As you may well have heard, it is generally regarded as “a good thing” if a planet falls within a compatible sign! The logic being that the positive qualities of the celestial power can be more easily and more potently expressed and the soul within is lent that celestial power, and his or her life is enriched by it. On the whole the theory is sound and reliable, since a Venus in Libra, can be at its most charming and refined. A Venus in the 7th house can be most comfortably channelled into matters of relating. These are rules though, that have developed out of principles, not the other way around. As ever we should seek out the principle behind the convention. And, most of all, we should be prepared to question it. A critical respect for conventions is always better than blind acceptance, lest we miss the point.

So, let us ask the uncommon question: why is it that having a planet in a sympathetic sign is good, and furthermore, is it always good?

The received wisdom of planets in their own sign is that there is a sympathy. Untrammelled by the friction of discordant inclinations, a planet in its sign is free to shine forth undimmed. Like a face with no blemishes, carbuncles or grimacing propensity, it more easily pleases the eye.

Even more profoundly, a planet lent power and dignity by sign and house, can be lent further power and dignity by other means. A Venus in Taurus in the 7th, close to the descendant, in sextile to Jupiter in Pisces, where Libra rises is a Venus of almost unprecedented dignity. Here would be a supremely charismatic and sympathetic soul, easy-going, tolerant and charismatic. In a female chart, she would make an unparalleled wife, in a male, he would find no shortage of excellent candidates for marriage.

So, dignity is not an absolute or binary condition. Venus in a chart with Libra rising, close to an angle, and with good aspects can outrank a Venus in her sign if in the 11th house, squared to Saturn and with Scorpio rising. Dignity is a spectrum with many variations and considerations and some are subtle. In Western Astrology, the determination of planetary strength is a subtext, in the sense that there is no considered system of determining it except, rather shambolically, I think, through an unstated collection of unsubtle rules and conventions (like “planet in own sign: GOOD!”) Hindu Astrology has a much better approach in the form of Shadbalas and I am very much in sympathy with their more nuanced system for determining planetary strength.

Starting at the beginning then, we in the purview of the Western Mind make the wholly elementary deduction that the ruler of the Ascendant becomes the chart ruler. This is a rule. Once again, let us ask the question: why is it the chart ruler? The truth is, nobody seems to know. We can posit all sorts of post-priori justifications that make perfect sense and it’s entirely true to say that the rising sign ruler is extremely important. Consider:

I always think of the ascendant as the stained glass through which the light of the psyche is shining. It translates the deeper n-dimensional layers of the psyche into the 3D world of social behaviour. The ascendant is how you act in the world.

Steven Forrest – The Ruler of Your Ascendant.

Of course, that is profound and meaningful, but what is the underpinning mechanism here? Perhaps it is true to say that the Ascendant is the most utilised gauge of a person’s presentation on life’s stage. Naturally that is going to be important, and therefore, I suggest that because it is, in every case, a very cogent and relevant expression of one’s essential being, the ruler of the Ascendant will very often be the most significant shaper of a person’s directions upon that self-same stage.

Very often.

But always? I am going to argue that no, the ruler of the Ascendant is not always going to be the most cogent of yardsticks as to a soul’s direction and identity. My sense of the Western approach then is that this is a convention that has come about because in 90% of cases it’s true, so it’s a good bet. And even when there is another planet that ‘rules’ the chart, the ruler of the Ascendant is still going to be a big deal, so we cannot entirely fall off, if we follow this convention.

Abraham Ibn Ezra

There is a risk though in following this convention, because we might miss something more important. We adhere to the rule at the expense of a deeper understanding. It seems too, that there is lost knowledge hereabouts, as many ancient astrologers devised their own systems for determining the chart ruler, Ibn Ezra and Ptolemy are two such that are known. These ‘Almuten’ (trans. birth ruler) scores are interesting, but only reliable to a point, perhaps because the dynamic of human beingness has changed over so great a time. Societal expectations are not what they were in the middle ages after all.

Planetary strength is dependent upon many factors, and almost paramount among these is the nature of the sign on the Ascendant. Libra will lend power to Venus, but also to Saturn and will take power from Mars and the Sun, indeed this is a very important consideration, but that is exactly the issue, the chart ruler is a matter of consideration, not necessarily of record. Understanding this, we can appreciate that power is lent to a planet if it is in its own sign, or indeed, if other more nuanced conditions come into play. I hope that you can see then, that Libra rising with Sun in Leo, is a different deal to Libra rising with Sun in Aquarius. Regardless of the placement of Venus, this has repercussions for the soul. If you begin to appreciate the simple and gentle logic of this way of looking at planetary power it soon opens up an intriguing methodology.

Now to the next part of our question. Is having more power in a placement a ‘good thing’? I’ve visited this topic many times in the past, and the simple answer is that it is not so much better, as it is easier. You can read about that over here. And in the next few days I am going to chase down the logic of planetary strength, using some real-world examples. So, check back soon for the next instalment, and in the meantime, why not start thinking about which planet is dominant in your own chart? Is it the ruler of the Ascendant? And does it lend you an advantage in your life? Or does it, conversely, cause more problems than it solves?

10 thoughts on “The Almuten Conundrum

  1. I have been studying traditional astrology and find it useful because of the concept of mitigation which allows for a lot of nuance and a recognition that some simple rules or principals seen stand alone are not an accurate picture, and that there are reasons behind the principals whether we agree or not. It can be confusing though. I would love a check list and there is a point system but oh my, there is a lot to consider – and the point system is only a guideline. The chart still has a life of its own I think. To answer the question, no, my chart Ruler is not particularly strong by natal placement but I feel it – I feel very Virgo (and Aries and Sag and Venus!) ASC ruler is Mercury in H 8 combust an exalted Sun in Aries and guided by an exalted Mars in House 5, which trines a dignified Venus by sign in H9 conjunct MC but ON the fixed star Algol and making an exact square to Pluto in H12 (heart breaking marriage to a man with Mars on the ASC and an Aries Moon same degree as my Sun in H8 – OMG). Mars in a day chart a difficult planet but tempered very much by H5 and being in Capricorn. A very functional Mars for me but pretty serious play – constructive – and I consider it a good guide to the Mercury which resources a lot and is a good planner.. So much information that honestly, I just think about my life and then decide. But if we are reading others charts – what would we know other than asking the querent how does this work for you? The run down: House 8 is somewhat acknowledged by the non Ptolemic aspect to the ASC (exact inconjunct) so not as bad as H 12 say, but not good. Combust Sun not so good. Trine Moon-Saturn conjunction by one degree from H4 not so good but OK – that Saturn in a day chart is not strong in H4 but the lesser malefic, and has minor dignity by triplicity in Sag. It adds depth and discipline to the Aries computer. A better listener than speaker but his has improved over time. It is influenced by the applying conjunction from Moon in Sag etc. Moon can be very sad and insecure and not so happy in Sag. Material security out the door. Ruler Jupiter hiding in H 12 and back to the Sun.. It has not been an easy life but I have a very strong will – an inner strength, and I do so love to write and study. I have conquered serious health and injury in mid life. I am a survivor. Guess that would be the H8 Ruler Mercury, for better or worse.

    1. It seems that you have a good handle on the complexities, traditional astrology though is a whole other thing with its own conventions and approaches. My take on your chart ruler is that in Aries alone it may not be the ruler of your nativity. We will discuss some of the other factors (such as daily travel, sign and house affinity, ferality) next time, so that it is easier to make a judgement in the case of an evolutionary chart.

  2. Thank you Jem – looking forward to reading anything you have to say about this. I do not know much about evolutionary astrology but very much like your take that we are more than the astrology – that the level of consciousness and the karma for sure is at play as well. The analysis of the chart fascinates. The interpretation of the analysis that you are so brilliant at presenting is quite a pleasure to read.

    1. Thank you Jen, you are very kind. I see these articles as thinking out loud, so I’m glad that you can relate to it 🙂

  3. My first thought on reading your article was of my brother, whose moon is exalted in Taurus, a placement that is pretty much the only softening influence in what is an extremely rigid chart (notably, he has an amazing buildup of planets at 0° of the fixed signs – Neptune conjunct Ascendant at 0° of Scorpio, Uranus at 0° of Leo, and Sun at 0° of Aquarius). True enough, his exalted Taurus Moon gives him enormous emotional stability, he very rarely gets worked up about anything and emits a strong sense of equanimity, but together with the above T-square and the fact that his Moon is square Mercury in Aquarius (conjunct his IC), his peaceful, grounded Moon also expresses a sense of rigidity and inflexibility. Specifically, while his emotional life is generally placid and serene, he seems to find it impossible to sympathise with others when they suffer emotional turmoil. “What a lot of fuss about nothing”, tends to be his reaction to somebody going through a period of emotional strain or even torment; “Why can’t they just relax and calm down?” (Like I do, is the unspoken postscript)

    1. Hi Michael, that’s a very challenging arrangement your sibling has, and no doubt that Moon is his safe place, which is fitting. A tee square to Neptune, with Sun opposing its ruler so closely cannot be easy. Much easier to stay detached! I’m guessing the Ascendant will be critical in determining where his strength lies as well.

      1. His ruling planet Pluto, conjunct Jupiter at 28-9º Leo in his 10th hs, give him a helpful sextile, though of course as it’s Pluto, it’s a sextile with a distinct edge – no surprise that he was desperate to stand out as a child and a teenager, but the tightly-wrapped weirdness of his personality resulting from the tension of his T-square meant that he always had to make do with being a follower rather than a leader. Then in his 40s he had three children in quick succession that transformed his life more profoundly, I think, than such a life-change normally does. Because now, at last, he finally had what he’d always wanted – his own ‘gang’! And his personality consequently became much more relaxed, less rigid.
        I came across something by Stephen Arroyo which captures very well one side of the Scorpio rising personality, and which evokes what my brother was often like when we were growing up: “Scorpio is a sign of emotional extremism, and it is therefore easy to find a powerful negative expression of Scorpio ascendant for every positive expression. Scorpio rising has, in fact, gained a rather negative reputation over the years, one which is not entirely undeserved. No other rising sign can rival it for vindictive, ruthless, jealous behaviour. Vengeance is often a strong motivating factor in their behaviour, as is a sometimes paranoid obsession with self-preservation. This often takes the form of reluctance to let go of anything – money or emotions; they have a great fear of letting go and losing control.”

      2. 100% agree about Scorpio rising Michael, it takes a pretty evolved soul to handle one of them, and sadly I’ve seen two people with Scorpio rising that I’ve been closely associated with make absolute trainwrecks of many lives when they felt thwarted. It can leave an irredeemable wasteland in its wake, damaging themselves as much as the object of their ire. Sometimes more, because when “unmasked” people are often repulsed by the naked toxicity of it. Anyway, not saying that’s the case with your brother of course, but it can be surprising.

  4. A timely article Jem, as Mars in my own natal chart, at 3 Capricorn in the first house, is encamped to 5 degrees of the AC at 28 Sagittarius.

    So in Mars’ own territory, and exalted in Saturn’s sign, could we say earthly achievements come relatively easily? Here’s where I appreciate your comment on noting the nuances of other key actors on the stage of the Wheel.

    The answer is: with effort and commitment to self-knowledge! A Capricornian Mars in his own territory of the 1st has lessons of inner discipline, self-restraint, appreciation for social hierarchy and personal responsibility in said hierachies, coupled with a complementary expansiveness via Jupiter’s cheerful (and at times practicalities-avoidant) filtering of reality.

    There are other key factors for sure, though that Arian nature has landed me in as much trouble as he has boons. The most useful distinction here has been in a cautious and respectful exploration of one’s lower realms…the unconscious evolutionary power of Pluto.

    1. That’s an astute analysis of your situation as far as I visualise it Richard, and you’re well known to me as a courageous and dynamic fellow who has performed some near legendary feats of derring-do over the years. I am going to exp[lore some of the other considerations imminently so you might find it interesting to apply those factors to your situation. Also, the chart ruler changes over time with progression. But first: football 🙂

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