In modern “democratic” society it is politically incorrect to differentiate between people and their potential. Everyone has the chance to be someone, even if they come from humble beginnings. Bill Clinton proved that natural talent can sweep away obstacles, (though George W Bush also proves that being born privileged certainly does not get in the way of success.) Much of the political development since the discovery of Uranus in 1781 has been geared to a leveling process that is designed, in theory at least, to give equal opportunity for all. Similarly, politically correct astrology as taught in much 20th century literature has emphasized equality of opportunity via the horoscope, whatever the planetary strengths and weaknesses. In this light, hard aspects have been viewed as opportunities, bringing character strength through overcoming difficulties, whilst there has been a view that soft aspects can encourage laziness and self-satisfaction.The Good and the Bad

This was hardly the view of astrological tradition, which simply classed Mars and Saturn, for example, as malefics, and Venus and Jupiter as benefics , and saw soft aspects as “good” and bad aspects as no less than “evil”. This change of view has taken place with the discovery of the outer planets. Pluto in particular has brought a new consciousness which forces people to confront their own demons, rather than projecting them on the outer world, making possible an inner transformation process which brings consciousness growth. This psychological view gives a dynamic approach to the problems inherent in difficult aspects and weakly placed planets, empowering people to create change.

Horary Astrology

However, whilst the idea that planets can perform equally well no matter where they are placed can be an empowering view when working with clients, practitioners will be led astray if they apply this view unilaterally in their practice. They will simply not be able to make clear judgements about what to do and what not to do, and therefore their advice will be obscured by a fog of vagueness and generality. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the everyday assessment of trends in society using the astrology of planetary placement and movement here and now. Many of the principles of a “here and now” astrology are enshrined in traditional horary astrology, and these principles can usefully be applied to personal and mundane astrology today. Planets have a particular character dependent on the sign they are placed in, and when making a judgement on any course of action, it is crucial to differentiate between signs.


The first clear guideline is that a planet is strong when it is placed in the sign it rules. This sign is its own territory, and other planets must enter this territory with due respect. When a planet returns to the sign (or signs) it rules, it is free to express its true nature in its purest form, just as you would do after a long day at work. You open the door to your home, enter and throw yourself on the sofa with a cup of tea and some nice music. Should another planet now enter the sign, it is as if someone rings on the doorbell. You may invite them in, but they had better be on their best behavior. You can decide how much you will put up with, and the visitor would be foolish to start bossing you around.


Of course, planets have affinities for each other, so if Mars was at home in Aries, and Jupiter knocked on the door, then it would be with excitement and exhilaration that Jupiter would be welcomed. But if Saturn happened to be passing through, Mars would groan and open the door, but only out of a sense of duty. Nevertheless, even though Saturn might behave like a Jehovah’s witness laying down the law, Mars would still be in much the stronger position. Likewise, planets have natural attractions, which are based on sign rulership polarities, such that Venus, Jupiter and Sun/Moon are natural partners to Mars, Mercury and Saturn respectively. These planets can be both adversaries and partners. Certainly, if Venus should knock on the door of Mars in Aries, she would be entering dangerous territory, but the attraction would be strong and she could scarcely get through Aries without a dramatic affair developing.


The first guideline of planetary strength – that a planet is supreme in the sign it rules – leads to the next: that a planet is weak in the sign opposite to that which it rules. Far from home, and with lines of supply fully stretched, the resources of the planet in detriment are at low ebb. Herein lies the opening for guidance. The client with a planet in detriment must act accordingly, and not pretend anything else. It would be foolish for the Sun in Aquarius in the 10th to try and force through dictatorial policies. He can only rule with the consensus of the group. Similarly it would be unwise for a Venus in Aries in the 7th house to try and push the partner around. She is on foreign ground, and though her nature is to lead and take the initiative, this should not lead to her thinking she had the power. She might find the freedom she fights tooth and nail for – but it would be without the partner she also needs.

Venus in Trouble

See graph for Venus in Scorpio

December 2002 presents a typical scenario in which understanding planetary strength is crucial. Venus entered Scorpio on September 8, 2002 and went retrograde at 15 Scorpio on October 10. On November 21 Venus goes direct at 0 degrees Scorpio, finally leaving Scorpio – the sign of her detriment – on January 7, exhausted and psychologically raw. This can be compared to a sensitive opera singer being forced to perform in a London pub full of testosterone-charged men for four months. Avid newsreaders will have noted the many financial scandals and general doom in the financial markets at this time, as Venus, which traditionally rules finances, struggles through.

False Memory Syndrome

At the time of writing, as Venus becomes stationary, one news story illustrates exactly the dilemma of Venus in Scorpio. The story is of a young woman who has not talked to her parents for 10 years because she “discovered” during hypnotherapy that her father had had an incestuous relationship with her. As Venus reaches the end of its backward journey, she confesses publicly that the incest was imagined (Venus had squared Jupiter in Leo and Neptune in Aquarius – which is stiluatiing for all-encompassing fantasies) and she asks her parents to accept her back, which they forgivingly do. This long period in exile from her family is typical of a planet in detriment. Indeed, such a placement often shows exiled people. Of course the retrograde movement through Scorpio shows the taboo and sexual nature of the story, as well as the emotional catharsis of the family, in what proved to be a long exhaustive investigation of the past.

Meeting the Monster

Venus will feel uncomfortable as long as she is in Scorpio. She has entered a mysteriously empty cave in which shadows play in the half-light. When Mars enters Scorpio on December 1, 2002, the cave dweller returns, and can hardly believe his eyes. Venus has lingered tantalizingly on the threshold (zero degrees for two whole weeks) as Mars falters through the sign of his exile Libra. When he returns, Venus will probably find she gets more than she bargained for. December is a month of sexual fixations, all-consuming jealousy, control and coercion. It is curious to note that Mars gets within 50 minutes of arc of Venus (as both square Neptune) but she gradually picks up speed. It’s a bit like one of those dreams where the pursuer just manages to get hold of the trailing hem of the fleeing beauty’s dress… she may escape, but she will be unclothed.

Exaltation and Fall

Another important consideration regarding planetary strength is the concept of exaltation and fall, the roots of which seem lost in tradition. The idea of exaltation is that the planet is like an honored guest. Of course, if an important community leader came into your home, you would make a great effort to impress. You might ordinarily eat meatballs and boiled potatoes, but for your honored guest you would serve the very best meat and wine, and arrange a party in his honor. Similarly, the guest would be on his best behavior, and would hide his weaknesses and just display his strengths. The traditional exaltations are Mars in Capricorn, Venus in Pisces, Mercury in Virgo, Sun in Aries, Moon in Taurus, Jupiter in Cancer and Saturn in Libra. Just as exaltation leads to the finest expression of a planet, when a planet is placed in the opposite sign to its exaltation, it is said to be in fall – and fall is an ignominious place to be. It truly is the lowest of the low, an incredibly weak position in which the person in question is gravely compromised. Mars is in fall in Cancer, Venus in Virgo, Mercury in Pisces, Sun in Libra, Moon in Scorpio, Jupiter in Capricorn and Saturn in Aries.

Horary > Natal

It might seem unfashionable to classify planetary strength according to arcane rules, but daily work with the astrology of the moment, (for example using the consultation chart for the client’s arrival) seems to confirm the validity of the approach. The question arises as to whether judgement can be made according to this yardstick in natal astrology, and if yes, how one can prevent such judgement from being disempowering. I personally have Jupiter in Capricorn in the 4th house, and spent the years from 12 to 17 in a typically oppressive English boarding school. I have vivid memories of the housemaster bending his cane between his pudgy hands and saying in all seriousness to me “Duncan, I want you to think of me as your father”. Sigh… planets in fall.

What is “Good”?

Planets strong in sign are able to express themselves freely, but this does not necessarily mean that they are “good” in the traditional sense. For example, Ariel Sharon has Mars exalted in Capricorn – he’s a great general and an effective politician, but he is also a ruthless man. Mars’ brief has nothing to do with compassion, and everything to do with getting a job done. Similarly, Jupiter is wonderfully placed in Cancer, and its position there in the US chart testifies to a welcoming and generous country. But Jupiter expands everything to do with the country including its appetite, which may account for the prevalence of gas-guzzling vehicles and general over-consumption. Nevertheless, having many planets placed strongly can be a great advantage, because they give a natural dignity that evokes respect. Even Saturn changes character when it is in Libra, Capricorn and Aquarius, and manifest with great fairness and little oppression. Sean Connery manages very well, despite having Saturn rising, perhaps because it is in Capricorn. Mind you, with Jupiter in Cancer and Venus in Libra he has a lot going for him. Bill Clinton also has his Ascendant ruler, Venus, in the first house, which undoubtedly contributed to his popularity. OK, he also had Mars in Libra (detriment), and conjunction Neptune, which Monica Lewinsky could, and did, testify to.

The 20th century also led to the integration of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto into the planetary pantheons, and their corresponding rulership of Aquarius, Pisces and Scorpio respectively. Whilst I am sure this assigned rulership has validity, it would be a mistake to ignore the significance of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars as co-rulers of these signs. The outer planets will always represent collective forces in society rather than human characteristics – and it will be the traditional rulers in mundane, horary and personal astrology, which truly describe the character of the person or object in question. From a spiritual and psychological point of view, it may not matter where a planet is placed, because the planet, its placement and its aspects will in the last analysis simply represent material to be worked on in the process of personal growth. If I had had Jupiter in Cancer, I may have had more than my fair share of happiness, but then I might also be fat.

Adrian Duncan 18th November, 2002