“It’s exhilarating to be alive in a time of awakening consciousness; it can also be confusing, disorienting, and painful.” Adrienne Rich William Herschel, a musician who took up astronomy as a hobby, officially discovered Uranus on March 13, 1781. Later, it was realized that Uranus had been seen and recorded at least 20 times between 1690 and 1781, as Uranus is visible to the unaided eye under exceptionally clear conditions when the planet is opposed to the Sun and appears as a faint star. Astronomers couldn’t conceive that the faint trace of light they saw was significant enough to disturb a comfortable and numerically powerful cosmological scheme of seven planets.
Uranus, characteristic with its now-familiar astrological nature, became an unsettling eighth. The presence of Uranus dramatically increased the size of the solar system since Uranus is twice as far from the Sun as Saturn. That’s a trend that is continuing as more distant objects are discovered orbiting the Sun and evidence mounts that proves the existence of the Oort Cloud.
Uranus is the third largest planet in the solar system and takes 84 years to make one circuit around the Sun. By comparison, Uranus rotates very quickly on its axis, making one rotation in barely more than 17 hours; so its day is seven hours shorter than Earth’s. Along with Jupiter and Neptune, Uranus is one of the three gas giants and is four times larger than Earth. The atmosphere of Uranus is composed of hydrogen (83%), helium (15%), methane (2%), and small amounts of acetylene and other hydrocarbons. Methane in the upper atmosphere absorbs red light, giving Uranus its blue-green color. Uranus is similar in composition to Neptune, and both are of different chemical composition than the larger gas giants Jupiter and Saturn. Therefore, astronomers sometimes place them in a separate category called “ice giants.”
The planet’s axis of rotation lies nearly in the plane of its orbit, rather than perpendicular, so Uranus rotates almost on its side. Astrologically, this seems apt for the independent and trail-blazing ruler of Aquarius. This unusual position is thought to be the result of a collision with a planet-sized body early in the solar system’s history. Because of the strange tilt, one hemisphere can face the Sun for years at a time, leaving the other in nearly perpetual darkness. Our only direct spacecraft observation of Uranus came from Voyager 2 in 1986. Voyager 2 found that one of the most striking influences of the sideways position is its effect on the tail of the magnetic field, which is also tilted 60 degrees from the planet’s axis of rotation. The magnetotail is twisted by the planet’s rotation into a long corkscrew.
Uranus has a faint system of 13 narrow, elliptical-shaped rings that are composed of dark dust and rocks up to about 10 meters in diameter. The ring system was discovered in 1977. The discovery was serendipitous, as scientists had planned to use Uranus’s occultation of the star SAO 158687 (Smithsonian Astronomical Observatory Star Catalog) to study the planet’s atmosphere. As the star first approached and then receded behind, Uranus appeared to blink off and on. This affect was due to the system of rings. Uranus’s rings are distinctly different from those of Jupiter and Saturn and are thought to be much younger than the planet.
Uranus has 27 known natural satellites that were named from the works of Shakespeare and Alexander Pope. The five main satellites are Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon. The Uranian satellite system is the least massive among the gas giants. The largest, Titania, is the eighth largest moon in the Solar System.
Uranus is the Latinized form of Ouranos, the Greek word for sky. Unlike the rest of the planets, except Earth which is Germanic, his name is Greek rather than Roman. The Roman equivalent was Caelus, likewise from caelum, the Latin word for “sky.” In Hesiod’s Theogony, Uranus, or Father Sky, was personified as the son and husband of Gaia, Mother Earth. Uranus and Gaia were ancestors of most of the Greek gods, but no cult to Uranus survived into classical times, and Uranus does not appear among the usual themes of Greek painted pottery. Most Greeks considered Uranus to be primordial, protogenos, and gave him no parentage.
In the Olympian creation myth, Uranus came every night to cover the earth and mate with Gaia, but he hated the children she bore him. Uranus imprisoned Gaia’s youngest children deep within the earth, where they caused her pain. She shaped a great flint-bladed sickle and asked her sons to castrate Uranus. Only Cronus (Saturn), youngest and most ambitious of the Titans, was willing. He ambushed his father and castrated him. The Giants, Furies, ash-tree nymphs and, according to some, the Telchines, emerged from the blood that spilled from Uranus onto the earth. Aphrodite (Venus), rose on a giant clamshell after she had been created from the genitals that fell into the sea. After Uranus was deposed, he and Gaia prophesied that Cronus in turn would be overthrown by his own son. He tried to avoid this fate by devouring his children. Zeus/Jupiter escaped through the deception of his mother Rhea, who fed Cronus a swaddled stone instead.
The mythical castration of Uranus by his son may have an astronomical origin. Astronomers speculate that a catastrophic collision with a large body may have upset the planet, tilting it onto its present axis, and at the same time ejected gas and debris that coalesced and formed Uranus’s moons. Remnants of this collision may also exist as Saturn’s dramatic ring system.
The planet was called Herschel for more than a hundred years until Johan Bode, of Bode’s Law fame, suggested the name Uranus. Uranus was Saturn’s father, Jupiter’s grandfather, and the great-grandfather of Mars, so there is an elegance and symmetry to this idea because of the sequence of the planets moving outward from the Sun. However, astrologer and scholar of myth, Richard Tarnas, has argued convincingly that Prometheus, the Titan who stole fire for humanity, is a better name because of his more revolutionary mythic character. Tarnas believes that the name Uranus arose from conventional, eighteenth-century logic not from archetypal insight. After the planet’s discovery astrologers studied the horoscopes of people who had Uranus emphasized. The character of the planet’s influence does not resonate with the nature of the myth.
Prometheus, whose name means “foresight,” was a benefactor to humankind and in some stories actually created humans on a potter’s wheel. It’s interesting to note that it was Athena, goddess of wisdom, who taught Prometheus much of what he knew and who actually breathed life into his creations. In some stories he tricked Zeus and earned his ire, which prompted Zeus to take fire from humanity in spite. But Prometheus lit a torch from the Sun and gave it back. Prometheus prophesied the downfall of Zeus/Jupiter at the hands of ancient female powers of justice (karma). Barbara Walker says “the Prometheus myth presaged the Gnostic’s sympathy for Lucifer, who was the same sort of hero—a philanthropic anti-god unfairly punished for giving ‘light’ or ‘enlightenment’ to humanity.” In the more ancient myths Prometheus was married to Pandora, “all giver,” and together they bestowed countless gifts to humanity. Pandora’s creation as the first woman, meant to punish humanity, was a later invention of the patriarchal Greeks. Originally, her “box” was a pithos, an earthen honey jar, from which she poured only sweet blessings.
Modern planets could not be perceived without the aid of technology. Uranus was the first to be recognized in this way and astrologically is said to have a direct relationship with science. Astrologers consider that humanity’s development had to reach a certain stage where we could conceive of the revolutionary and radical increase in knowledge heralded by this upsetting change to the system of seven. Isabel Hickey, author of Spiritual Astrology, claims “Uranus is the force which beckons us to the discovery of the undiscovered.”
Uranus is said to represent occult knowledge, since it is hidden from the domain of Mercury’s ordinary awareness. Uranus is seen to be the ruler of astrology itself; and in myth, Urania was the muse of astronomy. Astrologer Rob Hand has remarked that “Uranus represents the random element of mutation that is necessary for creative innovation.” As a result Astrologers associate Uranus with inventions such as television and radio. Uranus also governs the realm of psychology and metaphysics, calling us to explore unseen knowledge. The energy and character of Uranus represents flashes of insight and intuition. The planet’s influence appears unpredictable and seems to come upon us suddenly, although if we are paying attention, we can feel the momentum building. Uranus energy is seen as liberating and is believed to stimulate revolution, breakthroughs in humanitarian ideals, and inventions. Prometheus’s famous theft of fire falls into this category and can be seen as the radical manner in which this energy operates.
Uranus urges individualistic expression, and revolution is the planet’s middle name. Uranus breaks up Saturn’s entrenched patterns and offers the chance for more evolved forms to develop. Uranus seeks to overthrow bastions of power that are seen to have outlasted their time. There can be genius in Uranus: however, the expression can also be rebellious and nonconforming just for the sake of it. Old power structures are challenged to prepare for new ways of thinking. This is as true for individuals as it is for groups.
Uranus entered the sign of Aries for two months in June and July of 2010, forming part of dramatic T-Square configurations, then backed into Pisces by retrograde motion. Uranus enters Aries in March 2011, moving through the sign of the Ram until 2019. We will get a five-month preview of Uranus in Taurus from May-Oct of 2018 toward the end of the Aries transit.
Uranus in the cardinal fire sign of Aries can awaken an irresistible urge for freedom and the will to create personal destiny. We live at the changing of an age, a shift from a time shaped by hierarchy and the illusion of separation into an era of equality in principle and the toppling of hierarchies that are perceived to be corrupt and dictatorial. The shift of Uranus into Aries, the first sign of the zodiac, coincides with the closing of a five-sun cycle in the Mayan calendar, and will also begin a new 84 year cycle for the planet of awakening. Uranus plants idealistic and utopian seeds for the future that may require an entire cycle to germinate. We may see things come to fruition that were conceptually planted eight decades earlier.
Uranus in Aries might be viewed as a wake-up call for a new generation at the cusp of the new age. I believe unfolding events in the Middle East are being fueled in part by this revolutionary zeal or driven by this galvanizing impulse. If we had any doubt about the power of this energy, the so-called “Arab Youth Quake” that is rocking the Middle East is revealing the character of change that’s in the wind.
We will certainly experience the Promethean character of this planetary energy as it makes it way through the fiery sign of Aries, and the nearly eight years of influence will have a profound affect. Uranus in Aries can be the light in the mind that illuminates true vision. Choices we make now will reverberate into the future, bringing consequences that may be unexpected. I don’t believe that the genie of change can be shoved back inside the lamp. If individuals or nations become responsive to the frequency of Uranus/Prometheus, an inner feeling of right action becomes natural. Intuition becomes a guiding force, and the mind learns to trust these inner promptings. This faculty will become more valued and sought after.
We are advised to stay tuned as our solar system continues to expand, stretching our sense of limits and boundaries. We should be prepared for exponential change. In February, reports of a giant new solar system planet, Tyche, was in the news. As the famous line from the Star Trek series affirms, we can go “where no one has gone before.”