Traditional astrology views the planets in a very different way than modern astrology does. This is related to the concept of planetary dignity, which doesn’t mean a lot in modern astrology.
In traditional astrology, each of the seven classical planets rules one or more signs. This is not a matter of simple affinity. It means that the planet is responsible for the affairs of the house(s) it rules.
There are a lot of ways that traditional astrology measures the effectiveness of a planet, how well it is able to do its job. The different dignities are different ways of judging how the planets can function, and different ways they interact. Think of the dignities as like the different ways that the planets fit within the citizenship of the overall world of the chart.
I’m simplifying a bit here, but I think the general metaphor applies.
First of all, there is what is called sect, either diurnal (daytime) or nocturnal (night-time), depending on what time of day the person is born. The planets are divided up into day and night. Sect is like the overall team or party in control. So the first question you ask about a planet is, does it belong to the ruling party (in sect) or the opposition party (out of sect)?
Then there is domicile or home rulership. Where is its home, which is its primary responsibility?
Which houses does it rule? How does it aspect those houses? Can it do a good job or not?
There are other levels of dignity, but I think you get the idea. Dignities and rulerships are the essence of how planets function in traditional astrology. It defines their responsibilities, their ability to act.
And now along come the outer planets in modern astrology… and if you think about the citizenship of dignities that defines planets, the outers are three-eyed green aliens. They don’t fit.
Imagine Neptune showing up at the Government Office to apply for its citizenship papers, to figure out where it fits within this particular city. So, the City Controller asks some simple questions about its citizenship.
What sect are you? Uh, Neptune doesn’t have sect.
Okay, where do you live, what is your domicile? Uh, Neptune doesn’t have any domicile in traditional astrology.
Okay, what houses are you responsible for? Uh, houses and signs go with dignities, and the outer planets don’t really have any in traditional astrology.
So where do you fit? Umm, I stand for things like spirituality, confusion, …
So in terms of how planets are used in traditional astrology, the outer planets… aren’t. They don’t fit in the system.
Is there a place for the outer planets in traditional astrology?
As full-fledged planets? No, I think not. There are too many defining characteristics of the planets that the outers do not have.
Planets also have what is called their natural significations, meaning what a planet stands for outside of its rulership and dignities. Each planet has multiple natural significations depending on context. For instance, Venus stands for women, Mars for men, the Sun for the King, the Moon for the common people, and so on.
I think you could argue that outer planets can have natural significations, and that is a way they can be used within the context of traditional astrology.
A lot of traditional astrologers find the outer planets useful and meaningful. That is fine.
The purpose of this post is to think through just what is meant by a planet in traditional astrology, and how it fits within the world of a chart.
I argue that the outers are not full-fledged planets in the traditional sense. So, if you practice traditional astrology and use the outers, exactly what role do they play?