Twelve Easy Lessons for Beginners | 3. Planetary Prominence

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And the changing of the planets must be understood, which has five parts: the first, if [a planet] were in the second or first station.  The second, while it is being hidden from the Sun or goes out from being hidden […]    (Abu Ma’shar, The Abbreviation of the Introduction to Astrology, Book IV, 34-36, Dykes trans., 2010, p. 233)

Table of Contents

Digging Deeper into Planetary Prominence

In the introductory lesson, we looked into the history of astrology. Then we looked at the basic significations of the planets, how to pull up charts for free on the internet, and how to judge planetary prominence by “advancement”. Please read the first articles in this series and familiarize yourself with a few charts and the techniques before proceeding.  The first lesson can be accessed by clicking here, and the second by clicking here. In this lesson, we will continue to explore some additional forms of planetary prominence.

Silby's Jesus Christ Horoscope
Chart of Jesus Christ with a 12/25 midnight birthday (from Sibly’s Astrology of 1806). Was Jesus born at this time with Jupiter rising? Nah. He wasn’t even born on the 25th of December.

Distinguishing Planetary Prominence from Relevance and Benefit

Astrologers of the Perso-Arabic period, such as Abu Ma’shar and al-Qabisi, distinguished the strength or prominence of a planet from its tendency to signify benefit or difficulty (benefic/malefic). Additionally, both of these were distinguished from the matters in life which are relevant to the planet’s indications. The evaluation of a planet’s prominence relates to what’s called planetary strength. A planet may be mixed, being strong in some ways and weak in others. The benefic (beneficial) or malefic (challenging) indications of a planet may also be mixed, and in fact usually are.  Additionally, all planets will have varying degrees of relevance to given life topics (i.e. planetary relevance).

Over-Reliance on Signs in Traditional Astrology

These are very important distinctions. It is too often the case that one or more of these distinctions is missing in an astrological system or that they are mixed together such that the sign a planet is in plays too much of a role determining all three. When I first got into traditional astrology, it was common for me to meet traditional astrologers who would determine both strength and benefit according to the sign of the zodiac a planet was in.

For instance, Venus, signifying young women, the arts, sexuality, and marriage, when in Scorpio might be considered in the sign of her detriment. In this view, her ability to bring about successful relationships might be hampered (poor strength). Similarly, other matters signified by the houses she rules or topics she is given responsibility for in the chart can’t be realized (poor strength). Some astrologers would even say that because of the so-called detriment she tends to signify bad quality women or relationships, such as malicious women, sexual problems, or misfortune through the arts (malefic). I do not use the sign as the main indicator of either strength or beneficence, and I have argued against this approach.

Over-Reliance on Signs in Modern Astrology

In modern astrology, there tends to be a strong focus on the quality of various aspects of the psyche (planets). These are again mainly determined by the zodiacal signs of the planets.  For instance, one might assert that Venus, signifying the love nature, would in Scorpio make for an intense, passionate, jealous, and secretive sexuality.  In this case, the planet itself is a stand-in for some important aspect of the individual’s character or pscyhe.

Does the Planet Connect to the Character?

Unfortunately, it is used in this way whether or not it actually connects strongly with the symbols for the individual and their character in the chart. Venus can provide indications pertaining to the native’s love life and sexuality on her own. However, those significations are not as significant if they don’t associate strongly with the native’s personality; if they don’t connect with the indicators for the self and character in the chart.

Is the Indication Strong or Superficial?

Similarly, the indications from Venus regarding relating may only apply superficially to some situations. If the indications from Venus are not reinforced by similar indications in the natal chart then they are just superficial. Such superficial indications may become relevant on rare occasions when timing factors strongly reinforce them but are not representative of typical circumstances. Reinforcement must come from other factors such as the twelfth-part of Venus, the 7th house and its ruler, relevant lots, and the houses of Venus.

Indications from a Planet Go Deeper than the Sign

When the essential quality of an indication is determined by the zodiacal sign this ignores other factors that might more directly influence the indications given by the planet. For instance, another planet in the same sign will often have a stronger and more direct impact on the significations of a planet than its sign. The sect of Venus, her prominence, the planets regarding her, the state of her ruler, and additional factors all should come into play when interpreting the significations of Venus.

Moving Away from Over-Reliance on Zodiacal Signs

The signs are rather abstract divisions of the sky. I believe that too much emphasis has been placed on the signs especially when it comes to strength and beneficence considerations.  I will introduce the signs of the zodiac in the next lesson. In this lesson, I would like to focus on some additional significations of planetary prominence in a chart.  As with advancement, discussed in the previous lesson, these factors don’t depend on a zodiac, a house system, or a system of planetary aspects.  They have a greater sense of immediacy than such concepts, and are in my opinion the three most important factors for what I call “general prominence”.

General Prominence

Lion_Sun_Moon Jaros Griemiller {pd}
The Luminaries, the Sun and the Moon, are naturally prominent.

Distinguishing Types of Prominence or Strength

Ancient authors tend to lump together both prominence and grit (or follow-through), under the label of strength.  In my own experience, I’ve found that one should separate out these strength factors as pertaining to at least three different things.

  • General prominence pertains to loud or pervasive significations in the life.
  • Personal prominence pertains to personal importance to the individual, being influential over key areas of the life such as the character.
  • Grit or follow-through pertains to the stability or instability of what is signified.

In this way, it becomes possible for a planet to be strong in one sense but not in another. There can be a person who is constantly surrounded by artists (Venus generally prominent), who is an intellectual (Mercury personally prominent), and whose relationships tend to start out strong but lack staying power (relationship significators with weak follow-through).

Prominence Changes with Time

For predictive purposes, it is very important to evaluate the range or variance of a planet’s indications. We don’t just want to know the central tendency.  For instance, a planet might be generally strong in one sense, such as strongly advancing, and generally weak in another, such as stationing retrograde.  In such a case, I would likely judge the planet to be centrally prominent due to having a major prominence indication but for the fall from prominence to be triggered at times when a retrograde station of the planet was highlighted. There will be more on this in future lessons, but the main idea is that life is long and complex, so we must take inventory of both the tendency and the variance.

Three Indications of General Prominence

The three most basic indications of general prominence that I look at are:

  1. Advancement – Covered in the last lesson.  These are the approaching alignments of a planet with a location which happen 4 times each day.
  2. Stations – This is when a planet appears to stop and reverse its direction of travel relative to the stars as observed from Earth.  The direct stations mark out days when a planet is particularly prominent. Some planets station more often than others. For instance, Mercury stations multiple times each year.
  3. Phasis or Appearance, also Combust and Cazimi – This is when a planet appears for the first time after emerging from the beams. Note that for Paulus Alexandrinus of the 4th century CE this condition only applies to planets emerging from the beams and not to those setting into them. A planet setting into them may be considered forcefully under the beams of the Sun. This also marks out days of planetary prominence which vary in frequency depending on the planet.


Spend a little time reading astrological chit-chat on the internet and you will surely encounter a lot of commotion about Mercury going retrograde. When a planet turns retrograde or back to direct, it must station. In order to understand the terms, “station” and “retrograde” we must talk a little bit about the secondary motion of the planets.

Secondary Motion

In the last lesson, we looked at planets moving clockwise around the chart, where they rise on the left side of the chart, culminate at top, set on the right side, and anti-culminate at the bottom.  This is the “primary motion” of the stars caused by the Earth’s daily 24-hour rotation.  However, the planets move much more slowly in the opposite direction, through the sky against the backdrop of the fixed stars (i.e. through the signs of the zodiac).

They follow nearly the same path followed by the Sun (as viewed from Earth). The path is called the ecliptic. Think “eclipse”, as an eclipse happens when the Moon conjoins or opposes the Sun while she’s on the ecliptic. The “secondary motion” of the planets is the motion of each planet going slowly counter-clockwise around the chart, from west to east, each at its own pace.

No Retrogradation in the “Solar System”

The secondary motion of the planets is the same motion that you would’ve studied in high school astronomy class when you observed the Earth and other planets traveling around the Sun. However, in astrology, we study it from the position of the observer, on Earth, as astrology is oriented to the observer on Earth.

In astronomy, an external abstract point is the center of reference with regard to the system. Not exactly the Sun as most assume, but the center of mass (barycenter) of the solar system. The barycenter usually resides within the Sun, so we think of the Sun as the center. In actuality, the barycenter can move up to about a full solar radii outside of its surface at times due to the massive gravitational pull of Jupiter.  Using the Sun as a frame of reference, the planets appear to run their circuits around it, never reversing direction.

Geocentric Perspective

From the vantage point of the Earth, things are different. Planets farther out from the Sun than Earth appear to stop and move backwards when overtaken by the Earth, as seen in the video below.

Similarly, planets closer to the Sun (i.e. Mercury and Venus) appear to move backwards when on the opposite side of the Sun from Earth, as seen in the video below.  The retrogradation is the backwards loop that appears to be traced in the sky when Venus is opposite the Sun from Earth.

Here is one more video in which you can see a real time-lapsed video of Saturn moving retrograde against the stars. The video includes a good look at the way that the 2nd century astrologer Ptolemy modeled these motions using the Earth as a static frame of reference. Ptolemy added a second cycle called the epicycle that would account for the retrogradation. In this way, astrologers could better predict planetary positions at any point in time.

You can read more about the mechanics of apparent retrograde motion and the frequency with which the planets are retrograde in the Wikipedia article on “Apparent retrograde motion“.

Stations in Ancient Astrology

Ancient astrologers attached a lot of importance to the points where a planet appears to stop and change directions. These points were called the “stations” of the planets.  The “first station”, or “retrograde” station, was when the planet appeared to move backwards. In Hellenistic and Perso-Arabic astrology it was considered to signify a weakening of that planet’s significations.  The “second station”, or “direct” station, was when the planet appeared to move forward again after a period of retrogradation. It was considered to signify a strengthening of the planet’s significations.

In the introductory works by Abu Ma’shar and al-Qabisi they discuss strengthening and weakening conditions.  Both astrologers first point to the retrograde station as a major weakening condition.  Some authors, such as Sahl quoted below, have also given helpful metaphors for understanding the stations.

“If a planet were to stand toward retrogradation (that is, if it were in its first station), it signifies the dissolution of a purpose, and disobedience; and if it were to stand toward direction (that is, if it were in its second station), it signifies forward direction after the slowness or duress of the matter.  And every planet which is a significator and wished to go direct (that is, if it were in its second station) signifies the renewal of the actions of matters, and their action and strength or forward movement.  And if it were in the first station, wishing to go retrograde, it signifies their destruction and slowness and dissolution.”   (Sahl Bin Bishr, The Fifty Judgments, #48, Dykes trans., 2010, p. 107)

Effect of Stations and Retrogradation

While retrogradation is given a lot of hype in modern astrology and even in late traditional astrology, I think its importance is overblown. Retrogradation is very common.  For instance, Saturn is retrograde about a third of the time and Mercury goes retrograde three-to-four times per year for about three-to-four weeks each time. Retrogradation itself is only a little bit weakening. A tendency toward contradiction and antagonism were often associated with the action of retrograde planets in ancient literature.

On the other hand, the stations are very significant.  Typically, within about a week of the station, the planet may be considered as being more or less prominent depending on the nature of the station, and how close it is in time.  For instance, someone born within a day of Mercury stationing direct would be considered to have a very prominent Mercury in their chart.  Someone born within a day of Mercury stationing retrograde would have a very weakened Mercury.  One born 6 days from a Mercury station would also have Mercury strengthened or weakened but to a lesser extent.

Finding Planetary Stations

Let’s pull up some charts to look for stations, and also look again at advancement.

Install Morinus

We are going to pull up charts in the free, open source, traditional astrology program called Traditional Morinus.  I’ve previously discussed installation and pulling up charts in Morinus on this blog.  My article discussing the installation of Morinus is here.  Since that article, the program has undergone many updates.  The newer versions are easier to use because they now have a location lookup, which I discussed here.  Not only is Morinus a free program, but it is also one of the programs with the best traditional capabilities.  It is open source, meaning that programmers are free to examine the code and improve upon it. Morinus is truly THE astrological program of the astrological community.

I recommend Morinus above all other astrological programs, even for advanced students  Nearly all of the charts and charting examples on this site come from the program.  Please take the time to download the program and familiarize yourself with it by pulling up a few charts and saving them before proceeding.

Settings in Morinus

Once you have the program installed and have a chart up, you should modify a few settings. Hold “Shift” and press “u”, or go to “Options” and make sure there is a check next to “Automatic save” so that changes that you make to settings will be saved for the next time you open the program.  Hold “Shift” and press “F6”, or go to “Options” then “Housesystems” and select “Whole Sign”.  For charts that look like mine, you will want your appearance options (Shift+a or Options>Appearance I) to be as in the picture below, where Terms is selected and the chart is black and white.

Here and Now

Week Before, Week After

The surest way to determine if a planet stationed within a week of someone’s birth is to compare the birth chart with the chart 1 week before the birth and that 1 week after the birth.  Retrogradation is symbolized by a little symbol of an “R” with a line through part of it, which is next to the planetary glyph in the chart.  Also, if one presses the F11 key, then a table of the planetary speeds appears in which negative speeds by longitude indicate retrograde motion. The Sun and Moon never have retrograde motion, so they are not examined in this respect.

Steve Jobs’ Chart

Let’s look at Steve Jobs’ chart (click here for chart data).  First, you’ll notice that the Moon, followed by Jupiter and Venus, are the most advancing planets in the chart.  You’ll also notice that the Sun and Saturn are retreating and that Mercury isn’t advancing much.  In the chart below I’ve highlighted that Mercury and Jupiter are retrograde.  It is important with any chart that you make an initial mental note of which of the planets are retrograde.

Natal Chart - Steve Jobs
Natal Chart – Steve Jobs

In order to check if any planets stationed within a week of Steve Jobs’ birth, we change the day of birth to one week earlier, pulling up the chart to see which planets are retrograde, then we do the same for one week after the birth.  If there are no stations then Mercury and Jupiter would be the only retrograde planets one week prior and one week after birth.  If this is not the case then there has been some type of station and we’ll have to do some deeper digging.

A Week Before Birth

To start hold CTRL and press “d” or go to “Horoscope” and then “Data”.  Jobs was born on the 24th so we’ll switch it to the 17th, which will show the chart below.

Steve Jobs - One Week Before Birth
Steve Jobs – One Week Before Birth

One week before birth, Mercury and Jupiter were retrograde while Venus, Mars, and Saturn were not.  This is just as in the natal chart, so there were no stations in the week prior to birth.

A Week After Birth

Seven days after his Feb. 24th birth would be March 3rd.  So we put that date into the Data area and pull up another chart, again checking for some difference in retrogrades. This time we do find some differences.  Jupiter was still retrograde a week after birth, but Mercury was no longer retrograde.  Therefore, Mercury stationed direct at some point within the week following his birth.  Additionally, Saturn is now retrograde, while it was not in the birth chart, so it stationed retrograde at some point in the week following his birth.

Steve Jobs - One Week After Birth
Steve Jobs – One Week After Birth
Mercury Retrograde or Mercury Stationing Direct?

Now, we know that Mercury is stationing direct in Steve’s birth chart and that Saturn is stationing retrograde, but we don’t know to what extent. How close were the stations to Steve’s birth?  I like to start with one-day increments from the birthday. I look first at February 25th, then the 26th, and so on.  Doing this I find that by February 25th, within 24 hours of the birth of Steve Jobs, Mercury had stationed direct.  This is a very prominent Mercury direct station!

We initially noted that Mercury wasn’t really advancing much, so by advancement, Mercury didn’t seem prominent at all.  However, we now know that Mercury is very prominent in the chart because it was stationing direct very strongly when Jobs was born.  This means that the natural significations of Mercury have a type of prominent influence on his life.  This is quite significant as Mercury is the planet of intellect, business, technology, and computing.

Saturn Stationing Retrograde

On the other hand, when we progress day by day, we don’t find Saturn retrograde until we get to March 1st, which is five days out, so Saturn stationed retrograde between four and five days after his birth.  Saturn was weak by retreating, and here we see Saturn a little bit more weakened by the fact that it was gradually stationing retrograde at the time of birth. Therefore, we expect the significations of Saturn to be in the background in his life rather than prominent.

Changing Your Perspective on Retrograde Planets

What about your chart?  Were any planets stationing at your birth?  If so, how do the indications of the stations compare with the indications from advancement?

One of the interesting things about this technique is that a planet that seems retrograde often is revealed to be stationing direct, as with Steve Jobs’s Mercury.  Unfortunately, little attention is paid to planetary stations near one’s birth in astrology today, even in traditional circles.  Additionally, too much stress is placed on retrogradation. In this way, it happens that prominent planets are often thought to be weak from retrogradation.  Get in the habit of checking the week before and the week after a chart, with every chart, and you won’t make this mistake.

Station Meanings

In terms of meaning, the retrograde station has significations of drifting out of reach, being involved in delays and so forth.  The direct station has significations of a pioneering and determined start, such as with forceful resolve.  A retrograde station is like someone coming to the party and saying, “oh wait, I’m sorry, I forgot something, and I need to go home to get it”. The direct station is like someone who had been tied up for some time and now can move forward with some established plans.

Appearances or Phasis

Just as famous celebrities and politicians make important appearances, so do the planets. Their appearances pertain to meetings with the Sun, the king of the chart.

The Sun from a Persian Manuscript 373 CE
The Sun on his throne from a Persian Manuscript 373 CE

Under the Beams

The Sun is like the king of the astrological chart, signifying powerful authority and leadership.  When a planet appears close to the Sun in the sky it becomes obscured by the light of the Sun.  In ancient astrology, the standard distance is typically 15 degrees from the Sun.  When a planet is within 15 degrees of the Sun it is “under the beams” or “combust”.  Planets under the beams can be weakened in the sense of being more hidden or covert.  You could think of this as akin to a person who is employed in some special government operation.  The agenda (Sun) outshines their own personal expression, forcing them to come under a more restricted code of conduct and more limited communication.


An exception to this rule of planets under the beams being “hidden” is when planets are within about 1 degree from the Sun, which is called “cazimi” or “in the heart of the Sun”.  This is like being able to rule in the king’s stead or taking on the authority of the throne.  A planet in such a position becomes much more prominent, but planets which are cazimi are rather rare. A particularly forceful cazimi would be an occultation of the Sun, such as the “Transit of Venus“. In the article on the 2012 Transit of Venus, I explored the history of the concept of cazimi.

In Phasis

Many astrologers are aware of combustion and cazimi, but another very important solar-related doctrine, that of “appearance”, has been forgotten.  A planet makes its appearance (or is “in phasis”) just when it comes out from the beams of the Sun. For some, phasis is also when a planet is about to go under the beams (disappearance).  These phenomena are also known as the heliacal risings and settings of the planets. Think of it like the planet having an important visit with the media either right before its going to have to encounter the authorities or immediately after it has.

A planet coming out of the beams (making appearance) is more prominent. There is more controversy regarding whether a planet going into the beams is. Such a planet may be regarded as more prototypically and forcefully under the beams. After all, it is is actually going under them around the time of birth. However, a planet in its own bound, domicile, or exaltation it was sometimes considered to be made more powerful under the beams. Therefore, this may sometimes be weakening and sometimes strengthening.

Ancient Mesopotamian Tablet of Venus Appearances
Ancient Mesopotamian tablet giving dates (columns 1,2) and positions (column 3) of consecutive reappearances of Venus as the evening star, for 24 years – Oriental Institute Museum, University of Chicago

Phasis and Profession

A planet making an appearance is called “in phasis”.  A consideration of phasis tends to be included in ancient techniques for finding professional significators.  It seems that its link with the Sun ties it to a sense of what someone becomes known for.

We, then, looking out for the topic of injury, entered into the type of action in this way: the givers, then, of actions are Mercury, Venus, and Mars; the effective houses are the ascendant, the midheaven, the IC, and the [houses] succedent to these, but also indeed the sixth houses, and the Lot of Fortune, and the application of the Moon, and the [star] making its morning appearance or its evening rising seven days before or seven days after.   (Rhetorius, Astrological Compendium, #82, Holden trans., 2009, p. 134)

Rising and Setting Relative to the Sun

The passage above is from Rhetorius. Paulus Alexandrinus (4th century CE) also discussed the phases of the stars and the terminology associated with phasis.  A planet in phasis which is coming out from the beams is called rising or arising, as it is in its heliacal rising (rising out from the beams).  A planet which is going into the beam is also called setting (occasionally called disappearance), as it is in its heliacal setting.  Be cognizant of these other uses of the terms “rising” and “setting”. There are times when rising and setting planets are discussed in the literature where an unknowing reader might assume it is relative to the horizon but it is actually relative to the beams of the Sun.

Variation in Terms of Heliacal Setting

Paulus Version

For some ancient astrologers, only the heliacal rising is viewed as strengthening for professional matters.  Paulus Alexandrinus of the 4th century CE advised to look at heliacal rising as a factor making a planet more significant for signifying the person’s actions (profession), but did not advise to look at heliacal setting in that sense.

Porphyry Version

However, Porphyry (3rd century CE) advised to look at both in the context of finding the lord of the nativity. This suggests that possibly in an earlier doctrine both phases marked out prominence. The Porphyry passage highlights how stations and phasis were both associated with prominence and thus relevant to finding the lord of the nativity.

And the first, the Lord of the ASC or the one that is posited on it in the domicile and the terms, either the one of the Moon, or the one of the MC, or the one of the [Lot of] Fortune, or the one 7 days before birth, or within 7 days making a phase of the rising or the setting or of a station.  (Porphyry, Ch. 30, Holden trans., 2009, p. 24)

In Practice

In practice, I’ve found consistently that both can confer prominence and both can be relevant for the professional significator.  For instance, in the example of Hitler given in this post, the planets in phasis are Venus then Mars, both setting into the beams, but both very significant for his professional development and aspirations in his life, first to be an artist, then to be an aggressive conqueror.  However, planets setting into the beams do seem to take on many of the significations associated with being under the beams, so it is something of a mixed bag. Valens associated a planet going under the beams with troubles, interruptions, and possible secret difficulties.

Under The Beams and its Modification

I personally associate being under the beams with the sense of something powerful causing things to go underground, into hiding, but not necessarily good or bad in a blanket sense.  For instance, do you feel that you can fully and entirely be yourself with your parents, grandparents, or boss? This seems to be analogous to the behavior of a planet under the beams.

Under the Beams but with Rulership

I think that this helps to explain why planets in a place where they held some authority or power (a house or bound they had some rulership over) were thought to be strengthened or made more benefic rather than weakened by being under the beams. Such planets are under the influence of the Sun but also have a type of independence as they are in their own place. It is like a person visited by a king but without a need to subjugate oneself to that king.

“The planets are in their own chariots when they are found in their own domicile or exaltation or terms; and they rejoice in these places even when they are found under the Sun beams, for the benefics increase their good and the malefics are changed into a good influence.” (Rhetorius, Ch. 43, Holden trans., 2009, p. 25)

Morning and Evening Stars

A related distinction to know is that between morning stars and evening stars.  Those rising (above the horizon) before the Sun are said to be to the “right” of the Sun, oriental the Sun, or morning stars. They are seen in the morning before the Sun rises.  Those rising (above the horizon) after the Sun are said to be to the “left” of the Sun, occidental the Sun, or evening stars. They are seen in the evening after the Sun has set.

Morning stars were thought to have quicker and more outgoing significations. For intance, they are viewed as bringing about their significations quickly when activated and pertaining to events earlier in life. They also indicate proactive rather than lazy people or things. Evening stars were thought to have slower and more progressive significations. They can signify things that are lazy or develop slowly as time goes by, such as things realized only later in life.

Star of Ishtar 12th century BCE
Star of Ishtar, representing Venus, 12th century BCE, from a kudurru of King Melishipak I of Mesopotami.

Checking for Appearances

We are interested in appearances within about a week from birth.  Therefore, our habit of checking one week before and one week after birth has a dual purpose; we check for stations and appearances.

When looking for appearances, we are concerned with the degree position of the Sun and that of the planets near the Sun.  Mercury and Venus always stay pretty close to the Sun, so they are in phasis most often.  The degrees of the planets are shown in the chart (as well as the minutes in smaller type).  Each sign has 30 degrees, so if the Sun is at exactly 25 degrees of one sign, and Mercury is at 10 degrees of the next sign, then Mercury is 15 degrees from the Sun (in phasis). We are not concerned with the Moon when it comes to phasis.  The combustion of the Moon is significant though, lending a sense of covertness to the Moon’s significations.

Find Phasis in Steve Jobs’ Chart

Natal Chart - Steve Jobs
Natal Chart – Steve Jobs

You’ll notice that Steve’s Sun is at 5 degrees of the sign numbered VII (Pisces). Besides the Moon, Mercury is the fastest planet and moves up to about 2 degrees per day.  Therefore, if a planet is more than about 30 degrees from the Sun it won’t be in phasis.

Mercury Presents a Possibility

Mercury is the only planet within about 30 degrees from the Sun. It is at 14 degrees of the prior sign, Aquarius.  The Sun and Mercury are a little bit over 21 degrees from each other.  Mercury is moving backward and is in a sign before, so they are moving away from each other. Given this, we know they won’t be within 15 degrees of each other at any point after birth.  The question is whether Mercury and the Sun were ever within 15 degrees the week before birth.  To answer this question, we’ll look at the chart from a week before birth.

A Week Before Birth
Steve Jobs - One Week Before Birth
Steve Jobs – One Week Before Birth

Look at the chart from a week before birth. We find the Sun at 28 Aquarius and Mercury at 17 Aquarius.  This is a distance of about 11 degrees, which is less than 15 degrees. Therefore, Mercury was under the beams within the prior week then made an appearance.

Now we need to find out when.  So starting with the 23rd, we move back one day in the birth data, pulling up charts until we get to the point that Mercury ends up being less than 15 degrees from the Sun.  Doing this you’ll find that it is on February 19th, 5 days before Steve’s birth, that Mercury is under the beams (i.e. within 15 degrees from the Sun).  Therefore, Mercury made its appearance four-to-five days prior to Steve’s birth.

General Prominence in Steve Jobs’ Chart

We have looked at all three of the general prominence factors in Steve Jobs’ chart.  While the Moon was strongly advancing, Mercury, mildly advancing, was strongly stationing direct and was in phasis.  Therefore, Mercury indicates very prominently concerning the life circumstances of Steve Jobs. Recall that it is particularly relevant to the profession due to both stationing and being in phasis.

General Prominence Chart Examples

I’m going to run through a number of examples very quickly. I’ll note the important information obtained from the three general prominence factors. The data for all examples are from  If you have any questions, please comment and I will do what I can to assist.

Adolf Hitler

Adolf Hitler's Natal Chart
Adolf Hitler’s Natal Chart (Ctrl-Click to enlarge)

Hitler has a very complicated chart.  Mercury, the Sun, and Saturn are the most prominent planets by advancement. Jupiter and the Moon are retreating.  Looking at stations, Saturn is even more prominent due to a direct station about 6 days before birth. Additionally, Jupiter is even more weakened by a retrograde station about 4 days after birth.

Mercury is somewhat weakened (or at least hidden/covert) due to being deeply under the beams and not in phasis. Mars and Venus are both between 15 and 16 degrees from the Sun. They are strongly in phasis, but going into the beams. Venus goes into the beams within 24 hours and Mars within 3 days.

Saturn is Most Prominent and Jupiter is Most Weakened

Hitler’s chart has many prominent planets but Saturn (lack, hardship, loss, darkness, discipline, and control) is most prominent.  The Sun, planet of leadership, authority, and influence is also very prominent.  Saturn and the Sun pertain very strongly to Hitler’s ability to rise to power and his dictatorial style.

Venus and Mars are prominent in their own ways as both are advancing and very strongly in phasis. Venus goes very quickly and deeply under the beams while Mars slowly descends into them.  These pertain to his career aspirations, from trying to be an artist (Venus) to trying to be a conqueror (Mars).  Mercury is very important in the life, but covert, which may indicate secretive activity of an intellectual nature.  Jupiter, the planet of opportunity, abundance, generosity, goodwill, friendship, kindness, and spirituality is very weak.

Kurt Cobain


Kurt Cobain's Natal Chart
Kurt Cobain’s Natal Chart (Ctrl-Click to enlarge)

In Kurt Cobain’s chart, Mercury is conjunct the Descendant. With Mercury, Venus and Saturn are also strongly advancing, while the Sun is retreating.  Therefore, we expect Mercury (voice, writing, intellect, cleverness, business), Venus (the arts, love, women, sensuality), and Saturn (hardship, darkness, loss, obligation) to all be quite prominent in the life.  We expect the Sun (leadership, authority, honors, power, confidence) to be backgrounded in the life, at least in a general sense.

Mercury is in phasis, though setting into the beams, within 2 days after birth, so very strongly.  However, Mercury also stations retrograde within 3 days after birth, which is strongly weakening.  Therefore, Mercury’s significations in the life are complex. It is very significant but with a potential for a reversal. It’s setting under the beams can signify covert action.

Alfred Witte

Alfred Witte's Natal Chart
Alfred Witte’s Natal Chart

Witte was an early 20th-century astrologer who pioneered a new system of astrology. His Uranian astrology is very different from other modern forms of astrology. It is based on symmetrical relationships of planets to each other. Witte ended up committing suicide after being targeted by the Nazis.

Jupiter Prominent with Mercury-Venus Prominent in Another Manner

Notice that Jupiter, the planet of wisdom, spirituality, abundance, generosity, and elevation is strongly advancing, conjunct the IC.  Mars, Mercury, and Venus are also advancing, while Saturn is retreating and under the beams.

There are no stations in his chart.  Saturn is barely in phasis, setting under the beams about 7 days before birth.  Mercury and Venus are very close to each other in the same degree. Both are about 15 degrees from the Sun, so they are strongly in phasis.  Venus is morning rising, rising out from the beams, while Mercury is morning setting, falling under the beams.  Therefore, it is Venus, Mercury, and Jupiter which are the most prominent planets in Witte’s life by these basic methods.

It is interesting that Mercury and Venus are so strongly joined to one another. Witte’s astrology, dependent upon symmetry, has a sense of mathematical harmony to it. It has a visual elegance which shows a fusion of the intellectualism of Mercury combined with the aesthetics of Venus.

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo's Natal Chart
Frida Kahlo’s Natal Chart

Kahlo was born with the Moon very strongly advancing toward the Midheaven.  Venus is the next most advancing planet, while Mercury was retreating.  Jupiter was under the beams.  Mars was retrograde but not stationing.  Saturn stationed retrograde within 4 days of birth. Mercury stationed retrograde within 5 days of birth.

The Moon Above All

Overall, we would judge Mercury to be weakened and placed in the background, both from retreating and the retrograde station.  We’d also judge Saturn to be somewhat weakened.

The Moon, the power of irrationality, subjectivity, nurture, ubiquity, mothers, instincts, the wild, and vivid depth, is extremely prominent. Venus is also quite prominent. She is advancing toward the Midheaven (and rules the Midheaven; rulership will be addressed in a future post).

Where Do We Go From Here

It’s my hope that you’ve found in this post some new and valuable techniques for evaluating planetary prominence.  If you are a beginner and are having any trouble with this material please comment below.

In future lessons, we will start to explore the signs, houses, and configurations. These form the core elements of the Hellenistic system of astrology.  However, it is good to get in the habit of initially checking the indications of general prominence.  They will tell you which planets are loudest and have something important to say about the life as a whole.

Solid Footing

Unfortunately, it is much easier to identify which sign a planet is in than to check for stations and appearances.  However, we are looking at something much more concrete when examining advancement, stations, and appearances.

Most considerations in ancient astrology are based on abstract mathematical divisions of the ecliptic into signs.  Here we have dealt with more basic observations of wandering stars rising, culminating, setting, changing direction, appearing and disappearing.  These things have been observed for thousands of years, including in astrological systems which predate Hellenistic astrology.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice with these three basic techniques on your own chart and as many charts as you can (visit Astro-Databank).  Feel free to expand upon them with the other distinctions we discussed (combustion, cazimi, morning vs. evening stars).  Discuss your findings in the comments.

Critical thinking is very important.  For instance, why is it the case that Kahlo’s Venus was under the beams rather than in phasis?  Ancient astrology is very vast and we are still only dealing with general prominence.  Prominence relative to the self and specific topics such as profession bring in additional considerations and concepts.  The complexity and vastness of ancient astrology is a good thing because human life is even more complex and vast.

The Map is not the Territory

Of course, no astrological system can ever predict the full complexity of any human experience. No communication can ever fully convey an experience. The map is not the territory. Nevertheless, by learning more and honing our skills in ancient astrology we may defy what is generally considered possible. We observe that the sky speaks volumes about the past, present, and future. The language of the heavens, arranged by some intelligence beyond our own, highlights our humble place in a brilliantly intelligent universe.


Ma’shar, A., & Al-Qabisi. (2010). Introductions to Traditional Astrology. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.
Porphyry, & Serapio. (2009). Porphyry the Philosopher. (J. H. Holden, Trans.). Tempe, AZ: American Federation of Astrologers.
Rhetorius of Egypt, & Teucer of Babylon. (2009). Rhetorius the Egyptian. (J. H. Holden, Trans.). Tempe, AZ: American Federation of Astrologers.
Image Attributions
Featured image of four elements from Isidore of Seville’s De natura rerum is in the public domain. 
Sibly’s chart of Jesus Christ image is in the public domain.
Illustration of the Sun and the Moon with a lion by Jaroš Griemiller (Prague 1578) is in the public domain. 
The Sun on his throne image from a Persian manuscript 373 CE – See page for author [CC BY 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Tablet of Venus evening appearances image is in the public domain. 
Star of Ishtar image is in the public domain.


Blogger interested in all things astrological, especially Hellenistic, medieval, Uranian, and asteroid astrology.

35 thoughts on “Twelve Easy Lessons for Beginners | 3. Planetary Prominence

  • October 10, 2020 at 4:19 pm

    Thank you very much for your free lessons, I have been reading all of them, since I am a real beginner…
    There is something couldn’t understand… How can both Venus and Mars be going under the beams of the Sun in Hitler’s chart. I understood we are watching secondary movement… Venus is retrograde, then the planet would be really going under the beams, but Mars seems to be moving further away from the Sun, that is in 0º Taurus. In 3 days, April, 23rd, according to Astrodienst’s ephemeris at 0:00 UT, Mars was in 18º Taurus. And Venus, 15º38′ Taurus, as it was retrograde…
    Another question, if a planet is right 15º from the Sun, how can I discern if it’s under the beams or making it’s appearance? Is there a gray area, or would I have to check de difference in minutes? Let’s suppose it’s exactly 15º00′, is it under the beams or making it’s appearance?
    Thanks again!

    • October 20, 2020 at 11:48 am

      Hi Paula,

      I’m sorry I missed your comment because it got kicked to spam by my more over-zealous automatic spam filter.

      Mar and Venus are both going into the beams because they are in later degrees of Taurus and Mars is slower than the Sun (the Sun is catching up to Mars) while Venus is retrograde (she is usually faster than the Sun but here she has backwards apparent motion, so the Sun is overtaking her). Mars will be at 18 Taurus in 3 days but the Sun will be at 3-4 Taurus in 3 days – so the Sun is getting closer (from 16 degrees away in the chart to 14-15 degrees away in 3 days).

      Appearance is technically coming out from the beams. So a planet makes its appearance when it reaches that 15 degrees point and then after that is just over 15 degrees rather than less. Basically, think of it as the light of the Sun obscuring the naked eye view of the planet until it is at least 15 degrees away.

      Once it crosses that threshold then it is “appearing”. This is also called “making its rising phase”. Basically, it is like the planet is rising out of the beams of the Sun. When it is going into the beams it is disappearing, which is more commonly called the planet making its “setting phase”, which is when it is going into the beams. I use the term “in phasis” for a planet either in the appearing or the disappearing phase.

      As I noted, some astrologers (Porphyry for instance – see quote in article) thought it made the planet more significant when it was in rising or in setting (or stationing) within 7 days of birth.

      So to summarize the possible situations for under the beams and phasis:
      1. Planet under the beams in the chart and not in phasis: The planet is less than 15 degrees from the Sun in the birth chart and does not exceed that within 7 days of birth (before or after). This often carries (typically quite mild) symbolism of being obscured, hidden, overlooked, diminished, weakened, servile, or
      2. Planet under the beams in the chart and in phasis of appearance: The planet is less than 15 degrees from the Sun at birth but exceeds that amount within 7 days after birth. Carries symbolism of boldly emerging out of obscurity, making a statement, individuating, and drawing attention.
      3. Planet not under the beams in the chart but in phasis of appearance: The planet is more than 15 degrees from the Sun at birth, but was less than 15 degrees within 7 days prior to birth. Similar to #2 above but with a sense of some significant related events possibly happening prior to birth.
      4. Planet not under the beams in the chart but in phasis of disappearance: The planet is more than 15 degrees from the Sun at birth, but becomes within 15 degrees within 7 days after birth (as we saw with Venus and Mars in Hitler’s chart). The symbolism is that of becoming more significant and prominent while also becoming more covert, hidden, or in service to power (Sun).
      5. Planet under the beams in the chart and in phasis of disappearance: The planet is less than 15 degrees from the Sun at birth, but was more than 15 degrees within 7 days prior to birth. Like number 4 above but with a sense of some significant related events possibly happening prior to birth.

      Basically, all but number 1 above are planets “in phasis” and so are planets with some increased prominence. The prominence of this type was considered particularly important for career and work pursuits. The closer to birth that phasis occurs, the stronger the symbolism. Going out from the beams is also generally more favorable, but you may not need that much of a fine-grained view.

      Number 1 is just a planet under the beams which is a very mild weakening condition, and not all that significant, especially for Mercury and Venus as they spend an exorbitant amount of time under the beams (i.e. the signification is weak because it is too normal, run of the mill). A more fine-grained view is that a planet within 8 degrees of the Sun is combust, which is more weakening, but that if its within a degree of the Sun at birth then it is cazimi (on the throne) which is very powerful and strengthening.

      I’d also like to add that the stars (fixed stars) make phases relative to the Sun too. You can find out more about that in my articles on zodiac history, such as the one on The Origin of the Zodiac.

      I’m long-winded. Hopefully, that’s helpful.

      Best wishes,


  • February 5, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    7 days ago or within 7 days if there is an cazimi, is there effect
    best wishes ruhiye

    • February 5, 2019 at 2:37 pm

      Within 7 days for phasis, not cazimi. Cazimi should be in the chart, conjunct the Sun at the time of birth.

  • January 6, 2019 at 9:59 am

    Good morning Anthony!
    Amazing informations!

    Could you clarify something for me? How strictly would you consider the 15 degrees rule and the 7 days after/before the week?

    I’m on a chart now where Mars is in Aries and the Sun in Pisces. 7 days before birth, Mars was at 14 06 degrees from the Sun. Could I consider it was setting under the beams, as it’s only 1 degree from it and Mars is “strong” in this case?

    And on the same chart, Mercury is 16 14 degrees from the Sun 7 days before, and 15 36 degrees 8 days before, almost under the 15 degrees from cumbustion. Should I consider this irrelevant or could I state that it indeed indicates some proeminence?

    Thank you!

    • January 7, 2019 at 6:52 am

      Hi Arthur,

      It is a continuum but I would adhere pretty closely to the 7 day rule. The reason being is that after 5-7 days it is already becoming less significant, so once you go beyond 7 it’s typically not worth considering.

      I would consider Mars in the first example as just being under the beams. Though since it is Mars and in his own domicile, I wouldn’t even really pay attention to it.

      Being under the beams of the Sun was considered by many astrologers to be mildly weakening, but there were many exceptions. Additionally, being under the beams was not one of the forms of “Affliction” noted by Antiochus of Athens, despite the fact that many astrologers today treat it as an affliction. For Antiochus, having a right side aspect (even trine or sextile) from a malefic would associate an indication with difficulty (not used today), but a planet being under the beams is not mentioned in that context.

      It seems that what being under the beams does is to surrender the power of the planet to the Sun, so the planet is less prominent itself except in certain circumstances. Many astrologers did not feel that it applied to Mars. Also, one exception was a planet in a place of its own dignity, especially if it was in its bounds and also had house, exaltation, or triplicity (Porphyry, probably quoting Antiochus called this being in one’s chariot). A planet within a degree of the Sun was often considered more powerful, being cazimi (like given counsel with the king). Additionally, if the Sun were in the 1st or 10th house then a planet under the beams (especially if within 7 degrees) and rising before the Sun, it was considered a spear-bearer for the Sun and this was supposed to show eminence for the individual who had this in their chart. See, for instance, Mercury in Jimi Hendrix’s chart.

      Best wishes,


      • January 7, 2019 at 4:59 pm

        Understood! Thank you!

        • January 7, 2019 at 5:44 pm

          I was reading Pseudo-Manetho’s text today (typically dated to 2nd or 3rd century CE) and it includes this passage on Mars under the beams:
          “It is a good thing for all (the planets) to flee from the Sun, but not Mars; for Mars is overcome when under the rays of the Sun. Mars is afraid when seeing the light of the Sun, and it no longer possesses its former maleficence.” (Book I, #95, Lopilato trans., 1998, p. 190) That quote sums up the Mars exception that comes up now and again for some Hellenistic astrologers so I thought I’d share it with you.

          Best wishes,


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  • September 7, 2018 at 1:52 pm

    Is cazimi realy strong or combust …….there some astrologers consider cazimi combust??

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  • February 7, 2018 at 4:29 pm

    I recently heard Chris Brennan in a webinar say that phasis should only be used when a planet is emerging from the sun’s beams. When disappearing into the beams, it’s becoming weaker. What say you? Are the ancient texts clear on this?

    • February 7, 2018 at 5:06 pm

      I quote some sources in the article. One can define “phasis” however one wishes, but in Rhetorius and Abu Ma’shar, as discussed, they mention both the coming out of the beams (heliacal rising) and going into the beams (heliacal setting) as being conditions which mark out a planet as more prominent. They are late sources though. What are the sources given for only considering heliacal rising?

      • February 7, 2018 at 5:39 pm

        The source for Chris appears to be Paulus Alexandrinus, as he said to consider the morning appearance of Mars, Jupiter, or Saturn, or the evening appearance of Mercury or Venus, within 7 days of the birth as one indication for the significant planet of actions/profession. I’ll edit the article to also point this out at some later point, though in Rhetorius and Abu Ma’shar we do see both conditions used as indicating a prominent planet in the actions technique, so you’ll have to fiddle with it given these considerations and see what works best.

    • February 7, 2018 at 6:05 pm

      I should add that as far as I know, all of the discussion of phasis that we have is in the context of finding the professional indicator, much like the early stuff we have on advancing/retreating is always in the context of health and longevity. As I mention in the article, I think there are charts where you could argue that the professional indicator is the planet setting into the beams (such as Mars in Hitler’s chart). In such as case, maybe there is the prominence but some kind of reversal or inherent perversity (sort of like a retrograde station vs. a direct station). I don’t know. More research is needed.

      • February 8, 2018 at 11:25 am

        ps–Why have you stopped posting new articles on this site? It’s one of the *best* astrology sites I’ve ever seen! 🙂

        • February 8, 2018 at 11:33 am

          Thanks! I had good reasons though. I got married, moved, had my third child, etc. There are other things to life than blogging about astrology! I was also going through two Saturn profection years. I have Saturn in my 9th house and just don’t have tolerance for this shit during my Saturn-ruled profections 🙂 Thankfully, I have Jupiter in the 9th too, so maybe that’s why I’m getting back to it. I’m going to try to spruce this place up and then post some new articles.

          • February 10, 2018 at 10:59 am

            Ok – thanks – good to hear that.
            best wishes.

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  • August 2, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Early this mornig there was a beautiful bright star on the sky. Venus.
    Well, this Venus was in sect and oriental the Sun but she was retreating in twelfth place.
    Few hours later Venus was in tenth place, so advancing but out of sect.
    She is not in phasis.
    What do you think which Venus is stronger (talking about prominence), former or latter?


    • August 2, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      Hi Trojan,

      I definitely think the latter is stronger. In the first case I would consider her to have no major strength considerations and some weakening ones. In the second case I would consider her to have a couple major strength considerations. I don’t consider being in sect to be a major strength consideration, but rather to be more related to beneficence.

      In the first example, in terms of strength it sounds like Venus is both retreating and in a cadent place, so Venus would be quite weakened (I’m assuming you are using whole sign houses, so Venus is in the actual 12th sign, and only about 1/3 or less of the way to the MC). Being naturally a benefic and being in sect, I would assume that Venus would tend to be doing more “good” stuff in the house of social and mental/spiritual affliction than “bad”, but different factors and types of activation come into play, and Venus being connected to a malefic place can bring out some problems.

      In the second example, in terms of strength it sounds like Venus is both strongly advancing and in the 10th place, so would be very strengthened, signifying in a broad way, bringing much in the way of activity and circumstances that fall under the dominion of Venus. Being in the 10th, a “stake” of the chart (one of the topics of the next lesson), makes her play a big role in very important areas of life, especially from the 10th where she “dominates” the Ascendant. She is out of sect so she would be as heavily invested in the well-being of the native in her effects (not as “loyal”).

      Best wishes,


  • July 31, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Although Hitler’s Mercury was combust and overpowered by the Sun(and at the same time very prominent generally because strongly advancing in the 7th!) he was known for his ability to talk tirelessly for hours,(almost) literally hypnotizing not only hundreds of thousands of his followers, but also individuals who would come to an official visit(like Mussolini,etc.)

    • July 31, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      Yes, great point. It’s both voluminous (conjunct an angle) and covert (deeply combust setting into the Sun). It’s a fast Mercury too, moving at a speed greater than 2 degrees per day and oriental the Sun. Cardinal signs (such as Aries) are also associated with speed, and Mercury in a cardinal sign was particularly associated with proficiency in oration. His Mercury is also in a sign and bound of malefics, last connecting with Saturn and in the twelfth-part ruled by Saturn. Mercury rules over two empty houses, the 12th house of the Bad Spirit, which pertains to social and mental afflictions, and the 9th house of God, which pertains to religion, travel, science, dogma/doctrine, and foreign influences (more science and foreign/travel things under Mercury and an air sign, and less spirituality due to the very rational nature of Mercury). We’re definitely arriving at a more complex and nuanced view of Mercury’s main significations in Hitler’s chart than to say Mercury’s significations are destroyed due to combustion making Mercury weak.




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