Steve Jobs and Mercury | Strength in Ancient Astrology

According to Astro-Databank, it is stated on his birth certificate that Steve Jobs was born on Feb. 24, 1955 at 7:15pm in San Francisco, California.

Steve Jobs' Natal Chart
Steve Jobs’ Natal Chart – CTRL click to enlarge

This chart poses a dilemma for traditional astrologers, in that Mercury is in a weak place, the 6th sign from the Ascendant, and appears to be retrograde. This man was a thinker, a technologist.  To claim that Mercury was weak or not a pervasive influence in this man’s life would be preposterous. Mercury is the primary planet of technology, commerce, and communications, all things central to his life story.  It does not play a minor role.

This is a good time to introduce two major conditions that make a planet quite strong from Hellenistic astrology, which are easily missed and mistaken for mild weakening conditions.

Stationing Direct

While Mercury appears to be retrograde, and therefore some may regard it as somewhat weakened, the truth is that the Rx here is deceiving.  Mercury is stationing direct, which is considered one of the major factors that strengthens a planet.  Being retrograde is actually not a substantial impediment to a planet, but stationing retrograde, that is turning retrograde within about a week of birth, does weaken the planet’s influence, especially the more proximal it is to the time of birth.  By contrast, stationing direct (within about a week of birth) is extremely fortifying to the planet and makes its effects stronger, more pervasive, more widespread in the life, especially if very close to the birth time.

In the case of the chart of Steve Jobs, Mercury stations within 24 hours of birth, so this is a very strong direct station.

Making an Appearance: Phasis

Another fortifying condition in Hellenistic astrology is making an appearance, or being in phasis.  A planet is in phasis when it is passing into or out of the Sun’s beams (with more strength when passing out of them).  The Sun’s beams are standardized to 15 degrees for this condition, and it should occur within about 7 days of birth – the closer in time, the more powerful the effect.  This again marks out a planet as more significant and of more pervasive influence.  A planet going into the beams is making its last appearance before it disappears for some time, while one coming out from the beams is making a first appearance after being shrouded under the beams for a time.  Unfortunately, when a planet is under the beams at birth, this condition is confused for the mildly weakening situation of being under the beams.  Like with stationing direct, the mildly weakening situation really does not apply if the planet is in phasis.

Jobs was born with Mercury at 14 Aquarius and the Sun at 5 Pisces.  They are about 21 degrees from each other, though Mercury has no apparent motion as it is stationing.  Five days earlier, on Feb. 19, 1955, Mercury was at 16 Aquarius and the Sun at 0 Pisces, so they were 14 degree apart, with Mercury under the beams, passing out of them to make its first appearance.  Therefore, Mercury is in phasis in his chart, making its first appearance about 4-5 days before his birth.

Ruling the First Place

There is an additional important strength consideration that should be mentioned in this chart.  The planet ruling the 1st will have some special topical signification over the person themselves, their preferences, and their personality.  With Virgo rising we must acknowledge that Mercury has three powerful conditions making it significant, that it’s stationing direct, in phasis, and rules the 1st (additionally, it is the 1st triplicity ruler of the sign it is in).

Advancing and Retreating

While it was customary to use the place/house position (which ordinal sign a planet is located in as counted from the rising sign which is the 1st place) as a factor in strength consideration in Hellenistic astrology, I prefer the later Persian use of Advancing and Retreating (see Abu Ma’Shar and al-Qabisi) for this type of strength consideration, while using place more for topics and consideration of pleasantness/unpleasantness of effect.

To find whether a planet is advancing or retreating you take the distance between the horizon and the meridian on either side of the planet (the big bold lines going up, down, left, and right, also known as the “angles” of the chart) and you divide them by three.  If a planet is less than one-third the distance from one to the next one (moving clockwise), but not very close to an angle (i.e. not within a few degrees, more might be allowed for luminaries), then it is retreating, a strong weakening condition.  If the planet is more than one-third of the way to that next “angle” then it is advancing, and is strengthened.  If it is very close to an angle or approaching an angle within about 15 or 20 degrees, then I would consider such a planet to be strongly advancing, i.e. very strengthened.

Advancing/Retreating makes sense to me conceptually, because it is as if the volume is being turned up on a planet is it is lining up with the horizon or meridian of a specific locale on Earth, and quickly turning down as it “retreats” from that location.  It is truly a continuum, with a planet getting stronger (or louder, if you will) as it advances closer to the angle. I consider it to be the single easiest to spot strength consideration in a chart, and also the single most significant one.

In Steve’s chart, Mercury has already set, passing the Descendant at 22 Pisces and approaching the IC at 21 Sagittarius.  The distance between the two is 91 degrees, but we’ll round off to 90, as precision is not important in this.  If Mercury has passed one-third of this, or 30 degrees, from the Descendant at 22 Pisces, then it won’t be considered retreating.  Mercury is at 14 Aquarius, which is 38 degrees from 22 Pisces, so it is considered Advancing, albeit just barely.


A careful look at Steve Jobs chart reveals that Mercury is probably the strongest, most pervasive, planet in the chart.  While the Moon is strongly advancing, and Jupiter, Mars, and Venus are all three advancing more strongly than Mercury, Mercury is not only advancing but also stationing direct, in phasis, and the ruler of the 1st, while possessing only very minor weakening conditions.

Take a look at your own chart and the charts of others that you know, including celebrities.  Experiment by weighting advancing/retreating, direct/retrograde stations, phasis, and rulership of the 1st.  Personally, I rank them in the order given in the previous sentence, and consider all of them, particularly the first three, as giving powerful general indications regarding the pervasiveness of a planet’s influence.

Remember, a strong planet will express more of its nature in more places.  It will not be restricted to the topic of its place, or those places it rules, but will spill out its indications and natural significations whereever and whenever it can.

4 thoughts on “Steve Jobs and Mercury | Strength in Ancient Astrology”

  1. I have a question about advancing and retreating planets. My natal Jupiter is stationary direct (23 deg 47′ r) which makes its influence stronger. However, it is also retreating from my descendent at 21 deg 04′ Capricorn. Is this a case where strength and weakness cancel each other out making my Jupiter ordinary? Or is there a special consideration when retrograde planets are advancing and retreating?

    1. Hi Eric,

      Is Jupiter in Capricorn? If so then it’s only a couple degree off of the Descendant, and I’d consider it actually conjunct the Descendant, which would be very strong (i.e. I’d still consider that strongly advancing, until it’s at least a few degrees past the Descendant).

      There are multiple important strength considerations, and you can get mixed results. In fact, you’ll expect to often get mixed results. If a planet is retreating and is also stationing direct and/or in phasis, then consider it strong despite the fact that it’s retreating. Advancing and retreating to me is like the volume of the planet in a general sense, and when it’s loud it’s effects will be “heard” more pervasively in all areas of life and you get a broader set of its general significations being realized. When retreating a planet can still be strong, but will tend to focus effects where it is, and on places and planets it rules. Planets stationing direct are powerful and fortified. Planets in phasis are noteworthy in some way. All three of these make the planet stronger in a more general sense of making a mark on the life as a whole. There are other things like being northern, in its own bound, in its domicile or exaltation, in a sign of a Light, regarded by light, etc. that also tend to be strengthening in a general way. For instance, being Northern, which is when a planet is past its own North Node and before its own South Node is also thought to be strengthening, especially when the planet is not yet halfway between the Nodes (ascending northern). All these strengths are different in subtle ways, and it will be our job to figure out in what ways.

      Also, do we take an additive or a subtractive approach to strength? I think we should look at both. “Subtractive” would be to see a planet advancing and also stationing retrograde and to conclude that it must be overall somewhat neutral. “Additive” is to see that and think, strong and weak, then to look at predictive indicators and charts, such as solar returns to see which is coming out. The additive is probably more useful overall, because we are identifying the range of potential, and in a natal chart that can be quite vast or it can be very narrow, such as consistently strong or consistently weak. This is even more important for benefic/malefic considerations. You can have a malefic in sect and in a bad place (such as the 6th) with a powerful benefic ruler. There is quite a lot of potential for damage, but also potential for the planet to actually bring a lot of good things too, so we can get a sense through timing of when the better and worse things will come to pass. In conclusion, in a natal chart it is never the case that a planet is simply “good” or “bad” in the way that they can be in horary or an election where the signification is more narrow and we are more concerned about the dominant “subtractive” sense.

      Being in a stake (1st, 10th, 7th, or 4th place) and/or having some rulership at the Ascendant (strong influence on the sect light and Mercury also) make a planet more personally important or strong in my opinion, where they do more signifying about the personality, skill set, critical topics of life like career and family, etc. Jupiter conjunct the Descendant in Capricorn would be in the 7th, a stake, and would have much dignity at the Ascendant, ruling its bound and being exalted there, so the planet will have a big effect on the person’s character, personal life, and probably also their physiognomy. Being strongly advancing the person’s life will likely have many surrealistic experiences in it and may also bring great opportunity, but the follow through will depend largely on Saturn, the ruler, and whether the both of them are in sect, among other things. Being in a cardinal sign, Jupiter would tend to signify events that happened quickly and in a big way and then are gone, rather than more persistent developing type of stuff.

      Does that makes sense? Questions?



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