The Answer Box
Patrick: What is meant when a planet is said to be prominent, and when it is said a planet is well placed?
Zip: Normally, prominence is assigned when a planet has very close and/or numerous aspects, especially when it aspects the angles of the horoscope. A planet conjunct any angle is often a major key to character, most particularly when the orb is within one degree in the natal or progressed chart. Many astrologers also weight a planet when it is in its own sign or its own house, using the natural zodiac such as Mars in the first house, Venus in the second house, etc. A planet aspecting either of the lights (Sun or Moon) is considered especially important. Prominence is roughly equivalent to power, and can be either relatively harmonious or stressful, depending on the type of aspects involved. Of course, with insight, even the stressful power can be directed constructively.
“Well-placed” usually means a planet with mostly harmonious aspects or one in its own or in a complementary sign or house; e.g. a sign or house that is sextile or trine its own sign or house. Many astrologers also consider planets in their so-called “exaltation” signs to be well-placed. As you know, I consider many of the exaltations to be very difficult placements, where the planets are in signs that are naturally square or quincunx their own signs. Yet it is true that Mercury and Jupiter co-rule a sign square to their own, while Venus and Mars co-rule a sign quincunx their own. These seem to me to be powerful but not always comfortable placements. Where co-rulerships are concerned, the signs always have some strong commonality, but enough difference to offer a challenge of some sort. For example, Gemini and Virgo both involve the conscious, reasoning mind, but air is a superficial spectator where earth is driven to produce in tangible form, and thus must be more thorough. In contrast, the Venus signs, also air and earth, are both concerned with the Venus principle—pleasure. But one is more concerned with physical things; the other with pleasant relationships with people. Taurus need not consider any pleasure except its own; Libra must learn to balance personal rights against the rights of others if there is to be mutual harmony and pleasure. Mars in Aries must stand up for personal rights; Mars in Scorpio like Venus in Libra must take the rights of others into account. Jupiter symbolized faith in either Sagittarius or Pisces, but the first is a head trip as against pure heart in the second. Have you ever felt torn between truth and kindness? That is one example of the Sagittarius-Pisces conflict.
There are other traditions in astrology about “good placement” with which I am also in disagreement as with the exaltations. Sometimes any planet in the first, fifth, ninth, tenth or eleventh house is considered automatically “good.” Sometimes the third house is added to the list. As you can note, these are mostly air-fire houses which encourage open, spontaneous expression, and people generally prefer that “easy flow” to the more serious, careful approach of earth and water. The tenth house is favored as a key to power, but I have seen too many people doing a real self-blocking number on themselves with 10th house planets to agree with such an assumption. In the end, nothing can be assumed “good” or “bad,” and nothing can be taken out of context of the whole chart. With insight, all parts of our nature can be manifested in healthy ways, and the basic message of the chart must be seen repeatedly, in many different combinations, before we can make even a tentative guess about the potential for its expression in life.