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)
Digging Deeper into Planetary Prominence
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 lesson can be accessed by clicking here, and the second by clicking here. In this lesson, we will continue to explore some additional forms of planetary prominence.
Distinguishing Planetary Prominence from Relevance and Benefit
Astrologers of the Perso-Arabic period, such as Abu Ma’shar and al-Qabisi, distinguished the strength or prominence of a planet from its tendency to signify benefit or difficulty (benefic/malefic). Additionally, both of these were distinguished from the matters in life which are relevant to the planet’s indications. The evaluation of a planet’s prominence relates to what’s called planetary strength. A planet may be mixed, being strong in some ways and weak in others. The benefic (beneficial) or malefic (challenging) indications of a planet may also be mixed, and in fact usually are. Additionally, all planets will have varying degrees of relevance to given life topics (i.e. planetary relevance).
Over-Reliance on Signs in Traditional Astrology
These are very important distinctions. 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. When I first got into traditional astrology, it was common for me to meet traditional astrologers who would determine both strength and benefit according to the sign of the zodiac a planet was in.
For instance, Venus, signifying young women, the arts, sexuality, and marriage, when in Scorpio might be considered in the sign of her detriment according to some astrologer. In this view, her ability to bring about successful relationships might be hampered (poor strength). Similarly, other matters signified by the houses she rules or topics she is given responsibility for in the chart can’t be realized (poor strength). 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 (malefic). I do not use the sign as the main indicator of either strength or beneficence, and I have argued against this approach.
Over-Reliance on Signs in Modern Astrology
In modern astrology, there tends to be a strong focus on the quality of various aspects of the psyche (planets), which are again mainly determined by the zodiacal signs of the planets. For instance, one might assert that Venus, signifying the love nature, would in Scorpio make for an intense, passionate, jealous, and secretive sexuality. In this case, the planet itself is a stand-in for some important aspect of the individual’s character or pscyhe.
Does the Planet Connect to the Character?
Unfortunately, it is used in this way whether or not it actually connects strongly with the symbols for the individual and their character in the chart. While Venus can provide indications pertaining to the native’s love life and sexuality on her own, those significations may not associate strongly with the native’s personality if they don’t connect with the indicators for the self and character in the chart.
Is the Indication Strong or Superficial?
Similarly, the indications from Venus regarding the relationship may only apply superficially to some situations. If the indications from Venus are not reinforced by similar indications in the natal chart from other factors such as the twelfth-part Venus, the 7th house and its ruler, relevant lots, and the houses of Venus, then Venus indicates only superficially regarding the matter.
Indications from a Planet Go Deeper than the Sign
Additionally, the essential quality of the indication is determined by the zodiacal sign, ignoring other factors that might more directly influence the indications given by the planet. For instance, another planet in the same sign will often have a stronger and more direct impact on the significations of a planet than its sign. The sect of Venus, her prominence, the planets regarding her, the state of her ruler, and additional factors all should come into play when interpreting the significations of Venus in the chart.
Moving Away from Over-Reliance on Zodiacal Signs
The signs are rather abstract divisions of the sky. 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”.
Distinguishing Types of Prominence or Strength
Ancient authors tend to lump together both prominence and grit (or follow-through), under the label of strength. In my own experience, I’ve found that one should separate out these strength factors as pertaining to at least three different things.
- General prominence pertains to loud or pervasive significations in the life.
- Personal prominence pertains to personal importance to the individual, being influential over key areas of the life such as the character.
- Grit or follow-through pertains to the 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. There can be a person who is constantly surrounded by artists (Venus generally prominent), who is an intellectual (Mercury personally prominent), and whose relationships tend to start out strong but lack staying power (relationship significators with weak follow-through).
Prominence Changes with Time
For predictive purposes, it is very important to evaluate the range or variance of a planet’s indications. We don’t just want to know 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 at 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 life is long and complex, so we must take inventory of both the tendency and the variance.
Three Indications of General Prominence
The three most basic indications of general prominence that I look at are:
- Advancement – Covered in the last lesson. These are the approaching alignments of a planet with a location which happen 4 times each day.
- Stations – This is when a planet appears to stop and reverse its direction of travel relative to the stars as observed from Earth. The direct stations mark out days when a planet is particularly prominent. Some planets station more often than others. For instance, Mercury stations multiple times each year.
- 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. Note that for Paulus Alexandrinus of the 4th century CE this condition only applies to planets emerging from the beams and not to those setting into them. This also marks out days of planetary prominence which vary in frequency depending on the planet.
Spend a little time reading astrological chit-chat on the internet and you will surely encounter a lot of commotion about Mercury going retrograde. When a planet turns retrograde or back to direct, it must station. In order to understand the terms, “station” and “retrograde” we must talk a little bit about the secondary motion of the planets.
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 stars caused by the Earth’s daily 24-hour rotation. However, the planets move much more slowly in the opposite direction, through the sky against the backdrop of the fixed stars (i.e. through the signs of the zodiac). They follow nearly the same path followed by the Sun (as viewed from Earth). The path is called the ecliptic. Think “eclipse”, as an eclipse happens when the Moon conjoins or opposes the Sun while she’s on the ecliptic. The “secondary motion” of the planets is the motion of each planet going slowly counter-clockwise around the chart, from west to east, each at its own pace.
No Retrogradation in the “Solar System”
The secondary motion of the planets is the same motion that you would’ve studied in high school astronomy class when you observed the Earth and other planets traveling around the Sun. However, in astrology, we study it from the position of the observer, on Earth, as astrology is oriented to the observer on Earth.
In astronomy, an external abstract point is the center of reference with regard to the system. Not exactly the Sun as most assume, but the center of mass (barycenter) of the solar system. The barycenter usually resides within the Sun, so we think of the Sun as the center, but the barycenter can move up to about a full solar radii outside of its surface at times due to the massive gravitational pull of Jupiter. Using the Sun as a frame of reference, the planets appear to run their circuits around it, never reversing direction.
From the vantage point of the Earth, things are different. Planets farther out from the Sun than Earth appear to stop and move backwards when 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. The video includes a good look at the way that the 2nd century astrologer Ptolemy modeled these motions using the Earth as a static frame of reference. Ptolemy added a second cycle called the epicycle that would account for the retrogradation. In this way, astrologers could better predict planetary positions at any point in time.
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“.
Stations in Ancient Astrology
Ancient astrologers attached a lot of importance to the points where a planet appears to stop and change directions. These points were called the “stations” of the planets. The “first station”, or “retrograde” station, was when the planet appeared to move backwards. In Hellenistic and Perso-Arabic astrology it was considered to signify a weakening of that planet’s significations. The “second station”, or “direct” station, was when the planet appeared to move forward again after a period of retrogradation. It was considered to signify a strengthening of the planet’s 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)
Effect of Stations and Retrogradation
While retrogradation is given a lot of hype in modern astrology and even in late traditional astrology, I think its importance is overblown. Retrogradation is very 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 each time. 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.
On the other hand, the stations are very significant. Typically, within about a week of the station, the planet may be considered as being more or less prominent depending on the nature of the station, and how close it is 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 to look for stations, and also look again at advancement.
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. My article discussing the 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. It is open source, meaning that programmers are free to examine the code and improve upon it. Morinus is truly THE astrological program of the astrological community.
I recommend Morinus above all other astrological programs, even for advanced students Nearly all of the 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.
Settings in Morinus
Once you have the program installed and have a chart up, you should modify a few 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.
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 retrograde motion, so they are not examined in this respect.
Steve Jobs’ Chart
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.
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.
A Week Before Birth
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.
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.
A Week After 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.
Mercury Retrograde or Mercury Stationing Direct?
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 by February 25th, within 24 hours of the birth of Steve Jobs, Mercury had stationed direct. 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 type of prominent influence on 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.
Changing Your Perspective on Retrograde Planets
What about 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 retrograde often is revealed to be stationing direct, 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 traditional circles. Additionally, too much stress is placed on retrogradation, so it happens that prominent planets are often thought to be weak from retrogradation. 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 significations of drifting out of reach, being involved in delays and so forth. The direct station has significations of a pioneering and determined start, such as with forceful resolve. A retrograde station is like someone coming to the party and saying, “oh wait, I’m sorry, I forgot something, and I need to go home to get it”. The direct station is like someone who had been tied up for some time and now can move forward with some established plans.
Appearances or Phasis
Just as famous celebrities and politicians make important appearances, so do the planets. Their appearances pertain to meetings with the Sun, the king of the chart.
Under the Beams
The Sun is like the king of the astrological chart, signifying powerful authority and leadership. When a planet appears close to the Sun in the sky it becomes obscured by the light of the Sun. In ancient astrology, the standard distance is typically 15 degrees from the Sun. When a planet is within 15 degrees of 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, 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 “Transit of Venus“. In the article on the 2012 Transit of Venus, I explore the history of the concept of cazimi.
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. These phenomena are 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.
Phasis and Profession
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.
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)
Rising and Setting Relative to the Sun
The passage above is from Rhetorius. Paulus Alexandrinus (4th century CE) also discussed the phases of the stars and the terminology associated with phasis. A planet in phasis which is coming out from the beams is called rising or arising, as it is in its heliacal rising (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. 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.
Variation in Terms of Heliacal Setting
For some ancient astrologers, only the heliacal rising is viewed as strengthening for professional matters. Paulus Alexandrinus of the 4th century CE advised to look at heliacal rising as a factor making a planet more significant for signifying the person’s actions (profession), but did not advise to look at heliacal setting in that sense.
However, Porphyry (3rd century CE) advised to look at both in the context of finding the lord of the nativity. This suggests that in an earlier doctrine both phases marked out prominence.
And the first, the Lord of the ASC or the one that is posited on it in the domicile and the terms, either the one of the Moon, or the one of the MC, or the one of the [Lot of] Fortune, or the one 7 days before birth, or within 7 days making a phase of the rising or the setting or of a station. (Porphyry, Ch. 30, Holden trans., 2009, p. 24)
In practice, I’ve found consistently that both confer prominence and both can be relevant for the 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.
Under The Beams and its Modification
I personally associate being under the beams with the sense of something powerful causing things to go underground, into hiding, but not necessarily good or bad in a blanket sense. For instance, do you feel that you can fully and entirely be yourself with your parents, grandparents, or boss? This seems to be analogous to the behavior of a planet under the beams.
Under the Beams but with Rulership
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. Such planets are under the influence of the Sun but also have a type of independence as they are in their own place. It is like a person visited by a king but without a need to subjugate oneself to that king.
Morning and Evening Stars
A related distinction to know is that between morning stars and evening stars. Those rising (above the horizon) before the Sun are said to be to the “right” of the Sun, oriental the Sun, or morning stars. They are seen in the morning before the Sun rises. Those rising (above the horizon) after the Sun are said to be to the “left” of the Sun, occidental the Sun, or evening stars. They are 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 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 appearances within about a week from birth. Therefore, our habit of checking one week before and one week after birth has a dual purpose; we check for stations and appearances.
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 in phasis most often. The degrees of the planets are shown 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 (in phasis). 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.
Find Phasis in Steve Jobs’ Chart
You’ll notice that Steve’s Sun is at 5 degrees of the sign numbered VII (Pisces). Besides the Moon, Mercury is the fastest planet and moves up to about 2 degrees per day. Therefore, if a planet is more than about 30 degrees from the Sun it won’t be in phasis.
Mercury Presents a Possibility
Mercury is the only planet within about 30 degrees from the Sun. It is at 14 degrees of the prior sign, Aquarius. The Sun and Mercury are a little bit over 21 degrees from each other. Mercury is moving backward and is in a sign before, so they are moving away from each other. Given this, we know they won’t be within 15 degrees of each other at any point after birth. The question is whether Mercury and the Sun were ever within 15 degrees the week before birth. To answer this question, we’ll look at the chart from a week before birth.
A Week Before Birth
Look 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. Therefore, Mercury was under the beams within the prior week and made an appearance coming out from the beams.
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.
General Prominence in Steve Jobs’ Chart
We have looked at all three of the general prominence factors in Steve Jobs’ chart. While the Moon was strongly advancing, Mercury, mildly advancing, was strongly stationing direct and was in phasis. Therefore, Mercury indicates very prominently concerning the life circumstances of Steve Jobs.
General Prominence Chart Examples
I’m going to run through a number of examples very quickly. I’ll note the important information obtained from the three general prominence factors. The data for all examples are from Astro-Databank.com. If you have any questions, please comment and I will do what I can to assist.
Hitler has a very complicated chart. Mercury, the Sun, and Saturn are the most prominent planets by advancement while Jupiter and the Moon are retreating. Looking at stations, Saturn is even more prominent due to a direct station about 6 days before birth. Additionally, 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. Mars and Venus are both between 15 and 16 degrees from the Sun. They are strongly in phasis, but going into the beams. Venus goes into the beams within 24 hours and Mars within 3 days.
Saturn is Most Prominent and Jupiter is Most Weakened
Hitler’s chart has many prominent planets but Saturn (lack, hardship, loss, darkness, discipline, and control) is most 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. Venus and Mars are prominent in their own ways as both are advancing and very strongly in phasis. Venus goes very quickly and deeply under the beams while Mars slowly descends into them. These pertain 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 secretive activity of an intellectual nature. Jupiter, the planet of opportunity, abundance, generosity, goodwill, friendship, kindness, and spirituality is very weak.
In Kurt Cobain’s chart, Mercury is conjunct the Descendant. With Mercury, 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. 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 complex. It is very significant but with a potential for a reversal. It’s setting under the beams can signify covert action.
Witte was an early 20th-century astrologer who pioneered a new system of astrology. His Uranian astrology is very different from other modern forms of astrology. It is based on symmetrical relationships of planets to each other. Witte ended up committing suicide after being targeted by the Nazis.
Jupiter Prominent with Mercury-Venus Prominent in Another Manner
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, while Saturn is retreating and under the beams. 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. Both are about 15 degrees from the Sun, so they are 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. Witte’s astrology, dependent upon symmetry, has a sense of mathematical harmony to it. It has a visual elegance which shows a fusion of the intellectualism of Mercury combined with the aesthetics of Venus.
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 stationed retrograde within 4 days of birth. Mercury stationed retrograde within 5 days of birth.
The Moon Above All
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. She is advancing toward the Midheaven (and rules the Midheaven; rulership will be addressed in a future post).
Where Do We Go From Here
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 configurations. These form the core elements of the Hellenistic system of astrology. However, it is good to get in the habit of initially checking the indications of general prominence. They will tell you which planets are loudest and have something important to say about the life as a whole.
Unfortunately, it is much easier to identify which sign a planet is in than to check for stations and appearances. However, we are looking at something much more concrete when examining advancement, stations, and appearances. Most considerations in ancient astrology are based on abstract mathematical divisions of the ecliptic into signs. Here we have dealt with more basic observations of wandering stars rising, culminating, setting, changing direction, appearing and disappearing. These things have been observed for thousands of year in astrological systems which predate Hellenistic astrology.
Practice Makes Perfect
Practice with these three basic techniques on your own chart and as many charts as you can (visit Astro-Databank). Feel free to expand upon them with the other distinctions we discussed (combustion, cazimi, morning vs. evening stars). Discuss your findings in the comments.
Critical thinking is very important. For instance, why is it the case that Kahlo’s Venus was under the beams rather than in phasis? Ancient astrology is very vast and we are still only dealing with general prominence. Prominence relative to the self and specific topics such as profession bring in additional considerations and concepts. The complexity and vastness of ancient astrology is a good thing because human life is even more complex and vast.
The Map is not the Territory
Of course, no astrological system can ever predict the full complexity of any human experience. No communication can ever fully convey an experience. The map is not the territory. Nevertheless, by learning more and honing our skills in ancient astrology we may defy what is generally considered possible. We observe that the sky speaks volumes about the past, present, and future. The language of the heavens, arranged by some intelligence beyond our own, highlights our humble place in a brilliantly intelligent universe.