The Planets And The Ancient Gods
All of the planets in the solar system have been named after the gods of mythic antiquity. The ancients noticed, while observing the night skies, that while most of the stars did not seem to move, there were a few that did change their positions, relative to the rest of the stars and constellations. These moving stars were known as planets, which means "wanderers."
Astrology was first studied by the Babylonians and the Egyptians, and the Babyonians named these "wandering stars" after their various gods and goddesses. Astrology was later introduced into the Greek culture, and finally into the Roman culture. The Greeks renamed the planets after their gods and goddesses, as did the Romans. It is the Roman names we use today in western astrology.
The Planets And The Gods As Archetypes
The Inner Dimensions Of Myth And Astrology
The dictionary defines the word archetype as "the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies." The ancient myths are stories of the universal archetypes that exist in every culture throughout human history. The planets, as namesakes of the gods and goddesses in these myths, represent the inner dimensions or psychological imprints of these universal energies. For some reason, which still remains a mystery to me, the function of each planet in astrology closely resembles the personality of the god/goddess for which it was named. These tales may differ from culture to culture, but the archetypes remain the same. They are part of the collective unconscious of humanity that we all share.
As we familiarize ourselves with these stories, we bring them into our personal cosciousness where we can begin to see them at play all around us in our own lives and in the world at large. The stories are not frozen in antiquity. The planets in our solar system are always moving through the signs of the zodiac and making various aspects to each other. In so doing they continually re-create these mythic dramas, and can be watched by those of us who follow their daily motion. We can literally watch these archetypes, like actors on a stage, as they move through our own life stories.
"Though the Greeks of the Archaic Period (800-500 BC) imagined their gods as real entities living on a real mountaintop, the sophisticated intellectuals of the Hellenistic (c. 300 BC-1 AD) and Roman (1 AD-400 AD) periods regarded the gods and planets primarily as psychological entities. Plato called the gods archetypes, and he he meant exactly what Carl Jung meant when he too used that term." (Source 2)
Carl G. Jung pioneered the groundbreaking study of archetypal image and its relation to the human collective unconscious.
Your birth chart is your Archetype
Your birth chart, therefore, can be seen as a symbolic representation of your own personal mythology, as written in the positions of the planets and signs at the specific time and location of your birth. In other words, it is a personal mandala, unlike any other person's. It displays not only appearance, personality traits, likes and dislikes, but also the journey of the inner self; its purpose, power and its challenges throughout the journey of your life.
Your story continues as the planets in the sky move in and out of aspect (angle) to the positions they were in at the time of your birth. Through astrology you can watch your story unfold, and see the deeper significance of the underlying energies that are operating throughout your life.
The Gods and Goddesses
The Roman and Greek Gods and What They Represent
Of the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods and goddesses we use in astrology, all but two were Olympian gods. Saturn and Uranus had both been dethrowned by their sons and thrown out of Olympus. Pluto was an Olympian but he spent very little time on Olympus, seamingly preferring his own dark realm.
- Apollo, God of light and the Sun, music and healing, Greek name Appolo
- Diana, Goddess of the Moon and the hunt, Greek name Artemis
- Mercury, Messenger of the gods, Greek name Hermes
- Venus, Goddess of love and beauty, Greek name Aphrodite
- Mars, God of war, Greek name Ares
- Jupiter, King of the Gods, Greek name Zeus
- Saturn, Lord of Time, Greek name Cronus
- Uranus, Father Sky, Greek name Ouranos
- Neptune, God of the oceans, Greek name Poseidon
- Pluto, God of the underworld and the dead, Greek name Hades
God of Light and The Sun
Although Apollo became the deity most commonly associated with the sun, he is not the first deity to represent the sun. An earlier sun deity was Helios, a Titan, who drove his fiery chariot across the sky each day from east to west, and disappeared beneath the western horizon until the next morning when he appeared again in the east.
Apollo was definitely one of the central gods in the Greek pantheon. He was the "golden child" of Mt. Olympus gifted in art, music, medicine and healing. He was the delight of the Olympians playing his lyre and singing songs. He taught medicine,and how to comfort and cure the sick. His symbols are the golden lyre, the laurel wreath, and the dolphin. He is twin brother to Diana (Artemis), Goddess of the Moon. His parents are Jupiter and Leto.
In astrology the Sun represents the inner self, the conscious self and our purpose in this life. Studying the sign and house position of the sun and it's aspects shows us what we are trying to manifest during our life and what our inner truth is, as contrasted to our outer image (the face we show to the world), which is shown by the sign on the Ascendant and any planets in the first house of the chart.
Goddess Of The Moon, The Huntress
The moon has many goddesses associated with her. One of the most well known is the image of the triple goddess, which represents the phases of the moon, and the stages of maturity in women. The new moon, maiden; the full moon, mother; and the waning moon, crone or wise woman.
Diana, The Huntress, twin sister of Apollo, became the goddess of the moon and the hunt in the Roman pantheon. She could be seen in the forrest hunting, especially at the time of the full moon. She was a virgin goddess who never married. She was the protector of young children and young animals and became connected to the moon as a symbol of purity.
In astrology the Moon represents our emotional self, the subconscious, nurturing and our instinctive emotional responses. Together with the Sun the two are the archetypes of conscious purpose and emotional instinct. The Sun and Moon, commonly called the lights, are the most important "planets" in the birth chart. Consideration of the Sun and Moon, along with the Ascendant gives us a great deal of information about our inner life and our outer world.
Messenger Of The Gods
Mercury is known as "the messenger of the gods." He is usually depicted with a winged helmet and winged sandles symbolizing speed of delivery. In astrology Mercury stands for the mind and communications of all kinds; how we think and how we communicate our thoughts and ideas to others. Writing, journalism, reporters, communicators are associated with Mercury. Mercury is clever, quick and graceful.
One of Mercury's symbols is the caduceus. The Caduceus was a magic wand; a gift from Apollo given to Mercury to guide him on his journeys. Mercury watched over tradesmen and travelers and was known to help travelers to sleep and dream pleasant dreams.
In astrology Mercury represents the conscious mind, our way of thinking and communicating, and how we learn and retain knowledge. Mercury's signs are Gemini and Virgo. In Gemini, an air sign, he manifests as intellectual, interested in facts and knowledge for their own sake. In Virgo, an earth sign, he is more practical and grounded, and concerned with the usefulness of knowledge and it's practical application.
Every young woman wants to be Venus, and every young man wants to marry her. She is the symbol of love and beauty. A strong, well aspected Venus in the birth chart grants elegance, grace, sensuality (in Taurus), diplomacy (in Libra), an appreciation of the arts and a love of beautiful surroundings.
After emerging from the foam of the sea, Venus eventually found her way to Olympus, where Jupiter adopted her as his daughter and gave her in marriage to Vulcan, the lame god of the forge. But Venus, uninterested in her husband, set off on a series of affairs with other gods and some mortals. However, her most well-known affair was with Mars, god of war.
It is said of Venus that neither god nor mortal could resist her:
"Aphrodite put on a magic belt that made other men fall in love with her. Every goddess tried to beg, borrow or steal that belt, but none succeeded. Aphrodite's power to love was so great that even wild lions and tigers were tamed in her presence."
In astrology Venus represents love, beauty, artistic ability and appreciation. Her position in the birth chart shows how we give and receive love, how we express affection, what kinds of things we value and what we find pleasure in. Venus rules Taurus and Libra. Venus, always interested in love, affection and romance, expresses it differently, depending on the sign and house she is in, and the aspects she has with other planets in the chart.
Mars, god of war, was the son of Jupiter and Juno, who, even in Rome, had little respect or liking for him. However, Mars was much more popular in Rome than his Greek counterpart, Ares, was in Greece. He was the revered god of the warring and conquering Romans, and second only to Jupiter's rank in the Roman pantheon.
"He [Mars] was considered the patriarch of Rome, having given birth to Romulus and Remus, the founders of the city. To the Romans, who glorified war heroes and "martial" arts, Mars was a heroic god, his name invoked on battlefields." (Source 2)
To the Greeks Ares was viewed as an all-brawn-no-brain thug, with little refinement and lacking any ability to appreciate culture and higher thought.
"Ares was a fiery, bloody character. Not even his parents liked him. He thrived on violence, battles and wars. The Earth growled and groaned beneath him as he moved. Even though he joined wars on Earth among humans, he was not as powerful as he appeared. There were times when he was driven from battlefields by humans who preferred living in peace to fighting one another." (Source 1)
It is interesting that the five pointed star is also associated with Mars, which is one of the main symbols used by the militarly and the police.
In astrology Mars represents energy, initiative, and drive. Combined with the Sun, which represents our purpose in life, Mars is the function which helps to actualize that purpose. Mars rules Aries and Scorpio, though after its discovery, Pluto was assigned rulership of Scorpio. (Many astrologers, including myself, feel that it is wise to consider both the classical ruler and the modern ruler together when judging a horoscope.)
In Greek Mythology Jupiter was known as Zeus, ruler of Mt. Olympus. In the Bablyonian creation epic, told in the Enuma Elish, Marduk, son of the heavenly king is chosen by the gods as their champion to defeat the armies of Tiamat, a gigantic sea serpent, who have risen in revolt against the Olympian gods. Marduk is successful in destroying the legions, and goes on to create the earth and the heavens from Tiamat's body.
A more common tale is that Jupiter, son of Saturn and Rhea, dethroned his father, Saturn, at the bequest of his mother, Rhea. In doing so he became the third ruler of the gods.
As king of the gods on Olympus, Jupiter was in charge of maintaining order among the often bickering gods and goddesses, and was known for his just decrees when settling disputes. He was usually an easy going, sociable presence unless angered, when he tended to hurl thunderbolts at the hapless offender. Juiter is associated with the law, justice, abundance, order and joviality (a word which comes from Jove, one of Jupiter's names).
"Zeus laughed easily, and he fell in love often. Zeus's wife and queen, Hera, was always very jealous. Zeus was the chief judge on Mount Olympus and settled all disputes fairly." (Source 1)
In astrology Jupiter represents abundance, expansion, faith in oneself and the world, optimism, philosophy and religion. Jupiter and Saturn as a pair are called the social planets, Jupiter representing the expansive principle and Saturn the contractive principle. Jupiter rules Sagittarius and Pisces, though with the discovery of Neptune, rulership of Pisces has been reassigned to Neptune.
It is interesting that Jupiter is the ruler of Sagittarius which runs from Novermber 22 to December 22 each year. This is the time in the US when we celebrate Thanksgiving and when the Christmas season begins. Both are celebrations of abndance, sharing and giving; a true representatio of the spirit of Jupiter. Examples of the Jupiter archetype are abundant in all cultures. A couple of examples in western culture are Santa Claus, the jolly old man who distributes gifts to children at Christmas; that time of the year when we celebrate generousity and the return of the light. Another is Robin Hood, who brings justice and balance back to his people, by robbing from the rich to give to the poor who have been starved and broken by those rich. These are both excellent examples of the Jupiter principle.
Saturn, Cronos in the Greek pantheon, was the second ruler of the gods, having overthrown his father, Uranus. Uranus (greek Ouranos) was father sky and Gais was mother earth, the original mother and father in the Greek creation story. Together they gave birth to the seven Titans, of which Saturn was one. Uranus, however eventually became tyrannical and Gaia persuaded Saturn to overthrow him, thus becoming king.
In time however, Saturn came to believe that he also would be overthrown by one of his children, as his father had been. In an attempt to avoid this he made Rhea, his wife, bring each newborn child to him. When Rhea complied, Saturn promptly swallowed the child. After a number of children had been swallowed by Saturn, Rhea, who very much wanted children, got tired of this behavior. With the next child born, she wrapped a large rock in swaddling cloth, and gave the rock to Saturn, which he promptly swallowed. The child who had been saved was Jupiter, who did eventually overthrow Saturn and imprison him in Tartarus, "a dark and gloomy region at the ends of the earth."
Saturn is pictured here as Father Time with the scythe and the hourglass.
In Astrology Saturn is associated with form, limitation, hard work for little return, fear, isolation and lonliness. Not a very bright picture, huh? However, the widsom of the ages tells us that there are great gifts hidden in these apparent obstacles for the deeper realization of the soul's purpose in life. In astrology it is generally recognized that Saturn's "gifts" once endured, do bring greater rewards, and though not lavish, are known to be more profound and enduring than those of any other planet, even the abundant rewards bestowed by Jupiter. People with a strong and positive Saturn in their birth charts are characterized by a love of work and steady achievement based upon merit.
This picture shows the relative sizes of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Pluto is the dot in the right side of the picture! His "planethood" has been challenged because of his small size and his extreme orbit which sometimes puts him inside the orbit of Neptune. Whether he is a planet or not, he certainly has had a profound effect on our world since his discovery in 1930.
With the discovry of the three outer planets (often termed the "trans-Saturn" planets), we come to a transition in the human collective experience. These planets represent human awareness of realities which are outside the parameters of normal "ego consciousness." It can also be demonstrated that each of these planets, upon discovery, has corresponded with major advancements in human achievement.
The outer planets must also be explained a little differently. The archetlypes which the Sun, Moon and the five visible planets represent are clear as processess of the individual psyche and have not changed much for a millenia. With the discovery of each of the outer planets we see a difference between the ancient mythology and what the modern planet represents in the psyche. Some astrologers consider the influence of these planets to be a higher octave of the personal planets: Uranus the higher octave of Mercury; Neptune the higher octave of Venus; and Pluto the higher octave of Mars.
During the time of Uranus' discovery use of electricity was developed. Breakthroughs in mathematics and quantum physics were achieved. Scientific discovery was accellerated. With Neptune and Pluto we saw the dawning of depth psychology and breakthroughs in the study of the human unconscious.
"When Zeus became comander-in-chief of Mt. Olympus, he divided the rulership of the world with his two brothers, Poseidon and Hades. Hades was given the domain of the underworld while Poseidon was to oversee the oceans." (Source 2)
Here we have two archetypes, Neptune and Pluto, representing the unconscious: the ocean (Neptune) which is associated with the collective unconscious, and the underworld (Pluto) which is associated with the personal unconscious.
Not all people respond to the three outer planets personally. Their orbits around the Sun are long (Uranus 84 years, Neptune 164 years, and Pluto 240 years), and so a whole generation will have these planets in the same sign. For this reason, they tend to be felt as an influence on the sub-culture of a generation, rather than personally. It is only when one or more of them is in aspect with the personal planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus and Mars) or at an angle in the chart, that the energies are felt on a personal level. However, our lives are "colored" by the generation we are born into. The people born into a generation have certain collective characteristics in common and generations are often named for those chacteristics, such as: The Great Generation; The Flower Children; Geneation X; The Baby Boomers. Astrologically, this is the result of the outer planets and their aspects to each other during the generation.
Uranus, Ouranos in the Greek pantheon, was Father Sky, the first born child of Gaia, Mother Earth, after she emerged from the primordial egg. He is pictured here standing under the ring of the zodiac, which represents the heavens. Uranus was dethrowned by his son Saturn, and in turn, Saturn was dethrowned by his son Jupiter.
Isn't it interesting now that the modern Uranus is associated with the first collective breaking of the bounds of Saturn, the "ring-pass-not" of personal ego consciousness. Uranus, originally the force of creation, has now led humanity past the barrier of Saturn and on to perhaps the creation of new "worlds" which exist in higher consciousness.
Uranus was discovered in 1781 during the time of two major revolutions, the American and the French, both of which were fought on behalf of the "common man." Uranus has also been named the ruler of Aquarius, the sign of universal equality and brotherhood as was chanted in the motto "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity." This reassignment of rulership is a fitting association, though Alice O. Howell points out that the modern Uranus "does not truly fit the myth of the Titan Ouranos, as much as it does Prometheus," who, as the myth tells, stole fire from the gods and gave it to man.
In astrology Uranus represents electricity, revolution, rebels (with and without a cause) invention, advanced technology and genius. Considered the "higher octave" of Mercury (consicous thought), Uranus represents intuition and quickened thought. He has charge over the transmission of unseen energy such as x-rays, ultra-violet light and gamma rays.
People with a prominent Uranus in their birth chart are generally regarded as original and unique in some way. They can seem distant and isolated socially, but the inner urge of Uranus is the freedom of the ego consciousness. This is expressed as a "need for change, excitement and expression without restraint." The desire is to break through the limitations of Saturn ego-consciousness and move "toward differentiation, originality, and independence from tradition. (Source 4)
Neptune, Greek Poseidon, was god of the oceans. He was considered a fierce god with a vengeful disposition. Extremely powerful, he could cause tidal waves and hurricanes when angered. With his trident he would split boulders which caused earthquakes. Neptune was invoked for successful navigation at sea, and on land, as god of fresh waters, he was worshipped as a fertility god. In some areas he was also worshipped as the god of horses. He is often pictured riding a sea horse, and was the father of the flying horse, Pegasus.
Though Neptune was a male god, ruler of the oceans, the nature of this planet is feminine. Whereas Uranus is active and electrical, Neptune is passive and magnetic. Together the two represent the yin and yang of higher states of consciousness.
The modern day Neptune has emerged not so much as the Titan Poseidon, but more as the archetype Dionisus, god of the vine and states of ectasy and madness. Neptune rules compassion, intuition, fog (both metal and physical) mysticism, meditation, bliss, stupor, dissolution, iridescence, acohol and drug use, escapim, hypnosis and trance states, ectasy and despair.
With the discovey of Neptune in 1846 we saw the the beninnings of new age consciousness with studies in Theosophy, eastern religions, Transcendental Meditation and hypnosis. The Neptunian desires transcendent freedom, and feels a "need to experience oneness with life, a complete merger with the whole." Whereas the urge of Uranus is freedom of the ego-self, in Neptune the urge is freedom from the ego-self.
Neptune has been assigned rulership of Pisces, a fitting sign. The Piscean Age began about the time of the birth of Christ, who submitted to sacrifice for the benefit of all humanity, and ascended to heaven (a greater whole). If Neptune is prominent in the birth chart the desire to be a part of a greater whole may be expressed in various ways from meditation and meditative practices such as yoga, to religions that induce states of ectasy, such as those found in the born-again Christian sects. A strong Neptune always carries a tendency to self-sacrifice and feelings of great compassion for all sentient beings. Negative expression of Neptune results in pure escapism often through drugs, alcohol, TV (a passive form of entertainment) or flights into a self-created world of fantasy.
God Of The Underworld
With all of this focus on moving into higher realms of consciousness, introduced to humnity by Uranus and Neptune, we now come to Pluto who says: "well, that's all fine and good, but there's a bit more work to be done before you can be free."
In mythology Pluto was a dark and rather moody god. He spent little or no time on Olympus and seemed content to stay in his own realm. He did, at one point, abduct Persephone, daughter of Ceres (mother earth and goddess of the harvest), and take her to the underworld where he made her his queen. Ceres' grief at the loss of her daughter was so great that she turned away from the earth forbidding it to bear fruit. The leaves withered and the earth froze. Humanity stood in danger of extinction. Zeus was moved by the appeals of humanity to be saved and sent Mercury into the underworld to appeal to Pluto to release Persephone. Finally an accord was reached and Pluto agreed to let Persephone spend 9 months each year above the earth returning for 3 months to the underworld.
Though Pluto's life as god of the dark realm may seem rather dreary, it should be noted that hades also means wealth in the Greek language. The obvious association would be that the underground, though dark and frightening, is also rich with minerals, precious stones, oil, etc. So this can be seen as a metaphor for the psychological process represented by Pluto of digging deep into the personal unconscious, which will eventually unearth the wealth buried within each of us.
This process may be initiated consciously, and though it can be painful, it is also healing and transformative. If anger, rage, disappointment and fear are left repressed in the unconscious, Pluto's energy can be likened to that of an erupting volcano, suddenly bursting forth into the consciousness uncontrollably.
Many mythic stories tell of the hero (the ego) having to travel into the underworld to save a heroine (the heart) from eternal enslavement or certain destruction.
Pluto's entry onto the world stage was certainly dramatic and intense, very much in the character of the dark lord.
"When the planet, discovered in 1930 was named Pluto, the world was embarking upon yet another crisis. This period of time was the darkest hour of the 20th century; indeed, of the whold post-industrial era. The United States was in the grips of a severe depression so great that people were jumping off buldings left and right because they had lost their fortunes. In Europe the age of the dictator was in full swing: Hitler, Mussolini and Franco and their dark armies evoked terror. Gangsterism in both America and Europe was on the rise and Mafia bosses were implementing their own brand of terrorism. In the scientific arena the atom bomb, made from plutonium, was in its early stages. The world was poised between two world wars; fear and darkness prevailed. And as the element plutonium emerged from the depths of the underworld -- depth psycholgy and the psychoanalytic process was in its heyday with Freud (Plutonian sexuality), Adler (Plutonian power drive), and Jung (Plutonian transformation) as key spokesmen." (Source 2)
With all of that going on in the world it's fairly easy to see why the principle of Pluto is "transformation, transmutation and elimination."
Pluto's orbit around the Sun takes approximately 240 years, so we have not yet seen its effects in each of the signs. At the time of its discovery it was in the sign Cancer. Until we have had a chance to see at least one complete revolution around the Sun we will not have a complete picture of what this archetype represents as a process in the individual psyche and its effects in mundane (world) astrology; nor the wealth to be discovered once the process is complete. What we know so far is mostly negative, unfortunately, which probably means that we are not yet very well attuned to the spiritual process which the planet repreents.
1. The Olympians Leonard Everett Fisher, Holiday House 1984
2. Mythic Astrology Ariel Guttman & Kenneth Johnson, LLewellyn Publications 1993
3. Jungian Symbolism In Astrology Alice O. Howell Quest Books 1987
4. Chart Interpretation Handbook Stephen Arroyo CRCS Publications 1989
FancyFree LM (author) on August 19, 2012:
@santadelcobre: Thanks santadelcobre! I'm glad you enjoyed it.
santadelcobre on August 19, 2012:
Loved the information on this blog FancyFree. Thank you for putting it all together. Great lens!
FancyFree LM (author) on April 19, 2011:
@jamesnodturft: Thank you for your comment! Yes, I feel it's important to make the distinction because of the difference in cultural values between the Greeks and Romans. An outstanding example of that is the difference in their regard for the god Ares/Mars. The Greeks considered him a blood-thirsty thug, whereas the Romans revered him. One wonders if it wasn't that reverence for Mars which give Rome the power to conquer so much of the world. Hmmmm.... But I do prefer the culture of the Greeks.
jamesnodturft on April 19, 2011:
Very good that you distinguish between Greek and Roman gods; most people treat them like they're the same.
FancyFree LM (author) on December 15, 2010:
@BrickHouseFabrics: Thankyou for your comment. It is quite uncanny to see how these myths link to our inner personal environment. As I was growing up and hearing stories about the gods and goddesses, I found myself just naturally attracted to this one or that one. Later, when I was taught Astrology, I found out that the ones I had been most attracted to as a child were also the most prominent and harmonious planets in my chart. It was quite a revelation for me.
BrickHouseFabrics on December 15, 2010:
Thankyou, I never thought of the names of the planets as being the names of gods and goddesses, in this way.
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FancyFree LM (author) on April 06, 2010:
@mine123: Glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for leaving a comment.
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FancyFree LM (author) on March 20, 2010:
@jptanabe: Hi jptanabe, thank you for leaving a comment.
Yes, Pluto! This certainly has some astrologers miffed. Two things I can say about it. Pluto certainly is a powerful force, both in my own chart and it would seem in the world also, considering the events and discoveries that took place during the time of his discovery.
Other than the classification of dwarf planet, I've also heard consideration of the classification asteroid. I'm not sure if either one is yet official. But the asteroids are becoming more and more important in astrology these days, which says to me that they may all represent new levels of awareness in the collective psyche and that maybe we humans are ready to bring some of these more subtle energies into our consciousness and learn to identify and use them in a positive way, hopefully. LOL
I don't really consider Pluto particularly subtle though, not like the asteroids. Whatever classification they end up giving him, he will still have the full weight and power of a planet in my mind, because this has born out in my experience, both with my own chart and the charts of friends and clients who have him powerfully placed in their charts.
Jennifer P Tanabe from Red Hook, NY on March 20, 2010:
Fascinating account of the Gods in Astrology. What do you think it means that Pluto got declassified as a planet - reduced in status to this new classification of a "dwarf planet"?