Mythology of the Planets
The Planets and Mythology
The planets and asteroids that you interpret symbolically in your birth chart are named after Greek and Roman deities. The characteristics attributed to them are modelled on the qualities and traits of these pre-Christian gods and goddesses, whose stories in turn stem from the pantheon of Ancient Greece. Each deity has their own myth, and these myths intermingle because complex relationships exist between them. Together, they encompass all of the areas that we experience and explore within ourselves.
Birth (the Sun), growth and change (the Moon), communication (Mercury), love (Venus), assertiveness (Mars), expansion (Jupiter), responsibility (Saturn), innovation (Uranus), mysticism (Neptune), and death (Pluto) are the realms of the planetary gods and goddesses.
If you understand the story of each deity, and the subtleties of their relationships with each other, you can see how those energies work through the blueprint of your horoscope. Each planet and asteroid has a particular myth, a special influence, and this is played out in the arena of the signs and houses of the natal chart that each heavenly body is found in at the moment of birth.
If you view the planets and asteroids as aspects of yourself, you will be able to discover which ones you express most fluently, and which are repressed, denied or ignored. The crux of any system of self-understanding, astrology included, is the striving towards wholeness, the full integration and acceptance of yourself. Myth can be a useful and inspiring tool for this.
Greeks and Romans
Most of the planets and asteroids carry the names of Roman deities. However, the stories connected with these archetypes emerge from Ancient Greek myths, and these provide the foundation for the stories. The Romans renamed some of the gods and reinterpreted their qualities and myths: one such was Eros, who metamorphosed from a primal creative force who escorted Aphrodite to Olympus after her emergence from the sea, into Cupid, with his bow and arrow. But the personalities of the deities whose names were given to the planets are largely unchanged.
It is interesting to note that the outer planets, which were discovered comparatively recently, were allocated names from within the former pantheons. Uranus, though originally named Herschel, after the astronomer who discovered the planet, is known more commonly by the name of the Greek god, and the interpretations of these outer planets are closely linked with their namesakes. (1)
(1) Excerpt from the book Understanding the Planetary Myths – Tenzin-Dolma
Mythology Of The Planets
Your Life Purpose-rules Leo
The sun teaches to all things that grow their longing for the light,
but it is night that raises them to the stars.
–Kahlil Gibran, The Garden of the Prophet
The Sun is the Center of the solar system, the source of life force and vitality, the basic energy we express ourselves through. It describes our essence, our basic character, overall life purpose and path in life, how we can best “be” who we are.
The Sun is a high level being; it is a Star. This being shines with its own light and gives us life. We each receive and reflect the light of the Sun as we tune into it through the movements of the planets and the Moon according to the pattern described in our birth charts. Like the Sun, we are each the star of our own show. As our Sun is but one star among countless galaxies of stars, it shows how we play our part in the larger world. As we circle around the Sun and see it in front of the different constellations, it is beaming down to us energy from the stars that form the backdrop to the sky as we see it.
Read more about Mythology Sun
Your Personal Patterns and Rhythms-rules Cancer
“Fly me to the Moon and let me play among the stars,” goes an old song. The Moon is a satellite of Earth, intimately part of our experience, reflecting the light of the Sun through its various monthly phases. The Moon sign is as important as the Sun sign. As the Moon circles the zodiac each month, it passes through each of the zodiac signs and weaves the planetary patterns into our experience. The fastest hand on our sky clock, the Moon times the rhythms of our day-to-day life, the “mood” of the day, and translates the light of the Sun down to the most personal level. The Moon is where we pay close attention to ME.
The Moon describes the basic personal ground we grow in, starting with the relationship with our mother and early family patterns that shaped us. The Moon describes how we feel inside about what is going on in our lives and therefore colors how we automatically react to circumstances. It sets the rhythm of our growth cycles. The Moon describes what we need, our comfort level and the path to growth and self-care. As people get to know us better, they see our Moon sign more easily.
Read more about Mythology Moon
Little Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun. Just 3000 miles in diameter, it is less than half the size of Earth. Mercury cannot be more than one sign away from your natal Sun. Named for Mercury-Hermes, the quick-silver messenger with wings on his feet and on his cap, this planet symbolizes the mind and the way it processes and communicates data.
The mind can be friend or foe, depending on how well it serves us, insightful or jumping like a monkey. Mercury can be a trickster, especially when it is retrograde. From our point of view, Mercury loops back and forth like a labyrinth in its 88-day orbit, connecting inner and outer realms of consciousness.
Though its orbit is quick and short, a day on Mercury is relatively long–58.6 Earth days. So on Mercury, there are about one and a half days a year! That makes for very hot days and very cold nights, as the temperature on Mercury varies to extremes, polarized like the dark twin and the light twin of its mythology. Whereas the Earth tilts on its axis about 23 degrees, creating a wobble, Mercury rotates precisely straight.
Read more about Mythology Mercury
Veiled Venus is a hot planet! Her constant but extreme temperature of about 900 degrees F. gives a greenhouse effect created by a thick, visually impenetrable atmosphere of carbon dioxide and clouds of sulphuric acid. A twin sister to Earth with a diameter of about 7500 miles, Venus rotates in the opposite direction, so that the Sun rises in the West and sets in the East. She takes her time rotating, like a lovely woman showing off a beautiful gown.
One day on Venus is 243 Earth days–longer than her year of 225 days! Her surface features, some unique unto herself, are more diverse than any other heavenly body, with a crust that indicates plasticity of movement and lots of volcanic activity. Venus knows how to renew herself–and how to delight herself.
Goddess of love, beauty and pleasure, she, too, stays close to the central Sun, not more than 45 degrees away. Venus is a strong indicator of the female nature. Other than the Great Mother of nurturing and security, Venus indicates the feminine emotional, sexual and relational qualities of women and men. Venus has a magnetic, attracting energy that enhances our self-esteem and brings us into relationship with others. She does have a feisty side–remember how hot she gets, especially when she does not have enough happiness in her life.
Read more about Mythology Venus
Mars is the first planet past Earth, heading out into the solar system. As we have recently seen from the Mars Pathfinder and Global Surveryor, the topograpy of this “red” planet is more like the Earth than our other solar system neighbors, though it is only about half as large. Its day is the same as Earth. Its solar orbit is almost two years, so Mars covers about half the zodiac each Earth year, and retrogrades once per orbit. A predominance of ferric oxide, rusty iron, accounts for the red surface and sky and, probably, its blood-lusty reputation in the pantheon. Mars has two tiny moon–Demos and Phobos, fear and panic.
Named for the god of war, Mars takes action. It is the principle of strength and assertion, initiative and drive. Mars has to do with the immune system, the way we push out into fight back at the threats in life. The Moon may instinctively define what the threats are, Mars gets out the weapons. The “masculine” emotional dynamic complementing the feminine emotional nature of Venus, they work together to define our sexual-emotional nature. Venus is what we want and Mars is how we go about getting it. Take note, popular psychology readers: some men are from Venus and some women are from Mars.
Read more about Mythology Mars
The jump from Mars to Jupiter takes us into a whole new realm–astronomically into the domain of the gas giants, astrologically into the larger social, cultural milieu. Jupiter is the King of the Gods from pure size, at least, with an equatorial diameter of almost 89,000 miles. Big as it is, it rotates like a speed-demon in a10-hour day, making the middle of the planet bulge out with the rapid centrifugal motion.
A wild world, Jupiter signifies expansion, growth, BIGness. It is more massive than all the other planets, moons, asteroids and known comets combined, PLUS. Its magnetosphere expands way out beyond the planet itself, suggesting it was once a wanna-be Sun. It takes almost 12 years to orbit the Sun, transiting one year per zodiac sign.
It has a tenuous ring system and over 20 moons. The largest, Ganymede, is bigger than Mercury. Io has more intense volcanic activity than Earth, and Europa may have water. We are not soon to forget the spectacle of the string of fragments from comet Shoemaker-Levy dive-bombing into this huge world.
Jupiter represents what we enjoy, where we grow and expand our personal horizons into the a greater social context. It is what we believe about life, where we find meaning.
Read more about Mythology Jupiter
Saturn, or Chronos in Greek, is the sickle-wielding god of time, of cause and effect, setting limits and boundaries. A task-master and bottom line, reality-check planet, Saturn is circled by a fascinating series of rings. Though not the only planet with rings–Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune also wear rings–when we think planetary rings, we think Saturn.
Saturn defines the shape and form of reality. Its rings come in many sizes and forms, from small dust particles to mountainous masses. The planet¹s 21 moons may affect the ring formations in some way. “Saturn¹s rings are the planet¹s most striking feature, and to scientists, the most puzzling,” reports science writer Josh Rogan (in Astronomy, Nov.¹97, p39). …” the rings possess far more structure than anyone expected, including a host of bizarre features–clumps, kinks, spokes, and braids, which even now challenge scientists¹ understanding.”
The “Ring Pass Not” was an esoteric concept referring to the necessary fulfillment of Saturn¹s conditions, as in freedom through responsibility. Saturn is almost as large as Jupiter and whips around almost as fast, making a 10 and a half hour day. Like Jupiter, wild winds even more energetic than Jupiters reach up to 1100 miles per hour, creating zonal jets or bands in the upper atmosphere. Heat from its interior may be a major influence on the atmosphere, as Saturn generates 80 percent more heat than it receives from the Sun. Its orbit is almost 30 years, marking the important passage of the Saturn return, when a full round of Saturn experience has been completed and we reach a new level of maturity.
Read more about Mythology Saturn
Key to the Quest
Not a planetoid, not an asteroid, not even a comet, as was once thought. Chiron is the first of the CENTAUR objects. A maverick member of our solar system, discovered only in 1977, Chiron created a niche of its own. Named for the famed centaur and teacher-healer of Greek mythology, Chiron has an elongated elliptical orbit that brings it closer to us than Saturn and then out to Uranus, bridging a meaningful sector of the sky between the seen and unseen realms, the personal-societal and impersonal dimensions. Only a few miles in diameter, with a 50 year orbit, this little body carries significant archetypal symbolism for healing and wholeness.
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Radical Awakener-rules Aquarius
Expect the unexpected with Uranus. First of the “modern” planets, Uranus was discovered “by accident” in 1781, around the time of the American, French and industrial revolutions. The 84 year orbit of Uranus takes it through a zodiac sign in 7-8 years, creating a generation of people engaged in challenging, awakening and changing a dimension of collective experience. Uranus is less than half as small as Saturn, but like its two huge neighbors, it rotates very fast in a 17.24 hour day–but on its side!
One of the unique facts about Uranus is that it is tilted with its polar axis facing the Sun. Five of its 15 moons orbit in similar 90-degree angles. It has a spidery, perhaps temporary, ring system, enveloped by an extended corona of hydrogen that keep the rings spiraling close in. Named for the sky god, Ouranos, some archetypal astrologers agree with Richard Tarnas that Prometheus is a more appropriate name for the radical, electrical, revolutionary energy of this planet.
Read more about Mythology Uranus
Dreamtime God of the Universal Sea-rules Pisces
Almost a twin in size to Uranus, it is 50 percent farther away from the Sun, yet its temperature is equal to or greater than that of Uranus. Like Saturn, Neptune generates internal heat, more than twice as much as it receives from the Sun. Its atmospheric storms and winds are the wildest in the solar system. Like the other gas giants, Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus, Neptune probably has no solid surface and it, too, has a short day of 16 hours.
Its lovely blue color is from an abundance of methane in the atmosphere, which absorbs red light and reflects blue. Four bands shape a delicate ring system of ice crystals embedded in a magnetic field. Neptune has 8 known moons, two of which are unique in the solar system. Tiny Nereid has the most eccentric orbit and large Triton (Saturn and Neptune both have moons named Triton) orbits backwards. Neptune was discovered in 1846 by two astronomers in different locations, leading to some confusion, a trademark of Neptune.
Named for the God of the Ocean, Neptune¹s symbolism ranges like low and high tides from illusion, delusion, confusion, addiction and escapism, to aesthetic, mystical, spiritual compassionate and vibrational sensitivity. With an orbit of 165 years, Neptune¹s passage through the zodiac lasts beyond a single lifetime and creates 14-year generations of people who share a particular theme to redeem for the collective consciousness.
Read more about Mythology Neptune
God/dess of the Underworld-rules Scorpio
The discovery of Pluto was due to a remarkable chain of accidental events spanning several decades, decreed by fate.
–discoverer Clyde Tombaugh
The Fates stepped in and remote, enigmatic Pluto was finally sighted in 1930 after a long search. Expected to be quite large, it is the smallest planet, only 1860 miles in diameter. Its single moon, Charon, is half as large, suggesting a binary planet system. The two bodies dance around each other in fixed positions in about six and a half Earth days. Scientists can¹t seem to decide about Pluto.
Many now consider it not a planet but rather a premier member of the Kuiper Belt, a broad band that houses some comets and other cosmic ice balls. Whatever it is, with an orbit of 248 years, Pluto is going to ask deep questions that take more than one lifetime to answer. Its orbit is steeply inclined to the ecliptic and highly elliptical. It can reach as far as 4 billion miles from the Sun and then come in to about 2500 million miles, actually coming closer to the Sun than Neptune for a 20-year period (most recently in1979-1999).
Close to perihelion, it travels through a sign (Scorpio) in about 12 years; at aphelion it takes 30 years to go through Taurus, defining very different generation gaps. Wrote Plutonian discoverer Clyde Tombaugh 50 years after its sighting: “Its nature is more strange than ever. Its status as an object is engulfed in mystery. Everything about Pluto was unexpected. One can only speculate on what new things will be learned about Pluto in the future.” Secretive and psychological Pluto represents the archetypal mystery of the underworld, where our most hidden desires and motivations are buried, like skeletons or treasures.
Read more about Mythology Pluto
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