The Planetary Joys
The planetary joys, a Hellenistic composition for the seven visible planets, suggests that the meaning of certain places naturally compliments the nature of the classical (visible) planets. When planets are in their Joys, their qualities freely align with the significance of their corresponding places.
A planet rejoices when located in a house that favors the liberal expression of its characteristics. While modern astrology defines houses relative to signs (i.e., the meaning of the second house echoes the sign of Taurus and its ruler, Venus), the Joys suggest that certain planets, independent of sign placement, rejoice in specific houses as a result of complimentary similitudes. While the signification of houses in Hellenistic astrology derives from considerations such as angularity, house position relative to angular triads, ascendant configurations, and the overall symbolism of the house in astronomical terms, planetary joys are also notable when defining houses. Distinctly, the only angular place occupied by a planet in its joy is that of Mercury, as the significations of the Midheaven, setting, and subterraneous places are descriptive relative to their astronomical locations. Likewise, void of planetary joys, the second and eighth are named the Gate of Hades and Idle places, respectively.
To reiterate, the traditional houses are named as follows:
- First house: The Helm/ Horoskopos (Mercury’s joy).
- Second house: Gate of Hades.
- Third house: Goddess (The Moon’s joy).
- Fourth house: Subterraneous.
- Fifth house: Good Fortune (Venus’ joy).
- Sixth house: Bad Fortune (Mars’ joy).
- Seventh house: Setting.
- Eighth house: Idle.
- Ninth: God (The Sun’s joy).
- Tenth house: Midheaven.
- Eleventh house: Good Spirit (Jupiter’s joy).
- Twelfth house: Bad Spirit (Saturn’s joy).
Origin of the Planetary Joys
References to the planetary joys are initially authenticated in the early decades of the first century CE, when contemporaries Thrasyllus and Manilius introduced texts on the houses and planetary joys.  In Thrasyllus’s Pinax, later cited by Valens, Porphyry and Hephaistio, there is allusion to earlier sources, such as the pseudepigrapha of Nechepso and Petosiris and Hermes Trismegistus. According to Thrasyllus, Hermes Trismegistus is the foremost source for the documentation of the planetary joys. Thrasyllus attributes the doctrine of the twelve houses to Hermes, who first used the names for the houses and their connection to the planetary joys. For example, Thrasyllus notes that Hermes ascribes one of the first house significations to ‘siblings’. While not in accordance with the later tradition attributing brothers and sisters to the third place, it does correlate with Mercury’s Joy in the Helm, since one of Mercury’s primordial significations is siblings.
Planetary Joys and the Elements
In his article,The Planetary Joys and the Origins of the Significations of the Houses and Triplicities,” Chris Brennan finds correlations between triplicities and house significations. In Hellenistic astrology, the planetary joys surround the four angular triads. In this arrangement, each angle correlates to an element. Of the fire triplicity (Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius) the Sun and Jupiter encase the Midheaven. To the left of the wheel, Saturn and Mercury, rulers of the air triplicity (Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius), surround the angular triad of the Ascendant. Mars, of the water triplicity (Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces), is found to the right, near the seventh, or ‘setting’ place. Finally, alluding to the density of earth (the triplicity of Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn), the nethermost angular triad of the subterraneous place is enshrouded by Luna and Venus. 
Aristotelian Physics, Stoicism, and the Four Elements
According to Aristotelian gravity, all bodies move toward their natural places. For the elements earth and water, that place is the center of the (geocentric) universe; the natural place of water is a concentric shell around the earth because earth is heavier; it sinks in water. However, if the zodiacal correspondences followed Aristotle’s framework, fire signs would oppose air, and water would oppose earth. Logical inconsistencies regarding Aristotle’s elemental hierarchy made it challenging to incorporate the elements with the planetary joys. Aristotle’s system places fire directly above earth, despite fire’s qualitative opposition to water. In other words, because fire is hot and dry, and water is cold and wet, the two elements should be placed in opposition.
The planetary joy’s elemental system appearing in Valens’ work adheres to the scheme conceptualized by Stoicism, the Hellenistic branch of philosophy founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens, during the early third century BC. Of the four elements, the Stoics identify fire and air as active, and water and earth as passive. These divisions mirror the diurnal/ spirit and nocturnal/ corporeal associations of the Joys. The active elements, or at least the principles of hot and cold, combine to form breath, or pneuma, the sustaining cause of all existing bodies. Both Aristotle and the Stoics reject the existence of void space, excluding that it encapsulates the universe. In Stoicism, air is cold and opposes fire (being hot). Moisture is attributed to water, which is opposite to the dryness of earth. In contrast to the Aristotelian system, the Stoics’ conceptual model of the elements parallels the planetary joys.
The Planetary Joys and Elemental Hierarchy
The positioning of the planetary joys reflects an elemental hierarchy. Just as fire rises to the highest region, Jupiter and the Sun are clustered around the Midheaven. Echoing air‘s ascension towards fire, Saturn and Mercury (the air triplicity rulers) appear to ‘rise’ over the Ascendant. Mars, slightly elevated from the earth triplicity, corresponds to water and is located near the seventh or setting place. Below, Luna and Venus encircle the subterraneous place, alluding to earth, the densest element. Essentially, the planets are arranged in an elemental hierarchy as follows:
- The Sun and Jupiter, of the fire triplicity, join the Midheaven.
- Saturn and Mercury, of the air triplicity, join the Ascendant.
- Mars, of the water triplicity, joins the setting, or seventh place.
- The Moon and Venus, of the earth triplicity, join the subterraneous place.
An Overview of the Planetary Joys
A distinct hallmark of the planetary joys is their arrangement via sect. The diurnal planets rise above the horizon while the nocturnal planets set below it. Mirroring his ability to join either sect, Mercury rejoices in the first house, where the midpoint between both hemispheres (using whole-sign houses), unites the diurnal and nocturnal spheres of spirit and matter, respectively.
The concept of planetary joys calibrates the balance between sect luminaries, benefics, and malefics. The luminaries are opposite each other, as the Sun rises in the ninth place of ‘God’, while the Moon sets below, in the third place of ‘Goddess’. The Greater and Lesser Benefics, Jupiter and Venus, respectively, are also arranged in opposition. Jupiter is poised in the tenth placed of ‘Good’ Spirit, opposing Venus in the fifth place of ‘Good’ Fortune. Furthermore, the Greater and Lesser Malefics, Saturn and Mars, obtain the opposing places of ‘Bad’ Spirit and ‘Bad’ Fortune, respectively. Again, Mercury retains the first place or Helm, symbolically merging both hemispheres.
Planetary Joys, Elements, and Angular Triad Correspondences
- Mercury: The Helm (first place). Mercury corresponds to air and the angular triad of the Ascendant.
- The Moon: Goddess (third place). Earth and the angular triad of the subterraneous place.
- Venus: ‘Good’ Fortune (fifth place). Earth and the subterraneous place.
- Mars: ‘Bad’ Fortune (sixth place). Mars singularly corresponds to water and the setting, or seventh place.
- Sun: God (ninth place). Fire and the angular triad of the Midheaven.
- Jupiter: ‘Good’ Spirit (eleventh place). Fire and the angular triad of the Midheaven.
- Saturn: ‘Bad’ Spirit (twelfth place). Air and the angular triad of the Ascendant.
Planetary Joys: As Above, So Below
As the two hemispheres divide the planetary joys by sect, this bifurcation equally addresses the distinction between the spirit and body. Planets situated above the horizon pertain to matters relating to the soul, while planets below (the horizon) correlate to physical phenomena. When in their Joys, the Sun, Jupiter, and Saturn affect the realm of spirit, while the Moon, Venus, and Mars influence the realm of matter (or the body). When in the Helm (via whole sign houses), Mercury has the ability to affect both hemispheres, symbolically inferring his ability to oscillate between both realms.
Of the fire triplicity, the Sun’s joy in the ninth place is traditionally associated with prophecy, divination, and truth as it relates to counsel, religious beliefs, and spiritual guidance. These matters are said to elevate the soul’s journey, alluding to the spirit realm. As the fire triplicity’s Greater Benefic rejoices in the eleventh place of benefactors and confidants, the spirit unites in friendship with a fellow soul. Of the air triplicity, the Greater Malefic’s joy enshrouds the place of confinement, suggestive of Saturn’s potential to afflict the spirit via anguish, enmities, and other mental phenomena.
The corporeal realm is auspicious and procreative in the fifth place of ‘Good’ Fortune, bestowing children (implying all forms of creation) and pleasure. These earthly, Venusian themes manifest through the physical vessel. Challenges indicated by Mars’ Joy in the sixth effect the body (contrasting the spirit’s affliction via Saturn’s Joy), manifesting as possible maladies and injuries.
A planet is said to ‘rejoice’ when situated in a house that benefits the liberal expression of its characteristics. The planetary joys, a Hellenistic composition for the seven visible planets, suggests that the meaning of certain places naturally compliments the nature of the seven classical planets. Clearly, hermetic principles embody the arrangement of the planetary joys. When illustrating the rejoicing of planets above the macrocosmic hemisphere (spirit), a microcosmic counterpart (matter) is mirrored below.
1. Brennan, Chris, “The Planetary Joys and the Origins of the Significations of the Houses and Triplicities,” originally published in the International Society for Astrological Research Journal, Vol. 42, No. 1, April 2013.
2. Valens, Vettius, Anthologies.
Etchings by K. Kalynovych.
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