I use traditional rulers.

Now, if you’re reading this post, you’re likely having one of three reactions to that statement:

A. High five! I’m a purist.

B. Traditional rulers?? Everyone knows that Pluto rules Scorpio.

C. I have no clue what you’re on about. What’s a ruler?

If you fall into head scratching last camp, here’s your quick and dirty definition.

What are Planetary Rulers?

Each sign of the zodiac is ruled by a planet. For example, Cancer is ruled by the Moon, Gemini by Mercury, and so forth. Rulerships show how energy from one sign is directed or translated to another. If a planet is in Gemini, it will point its energy toward whatever sign Mercury is in. (A fancy astrology word for this is disposited.) If Mercury is in Taurus, the energy of Gemini will be disposited — or sent — to Taurus.

Still following me?

Rulerships are the lifeblood of astrology, revealing how the energy bounces from one sign to another, not unlike a chain. It shows how we are these complex expressions of our Sun signs. Sensitive Cancer may be a lot more outgoing if the Moon — the ruler of Cancer — is in fiery Aries.

What are traditional rulers?

According to the old rules, here’s are the signs that the seven classical planets rule.

Sun — Leo
Moon — Cancer
Mercury — Gemini/Virgo
Venus — Taurus/Libra
Mars — Aries/Scorpio
Jupiter — Sagittarius/Pisces
Saturn — Capricorn/Aquarius

Hey, what happened to Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto?

Obviously astrology was around long before the discovery of Uranus in 1781, Neptune in 1846, and Pluto in 1930. Each subsequent discovery of a new planet led astrologers to wonder what they meant and how they fit into the hierarchy of the heavens. So, along the way, it was decided that Uranus ruled Aquarius, Neptune ruled Pisces, and Pluto ruled Scorpio . . . because the planet had an affinity with the sign.

Here’s the thing that bugs me. Affinity is not rulership. As I mentioned earlier, rulership is the movement of energy from one sign to another. The other thing that bugs me is this idea that the ancients, with their limited wisdom and access to high powered telescopes, didn’t know how to fill 12 signs with 7 planets and fudged the math.

Actually the ancients were a lot smarter than we give them credit for.

Are you sure?

Look at the diagram below. It shows the schema of traditional rulers. See that beautiful symmetry? Apart from the Sun and Moon, each planet has a dual expression.


And what is life? Duality. Positive and negative polarity. Yang and yin. The ancients knew this and astrology was a tool to explain the harmony and balance of the universe. Jupiter in Sagittarius, for example, is the yang expression, Jupiter in Pisces the yin. Yang is active; yin is receptive.

The Sun and Moon are the original alchemical pairing from which life emits. They are the sacred marriage of yang and yin translated through the signs and manifested into physical reality. When we deny Scorpio the rulership of Mars, we deny the yin expression. Mars in Aries becomes out of balance.

Do you use the modern planets?

Of course I do! I just don’t assign them rulership. To me, the modern planets are agents of consciousness and transformation. I would never be so naive to overlook the power of Pluto in a chart or the sudden jolts of awakening that come with a Uranus transit.

Believe it or not I started out using the modern rulers. I’m a Scorpio. I wore Pluto like a badge of honor. But when I started to hack natal charts and reverse engineered the transits when someone, say, got married, had a baby, or experienced an event, it was the traditional rulers that told the story — not the modern ones. So I became a convert.

What really sealed the deal for me was seeing how there was already a beautiful harmony right there in the heavens. Why start rearranging things? Everything becomes energetically unbalanced.

Look, I get it. Rulerships are a hot button issue. So are house systems. (Another story for another time. Also, astrologers are nerds.) I say use what system works for you. But if you are using modern rulers because you never questioned it, take a look at the traditional rulers. Follow the energy. Look at transits. Hack the chart. Find out for yourself.