Spiritual Health

Astrological Planetary Meanings: How To Understand Your Birth Chart

At a broad—or atmospheric, if you will—level, your astrological destiny hinges on the placement of the celestial bodies in our solar system at the time when you were born. For the purposes of horoscopes, we tend to focus on the particular location of the sun, which determines your sun sign (aka one of the 12 zodiac signs that you share with anyone born around the same time of year as you were). But to get a clear understanding of how the celestial map may influence your personality and life path, it’s worth considering the placements of the planets, too—all of which have unique meanings in astrology.

“Each planet represents an aspect of our personalities,” says astrologer Rachel Lang. For example, you may already be familiar with Mercury as the planet of communication (perhaps for the way it tends to go awry when the planet enters retrograde cycles). And in line with that symbolism, each planet also rules over a specific sign (or signs), meaning it has the most influence over that sign’s archetypal traits. To stick with our friend Mercury, for example's sake, it’s the ruler of both methodical Virgo and quick-witted Gemini, both signs for which communication is a key element of self-expression.

As an astrological refresher, all of the planets function as the main players in your natal chart, with each one located in one of the 12 zodiac signs and one of the 12 houses at the time you were born. Astrologer Chani Nicholas simplifies this celestial milieu with a theatrical metaphor: "The planets are the characters, the signs are the costumes they're wearing, and the houses are the stages, or areas of life, where they're lived out," she previously told Well+Good.

"We can draw from the symbolism of the planets to gain insights about all aspects of our lives, including our health." —astrologer Rachel Lang

Going back to cosmic basics, then, it’s key to understand the meanings of all the planets in astrology in order to interpret their relative positioning in your chart and what fate that might forecast. “We can draw from the symbolism of the planets to gain insights about all aspects of our lives, including our health,” says Lang. Below, she breaks down the meanings of all the planets in astrology and the parts of ourselves that each one governs.

Here are the core meanings of all the planets in astrology, according to an astrologer:

The sun: ego, creativity

The sun is not technically a planet (it’s a star), but because it’s a luminary body within our solar system, it plays a similarly influential role within the astrological sphere as the planets do. In fact, it has perhaps the broadest impact on your overarching personality—as its location in the sky at the time when you were born determines your sun sign, or the zodiac sign you’d typically read in a horoscope.

“The sun determines how you shine your light in this world,” says Lang. “It’s your creative spark and sense of vitality.” While you can get more insight into how its influence manifests in your life based on the sign it was in when you were born—it transits into a new sign each month—you might also consider the astrological house it was in, too. This can offer some insight on the main arena of life (e.g., career, family, travel, etc.) in which your essential purpose will be lived out.

The moon: emotion

The moon is also not a planet by scientific measures—but in astrology, it functions similarly as an influential celestial body. In this case, it reflects our emotions, senses, instincts, intuition, and unconscious selves, says Lang. Often, the sign that the moon was in when you were born reflects a certain internal identity that could differ from the surface-level personality picture painted by your sun sign. “It shows us how we best nurture and nourish ourselves through self care,” adds Lang.

Because the moon moves quickly (changing signs every two to three days), it’s key to know the precise time when and location where you were born in order to identify your moon sign correctly.

Mercury: communication

Mercury is the planet of intellect, communication, and internal dialogue, says Lang. The reason it tends to have a particularly strong influence over us is because it’s (almost always) the closest planet to Earth in our solar system. Fittingly, the word “mercurial” is used to describe someone lively, volatile, and given to quick changes of mood, after the Roman god of commerce for whom the planet was named.

The sign of Mercury in your chart can determine how you analyze, process, and communicate information (and the planet moves into a new sign every three to four weeks). “It symbolizes how we order our lives through routines, daily practices, and habits,” says Lang.

Venus: love and relationships

“At its core, Venus deals with our self-worth,” says Lang. “Its power relates to how we experience pleasure, our urge for partnership, our ability to mediate conflict, and our social graces.” This is why knowing a partner’s Venus sign (aka the sign that the planet was in when they were born) can be the key to unlocking how they prefer to be loved. The planet moves into a new sign every four to five weeks.

Venus also rules over our finances, which relates back to the theme of self-worth, and how we like to be and feel valued. “She’s also all things beauty and harmony,” says Lang, so there’s a strong correlation between our Venus sign and our sense of style when it comes to the arts and fashion.

Mars: physical energy

Fiery and energetic (fittingly, the planetary ruler for Aries), Mars represents our physical drive, which is why determining the sign in which your Mars falls can offer some insight into a workout regiment that’ll work best for your body.

For example, someone with their Mars in Cancer might prefer the mind-body-connection elements of yoga, whereas someone with Mars in Gemini could enjoy changing it up with a rotating set of high-intensity cardio classes. And because of its connection to the physical and its association with energy and passion, Mars is also the planet that rules over our sexual needs. It moves into a new sign every six to seven weeks.

Jupiter: luck

As the biggest planet in our solar system, Jupiter contains multitudes, making its overarching role and influence a bit nebulous to nail down. Generally, it’s the planet most closely related to our faiths, beliefs, and philosophies, and it’s linked to luck and fate. “Ultimately, Jupiter wants us to follow whatever excites us the most and what brings up the most enthusiasm, the most joy, and the most passion,” Lang previously told Well+Good.

It’s also the planet of adventure, adds Lang, and it shows us how we can experience expansion in our lives and grow our horizons, either through travel, higher education, or something else entirely, based on the sign it was in when you were born. It moves into a new sign every two to three years.

Saturn: structure

The sky’s structural taskmaster, Saturn is often understood in astrology in reference to Saturn return—which is when the planet returns to the position it was in when you were born, sometime in your late twenties, essentially thrusting you firmly into adulthood. The big milestones or life shifts typical of this time can drum up larger esoteric questions about purpose and identity, which often come alongside growing pains.

“Saturn reflects our perceived limitations, authority figures, commitments, responsibilities, structure, and hard work,” says Lang. That’s also why knowing your Saturn sign can help illuminate your biggest challenge in life, and provide some guidance on how to best overcome it. It moves into a new sign every two to three years.

Uranus: innovation

Innovation, science, and technology are the name of the game when it comes to Uranus, which is considered one of the modern planets, as it was discovered in 1781, long after the systems of astrology and astronomy had been established. As a driver of change and evolution, its influence lies in contrast to Saturn’s rigidity and structure, which is part of why the current Saturn-Uranus square is so disruptive.

Because Uranus is far from Earth and takes about seven years to move between signs, its influence is more generational than individual.

Neptune: inspiration

This faraway planet deals with our ideals, dreams, and mystical inclinations (you’ll be unsurprised to learn that it’s the ruler of Pisces). And when it shifts into a retrograde transit, as it did at the end of last year, it can call to mind questions of truth versus illusion and lead you in search of complete honesty from yourself and your loved ones.

Similar to Uranus, it takes a long time to move between signs—about 10 to 12 years—making its influence more broadly a generational one. “Neptune is connected to the sense of oneness we may feel in deep meditation,” adds Lang, “and it’s also related to drugs, caffeine, alcohol, and any other mind-altering substances.”

Pluto: rebirth

While it may not be scientifically classified as a planet anymore, Pluto plays a similar role within the astrology space—in this case ruling over regenerative forces in the body, death, and rebirth, says Lang: “It relates to the deep psychological aspect of ourselves and the unconscious.”

Like the other outer planets, it is slow-moving from Earth’s perspective, shifting into a new sign only about every 12 to 15 years. As such, its influence is also generational, more so than individual. Currently, Pluto is retrograde in Capricorn (the sign known for its industriousness and pragmatism), meaning it’s a time of practical transformation and moving forward for all.

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