The is the first of two posts on this topic.
I am in the process of gathering data for a class I am developing on essential dignities. I was looking back through the book Carmen Astrologicum by Dorotheus, which is one of the earliest texts we have from the Hellenistic era that give information on how astrology was actually practiced during the period of the Hellenistic synthesis.
Early in the text I came across this rather striking statement (page 8 in the Astrology Classics edition, near the bottom of the page):
“…the feminine planets are Saturn, Venus and the Moon, the masculine ones are the Sun, Jupiter, and Mars.”
Saturn is usually thought of as a masculine planet, and here we have this statement in a very early text where (s)he is listed as feminine. Hmm…
I had seen that statement before and noted it in the margin. This time I decided to pursue the metaphor of Saturn as feminine a bit further, and see what sort of light it sheds on traditional astrology.
What I came up with is very interesting and striking, and I want to share my findings here.
In this first post I am particularly interested in how Saturn being classed as feminine shows up in different arrangements of the traditional seven planets.
In the usual astrology classification there is a distinct imbalance in the dividing up of planets as masculine and feminine, with masculine being very much the dominant. That gender imbalance is in striking contradiction to the many instances of balance and symmetry that are the hallmark of traditional astrology.
Notice that, with Saturn as feminine, we now have a perfect symmetrical balance between masculine and feminine planets. Each of the genders has one of the Lights, one Benefic, and one Malefic.
In this arrangement, and in all the others that follow, we have the elusive, many-dimensioned Mercury switching genders according to its placement in the chart. Mercury as hermaphrodite, as bisexual and switching gender.
Compare this division by gender to how the planets are divided by Sect – one of the primary categories of traditional astrology. Each sect gets one light, one benefic and one malefic.
Mars, being hot, actually has more kinship with the day, and Saturn being cold has more natural kinship with the night. The usual reason given for switching the two, is to put the malefics where their action would be moderated – cold Saturn in the warmer day, and hot Mars in the cooler night. If you think of day as being more masculine, and night as being more feminine, you then have each of the malefics in the Sect that has more affinity with the opposite gender, in order to balance and moderate their extreme effect.
So, viewing Saturn as feminine, we have another interesting symmetry in how the planets are divided into sect.
There is another very striking arrangement here – notice that you can line each of the gender planets up so that they represent three phases of a woman or man’s life – youth, maturity, and old age. These also very nicely and strikingly parallel the three modes of the zodiac signs, cardinal, fixed and mutable.
If you are familiar with Goddess worship, you will notice we have the three faces of the Goddess here, Maiden, Mother and Crone, which also parallel three faces of the moon, waxing, full, and waning. It is very interesting that the three masculine planets easily line up in a similar arrangement.
In each of these arrangements we have examined you have that same mark of beautiful overlapping symmetry that is such a distinctive hallmark of much of traditional astrology.
In this first post I examined Saturn as feminine in different arrangements with the other planets. In next week’s post I want to spend some time meditating on the meaning of Saturn herself as being feminine, and where we can find some parallels for that in Western Tradition. Stay tuned for the next post where we consider Saturn as Crone.
(Please note that this is a speculative meditation, looking at the implications of a single text from an early source. I welcome feedback from you, Dear Reader, on any other places you may be aware of where this classification of Saturn as feminine shows up, or where it sheds further meaning on existing texts or traditions.)