that we can liken an Opposition to the kind of energy found in Libra. The Sign of relationships, Libra is concerned with balancing opposites, especially the sexes. The fact that the Signs of Venus and Mars, Taurus and Scorpio, Libra and Aries, are opposite, strongly suggests this. Similarly Cancer and Capricorn, the Signs of the mother and father, form an Opposition. Opposites attract and often complement one another but there does need to be some recognition of these differences and a determination to achieve harmony.

Squares represent a much sharper conflict, easily demonstrated by the fact that while Fire and Air, Earth and Water Signs oppose each other, with Squares the elements are much less easily reconciled. Earth and Fire, Earth and Air, Fire and Water, and Water and Air carry much more fundamental differences in temperament.

Squares seem to represent the more fiery, aggressive conflicts we find in Aries. This is a more difficult energy to handle. It is rather more competitive than the Opposition and one side will often dominate until it exhausts itself, largely excluding the other's rightful claims. Then the other may dominate in its turn.

Reconciliation can be achieved in this uncompromising relationship, by taking a higher or broader view. This brings rich rewards. Squares seem to represent the universal problems of mankind. Solving these is perhaps our common purpose on Earth which makes life worth living. After all, an easy life is no life at all. Squares are our personal opportunities for real achievement and success is infectious.

It is more difficult to define Trines and Sextiles because these connections are less evident. There is a smooth, easy, supportive flow of energy between planets with these Aspects and one rarely notices this link. Except occasionally to observe that, without some red Squares, it can be all a bit too easy and opportunities may slip by unnoticed.

If it is true that Oppositions and Squares represent the energy of Libra and Aries, then perhaps Trines and Sextiles derive from the other Cardinal Signs, Cancer and Capricorn. Both are fundamentally supportive as the Signs of the mother and father. The Trines perhaps more closely so, connecting Signs of the same element and so suggesting the maternal, family spirit of Cancer. More psychologically supportive. Sextiles, then, would be defined by the solid, material, situational support characteristic of a father and the more worldly accent of Capricorn.

Certainly these Aspects are generally supportive and co-operative in an automatic, natural way. It is almost as if the planets are Conjunct, except they are in different Signs and Houses.

Finally, then, Conjunctions are a simple co-operative co-existence, working together.

Much is sometimes made of whether Aspects 'cross cusps'. In other words, whether the Aspect is from the end of one Sign to the beginning of another, so that the expected Elemental configuration is changed. Trines, then, are not within the same Element, while Squares may link more sympathetic Elements. Certainly the Elemental relationship of the Signs should be noticed but Aspects are primarily geometric connections of energy. They will not be stronger or weaker for these differences, just changed in character.

The Minor Aspects follow the characters of their Major 'Parents.'

The Quintile is particularly difficult to define but, based on the five-pointed, magical pentacle, magic seems to be the ruling factor. Accordingly it may be associated with Virgo. Perhaps it is best defined by saying these connections between planets produce quite unexpected connections, coincidences and synchronicities, 'as if by magic'. Astrology is all about the mystery of hidden forces arranging events by some sublime design, ‘as if by magic,’ the unrecognised, inestimable fabric of our lives, so the quintile can only be ‘even more magical.’

The principle of attributing the character of the aspects to Signs of the zodiac, is new in astrology. It follows the logical recognition these twelve spirits define the character of all things and all energy on Earth.

                                                                 * * * * * * *

Astrology is as complex as life and any reading can only be limited to highlighting a few points, at best.

However, as life progresses, it is often useful to be able to look at developing situations in astrological terms to find a higher and wider perspective on Why ? and even How ?

It is often not too difficult to analyse situations to the point of recognising the planets involved. In any case, the problem areas in a Chart tend to be the same, in many disguises. We can look to the supporting Aspects to see where we can develop help. Above all, objectifying problems, seeing things in a new light can be useful.

It is with a view to enabling this kind of do-it-yourself Reading I have included this 'brief comprehensive guide' to Chart interpretation.

A further purpose is to demystify astrology. If we can recognise astrology as conforming to simple 'scientific' laws, it may go a long way to accepting these spiritual facts of life as the tapestry of celestial light within which we weave our lives.

The metaphysical laws are much the same as the physical : 'as above, so below'.  Except the spiritual is not subject to the physical.  Rather the material world is subject to the spiritual.  In effect, nothing is impossible.  Fortunately !  This is probably our salvation : a good heart is really all that matters.

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