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Planets are the most important factors in assessing the horoscope. Depending on where they are placed in relation to each other, a person's planets can decide very basic issues in life, such as happiness in marriage, the number of children they will have, and the kind of career they will pursue. While each planet represents a range of affairs, they each have a core symbolic meaning. Venus, for example, signifies love in the person's life. A Venus that is well-placed will bring love and happiness. A Venus which is associated with malefics or bad houses will bring more challenges in the love life. The idea here is that strong planets bring about good results in the areas of life they rule while afflicted or weak planets bring about bad results.
In Modern Vedic Astrology there are numerous rules for assessing planetary strength. Here is a very brief "bluffer's guide" to some of them. First, it's important to remember that Vedic astrology divides planets into benefics and malefics. Moon, Venus, Jupiter and Mercury are considered generally benefic, while the Sun, Mars, Saturn, Rahu, and Ketu are considered malefic. There are numerous exceptions here but that is the starting point. Also Vedic astrology divides the houses into favourable and unfavourable houses. Basically, planets ruling or placed in houses 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, and 10 are considered favourable, while planets ruling or placed in houses 6, 8, 12 are considered malefic. The 3rd and 11th houses are considered neutral although there are many exceptions. In practice, they can be seen as broadly favourable if their rulers are strong and unafflicted. Boiled down to its bare essentials, the basic rules for planetary strength could be summarized as follows:
- If a planet is conjunct or aspected a benefic planet, then it's good or strong.
- If a planet is conjunct or aspected by a malefic planet, that's bad or afflicted.
- If a planet is conjunct or aspected by a planet that rules a good house, then it's good/strong.
- If a planet is conjunct or aspected by a planet that rules a bad house, then it's bad/afflicted
- If a planet is placed in a good house, then it's good/strong
- If a planet is placed in a bad house, then it's bad/afflicted
The Moon rules our looks, emotions and our mental health. Well placed Moons tend to promote happiness, social and physical attractiveness, and this can often lead to greater accomplishments. A happy person will often integrate well with others and this can lead to success in life. By contrast, badly placed Moons will often introduce a measure of anxiety, depression, or hardship. For example, Barack Obama's Moon is exalted in Taurus and receives an aspect from benefic Jupiter. This enhances his attractiveness and also makes him a happy and well-balanced person. By contrast, the gloomy German philosopher Friederich Nietzsche had a badly placed Moon conjunct malefic Rahu in Scorpio -- a sign that works poorly with the Moon. He suffered from loneliness and depression most of his life and eventually lost his mind. Of course, he still was capable of great achievements due to the solitary nature of his work, but he was deeply unhappy on an emotional level.
The Sun rules our physical health and vitality and determines our self of ego and self-projection in the world. A strong Sun makes a person very energetic and the centre of attention. A weak and afflicted Sun can give a weak constitution and create an egomaniac.
Singing icon Bob Dylan has a great 7th house Sun conjunct benefic planets Venus and Jupiter. He's very healthy and still tours despite his advancing age and is one of the most famous people in the world. Mass murderer Charles Manson also has his Sun in the 7th house (whatever else he is, he is certainly well-known) but it is closely aspected by malefic Saturn which can explode the normal boundaries of the ego and create a megalomaniac. It is also telling that he, too, has a super close conjunction between his Moon and Rahu like Nietzsche. So when both the Sun and Moon are afflicted, profound problems in life can occur.
The fastest planet in the solar system rules intelligence and our ability to communicate. A strong Mercury gives high intelligence and great dexterity (since Mercury rules the hands as well) and an aptitude for speaking, writing, or teaching. An afflicted Mercury would hamper an individual's ability in these areas such that an afflicted Mercury could indicate slower mental development, or an harsh speaking style.
Horror writer Stephen King has a very strong Mercury placed in the 3rd house of communication in Virgo, an excellent sign for Mercury. It is also conjunct Neptune (ruling the imagination) and benefic Venus -- a great combination for a successful writer. Former President Richard Nixon had a Mercury that was closely conjunct Mars. While this gave him great logical and speaking abilities, it also was one astrological reason for his lieing and penchant for bad language, as the secret White House tapes later revealed.
As everyone knows, Venus is the planet of love. It also represents women in general, beauty, art, socializing and pleasures of all kinds. A strong Venus will promote a good marriage, contentedness, and appreciation of the arts. A weak or afflicted Venus will tend to create disharmony in relationships or an inability to relate to others.
American movie actor Johnny Depp has an excellent Venus in its own sign Taurus, closely conjunct benefic Mercury in the 11th house of gains. He has enjoyed the fruits of this strong Venus through his good looks and his career in the arts. The late Princess Diana also had a strong Venus placed in Taurus aspected by benefic Jupiter. Considered to be an icon of glamour and beauty, she was considered to be the most photographed woman in the world. Truly, she was Venus incarnate. The infamous Hollywood prostitute Heidi Fleiss has a prominent but afflicted Venus. While its first house placement gives her good looks and popularity, it is afflicted by the malefics Rahu and Mars. This affliction to Venus can cause the individual to act beyond the norms of society in areas of love and sexuality. The artist Vincent Van Gogh also had a mixed Venus. Its favourable placement in Pisces its sign of exaltation in the 10th house of career may have helped push Van Gogh towards artistic pursuits. But at the same time, it was closely conjunct Mars which may partially explain his inability to form meaningful relationships with women throughout his life.
As the planet of action and athletes, a person's Mars will show how much initiative they have to make changes in their life. A strong Mars will show a lot of get up and go and an ability to outlast competitors. An afflicted Mars may show a person who fights too much or becomes subject to punishment.
Boxer Muhammad Ali had a powerful Mars in the 10th house in Aries -- both places where Mars does well. It was also aspected by Pluto which gave him a indominable will. Adolf Hitler also had Mars well placed in Aries and in a good house-- the 7th. However in the case of the Hitler, his Mars was closely aspected by malefic Ketu. Ketu gives an unpredictability and sharpness to whatever planet it touches. Hitler's Mars certainly had an unpredictable and unbounded energy for fighting and violence. Martial artist Bruce Lee had a superstrong Mars closely conjunct Venus and the Moon and aspected by Jupiter. Not only could he be an expert fighter, but the Venus-Moon influence meant that his fighting (Mars) would be appreciated for its aesthetic side. Lee became famous for his kung fu movies.
Known as the Great Benefic, Jupiter represents wisdom, religion, expansion in general, and wealth. Individuals with strong Jupiters will tend to adhere to organized religions, usually the same ones as their parents. Strong Jupiters also tend to be well-educated people who are well-to-do. Afflicted Jupiters may not enjoy material prosperity, or follow foreign religious traditions, if any at all.
The Dalai Lama has a very strong Jupiter placed in the 2nd house of wealth. His wealth may not be "on paper" but is largely spiritual in nature. In this chart, his Jupiter in the 2nd also conveys his constant speaking (2nd house) about his higher spiritual knowledge (Jupiter). Karl Marx's Jupiter was mixed: while it had enough strength from its 11th house placement to generate wisdom, it also was aspected by malefic Rahu. This combination gave him his atheistic outlook and fueled his great skepticism for the existing social structure in 19th century Europe.
The planet of loss helps us to understand our limits and the things around us we cannot change. Saturn rules discipline, hard work, responsibility, longevity, and loss. Strong Saturns will be very committed people with a dedication to rules and traditions. Afflicted Saturns may be obsessed with rules to the point of detriment, or may be irresponsible and undisciplined.
The world's richest man Bill Gates has a strong Saturn as it is placed in the 5th house with benefic Venus. This gives Gates an indefatigable discipline and untiring work ethic. When he does things, he goes all the way. Vice-President Dick Cheney has a relatively strong Saturn as well. Although it is poorly placed in the sign of Aries, it is in close conjunction with Jupiter in the favourable 9th house. This gives Cheney a great sense of responsibility about his actions and confers a sense of leadership to him. Marilyn Monroe had an afflicted Saturn which contributed to the often unidiscipined and rollercoaster nature of her life. Saturn was aspected simultaneously by malefic Rahu in the 12th house and Neptune. Since both Rahu and Neptune tend to erase boundaries and limits, Marilyn may have not understood the her own physical limits in her short life. Beat writer Jack Kerouac also had his Saturn closely aspected by malefic Rahu. While this inability to adhere to society's limits may have given him a great advantage in his pioneering literary style, it also created a reckless and often destructive lifestyle.
Rahu is the Sanskrit name given to the north lunar node, the astronomical point where the upper orbital path of the Moon intersects with the orbital path of the Sun. Although considered a malefic, a well-placed Rahu can contribute great wealth and success when affliliated with benefic planets. It can also promote orginality in the arts and science. When afflicted, it can cause all sorts of problems depending on the planet is it most connected to. Usually these problems have to do with the loss of boundaries in some way.
Actress Julia Roberts has a very well placed Rahu in the 10th house of career where it is aspected by benefic Jupiter. This Rahu is one of the main sources for her great success and fame in the movies. O.J. Simpson's Rahu is also placed in the 10th house of success but it is conjunct Mars there. This was part of the source of his great fame as an athlete, but it also showed a propensity for losing control (Rahu) of his temper (Mars) leading to violence.
Ketu is the Sanskrit name given to the south lunar node, the astronomical point where the lower orbital path of the Moon intersects with the orbital path of the Sun. Like its nodal brother Rahu, it is considered a malefic, although it too can give a great boost to a horoscope if other planetary configurations are favourable. When this occurs, Ketu creates spirituality and insight. When poorly placed, Ketu can bring about problems depending on the planets it is associated with. Where Rahu is usually related to worldly things, Ketu tends to bring people to the spiritual or otherworldly realm -- for good or ill.
Albert Einstein's Mercury (the planet of intelligence) was closely aspected by Ketu in his chart. This gave him unparalleled powers of insight and mental creativity. Former President Reagan had his Jupiter closely conjunct Ketu which may have confered a great religious faith and special leadership gifts. Disgraced evangelist Jim Bakker had debilitated Saturn closely conjunct Ketu in Aries in the 3rd house of communication suggesting losses (Saturn) related to spirituality (Ketu) in the realm of communication (TV preacher). Even more generally, one could also simply note Ketu's damaging influence on Bakker's sense of Saturnine responsibilities and structure.
The outer planets (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto) are not part of traditional Vedic astrology but I include them in my analyses because they are helpful and provide unique forecasting clues that would otherwise be missed.
Like the nodes, Uranus represents unpredictable or unusual phenomena. More specifically, people with prominent Uranus' tend to value originality and freedom. A favourable Uranus in a chart will generally signal a quick intellect or a desire to be unconventional. A poorly aspected Uranus may create a need to be different for its own sake, or inconsistency.
In his younger days, comedian Robin Williams was known for his frenetic, original, and often eccentric onstage antics. Uranus is very closely aspected by no less than three planets (Mars, Moon, and Venus) in his horoscope, a highly unusual occurrence. These Uranus-connected planets gave him high energy(Mars), changeability and eccentricity (Moon) and creativity (Venus). But sometimes the Uranian influence isn't helpful, as in the case of movie star Elizabeth Taylor. Married no less than 7 times, she has a close Uranus-Venus conjunction in aggressive and headstrong Aries, pointing to a real problem with commitment and an impulsive approach to love.
Idealistic and escapist Neptune dissolves boundaries and in a sense can be seen as the inverse of staunch, stolid Saturn. Neptune represents the image or the mystical, whether real or (more often than not) illusory. People with a well-placed Neptune will be reknown and revered for their beauty or public image. A Neptune that is badly aspected or otherwise poorly-placed will produce a person who may not be living in the 'real world' or will have problems with drugs or alcohol.
Both Sophia Loren and Prince Charles have close Venus-Neptune conjunctions. The troubled Beach Boys' singer Brian Wilson has Neptune in bad aspect to the Sun, suggesting a problem recognizing the limits of the ego. Wilson has long struggled with mental illness and substance abuse and dropped out of public life at the height of his fame.
Like Rahu, Pluto magnifies the planets it touches. It is associated with power and will, usually in a coercive or total sense. Pluto transforms and obliterates, and can operate beneath the surface. Secretive organizations such as the Mafia and government intelligence agencies fall under Pluto's influence. Depending on the planet it is connected to, individuals with a well-placed Pluto can exercise power over others, or enjoy great wealth. A badly aspected Pluto can cause misery and torment.
India's great independence leader Mohandas Gandhi had a powerful Pluto-Jupiter conjunction where benefic Jupiter ruled the third house of courage and initiatives. Through his decades-long struggle against British rule, his energy and will never faltered. This tenacity for transformation reflected the powerful Pluto placement in his chart. Widely considered the most powerful man in post-war America, former FBI chief J Edgar Hoover had difficult aspects between both Pluto-Sun and Pluto-Moon. This created distortions in the exercise of power and personal paranoia as he maintained incriminating dossiers on most major public figures from presidents to pop stars. Hoover is still rumoured to have had a hand in the assassinations of both President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.