Ladder of the Planets

My practice of astrology today is based on what I learned during a period of several years in which I confined myself to rules and techniques from traditional astrology. As part of that, I eliminated the 3 modern outer planets from my practice. Obviously this also means that I used only the traditional rulerships, where Mars rules Scorpio, Saturn rules Aquarius, and Jupiter rules Pisces. There is a beauty, symmetry and power to the traditional rulership system, with the planets arranged in pairs around the two lights, Sun and Moon, in the order of their distance from the Sun.

During the past year I have been exploring, and re-discovering, some of the techniques and viewpoints of modern western astrology.  Along with that study, I now place a very high priority on having the different approaches to astrology all respect and learn from each other. While at one point I was convinced that traditional astrology was superior, I now think that was arrogance on my part, and that the different astrology systems are each different points of view, and have their own respective strengths and weaknesses.

So, as a (mostly) traditional astrologer, I want to be able to dialog with modern astrologers, speak their language, and use the best of their techniques and insights.

That means coming to terms with the modern planetary rulerships, where Scorpio is now ruled by Pluto, Aquarius is ruled by Uranus, and Pisces is ruled by Neptune. That is the system used by most of the astrologers I know. The problem is, introducing those new rulers disturbs the symmetry and integrity of the traditional system, and that is far more important than you might think if you don’t have experience in traditional astrology.

However, if I am going to dialog with modern astrologers, I need to be able to speak the language of modern rulerships, so I always have my eye out for a framework in which I can make sense of modern rulerships while still keeping the symmetry of the original system intact.

I think I have found an interesting and possibly fruitful approach, and I want to examine it here.

I recently came across a copy of a little booklet by Frances Sakoian and Louis Acker, titled, Ladder of the Planets. They keep the traditional rulership system intact, and add the modern planets in a way I have never seen anywhere else, that I find very interesting and fruitful.  (I consider a system fruitful for me if I can use it to get new insights into the meanings of the planets, signs etc of astrology.)

This is a picture of the cover of the booklet, and the diagram shows their system.

Ladder of the Planets


Note that I am going to be considering rulership here as being related to affinity. I do realize that is not the traditional understanding of the term rulership, but I want to consider it here to see if it yields fruitful symbolic insights.

Notice that you have the two Lights, Moon and Sun, down at the bottom of the diagram, ruling Cancer and Leo. Next you have the other traditional planets in their usual order ruling pairs of signs, as in the traditional system.

Now, notice that the three outer planets are paired up with three of the traditional planets, so that they each have a co-rulership of a pair of signs.

Aries and Scorpio are stilled ruled by Mars, but now they are also both associated with Pluto. For me there is no stretch at all to see assocations of Pluto and Aries, and I can easily see affinities between Mars and Pluto.

Similarly, Sagittarius and Pisces are ruled by Jupiter, joined by Neptune.  This association makes a lot of sense to me, and I can easily see a Neptunian dimension to Sagittarius, and Neptune and Jupiter also have affinities.

Capricorn and Aquarius are jointly ruled by Saturn and Uranus. This is a very jarring sort of pair to put together. However, I find it at least interesting to consider the two planets and their effect in the two signs. Capricorn and Aquarius are each signs that have to do with the social structures we inhabit, physical, political, and intellectual, and Saturn and Uranus each have a particular stance and effect within those structures. I can see Saturn and Uranus each having interesting affinities with those two signs.

There is another interesting pattern here. The signs that have pairs of planets assigned to them are related to the planets that have their orbits outside of the earth’s orbit – Mars, Jupiter, Saturn – so they are all planets that have a social dimension to them.  (I realize that Mars is not usually called a social planet, but I think it has something to do with the energy or stance of the individual looking out on a surrounding world that is not always friendly – Mars the warrior, the sentinel, the assertion of the individual facing the social.)

The outer planets are then given to signs in reverse order of proximity to the Sun. I find that to be an interesting metaphor, related to the concept of how our earth and solar system now fit in the context of the galaxy, and that galaxy itself in a larger Universe of multiple galaxies. Adding the 3 outer planets does a lot more than just adding another 3 planets to the mix. It really is part of a re-thinking of what kind of context, what kind of worldview we have in our astrology, and how that affects our values and actions.

So, now I have an interesting intellectual framework that I can use to approach how modern planetary rulerships could be used. I intend to examine it further, and experiment with using it.

Do I still think the system of traditional rulerships is important and even necessary? Frankly, yes I do. I think it will remain my primary system.

However, I feel like I now have a useful way to think about how you could use the modern rulerships, and what sorts of interesting insights that could give.

Do I think I can use the modern rulerships? I think I can play with them now, and experiment. I also think I can talk with, and learn from, astrologers who do use the modern planets as rulers. That is important.


Ladder of the Planets — 1 Comment

  1. The ladder does provide an fascinating way to enjoy a “both/and” approach especially as you said, as the outer planets having a social dimension. Having Sag rising, I find the idea of Neptune’s other worldliness fitting for Sag’s search for meaning – an appealing yet surprising association. I am totally comfortable with both Saturn and Uranus for my 28 Cap sun conj 2 Aquarius Mercury! Also as you point out, perhaps the issue is the word “rulership”. Being able to see from many perspectives is beneficial to us all these days on all topics. Thanks for sharing you insightful exploration.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *