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.
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.
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?