One of the first things we learn as we study Astrology is that there are four basic building blocks - namely the signs, the planets, the houses and the aspects. They combine and interweave in inestimable ways, each pattern unique and exclusive yet each composed of the very same factors.
Looking particularly at the planets, each one has their own distinct symbolism, defined meanings and particular impress. As we become more and more acquainted with their energies, we realise that each planet has a specific ambience, its own individual essence and imprint. We learn key words and these colour our perceptions of the energies involved. As useful a learning tool as this observation is, it can become a stumbling block too - especially as old designations linger in the mind. Emotive words are often used. For example Jupiter is the greater benefic, Mars the lesser malefic, Uranus the Awakener and so on. Also glib associations are made such as that with Pluto and the underworld or Neptune with mysticism... or confusion. Whilst these are indeed true associations on the one hand, it definitely does not encompass the full picture.
Let us look at a couple of planets in more detail to illustrate this point. Saturn has in the past been called the greater malefic or the Lord of Karma. Immediately this designation exclaims problems, difficulties and hardship. Our thoughts and feelings can be immediately coloured by this affecting word - malefic - which the dictionary describes as 'causing harm'. But this is not so! It can only be malefic and 'cause harm' if we let it, that is if we focus on the negative connotation and disregard the positive.
What are the key words used for Saturn, the ones that tend to immediately come to mind? Limitation, restriction, boundaries, delays, confinement, blocks, fears, ..... yes these are all possibilities but there is the other side to the coin too - Saturn consolidates, it awards a sense of responsibility, it confers patience and perseverance and gives us the focus, dedication and discipline to achieve. Another concept associated with this planet is structure. This can be viewed as providing a positive framework within which we can build, or it can be perceived as a construct that limits our development and forces us to reassess our liabilities and assets. But look again at this second option - for we always have a choice in how we perceive things - this alternative can be a positive fillip for growth too.
The key is to look at the energy the planet represents and then to see how this can best, and most constructively, be utilised. It is how we view the energy that matters. This is not to say that we should not recognise potential difficulties, negative traits or the possibility of a tumultuous time ahead. Rather it is a wake up call to use the energies at their highest, and a chance to avail ourselves of every opportunity to learn and to grow.
The same holds true for Jupiter. This has been called the greater benefic, the dictionary definition of which is 'favourable or advantageous'. Known as the planet of expansion and growth, in the natal chart Jupiter represents the part of you that wants more out of life - the impulse to extend your personal life and your realm of influence within society, and the drive to locate opportunities, experiences and wisdom. In forecasting, Jupiter essentially relates to growth and movement both in what you are learning and in what you believe. Its energy is wide-ranging and extensive, and its emphasis suggests a magnification of your world-view into an encompassing overall picture. As can be seen, Jupiter's activation heralds a broadening of consciousness, which is of course a beneficial influence - but without due care it can be injudiciously used. Taken to extreme, Jupiter can lead to extravagance, excess, recklessness and indulgence and so wise consideration is called for.
As can be seen, planetary energies are neutral - neither good nor bad - but they do have the potential to manifest in a positive or a negative way. They may be used to their highest potential or their energies may be expended negatively or they may be under or over used. The sign the planet is in, its house placement and the aspects it makes can all give valuable clues as to how they are likely to outwork in a given chart. But here too it is important to think constructively. Flowing aspects may look to be the best, and easier to deal with they may be - but they may not be the most productive. Granted, trines allow and sextiles offer opportunities but they do not give the push to betterment. Often they are just 'taken for granted' aspects and as such the inherent potentiality they represent may not be fully developed. On the other hand, the hard aspects, the square, opposition sesquiquadrate and semisquare, although demanding - and sometimes very demanding - they do tender the promise of growth, advancement and accomplishment.
It can be helpful to see each planet as both a principle and a potential. For example with the personal planets in the natal chart, the Sun relates to the essential self, it can illuminate, vitalise, strengthen and inspire; the Moon represents the soul, the emotions and the personality, it can be receptive, nurturing and enduring; Mercury tells of our mindset, it shapes our attitudes and how we communicate, learn and think; Venus embodies the principles of beauty, grace and harmony and as such shows our potential for love, devotion and appreciation; Mars symbolises energy, drive, determination and enthusiasm, it initiates, quickens, directs and invigorates. With the social planets too, the same guidelines apply. Jupiter offers the promise of enhancement and for gaining spiritual wisdom; Saturn imparts discipline and inner strength.
In forecasting some transits can be greeted with sanguinity and others with dread. For example a Venus transit is likely to be eagerly looked forward to whilst a Pluto transit may be anticipated with trepidation. Why...? Again it all boils down to our own preconceptions. Venus may well be 'the lesser benefic', but its impact can also bring indolence, lack of attention or weakness. By the same token, Pluto is usually deemed to be disruptive and disturbing. It is said to clear the old to make way for the new and this tends to be something most of us tend to resist. Change is not always comfortable and so many of us are reticent to go along with it. But here again we can focus on the positive side. As old outworn conditions clear, it makes way for future progress. Viewed in this way Pluto can be seen as a powerful force for personal betterment.
To make the most of the planetary energies, look at the whole picture. Do not limit (Saturn) yourself but clear old outworn paradigms (Pluto); allow yourself to be expansive (Jupiter) and appreciate (Venus) what they can signify for you. Be bold (Mars), be inquisitive (Mercury) be limitless (Neptune) and allow your intuition (Uranus) to guide you. Your heart (Sun) and your soul (Moon) will thank you.