Astrology Starts in the Imagination, Part I: Visualizing the Planets in the Signs and House

astrology, beginner, chart synthesis, learning astrology

It is easy to determine what the planet Mars signifies. Imagine a wild man in a loin cloth, rushing through the jungle at full speed, an unstoppable juggernaut ignoring the cuts and scrapes on his feet as he lets loose in a burst of energy. Or, imagine a warrior, brandishing his sword, ready for battle. This may in fact be how we imagine Mars in Aries, where it is the natural ruler of the sign. But, how do we imagine Mars in Libra, where it is in detriment and doesn’t express itself purely?

One of astrology’s learning curves is to synthesize the information we read from planets in signs and houses. We can learn the keywords for each planet, sign, and house. We can learn to put them together into simple key word descriptions. For example, the Sun in Cancer in the 3rd house can mean something like the ego is protective of siblings and communication, the nurturing personality is focused on communication. Okay, great. But the chart is a visual thing, a wheel with symbols and angles. It is only natural to want to visualize the planets in the houses and signs. If you are familiar with rulerships, exaltations, detriments, and falls, you know that not every planet is comfortable in every sign and every house. The expression is altered or filtered through the sign and house placement, as well as by the placement of the planetary ruler of that planet.
To visualize the planets in the houses and signs makes them more personal, more fun. They come alive, and we can see how they interact with each other.

The planets as archetypes

Each planet is an archetype. Like the gods of the Greek and Roman pantheon, they aren’t well-rounded, nuanced, maturing individuals (people are this), but static representatives of aspects of the psyche. Though each planet has a light and dark side, each one represents an aspect of the personality. The moon represents our emotions, early memories and how they shaped us, our ways of nurturing and to nurture, our deep-seated fears, and our basic fears. We can picture Luna like a kindly mother or grandmother, in an apron, baking cookies. We can also visualize her as the serene goddess of the sky, guiding the tides and churning the emotions much like our emotions churn inside of us. But, how do we picture the mother archetype or the serene goddess in the 10th house of worldly status and reputation, in Virgo?
Through the art of storytelling, humans have developed archetypes, and every culture has archetypal ideas that are probably universal. The archetypal wise old man (Saturn), the archetypal pleasure queen (Venus), the achetypal jolly good-time-Charlie (Jupiter). We can use these to our understanding. Imagine Venus. What does she look like to you? Is she beautiful, charming, pleasant, seductive? Does she, like Venus, walk into the room and capture attention? What is she doing, what is she wearing? Do this for all of the planets. For example, Mercury may be a small, wispy child-like person who flits back and forth at lightning speed, remitting messages back and forth. He seems ever-present, and yet, he is moving so quickly you cannot get a hold of him. Eventually, you will be able to form a mental picture of an archetypal character based on each planet. They may even be real characters from books, television or movies.  I imagine Mercury as Marty McFly, and Uranus as Doc Brown from Back to the Future.

The Signs as Costumes

Now, imagine each character in costume. The costume augments the expression of each planet, because it augments the appearance, and thus, how others react to the planetary expression. The Sun in Sagittarius is the handsome leading man dressed in adventure garb, ready for adventure and a chance to save the day. The sun in Taurus is the archetypal leading man dressed in garb, strolling lazily about his estate, enjoying luxuries. Perhaps Jay Gatsby on a lazy afternoon comes to mind. The leading man in Sagittarius costume goes about life much differently than the Sun in Taurus. Do this for all of the signs. Whatever you come up with is fine, so long as the wheels are moving in your mind. You may images of the planets in costume that are different form mine, and that is fine. What fits for you may not fit exactly for another astrologer, of a different time and culture.
Not every planet is suited for each costume. Saturn is in fall in Aries. It cannot fully express its archetypal personality in the costume it is wearing. Imagine the slow, wise old man, standing in a loin cloth, or at the starting line of a 50 meter dash. This is not where he is most comfortable. Now, imagine him in his exaltation in Libra, in a fine suit, sitting at his fine table, negotiating a business deal or in judge’s silk and a powdered wig, determining the facts in a case and deciding what is fair and just depending on the laws of society. The wise old man seems quite content there. You can do this for the outer planets as well. Imagine swishing, dreamy Neptune in Capricorn, the hapless dreamer suddenly finding himself in the president’s chair, through nefarious (Neptunian) means. Will he flounder, or will he accidentally stumble upon a simple, but elegant solution? Or, do his simple ways cut through the bullshit of social hierarchy in order to, even accidentally, lead people to the heart of the matter, the very root of our Oneness? If he is in the 10th house of status, this may certainly be the case, For me, this is Chance the Gardener from the film Being There.

The Houses as Jobs or Roles

What fits for you may not fit exactly for another astrologer, of a different time and culture. Now, imagine that character in costume in the houses. This is where the character does things. Planets are not signs, and signs are not houses, and houses are not planets. The archetype exists, the costume shows the manner of existence, and the houses show what it does in that costume. Say that the moon in Cancer in the 4th house. She is absolutely at home there. She is in her comfortable house dress and apron, baking bread and doting on the children in the privacy of her cottage. She has no desire to venture forth in the world. Now, imagine her in the 10th house, out of the comfort and security of her own home and in the public eye, people looking to her for direction. How does she feel? How does she act? Imagine Uranus in the 1st house, the wild-eyed, crazy-haired scientist unconcerned with social conventions and customs, deeply entrenched in his theories and his work for the betterment of mankind…though often working alone, as he is a little too aloof, unpredictable and weird. Imagine if he suddenly had to be the spokesperson in a commercial for his own invention. This is not what he wants to do. He wants to be in the 11th house, in the lab, with the other scientists, away from the hullabaloo and working on controlling climate change or developing solar energy.
Imagine that Pisces is the sign on the 1st house where this Uranus works. Now, the scientists must trade in his lab coat and bionic glasses for a kimono and Stevie Nicks shawl. He is dressed as the enchanter, and thus, his words and manners must be in accordance to this garb. Synthesize it, visualize it. The wild-eyed, brilliant scientist in a flowing kimono is trying to introduce people to what his company has to offer, and he may not be having a very easy time of it.

Planetary Rulers and Aspects: Synthesize

If all of the planets are archetypes in costume playing a role in the same stage that is the psyche, and if each planet is ruled by another, which is in its own costume and plays its own role, then we must imagine how they will interact accordingly. Imagine the Sun in Sagittarius, the dashing leading man in adventure garb. He is in the 9th house, where his costume fits the job, off to the other end of the world to save the world from those who hide in the shadows and wish to take and liberty away from us all. I imagine Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark era, keeping powerful, occult artifacts from the Nazis.  However, his ruler, Jupiter, is in Virgo in the 6th house. Okay, this still kind of applies, right? Indiana Jones spends part of his life in a tweed sports coat, glasses, and and a bow-tie, sharing boring facts with his students. He can really only maintain his adventurer lifestyle through his secure position at the university, and he can really only access the abundant information he needs through his abundant analysis. But this is not who he really is, right? We know him as Indiana Jones, but if we were any old American in the world of that film, he would be Dr. Jones, archeologist and lecturer at Marshall College. Ah, but who then is the 6th house Virgo in this dynamic? Why, it is Marcus Brody, the fussy, bow-tie wearing Dean of Students at Marshall college and former museum curator who facilitates the meeting between the adventurer and the government, the one who is not at home in a foreign country, the one who is always more timid and vying for safety. Despite their differences, Brody is a father-figure to Jones (Jupiter represents replacement father-figures of our choosing), and Jones respects him. They make the relationship work.

And that is the goal of the astrologer who counsels: to help the client work out relationships between the planets.

Try imagining archetypes in costume in roles. How do they seem? How do they interact with each other?

Coming up: Part II: The Characters on the Ascendant, Midheaven, Immum Colei, and Descendant, and Imaging Retrograde Planets


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