While putting together my table of active and passive affinities, I got to thinking about the sometimes schizophrenic relationship between the seven traditional planets and the sign(s) of their rulership. Not that there isn’t an internal logic to all of the correspondences (as we shall see), but some apparent anomalies do crop up.
For the most part, the primary elemental rulerships are philosophically sound. Sun and Leo, Moon and Cancer, Mercury and Gemini, Venus and Taurus, Mars and Aries, Jupiter and Sagittarius and Saturn and Capricorn all make sense; it gets a little tenuous after that. Although Mercury is a chameleon, it doesn’t do much for Virgo except make it more particular (and finicky); Venus in my experience is much more earthy than airy (even its vaunted love of comfort and beauty seems more Taurean than Libran); Mars has a decided sympathy for the sharp “sting” of Scorpio; Jupiter (which over the centuries has flip-flopped between Fire, Water and Air) is fluid enough to call Pisces home, and Saturn has a fixity of purpose that seems at least nominally attuned to the scientific interests of Aquarius.
Exaltation is even more agreeable. Aries welcomes the Sun, as does Taurus the Moon; Virgo seems rather indifferent to Mercury since it’s already “been there and done that;” Piscean softness coddles Venus, Capricorn loves the no-nonsense vigor of Mars; Cardinal Cancer can make better use of Jupiter’s growth potential than even its own sign of Pisces; and Libra’s proclivity for social justice benefits from the ramrod-straight strictness of Saturn.
It’s when we try to transpose all of this to tarot that things get a bit more schizoid, particularly with the Golden Dawn’s system of Chaldean decans, but also with some of the Major Arcana astrological correspondences. With the decans, each of the traditional planets gets five minor cards (Mars gets six), some of which seem more like Dr. Doolittle’s pushmi-pulyu than a cooperative alignment of force and form. Some even feel like a case of the “irresistible force meets the immovable object.”
The Sun is at home wherever it goes, but not so with all of the others. For example, the normally atmospheric Moon is dry as a bone in Aquarius, definitely warranting Crowley’s title of Futility for the associated 7 of Swords; it’s not much more “juicy” in Libra and Sagittarius. Mercury is plastic enough to mold itself to almost any zodiacal landscape, but impressionable Venus is pinched in Virgo, polluted in Scorpio and emotionally adrift in Aquarius. The linking of dynamic Mars to dreamy Pisces was more of a force-fit than a rational affiliation (there are 36 decans but only 7×5 planetary matches), but it is redeemed by its liaison with the fiery Queen of Wands. Jupiter isn’t very fond of Gemini and Capricorn, while Saturn struggles in Leo and Pisces. Not all of these have unfortunate titles or core meanings, but it seems to me that from a purely astrological perspective, they might.
I’ve already discussed my dissatisfaction with the Golden Dawn’s assignment of zodiacal and planetary correspondences to the Major Arcana here: