Astrology 101: Planetary Rulerships (Part 1)

Planets' motions through Signs are part of the very lifeblood of Astrology...but no Planet works with equal ease and intensity across all 12 Signs of the Zodiac!
Planets’ motions through the Signs are part of the very lifeblood of Astrology…but no Planet works with equal ease and intensity across all 12 Signs of the Zodiac!

Over the course of about half a dozen posts now, we’ve looked at the notion that in Astrology, the Planets symbolize drives that beam outward from the human psyche, and the Signs represent a set of modifying filters through which those Planetary energies are transmitted into the world.

To boil that down, the Planets tell us what we do, and the Signs tell us how we do it.

Once you get your head around that basic set-up, though, you’ll need to eventually grasp the additional fact that since each of the Planets and each of the Signs has its own distinct “personality” of sorts…they don’t all interact in identical fashion. As you keep studying and practicing in this field, you’ll start to see that any given Planet will work well and easily and comfortably when shining through one or more of the Signs, but that same Planet will have a more difficult time fulfilling its assigned functions when working through the filters of several of the other Signs.

Put another, simpler way: some of the Planets and Signs play well together, and some don’t…

There’s a common analogy that astrologers like to use when discussing these different sets of symbols. The analogy says to think of the Planets as actors in a great work of theater…and think of the Signs as the roles that these actors are chosen to portray.

Danny DeVito is a well-loved, proven performer...but is he right for *every* role?  Is he a viable action hero?  Suave leading man?  High school girl on the cusp of womanhood...??  As talented as the man is, he simply may not be ideally configured for every part in existence...
Danny DeVito is a well-loved, proven performer…but is he right for *every* role? Is he a viable action hero? A suave leading man? A high school girl on the cusp of womanhood…?? As talented as the man is, he simply may not be ideally configured for every part in existence…

Now think of a specific actor: let’s use the very distinctive Danny DeVito as our example. Mr. DeVito has been around for decades, and as of this writing, has logged no less than 123 credits in various television and film projects. The man has proven himself a gifted and enduring performer. However, like anyone else working in his field, he still has his strengths and weaknesses, and is not ideal for every role.

Pretend for a moment that you’re a casting director. Even if we agree that Danny DeVito is a great talent…

Would you cast him as a ninja assassin in a serious and bloody martial arts film?

Would you choose him to play the male lead in your remake of “Titanic?”

Would you choose him to play the female lead in your remake of “Titanic”…?

Now, none of this is meant as a slight against Danny DeVito. It’s possible he could, in fact, leap into any of those roles, and do a phenomenal job, shocking everyone with the depth and sublime skill of his work. But even so, he’s not the easy, intuitive choice for any of these parts, and it seems like he might be swimming upstream a bit in trying to convince audiences with his performance if he were to be cast in any of them. They’re simply not the kinds of parts for which he seems to be naturally suited; his gifts pretty much lie elsewhere…

Mars, the God of War, wants to be in an environment that allows him to be suitably warlike.  Some Signs will facilitate this aim, while others will very much work against him...
Mars, the God of War, wants to be in an environment that allows him to be suitably warlike. Some Signs will facilitate this aim, while others will very much work against him…

And so it is with the Planets. Warlike Mars loves to work through the filter of bold, fiery, adventurous Aries (= Aries is a role that Mars was born to play)…but warlike Mars is not so keen on beaming those same warlike energies through the friendly, charming, peace-loving lens of Libra (think Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal attempting to carry the lead role in a sensitive, nuanced, romantic comedy, and you’ll be in the right ballpark…). Rigid, structured Saturn can work with mad efficiency and productivity when shining through the prism of steady, practical, disciplined Capricorn…but the same rigid and structured Saturn has a far more challenging load to bear if tasked to work through the dreamy, liquid, boundary-dissolving filter of Pisces. And every other Planet has a Sign or two in which it truly shines, and also a Sign or two in which it flails and flounders.

You can hopefully start to see how some of the Planet/Sign match-ups result in very potent combinations, while others yield pairings that seem almost doomed to strain and struggle. It’s with the extra-potent combos that we find this concept of Planetary Rulership. Each Planet is so extraordinarily enabled when working through one or two of the Signs, that the Planet is said to “rule” that Sign or Signs. Just as Danny DeVito seems to do his most towering work when he can play oddball characters in works of comedy, so, too, does that warlike Mars seem super-charged in that fiery Aries, and so, too, does that structured Saturn realize its most powerful and most Saturnian work in that disciplined Capricorn. Mars “rules” Aries; Saturn “rules” Capricorn.

The following table lays out all of the Planetary Rulerships as they’re generally assigned in modern Astrology (although please note that in the days before telescopes, when humanity hadn’t yet discovered Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, more of the closer Planets did double-duty, ruling two Signs each):

Sign

Glyph

Modern Planetary Ruler

Glyph

Aries

Mars

Taurus

Venus

Gemini

Mercury

Cancer

Moon

Leo

Sun

Virgo

Mercury

Libra

Venus

Scorpio

Pluto (traditional Ruler = Mars)

Sagittarius

Jupiter

Capricorn

Saturn

Aquarius

Uranus (traditional Ruler = Saturn)

Pisces

Neptune (traditional Ruler = Jupiter)

Planetary Rulerships can help to highlight placements in which a Planet may take on added weight in a given chart. For instance, looking at the table above, you can see that the presence of Jupiter will be felt far more keenly when working through the Sign of Sagittarius than it will be when it’s transmitting its energies through the filters of, say, Gemini, or Virgo, or Aquarius.

These Planetary Rulerships also serve another very important function, which will be the subject of our next post…

2 comments

  1. Because I learned astrology through Tarot, I’ve ended up doing most of my work with just the traditional seven planets. Learning the planetary rulerships that way was actually very easy, because the planets are arranged around the wheel of the Zodiac with Sol and Luna closest to the summer solstice and the heavier/slower planets closest to the winter solstice. To be honest, I still have a bit of difficulty working in the ten-planet system, although I’m working on it. Thanks for another great post, and I look forward to reading the next one!

    • Thanks for the feedback, Jack! You know, I truly believe that there’s a subjective element involved when it comes to both Tarot and Astrology, so I don’t ever want to imply that the 10-Planet system of rulerships is “The Right System” for all practitioners, everywhere, all the time, and that others are wrong. If the 7-Planet system feels like the real deal to you, and using it seems to consistently provide good results, then I’d suggest sticking with it! I just personally find that the Outer Planets do seem to earn their keep as much as any of the Inner 7 do in my own experience, that’s all. And to be honest, I have this persistent suspicion that even the 10-Planet system of rulerships isn’t the ultimate system! Sadly, I still haven’t cracked the code on deciphering what that ultimate system might be, but I do keep banging my head against the question at fairly regular intervals… Newsflash to follow here, should I conquer it! Thanks for sticking around, in any event, though…

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