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Related to Planets: solar system, List of planets
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The seven planets and their corresponding days of the week. The zodiac signs over which they rule appear in black circles. From an English shepherd’s calendar, c. 1510. Reproduced by permission of Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Planets (from the Greek planasthai, meaning “to wander”) are the familiar celestial bodies orbiting the Sun. They were regarded as stars by the ancients, who referred to them as wanderers because, unlike the so-called fixed stars, the planets were always changing their positions with respect to the background of the celestial sphere. The Sun and the Moon (the luminaries) are also wanderers, and in traditional astrology were referred to as planets. Although they are no longer classified as such by astronomers, many contemporary astrologers still call the two luminaries planets.

Astrological influences manifest themselves primarily through the planets. These basic influences are modified by (1) the signs of the zodiac (i.e., the familiar 12 astrological signs of Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc.) in which the planets are placed, (2) the aspects (geometric angles) between the planets, and (3) the houses in which the planets are placed. An oversimplified but nonetheless useful rule of thumb is that planetary sign positions indicate personality tendencies, aspects between planets reflect how various components of one’s personality interact, and house positions show how the personality manifests in the world.

As an example, consider an individual with natal Mercury (i.e., Mercury’s position at birth) in Libra in the second house, with Mercury also trine (at a 120° angle) to Mars. In regard to personality, Mercury represents the mind, particularly the aspect of the thinking mind that deals with day-to-day affairs; this is considered the basic nature of Mercury.

Sign: Individuals born when Mercury was in Libra usually communicate in a refined way and have the ability to be highly diplomatic. It is also easy for them to see both sides of an issue, which can make them indecisive, swaying back and forth between the two alternatives.

Aspect: Mars represents the outgoing, assertive, aggressive energies. It also rules mechanical and other kinds of physical skills. Trine aspects often indicate where two influences blend together harmoniously. In this case, Mercury trine Mars shows, among other things, an individual who can tap her or his assertive energies in a positive manner and express them through powerful communications. This person also has a mind that can easily understand mechanical skills, or any other subject associated with Mars.

House: The second house is the house of earned income and personal possessions. Mercury here shows someone who can earn money with her or his communication skills. She or he also acquires possessions related to Mercury, such as books and other forms of communication media.

The planets have a special relationship with the signs of the zodiac whereby each planet is said to “rule” a certain sign (or signs). The relationship between the planets and the signs is one of kinship in their basic traits and associations. Prior to the discovery of Uranus, a general consensus about these relationships had endured since the time of Ptolemy. The traditional system held that the Sun ruled Leo, the Moon ruled Cancer, Mercury ruled Virgo and Gemini, Venus ruled Taurus and Libra, Mars ruled Aries and Scorpio, Jupiter ruled Sagittarius and Pisces, and Saturn ruled Capricorn and Aquarius. This is still the primary rulership system used in Hindu astrology. After the more recently discovered planets were studied, astrologers gradually came to assign Uranus to Aquarius, Neptune to Pisces, and Pluto to Scorpio, leaving Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars as the rulers of Capricorn, Sagittarius, and Aries. Only Mercury and Venus are still viewed as ruling two signs each.

The planets are classified in various ways, such as according to whether they are inferior (circle the Sun within Earth’s orbit) or superior (circle outside the terrestrial orbit), exert benefic (“good”) or malefic (“bad”) astrological influences, and so forth. (See the individual entries on the planets for more information.)


Campion, Nicholas. The Practical Astrologer. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1987.
DeVore, Nicholas. Encyclopedia of Astrology. New York: Philosophical Library, 1949.
McEvers, Joan. Planets: The Astrological Tools. Saint Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1989.
References in classic literature ?
As Mars approached opposition, Lavelle of Java set the wires of the astronomical exchange palpitating with the amazing intelli- gence of a huge outbreak of incandescent gas upon the planet.
He was immensely excited at the news, and in the excess of his feel- ings invited me up to take a turn with him that night in a scrutiny of the red planet.
Looking through the telescope, one saw a circle of deep blue and the little round planet swimming in the field.
As I watched, the planet seemed to grow larger and smaller and to advance and recede, but that was simply that my eye was tired.
That night, too, there was another jetting out of gas from the distant planet.
I remember how jubilant Markham was at securing a new photograph of the planet for the illustrated paper he edited in those days.
Westward, where no planet should rise, the triple verticals of Trinity Bay (we keep still to the Southern route) make a low-lifting haze.
Because, John Carter," she replied, "nearly every planet and star having atmospheric conditions at all approaching those of Barsoom, shows forms of animal life almost identical with you and me; and, further, Earth men, almost without exception, cover their bodies with strange, unsightly pieces of cloth, and their heads with hideous contraptions the purpose of which we have been unable to conceive; while you, when found by the Tharkian warriors, were entirely undisfigured and unadorned.
His mood of dejection had passed swiftly, to be succeeded by an exhilaration such as he had only felt once in his life before, about half-way through a dinner given to the Planet staff on a princely scale by a retiring general manager.
The ball swings round and round like a planet, slows down, stumbles among the holes, rests for a moment in the one which you have backed, then hops into the next one, and you lose.
Both Pluto and Eris are considerably smaller than the first eight planets discovered.
The average surface temperature of the planets in our solar system ranges from frosty to sizzling hot.