Planetary Reception, Part I
by Ryhan Butler
Reception, as an astrological technique and philosophy, has mostly fallen to the wayside in modern astrological literature. This is partially due to the rearrangement of the classical dignity scheme to make room for the modern planets, but misinformation has also played a big part. This is unfortunate because reception and the associated concepts serve to enrich our understanding of aspects and the accuracy of our delineations.In this short three part series we’re going to cover reception with great detail, but in this first part the focus is going to be on a medieval technique referred to as pushing.
Pushing is a medieval concept that, like the rest of reception, is mostly absent from modern astrological vernacular. This is somewhat understandable considering pushing is something that is only applies to aspects, so it tends to get overshadowed by the grandiosity of the aspect philosophy and doctrine as it operates mostly in the background and doesn’t need to be mentioned for an aspect to have meaning, but it plays an important part in it. There are several types of pushing (management, nature, and power), but the most common is management, which is also referred to as counsel.
Pushing management occurs during any applying aspect. The basic idea is that faster planets (classically thought of as “inferior” due to their placement in the Ptolemaic Spheres) will push their significations to the heavier or superior planets they apply to. These significations depend on numerous variables and are unique to each chart, though some generalizations still apply. For example, a planet that rules the Fifth house is going to signify children, creativity and good fortune. When the faster planet applies to the heavier planet, it implores the heavier planet to assist it in bringing its significations to pass.
The success or failure of pushing is determined by several factors including, but not limited to, the aspect type involved and the heavier planet’s nature. This calls for close scrutiny of both planets involved to determine if an aspect is going to have a desired effect. A good modern day analogy would be asking a favor of a stranger. The likelihood of this stranger assisting you is going to be determined by the same factors as pushing; how you approach them (aspect type), if they are generally friendly or unfriendly (their nature), if the two of you are in some shared circumstance (reception), and if they have the ability to do the job requested of them (placement).
In this example, the Moon applies to Venus through an opposition aspect, or, said another way, the Moon pushes her significations to Venus through an opposition. The questions an astrologer needs to ask in this situation are “Will Venus accept the Moon’s significations?” and “Will Venus be able to assist the Moon in bringing what she wants about?” So let’s look into those.
The type of aspect describes the manner in which the faster planet approaches the slower, so here the Moon has approached Venus with an opposition, which is the most inherently adversarial. This already colors this relationship with some difficulty. After this we need to consider the superior planet’s nature; Venus is an inherently benefic planet and will naturally try to assist other planets, so this is positive. Another consideration (which will be discussed in more depth later) is reception and here Venus receives the Moon into her exaltation, which is positive as Venus has opened herself up to the Moon and grants permission to what she signifies. So, will Venus accept the Moon’s significations? Yes, though the opposition will make it more difficult.
The second question still needs to be answered “Can Venus help?” The answer to this is no, since Venus is in her Fall in Virgo and lacks strength to assist or resources to provide. An analogy would be as if the Moon asked Venus to help her with an assignment and Venus agreed, only to find out the assignment was to translate something from Chinese and Venus doesn’t know how to read that language.
So what does this mean? How is this synthesized into an interpretation? If we were to imagine the example as a horary chart with Venus ruling the Seventh, we could take it as a question about a potential relationship. The potential partner would be open to the romantic advances of our querent since Venus receives the Moon and naturally seeks to unify, but would be unable to commit (due to the lack of dignity) to them perhaps due to something involving their career or some perceived status (being placed in the Tenth). It can be considered similarly in a natal chart with Venus ruling the Seventh and the Moon ruling the Ninth. Perhaps the native’s spouse is open to supporting the native’s religious practice, but is unable or unwilling to follow it themselves.
Pushing management implies that lighter planets rarely manifest their significations alone, and this is correct. This only occurs a couple of ways, the first being when a planet is not currently making any applying aspects. Not having a heavier planet to pass their significations onto a planet will try to do it themselves based on their own strength and nature. Another circumstance in which a planet must manifest its significations all on its own is if the lighter planet is applying to a heavier planet which is retrograde or Combust.
Applying to a retrograde planet results in what is called a return of light. Since the two planets are applying to one another, they essentially play a game of celestial hot potato with the significations. In the end, the significations remain with the originator, who gets them back with a big “Return to Sender” sticker. This is considered unfortunate unless the originating planet is dignified which gives them strength to accomplish their signification. Finally, applying to a Combust planet results in the light implied in the aspect getting lost in the brilliance of the nearby Sun. The message is lost. This can be mitigated if the heavier planet is Combust in its domicile or exaltation (being in its Chariot, and thereby protected from the Sun’s rays.)
A wealth of detail unfolds when we analyze aspects in respect to pushing. It also adds greater depth to our understanding of the general aspect doctrine. Still, it can only take us so far. The next step in understanding planetary relationships is to investigate reception. Reception is the reason why some squares succeed and others fail. It also has much larger implications on a planet’s overall health. Both the technical definition of Reception and its philosophical implications will be discussed in the next installment, Planetary Reception, Part II: Guests and Hosts.
About Ryhan Butler:
Ryhan is the creator of Medieval Astrology Guide, and has studied classical astrological techniques with an emphasis on medieval astrology for just short of a decade. He has lectured locally and as a part of national conferences, working to spread the techniques of medieval astrology to those who would otherwise not encounter them or may not immediately see their value. He is also an active member of the Association for Young Astrologers and is currently serving on the steering committee of the Association for Astrological Networking.