Questions from Readers
One of our subscribers has requested a discussion of the planets with double rulership, especially of Mercury as ruler of Gemini and Virgo, and of Venus as ruler of Taurus and Libra. How do you decide whether to interpret Mercury as more Gemini or more Virgo, and Venus as more Taurus or more Libra?
As is true for all of astrology, there are no quick, easy answers. It is clear that Mercury symbolizes the conscious side of the mind, and that our mental action can range from wide to narrow focus, from the spectator view which is content to look, try to understand and talk, to the application of knowledge to produce tangible results. It is also clear that Venus symbolizes our capacity for pleasure, whether we seek it mainly through the physical world or through interactions with our fellow human beings. Interpretations become more challenging when the planets are in signs and/or houses other than the two they “rule.”
As has been said often in our journals, the research by Michel and Francoise Gauquelin can provide helpful understanding IF we know how to interpret it. Facts are observable and unarguable if the methods in gathering them are clearly defined. The interpretations of those facts are totally variable, depending on the premises (beliefs or assumptions) of the interpreters. The Gauquelins found two “power zones” in their results; the ninth house plus ten degrees into the tenth house, and the twelfth house plus ten degrees into the first house. Mars occupied those zones statistically more often than would occur by chance in famous athletes, military men, and doctors (mostly surgeons). Jupiter occupied these zones more often than chance would predict in the horoscopes of actors and politicians. Saturn was in the zones for the doctors and for scientists. The Moon was there for writers.
From this initial work involving thousands of famous individuals but limited to the objective fact of their career choice, the Gauquelins expanded their efforts to something more intangible; the personality of their subjects. Biographies, newspapers, magazines, etc. were culled to list descriptive adjectives for each individual. The Gauquelins found that people described with “Mars-type” words such as aggressive, forceful, impatient, dynamic, etc. had Mars in the power zones with higher odds against it happening by chance than they had found for the Mars-vocations. It became clear that Mars was signifying a personality type who might or might not choose a “Martian” vocation dealing with competition, metal tools or weapons, etc. Venus had not appeared often enough in association with any of the vocations included in the research to be statistically significant, but Venus did appear in the personality typing associated with such traditional Venusian attributes as being pleasant, easy-going, indulgent, indolent, etc. The association with pleasure was unmistakable. Mercury was harder to fit into traditional astrological associations. If I can trust my memory, the famous people with Mercury in the power zones tended to be described as somewhat hard, narrow, driving, tight, etc. They certainly did not sound very Gemini, but also lacked the serving, nurturing association of Virgo, sounding more Capricorn than any other of our twelve sides of life.
To understand the Gauquelin results with Mercury, we have to remember that the subjects of these research projects were famous, highly successful people in a variety of professions which all demand some degree of sustained ambition and effort. Neither the Gemini multiplicity of interests and talents and superficial curiosity nor the Virgo focus on just doing a helpful job as well as one can, are likely to get one to the top of a competitive profession. Mercury placed in the ninth or twelfth house tells us that the individual places an ultimate value on the conscious mind but that can lead to either overdoing or self-blocking depending on where faith is placed or whether is it weak. Some with that Mercury placement will go on in traditional education to teach, write, or work with research. Some will scatter their attention, or keep changing their goals and values, or keep hoping for an unrealizable ideal, and lack the practical “follow-through” to achieve success. Some individuals, especially where Mercury has conflict aspects, may lack faith in their mental ability. Where letters nine and twelve are involved, we only know that faith is an issue. We do not know whether the person has too much, too little, is in conflict between different beliefs and values, is putting the faith in a fragment of life to create an idolatry which may let him/her down in the end, etc. The people who lack faith and clear goals are not likely to be in the Gauquelin sample.
Mercury in the tenth house is like Mercury in Capricorn, fitting the personality traits found by the Gauquelins to be associated with Mercury in the power zones. They will use their minds (and/or hands) in their work in the world. Of course, many individuals with that position start life by giving the power away. Saturn and the tenth house symbolize the LAW of the cosmos and the power figures who enforce the law until we have claimed our share of that power through a successful career. Many people with a tenth house Mercury remain doubters of their mental ability, and hold back until they prove to themselves that they can achieve. Naturally, the doubters and self-blockers are not in the Gauquelin sample population of famous, successful people. Fire is the element of confidence, and individuals with a fire planet(s) or sign in the tenth house or simply a fire emphasis in the chart, are likely to claim their personal power sooner than people whose charts emphasize the other elements.
Mercury in the first house indicates a person who is identified with the conscious mind, but as with all the other placements, this only tells us that the mind is important to the individual. Those with confidence in their personal mental ability will live in the head and express themselves freely and easily. The self-doubters will think a lot but much of the mental activity may not show on the outside and they are also likely to be omitted from the Gauquelin sample populations. We might say as a generalization that people who apply their minds with ambition and determination are the ones most likely to make it to the top, but it seems unwarranted to generalize that Mercury in the power zones normally functions in that way.
In general principles then, Mercury in fire signs or houses shows the potential of mental confidence, initiative, creativity, and impulsive expression provided the person is not too blocked by doubts (which would be suggested in the chart by conflict aspects to earth and water factors). Mercury in earth signs or houses would tend to have a practical mind, wanting tangible evidence and results from mental activity. Mercury in air would be most at home, true to its most basic nature—Gemini, enjoying the role of spectator or communicator. Mercury in water signs or houses would show potential psychic ability; connections between the conscious and unconscious aspects of the mind. In most charts, there will be a mixture with a sign of one element and a house of a different one, but if you are clear about the basic principles, the interpretation of the combination is simple logic. Remember that anything important about the person’s basic nature will be said repeatedly in the chart. Everyone has everything; it is the emphasis which varies. Qualities are also part of the picture. Cardinal signs or houses tend to involve overt action (not necessarily self-initiated — that is a fire trait). Fixed signs or houses tend to be more persistent and self-willed. Mutable signs or houses tend to be more flexible or versatile. Since it does symbolize the mind and it is easier to change the mind than it is to change the emotions or the physical body, Mercury does tend to take on the coloring of its sign and house. It is not a “blank slate” but it is an important symbol showing part of our potential to be objective, versatile, flexible, rational, logical, detached, etc. If we are too much that way, we are not likely to be included in the Gauquelin samples since we will not have the driving ambition to make it to the top. If we have too little of that Mercury talent, we may or may not be successful but we are very likely to suffer a good bit. We can change, but we have to want to change.
Venus shows where we look for pleasure. In fire, we enjoy impulsive and creative action. In earth we enjoy tangible things and results. In air we enjoy people and ideas. In water we enjoy protecting or being protected. As with Mercury, a cardinal placement points to overt action; a fixed placement to persistent desire; a mutable placement to a mental, flexible emphasis. Of course, it is possible to have inner conflict over different pleasures. A very common form of such conflict is between immediate gratification and long range satisfactions. If I eat this chocolate doughnut right now it will taste wonderful. My scales tomorrow might be less satisfying. I have found there is actually a solution to that Venusian dilemma. If I exercise, I can have the doughnut without gaining weight. But there is still a dilemma. The exercise is an immediate drag (not a pleasure) for a long range satisfaction of a normal figure. Life requires choices. Astrology just helps us to conceptualize the issues so we can choose consciously, rather than remain controlled by the unconscious.