The Outer Planets – To Use, or Not to Use

mountain and sky
Photo by Aviv Perets on

I may have touched upon this before, but I have been experimenting leaving out the outer planets in astrological interpretation.

I have to confess it has not been easy. The school which I studied with thirty years ago fully incorporated Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, if not some asteroids and Chiron.

So when I began to leave out these outer planets, it felt a little bit like riding bare back. It felt uncomfortable, as if I was missing something. Right now I’m not entirely sure which way to go, which isn’t good, because I want to affirm my astrological philosophy after all these years. But it is good to remain open minded.


However, I think I am gradually coming around to the decision to leave them out. What is the reason for this?

I have never been comfortable with the interpretation of the outer planets, their supposed influence. Of course, as far as we know, the ancients did not know about them, so they were not used.

Then boom! Uranus (called Herschel at first after the astronomer who had been tracking him) was discovered in the late 18th century, around the time of the American, French and Industrial Revolutions. Hm, so Uranus is associated with revolution, sudden change, right? Well, perhaps.

Revolution, Mysticism, Extremism

Then in the mid 19th century, Neptune was found, around the time of further revolutions around 1848 to do with socialism and what is now called Marxism. There was also a sudden surge of interest in the area of mysticism. Around 1850, it really did seem like a new world was being born.

Come 1930, little Pluto was discovered. And we know what was to follow after that. Pluto has ever since had dark, underground associations of hidden extreme power and violence.

Gradually each of these new planets were seen by many astrologers as higher octaves of the planets. Uranus was thought to be the higher octave of Mercury, the planet nearest the sun on our solar system model. Uranus was therefore was about mental breakthrough, inspiration, invention.

Higher Octaves

Similarly Neptune was seen as the higher octave of Venus (love, unity) through meditation and Pluto was associated with Mars (energy) in a more transformative pose. I have never been completely comfortable with this thinking.

For one thing, we know these luminaries are there but they are not visible to the human eye. Are we not in danger of ascribing them too much astrological influence? Yes, invisible things can be very powerful. But astrology is about luminaries, things you CAN see. Simplicity can be a blessing.

Some use the outer planets in a lesser way, see them as purely negative, revealing by sign and house position where we will experience problems, perhaps a bit like a negative fixed star. For example, Uranus might reveal where we feel alone, isolated; Neptune warns us of deception and confusion; Pluto where we might be in danger of self destruction. The difference, of course, is that you can see a fixed star.

Bad Influences

If we return to the time of the discovery of each of these planets, we could strongly argue that if the finding corresponded with a major shift in human activity as seen through the accepted historical narrative, such as revolution, then maybe these planets’ ‘influences’ are indeed negative.

And as well as all the above, didn’t the old ‘system’ with seven luminaries have a certain beauty, balance or resonance about it? The discovery of Uranus in 1781 and its incorporation into astrology, did indeed disrupt everything.

What is more, it is my contention that Uranus is not the ruler or even co-ruler of Aquarius. The nature of this sign has been subjugated over the last two hundred years, from a serious minded forward thinker, to a wacky professor or flower power hippy – all because of the so called cranky ruler Uranus. Aquarius is traditionally the sign of hopes, dreams and wishes and group objectives. How are these Uranian?

Difficult Associations

Similarly, mystical Neptune has been associated with ‘dreamy’ Pisces and powerful Pluto with the much maligned Scorpio. The tradition of assigning two signs each to the planets, Mercury through Saturn, is ancient. I now believe it should stay that way. Tradition is important whilst remaining open minded.

So at this juncture my purpose is to leave out the outer planets, including Chiron (which is what… a comet?), along with the asteroids.

With each interpretation, if any outer planet does indeed form a major aspect, I will consider mentioning it, but will not include it on the chart. Treating the outer planets a bit like fixed stars might indeed be the way to go – but that is not decry those clearly visible luminaries, which have had a place in many forms of astrology for millennia.

Nevertheless, I feel the outer planets do seem to have influence on us all in a transpersonal sense – though not necessarily in a benevolent fashion. I intend to highlight this is in a number of forthcoming articles.

Copyright Francis Barker 2020


Poem: Lavender Days

Photo by franpics from Pexels

Take me back to the lavender days,
those times of relative calm
and red telephone kiosks
littered throughout this land.
Heaven knows it wasn’t perfect
and complaints abounded,
though I’m sure we handled crises
so much better then,
before we got too hung up on the news.
The red booths are still there
and the lavender too,
though the phones are long gone
and the flowers’ rich hue seems lost.

copyright Francis Barker 2020

Rethinking Astrology: A Yearning for Simplicity

Photo by franpics from Pexels

Whilst there are long existing schools of astrology, most astrologers tend to be very individual with their own particular nuances and practices.

I have been fascinated by astrology since my mum brought home a women’s magazine from the sad clear out of grandma’s house back in the 1970s. The publication contained one of those very basic sun sign forecasts which we are all familiar with. The slight difference with this one, was the little write up at the top of the piece regarding ruling planets. From that point I was hooked.

Thanks Grandma

I’ve often thought it was Grandma who led me down this winding path, even if it was through her death. I did go on to study astrology in many varied ways, with two schools and digesting countless books and manuals. However, it is true to say that especially in later years, I too have developed my own approach, which does bear certain similarities to other modern astrological trends.

Firstly, I have become more interested in ‘traditional’ astrology, which is largely based on Hellenistic or Ancient Greek astrology. The reason for this is the often confusing plethora of house systems on offer these days, the use of fixed stars, asteroids etc. I crave simplicity. This is not to say that various house systems don’t have relevance, or that fixed stars and asteroids have no place. All I’m saying is they are not necessarily for me.

Whole Sign System

So today I invariably use the Whole Sign house system, which is in fact pretty much the original house system. This means that if Aries, for instance, is rising, the WHOLE of that sign becomes the first house beginning at 0 degrees. From that point each house proceeds in 30 degree segments. The actual ascending degree, let’s say 15 degrees Aries, remains an important point in the chart within that first house, as will the the other angles in theirs.

Now I did say that I did not utilise asteroids or minor planets. That said, I have come to realise Chiron’s usefulness as the ‘wounded healer’, so I usually use him.

birthcharttemplate (7)

Similarly, the Moon’s nodes certainly are a strong karmic pointer. And I still use Pluto, even though he has been degraded astronomically to the status of minor planet. That said, with the three outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, I do not regard them as serious rulers of the signs Aquarius, Pisces and Scorpio. I still tend to favour the traditional rulers, purely because of the beauty of the original system of rulership, from the intimacy of the Moon ruling Cancer, to the far out, impersonal Saturn ruling Capricorn and Aquarius on the outer limits.


And as far as the orbs of aspects, I tend to restrict them to a few degrees. For the sun and Moon, no more than five and for the planets no more than three. After all, the tighter the aspect the more powerful and obvious it will be.

I generally use this approach for both individual interpretations and for events, such as general elections and their like. Once again, if other astrologers wish to explore the use of minor planets, fixed stars etc to much greater levels, then so be it.

I also like to produce (although not always) the square ‘medieval’ or Renaissance looking charts. I don’t know why but there is something artistically comforting in displaying the information this way, even though it may not be technically or visually as accurate as a round one.

You see, my own particular Aquarian mind yearns for more simplicity the older it gets, a life that’s stripped down and straight forward. That to me seems like a good pointer to the future.

copyright Francis Barker 2020