A discussion in an astronomy class asked the question, “Can astrology predict your future?”; the reflection framed a textbook journey through the solar system and revealed how much the planets are like zodiac houses they rule.

The Sun. Image credit: NASA

I’ve recently gone back to school; one of my required classes was an introduction to astronomy. The discussion prompt for the first week of class asked, “Can astrology predict your future?” I took the opportunity to put my positive, direct experience of astrology on the back burner. I stayed open to the perspectives shared in class; there was a general sense that no, astrology doesn’t predict the future, and that astrology is less more like a parlor trick that sometimes works. I realized, too, that our body of astronomy is built upon theories that didn’t always work. Science has sometimes been the parlor trick. I learned how ancients tracked the motions of wandering stars (which is what the word “planets” means in ancient Greek) through astute observation. Later, mathematics taught us about the orbit and locations of planets’ movements in space.

I wondered, If we knew where a body would be, would we know what part of our mind to work with? The mind is where I directly apply astrological insight, since it’s the mind filter that creates our reality in the material world. I learned that the planets have characteristics much like the houses they are associated with, parts that have placements in a whole or totality of the stages of psychological growth.

Here’s what that looked like.

First, the Sun. Sometimes it is called a king. Like Leo, its associated house, the Sun is showy and boisterous. Leo governs the individual impulse, the impulse to individuate, and the Sun activates the impulse to life.

Next, Mercury. Our current science says the planet is shrinking—the planet is tectonically active. This is different from previously established knowledge that said it was a dead world. I think of the trickster, and Gemini, the house Mercury rules; it’s the same either-or, can’t-quite-pin-down literal shape-shifter. Mercury also rules Virgo, where we act on ritual and body wisdom. We are the ones who best know our embodied experience, right?

Next is the planet with a runaway greenhouse affect—Venus. Venus is associated with love and beauty; the colors of the atmosphere are visually stunning; it is a hostile planet, hot and uninhabitable. I can’t think of something that creates more heat than love in its amorous incarnation. Gracious and social Libra, whom Venus rules, can also be sharp and salty; and beauty is desired by Taurus, whom Venus also rules.

The Earth’s Moon, whom Cancer rules, is in our orbit and in our service as a guide to weather, agricultural, and tidal rhythms. Our planet rotates in a synchronous manner with the Moon, and that means we never get to see one side of our nearest neighbor. Cancer, whose soft underbelly of emotional resonance, hides; keeps inside. And yet, the house gives us the mothering impulse.

Earth and the Moon. Image credit: NASA

And then there’s Mars, the planet of war and ruler of Scorpio and Aries. Mar is red. Its mere existence has occupied a place in the collective fantasy: colonization, life, exploration. Aggressive, hot, fiery new beginnings—do you see a parallel to spiritual battles, ones in which we seek to gain power over ourselves? Isn’t choosing mindfulness sometimes a fight? We battle to be present. Overcoming strong ego structures involves strong first steps. And sometimes we have to fake our strength just to get the fight going. Scorpio is the actor/ess in us.

The first outer planet, Jupiter, rules Sagittarius. Jupiter is the largest planet in the solar system, and its through Sanitariums that we can know the part of our mind that seeks expansion. Jupiter has a physical effect that is similar to its appearance.

Next, Saturn, governs Capricorn. Saturn is often called the task maker. I learned that Saturn’s rings, which are visible from Earth, are made of billions of ice particles—and if we were to stand on them we would see they are only a few meters thick. The tiny particles in rings are visible from Earth! Wow. What an analogy for all the little things we do adding up in the bigger picture!

Uranus is actually quite an Aquarian planet; it is the shocker, revolutionary, up-rooter. We know that Uranus rotates on its side (in comparison to other planets)—it’s an exception to the rules that have been ascribed from the other planets.

There’s Neptune, which is nebulous, strikingly blue, and makes me think about the imagination and dreams and dreaminess. I thought, “Pisces much?” (Neptune rules Pisces.)

Last, there’s Pluto, positioned at the far end of our solar system.

Pluto. Image credit: NASA

Pluto, especially in evolutionary astrology, takes an important role for our being, our impulse to incarnate and live and have lives through which we heal. The farthest planet is our impulse to life; it is far away from the Sun that activates our lives. I learned that Neptune and Pluto cross orbits; there are years when Neptune is farther than the sun than Pluto. I saw a strong connection—a metaphor—for the ways our own subconscious and our creative impulse find fulfillment and expression through a back and forth relay with each other.

I was surprised to see so much astronomy reflected in astrology, especially considering that the ancients created these associations without having seen the planets first hand. Modern folks know the solar system through data, which include complex images created by measuring and layering and synthesizing information. They knew where to look, point a telescope, position a camera, and find parts of the solar system. They knew where celestial bodies would be in space by knowing orbital patterns. That’s scientific insight. Astrological insight acts the same way, in as much as our relationships with our minds and our minds filtered through houses can “predict” how we will perceive/be acted upon by events as they happen.

Can astrology predict the future? Astronomy is much better at that. Astrology tells us how to grow with it.