Neptune, along with Uranus and Pluto, is one of the trans-Saturnian planets discovered since the invention of the telescope. It was discovered on 23rd September 1846 by Gottfried Galle, after Joseph Le Verrier predicted Neptune's presence based on the gravitational disturbances it caused to the orbit of Uranus. Galileo Galilei already had seen Neptune on December 28, 1612 and January 27, 1613, but he thought it to be a moon of Jupiter or a Fixed Star.
Neptune has an estimated diameter of 49,530 km, which makes it almost four times as large as the earth. It has an average distance to the sun of 4519 million km. Neptune needs almost 164 years to make one sidereal orbit of the sun. It has a maximal daily movement of 2.25 minutes of arc, although its average diurnal movement is 24 seconds of arc. Neptune has a ring system similar to Saturn's. Its striking deep blue colour was first discovered by Voyager 2 in 1989, long after it was named after the Roman god of the oceans.
In Greek mythology Poseidon (Latin Neptune) ruled the oceans. He and his brothers Zeus (Jupiter), god of the sky and supreme ruler, and Hades (Pluto), god of the underworld, divided the universe between them after they conquered their father Kronos (Saturn). Neptune lived with his wife Amphitrite in an underwater palace.
Similar to his brother Zeus, Poseidon had many affairs and was not averse to using force or cunning when his desire for women was not reciprocated. He was also highly emotional and tempestuous. He raced through the oceans at great speed in his chariot, and his appearance was often accompanied by sea- or earthquakes. If he felt that humans were not paying him enough respect he sent floods to punish them.
Poseidon could never accept the fact that his brother Zeus ruled over the heavens and earth's surface. He repeatedly sought the aid of others, including Zeus' wife Hera, to overthrow the king of the gods, something he was never able to do.
Poseidon could also be very compassionate and willing to help others. When the people of Greece needed new lands, he transformed a large area of sea into the region of Thessaly and he saved many sailors from drowning. He also made the twins Castor and Polydeuces the patron saints of shipping. With his help they were able to calm storms. People turned to Poseidon for protection from earthquakes.
Neptune is associated with the pituitary gland, sometimes described as the seat of the "third eye". It opens the door to dimensions which are beyond the realm of ordinary senses. The pituitary gland in certain fish and chameleons produces a hormone which enables them to change their skin colour to blend into their environment, suggestive of astrological Neptune's illusory qualities. In humans the pituitary gland is also thought to be the location of the sixth chakra Anja, which is considered to be one of the body's most spiritual energy centres and a symbol of universal love.
Neptune in modern astrology rules over a range of water-associated phenomena that traditional astrologers associated with the moon. Neptune also rules smoking and mind-altering drugs and alcohol, as well as illnesses that elude diagnosis.
Neptune, together with Uranus and Pluto, belongs to the triumvirate of spiritual planets which point to dimensions beyond the boundaries of the material world symbolised by Saturn. Neptune's elusive qualities make them difficult to put into words. Whereas Uranus allows the entry into another dimension by breaking through the boundaries set by Saturn, Neptune dissolves these boundaries in an almost imperceptible but no less powerful way, similar to water dissolving rocks.
When manifested constructively, Neptune stands for the human longing to merge with a more encompassing whole, for transcendance and spirituality. It is a symbol of inspiration. Whereas Jupiter rules theology and established organized religions, Neptune operates at the level of mysticism.
Saturn represents the qualities of concrete, material reality. Neptune, in contrast, symbolizes the world of illusion and disillusionment in which tangible reality has no place. Thus Neptune has a positive expression in the arts, notably film; in which beautiful images may seem very real, but are artifacts of the production techniques. Neptune is also the alcoholic's high followed by the morning-after hangover. Neptune can symbolize outright deception, or where the person is overly idealistic or deluded.
Because Neptune has a long orbital period it spends on average fourteen years in one sign of the zodiac, so that its sign position is a generational factor. For this reason, Neptune's position by sign in an individual's horoscope is considered to be less important than the aspects it makes to personal planets and its house position. The latter shows where an individual has access to intangible spiritual dimensions of being and where s/he can learn to follow the voice of intuition and develop a deeper trust in the flow of life. The house position also indicates where the individual may become the victim of delusion or suffer disappointments. It can also show where he/she may have addictive tendencies or view things in a naive way.
Transiting Neptune dissolves existing structures that have become obsolete. Positively, a Neptune transit to Venus might be a time when an artist becomes more creative; or a spiritual person has a very idealistic relationship. A hard aspect from transiting Neptune to the sun or in the 6th house of health may be a time when the person suffers from low vitality, as Neptune erodes what it touches.
Do Neptunian insights signify the true clarity about existence beyond material reality? Or merely delusion and wishful thinking? It would not be Neptune if we could answer these questions with certainty.
- List of articles on Neptune (Skyscript)
- Neptune's sounds, from Voyager (YouTube)
- Gustav Holst: Neptune (Audio)
- Graves, Robert, 1960. The Greek Myths, Penguin Books.
- Greene, Liz, 1996. Astrological Neptune and the Quest for Redemption, Samuel Weiser, Inc.
- Waram. Marilyn, 1989. The Book of Neptune, ACS Publications.
Notes and References
- Photograph taken by NASA's Voyager 2 in 1989
- Time according to Janduz. The exact time isn't known, Janduz takes 11 pm. See also Astro-databank/Neptune_Discovery
- From a 3rd century AD Tunisian mosaic
- As viewed from the Hubble telescope