What is a stellium?
A stellium in astrology is when you have three or more planets in a sign. What qualifies towards a stellium is different from person to person. For some, angles, especially the Asc or MC can count; others may include the Nodes; and for asteroid astrologers— they count, too! But in contrast, some astrologers will say that because the Sun, Mercury, and Venus can often be found in the same sign, a stellium requires four planets minimum.
As someone with two three-planet stelliums in my chart (one with an angle), I’m not here to convince you one way or another. (Besides, three planets is plenty enough to bring weight to that area of life).
What you should gather from this is that there is no clear-cut, defined rule. As long as you have three or more planets or three or more essential bodies for your practice, you could probably argue your case for a stellium. I will advise against counting things outside of your practice.
However, what should be noted is that there will be a difference between three or more planets/asteroids/mathematical points in a sign, and three or more planets in a sign that have rulership in a chart. Specifically, inner planets, or “personal” planets. The reason for this is because they will have influence over different areas of life. And thus, due to the virtue of ruling houses and signs, they will import that meaning to mix and mingle with the other planets they are co-present with.
Now that you know what I’ll be discussing in this article, let’s clear up some things that will make this easier to follow. For one, there’s discussion over the proper pluralization of the word “stellium”. Thankfully, I just so happen to have a degree in linguistics. And since, if you’re reading this, I can assume you speak English, what is important is that we are on the same page. With no disrespect to Latin speakers, the grammar of origin isn’t as important here. In conversation, mutual understanding is what’s important. So if I say “stelliums” and you understand that I mean “more than one stellium” then we’re good. The word is doing its job.
Second, I am an astrologer who utilizes Whole Sign Houses, which means one sign occupies an entire house. There are no intersections in this system. Whatever sign the Ascendant falls in becomes the entire first house. If you use quadrant houses, I would suggest looking at the ruler of the cusp of the house when applying the techniques I will be using.
And the third and final technical point I’d like to make is that I will be using traditional rulerships. This means that Jupiter will take rulership over Pisces, Saturn over Aquarius, and Mars over Scorpio. While I will count outer planets in stelliums on some occasions, I do not count them as rulers of signs.
What I will not be using in this post will be essential dignities, aspects, and general evaluation of a planet’s status. For the sake of keeping this focused, I will only be discussing how to interpret house meanings.
How to read stelliums in astrology
When reading a chart, if you come across a stellium, or any combination of planets within a single sign, you must notice that these planets add weight to the house in which they fall. As planets will import the meanings of the houses they rule (by way of sign rulership), all of their respective significations will be influenced under the blanket of the house they fall within.
That being said, the luminaries (Sun and Moon) each rule one sign each, and then the other five planets each rule two. Which implies that in a three planet stellium, you can have as many as six different house meanings entangled together and within the house meaning they are all placed.
You could take a “cookbook” approach to begin, which is a great place to start.
That may look something like this:
- [Planets A, B, C] are all located in [House X].
- [Planet A] rules [Signs], which are located in [Houses D & F].
- [Planet B] rules [Signs], which are located in [Houses G & H].
- [Planet C] rules [Signs], which are located in [Houses I & J].
- This means that [Houses D-J] all influence [House X]. The native will thus feel a heavier weight and focus on this area of life. Additionally, [House X] will provide context for [Houses D-J].
Then, if you really want to get in deep with understanding how it all mingles, you may need to take the time to write out all of the house significations included there.
Here is the chart of the moment as I am writing this post. If you look at the tenth whole sign house, you can see that there are four planets plus an angle all located in the sign of Aries. These planets include Jupiter, Mercury, the Moon, and the Sun. The angle included here is the MC. I will not be discussing how to interpret the MC, but take note that it does add extra emphasis here.
If we use the formula above, it will look something like this:
- Jupiter, Mercury, the Sun, and the Moon are all located in the Tenth House.
- Jupiter rules Sagittarius and Pisces, which are located in the Ninth and Sixth Houses.
- Mercury rules Virgo and Gemini, which are located in the Third and Twelfth Houses.
- The Sun rules Leo which is located in the Second House.
- The Moon rules Cancer which is located in the First House (or the Ascendant),
- This means that the First, Second, Third, Sixth, Ninth, and Twelfth Houses all influence the Tenth House. The native will thus feel a heavier weight and focus on this area of life.
When evaluating a stellium in astrology, in addition to combining house meaning, one should also consider how the meaning of the planets themselves mingle. In the example above, the Sun and Moon are together in the same sign, representing a New Moon. In simple terms, a New Moon is the beginning of a new thirty-day cycle. In a birth chart, a Tenth House New Moon could be read as someone always seeking new experiences or new endeavors in the work they put into the world.
Then, one must combine the other planets as well. Mercury is within a few degrees of the New Moon, so its significations of translation, communication, transportation, etc (Mercury has many meanings, you can read about some of them in my blog about the First House) will all be included in that person’s endeavors. One way to interpret this meaning would be to say this person will want to speak openly and freely about their new ideas.
The next thing to consider is the distance between the planets. The Sun and Moon are close together, within one degree of the exact New Moon conjunction. Mercury is within five degrees of the New Moon as well, meaning that it has a much more potent mixing of meaning (especially since Mercury tends to take on the traits and qualities of the planets that it’s closest to begin with). But then there’s Jupiter, nearly half a sign away.
By traditional standards, if two planets are co-present within the same sign, they are in a sign-based conjunction. Their influence will combine because they are within the same space. However, the closer they are, the stronger this combination will be. But this doesn’t mean that planets far apart in a sign are entirely unaware of one another. In the case of the example above, this would mean that Jupiter’s meanings and house influence will be involved, but not quite as intimately. Jupiter’s wanting to expand, grow, and affirm that desire to speak on a new venture will bring benefits when acted upon. But the distance will bring a less obvious boost of affirmation than if it was within a degree or two from any of the other planets.
Valens on the combination of planets
If you would like to see more examples on expert delineations on the combination of planets, Vettius Valen’s The Anthology translated by Mark T. Riley, has an extensive section on combinations of two or three planets.
Let’s read what he says about the combination of the Sun, Moon, and Mercury in a sign.
Mercury, the sun, and the moon make revered and pure men, those who play their part well, stewards, and those who share honors and positions. They are benefactors, participants in the mysteries, troubleshooters, and they put on a great show of possessions. They become bodyguards, chamberlains, and men placed in charge of money, records, and accounts. The speech of such men will be most effective for advice or instruction. (Valens, 21).
Now, in this section, Valens only goes as far as three planets at a time, so you may need to read the different combinations to get the picture of what Valens would think of this combination of four planets.
How to read stelliums without a birth time
In my houses series, which is admittedly taking me time to get through, there is a focus on having an accurate birth time. This is because you need the ascendant sign at the very least to determine what signs rule what houses.
But what can you do if you don’t have a birth time but you have a stellium? In this case, you would use the planets’ meanings and significations and then combine them in the way Valens does above in order to delineate the stellium’s meaning.
Example 2: Hard Mode
This next example is probably my favorite for stelliums because I know this person personally, and our birthdays are actually fairly close together.
It’s one hell of a chart and one of the biggest stelliums I’ve ever seen.
The Ascendant falls in Sagittarius in this chart. Along with the Ascendant, Pluto, the Sun, Mercury, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and the Moon are all in the same sign as well. Saturn is the only traditional planet not included in the mix, but it is in Pisces, and thus, ruled by the same planet as the rest (Jupiter).
When I first saw this chart, I was fairly new to astrology. It made my eyes bug out of my head and my initial reaction was “I don’t know how to read this”. But after a few minutes of considering it, I realized there really isn’t a trick here.
To interpret a stellium of this size, without getting into more advanced concepts such as angularity, essential dignity, sect, or synodic cycle, one must infer how house topics would mingle. With all of these planets in the First House, which represents the mind, body, and soul of the native, what would make the most sense?
If the ruler of the fourth house fell in the Eleventh, for example, one may say that the native acquires property from or lives with friends. In the case of the First House, it would make more sense to say that matters of the home directly affect the native and how they interact with the world.
This might seem obvious, since we are all shaped by our upbringing and environment. But it would be different for this native. Instead of the standard backstory’s influence, matters of the home would directly influence the health of the native, as well as the identity.
For a more clear idea on this concept, consider the Sun, ruling the Ninth House from the First House. How might this person’s ideas around foreign peoples and lands, higher education, religion, and philosophy affect their body and identity? In this person’s case, they were the first in their family of strict religious conservatives to realize they were radically left leaning in their politics. It was something they had to keep hidden, but nonetheless, they felt very strongly about. In a family such as this, to align oneself in such contrast would require a sense of pride and individuality (even if plenty of outsiders share the same beliefs) not otherwise found in their immediate environment.
On a more broad, chart-wide scale, the most basic delineation of this mega-stellium would be to say that all topics of life come back to the native. Their health, mental health, and sense of self are shaped with every new event they encounter. And, in return, they have direct influence on how all of these events play out in their life. (The only exception being Saturn ruled houses, but beyond the degree of removal, they would still have influence).
Though stelliums are daunting to encounter early on in your astrological studies, they don’t have to be an insurmountable hurdle. Starting with basic combinations and formulas as mentioned above, one can start to separate each piece at a time before re-learning how to combine them. If the specified dissection isn’t quite your style of application, one could alternatively approach it from a big picture in assessing what it might mean for a single area of the chart to have more focus from the rest, then work inwards on the details.
Whatever your means of parsing a stellium in astrology, the more you practice, the easier it will become to understand.
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