The Way of the Stars (Issue no. 24)

Merry Meet!

I present to you  this week’s article, from my regular column at The Daily Spell. On this issue: different criteria for planetary classification. If you want to know what a “personal planet” is, this is the place to look ;-) Also, this week’s featured planet: Venus, the Goddess of Love.

Have fun!

The Way of the Stars

An Introduction to Astrology

By Pablo Dotro(*) – The Mage of the Many Shadows.

“Lady of the Azure Mantle,
to you we call in the clear, dark Night.
To read our Destiny in your Heart,
these words I offer thee,
in perfect love and perfect trust.”


Merry Meet, my dear friends! First of all, happy new year :-). This week, I will tell you about the different way astrologers use to classify or group the planets for study. Also, our featured planet this week is Venus, the ruler of Love and Beauty.


Planetary classification

Modern astrology is a healthy mix of modern science and thought on one side, and a myriad of traditional approaches… some of them going back even to ancient Sumer and Babylon. The modern astrological concept of planet; and the different ways into which we divide them for study are a clear example of this “mix”.

The different criteria for classification stem from the different approaches and needs astrologers experienced down the centuries. As time passed, those criteria evolved and coalesced into the few we now use. The following are the most usual (and useful) ways to divide the planets for study and interpretation.

By their astrological/psychological function in a chart:

  • The Luminaries: Sun and Moon, these are the most important planets of all. They represent the conscious and unconscious self, and are the center from which everything else emanates.
  • The Personal Planets: Mercury, Venus and  Mars. These planets are the ones that relate to our stamina and will, our mind, our sense of aesthetics and self image, our childhood experiences and our basic character. As such, they are often closely analyzed and throughly interpreted as manifestations of our essential nature.
  • The Social Planets: Jupiter and Saturn. These two form a dual pair that describe our relationship with society at large; the concept, spirit and letter of the Law; higher learning; religion; politics and such. These planets move slowly in the sky, representing the slow changes in the backbone of the social order of our world.
  • The Transpersonal Planets: These are the “new” planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. They manifest themselves usually not in our individual life but in the traits and characteristics of our generation. These are the planets that think, feel and act “outside the box” of everyday society. They bring about changes in the social, technological and spiritual landscape of the world. People with strongly placed planets of this kind is often on the front lines of revolutionary ideas or actions. They are “the ones who are different”. These planets are also often called “the trans-saturnines”.

If you look closely to the previous classification, you may notice something that seems universal to modern astrological thought: astrological symbols are more personal and relevant when their motion in the sky is fast… when their placement is so unique to our birth time that they are like a snapshot of our potential. That is why the fastest planets (and of course the houses and the ascendant) are given so much importance. More on this in a few weeks ;-)

An other way to classify the planets is by their placement relative to Earth in the heliocentric Solar System:

  • Inner planets: Mercury and Venus
  • Outer Planets: Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.

This is useful for the rules on retrograde movement and as a visual aid when trying to form a mental image of our solar system. It is also helpful to remember that the inner planets are never too far away from the sun (28° for Mercury, 48° for Venus).

From the earliest days of Greek astrology, a tradition emerged that classifies planets by their “gender”:

  • Male planets: Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Pluto.
  • Female planets: Moon, Venus and Neptune.
  • “Neutral”: Mercury.

A a few centuries later, from the European late Middle Age and Renaissance, with a re emegence of Hermeticism, a system evolved grouping the planets by a subjective measure of their heat or coldness:

  • Cold planets: Moon, Saturn, Mercury and Uranus.
  • Warm planets: Venus, Jupìter and Neptune.
  • Hot planets: Sun and Mars.

In a similar vein, planets are also classified by their “wetness” or moisture:

  • Dry planets: Sun, Mars and Saturn.
  • Moist or wet planets: Moon, Mercury, Jupiter, Uranus and  Neptune.

There is also a very old classification that comes to us from Babylon and Sumer… planets were, of old, considered good or evil.

  • Benefics: Venus, the Lesser Benefic and Jupiter, the Great Benefic.
  • Malefic: Mars, the Lesser Malefic and Saturn, the Great Malefic.

Astrologers use all of these classifications in their daily work. This provides a very rich framework and vocabulary… but on the other hand it tends to create a “jargon” that often seems incomprehensible to non-astrologers.

Today’s featured planet: Venus, Lady of Love and the Arts.

In Astronomy:

  • Venus lies between Mercury and Earth in the Solar System, moving in an almost circular orbit.    
  • Its internal composition is very similar to Earth’s: a metallic core and a thin crust of silicates and other elements. It’s atmosphere, however, is very inhospitable, thick and dense. It is composed mostly of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulhpur oxides, nitrogen, water vapour and sulphuric acid. The mean atmospheric pressure near the surface is of around 90 times the one on Earth’s sea level.
  • Venus’ size, gravity and density are similar to Earth’s. It’s geology is so similar it is often called  “our sister planet”.
  • A “year” in Venus lasts 224 days, and a “day” is 243 days long. Venus is the only planet on the Solar System to have a reverse rotation direction: the Sun rises from the West and sets in the East. That may explain why it takes longer for this planet to complete a revolution around itself than a full orbit around the Sun (the year is longer than the day).  
  • Venus’ atmosphere is very thick, it is impossible to see the surface from space. Detailed observations of Venus’ surface are made mostly using radar.  
  • Temperatures in Venus are around the highest on any of the planets on the Solar System, with a mean temperature of around 480-500°C (932°F, enough to melt tin and lead). The dense atmosphere and constant wind make this temperature almost uniform during day and night, all year long..
  • Being the planet closest to the Sun, Mercury is the fastest planet on our Solar System. Its closeness to our main star and its speed were key to one of the earliest proofs of Einstein’s theory of General Relativity in 1916.

In myth and legends:

Venus has a long history of observation and myths, as it is one of the brightest points in the night sky.

In Sumerian and Babylonian mythology, the early Sumerians first identified it as Innana, Goddess of love, war and sex. The Akkadians, Babylonians and later mesopotamic cultures associated this planet with Ishtar.

In Greek and Roman  mythology, as with Mercury, this planet was not identified as a unique body until the 4th century BCE. It was previously thought to be two planets: one that appears before sunrise, Phosphoros (He who brings the Light). To the Romans this star was called Lucifer (the Light Bearer). When Venus was sighted  after sunset, it was called Hesperos (the Star of the Evening). The Romans called this evening star Vesper. Pythagoras is traditionally attributed the discovery that both stars were, in fact, a single planet. It was not until the late Hellenic period that this knowledge became widespread, and was called Venus/Aphrodite.

Venus became associated in more modern times with the female principle of creation, and so its symbol is now a common way to designate female individuals in biology and colloquial writing. To the mediaeval alchemists, Venus was associated with copper.

In the astrological tradition:

Venus is one of the most harmonic symbols present in a chart. Along with the Moon, Venus is one of the main female archetypes in Astrology. Venus is one of the benefic planets, and often brings harmony to the sign and house where it is placed on any chart.

Venus rules many of our aesthetic and visual ideals, and thus it is said to be the planet that defines our idea of beauty. Venus is related to our ability to enjoy life, to the way we love and are loved. On a more practical level, social interactions in general are also connected to Venus.

As Venus relates to our conception of beauty and pleasure, it is also said to rule over the concept of value, be them our personal values or the value of things.

It is important to note that the feelings of love that are Venus domain are not necessarily those of sexual love, which are (more often than not) the province of Pluto and Mars.

A well placed Venus in a chart brings beauty, serenity, sensuality, an innate aesthetic sense and some artistic talents. Also a certain personal charm and courtesy, with a good grasp of social life.

When it is inarmonically placed, Venus can lead to over idealization of love and relationships… like living in a perpetual fairy tale. It can also lead to an overly hedonistic or superficial lifestyle, excessive vanity. When overly hindered by its placement, it can result in personalities that are very insecure or overly shy, with serius difficulties in establishing meaningful relationships.

Venus is at home in the signs of Taurus (the earthly nature of Venus: pleasure, values and lasting projects that transcend the present) and Libra (the more social aspects of Venus: relationships, commitments and balance).

 Coming up next week:

Next week I will show you how to do some simple interpretations of  “planets in signs” using keywords and your own intuition. Also, our featured planet will be Mars, ruler of willpower and war. Remember you can read this one and all past columns in my blog(1).



(*) Pablo is an advanced astrology student at the Centro Astrológico de Buenos Aires (, a First Degree student at Witchschool, and has extensive experience in Wicca, ceremonial magick, computer science, the Internet, physics and chemistry.


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