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Twelve Easy Lessons for Absolute Beginners | 3. General Prominence

And the changing of the planets must be understood, which has five parts: the first, if [a planet] were in the second or first station.  The second, while it is being hidden from the Sun or goes out from being hidden […]    (Abu Ma’shar, The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology, Book IV, 34-36, Dykes trans., 2010, p. 233)

In the last two posts I introduced a little bit about the history of astrology, the basic significations of the planets, how to pull up charts for free on the internet, and how to judge planetary prominence by “advancement”. Please read the first two posts in this series and familiarize yourself with a few charts and the techniques before proceeding.  The first post can be accessed by clicking here, and the second by clicking here.

In this post, the main objective is to gain an understanding of some planetary prominence considerations that are powerful, immediate, and don’t depend on theoretical concepts of sign, house, or aspect.  Along the way, there will be a little bit of review.

Introduction

Astrologers of the Perso-Arabic period, such as Abu Ma’shar and al-Qabisi, explicitly distinguished matters that would make a planet signify more or less prominently (i.e. strength) from matters that would make a planet signify pleasant or unpleasant things (i.e. beneficence), and these from the nature and quality of that being signified (i.e. types).  These are very important distinctions and it is too often the case that one or more of these distinctions is missing in an astrological system or that they are mixed together such that the sign a planet is in plays too much of a role determining all three.

In modern astrology there tends to be a strong focus on the type or quality of the signification, and the factor that tends to be stressed is the zodiacal sign in which a planet is located.  For instance, one might assert that Venus, signifying the love nature, when in Scorpio makes for an intense, passionate, reactive/jealous, and/or secretive sexuality.  On the other hand, in many, if not most, traditional astrological circles today there is a strong emphasis on use of the zodiacal sign for strength considerations, and often beneficence too.  For instance, Venus, signifying young women, the arts, sexuality, and marriage, when in Scorpio might be considered in her detriment, and thus her ability to bring about successful relationships might be hampered (poor strength), or her ability to bring about the matters signified by the houses she rules or topics she is given responsibility for in the chart (poor strength), and some astrologers would even say that because of the so-called detriment she tends to signify bad quality women or relationships, such as malicious women, sexual problems, or misfortune through the arts (negative beneficence). All in all, most people with exposure to either modern psychological astrology or late traditional astrology tend to get in the habit of thinking in terms of planets in signs.

The signs are rather abstract divisions of the sky and I believe that too much emphasis has been placed on the signs especially when it comes to strength and beneficence considerations.  I will introduce the signs of the zodiac in the next lesson, while in this lesson I would like to focus on some additional significations of planetary prominence in a chart.  As with advancement, discussed in the previous lesson, these factors don’t depend on a zodiac, a house system, or a system of planetary aspects.  They have a greater sense of immediacy than such concepts, and are in my opinion the three most important factors for what I call “general prominence”.

General Prominence

Ancient authors tend to lump together many factors for prominence and follow-thru, simply noting that they pertain to strength.  In my own experience I’ve had to separate out some of these strength factors as pertaining at least to general prominence (loud or noteworthy in signification in the life), personal prominence (influential over key areas of the life such as the character), and follow-thru (stability or instability of what is signified).  In this way, it becomes possible for a planet to be strong in one sense but not in another, such as having a person who is constantly surrounded by artists and artistic events (Venus generally prominent), who is an intellectual (Mercury personally prominent), whose relationships tend to start out strong and significant but to lack staying power (Venus or relationship significators with weak follow-thru).  Additionally, for predictive purposes I’ve found it to be very important that the range or variance of a planet’s indications are looked at, in addition to the central tendency.  For instance, a planet might be generally strong in one sense, such as strongly advancing, and generally weak in another, such as stationing retrograde.  In such a case I would likely judge the planet to be centrally prominent due to having a major prominence indication but for the fall from prominence to be triggered by times when a retrograde station of the planet was highlighted. There will be more on this in future lessons, but the main idea is that a life is lengthy and complex, so reading a natal chart is about taking inventory of central tendency and the degree of variance, not making absolutist proclamations.

The three most basic indications of general prominence that I look at are:

  1. Advancement – Covered in the last lesson.  These are the approaching alignments of a planet with a location as they happen 4 times each day.
  2. Stations – This is when a planet appears to stop and reverse its direction of travel relative to the stars as observed from Earth.  They mark out days when a planet is particularly prominent with the frequency varying according to which planet is being looked at.
  3. Phasis or Appearance, also Combust and Cazimi – This is when a planet appears for the last time in the sky before traveling too close to the Sun (“under the beams”) to observe or appears for the first time after emerging from the beams.  This also marks out days of planetary prominence which vary in frequency depending on the planet.

Stations

Spend a little time reading astrological chit-chat on the internet and you will surely encounter the term “retrograde” and a whole lot of commotion whenever Mercury is retrograde.  In the last lesson we looked at planets moving clockwise around the chart, where they rise on the left side of the chart, culminate at top, set on the right side, and anti-culminate at the bottom.  This is the “primary motion” of the planets and stars caused by the Earth’s daily 24-hour rotation cycle.  However, the planets move in the opposite direction through the sky against the backdrop of the stars (through the signs of the zodiac) very near to the same path followed by the Sun (at least as we see it from Earth).  The path is called the ecliptic (think “eclipse”), and the motion of each planet going slowly counter-clockwise around the chart, from west to east, each at its own pace, is called the “secondary motion” of the planets.

The secondary motion of the planets the same motion that you would study in high school astronomy class when you observed the Earth and other planets traveling around the Sun, but we study it in astrology from the position of the observer, on Earth, as astrology is oriented to the observer and the Earth as the center of the frame (a Geo System), rather than taking as its focus maximum theoretical elegance as is the case in astronomy where an external abstract point is the center of reference with regard to the system, the barycenter or center of mass of the solar system, which tends to reside within the Sun but up to about a solar radii outside of its surface at times (due to the massive gravitational pull of Jupiter), yielding a Solar System.  Using the Sun as a frame of reference the planets run their circuits around it, never reversing direction.  However, from the vantage point of the Earth, planets farther out from the Sun appear to stop and move backwards while being overtaken by the Earth as seen in the video below.

Similarly, planets closer to the Sun (i.e. Mercury and Venus) appear to move backwards when on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth, as seen in the video below.  The retrogradation is the backwards loop that appears to be traced in the sky when Venus is opposite the Sun from Earth.

Here is one more video in which you can see a real time-lapsed video of Saturn moving retrograde against the stars and then a good look at the way that the 2nd century astrologer Ptolemy modeled these motions using the Earth as a static frame of reference and adding a second cycle called the epicycle that would account for the retrogradation and allow astrologers to better predict its occurrence and planetary position.

You can read more about the mechanics of apparent retrograde motion and the frequency with which the planets are retrograde in the Wikipedia article on “Apparent retrograde motion“.

Ancient astrologers attached a lot of importance to the points where a planet appears to stop and change directions, which were called the “stations” of the planets.  The “first station”, or “retrograde” station, was when the planet appeared to move backwards, and in Hellenistic and Perso-Arabic astrology was considered to signify a weakening of that planet’s own significations.  The “second station”, or “direct” station, was when the planet appeared to move forward again after a period of retrogradation, and was considered to signify a strengthening of the planet’s own significations.

In the introductory works by Abu Ma’shar and al-Qabisi they discuss strengthening and weakening conditions.  Both astrologers first point to the retrograde station as a major weakening condition.  Some authors, such as Sahl quoted below, have also given helpful metaphors for understanding the stations.

If a planet were to stand toward retrogradation (that is, if it were in its first station), it signifies the dissolution of a purpose, and disobedience; and if it were to stand toward direction (that is, if it were in its second station), it signifies forward direction after the slowness or duress of the matter.  And every planet which is a significator and wished to go direct (that is, if it were in its second station) signifies the renewal of the actions of matters, and their action and strength or forward movement.  And if it were in the first station, wishing to go retrograde, it signifies their destruction and slowness and dissolution.   (Sahl Bin Bishr, The Fifty Judgments, #48, Dykes trans., 2010, p. 107)

While retrogradation is given a lot of hype in modern astrology and in late traditional astrology, its importance is typically overblown.  In my experience a retrograde planet is not much weakened, and retrogradation is extremely common.  For instance, Saturn is retrograde about a third of the time and Mercury goes retrograde three-to-four times per year for about three-to-four weeks at a go.  While retrogradation itself is only a little bit weakening (a tendency toward contradiction and antagonism were often associated with the action of retrograde planets in ancient literature), but the actual stations are very significant in terms of strengthening and weakening.  Typically within about a week within the station the planet may be considered to be made more or less prominent depending on the nature of the station, and to an extent that depends on how close to the station in time.  For instance, someone born within a day of Mercury stationing direct would be considered to have a very prominent Mercury in their chart.  Someone born within a day of Mercury stationing retrograde would have a very weakened Mercury.  One born 6 days from a Mercury station would also have Mercury strengthened or weakened but to a lesser extent.

Finding Planetary Stations

Let’s pull up some charts looking for stations, and also looking again at advancement.

Install Morinus

We are going to pull up charts in the free, open source, traditional astrology program called Traditional Morinus.  I’ve previously discussed installation and pulling up charts in Morinus on this blog, so I highly recommend that the reader stop at this point to read those article and install the software.  My article discussing installation of Morinus is here.  Since that article the program has undergone many updates.  The newer versions are easier to use because they now have a location lookup, which I discussed here.  Not only is Morinus a free program, but it is also one of the programs with the best traditional capabilities, including accurate primary directions, and is very frequently updated and improved upon.  It is open source, meaning that programmers are free to examine the code and improve upon it, making it truly THE astrological program of the astrological community.  I recommend it above all other astrological programs for the beginning to the advanced student.  Nearly all charts and charting examples on this site come from the program.  Please take the time to download the program and familiarize yourself with it by pulling up a few charts and saving them before proceeding.

Once you have the program installed and have a chart up, you should modify the following settings. Hold “Shift” and press “u”, or go to “Options” and make sure there is a check next to “Automatic save”, so that changes that you make to settings will be saved for the next time you open the program.  Hold “Shift” and press “F6”, or go to “Options” then “Housesystems” and select “Whole Sign”.  For charts that look like mine, you will want your appearance options (Shift+a or Options>Appearance I) to be as in the picture below, where Terms is selected and the chart is black and white.

Here and Now

Week Before, Week After

The surest way to determine if a planet stationed within a week of someone’s birth is to compare the birth chart with the chart 1 week before the birth and that 1 week after the birth.  Retrogradation is symbolized by a little symbol of an “R” with a line through part of it, which is next to the planetary glyph in the chart.  Also, if one presses the F11 key, then a table of the planetary speeds appears in which negative speeds by longitude indicate retrograde motion. The Sun and Moon never have apparent retrograde motion, so they are not examined in this respect.

Let’s look at Steve Jobs’ chart (click here for chart data).  First, you’ll notice that the Moon, followed by Jupiter and Venus, are the most advancing planets in the chart.  You’ll also notice that the Sun and Saturn are retreating and that Mercury isn’t advancing much.  In the chart below I’ve highlighted that Mercury and Jupiter are retrograde.  It is important with any chart that you make an initial mental note of which of the planets are retrograde.

Steve Jobs' Natal Chart
Steve Jobs’ Natal Chart

In order to check if any planets stationed within a week of Steve Jobs’ birth, we change the day of birth to one week earlier, pulling up the chart to see which planets are retrograde, then we do the same for one week after the birth.  If there are no stations then Mercury and Jupiter would be the only retrograde planets one week prior and one week after birth.  If this is not the case then there has been some type of station and we’ll have to do some deeper digging.

To start hold CTRL and press “d” or go to “Horoscope” and then “Data”.  Jobs was born on the 24th so we’ll switch it to the 17th, which will show the chart below.

Steve Jobs - One Week Before Birth

One week before birth, Mercury and Jupiter were retrograde while Venus, Mars, and Saturn were not.  This is just as in the natal chart, so there were no stations in the week prior to birth.

Seven days after his Feb. 24th birth would be March 3rd.  So we put that date into the Data area and pull up another chart, again checking for some difference in retrogrades. This time we do find some differences.  Jupiter was still retrograde a week after birth, but Mercury was no longer retrograde.  Therefore, Mercury stationed direct at some point within the week following his birth.  Additionally, Saturn is now retrograde, while it was not in the birth chart, so it stationed retrograde at some point in the week following his birth.

Steve Jobs - One Week After Birth

Now, we know that Mercury is stationing direct in Steve’s birth chart and that Saturn is stationing retrograde, but we don’t know to what extent. How close were the stations to Steve’s birth?  I like to start with one day increments from the birthday, so I look first at February 25th, then the 26th, and so on.  Doing this I find that already by February 25th, within 24 hours of the birth of Steve Jobs, Mercury had stationed direct.  Therefore, this is a very prominent Mercury direct station.  We initially noted that Mercury wasn’t really advancing much, so by advancement, Mercury didn’t seem prominent at all.  However, we now know that Mercury is very prominent in the chart because it was stationing direct very strongly when Jobs was born.  This means that the natural significations of Mercury have a prominent influence over his life.  This is quite significant as Mercury is the planet of intellect, business, technology, and computing.

On the other hand, when we progress day by day, we don’t find Saturn retrograde until we get to March 1st, which is five days out, so Saturn stationed retrograde between four and five days after his birth.  Saturn was weak by retreating, and here we see Saturn a little bit more weakened by the fact that it was gradually stationing retrograde at the time of birth. Therefore, we expect the significations of Saturn to be in the background in his life rather than prominent.

Applying to Charts

What about in your chart?  Were any planets stationing at your birth?  If so, how do the indications of the stations compare with the indications from advancement?

One of the interesting things about this technique is that a planet that seems like it may be retrograde and thus could be said to be slightly weakened often is revealed to be extremely prominent, as in the case of Mercury in the chart of Steve Jobs.  Unfortunately, little attention is paid to planetary stations near one’s birth in astrology today, even in most traditional circles.  Additionally, too much stress is placed on retrogradation, so it comes to pass that weak planets (direct ones stationing retrograde just after birth) are thought to be prominent and prominent planets (retrograde ones stationing direct just after birth) are thought to be weak.  Get in the habit of checking the week before and the week after a chart, with every chart, and you won’t make this mistake.

In terms of meaning, the retrograde station has the feeling of significations drifting out of reach, being involved in delays and so forth.  The direct station has the feeling of significations starting out in a prominent and pioneering way, such as with forceful resolve.  It’s like with the retrograde station the planet gets to the party and says, “oh wait, I’m sorry, I forgot something, and I need to go home and get it”, while the direct station planet has been tied up for some time and now has some free time to move forward with some established plans its excited about.

Appearances or Phasis

Just as famous celebrities and politicians make important appearances, so do the planets.  The most important appearances pertain to the relationship of the planets to the Sun.  The Sun is like the king in astrology, signifying powerful authority and leadership.  When a planets is close to the Sun by zodiacal longitude, then it starts to become obscured by the light of the Sun.  In ancient astrology, the standard distance is typically 15 degrees from the Sun.  When a planets is within 15 degrees from the Sun it is “under the beams” or “combust”.  Planets under the beams are weakened in the sense of being more hidden or covert.  You could think of this as akin to a person who is employed in some special government operation.  The agenda (Sun) outshines their own personal expression (their overt expression of their nature), forcing them to come under a more restricted code of conduct and more limited communication.

An exception to this rule of planets under the beams being “hidden” is when planets are within about 1 degree from the Sun, which is called “cazimi” or “in the heart of the Sun”.  This is like being able to rule in the king’s stead or taking on the authority of the throne.  A planet in such a position becomes much more prominent, but planets which are cazimi are rather rare. A particularly forceful cazimi would be an occultation of the Sun, such as the recent “Transit of Venus“.

Many astrologers are aware of combustion and cazimi, but another very important solar-related doctrine, that of “appearance”, has been forgotten.  A planet makes its appearance (or is “in phasis”) just before it goes into the beams of the Sun or right after it comes out from them.  This phenomena is also known as the heliacal risings and settings of the planets.  Therefore, appearance is when a planet is exactly 15 degrees from the Sun, moving closer or further away from it.  Think of it like the planet having an important visit with the media either right before its going to have to encounter the authorities or immediately after it has.  In both cases the planet is more prominent, but in one case of the importance ending up going covert and in the other case of exposure.

A planet making an appearance is called “in phasis”.  A consideration of phasis tends to be included in ancient techniques for finding professional significators.  It seems that its link with the Sun ties it to a sense of what someone becomes known for, much like the reporting to the media metaphor that I’ve used.

We, then, looking out for the topic of injury, entered into the type of action in this way: the givers, then, of actions are Mercury, Venus, and Mars; the effective houses are the ascendant, the midheaven, the IC, and the [houses] succedent to these, but also indeed the sixth houses, and the Lot of Fortune, and the application of the Moon, and the [star] making its morning appearance or its evening rising seven days before or seven days after.   (Rhetorius, Astrological Compendium, #82, Holden trans., 2009, p. 134)

Paulus Alexandrinus (4th century CE) discussed the phases of the stars and the terminology associated with phasis, and this was elaborated upon by his commentator Olympiodorus of the 6th century.  A planet in phasis which is coming out from the beams is also called rising or arising, as it is in its heliacal rising (think of rising out from the beams).  A planet in phasis which is going into the beam is also called setting (occasionally called disappearance), as it is in its heliacal setting (think of setting into the beams).  Be cognizant of these other uses of the terms “rising” and “setting” because there are times when rising and setting planets are discussed in the literature where an unknowing reader might assume it is relative to the horizon but it is actually relative to the beams of the Sun.

The heliacal setting is sometimes viewed as weakening while the heliacal rising is viewed as strengthening and more important for professional matters.  In practice I’ve found consistently that both are strengthening and both can be relevant for professional significator.  For instance, in the example of Hitler given in this post, the planets in phasis are Venus then Mars, both setting into the beams, but both very significant for his professional development and aspirations in his life, first to be an artist, then to be a warring conqueror.  However, planets setting into the beams do seem to take on many of the significations associated with being under the beams, so it is something of a mixed bag.  Valens associated a planet going under the beams with troubles, interruptions, and possible secret difficulties.

I personally associate being under the beams with the sense of something or someone powerful putting causing things to go underground so-to-speak, whether in hiding, covert, deceptive, repressed, and so forth, but not necessarily good or bad in a blanket sense.  For instance, do you feel that you can fully and entirely be yourself around your parents or grandparents or boss?  I think that this helps to explain why planets in a place where they held some authority or power (a house or bound they had some rulership over) were not thought to be weakened at all by being under the beams – they were under the influence of a power but also had a sort of powerful independence, like a person visited by a king but without a need to subjugate oneself to that king.

Morning and Evening Stars

Another common distinction is between morning stars and evening stars.  Those rising (above the horizon) before the Sun are said to be “right” of the Sun, oriental the Sun, or morning stars (because they can be seen in the morning before the Sun rises).  Those rising (above the horizon) after the Sun are said to be “left” of the Sun, occidental the Sun, or evening stars (because they can be seen in the evening after the Sun has set).  Morning stars were thought to have quicker and more outgoing significations, such as bringing about their significations quickly when activated by time period and pertaining to events earlier in life.  Evening stars were thought to have slower and more progressive significations, such as something developing as time goes by or coming about later in life.

Checking for Appearances

We are interested in this occurring within about a week from birth.  Therefore, our habit of checking one week before and one week after birth has a dual purpose, of looking at stations and appearances both.

When looking for appearances, we are concerned with the degree position of the Sun and that of the planets near the Sun.  Mercury and Venus always stay pretty close to the Sun, so they are most often in phasis.  The degrees of the Sun and planets are shown right in the chart (as well as the minutes in smaller type).  Each sign has 30 degrees, so if the Sun is at exactly 25 degrees of one sign, and Mercury is at 10 degrees of the next sign, then Mercury is 15 degrees from the Sun and is in phasis. As with stations, we are not concerned with the Moon when it comes to phasis.  The combustion of the Moon is significant though, lending a sense of covertness to the Moon’s significations.

Look again at Steve Jobs chart above.  Scroll up if you need to.  Better yet, hold CTRL and click on the chart so that it opens up in a new browser tab.  Do the same for the charts of one week prior to his birth and one week after.

You’ll notice that Steve’s Sun is at 5 degrees of some sign, the one that is number 7, (in this case Pisces, but you don’t need to know that yet).  Besides the Moon, the planets tend to move about a degree per day or less so, sometimes, in the case of Mercury up to about 2 degrees per day.  Therefore, if a planet is more than about 30 degrees from the Sun we don’t concern ourselves with it at all when checking for phasis.  The only planet within about 30 degrees from the Sun is Mercury which is at 14 degrees of the sign before, the number 6 sign, which in this case is Aquarius.  The Sun and Mercury are a little bit over 21 degrees from each other.  Mercury is moving backwards and is in a sign before, so they are moving away from each other, so we know they won’t become within 15 degrees of each other at any point after birth.  The question is whether Mercury and the Sun were ever within 15 degrees of each other at some point within a week before birth.  To answer this question, we’ll look at the chart from a week before birth.

Looking at the chart from a week before birth we find the Sun at 28 Aquarius and Mercury at 17 Aquarius.  This is a distance of about 11 degrees, which is less than 15 degrees, so Mercury was under the beams less than a week prior and made an appearance coming out from the beams at some point.  Now we need to find out when.  So starting with the 23rd, we move back one day in the birth data, pulling up charts until we get to the point that Mercury ends up being less than 15 degrees from the Sun.  Doing this you’ll find that it is on February 19th, 5 days before Steve’s birth, that Mercury is under the beams (i.e. within 15 degrees from the Sun).  Therefore, Mercury made its appearance four-to-five days prior to Steve’s birth.

With that our look at the three basic general prominence factors in Steve Jobs’ chart is finished.  We found that the Moon was strongly advancing but that Mercury, while not advancing much, was very strongly stationing direct and was in phasis coming out from the beams.  Therefore, Mercury is a very prominent planet in the life of Steve Jobs.

Examples

I’m going to run through a number of examples very quickly, noting the important information obtained from the three basic general prominence factors. The data for all examples is from Astro-Databank.com.  If you have any questions as to anything I discuss here or are obtaining different results, please comment and I will do what I can to assist.

Adolf Hitler's Natal Chart
Adolf Hitler’s Natal Chart

Hitler has a very complicated chart.  Mercury, the Sun, and Saturn are most prominent by advancement while Jupiter and the Moon are weakened due to retreating.  Looking at stations, we find that Saturn is made even more prominent by a direct station about 6 days before birth and that Jupiter is even more weakened by a retrograde station about 4 days after birth.  Mercury is somewhat weakened (or at least hidden/covert) due to being deeply under the beams and not in phasis, about 5 degrees from the Sun.  Mars and Venus are both between 15 and 16 degrees from the Sun, so I would consider them both quite strongly in phasis, going into the beams, with Venus going into the beams within 24 hours and Mars within 3 days.

We conclude that Hitler’s chart has many prominent planets, but with Saturn, the planet of lack, hardship, loss, darkness, discipline, and control as particularly prominent.  The Sun, planet of leadership, authority, and influence is also very prominent.  Saturn and the Sun pertain very strongly to Hitler’s ability to rise to power and the dictatorial style of his rule.  Venus and Mars are prominent in their own ways as both are advancing and very strongly in phasis, with Venus going very quickly and deeply under the beams while Mars slowly descends into them.  These appear to pertain most to his career aspirations, from trying to be an artist (Venus) to trying to be a conqueror (Mars).  Mercury is very important in the life, but covert, which may indicate a lot of secretive activity of an intellectual nature.  Jupiter, the planet of opportunity, abundance, generosity, goodwill, friendship, kindness, spirituality, and expanded or elevated mindset is very weak as it is retreating and stationing retrograde.

Kurt Cobain's Natal Chart
Kurt Cobain’s Natal Chart

In Kurt Cobain’s chart Mercury is conjunct the Descendant, and with it Venus and Saturn are also strongly advancing, while the Sun is retreating.  Therefore we expect Mercury (voice, writing, intellect, cleverness, business), Venus (the arts, love, women, sensuality), and Saturn (hardship, darkness, loss, obligation) to all be quite prominent in the life, while we expect the Sun (leadership, authority, honors, power, confidence) to be backgrounded in the life, at least in a general sense.  Mercury is in phasis, though setting into the beams, within 2 days after birth, so very strongly.  However, Mercury also stations retrograde within 3 days after birth, which is strongly weakening.  Therefore, Mercury’s significations in the life are fairly complex with both a great significance as well as a potential for dramatic reversal or antagonism against a former path, and the capacity to signify covert complicated or intellectual activity as it is setting under the beams.

Alfred Witte's Natal Chart
Alfred Witte’s Natal Chart

Alfred Witte was an early 20th century astrologer, and possibly psychic, who pioneered a new system of astrology, very different from both traditional and typical modern forms of astrology, which was called Uranian astrology.  His astrology was based strongly in symmetrical relationships of planets to each other. Witte ended up committing suicide after being targeted by the Nazis.

Notice that Jupiter, the planet of wisdom, spirituality, abundance, generosity, and elevation is strongly advancing, conjunct the IC.  Mars, Mercury, and Venus are also advancing with moderate strength, while Saturn is both retreating and under the beams pretty deeply.  There are no stations in his chart.  Saturn is barely in phasis, setting under the beams about 7 days before birth.  Mercury and Venus are very close to each other, in the same degree actually, and are both almost exactly 15 degrees from the Sun, so both are extremely strongly in phasis.  Venus is morning rising, rising out from the beams, while Mercury is morning setting, falling under the beams.  Therefore, it is Venus, Mercury, and Jupiter which are the most prominent planets in Witte’s life by these basic methods.  It is interesting that Mercury and Venus are so strongly joined to one another, as Witte’s astrology, dependent upon symmetry, has a sense of mathematical harmony to it and visual elegance which shows a nice fusion of the intellectualism and symbol manipulation of Mercury combined with the aesthetics of Venus.

Frida Kahlo's Natal Chart
Frida Kahlo’s Natal Chart

Frida Kahlo was born with the Moon very strongly advancing toward the midheaven.  Venus is the next most advancing planet, while Mercury was retreating.  Jupiter was under the beams.  Mars was retrograde but not stationing.  Saturn was stationing retrograde within about 4 days of birth and Mercury was stationing retrograde within about 5 days of birth.  Overall we would judge Mercury to be weakened and placed in the background, both from retreating and the retrograde station.  We’d also judge Saturn to be somewhat weakened.  The Moon, the power of irrationality, subjectivity, nurture, ubiquity, mothers, instincts, the wild, and vivid depth, is extremely prominent. Venus is also quite prominent due to her advancement toward the midheaven (as well as her rulership of the mideheaven, though rulership will be addressed in a future post).

Conclusion

It’s my hope that you’ve found in this post some new and valuable techniques for evaluating planetary prominence.  If you are a beginner and are having any trouble with this material please comment below.  In future lessons we will start to explore the signs, houses, and aspects or configurations which are the core theoretical elements of the Hellenistic system of astrology.  However, it is good to get in the habit of first looking at each chart in terms of these basic indications of general prominence.  This will tell you which planets are loudest and which have something very important to say about the life as a whole.

Unfortunately, it is very easy to identify which sign each planet is in while it’s a bit more difficult to check and see which planets were advancing, which retreating, and particularly to check out whether there were any stations or appearances.  There is also a sense in which we are looking at something much more concrete when examining advancement, stations, and appearances in this way though.  Most considerations in ancient astrology are based in abstract mathematical divisions of the ecliptic, into signs, those signs ordered into houses, and the sign relationships and angular relationships of the planets producing configurations.  Here we are for the most part dealing with the more raw and basic observations of wandering stars rising, culminating, setting, changing direction against the stars, appearing from the rays of the Sun and disappearing into them.

Practice with these three basic techniques on your own chart, those of people you know, and those of celebrities (from Astro-Databank).  Feel free to expand upon them with what you know of combustion, cazimi, arisings vs. settings, and morning vs. evening stars as well.  If you’d like to discuss your findings please do so in the comments.  Critical objections are also very important.  For instance, if phasis is important for professional indications, then why was it the case that Kahlo’s Venus was under the beams rather than in phasis?  It is vital that you start thinking critical in these ways because ancient astrology is very vast and we are still just dealing with general prominence.  Prominence relative to the self and specific topics such as profession brings in additional considerations and concepts.  This complexity and vastness of ancient astrology is a good thing because human life is even more complex and vast.

Of course no astrological system could ever predict the full complexity of any human experience, for the very same reason that no communication of human experience could ever full convey such experience – the map is not the territory.  Nevertheless, by continually learning and honing our skills in ancient astrology we may start to say intelligent and true things about past, present, and future circumstances that are thought to be impossible.  Also, in receiving this information through a language derived from the heavens themselves arranged by intelligences so far beyond our own, we come to appreciate the humble place of our little minds within a brilliantly cognizant existence.

 

References

Ma’shar, A., & Al-Qabisi. (2010). Introductions to Traditional Astrology. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.
Rhetorius of Egypt, & Teucer of Babylon. (2009). Rhetorius the Egyptian. (J. H. Holden, Trans.). Tempe, AZ: American Federation of Astrologers.

Twelfth-Parts | 2. The Secret Second Chart

For, if you want to explain the entire substance of the astrological significations from the efficacy of the dodecatemories and from the terms in which they are found, you will not be mistaken; for the Babylonians attribute the supreme power of [astrological] decrees to the dodecatemories, but Ptolemy to the antiscions, [and] we to both.  (Maternus, Book III, Ch. 9, #14, Holden trans., 2011, p. 170)

Introduction

So, you thought you just had one astrological chart, but in Hellenistic astrology you have two.  Then again, maybe three.

The second chart I allude to is the chart of the twelfth-part positions, which are typically marked along the natal chart, so as to keep the reference to natal chart houses.  Twelfth-part positions were noted as a fundamental basic of astrological technique by nearly every Hellenistic astrologer, and their use was urged most strongly by Julius Firmicus Maternus.  I explored what the twelfth-parts are and how they are calculated in my last post.  The third chart that I alluded to is something that appears to be more idiosyncratic to Maternus, and is the use of antiscia positions as yet another chart body-double.  I explored this use of antiscia by Maternus very briefly near the end of my post on sign symmetry.

In the quote above, Maternus attributes this use of antiscia chart positions as secret positions to Ptolemy, though this is a false attribution, and Maternus is the only Hellenistic source I know of that uses this third set of positions.  On the other hand, the dodecatemoria or twelfth-parts are indeed Babylonian in origin, and their use was widespread among Hellenistic astrologers.

While in my last post I expressed that Paulus presented an idiosyncratic variety in which the position is degrees and minutes are multiplied by 13 rather 12, I was recently confronted by a footnote by James Holden (footnote #2, p. 18, 2009) in his translation of Rhetorius in which he noted that there is evidence in surviving cuneiform tablets that the two different methods of projecting twelfth-parts existed in Babylonian astrology, i.e. multiplying by either the more common 12 or the 13 as used by Paulus, then projecting from the beginning of the sign (Holden cites “Mesopotamian Astrology” by Koch-Westenholz).  If it is in fact the case that the 13-fold variety does also have Babylonian origins, then still it seems that among the Hellenistic astrologers it was only Paulus that preferred them, as at least Manilius, Dorotheus, Ptolemy, Valens, Maternus, Hephaistio, Porphyry, and Rhetorius (as well as later astrologers) employed or expressed preference for the 12-fold variety.

The Importance of the Twelfth-Part Positions

I was originally very skeptical about the use of the twelfth-part positions as representing a very important and informative additional chart that complements and integrates with the natal chart.  I’m sure many readers will feel the same way.  Therefore, I want to stress that the twelfth-parts were mentioned as a basic of astrological technique by nearly every Hellenistic astrologer, and many of them, including Manilius, Maternus, and Rhetorius, felt it necessary to stress how important they are despite how easy it is to overlook them.

… the genitures differ in a single constellation, because the individual signs vary on account of the distribution of their divisions and modulate their respective powers in the dodecatemories.  (Manilius, Book II, #710-712, Goold trans., 1977, p. 139)

And the method of dodecatemories is a necessity in nativities; and I also put down the astrological significations of these so that some might use them not just as in a secondary work.  (Rhetorius, Ch. 18, Holden trans., 2009, p. 18)

Now I shall show briefly how you may inquire about the dodecatemories, for some think that they can find the entire substance of the nativity from them, and they intimate that whatever is concealed in the delineation can be discovered from the dodecatemories.  (Maternus, Book II, Ch. 17, #1, Holden trans., 2011, p. 59)

Basics of Use

The twelfth-part positions are really used just like natal positions, giving additional information and revealing combinations and significations that might be missed from looking at the natal chart alone.  The interpretation of cognition usage that I discussed in the last post is along these lines too, even though it is for horary or consultation charts.  Masha’allah (in On Hidden Things) discussed multiple signficators for the querent’s thoughts or intentions, and one of them was the ruler of the Ascendant.  Masha’allah expressed that the best significator is the twelfth-part of the Ascendant and its ruler.  In other words, just as the Ascendant and its ruler give information about the character of the person or matter itself, the twelfth-part Ascendant and its ruler do too.

We get a sense of this all-purpose use in Paulus (even though he used the 13-fold ones) in Ch. 22 of his Introduction when he noted that the twelfth-parts of benefics occurring in important places (Sun, Moon, Mercury, 1st, 10th, 7th, 4th, Fortune, Spirit, Necessity, prenatal syzygy) signify very good things for the person, while the twelfth-parts of malefics occuring in such places indicates quite bad things. Benefics produce fortunate circumstances where they occur, and malefics produce difficulty, and it is such with the twelfth-parts of each as well.

Maternus laid out some instruction in use of twelfth-parts in Book II of the Mathesis.  There he instructed us to look at numerous things with particular stress on the place, the ruler, and the bound ruler of the twelfth-part, as well as interactions between planets of different sects that he discussed elsewhere, such as the greater harmony that the waxing and full moon has with diurnal planets as opposed to nocturnal.  All in all, it seems that Maternus wants us to look at twelfth-part positions as on an almost equal footing as natal positions, examining things like place, sign ruler, bound ruler, regards/aspects, and special configurational indications. This is further stressed in Book III, when each chapter on a planet ends with Maternus admonishing the reader to be sure to look at the twelfth-part of the planet too, apparently to look at the same factors discussed with reference to the natal planet, so as not to miss some important indication that is in the twelfth-parts but not the regular natal chart, as everything should be in one or the other.  Maternus gave the same type of admonishment about checking the twelfth-part of the Lot of Fortune in Book IV, Ch. 4, after discussing how to delineate Fortune.  Again, the clear lesson is to delineate the twelfth-part as you’d delineate the planet.

But what of the relationship of a twelfth-part to its same natal point, such as the twelfth-part of the Sun to the natal Sun?  Rhetorius treated of this in Ch. 60 of his Compendium.  A twelfth-part trine its natal position increases the beneficence or fortune signified by the planet, but one opposed to its natal position increases the maleficence or difficulty signified by the planet. Rhetorius also discussed how the twelfth-parts of malefics falling in places can make things more difficult and the twelfth-parts of benefics easier, similar to what Paulus mentioned above.  He put particular stress on the twelfth-part of the Moon in relation to the nature and social standing of the person.  In his delineations of twelfth-parts he particular stressed the influence of the ruler of the twelfth-part, but some delineations involve regards/aspects from natal planets and even the qualities of the signs, such as human and quadrapedal.  That the twelfth-part delineations of Rhetorius encompassed all these things lends support to the idea that delineation of the twelfth-part is very much like delineation of a natal planet or point.

Steve Jobs

In the next several posts on twelfth-parts, I’ll be digging back to analyses from older posts on the blog and showing how twelfth-parts add valuable information.  I will kick this off by taking a brief second look at the chart of Steve Jobs for the rest of this post.  In one my first posts, in October 2011, I discussed the natal chart of Steve Jobs and some of the most important general planetary strength considerations, showing that his Mercury is much stronger than one might think from a cursory glance.  Before reading on, I urge the reader to give that post a quick review by visiting it here.  While stations and phasis may not be appropriate to twelfth-parts, the twelfth-parts can tell us additional information about the strength of Mercury.

Steve Jobs' Natal Chart with Twelfth-Parts on Outer Wheel
Steve Jobs’ Natal Chart with Twelfth-Parts on Outer Wheel

In the original analysis I noted that Mercury is probably the strongest planet in the chart in terms of having a generally pervasive influence over the life in a broad way, as it is strongly stationing direct, making an appearance (in phasis), advancing, and ruling the 1st.

Looking at the twelfth-parts we find further indication of the significance of Mercury by the twelfth-part of the MC being conjunct Mercury.  This and the fact that Mercury’s twelfth-part is advancing, in the 11th which is a strong and fortunate place, and in a sign of a light (Cancer, home of the Moon, which is the sect light of the chart), while actually with the twelfth-part of the sect light, are all additional indications of the strength of Mercury.  The twelfth-part of Mercury is in the bound of Jupiter (as is the natal Mercury), and is very tightly conjoined to Jupiter, in the place of Jupiter’s Joy, and in the sign of Jupiter’s exaltation – these things all connect Mercury with fortunate and lofty Jupiterian themes, that are not as strongly expressed in the natal chart itself.

Mercury posited in the 11th house from the ASC will make talented persons, indispensable for all activities, and those to whom the conduct of great business affairs is entrusted; but then it denotes greater duties if it was conjoined to Jupiter by a favorable aspect.  (Maternus, Book III,Ch. 3f, #23, Holden trans., 2011, p. 147)

The twelfth-part of Venus, the sect benefic, occupying Virgo, a house of Mercury, further emphasizes this fortunate quality of Mercury that could be easily missed from the natal chart alone.  Also note that the twelfth-part of Jupiter falls right onto the Sun in the chart, the twelfth-part of the Sun is in the place of the Sun’s Joy with the twelfth-part Ascendant, and the twelfth-part Moon is strongly advancing toward the MC while with the lord of the Ascendant and Jupiter (as well as Saturn).  Additionally, the twelfth-part of Fortune is conjunct the Moon, the sect light.  As one can see, the twelfth-parts not only help us to get more information out of the chart about the prominence of Mercury, but also showcase fortunate circumstances connected to Mercury that would be easy to miss from the natal chart alone, and give many additional indications that the chart is of someone with a high stature and great social mobility.

I will be returning to more past analyses with twelfth-parts in future posts.

 

References

Manilius, M. (1977). Astronomica. (G. P. Goold, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: Loeb Classical Library.
Maternus, J. F. (2011). Mathesis. (J. H. Holden, Trans.). American Federation of Astrologers.
Rhetorius of Egypt, & Teucer of Babylon. (2009). Rhetorius the Egyptian. (J. H. Holden, Trans.). Tempe, AZ: American Federation of Astrologers.

Astrology of Profession or Calling | 3. Steve Jobs & Bill Gates

Technologists, businessmen, and scholars all share a strong emphasis upon Mercury, planet of intellect, reason, wind. speech, and symbol. We often see a lot of overlap between academic prowess, technological proficiency, and financial acumen (though not always).  For instance, the founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin were scholars of technology, turned business leaders.

Here, I apply a special technique for delineating profession, or perhaps more accurately, skills development, which originated in the Hellenistic period of astrology with developments, modifications, and interpretation by many various Hellenistic and Persian astrologers.  The reader is referred to the brief outline of the technique which can be found here, “Astrology of Profession or Calling | 1. Technique“, in order to better understand my delineation process and the general significance I assign to the various planets.

Steve Jobs

A brief biography for Steve Jobs can be found on Wikipedia, and his chart is given a Rodden Rating of AA for accuracy on Astro-Databank. His chart is pictured below (CTRL+click to open an expanded version in a new tab).

Natal Chart - Steve Jobs
Natal Chart – Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs Occupation Analysis in Brief

First, identify the planets with some pertinence to “actions”:

  1. MC: There is no planet strongly advancing toward the MC.
  2. Places: The Sun is the only planet in a “stake” being in the 7th.  Mercury is in the 6th.  Then we have Jupiter and Venus in the 11th and 5th respectively.  Less pertinent are the Moon and Mars in the 8th.
  3. Rulership: Mercury is ruler of both the 10th and the 1st, and is the 1st triplicity ruler of the 10th, and exalted ruler of the 1st.  Mars is bound ruler of both the Ascendant and MC, while the other planets have less relevance as they all have triplicity in either the 1st or 10th, but not both.
  4. Phasis and the Lights: Mercury is in phasis, coming out from the beams less than a week before birth.  Mercury is the planet receiving the next application of the Moon.  Mars is assembled with the Moon.

“Testimony” Conclusion: Mercury has the most relevance to actions. Of the three “actions” planets, Mars is next most significant.  The Sun is very significant.  The Venus, Jupiter, and the Moon are significant to a lesser degree.

Note:  Venus has the closest aspect to the Ascendant, scrutinizing it (within 3 degrees), and by trine.  We’ll see in a future post, that if a planet is scrutinizing the Ascendant (there are 3 in this case – we take the one with square, then trine, then sextile in order of importance) then it will in fact impact skills development, and so our criteria in the technique will have to be modified.  I’ll illustrate this with the charts of Bjork and some other figures.  My own chart also seems to have Jupiter with little to no relevance to skill development, but Jupiter is the only planet in my chart that scrutinizes my Ascendant, and its by trine.  I’ll address this further in a future post in which we’ll modify the criteria to include scrutinization (i.e. aspect within 3 degrees) of the Ascendant by a planet.  Suffice it to say for now that Venus should probably be considered more important or at least as important as Mars in terms of relevance to profession in Steve Jobs’ chart (but still much less relevant than Mercury).

Secondly, identify the planets that are strongest in a general way in the chart, as they push their natural significations onto the life in a strong way:

  1. Advancing/Retreating: The Moon is just about strongly advancing, while Jupiter and Venus are also advancing pretty forcefully.  Mars is also advancing, while Mercury is just barely advancing.
  2. Relationships to Lights: Mercury is in phasis and is being applied to by the Moon.  Mars is assembled with the Moon.  Jupiter and Venus regard both Lights.
  3. Stationing: Mercury is very strong, as it is stationing direct within 24 hours of birth.

“Strength” Conclusion: Mercury is the strongest planet.  Mercury is stationing direct, in phasis, and is advancing.  The Moon is also very strong, while Jupiter and Venus are to a lesser extent.

Synthesis of Occupation for Steve Jobs

Mercury both has the greatest testimony in matters of occupation and is the strongest planet of the chart in a general way.  Intellectual type of development is most relevant to the occupation, such as in business and technology.  An element of publicization (the Sun) is also extremely relevant to the profession, and there is additionally pretty relevant development in terms of aesthetics (Venus), competitiveness and public affairs (Mars), and particular natural human-ness or sense of subjective experience (the Moon – such as accommodation of natural human physical or emotional needs for comfort).  To keep things brief, I’ll only explore one of these planets, Mercury, and let the reader have fun with further delineation.

Mercury: Mercury is in an Air sign, pertaining to more human, social, and ephemeral phenomena, like ideas, trends, news, education, and technology.  Mercury is in a sign of Saturn and is dominated by Saturn (right-side square), while Saturn is the out of sect malefic, so there was many negative associations with Mercury in terms of struggle, death, loss, oppression, and so forth, and Mercury is in the 6th of slaves (more modern definition: employees) and health issues, both of which were critical sore areas in Jobs’ life.  Saturn pertains to solidity, industry, and management, while it is in the 3rd which pertains to communication and transportation.  Mercury’s natural significance in terms of communications is increased and there is an increased association with business management and working with solid resources such as hardware.

Bill Gates

A brief biography for Bill Gates can be found on Wikipedia, and his chart is given a Rodden Rating of A for accuracy on Astro-Databank. His chart is pictured below (CTRL+click to open an expanded version in a new tab).

Natal Chart - Bill Gates
Natal Chart – Bill Gates

Bill Gates Occupation Analysis in Brief

First, identify the planets with some pertinence to “actions”:

  1. MC: The Moon is strongly advancing towards the MC.
  2. Places: The Moon is in the 10th, while Mars and Mercury are in a “stake” (the 4th).  Jupiter is in the 2nd.  The Sun, Venus, and Saturn are less relevant, being in the 5th.
  3. Rulership: The ruler of the 10th is Mars, while the Moon rules the 1st.  Mars and Jupiter have dignity in both places, but Jupiter more so.
  4. Phasis and the Lights: Mercury is in phasis, coming out from the beams just under a week before birth.  Mars is the planet receiving the next application of the Moon.  Venus and Saturn are also in phasis and assembled with the Sun.

“Testimony” Conclusion: Mars, the Moon, and Jupiter have the most relevance to actions. Of the three “actions” planets, Mars is the most significant, followed by Mercury.

Secondly, identify the planets that are strongest in a general way in the chart, as they push their natural significations onto the life in a strong way:

  1. Advancing/Retreating: The Moon, Mars, and Mercury are strongly advancing.  All other planets in the chart are advancing to a lesser extent.
  2. Relationships to Lights: Mercury, Venus, and Saturn are in phasis.  The Moon applies to Mars.  Venus and Saturn are assembled with the Sun.  Jupiter regards both lights, and is in the home of the Sun.
  3. Stationing: Mercury is stationing direct.

“Strength” Conclusion: Mercury is the strongest planet.  Mercury is stationing direct, in phasis, and is very strongly advancing.  Mars and the Moon are very strong in the chart.

Synthesis of Occupation for Bill Gates

Mars has the greatest testimony in terms of occupation, while Mercury is stronger in the chart overall due to being in phasis, stationing direct, in a “stake” of the chart, and strongly advancing, all at the same.  Jupiter in the 2nd of wealth and possessions, as well as strong, is probably connected in some part to both Bill’s immense financial acumen and development of philanthropic pursuits as a vocation.  He is currently working full-time with his philanthropic organization, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The prominence of the Moon is very interesting, though Gates, like Jobs, worked primarily in adapting technology to natural human experience, more than more straight-forward technological innovation.  The strength of the Moon and Mercury, and the strong connection of the Moon with the 1st, give strong indications of his mental acuity (the Moon and Mercury were the two most important planets for mind or soul in Ptolemy’s astrology – the Moon also pertains strongly to the brain, memory, and intuition).

Mercury: As with Jobs, Mercury is in an Air sign, pertaining to more human, social, and ephemeral phenomena, like ideas, trends, news, education, and technology.  Mercury is in a sign of Venus and is assembled with Mars.  We might expect Mercury to pertain to design (Venus) and the military or domestic public affairs to some extent (Mars). In other words, we see a greater emphasis on involvement in meeting the demands of competitive business, military, and public affairs in this Mercury placement, and less on physical materials, than we do with the Mercury of Steve Jobs.

Mars: Gates was able to secure great success for his company through aggressive strategizing that went over into even unethical means of locking out competition, bringing on multiple controversial anti-trust suits.  His management style was also known to be particularly harsh and abrasive.   Mars is in Libra with Mercury, so many of the same associations with Mercury apply to Mars and they work together.  He participated in the congressional Page program at age 17, so his involvement in public affairs came early and has persisted in his life.  In whole, his career has been centrally about beating competition and coming out ahead in power struggles, to the point that he was even the wealthiest person in the world for 14 years, and has persisted as one of the most powerful.  This technique with the chart of Bill Gates shows similar results as those for many very high-climbing politicians and industry leaders, that for very socially mobile people, Mars does not show “brawn” so much as a development of competitiveness, strategy, and the desire to make a powerful impact in the lives of others.

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.

Conclusions

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.