The Planets

Richard Tarnas
From Archai Issue 1, 2009

There are ten planetary archetypes that are central to astrological research today. Seven of these were recognized in the classical astrological tradition and correspond to the seven celestial bodies of the solar system visible to the unaided eye (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn); the other three correspond to those planets discovered by telescope in the modern era (Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto). The astrological tradition has long held that when astronomy was originally united with astrology, the ancients named the visible planets according to each one’s intrinsic archetypal character, that is, according to the ruling mythic deity of which the planet was the visible manifestation. The earliest surviving Greek text that named all the known planets is the Platonist dialogue the Epinomis, which explicitly postulated a cosmic association between the planets and specific gods, speaking of them as cosmic powers and visible deities. Composed either by Plato himself or by a close disciple and written in the fourth century BCE as an appendix to Plato’s last work, the Laws, the Epinomis affirmed the divinity of the planets and then went on to introduce the specific Greek name for each planet according to the deity which that planet was understood to be “sacred to”—Hermes, Aphrodite, Ares, Zeus, Kronos. These Greek gods were cited as corresponding to the equivalent Mesopotamian deities whose names had long been associated with the planets by the already ancient astrological tradition inherited from Babylonia. In turn, in later centuries these planets became known in Europe and the modern West by the names of their Roman equivalents: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

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