The Strongest Planet Wins
In teaching my latest class in astrology, I focused on the premise, "the strongest planet wins." What I mean by this is that when you evaluate a chart, there are so many possibilities and so many planets to consider, that unless you can ascertain what planets are strongest and will dominate the chart (and show up clearest in the person's personality, life, and behavior), you are lost.
As in premise #3 in the second section on Vedic astrology that follows this section, there are criteria that make planets stronger or weaker than others in the chart. All of my essays in this series that focus on focality and planetary strength, whether measured by Western or Vedic methods, are relevant in this process of evaluating the strength of each point. Also important is the ruler of the chart, and particularly which planets (by element) the rising sign will express easily (e.g. a Pisces ascendant will express the planets in water signs more easily than planets in fire signs).
The uses of finding which planets are stronger are many:
1. Discovering the overall tone of the person. In my class, one person had Sun in Sagittarius exactly trine Moon in Leo. One might expect her to be very firey, but in fact, she isn't much at all. Why? Because the rising sign is Pisces (which has more difficulty expressing fire) ruled by her Jupiter which is retrograde (which makes it both bright in the sky and therefore strong) in Taurus (a muting, conservative sign) and her strongest planet overall is Saturn exalted in Libra (which is deliberate and responsive). She indeed is much more conservative and cautious than dominant or impulsive, as we'd now correctly expect from the strongest planets and rising sign.
2. Understanding conjunctions. When you look at several planets conjunct, it becomes confusing and complicated to interpret. But if you realize that the strongest planet will express itself most clearly, everything else falls into place in your understanding.
3. Evaluating aspects. If you have one planet opposite another planet, it is useful to know which planet and polarity will dominate. Again the strongest planet makes the answer clear.
4. Influences on each house. If you are examining each area of life to see how it will turn out, you'll need to look at planets in that house, planets opposite that house (even if the initial house is empty), and the ruler of the house. The strongest of these will be the most accurate in predicting the outcomes of and expressions of the house's themes.
Note: If you cannot ascertain which influence is stronger, because the planets are too similar in strength, then multiple influences, and a more complex picture, is likely to manifest in that area of life.
How to approach a Vedic chart, part 1:
I just completed the first level Vedic Astrology Foundation Course with Hart de Fouw, who is a phenomenal teacher.
Among what I learned is:
1. The strength/weakness of the lagna (i.e. the first house, its occupants, aspecting planets, lord, and aspects to the lord) is paramount in the chart, and reflects the overall tone of the life.
2. Major yogas are the next factor to consider, as they create a context, a container, for the chart. If there are many strong raj yogas, for example, the person will be successful even if they have some problematic areas in their chart.
3. Stronger planets (exalted, retrograde, in own sign) have a much greater influence than weaker planets (combust, in dustanas, debilitated). The strongest planet of any combination will have the greatest effect. (This helps one resolve the complexities of multiple conjunctions, for example.)
4. A confluence of either all positive or all negative influences upon any house (including its lord) is rare and noteworthy, and very likely to express itself strongly in the person's life.
5. In evaluating positive yogas, at least one planet participating in the yoga must be strong or the yoga is unlikely to manifest in any meaningful way.
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