Traditional Connotations in Astrology

Ian James
© 2004-2011

Ye olde astrologer, from anonymous woodcut

As a point of departure in the search for meaning in the planetary configurations, it may be useful to revise the connotations as they have evolved in common astrology. The symbolism presented here follows the relatively modern tradition, which settled into this form by the early centuries AD, in Europe, India and the Arab world. The book Sky Knowledge discusses some of the origins, details and inter-cultural parallels of the symbols tabled here.


Traditional astrology usually assigns to the planets certain aspects of one’s personality. Then from whichever sector/sign they appear to reside in, they acquire various zodiacal influences (see Ecliptic Sectors table below). It must be remembered that these formed part of a geocentric cosmology. Even so, the connotations may still be relevant to a heliocentric system, where the planets are highly individual bodies spread around the Sun like children. We then may wonder if each planet has a special significance for the Sun, which is then imparted to us (individual humans, or Earth-dwellers generally).

Planet Weekday Character Influence Color
SUN (EARTH) Sunday soul, self, vitality central, judgmental gold, red
MOON Monday emotion, senses, caring, home, security waxing is positive,
waning is negative
silver, white
MARS Tuesday energy, will, action, violence negative brown
MERCURY Wednesday intellect, speech, learning, communication changeable pink
JUPITER Thursday knowledge, fortune, expansion, opportunity positive green
VENUS Friday desires, peace, relation to others, pleasure positive blue
SATURN Saturday organization, duty, solitude, sorrow negative black, purple

Ecliptic Sectors

The plane upon which the orbit of the Earth lies is called the ecliptic, with the Sun at the focus of that orbit. But all the planets orbit on planes not far from our own, and are found scattered in a band extending from the middle (equator) of the Sun. So it is not awkward to apply the traditional zodiacal twelfths (30° sectors) to this band, have the Sun at the center, and have the planets journey through each sector in turn. The sectors are listed here with their traditional geocentric zodiacal signs and symbolisms.

Sector Symbol Duplet division Triplet Quadruplet Character
Ari ram male/active cardinal fire assertive, energetic, innovative
Tau bull female/passive fixed earth sensual, practical, stubborn
Gem twins male/active mutable air inquisitive, communicative, changeable
Cnc crab female/passive cardinal water sensitive, caring, conventional
Leo lion male/active fixed fire proud, dramatic, generous
Vir virgin female/passive mutable earth critical, modest, helpful
Lib balance male/active cardinal air fair, companionable, indecisive
Sco scorpion female/passive fixed water intense, secretive, transforming
Sgr archer male/active mutable fire freedom-loving, optimistic
Cap fish-goat female/passive cardinal earth prudent, ambitious, traditional
Aqr water-bearer male/active fixed air detached, friendly, quirky
Psc pair of fish female/passive mutable water imaginative, kind, impressionable


In Indian astrology, a nakshatra is one twenty-seventh of the Moon’s passage through our sky. This is not a measure of the Moon’s illumination phase, but of her location with respect to the background constellations. This system was exported to Southeast Asia, and has similarities with the manâzil of Arabic astrology. There are also many points of correspondence with the xiu (lunar mansions) of Chinese astrology.

Name General meaning Indian symbol, character Thai symbol Star Arabic manzil
Ashwini Horse god-twins horse head, divine physicians horse αβ Ari Two signs
Bharani Bearer of new life vagina, death, dharma hen 41 Ari Belly
Krttika Cutter razor, fire chicks η Tau Many little ones
Rohini Red (cow) chariot, temple, creator animal nose α Tau Follower
Mrgashira Deer’s Head deer head (antlers), the Moon deer head λ Ori White spot
Ardra Moist teardrop, head, storm & destruction royal umbrella α Ori Brand
Punavasu Prosperity,
Return of light
bow & quiver, divine mother golden boat β Gem Forearm
Pushya Nourish, Flourish udder, lotus, priest-god anchor, cotton δ Cnc Gap, Crib
Aslesha Embrace serpents house, rice-bin ε Hyd Glance (of the lion)
Magha Glory throne, ancestors monkey, plow α Leo Forehead
Purva-phalguni Former Red One front legs of marriage-bed, marital bliss front ceiling δ Leo Lion’s mane
Uttara-phalguni Latter Red One back legs of marriage-bed, favours back ceiling β Leo Changer of weather
Hasta Hand hand, the Sun hand δ Crv Barker
Chitra Bright pearl, jewel, architect-god crocodile eye α Vir Unarmed
Svati Independent, Sword wheat sprout, wind female elephant α Boo Covering
Vishakha Forked, Branched triumph arch, Indra & Agni arm, buffalo-horns α Lib Claws
Anuradha Follower of Radha lotus, friendship crossbow, bear δ Sco Crown of forehead
Jyeshtha Eldest umbrella, chief of gods big elephant α Sco Heart
Mula Root, Basic elephant goad, dissolution small elephant λ Sco Sting
Purva-ashadha Former Victor fan, water male rhino δ Sgr Ostriches
Uttara-ashadha Latter Victor elephant tusk, universal gods female rhino σ Sgr City, District
Shravana* Ear, Hear, Learned ear, footprints, preserver meditator α Aql Luck of the swallower
Dhanishtha Abundance, Richest flute, drum, earth’s abundance teapot, fishtrap β Del Luck of the luckiest
100 Physicians empty circle, cosmic waters dragon λ Aqr Luck of the veiled
Purva-bhadrapada Front Good Feet front legs of death-bed, dragon, one-footed goat lion β Peg Top spout of bucket
Uttara-bhadrapada Back Good Feet back legs of death-bed, serpent of the deep lioness γ Peg Lower spout
Revati Opulent beater, fish, traveler’s nourisher carp ζ Psc Belly of the fish

*Astrologers often insert an extra nakshatra called Abhijit (α Lyr) before Shravana, every four months or so. This is to keep the 27-part system more in sync with the Moon’s orbital period of 27.23 days. In the almanacks, the sky is divided strictly into 27 parts and this intercalary sign is ignored.


Geometric alignment is an important consideration. Here, traditional non-cardinal angles such as Trine, Quintile and Sextile have been rationalized into a simpler system; a suggested reading for acute and obtuse angles is given.

Label Name Angle Character
CONJ Conjunction zero° connected, working as one
SQR Square 90° in conflict, needing adaptation
OPP Opposition 180° in tension, needing balance
acute (non-cardinal) less than 90° seeking harmony
obtuse (non-cardinal) between 90° and 180° unrelated, independent
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