If you’ve dug down into astrology at all–beyond pop horoscope stuff–you’ve encountered the phenomenon of transits. Transits are what the planets are currently doing in the sky, and where they are thus actively moving through your chart.
There are many planets, and some of them move quickly, like Mercury, Venus, Mars. Others move slower–Jupiter and Saturn, while the outer planets move more glacially yet. Neptune, for example, takes 14 years to move through a sign.
The planets make many kinds of geometrical relationships to each other, your natal planets, and parts of the chart like the ASC or the MC. The nature of these relationships determines the kind of energy the transit will present–along with the signs, and, if you are looking at a chart, the houses involved.
Typically there are heaps of transits happening in any one chart at any one time. So how do you decide which to focus on and how to work with them?
Choosing Your Battles
Many astrologers and astro savvy folks I know choose to focus on the “hard” transits, because they usually have the potential to bring more growth. And honestly, the hard transits–like squares, oppositions, conjunctions–will be more in your face anyway, demanding your attention. But the easeful transits are worth noting too–sextiles, trines–because in my experience they offer opportunities to create something we want, with ease–but we have to be on the lookout for them.
So what to do? How to focus and not drive yourself insane? I had to learn about transits and aspects (those geometrical relationships) in layers when I was learning. Figure one piece out, then add another.
Or, focus on the transits that will be the most impactful to you, that offer the potential for the most expansion and growth, and that are the most personal. That is, they involve your natal planets like Sun, Moon, ASC, Nodes, Chiron.
Planets in Houses
First of all, when I’m working with a client or with my own chart, I look to see the general tone of activity. So I start by simply noting which houses the planets are transiting. This gives me general themes that are in play. I especially look to Saturn and Jupiter, because their transits are slow enough to actually notice, but not so long that they become background noise. Here are some general guidelines when looking at planets transiting houses:
- Jupiter will spend about a year in any one house and sign. He brings expansion of those energies, and we have a good 12 months to work with him, make changes, and integrate growth and opportunity. If you don’t like a particular Jupiter transit, it will pass relatively quickly.
- Saturn spends two and 1/2 years in a house and sign, roughly, and tends to slow down the areas of life indicated. There will be enough time to integrate lessons, and build new supportive structures. These transits can be hard and feel frustrating, but usually bring about needed change that will be sustainable. Unless you spend the whole transit resisting what is falling away, in which case you’re going to be pretty miserable (true for all hard transits).
- Chiron has a very irregular orbit, and spends almost half of it’s 50 year journey around the sun in Pisces and Aries. Chiron will point up wounds, healing, and initiation wherever it is passing.
- Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto spend seven, 14, and up to 25 years in a sign/house respectively, so their transits are important, but often harder to put your finger on, until they contact a planet or angle in your chart.
- The inner planets move so quickly that their effects are fleeting, worth noting, especially in retrograde, but hard to really follow day by day. Again, when they contact points in your chart you may feel more effect, depending on what else is going on.
This is enough in itself to get started with if you are new to looking at transits for yourself. Any general astrology book or sites will describe the basic attributes of signs and houses, but I like Stephen Forrest’s The Inner Sky.
Squares, Conjunctions, Oppositions
I’m only going to touch on these major aspects–there are others like the inconjunct that are important–but understanding these basics will take you far.
A square is when a planet makes a 90 degree angle to another planet or angle. The elements involved–fire, water, earth, air–will be less compatible, i.e. earth squares fire, or water squares air. There’s not a clear language for these elements to talk to with each other. So if you have Saturn in Capricorn, say, squaring your Venus in Aries, there will be a push-pull as each planet tries to act within its element, but is impacted by the other planet trying to have its way too.
Squares often bring a feeling of frustration or stop-start during their duration. The way to work with them is to decode the frustration. What are you really trying to do? What is really stopping you? In the example above, let’s say you are trying to expand your sense of personal power within your relationships (Venus Aries), but you find yourself not able to speak up, share strong emotions, or take care of your needs first. You feel thwarted by fear, maybe, or the idea that you just can’t, because that’s not how your mom and dad did it, or how good girls act. These old, rigid, even traditional beliefs can be shadow Saturn and Capricorn. Fear of breaking the rules is common during Saturn transits; yet if a rule no longer serves, then it must be broken and new ones created. By looking at what is behind the frustration you can see where the real work lies. Rolling up your sleeves and addressing the problem at it’s source is Saturn’s way of teaching freedom and autonomy.
Oppositions are more about balancing opposite elements and energies, and occur at the 180 degree mark. If transiting Jupiter in Scorpio is opposite your Saturn in Taurus, all the watery, intense, complexity of life–sex, emotions, power–will be putting your sense of safety, structure, and rootedness at risk. You have to have the courage to explore the opposing planet, while honoring the wisdom and needs of the planet being aspected.
Conjunctions are when two planets come together. Then the transiting planet washes over the stationary one; Neptune in conjunction to your natal Mars will bring confusion about what you desire and how to act and create, yet will also offer insight to inspired action and moments of clarity too. It’s like mixing ingredients for a cocktail: some flavors combine more easily with others, while you will never make other flavors that compatible. So conjunctions aren’t always hard, but they do require awareness and integration.
Trines and Sextiles
Trines are when planets are 120 degrees apart and sextiles are found at the 60 degree mark. Both of these transits bring flow and opportunity, but typically we don’t focus on ease because it’s easy! But recognizing periods of ease and looking for the little gifts from the universe are definitely worthwhile, and can offer relief from more intense transits. These angles are formed between compatible elements, or the same elements, and can emphasize other themes that are going on as well. They show us innate talents and opportunities for development in the birth chart.
If transiting Pluto is coming into trine with your natal Moon, for example, there is an increased chance of doing transformative emotional work with an ease you never thought possible. The energy of Pluto (transformation, healing, reformation) supports the energy of the Moon (emotions, past life mastery, safety, expression).
Anatomy of a Transit
With a basic understanding of transits, you can then drill down into the actual anatomy of the activity. Inner planets move quickly through our charts, and unless they go into a retrograde cycle, rarely make more than one “hit” to a point in our chart. So Venus may conjoin your Mercury for a few days, but won’t go back over it time and again.
By contrast, the outer planets, including Saturn and Chiron, and sometimes Jupiter, will usually have several active hits to your natal points during any one larger transit. In one Pluto transit of your Sun, you will likely have five direct contacts with Pluto during it’s months-long transit. You will feel the effect of Pluto during the entire passage–maybe it’s 15 months, or longer–but the most intense times will be those five direct hits.
If Saturn is square your natal Saturn, you may have one phase of influence in February, another in April-July, and the last in November-December. Basically you can count the whole year as the transit, but the intense times will be in Feb, June, and November.
An ephemeris will tell you when things are happening, or when you get your reading, I’ll point out these times for you.
Each direct contact offers an opportunity for growth or change. The first contact may be the “hello, I’m here” from the transiting planet. We feel, for the first time, the energy that is to be with us for the duration of the passage. This may be the most intense, especially if we aren’t aware or paying attention.
The second, or middle 2-3 hits, represent times to work with the energy more consciously and actively. We’ve met the planet, and have an idea of what is in store. We are choosing strategies, self-care, and witnessing.
The last contact is usually where we experience some resolution or integration of the change. As the transit moves out of the angle or orb (the number of degrees away) we will feel the energy lessen, and we will move forward with our new insights.
So, Do Planets “Do” Things TO Us?
There’s a little saying I like that goes, the planets impel, but do not compel, meaning that the energies do impact us, but they don’t make us do things. We do things. We make choices, we have reactions, we take action (or not). There are definitely times when it feels like a whole lotta sh*t is coming down on us from the cosmos. Midlife can be like that, the Saturn return. Yet, our lives are a culmination of karma, actions we’ve taken, patterns we’ve adopted. Planetary transits serve to highlight areas that need to grow or change. Though it may feel like Pluto is kicking your ass, it is in fact all you.
None of us like to take responsibility for the bad stuff in our lives–why would we? How would I ever have chosen that disease, that heartbreak, that car accident, being robbed? This is a much deeper and nuanced conversation (one I get into a little more here), but the planets are not to blame for the circs of our lives. They are neutral, and embody archetypes that when worked with, can facilitate amazing empowerment, freedom, and change.
Working with transits is a bit of an advanced skill, but it’s well worth learning if you want to work with your own chart in an ongoing way. Understanding the depth in your chart is what separates the real art/science of astrology from entertainment horoscopes. If you want help–hey, that’s what I’m here for, so click over this way to book a reading.
I did do a 2018 major transit round up, and that can be found in this article.
Bottom line, understanding transits and the energies they bring makes a huge difference in how you can actually use astrology in your every day life. Start with planets in houses and work from there.
Hard transits bring growth, and easy ones opportunity and flow. Learning how to work with both makes life more interesting!
The energies are present whether you believe in them or not, so why not learn a little and benefit from the empowerment that brings?
Contact me if you want a reading, or leave a comment below to share how transits are affecting your life right now.
That’s enough from me now– until next time!
ps: don’t forget the solar eclipse at 27 Aquarius on Thursday, Feb 15! Curious how to work with eclipse, read this article to get started