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Planets in Signs vs. Planets in Houses: Understanding the Contrast

Planets in Signs vs. Planets in Houses: Understanding the Contrast

Recently I was asked “What’s the difference between having Saturn in Libra in the 8th house and having Saturn in Scorpio in the 7th house?

Can the energies be viewed similarly?” This is one of the first things which confuses beginning astrologers.

As I explained to this person, in astrology there are four basic building blocks: planets, signs, houses, and aspects. Each of these factors is distinct unto itself and they are not interchangeable.

The planets are our inner Lights, each with a specific "department of labor." The Sun is how we are illuminated and how we illuminate others. It is our “Light Source,” the center of our personal Solar System indicated by the other planets. The Moon is our “package of personality,” our feelings, moods, and day to day way of experiencing life.

Each planet has its own “department of labor,” whether its our Mercury coordinating various things, our Venus being attracted to things, or our Mars being spurred to “fight or flee.” Jupiter is our vision and way of questing, Saturn is what we fear and what limits us until we throw off chains we no longer need.

The 12 signs are associated with the 12 houses, but each chart is different since we could have any of the 12 signs on our Ascendant which would put other signs on our houses than the archetypal sign associations. While Taurus may rule the second house, we may have Virgo, or Scorpio, or Gemini on the second house of our natal chart.

The seven visible planets rule the 12 signs, which are the filters through which these Lights express themselves. A Sun in Taurus is illuminated by Taurus people and experiences; a Mercury in Libra coordinates things using the qualities of Libra. Venus in Sagittarius likes Sagittarius people, music, foods and more; Mars in Aries is moved to act or are aggravated by Aries things. Jupiter in Gemini finds opportunity in Gemini endeavors and activities; Jupiter in Pisces finds opportunity in Pisces endeavors and activities.

The houses are life areas divided between self/not self and private/public. They are the departments of life, such as resources, environment, home, children, health, partners, profession, friends, goals, and more. The aspects, or angles between planets and points, are the phase relationships between the planetary Lights and points on the horizon.

Here we make the distinction that just because the 2nd house is associated with Taurus doesn’t mean that Taurus has anything to do with our 2nd house affairs, which are seen by planets in our 2nd house and the ruler of the sign on our 2nd house cusp. A planet in Libra does not work “the same” as a planet in the 7th house.

Getting back to the original question, we begin by noting that Saturn is the principle of mature understanding; the mature understanding of Libra is not anything like the mature understanding of Scorpio. Saturn in Libra gets its lessons by learning a balanced and elegant way of expressing power; Saturn in Scorpio gets its lessons in the sign of desire, loss, and magnetism.

Saturn in the house of legacy and shared value systems (8th) is an entirely different experience than Saturn in the house of equal relationships (7th). The house Saturn occupies at birth shows where we have lessons which will help us find security. This is where Saturn in Cancer needs to learn mature feeling responses, while Saturn in the 4th shows security comes from growing past negative memories of the past and establishing a home. Saturn in Virgo learns lessons of discernment, practicality, service, and humility, whereas Saturn in the 6th shows security comes from having work to do.

In the example question, Saturn in Libra in the 8th must be elegant in dealing with loss, and fair when it comes to shared values and resources. Security comes from "possessing as though you possess nothing, or possess in the name of the all." Saturn in Scorpio in the 7th has to learn to be mature and non-possessive in relationships, and not hold on to hardened anger at others who may or may not have been controlling. Security comes from neither controlling nor being controlled by others.

The planet is a power within us, which expresses itself through the sign it’s in. While it is modified by progressions and even by the various transits which resonate with that planet, a planet can only express what it is through the sign it’s in.

The house is a different matter, since it deals with worldly affairs. Saturn in the 2nd has major lessons around money, resources, and values; Saturn in the 5th has major lessons around self-expression, children, and creativity. Saturn in Libra in the 5th expresses Saturn creativity in a Libra way; Saturn in Sagittarius in the 5th expresses Saturn creativity in a Sagittarian way. While Leo is archetypally a creative sign, it may not have anything to do with our house of creativity.

This is why it’s important to learn the qualities of each sign as distinct from the qualities of each house. While some keywords may be similar, it’s more about how each planet expresses the qualities of the various signs as grounded in life experiences in the houses.

So if you’re wondering how something might work, first look at how that planet might express itself through those sign qualities. Then imagine how that planet in that sign might function in the first house, or second house, or third house, and so on. Then you can reverse the process, and imagine what Jupiter in the first might look like if Jupiter were in Taurus, and then Gemini, and then Cancer, and then Leo, since Jupiter rising in Taurus is radically different than Jupiter rising in Leo!

This is a simple exercise to keep focused about the difference between a planet in a sign, a planet in a house, and planets which might seem to work alike because they combine signs with their archetypal house rulerships. And of course, a Mars in Aries in the first house will always be powerful, as will Jupiter in Sagittarius in the 9th.

Just remember that just because a planet is in familiar territory and is comfortable expressing its inherent sign qualities doesn’t mean it’s necessarily functioning in a healthy way. That can only be known by observing how healthy or dysfunctional the planet actually is. A dysfunctional Venus in Taurus isn’t going to be healthier than a dysfunctional Venus in Scorpio. The dysfunction will merely be expressed through two different lens.

This is only one tiny facet in learning how to read meaning and function in the various planets in their signs and houses. And the more you learn, the easier it’ll be to see how the planets are expressing this or that quality in the life area they primarily operate in. It’s all part of “the Art of Synthesis.” Have fun imagining what each planet in each sign in each house might show to the world!


Reprinted on crystalwind.ca with written permission from Robert Wilkinson. Copying this article to other blogs is strictly prohibited. It is copyright protected. 

© Copyright 2024 Robert Wilkinson

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© Copyright 2024 Robert Wilkinson - https://www.aquariuspapers.com

About the author:

Robert wilkinson An internationally-known astrologer, author, public speaker, metaphysician, and futurist, with over 25 years experience as a counselor and educator. He has presented hundreds of public talks on all aspects of Astrology, the Eastern Wisdom tradition, the Western Wisdom tradition and promoted many mass gatherings and cultural events. Some of his specific areas of interest and expertise include personality profiles, degree patterns, integrative astrology, various aspect harmonics, among others.
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Reprinted on crystalwind.cawith written persmission from Robert Wilkinson.

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