Remember life before the World Wide Web? I do. We had books then and newspapers. We listened to music on records, record players. The good old days. And I know, we still have all those things now—there are even two record stores in walking distance from where I’m writing this—but I don’t think I’d be mistaken if I said that life was slower before the invention of the Internet. Information was harder to find.
Newspapers and magazines were probably your first exposure to astrology, a daily, weekly, or monthly horoscope. Some of us maybe can’t even remember when we first heard the A word (astrology) or the H word (horoscope) or found out what sign we were. It is like it was always there.
I remember growing up in Miami, Florida, reading my daily horoscope in the Miami Herald newspaper. I wondered what those mysterious sentences in that one meager paragraph could possibly mean for me, for my little eight- or nine-year-old life. Whatever age I was, I already knew my Sun sign.
I have another memory, which may be yours as well: the dusty used or discount bookstore full of books. There was one I used to frequent with my brother on Saturdays in North Miami Beach when my father had us both for the weekend. Among the mysteries and Westerns and crime paperbacks and the Guinness Book of World Records, you could also discover a small blue volume by astrologer Linda Goodman, who went Sun sign by Sun sign in thorough fashion. If you were like me, you immediately looked up everyone whose birthday you remembered, comparing and contrasting reality with her written word.
Flash forward to the present day: I admit it. If I were to meet you for the first time, I would wonder when you were born, and I would start guessing, even if only in my mind, secretly.
Your Sun Sign Is You, But You Are More Than Your Sun
Your Sun sign absolutely matters, your Sun sign is you, but you are more than your Sun.
To understand yourself and to understand everyone else using astrology, you must explore not only the sign the Sun is in but also Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Every one of those planets (we call Sun and Moon “planets” in astrology) is also in one of the twelve signs. For example, we say Pluto in Virgo or Jupiter in Virgo or Venus in Virgo, just as we say Sun in Virgo.
Think of the planets as record albums and the twelve signs as the sleeves they come in. If that’s too old school for you, then use the metaphor my astrology teacher often did: the planets as actors and the signs as costumes. The planets change signs as they move around the sky. Some planets move super slow and some move fast. Pluto can spend twenty years in a sign, whereas the Moon will spend two days or so. That’s a big difference.
Imagine this: I am meeting you for the first time at a party, and although I’m a cautious Cancer Sun with a reserved Virgo Rising, I can be friendly after a coffee or two, or a glass of Merlot. Trying not to embarrass myself, I pop the question: When were you born? When’s your birthday?
An astrology chart is like a family, functional, dysfunctional, and everything in between. All the pieces interact. And when I say “astrology chart” or “chart,” for our purposes here, I am talking about your birth chart (natal chart), which is determined by your exact birth information including time and date and place. My teacher used to tell us it is a map of the heavens at the time you were born.
We Contain Multitudes
As I’ve already mentioned, my Sun is in Cancer. My mother, however, was a reserved, secretive Scorpio and we were very close, fused almost. As a kid, anytime I’d read anything about Scorpio, I identified strongly. The first time I had my chart read, in my twenties, I was shocked to discover that I had no planets in this sign. How could this be when I saw myself in every word ever written about Scorpio? But this is normal. To paraphrase Walt Whitman, we contain multitudes.
Although I had no planets in Scorpio, there was a compelling reason for why I felt the way I did. Indeed, there is something else in my chart exerting a powerful influence over my mood and personality (and it has to do with the twelve houses). You may also find yourself wondering why you are not such and such Sun sign, when you identify so strongly with it. I promise you there is a reason why you feel like a Leo but your Sun is in Pisces, why you feel like a Libra but your Sun is in Capricorn.
Meet the Family
This book is an introduction to Saturn, but in the spirit of giving you the groundwork, I figure we better meet the whole family, albeit briefly.
In a birth chart, the Sun is you, the core you, the heart of you, the crucial substance of you.
Astrologers may use words like “essence,” “ego,” “identity,” “nature,” “purpose.” If you read almost any description of Sun in Aries, for example, you should be able to see yourself in it. Brave. Impulsive. Pioneering! Sun in Aries takes initiative. Sun in Aries is bold. Sun in Aries is competitive. You should be able to say, “Yes, that’s me,” and others will likely see those qualities as well.
I also think of the Sun as what you return to. No matter what happens in your life, no matter what changes and experiences you endure, when everything falls away, you are your Sun. You are you.
Remember that hypothetical party I mentioned earlier, when I was wondering about your Sun sign? Sometimes I even ask if a person knows their Sun and Moon and Rising, and if I haven’t scared them off, the party really gets going.
The Rising sign is not a planet, but I would argue that it’s as important as a planet. The Rising sign is revealed once an astrologer enters your birth information into astrological software, although an “old school” astrologer may still calculate your chart by hand. The Rising sign is literally the constellation that was climbing in the sky, rising in the east, at the time you were born. It is the sign that was ascending and thus the Rising sign is also known as the ascendant.
At that fabulous party, your Rising sign is what’s on display. It’s how you show up in the world. Your “first handshake” is what astrologers often call it. It’s what people see before they get anywhere close to the inner world of your Sun, and yet the Sun always seeks to be seen. The Sun won’t hide for long.
You may have an adventurous Sagittarius Sun but a vigilant Scorpio Rising. Folks will no doubt pick up on that Scorpio Rising reserve first and then, after a conversation or two, if they are perceptive, they will get a glimpse into the core daredevil Sagittarius you.
The Moon in your chart symbolizes your feelings, your emotional life, including what you need to feel safe or nurtured. Habits, instincts, and gut reactions also fall under the domain of the Moon. The Moon is how you respond to what happens.
A more demonstrative Moon (often a water or fire sign) will feel first and think later. Feelings may rise up on the inside like a pot of water boiling over.
A more intellectual moon may “think” their feelings first: What is this? What do these feelings mean? They often seem detached to the more “emotional” Moon signs. Signs who have a tendency to analyze, like Gemini, an air sign, or Virgo, an earth sign, may not even know what they feel because they are already onto the next thing in their minds. Feelings tend to stick around, though, in the body, whether or not we stay aware of their presence.
The Moon shows what can help you self-soothe. The Virgo Moon needs a plan and then can relax. Cancer Moon needs a mother or a mother stand-in, some nurturing, and something sweet. Taurus Moon may require just the sweet or some other edible or physical creature comfort, a favorite blanket or sweater, for example. Moon in Sagittarius needs to feel free. Moon in Capricorn or Scorpio needs to brood. Each Moon, like all the planets, behave according to the sign they “wear.”
Mercury is your mind, how you think and speak. Your Mercury shows whether your thoughts are clear and logical or muddy and murky. Are you a poet or a politician or both? Your Mercury will show it.
Mercury in the fire signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius) tend to be confident in their opinions, or at the very least, they speak their minds.
Mercury in one of the water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces) may be just as confident or quick but will express their deep thoughts literally more quietly, or not at all, keeping thoughts hidden.
Mercury in one of the air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius) tend to be friendly and cerebral, and they may have trouble relating to emotional swings.
Mercury in one of the earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn) will give you helpful, practical, no-nonsense, commonsense advice.
Venus is the love nature: what you love, how you love. It represents your taste, not just in romantic relationships, but also in the things of this world.
When we want to see if love is coming or we want to see your romantic history, we astrologers ask Venus. If we want to see your ability to give and receive love, we ask Venus. Are you a monk or a serial monogamist? Can you mate for life? Ask Venus. Do you draw people to you or do you push them away? Venus!
Mars is your energy, drive, passion, what gets you up and going in the morning (or not). What motivates you? Ask Mars. What makes you angry? Ask Mars. What pushes you to act? Ask Mars! Mars fights. Mars competes. Mars wants to do it.
Venus and Mars are the planets astrologers associate most with love and desire and sex. I believe both planets can show our self-worth and our courage, even though Venus tends to get lumped in the self-worth/self-esteem category, and Mars is more often associated with raw power and sexuality.
Venus wants passion and sex just as much as Mars does, but her style, at its most valued, is indirect, like flirtation, for example. A skilled Venus lets you know what she wants with a beautiful gesture, unlike Mars’s huff and puff and grunt.
Fast, Slow, and Maybe Medium
The planets that I just described above—Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Mars—are often called the personal or inner planets, and they have an obvious influence on our personalities. These personal planets move quickly around the sky, and their influence is short term when by transit. Transits are where the planets are now and how they affect us.
When your astrology-loving friend is complaining about his Moon transit, the good news is that it will likely last just a couple of hours, compared to other transits that can last months or even years. Although damage and destruction can happen in a heartbeat (speaking as someone who has survived hurricanes in both Florida and New York), I find it reassuring to know when a storm is a fast-moving one.
Everything in the chart is interconnected. We have these fast-moving personal or inner planets, and we also have slower-moving, generational planets.
Astrologers called these planets generational because everyone born in such-and-such year will have Jupiter in a certain sign, or everyone born over a twenty-year period will have Pluto in a particular sign. Some astrologers see Jupiter and Saturn as connecting the fast movers and slow movers because they fall somewhere in the middle. Call them medium movers if you want, but to keep things simple and clear, I’m creating just the two columns for us, fast and slow.
Also, I lied. I actually do have a planet in Scorpio, but I didn’t want to mention it until we got to this part of the chapter about generational planets. I am part of Generation Neptune in Scorpio. You, reading this, may share my Neptune, or you may have your Neptune in Libra or Sagittarius or another sign.
The Outer Planets
Jupiter changes signs once a year and represents opportunity, growth, luck, blessing, and abundance. Good things happening. “Jupiter expands what it touches” is a common key phrase. I like to say that Jupiter makes things big. Excess. Inflation. The potential problem with Jupiter is too much of a good thing.
Saturn stays in a sign around two-and-a-half years. It represents structure, maturity, and the reality check. Saturn shapes. More about Saturn in the pages to come. (See additional articles by this author, below.)
Uranus changes signs every seven years. The planet of surprise. The wild card. Uranus is original, inventive, innovative, and often just plain weird. “Expect the unexpected” is what they say. Uranus sets you free, whether you want it or not. Uranus shatters.
Neptune will change signs every fourteen years and is associated with art, spirituality, mysticism, and self-sacrifice. My teacher used to say Neptune is “illusion, delusion, confusion.” Neptune is the fog. We see what we want to see when Neptune is in town, and it may look amazing. Neptune goggles. Glamour. You will not see clearly under Neptune. Things may appear better or worse than they truly are. Neptune conceals and ideals.
Pluto is our slowest mover and may spend twenty-five years in a single sign. Pluto energy is intense, magnetic, and is associated with power, death and rebirth, obsession and compulsion, sex, taboo, and the underworld. On a good day, Pluto can heal you because it forces you to go deep and get to the root of the matter of what hurts. Pluto is psychic. On a bad day, Pluto is criminal, manipulating you because she or he can. Pluto transits are the most comprehensive, transformative, and life changing.
©2018 by Aliza Einhorn. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Weiser Books, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser LLC.
The Little Book of Saturn: Astrological Gifts, Challenges, and Returns
by Aliza Einhorn
The Little Book of Saturn, a smart, friendly introduction to the astrological Saturn, is a book for curious readers who know there is more to astrology than their sun signs. Saturn has traditionally been considered the planet of challenges, but the life lessons that this stern planet brings are necessary for personal growth. This book is suitable for beginners and experts alike.
About the Author
Aliza Einhorn, astrologer, tarot card reader, poet, playwright, holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She blogs at her website, "MoonPluto Astrology," and does readings (astrology and tarot together) professionally. She also teaches metaphysical classes online and runs chat rooms for the metaphysically minded. Visit her website: http://moonplutoastrology.com/