In traditional astrology the analysis of vocational aptitude in a person’s horoscope begins with the consideration of which of the planets is in oriental appearance. The planet in oriental appearance is that one of the personal planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, or the moon which rises next before the sun on the day of birth; that is to say, that one of the four which is closest to the sun in a clockwise direction, even when the actual distance involved may be almost the entire horoscope circle.
The planet in oriental appearance symbolizes a native’s vocation in the sense of his or her calling. The indication is not necessarily of a particular profession or line of endeavor for which the native is best suited (which is indicated principally by planets in certain houses); nor of the native’s level of application, intelligence, and competence (which is indicated by aspects and angularity of certain planets, particularly Mercury, Saturn, and Uranus). Rather, the planet in oriental appearance illuminates the native’s vocation only insofar as it is a vehicle for his or her own personal ambitions – i.e., a means of self-advertisement or self-promotion. What is shown is how people project their power into the world – not only to harvest its rewards, but also to secure their place in it.
Vocation entails a good deal more than just putting bread on the table. It means taking one’s place – being a productive member of society makes one an equal member of society. It is a basic source of people’s sense of self-esteem. The concern here is not for people as individuals, but for their role as unique contributors to the common effort: how they make a place for themselves and find a secure niche in their society. What is shown is how the native’s will (symbolized by the sun) is modified at its point of entrance into social activity by means of one or another specialized mode of collaboration. Hence only the four bodies whose orbits lie closest to that of the earth are taken into account in this analysis, because these personal planets symbolize the native’s everyday persona rather than his or her deeper racial and spiritual aspirations (which are symbolized by the outer planets). The personal planets symbolize the busyness of everyday existence. Mercury’s proximity to the sun makes it statistically the most common planet in oriental appearance, followed by Venus, Mars, and the moon.
How people go about achieving their goals in life is a function of what those goals are, and the four planets in oriental appearance symbolize four different ways in which people define their goals: in terms of convenience (Mercury), appreciation (Venus), freedom (Mars), or recognition (the moon).
Mercury in Oriental Appearance: It is an axiom of astrology that that which is statistically commonest is the least individually differentiated astrologically; hence the most difficult to delineate. Thus, Mercury in oriental appearance is the standard of comparison for the other three types.
When Mercury is the planet in oriental appearance the natives labor for convenience. They prefer a grooved, comfortable life; and their work must contribute to making it easier or more orderly. In contrast to the other three types, these natives are interested in their work only as a job to be done, rather than as a means of self-glorification or a proof of their skill. Thus there is a greater division here between the natives’ vocation and the rest of their lives: they usually have other avenues of self-fulfillment apart from their work.
They are quite happy at routine tasks which make no onerous demands upon them. They are good at shuffling things and people in a deft, matter-of-fact way; and at organizing a welter of detail. They find their security in their adaptability – their willingness to comply and to fit themselves in as a cog in the machine. They feel that if they’ve done their part well and pulled their share of the load, then they can look anyone in the eye as an equal. These natives’ urge to be useful and of service makes them good teachers of technique. They are at their best when they are carrying out set tasks in accordance with set rules of procedure. In the words of Dr. Marc Edmund Jones* these natives are suited for “most unskilled or partially skilled forms of employment. Under this indication an individual gains a simple satisfaction in moving or adjusting things, whether these are tangible objects or such intangibles as ideas, information, tokens of value or anything else dealing in any way with reports, records, the organization of effort. … He enjoys routine of one sort or another and usually can fabricate virtually anything or supervise any process of fabrication. … Intellectual occupation fits into the signification, as does routine writing or teaching and all repetitive phases of the commercial arts.” In the words of Ptolemy:** “scribes, men of business, calculators, teachers, merchants, bankers, soothsayers, astrologers, sacrificers, and in general those who perform their functions by means of documents, interpretations, and giving and taking.”
Venus in Oriental Appearance: When Venus is the planet in oriental appearance the natives labor for appreciation. They want to be admired; or failing that, accepted; or failing that, begrudged. In contrast to the Mercury and Mars types who seek the rewards of an impersonal system, the Venus and moon types seek rewards which only other people can bestow upon them; but where the moon types are cool and remote, the Venus types are intimate and charming. These natives have an engaging twinkle in their eyes and a spirit of irreverent playfulness with which they try to win other people over. They appeal to the childlike and ironic sensibilities of their associates; or when that fails, to their commiseration. Their security lies in a network of sympathizers, and they only feel equal to other people when they have established an empathetic contact with them. That their apparent warmth is the vehicle for their ambition can be seen in the facility with which they can turn it off when they encounter someone who just won’t appreciate them. They can be finicky; or play the prima donnas who want to be coaxed.
They are meticulous in their work, and they try to personalize it or leave a little something of themselves in it. They work slowly because they’re always pausing to admire what they’ve done thus far. They are a trifle lazy or pleasure-loving, and they take a lax, leisurely approach to their work. They don’t like to be rushed or to work under pressure. They thrive in creative work and in occupations where personality – selling oneself – is important. In Dr. Jones’ words: “What becomes of major importance are the tangible graces and the supernumerary satisfactions of life, and there often is a great leaning to the creative side of even the most routine of everyday living as in cookery and preparing clothes and homemaking generally. This in larger dimension is community betterment, and indeed every phase of refinement in the everyday business of existence from cosmetics to the administration of protocol. In epitome the native of this category is the artist.” Ptolemy includes “persons whose activities lie among the perfumes of flowers or of unguents, in wine, colours, dyes, spices, or adornments, as, for example, sellers of unguents, weavers of chaplets, innkeepers, wine merchants, druggists, weavers, dealers in spices, painters, dyers, sellers of clothing.”
Mars in Oriental Appearance: When Mars is the planet in oriental appearance the natives labor for freedom. Their work in life must contribute to their independence. They are ever ready to learn new skills, the better to be able to fend for themselves. Like the Mercury types they prefer a routine or grooved existence, but here more to find themselves rather than to lose themselves. They want time, pause, some space in which to think without pressure. Albeit naturally retiring rather than aggressive, they have great physical courage and fortitude, and can be uncompromisingly hard-headed. They will not be pushed. They are forthright and direct, with a touch of brazen cockiness: because they are willing to face up to anything they believe they are anyone’s equal. They find their security in having to answer to no one but themselves; and having to depend upon nothing but their own wits. They have a deep sense of their rightful due – that they have a just and equitable claim upon the rewards of life – and they cannot be daunted or dissuaded.
They are at their best when they are masters of their own environment with no strings attached, proceeding at their own pace and on their own terms. They excel in one-person enterprises or self-contained compartments within larger organizations, especially where a good deal of personal initiative and responsibility are called for. In Dr. Jones words “The native is most at home in mechanization and the organizing of effort … the explorer and pioneer … In modern business he is the advertising and financial genius … Ideas are his tools and science his servant, and he often is a wizard in the manipulation of people through catering to their prejudices. At his best he is the inventor, the architect, the engineer and the genuine builder. In epitome he is the promoter” Per Ptolemy, “those who use fire in their crafts, such as cooks, moulders, cauterizers, smiths, workers in mines; if he is not with the sun, those who work with iron, such as shipbuilders, carpenters, farmers, quarrymen, stone-dressers, jewelers, splitters of wood, and their subordinate workers.”
Moon in Oriental Appearance: When the moon is the planet in oriental appearance the natives labor for recognition. Their vocation becomes the pursuit of some social or racial ideal, or upholds some standard of conduct for their milieu. They are conscious of themselves as exemplars; thus they are conscientious, scrupulous, and indefatigable. They have a calm, level-headed reasonableness and an unimpeachable integrity which are most convincing, especially to themselves. They find their security in their sincerity, which is its own affirmation and reward. They are masters of the gesture or symbolic act. They generalize their own personal ambitions into a statement about the human condition: they have their own particular conception of the Übermensch, and they try to be faithful to it as best they can (although they are quick to acknowledge their own human failings and limitations). They are not snobs – they have a truly democratic attitude towards others. Nonetheless they regard themselves as the first among equals, the champions of some human virtue that might otherwise be overlooked. Hence, they feel entitled. They are aloof and impersonal, faintly imperious, and have an exaggerated sense of personal dignity (with a concomitant touchiness and sensitivity to slight).
Their rigid adherence to their own inner imperatives render them unsuited for work directed by others (which to them is a kind of penance), particularly (inevitably) those they regard as less intelligent or imaginative than themselves. They have to create their own vocation from scratch and make the world acknowledge its validity. As Dr. Jones puts it: “He is the ideal tutor or coach, and is unsurpassed as a handler of athletes and actors or in general as inspiration or guidance from behind the scenes. He experiments on himself, and often it is his unappreciated groundwork that permits those who come after him to soar to the heights. In epitome he is the prophet.” Ptolemy avers that the moon “produces soothsayers, makers of sacrifices, and adepts in lekanomancy (reading tea leaves).”
* Dr. Marc Edmund Jones, The Essentials of Astrological Analysis, Sabian Publishing, Stanwood WA 1970 pp 391ff
** Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos Book IV Chapter IV, pp 381 ff of the F.E. Robbins translation, Harvard U. Press, London 1964. Note that Ptolemy takes any planet located on the Midheaven as a secondary significator; and he gives an extended list of occupations which result from combinations of the other planets with the planet in oriental appearance.
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