How to Use Rulerships in Traditional Astrology

How to Use Rulerships in Traditional Astrology

This post should help clear up why on occasion I might write something like ‘this New Moon is ruled by Mercury’ or ‘because Venus rules Taurus’. I know many of you may naturally have questions about these kinds of statements, and there aren’t many easy places to find this information in a clear-cut way.

Rulerships in traditional astrology are potentially one of the more confusing aspects when you’re deepening your astro studies.

Firstly, because the language can feel archaic (‘rulerships’, and sometimes ‘lords’ or ‘dispositors’), but equally, because there is a proliferation of information out there (and most of it conflicts).

What I’m going to discuss in this post, and hopefully simplify, is traditional rulerships in astrology. To be clear, I do not follow modern rulership rules: for me, Neptune, Uranus and Pluto are not bound by any special relationship within the signs of the Zodiac. Secondly, I also do not recognize a special connection between Aries and the 1st House, Taurus and the 2nd House, Gemini and the 3rd House. Sometimes, but not always, there can be some ways that this makes sense, but other times not at all.


Rulerships are a simple classification of how different planets and signs of the Zodiac are related and the level to which they can be combined with success. Rulerships tell us how strong the placement of certain planets are in certain signs; to this end, many people use the analogy of ‘being at home’; in astrological terms this is what we call ‘planet dignity’.

In certain zodiac signs, the planet will be what we call ‘dignified’, that is, it will feel very much at home and comfortable in that particular zodiac sign. It’s like walking around a city you already know, with a fully powered phone that has full connection to data. You already know your way around, and even if you got lost for a second, you’d be able to hop online and google your way through it. When a planet is dignified, also known as ‘domiciled’, you feel that you have the knowledge, comfort and tools required to get the job done.

Analyzing rulerships largely deal with understanding if the planet is at home, and therefore dignified, or if it is not feeling comfy at all, and possibly weakened, which is known as being in ‘detriment’ or ‘fall’. And still further, there are places where particular planets LOVE to be, a type of planetary paradise which is called ‘exaltation’.

To quickly re-cap before we continue:

planets in a certain sign can either be considered as in a state of ‘domicile’ (homey comfort), ‘detriment’ (like sleeping at a neighbor’s or distant relative’s house – not the best or that comfortable), ‘fall’ (like sleeping in a shelter – no explanation required) or ‘exaltation’ (five-star luxury hotel).

Many of you may be making the next natural connection which is – what the hell? Does that mean if I have Venus in Aries (which is in ‘detriment’) I’m always going to have difficult relationships?

Well, the truth is…maybe yes, maybe no. It all depends on how willing and able you are to work with that planet/sign combination to bring out the best of it, while not falling slave to the worst of its expression.

Awareness is everything, and in the words of Audre Lord, ‘we pay a lot for awareness’: we may have to hit the wall with this planet/zodiac combination over and over before our awareness comes to the level where we can transmute that energy into something higher.


Rulerships in traditional astrology chart

Note that this is a pared-down version of Ptolemy’s Essential Chart of Planet Dignities. If you want to see more about that, you should check out this post instead.


Using Venus in Aries as our first example: a calm, nurturing, gentle planet that wants to connect and enjoy the comforts of life (Venus) finds themselves in the home of a brave, daring, bold, combative, impulsive friend (Aries).

On the high side, a Venus in Aries expression is ALWAYS making connections. They’re not afraid to walk straight up to someone they don’t know and start up a conversation. They’re continually out making the rounds, drumming up enthusiasm for some wild night out on the town, project or scheme, and the sheer physicality of their way of life means they’ll vent out a lot of stress and pressure through risky and/or physical challenges.

On the low side, Venus in Aries may spend too many nights wondering why their new paramour didn’t call back or what happened to that great connection they made the another night outside of the post office. They’ll flop deeply into a depression, before it completely slips from their mind and they’re back out on the prowl, enacting the same pattern again and again. They might marry, date (or do the horizontal tango – ai-yi-yi) with someone a bit too quickly, before they know if the person they’re exchanging energies with is truly worth their time. And when they’re really out of balance, the Aries individual’s love might burn up too quick or be suffocated in the flames of passion.*

See how this works? It’s not necessarily a disaster – you’ve just got to be a bit Charles in Charge, put on your big girl panties and take your higher self out for an interventionist coffee date, à la Linda Richman.


There are a number of ways you can start using planetary rulerships, even you aren’t a professional astrologer or dedicated student of astrology. If you have an interest in how astrology intersects in your life, rulerships are one of the first and most useful tools you can use to gain more insight into your own chart.

[Click here to create your birth chart]

Here are some easy, great ways to start using rulerships:

  1. Understanding your planetary rulers. Example: if your Sun is in Aries, the ruler of your Sun sign according to our chart is MARS. Therefore, you’ll want to pay more attention if Mars moves retrograde, which happens every 2 eyars. If your Moon was in Pisces, the ruler is  JUPITER. You’ll want to track and follow Jupiter transits more closely, knowing that they’ll relate to your Moon. This is most relevant to the Sun, Moon and Ascendant of your chart, as these are generally accepted as being the 3 most powerful/important places in our charts.
  2. Moon Cycles. Each lunation (New or Full Moon) is ruled by a planet. EX: if we had a Full Moon in Sagittarius, according to our chart JUPITER is the ruler of Sagittarius. The Full Moon itself may occur elsewhere in your chart, but it can also impact the house where your natal Jupiter resides.
  3. Investigating the Houses of your Natal Chart. Each part of your natal chart is ruled by a different sign, and this gives interesting insight into each house. If your 7th House of Marriage/Partners and ‘Open Enemies’ (the ancients knew their stuff, clearly) is ruled by Aries, which is ruled by Mars, you’ll know upfront a few things: your relationships will be daring, risky, independent, free (Aries); when ruled by Mars, you might have intense, passionate partners, or partners that have a tendency to fight, argue, etc. Note that this is a VERY basic way of using this information and I urge you not to go too far down the garden path with this, but, it’s very helpful and interesting, all the same.

Comment below if you have any questions or comments about rulerships.

*I used Venus in Aries, as I have that placement! And I’m happily married (well, admittedly, he is my *second* husband…the first one was a typical Venus in Aries mistake). 🙂