Astrology Secrets Revealed by ERIC FRANCIS

Ruling Planets


June 10, 2005 (with Planet Table and Essential Dignities Table)


Dear Eric,


Several years ago, I had my chart cast and the astrologer who helped me told me that Uranus was my ruling planet (due to having Aquarius rising), but I see in a recent answer to a question that you also identify Saturn as a ruling planet of Aquarius. Please explain what a ruling planet is, its significance, and the difference between traditional ruling planets and those that have been added to astrology over the past 100 years. Also, could you recommend some good books that deal with things like ruling planets, house cusps, etc.? There is so much out there to look at it's hard to know where to start!


Thank you,




Dear Tim,


Before the discovery of Uranus in 1781, there was agreement about the planetary rulers of the astrological signs since long before the times of Ptolemy. The rulers are the planets most closely associated with a sign. For example, the Moon rules the sign Cancer and the Sun rules the sign Leo -- even people who have very little astrology knowledge seem to know this. Studying the rulers helps us understand the energy of a sign as well as tells us whether a planet does well when places in a sign. And they are very helpful in decoding a chart. Plus, they are fairly easy to understand.


Note that the rulers or rulership are one of five different methods for understanding whether a planet is well placed (or poorly placed) in a sign, or a particular region of a sign (the other methods, called 'essential dignities', are exaltation, term, face and triplicity; and related, on the negative side, are detriment and fall). For this week, we'll leave out the others, and work just with rulership. Rulership is also called 'domicile' because it involves discussion of whether the planet is placed well (at home) in its 'house' (really, its sign, but in old timey astrology the terms house and sign are sometimes used interchangeably, for a variety of good reasons).


Ruling planets help orient astrology in its own logic. They present a basic guideline for using and understanding astrology. For example, if a person has Taurus rising, then Venus (the ruler of Taurus) becomes an important planet in their chart, regardless of what sign their Sun is in. The condition of the planet that rules the rising sign is an important indicator of the person's life and how their chart works.


Or, if a person has Gemini on the 8th house cusp, then Gemini and its ruling planet Mercury become important factors in helping understand how they deal with all things related to the 8th -- such as contracts, agreements and sex.


Using the ruling planets adds depth to astrology, and it helps us make sense of a chart by providing a stable set of references, and consistent language. You can take a truly complex chart and a truly complex situation and if you can boil it down to what is going on in a particular house, take the ruler of the sign on the cusp of the house and look at its condition (aspects, placement, etc.), you can find yourself with a genuine, clear understanding of what is happening. Rulership is an easy guideline to apply, it works exceptionally well, and it's not done often enough.


Up until the discovery of Uranus (around the time of the American revolution, and many other revolutions), the seven known bodies (planets, including the Sun and Moon) were applied to the 12 signs in a symmetrical, orderly way: the Sun and Moon each ruled one sign, and Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn each ruled two of the rest.


Some time after Uranus was discovered, the astrologer Raphael the 1st (of Raphael's Ephemeris fame) declared that Uranus ruled Aquarius. Did he have a clue? Was he right? Could a newly discovered planet rule a sign? Well, um, who knows? But true to form, Uranus made a little revolution in astrology and then suddenly every time a planet was discovered, some people decided it would depose the ruler of a sign and become the new ruler. So the discovery of Uranus did not just affect Aquarius -- it spread. The next place it spread was Pisces, to which Neptune was eventually ascribed rulership by most astrologers. Then in 1930, Pluto was discovered and largely ignored by astrology, but as the 60s and 70s wore on, people started associating it with Scorpio. When Chiron was discovered (really, re-discovered) in 1977, a debate began about what sign it should rule. The leading candidates were Virgo, Libra and Sagittarius. Some pointed out that this was a moot debate, as rulership may not even apply to modern planets. Others pointed out that Chiron had properties of all these signs (an argument I like a lot). The good thing is that the discussion was, and to some extent still is, happening.


This is all well and good and modern, but what I like to remind people is that the traditional rulers still have a great deal of vitality, and were used for thousands of years with great effectiveness before Uranus came along. It's also true that they represent 'old school' thinking, but that does not, automatically, make them wrong. But it does mean that there is a lot of tradition behind them, and when getting into occult matters such as astrology, tradition is truly important, both because it helps us ground in something stable, and because it helps us understand a complicated field of knowledge. Then, we're free to do things our own way.


When I started studying astrology, I happened to have a teacher who encouraged me to make sure I really understood what was going on with the traditional rulers of all the signs, then take a look at the condition of the modern rulers.


So, this is how I do astrology. I love modern developments, such as new planets and the Galactic Core. But I also have abiding respect for the early traditions of the craft, and I think, at least, that everyone practicing astrology should be aware that they exist, and aware of how they work.


However -- the case could be stated this way. It's important to understand ANY system of rulership, and to learn to apply it until it works. Astrology is learned on one level in theory, but it's really learned in practice, through applying it to questions and people. If you know that a system of rulership exists and apply it until you see it working, that will get you pretty far in terms of gaining confidence as an astrologer. And it's EASY -- you just have to do it.


Here's a link to another article by me on rulership:


Here a Table of Essential Dignities is provided by David Roell of the Astrology Center of America from his translation of William Lilly's classic book Christian Astrology. Reach David at: