Archetypal cosmology draws upon certain interpretive principles, methods, and terms employed in the conventional forms of Western astrology. This glossary provides brief definitions of these concepts and other terms specific to archetypal cosmology. Also included here are paragraphs outlining the meaning of the ten major planetary archetypes recognized in the astrological tradition. Readers new to the field may wish to consult the glossary if they encounter unfamiliar terms within the journal itself.

Click below to explore each area:

  • Planet

    In both archetypal cosmology and traditional astrology, the term planet, reflecting its etymological roots in ancient Greek, has a wider connotation than its usual astronomical definition. As Richard Tarnas explains, “The ancient Greek root for the word ‘planet’ meant ‘wanderer’ and signified not only Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn but also the Sun and Moon, i.e., all the visible celestial bodies that, unlike the fixed stars, moved through the skies in ways that differed from the simple motion and eternal regularity of the diurnal westward movement of the entire heavens. Though a distinction is often made between planets and luminaries, the astrological tradition has generally retained the original more encompassing meaning, referring to the Sun and Moon as planets” (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 504-505).

    As a matter of both tradition and convenience, in the Archai journal the terms planet or planetary archetype will refer to the Sun and the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn as well as the three modern planets, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto.

    See also Dwarf Planets, Plutoids, and Pluto’s Status as a Dwarf Planet.

    Planetary Archetype

    The concept of planetary archetypes is highly complex. Briefly stated, however, a planetary archetype may be thought of as a universal principle with a defined range of general thematic meanings and qualities. Each principle is associated with a specific planet. Planetary archetypes are conceived as dynamic, creative, ordering principles that appear to give an a priori form and thematic content to human experience. For more in-depth discussions of the meaning of planetary archetypes and their archetypal formative function, see one of the following:

    Richard Tarnas, “Archetypal Principles,” Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, Vol. 1:1 (2009).
    ———, “The Planets,” Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, Vol. 1:1 (2009).
    ———, Cosmos and Psyche: Intimations of a New World View (New York, NY: Viking Press, 2006), 71-101.

    See Planetary Archetypes for detailed descriptions of the archetypal themes associated with each planet.


    In archetypal astrology, the term archetypal refers primarily to the set of qualities, themes, characteristics, impulses, and phenomena that relate to one or more of the planetary archetypes. Within this context, to describe something as archetypal or in archetypal terms is to refer to the universal underlying themes evident within concrete particulars.

    Archetypal Complex

    When two planets move into alignment to form one of the major aspects or are in alignment in a natal chart, the planetary archetypes associated with these planets are said to form an archetypal complex, which reflects themes associated with both archetypes. Thus, if the planets Saturn and Neptune are in alignment, the resultant Saturn-Neptune complex reflects themes associated with the dynamic interaction of the Saturn principle and the Neptune principle.

    Discussing planetary alignments during specific historical periods, O’Neal writes: “phenomena observed during such periods demonstrate characteristics of both archetypes in such a way that the two archetypes associated with those planets may be thought to create an archetypal complex. . . . In a sense, the two archetypes seem to activate each other with one archetype inflecting the other in characteristic ways and vice versa” (O’Neal, “Seasons of Agony and Grace,”Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, Vol. 1:1 (2009): 51).

    Tarnas describes an archetypal complex as “a coherent field of archetypally connected meanings, experiences, and psychological tendencies—expressed in perceptions, emotions, images, attitudes, beliefs, fantasies, and memories, as well as in synchronistic external events and historical and cultural phenomena—all of which appear to be informed by a dominant archetypal principle or combination of such principles. An archetypal complex can be conceived of as the experiential equivalent of a force field or a magnetic field in physics, producing an integrated pattern or gestalt out of many diverse particulars. Any given archetypal complex always contains problematic and pathological shadow tendencies intertwined with more salutary, fruitful, and creative ones, all of which inhere in potentia in each complex” (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 105).

    Archetypal Astrology

    The study of the correlations between planetary alignments and archetypal themes in human experience. Archetypal astrology combines an understanding of archetypal principles drawn from the depth psychology of C. G. Jung, James Hillman, and Stanislav Grof with techniques and interpretive methodologies drawn from astrology, in both its ancient and modern forms. For more on archetypal astrology, see Le Grice, “The Birth of a New Discipline,” Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, Vol. 1:1 (2009).

    Archetypal Cosmology

    A multidisciplinary subject drawing on scholarship from many areas such as astrology, depth psychology, history, philosophy, cosmology, religious studies, cultural studies, the arts, and the new sciences. It is a field of inquiry that includes the analysis of astrological correlations (archetypal astrology), but that goes beyond this to address the theoretical basis of these correlations and their implications for the wider world view.

    Archetypal Historiography

    The application of the techniques, methodology, and interpretive guidelines of archetypal astrology to the analysis of trends, cycles, and patterns of history. Archetypal historiography as a methodology combines two primary modes of inquiry: detailed historical research and the study of planetary correlations in relation to the archetypal analysis of history. In an expanding and deepening hermeneutic circle, the study of the historical and cultural phenomena illuminates the archetypal complexes associated with the planetary alignments, and the archetypal analysis illuminates the historical data.

    For more on archetypal historiography, see O’Neal, “Archetypal Historiography: A New Historical Approach,” Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, Vol. 1:1 (2009).

    Archetypal Multivalence and Multidimensionality

    Within the context of archetypal astrology and archetypal cosmology, the term multivalence refers to the multitude of ways in which an archetype expresses itself within individual human experiences, the events of world history, works of art, cultural movements, or historical epochs, while remaining consistent with a central core of meaning. “The Saturn archetype can express itself as judgment but also as old age, as tradition but also as oppression, as time but also as mortality, as depression but also as discipline, as gravity in the sense of heaviness and weight but also as gravity in the sense of seriousness and dignity” (Cosmos and Psyche, 87). In other words, the concept of archetypal multivalence reflects the inherently irreducible nature of archetypal expression, which renders futile all attempts to understand them as univocal or singular manifestations.

    In addition to the essential multivalence of archetypal expression, the term multidimensional refers to the potential appearance of these expressions in multiple dimensions of human experience—subjective or objective, physical or psychological, immanent or transcendent, mythic or metaphysical, and so forth. The concept of archetypal multidimensionality reflects an understanding of the nature of archetypes as autonomous principles and essences that cannot be localized in a particular dimension of being, and in this sense, archetypes may be understood as simultaneously Homeric, Platonic, and Jungian. As Tarnas describes this aspect of archetypal expression,

    For conceptual clarity, then, when we consider the meaning and character of each planetary archetype . . . it will be useful to understand these principles in three different senses: in the Homeric sense as a primordial deity and mythic figure; in the Platonic sense as a cosmic and metaphysical principle; and in the Jungian sense as a psychological principle (with its Kantian and Freudian background)—with all of these associated with a specific planet. For example, the archetype of Venus can be approached on the Homeric level as the Greek mythic figure of Aphrodite, the goddess of beauty and love, the Mesopotamian Ishtar, the Roman Venus. On the Platonic level Venus can be understood in terms of the metaphysical principle of Eros and the Beautiful. And on the Jungian level Venus can be viewed as the psychological tendency to perceive, desire, create, or in some other way experience beauty and love, to attract and be attracted, to seek harmony and aesthetic or sensuous pleasure, to engage in artistic activity and in romantic and social relations. These different levels or senses are distinguished here only to suggest the inherent complexity of archetypes, which must be formulated not as literal concretely definable entities but rather as dynamic potentialities and essences of meaning that cannot be localized or restricted to a specific dimension. (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 86-87)

  • Richard Tarnas’s research in Cosmos and Psyche identified two types of archetypal patterns evident in historical events and cultural phenomena: synchronic patterns and diachronic patterns.

    Synchronic Patterns

    These are related patterns of events occurring contemporaneously during a particular world transit, often in widely separate locations. “The synchronic patterns involved those cases where many events of the same archetypal character took place simultaneously in different cultures and individual lives in coincidence with the same alignment, such as simultaneous revolutions or simultaneous scientific breakthroughs occurring independently in separate countries and continents” (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 149).

    Diachronic Patterns

    These are archetypally related patterns of phenomena occurring in coincidence with an unfolding sequence of alignments formed by two planets over time. “The diachronic patterns involved cases where events taking place during one alignment had a close archetypal and often historical association with events occurring during preceding and subsequent alignments of the same planets, in such a way as to suggest a distinct unfolding cycle” (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 149).

    By way of example, Tarnas discusses diachronic patterning of events in coincidence with the quadrature alignments of the Uranus-Pluto cycle. “The periods of these alignments of Uranus and Pluto,” Tarnas explains, “were thus related not only in terms of the general archetypal character that they had in common but also by their sequential dynamism. Relevant historical trends and cultural movements seemed to undergo a sharply intensified development during each of these specific periods in what appeared to be a continuously unfolding but cyclically ‘punctuated’ evolution. Such diachronic patterns were clearly evident in correlation with the Uranus-Pluto alignments of the past several centuries in a number of areas of modern cultural history, such as feminism and the women’s movement, the abolitionist and civil rights movements, and philosophies of political revolution and radical social change, among others” (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 149).

  • As the astrological tradition developed, the observed correspondence between planetary movements and the archetypal patterns of human affairs took a number of forms, of which three are now considered most essential:

    The Natal Chart

    A birth chart or natal chart (horoscope) is a geometrical portrait of the heavens from the perspective of the Earth at the moment of an individual’s birth. The Sun, Moon, and the planets are positioned around the chart to reflect their positions around the Earth when the person was born. The principal difference between a natal chart and the astronomical reality it portrays is that the natal chart has two dimensions rather than three and does not reflect the varying distances of the Sun, Moon, and planets from the Earth. In natal chart analysis, the positions of the planets relative to the time and place of an individual’s birth are regarded as bearing a significant correspondence to that person’s life as a whole, reflecting the specific archetypal dynamics and relationships expressed in his or her specific psychological tendencies and biography (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 102-104).

    Personal Transits

    Personal transits are the “alignments formed between the current positions of the orbiting planets and the positions of the planets at an individual’s birth” (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 64). The positions of the planets at any given time, in relation to their positions at an individual’s birth, are regarded as bearing a significant correspondence to the specific experiences of that person at that time, reflecting a dynamic activation of the archetypal potential symbolized in the natal chart. Personal transits to the birth chart can be depicted by placing outside the circle of the chart the celestial positions of the transiting planets in the sky at any given time, so as to clarify their current geometrical alignments with natal planetary positions shown inside the circle (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 102-104).

    World Transits

    World transits, like a birth chart, represent the planetary positions with respect to the Earth at a given moment. The positions of the planets relative to the Earth at any given time are regarded as bearing a significant correspondence to the prevailing state of the world, reflecting the state of collective archetypal dynamics visible in the specific historical and cultural conditions and events of that time The most significant correlations in this category involve long-term cyclical alignments of the outer planets coinciding with distinct archetypal patterns in collective historical and cultural phenomena, with a duration of many months or years at a time (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 102-104).

  • Each planet, including the Sun and Moon, is empirically associated with a planetary archetype of the same name. The entries below provide some of the various meanings and themes associated with each planetary archetype.


    The central principle of vital creative energy, the will to exist; the impulse and capacity to be, to manifest, to be active, to be central, to radiate, to ‘shine’; to rise above, achieve, illuminate, and integrate; the individual will and personal identity, the seat of mind and spirit, the animus, the executive functions of the self or ego, the capacity for initiative and purposeful assertion, the drive for individual autonomy and independence; directed and focused consciousness and self-awareness, the centrifugal expression of the self, the trajectory of self-manifestation, ascent and descent; the ruler of the day sky, of the clearly visible, the single source of luminosity that overcomes the encompassing darkness, the monocentric; yang; the part that contains the whole in potentia; Sol and all solar deities, the archetypal Hero in its many forms (Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 89-90).


    The matrix of being, the psychosomatic foundation of the self, the womb and ground of life; the body and the soul, that which senses and intuits, the feeling nature; the impulse and capacity to gestate and bring forth, to receive and reflect, to relate and respond, to need and to care, to nurture and be nurtured, the condition of dependence and interdependence; the diffusely conscious and the unconscious, the anima, the immanent, the centripetal, the home, the fertile source and ground; the cycle of manifestation, the waxing and waning, the eternal round; the ruler of the night sky, of the diffusely visible and the invisible, multiple sources of luminosity within the encompassing darkness, the polycentric; yin; the whole that contains the part in potentia; Luna and all lunar deities, the Great Mother Goddess, together with aspects of the Child (puella, puer), constituting the relational matrix of life (Cosmos and Psyche, 90).


    The principle of mind, thought, communication, that which articulates the primary creative energy and renders it intelligible; the impulse and capacity to think, to conceptualize, to connect and mediate, to use words and language, to give and receive information; to make sense of, to grasp, to perceive and reason, understand and articulate; to transport, translate, transmit; the principle of Logos; Hermes, the messenger of the gods (Cosmos and Psyche, 90).


    The principle of desire, love, beauty, value; the impulse and capacity to attract and be attracted, to love and be loved, to seek and create beauty and harmony, to engage in social and romantic relations, sensuous pleasure, artistic and aesthetic experience; the principle of Eros and the Beautiful; Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty (Cosmos and Psyche, 90).


    The principle of energetic force; the impulse and capacity to assert, to act and move energetically and forcefully, to have an impact, to press forward and against, to defend and offend, to act with sharpness and ardor; the tendency to experience aggressiveness, anger, conflict, harm, violence, forceful physical energy; to be combative, competitive, courageous, vigorous; Ares, the god of war (Cosmos and Psyche, 90).


    The principle of expansion, magnitude, growth, elevation, superiority; the capacity and impulse to enlarge and grow, to ascend and progress, to improve and magnify, to incorporate that which is external, to make greater wholes, to inflate; to experience success, honor, advancement, plenitude, abundance, prodigality, excess, surfeit; the capacity or inclination for magnanimity, optimism, enthusiasm, exuberance, joy, joviality, liberality, breadth of experience, philosophical and cultural aspiration, comprehensiveness and largeness of vision, pride, arrogance, aggrandizement, extravagance; fecundity, fortune, and providence; Zeus, the king of the Olympian gods (Cosmos and Psyche, 90-91).


    The principle of limit, structure, contraction, constraint, necessity, hard materiality, concrete manifestation; time, the past, tradition, age, maturity, mortality, the endings of things; gravity and gravitas, weightiness, that which burdens, binds, challenges, fortifies, deepens; the tendency to confine and constrict, to separate, to divide and define, to cut and shorten, to negate and oppose, to strengthen and forge through tension and resistance, to rigidify, to repress, to maintain a conservative and strict authority; to experience difficulty, decline, deprivation, defect and deficit, defeat, failure, loss, alienation; the labor of existence, suffering, old age, death; the weight of the past, the workings of fate, character, karma, the consequences of past action, error and guilt, punishment, retribution, imprisonment, the sense of ‘no exit’; pessimism, inferiority, inhibition, isolation, oppression and depression; the impulse and capacity for discipline and duty, order, solitude, concentration, conciseness, thoroughness and precision, discrimination and objectivity, restraint and patience, endurance, responsibility, seriousness, authority, wisdom; the harvest of time, effort, and experience; the concern with consensus reality, factual concreteness, conventional forms and structures, foundations, boundaries, solidity and stability, security and control, rational organization, efficiency, law, right and wrong, judgment, the superego; the dark, cold, heavy, dense, dry, old, slow, distant; the senex, Kronos, the stern father of the gods (Cosmos and Psyche, 91).


    The planet Uranus is empirically associated with the principle of change, rebellion, freedom, liberation, reform and revolution, and the unexpected breakup of structures; with sudden surprises, revelations and awakenings, lightning-like flashes of insight, the acceleration of thoughts and events; with births and new beginnings of all kinds; and with intellectual brilliance, cultural innovation, technological invention, experiment, creativity, and originality. In addition to the occurrence of sudden breakthroughs and liberating events, Uranus transits are linked to unpredictable and disruptive changes; hence the planet is often referred to as the “cosmic trickster.” Another set of themes associated with Uranus is a concern with the celestial and the cosmic, with astronomy and astrology, with science and esoteric knowledge, and with space travel and aviation. With respect to personal character, Uranus is regarded as signifying the rebel and the innovator, the awakener, the individualist, the dissident, the eccentric, the restless and wayward (Cosmos and Psyche, 93). Many essential attributes of the Uranus archetypal principle are conveyed by the mythic figure of Prometheus.

    Many of these associations are empirically related to important phenomena surrounding the Discovery of Uranus.


    Neptune is associated with the transcendent, spiritual, ideal, symbolic, and imaginative dimensions of life; with the subtle, formless, intangible, and invisible; with the unitive, timeless, immaterial, and infinite; with all that which transcends the limited literal temporal and material world of concretely empirical reality: myth and religion, art and inspiration, ideals and aspirations, images and reflections, symbols and metaphors, dreams and visions, mysticism, religious devotion, universal compassion. It is associated with the impulse to surrender separative existence and egoic control, to dissolve boundaries and structures in favor of underlying unities and undifferentiated wholes, merging that which was separate, healing and wholeness; the dissolution of ego boundaries and reality structures, states of psychological fusion and intimations of intrauterine existence, melted ecstasy, mystical union, and primary narcissism; with tendencies towards illusion and delusion, deception and self-deception, escapism, intoxication, psychosis, perceptual and cognitive distortions, conflation and confusion, projection, fantasy; with the bedazzlement of consciousness whether by gods, archetypes, beliefs, dreams, ideals, or ideologies; with enchantment, in both positive and negative senses.

    The archetypal principle linked to Neptune governs all nonordinary states of consciousness, as well as the stream of consciousness and the oceanic depths of the unconscious. Characteristic metaphors for its domain include the infinite sea of the imagination, the ocean of divine consciousness, and the archetypal wellspring of life. It is, in a sense, the archetype of the archetypal dimension itself, the anima mundi, the Gnostic pleroma, the Platonic realm of transcendent Ideas, the domain of the gods, the Immortals. In mythic and religious terms, it is associated with the all-encompassing womb of the Goddess, and with all deities of mystical union, universal love, and transcendent beauty; the mystical Christ, the all-compassionate Buddha, the Atman-Brahman union, the union of Shiva and Shakti, the hieros gamos or sacred marriage, the coniunctio oppositorum; the dreaming Vishnu, maya and lila, the self-reflecting Narcissus, the divine absorbed in its own reflection; Orpheus, god of artistic inspiration, the Muses; the cosmic Sophia whose spiritual beauty and wisdom pervade all.

    Considered as a whole, these themes, qualities, and figures suggest that the name Neptune is both apt and inadequate in denoting a mythological figure embodying the planet’s corresponding archetypal principle. On the one hand, central to the observed characteristics is an underlying symbolic association with water, the sea, the ocean, streams and rivers, mists and fogs, liquidity and dissolution, the amniotic and prenatal, the permeable and undifferentiated. In this regard, one thinks of the many oceanic and watery metaphors used to describe mystical experience, the all-encompassing ocean of divine consciousness of which our individual selves are but momentarily separate drops, the ceaselessly flowing all-informing Tao whose waterlike fluidity evades all definition, the primordial participation mystique of undifferentiated awareness, the mists of prehistory, the amniotic fetal and infantile states of primary fusion, the oceanic realms of the imagination, the fluid nature of psychic life generally: the flow and stream of consciousness, the influx of inspiration, the fog of confusion, drowning in the treacherous deep waters of the unconscious psyche, slipping into madness or addiction, surrendering to the flow of experience, dissolving into the divine union, the cleansing waters of purity and healing, melted ecstasy, and so forth. One thinks here, too, of Freud’s reference to the “oceanic feeling”: “a sensation of ‘eternity,’ a feeling as of something limitless, unbounded— as it were, ‘oceanic’. . . it is the feeling of an indissoluble bond, of being one with the external world as a whole.” Equally relevant is William James’s image of a transcendental “mother-sea” of consciousness with which the individual consciousness is continuous and of which the brain essentially serves as a sieve or filtering conduit (Cosmos and Psyche, 96-97).

    Many of these associations are empirically related to important phenomena surrounding the Discovery of Neptune.


    To summarize the consensus of contemporary astrologers: Pluto is associated with the principle of elemental power, depth, and intensity; with that which compels, empowers, and intensifies whatever it touches, sometimes to overwhelming and catastrophic extremes; with the primordial instincts, libidinal and aggressive, destructive and regenerative, volcanic and cathartic, eliminative, transformative, ever-evolving; with the biological processes of birth, sex, and death, the cycle of death and rebirth; with upheaval, breakdown, decay, and fertilization; violent purgatorial discharge of pent-up energies, purifying fire; situations of life-and-death extremes, power struggles, all that is titanic, potent, and massive. Pluto represents the underworld and underground in all senses: elemental, geological, instinctual, political, social, sexual, urban, criminal, mythological, demonic. It is the dark, mysterious, taboo, and often terrifying reality that lurks beneath the surface of things, beneath the ego, societal conventions, and the veneer of civilization, beneath the surface of the Earth, that is periodically unleashed with destructive and transformative force. Pluto impels, burns, consumes, transfigures, resurrects. In mythic and religious terms, it is associated with all myths of descent and transformation, and with all deities of destruction and regeneration, death and rebirth: Dionysus, Hades and Persephone, Pan, Medusa, Lilith, Innana, Isis and Osiris, the volcano goddess Pele, Quetzalcoatl, the Serpent power, Kundalini, Shiva, Kali, Shakti.

    Closely analogous to Freud’s concept of the primordial id, “the broiling cauldron of the instincts,” and to Darwin’s understanding of an ever-evolving nature and the biological struggle for existence, the archetype associated with the planet Pluto is also linked to Nietzsche’s Dionysian principle and the will to power and to Schopenhauer’s blind striving universal will—all these embodying the powerful forces of nature and emerging from nature’s chthonic depths, within and without, the intense, fiery elemental underworld (Cosmos and Psyche, 99).

    Many of these associations are empirically related to important phenomena surrounding the Discovery of Pluto.

    See also Pluto’s Status as a Dwarf Planet or Plutoid.

  • Aspect

    A significant geometric relationship between two planets, or between any two significant points in an astrological chart (such as a planet and the Ascendant), measured in degrees of celestial longitude along the ecliptic and signifying a corresponding relationship between the archetypal principles associated with these points. Each of the geometric relationships has a specific meaning or character, so that the qualities associated with the two planets or astronomical points that form an aspect are combined according to the specific character of that aspect.

    Planetary Alignment

    Another term for an aspect between two planets: A meaningful geometric relationship formed between any two planets, including the Sun and Moon, measured in degrees of celestial longitude along the ecliptic. Such an alignment indicates that the archetypal principles associated with these planets are in a mutually activating relationship with each other. The nature of this relationship varies according to the meaning of the geometric relationship.

    Axial Alignments

    The conjunction and opposition: Geometric alignments formed between two planets of 0° (conjunction) or 180° (opposition), with a range (or orb) of 15° on either side of exactitude. The conjunction and opposition alignments are equivalent respectively to the relationship of the Sun and Moon at the New Moon (0°) and the Full Moon (180°).

    Quadrature Alignments

    The conjunction, opposition, and squares: Geometric relationships (or aspects) of 0, 90, and 180° (the conjunction, square, and opposition, respectively) formed between two planetary bodies with a range (orb) of 15° on either side of exactitude for the conjunction and opposition, and 10° for the square.


    The range of degrees on either side of an exact geometric alignment within which an alignment or aspect is considered to be operative. Axial aspects for world transits, for example, are considered to be operative within an orb of 15°. In other words, conjunctions and oppositions are assumed to start when the alignment first reaches 15° before exactitude and to end when the alignment last exceeds 15° beyond exactitude. An opposition alignment, therefore, is considered operative within an angular range of 165°–195° (180° ± 15°).

    Based on the empirical research so far, Archai uses the following orbs for world transit alignments and natal planetary aspects:

    • Conjunctions   15°
    • Oppositions     15°
    • Squares            10°
    • Trines                10°
    • Sextiles               7°
    • Midpoints           2°

    For most personal transits involving conjunctions, oppositions, squares, or trines, Archai generally recommends using a 5° orb for initial archetypal activation, and a 3° orb for full activation.

    Note: Beyond the rule of thumb, the orbs for certain personal transits such as the Saturn Return contravene the general rule. More detail concerning these exceptions will be provided here at some future date.

    Dynamic Aspects

    Often referred to in astrological literature as “hard” aspects, the dynamic aspects include the quadrature aspects: the conjunction (0°), square (90°), and opposition (180°). These aspects are typically characterized by mutually stimulating, often challenging, and sometimes antagonistic relationships between the corresponding archetypal principles of the two planets that have formed the aspect. In general, the dynamic aspects appear to correspond with dominant themes of personal biography and to yield the most significant archetypal correlations with world transits.

    Confluent Aspects

    Often referred to in astrological literature as “soft” or harmonious aspects, the confluent aspects include the trine (120°) and the sextile (60°). These aspects are traditionally associated with mutually supportive, more readily integrated, and balanced relationships between the corresponding planetary archetypes.

    Major Aspects

    Although any two objects or points on the ecliptic may form a significant angular relationship or aspect, not all aspects are considered to be equally significant in astrological theory. The most important angular relationships, known as the major aspects, are:

    • Conjunction
    • Sextile
    • Square
    • Trine
    • Opposition

    See also Minor Aspects.


    An angular relationship of approximately 0° between two planets or between any two significant points or objects in an astrological chart. A conjunction typically signifies a powerful confluence and dynamic mutual stimulation of the archetypes associated with the two objects involved.


    An angular relationship of approximately 60° between two planets or between any two significant points or objects in an astrological chart. A sextile aspect typically signifies the potential for a relatively harmonious combination of the themes, impulses, and qualities of the archetypal principles associated with the two objects involved.


    An angular relationship of approximately 90° between two planets or between any two significant points or objects in an astrological chart. A square aspect typically signifies a challenging, problematic, or even confrontational combination of the themes, impulses, and qualities associated with the archetypal principles associated with the two objects involved.


    An angular relationship of approximately 120° between two planets or between any two significant points or objects in an astrological chart. A trine aspect typically signifies a relatively harmonious, well-established, and balanced combination of the themes, impulses, and qualities of the archetypal principles associated with the two objects involved.


    An angular relationship of approximately 180° between two planets or between any two significant points or objects in an astrological chart. An opposition aspect typically signifies a highly charged dynamic tension between the themes, impulses, and qualities of the archetypal principles associated with the two objects involved.

    Minor Aspects

    In astrological theory, in addition to the major aspects, there are several other angular relationships between two planets or two significant astrological objects, which are known as the minor aspects. Although not usually as important as the major aspects, the minor aspects can be significant, especially when close to exact. Although there are many such aspects, the most important for the purposes of this journal are:

    • Inconjunct or Quincunx
    • Semisquare
    • Sesquiquadrate (also called “sesquisquare”)
    • Semisextile

    See also Major Aspects.

    Inconjunct or Quincunx

    An angular relationship of approximately 150° between two planets or between two significant points or objects in an astrological chart. An inconjunct aspect typically signifies a discordant, incongruent, although potentially creative, relationship between the archetypal principles associated with the two objects involved.


    An angular relationship of approximately 45° between two planets or between two significant points or objects in an astrological chart. A semisquare aspect is similar in meaning to the square aspect, and, when close to exact, typically signifies a dynamic and challenging relationship between the archetypal principles associated with the two objects involved.


    An angular relationship of approximately 135° between two planets or between two significant objects or points in an astrological chart. A sesquiquadrate aspect, like the semisquare, is similar in meaning to the square aspect, which, when close to exact, typically signifies a dynamic and challenging relationship between the archetypal principles associated with the two objects involved.


    An angular relationship of approximately 30° between two planets or between two significant objects or points in an astrological chart. A semisextile aspect typically signifies a minor, emerging relationship between the archetypal principles associated with the two objects involved.

    Aspect Patterns

    Various patterns formed by several planets or other significant astrological objects in aspect to each other. The most important and relevant aspect patterns are:

    • Stellium
    • T-Square
    • Grand Cross or Grand Square
    • Grand Trine
    • Midpoints


    A grouping of three or more planets in a chain of conjunctions.


    Two planets in an opposition alignment, and a third planet in square alignment with each planet of this opposition.

    Grand Cross or Grand Square

    Two sets of planets in opposition alignments with each of the two planets of one opposition in square alignment with both planets of the other opposition.

    Grand Trine

    At least three planets each in trine aspect to the other two planets to form roughly an equilateral triangle.


    A midpoint is situated halfway between any two planets or significant objects in an astrological chart. Within the 360° chart circle, every midpoint forms an axis that runs from the original midpoint to the degree exactly opposite it in the zodiac. For example, if Saturn is at 0° Aries and Venus is 90° away at 0° Cancer, their midpoint forms an axis between them that is 45° from each of the two planets, running from 15° Taurus to 15° Scorpio. If a third planet, for example, Mars, is conjunct this midpoint axis by being positioned at either 15° Taurus or 15° Scorpio, the Mars archetype is brought into a dynamic relationship with the Saturn and Venus archetypes. Following the normal convention for listing midpoints, this particular midpoint configuration would be given as Mars=Venus/Saturn.

  • Chart Angles

    Astrological charts are demarcated by four primary angles, which provide important symbolic reference points for geographic, spatial, existential, and psychological orientation. The four primary angles are:

    • Ascendant
    • Descendant
    • Midheaven or Medium Coeli (MC)
    • Imum Coeli (IC)

    Note: The archetypal meanings and psychological functions of the four angles in the birth chart are a complex issue requiring more exploration than is possible in the following brief definitions. More detail concerning the four angles will be provided here at some future date.


    The ascendant is the chart angle found on the left side of the chart that forms a horizontal axis with the descendant. The ascendant is located at the precise degree of the sign that was rising on the eastern horizon at the place and moment for which the astrological birth chart was calculated. In traditional natal astrology, the ascendant is typically associated with the persona, modes of self-expression, how one appears to others, and one’s approach to life.


    The descendant is the angle found on the right side of the chart that forms a horizontal axis with the ascendant. The descendant is located at the precise degree of the sign that was setting on the eastern horizon at the place and moment for which an astrological chart was calculated. In traditional natal astrology, the descendant is typically associated with partnerships and one-to-one relationships, how the individual is met and seen by others, and how individuals understand themselves through their interactions with others in close relationships.

    Midheaven or Medium Coeli (MC)

    The midheaven is the angle found near the top of a birth chart that forms the vertical axis with the imum coeli through the chart center. The midheaven symbolically represents an existential orientation to that which is above us, in public view. Thus, in traditional natal astrology, the midheaven is typically associated with career, vocation, accomplishment, conscious aspirations, collective responsibilities, and one’s public reputation. The Latin term medium coeli means “middle of the heavens.”

    Imum Coeli (IC)

    The imum coeli is the angle near the bottom of the birth chart that forms the vertical axis with the midheaven through the chart center. As the point exactly opposite the midheaven, the IC symbolically represents an existential orientation to that which is below us, or pertaining to the private sphere of experience. Thus, in natal astrology, the IC is traditionally associated with origins, roots, the past, the family, the home, the private inner world, and the source of one’s being. The Latin term imum coeli means “lowest part of the heavens.”

    Direct Motion

    The term direct motion refers to the apparent motion of a planet along the zodiac or ecliptic in its normal direction, proceeding from west to east in accord with the planet’s actual motion on its orbit. Direct Motion is the opposite of Retrograde Motion.

    Retrograde Motion

    The term retrograde motion refers to the apparent motion of a planet along the zodiac or ecliptic in the reverse direction (proceeding from east to west) from its direct or actual orbital direction (from west to east). Such apparent reversal of direction results from the orbital progress of the Earth and the planet relative to the Sun. Planets displaying retrograde motion are said to be retrograde, as in Mercury retrograde. The Sun and Moon do not display retrograde motion. Retrograde Motion is the opposite of Direct Motion.

    Stations and Stationary Planets

    In their apparent movements, all planets (but not the Sun and Moon) exhibit both direct and retrograde motions. When their apparent motion changes direction from direct to retrograde, or the reverse, the planet appears to stop for a period of time before beginning to move in the opposite direction. That position and period of time during which the planet appears not to move is referred to as a station. Planets in direct motion that station to become retrograde are referred to as stationary retrograde. Planets in retrograde motion that station to transition to direct motion are referred to as stationary direct. Because the Sun and Moon do not exhibit retrograde motion, they also do not station.

    Planetary Orbital Periods

    From the Earth’s perspective, the Sun, Moon, and each of the eight planets takes a different amount of time to move completely around the zodiac, resulting from each body’s different orbital period. Here are the approximate orbital periods of each of the ten astrological planets:

    • Moon          27.3 days (around the Earth)
    • Sun             1 year (resulting from the Earth’s orbit around the Sun)
    • Mercury      0.24 years (88 days)
    • Venus          0.62 years (224 days)
    • Mars            1.88 years (686 days)
    • Jupiter         11.86 years
    • Saturn          29.5 years
    • Uranus         84 years
    • Neptune      165 years
    • Pluto             248 years

    Note: The Sun, of course, does not orbit around another object in the solar system, but from the Earth’s perspective it appears to travel completely around the zodiac once each year. Likewise, although the Moon orbits the Earth, it appears to travel completely around the zodiac every lunar month. Because the orbits of Mercury and Venus are closer to the Sun than that of the Earth, both planets take approximately one year to complete their journey around the zodiac, doing so in somewhat close proximity to the Sun’s journey. During that approximately one-year period, Mercury completes more than three orbits around the Sun while Venus completes one and two-thirds orbits.

    Inner Planets

    In astrology, the five inner planets are those whose orbits are inside Jupiter’s orbit:

    • Sun
    • Moon
    • Mercury
    • Venus
    • Mars

    Outer Planets

    In astrology, the five outer planets include Jupiter and all planets whose orbits are outside Jupiter’s orbit:

    • Jupiter
    • Saturn
    • Uranus
    • Neptune
    • Pluto


    A circular zone or band projected onto the sky that is centered upon the ecliptic, or the plane created by the apparent annual motion of the Sun. From its early origins in Mesopotamian celestial divination, one of the primary functions of the zodiac has been as a celestial coordinate system for tracking current and predicting future positions of the Sun, Moon, and planets from the perspective of the Earth. For this purpose, the 360° zodiac circle is divided into twelve equal divisions or signs of 30° each: Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Aquarius, and Pisces. See Signs.

    Tropical and Sidereal Zodiacs

    As the principal function of the Zodiac is to assist in mapping the movements of solar system objects, the zodiac is a coordinate system that is divided into twelve equal parts, known as signs. As there is no inherent beginning to a circle, theoretically there are an infinite number of starting points for the zodiac. In actual practice, however, there are two major zodiac systems in use, each with its own beginning position. The starting point of the sidereal zodiac, which forms the basis of Vedic astrology, is the first degree of the constellation Aries. In contrast, the tropical zodiac, which is the preferred system of Western astrology, uses the vernal equinox as its beginning point. Another major difference between the two zodiacs may be further elucidated by suggesting that the sidereal zodiac uses celestial phenomena for its orientation and system of interpretive meaning while the tropical zodiac relies upon seasonal variation for its system of organization and significance.


    This term refers to the apparent circular orbit of the Sun around the Earth during the course of a year, as seen from the standpoint of an observer on Earth. This perceived circular course results, of course, from the Earth’s revolution around the Sun. Constellations seen along the ecliptic form the original basis for the twelve signs of the zodiac. On a two-dimensional plane, all the planets appear to occupy a position on the ecliptic regardless of their distance from the Earth. As they move along the ecliptic during their orbits, the planets appear to move around the zodiac, passing from one sign to the next.


    The twelve astrological signs are equal divisions of the zodiac. Each sign comprises thirty degrees and is named after one of twelve constellations that are in close proximity to the ecliptic. Each sign is also associated with a specific set of fundamental qualities, which have been variously described as temperaments, personality traits, types of energy, or essences. In Western astrology, taken as a whole, the twelve signs of the zodiac are said to represent the full range of human experience. The twelve signs of the zodiac are:

    • Aries
    • Taurus
    • Gemini
    • Cancer
    • Leo
    • Virgo
    • Libra
    • Scorpio
    • Sagittarius
    • Capricorn
    • Aquarius
    • Pisces

    Because Archai does not focus primarily on astrological signs, it is beyond the scope of this glossary to provide meaningful descriptions of each sign. Recommended resources for signs and their meanings include Robert Hand’s Horoscope Symbols (Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 1981), Stephen Arroyo’s Chart Interpretation Handbook: Guidelines for Understanding the Essentials of the Birth Chart (Sebastopol, CA: CRCS Publications, 1989), and John Jocelyn’s Meditations on the Signs of the Zodiac (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1970).


    The birth chart is composed of twelve divisions, known as houses, in which the positions of the planets and signs of the zodiac are represented relative to local time and space. While there are various house systems, each with its own way of mapping local space relative to the ecliptic, all house systems are predicated on the idea that each house is symbolically connected to specific areas of life or fields of experience, so that the first house is generally considered to be concerned with action and self-orientation, the fourth house with home and family, the seventh house with relationships, the tenth house with career, and so on. When a planet is located in a particular house, this implies that the archetypal principle associated with that planet will be expressed primarily in the areas of life or fields of experience associated with that house. Because archetypal astrology places more emphasis on the research of archetypal correlations with planetary aspects than on the significance of houses, a detailed explication of houses will not be provided here. Recommended sources include Robert Hand, Horoscope Symbols (Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 1981); Bill Herbst, Houses of the Horoscope, 2nd ed. (Woburn, MA: Serendipity Press, 2006), Dane Rudhyar, The Astrological Houses: The Spectrum of Individual Experience (Sebastopol, CA: CRCS Publications, 1972); and Howard Sasportas, The Twelve Houses: Understanding the Importance of the Houses in Your Astrological Birth Chart (London: Thorsons, 1998).

    Saturn Return

    The approximately three-year period when Saturn completes its 29-year cycle around the zodiac to return to its original position in the natal chart. The first Saturn Return occurs between the ages of 28 and 30 and the second between 57 and 60.

    For more on the Saturn Return, see Saturn Cycle, next tab.


    The technique of comparing two or more natal charts to determine the archetypal dynamics between them. The comparison is made by juxtaposing the planetary positions of one chart with the planetary positions of another chart and analyzing the aspects formed between the two sets of planets.

    Dwarf Planets

    In 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) defined a dwarf planet as a celestial body orbiting the Sun that is not a satellite of another celestial body and that has sufficient mass to be rounded by its own gravity, but has not cleared its neighboring region of other objects. According to this definition, Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet. See Pluto and also Plutoids. This term is not identical with the term minor planet, which is essentially identical to asteroid and planetoid.


    Plutoid is the term now used to identify a trans-Neptunian dwarf planet such as Pluto or an object that is likely to be such a body. The term was approved by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Executive Committee on June 11, 2008, to refer to those objects that are not only dwarf planets but also trans-Neptunian objects. Pluto may therefore be referred to as both a dwarf planet and a plutoid. See also Dwarf Planets and Pluto’s Status as a Dwarf Planet.

    Pluto’s Status as a Dwarf Planet

    In August 2006, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) voted to change the classification of Pluto from a planet to a dwarf planet, based primarily on a new definition of a planet that requires it to dominate gravitationally its orbital path around the sun, clearing away most other objects. See “RESOLUTION B5: Definition of a Planet in the Solar System,” International Astronomical Union. On June 11, 2008 the IAU executive committee also approved the term plutoid to designate the subset of dwarf planets that were also trans-Neptunian. Pluto may now be referred to as both a dwarf planet and a plutoid.

    Nevertheless, considerable empirical evidence exists to support the association of a potent archetypal principle with the dwarf planet, Pluto. The archetypal associations of this body of evidence seem to be consistent with Pluto as the first discovered object of this kind, recognized by the IAU “as the prototype of a new category of Trans-Neptunian Objects” (see “Resolution B6: Pluto,” International Astronomical Union). Because of the wealth and depth of this empirical evidence as well as Pluto’s special, prototypical, or archetypal, status in this new category of dwarf planets, Archai will, for the sake of both simplicity and archetypal accuracy, continue to refer to Pluto as a planet (Modified from O’Neal, “Seasons of Agony and Grace,”Archai: The Journal of Archetypal Cosmology, Vol. 1:1 (2009): 56).

  • From Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 119-125.

    Another planetary transit cycle in which distinctive archetypal correlations can be easily recognized in individual biographies is the Saturn cycle, approximately twenty-nine and a half years in length. All individuals go through the first Saturn return transit from about the age of twenty-eight through age thirty, a three-year period in the course of which a characteristic complex of biographical events and experiences seems to occur with remarkable consistency. (Note 1) During these years individuals tend to experience their lives as distinctly coming to the end of an era—bringing the years of youth to a close and initiating the person, in an often challenging way, into the principal period of mature activity in the world in engagement with the established social order.

    In examining many hundreds of individual biographies, I observed that during the years from age twenty-eight to thirty, a tangibly different, usually more serious posture towards life, work, long-term goals, security, parents, tradition, and established social structures tended to emerge. At this time, the wider aspirations and wanderings of youth seemed to undergo a transformation, becoming focused on and grounded in concrete practicalities and particular commitments: vocational, relational, intellectual, psychological, spiritual. Significant relationships often came to an end, and others of enduring consequence began. Modes of being that had characterized the preceding years were now outgrown and decisively left behind as no longer appropriate, or ineluctably taken away by changing life circumstances. The consequences of past actions and events tended to emerge and require assimilation, and a growing tendency to engage in serious self-reflection and biographical retrospection was typical.

    In coincidence with the Saturn return transit, the challenging realities of life and death, time and aging, loss and adversity, work and responsibility became dominant concerns in a distinctly different manner from how these same realities were experienced in one’s teens or twenties. Equally characteristic during this three-year transit was a definite sense of existential compression or contraction, generally accompanied by obstacles, limitations, and frustrations of various kinds—financial, physical, relational—and often including a definite encounter with human mortality, finitude, and fallibility. For some, the years of this transit near age thirty marked a psychological transformation that brought an end to the more creative, adventurous, open-minded and free-spirited youthful self and the establishment of a more rigidly conservative, constrained, and risk-averse personality identified with the status quo and unquestioned conventional values. By contrast, many others seemed to resolve this archetypal transition through the strenuous forging of a synthesis of the aspiring, creative impulses of youth with the structuring, stabilizing, disciplining, foundation-building impulses of maturity.

    In either case, the often noted, fairly easily recognizable difference between individuals who are over thirty from those younger than thirty seemed to be associated with the decisive emergence in just these years of personal qualities and life circumstances whose common qualities all seemed to be comprehensible in terms of the Saturn archetype being potently constellated at that time. (Note 2) The following description by Gertrude Stein, from her early work Fernhurst, well describes a characteristic form of the life transition that consistently coincides with the Saturn return period:

    It happens often in the twenty-ninth year of life that all the forces that have been engaged through the years of childhood, adolescence and youth in confused and ferocious combat range themselves in ordered ranks—one is uncertain of one’s aims, meaning and power during these years of tumultuous growth when aspiration has no relation to fulfillment and one plunges here and there with energy and misdirection during the storm and stress of the making of a personality until at last we reach the twenty-ninth year, the straight and narrow gateway of maturity and life which was all uproar and confusion narrows down to form and purpose and we exchange a great dim possibility for a small hard reality.

    Also in our American life where there is no coercion in custom and it is our right to change our vocation so often as we have desire and opportunity, it is a common experience that our youth extends through the whole first twenty-nine years of our life and it is not until we reach thirty that we find at last that vocation for which we feel ourselves fit and to which we willingly devote continued labor. (Note 3)

    In researching hundreds of biographies to examine the nature of each individual’s life trajectory, I regularly observed that the succeeding three decades—the person’s thirties, forties, and fifties—could be seen in retrospect to have been decisively shaped by the structural transformations that took place during the first Saturn return transit between the ages of twenty-eight and thirty. One’s first symphony is composed and first public concert takes place (Beethoven); one’s major professional association is established (Shakespeare becomes a member of the Globe’s company of players and their chief playwright); one’s pivotal career appointment is received (Ficino as head of the Platonic Academy of Florence, Luther as teacher of biblical theology at Wittenberg, Kepler as Imperial Mathematician in Prague, Galileo as professor of mathematics in Padua, William James as lecturer in science at Harvard); one’s first significant achievement occurs (Marie Curie discovers radium and polonium, Niels Bohr formulates his theory of atomic structure); one’s first significant public recognition takes place (Newton is elected to the Royal Society, Georgia O’Keeffe has her first exhibition at Alfred Stieglitz’s gallery, Duke Ellington begins his five-year engagement at the Cotton Club); one’s first major public act takes place that defines one’s subsequent career (Demosthenes’s first major speech before the Athenian Assembly, Martin Luther King’s participation and arrest in a protest against racial segregation in Atlanta).

    Other biographical patterns with a comparable archetypal character were equally evident during these years of the Saturn return, age twenty-eight to thirty, as for example the tendency to take on a new level of personal responsibility and achieve a new degree of personal independence (Margaret Fuller becomes editor of the Transcendentalist journal The Dial; Abigail Adams, with her husband John away in public service for most of a decade, raises their family and runs household, farm, and business largely by herself from age twenty-nine, establishes her own independent sensibility and finds her own voice in writing her letters). Or one leaves the wanderings of youth to enter one’s mature calling (“The irresponsible days of my youth are over,” Tennessee Williams wrote of the moment, age twenty-nine, when he received a telegram in Mexico from the Theatre Guild that requested him to return to New York for his first Broadway production). (Note 4) One’s first film is directed (Truffaut’s The 400 Blows, Godard’s Breathless, Fellini’s Luci del Varietà, Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou); one’s first mature work is produced (Kafka writes The Judgment and The Metamorphosis, F. Scott Fitzgerald writes The Great Gatsby, Camus writes The Myth of Sisyphus and The Stranger, Saul Bellow writes The Dangling Man, Allen Ginsberg writes Howl); one establishes one’s public persona (Aurore Dupin employs the nom de plume George Sand and publishes her first novel Indiana, Samuel Clemens publishes his first literary work, “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” under the nom de plume Mark Twain). Or one meets the mentor or model for one’s subsequent development (Augustine meets Bishop Ambrose, Melville befriends Hawthorne, Freud studies with Charcot, Jung begins correspondence with Freud, Pablo Neruda encounters Federico Garcia Lorca). Or one moves to the location and cultural milieu in which one’s life work will begin to unfold (Leonardo moves to Milan to work in the court of Duke Ludovico Sforza, Rousseau moves to Paris and meets Diderot and the encyclopedists, Gertrude Stein moves to Paris and establishes her salon at 27 rue de Fleurus).

    The Saturn return transit generally coincided with what might be called a period of biographical crystallization, visible not only in external events such as those just cited but also in a certain solidifying of the individual’s psychic constitution and establishing of the basic structure of the personality. William James believed that after age thirty a person’s character was “set in plaster.” Yet depending on the individual’s specific response to the pressures and circumstances of these critical years, this maturation and solidification could actually entail a new level of personal autonomy and self-reliance that had been unattainable in the years just before, a new confidence grounded in self-knowledge and the sense of having found one’s direction or purpose. Many factors seemed relevant for understanding the variability among the experiences of different individuals during this period, including differences in how the person led his or her life before the transit and differences between the birth charts of the individuals involved.

    On occasion, the achievement of maturational independence and individuation seemed to inhibit or close down the sources of creativity that were previously accessible in youth, as if the spontaneous influx from a kind of creative wellspring could not survive the transition into maturity. With certain highly creative young artists, the crystallization of personality and maturational pressures of the Saturn return period resulted in an individuation that both climaxed and effectively ended the more freely experimental creativity of their twenties (a creativity that typically began during the Uranus square Uranus transit of the late teens and early twenties). A notable example of this pattern is the case of the four Beatles: John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr. After the period of brilliant group creativity sustained through their twenties, from 1962 to 1969, the four musicians decisively moved away from each other in the course of their Saturn return transits, preferring individual songwriting, bringing forth their first solo albums, and establishing marital relationships that precluded the close creative bond of the preceding years. The work the four men produced during their respective Saturn return periods between age twenty-eight and thirty, which began in 1968 and extended into the early 1970s, marked the climax of their creative lives, as embodied both in their extraordinary final albums as Beatles (the double White Album, Let It Be, Abbey Road) and in the first solo albums that each produced. After the age of thirty, their individual efforts seldom attained the creative brilliance of their youth, as if that particular form of creativity had flourished best as a kind of spontaneous collective influx through the group mind of the young Beatles, and ceased to thrive after the assimilation of the Saturn principle of maturity, separation, self-reliance, and serious engagement with the realities of the individual life associated with the period of the Saturn return.

    I found that individual variations in the experiences during this period also closely corresponded with the other outer-planet transits that happened to coincide with the Saturn return, transits that varied from person to person according to their uniquely configured natal chart. (Only a transit of a planet to its own natal position happens to everyone at approximately the same time of life, as with the cycles of transiting Uranus to natal Uranus and of transiting Saturn to natal Saturn that we have been discussing.) The specific quality of the events and responses that occurred during an individual’s Saturn return seemed to be affected by the distinctive character of the archetypal principles associated with these other coinciding planetary transits.

    Such a case is vividly exemplified in the life of William James, whose Saturn return transit happened to coincide with the once-in-a-lifetime transit of Uranus opposite natal Sun, a transit that I observed consistently coincided with periods of sudden personal emancipation and creative breakthrough with a sense of self-awakening or self-liberation. When James was in his twenty-ninth year, he experienced a crisis of depression and anxiety that reached nearly suicidal intensity. This emotional crisis was closely linked with his sustained philosophical struggle with the nature of free will and determinism, both scientific and theological. He experienced this struggle at a personal level in the form of a general sense of oppressive existential constraint and moral impotence. One day while reading the work of the French philosopher Charles Renouvier on free will, James suddenly saw his way clear to a resolution of the crisis, deciding that “my first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.” From this pivotal moment can be traced the subsequent unfolding of James’s life and thought, with his distinctive lifelong philosophical commitment to human freedom, individual autonomy, creative unpredictability, and pragmatic flexibility in response to an indeterminate open universe.

    Human freedom is . . . a special case of universal indeterminism. My future, though continuous with my past, is not determined by it. Just so the future of the world; although it grows out of the total past, it is not a mere result of that past. If I am creative—that is, if human freedom is effectual—then the world is creative, if for no other reason than that I am part of the world. What is constant in my behavior is the result of habits which never entirely lose their flexibility. In the same way the constancies charted by the laws of science are only more inveterate habits. (Note 5)

    James’s case exemplifies a distinctive synthesis of the two different archetypal impulses at work in correlation with the two transits. On the one hand, we see the characteristic biographical tendencies of the Saturn return period: the occurrence of a personal crisis involving an encounter with mortality, a general sense of existential contraction and enforced maturational development, a life decision establishing an enduring personal commitment and philosophical perspective, the crystallization of lifelong character traits, and the occurrence of a pivotal development establishing the direction of one’s career (his appointment as lecturer at Harvard). On the other hand, the outcome of this period also bore the distinctive archetypal character of the Promethean themes and qualities typical of a major Uranus transit to the natal Sun: the sudden personal emancipation from a constraining reality, a new and unexpected sense of freedom of the self, a newly awakened capacity for the active assertion of the individual will, the discovery of a path of self-expression liberating one’s creativity, and a new experience of creative indeterminacy in the world itself.

    I found that a similarly decisive threshold of transformation, with similar individual variability, consistently coincided with the second Saturn return transit one full Saturn cycle later. Taking place during a three-year period approximately between the ages of fifty-seven and sixty, the period of the second Saturn return was typically marked by some form of culmination, completion, or cyclical closure of the processes and structures that had been established during the first Saturn return three decades earlier, including one’s work and career, significant relationships, and basic existential attitudes. Again, a deep encounter with the limits and mortal realities of human existence was typical (as expressed, for example, in Tolstoy’s great novella The Death of Ivan Illich, written during his second Saturn return). An acute awareness that the end of life was now closer than its beginning characteristically intensified existential concerns about what one’s life had accomplished, what values had been served, whether one’s current commitments reflected the reality of the finite time remaining. The entire spectrum of motifs and tendencies associated with the Saturn archetype again seems to be constellated during this moment in life coincident with the completion of the planet Saturn’s orbit: age, mortality, gravity of concern, self-judgment, duty, worldly status, work and value, endings of things, the passing of an era, a decisive maturational threshold.

    The approach of the age of sixty generally seemed to mark a fundamental moment of biographical transformation with a quality suggestive of cyclical completion, life review, and structural reconfiguration in certain respects not unlike the first Saturn return. In this later period, however, the completion and reconfiguration was taking place after, at the other end of, the thirty-year cycle of adult activity and responsibility in the world. It mediated the transition into what in traditional societies would be called the status of elderhood, whether this transition connotes simply age and the consequences of time and life’s labors or a notably new level of societal responsibility, well-earned respect, personal gravitas, or wisdom grounded in long experience. Often the character of this period suggested the theme of reaping what had been sown, for better or worse. A new stage of life was beginning, at once older and yet also, sometimes, lighter—as if a task has been completed, a burden lifted, an obligation discharged—a cycle of Saturn completed. Both Saturn return periods seemed to function as a kind of constricting birth canal that bodied forth the next stage of life.

    Before and after these cyclical conjunction periods of the Saturn cycle near the ages of thirty and sixty is a further noteworthy pattern of correlations involving the ongoing sequence of quadrature alignments in the personal Saturn transit cycle after birth and after each conjunction—the square, the opposition, and the next square followed by the subsequent conjunction. These quadrature aspects occur in intervals approximately every seven to seven and a half years, and last for about a year each time. The first Saturn-square-Saturn transit takes place near the age of seven; the opposition transit takes place around age fourteen to fifteen; the next square sometime between twenty-one and twenty-three. After the first Saturn return at the age of twenty-eight to thirty, the cycle begins again, continuing in approximately seven-year intervals throughout life.

    I found that these transits marked with an almost clocklike regularity periods of critical transformation, maturational crises, pivotal decisions, and biographical contractions and stresses of various kinds. Transformative encounters with authority, with limitations, with mortality, and with the consequences of past actions were highly characteristic. Different forms of separation from parental, familial, or social matrices often occurred, requiring a new level of existential self-reliance, inner authority, maturity and competence, individuation, concentration of energies, and consolidation of resources, and bringing a fundamental realignment of one’s life and character. Distinct patterns were often visible connecting one Saturn quadrature alignment period with another—seven years later, or fourteen to fifteen years later, or twenty-eight to thirty years later.

    I have seldom researched a biography for which I had sufficiently detailed records of the major inner and outer events in a person’s life where I did not find the above patterning readily visible. What made these correlations impressive to me was the precision with which their character matched the archetypal principle with which the planet Saturn has always been associated in the astrological tradition. Equally striking was the way in which the additional qualities specific to each unique case consistently matched the other planets specifically involved by transit in that individual’s life during those particular periods. In each instance, the basic Saturnian archetypal qualities and events that were characteristic of the Saturn alignment periods seemed to be given more specific inflections and further qualitative nuances in close correspondence with the other planetary archetypal principles being constellated at that time.

    Note 1: In the case of personal transits involving the return of an outer planet such as Saturn or Uranus to its natal position, the Saturn return or the Uranus return, archetypally relevant events consistently began as early as 20° or more before exact alignment, and often continued as many degrees afterwards. In the case of the first Saturn return, relevant events and psychological changes typically began to emerge at age twenty-eight (sometimes as early as twenty-seven), and were strongly in evidence through age thirty. The second Saturn return coincided with a similarly extended wave of such events one cycle later, in the later fifties through age sixty.

    Note 2: The intensified activation of the Saturn archetype during the first Saturn return period between the ages of 28 and 30 reflects what in Jungian archetypal psychology is referred to as the constellating and potential integration of the senex principle, linked with a rapid transformation, and sometimes suppression, of the puer principle, or child archetype, with which the senex is in dialectical tension.

    Note 3: Gertrude Stein, Fernhurst (1904-05), in Fernhurst, Q. E. D. and Other Early Writings (New York, NY: Norton, 1971), 29-30; quoted in Stephen Arroyo, Astrology, Karma, and Transformation (Davis, CA: CRCS Publications, 1978), 84.

    Note 4: Tennessee Williams, “Amore Perdida,” Michigan Quarterly Review 42 (Summer 2003), 545. “The old seemed to be over. The new one had not begun yet. This was a time in between.”

    Note 5: W. J. Earle, summarizing James’s mature philosophy as having emerged directly out of his earlier psychological insights, in “William James,” Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1967), Vol. 4, 248.

  • The Discovery of Uranus

    From Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 92-96.

    For millennia, the Sun and Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn formed what the ancients considered to be an absolute cosmic structure of moving celestial bodies reflecting the primordial forces that governed human affairs. Then in 1781 the astronomer and musician William Herschel, while conducting an exhaustive survey of the heavens using a telescope of his own design, suddenly observed an object that was not an ordinary star. The object turned out to be the first planet to be discovered since antiquity. Herschel’s stunning discovery immediately transformed the dimensions of the known solar system, the new planet being twice as far from the Sun as Saturn. It also presented an unprecedented challenge to the astrological tradition. The ancient seven-planet hierarchy circumscribed by Saturn had been irrevocably disrupted, with no established archetypal meaning for the new planet. Contemporary skeptics viewed its discovery as having placed the last nail in the coffin of a discredited astrology whose demise had been caused by the Scientific Revolution and proclaimed by the Enlightenment.

    Astronomers considered several names for the new planet. Herschel first proposed the name Georgium Sidus in honor of his sovereign patron, George III of England. The French, no doubt unenthusiastic about the planetary deification of an English monarch, used the name Herschel. In the end, in keeping with the planets known to the ancients, the pantheon of classical mythology was called upon. The German astronomer Johann Elert Bode had suggested the name Uranus in the year of its discovery, and it was this name that eventually received international acceptance. The logic for naming the new planet Uranus seems to have been straightforward: The mythological Ouranos was the father of Kronos (Saturn) and thus corresponded to the location of the new planet beyond Saturn in the heavens, just as Saturn was both the father of Jupiter in mythology and the name of the next planet beyond Jupiter in the heavens. Ouranos was also the god of “the starry sky,” as Hesiod called him, thus providing what seemed to be an especially apt name for the new planet. Astrologers adopted the name Uranus as well, but the meaning they eventually came to attribute to the new planet was generally different in character from that of the mythological Ouranos. . .

    Most of [the] observed qualities associated with the planet Uranus are not especially relevant to the Greek mythic figure of Ouranos. There is nothing in the mythological Ouranos’s character suggestive of the capacity or impulse for change, rebellion, liberation, awakening, or inventiveness. The tenor of the myth is entirely different: Ouranos is the primordial god of the heavens, found in many mythologies, whose relationship to the Earth goddess Gaia forms part of the Greek creation myth. Ouranos’s role in that myth is not to initiate rebellion and change but to resist it. Where the mythological Ouranos encountered a revolt by his progeny and was overthrown, the astrological Uranus is regarded as quite the opposite: that which rebels and overthrows. Most of the other qualities believed by astrologers to be associated with the planet Uranus—freedom, unpredictability, suddenness, speed, excitement, stimulation, restlessness, experiment, brilliance, originality, individualism, and so forth—have no plausible counterparts in the myth of Ouranos. The important exception among the qualities and themes attributed to Uranus is the concern with the cosmic and celestial, with space and space travel, and with astronomy and astrology, all of which well fit Ouranos’s nature as the god of the “starry sky.” Aside from this crucial parallel, however, unlike the planets known to the ancients, the planet Uranus does not closely correspond in its mythological name with the larger range of its observed astrological meanings. In most respects, the naming appears to have risen from the conventional logic of late eighteenth-century astronomers, not from the intuitive archetypal insight that is traditionally assumed to have played a role in the naming of the ancient planets.

    Remarkably, however, all of the archetypal qualities associated with the new planet do fit another figure in Greek mythology with extraordinary precision: Prometheus, the Titan who rebelled against the gods, helped Zeus overthrow the tyrannical Kronos, then tricked the new sovereign authority Zeus and stole fire from the heavens to liberate humanity from the gods’ power. Prometheus was considered the wisest of his race and taught humankind all the arts and sciences; in a later tradition, Prometheus was the creator of humankind and thus held a special relationship to humanity’s fate from the beginning. Every major theme and quality that astrologers associate with the planet Uranus seems to be reflected in the myth of Prometheus with striking poetic exactitude: the initiation of radical change, the passion for freedom, the defiance of authority, the act of cosmic rebellion against a universal structure to free humanity of bondage, the urge to transcend limitation, the creative impulse, the intellectual brilliance and genius, the element of excitement and risk. So also Prometheus’s style in outwitting the gods, when he used subtle stratagems and unexpected timing to upset the established order. He too was regarded as the trickster in the cosmic scheme. The resonant symbol of Prometheus’s fire conveys at once a rich cluster of meanings—the creative spark, the catalyst of the new, cultural and technological breakthrough, brilliance and innovation, the enhancement of human autonomy, sudden inspiration from above, the liberating gift from the heavens, the solar fire and light, lightning and electricity both literal and metaphoric, speed and instantaneousness, incandescence, sudden enlightenment, intellectual and spiritual awakening—all of which astrologers associate specifically with the planet Uranus.

    Even the major theme of the astrological Uranus that was clearly relevant to the mythological Ouranos—the association with the heavens, the cosmic, the astronomical and astrological, “the starry sky”—can be recognized as essential to the Promethean myth, visible in Prometheus’s role as teacher of astronomy and science to humankind, his quest to steal the fire from the heavens, and his concern with foresight, prediction, and esoteric understanding in defiance of the established order. The same theme is evident in the essential Promethean impulse to ascend and liberate from all constraints, to break free from the weight and slowness of gravity, and, more generally, to move humankind into a fundamentally different cosmic position in relation to the gods.

    The extant astrological literature does not reveal the precise basis originally used to determine Uranus’s astrological meaning in the course of the nineteenth century, when astrologers were few and texts rare. Texts from the beginning of the twentieth century imply that consensus on the basic themes and qualities had already been achieved some time before. It is possible that the unique (and, indeed, Promethean) character of the planet’s discovery itself had suggested the nature of the principle involved: the sudden breakthrough from the heavens, the unexpected and unprecedented nature of the event, the crucial involvement of a technological invention (telescope), the radical disruption of astronomical and astrological tradition, the overthrow of past limits and structures. However, the earliest nineteenth-century texts to discuss Uranus in detail referred mainly to certain qualities in persons born with Uranus prominently placed (inventiveness, independence, eccentricity, proneness to sudden unexpected changes), implying that the study of natal charts had served as the principal basis for arriving at a definition.

    More recent astrological sources suggested that the historical period of the planet’s discovery in the late eighteenth century was relevant to its archetypal meaning, reasoning that the discovery of the physical planet in some sense represented an emergence of the planet’s corresponding archetype into the conscious awareness of the collective psyche. In this regard the parallels with Uranus’s astrological meaning were certainly clear: The planet’s discovery in 1781 occurred at the culmination of the Enlightenment, in the extraordinary era that brought forth the American and French Revolutions, the Industrial Revolution, and the beginning of Romanticism. In all these coinciding historical phenomena, the figure of Prometheus is of course readily evident as well: the championing of human freedom and individual self-determination, the challenge to traditional beliefs and customs, the fervent revolt against royalty and aristocracy, established religion, social privilege, and political oppression; the Declaration of Independence and the Declaration of the Rights of Man, liberté and egalité; the beginnings of feminism, the widespread interest in radical ideas, the rapidity of change, the embrace of novelty, the celebration of human progress, the many inventions and technological advances, the revolutions in art and literature, the exaltation of the free human imagination and creative will, the plethora of geniuses and culture heroes. Here too were the Romantic poets with their great paeans to Prometheus himself. If the age of Uranus’s discovery is to be given an archetypal characterization, none seems more appropriate than “Prometheus Unbound.”

    I have taken more time here in explicating the case of Uranus . . . because it was my early study of this planet and the significant discrepancies between its given mythological name and its subsequently observed archetypal associations that set in motion many of the conceptual clarifications and research directions that formed the background of the present book. (Note 1) The parallels with the mythic figure of Prometheus were sufficiently suggestive that I began a systematic examination of Uranus in natal charts, in transits, and in historical cycles to see whether such an archetypal identification or association deepened my understanding of the relevant phenomena. The parallels also suggested to me the importance of carefully thinking through the relationship between planets and archetypes, between the given mythological names and the observed astrological meanings, and, more generally, between the empirical evidence of synchronistic correlations and an archetypal dimension of being to which the correlations appeared to point.

     Note 1: I first discussed the issue of Uranus’s archetypal meaning in a monograph entitled “Prometheus the Awakener,” written in 1978-79 and privately circulated among colleagues. A preliminary analysis intended mainly for the Jungian, archetypal psychology, and astrological communities, it was later published in the National Council of Geocosmic Research Monographs (1981) and, in slightly expanded form under the title “Uranus and Prometheus,” in the Spring Journal of Archetypal Psychology and Jungian Thought (1983), edited by James Hillman. Both versions were published in several other astrological journals in Europe and the United States during the following decade. The monograph was later published as a small book in an expanded version as Prometheus the Awakener, first in England (Oxford: Auriel Press, 1993) and subsequently in the United States (Woodstock, CT: Spring Publications, 1995). Other discussions of the parallels between the astrological Uranus and the mythological Prometheus can be found in Stephen Arroyo, Astrology, Karma, and Transformation (Sebastopol, CA: CRCS Publications, 1978), 40, the earliest mention of the correspondence of which I am aware; and in Liz Greene, The Art of Stealing Fire (London: CPA Press, 1996), a more recent, longer treatment that draws, in part, on my monograph.

    The Discovery of Neptune

    From Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 96-98.

    In 1846, on the basis of unexplained aberrations in the observed orbit of Uranus, the French mathematician Urbain LeVerrier posited the existence and position of a planet beyond Uranus whose gravitational influence was pulling Uranus out of its calculated orbit. The new planet was immediately discovered in the predicted position by the German astronomer Johann Galle and named Neptune after the god of the sea. (Note 1) In the ensuing decades, astrologers again gradually arrived at a surprisingly universal consensus on the principal qualities and themes observed to coincide with the new planet’s position in natal charts and transits. . . .

    . . . In virtually all other respects, the original mythological character of the Roman Neptune and the Greek Poseidon—tempestuous, violent, belligerent, often ill-tempered and vengeful (thus resembling most of the other Greco-Roman patriarchal warrior gods)—is deeply incongruent with the complex set of qualities and themes that have been consistently observed in connection with the planet Neptune and that are more accurately reflected in the mystically unitive deities and archetypal figures cited above. Nevertheless, as with Uranus’s mythological association with the starry heavens and air, so also with Neptune’s association with the sea and water: the name given to the new planet was indeed poetically accurate with respect to the mythological location and element associated with that deity, perhaps a reflection of synchronistic factors playing a role in the astronomers’ intuition and choice of names.

    As with the period of Uranus’s discovery in 1781, the discovery of Neptune in 1846 coincided with a range of synchronistic historical and cultural phenomena in the immediately surrounding decades, and more generally in the nineteenth century, that are distinctly suggestive of the corresponding archetype. These include the rapid spread of spiritualism throughout the world beginning in the late 1840s, the upsurge of utopian social ideologies at the same time, the rise of universalist and communitarian aspirations in both secular and religious movements, the full ascendancy of Idealist and Romantic philosophies of spirit and the imagination, the widespread cultural influence of Transcendentalism, the new popular interest in both Eastern mystical and Western esoteric traditions, and the emergence of theosophy. Here too could be cited the rise of the recreational use of psychoactive drugs in European bohemian circles, the beginning of the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, and the invention of anesthetics. The invention and cultural impact of photography and the early experiments in motion pictures, as well as the new aesthetic spirit of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, were characteristic of the Neptune archetype in its association with image, reflection, subjectivity, illusion, and multiple realities. The growing focus on the unconscious, dreams, myths, hypnosis, and nonordinary states of consciousness in the decades after Neptune’s discovery is also suggestive of the archetype. So also was the distinct collective emergence of a more socially compassionate humanitarian sensibility that was expressed in the public attitudes, social legislation, art and literature of the Victorian era and the nineteenth century generally (the novels of Dickens and Stowe, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, the abolition of slavery and serfdom, the movements and laws to limit child labor and other cruelties of industrial capitalism, the first laws abolishing capital punishment, the wave of foundings of societies for the protection of animals, the growing role of women in shaping social policy, the beginning of modern nursing through the work of Florence Nightingale, the spread of care for the sick and wounded in war, the first Geneva Convention, the founding of the International Red Cross, etc.).

    Note 1: Galle and his assistant Heinrich d’Arrest discovered the new planet within 1° of the position predicted by LeVerrier, on September 23, 1846, during the first hour of their search at the Berlin Observatory after receiving his letter containing the prediction. A year earlier, the English mathematician John Couch Adams had hypothesized the existence and position of the new planet because of the observed Uranus perturbations, but his efforts to persuade English astronomers to conduct a search at that time were unsuccessful, and his estimate of the new planet’s position was somewhat less accurate than LeVerrier’s. For a discussion of recently uncovered evidence concerning Adams’s ambiguous role in the discovery, see Nick Kollerstrom, “Neptune’s Discovery: The British Case for Co-Prediction,” Science and Technology Studies, University College London,; and W. Sheehan, N. Kollerstrom, and C. Waff, “The Case of the Pilfered Planet,” Scientific American, December 2004.

    Neptune was actually first observed by Galileo in 1612, when he recorded it as a star of the 8th magnitude rather than a new planet. A similar history occurred in the case of Uranus, which was sighted but not identified as a planet several times prior to its discovery by Herschel; the earliest recorded instance was by John Flamsteed in 1690.

    The Discovery of Pluto

    From Tarnas, Cosmos and Psyche, 98-100.

    On the basis of discrepancies observed in the orbit of Neptune and aberrations yet unexplained in the orbit of Uranus, the existence of a further planet was posited by the American astronomer Percival Lowell, which led to its discovery in 1930 by Clyde Tombaugh. After much consideration among many alternatives, the new planet was named Pluto, god of the underworld. Observations of potential correlations with Pluto by astrologers in the subsequent decades suggested that the qualities associated with the new planet in fact bore a striking relevance to the mythic character of Pluto, the Greek Hades, and also to the figure of Dionysus, with whom Hades-Pluto was closely associated by the Greeks. (Both Heraclitus and Euripides identified Dionysus and Hades as one and the same deity.) . . .

    With respect to Pluto’s discovery, the synchronistic phenomena in the decades immediately surrounding 1930, and more generally in the twentieth century, include the splitting of the atom and the unleashing of nuclear power; the titanic technological empowerment of modern industrial civilization and military force; the rise of fascism and other mass movements; the widespread cultural influence of evolutionary theory and psychoanalysis with their focus on the biological instincts; increased sexual and erotic expression in social mores and the arts; intensified activity and public awareness of the criminal underworld; and a tangible intensification of instinctually driven mass violence and catastrophic historical developments, evident in the world wars, the holocaust, and the threat of nuclear annihilation and ecological devastation. Here also can be mentioned the intensified politicization and power struggles characteristic of twentieth-century life, the development of powerful forms of depth-psychological transformation and catharsis, and the scientific recognition of the entire cosmos as a vast evolutionary phenomenon from the primordial fireball to the still-evolving present.