Planning by Starlight: Lesson Two
to the second lesson in the Planning by Starlight series! If you missed lesson one you can get it right here.
In lesson two we identify the reason why so many people love the idea of planning with astrology and go deeper into our own planning with minimal fuss.
We ended the first lesson with a question about how to work with astrology to plan around major celestial events, especially for those of us who are not super well-versed in Astro-speak and/or who are intimidated by all of the Astro terms.
This is one of the biggest reasons why people start to pay attention to astrology in the first place. Maybe you experienced a particularly rough Mercury Retrograde period and then found out about this whole thing called Mercury Retrograde.
Maybe you saw your life fall apart and then dramatically re-arrange itself only to find out years later that those events all occurred around the time of your Saturn Return – and then you decided to find out just what the heck a Saturn Return even is!
In today’s lesson, I am going to walk you through how to find out about and then plan for the major celestial events you want to keep an eye on whenever you are planning out the course of your week, your month, or your year. We will cover the following topics:
I. Understanding the difference between inner and outer planets.
II. Working with the Inner Planets
III. Working with the Outer Planets
IV. Retrogrades and Returns
Innie or Outie?
We touched on how you can begin to work with the inner planets in lesson one, but let’s take a step back because not everyone understands the difference between an inner planet and an outer planet.
First, the inner/outer refers to what side of the asteroid belt a planet in our solar system finds itself on. You may remember from 1st grade science that the inner planets are Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars and the outer planets are Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Do note that some astrologers think of Jupiter as an inner planet. I do not and technically it is not. Pluto is always considered a planet in astrology no matter what the current scientific debate may say about it!
Understanding the Innie
The inner planets effect our day-to-day activities, experiences, and lives. These planets move quickly with Mercury and Venus usually circling the entire Zodiacal Wheel in a year’s span. Mars moves a bit slower usually transiting around 3/4 ‘s of the wheel in a given year. These are the planets we pay attention to for practical insight into the shape of our days, weeks, and year. Because the inner planets do move so quickly, it can be a bit overwhelming to plot their course throughout the year, and in most cases may give you more information than you really need. It is useful to have a chart of the inner planets’ ingresses into each sign, something that we made sure to include in the Planning by Starlight planner.
Instead of charting out all of that data though, I recommend you focus on one planet – the fastest moving of them all, good old Mercury!
Specifically, you will want to note that what the Mercury Retrograde periods are for the year. You can access that information here.
Mark these dates in your calendar and then go bookmark this post that tells you what to DO before Mercury goes retrograde.
Mercury is one of the most powerful planets to work with daily. This Holy Helper rules communication, technology in the day to day, connection, networking, presentations, speech, thought, publishing, friendships, and commerce. In the body, Mercury resonates with our breath, ability to extend, nervous system, and mind.
Most people only work with Mercury during its retrograde period, but I feel that of all the inner planets, this is the one that we should really be paying attention to during the whole year. You don’t need to map out all of Mercury’s movements through the year – but advanced students can notice when Mercury moves over important spots in their charts and beginning students can pay attention to what they encounter during retrograde periods as well as what times of the year they feel especially articulate and clear-headed.
Owning the Outie
When it comes to looking at big celestial patterns that can deeply support or dramatically disrupt our lives, the first rule of thumb is to look at the outer planets. These planets include Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. Note that in older astrological texts you will not see Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto mentioned as they were discovered later.
The outer planets represent big patterns and themes that we all want to be aware of as we make our plans. They move much more slowly than the inner planets do, so this gives us more time to get to know the outer planets and means that when they do something special – like move from one zodiac sign to another or go into retrograde – the effects are felt not just by us in our personal lives, but quite often in a more universal and global manner.
The movements of all the planets are called transits and usually when we speak of transits in astrology, we speak of them like this: “In 2023 Pluto makes a significant sign change and begins to transit the sign of Aquarius.” that means that in 2023 Pluto moves out of the sign it has been in (Capricorn) and into a new sign (Aquarius).
Understanding what is happening with the transits of the outer planets each year will help you make any big plans and set you up to get the most out of the coming year. We can also work with the transits of the inner planets but they tend to move much faster than the outer planets so there is a lot more data involved in those assessments which can be overwhelming.
A good place to begin is to simply be aware of where each of the outer planets is for the coming year and make a note of that in your planner…unless your planner already notes it, like ours does. You can access all that information right here.
Now, for some of you, this is awesome information and for others, you might also be feeling overwhelmed because none of this is helpful if you do not know what qualities and areas of life each planet speaks to.
Many astrologers speak about the energy of a given planet and if you like thinking about it that way you certainly can – planets do give off energy, they give off sounds, and in some cases, they give off smells! Personally, I think of the planets as Holy Helpers – they are celestial bodies that resonate with specific areas of life that people are interested in shaping or influencing in some manner. Painting in BIG brushstrokes here are some of the key ideas for each of the outer planets:
Jupiter – money, wealth, wisdom, teaching, traveling
Saturn – debt, banishing, mastery, discipline, asceticism, protection
Neptune – healing, dreams, intuition, magic, love, redemption
Uranus – connection, community, rebellion, technology, progress
Pluto – destruction, power, depth, secrets, re-birth, trauma, sovereignty
Here is how I suggest you work with this information: if your planner does not already do this, then first, make a note in your calendars of where each of the outer planets will be during the year.
Also, check to see if there are retrogrades for each of the outer planets and if there are when those occur (we will talk about retrogrades in a sec). If one of the outer planet changes signs in the coming year, then make a note of those moments in your calendars as well. If your calendar/planner already has these things noted, like the Planning by Starlight planner does, then you are able to go on to the next step.
If you are brand new to this method of planning with astrology, then pick ONE of the outer planets – maybe you want to increase your money this year, so you pick Jupiter or maybe you are really focused on healing a chronic health issue, so you pick Neptune.
Learn about the planet. Learn about the Divine figure that the planet is named for and resonant with. Find out what prayers were said and what offerings were made traditionally by the people who worked with this energy.
Get an image of the planet and put it in a place where you will be sure to see it daily. Write out the glyph of the planet on paper, in incense smoke, on your skin with oil or lotion. Learn what YOU associate with this planet – take the year to really get to know it.
If you want to take this a step farther, find out where the planet is showing up in your natal chart.
Jupiter is currently moving through Aries for everyone, but one person might have Aries ruling their 5th house while another may have it ruling their 8th house. Those different positions can make a big difference in how that Jupiter in Aries energy shows up in your life.
Take it even a step further, by looking at how the planet you have picked relates to other areas of your chart. Because the planet is moving through a sign it will begin to form different aspects with other parts of your chart throughout the year.
If you are an intermediate or advanced student of astrology, then plan with an eye to this. Obviously, when Jupiter is squaring your Sun, you don’t want to try to launch anything or raise money and conversely if it is conjunct your natal Neptune you have a good opportunity to heal something either physically or spiritually.
Retrogrades and Returns
As you begin to work with these methods of planning you will notice that some outer planets really speak to you while others do not. There are a bunch of reasons for this. Your sun sign has a natural planetary ruler, depending on your chart you may have a planet in a very powerful position (for instance, in my chart Pluto is right on top of my Sun so I have a strong relationship to Pluto).
You do not need to know anything about your chart or planetary ruler though to find out which planets really speak to you – all you need to do is pay attention to the moments when planets shift signs and when they go retrograde – those two instances are often enough to tell you if you really feel the presence of a planet or not, especially in the case of the outer planets.
So, note when the planets are going retrograde (where they appear to go backward in the sky even though they really are not), and then when those events happen, ask yourself – how do I feel, what have I experienced and what have I realized during this time?
A third way to work with planetary transits is to focus on returns. You experience a planetary return when the planet in question returns to the exact point it was at during the time you were born. Because planetary motion is regular, returns are also regular.
The best-known return is your solar return – also known as your birthday! Everyone experiences a Jupiter return every 12 years. Mercury returns to its original place in your birth chart every year, and most of us experience a Venus return every one to two years. Saturn returns occur every 28 years. Uranus returns to the exact spot it was in at the time of your birth every 84 years.
Planetary returns respond well to reflection. If you have marked out in your calendars what returns you might experience each year, then you are more likely to take even a couple of hours and reflect on what you have learned since the last time the planet was in that placement.
As you start playing with these different possibilities you will probably start to notice a pattern (actually, you will start to notice A LOT of patterns) but you may notice that sometimes there are astrologically sticky moments or that there are big Astro opportunities and now that you have marked them in your calendar you don’t really know what to do with them.
I mean sure, you can “be aware” of them – but is there more to it than that? Indeed, there is, and that will be what we cover in our third lesson!