by John Townley
The order of the planets in a chart, beyond just what rises ahead of the Sun, is more important than many realize, as they make an indelible picture of what issues you prioritize, or rather prioritize themselves, throughout your life. It’s the ultimate answer to the perennial Sesame Street question “what comes next?” and it’s already set up for you at birth.
But it’s not quite as easy as one-two-three. That’s because your ducks, so to speak, aren’t only in just one row, they’re in two, with some other important subsets as well. The first is their natural order in the Zodiac, the most obvious and literal row, which determines the order in which their degrees will rise daily or be conjoined by transits and progressions across a lifetime. The second is how far they are along into their given sign, which determines the order in which they’ll be taking standard aspects from any given transit or direction.
I. Natural Zodiacal Order – 360 Degrees
Natural Zodiacal order is of primary importance, simply because it reflects all the most natural cycles directly. If you’ve got Mars just preceding your Venus, for instance, it gets directly pulsed by the Moon (for instance) once a month, inciting action, and only then does Venus get the subsequent hit, provoking desire. After a few years of experience as a child taking action before really being sure of your immediate goals, you learn to be a bit careful about that. For those where the reverse is true (Venus before Mars), desire and action taken to achieve it come in a more natural order and less compensatory planning is required. Of course, when they are conjunct, desire and action happen at the same time, which tends to make for people who get what they want right off the bat (it’s the Hollywood star signature, among other things).
Suppose you stuck Jupiter in the middle — first Venus, then Jupiter, then Mars — you then get enhanced, expanded desire before action is taken upon it. Or oppositely, suppose Saturn intervened instead — Venus, Saturn, Mars — then you’d cut back a bit before going after what you wanted and probably save energy and wind up with surer satisfaction in the end, and maybe something left over to invest for the next time. So it goes with all of the planets, each setting you up and into a mood and position for the next that really never varies your whole life long. If any two planets are far enough apart along that line, they may have a hard time connecting except through others in between along the line of march. This, in its very largest example, is the heart of the ancient astrological doctrine of translation of light, the essence of why midpoints work, among other things. It’s also something you could make an entire astrological reference book out of, similar to the exhaustive traditional signs-houses-aspects “cookbook.” No time for that here, alas, but you get the idea. Working on that one.
It’s not just the once-a-month (in the case of the Moon) pulse or the even-longer ones for other planets that reinforce this natural rhythm. It’s the fact that your planetary degrees rise and culminate once every day which adds such insistence to it. When the degree of your Sun rises, you get a big pulse, things tend to happen that energize you inside, people call who are directly related to that energy, and so on. It’s all part of those Threads of Destiny which also help you rectify your chart by degree area, and it’s at the heart of why the planet that rises ahead of your Sun is so critical, as we’ve discussed in Part I of this series. Each planetary degree rising (or culminating) sets the stage for the next one. This marching order has been reinforcing itself on the angles every several hours since the day you were born, so it’s a pretty important issue to take into account. You’re really locked into it more than you might imagine.
II. Aspect Order: 0-30 Degrees
But that’s not the only order to your planets, though it is the primary one. The other is the order in which any passing body (or Angle) makes a standard (division of twelve) aspect to your planets — not just conjunction but opposition, trine, square, sextile, semisextile, or quincunx. These aspects may not give quite the heavy-duty, reinforcing pulse of a cyclical conjunction, but they make for a hefty set of regular but varying tweaks, and they happen a lot more often. And, they happen in an entirely different order — the 0 to 30 degree order by sign (any sign) rather than the primary 0 to 360 degree Zodiacal order. So, if you’ve got a planet at the first degree of a sign, the moment any planet enters the first degree of any sign, you’re getting a hit of some sort. Then, if your next planet is at five degrees of a sign, that’s the one to get the subsequent hit and begin taking up your attention. And so on until you reach your planet with the highest degree before changing sign.
If this approach seems familiar, it’s because the Void-of-Course Moon is based on it, as is (even more so) the Personal Void-of-Course Moon. It’s the rhythm you see if you look at any set of transits to your chart, and it’s the order in which they proceed. It has a very similar feel to the larger, lifetime set, but with overtones of the early bird vs. the late bloomer. People with a lot of planets early in signs tend to get in there at the beginning, sometimes even way ahead of the rest of the world to the point of not getting proper credit. People with planets very late in signs tend to be in at the finish and can handle just-in-time delivery or a nick-of-time save when the rest of the world has checked out and is taking a break (they also don’t get as much vacation time as a result). And the planetary order they fall into will tend to tell you what issues will be coming up one after the other, especially as the Moon aspects them. They also have a time-of-day effect as the Angles make their aspects, but those are really too many to keep track of at nearly 500 a day just to Ascendant and MC alone. And if you take more than just the standard aspects, as highlighted during the Not-So-Void-of-Course-Moon periods, it all becomes a dizzying blur.
So, the real relevance of planetary aspect order here is to get a feeling of where you tend to start (your early planets) and finish (your late ones) and the transfer/shift of emphasis that makes up the fullness of your life’s lead, swing, and follow-through. It will tell you a lot about how you approach a project, break it down into its parts, and then put it all together. People with early Mercury will lead with a careful analysis, which an early Moon will take the feel first and then get to the structure of it after. A very late Jupiter will only open up to full throttle in the final stretch, whereas a late Sun may be accused (sometimes rightfully) of not putting full heart into it until late in the game.
Both sets of planetary order are very important to understanding a chart, as they determine how you “learn” your own inner horoscope through repeated self-experience and the type of expectations you have come to project based on many sets of similar and repeated personal learning. Indeed, they may be the very physical stuff of what a horoscope is, at least as it applies to the formation of character.
But there’s one more set of planetary orders that have to do with the patterns of time itself — and hence the shape of your chart. That will be our third and final, upcoming installment…