By NINA KAH, Lisa Stardust, and Caitlin McGarry
In astrology, zodiac signs get a lot of attention — after all, all you need is a sun sign to read your average horoscope. But the world of astrology is big, bright, and beautiful, and if you want to know what the stars are really trying to ya, you need to have an idea about what planets mean in astrology. It's not breaking news that planets are a thing in the astrology world — after all, interpreting the movement of the planets and other celestial bodies through the sky (and zodiac) is exactly what astrology is. But understanding the planets will help you make so much more sense of things like your sun and moon signs, and you'll have a clue in the next time someone's ranting about Mercury going retrograde again, or their Venus placement ruining their love life.
You're probably already familiar with the planets of ye old solar system (shout out to elementary school science teachers around the world), but have a seat back at your desk, because planets in astrology are going to differ a lil' bit from what you learned via Bill Nye the Science Guy. Firstly, in astrology, the sun and the moon are both considered planets. While they may not be planets in the astronomical sense, they are vitally important celestial bodies to all of us Earth dwellers, and therefore considered planets as far as astrology goes. Also, in astrology, Pluto is still a planet. While astronomers may have demoted it to a mere dwarf planet a few years back, in astrology land its still a full-fledged planet — and it's just as powerful. Lastly, scratch the Earth from the list of planets in astrology — I mean, it's important, but we also live on it, so from our Earthly vantage point it's not moving through the sky in the same way as the other celestial objects. All in all, that makes for 10 major planets.
In astrology, each of the planets represent a different set of qualities and characteristics, and rule over a different part of our lives — each bringing with them their own unique vibes. "Each planet symbolizes a different component of life, a different type of energy," explained Astro Library. "In psychological terms, we can call them 'needs' or 'drives.'" The planets ranging from the sun through Mars are known as "inner planets." They move relatively quickly from sign to sign, and therefore have more of an influence over day-to-day, shorter term issues. "Outer planets," which span from Jupiter out to Pluto, move much more slowly through the zodiac chart, therefore influencing larger, more grand-scheme parts of your life and self. And when someone refers to a planet as "benefic," it refers to their association with bringing really good vibes (Jupiter and Venus are known as benefics). Conversely, "malefic" planets, such as Saturn and Mars, are known for having tougher, more destructive energy (although we love 'em and need 'em nonetheless!).
In order to know how the planets affect us, well, that all depends on where they're located. Planets travel through different signs, and their energy plays out differently depending on where they're at. If you want to know where your natal planets are, you'll have to check out your birth chart (you can draw yours up online if you have your exact birth time, or consult a profesh astrologer to help). Your birth chart is made up of twelve astrological houses, as well as twelve zodiac signs that overlap with said houses. But within all these signs and houses are planets. "Every house literally provides a home for the planets residing there — giving that planet a place to act out its particular energy," explained Insightful Astrology. So planets themselves don't cause anything — it's more about where they're placed and how they interact with other aspects of your chart.
Bustle also spoke with astrologers Lisa Stardust and Caitlin McGarry to weigh in with some additional planetary insights to help you make sense of this big, bad astrological solar system. Let's take a quick trip through the galaxy and get to know each of the major players.
Planet of: the self; the conscious mind; creative energy; life purpose; the truest n' purest version of ~you~.
Naturally rules: Leo
The sun is the center of our universe. It's what colors the world around us, the star that we revolve around and that gives us life. That's part of why our sun signs are such an integral part of our astrology and who we are! "The Sun represents our ego, what we are driven to do, our life-force," Stardust tells Bustle. The sun is the driving force behind who we are at our core, and it's said that people who can embrace their sun placement tend to feel happier and more fulfilled. Let the sun shine down, y'all.
Planet of: emotions; instincts; feminine energy; security; all the emo poetry you wrote in your journal in high school.
Naturally rules: Cancer
The gentle, emtotion-driven moon is totally our astro mom (I know I'm a crazy lil' witch and all, but I literally greet the moon with a "Hi, mom!" when I see her in the night sky.) "The Moon represents our inner emotions, the parts within us which we cannot express," explains Stardust. "It also represents our maternal side, our mother, our memories, and what foods we enjoy." Nurturing, sensitive, and ruling over matters of security, the moon governs over the shadowy, more vulnerable sides of ourselves, as well as the things we need to feel safe and comfortable.
Planet of: communication; expression; reason; intellect; your ability to carry on six different coherent conversations at once.
Naturally rules: Gemini & Virgo
You probably know this planet more for its infamous retrograde periods than anything else, but actually, when it's not turning everything in your life upside, this quick-witted master of communication is really cool. "Mercury affects how we communicate, transmit information, and travel," McGarry tells Bustle. Mercury is known as the messenger of the gods, so it makes sense that communication, information sharing, and traveling is its jam.
Planet of: love; romance; beauty; pleasure; hearts n' chocolates n' flowers.
Naturally rules: Taurus & Libra
Ah, lovely Venus, planet of all things flowery and sensual and heart-flutteringly delicious. Named after the goddess of love herself, Venus loves to love, and to be immersed in the aestheticism and beauty of the world. Venus is also associated with money — specifically the money we spend more frivolously on things that bring us pleasure and joy. "Venus is the lesser benefic, [and] represents love affairs, romance, luxury, fine wines and rich food," shares Stardust. "Venus also represents self esteem and money." She's sort of like the Valentine's day of the planets — think a romantic evening full of chocolates, wine, red rose petals, and a sweetly-scented bubble bath. That's our gal.
Planet of: action; sexual drive; aggression; raw energy; losing your sh*t on the next person who triggers you.
Naturally rules: Aries
Wild n' fiery Mars, named after the god of war, is determined, driven, and full of raw, unbridled, animalistic energy. "Mars represents how we fight and assert ourselves," explains McGarry to Bustle. The so-called Red Planet certainly lives up to it's name with it's red-hot intensity and passion. And you may have heard "men are from Mars, women are from Venus," right? Well, we actually all have a nice balance of both, so while sexy romance is Venus' territory, Mars rules over our more animalistic sexual drive and desire. Venus is the butterflies in our stomach and emotion, while Mars is the primal, physical instinct.
Planet of: good luck; abundance; optimism; expansiveness; everything coming up roses and then some.
Naturally rules: Sagittarius
Love us some Jupiter. As the saying goes, the bigger the hair, the closer to god — and in this case, the bigger the planet, the closer to sweet, sweet harmony. Jupiter is considered especially auspicious, bringing growth, positivity, opportunity, and good vibes along with its massive presence. "Jupiter, the greater benefic, represents luck, growth, travel, philosophy, education, teaching, and expansion," Stardust tells Bustle. This big boy is a spreader of positive and good cheer, so embrace Jupiter's peachy vibes whenever possible.
Planet of: boundaries; tough love; life lessons; discipline; questioning everything you've ever done in your life in a depressing, critical angst.
Naturally rules: Capricorn
If the moon is our cosmic mom, then Saturn is totally our cosmic dad. Think of this planet as the stern father who's a little overly rigid and authoritarian and strict. "Saturn is the greater malefic, representing boundaries, limits, restrictions, and the relationship with the paternal," shares Stardust. You may be familiar with Saturn in relation to the infamous Saturn return, which happens to everyone around their late twenties (cue total existential breakdown). Saturn is all about tough love — but remember, it's only hard on us because it wants us to learn and grow.
Planet of: originality; awakenings; progressiveness; revelations; letting your freak flag fly while marching to the beat of your own drum.
Naturally rules: Aquarius
Expect the unexpected with Uranus, as this planet is all about shaking up the norms. It's progressive, forward-thinking, hyper creative, but also prone to abrupt shifts and changes. "Uranus is considered the 'Great Awakener,' as it shakes up the world, through revolutions, technological, and innovation, on a global level," Stardust tells Bustle. Uranus doesn't care about tradition for the sake of nostalgia — it cares about being innovative, fresh, and unique. In fact, this planet is sometimes likened to a lightning bolt given the way it shocks us with sudden insights and inspirations
Planet of: intuition; dreams; spirituality; idealism; psychic/floating off into astral space during a deep third eye meditation.
Naturally rules: Pisces
Dreamy, other-worldly Neptune. This planet's meanings are as deep as its color is blue, as it's representative of pychic intuition and spiritual attunement, as well dreams and artistic expression. As Stardust explains, "Neptune represents dreams, illusion, and fantasy." Given it's dreamy, inter-dimensional nature, it also has a tendency to detach from reality a bit. But if you can avoid falling into the escapist tendencies this planet can induce, it brings a helpful sensitivity and psychic power.
Planet of: transformations; the underworld; the subconscious mind; power; hella deep, intense sh*t, basically.
Naturally rules: Scorpio
Pluto may have been robbed of its planethood by scientists back in 2006 — a harsh move indeed, especially to the planet named after the ruler of the underworld. But in astrology, Pluto is as ~planet~ as can be. As McGarry tells Bustle, "Pluto encompasses the energy of transformation." Trasformation covers a lot of ground — think the energy of light and dark, death and rebirth, day to night, endings into beginnings. As Anne Welles says in Valley of the Dolls, "You've got to climb Mount Everest to reach the Valley of the Dolls." And if the valley of the dolls is your ~inner truth~, then yeah, prepare for the exhausting and treacherous but transformative battle that Pluto insists upon, because it's definitely for the ultimate good.