≡ Menu

What are the Signs of the Planets?

The symbols of the eight planets, and Pluto, Credit: insightastrology.net

The symbols for the eight planets, Pluto, and other astrological phenomena. Credit: insightastrology.net

In our long history of staring up at the stars, human beings have assigned various qualities, names, and symbols for all the objects they have found there. Determined to find patterns in the heavens that might shed light on life here on Earth, many of these designations also ascribed (and were based on) the observable behavior of the celestial bodies.

When it came to assigning signs to the planets, astrologists and astronomers – which were entwined disciplines in the past -made sure that these particular symbols were linked to the planets’ names or their history in some way.

Mercury:
This planet is named after the Roman god who was himself the messenger of the gods, noted for his speed and swiftness. The name was assigned to this body largely because it is the planet closest to the Sun, and which therefore has the fastest rotational period. Hence, the symbol is meant to represent Mercury’s helmet and caduceus – a herald’s staff with snakes and wings intertwined.

Mercury, as imaged by the MESSENGER spacecraft, revealing parts of the never seen by human eyes. Image Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

Mercury, as imaged by the MESSENGER spacecraft, which was named after the messenger of the gods because it has the fastest orbit around the Sun. Image Credit: NASA/JHU/Carnegie Institution.

Venus:
Venus’ symbol has more than one meaning. Not only is it the sign for “female”, but it also represents the goddess Venus’ hand mirror. This representation of femininity makes sense considering Venus was the goddess of love and beauty in the Roman Pantheon. The symbol is also the chemical sign for copper; since copper was used to make mirrors in ancient times.

Earth:
Earth’s sign also has a variety of meanings, although it does not refer to a mythological god. The most popular view is that the circle with a cross in the middle represents the four main compass points.  It has also been interpreted as the Globus Cruciger, an old Christian symbol for Christ’s reign on Earth.

This symbol is not just limited to Christianity though, and has been used in various culture around the world. These include, but are not limited to,  Norse mythology (where it appears as the Solar or Odin’s Cross), Native American cultures (where it typically represented the four spirits of direction and the four sacred elements), the Celtic Cross, the Greek Cross, and the Egyptian Ankh.

In fact, perhaps owing to the simplicity of the design, cross-shaped incisions have made appearances as petroglyphs in European cult caves dating all the way back to the beginning of the Upper Paleolithic, and throughout prehistory to the Iron Age.

Mars, as photographed with the Mars Global Surveyor, is identified with the Roman god of war. Credit: NASA

Mars, as photographed with the Mars Global Surveyor, is identified with the Roman god of war. Credit: NASA

Mars:
Mars is named after the Roman god of war, owing perhaps to the planet’s reddish hue, which gives it the color of blood. For this reason, the symbol associated with Mars represents the god of wars’ shield and spear. Additionally, it is the same sign as the one used to represent “male”, and hence is associated with self-assertion, aggression, sexuality, energy, strength, ambition and impulsiveness.

Jupiter:
Jupiter’s sign, which looks like an ornate, oddly shaped “four,” also stands for a number of symbols. It has been said to represent an eagle, which was the Jovian god’s bird. Additionally, the symbol can stand for a “Z,” which is the first letter of Zeus  – who was Jupiter’s Greek counterpart.

The line through the symbol is consistent with this, since it would indicate that it was an abbreviation for Zeus’ name. And last, but not least, there is the addition of the swirled line which is believed to represent a lighting bolt – which just happens to  Jupiter’s (and Zeus’) weapon of choice.

Saturn:
Like Jupiter, Saturn resembles another recognizable character – this time, it’s an “h.” However, this symbol is actually supposed to represent Saturn’s scythe or sickle, because Saturn is named after the Roman god of agriculture (after the Greek god Cronus, leader of the Titans, who was also depicted as holding a scythe).

Jupiter's Great Red Spot and Ganymede's Shadow. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center)

Jupiter, the largest planet in the Solar System, is appropriately named after the Roman father of the gods. Credit: NASA/ESA/A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center)

Uranus:
The sign for Uranus is a combination of two other signs – Mars’ sign and the symbol of the Sun – because the planet is connected to these two in mythology. Uranus represented heaven in Roman mythology, and this ancient civilization believed that the Sun’s light and Mars’ power ruled the heavens.

Neptune:
Neptune’s sign is linked to the sea god Neptune, who the planet was named after. Appropriately, the symbol represents this planet is in the shape of the sea god’s trident.

Pluto:
Although Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet in 2006, it still retains its old symbol. Pluto’s sign is a combination of a “P” and a “L,” which are the first two letters in Pluto as well as the initials of Percival Lowell, the astronomer who discovered the planet.

A full Moon flyby, as seen from Paris, France. Credit and copyright: Sebastien Lebrigand.

A full Moon flyby, as seen from Paris, France. Credit and copyright: Sebastien Lebrigand.

Moon:
The Moon is represented by a crescent shape, which is a clear allusion to how the Moon appears in the night sky more often than not. Since the Moon is also tied to people’s perceptions, moods, and emotional make-up, the symbol has also come to represents the mind’s receptivity.

Sun:
And then there’s the Sun, which is represented by a circle with a dot in the middle. In the case of the Sun, this symbol represents the divine spirit (circle) surrounding the seed of potential, which is a direct association with ancient Sun worship and the central role the Sun gods played in their respective ancient pantheons.

We have many interesting articles on the planets here at Universe Today. For example, here is other articles including symbols of the planets and symbols of the Sun and Moon.

If you are looking for more information try signs of the planets and symbols of the minor planets.

Astronomy Cast has an episode on each planet including Saturn.

About 

Author, freelance writer, educator, Taekwon-Do instructor, and loving hubby, son and Island boy!

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • FarAwayLongAgo June 27, 2015, 2:05 PM

    Astronomy was important in ancient times. For calendar, navigation, coordination across long distances, tides. Essential not only for farmers but already for hunter/gatherers and of course for traveling traders. Not only did the planets get a sign each older than our letters. The week has 7 days for a reason, one for each of the five planets and the Moon and the Sun. (People couldn’t imagine that Earth was a planet too).

  • Daniel Rey M. June 29, 2015, 5:07 PM

    In esoteric and astrological literature the explanations for the symbols of Jupiter and Saturn are linked. They are opposites. The half circle is the Moon (crescent or waning), which stands for the soul, and the cross represents matter, the material level of reality, the physical world. In one of the two symbols the half circle is above the cross, meaning that spirituality prevails, in the other one the cross is above the half circle, which means “matter over mind”.

hide