A classical planet is an astronomical object that is visible to the naked eye and moves across the sky and its backdrop of fixed stars (the common stars which seem still in contrast to the planets). Visible to humans on Earth there are seven classical planets (the seven luminaries). They are from brightest to dimmest: the Sun, the Moon, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury and Saturn.

Greek astronomers such as Geminus[1] and Ptolemy[2] recorded these classical planets during classical antiquity, introducing the term planet, which means 'wanderer' in Greek (πλάνης planēs and πλανήτης planētēs), expressing the fact that these objects move across the celestial sphere relative to the fixed stars.[3][4] Therefore, the Greeks were the first to develop the astrological connections to the planets' visual detail.[5]

Through the use of telescopes other celestial objects like the classical planets were found, starting with the Galilean moons in 1610. Today the term planet is used considerably differently, with a planet being defined as a natural satellite directly orbiting the Sun (or other stars) and having cleared its own orbit. Therefore, only five of the seven classical planets remain recognized as planets, alongside Earth, Uranus, and Neptune.


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Main article: Babylonian astronomy

The Babylonians recognized seven planets. A bilingual list in the British Museum records the seven Babylonian planets in the following order:[6]


Main article: Mandaean cosmology

In Mandaeism, the names of the seven planets are derived from the seven Babylonian planets.[7] Overall, the seven classical planets (Classical Mandaic: ࡔࡅࡁࡀ, romanized: šuba, lit.'The Seven'; ࡔࡉࡁࡉࡀࡄࡉࡀ šibiahia, "planets"; or, combined, šuba šibiahia "Seven Planets"[8]) are generally not viewed favorably in Mandaeism, since they constitute part of the entourage of Ruha, the Queen of the World of Darkness who is also their mother. However, individually, some of the planets can be associated with positive qualities. The names of the seven planets in Mandaic are borrowed from Akkadian.[7] Some of the names are ultimately derived from Sumerian, since Akkadian had borrowed many deity names from Sumerian.

Each planet is said to be carried in a ship. Drawings of these ships are found in various Mandaean scriptures, such as the Scroll of Abatur. The planets are listed according to the traditional Mandaean order of the planets as mentioned in Masco (2012).[9]: 87 

Planet Mandaic Mandaic script Akkadian Other names Associations
Sun Šamiš ࡔࡀࡌࡉࡔ Šamaš Adunai ← Hebrew Adonai light and life-powers Yawar Ziwa (Dazzling Light) and Simat Hayyi (Treasure of Life); Yazuqaeans[10]
Venus Libat ࡋࡉࡁࡀࡕ Delebat Amamit (the underworld goddess), Argiuat, Daitia, Kukbat (the diminutive of 'star'), Spindar, ʿstira (i.e., Ishtar or Astarte), and Ruha or Ruha ḏ-qudša (Holy Spirit) success in love and reproduction
Mercury Nbu (ʿNbu) ࡍࡁࡅ
Nabû Maqurpiil, MšihaMessiah; ʿaṭarid ← Arabic learning, scribes; Christ and Christianity
Moon Sin ࡎࡉࡍ Sīnu Agzʿil, Ṭaṭmʿil, Ṣaurʿil, and Sira miscarriages and abnormal births
Saturn Kiwan ࡊࡉࡅࡀࡍ Kayyamānu Br Šamiš (The Son of the Sun) Jews; Saturday
Jupiter Bil ࡁࡉࡋ Bēlu Angʿil male; "hot and moist"
Mars Nirig ࡍࡉࡓࡉࡂ Nergallu Marik violence; Islam


Main articles: Astrological symbols and Planet symbols

The astrological symbols for the classical planets appear in the medieval Byzantine codices in which many ancient horoscopes were preserved.[11] In the original papyri of these Greek horoscopes, there are found a circle with one ray (old sun symbol) for the Sun and a crescent for the Moon.[12] The written symbols for Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn have been traced to forms found in late Greek papyri.[13] The symbols for Jupiter and Saturn are identified as monograms of the initial letters of the corresponding Greek names, and the symbol for Mercury is a stylized caduceus.[13]

A. S. D. Maunder finds antecedents of the planetary symbols in earlier sources, used to represent the gods associated with the classical planets. Bianchini's planisphere, produced in the 2nd century,[14] shows Greek personifications of planetary gods charged with early versions of the planetary symbols: Mercury has a caduceus; Venus has, attached to her necklace, a cord connected to another necklace; Mars, a spear; Jupiter, a staff; Saturn, a scythe; the Sun, a circlet with rays radiating from it; and the Moon, a headdress with a crescent attached.[15] A diagram in Johannes Kamateros' 12th century Compendium of Astrology shows the Sun represented by the circle with a ray, Jupiter by the letter zeta (the initial of Zeus, Jupiter's counterpart in Greek mythology), Mars by a shield crossed by a spear, and the remaining classical planets by symbols resembling the modern ones, without the cross-mark seen in modern versions of the symbols.[15] The modern Sun symbol, pictured as a circle with a dot (☉), first appeared in the Renaissance.[12]

Planetary hours

Main articles: Planetary hours and Names of the days of the week

The Ptolemaic system used in ancient Greek astronomy placed the planets by order of proximity to Earth in the then-current geocentric model, closest to furthest, as the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.[16] In addition the day was divided into seven-hour intervals, each ruled by one of the planets, although the order was staggered (see below).

The first hour of each day was named after the ruling planet, giving rise to the names and order of the Roman seven-day week. Modern Latin-based cultures, in general, directly inherited the days of the week from the Romans and they were named after the classical planets; for example, in Spanish Miércoles is Mercury, and in French mardi is Mars-day.

The modern English days of the week were mostly inherited from gods of the old Germanic Norse culture – Wednesday is Wōden’s-day (Wōden or Wettin eqv. Mercury), Thursday is Thor’s-day (Thor eqv. Jupiter), Friday is Frige-day (Frige eqv. Venus). Equivalence here is by the gods' roles; for instance, Venus and Frige were both goddesses of love. It can be correlated that the Norse gods were attributed to each Roman planet and its god, probably due to Roman influence rather than coincidentally by the naming of the planets. A vestige of the Roman convention remains in the English name Saturday.

Weekday Planet Greek god Germanic god Weekday
French name Roman god Greek name Norse name Saxon name English name
dimanche Sol Helios Sól Sunne Sunday
lundi Luna Selene Máni Mōnda Monday
mardi Mars Ares Týr Tīw Tuesday
mercredi Mercury Hermes Óðinn Wōden / Wettin Wednesday
jeudi Jupiter Zeus Þórr Thunor Thursday
vendredi Venus Aphrodite Frigg Frige Friday
samedi Saturn Cronus Njörðr[17] Njord[17] Saturday


Further information: Astronomical symbols

In alchemy, each classical planet (Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) was associated with one of the seven metals known to the classical world (silver, mercury/quicksilver, copper, gold, iron, tin and lead respectively). As a result, the alchemical glyphs for the metal and associated planet coincide. Alchemists believed the other elemental metals were variants of these seven (e.g. zinc was known as "Indian tin" or "mock silver"[18]).

Extract and symbol key from 17th century alchemy text.

Alchemy in the Western World and other locations where it was widely practiced was (and in many cases still is) allied and intertwined with traditional Babylonian-Greek style astrology; in numerous ways they were built to complement each other in the search for hidden knowledge (knowledge that is not common i.e. the occult). Astrology has used the concept of classical elements from antiquity up until the present day today. Most modern astrologers use the four classical elements extensively, and indeed they are still viewed as a critical part of interpreting the astrological chart.

A table of alchemical symbols from Basil Valentine’s The Last Will and Testament, 1670 ce.

Traditionally, each of the seven "planets" in the Solar System as known to the ancients was associated with, held dominion over, and "ruled" a certain metal (see also astrology and the classical elements).

The list of rulership is as follows:

Some alchemists (e.g. Paracelsus) adopted the Hermetic Qabalah assignment between the vital organs and the planets as follows:[18]

Planet Organ
Sun Heart
Moon Brain
Mercury Lungs
Venus Kidneys
Mars Gall bladder
Jupiter Liver
Saturn Spleen

Contemporary astrology

Western astrology

Main article: Planets in astrology

Astrology: the Thema Mundi shows the naked-eye planets in their domicile
Planet Domicile sign(s)[19] Detriment sign(s)[19] Exaltation sign[20] Fall sign[20]
Sun Leo Aquarius Aries Libra
Moon Cancer Capricorn Taurus Scorpio
Mercury Gemini (diurnal) and Virgo (nocturnal) Sagittarius (diurnal) and Pisces (nocturnal) Virgo Pisces
Venus Libra (diurnal) and Taurus (nocturnal) Aries (diurnal) and Scorpio (nocturnal) Pisces Virgo
Mars Aries (diurnal) and Scorpio (nocturnal) Libra (diurnal) and Taurus (nocturnal) Capricorn Cancer
Jupiter Sagittarius (diurnal) and Pisces (nocturnal) Gemini (diurnal) and Virgo (nocturnal) Cancer Capricorn
Saturn Aquarius (diurnal) and Capricorn (nocturnal) Leo (diurnal) and Cancer (nocturnal) Libra Aries

Indian astrology

Main article: Navagraha

Indian astronomy and astrology (jyotiṣa) recognises seven visible planets (including the Sun and Moon) and two additional invisible planets(tamo'graha); rahu and ketu.[21][22]

Sanskrit Name English Name Nakshatras Guna Represents Day
Surya (सूर्य) Sun Krittika, Uttara Phalguni and Uttara Ashadha Sattva Soul, king, highly placed persons, father, ego Sunday
Chandra (चंद्र) Moon Rohini, Hasta and Shravana Sattva Emotional Mind, queen, mother. Monday
Mangala (मंगल) Mars Mrigashira, Chitra and Dhanishta Tamas energy, action, confidence Tuesday
Budha (बुध) Mercury Ashlesha, Jyeshta and Revati Rajas Communication and analysis, mind Wednesday
Brihaspati (बृहस्पति) Jupiter Punarvasu, Vishakha and Purva Bhadrapada Sattva the great teacher, wealth, Expansion, progeny Thursday
Shukra (शुक्र) Venus Bharani, Purva Phalguni and Purva Ashadha Rajas Feminine, pleasure and reproduction, Luxury, Love, Spouse Friday
Shani (शनि) Saturn Pushya, Anuradha and Uttara Bhadrapada Tamas learning the hard way. Career and Longevity, Contraction Saturday
Rahu (राहु) Ascending/North Lunar Node Ardra, Swati and Shatabhisha Tamas an Asura who does his best to plunge any area of one's life he controls into chaos, works on the subconscious level none
Ketu (केतु) Descending/South Lunar Node Ashwini, Magha and Mula Tamas supernatural influences, works on the subconscious level none

Naked-eye planets

Mercury and Venus are visible only in twilight hours because their orbits are interior to that of Earth. Venus is the third-brightest object in the sky and the most prominent planet. Mercury is more difficult to see due to its proximity to the Sun. Lengthy twilight and an extremely low angle at maximum elongations make optical filters necessary to see Mercury from extreme polar locations.[23] Mars is at its brightest when it is in opposition, which occurs approximately every twenty-five months. Jupiter and Saturn are the largest of the five planets, but are farther from the Sun, and therefore receive less sunlight. Nonetheless, Jupiter is often the next brightest object in the sky after Venus. Saturn's luminosity is often enhanced by its rings, which reflect light to varying degrees, depending on their inclination to the ecliptic; however, the rings themselves are not visible to the naked eye from the Earth.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ Goldstein, Bernard R. (2007), "What's New in Ptolemy's Almagest", Nuncius, 22 (2): 271, doi:10.1163/221058707X00549
  2. ^ Pedersen, Olaf (2011), A Survey of the Almagest, Sources and Studies in the History of Mathematics and Physical Sciences, New York / Dordrecht / Heidelberg / London: Springer Science + Business Media, ISBN 978-0-387-84825-9
  3. ^ Classification of the Planets
  4. ^ πλάνης, πλανήτης. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  5. ^ Campion, Nicholas (2022-03-23), "The Planets in Alchemy and Astrology (Medieval and Renaissance)", Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Planetary Science, doi:10.1093/acrefore/9780190647926.001.0001/acrefore-9780190647926-e-178?d=/10.1093/acrefore/9780190647926.001.0001/acrefore-9780190647926-e-178&p=emaila66qfssqpmqfw#acrefore-9780190647926-e-178-bibliography-2 (inactive 2024-04-01), ISBN 978-0-19-064792-6, retrieved 2024-02-11((citation)): CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of April 2024 (link)
  6. ^ Mackenzie (1915). "13 Astrology and Astronomy". Myths of Babylonia and Assyria.
  7. ^ a b Bhayro, Siam (2020-02-10). "Cosmology in Mandaean Texts". Hellenistic Astronomy. Brill. pp. 572–579. doi:10.1163/9789004400566_046. ISBN 9789004243361. S2CID 213438712. Retrieved 2021-09-03.
  8. ^ Nasoraia, Brikha H.S. (2021). The Mandaean gnostic religion: worship practice and deep thought. New Delhi: Sterling. ISBN 978-81-950824-1-4. OCLC 1272858968.
  9. ^ Masco, Maire (2012). The Mandaeans: Gnostic astrology as an artifact of cultural transmission. Tacoma, WA: Fluke Press. ISBN 978-1-938476-00-6. OCLC 864905792.
  10. ^ Shapira, Dan D.Y. (2004). "Manichaeans (Marmanaiia), Zoroastrians (Iazuqaiia), Jews, Christians and Other Heretics: A Study in the Redaction of Mandaic Texts". Le Muséon. 117 (3–4): 243–280. doi:10.2143/MUS.117.3.516929.
  11. ^ Neugebauer, Otto (1975). A history of ancient mathematical astronomy. pp. 788–789.
  12. ^ a b Neugebauer, Otto; Van Hoesen, H. B. (1987). Greek Horoscopes. pp. 1, 159, 163.
  13. ^ a b Jones, Alexander (1999). Astronomical papyri from Oxyrhynchus. pp. 62–63. It is now possible to trace the medieval symbols for at least four of the five planets to forms that occur in some of the latest papyrus horoscopes ([ P.Oxy. ] 4272, 4274, 4275 [...]). That for Jupiter is an obvious monogram derived from the initial letter of the Greek name. Saturn's has a similar derivation [...] but underwent simplification. The ideal form of Mars' symbol is uncertain, and perhaps not related to the later circle with an arrow through it. Mercury's is a stylized caduceus.
  14. ^ "Bianchini's planisphere". Florence, Italy: Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza (Institute and Museum of the History of Science). Retrieved 2010-03-17.
  15. ^ a b Maunder, A. S. D. (1934). "The origin of the symbols of the planets". The Observatory. 57: 238–247. Bibcode:1934Obs....57..238M.
  16. ^ Goldstein, Bernard R. (1967). "The Arabic version of Ptolemy's planetary hypothesis". Transactions of the American Philosophical Society. 57 (pt. 4): 6. doi:10.2307/1006040. JSTOR 1006040.
  17. ^ a b Vigfússon (1874:456).
  18. ^ a b Philip Ball, The Devil's Doctor: Paracelsus and the World of Renaissance Magic and Science, ISBN 978-0-09-945787-9
  19. ^ a b Hand, Robert. "Astrology by Hand". Astro.com. Retrieved 3 October 2021.
  20. ^ a b Burk, Kevin (2001). Astrology: Understanding the Birth Chart: A Comprehensive Guide to Classical Interpretation. Llewellyn Worldwide. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-56718-088-6.
  21. ^ Dalal, Roshen (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books. p. 280. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
  22. ^ "Strengthening Planetary Forces". Nepa Rudraksha.
  23. ^ "Sky Publishing – Latitude Is Everything". Archived from the original on 2017-03-24. Retrieved 2007-07-14.

Further reading