When Planets become Enchanted - a consideration of planetary phases and how they challenge the astrological concept of a planet being combust.



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When Planets Become Enchanted
Planetary Phases in Astrology

Bernadette Brady MA



Moon and Venus

Once a vital part of astrology and discussed by Ptolemy in the 2nd century [1] and Avraham ibn Ezra in the 11th century [2] planetary phases, along with all other visual components of astrology, have slowly disappeared from our craft. Yet planetary phases, which are in part just the consideration of a planet's visibility, do still have a place in our work. The most casual of glances at a horoscope will reveal how close planets are to the Sun and this will tell you whether a planet is visible or not on the day of birth. This simple piece of information adds a vital piece of data to your understanding of the natal chart.

Remnants of this information are still found in contemporary astrology. For the teachings concerning a planet being “combust” are actually a technique of attributing meaning to a planet’s lack of visibility.

However, with the removal of the sky from astrology this has inevitably reduced the concept to a simple set of orbs: 8 degrees for combust, or 15 degrees for a planet being under the sun’s beams.


These orbs have replaced the need to observe and take into account the actual dynamics of the time and place. Nevertheless these orbs are still a useful gauge of a planet’s visibility when you cannot look at a sky map.


Today this idea of a planet being combust tends to be found in horary astrology but it can emerge in any style of astrology depending on the inclination of the astrologer. However, regardless of the style of astrology being practiced, it does suggest a negative condition placed upon the unfortunate planet. A planet is considered to be weakened when it is too close to the sun. In visual astrology this implies that when a planet is not visible in the night sky it is weakened in some manner.

But the question to be asked is “By what criteria is the planet judged to be weak?” Astrology tends to define power as belonging to the material world. For within astrology if your planets are strong (angular, dignity, aspects, and so on) this symbolizes effectiveness in the mainstream world. When a planet is “weakened” in some way, via its dignity or house position or lack of certain aspects then according to popular opinion within astrology, it not as effective in the world of money and power. Putting it simply, astrology is right-wing in its political philosophy. It may be most popular with people who are non-conservative but its yardstick for defining weak and strong is that of the material world of the establishment.

Pharaoh and Osiris

Yet this rule of weakness due to a planet being too close to the Sun contradicts some mythology.

To move into a period of invisibility was, for the planet or the deity, to move into the underworld. In Egyptian mythology, for example, Osiris was not weakened when he moved into the underworld; he merely shifted his kingdom, with all his power, to this “other” place. As shown left, Osiris meets the recently-died pharaoh as a king, not as a weakened individual. Indeed in Hellenistic mythology as the gods and goddess moved between the material world and the underworld, their power was not depleted. Instead the focus of their activity was placed into a different realm.

Thus when a planet steps down into the underworld I do not believe that this confers damage to a planet. We can understand that from an establishment point of view if a planet disengages from the material world it will be judged as becoming weak. However, this judgement is similar to how we may assess a student dropping out of their law degree to take up their passion in art. The system may think that the student is becoming less vital in the world but the student is simply placing their energy into a field that is considered by the establishment not to be worthwhile.

In this light the “underworld”, or the world entered when a planet leaves the clear visible and material world, is in fact the “other” world, the spirit world, not one full of the shades of Greek mythology but rather the other place we all go to many times a day. This is the place of dreaming, the place of inspiration, the place of creative insights.

In this place there is no time and there are no material needs of food and sleep.


It is the place we cannot enter wilfully, or physically. We can only slide into it. We only know we have been there when we step back into the material world and wonder where the time has gone, or how we drove to a place without remembering the drive. This is the enchanted space of myth and fairy tales, or the place of inspiration, or spiritual rejuvenation.

There are all sorts of cognitive reasons for what our brain does in these periods. Nevertheless our personal experience is that it is a place we visit often. Yet with no material shape we have much experience of it but little understanding.

Mercury spends all of its time moving between the enchanted place and the material realm, symbolising for us, as astrologers, that we draw on this other realm for our thinking and inspiration. Our great passions can also come from this land, as Venus weaves her glorious magic moving across the liminal zones between enchantment and the material world. She gives us a taste of enchantment when she manifests in the material world as a brilliant white star in the east or west, showing us what enchantment looks like in the material world.

Apart from Mercury and Venus who are tied to this other land, every other planet will also, once a year, move into this enchanted landscape. I think of these planets as “enchanted planets” rather than the unhelpful term of combust, for I consider these planets will be just as strong as any other natal planet but they symbolize the person’s engagement with this enchanted realm.

Already there is a strong use of this concept when we talk of the Moon. We do not consider the Moon to be combust if it is too close to the Sun but understand this as the time of the dark moon, a time for personal and collective reflections when we can revisit the well to draw fresh insights. As astrologers we know not to begin new projects at such a time, for the moon is focused on insights rather than worldly endeavours. The Moon is in the enchanted place.

Moon and Water


A Natal Enchanted Mars

However, what of the other planets? In earlier newsletters we have already covered the cycle of Mars moving into the underworld. Yet when Mars is enchanted what does this suggest? As with any planet in this position, its symbolism will become dressed in enchantment or charm when it is displayed in the material world.

Mata Hari

The list of people with an enchanted Mars is long and contains many different sorts of individuals. However, we can look at three examples all born with an "enchanted" Mars: Mata Hari was a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan who was executed by a firing squad for espionage during World War I; Grace Kelly (1929 –1982) was a US stage actress and fashion icon who later became Princess Grace of Monaco; Elizabeth Taylor (1932 - ) is a British born US actress considered a great beauty and renowned for her many marriages.

I would not say that each of their Mars is weak by being combust. Instead I am suggesting that it is enchanted and hence these three women can enthral us or mesmerize us with their sexual beauty and charisma. With another individual it may be that they enthral us by their heroic or athletic actions, such as the astronaut John Glen, the first US person to orbit the earth.

Mata Hari, born 7 August 1876 in Leeuwarden, Netherlands, at 13:00 LMT, has an enchanted Mars.

A Natal Enchanted Jupiter

When a person has their Jupiter enchanted they can open doors for us. We are enthralled by their philosophy, their vision. We believe them and seek to follow the path that they walk.

Jagger and Leo

An example of someone with enchanted Jupiter is George Foreman, (1949 - ) US and World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Olympic gold medallist, and famously successful entrepreneur who is currently an ordained Christian minister with his own church. His Jupiter is only eight degrees behind his Capricorn Sun and we see it in his sport, his entrepreneurial skills and his ministry.

In contrast is Mick Jagger, (1943 - ) lead singer of the Rolling Stones and a counterculture figure, born when Jupiter was in Leo and only three degrees from his Leo Sun. Another counterculture figure with an enchanted Jupiter is Paul McCartney of The Beatles.

Other figures include Chiang Kai-shek, (1887 – 1975) the man who took over leadership of the Chinese National Party and whose stand against communism lead to the establishment of the country of Taiwan. He was born on 31 October, 1887, in Xikou, China when Jupiter in Scorpio was only six degrees from his Scorpio Sun.

Closer to home for astrologers is Alan Leo, (1860 – 1917). This prominent British astrologer, author, publisher and theosophist, considered by many to be the father of modern astrology, was born with Jupiter in Leo only six degrees from his Leo Sun.

Mick Jagger (top) born 26 July, 1943 at 2:30 am Darford, UK. Alan Leo,
born 7 August, 1860, Westminster, UK at 5.49 am


A Natal Enchanted Saturn

To be born when Saturn has disappeared from the night sky suggests that the focus of a person's efforts, what they "produce" in their life, becomes enchanted in a way that can mesmerize us so that we believe in what they produce, and we see their work as magical or enthralling.


I think the most profound example of an enchanted Saturn is found the chart and life of Wolfgang Mozart (1756 - 1791), the most prolific composer of all time who, in the 35 years of his short life, produced over 600 classical pieces and who is proclaimed as the most influential composer of his era. His work still brings magic to us to this day. He was born 27 January, 1876, at a time when Saturn in Aquarius was only six degree from his Aquarian Sun.

Another example is Alexander Graham Bell (1847 – 1922), the person who is credited with inventing the first telephone. He was born on 3rd March, 1847, when Saturn in Pisces was only eight degrees from his Pisces Sun.

The list of names for an enchanted Mars, Jupiter and Saturn is long and of course will contain the ordinary and the extraordinary. Nevertheless what we have lost in astrology, I believe, is the deeper meaning of a planet when it is close to the Sun, and just as I have looked at Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, we could also consider the three outer planets when they are near the Sun. When we do, we begin to understand why sometimes we see an enigmatic charisma that emerges spontaneously from such people.

I think we have fallen into a solar-centred world where the removal of planetary phases has left us with the doctrine of a planet being weakened by the Sun, burnt and thus seen as damaged goods. However, instead of "damaged", we can look at this withdrawing from the material world as a way that our charts bring charisma, a little magic, and a little awe into our own lives or the life of the community.

Combust or Enchantment

Planets within 15 degrees of the Sun -
Are they becoming combust and damaged by being burnt by the Sun? Or are they stepping into another world, that which is enchanted?.

Visual astrology implies that as a planet becomes invisible its symbolism moves into another world, the non-material world. Any planets in this other land will be seen by us in our everyday lives as carrying the potential to enthral, mystify, or charm. Consider your own chart and look to see if you have any enchanted planets.

Saturn moving into Enchantment

Later this month Saturn is moving into this other land. For some months now at sunset Saturn has appeared to be moving closer to the western horizon. For most of us living between 30 to 55 degrees of latitude from the equator, north or south, Saturn will disappear from view when it is about 18 days (18 degrees) prior to its conjunction with the Sun [3]. This will be when it is in front of the sun zodiacally. It will not reappear again until around 6 October when it will be seen rising in the dawn light. It will then be about 18 degrees behind the sun zodiacally.

Saturn Charts

Left: 27 August, 2009. Saturn in front of the Sun and beginning its period of invisiblity. Right: 6 October, 2009. Saturn is now positioned behind the Sun and will be seen to rise in the dawn light.

During this period global authority figures will not be able to function as normal. I know that this sounds like a broad statement but what I suggest is that we all watch and learn. Here in the UK Prime Minster Gordon Brown will be particularly vulnerable, while for other leaders or figures of authority it may be a good time to pause, reflect and look for an enchanted solution, something different.

On a personal level the month of September is a month without Saturn. The Mesopotamian astrologer priest would announce that the king is gone, the king is in hiding or the king is working in the “other” place. So look to your own affairs and seek "different" solutions.

[1] See Ptolemy Tetrabiblos Book 1, Chapter VIII.
[2] See Avrham ibn-Ezra. The Beginning of Wisdom. Trans Meira B. Epstein. (1998). Arhat Publications.
Note: Both Ptolemy and ibn-Ezra assign the meaning of combust to planets close to the sun, but they also considered the whole cycle of planetary phases.

[3] Fred W. Price, The Planet Observer's Handbook (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), pg. 307.