Have you ever wondered about the symbols astrologers and astronomers use to represent the planets of our solar system? The shapes of the symbols we use aren’t random. In today’s post, we’ll look at the meaning contained in each of the planetary glyphs. Most of the glyphs are composed from the three basic shapes of a circle, a plus sign (or cross), and a crescent. The circle represents an unbroken, self-contained system of wholeness. It is Spirit, eternal, unified, balanced, self-replicating and ever-lasting. The circle divides the unseen and the seen with its boundary.
The cross, or plus sign, is the symbol of matter. It indicates the four directions, the four elements, the fact of duality, time and space. On the wheel, these four cardinal points are indicators of Spirit entering Matter (left to right) and of Order being made out of Chaos (top to bottom). The plus sign reminds us of the cross that all things enshrined in matter must bear, mortality. In the center where the lines meet is a meeting place that suggests presence, in which the sum is greater than the individual parts. In the center is the balance point which reminds us that spirit is within everything manifest.
The crescent is the shape of attention in motion. As the Moon shows us her changing face every night, glyphs that include the crescent shape indicate an archetype in which there is movement of and a connection to greater sources of information. The crescent facing upwards is open to information originating from the soul, while downward-facing crescents receive information from the subconscious. Crescents facing left indicate growth and left-brain perception, while those facing right indicate forces of decay and right-brain understanding. The crescent shape itself suggests a light side and a dark side. The light, visible side shows ones ability to become aware of their needs, thoughts, feelings, and memories, while the dark, invisible side is that of instinct, imagination, raw emotion and the cycles of life. The pulsation and movement between these forces, like the waxing and waning of the Moon, is what gives us a sense of time.
Let’s examine each planetary glyph for more information. The Sun’s symbol is of the circle of Spirit with a dot in the center. The dot specifies self-mastery, it shows that one’s core, the spiritual center, is known. It is the symbol of the self-realized individual, one who knows that their creativity, their spark of life, comes from Spirit and is shining through the individual from their own center, the solar plexus. As the Sun is the central organizing principle in the solar system, the Sun in one’s chart shows the way we organize the various aspects of our psyche.
The Moon’s glyph is of a crescent facing to the left. Facing in this direction, the Moon’s symbol indicates that she is a force of growth, open to and gestating new possibilities. The glyph of the Moon reminds us how our ego, our concept of self, is like the lenses in a pair of glasses which the soul takes off when the life is over, and which affects the way we perceive reality while we have them on. The fact that the ego is constantly in motion, expanding and decaying yet reliable all through the life, is shown by the cyclic nature of the Moon in the sky.
Mercury’s symbol includes all three of the basic shapes. The cross under the circle of spirit shows a connection between knowledge of a spiritual nature and knowledge of a pragmatic nature, and suggests that Mercury has a knowingness of the practical matters of life. Indeed, Mercury is the ruler of commerce, measurement and deductive reasoning. The crescent above the circle suggests the movement of ideas that are perceived from the soul (or superconscious) and made conscious in their grounding in the material world. The crescent shape is also indicative of the horns on the helmet of the Greek god Mercury, who was the only god in the pantheon who was allowed to freely come and go, without consequence, from both heaven and hell. Mercury moved ideas from the sacred to the profane and back again. The upward-pointing crescent on the circle of spirit suggests that thoughts, ideas, language and speech are not truly our own but are brought down from higher levels of organization.
The meeting of the two realms of heaven and Earth, spirit and matter, with Spirit dominating. This symbol suggests the reproductive organs of a woman which are capable of bringing the unseen in the seen. Indeed, Venus rules talent, which is the ability to bring and share something from the unseen. The arrangement of Spirit resting in balance on the cross of matter suggests the nature of the feminine principle which is attracting, magnetic, persuading and connecting.
The glyph of Mars is pretty easy to read. It is the force of willpower, the separating desires, pulling one away from Spirit. Mars’ glyph, which looks like the reproductive organ of the male, shows us that it is instinctual and primal in nature. Indeed, Mars/Ares is the warrior, the raw power and outgoing force of the masculine. The fact that it follows its own subjective needs is shown in the arrow extending from the source of its power. It is a symbol of going out into the world and getting the object of one’s desire, with force if necessary.
Incorporating the shapes of the cross and the crescent, Jupiter’s glyph reminds us of its expansive, optimistic nature. The crescent on the left side of the cross indicates that the expansion of horizons has brought something new into being. Because the crescent is above the horizontal line it signifies that the forms being brought into matter are in the growing part of their cycle. Jupiter provides a joyful connection to Natural Law, ensuring that forms, ideas and circumstances are brought to their highest potential.
Originally, Saturn’s glyph was the exact opposite of Jupiter’s but, over time, has become stylized. In Saturn’s symbol, the crescent hangs downward, below the horizon on the right side, below the cross of matter. The cross as the primary shape, above the crescent, makes it clear that Saturn oversees the realm of 3-dimensions where achievement and materialism reign. The curl at the bottom end suggests that the movement endemic to the crescent shape is being cut off and trapped in the dirt. Saturn’s glyph indicates that the form is decaying and dying, that a cap has been put upon the creation which deprives it of access to Spirit. Indeed, Saturn rules death and the endings of things. Some have suggested that the crescent of Saturn is a scythe which is used to cut things down at the end of their cycle, as the grim reaper does.
The most complex symbol is that of Uranus which incorporates all three shapes in a unique configuration. The circle of spirit below the cross of matter creates an upended reality in which ideas are brought from the collective unconscious into personal, conscious awareness in jolts, like lightening strikes. The channel that is created between the outward-turned crescents can be likened to the two hemispheres of the brain being held apart to allow new ideas and images to enter. The symbolism here is reflected in the archetype of Uranus, the force of Liberation, which moves us beyond the consensus status quo toward the unconditioned unknown, and which frees us from the rules and expectations of the past and future.
This is the symbol of turning dreams into reality. The glyph of Neptune shows that the realm of the soul reigns above material existence. The upward-facing crescent receives images, sounds, information of all kinds, from the soul and, as long as it isn’t hindered by delusions and addictions, brings the unseen into the seen (as symbolized by the cross). The symbol of Neptune is also a reminder that the material world penetrates Spirit and vice versa. The similarities between the glyphs of Neptune and Venus show that one is the higher expression, of the other.
Pluto has more than one glyph associated to it but all of them (except the one which uses the initials of its discoverer, PL) speak to its psychologically-oriented and transformative nature. The upward-turned crescent below the smaller circle shows its receptivity to stellar energies which are then brought down into matter through a succession of lifetimes in which we attempt to balance the hemispheres of the brain and tame the primal energies toward conscious, reasoned action.
Now that you understand the basic shapes used in glyphs, you have the knowledge to interpret other astronomical, astrological and alchemical symbols for yourself. Cheers.