Confessions of a Wandering Astrologer #2: What is a Planet?

Posted by on Oct 3, 2019 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Confessions of a wandering astrologer #2…Pluto turns direct today. Moon is in Sagittarius. Mercury enters Scorpio. Venus is beginning to be (briefly) visible in the evening sky. And I’m on my way to Shropshire to do a four day course on the mysteries of the Yew tree.

…For my second ‘confession’, I’d like to talk about what we astrologers mean when we talk about a planet. To the modern mind, a planet is simply a physical ‘object’ out there in the solar system, rotating around the Sun under the force of gravity. We look to scientific explanations as to how it ended up there, the result of rocks or gases released 5 billion years when our Sun was ‘born’; how gravity accounts for both its spherical natural and its cyclical orbit. We are used to seeing photographs of the planets, identifying them according to their physical properties, and that is how we think of them.

What makes the astrologer’s perspective so unpalatable to the modern scientific worldview is that we look to a pre-modern understanding of what a planet is, one that imbues it with some form of divine agency which transcends its physical properties. So the planet Venus is not simply named after the Goddess of Love, the planet is in ‘sympathy’ with her, to use that term in its traditional sense. With her radiant presence in the morning or evening sky, the presence of the Goddess is embodied in the planet, just as she is embodied in copper, in the shape of the pentagram and in the scent of the rose, among numerous others aspects of our world with which she is sympathetically connected. Such as when our tastebuds are excited, when we sense a garden growing, fall in love, or indeed contract a venereal disease.

The divine energy of Venus or Aphrodite is in the world all around us in our everyday experience and her planetary movements in the heavens offers up to the fire of the astrological imagination a sign which would seem to indicate her intent, her purpose, her desire. So when she is in Taurus, we might picture her in a garden, surrounded by the splendour of nature’s gifts; we imagine her full of passion and charged with sexual energy when in conjunction to Mars; or conducting some secret affair when she is in the twelfth house.

In Vedic astrology, the planets are known as ‘graha’, which loosely translated means the ‘grabbers’, the archetypal forces beyond your conscious comprehension and control that grab hold of your individual soul and exert their own agency upon it, mark it with their own power of intention. That’s a very uncomfortable idea for us moderns. We like to think of ourselves as being in control, of being responsible and accountable for our thoughts, behaviours and actions. We don’t generally like to consider that we might be under the grip of a power greater than our own mind, the rationality of which we prize so highly; to be possessed of something beyond one’s own power of reason. Yet this was certainly the ancient or pre-modern view. In earlier times, if you committed a crime under the light of a full moon, or during an eclipse, you might well have been considered ‘not in your right mind’. Being under the grip of Luna’s emotional intensity, would be to suffer a form a ‘lunacy’ for which you could not properly be held to account. As Shakespeare wrote: “It is the very error of the moon. She comes more near the earth than she was wont. And makes men mad.” (Othello, Act V, Scene II)

Although such ideas are generally dismissed today as superstitious nonsense, we astrologers recognise that the position of Sun, Moon and planets in a person’s horoscope have a direct bearing on that person’s character and destiny, their behaviours and personality traits. For me, we are not merely blank canvases onto which our conditioning and circumstances shape our character and calling. No, each one of us has, imprinted upon his or her own soul, the markings of forces that are, to all intents and purposes, other than human…

That’s it for today. I’ll be transferring my confessions onto a blog website at some point during the next week, but for now I’ll keep posting on here. Have a great day. ❤️

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