A Feminine Sun? Gender and the Planets

In the current system of Western Astrology, the planets are assigned gender. The Moon and Venus are feminine, Mercury is both masculine and feminine, and the Sun and the rest of the planets are masculine. As with the case of the gender assignment of the elements, the gender assignment of the planets has a long pedigree, and is rarely, if ever, questioned.

Where did these gender assignments come from?

AmaterasuWhile many historical cultures assigned gods and goddesses to the planets, the gender of the planetary deities is far from uniform. The Norse Sun deity, Sunna or Sol, was feminine, as is the Sun deity in Japan, Amaterasu. In the German language, it is still common to refer to the deities as Frau Sunne and Herr Mond. In the Vedic tradition, all of the planetary deities are masculine.

The gender of the planets in the Modern Western system has been passed down to us in the seminal ancient astrological textbook, the Tetrobiblios and seems to be derived from the gender of the corresponding god or goddess in the Greco-Roman pantheon.

A Problematic System

I think that this planetary gender assignment is problematic in terms of its influence on popular culture with respect to ideas and beliefs about femininity, and about masculinity, for that matter. I do not think it adds much, if anything, to astrology on a practical level.

One of the first things that one notices is that the planetary gender assignments are not even. There are 4 masculine planets, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, with only 2 feminine planets, the Moon and Venus.  Furthermore, the dominant luminary is assigned to the masculine gender and the subordinate luminary to the feminine gender. This is clearly a system heavily influenced by patriarchy, which is understandable, as Greco-Roman culture was highly patriarchal.

I think that there is an even deeper problem, however, in that it codifies very rigid gender roles that are present to this very day. Not even ardent feminists question the gender assignment of the luminaries. Instead, many of them seem to try to elevate the Moon over the Sun, which is a much greater upset to astrology and metaphysics.

The truth of the matter is that all people, regardless of gender, have all of the seven traditional planets in their chart and in their psyche. There is no way to tell a person’s gender from her Nativity Chart. An astrologer may argue that the planetary gender is mere symbolism and that the symbolism does not apply to actual human gender. Perhaps that may be the perception of an experienced astrologer, but the symbolism most certainly influences lay perception of human gender, and I sincerely doubt that even experienced astrologers are immune.

20180518_173853The current system limits the feminine to the Moon and Venus. Even though Mercury is both masculine and feminine, popular imagery almost always uses a masculine form for Mercury. By the same token, this separates the Lunar and the Venusian from the masculine. One may say that everyone has both masculine and feminine parts, and this is sometimes taken as a truism in modern psychology. I do not believe this to be the case, however, and if there is any truth to it, I do not think it applies to the planets in our charts.

In all of the years that I have practiced astrology and studied my own Nativity Chart, I have never seen any of the planets in my chart as masculine, not even my Mars in Aries. When I personify my Arian Mars, I think of her as Helga the Viking. I do not think that when I am interpreting the chart of a man that his Moon or Venus represent his supposed feminine parts. I think that a man will express his Moon and Venus in a masculine manner, just as I express my Mars in Aries in a feminine manner.

A Proposed Solution

I am a Traditionalist, and for the most part, I believe that traditions, particularly long established ones, should be preserved. On the other hand, I do believe that it is sometimes necessary to adapt traditions to the Modern Age, and that it is often advisable to adapt traditions that are clearly rooted in patriarchy.

As a Filianist, I use feminine language and imagery for God or Dea, and I also use feminine language and imagery for the Janyati, the great angels or Divine Sources behind the Planetary Principles. This is because Filianists do not see the Janyati as separate from Dea, but as the seven main aspects of Her. I would imagine that this is the reason that the planetary deities in the Vedic tradition are all masculine. In the same way, the Judeo-Christian traditions assign each of the planets a masculine Archangel.

I think that planetary powers are actually beyond human gender, the luminaries in particular. I think that the physical planets are as well. One of the difficulties is that English has no neuter pronoun for humans or for Divine powers, so without gender, it is hard not to see the planets as remote or mechanical. For this reason, I think it makes sense to use all feminine language and imagery or all masculine language and imagery. This emphasizes the full range of planetary expression to both genders.

There are times in which it becomes necessary to differentiate genders in a chart, particularly in horary (question) charts. In those cases, I believe that it is appropriate to use Mars for the male gender and Venus for the female one. I do not agree with this use for the Sun and the Moon. I think that the Solar and Lunar Principles are too high to use for human gender. I do agree with the use of the Moon for the mother when it is appropriate. I think that the mother role, which may sometimes be performed by a man, is a reflection of a High Divine Archetype, and thus may be represented by a luminary. I think that the father role of guide and disciplinarian, which may be performed by a woman, is adequately represented by Saturn.

While I see the Divine Principles behind the planets as feminine, when working with Nativity Charts, I tend to view all of the planets as the gender of the native, unless I am looking specifically at a issue that relates to gender. I really think that this makes the most sense overall. It allows me to personify the planets and give them life, while at the same time it avoids creating confusing or limiting perceptions about gender on an internal or external level.

The Divine Feminine

I define myself professionally as an astrologer, using Classical Western methods, grounded in the Divine Feminine. What does this mean? Or more precisely, what do I mean when I say the Divine Feminine?

I think that the term “the Divine Feminine” is used by many people, and I am not sure that they all are talking about the same thing. My religious affiliation is Orthodox Filianism. I am an astrologer and not a thealogian, so I cannot say for certain that my thoughts are perfectly in line with the teachings of Orthodox Filianism as set forth in the Mother God Chapel and the Gospel of Our Mother God, but I do use them as my primary guides in these matters.

So, what is the Divine Feminine? Well, to me, the Divine Feminine is simply the Divine worshipped using feminine language and imagery. There is a Filianist Creed that sets forth these beliefs more fully, but really all we are doing is practicing a monotheistic faith using feminine rather than masculine or neuter terminology.

But, what about the Divine Masculine? This is always one of the first questions people ask, and from what I have read on the blogs of independent Filianists, this seems to be a source of division and contention between them. I have to say, however, that I think that this question misses the point to a large extent.

My Path to the Divine Feminine

Edgar Cayce
Edgar Cayce

I had a long and winding spiritual journey to Orthodox Filianism. My mother considered herself spiritual and not religious, and she was heavily influenced by the teachings of Edgar Cayce. While Edgar Cayce’s readings and teachings have been taken up by many New Age style movements, Edgar Cayce himself was a fundamentalist Christian. In his readings, his language for God was exclusively masculine, and I do not remember ever hearing any question about the absence of the Divine Feminine.

Around the age of 12, I became interested in Roman Catholicism, and with my mother’s permission, I attended CCD and was baptized and confirmed in the Roman Catholic faith. While Roman Catholicism uses copious imagery for Mary, and I have observed that some Catholics, particularly women of advanced years, seem to primarily venerate Mary, with Jesus as an afterthought, Mary is not officially recognized as Divine in the Roman Catholic faith. The Divine seems to be viewed as exclusively Masculine in this tradition, at least from a lay perspective.

Later, as a young adult, I joined the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches, UFMCC, or simply MCC. This was a Christain Protestant demomination founded in the gay and lesbian community. I spent many years in MCC, and my spouse was ordained and was a Pastor in this denomination for a time. MCC believed in “inclusive language” for God. On my first visit to MCC, one of the hymns during Service was called When Israel Camped in Sinai. The third verse to this hymn used feminine language for God and the fourth verse began, “Our God is not a woman; Our God is not a man; Our God is both and neither; Our God is I who Am.” This hymn, more than anything, is what attracted me to MCC.

A gift given to my spouse and I at our MCC Holy Union by the Pastor who officiated our ceremony and her spouse

In theory, I still do believe that this line in that hymn is as close to the Truth as we will be able to get using human language. In practice, however, I found “inclusive language” difficult. Inclusive language meant that in official worship, God must be referred to in gender neutral terms or using alternate masculine and feminine language. The actual observance of this official policy ranged from those who ignored it entirely and continued to use exclusively masculine language for God to those who I termed the “inclusive language police,” who rigidly adhered to the practice, and loudly insisted everyone else did too. The policy was never breached in favor of exclusively feminine language, at least not in my limited experience, and people often had far more trouble with alternating masculine and feminine language than using neuter language.

As a budding astrologer, I found MCC repressive. At the time, it was rather conservative theologically, and there were those who saw astrology as a form of paganism or idolatry. When my spouse became a Pastor, and I became a Pastor’s wife, I believed it was my duty to keep quiet about my astrological interests so as not to undermine the faith of people in our congregation. For a time, I even gave up astrology and focused on my career as a budding lawyer. That was a difficult time for me, and it led to a great deal of resentment towards my spouse.

Later, my spouse resigned her position as Pastor and we both became Quakers. I was not entirely comfortable in the Meeting we attended, but I was far more comfortable there than in MCC. I felt more acceptance of my practice of astrology there, but there was no active support. I had considered spiritual movements such as Wicca, but I could never warm to any of them. At the time, I said I was too pagan to be Christian and too Christian to be pagan.

Orthodox Filianism

Within months of my officially joining a Quaker Meeting, by a strange twist of events, I learned about Orthodox Filianism. I first began exploring, wondering if this was something I could believe in. When I purchased and read the Gospel of Our Mother God, I found that not only could I believe in these teachings, these teachings spoke to what I have always believed. After years of wrestling with the Judeo-Christian written tradition, the Gospel of Our Mother God was a breath of fresh air. I agreed with and felt inspired by every word!

For about a year, I tried to reconcile my beliefs as a Filianist with Quaker practices, but it eventually proved to be too difficult, and I resigned my membership within the Quaker Meeting. My spouse is still a Quaker and still active in that Meeting.

My current home shrine

While I do believe that the Divine is beyond human gender, which is completely in line with Filianist teachings as I understand them, using feminine imagery for God, or Dea, has completely changed my relationship with Her. I no longer struggle with a harsh and judgmental Father, and I no longer feel disconnected by an abstract God with no gender. I feel a deep connection with a supportive and loving Mother who desires to nurture me and give me good things. I do not miss masculine imagery for God, and I find myself annoyed with those who criticize my faith because it does not include such imagery. I have no quarrel with those who use masculine or neuter imagery for God, but I observe there are no shortage of places to do so in the Modern West.

Orthodox Filianism has been accused of denying the Divine Masculine and the existence masculinity in general, but I honestly do not see the basis for that accusation. Nowhere in all of the copious resources and recommendations provided on the Chapel site is that ever said. To the contrary, the Chapel explicitly expresses respect for traditions that worship God in masculine form, even while asserting the legitimacy of the worship of Dea in feminine form. The Chapel purposely takes no position on the relationship between men and women, but the Chapel does not take a position on many things, including most matters in the material realm. In my experience, the writers of the Chapel are extremely cautious with respect to taking positions in general and only do so when absolutely necessary. I have read the struggles of independent Filianists in addressing relationships between men and women, and there are some who seem to say that women are superior to men. The Chapel does not say that at all.

Filianism and Astrology

As an astrologer, one of the most important benefits to becoming a Filianist was spiritual support and grounding for my astrological practice. The descriptions of the Janyati and devotion in accordance with the Wheel of the Year added depth and richness to my practice that I do not believe I could have found anywhere else. The book, The Feminine Universe, which explains the teachings of traditionalist philosophers such as Renê Guenon and Ananda Coomaraswamy in an accessible and feminine centered way, gave me language for what I had long believed in my heart with respect to how and why astrology “worked,” and it was the catalyst for my developing theories about the Outer Planets. Long discussions with fellow worshipers and mentors helped me in my work of reframing astrology as a Traditional Science, which guides and informs my continuing research and studies.

Does this mean that my practice is limited to Filianists or to women? I sure hope not! That is not the intention of my openness about my spiritual beliefs.

Many astrologers are vague about their spirituality, and often religious discussion is prohibited on astrological forums. My own sense, however, is that an astrologer’s spiritual beliefs and religious practices, or the lack thereof, are crucial. They inform everything we do, from our understanding of the crucial issue of fate vs. free will to our philosophy of practice to what we think we are doing when we are studying astrological charts.

For me, the grounding of my practice in the Divine Feminine within the context of Orthodox Filianism means that I see the Cosmos as an orderly place, with a loving Divine Mother who cares deeply about our well being. I believe that while our material circumstances in this life may be limited by our werde, or karma, which can be seen in our Nativity Charts, on a spiritual level, we have absolute Free Will with respect to our choices between Light and Dark. I believe the movements of the planets and the stars are gifts given to us by Our Mother. These gifts provide us guidance so that we can move within the Harmony and Music of the Spheres, and that this Harmony is the closest that we can come to the Divine while we are bound in the material world of flux and change.

This is what I mean when I say that my practice is grounded in the Divine Feminine.

The Primordial Cinderella

Cinderella stories are ubiquitous throughout history and throughout the world. Even in today’s day and age, one can find Cinderella stories in many different forms and in popular media everywhere.

An interesting example is found in Episode 39 in Smile Precure, one of my favorite anime series of all time.  In this episode, the protagonist, Miyuki-chan (Cure Happy) finds herself in the book which contains the Primordial Cinderella.  This is the Cinderella story from which all Cinderella stories are derived.

Primordial CinderellaCure Happy (and the other girls) had to preserve the essential elements of the story: the wicked stepmother and stepsisters, the ball, dancing with the Prince, leaving at midnight, the glass slipper, and the glass slipper fitting the foot of Cinderella.  Other details of the story were changed due to interference by the Bad Enders and other mishaps.  The fact that the non-essential details of the story were changed did not cause any difficulties so long as the essential elements were preserved.

As a Traditionalist and Essentialist, I would say that the Smile Precure episode is entirely correct in describing the existence of a primordial Cinderella, and like the primordial version of all fairy tales, the primordial Cinderella comes from beyond this world, as fairy tales are stories that teach us Universal Truth.

So what is the primordial Cinderella?  In a story such as Cinderella, with so many different versions throughout history and throughout the world, one can look to the common threads in the story to uncover clues as to the primordial Cinderella and to determine its true meaning.

Common Threads

Cinderella is a very old story.  There is a Persian version of the story, called Mah Pishani, or Moon Brow, that may go back as far as 7,000 years.

In the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Classification of Folk Tales, Cinderella stories are known as Persecuted Heroine stories, and they are given a classification number of 510A. Despite the Smile Precure version, the common threads to the various Cinderella stories are not, in actuality, the ball, the glass slipper, or even the prince, although many versions do have parallels to these story elements, including the Ancient Persian version, Mah Pishani.

In these stories, the heroine is usually a young girl who was born to kind and loving parents, and the mother dies. In some stories, including Mah-Pishani, the girl is complicit in the death of her mother, following the manipulation and advice of a false mother figure, who later marries the father.


In these stories, the father almost always marries the false mother. The false mother sometimes comes with her own daughters, and sometimes she and the father have a new daughter or daughters. In all cases, the false mother is cruel and vicious to the heroine and gives her hard and tedious tasks that are difficult or impossible to perform. The daughter or daughters of the false mother join in her cruelty and ridicule and mock the heroine. The father either dies or becomes so enamored by the false mother that he forgets about the heroine.

The heroine receives help from a magical source. In the modern Western renditions, the Baba Yagahelp comes in the form of a fairy godmother. Some other varieties of helpers are an aunt, a doll, a date tree, and in Mah Pishani, a cow that appears when her mother dies. These helpers provide advice and assistance to the heroine, often helping her complete the impossible tasks.

In some stories, including Mah Pishani, there is also a frightening, but not always malevolent, grandmother figure. In the Russian versions of the story, this figure is known as the Baba Yaga. In Mah Pishani, the grandmother figure is known as a Barzingi, who lived at the bottom of a well. In some stories the grandmother figure rewards the heroine and punishes the wicked sister(s). In Mah Pishani, the Barzingi gives Mah Pishani a Moon on her brow and a star on her chin as a reward, and imposes a donkey’s ear and tail on her wicked half-sister’s brow and chin as a punishment.

In every case, the heroine’s former position as a loved and cherished daughter is restored, and in many cases, she rises much higher in status by marrying a prince or a king, who recognizes her true beauty and value.

Spiritual Symbolism

I think the reason that Cinderella stories are so ubiquitous is because of the deep spiritual symbolism they contain.

At the beginning of the story, the heroine’s loss of her real mother is symbolic of our own separation from our Heavenly Mother. The spiritual symbolism is even more profound in the stories in which the heroine succumbs to the influence of the false mother and is complicit in the death of her real mother. In many religions, including my own, Filianism, humans are seduced into turning from the Divine Creator God, or our Real Mother, who loves and cherishes us. In the Deanist/Filianist faith, when we turned, the Mother’s Light became “too bright for [our] eyes.”

After our separation from our Heavenly Mother, we become subject to the False Mother, in Deanic/Filianic Mythos, the Dark Queen, and perhaps her daughters as well. The heroine’s mother is no longer able to help her directly. In the Filianic Mythos of God the Mother, the Mother says, “what you have done may not be undone, for you have acted with My Spirit,…” In the first paragraph of the Mythos of God the Daughter, we learn that “a terrible abyss had opened to lie between the world and Her, and Her creatures could not look upon Her brightness.”

vlcsnap-2018-05-05-21h08m11s566Yet, even then, our True Mother loves us and finds ways to help us. In the Filianic Mythos of God the Daughter, the Mother gives birth to a Daughter who is able to bridge the divide between us and our Mother. In the Cinderella stories, her mother cannot help her directly, but the helpers that explicitly or implicitly come from her mother can and do make her life easier. In the Russian story of Vasalisa, the doll given to her by her dying mother performs all of the tasks that her stepmother imposes upon her. The heroine must follow the instructions and advice of her helper in order to overcome the challenges in front of her and to rise above her current difficulties. Cinderella must follow the Fairy Godmother’s instructions and be home before midnight.

In some of the stories we meet a third feminine figure, the frightening grandmother. The Baba Yuga in the Russian stories and the Barzingi in Mah Pishani. This figure is sometimes hostile and sometimes the one who judges the heroine and finds her worthy. She is also the one who administers or is the catalyst for the punishment of the false mother and her daughter(s). This figure seems almost analogous to the Dark Mother in the Filianic Trilogy, who is said to be the Darkness beyond the Light, and the Light beyond the Darkness, and who is sometimes associated with Sai Rhavë or the planet Saturn.

cinderella transformation

Transformation and Happily Ever After

With the advice and assistance of her magical helpers, the heroine is transformed.  She becomes her True Self. In many stories, her beauty and virtue are recognized by a prince or a king, who marries her and is the instrument of her rise from a life of hardship and drudgery to royalty. This can be seen in the form of our own eventual Liberation from the toils and troubles of this world to a form of Paradise. The False Mother and her daughters are punished in some way in all of the stories, and harmony is restored.

As Different as Night and Day

The most fundamental division in cosmology is the division between Day and Night. The division between Day and Night is so important that it tends to be one of the first, if not the first, division in Creation Mythos.

Judeo-Christian written tradition begins as follows:

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light;” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Genesis 1:1-5, New Revised Standard Version

Deanic/Filianic tradition tells the story of the Snake who “had not been shaped by [the Mother], and that was not Her daughter, nor a creature of Spirit.” The Snake “hated all the things that had become.”  The Snake tempted the first Daughters of Creation saying:

First of the daughters of creation, you have lived for a time that cannot be counted, and have run for all that time in the footsteps of the Mother, and have never taken rest among the things that are.  Only embrace me and you shall have that rest.

The tradition tells how the Daughters of Creation were enticed by the Snake and asked the Mother to darken the world so that they might rest.  While the Daughters of Creation were resting, the Snake attempted to destroy creation in a Great Flood.  The Mistress of All Things rescued Creation; however, manifestation was permanently changed as a result.

…the light came again, and a rainbow appeared in the sky, shedding its light upon all things.  And whereas all things had been golden, now they took on every hue and colour, and the world was beautiful; but it was not as beautiful as it had formerly been.

And She set Her seven Powers in the firmament, giving one to rule each color of the earth.

And She said to Her daughter: what you have done may not be undone, for you have acted with My Spirit, and henceforth shall time be divided into day and night that you may rest.  But I shall keep watch in the heavens by night, and there shall be silver light that there may never be complete darkness.  By this shall I govern the movements of the waters, that the earth may never again be flooded.  The golden light of day will bring all goodness, but it will be too bright for your eyes.  The silver light of night, that you may look upon.

The Mythos of God the Mother, The Gospel of Our Mother God.

vlcsnap-2016-05-06-00h32m41s851The division between Day and Night is the most fundamental division in manifestation, and in Classical Astrology, there are many calculations that are different during the day and during the night. The division between Day and Night is hierarchical, with Day being superior to Night. In the Deanic/Filianic tradition the golden light that is “too bright for [our] eyes” governs the Day, and the silver light that we “may look upon” governs the Night. According to the Judeo-Christian written tradition, “God made two great lights – the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night, to separate the light from the darkness.”

In Classical Astrology, in addition to the Sun belonging to the Day and the Moon belonging to the Night, Jupiter and Saturn, the Greater Benefic and the Greater Malefic, belong to the Day, and Venus and Mars, the Lesser Benefic and the Lesser Malefic, belong to the Night.


The Day is bright and lively and golden. The Sun is the Ruler and Luminary of the Day.  The Day is the Realm of the Spirit.   Fundamental to the concept of Sect (Day/Night) is the temperamental quality of heat.  The Day is Hot, which means that activity is sped up during the Day.  The day is when most of us engage in the primary activity of our life. This is when we go to work, go to school, or take part in what we see as our role or our life purpose. The day is when the Queen is on parade. It is busy, exciting, wonderful and important; on the other hand, most other activities are suspended during this time. For people who were born during the day, the primary focus of their life is their “day job,” and their dominant Luminary is the Sun.


The Night is soft and quiet and gentle. The Moon is the Ruler and Luminary of the Night.  The Night is the Realm of the Soul.  While the Day is Hot, the Night is Cold.  Activity slows during the Night. During the night, the primary activities of the day slow down so that we can engage in the other aspects of our lives, such as eating, sleeping, spending time with those we love, and engaging in leisure activities.  For people born during the Night, the primary focus of their lives is not on their “day job,” but upon the other aspects of life, and their dominant Luminary is the Moon.

Gender and the Division Between Day and Night

For quite a long time, astrology has taught that Day is masculine and Night is feminine. This is belief is so deeply ingrained that most people would likely accept this as a truism, whether or not they “believe in astrology.” For reasons I discuss in this article, despite the longevity and stability of this association, I believe it to be dubious.

In the Modern West, discussion concerning gender is tricky and debates about gender are often heated and painful. There are those that believe that gender is strictly biological and qualities of masculinity and femininity are merely “social constructs.” I believe this line of thought to be dubious as well.

My view is in the middle of these extremes. I do believe that masculinity and femininity are real metaphysical principles, and that the differences between masculinity and femininity rise beyond the merely physical or societal. On the other hand, I do not believe that this division rises to the level of the fundamental division between Day and Night. I believe that it is a real, but lower level, metaphysical division.

Masculine Earth and a Feminine Sky: Challenging Assumptions about Gender and the Elements

Starting with the most basic Sun Sign books for non-astrologers, we learn that some signs are considered “masculine” and some signs are considered “feminine.” If we later decide to study astrology, the most basic astrology textbooks teach that signs of the elements Air and Fire are “masculine” and signs of the elements Earth and Water are “feminine.” This idea is so pervasive that even people who know nothing about astrology and would swear that they thought astrology was a silly superstition would likely assume that Earth was feminine.

Through many changes and disagreements in astrology, this basic concept has remained remarkably stable for over 2,000 years. So stable that few people would think to challenge it, even those who would otherwise consider themselves ardent feminists. Those who do challenge it generally suggest doing away with the entire system of gender with respect to the zodiac.

Ma'atI believe in Tradition, and in most cases, I would say that such stability in a concept over time is strong evidence for its validity. In this case, however, I believe that this concept must be challenged, because it is one of the bases for the belief that the masculine is superior to the feminine. In the current system, the active day signs are assigned to the masucline, and the passive night signs are assigned to the feminine. Furthermore, Air is the Element of the intellectual and priestly caste, and so this concept can and has been used to exclude women from this caste.

While I understand the temptation to remove gender from the entire system of classification of the zodiac, I think that in one sense this goes too far, and in another, it does not go far enough.

Most of Western Astrology has been transmitted to us through the Greeks. Western Astrology is believed to have originated in Egypt and Chaldea, which is likely the case; however, the system we use was originally recorded and systematized by Greek cosmologists. The Hellenistic influence is so strong that it has even found its way into Vedic astrology.

Greek culture was severely patriarchal, even for its time.  In Athens, women were excluded from all intellectual discourse and were restricted to the home unless they were accompanied by their husband or other male relative. It stands to reason that their cosmology would also be severely patriarchal.

I am about to enter into a rather technical discussion; however, I believe that this matter is important to everyone, not just astrologers. On my astrology blog, there is an article explaining the humors, temperament, and their relationship to the elements, which may be helpful to read before continuing if you are not an astrologer. For the purposes of this discussion, however, the most important thing to know is that the signs are classified along two axes: hot and cold, and wet and dry. I explained in the above article that:

The hot/cold axis relates to both literal heat and to activity level. Hot is fast, busy, and active; cold is slow-moving and calm. The wet/dry axis is a little more abstract. This axis relates to boundaries and distinctions. Moisture blends and softens boundaries and distinctions; dryness hardens them. Without wet there would be no growth; without dry there would be no form.

The elements are also divided into four elements, Air, Fire, Earth, and Water. Air is Hot and Wet, Fire is Hot and Dry, Earth is Cold and Dry, and Water is Cold and Wet. The Hot elements of Air and Fire are day signs, and the Cold elements of Earth and Water are the night signs. The signs alternate between hot and cold around the zodiac, as per this diagram.

Elements and Gender Chart

The Tetrabiblios, by Claudius Ptolemy, is arguably the most important Ancient textbook on Western Astrology. In the Tetrabiblios, the classification of signs and gender is explained as follows:

…they assigned six of the signs to the masculine and diurnal and an equal number to the feminine and nocturnal. An alternating order was assigned to them because day is always yoked to night and close to it, and female to male. Now as Aries is taken as the starting point…and as the male likewise rules and holds first place, since also the active is always superior to the passive in power, the signs of Aries and Libra were thought to be masculine and diurnal,…

After this, Ptolemy continues to describe at least three other systems for dividing masculine and feminine signs, but all of them assume that masculine and diurnal are equivalent and that feminine and nocturnal are equivalent.

Now why does Ptolemy make that assumption?

In the section concerning diurnal and nocturnal planets, he writes:

…the two most obvious intervals of those which make up time, the day is the more masculine because of its heat and active force, and night more feminine because of its moisture and gift of rest…

This passage does not seem to make much sense. The opposite of heat is not moisture, it is cold. Heat and moisture are on separate axes. Also, the night is not moist, the night is cold. The only part of night that is moist is the period between midnight and sunrise, the part of night between sunset and midnight is dry.

To further add to the confusion, in another section, Ptolemy says:

…because two of the four humours are fertile and active, the hot and the moist (for all things are brought together and increased by them), and two are destructive and passive, the dry and the cold, through which all things, again are separated and destroyed,….

What a minute? Here moist is “fertile and active,” yet in the first passage moisture is associated with the “gift of rest.”

I believe that these inconsistencies may be explained by an earlier alteration in the tradition, and the reason for this alteration can be inferred from second passage. The hot and the moist correspond to the element of Air, and the dry and the cold correspond to the element of Earth.  I believe that the original division between masculine and feminine was along the dry and moist axis, not the hot and cold one.

In the section concerning masculine and feminine planets, Ptolemy states,

…there are two primary kinds of natures, male and females, and the forces already mentioned that of the moist is especially feminine….

This would mean that the feminine elements would be the moist ones, Air and Water, and of course, the dry one, Fire and Earth, would be masculine. Yet, Air was considered the highest element, and the element associated with the intellectual classes, from which women were forceably excluded.

Further evidence for the assocation of moisture for feminine and dryness for masculine can be seen in the Egyptian pantheon in which there were several male and female god pairs with the male god associated with dryness and the female god associated with moisture.

Technical Considerations

This is all well and good on a theoretical level; however, astrology is a craft. How would this impact the craft of astrology? Would this change the entire system?

Actually, I think it would improve the craft and make it more useful and harmonious.

To begin with, it would reflect what are arguably the real differences between the feminine and and the masculine, at least with respect to human beings. The association of masculine with active and feminine with passive is dubious at best. Women have always worked as hard, if not harder, than men. Even to this day, when women are in the workforce, they often still have responsibility for the maintenance of the home and are still often the primary caretakers for children. Also, if women were truly passive, there would not have been the need for all of the social and legal restrictions to keep them subservient. Even with all of the restrictions, throughout history, women have found ways to gain power and triumph over patriarchy, even if they have been quiet ways.

On the other hand, when one looks at the actual differences between women and men, they do seem to be along the wet/dry division. Women’s bodies tend to be softer and plumper than those of men. Babies grow in the body of women, and moisture is necessary for growth. All other things being equal, men tend to be more analytical and women tend to be better at making connections. While men tend to be physically stronger, women tend to be more flexible. All of these differences are consistent with a wet/dry division.

What about the neat symmetry of alternating masculine and feminine that Ptolemy described above, and that is shown in the diagram below?

Elements and Gender Chart - Hot and Cold

This may not be of much concern to Modern Astrologers, but it is a very important concern to Traditional/Classical Astrologers. A symmetrical system is consistent with an orderly and harmonious cosmos, and this is essential to why astrology “works” from a Traditional or Classical perspective.

I believe that this system is actually more symmetrical than the current one, not less. Here is a diagram of a gender classification along the wet/dry axis:

Elements and Gender Chart - Wet and Dry

In the first diagram, the gender classification is redundant with the classification between day and night. It does not add anything to the system. Indeed, the hot/cold axis is given two distinct groupings, and the wet/dry axis has none.

Furthermore, in the first diagram, even though signs next to each other have different genders, the signs opposite and across from each other have the same gender. The adage that “opposites attract” holds true in astrology, and signs opposite each other in the zodiac form equal and opposite pairs. Signs next to each other do not and are said to be unable to “see” each other. It is much more harmonious to the overall system for opposite pairs to be of opposite gender that it is for them to be the same gender.

With respect to individual signs:


This change would make Libra feminine rather than masculine. Libra as a masculine sign always felt counter-intuitive to me. Libra is the sign of the hostess and the diplomat. Libra is motivated by beauty and balance. The most common fault of Libra is indecisiveness. All of these seem to be stereotypical traits of the feminine.


Aquarius, the Water Bearer, would also be feminine. It is true that Aquarius is generally depicted as a young man pouring water, and there are Greek and Egyptian myths that support the masculine association with the constellation. That being said, there is nothing inherently masculine about symbol of a water bearer. On the contrary, one could argue that this symbol is inherently feminine.

Actually, in one Greek myth, the constellation of Aquarius is occupied by one of Zeus’ favorites, Ganymede. Ganymede incurred the wrath of Zeus’ wife, Hera. Hera was jealous of Ganymede in part because of Zeus’ attention and affections for him, but also in part because he usurped the place of her daughter, Hebe, the goddess of youth. To me, this myth seems strangely fitting to the topic of this article.

Taurus and Virgo

This change would make Virgo the Virgin masculine rather than feminine. Admitted, this is counter-intuitive. On the other hand, Taurus the Bull would become masculine rather than feminine.


In this article, I have proposed an alteration to the present system of gender classification with respect to the signs. I have argued that the current classification along the hot/cold axis is likely a patriarchal alteration to justify subjugation of the feminine and to bar women from the priestly and intellectual classes. I have also argued that it is likely the original classification was along the wet/dry axis, and that this classification would be consistent with real differences between the feminine and the masculine in human beings. Furthermore, this system of classification would be more symmetrical and harmonious than the current one.

The Illusion of “Thinking for Yourself”

In the 1960’s, the world changed drastically, at least in the West.  For the most part, I believe that this change has been downhill.  In the The Feminine Universe, Miss Alice Lucy Trent calls this change “the Eclipse.”  I can imagine that at least some readers will protest and talk about all the horrors of cruelty, unkindness, violence, and oppression from the past.  I am not denying that this was so.  The past of this world has been violent and cruel for at least as long as we have recorded history.  This is one of the more compelling arguments for the changes in society since the Eclipse. Despite this, I think that much more has been lost than has been gained.

One of the things that has been lost is any sense that authority can be trusted, or really that anyone can be trusted.  We are taught to “think for ourselves” and engage in “critical thinking” of everything.  Instead of being a contributing part of a community, or seeking a higher purpose, people see it as their (and everyone else’s) duty to keep “informed,” which really means to keep track of all of the bad things that everyone is doing or may do.

The reality is that none of us truly “think for ourselves.”  We all rely on other people.  For example, when choosing a service or a product, we look up “reviews,” which are the thoughts of other people.  When deciding our opinions on “issues,” we rely on others to tell us what these “issues” are and how we should think about them.  We are shaped by others in almost everything we do, and often when we think we are “thinking for ourselves,” we are really just choosing between ideas that have we been told.

The same is true of “critical thinking.”  I think that there is a place for that; however, it is often the case that the “critical” part is overemphasized.  People criticize everything, all of the time.  It is almost impossible to discuss any public figure without hearing about something the terrible the person has done. Yes, I understand that there are times when truly terrible things ought to be exposed, but most of the time, the matters are rather superficial and petty.

The reality is that it is hard to truly engage in “critical thinking” in this day and age, because we have lost the idea of an objective right or wrong.  One of the big differences between pre-Eclipse and post-Eclipse movies is the idea that there are things that are right and things that are wrong.  Yes, there is plenty of immorality shown in pre-Eclipse media, but it is not justified like it is in post-Eclipse media.  Good was good and bad was bad.  Shows might depict people being bad, but they, and everyone else, knew they were being bad.  These days, good and bad are so muddled and twisted that no one really knows what they are anymore.

One may ask, well what about circumstances?  An example of which would be the case of a person who steals or engages in criminal business ventures because she can not afford the basic necessities of life for herself and her family.  My answer to that is that none of us are perfect, and there are times people make compromises out of necessity in a difficult, and often rather harsh, world.  That does not change the fact that what they may be doing is wrong.

It is a funny society where one is supposed to “think for yourself” and “think critically,” but one is also supposed to be non-judgmental.  So, upon what does one base one’s critical thinking?  Well, in practice, I think that people tend to become part of a group and accept that group’s judgments, often without question.  In the United States, there is a liberal “team” and a conservative “team” that is fueled by a 24-hour news cycle.  People will support ideas and positions proposed by their “team” no matter how absurd and outrageous they may be, and they will oppose ideas and positions proposed by the other “team” no matter how reasonable and sensible they are.

The Metamorph 2So, what can one do?  I am a long time Star Trek fan, and I think that for the most part Star Trek is rather wholesome, at least to the extent of the Original Series and the Next Generation.  One of my favorite episodes in Star Trek: the Next Generation is the episode, “the Perfect Mate.”  In this episode, there is a woman who is a metamorph, which means she naturally becomes the person that perfectly suits her mate.  In this show, she makes the choice to bond with Captain Picard, even though she is promised to marry someone else in an arranged political marriage.  She does this because she likes who she is when she is with Captain Picard.  In molding to Captain Picard, she understands the importance of duty, and she goes through with the arranged marriage to fulfill her duty.

I think this is a rather good metaphor for us.  All of us are influenced and molded by our social groups, the media we watch, and to what we expose ourselves.  None of us really thinks for ourselves.  What we can do is to decide who we are going to listen to and who we are going to trust.  We can decide who is it who will mold and shape our opinions.  We can also make that choice consciously, bearing in mind that this will largely determine the type of person that we will become.

Fate, Free Will, the Cross, and Wa

During and after the “Enlightenment,” predictive astrology lost favor as a respected craft.  One of the reasons for this is that predictive astrology contradicted Enlightenment notions of Free Will.  How can one predict anything, particularly in a Nativity chart, when we all have Free Will to be whatever we want to be?  This is likely a particularly popular argument in the United States, where children are taught things like, “America is the land of opportunity,” and “every kid can grow up to be the President.”

The CrossThe problem is that in the West, the traditional concept of Free Will has been misunderstood for some time.  The crux of the difficulty is mistaking freedom of choice for freedom of action.  We may not always have freedom of action, but we always have freedom of choice.

In order to explain the traditional concept of Free Will, it becomes helpful to look at the symbol of the Cross.  While Christianity has adopted the Cross as its symbol, the symbol of the Cross long predates Christianity, and is a primordial symbol.  On one level, the Cross is the symbol of the material world.  It is one of the three symbols that are used in the glyphs for the planets.  The other two are the Circle and the Crescent.  Actually, the symbol of the Cross makes sense for Christianity, in the belief that the Divine became incarnate in a living human being.

If one looks deeper into the symbolism of the Cross, one will see that it is made up of a horizontal line with a vertical line intersecting.  The horizontal line represents our life on the material plane.  This is our day to day physical existence.  The vertical intercepting line represents an upward or downward path.  Humans are Axial Beings.  This means that we are at the center or the axis of the cross.  As Axial Beings, we have the choice to live at the level of physical existence.  Animals live at this level of existence.  This is not our only choice though.  We can choose to live at a higher level of existence.  This level has nothing to do with physical wealth or success.  This level is choosing a higher spiritual life, or listening to our “higher angels.”  We can also choose to live at a lower level of existence.  We can succumb to our “demons,” as it were (humans are capable of evil that animals – literally – cannot dream of).  In popular culture, there is the image of a little angel and a little devil sitting on our shoulders, both whispering in our ears.

This is the essence of the traditional notion of Free Will, the day to day choice between the purely material, our “higher angels,” and our “demons.”  The traditional notion of Free Will was not freedom to do what one wants on the material plane.  The notion of individual freedom of action, in this sense, is quite out of place.  There is no real word in English to really explain this concept, so I will borrow a word from Japanese.  The word is wa.  The rough translation of wa is harmony, but a harmony beyond music.  This is the harmony of the heavens that is transmitted to Earth and governs everything from day to day routines to social relationships to spiritual rituals.  Wa governs everything.  The opposite of wa is fuwa, which is disruption of the celestial harmony.

The concept of wa is quite similar to the doctrine of the Music of the Spheres in astrology.  In a sense, astrology is being able to read and listen to this celestial music.  We are born with a particular part to play in the Music of the Spheres.  In a traditional society, we would generally know our part and be raised to sing or play that part.  Few of us reading this will have ever lived in a traditional society, so we can use all of the help we can get to learn to play or sing our part.  A good guide (who could be an astrologer) could help one find her natural wa, can point the way to the path of learning to excel at her part in the Celestial Music, and can warn her of temptations that may lead her to the lower path, or to fuwa.  So, in a large sense, such guidance not only does not negate Free Will, but it helps one to exercise her Free Will.

A good astrologer should be able to predict with reasonable accuracy events on the material plane.  Most people, most of the time, will operate on the horizontal plane of existence.  In other words, we tend to do what comes naturally to us.  With a Nativity Chart, one can also predict with reasonable accuracy the areas of one’s life where she is most open to the guidance of the angels, and where she is more likely to be tempted by her “demons.”  What can not be predicted, though, is whether a person will actually listen to the angel or the devil on her shoulder.  That choice can sometimes be a day by day choice.  This is really what is meant by Free Will.

Here is a concrete example.  One can predict that a person is likely to be quite irritable on a given day.  One can even predict that it would be likely she would have a fight with her spouse.  If she is aware of the celestial influence, she might be wise enough to go to bed early or go out to the gym to work off her excess martial energy.  If she is unaware, or does not manage to avoid the conflict, and a conflict ensues, there are still choices.  She could choose to apologize quickly and reconcile with her spouse, she could keep the fight going for days, or she could let the fight escalate to the point of a divorce with her spouse.  One can predict the potential for conflict, but one can not predict the actual choice she (or her spouse) will make in response to it.

Interestingly enough, as I mentioned above, the modern scientific world view in many ways negates this Free Will.  One example of this is the scientific notion that we are merely animals, or that we are on the same level of existence as animals, that our actions and behaviors are governed by chemicals and biology. This would mean that, like animals, we are not able to rise above or fall below than our horizontal, physical existence.*  Another example of a modern theory that seems to deny Free Will is the concept of “infinite universes.”  In this theory, every time anyone makes a choice, a new universe is created.  In the above example of the potential fight with the spouse, each of those choices has been made, with each of these choices creating a different universe.  If you think about this, this would mean that we really do not have choice.  For every choice that we make, an alternate of us has made every other choice possible.  This does not seem consistent with the doctrine of Free Will or with our place as Axial Beings.

If one thinks about it, the traditional doctrine of Free Will does allow for far more freedom than the materialistic notion of being able to “do whatever we want.”  Most of us are limited in many ways, by financial status, by health, by class, by education, by natural ability, by age, or by many other factors, in our means to do “what we want.”  Yet, no matter our circumstances, we can always choose the purely material, our higher angels, or our demons at any time and at any point in our lives.  No matter how limited our freedom of action is, we always have freedom of choice.

See also:

Nativity Charts and Free Will

*Actually animals *can* rise above or fall below their horizontal physical existence as well, but it is rare. An example that has been passed down to this author from a respected teacher is that of a dog. A dog can rise above her horizontal physical existence by performing an act such as saving the life of her owner, or can fall below by going rogue. Still most of the time, a dog is going to just be a dog and will do what comes naturally to her.