Astrological symbols

Symbols used in astrology overlap with those used in astronomy because of the historical overlap between the two subjects. Frequently used symbols include signs of the zodiac and for the classical planets. These have their origin in medieval Byzantine astronomy, but in their current form are a product of the European Renaissance. Other symbols for astrological aspects are used in various astrological traditions.

History and origin

Symbols for the classical planets, zodiac signs, aspects, lots, and the lunar nodes appear in the medieval Byzantine codices in which many ancient horoscopes were preserved.[1] In the original papyri of these Greek horoscopes, there were found a circle with the glyph representing shine() for the Sun and a crescent for the Moon.[2] The written symbols for Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn have been traced to forms found in late Greek papyri.[3] The symbols for Jupiter and Saturn are identified as monograms of the initial letters of the corresponding Greek names, and the symbol for Mercury is a stylized caduceus.[3] A. S. D. Maunder finds antecedents of the planetary symbols in earlier sources, used to represent the gods associated with the classical planets. Bianchini's planisphere, produced in the 2nd century,[4] shows Greek personifications of planetary gods charged with early versions of the planetary symbols: Mercury has a caduceus; Venus has, attached to her necklace, a cord connected to another necklace; Mars, a spear; Jupiter, a staff; Saturn, a scythe; the Sun, a circlet with rays radiating from it; and the Moon, a headdress with a crescent attached.[5] A diagram in Johannes Kamateros' 12th century Compendium of Astrology shows the Sun represented by the circle with a ray, Jupiter by the letter zeta (the initial of Zeus, Jupiter's counterpart in Greek mythology), Mars by a shield crossed by a spear, and the remaining classical planets by symbols resembling the modern ones, without the cross-mark seen in modern versions of the symbols.[5] The modern sun symbol, pictured as a circle with a dot (☉), first appeared in the Renaissance.[2]

Symbols for Uranus and Neptune were created shortly after their discovery. For Uranus, two variant symbols are seen. One symbol, , invented by J. G. Köhler and refined by Bode, was intended to represent the newly discovered metal platinum; since platinum, commonly called white gold, was found by chemists mixed with iron, the symbol for platinum combines the alchemical symbols for iron, ♂, and gold, ☉.[6][7] Another symbol, , was suggested by Lalande in 1784. In a letter to Herschel, Lalande described it as "un globe surmonté par la première lettre de votre nom" ("a globe surmounted by the first letter of your name").[8] After Neptune was discovered, the Bureau des Longitudes proposed the name Neptune and the familiar trident for the planet's symbol.[9]

The astrological symbols for the first three objects discovered at the beginning of the 19th century —Ceres, Pallas, and Juno—were also created after their discovery. Firstly, they were listed as planets, and half a century later, renamed as Asteroids. Shortly after Giuseppe Piazzi's discovery of Ceres, a group of astronomers ratified the name, proposed by the discoverer, and chose the sickle as a symbol of the planet.[10] The symbol for Pallas, the spear of Pallas Athena, was invented by Baron Franz Xaver von Zach, and introduced in his Monatliche Correspondenz zur Beförderung der Erd- und Himmels-Kunde.[11] Karl Ludwig Harding, who discovered and named Juno, assigned to it the symbol of a scepter topped with a star.[12]

The modern astrological symbol for Vesta was created by Eleanor Bach,[13] who is credited with pioneering the use of the Big Four asteroids with the publication of her Ephemerides of the Asteroids.[14] Bach's symbol for Vesta is a simplified version of other representations of Vesta's altar.[13] The original form of the symbol for Vesta, , was created by German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss. Dr. Olbers, having previously discovered and named one new planet (as the asteroids were then classified), gave Gauss the honor of naming his newest discovery. Gauss decided to name the planet for the goddess Vesta, and also specified that the symbol should be the altar of the goddess with the sacred fire burning on it.[15][16]

Pluto, like Uranus, has two symbols in use. One symbol, a monogram of the letters PL (which could be interpreted to stand for Pluto or for astronomer Percival Lowell), was announced with the name of the new planet by the discoverers on May 1, 1930.[17] The other symbol, which was popularized in Paul Clancy's astrological publications, is based on the symbol for Mercury, with the circle and arc of Mercury trading positions. This symbol is described by Dane Rudhyar as "suggest[ing] the planetary character of the Pluto mind by the circle, floating above the open cup." Although, this meaning is readily debatable due to Blavatskian origins, rather than a properly traditional understanding, such as may be found in the hermetic sciences.[18]

The symbol for the centaur Chiron, a key with the letter K (for discoverer Charles T. Kowal) was proposed by astrologer Al Morrison, who presented the symbol as "an inspiration shared amongst Al H. Morrison, Joelle K.D. Mahoney, and Marlene Bassoff."[19]

The symbol for retrograde motion is ℞, a capital R with a tail stroke.[20][21][22] An R with a tail stroke was used to abbreviate many words beginning with the letter R; in medical prescriptions, it abbreviated the word recipe[23] (from the Latin imperative of recipere "to take"[24]), and in missals, an R with a tail stroke marked the responses.[23]

Meanings of the symbols

Astrological planets

Further information: Planets in astrology

The glyphs of the planets are usually (but not always) broken down into four common elements: A circle denoting spirit, a crescent denoting the mind, a cross denoting practical/physical matter and an arrow denoting action or direction.[25]

Name Symbol Image Symbol represents Meaning of symbol
Sun Solar symbol (circled dot) Divine spirit (circle) surrounding seed of potential
Moon A crescent Mind or evolving human spirit through receptivity (crescent)
Mercury Mercury's winged helmet and caduceus Mind (crescent) poised over divine spirit (circle) and matter (cross)
Venus Hand mirror or necklace (see Venus symbol) Divine spirit (circle) over matter (cross)
Earth Earth; a Solar symbol (sun cross) Planet Earth — the cardinal directions.
Earth; a Solar symbol (alternate symbol) cf. Globus cruciger
Mars Mars's shield and spear. Drive (arrow) over divine spirit (circle)
Ceres Scythe (handle down), emblematic of Ceres as goddess of the Harvest. A stylized sickle, a crescent of receptivity resting on a cross of matter.
Jupiter Jupiter's thunderbolt or eagle Mind (crescent) rising above the horizon of matter (cross)
Saturn Saturn's sickle Matter (cross) taking precedence over mind or human spirit (crescent)
Uranus H in symbol taken from discoverer's last name, Herschel The circle of spirit and a dominant cross of matter, in form of an antenna that uses matter as a way to insight.
Derived from a combination of the Mars and Sun symbols Astronomical glyph often used astrologically. Drive over a divine spirit (circle) surrounding seed of potential
Neptune Neptune's trident Mind or receptivity (crescent) transcending matter (cross)
Pluto   Pluto's Cap of invisibility (the circle) and a bident (the arc under the circle), also a typical attribute of Pluto. Mind (crescent) transcending matter (cross) to reach for divine spirit (circle)
PL monogram for Pluto and Percival Lowell Astronomical symbol occasionally used astrologically.

Signs of the zodiac

Further information: Zodiac and Astrological sign
Name Meaning Symbol Image Symbol Represents
Aries Ram Face and horns of ram
Taurus Bull Face and horns of bull
Gemini Twins Companion
Cancer Crab Crab's claws
Leo Lion A script form of the Greek letter "lambda", which is the first letter of the Greek word leon, which means "lion"
Virgo Virgin Derived from the Greek letters ΠΑΡ, which are the first three letters of the Greek word parthenos, which means "virgin"
Libra Scale Scales
Scorpio Scorpion Stinger of a scorpion
Sagittarius Archer Arrow of the centaur
Capricorn[26] Sea-goat or mountain goat Body and head of a goat with the tail of a fish or face and horns of goat.
Aquarius Waterbearer Ripples of water.
Pisces Fish Two fish tied together yet swimming in opposite directions


Further information: Astrological aspects
Name Symbol Image Angle Explanation
Conjunction Two or more planets in the same sign

A circle with a line implying two objects are in the same place (also, the starting point of an angle)

Semisextile 30° One sign apart

The intersecting lines from the inner angles of the upper half of a hexagon (see Sextile)

Semi-square  45° (also known as the "octile" or "semiquartile")

The bisecting line of a right angle (see Square)

Sextile 60° Two signs apart

The intersecting lines from the inner angles of a hexagon

Quintile  72°
Square   90° (also known as the "quartile")/Three signs apart/Same modality

A regular quadrilateral that represents the right angle

Trine  120° Four signs apart/Same elemental triplicity

An equilateral triangle.

Sesquiquadrate 135° (also known as the "sesquisquare," "square-and-a-half," and/or "trioctile")

The glyph of the Semi-Square under the glyph of the Square, implying the sum of them both

Biquintile  144°
Quincunx 150° (also known as the "inconjunct")/Five signs apart

The intersecting lines from the inner angles of the lower half of a hexagon (see Sextile)

Opposition 180° Six signs apart

The glyph of the Conjunction plus a circle on top of its line, implying two objects are in front (opposed) of each other.

Lunar phases

Further information: Lunar phase and Lunation type
Name Symbol[27][28] Explanation
New moon Denotes the new moon or a soli-lunar arc in the range 0°-45°.
Crescent moon Denotes a waxing crescent moon or a soli-lunar arc in the range 45°-90°.
First quarter moon Denotes a first quarter moon or a soli-lunar arc in the range 90°-135°.
Gibbous moon Denotes a waxing gibbous moon or a soli-lunar arc in the range 135°-180°.
Full moon Denotes a full moon or a soli-lunar arc in the range 180°-225°.
Disseminating moon Denotes a waning gibbous moon or a soli-lunar arc in the range 225°-270°.
Last quarter moon Denotes a last quarter moon or a soli-lunar arc in the range 270°-315°.
Balsamic moon Denotes a waning crescent moon or a soli-lunar arc in the range 315°-360°.

Miscellaneous symbols

Name Symbol Symbol represents Explanation
Ascendant Angle The ascendant (also known as the "ascensum coeli") is the rising intersection of the ecliptic with the celestial horizon at a particular moment in time; it is used in the construction of a horoscope/natal chart
Midheaven Angle The midheaven (also known as the "medium coeli") is the point where the ecliptic crosses the local meridian; it is used in the construction of a horoscope/natal chart
Ascending Node Lunar node Not all astrologers use the lunar nodes; however, their usage is very important in Vedic astrology. They are alternately known as the "Dragon's Head" (Rahu, Caput Draconis, or Anabibazon) and the "Dragon's Tail" (Ketu, Cauda Draconis, or Catabibazon). The two nodes together are most commonly referred to simply as the nodal axis, the lunar nodes, or the Moon's nodes.
Descending Node Lunar node
Black Moon Lilith Lunar apogee The traditional Black Moon Lilith is the position of the mean lunar apogee as measured from the geocenter; variants of the Black Moon include replacing the mean orbit with a "true" osculating orbit or with an interpolated orbit; charting the empty focus of the Moon's orbit instead of the apogee; and measuring the desired point's barycentric or topocentric position instead of its geocentric position.[29]
Retrograde motion Apparent retrograde motion Symbol represents the apparent retrograde motion of a planet in an astrological chart
Comet Comet Different comets often use different symbols, but the use of comets is not widespread in mainstream astrology
2 Pallas Asteroid A spear (variant has triangle on top)
Alchemical symbol for sulfur (both variants) see also Asteroids in astrology)
10 Hygiea Asteroid A serpent coiled around Asclepius' rod
Two serpents coiled around the rod. (Alternative astrological symbol)
3 Juno Asteroid The scepter (of a queen, Juno is the Roman equivalent of Greek Hera) topped with a star
4 Vesta Asteroid The fire on the hearth or altar (Roman equivalent of Greek Hestia)
2060 Chiron Centaur Stylized body of a centaur (the circle is the horse part, the K-like glyph is the human part)
Lot of fortune Lot Glyph for planet Earth rotated 45 degrees.
Eris Dwarf planet An Eye of Providence; proposed by astrologer Zane B. Stein[30]
The Hand of Eris; also used non-astrologically by Discordians[30]
Apple of Discord[31]
In use by astrologers in Poland and by the astrology software Urania[30][32]
Based on the symbols for Pluto, Mars, and Venus; proposed by Henry Seltzer and used in Time Passages[30][33]
Makemake Dwarf planet Engraved face of the Rapa Nui god Makemake [34]
Haumea Dwarf planet Combination of the Hawaiian petroglyphs for woman and birthchild, as Haumea was the goddess of them.[34]
Ixion Plutino It represents the fiery wheel Zeus bound Ixion to (visible at the top), according tho the Greek mythology, as a conviction in the Tartarus.
Sedna Small body It consists of the symbols of the inuktitut syllabics for 'sa' and 'n', since in this language Sedna is written as 'Sanna' (ᓴᓐᓇ). Besides, it resembles the shape of a marine animal leaping from the water, in alussion to the myth of Sedna, the sea inuit goddess.[34]
Quaoar Small body sharp rock art of the Tongva people, in whose mythology it is present the creator god Quaoar, and the letter Q and a canoe.[34]
Typhon Scattered disk object Simplified representation of a hurricane, as in Greek mythology Typhon was a divine monster that could create hurricanes with his wings

Unicode encodings

Symbol Image Unicode[35] Glyph
Sun U+2609
U+1F71A 🜚
Moon U+263D
Mercury U+263F
Venus U+2640
Earth U+2295
Mars U+2642
Jupiter U+2643
Saturn U+2644
Uranus U+2645
Neptune U+2646
1 Ceres U+26B3
2 Pallas U+26B4
3 Juno U+26B5
4 Vesta U+26B6
10 Hygiea U+2695
2060 Chiron U+26B7
Eris not present --
not present --
≈ U+2641
≈ U+29EC
Pluto U+2647
not present --
Aries U+2648
Taurus U+2649
Gemini U+264A
Cancer U+264B
Leo U+264C
Virgo U+264D
Libra U+264E
Scorpio U+264F
Sagittarius U+2650
Capricorn U+2651
Aquarius U+2652
Pisces U+2653
Conjunction U+260C
Semisextile U+26BA
Semi-square ≈ U+2220
Sextile U+26B9
Quintile U+0051 Q
Square U+25A1
Trine U+25B3
Sesquiquadrate U+26BC
Biquintile U+0062 U+0051 bQ
Quincunx U+26BB
Opposition U+260D
New moon U+1F311 🌑
Crescent moon U+1F312 🌒
First quarter moon U+1F313 🌓
Gibbous moon U+1F314 🌔
Full moon U+1F315 🌕
Disseminating moon U+1F316 🌖
Last quarter moon U+1F317 🌗
Balsamic moon U+1F318 🌘
Ascendant not plain text ASC
Midheaven not plain text MC
Ascending node U+260A
Descending node U+260B
Black Moon Lilith U+26B8
Retrograde motion ≈ U+211E
Lot of fortune ≈ U+2297
Comet U+2604

See also


  1. Neugebauer, Otto (1975). A history of ancient mathematical astronomy. pp. 788–789.
  2. 1 2 Neugebauer, Otto; Van Hoesen, H. B. (1987). Greek Horoscopes. pp. 1, 159, 163.
  3. 1 2 Jones, Alexander (1999). Astronomical papyri from Oxyrhynchus. pp. 62–63. "It is now possible to trace the medieval symbols for at least four of the five planets to forms that occur in some of the latest papyrus horoscopes ([ P.Oxy. ] 4272, 4274, 4275 [...]). That for Jupiter is an obvious monogram derived from the initial letter of the Greek name. Saturn's has a similar derivation [...] but underwent simplification. The ideal form of Mars' symbol is uncertain, and perhaps not related to the later circle with an arrow through it. Mercury's is a stylized caduceus."
  4. "Bianchini's planisphere". Florence, Italy: Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza (Institute and Museum of the History of Science). Retrieved 2010-03-17.
  5. 1 2 Maunder, A. S. D. (1934). "The origin of the symbols of the planets". The Observatory. 57: 238–247. Bibcode:1934Obs....57..238M.
  6. Bode, J. E. (1784). Von dem neu entdeckten Planeten. pp. 95–96.
  7. Gould, B. A. (1850). Report on the history of the discovery of Neptune. Smithsonian Institution. p. 5.
  8. Francisca Herschel (1917). "The meaning of the symbol H+o for the planet Uranus". The Observatory. Bibcode:1917Obs....40..306H.
  9. Gould, B. A. (1850). Report on the history of the discovery of Neptune. Smithsonian Institution. p. 22.
  10. Bode, J. E., ed. (1801). Berliner astronomisches Jahrbuch führ das Jahr 1804. pp. 97–98.
  11. von Zach, Franz Xaver (1802). Monatliche Correspondenz zur Beförderung der Erd- und Himmels-Kunde, Volume 6. pp. 95-96.
  12. von Zach, Franz Xaver (1804). Monatliche Correspondenz zur Beförderung der Erd- und Himmels-Kunde. 10. p. 471.
  13. 1 2 "Asteroid Symbols". Retrieved 2010-05-20.
  14. "Memorial for Astrologer, Eleanor Bach". Retrieved 2010-05-20.
  15. von Zach, Franz Xaver (1807). Monatliche Correspondenz zur Beförderung der Erd- und Himmels-Kunde. 15. p. 507.
  16. Carlini, Francesco (1808). Effemeridi astronomiche di Milano per l'anno 1809.
  17. Rudhyar, Dane (1966). "PART FIVE: Mercury and Pluto". The Planets and their Symbols. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
  18. Morrison, Al H. (1977). "Chiron". CAO Times. 3: 57.
  19. Randall, Sidney (2006). The ABC of the Old Science of Astrology. p. 14. ISBN 978-1-59605-920-7. ...the with the stroke across the tail stands for Retrograde.
  20. Lilly, William (1659). Christian Astrology. pp. 35, 37. A chart with by a retrograde Jupiter appears on p. 35; on p. 37, describing the construction of the chart, Lilly says: "And because [Jupiter] is noted Retrograde I place the letter R, the better to informe my judgement."
  21. (Booth, Janet (2005). "Mercury Retrograde". Archived from the original on 2010-11-14. Retrieved 2010-10-20. The symbol for retrograde looks like an ”R” with an “X” going through it, the same as the symbol for a prescription.
  22. 1 2 Smith, Frances Gurney, ed. (1852). "The Medical Examiner, and record of medical science". 8: 804.
  23. "Recipe definition". 2007-04-25. Retrieved 2010-01-22.
  24. Glyphs of the general astrological and Uranian planets
  25. Behari, Bepin (2003). Myths & Symbols of Vedic Astrology. p. 155. Of the two emblems related to [Capricorn], one is a horizontal line terminating with a downward moving arc ending with a loop having an extended arc , and the other has a V-shaped beginning whose downward arc convexing to the right .
  26. Rudhyar, Dane. "The Eight Lunation Types", from Your Lunation Birthday.
  27. Meyer, Michael R. "Key to Symbols Archived September 23, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.", from KhaldeaEphemeris7z, p. 5.
  28. Revilla, Juan Antonio. "The Black Moon Apogee and its Variants". Retrieved 2010-08-20.
  29. 1 2 3 4 Stein, Zane. Chiron and Friends - What's Out Past Pluto?
  30. Chiron and Friends – Eris.
  31. Astrological symbols of planets, zodiac signs and aspects
  32. Seltzer, Henry. Hail Eris!
  33. 1 2 3 4
  34. "Unicode 6.0 Character Code Charts". Archived from the original on 10 October 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-11.

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