The Sun and Moon, in conjunction with Mercury, Venus, and Mars make up our personal planets.
Personal planets are the ones that embody our core personality, fundamental archetypes and basic drives as humans. When looking at our horoscope, it is our personal planets that provide the most information about who we are and what makes us tick.
In astrology, the sun and the moon are referred to as the “luminaries” which is easy enough to remember, because they light up the sky! They light up our own life, too, as the juxtaposition of our conscious personality and our unconscious emotions. While we have already done a lot of work with the sun and the moon, when looking at the planets, let’s take a different viewpoint to understand better how these archetypal energies work within us. The sun is our light, the moon is our shadow, and these must work with one another in harmony in order for us to live authentically and with a sense of internal ease.
If we give the planets “autonomy” within us, and consider them as “players” on the stage of our psyche, then we assign the role of Cosmic Adult to the sun. This doesn’t make the sun any better, or smarter than any other players, it’s just the one generally putting itself out there, calling the shots and making (sometimes bad) decisions. It filters information from the rest of the group and is usually the one stepping forward first. It takes center stage, runs the show, and represents the others…or not. If the sun is out of control, it doesn’t listen to the other players. If it is disorganized, it makes a mess of things. If it is weak, a player who has a very specific talent may try to take over and ruin the whole event. It is easy to see how important having a strong-yet-balanced sun is so critical for healthy self expression!
In contrast to this, we have our delicate moon, who’s unconscious energy is the repository of our emotions, life experience, urges, drives and memory. If the sun embodies our fundamental, internal masculine energy, the moon embodies our fundamental, internal feminine energy. Regardless of gender expression, we all have these operating within us all the time. Because of our culture, our society, our philosophical and religious associations, familial factors…basically, the whole chain of contemporary existence, the feminine is often repressed. We see this outside of us, but we also see this within us. We are taught from an early age that “boys don’t cry,” or, we should “suck it up,” or to simply “get over it.”
No matter who we are, this is a cycle of repression that is absorbed by our sensitive internal moon, the feminine, emotive force within us. Think of this as your internal child–a cliche reference, but so apropos here. Children need care, love, support, tenderness, and freedom of expression to thrive. When they receive this, they grow into healthy adults.
As adults on a mystical path (hello, astrologer, that’s what you are), we must play the part of healthy functioning adult for our internal child, and give it the support, love, freedom and self-expression it deserves. Otherwise, this child runs rampant on the stage of our life wreaking havoc. It has tantrums, bursts of unexpected emotion (which stimulate the cycle of repression) and sabotages our best efforts at happiness. The adult must care for the child, not as disciplinarian or parent, but as supporter and with unconditional love. The child is as important as the parent and is always behind the scenes watching all the other players, looking for cues as to whether or not it is safe to be itself.
The other main players on our internal stage are Mercury, Venus and Mars. Mercury, with its penchant for data, rational thought and appreciation for intellect governs our communication. Language is a fundamental human form of expression, and becomes the way in which we express our internal reality. Like his ability to move between worlds, Mercury helps us bring our internal thoughts out into words that express who we are, to the best of our ability. Things are always lost in translation, though, and though Mercury understands both inner and outer, clarity of expression is hindered by the mere fact that words and language are narrower than thought. In this way, Mercury does its best to make itself understood…but sometimes misses the mark.
As a player on our internal stage, Mercury represents our fundamental desire to connect with others through communication. These days, that extends to all kinds of communication. And, Mercury does its best, taking its cues from both sun and moon, to try and convey clearly what is happening on our internal landscape. Like the announcer of a sporting event, Mercury is limited by time and space, and so sometimes miscommunication occurs. When sun and moon are not working together, when Mercury is only getting a partial view of the stage, when there is misrepresentation from any of our internal players, Mercury messes up…through no fault of its own, it always does its best, but it needs everyone to work together in harmony to have a clearer picture of the internal landscape that it needs to express to the world.
If Mercury gives rise to our self-expression, Venus is responsible for our self-love, which (of course) translates to our love of the world, too. Venus, the only other purely feminine force (Mercury is often thought of as androgynous, and sun and Mars are masculine forces), is responsible for the way we love. Not necessarily in the purely emotional sense, though that may play a part, but in the way we open our hearts and participate fully in our life.
Venus’ love extends to enjoyment of all things beautiful: the earth, people, the arts, music…anything from which we would derive pleasure. Venus is sensual in every sense of the word, and wants to immerse itself in the feeling of life. Again, not emotions…the feeling, the actual sensations of being alive. This occurs when we are open-hearted, confident, and courageous; when we are able to fully connect to ourselves and the world around us.
On the internal stage, Venus is deeply invested in everyone getting along, and may shut down when that doesn’t happen. Venus wants harmony, and does everything possible to achieve it. We also want that, and most humans thrive when our family, friend, social and cultural units are working together and supporting one another. Beauty exists when our internal landscape is reflected in our outer expression through art, music and movement. On the internal stage, Venus gives rise to this expression, and it is up to us to let it out and bring it forth into the world.
While Venus focuses on love and beauty, Mars is responsible for making things happen and getting everyone moving. While the Sun may take center stage, the moon sulks in the corner, Venus lolls about on her hilltop, and Mercury flits about trying to get them all to talk to each other, Mars is the one who stamps his powerful foot, and says, “Let’s do this!” It makes everyone snap to attention, but if its too forceful, they may react out of fear, rather than approaching the task with openness and ease.
Mars knows how to draw the lines of battle and get everyone moving, but without the participation of others, that battle ends in war, and many are hurt. We must all do battle sometimes, whether it be standing up for what we believe in or the rights of ourselves and others, or even the small battles we fight daily in our home (pick up the laundry! put away the dishes!), this powerful drive is fundamental and necessary.
When all the players on our internal stage are working together, Mars does an excellent job of keeping everyone motivated and leading the charge in this thing called…life. The sun shines, the moon plays freely, Venus falls in love, and Mercury tells the story.
It is our story. Each of the personal planets is like an actor on the stage of our story. We get to tell it in whatever way we would like. This is how free will enters the picture. Without our free will, the actors are directionless and do what is in their nature. When we apply our free will, get to know the players (through our mystical self-knowledge), then we become the cosmic director of the whole scene. Then, and only then, everything unfolds exactly as it is supposed to, giving rise to our fullest, most authentic self-expression.