Feline Magic

Feline Magic & Book of Shadows

© Rev. Ariana Clausen – Vélez

2003 Revised 2006 Feb 17


Introduction to Feline Magic

What is it about the cat that we are so drawn to? This answer may vary depending upon who you ask. Myself, it is many things about her that I am drawn to, her power, her gentleness, her aggressive, her eyes, the way she carries herself and all that she gives in her love.

I have owned many in my life and in this life time only a few. My first one came to me from a neighbour. She was black bright green eyes. She was always there for me, even if I wasn’t for her. She was a wonderful, powerful cat named Black Widow [Widow for short]. She was a Pisces, amazingly intuitive as to when I was home from my trips. She was a free-spirited cat and one of my strongest familiars. I had her for many years until she fell ill and I had to put her down. That was the hardest time in my life. I felt like I had lost the one person who was always next to me. She slept with me, woke me up, took care of me when I was sick, made me laugh when I was sad, and did all the things a best friend would do. I began to see visions of her. Images would appear before me, and when I would instantly slip into a trance. Then, one day she spoke. She told me that she was fine and would always be there……. and yes, would return to me one day. I have always too this day, cherished her in my life; and I always will.

Eight years later, I was in a salon where one of the hairdressers had a carrier with her. Inside was little, 15-day old black kitten. Instantly the kitten leapt towards me wanting me too pet her. Well, I went home and asked my husband [boyfriend at the time] if I could bring her home. He agreed. I went to pick her up the following week. Her name is Onyx, born on Aug 8, 2000. She is a Leo with a Gemini Rising and a Pisces Moon. She is very much a gem and a familiar.

In talking about my familiars, in the past few years more have come and gone than I would have ever imagined. After Onyx came, then less than a year later another came to me on the Full Moon of Samhain. I had seen her around the house before; but on this particular night, she made her significance known to me.

The moon was at its’ fullest power and bright orange too. My stones were in the front yard, cleansing and charging in the circle. She appeared outside my office. Appeared and we chatted for some time through the door. Her name was Agatha, and she eventually became a permanent part of the house.

OnJanuary 29, 2001she was hit by a car. As a result, I created a ‘Spirit Call Spell’ for Felines, included in the Feline Book of Shadows Lesson. There are other lessons that cover other areas of the Feline and her Magic as well.

The cat is an interesting being as I have come to learn. They are not owned by humans. They are very watchful. When they choose you as a friend, they will watch you, from afar, for a time. This is to see how you are, how you act, how you treat others [humans and animals], and, many in my experience, how you respect their surroundings. Only then will they choose whom to live with for the time that is needed. They are truly wonderful friends. In choosing you, they are telling you that you are being blessed with their presence.

Cats are great hunters, and love to share trophies with their human counterparts, I can only say so much there. I have had more than my share, though some not so good in appearance. They expect to be treated properly, pampered, spoiled and allowed too come and go as they wish.


History of the Feline

It is all too common knowledge these days where the history begins, Egypt since around 2600 B.C.E.

In Egypt the cat is the most worshipped of all the animals. It is a punishment of death if anyone were to kill a cat. They worshipped the following deities; Bastet, Pasht, Ubastet, Sekhmet, Set, and Ra. All were with cat heads and human formed bodies. Set and Ra were with the male human body. Ra was the Sun god, Pasht was the aggressive side to Bastet, Sekhmet was the lion figured one and loved blood. Set, we know was known to have murdered his brother Osiris.

So what about the treatment of the feline and how they were revered? Well, they were sometimes considered more important than the human counterpart themselves. If a house was seen burning down, it was the fireman’s job to get the cat out first and then go back for the human. If a person was seen purposely harming a cat, they would be put to death. This was considered an act worse than murder. Now, too in some cases mobs would be seen ripping a person limb from limb if they witnessed this person harming a cat. This was a very common occurrence in Egypt cultures.

What of the meaning nine lives? Well, this simply meant that a cat could only live nine separate lives as a cat. Meaning it could reincarnate nine times to a cat form, and no more. Now, when a cat completed this cycle it was a time of great mourning for the family’s involved. They would shave off their eyebrows, this was considered too be full mourning upon their death. Because, once this happened they could no longer incarnate into a cat, from this point on they would reincarnate into other life forms.

The funeral rites were very important to the Egyptians in how they buried their cats. They would be embalmed, with various herbs, oils, drugs, and spices. Depending on the families status they would then wrapped the cat in either plain or multi-coloured linen. Following this paper mache’ or a sculptured wooden mask would be placed over the cat’s head, and then too they would carefully cover this with either plain or multi-coloured linen. Painted and then decorated with the finest of gold, if the family could afford such luxuries. Once the mummification was completed they would then be placed into a mummy case, along with the necessary afterlife objects and foods. If this was for a kitten of course the case would be smaller and the metal bronze instead of gold.

The Egyptian word for cat is Máu, likely based for the sound that cats made.  The Egyptian word for lion is Maáu, however, the meaning of the word is light, and this eluding to the Sun god Ra. In Sanskrit the word for cat is ‘’margaras’’, meaning hunter, in Hindu ‘’cleaner’’, Aryan ‘’ghad’’, Latin ‘’cattus’’, French ‘’chat’’, Italian ‘’gatto’’, German ‘’katze’’, and Arabic ‘’ kittah’’. Original origins for the cat are believed to have come from the Greek word ‘’catus’’, meaning acute.

In the occult cats are viewed as being all knowing, all seeing, and with great psychic abilities. It is even said that if a cat allows you to look into their eyes long enough, you will see the land of the fey and the underworld. This is a rear blessing if one allows this of their human counterpart. They are known for predicting all kinds of weather, natural disasters [prodigies], and omens and portends. I usually know what kind of weather to expect, as Onyx is like a weather man, and she is always on target. She is observant and very powerful.

The Black cat that is most associated to the Underworld as many see it as an omen of death and many unless a Witch will not own a black cat out of fear of the connection it has to the Underworld.  It is mostly connected to the Underworld by the colour it carries as well as the associations to both Hel and Hecate.

Then you must remember that in the old days, during the burning times as well as the Celtic and Druids feared the cat, whether it be black, white, yellow, gold, because it was believed to be a Witch that had shape shifted into a cat to bring harm and/or death to anyone it visited in the night.  Also, being that the cat is nocturnal and most do go out and play during the late hours of the night this too associates them with the Underworld.  Druids on the night of Samhain would take all the cats they could gather and burn them alive.  This was how they believed to release the evil energy from the cat in which they saw as a Witches Imp to carry out dark works.  And cats carry messages to their friends that they choose to live with from the Spirit World and if allowed to look into their eyes you will see another realm behind them, that of the Underworld.

Later in history the cat was associated with witchcraft, and causing harm at the wish of their human counterpart. And this caused a great fear of the feline by many people. So, much so that they created a device that was a cat trap, called the “cat o gan”. It was a musical instrument that was used to entrap as many as 20 at a time, their tails being pulled by a mechanism that made them meow in grave pain. The cat o gan remained in use for exactly 100 years. However, during the hunts some were lucky enough to have escaped the hunts and tortures of their organs being removed and races that were used to torture these beautiful beings. They escaped a most interesting way, by way of ship. They were a welcomed site, as they keep the rodent population down and became then a favourite pet of the human. This was the time of the 1700’s.


The Little White Cat

[Folk song from the Gaelic]

18th Century

Anonymous—Translated by Mrs. Costello of Tuam


The little grey cat was walking prettily,

When she found her little son stretched dead

And ‘twas only a year since her family

Were cast out and drowned in a trench.

The little white cat, white, white, white,

The little white cat, Breed’s cat.

The little white cat, snowy white

That was drowned in a trench.

The little mother stood upright,

When she found her little son dead;

She brought him in and made a bed for him,

And then began to lament him.

The little white cat, white, white, white,

The little white cat, Breed’s cat.

The little white cat, snowy white

That was drowned in a trench

Andrew, the blind, had some of her family,

And they came together to lament him,

I am sure if Barry hears it,

He will regret the death of the Breed’s cat.

The little white cat, white, white, white,

He broke no chest, nor lock of the neighbours,

Nor did he destroy the cows’ butter.

And you never heard such discourse,

As the mice had in telling it.

The little white cat, white, white, white

His eye was grey, his walk was pretty,

His step was light and active:

And I’d rather far be going to the clay

Than the province of Munster should hear of it.

The little white cat, white, white, white,

The little white cat would hump his back.

As big as a three pint jug.

Wasn’t he a fine show for the gentry to see,

Poll, Breed’s pretty little cat?

The little white cat, white, white, white,

Walter’s Martin will put a wooden coffin on him,

And it’s he that is able.

And were it not for the time at which he died

We should have every cause for lamenting

The little white cat, white, white, white,

The little white cat, Breed’s cat.

The little white cat, snowy white

That was drowned in a trench.


Feline Associations

Here you will learn of various associations to the feline, herbs, deities, witches and shape-shifters, and even the elements that they rule.

Deities with Feline Associations:

These are just a few of the deities that are associated with the feline species, however, there are many others. Many of the deities not listed below are not commonly known to be associated with the feline in any way.

Ahriman; God

Persian, thought to have been the first personification of the Devil” because Zoroastrians believed in a completely dualistic for of religion. Associations: All cats.

Anait: Goddess

Phoenician, Canaan, Ur and Persia. She is seen as The High, Powerful, and Immaculate. She carried an Ankh and wore horns and a Moon disk. Association: Lion.

Apollo: God

Greek. He is of Life force and vitality, creativity, and self-expression. He is viewed as the Sun God and Lord of the Year. Association: Lion.

Artemis: Goddess

Greek. Sister to Apollo, she was also the goddess of wild things and places. She was also the Mistress of Magic, and aiding in the healing of wild animals and mountains. Association: Cats.

Attis: God

Middle East. The second face of Cybele, as well as beloved by her, but he refused her love. He ruled over fertility, and growth in Asia Minor. Association: Lion.

Bacchus: God

Roman. He is depicted as a youthful figure wearing ivy or grape crown and carrying a wand or thyrsus. Upon the Christian was renamed as St. John the Baptist, as depicted in a painting done by Leonardo da Vinci in 1510-19. Also, he frequently rides in a chariot drawn by leopards. Association: Panthers.

Bastet: Goddess

Egyptian: She rules over protection, fertility, gentleness, and is depicted with the body of a female and the head of a cat. Associations: Cats, and Lynx.

Cybele: Goddess

Greece and Phrygia. Known as Mother Goddess of Phrygia [modern day Turkey]. She later became identified as the Roman Manga Mater, or Great Mother. She was considered in her myth to be of the first being, and of equal energy to both the female and male. Association: Lion

Damkina/Damgalnuna: Goddess

Mesopotamia. In the Akkadian language, her name means ‘’lady of the earth’’, and she was to the Sumerians the earth mother familiar to us in Greece as Demeter and in Rome as Tellus Mater. Association: Lion.

Diana: Goddess

Roman. She is today confused with the goddess Artemis, because of a familiar picture of both being lightly clad, bow-bearing goddess who rides the Moon or strides through the forest with the nymphs. However, she is the original “Queen of the Open Sky, worshipped only the out of doors, and possibly was the ruler of the sun and moon. Her name comes from the word “light”. She is also known as the Queen of Witches in Rome and her main association was with the white cat. Her day of feast is August 15th. Association: Cats.

Dionysus: God

Greece. He is the God of intoxication and wine, just as his counterpart Bacchus. His court included female Bacchanites, nymphs, fauns, and satyrs. He was the only god that was born twice, and was fathered by the serpentine Zeus and Persephone, other says his mother was Semele. Dionysus’ represents both earth and water, and resurrection and dead. There is much about Dionysus, but he was one of few gods that had the most associations to the feline species. Associations: Cheetah, Lion, Leopard, Panther, and the Tiger.

Durga: Goddess

India, and Hindu. Born from the flames by gods, and said to be the first female divinity in the universe. Her power alone was stronger than the gods who brought her to life. The goddess in this form symbolizes the fierce power of the combat against all evil, but also the rule of the intellectual sphere. Durga is unapproachable, represents the end to all things. Seen mounted on a lion to defeat the demon Mahisa, and in the end destroys and slaughters him and frees the earth. Associations: Lion and Tiger.

Eros: God

Greece. He is the god of love and desire; some say that he was the son of Aphordite and Ares. Because of his mother he loses some of the power over love and desire, and is considered to be more of a companion to it instead. He is in Roman mythology known as Cupid. He is seen riding on the back of a lion. Association: Lion.

Other associations not mentioned above are; Mafdet, Mut, Pakhit, Pasht, Inanna, Isis, Ra, Osiris, Hathor, Bes, Neith, Nut, Maat, Pakhet, Tefnut, Lillith, Freya, Brighid, Ceridwen, the Cailleach, Annis, and Hel. However, there are more than this associated to the cat power animal.

Herbs Associated to the Feline:

There are only a couple of herbs that are associated with the feline. The two herbs associated with the feline are catnip and valerian root. Now, it is not common knowledge, but not all cats are drawn to the taste or smell of catnip. This is true in cases when the herb is planted in seed form, if transplanted they are more apt to be drawn to the aroma of the catnip. Catnip essential in its purest form is used to repel mosquitoes, when used in a diffuser and burned. Catnip is also used for repelling nightmares. Add catnip juice to your wine and drink will aid in healing bruises. It attracts bees. Hung over ones’ doorway attracts good spirits. Catnip has a lot of different uses, but for cats it is like a play pen and it is easy to plant a small patch to deter them from using your main herb garden and a bathroom. It is also good to use in cat Magic when wanting a psychic connection between yourself and you’re familiar.

Catnip is ruled by the planet of Venus, and Element of Water. It is associated to four goddesses, all associated to the cat, Bastet, Cerridwen, Freya, and Sekhmet. It is known also by Cat’s Wort, Field Balm, Cat, Catrup, Nepoet, Nip and Cat’s delight.

Valerian Root is a long time favourite of witches for bonding with their cats’, and for attracting the likes of a cat familiar, totem or ally. This herb also was known to attract some forms of the wild folk [i.e.], the fey. The fey were sometimes known for shape-shifting into white cats [this being a favourite colour of the fey for their dresses]. Also, it was a colour associated with death and is often part of a fairy name for either a king or queen of the fey.

Various Associations:

Cats are also associated with the Underworld Goddesses, because of their ability to reproduce. They are also thought to be practically fairies themselves on the Isle of Man [an island in the Irish Sea].

Plant allies to the cat are the fir and pine tree. They are associated with the element of earth, and the directions of north east, and south east.

They are a nocturnal being, so if you look close enough to their eyes you will notice that they appear different depending on the phase of the moon.

There are two associations to fertility, reproducing of many litters and prey upon rodents, snakes and other animals that could destroy ones’ crop for the harvesting. In that they protect your crop so it will produce healthy. In Egypt newlyweds receive and wear cat amulets.

There are many associations to the cat and not all are good, some are perceived as bad and evil.

Witches and cats were how most identified a cat familiar. Black cats were most common among the witches. Some were said to shape-shirt into cats, and would go to do the work of the devil. Many witches have been associated with the cat and many even tortured and died. One of the most famous familiars of all time is a familiar by the name of Pyewackett. Now, because of the name alone is why this one was associated with the witch, as it was said no human could create such a name for household pet.

Some of the more famous ones would be Isobel Gowdie, known as the Queen of Witches in Scotland, Agnes and Joan Waterhouse, Elizabeth Frances of England, Catherine Montvoisin known as La Voison, and many others.

Isobel Gowdie revealed that she cast a spell in order to transform into a cat and go out too do the work of the devil, and when done would transform back into human form once again. She was known as his bride. She is the only one who was not accused when she confessed of being a witch.

So there is much to the mystical and powerful feline, her associations are just as strong as all that surrounds her.

Feline Astrology

You are probably what does astrology has to do with the feline. Well a lot, it is just as important as it would be for us when we are born. We all know that our characteristics are determined by the day, time, location of our birth, in that the planets are lined up at certain times of one’s birth. That is how we determine how one’s life will be dealt with, obstacles that you have to overcome, journeys and when they happen in life, early, mid, or later in life. How we communicate with one another, and ultimately get along with others around us. Well it is the same for the feline, as it is for humans. In that they too have an astrology makeup. This determines in most cases how they will get along with their human counterparts, as well as with other felines. Believe it or not they do not like everyone.

This is very important tool in Magic working as some cats are not meant to be familiars, but only pets, and others may come along that you are meant to work Magic with instead. So, be careful to find that the counterparts of the zodiac they carry are compatible as to not cause problems between the two. Familiars will come to you in the time of casting Magic and/or guide you to what you are to learn and then just leave when you least expect them to, or they will go on their way once casting is completed. A pet stays with you all the times and shares your life.

Further into the article, I will go over her chart so that you have an understanding, but first I would like to go over the forms of astrology that is important in determining if you are compatible with your feline counterpart and him/her too you.

Note: I will not go into detail as to how to read a natal chart as that alone would take up 30 pages or more. If you are interested I would suggest taking a course in Astrology.

Brief history of Astrology

I will only cover the basic as it there is much involved with astrology and how it works. This will take one many years to learn, but it is well worth the time.

The Egyptians were very serious about their felines and how they were treated, they were considered more important than the human counterparts/friends that took care of them. So, you can only imagine how they viewed the stars in the personality of the feline.

They follow what is called a Cairo Calendar, this in itself was separated into three major seasons in the year. The first being called, Inundation [pronounced akhet] this was the season in which the Nile flooded its banks and farmlands was covered in water. This lasted from approx June 21 to Oct 21. The second Emergence [pronounced proyet} was when the water receded. This season was from Oct 21 to Feb 21. And last was Summer [pronounced shomu} lasted from Feb 21 to June 21.

There were exactly 360 days to their calendar and added five days to allow for discrepancy. These were known as New Year’s Day, which they called “the opening of the year”.

This was there form of astrology, and depending on the day it would be considered favourable, adverse, very adverse, this is how they determined their day to day life.

Now the system they use for astrology is very different. Even in modern days they follow this form of astrology. Depending on the day you were born, or your feline in this case also determined which deity you were associated with, and this in turn determined much. The same way our western system determines who we are, and what we are too expect in life.


Egyptian Astrology

Below are the dates and associated deities and their counterparts to those dates of birth: Now this can apply to both the human and feline counterparts. But do remember that most felines are of human spirits and indeed are really human too. Some are very wise and powerful.

January 1 – 7th, June 19-28th, Sept 1 – 7th, and Nov 18 – 26th:

The Nile

These characteristics are that of a peace-maker, lovers of refined things, receptive to the materials in their surroundings. Powerful ambitions and transformation. Counterparts/Related Signs: Seth, Osiris, Horus, and Thoth as well as Anubis. Associated with the months of Proyet, Shomu, and Akhet

January 8 – 21st & February 1 -11th:


Wheel of Time. Solar God. Life is a challenge; you will feel the need to be of a higher level of spirituality. Headed towards great things. Counterparts/Related Signs: The Nile and Horus. Associated with the month of Proyet.

January 22 – 31st & Sept 8 – 22nd:


Most ancient of the deities in Egypt. You will be secretive and be one that is nostalgic in life. All of life is too seek out that of a father figure for protection and security. Counterparts/Related Signs: Ra and Thoth. Associated with the months of Proyet and Akhet.

February 12 -29th & Aug 20 – 31st:


Creator, beginning of the world, the earth, principle of unity between worlds. This person and or feline will be highly sensitive and easily impressioned, empathic, protector, not vain. Human side is the same with careers in the creative fields. Counterparts/Related Signs: Seth and Horus. Associated to both the months of Proyet and Akhet.

Mars 1 -10th & Nov 27 – Dec 18th:


Duality, generous, fiery and vulnerable, you do not like confrontation, and you weigh before confronting a situation. Counterparts/Related Signs: Isis and Thoth. Associated with the months of Proyet and Akhet/Proyet.

Mars 11 – 31st, Oct 18 -29th, and Dec 19 -31st:


This is one of the most demanding signs. There is much dimension to her, and in that you will be one that is of hospitable means, unifying, and you love harmony. You are both a giver and protector of life, and you must be perceptive to others around you. Counterparts/Related Signs: Osiris and Thoth. Associated to the months of Proyet/Shomu, Akhet, and Shomu.

April 1 – 19th, and Nov 8-17th:


Excellent memory, enthusiastic, dislike meanness towards others. A risk taker, but with challenge. Dependable and honest values and morals. This is the sacred bird of Isis. Counterparts/Related Signs: Bastet and Isis. Associated to the months of Shomu, and Akhet.

April 14 – May 8 and Aug 12 -19th:


You will have strong will power and are good at finding hidden secrets, intelligent, and an excellent student in all things. But one must learn how to control the free spirit young, or this will be a hindrance later in life. Deeply psychic that comes from a strong connection of ones feminine side. Goddess connected. Counterparts/Related Signs: Geb and Bastet. Associated to the months of Shomu and Akhet.

May 9 -27 and June 29 – July 13th:


Compassionate, and clever. A strong connection to your darker side. Suffering can draw them to become an introverted personality. Very aware of the energies that lye deep within. Counterparts/Related Signs: Bastet and Isis. Associated to the month of Shomu.

May 28th – June 18th and Sept 28th – Oct 2nd:


Always looking for change and in search of who they are, and the wholeness that comes with it. Balance in life. Life is full of journeys and experiences, whether it be good or bad experiences, before really finding themselves. Mistakes are made many times over in life, before learning from them and moving forwards. They always seek out for knowledge and wisdom. Free spirit and a wanderer. Counterparts/Related Signs: Geb and The Nile. Associated to the month of Shomu.

July 14 – 28th, Sept 23 -27th, and Oct 3 -17th:


A need for balance and harmony in relationships, both friends and partners. They are protectors and very devoted to their loved ones. They do tend to ignore their own needs from time to time. They have great inner strength and agility and easily can sense their enemies. Strong psychic senses. Good in business and in matters of the heart. Counterparts/Related Signs: Sekhmet and Horus. Associated to the months of Shomu and two of the opening of the year days. These days are very sacred to the Egyptians and if one could name them all they were guaranteed a long and prosperous life ahead. Then the month of Akhet.

Now the day of procession for Bastet is on Sept 9, Day 10 of the Second Month of Akhet during the season of the Inundation.  Her feast day which is shared with Sekhmet is on Nov 13, Day 15 of the Fourth Month of Akhet still in the season of Inundation.  Her procession day would be under the western sign of Virgo and her feast day would be under the western sign of Scorpio.

July 29th – Aug 11th, and Oct 30th – Nov 7th:


Very telepathic, observant, not one to self-indulge. They are both pure and impure, chaos and harmony, and are bestowed with majestic grace, as is the lion. They tend to have secret desires. Counterparts/Related Signs: Bastet and Geb. Associated to three of the open of the year days, and Akhet.

Now that we have covered the Egyptians, now let us view modern day astrology, and compare the relations to it. Now, one might think that we could also use Celtic Astrology for this area of Magick, but the Celtic were not known lovers of the feline, nor did they own them as household pets. They associated the feline to the fey and in effect feared the feline.

Modern Feline Astrology

Aries: March 21 – April 19

They like to be noticed and are quite demanding, if closed in can be damaging to ones house, by spraying, tearing up furniture and such. They are aggressive, quick tempered, adventurous by nature, curious and brave. They love humans, and too play with them, and they excite easy. They are well known for crashing with their heads into objects or say for instance a wall.

Human and feline counter parts that are best suited are the Gemini, Libra, Aquarius, Leo, Aries, and Sagittarius. Ruled by the planet Mars.

Taurus: April 20 – May 20

These ones love food and comfort. Simple surroundings are pleasing to their way of life. Not a complainer if pampered. Highly fear the loss of security, and habit forming. They like routine and get upset when it is broken for any reason. They are patient and loving. Can be stubborn. They love to talk a lot, and will chat till you respond back to them in the form of a meowing talk.

Human and feline counterparts that are best suited are Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces, Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. Ruling planet is Venus.

Gemini: May 21 – June 20

Very talkative, great communicator, they are hard to keep quite as they tend to like the sound of their voice. This is a cat that you need to talk with on a regular basis, as they love to communicate, you can talk with them on an intelligent level, or communicate back in their language. Either way this will make them happy. Like all Gemini’s they will bore easily and will be fickle and need to be doing something at all times. Dinner must be the same time each night, or we get cranky. Attention is a must, as we are restless beings, both the human and animal. This sign loves to be the centre of attention, and can be very charming. We are also adaptable to movement and change. They will go back and forth between going outside and coming in to be with you. This sign is one with many characteristics and a joy, if able to keep up with them. This is Onyx’s Ascendant sign.

Human and feline counterparts that are best suited are Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. Ruling planet is Mercury.

Cancer: June 21 – July 22

Cancer cats are great house cats as this sign rules over the home. This sign easily attaches him/her to the family, and will stay close by if outside of the home. They make great mothers, as this is the maternal nature of the Cancer cat. Now, in this sign you will find that the male cat will also take a hand at tending to the litter and this is one of very few males’ that stay close to home, after mating with the mother feline. They are a great deal like that of the human, hurt easily, sensitive, giving, protective in a loving way, strong intuition, jealously, and more. This is Onyx’s true node.

Human and feline counterparts that are best suited are Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn, Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces. Ruling planet is the Moon.

Leo: July 23 – Aug 22

Here we have the ruler of the jungle, king of the throne, masculine, hunter, predator, and leader. Now, in the case of the Leo cat, you will find that their physical features may resemble that of a Lion and carry a crown upon their head. In Onyx’s case people sometimes mistake her for being a male cat, when indeed Onyx is a female cat. She is very strong, carries a crown on her head, and had the sneaky eyes of a hunter on the attack. She is protective of her home and her family. She loves to sleep, and she is generous to a point. She only accepts certain felines into the home and others forget it. Stay out, or die is her motto. She is the spoiled one and this the Leo cat loves. Now, in my case, she will eat dinner at the table with my husband and I, assist in the preparing of dinner, watch over the stove to make sure no one takes what is hers, and so on. She has the best of everything and expects this daily. She is seriously spoiled and a snot, and loves to show off. She does not let anyone just touch her. This is the down fall on spoiling the Leo cat.

Human and feline counterparts that are best suited are Gemini, Libra, Aquarius, Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. Ruling planet is the Sun.

Virgo: Aug 23 – Sept 22

Here we come to the tidy cat; this one hates messes and will not tolerate them at all. This one is most likely to enjoy bathes and having there claws trimmed and made to look nice.

Very loyal and rather choosy in whom they pick as friends to live with, not just anyone will do. Virgo cats are very loving and affectionate. If hurt or made angry will always remember what you did to hurt them in any way. Very intelligent and they love to think things through before making a decision. Security is very important to the Virgo cat, and the will appreciate you for giving them a warm home. Sometimes you will notice that they do not make up their minds easily, they will go back and forth on what kind of food they like to eat. So, it is good to keep a variety close at hand. This is Onyx’s ruling Moon as well as her IC {Imum Coeli }

Human and feline counterparts that are best are Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces, Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. Ruling planet is Mercury.

Libra: Sept 23 – Oct 22

Here we have the graceful cat and rather mellow. This is one cat who loves to be loved. Attention of all kinds is their favourite; flattery will take you far with this sign.

This sign is very friendly and likes most people and other felines. Socialists, and rather charming is in their nature. They do, however, like their environment to be well balanced, and peaceful. They are attentive to what is going on and it would be best to involve them, in anyway to be near the action. Television and music are favourites of choice. Choosy eaters so do not feed them just anything. They are easily influenced by other felines and hard to make up their minds in doing something, so keep them in the good crowd. This one will eat a lot when not happy; they also hate confrontation and would rather walk away than deal with a bad situation.

Human and feline counterparts that are best are Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. Ruling planet is Venus.

Scorpio: Oct 23 – Nov 21

This is one of the two most powerful signs that a feline can be born under. This is a sign of high intuition and magickal gifts. The other is Pisces which carries the natural gift of psychic sensitivity. This applies also to the human Scorpios and Pisces signs. They know before you, what you will do in a situation or what you wish to do in general.

Just as the humans this cat is jealous, possessive, suspicious, and secretive in nature. They are good at hiding their feelings. If hurt are rather vengeful, and do not neglect them as this will turn out to start your day off rather interesting. They influence other felines easily, and have their likes and dislikes.

This is the sign that will fight viciously and will not stand down when confronted by another. This would be the ideal cat to have if you live alone and do not like dogs. This would remind me of our first cat that we had, named KyKy. She was very possessive of her family and once when someone tried to break into the house, attacked at full force and drew blood as well as cut one of the intruders’ eyes. She was a Siamese and very beautiful. Always in heat, but they do tend to have a hard time with mating.

Human and feline counterparts that are best are Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn, Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces. Ruling planet is Mars.

Sagittarius: Nov 22 – Dec 21

This is the most independent of all the felines, just as the humans of this sign are known to be. Explorers, adventurers, they like variety and are extraverted personalities. They love competition and challenge, so be careful not to stare them down, and they may win. But this applies to all areas in life. This is one of the messier felines, not much for tidiness, and love a messy surrounding

Accident prone and tends too be moody as well, as this is a characteristic of the one with the Centaur in their chart. Center of attention, is where they are happiest and you will laugh at what they come up with from time to time. Very risky, and will tend their nine live [being that a cat can only take feline form nine times in their life]. After that they are reincarnated into something else. This is in Onyx’s seventh house.

Human and feline counterparts that are best are Gemini, Libra, Aquarius, Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. Ruling planet is Jupiter.

Capricorn: Dec 22 – Jan 19

Now we come to the most earthly of all the felines. This feline loves quiet surroundings, loud noises will make them very nervous, and if humans come into their home they will hide to be alone. They approach other animals with great caution. This feline likes to know that his/her surroundings are secure and they are also the most loyal of all the felines.

They love time to themselves, as they are known for being solitary. They are leaders and will dominant other cats within the same home, unless of course it is a Leo. Then there will be a struggle for who is the more dominant. Usually the Leo will win, and the Capricorn will continue to overpower the Leo cat.

This cat loves to just find a spot and stay put, a window for gazing, a chair for resting, a fire and just watching the flames. This cat is your ideal for quite. Now, when it comes to being a one that loves to climb this is your cat. You may find him/her in the tree, scaling a trellis, even a book shelf. Whatever it can dig its claws into and scale be sure the Capricorn cat will do exactly this. Now, here is the one you will have to rescue from the trees. Now, this was my other cat Flicker-Jasmine. However, because of the fact that Onyx and she did not get along we had to send her off to another.

Human and feline counterparts that are best are Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces, Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. Ruling planet is Saturn.

Aquarius: Jan 20 – Feb 18

Freedom and independence are these main characteristics. They do like being locked up and are resentful if they are placed into a carrier of any kind. They are adaptable, friendly, and naturally curious in their nature. Here is where the famous term “curiosity killed the cat” comes about. They enjoy watching instead of participating.

If any of the feline is unpredictable it is the Aquarius cat. However, you must be watchful not to allow this one to become over stressed; you will receive the silent treatment if he/she does feel out of sorts. If the Aquarian cat has Aries in his natal, that being in houses as well will tend to be very temperamental. However, if there is Scorpio in his/her natal reactions to stress are to be rather spiteful.

Here we have a highly intuitive cat and very intelligent. This is the one that is easiest to train and they are fast learners as well. They have great pride and will show that in how they develop in the mind.

Do not be concerned if your cat acts out in spurts, as this is typical of an Aquarian cat. This cat is ruled by a crazy planet and well it is good to act out sometimes, life would be too boring for them otherwise.

Human and feline counterparts that are best are Aries, Leo, Sagittarius, Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius. Ruling planet is Uranus.

Pisces: Feb 19 – Mar 20

This is the last of the signs in the zodiac. This cat is very strong in intuition and rather psychic as well. They have a strong sixth sense and can sense something from far away. This is the case with my first cat Black Widow. Many times I would be traveling and when I would return home, she would come running straight to me. She would sense my arrival from a far and when I would enter the house she would be there immediately giving me hugs and kisses.

She loved the night and the moon, she loved to roam about, but she was also rather timid at times. She was a mover, she never sat still for too long, sometimes she would be gone for days on end and come home and say here I am, miss me. Well, as you can see I talk with all my cats.

This is a very emotional cat, along with the Cancer and Scorpio as well. They are very hypersensitive, moody and sometimes very temperamental. The Pisces cat has to be feed on time or they become very grumpy. As well as their human counterparts the feline is also very impatient and they love to whine when they do not have things there way. However, when relaxed they are very affectionate and love to cuddle.

This is the most mysterious and mystical of all the felines. This is the one cat that draws to Witches the most, as well as others who practice, or take a strong interest in the arts. The eyes on the Pisces cat are very distant and dreamy, if allowed to look into them long enough you will see the Otherworld. This is Onyx’s Mid-heaven {MC}.

Human and feline counterparts that are best are Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn, Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces. Ruling planet is Neptune.


Lunar Influences

Now here we come to the part of when you actually bring one into your home. Well, remember they choose you and they are rather familiar with the timing of the moon and the best times to come into ones home. However, this is not always the case with strays.

The best time to bring a new cat into your home is on a Dark Moon, or in the First Quarter {Waxing Moon}, when not being ruled by the sign of Pisces or Scorpio. Why you may ask? Well, these are the two water signs that are the least stable and the least loyal in all reality.

They will not stay, this is learned from experience. A friend needed a home for a black male cat and I had agreed to do this, but with the instructions that I could only do it on a Dark Moon. Well, she came the following day and it happened to be ruled by none other than the Pisces Moon. In his brief stay with us Onyx came to tolerate him, he destroyed all the screens on the doors, and some of the windows. He also destroyed the furniture and well, he loved to be outside at night, so we let him enjoy. The last time I say Myst, we had let him out one night and never to return.

Training is best done under the Taurus Moon. Planting of catnip is best done under the moon of Libra, or any of the other water signs. However, cats do not always like catnip. They are more adapting to like it if transplanted from a small pot. Planted by seeds alone they will draw away from it, and some may never draw to it at all. Onyx is not fond of catnip in anyway, oils, plant, herb, nothing. This too depends on the cat. I have many others that I tend too that come groaning at the smell of the oil itself. If they do like it you will know harvest time when they are found rolling about in the patch that was planted for them. Reminder, plant this away from your normal herbal gardens and give them a special place of their own.


Year of the Cat

The following years are represented by the cat in North China; 1903, 1915, 1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, and 1987. Now in Tao this represents the Hare, in Chinese the Rabbit. Now according to Taoist Astrology the following would apply in North China. The year of the purple Cat; 1927, and 1987, the gold Cat; 1939, and 1999, the silver Cat 1951, and 2011, the grey Cat 1903, and 1963 and the blue Cat 1915, and 1975. Each cycle comes around every sixty years, meaning that each colour associated with the year only appears every sixty years; for instance the next one to come will be in the year 2011 and it will be the year of the silver Cat. Then to follow in the year of 2023 with be the year of the grey Cat. Then the following years to follow are; 2035, 2047, 2059, 2071, 2083, and 2095. Now, remember this really applies to North China, as the rest of the system is ruled by either the Hare or Rabbit, which just depends on whether you follow the Chinese or the Taoist lunar calendar system.

Now in legend it is said that Buddha [c.563-c. 483 BC] was the original creator of the Chinese astrology, however, more believe that in the year 2637 BC, the Chinese Emperor Huang Ti standardized this system. Now, it is known as both Chinese Astrology and Taoist Astrology [pronounced Daoism]. In the Taoist system each animal is given a colour and years that it rules. Being as that humans needed to have contact with animals in order to survive. The cat had been one of the original animals invited but fell asleep and didn’t make it, and then another contest was created so that the cat could participate and at this time the rat and the cat had been long time friends. However, the rat broke a promise to his friend and didn’t wake him from his catnap. Upon the cat waking the race was finished and the rat won a spot. Needless to say this ending the friendship between the two animals and forever they live as enemies.

In Vietnamese astrology the Cat [which corresponds with the Rabbit in Chinese Astrology] is one of the twelve animals represented in the calendar. However, in North Korea the Cat replaces the rabbit, for the reason that this word is insulting to this part of the country.

So how does this play in your cat’s astrology, well if you follow this system it determines your cat’s characteristics just as the other two systems. In this case you would do the same reverse the person for the feline. But one must remember that the cat really is a person as most of us have lived other lives as cats or have yet to live our lives as cats.


Magic of the Cats

This dates back as far as the time of the Egyptian culture. Most people wore amulets as well as most if not all cats. Onyx wears a encircled Celtic knot on her collar. It was cleansed of all energies before it was placed on her neck. These are very easy to do, find one that has a strong connection to it and then run it under cool water and chant;

Negative energies I call to thee,

Remove yourself and banish from thee,

Positive energies I call to thee,

This is the charge to the amulet,

For {cat’s name} protection

‘Tis my will,

So Mote It Be!

Now, you come to enjoy your feline and remember to celebrate her birthday the same as we celebrate ours. If you are not sure of the day, just watch closely and see how they act, this usually can help you figure out about when she was born. You may also use a dowsing pendulum, and or a Spirit Board [also known as an Ouija Board] to find out around when they were born. But remember this too, that your cat does have a Natal Chart and not only will she show her sun sign, but that of the signs in her houses, ascendant, and her moon rising. All of this will tell you who your cat is and what she wants.

Just love her and take care of all the ones that follow. For sure, if you love one that much the strays will see this and come to be part of your family. They may not like each other, but they certainly will tolerate each other.

Feline Book of Shadows

The Feline Book of Shadows is much as the same as a regular Book of Shadows, the main difference is that it will focus on divination with your familiar and the associations that are sacred to her/him.

Setting it up is much the same formatting as your own personal one? You would set up your Feline Book of Shadows with a book blessing and an invocation to deity [being the deity that you are the devotee of, or your Patron deity]. If you wanted you could place a copy of the Witches Creed/Wicca Rede, or even create your own Feline Creed. This book of shadows is dedicated to your familiar and the Magic is worked with the two of you on a more personal level of growth. When working with feline powers you are first asking permission for the use of their spirit for this takes a great deal of energy away from them, as it does you, when working rituals, or spells. So, you must be careful to prepare in the same way as you would if you, yourself were working the divination on your own.

Preparing a Feline for Divination

This is a long process and one that will take from the time of your familiars’ birth to the time she/he is ready to work divination. Remember, not all cats are your familiars, some are there as just a friend and your special pet. They are not treated in the same manner. One is treated more like a person and the other more of someone that is there to keep you company.

When preparing your feline for the art of divination you must do a number of things from the beginning. Begin first by preparing a naming ritual and bless them, do a paganing ceremony, and allow them to work with you to understand that of what you are doing. Allow them an amulet, stones that are associated to their sun sign, moon rising and ascendant sign as well as an elemental association. They will want to know of what tools are within your altar, so let them investigate to learn more. They too must develop as we do when it comes to working Magic. Now, with Onyx I did a naming ritual, and blessing ceremony after I learned her birth date. I also got her an amulet of an encircled Celtic knot of Triquetra and cast a protection spell upon her amulet. I gave her an Onyx stone, and she has various others that she will play with from time to time. I also, allow her pretty much room to do as she will, but then again you must set boundaries or have a destroyed home.

Cat Naming ritual is very simple for this all you need is your cat a single white cat candle and some catnip essential oil, if available for anointing. Otherwise you can use oil that is associated with their Sun Sign [if known] and it must be performed on that night of the Dark Moon/New Moon. Prepare yourself as you would for any ritual, by cleansing the Nemeses [Gaelic for Sacred Space] and then calling the quarters to invite in the elementals. Then begin by calling upon the Quarters first from the East, South, West, and then North, also known as Deosil movement. Hold your familiar and cradle him/her as to comfort them during the ritual and upon finishing give your familiar a kiss and you may now close the circle. Remember, that you must ground and clear upon the closing of the Quarters.

Cat naming ritual

[Name] is thy name I bestow unto thee

[Name] is who I dedicate to thee

Thy name may come to thee,

To sound and bring magic three times, three, times three.

Thy life is lived free and sacred to thee

You shall be blessed, protected and honoured by thee

Blessing a feline is rather a simple ceremony. You need only your feline, cat candles [I used black], as this is a good colour for banishing and removing negative energies, as well as other associations. [But, for this lesson we will stick to the colour for banishing of negative energies, which is very important when working with Feline Magic and in the blessing of your familiar]. You must do this upon the Witching Hour of the Full Moon. Then of course you cast your circle in a Deosil movement. Now, you can also use fire in a cauldron for this ritual if you have the space for it, otherwise just use a candle and then anoint it with the proper oils. When finished allow the cauldron fire to burn down and let cool, [if used], and extinguish the cat candle and you may now close your circle by moving Tuathail also known as Widdershins. As usual, ground and clear. Now, your familiar is ready for divination.

Blessing of a Familiar

O sacred familiar

Wise and old beyond your years

Unto thee I send this blessing

Love and Light

Fire that burns with lighting of the night

Upon thy Witching Hour

Moons’ Power

I bestow upon thee

Thy Witches’ Power

Power of the ancients I call for thee

Bring the power of all ancestors unto thee

May the forces of the elements

Be blessed unto thee

Thy nature so bold and known to thee

Calling upon Bastet to honour thee

Blessings bestowed unto thee

In thy casting of magic

You shall be blessed, protected and honoured by thee

These ceremonies are usually done upon the birth of your familiar; however, if they come to you in another form, you may perform this ritual, or have the High Priest of High Priestess of your local Coven do this ceremony, at the next Full Moon after your familiar coming to you home. This is very similar to that of a paganing ceremony or a baptism of a child. However, if you are a solitary you may perform this ceremony in a place that is sacred to you, and to your familiar.

Note: Remember, that these are very sacred ritual/s and must be performed with respect and honour to Bastet.

Spell for Calling upon a Familiars Spirit

This is a very powerful spell if performed properly; however, you must be prepared and ready to accept what is brought to you from the working of this particular spell. I created this spell some time back, upon the death of one of my familiars so as to have a final blessing for her. She was a very wise and powerful familiar and taught me a lot, in the time she was here. I knew before her passing that it was to come, just not when or how. But, the same morning of me seeing her running in a dream/vision, my husband found her on the side of the road. Later he told me, after I heard from another [who is not a fan of felines] that a black cat was hit earlier that day. He had taken her to a place that well destroyed them in a very UN humane manner. So, this spell was dedicated to Agatha and I used the spirit of my Widow as well in the casting of this spell.

Please use it wisely. Now, I cast this on a Waning Moon near the time of the Witching Hour [if you are not able to perform this at the Witching Hour, you may do so at or after the hour of 9 p. Casting the Circle from the North to the West and Opening the Circle from the West to the North.

Spirit Call Cat Circle of Magick

Altar Set up



W          E


In accordance to how your house or altar is located in your home. Centre the candles to the altar facing you. You may also perform this outside if you so desire. Cleanse altar before using, with Moon Water, which has been blessed by the Goddess herself [Full Moon Water], and Sea Salt. Cleanse yourself and your charkas, by taking a bath. Using either Myrrh oil or Sea Salt, for cleansing take a long bath or shower to cleanse and have the Goddesses energies flow through. North being Earth, East being Air, South being Fire, and west being Water.

Before performing this ritual, make an herbal tea of pure herbs to prepare your state of mind to a trance state. Mugwort, Dandelion, and Lavender work best. I usually drink about two or three cups, relax my body for an hour and then begin the ritual.

Place in both the North and East direction one Bastet Statue each, and on the West and South direction place a picture of your familiar/s. Anoint with Myrrh oil, you may also use pure Catnip oil, if available. This is very expensive, and will burn your skin if contact is made, use carefully. Picture placement (only if calling on a spirit who has passed on to say farewell, or for guidance in what is to come. In my case my familiars, Black Widow & Agatha’ photos were used; place them at the West and South side of the altar.



1 Gold and White Cat candle. Place in the centre of Altar.

2 Gold candles (they can smell of Amber), place one on each side of the Cat candle.


Myrrh, Frankincense and Catnip. Best used the resin and burned on charcoal. Also, you can use the oil in an oil burner for the scent as well. Place behind the candles. Altar Cloth colours, Gold or Blue, or both. I used Yellow and Blue. Moon to perform on, any phase is fine, however, it must be under the sign of Scorpio or Pisces, for this is the strongest of all the Moons to perform spirit callings. Once your altar is cleansed, cleanse yourself and prepare. Burn your myrrh or frankincense incense for cleansing the room and space.

Now, you are ready to begin. First of all, call on your quarters [North to West] using your athame, wand or staff, asking the spirits to join you in circle.

Relax yourself, and light your candles incense. Now say the following words:


Goddess of Love,

Goddess of Light,

Come to me and shine so bright,

Let me see what is to be,

Come to me O spirit be.

So mote it Be!

You may also use the Chant of Witches; Isis, Asparte, Diana, Hecate, Demeter, Kali Ma, Inanna. This will do well in raising your cone of power. After you start to feel the energies moving, say the following words:

Goddess I accept all that

You are to reveal.

Spirit comes to me

And reveal yourself.

Let me see you, Goddess

I accept thee, Desire, Will and Intent unto me

So mote it Be!

Repeat as many times as it takes for you to feel the energies start to surround your space of Magick. You will eventually start to feel like you are in a place that is not of the physical realm, but of the Outer Realm.

Open the circle [West to North] and thank the spirits for their assistance and send back the spirits of your familiars back to where they came from, as this is draining on them.

You must be willing to accept what every guide the Goddess blesses you with for it is the reason of the calling. My results were seen just a few days later. That too, you must remember it will be revealed when the time is right. When I did this I ended up with ten felines around the house within hours after the ceremony ended and both Agatha and Widow came full blast in spirit. The manifestation was quick and is still in effect to this very day.

Final Words:

In doing this article, I have taken great thought in how to best to bring it to each and every one of you. This is a very large part of my life and my Magic; however, it is only used in the greatest of respect for the feline. When you work divination with a feline or call upon their energies to help you in understanding omens, finding lost objects, easing your anxiety, and some even are there for calming of dreams in ones sleep. You must remember that they are freely allowing you to draw on their energies, so you must respect them, and give back to them what you take. Otherwise they will lose not only power, but they will lose energy and strength if we do not give what we have taken from them.

They are wise and powerful power animals and should be treated as that, not as just a domestic pet. Remember in how you treat a feline, whether it is yours or another’s, you honour them with your love, Bastet honours you in many ways.

How do you know this? Well, recently I found a black cat on the side of the road, which, for a moment I thought had been one of the many I tend too, however, it was not. I buried him/her under our Coconut tree along with Isobel’s kittens whom were buried earlier the same day. A manifestation to me were a new kitten that had lost her mother, found her way here and now has a safe place. You never know what you will receive from the giving of your soul to another. So, respect that soul no matter what. In death is rebirth, in rebirth is a spirit that if meant to be in your life will come no matter what you expect.

Love and cherish the feline for all they are, as they are the Witches Familiar.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and take with you something to begin a new area of divination.




My Personal Experiences and Workings

Shows were revisions or add on has been placed.


Egyptian Astrology,

Ancient Egyptian Magic; Spells, Incantations, Potions, Stories, and Rituals

by Bob Brier

Your Magickal Cat, by Gerina Dunwich

Magic in Ancient Egypt, by Geraldine Pinch

The Twelve House, by Howard Sasportas [used in translating Onyx’s chart]

Taoist Astrology, by Susan Levitt with Jean Tang


Familiars Animal Powers of Britain, by Anna Franklin

Herb Craft, by Anna Franklin

The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Fairies, by Anna Franklin

The Werewolf Book, by Brad Steiger and forwarded by Dr. Franklin Ruehl

Scottish Witches and Wizards True Accounts, by H. M. Fleming

The Encyclopaedia of Witches and Witchcraft, by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

1000 Years of Irish Poetry;

Edited by Kathleen Hoagland, Intro by Malachy McCourt

Egyptian Magic by E.A. Wallis Budge

Cat Magick, by Patricia Telesco,

Your Magickal Cat, by Gerina Dunwich, and

The Mysterious Magickal Cat, by D.J. Conway.


Internet Resources:


Goddess and Gods, at

European Witch Adoption, at

Greek Mythology, at

Pantheon, at  and



To reprint this article emails Rev. Darcie Clausen De Velez. at  please provide your sites address, and a valid email all requests for reprint will be reviewed prior to approval.  I have the right to remove this article from sites at any time I no longer wish it to be used by outside sources.


At the time of writing this article I was going under the Open Craft Name of Dark Oak.


Article Featured: Silver Wheel Magazine UK ~ Samhain 2003 Issue




















Twelve Gods and Seven Planets, by Ken Gillman

Ed. N.: This article was previously published in Considerations ( volume XI number 4, November 1996-January 1997, pp. 63-95). It is absolutely crucial for the understanding of the rulerships. (I’ve personally reached similar conclusions upon the subject in my doctoral thesis, and before (1986) in an article published in a French magazine of Lyon).

THE SIGNS and the planets are obviously closely related. When we interpret a planet in the birthchart we do so in terms of where the Sign(s) it rules are located among the houses. In interpreting the meaning of a Sign we relate it to the strength and location of its planetary ruler. The standard allocation of the seven classical planets to the various Signs of the Zodiac (Mars ruling Aries and Scorpio, Venus ruling Taurus and Libra, etc.) is listed in virtually every textbook from Ptolemy to Tyl.

I’ve been trying to learn how and why these rulerships were originally allocated. My search was mainly unsuccessful yet in the process I came across another rulership scheme that existed for at least two thousand years – it probably even pre-dates the Signs of the Zodiac for it existed in 1600 B.C. This older rulership scheme co-existed with our standard rulership scheme for several centuries. It disappeared in the early 6th century when it was effectively banned by the Catholic Church. This article presents the evidence for this older rulership scheme and then discusses some of the implications knowledge of it may have to us today. One important implication is that reference to Greek mythology as a way of getting at the meanings of the planets may not be as valid as many writers on astrology seem to believe.

The Evidence

WHILE THE ZODIAC, the narrow strip in the sky in which we observe and measure the movements of the Sun, Moon and the planets, was undoubtedly recognized in Babylon 4,000 or so years ago it was not apparently until about 520 B.C. that the twelve Signs were actually defined. This seems to have been done by Cleostratos of Tenedos [1], who divided the ecliptic into twelve equal parts and is said to have “recognized the Signs of the Zodiac.” He reputedly described them in a now-lost poem, Astrologia.

Before there were Signs there were months. The earliest calendars were lunar, a month lasting either from first crescent to first crescent or from full moon to full moon. Twelve 30-day months and five extra days made up the year. And each month was believed to have a separate god as its ruler or guardian. Evidence of this concept can be traced to both ancient Babylon and Egypt.

The month gods first appear in Egyptian art as early as the Eighteenth Dynasty, some 1,600 years before Christ. In Western Europe this was the Bronze Age, the period when Stonehenge was being built. Twelve gods for twelve months, originally the month gods seem to have been deities in whose honor a festival was held on the first day of each month.

The Egyptian month gods at this time were, in sequence, Thy, goddess of the first month, Ptah, Hathor, Sekhmet, Min, Rkh-Wr, Rkh-Nds, Rnwtt, Khonsu, Khnt-Khnty, Ipt, and Re-Harakhty, god of the twelfth month. They included five goddesses, five gods, and two hippopotami (Rkh-Wr and Rkh-Nds). These gods appear in the above order on an alabaster waterclock from the reign of Amenhotep III (1397-1360 B.C.).[2] Except that the hippopotami are replaced by jackals, they are in the same order on ceilings in the temples of Ramses I (1290-1223 B.C.) and Ramses II (1174-1147 B.C.). On these two ceilings, in the center of the band, a dog-headed ape squats on a pillar, the symbol of Thoth, god of the five intercalary days.

The Egyptian month gods were still considered sacred nine hundred years later in the time of Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.). There are extant representations of Alexander and later Macedonian rulers of Egypt making offerings to these month gods. Representations of these same native month gods continued to be used in Roman times. On two water clocks depicting the appropriate month gods the Latin name of the months are incised on the rims.

The twelve Egyptian gods began as month gods. Later, some time before the third century B.C., they also became protectors of the Zodiac Signs. At that time Appollonius Rhodius, a Greek poet who was chief librarian at Alexandria, wrote “the Egyptians call the twelve Zodiac Signs’ counselor gods by name, and the planets attendants.” It was the Twelve Gods then who ruled the Signs of the Zodiac, not the planets. Herodotus, the man Cicero called ‘the father of history’ in the second book of his Histories, also refers several times to an Egyptian set of Twelve Gods. He wrote “each month and each day belongs to one of the gods.”

The Babylonians also believed there were twelve major gods, each of whom watched over a month and one of the twelve Zodiac Signs. This we learn from the Bibliotheca Historica written by Diodorus Siculus, a first century B.C. Greek historian.

The Greeks were familiar with the concept of twelve leading gods. They had their own twelve Olympians. In Athens, the Olympians were the patrons of the city state, concerned with the maintenance and prosperity of the civic order, especially justice, and also bestowing upon Athens primacy among Greek cities.

The individual Egyptian month gods were not the exact equivalent of the twelve Olympians whom the Romans later also recognized as month gods, only Ptah presides over the same month as his Greco-Roman equivalent Hephaistos/Vulcan. The twelve Egyptian month gods are not regarded as the source for the Greek Twelve (they were worshipped and invoked individually while the Greeks invoked them as a group; the Greek twelve were wholly anthropomorphic, the Egyptian included the two hippos, later jackals), but knowledge of this similar set of deities may have led to the later association of the twelve gods of Greece and Rome with the months.

REFERENCES IN classical literature to altars to the Twelve Gods founded by Greek heroes imply that the cult existed in Greece during the late Bronze Age: the sixth century B.C. Greek lyric poet Pindar refers to altars founded by Herakles at Olympia, Hellanicus (a fifth century historian) wrote that Deukalion founded an altar in Thessaly, while Herodotus cites Jason’s sacrifice to the Twelve Gods by the Bosphoros. In the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, probably composed in the 8th century B.C., the infant god, after killing Apollo’s cattle, set aside twelve portions for the gods.

Plato (c.427-c.347 B.C.) believed the Twelve should have a central role in the ideal city. In his Laws, he proposed that the citizens be divided into twelve tribes, each to be named for one of the Twelve Gods, who would serve as its patron deity. He also proposed that the ideal city should hold a festival each month for one of the Twelve and that the festival of the twelfth month be devoted to Plouton.

Plouton, the Greek god of the underworld, was not one of the Greek Twelve. The last month of the Greek year, to which Plato’s twelfth month corresponded, was Skirophorion, named after the Skira festival which took place during the month. The Skira seems to have been connected with the rape of Persephone/Kore by Plouton. It is roughly equivalent to June, when today the vegetation dries up and dies in Greece. Thus, the death of vegetation coinciding with the death of the year made it a particularly suitable month to be dedicated to Plouton, and there was already a festival during the month with which he was associated. Plato interpreted Plouton as ‘the giver of wealth’. In art, Plouton regularly holds a cornucopia, symbol of wealth and fertility.

There is no evidence before Plato’s time that the Greek Twelve as a group had any connection with the months. Eudoxos of Cnidos, who is known today as ‘the founder of scientific astronomy’, is thought to have been responsible for identifying the twelve Olympians with the Signs of the Zodiac. In doing so, he was obviously following the Egyptian tradition; he is known to have spent sixteen months in Egypt sometime in the period 378-364 B.C.

In his Phaedrus, Plato described the Twelve Gods as astral deities who drive through the heavens, maintaining order in the heavens. This has been interpreted as supporting the association of the Twelve Gods with the Signs of the Zodiac. In Plato’s thought, the Twelve Gods were no longer the parochial set who watched over the prosperity of Athens and ensured its dominance over other cities, but universal deities concerned with the well-being of the Kosmos.

In 293 B.C., the months of the city of Demetrias in Thessaly were named after the twelve Olympians. This is the earliest association of the twelve Olympians as a group with the months. We know only the names of ten of the months: Aphrodision, Areios, Artemision, Athenaion, Deios (of Zeus), Demetrion, Hephaiston, Hermaion, Hestios, and Poseidon. Unfortunately, we do not know the order of the months.

The Twelve were represented in various ways, possibly the most interesting being a circle containing a ring of twelve dots at Epidauros. However, there is no evidence that the association of the Olympians with the months was expressed in Greek art.

THE EARLIEST Babylonian list of relations between months and deities has been dated to approx. 1,000 B.C. The gods of three of the Babylonian months can be equated with the Olympian associated with the same month – Ishtar with Demeter/Ceres, Marduk with Ares/Mars, and Sin with Apollo. In each instance, however, the Babylonian deity has a different Greco-Roman counterpart in the system established for the planetary gods.

Table 1: Babylonian planetary gods and their Greek and Roman equivalents

Planet Babylonian Greek Roman
Saturn Ninib (Ninurta) Kronos Saturn
Jupiter Marduk Zeus Jupiter
Mars Nergal Ares Mars
Venus Ishtar Aphrodite Venus
Mercury Nabu Hermes Mercury
Moon Sin Artemis Diana
Sun Shamash Apollo Apollo

    THE TWELVE GODS, also known as Di Consentes, were introduced to Rome some time before the third century B.C. In 217 B.C., after Rome had suffered a serious defeat at the hands of the Carthaginian Hannibal, the Roman Senate ordered the Roman priestly college of the decemviri to consult the Sibylline books and determine how the wrath of the gods could be appeased. In due course, they were informed that a sacred banquet should be held to honor the gods. Six couches were set up in public, one for Jupiter and Juno, a second for Neptune and Minerva, a third for Mars and Venus, a fourth for Apollo and Diana, a fifth for Vulcan and Vesta, and the last for Mercury and Ceres, twelve gods in all. Only heads of gods were originally represented on the couches. In the event, Rome was saved from Hannibal; so this unusual banquet was justified.

Saturn was not one of the twelve. In the first century B.C., a set of bronze statues of the twelve Di Consentes stood in the Roman Forum. They were juxtaposed with the public treasury, which was kept in the Temple of Saturn, and the public records kept in the Tabularium. The Di Consentes were thus admirably suited to the protection of the state, able to supervise the business of government and watch out for financial or administrative wrong-doing.

The Twelve Gods appeared in Rome at a time of crisis. The Twelve promptly displayed their ability to protect Rome and cause it to flourish. The cult the Romans had imported was the old Greek municipal cult, and it remained attached to the city of Rome.

The Latin names for the months are not generally derived from those of the Olympians. The two obvious exceptions are March (Martius) and June (Iunis), named for Mars and Juno. The association of Mars with March persisted in illustrated calendars into the middle ages, long after the month gods disappeared as a set. The Latin poet Ovid connected Venus with April (Aprilis), while May (Maius) can be said to relate to Maia, the mother of Hermes/Mercury. Only these four months were initially named, the rest were numbered, with our July the fifth month (March was the first) being Quintilis, our month of August was Sextilis, and so on. This Roman custom of naming the first four and numbering the remainder is fascinating; it occurred also in Roman families, the children after the first four being called Quintus, Sextus, etc.[3]The month of Quintilis was later renamed July to commemorate Julius Caesar in 44 B.C., and Sextilis was changed to August to honor Augustus in 8 B.C. The naming of January and February had occurred earlier, at the time the start of Rome’s civil year was moved from March to January.

Table 2: The Twelve Gods of Greece & their equivalents in Rome

Female Male
Greek Roman Greek Roman
Aphrodite Venus Ares Mars
Artemis Diana Apollo Apollo
Athena Minerva Hephaistos Vulcan
Demeter Ceres Poseidon Neptune
Hera Juno Zeus Jupiter
Hestia Vesta Hermes Mercury
The male-female pairings in Table 2 were the usual ones

    THE ROMAN SYSTEM which has an Olympian associated with each month as a tutela or guardian appears full-blown in the first century A.D. (after the calendar reform of Julius Caesar) in the so-called rustic calendar engraved on a small, free-standing marble pillar. The surviving example, now in the National Museum in Naples, has three columns on each face, each headed by a Zodiacal Sign in low relief and listing the Roman name of the month associated with the Sign, the number of days, the number of daylight and night hours, the position of the Sun, the tutelary deity, and the principal festivals as well as agricultural activities. An English translation of the inscription [4]is as follows:

Month January. 31 days. Nones on 5th. Day 9 hours, night 14 hours. Sun in Capricorn. Patronage of Juno.

Month February. 28 days. Nones on 5th. Day 10 hours, night 13 hours. Sun in Aquarius. Patronage of Neptune. Fields are sown.

Month March. 31 days. Nones on 7th. Day 12 hours, night 12 hours. Equinox March 24th. Sun in Pisces. Patronage of Minerva.

Month April. 30 days. Nones on 5th. Day 13 hours, night 10 hours. Sun in Aries. Patronage of Venus.

Month May. 31 days. Nones on 7th. Day 14 hours, night 9 hours. sun in Taurus. Patronage of Apollo. Fields are weeded. Sheep are shorn. Wool is washed. Bullocks are tamed.

Month June. 30 days. Nones on 5th. Day 15 hours, night 9 hours. Summer solstice June 23. Sun in Gemini. Patronage of Mercury.

Month July (so named). 31 days. Nones on 7th. Day hours 14, night hours 9. Sun in Cancer. Patronage of Jupiter.

Month August (so named). 31 days. Nones on 5th. Day of 13 hours, night of 11 hours. Sun in Leo. Patronage of Ceres.

Month September. 30 days. Nones on 5th. Day 12 hours, night 12 hours. Equinox September 23. Sun in Virgo. Patronage of Vulcan.Storage jars are coated with pitch.

Month October. 31 days. Nones on 7th. Day 10 hours, night 13 hours. Sun in Libra. Patronage of Mars.Grape harvest.

Month November. 30 days. Nones on 5th. Day 9 hours, night 14 hours. Sun in Scorpio. Patronage of Diana.Sowing of wheat and barley.

Month December. 31 days. Nones on 5th. Day 9 hours, night 15 hours. Sun in Sagittarius. Patronage of Vesta.Beginning of winter. They dung the vineyards, sowing beans, etc.

The relationship of the different gods to the months and Zodiacal Signs on these rustic calendars is very different from those we might expect. Jupiter for July!

Manilius arranged the deities in the same order in his Astronomica, the oldest surviving complete astrological text, written during the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius (30 B.C.-37 A.D.), but he shifted the Sign associated with each deity one place, see Table 3. He also began his list with Aries, the Sign of the spring equinox, rather than with January, the first month of the Roman year.

“Pallas (Minerva) watches over the Woolbearer (Aries);
Cytherea (Venus) over Taurus; Phoebus (Apollo) the shapely Gemini; You, Cyllenius (Mercury), over Cancer; and Jupiter, you yourself rule Leo with the Mother of the Gods; Virgo who bears ears of grain belongs to Ceres; and the forged scales to Vulcan; quarrelsome Scorpio clings to Mars;
Diana cherishes the hunting man part horse (Sagittarius); and Vesta the contracted stars of Capricorn; opposite Jupiter is Aquarius, the star of Juno; and Neptune acknowledges his own Pisces in the upper air.”

Table 3: Concordance between the Rustic Calendars & Manilius

Month Deity Sign
Rustic calendars Manilius
January Juno Capricorn Aquarius
February Neptune Aquarius Pisces
March Minerva Pisces Aries
April Venus Aries Taurus
May Apollo Taurus Gemini
June Mercury Gemini Cancer
July Jupiter Cancer Leo
August Ceres Leo Virgo
September Vulcan Virgo Libra
October Mars Libra Scorpio
November Diana Scorpio Sagittarius
December Vesta Sagittarius Capricorn

    Manilius placed the Sign of Leo under the Mother of the Gods as well as Jupiter. The supreme Goddess, Astarte/Cybele, was usually associated with lions. A limestone plaque in Jordan shows Cybele surrounded by Signs of the Zodiac. At the top of the Zodiac the figure of Aries is replaced by a bust of Athena/Minerva, tutelary goddess of the Sign. Next to her is a nude male bust with the Sign of Libra, and other busts replace Sagittarius, Capricorn and Aquarius.

The time span allotted to a Zodiacal Sign and a given month, then as now, do not exactly coincide. In the Rustic Calendar and the poem of Manilius the deities are assigned to one month and two successive Signs of the Zodiac. It follows that originally the gods were tutelae of the months, not of the Zodiac Signs. This agrees with the historical sequence: in Demetrias the months were named for the Olympians ca. 293 B.C. The rise of personal astrology with its emphasis on the Zodiac seems to have occurred in Alexandria in the second century B.C. The source for the Roman system was Greek and may have been inspired by Plato’s recommendation in the Laws.

It has been suggested that Manilius began with an association of Olympians with Zodiac Signs. These led to the connection of the deity with the month in which the Zodiac Sign rises and hence to the shift in the preceding Sign which is found in the rustic calendars.

Charlotte R. Long [5], author of the excellent The Twelve Gods of Greece and Rome (a main source for this article), believes this theory is clearly contradicted by the arrangements on the sides of the so-called Altar, found in Gabii in 1793 by Gavin Hamilton excavating on behalf of Prince Borghese. It is one of the pieces in the Borghese collection purchased for the Louvre by Napoleon. It is dated as Hadrianic, 117-138 A.D. Mrs. Long describes it as looking like a very ornamental birdbath, although the official identification is that it was a sundial. Twelve raised divine heads encircle the rim. These are pairings of the gods: a goddess matched with the god ruling the opposite Sign of the Zodiac, with the goddess of the pair on the right of the male. Of the six pairings, only three are the same as those at the 217 B.C. banquet.

Around the sides are attributes of the twelve Olympians arranged in the order of the months, reading from left to right, and juxtaposed with the Signs of the Zodiac. These are so arranged that a given attribute follows the Zodiac Sign associated with the deity in the Roman rustic calendars and precedes the Sign ascribed to the same deity by Manilius.

This arrangement, Mrs. Long contends, substantiates the hypothesis that the Olympians served primarily as guardians of the months rather than the Zodiac Signs.

The heads on top in counter-clockwise order, beginning with the best preserved are:

a. Venus, with Cupid behind her right shoulder
b. Mars wearing a helmet
c. Diana, with a quiver behind her right shoulder
d. Apollo, nude with long side curls
e. Vesta, with long side curls wearing peplos
f. Youthful Mercury with caduceus
g. Ceres, with long, loose hair covered by a veil
h. Neptune with a trident
i. Minerva (now wholly restored)
j. A youthful Vulcan, with hair to the nape of his neck
k. Juno (now wholly restored)
l. Jupiter, shoulder-length hair, thunderbolt.

Table 4: The arrangement on sides of the Altar of Gabii

Symbol Deity Zodiac Sign
Peacock Juno
Dolphins Neptune
Owl Minerva
Dove Venus
Tripod Apollo
Winged Tortoise Mercury
Eagle Jupiter
Basket Ceres
Pileus [6] Vulcan
Wolf Mars
Dog Diana
Lamp Vesta

Note: The sequence is continuous, Capricorn appears only once.

Other Examples

IN ADDITION TO the Rustic Calendars, the Altar at Gabii, and Manilius, there are only four other known examples that relate the Twelve Gods to the month and/or the Sign of the Zodiac. One of these relates to both month and Sign, two to the month only, and the fourth to just the Sign.

1. A 13-meter-square polychrome carpet mosaic, found at Hellin in Albacete, Spain, and now exhibited in Madrid. It has sixteen principle octagonal panels, the four in the center represent the seasons. The twelve outer panels were originally labeled with the names of the months, each had a deity mounted on a monster or winged genius symbolizing a Zodiac Sign. The choice of deity seems to depend here on the religious calendar rather than on the rustic one. The deity honored is the one honored by the chief festival of the month. The following months are preserved:

  • February – label only
  • April – Venus riding a man-bull, Taurus. (The Veneralia festival was celebrated on the Kalends of April.)
  • May – Mercury riding a winged genius who holds twins in his extended hand, Gemini. (May was named for Maia, the mother of Hermes-Mercury, and a festival honoring mother and son was held on the Ides of May.)
  • August – Diana seated on a centaur holding an arrow, Virgo. (The Natalis of Diana was celebrated on the Ides of August. The Vulcanalia was also held in August, but later in the month after the change of Zodiac Sign, and Vulcan is shown here as the tutela of the next month.)
  • September – Vulcan on winged genius carrying scales, Libra.
  • October – helmeted beardless deity with long skirt (a martial goddess such as Minerva rather than Mars) riding on a winged genius who empties a basket of grapes, in the hair are the claws of Scorpio. (The main festival in October, the Armilustrum, celebrated the army. October was the traditional end of the fighting year.)
  • November – eiled goddess with scepter, seated on a centaur carrying a bow and arrow, Sagittarius. (The veiled goddess is most likely Isis as the great festival of Isis was in November, extending from October 28 to November 3.)
  • December – Goddess with lance (Minerva most likely) riding creature with goat legs, Capricorn.

2. The earliest extant representations of the month gods outside of Egypt are a series of medallions with busts of gods painted in a room at the western edge of Pompeii. These can be dated before the destruction of Pompeii in A.D. 79. The four identifiable busts depict April (Venus), July (Jupiter), September (Vulcan) and November (Diana).

3. Another polychrome carpet mosaic, dated to the end of the third or early in the fourth century, A.D., was laid by a certain Monnus in a villa in Trier. It also included representations of the months and seasons. Eight of these panels are extant:

  • April – only the label survives
  • May – fragment of a caduceus, Mercury
  • June – diademed goddess with a scepter, Juno
  • July – bearded Neptune with a trident
  • August – beardless deity in a red garment, Ceres or Diana
  • September – bearded Vulcan equipped with tongs
  • October – youthful Bacchus crowned with vine leaves
  • November – Isis

4. A marble candelabrum base with summer month gods was found in the basement of the Villa Pinciana in Rome in 1767/68. Date: Roman Imperial, probably second century after Christ. It was taken to Paris with other pieces in the Borghese collection by Napoleon and is now in the Musée de Louvre (inv. no. MA 610). The three-sided base has a single deity on each face, mounted on a figure symbolizing a Zodiac Sign.

  • Neptune with horse and dolphin on left forearm riding on a triton with attached crab legs and claws, Cancer. The Neptunalia festival was celebrated in Rome on July 23, under Cancer.
  • Jupiter, bearded, with eagle, riding a man-lion, Leo.
  • Draped goddess, originally with scarf billowing behind head, riding on girl with clinging drapery, Virgo. The goddess is either Venus, Ceres or Diana.

Table 5: The Twelve Gods of the Zodiac

Sign Rustic Manilius Gabii Hellin Villa Pinciana
Aries Venus Minerva Minerva
Taurus Apollo Venus Venus Venus
Gemini Mercury Apollo Apollo Mercury
Cancer Jupiter Mercury Mercury Neptune
Leo Ceres Jupiter Jupiter Jupiter
Virgo Vulcan Ceres Ceres Diana Goddess
Libra Mars Vulcan Vulcan Vulcan
Scorpio Diana Mars Mars Goddess
Sagittarius Vesta Diana Diana Isis
Capricorn Juno Vesta Vesta Minerva
Aquarius Neptune Juno Juno
Pisces Minerva Neptune Neptune

Table 6: The Twelve Gods of the Months

Month Rustic Hellin Pompeii Trier
Jan Juno
Feb Poseidon
Mar Minerva
Apr Venus Venus Venus
May Apollo Mercury Mercury
Jun Mercury Juno
July Jupiter Jupiter Poseidon
Aug Ceres Diana Diana/Ceres
Sep Vulcan Vulcan Vulcan Vulcan
Oct Mars Goddess Bacchus
Nov Diana Isis Diana Isis
Dec Vesta Minerva

    THE PLANETARY gods form a closed set of seven that is readily distinguished from the twelve month or Zodiac gods by the presence of Saturn. It is evident that both allocations co-existed at the same time. For example, both the twelve-month/Zodiac gods and the seven are represented on separate sets of painted medallions in the same room at Pompeii. The seven planetary gods were also combined with the Signs of the Zodiac they usually rule. Thus at Pompeii, Jupiter is depicted both as a month/Zodiac god protecting July/Leo and as the planetary god ruling the two Signs Sagittarius and Pisces.

The seven were related to the twelve Signs on a set of astrological coins issued by Alexandria under Antonius Pius (A.D. 137-161). These coins each have a single planetary god combined with the Zodiac Sign normally associated with that particular planet.

The seven are also depicted on a polychrome carpet mosaic from Bir Chana in North Africa. Here Saturn occupies the central panel with the remaining six planetary gods in adjacent panels and the Signs of the Zodiac between these and the outer edge.

THE CULT of the Twelve Gods seems to have gone underground after the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 A.D. at which Constantine, inspired to fight under the symbol of the Christian God (a flaming cross that appeared in the sky inscribed ‘In this conquer’), defeated Maxentius, who presumably had the traditional gods of Rome on his side. It followed that the God of the Christians must be the Supreme Being on whom the welfare of the state depended. Constantine accepted Him as such, converted to Christianity, and gave civil rights and toleration to Christians throughout the Empire. He was indebted to the Christian God for his success, not to Jupiter Optimus Maximus and the rest. Thus Constantine of necessity established a new divine patron for the state.

The cult had to resort to subterfuge. One of the Church fathers, Clement of Alexandria (150-215) had written in Excerpta ex Theodotathat the apostles would replace the Signs of the Zodiac, presiding over rebirth as formerly the Signs had watched over birth. The Twelve Olympians took the hint and became the Twelve Apostles.

For his burial place Constantine, who had been an ardent follower of Sol Invictusas the universal supreme god prior to Milvian Bridge, built himself a mausoleum, which he dedicated as a church of the Holy Apostles. His sarcophagus was placed in the center flanked by memorials to the twelve apostles (it could also be considered a representation of the Sun surrounded by the twelve Signs of the Zodiac). Three of the apostles had stars carved besides their heads, which tends to confirm this assimilation of the apostles with the astral deities and the Zodiac.

Whether or not Constantine’s rather blatant final act could be construed as reverting to the old pagan religion on his deathbed, it certainly did not please the newly empowered Church in Rome. His sarcophagus was very quickly removed from the Church of the Holy Apostles, on the pretext that the building was unsafe (this occurred only a year or so after the Church was built, during the reign of his son Constantius II), and placed in a rotunda next to the church, where later emperors were also entombed

Table 7: Relationship between the Twelve Gods & the Twelve Apostles

Olympian Sign Apostle
Minerva Aries Peter
Venus Taurus Simon Zelotes
Apollo Gemini James ‘the lesser’
Mercury Cancer Andrew
Jupiter Leo John
Ceres Virgo Philip
Vulcan Libra Bartholomew
Mars Scorpio Thomas
Diana Sagittarius James
Vesta Capricorn Matthew
Juno Aquarius Thaddeus-Jude
Neptune Pisces Judas Iscariot

    There was a revival of the old pagan religion during the brief reign of Julian the Apostate (361-363). Allied and counseled by Neoplatonists, he brought back the Twelve Gods and stripped the Church of its privileges. But this resurrection did not survive Julian’s death. After that humiliation the Christian Church insisted new emperors acted according to their dictates.

On November 8, 392 the emperor Theodosius (born Jan 11, AD 347), at the behest of Bishop Ambrose, completely prohibited the worship of the pagan gods (he also terminated the Olympic Games). A religious war ensued. At the battle of Frigidus River on September 5, 394 Theodosius defeated Eugenius and Arbogast, the leaders of the pagan revolt. Later Christian tradition essentially interpreted the victory as a divine judgment: the god of the Christians had triumphed over the old Roman gods. The Di Consentes, you will recall, had been introduced into Rome six hundred years earlier when the city was in danger of being captured by Hannibal. Rome had risen to extraordinary heights since then. Now the Twelve Gods were arbitrarily dismissed. Within twenty years Rome lay in ruins, sacked by Alaric and his Visigoths, the latest Emperor of Rome alive and well and living far away in Constantinople.

A related event was the prosecution of Priscillianism. Priscillian was an early Christian bishop who is infamous for being the first heretic to receive capital punishment. He was executed in 385. The unorthodox doctrine he founded, which included the belief that the Signs of the Zodiac were under the patronage of the twelve Patriarchs, persisted until either 561 or 563. In one of these years the Church Council of Braga in Spain pronounced an anathema, a formal ecclesiastical ban or excommunication, against Priscillianism and specifically included any who regarded the Signs of the Zodiac as being under the patronage of the twelve Patriarchs. With this formal denouncement of the heresy of Christianizing the pagan belief in the Olympians as protectors of the Zodiac, the 2,000-year-old month/Zodiac gods disappeared.

THE NEOPLATONISTS accepted the Twelve Gods, for them the Olympians controlled the universe. As the name implies this was a revival of Platonism, occurring in the third century A.D. The Neoplatonists themselves continued to flourish into the fifth century but their academy was closed in A.D. 529 by the Emperor Justinian, shortly before the Council of Braga. Thereafter the doctrine petered out as a form of mystical agnosticism.

Table 8: The Natures of the Twelve Gods

Creators Guards Life-givers Uplifters
Jupiter Vesta Ceres Mercury
Neptune Minerva Juno Venus
Vulcan Mars Diana Apollo

    The Twelve Gods were divided into four groups each of three (beginning, middle and end), as listed in Table 8. The creative and paternal gods make the universe, the life-givers give it life, uplifters harmonize it, and the guards preserve and protect it.[7]The natures of the Twelve Gods were explained as follows:

Jupiter has the highest place in the creative triad, setting in order souls and bodies, and being concerned with all things. Neptune completes the middle part of creation and especially governs the spiritual order, for he is the god who causes movement and all birth. The soul is the very first of the things produced and movement is according to being (e.g., plant, bird, fish, human). Finally, Vulcan inspires the nature of the bodies and makes all the gods’ seats in the universe.

Of the protective and unmoved triad, Vesta is first because she preserves the very existence of things and keeps their being undefiled. Minerva guards the intermediate creatures unswerving in intelligent and spontaneous life, lifting them up from matter. Mars shines power upon the creatures in bodily form.

Ceres rules the life giving, wholly producing all life in the universe, intellectual, spiritual and that inseparable from the body. Juno keeps the middle part, devoting herself to the production of the soul. For the intellectual goddess, Ceres, sent forth all the emanations of other spiritual entities from herself. Diana is allotted the end, arousing all the natural Logoi into activity and completing the self-sufficiency of matter.

Of the last, the uplifting or harmonizing triad, Mercury is leader of philosophy. Hence, through it he leads souls up and with his dialectical powers sends them, in whole and in part, up to the good itself. Venus is the prime-moving cause of the erotic inspiration pervading all things and adapts those lives led up by her to the beautiful. She is nude because her function, harmony, creates beauty and beauty is not concealed. Apollo through music completes all things and corrects all things, moving them all together, and drawing them through harmony and rhythm towards the intellectual truth and the light there.

In some lists Plouton replaces Vulcan. The Neoplatonists accepted the Twelve Gods as a legacy from Plato. They connected each Olympian with the planet or element usually associated with him or her. Demeter subsequently gave her place among the Twelve to Saturn, presumably because Kronos-Saturn was not an Olympian. Apollo and Artemis gave theirs to Helios and Selene (the Sun and Moon). Vesta represents earth, Neptune water, Juno air, and Vulcan fire.


IS THERE ANY relevance in all this to modern astrological practice? I believe there is. The assignment of twelve gods to each of the months clearly preceded the allocation of the Zodiac Signs among the same twelve Olympians. It was an earlier rulership scheme. When the Zodiac was defined each of the twelve month gods (automatically?) became protectors of a Zodiacal Sign. Later, or even at the same time, the seven planets were also related to the same twelve Signs. If we can understand something of how the original allocation occurred, and how and why it became changed to the one we all know, honor and obey, we may perhaps improve our understanding of the relationship between the seven planets and the twelve Signs. Much of what we do in astrology depends on this relationship.

The same sequence of the Twelve Gods appears in the Rustic Calendar, in Manilius and at the Altar at Gabii (see Table 5). While it is impossible to state this is actually the true, basic sequence, there is general agreement from the other sources about the placement of Vulcan, Jupiter and Venus.

The Altar at Gabii presented an interpretation problem in that photographs indicate the deities’ symbols are interspersed midway between each of the depicted Zodiac Signs (see Table 4). Mercury’s winged tortoise is halfway between the Sign of the twins and that of the crab. If we relate the symbol to the earlier Sign the allocation of the Rustic Calendar is confirmed, if it is associated with the later Sign then Manilius is confirmed.

The tortoise, like the crab, was a symbol for Cancer, the two creatures like the Sign are known for their hard shells; the wings on the tortoise indicate Mercury-Hermes is the guardian of the Sign. This points to the Manilius scheme.

The only other representations we have, those at Hellin, etc., agree Vulcan is the protector of September and/or Libra. Assuming this was also so at Gabii, we have further evidence that the symbol preceding the Zodiac Sign is the one that should be related to the Sign and that Gabii is an example of the Manilius rulership scheme. This suggests it is the Manilius version that became accepted rather than the one detailed in the Rustic Calendars.

Five sources relate the Olympian gods to the Signs of the Zodiac (see Table 5). If we ignore the Rustic Calendar, we have Venus consistently as the protector of Taurus, Jupiter of Leo, and Vulcan of Libra. From the standard pairings of the gods (shown in Table 2), we therefore expect Mars to be protector of Scorpio, the Sign opposite Venus’s; Juno to oppose Jupiter’s Sign; and Minerva to protect Aries, the Sign opposing Vulcan’s Libra.

Is there any apparent rationale in the original distribution of the twelve Olympians among the twelve months and Signs?

Aries and Librahad Athena-Minerva and Hephaestus-Vulcan as their guardian gods.

Athena-Minervais the goddess of wisdom. At her birth, we’re told she sprang from the head of Zeus clad in her armor, brandishing her lance, and giving her war cry. Although a martial goddess, her most characteristic attribute is her practical intelligence and she is the patroness, inspirer and teacher of all specialized workers and artists. Her chief traits are prudence and valor. She never goes to war unless forced and when she fights, always wins. Her emblem is the owl.

Hephaestus-Vulcanis the lame, ugly smith-magician, the archetypal artisan and shaman, the god of technological perfection who creates many wonderful things. He is also a deity of volcanic fire, which he uses in his forge. His emblems are his tongs and the quail, a bird that does a hobbling dance in springtime.

Aries symbolizes the head from which Athena sprang. The association of Hephaestus-Vulcan with Libra, a constant everywhere, is doubtless due to the forged Scales being the only manufactured object in the Zodiac. Ariel Guttman and Ken Johnson [8]astutely suggest that Athena and Hephaestus are paired because they were both born of a single parent, Athena from Zeus without any female intervention, Hephaestus from Hera without masculine input.

Taurus and Scorpiowere associated with Aphrodite-Venus and Ares-Mars.

Aphrodite-Venusis the goddess of sexuality, beauty and love. She puts desire into men and animals, and stimulates their sexual urge, physical love and fleshly union. She represents the power of attraction that binds people together. Her emblem is the dove.

Ares-Marsis simply the destructive, bullying god of war. He delights in slaying and looting. In myth nothing much is told of him, other than his affair with Venus. His emblems are a wild boar, the wolf, and a bloodstained spear.

We give the rulerships of these same two Signs to the planets named after this pair of gods.

Gemini and Sagittariuswere given to Apollo and his twin sister Artemis-Diana.

Apollorepresents both random and predictable illumination. He is the god of the Sun, and both a musician and an archer, the one indicating serenity, respect for law and order, and divine harmony; the other, mastery over distances and hence detachment from the ‘immediate’. He is the calm god of healing, of light, of intelligence, and of the arts, who keeps away evil and was associated with oracles and true prophecy. His message to humanity “Know thyself!” is a directive to universal understanding. His emblem is the mouse and a tripod.

Artemis-Dianais the goddess of the Moon. Early Christians considered her their major rival; the Gospels commanded the total destruction of all her temples. She is the patroness of the hunt, of hunters, wild animals and young girls. She is the goddess of chastity who represents untouchedness, and is indifferent to love. She presides over childbirth and, like her brother Apollo, is a skilled archer, never seen without a quiver of arrows and her bow. Her emblem, the she-bear, commemorates the most dangerous wild animal in ancient Greece.

The connection of twins and archery to Gemini-Sagittarius is obvious.

Cancer and Capricornwere given to a pair of gods that seem completely opposite to each other in their natures: Hermes-Mercury and Hestia-Vesta.

Hermes-Mercuryis the cleverest of the gods, the trickster-god of ruse and double-dealing, of theft and nocturnal amorous adventures. He is also the astute companion of man, the unrivaled giver of good things, who protects the flocks, herds and roads, and is patron of trade, merchants, bankers and fortune-tellers. He is the go-between: the herald and messenger of the gods, and guide to the dead. Philosophers identified him with the divine intelligence, the Logos; Church Fathers compared him to Christ; and alchemists (the Hermeticists) of the Renaissance considered him the archetypal catalyst. His emblems are the crane, his winged sandals and the caduceus.

Hestia-Vestanever leaves Olympus. She is the stay-at-home protector of the home and hearth, goddess of the family and peace; she is relied on to always be there at the center of the world. Her flame burns continually, representing light, warmth and security. Because of her kindness, she was the most venerated of the deities. Her emblem is the lamp.

Vesta’s time of the year (we now call it Christmas) continues to be celebrated today as a festival of lights. Mercury’s guardianship of Cancer is not so strange as we may initially think: people with this Sign rising at birth are often great travelers, and with Cancer being the twelfth Sign of the Greek Zodiac and so associated with the end of things, i.e. with death, Hermes-Mercury, as the Olympian responsible for guiding souls into the underworld, the psychopomp, is the appropriate guardian.

Leo and Aquariuswere allocated to Zeus-Jupiter and his consort Hera-Juno.

Zeus-Jupiteris the uncontested chief of the gods, the absolute master of the universe. He is the All-Father, the supreme deity, who populated the heavens and earth by his promiscuous liaisons. He is sometimes called Jove, and the Jews and Christians know him as Jehovah. He represents prudence and order dominant over all. He is the grand dispenser of justice. His emblems are the eagle and the thunderbolt.

Hera-Juno, the jealous wife and sister of the supreme deity, is pre-eminently the goddess of marriage and childbirth, and hence of the perpetuation of the race. Her emblems are the cow, the lion and the peacock.

Leo has always been considered the pre-eminent Sign of the universal ruler. The Greek new year began when the Sun went into the Sign. Leo is also associated with Cybele, the Mother of the Universe. Fixed Fire is the strongest, most absolute combination of mode and element; it is the Sign of the actualized potential, of the ‘I am’. Leo could only be given to the supreme god. His consort then automatically has the opposite Sign of Aquarius.

Virgo and Pisceswent to Demeter-Ceres and Poseidon-Neptune.

Demeter-Ceres is the law-giver and the goddess of agriculture and fertility. She is also, in her association with Pluto (see the myth of Persephone/Kore), goddess of the Mysteries. These involve the cyclical destiny of vegetation: birth, life, death, and rebirth. The Mysteries taught that man’s life is like the life of cereals, strength and perenniality are accessible through death. The dead return to Mother Earth (De-meter= the mother), with the hope of sharing the destiny of the sown seed. Her emblems are a basket and the poppy, which grows red as blood among the barley.

Poseidon-Neptuneis the Sea; the wrathful, moody lord of the ocean. As husband of the earth, he was the earth-shaker, maker of earthquakes. His emblems are dolphins, the horse and his trident.

Virgo is associated with the fixed star Spica, the Ear of Wheat, and Demeter-Ceres is the goddess of cereals. Poseidon-Neptune is the sea god and Pices is the Sign of the sea. This pairing makes sense when we recall that Poseidon is the husband of the Earth and that Demeter-Ceres is the goddess of the Earth.

There appear to be perfectly good mythic reasons for the allocation of the Twelve Gods to each of the twelve Signs of the Zodiac. However, the essential natures of the seven planetary gods and their subsequent relationships with the twelve Signs of the Zodiac should have been detected very differently. One would expect the natures of the planetary seven to have been discovered from observations over time, from their effects on life noted at culminations and risings, empirically. These planetary natures would then in turn be allied with those Zodiac Signs exhibiting similar attributes. I believe this happened only in part.

IN GREECE, the attribution of god-natures to the planets themselves was slow in its full development. Following Plato’s earlier suggestions, the directing force seems to have been the Epinomis written in the 4th century B.C. by Philip of Opus, who had been Plato’s secretary in his old age This stated that the planets must be gods, as the Egyptians and Babylonians had known for a very long time, and the Greeks should accept this knowledge and religion, after improving it. While paying due reverence to the ancient gods, according to venerable traditions, the cult of the visible gods, the celestial bodies, should become the state religion. By the eternal accuracy of their motion, the planets reveal they are themselves gods, each planet regulating its own motion with divine intelligence and repeating it eternally to evidence its own wisdom.[9]

The astrological religion first advocated in the Epinomis gradually evolved into the highest religion in the pagan world. The old gods were still worshipped, but their mythological adventures were increasingly seen as childish and immoral; thinking people considered astrology highly rational and most members of the intellectual elite viewed it as a science.

The Greeks initially knew the planets by expressive terms which mostly related to their brightness, such as Phainon for Saturn, Phaethon (Jupiter), Pyroeis (Mars), Phosphoros (Venus), Stilbon (Mercury). The last word, which means Flasher or Twinkler, was used for Mercury by Eudoxos and Aristotle. These same names for the planets were still being used in the interpretation of a horoscope dated to 81 A.D.[10]

We can safely assume the early Greek astrologers did not start from scratch. From the fourth century B.C. on, by virtue of Alexander’s conquests, they were in close contact with their counterparts in Babylon and Egypt, who possessed “a millennia” of observations. Theophrastus, the successor of Aristotle who died in 322 B.C., is reported as saying that the Chaldeans were able to predict, in his time, not only the weather from the heavens but also life and death of all persons. The Greeks must therefore have been able to obtain from others an inventory of the attributes that could be associated with each of the seven planets.

They will have learnt, for example, that their Pyroeis was the same planet the Babylonians called Nergal, and that Nergal with his red fire color and his movement by leaps, had been identified as a bloody and capricious tyrant, the enemy of man, a planet which when seen in certain places in the sky was liable to throw all nature into perturbation. The Greeks will have recognized the flamboyant Nergal or Pyroeis as being similar in nature to their own god of war. So Pyroeis became known as ‘Pyroeis the Star of Ares’.

Marduk, the name given by the Babylonians to their chief god, could only be Zeus; there was only the one supreme god. Marduk was associated with the planet the Greeks knew as Phaethon. Astrologically, ‘Phaethon the Star of Zeus’ merged the supremacy of the Olympian, Father of Gods and Man, with the astrological aspect of a God of the Atmosphere.

Aphrodite and Ishtar were different names for the same goddess of love and pleasure. Phosphoros accordingly was the Star of Aphrodite, though the planet continued to be known as the Dawn or Dusk Star, the one who glowed in the dark like phosphorous.

The Babylonian Nabu, like Hermes, was an astute and tricky schemer and enterpriser, he was also eloquent and a stimulator of the arts. The Greeks knew the planet Nabu as Stilbon; so the twinkling planet close to the Sun, which moves quickly and is always turning and twisting backwards and forwards, became the Star of Hermes.

The planet Ninib had a dull, livid look and moved slowly: this was the planet the Greeks knew as Phainon and who the Babylonians associated with a prudent, grave, and melancholy old man, indifferent to human fates and even a little malevolent. That description didn’t match any member of the Olympian gang of twelve, but it did identify Kronos, the exiled father of Zeus, Poseidon, Hera and Plouton. Phainon became the Star of Kronos. Because of his age the Greek astrologers gave him a sort of primacy; but also through ancient associations with the moment of sowing, he was thought to possess a generating virtue – though paternity did not at all suit his years.

Another 200 years or so elapsed before the planets finally adopted their new identities and became known simply as Kronos, Zeus, Ares, etc. By his use of the old planetary names, the astrologer who cast the 81 A.D. horoscope may be telling us the approximate date when the changeover occurred. All known horoscopes after this time use the new planetary nomenclature.

Although the astrologers did not attempt to link the planets with the various myths told of the deities, they do appear to have drawn on the mythology of the essential character of each chosen deity, the complex of associations roused by the name.

These associations of a god with a planet and the character that god had developed appear to have been accepted by the Greeks as scientific axioms from which to deduce the sort of influence that the planet exerted. Like the gods, the planets were seen as beings with will, sex and strong emotions. Their living natures were reflected in the terms early astrologers used about them. They could see, hear, rejoice, grieve, were gay or sad, obeyed or didn’t, were sympathetic or not, and they were even said to bear spears which, on the appropriate occasions, they would hurl.

THE ALLOCATION of the seven planets among the twelve Signs, 7-into-12, has each of the five true planets receiving rulership of two Signs apiece and the remaining two Signs ruled by the lights. The sequence of planetary rulers probably relates to the apparent daily motion of the planets.[11]Thus the slowest, Saturn is at one end and the quickest, the Moon at the other, and the sequence goes Saturn-Jupiter-Mars-Venus-Mercury-Moon on one side, and returns Sun-Mercury-Venus-Mars-Jupiter-Saturn on the other.

This rulership scheme is very different from the age-old association of the Twelve Gods to the months and the Signs of the Zodiac. Can we assume the old system that gave a god guardianship over a month was not also arbitrary, but had developed over time? There is evidence that in different countries gods with similar attributes guarded the same month: for example, Vulcan and his name-sakes was everywhere associated with September and the Sign Libra. These venerable allocations were apparently ignored when the seven planets were given rulership over the twelve Signs. Why?

Are the planets most effective, most true to their essential natures when placed in the Signs the 7-into-12 system has them rule? Are these allocations based on observations of the affects in life of the planets when in the different Signs?

Or was this an elegant exercise in planetary symmetry, the creation of some Pythagorean astronomer? Was it a theoretical exercise in how things should be – there was a strong belief among the Greeks in the primacy of numbers and harmonics? Were everyday manifestations in life simply ignored, considered only inadequate shadows of a true reality?

Given this 7-into-12 rulership approach is to be adopted, which is the anchor Sign, where does the sequence begin?

Leo contained the star Regulus, which the Babylonians knew as Sharru, the King. In India Regulus was Magha, the Mighty, and in Persia it was Miyan, the Center, the leader of the Four Royal Stars of the ancient Persian monarchy, the Four Guardians of Heaven. Throughout the ancient world these four royal stars (the other three were Aldebaran, Antares and Fomalhaut), they are each about six hours apart in right ascension, were used to mark the four quarters of the heavens. At the time this quartering was probably first thought of, Reguluslay very near the summer solstice.

The Greeks will have known about the royal star in Leo, the first Sign of their year.

In astrology the Sun rules Leo, while Jupiter is ruler of Sagittarius and Pisces. The Olympian Jupiter-Zeus was originally the protector of Leo because, presumably, his attributes and those of the Sign coincided. The Olympian Zeus-Jupiter is the supreme god and Leo contains Regulus, the celestial throne reserved for the god of gods. In astrology, however, the Sunas the source of life is considered superior to all of the planets, including Jupiter. The Sun, not Jupiter, must therefore rule this fixed fire Sign.

At some time in the distant past a complicated game of celestial musical chairs took place. It may have gone as follows:

First, the Sun takes over Leo and forces out Jupiter-Zeus. Then the Moon, as the supreme female planet, takes Juno’s place, not Diana’s. June is Juno’s month [12]in which Cancer begins, so the moon becomes ruler of Cancer. By having the Moon rule Cancer, the Olympian moon goddess, Diana-Artemis, automatically looses her guardianship of Sagittarius and is forced out of the circle. At the same time Mercury-Hermes must make room for the Moon, so he moves next door to Gemini, the Sign vacated by the Apollo when the Sun assumed rulership of Leo. The planet Jupiter now cannot simply switch places with the sun god Apollo but instead replaces the moon goddess Diana-Artemis as ruler of Sagittarius.

And no doubt there are a dozen other possible scenarios.

We now have, for the planetary gods, Venus ruling Taurus (no change), Mercury as the new ruler of Gemini, Diana (the Moon) as the new ruler of Cancer, the Sun in his rightful place ruling Leo, Mars as the ruler of Scorpio (no change), and the planet Jupiter ruling Sagittarius. That’s six of the seven. Saturn wasn’t an Olympian, he might logically have replaced Ceres-Demeter, the Olympian guardian of Virgo – he was originally the Roman god of agriculture – but that would have disrupted the rulership symmetry involving the varying daily motions of the planets. Saturn has the slowest daily motion of all so he was given rulership of the Signs furthest from the Sun and Moon, those previously ruled by the Olympians Vesta-Hestia and Juno-Hera. The remaining Signs then automatically receive their rulers according to the daily motion scheme, and the Olympians who were not also planetary gods vacate the Zodiacal circle.

This all leaves some interesting questions. The change in rulership of Leo is understandable. But are there any real, interpretation-affecting, empirical reasons for the other changes? Were these made only to create a rulership scheme that was symmetrical about the two Lights?

Of course, it’s not entirely impossible that the seven planetary rulerships preceded the allocation of the twelve Olympians as guardians of the Signs. The hypothesized series of rulership/guardian moves will then have happened in reverse. Might then the planetary rulership scheme be based on past evidence from life of the varying effects of planets in different Signs? As a 20th Century astrologer, this is how I would prefer it to have happened. But if it did, how did the set of Twelve Olympians’ guardianships (the one presumably known and accepted by the Greek masses) get to be so very different? Is this an indication that early astrological knowledge was esoteric, hidden like the mystery religions from the uninitiated? Was knowledge of astrology only available to a privileged few?

The more I consider it, the less likely it seems that the planetary rulership scheme preceded that of the Twelve Gods. There is ample evidence to show the Twelve Gods had been guardians of the months a thousand years before the Zodiac was first split into its Signs. And going from month rulership to Sign rulership is such a simple, obvious step, even if there was some doubt in how best to allocate the month god to the Zodiac Sign: whether the guardian of the month should be related to the Sign occupying most of the month or to the one starting during the month, as we have seen in the contrast between the Rustic Calendar and the guardian scheme of Manilius. The twelve month-rulers came first, later they became the twelve Sign rulers.

There are, however, major differences involving the Sign ruled by a planet and those under the protection of the god with the same name.

If the astrological Sun is the Olympian Jupiter-Zeus, which planet is related to the Olympian Apollo ? Is it the planet Jupiter?

Can any of the mythological attributes of the Olympian Zeus-Jupiter be related to the planet Jupiter? Should all be related to the Sun?

The astrologers gave Apollo’s Sign Gemini to Mercury, when his Olympian namesake Mercury-Hermes was displaced from Cancer by the Moon. Apollo and Mercury are connected in myth – shortly after Mercury’s birth (as Hermes) he stole Apollo’s cattle and later he made and gave Apollo the lyre with which the god of the sun charmed the listening world. Is the planetary Mercury a composite of two Olympians, Mercury-Hermes and Apollo? What should we make of the tantalizing statement in Pliny: “The planet next to Venus is Mercury, called by some Apollo.” (my italics) ? [13]

Now the Moon rules Cancer, the old Sign of Hermes-Mercury. Does this mean the Moon assumed her predecessor’s duties of psychopomp, did she become the guide of souls into the underworld after death?

If the Olympian Juno-Hera is the astrological Moon, which planet should we relate to the Olympian moon goddess, Diana-Artemis ?

THE ALLOCATION of the Signs to the planets appears to have been an exercise in planetary symmetry, without regard for the corresponding natures of the planets or the Signs.

Readers may respond by saying: “OK, so perhaps the initial allocation of planet to Sign did not reflect life experience, but astrologers have been using the scheme for 2,000-years or so, and in the process have made it work.”

Have they? Does this rulership scheme really work? Sign rulerships are an essential part of Horary astrology, for instance. Is this branch of astrology as effective as its practitioners claim? We hear of their successes, many of which are often due to planets in the Horary chart being close to angles or to the Moon’s next aspects and so not requiring use of the ring-a-rosy rulership system of querent, dispositor, etc. But what of the many failures?

Nearly fifty years ago, a Mr. Ionides, the author of One Day Telleth Another (I don’t have the author’s first name or the book’s publisher), suggested the 12-fold division of the ecliptic “was not natural at all, but had been imposed upon Nature by man’s belief in them and have so acquired a certain validity.” Discussing this, Charles E. O. Carter [14], an astrologer for whom I continue to have the utmost respect, commented:

    In other words, let man believe a thing long enough and strongly enough and Nature, so to speak, accepts it from him. Thought, being essentially and always positive, can work upon the passiveanima mundi

and mould this to its will.     If this notion has any basis in fact, then its practical (as well as theoretical) importance would be considerable. We should certainly, in that case, do well to foster in ourselves the highest possible conceptions of the planets….     We should have to distinguish, in the case of such a planet as Neptune, anatural

quality and animpressed

quality. The former might cover such Neptunian tendencies as poetic inspiration, interest in the occult, and the propensity to states of confusion and involvement, confinement and retirement, none of which appears to have any connection with the mythological Neptune, while the latter would include all relationships with the sea, which would be invested with validity because astrologers, learning that the planet was to be called Neptune, immediately combined to think of it in terms of that god.     The proof would be, what did Neptune Signify in the horoscopes of those who lived before it was discovered? Did only the ‘natural’ meaning appear, or did what I call the ‘impressed’ Significance also manifest itself? Because, according to the hypothesis I have, very tentatively, put forward, the latter Significance could not be there.     I know that Neptune was in transit upon King James’s ascendant at the time of the Gunpowder Plot, exhibiting the ‘treachery aspect’ of Neptune, which is not, I think, at all mythological.     Uranus does not convey any distinct mythological conception to the average man, and perhaps that has allowed us to preserve in more or less pure form its natural qualities. But Pluto does most certainly mean something even to those whose studies in mythology have been strictly limited and it is true that most of us are, so to speak, hard at work trying to make him into a planet of death and darkness.    If man’s belief makes something so, then surely it will be the belief of the majority of humankind that does. Believers in astrology have been relatively few since the days when a much larger proportion of the world’s population believed, and had done so for hundreds of years, in the existence and natures of the Twelve Gods.

I’m reminded that in the 1830s a French physician determined that people who became ill during a cholera epidemic died or recovered at the same rate whether they were treated by a doctor or not. That awkward discovery forced the medical community to study itself, to look for things that worked and things that did not, and along the way changed medicine from a trade into a scientific art.

OBVIOUSLY which planet rules which Sign need not be sacrosanct, even if the system we’ve been using has been around for a long time. If the age of a belief were our criterion for deciding between alternatives we’d all believe we lived on a flat world about which the rest of the universe revolved. Nor can the theoretical elegance of a scheme be our guide. Astrology is about the affect of the planets and the Signs as these are reflected in life.

Perhaps we should consider in which Signs the different planets are strongest. For example, Capricorn might be given to Mercury, he is stronger there than in any Sign: it can be a position of real mental ability and fluent expression – Mercury can certainly be capricious. And perhaps the rulership of Virgo could go to Saturn. But over and beyond which planet rules which Sign, let’s consider just what this all says about the basic principles of the seven classical bodies.

The planet Mercury, for example, does not necessarily have the same attributes as the Olympian god of the same name. Natives of Cancer, the Sign associated with the Olympian, do travel a lot (often more than natives of Sagittarius), usually as tourists or for business purposes, but it is difficult to associate the astrological Mercury with the Sign of Cancer in the way the Olympian Mercury-Hermes was. At least, not as we nowadays interpret either the planet or the Sign. In myth Mercury-Hermes was the messenger of the gods. He was also said to possess the other attributes listed a couple of pages back.

Like each of the gods, the Olympian Mercury-Hermes was an Idea to the Greeks, a primary concept, the personified essence of something, a Platonic Form or archetype. While we presumably interpret a planet by generalizing from observed particulars, the gods were considered completely opposite: Mercury-Hermes represented, among other things, the transcendent first principle of exchange. He was the archetypal trader (and the archetypal messenger). Any business transaction was simply a localized manifestation of the absolute archetypal Form of Exchange.

The association of Mercury with trading and exchange has continued in our language to the modern day. There are ninety-two words in the Oxford English Dictionary that begin with the letters MERC. Fifty-two of these words relate to trading and commerce: doing something for profit, reward or self-interest. These include such as Merchant, Mercenary, Mercantile, Mercer and Merchandise. I included the archaic Merchet: “a fine paid by a tenant or bondsman to his overlord for liberty to give his daughter in marriage.” A frequent modern meaning of Merc-words involves the chemical substitution (or trading) of one element for another.

Nowadays our texts largely ignore Mercury’s relationship with exchange, commerce or trading, the emphasis is increasingly to associate the planet with communication. Check any modern-day textbook.

There’s unlikely to be a problem here with the astrological nature of Saturn, he wasn’t an Olympian and there’s no detailed myth to explain his nature. The same should apply to the three recently discovered planets. It probably does to Uranus though, like Charles Carter, I’m less certain about the meanings generally ascribed to the planets Neptune and Pluto.

The problem, if there is one, may be quite new, having evolved only in recent years. This century there has been what many consider to have been a major conceptual step forward in how we consider the planets. We now view them as entities in their own right, very much in the same way that Plato and the early Greeks viewed the Twelve Gods, as archetypes. It has only been recently that we have begun to speak of Saturn as the principle of limitation and restriction or Mercury as the principle of communication. Astrologers of the 19th century would not have understood what this meant.

I admit to being bothered that expositions of several of the planetary principles on which so much of today’s astrology is based often seem as if they were lifted directly out of Homer. The problem comes when, in our astrologizing, we think Mercury (or Venus or Mars, etc.) and start freely associating, bringing into our minds all we have read in the past involving entities with the same name. Before we realize it the old stories of the god dashing about in winged sandals begin to influence how we view the planet.

Those who use asteroids are particularly prone to this form of mythic extrapolation. One wonders how some textbooks would read had Haley’s Comet been given a name from myth, Ulysses perhaps, and Chiron been named Kowal after its discoverer.

Thank goodness, the better astrologers do not do this.

We have to carefully examine not only what we believe astrology is, but also who we are and how we view the world in which we live. Do we actually accept the concept, as did the early Greeks and the later Neoplatonists, that there is a multiplicity of gods or primary Ideas – archetypes if you prefer, though in a Platonic sense not Jungian. Each of these gods was believed to possess a quality of being, a degree of reality superior to anything that could occur in the everyday world. The Greeks believed the gods were the true reality and all anyone ‘down below’ could possibly be or experience was simply an expression, a shadow of that more fundamental existence. Richard Tarnas [15]describes it well:

What is perceived as a particular object in the world can best be understood as a concrete expression of a more fundamental Idea, an archetype which gives that object its special structure and condition…. Something is ‘beautiful’ to the exact extent that the archetype of Beauty is present in it. When one falls in love, it is Beauty (or Aphrodite) that one recognizes and surrenders to, the beloved object being Beauty’s instrument or vessel.    If that is indeed our approach to life, then perhaps we also view Venus as ‘the planet of Venus-Aphrodite’, Mercury as ‘the planet of Mercury-Hermes’, and so forth; the astrological planets and the Zodiacal Signs as vehicles for the outflowing of these archetypal essences into our world, and the natal horoscope a record of the God-given gifts with which a child is born.

Nothing wrong with that, it’s a delightful concept and largely consistent with much of modern astrology. And it is appropriate that astrologers with such an approach should utilize the mythic attributes of Mercury-Hermes and the other gods in interpreting how the planets manifest in life.

But maybe the astrologer has a different view of life, one that does not accept the continued validity of the Olympian Twelve into the present century, one that rejects the notion that the basis of reality exists in an entirely transcendent and immaterial realm of ideal entities, one that says many things can be beautiful without the need of a transcendent Idea of Beauty. What then? Is Mercury to continue as a celestial messenger boy in the charts this astrologer reads? If so, should Libra, Vulcan’s old haunt, be interpreted as the Sign of technology?

Confirming our understanding of the basic meanings of the original seven planets is not so simple. When Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were discovered, four methods seem to have been used to discover the meaning of these new planets, to find out what each indicated in the birth chart. In order of their actual importance in the process, these were:

  • 1. Events in the world coincident with their discovery,
  • 2. Indications of their attributes from myth,
  • 3. Association with the Zodiacal Sign the planet was thought to rule (the interpretation frequently given to Pluto, for example, is rarely more than an expansion on the meaning of Scorpio), and
  • 4. Observation of the affect of the planet in the horoscope: when both angular and unaspected in a chart, when progressed to an angle, when transited by a planet whose nature we know, etc.

Of these four possibilities, only the last method is available for confirming the meanings of the seven classical bodies.

For completeness, mention should be made of the exaltations and the recently rediscovered Sect rulerships. The Sect rulership scheme, in which certain planets have rulership of the Sign triplicities in a day chart and other planets these rulerships in nocturnal charts, is merely an extension of the 7-into-12 scheme. These Sect rulerships are really dignities. The allocation of which planet has the diurnal or nocturnal rulership of a triplicity is derived from a combination of the standard Sign rulerships and the exaltations.[16] The simplest of the several Sect schemes [17]is:

Triplicity Day Ruler Night Ruler
Fire Sun Jupiter
Earth Venus Moon
Air Saturn Mercury
Water Mars & Venus Mars & Moon

    Cyril Fagan demonstrated that the exaltations of the planets are their sidereal longitudes at their heliacal risings and settings in 786 B.C. If he is correct, the Sun in 19º Aries, Mars in 28° Capricorn, etc., are not degrees or Signs (whether measured in the sidereal or tropical Zodiac) the planetary body necessarily occupied in charts where it is known to have been strong in the life. Nonetheless, our textbooks continue to inform us that, for example, the Sun is strong in Aries where he is exalted and weak in Libra. Is this from practical experience or theory? Perhaps we should be cleaning house, like the medics of the 1830s, and like them looking for what works and what does not. Along the way, we might duplicate their success and change astrology into a true scientific art.

If there is one thing this investigation into the early rulerships of the Zodiacal Signs has shown me, it is that there is a great need for caution; we need to be shy about what we accept in our reading, coy in how we expand and use the symbolism of the planets and the Signs they are said to rule.


[1]  See George Sarton. History of Science Vol. I, Ancient Science Through the Golden Age of Greece. 1952. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press. « Text

[2]  The two hippopotami represented the sixth and seventh months of the Egyptian year.  As the Egyptian year began with the heliacal rising of Sirius in the middle of our July, these aquatic creatures were associated with the months we now relate to the ‘watery’ Zodiac Signs Capricorn and Aquarius (before becoming simply a goat Capricorn was a seagoat or water antelope, much like a hippo). « Text

[3]  See Rees, Alwyn & Brinley Rees. Celtic Heritage. 1961. p.397. « Text

[4]  Cippus Colotianus: Naples, National Museum, inv. no. 2632. « Text

[5]  Charlotte R. Long. The Twelve Gods of Greece and Rome. 1987. The Netherlands: E. J. Brill. « Text

[6]  A Pileus was a round, brimless skullcap. « Text

[7]  Proclus (5th century A.D.). In Platonis Theologium Libri Sex (ed. A. Portus, Hamburg-Frankfurt, 1618, reprinted Frankfurt-am-Main, 1960). « Text

[8]  Ariel Guttman & Kenneth Johnson. Mythic Astrology. 1993. Llewelyn. « Text

[9]  Quoted in George Sarton. Ancient Greece Through the Golden Age. 1952. Harvard University Press. pp. 451-454. Dover edition. « Text

[10]  Neugebauer, O. & H. B. Van Hoesen. Greek Horoscopes. 1959. pp. 21-28. « Text

[11]  An acknowledged expert on classical astrology, Dr. George Noonan (private correspondence 9/96), suggests the rulerships came about otherwise: “Two thousand years ago the rising of Leo signaled the beginning of the hottest time of the year in the region of the Eastern Mediterranean.  The Sun was highest in the zenith at this period too.  Therefore, Leo was given to the Sun as its domicile.  The classicist believed the relative brightness of a celestial body (‘apparent magnitude’ in modern astronomy) to be directly proportional to its warmth; hence Cancer was given to the Moon as its house because the next warmest month was heralded by the rising of that Sign.  Saturn, being farthest from the Sun, and hence the coldest planet, was given the Signs marking the coldest months: Capricorn and Aquarius.  According to Ptolemy, the houses of the other planets were assigned according to their relationship to Saturn in the then ‘scientific’ concept of the solar system.”     Whether it was the planets’ brightness (I do wonder about the relative placement of Mercury and Venus as the latter is the brightest object in the sky after the two lights) or their daily motion, the end result was planetary rulerships which are very different from those of the Twelve Gods. « Text

[12]  Perhaps the relation of the Twelve Gods to the twelve Zodiac Signs was not completely ignored in the 7-to-12 allocation of planets to Signs. The month of June is clearly named after the goddess Juno, and March after Mars. Juno-Hera at one time was considered the goddess protector of Cancer, which Sign begins in June, instead of Mercury; and Mars-Ares not Minerva-Athena was the patron of Aries, which Sign begins in March (the two names Ares and Aries are much too similar to ignore). « Text

[13]  Pliny. Natural History, Book II. « Text

[14]  Editorial in Astrology, volume 22, number 2, June-August 1948, pp.37-38. « Text

[15]  Richard Tarnas. The Passion of the Western World. 1991. NY: Ballantine Books. p.6. « Text

[16]  Rob Hand provides a clear explanation of this scheme in his 1995 monograph Night & Day, Planetary Sect in Astrology. The Golden Hind Press. « Text

[17]  From Ptolemy, Tetrabiblios I, 18. « Text

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Ken Gillman: Twelve Gods and Seven Planets ———————– All rights reserved © 1996-2001 Ken Gillman