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October 19, 2007 – 3:23 am | 62 Comments

So you want to learn about astrology? Not the generalized Sun-sign stuff that you find in newspapers and magazines, but serious astrology. The advanced type where you can actually determine specific information about a person’s life through the observation of the planets and other celestial phenomena. Here are some tips to help you get started.

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Home » astrological techniques and concepts

The Outer Planets in Astrology: To Use or Not to Use?

Posted by on November 29, 2008 at 4:31 am21 Comments

The outer planets, Uranus, Neptune, and yes, Pluto, are often overplayed in modern astrological delineations. They are overplayed in the sense that they are often the first thing that a modern astrologer will look at in any chart delineation, and it is often the case that without the outer planets a modern astrologer will consider a chart unfit to be delineated, or at least staggeringly incomplete.

On the opposite end of the spectrum there are a growing number of Medieval and Indian astrologers who do not consider the outer planets to be relevant in a chart delineation at all, and do not even include them when they draw up and interpret charts in their personal and professional practice. Part of the rationale for this position, as it has been explained to me by certain proponents of this approach (usually acolytes of Robert Zoller or John Frawley), is that the astrological construct was created prior to the discovery of the outer planets, and any attempt at incorporating them only serves to wreak havoc on the internal consistency of the system and to confuse or muddle delineations.

My own opinion on this matter lies somewhere in between the two extremes. On the one hand, my early investigations into astrology were mainly focused on modern astrology for the first four years of my studies, and during this time I gained an appreciation for the important types of significations that the outer planets bring to a chart, and consequently their relevance in delineations.

On the other hand, over the past few years since I began studying more ‘traditional’ forms of astrology I have come to appreciate the internal consistency of the older systems of astrology and the fact that you can have a completely accurate and encompassing approach to prediction by just using the seven classical bodies alone.  For example, I came to realize that the use of the traditional system of sign rulerships is not something that is regressive or outmoded, but it is actually a very elegant and consistent construct that can be used to explain the inner workings of a chart, and plus it just works better in practice.

So, where is the middle ground?  For me personally the middle ground is simply to use the seven visible planets as sign rulers and to focus on the deeper implications of each of those placements in each chart, but at the same time to incorporate the outer planets by paying attention to their sign placements, house placements, and aspects with the inner planets.   I find that using the traditional rulerships along with the outer planets also has a way of naturally balancing out the tendency to spend too much time focusing solely on the outers when delineating chart, since the traditional rulerships have a way of forcing you to pay more attention and give greater authority to the inner planets.

Certainly the outer planets are important in astrological delineations, and they can be incorporated into transits, synastry, natal analysis, electional astrology, and even horary in order to achieve a greater understanding of whatever it is that you are studying.  But not at the expense of the visible planets and the rest of the chart, which can also provide a tremendous amount of information, even if it is sometimes more subtle.

So, that is my approach to the matter.   What do you think about the subject?  Should the outer planets be used, or should they be ignored?  Should they be assigned rulership of signs based on the affinity that they are thought to have with certain signs, or should astrologers stick with the more geometrically elegant construct derived from the Thema Mundi?   Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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About Chris Brennan

Chris is a practicing astrologer from Denver, Colorado, USA. He is the former President of the Association for Young Astrologers, as well as the former Research Director of the National Council for Geocosmic Research. He offers personal consultations and teaches online classes through his website at

Hellenistic Astrology Course


  • Gian Paul says:

    Hello Chris, just discovered your blog and what you are doing professionally. Liked it all the way. I am an “old hand at astrology”, totally diletante, for over 30 years now.

    Agree fully with you that to stay on “safe ground” the traditional 7 planets are to be “doubly weighted”. The outer ones so to say are “salt and pepper”. Chiron and what else can be that “violet” you may add on a special salad…

    But in these days of “micro-cuisine” much is permitted and should be so.

    My tenet is that astrology works because of a “universal harmony existing”, (but not obvious to be perceived). It’s biblical (or toraic or Gilgamesh etc.):

    At the beginning there was chaos. God thought he had to put some order into the place. So He created harmony. And must have been “universal”. Coming from the Top.

    Logically, if such harmony exists (and astrology probably only scraches the surface of all that), the inner planets are related to the outer ones and vice-versa. I can imagine that a truly gifted astrologer, without even disposing of the given ephemeris, could “infer”, if not the position, so at least the “influence” of outer planets etc.

    When I visited Delphi in Greece, I had a strong sense that the oracle there must have been functioning along those lines. The night sky in Delphi is “speaking books”. At least that was my impression . And then you have the Greek Mythology: Where from did their symbolism come and still has value today?

    It’s a true mystery.

    Wish you a lot of success with your endevours!

    PS. Writing this as Luna conjuncts Pluto, and Venus conjunct Jupiter is in trine with Saturn. Don’t even need to be in Delphos to see a superb triangle in the sky tonight.


  • Osthanes says:

    In my opinion, ‘outer planet’ is a mistaken label for Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, for what we ought to first do is to define ‘planet’. Astronomically, it hardly matters. Astrologically… well, I think that’s the real question.

  • Chris Brennan says:

    Ah yes, the question of where to draw the line between planets and other bodies.

    What is your solution to the issue? What constitutes a ‘planet’ from an astrological perspective?

  • Osthanes says:

    If you ask me, stars are celestial lights for both producing and signifying quantitative and qualitative time which can be classified either as fixed (“unwandering”) or as wandering, depending on the key issue if they move together in the daily motion while constituting so-called fixed constellations or have individual motion in respect of these constellation. Since along this classification virtually all bodies out of or in the Solar System are to be included which makes billions of relevant significators, for me the next logical step is, in conformity with proper astrological perspective, that is, with observer-centred notion, to exclude all that are invisible for unaided, naked eyes, regardless of distance, mass and the astronomical class of the celestial body.
    It naturally narrows the number of items in our toolkit for seven wandering and some thousands of fixed stars which is still too high to be dealt with. Therefore, if we assume brightness as key factor, apparent magnitude and peculiar behavior (in the case of wandering ones, individual motion itself) make the stars so defined of more or less importance.
    A source of confusion can be that the same term may mean different thing in astronomy and astrology. For instance, in this way a wandering star or planet in astrological sense can be a star (Sun), a moon (the Moon) or a planet astronomically, while a fixed star can be a single or a multiple star (binary, tertiary and so on), a star-cluster or even a whole galaxy.
    However, I must acknowledge that there are some phenomena which should be labeled as temporal star, either as wandering or as fixed, for example Uranus, Vesta and comets on one hand, and novae and supernovae on the other. But even than the whole system seems to be logical for me, and highly instructive regarding how to use these significators. (In parenthesis, as I see it, the peculiarities of the wandering stars can be and is likely to have been drawn from their color and other factors like speed of motion that can only be interpreted in the terms of naked eye.)
    Then, this interpretation may be called idiosyncratic and it isn’t necessarily correct but a sort of logical. Whatever the best way is, my main objection against using Uranus, Neptune AND Pluto is there’s no reason why these three should be included. The may be instructive for some, I admit, but it leaves the question why we should use them still open.

    PS Chris, I’m writing a survey on the astrological works of Theophilus of Edessa, and as soon as I’m ready I’d like to submit it for you as a contribution. However, I had to realize that it’s a hard work. 🙁

  • Chris Brennan says:

    Wasn’t it Boll or one of the editors of the CCAG who put forward an argument at some point that the fixed star delineations in Anonymous of 379 or Ptolemy were derived from their color and/or brightness? I think it was Boll in his edition of Anonymous. I find that to be an interesting idea because it ties into Rochberg’s argument about the origin of the distinction between benefic and malefic planets in the Mesopotamian tradition.

    One of the arguments that is sometimes made against using non-visible planets is that under certain conditions Uranus can be seen without visual aid. I always found this argument kind of intriguing.

    I do think that people should be able to delineate a chart without including the outer planets, and this was part of the point of my article, although I may not have articulated that clearly. For many modern astrologers this can sometimes be quite difficult, although it really does help to strengthen your understanding of those planets, so I highly recommend it for any of you who may be reading this.

    That is really great news about Theophilus! I would love to have that as a contribution on the site. I will definitely be looking forward to it. I hope that most of the hard work is already behind you.

  • I consider myself a modern psychological astrologer, but I have been using traditional rulerships of signs on house cusps (and looking at dispositors) for a few years now. This may be a silly reason, but the outer planets move so slowly that they don’t afford much variation in terms of sign placement. And from doing relationship astrology, I find that the trad ruler of 7 fits better with one’s mate choice than the outer planets ruling Sco, Aqu and Pis.

  • CHARLIE says:

    I’m not sure where this idea comes from of modern astrologers look at the Outer planets first. If you want to explore the depth psychology of a chart the Outer planets are required. However if you are of the view human beings are simpler than depth psychologists suggest then they are an optional tool.

    For me leaving them out only tells me so much about a person and the chart becomes both uninteresting and lacks value.

    I always start with the Sun and then look at the Moon and rising sign even if an outer is clearly a major influence in the life/psyche. From what i have seen the more sophisticated modern astrologers do the same since we are always needing to assess the more fundamental ‘players’ to begin with in order to assess what impact the outers may or may not have.

    If you encounter an astrologer who talks about the outers initially you are probably wasting your money and should go elsewhere.

  • Chris Brennan says:

    To say that a chart is uninteresting and lacking in value without the outer planets in it is quite a statement in it of itself though, if you think about it.

    That does essentially reinforce my initial point about how much of a modern chart delineation completely relies on these factors, and while I realize that the argument could be made a number of different ways, it is possible that there is something problematic with that.

    I can see the argument going both ways though, so I appreciate that you shared your thoughts on the subject here.

  • Osthanes says:

    >Wasn’t it Boll or one of the editors of the CCAG who put forward an argument at some point that the fixed star delineations in Anonymous of 379 or Ptolemy were derived from their color and/or brightness?

    Well, I checked his edition in CCAG but I haven’t found any argumentation. But it must have been formulated somewhere.

    >One of the arguments that is sometimes made against using non-visible planets is that under certain conditions Uranus can be seen without visual aid. I always found this argument kind of intriguing.

    For myself, I conceive astrology as a celestial language which can grasped most easily and effectively by using key metaphors of the type that can be seen in e. g. Ibn Ezra’s aphorisms but ultimately they are encoded the Greek technical language of astrology. Along this way, my favorite cover metaphor is of a theater.

    In short, all that are visible are on stage; all invisible are in the background. Wandering ones are actors, non-wandering ones are best to be understood as props. The more brightness they have, the bigger importance they hold. In this way there are seven actors and some thousands of props, of them few are as weighty as actors themselves, albeit not acting, but most of them are small items like a handkerchief or a hat.
    All the stories are told by these guys. They have some correspondences with different parts of the stage which can be understood as detached chambers, they can occupy different positions in different status, all we can watch and interpret in the frame of our current investigation.
    Still, sometimes guest stars arrive – a new, not-seen-before prop which can be quite spectacular to have an imprint on every sort of stories (novas and supernovas)… but who disturbs our life is Mr Uranus himself. (In reality, sometimes Ms Vesta comes to have a guest play as well but she is often forgotten. Poor Vesta.)
    Now, Mr Uranus and his chaste mistress are so much less bright than any other components, I mean, actors and props on the stage that if we really put away books and close computers and have a look at the sky itself, we will have to admit their role (in the stage sense) in not more than of a fly which mistakenly found its way to the stage. Or rather, if we consider their speed, a piece of prop, say, a glass ball or a pen which lost its balance and is just pretending movement.
    While this is on stage and we are watching the performance, in the background the propworkers are playing cards, the light assistants are turning the lamps on and off, and the wardrobe guardians are talking about the weather and the value of their pension. Yeah, that’s a theater – the staff is necessary but the message comes from the stage not from the shadowy corners of this oldie building we are not supposed to stick our nose into.
    In this metaphor, even comet appearances can be interpreted, as, for instance, on stage appearance of a horse or something weird – which of course can’t possess an own chamber (rulership) during his guest play but who will no doubt play a more substantial role than Uranus the Urgent to Be Used.

    That’s my view and although I may not be correct, I like it. 🙂

    >That is really great news about Theophilus! I would love to have that as a contribution on the site. I will definitely be looking forward to it. I hope that most of the hard work is already behind you.

    Sadly, there’s a lot to do but I feel the subject is worth a deeper treatment.

  • FAHRI says:

    I am studying my chart and also the other’s charts for many years.
    I discovered that -Bad aspects from big malefics to 7th ruler are causing delaying or forbidding marriage.

    In my chart,
    My asc; virgo and My dsc; Pisces—
    AND BELiVE ME ONLY MY NEPTUNE HAS SATURN SQAURE in my chart, there is no other bad affects, espeacially my jupiter has perfect 60’s and 120’s. Also, There is no planet in my 7th house…It is clear.
    And my birth hour is CORRECT.

    If pisces is rulling by Jupiter???? why my marriage didnt take place.

    Best wishes to all my astrologer friends.


  • Craig Jarman says:

    To my mind the outer planets can be as important as the inner planets depending upon the person. I’d agree that typically the outer planets represent a ‘dumb note’, whereas the inner planets are likely to be more developed and conscious. But this is not always the case.

    It may even be the opposite. I’ve seen cases where the Sun is ‘dumb note’ will an outer planet was activated. Astrology really needs to be a little more flexible in term of its rules of thumb.

    Two people, born at the same time with the same horoscope, may express that horoscope in two entirely different ways. Say they were born in 66 with the Saturn-Uranus opposition. One person may be the rebel, the other quite conservative. Which way it is expressed cannot be determined by the horoscope.

    The horoscope simply highlights the tension of the two opposites. Really you need to assess the individual prior to interpreting the horoscope.

    BTW – I’ve Pisces rising and, for me, the planetary principle of Neptune is more developed than some inner planets.

  • Kristina says:

    I dont know if I’d trust an astrologer who did not believe the outer planets were important. It’s all about the relationships in ones natal chart that influence ones personality and behaviors. Moreso than what sign a planet is in. I have Uranus conjunct my ascendant and I could not be convinced that because it’s an outer planet it is not as significant. And the significance it has had on my relationships with friends my age. Somehow we always got into trouble and it was when they were with me!! Now I see that my role was to be the “rule breaker” and when I am around my peers my asc conjuncts their Uranus. I believe the signs are important because then we can map out the relationships between all the planets.

  • James says:

    This seems like a topic that would be guaranteed to have a group of adherents on one or the other sides of the “fence.”

    I use the “outer” planets extensively in my work.

    To me, there can be an analogy made. Each of the planets has certain effects…or if you hate causal language, each of the planets has certain CORRELATIONS. They are like colors. There certainly ARE elements contained in (say) Pluto that are not “within” the visible seven planets.

    As a result of this perspective, hearing of an astrologer not using them, it engenders the image of buying a big 120-Box of Crayola crayons and promptly disposing of most of them, in favor of using a few to try and make every possible color. Yes, it may very well be possible that the right combination of crayons can work to make “Burnt Sienna”, but it still seems silly, when there already IS a Burnt Sienna available that works perfectly every time.

    My advice with the Planets is the same as with the Crayons. Go dig the unused ones out of the trash and find a proper use for them. They’re certainly there for a reason. 😉 If they (planets) didn’t have an important meaning to ADD, then they wouldn’t be orbiting the Sun. (ie. cyclical patterns we are meant to witness and relate to Earthly existence)


  • Have you considered the role of the dwarf planet Eris in charts?
    Any planet that sends the Astronomers into a state of discord must have some significance.

  • Chris Brennan says:

    No. At one point in my studies of astrology I probably would have been all over Eris, but the rush to ascribe significations to it once it was discovered kind of turned me off. Plus there is enough about the basic system and principles of astrology that still needs to be worked out, that I’m not in any hurry to start worrying about what role a new planetoid plays.

  • Ah, too bad! I found some interesting connections with Eris and the chart of the United States. I had hoped you would have been interested in the historical significance.

  • Shawn says:

    If our ancestors looked to the stars and imagined all they did from 7 planets, in our modern times with countless *galaxies* in view, it could be argued that (a) tradition has never been more important, and (b) new vistas of imagination have been awakened that seek expression in our world and give our world new meaning.

    The outer planets, starting with Uranus, open up the door for these new potentials for life that were unavailable and unimaginable in traditional times. That’s why they are important.

    The outer planets do complicate an already-complex system, but I find it essential to work with them in charts. To use the tradition is to look above and imagine the meaning below. If we see more above, we *must* learn to see more below. In my opinion, we have really only begun to figure out how to work with the outer planets effectively. Baby steps. We may have established core meanings for each planet, but to really make use of their meaning and symbolism in everyday life is a whole different discussion. They require us to look at life non-traditionally, and to heighten our awareness of life, to interact with life more openly, and to step into far more unpredictable patterns and visions of life than tradition can offer.

    The outer planets like Pluto and Eris move so slowly they challenge us to look at life differently. If tradition could grasp all the way out to Saturn — a slow-moving planet by their standards — we must step up to the plate and do the same. I’ve not found, personally, that 7 traditional planets cut it when helping truly get to the individual core of each modern person. More colors are needed, and the outer planets provide them in abundance.

  • Rob Tillett says:

    Once I would have been all over Eris too! But that was before I really understood astrology — being full of the modernist ideology that everything from the past had to be overthrown and replaced with *The New*. A bit like Pol Pot.

    Now it’s clear that the unknown geniuses who first set up the astrological framework knew a thing or two. From more than 40 years of practice I no longer accept that the modern planets “rule” signs, or indeed that each sign “deserves” a unique ruler of its own. Or that when we discover a new planet, star or galaxy that it needs to rule a sign (after all there’s only 12 of them), or indeed anything at all. In particular I find it annoying and gauche when I hear that Virgo is not ruled by Mercury (because it deserves its own ruler; let’s leave gossipy Mercury to those crass, shallow Geminians…). Haha. Or that it *really* rules Aquarius, or is exalted there or whatever. Crikey. Or that Uranus rules Aquarius, not Saturn, let alone Pluto pushing Mars out of Scorp, or Neptune foggily rambling into Pisces at the expense of Jupiter. Blimey and crikey. The 20th Century has a lot to answer for.

    Astrology is a symbolic language. And as in any language, it’s better to know the rules of the language before you expand them, or break them. Then that’s Poets’ License, otherwise it’s just misleading, especially if we are looking for a useful interpretation of what is real and what is not. The idea that astrological energies and thus our “lived environment” are not adequately expressed by the traditional planets (and the nodes, which don’t seem to have rated a mention here so far as I can tell) is pretty much poppycock and wishful thinking. Insofar as the outers rule signs, the question is, where do we stop? With Ceres or Vesta? With Chiron the dirty snowball? With Eros, or perhaps with Sedna, or some miniscule Centaur? Ulp.

    This said, there can be no doubt that valuable insights may be gained from the placement of the outer planets, particularly with regard to generational movements and mundane figures, but also in personal charts when suitably activated, notably via transits and progressions, but also by aspect. It’s hard to dismiss transiting Pluto conjunct natal Moon, transiting Uranus conjunct natal Mars etc etc. But usually some massive effect of say, Chiron, I find explained as well or better by a more traditional delineation. Chiron et al sometimes add a bit of insight, but usually a relatively trivial one IMO. Fixed stars generally do it better for me, I’d have to say.

    Even in generational matters, it’s unwise to ignore the Jupiter/Saturn cycles, specialis, minim, climacteria etc. Although I do use the outers, esp. UR, NE and PL, but sometimes even Ceres and her friends when the chart calls for it. Ceres for example is hot in disaster charts (but then, so are Mars and Saturn!). Like many things, each situation requires a flexible approach.

    I seem to be rambling on and having a buck each way, but that’s because it’s been a hard few weeks, now that my friend and colleague Neil Giles has had a crash in his health and is no longer working on our site. I’ll get off the soapbox by saying that we do need the outer planets to add more depth and colour to the chart, but it is quite possible to do a full delineation using only the traditional planets and the nodes (as thousands of astrologers are doing right now). We just need to understand how. Then the modern planets and techniques can flesh out important, otherwise hidden issues and produce significant insights. They are not indispensable, but are to be ignored at our peril.

  • Xul says:


    Which celestial bodies are to be included amongst the ‘new planets’? Astronomy established the class of ‘dwarf planets’ in 2006 to which to date Ceres, Pluto, Haumea, Makemake and Eris belong, perhaps later Sedna. Eris is substantially larger than Pluto. Whoever includes Pluto amongst astrological factors must, if coherence and consistency are valued, also include Pluto.

    If one examines the astrological delineations attached to the planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, one finds that, usually, attributes were simple withdrawn from the classical Planets Mercury, Venus and Mars and assigned to the news ones, often using a theory of ‘octaves’ that is, upon examination in the light of Johannes Kepler’s “De Harmonices Mundi”, untenable. As the astrologer’s mind is incapable of applying innumerable factors, the number of attributes is relatively limited. Astrological schools including hypothetical planets, like the Hamburg School (‘Uranian’), continued this transfer of attributes including sign Lady- and Lordships from the classical Planets, assigning several of Saturn’s traditional qualities to ‘Hades’.

    One may already read lengthy astrological delineations of the newly discovered Dwarf Planets based primarily on the mythological names assigned to them by astronomers, although astronomers generally are not counted amongst the warmest supporters of astrology. In their ‘new age’ naivity and trust, many astrologers apparently have not even considered the possibility of astronomers’ haphazardly or deliberately assigning astrologically misleading mythological names to the newly discovered bodies.

    Perhaps a case could be made for attempting to include delineations of trans-Saturnians in cases where they are close connexions between them and the most significant points in the chart, e. g. with Ascendant, Medium Coeli, Sun and Moon. Even then, it is highly likely that the Seven Planets observable by unaided human sight and the factors derived from Them sufficiently correspond to all salient characteristics and events of human existence. The self-restraint of the astrologer to the Seven Wandering Stars, thus limiting the otherwise constantly proliferating ‘zoo’ of factors, might in future distinguish astrological schools from each other.

    Best wishes,


  • Xul says:

    The last word of the first paragraph should of course be ‘Eris’.

  • sara says:

    what do you do when one of the personal planets is conjunct one or several outer planets? for example, neptune is conjunct my moon in my natal. i feel this to be very significant, as i have many neptune/pisces emotional traits.