- Ambi Kavanagh, Reiki practitioner, astrologer, and author of Chakras & Self-Care
- Chani Nicholas, astrologer and author of You Were Born For This
- Rachel Lang, astrologer, psychic medium, and author of Modern Day Magic: 8 Simple Rules to Realize Your Power and Shape Your Life and As Above, So Below
- Stephanie Gailing, astrologer, wellness consultant, dream interpreter, and author of The Complete Guide to Astrological Self-Care and The Complete Book of Dreams
In astrology, each planet is associated with certain symbols and meanings. “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. What's more, there is a certain planet that is especially influential in your own personal chart called your astrology chart ruler; this planet is the ruling planet of your ascendant or rising sign, which also rules over your first house.
"Each planet represents an aspect of our personalities."—Rachel Lang, astrologer and author
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 astrological 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.
The movements of the planets—called transits—color the general vibe for us all, and have specific implications for each zodiac sign. As the sun progresses through the 12 zodiac signs we all experience specific vibe shifts related to whichever sign it’s in, and retrogrades, or when a planet appears to move backwards, provide opportunities for us all to pause and re-assess a specific part of life.
How the planets appear in your natal chart matter, too. The location in which a planet appears in your birth chart is the specific area where you’ll feel its vibe and energy. Some signs may be especially prominent in your chart; a stellium occurs when one sign appears in at least three planets in your natal chart. There can also be retrograde planets in your natal chart, too. "Retrograde essentially means the planet's energy is somewhat blocked externally, so those life areas that come within that planet’s domain are not as easily expressed,” Ambi Kavanagh, astrologer and author of Chakras & Self-Care, previously told Well+Good. If your natal chart has empty houses, that means you don’t have a specific planet coloring the realm of life those astrology houses correspond to.
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.
What each planet means and symbolizes, 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 rules luminous fire sign Leo, and is exalted in assertive Aries.
“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. The moon rules deeply emotional water sign Cancer, and is exalted in sensual earth sign Taurus.
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 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. Mercury is the planetary ruler of both meticulous earth sign Virgo and Gemini, the chatty air sign; it’s exalted in Virgo, as well.
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 rules both air sign Libra and earth sign Taurus, and is exalted in water sign Pisces.
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. Mars is exalted in earth sign Capricorn, and is Aries’ planetary ruler.
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.
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—some consider it to be the luckiest planet. “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. Jupiter rules fire sign Sagittarius, the zodiac’s adventurer, and is exalted in Cancer.
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.
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 is the planetary ruler of Capricorn—a sign known for its logic— and is exalted in the sign of Libra.
“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.
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. Uranus is the planetary ruler of independently-minded air sign Aquarius.
Because Uranus is far from Earth and takes about seven years to move between signs, its influence is more generational than individual.
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, it can call to mind questions of truth versus illusion and lead you in search of complete honesty from yourself and your loved ones. Emotional Pisces is the zodiac sign Neptune rules.
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.”
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.” Pluto is the modern planetary ruler of Scorpio, a water sign.
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.
FAQs about astrology planets and symbols
What are the most powerful planets?
The specific placements and positions of planets within your natal chart are key to understanding what it all means. No planet is necessarily more powerful than another, says astrologer Stephanie Gailing, author of The Complete Guide to Astrological Self-Care, but there are some that are particularly important to understand. When reading your birth chart, she recommends paying extra attention to the sun, moon, and the personal planets.
“When you look at your chart there’s just so much going on, so learn about: your sun, which is about your vitality and your essence; your moon, which is your feelings and inner needs; Mercury, your communication style; Venus, which is what you find beautiful and what you value; and Mars, which is what you desire and how you go about getting your desires met,” she recommends.
What are planetary aspects?
Astrological aspects refer to the specific angular relationships planets make with one another, which are typically harmonious and contentious. There are more minor aspects, too. Below, Gailing explains five common planetary aspects.
- Conjunctions: Two planets are close together in the sky, and in the same sign or adjacent signs. This refers to a union, or energies blending together.
- Sextiles: Two planets are 60 degrees apart on the axis, or two signs apart. This points to cooperation.
- Squares: When planets are 90 degrees apart, or three signs apart. This aspect can be challenging and points to tension because they’re in signs whose vibes don’t align.
- Trines: Planets are 120 degrees apart, and are especially harmonious. This generally happens in signs with the same element.
- Opposition: An opposition is when planets are 180 degrees apart, or opposite sides of the zodiac. Oppositions can be challenging.
What are exalted planets?
There are certain signs in which the various planets feel particularly strong and their vibes are positively enhanced, says Gailing—these are called exaltations. Each of the planets in the Ptolemic system (sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Saturn) has a certain sign they’re exalted in; the outer planets, Uranus, Pluto, and Neptune, don’t have traditional exaltations because they were discovered and recognized later.
What are the luckiest planets?
In traditional astrology, two planets were considered to be especially lucky and associated with positive happenings: Jupiter and Venus, which were labeled the benefics because of the goodness and expansion they were believed to bring. Saturn and Mars were traditionally considered the malefics, which were associated with challenges and troubles, and viewed in a more negative light.
However, Gailing emphasizes that in modern astrology no planets are considered better or worse than others because each planet offers lessons and consideration in specific life areas. Any planet's vibe can feel difficult at any point and depending on which realm of life it's touching; Mars and Saturn, along with all the other planets, offer lessons that can be extremely beneficial and positive and encourage personal growth.
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