The energies of the planets are an important influence on magick and ritual - when I say 'planets', I mean Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn and all those, plus the Sun and the Moon: all the heavenly bodies of the solar system, shall we say. We humans and the solar system were, after all, made from the same primordial dust (for example, the carbon in all the life on Earth exists only because it is created in supernovas).
When you're doing ritual and magick, you want everything to be working with you - this means you want to pick the right materials, the right deity, the right day, the right Moon phase, etc. Now we can talk about picking the right astrological correspondences - when the relevant planets are in the right signs of the zodiac. By 'in the right sign' I mean when the planet in question is in the area of the sky in which the constellation the sign is named after is found. In this section, we'll talk about which planet is the right planet for you to work with in whatever it is you're doing - later on, we'll talk about the zodiac signs. I've also given you some background astronomical info on the planets, so you know what their physical form is - it's important to understand what your planet is like before you try and work with it! You don't want to be picturing Mars when you're working with Venus, do you?
Before you read on about the planets, make sure you read and understand the concept of retrograde movement - it'll all make much more sense then!
~ Explanation of Retrograde ~
Because we look at all the planets from Earth as they (and we) revolve around the Sun, sometimes they appear to be moving backwards in the sky. This movement is called 'retrograde' (from the Latin retro - backwards, and gradus - step) and describes the planet apparently moving in the opposite direction to the rest of the objects in the sky.
The Sun Mercury Venus The Moon Mars Jupiter Saturn Uranus Neptune Pluto
Astrological sign: Leo
Energies: Willpower, life, self, spirit, creativity
The Sun is an average-sized yellow star with a surface temperature of about 5500Â°C. The Sun generates its energy via nuclear fusion - fusing hydrogen atoms to make helium. It comprises 99% of the mass of our solar system and is thought to be about halfway through its 10-billion-year stay in the Main Sequence. When it reaches the end of that period, the Sun will have exhausted its supply of hydrogen and will start burning helium, becoming a cooler and less dense red giant that will expand to the size of about the current orbit of the Earth. After this, the Sun will radiate away its outer layers leaving only the carbon and oxygen core, becoming a white dwarf too small and too cool for carbon fusion (the next process of energy production for dying stars). As it will then have no energy source, the Sun will eventually cool too much to be visible, though still radiating heat of a few thousand degrees (I know that forecast wasn't absolutely necessary, but it's interesting, isn't it?)
Even though the Sun is not a planet, its energy is probably the most powerful of all the 'planets' - it is, after all, a star and the 'planet' of the God. In ritual context, the Sun is a powerful tool - there's a lot of power to draw on there, and it's one of the two planets with energy we can feel here on Earth (sunlight!) and that is never in retrograde (the other being the Moon). If you were going to do magick using the energy of the God, the position of the Sun is the correspondence you would use.
Astrological signs: Gemini, Virgo
Energies: Mental activity, intelligence, communication, logic, reasoning, education
Mercury is a rocky, cratered planet, the closest one to the Sun. It has no moons and no atmosphere and, compared to the other planets, travels extremely fast around the Sun - a Mercury year is only 88 days here on Earth. It was named by the Romans after their god Mercury, as they saw that Mercury moved very fast through the sky, like the god.
Mercury in retrograde: Mercury displays retrograde movement about three times a year, lasting about three weeks each time. When this happens communication tends to go amiss, plans tend to fall through and technology seems to go haywire. This is not a good time to work with Mercury's energies, as they also go haywire in retrograde periods.
This image is composed of data from Mariner 10.
The blank stripe is a result of Mariner 10 taking no images of that area.
Astrological signs: Taurus, Libra
Energies: Love, beauty, social matters, harmony, art, money, resources
Venus is a volcanically active rocky planet, the second from the Sun and known as the Earth's sister planet, as they are similar in size and composition. Venus orbits the Sun once every 224.7 Earth days - a Venusian day is 223 Earth days long, the longest rotation period of all the planets (interestingly, it also spins clockwise while the other planets spin anticlockwise). Venus' atmosphere is mainly carbon dioxide and is the most dense of all the terrestrial planets - and 90 times denser than the Earth's (equal to the pressure 1km underwater). The surface of Venus cannot be seen from Earth, as it is constantly obscured by clouds. These clouds reflect a lot of the Sun's light, making Venus easily visible at dawn and dusk - thus, it is called the 'Morning Star' or 'Evening Star'. Venus is named after the Roman goddess of love and many of the landmarks on its surface are named after mythological women.
Venus in retrograde: When Venus is in retrograde - once every eighteen months or so for about 6 weeks - the planet is harder to work with. This is a good time to consider your relationships and your personal needs, but not a good time to do magick to work on them. Wait until Venus is moving 'forwards' through the constellations again.
This the surface of the clouds as we see it from Earth, not
the surface of the planet itself.
Astrological sign: Cancer
Energies: Memories, subconscious, instincts, emotions
The Moon is the Earth's only natural satellite - orbiting about 384 403km from the Earth - and the second and last 'planet' with energy we can feel here on Earth (moonlight and ocean tides). Moonlight, incidentally, is actually light from the Sun reflected from the Moon's whitish surface. The Moon is also mostly responsible for the tides here on Earth, as it has just enough mass to have a gravitational pull strong enough to affect the movement of water in the ocean (the Sun also has a very small effect on the tides). The same side of the Moon is always turned towards the Earth (it is 'tidally locked'), as its rotation and its orbit around us are of such a length that we never see the other side - the 'dark side' - of the Moon. The Moon was once seismically active, but is so small that it radiated away all its heat long ago.
The Moon is currently recognised politically in a similar fashion to 'international waters' of the oceans here on Earth - it is nobody's property. In addition, treaties signed by space faring nations have declared that no weapons of mass destruction or military installations of any kind will exist on the Moon.
The Moon does not ever display retrograde movement, so the only variables in working with lunar energy are the Moon phases and which sign of the zodiac it is in (the Moon has it's own section in Using the Zodiac).
Astrological signs: Aries, Scorpio
Energies: Courage, desire, physical energy, action, ego
Mars is another rocky planet that was once seismically active - it is half the Earth's radius and one tenth of the Earth's mass. It has 2 moons, Deimos and Phobos, which are much like asteroids that were captured by Mars' gravity. It is called 'the Red Planet', because the iron oxide in the dust on its surface gives it a rusty red colour. It has the highest mountain - actually a volcano - in the solar system, Olympus Mons (3 times the height of Mt. Everest), and the biggest canyon in the solar system, Valles Mineris (4500km long, 200km wide and 11km deep), near the equator.
Mars also has polar ice caps made of carbon dioxide, which shrink and expand with the seasons - it is the only planet besides Earth to have seasons. Mars has a very thin atmosphere, because it has quite a weak gravitational field due to its low mass - the atmosphere could just float away - and what atmosphere is left is mainly carbon dioxide. Mars is named after the Roman God of war.
Mars in retrograde: When Mars is in retrograde, old wounds can reopen and old resentments can rematerialise. It's a good time to sit back and work out new approaches to resolve issues and anger, but not to do magick with this planet's energies.
Astrological signs: Sagittarius, Pisces
Energies: Abundance, luck, growth, exploration, learning, wisdom, philosophy
Jupiter is not a terrestrial (rocky) planet - it is a gas giant, the biggest planet in the solar system and also the slowest moving of all the planets (it takes a year for Jupiter to pass through one sign of the zodiac), so it's difficult to use this planet in ritual like you can use the others. Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and was named after the Roman king of the gods.
Jupiter consists mainly of gaseous elements - usually hydrogen and helium - present as gas, or as highly compressed liquid towards the core, which is thought to be a ball of rock and metallic hydrogen (that's right - the pressure at Jupiter's core means the usually gaseous hydrogen exists in a solid, metallic form). Gas giants are also sometimes called Jovian planets, after Jupiter. Jupiter has 2.5 times the mass of all the other planets combined, and as such has a massively powerful gravitational pull. This has had a significant effect on the structure of the solar system - the other planets do not orbit in line with the equator of the Sun, they orbit above it, closer to the orbital plane of Jupiter (keep in mind that Jupiter is a small planet compared to other gas giants found outside the solar system). Jupiter also has an internal heat source, as it radiates more energy than it receives from the Sun.
Jupiter has at 63 moons that we know of: some well known ones include Ganymede (the largest moon in the solar system), Io, Callisto and Europa. Jupiter also has 5 rings - the result of meteor impacts on the moons, accreted space dust and of Jupiter's gravity literally tearing apart any asteroid or comet that comes too close. Jupiter's atmosphere is mostly hydrogen, with some helium and other substances in trace amounts. The atmosphere is always spinning around the planet, due to winds around 600km/h - interestingly, the northern hemisphere atmosphere takes a few minutes longer to spin once than the southern hemisphere. The Great Red Spot in the southern hemisphere (22Â° below the equator) is an anti-cyclonic (anti-clockwise) spinning storm that has lasted at least 340 years and has a radius few times larger than Earth's.
Jupiter shares its orbit with some 'Trojan asteroids' - asteroids like those in the Asteroid Belt, but orbiting around the Sun in Jupiter's path.
Jupiter in retrograde: Jupiter displays retrograde movement for about four months out of every 13. During this time, things can become unstable - certainties are suddenly not set in stone anymore and things are not what they seem to be. This is a time for reflecting and preparing for opportunities that may arise when things get back on track, not for taking strong action.
Astrological sign: Capricorn
Energies: Perseverance, responsibilities, discipline, structure
Saturn is a gas giant (a Jovian planet), and the sixth planet from the Sun. It takes Saturn 29Â½ Earth years to orbit the Sun, and one day on Saturn is about 10 hours long. It is the second largest planet in the solar system (after Jupiter) and is best known for it's spectacular set of rings. It has an internal heat source, as it radiates more energy than it receives from the Sun. Saturn is composed mainly of gaseous elements, such as helium and hydrogen (becoming liquid and then metallic as it gets closer to the core, in a similar fashion to Jupiter), and is the only planet in the solar system to have an average density that is less than that of water (Saturn has about 69% of the density of water). It was named after the Roman god of agriculture.
Saturn's rings are made of space dust and rock and also various ices. These rings are a compilation of thousands of rings of various sizes and gaps of various widths between them. Saturn also has many moons, but deciding what is a moon and what is a large chunk of debris orbiting in a ring is a difficult task. There are some moons that have enough mass to keep them spherical and to possess a gravitational field, such as Titan, the only moon in the solar system (that we know of) to have a dense atmosphere.
Saturn in retrograde: When Saturn is in retrograde, for about 4Â½ months every year, it is not the time to break new ground. Keep the status quo and think about where you are in society and in life instead of trying to make a drastic change.
Astrological sign: Aquarius
Day: Doesn't have one
Energies: Change, radicalism, intuition, the unexpected, originality
Uranus is the third of the gas giants (or Jovian planets), the fourth largest planet in the solar system and the seventh planet from the Sun. Uranus is another very slow moving planet - it takes 84 Earth years to orbit the Sun, but a day on Uranus is only about 18 hours long. Uranus was the first planet to be discovered in modern times (1781, that is) with a telescope (i.e. it wasn't discovered with the naked eye by the ancient Greeks or the ancient Romans - they thought it was a star) and is named after the Greek god of the sky. It is composed mainly of gases (like hydrogen and helium) and ices, but unlike Jupiter and Saturn it contains relatively large amounts of oxygen, carbon and nitrogen. Uranus also has an extremely titled axis - while the Earth is tilted at 23.5Â°, Uranus is tilted at 98Â°, meaning one pole faces the Sun while the other faces outside the solar system into the cold and dark of space. Uranus also has a faint set of rings, composed of space dust and small pieces of rock. Orbiting within those rings are 27 known moons, of which there are five main ones: Titania, Oberon, Umbriel, Ariel and Miranda. It doesn't have any interesting atmospheric features (like Jupiter's Great Red Spot) because Uranus radiates no internal heat like Saturn and Jupiter do - consequently, there is nothing to 'drive' atmospheric changes.
Uranus in retrograde: Uranus is in retrograde for about 5 months of the year. This is not an auspicious time to break off friendships and partnerships, or to sever connections. This is a good time to look at your place in the world.
Astrological sign: Pisces
Day: Doesn't have one
Energies: Idealism, spirituality, clairvoyance, subconscious, intuition
Neptune is the last of the gas giants (or the Jovian planets) - it is the third largest planet in the solar system (but small compared to Jupiter), and the eighth planet from the Sun (when Pluto was a planet it was occasionally the ninth, because Pluto's extremely eccentric orbit sometimes brings it closer to the Sun than Neptune). It takes Neptune 164.8 Earth years to orbit the Sun, and a day on Neptune is 19 hours long. It is mostly hydrogen and helium, but also contains a relatively large amount of methane, giving its atmosphere that blue colour. We know Neptune is still radiating heat, as its atmosphere behaves in a similar fashion to Saturn and Jupiter - storms like the Great Red Spot and weather patterns have been observed on Neptune. Neptune also has a small, unstable system of rings, and is orbited by 13 known moons. The most significant of Neptune's moons is Triton, with enough mass to be spherical and have a gravitational field. Neptune also shares its orbit with at least four 'Trojan asteroids' - asteroids like those in the Asteroid Belt, only orbiting much further out. Neptune was named after the Roman god of the sea.
Neptune in retrograde: Neptune is in retrograde for about 6 months of the year. This is a good time to tune into the collective subconscious that is society and evaluate your connection and contributions to that community.
So, Pluto isn't a fully-fledged planet anymore - it's a dwarf planet known by its minor planet name, 134340 Pluto. Knowing this, what do we do with it in ritual and magick? I figure that we can still use Pluto in magick and ritual because it is still out there, though under another name, and thus so is its energy - we'll just need to find a new memory aid to remember the sequence of planets. I'm still going to call it Pluto, because it's easier to write that than its minor planet name, and we've given actual names to other non-planetary bodies before. Personally, I never really thought of Pluto as a planet in the first place, knowing all those facts that led to it being classified as a dwarf planet, and didn't use it anyway because of its hugely long orbit around the Sun. So, think about it a little, and decide how you feel about using a non-planet in your rituals - I'm going to leave it in the 'planets' section, because it's still got the word 'planet' in its classification.
Astrological signs: Aries, Scorpio
Day: Doesn't have one
Energies: Destruction, regeneration, rebirth, transformation, power
Pluto was the ninth and smallest planet in the solar system - a comparatively small rock with a highly eccentric orbit. It is so small that there are 7 moons belonging to real planets that are larger. There has been much discussion about whether or not Pluto is a planet, as it very closely resembles a Kuiper Belt object - the Kuiper Belt is a belt of asteroids orbiting in the area Neptune and further our beyond Pluto, some of which look remarkably like, and are even larger than, Pluto: this is also where many of our comets come from. Because of these facts and others, finally, Pluto has been classified for what it is - a dwarf planet (basically an asteroid with enough gravity to pull it into a sphere), and a Kuiper Belt object. But, regardless of whether it's called a real planet, it's still out there and so I'll give you some facts about it.
Pluto takes 248 Earth years to orbit the Sun, and a day on Pluto is 6.4 Earth days long. Pluto is a cold rock, covered in nitrogen, methane and carbon dioxide ices. It's orbit is off-centre to the Sun and extremely elliptical - so much so that it spends some of its orbital period inside Neptune's orbit. Pluto has a thin atmosphere of nitrogen, methane and carbon dioxide and possesses 3 natural satellites - Charon, Nix and Hydra. There are 2 interesting things about the Pluto-Charon system:
- Pluto and Charon are tidally locked. Neither Pluto nor Charon can spin on its own axis - they always show each other the same area of surface; and
- Charon does not orbit the centre of Pluto - both Pluto and Charon orbit a point in space (called a barycentre) above the surface of Pluto (the diagram below makes it easier to imagine).
Pluto was named after the Roman god of the underworld.
Pluto in retrograde: When Pluto is in retrograde - about 5 months of the year - this is a time to consider what impact you are having on the Earth and to work on cleaning up the environment around us and also removing pollutants from our own lives.
Approximately true colour, and at the best
resolution currently available.