This article is based on a talk to be given at the Astrological Association Conference in September 2010. As a relatively newly qualified astrologer, I was unable to draw on decades of experience so decided to go back to basics. At the beginning of my training with the White Eagle School of Astrology, I learned, as do many new students, that the symbols of the planets are made up of three basic components: circle, semicircle or crescent and cross. The simplicity of this concept fascinated me. The White Eagle Lodge teaches that there is a 'soul lesson' associated with the Sun in each sign of the zodiac. This article looks at how interpretation of the components of the symbols of the planets interacts with those of the rulers of the signs to give another way of understanding the energy of each placement and the associated 'soul lesson'. If ever I feel I am not getting to the underlying lesson of a particular planetary position in a person's chart, going back to this basic concept often opens up my mind again.
Symbols are powerful tools. Like parables, interpretation of them depends on the experience of the observer. Symbols can mean different things to different people depending on their level of development. For instance a circle could be just a line connected up so there is no beginning and no end. It could be an empty circle or an area full of potential. To non-astrologers it is the symbol of the full Moon seen in secular diaries. To astrologers it will immediately mean the Sun but the dot in the centre is missing. The same symbol says different things to different people. So it is with all symbols.
The three basic components that make up the symbols of the planets are shown in Figure 1. The circle represents spirit. It has no beginning and no ending. It is the spark of life that is in everyone. It is that immeasurable factor that is in all life, both animate and inanimate. The semicircle represents the soul, which is that non-material part of a person that is the sum of all experiences gained during life in a physical body. The cross represents matter, the physical form of the three-dimensional world. It is the physical body and outer life lived on earth.
The three components thus represent the three key factors of human beings: spirit, soul and the physical body. Using these interpretations of the components, and their interactions within the symbols of the planets, it is possible to gain a deeper understanding of the influence of each planet in life.
The Sun, , represents the source of all life. It is spirit and spirit is perfect. Human beings are first and foremost spirit but only a very small part of spirit incarnates into each person. Spirit can never be destroyed. As spirit is in everything, it is the oneness that unites all that is. This is a profound esoteric concept. Like spirit, the circle has no beginning and no end. The dot within the circle in the symbol of the Sun may be considered to be that part of the whole that is manifest in a physical body.
The Moon, , is two conjoined crescents. It represents the soul and psyche and consequently is associated with the personality that is expressed in this incarnation. This is the only symbol, other than the Sun, that is made up of a single component. The symbol of the Moon focuses attention on the non-spirit and non-physical part of life.
Mercury, , is one of the symbols containing all components. This glyph can be thought of as the spirit, the circle, acting as a bridge between matter and the soul represented by the crescent and the cross. It is conscious coordination of body, soul and spirit and the means of communication between different parts of life.
The symbol of Venus, , represents matter rising into spirit; the longing to rise into the state of beauty and love of spirit. Human kind wants to rise to a spiritual or divine level of being. Spirit is moulding matter into beauty.
In contrast, Mars, , shows the circle representing spirit rising into part of the cross of matter. This is the spiritual fire struggling to manifest in physical life. The desire and urge to do this prompts many human actions.
Jupiter, , is the soul, the semicircle, rising above the cross of matter. It can be likened to the soul wanting to expand beyond present limitations.
In contrast, Saturn, , is the soul striving to push up through the burdens and responsibilities of matter. By doing so, it learns to be careful, methodical and disciplined in its approach.
Uranus, , is the divine spirit rising into matter but within the context of the perfectly balanced soul, two equal crescents. The crescents of the soul look away from matter, looking out to the truth and light that this planet brings.
Neptune, , is the soul above matter and open to inspiration and illumination or muddle and confusion, depending on how it is placed. Some people put a circle at the bottom of this symbol. This is spirit rising into both the soul and matter to inspire them with mysticism and transcend boundaries.
Pluto, , is the spirit cradled by the soul that has mastered physical life. This is the ultimate transformation, the alchemy of transmuting the gross matter and manner of mankind into a perfect vehicle for the wonder of spirit.
The four elements will now be considered using alternative key words (Figure 2). Fire can be equated to love. It is the love of life in specific ways that relate to each of the fire-element signs. In the case of Aries, it is the love of pushing oneself to achieve. With Leo it is the love of self and learning what the true self is. Sagittarius relates to a love of travel, both physically and philosophically.
Earth is related to service. In each of the earth signs, being down-to-earth and practical is often linked with giving service in one way or another. Taurus gives service as a builder, be it of buildings or beauty. Virgo gives service through being attentive to detail and ensuring that things are as good as they can be. Capricorn provides service through developing structure and organising.
The air signs relate to brotherhood as this depends on communication. Gemini develops brotherhood through much mundane talk. Libra strives towards brotherhood through bringing harmony, balance and arbitration between people. Aquarius is brotherhood in its humanitarian sense, bringing groups of people together for a common cause.
The water signs are learning peace. This is the deep soul peace gained when the person is master of the emotions. Cancer finds peace through working on inner and often outer security. Scorpio finds peace through mastering intense and sometimes turbulent emotions. Pisces develops peace through greater understanding of the inner and outer world.
Similarly, the three qualities can be described by alternative key words (Figure 3). The cardinal quality relates to action and power. In Aries, it is the power to get on and do things. Cancer has the power to bring peace to others through nurturing and caring actions. Libra brings the power of brotherhood through the actions of understand and reconciling others. Capricorn has the power to be disciplined and organise life.
The fixed quality relates to love. This includes love of the circumstances of life that cannot be changed as well as learning to love change itself. Taurus loves to be practical. It can be stubborn but is learning to be more adaptable. Leo can have a fixed idea about love of self but is learning about love from and for the true, higher self. Scorpio learns to love others, perhaps after experiencing unruly and disturbing emotions. Aquarius learns how to love others even though it would rather be independent of them.
The mutable quality relates to wisdom. Gemini gathers wisdom by collecting a vast number of small pieces of information through everyday communication. Virgo learns about the wisdom of providing the best possible service in some field of life. Sagittarius broadens wisdom through travel. Pisces enhances wisdom through great sensitivity to the feelings of others.
These key words for element and quality can be combined to describe the soul lesson of each sign in a simple but profound way (Table 1). As these are called soul lessons, one might think that they are associated with the Moon. However, they were first applied to the Sun sign as it is spirit, represented by the Sun, that is shining these abilities into the developing soul during an incarnation. So, for instance, Aries, a fire sign is learning about the power of love in action. Through love of self and going all out to learn more about the outer life through action, or lack of it if that is the case, the soul is learning how to put love into action. Virgo, the mutable earth sign, is learning service, the nature of the earth element, through wisdom, the mode of the mutable quality. Virgo is often associated with work and service. It learns the wisdom it needs to give perfect service both to itself and others. Many people can identify with the soul lesson of their Sun sign at a deep, inner level.
The concept of soul lessons can be extended to consider the components of the symbols of any planet in the light of the soul lesson of the sign it occupies. This becomes more meaningful when done in combination with the ruler or rulers of the sign. It is another way of understanding what a person is trying to achieve with each planetary placement.
This can be understood better by considering some examples. The following examples look planets in positions of exaltation, dignity, fall and detriment as well as planetary placements with no such designation.
The Sun is in exaltation in Aries ruled by Mars (Figure 4). The symbol of the Sun is the circle, representing spirit, with the dot of matter in its centre. In the glyph of Mars, the circle of spirit is pushing its way into part of the cross of matter. The Sun in this position enhances the role of spirit. When a planet is in exaltation, the finer and more spiritual energies can work out in a wonderful way in the life or they can seem to be too much of a good thing depending on the aspects to the planet and the stage of development of the soul. The tremendous energy of the Sun in exaltation in Aries can lead to impulsive, reckless and selfish acts or the power and love of spirit may be used for innovative, courageous and selfless deeds. The soul lesson of the Sun in Aries is love through action and power. The soul is learning how to use spiritual power in a loving way. It is learning about the unconditional love of spirit through the experience of its actions on earth.
The Moon is in exaltation in Taurus ruled by Venus (Figure 5). The soul lesson of Taurus is service through love. The symbol of Venus has the circle of spirit, infinite and unconditional love and wisdom, above the cross of matter. The spiritual qualities can be foremost even in life on earth. Looking now at the symbol of Taurus, it is a semicircle above a circle. Applying the interpretation of the components of the symbols of the planets to the symbol of Taurus, the spirit is trying to rise through the soul. It may be more than coincidence that the Moon, symbolised by a semicircle and representing the soul is exalted in the sign whose symbol represents spirit rising into the soul. When a person shows the finest and most spiritual properties of the Moon in exaltation in Taurus, the soul has mastered the ability to reflect the love of spirit in earthly life. The psyche and personality are perfectly permeated by spirit and manifest its properties through the human vehicle in the soul lesson of service through love.
Mercury is in dignity in Gemini (Figure 6). In the symbol of Mercury, the circle representing spirit connects the cross of matter with the semicircle of the soul. Information from the spirit permeates both the psyche and matter. A person learns about the immediate world by communicating with the environment through word and dextrous activities. The mind coordinates and integrates facts so gained from daily life with information received from spirit and shares this wisdom with others. Connecting with others, communicating and sharing information is fundamental to brotherhood hence the soul lesson of Gemini, brotherhood through wisdom, is emphasised when Mercury is in this sign. The experiences of everyday life enable conscious soul development and relate to all parts of the symbol of Mercury.
Venus is in detriment in Scorpio (Figure 7). The harmony and grace associated this planet are not always congruous with the intensity and passion of Scorpio. Venus is symbolised by the spirit having risen above the cross of matter. Scorpio is ruled by Mars, which is spirit striving to rise into and through part of the cross of matter. These two can manifest in a sexual context, unite and form further life. However, there can also be tension between whether spirit or matter is dominant. The symbol of Pluto also represents spirit having risen above matter. There is a similarity between the symbols of Venus and Pluto in that both have the circle of spirit at the top and the cross of matter at the bottom. In different ways they both indicate that spirit rises above matter. In addition, in the case of the symbol of Pluto, the circle is cradled in the semicircle indicating that spirit can radiate into and transform the soul. When the love (Venus) and power (Pluto) of spirit rise above the struggles of the lower self, a tremendous amount of energy becomes available. This can be used to transform intense or disruptive emotions of Scorpio to bring about deep peace in the soul. This peace can also be used to help others. Peace through love is the soul lesson of Scorpio that is learned with effort when Venus is in detriment in this sign.
The next example is Mars in Cancer (Figure 8). The soul lesson of Cancer is peace through action. One might think that Mars, associated with action, would be comfortable in the cardinal sign of Cancer but it is actually in fall here. The symbol of Mars showing spirit struggling to express itself in matter includes no reference to the soul; there is no semicircle. Looking at the symbol for Cancer, it is two circles, strongly representing spirit, attached to two crescents corresponding to the soul. Cancer is ruled by the Moon whose symbol is a semicircle. There is incongruity between the strong presence of the soul in the symbols of the Moon and Cancer, and its absence from the symbol of Mars. It is a challenge to express the finest, dynamic vigour of Mars in this case. Effort is required to bridge this difference in their intrinsic energies. The wisdom, love and power of spirit, represented by circles in the glyphs of Mars and Cancer, form a link but there needs to be integration of the three components: the dynamic force of spirit, the receptive and sensitive nature of the soul and physical matter. When this is achieved, spirit finds constructive outlet in the action of daily life that is enhanced by the energy of Mars. The emotions can be calm and the soul finds peace. The soul lesson of Cancer, peace in action, can manifest. It can be challenging to bring out the positive sides of a planet in fall but the lessons learned in striving to do this are well worth the effort.
The following examples look at the position of planets that are not in exaltation, dignity, detriment or fall. Jupiter in Leo is one such example (Figure 9). Leo has the soul lesson of love through love, learning about love through experiencing love or the lack of it. This includes love of self. The symbol of Jupiter represents the soul rising above the cross of matter. Leo is ruled by the Sun, with its symbol, the dot of self in the circle that represents spirit. Jupiter in Leo encourages spirit to shine through both the soul and matter. This enhances exuberance, a love of life and creative abilities. There can be great warmth, generosity and leadership that is wise and loving. However, there can also be a need for recognition, egoism and over-confidence particularly in an immature soul that may be more concerned with self love than love of the whole. The more developed a soul is, the more it is able to shine the love and light of spirit into the world for the benefit of all. When there is perfect radiation of the unconditional and wise love of spirit through the soul and matter, the soul has mastered the soul lesson of love through love.
Saturn in Virgo (Figure 10) is quite a contrast to Jupiter in Leo. The symbol of Saturn shows the soul struggling to rise into the cross of matter. Methodical, determined and hard work are necessary. The symbol of Mercury, ruler of Virgo, shows spirit communicating with matter and the soul. It is noteworthy that in the symbol for Saturn, the cross of matter is above the crescent of the soul but these components are the other way round in the symbol of Mercury. This can lead to inner friction and dissatisfaction. A person with Saturn in Virgo may be dissatisfied with what is done and not feel good enough at either the soul or material level. The solution to this situation is suggested by the presence of the circle, the perfection of spirit, at the centre of the symbol of Mercury. Realising that there is this perfect part of a person is wisdom in itself. Furthermore, as a person becomes aware of that source of wisdom he or she can begin to use it in everyday, practical activities. This manifests the soul lesson of Virgo, service through wisdom, a lesson learned carefully and methodically when Saturn is present. The soul tries hard to serve well and to establish the perfection of spirit that is sought by Virgo. This relies on learning, which is so closely linked with Mercury.
These examples have looked at the components of the symbols of planets and the rulers of the signs in which the planets are placed. The same principles can be applied to every planet in each sign. Each placement shows a particular way that spirit is trying to manifest through the soul into matter. Matter can be likened to a piece of rough stone that is cut and then each surface polished so it is transformed into a perfect jewel. Each planetary placement can be likened to one a facet of the jewel. There may be many surfaces of this jewel being cut and polished at any one time but it is a slow and gradual process. A person who believes in reincarnation may say that it takes many lifetimes. In each incarnation, the soul learns more about the love and wisdom of spirit and how to express this in everyday life on earth. Eventually, a person can perfectly manifest the qualities of spirit while in a physical human body. Unconditional love and infinite wisdom lead to the right use of spiritual power on earth.
The full circle is spirit fully expressed in matter. The astrological chart is one way of finding out which facets the soul is currently working on in order to manifest this. This article only looks at some planetary placements. Obviously there are many other placements, aspects, midpoints, harmonics and other astrological features that need to be considered to understand a chart. The principles described in this article can be applied to each of these features.
By going right back to basics, the components of the symbols of the planets, it is possible to develop another way of looking at the meaning of the planets in the signs. As with many symbols, they are interpreted by each person in a way dependent on individual experience of life and the level of soul development. Perhaps this article prompts you to look again at the most basic factors of our science and the keys to the profound depths that you know astrology can reveal.
Title image: pixabay.com
Symbols / Figures: Patricia Godden
First published in: The Astrological Journal, Jul/Aug 2010
Patricia Godden has a BSc in Physiology and Biochemistry and a PhD in endocrinology, the study of hormones. She worked in scientific research in academia before moving into the pharmaceutical industry where she was involved with the registration of new drugs. She retrained as a reflexologist and had a busy practice on the Isle of Wight. Patricia obtained her astrology diploma from the White Eagle School of Astrology in 2007. She now works as a professional astrologer, teaches and her first book Housing Your Planets: Everyday Interpretations and Spiritual Perspectives is available through www.fast-print.net. She has written a second book on astrology and crystals.
© Patricia Godden - first published by The Astrological Journal / The Astrological Association of Great Britain 2010
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24-May-2018, 18:40 UT/GMT
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