How should we interpret Uranus on the birth chart? Often associated with disruption, revolt, instability and unwelcome change it often has a negative connotation – especially with the more conservative elements of society. Its discovery in 1781 coincided with two major violent revolutions, the first in America and the second in France, which nevertheless redrew the face of those countries thereafter. America, further, saw a second period of massive violence and uprising (the Civil War) as Uranus made its return to the US national chart in 1861. So just what does Uranus do on an individual birth chart?
First, the naming of this planet Uranus (after the Greek) is nearly as bad as Neptune’s designation when it comes to their actual mythic correspondences in the old legends. Neptune/Poseidon was a masculine, rumbustious ‘earth-shaker’ in the classical tales who bears little resemblance to the ‘feminine’ mystically-toned archetype we know as the astrological Neptune. Likewise, Uranus in Greek myth (when mentioned at all) has little in common with Uranus in astrology; in the former he is little more than a personification of the sky, whose blood (after being castrated by his own son) bred monsters as it fell to earth. In one version, his genitals were thrown into the sea, which in turn generated the beautiful goddess Aphrodite from the foam.
But (apart from the fact that, elementally, Uranus contains some ‘air’) there is little that connects with the Uranus archetype in modern astrology. Rather, he is better related to another Greek deity, the suffering god Prometheus. As quoted on Wikipedia,
“After the gods have moulded men and other living creatures with a mixture of clay and fire, the two brothers Epimetheus and Prometheus are called to complete the task and distribute among the newly born creatures all sorts of natural qualities. Epimetheus sets to work, but, being unwise, distributes all the gifts of nature among the animals, leaving men naked and unprotected, unable to defend themselves and to survive in a hostile world. Prometheus then steals the fire of creative power from the workshop of Athena and Hephaistos and gives it to mankind.” 1
The ‘fire of creative power’ bestowed on mankind goes right to the heart of the astrological Uranus – he is the flash of inspiration and even enlightenment without which humankind cannot truly progress (spiritually, intellectually, technologically). My title for him is ‘the Awakener’, for it was Prometheus’ job to awaken human beings from their slumber as mere biological creations, after Zeus had fashioned them. It was Prometheus’ job to infuse in them the dignity of Spirit, Intelligence and Consciousness and Creative Power. Any discipline, philosophy or teaching that humans have devised that can provide enlightenment and a genuine elevation of consciousness – where one, suddenly perhaps, has a Eureka moment, or a new heightened awareness of self and world – is Uranian in nature.
The pursuit of philosophy and mind-expansion is normally considered the domain of Jupiter, but Uranian enlightenment is more specialised, often having the nature of a genuine breakthrough, as if discovering something for the first time. Sometimes one really has – genuine pioneers in modern science and technology, ones that have made real discoveries that benefit humanity, embody this Promethean/Uranian archetype. And the area of science itself is – indeed – a Uranian one – though not the old, reductive materialism that sees only matter as ultimately ‘real’. (This is the science most of us are familiar with, which is Saturnian in essence.) Uranian science is the science of the future, and comprises things like quantum mechanics, chaos theory, fractals, or absolutely any type of digital (versus analog) technology – for who can deny that computers haven’t revolutionised people’s lives? What characterises Uranus is the extent to which it totally transforms our personal existence, or that of society as a whole. The old order – whatever it may be – is to an extent overturned.
In the Greek myths, Zeus (like the Old Testament Jehovah) wants to keep humans in perpetual ignorance about their true nature. However, if – due to Prometheus’ actions – man could now rise to new heights in his enlightened state, he may have no further need of the gods. That would be a genuine breakthrough! And so Prometheus was punished for his theft. (In one version he steals the Fire from Olympus, when he hid a tiny flame inside a fennel stalk.) He was chained to a rock, whereupon an eagle came to peck out his liver each day. Being immortal, however, the liver grew back, and so the torment continued.
Like Uranus in astrology, there was thus something of the defiant rebel about Prometheus – indeed, there are also echoes of this theme in Milton’s Lucifer from Paradise Lost. Not only is Uranus the iconoclastic spirit of independence and freedom, but the enemy of restriction and limitation. At some level, we cannot abide to see the spirit imprisoned in matter, unable to fully express itself. And so, to the extent that our lives are constrained by habit and life-sapping repetition (like Saturnian responsibilities) so we need to break free, change everything around and really live.
Uranus is like the lightning that suddenly vivifies, excites and animates whatever it touches. (True, too much of it can also kill.) And if this reminds you of the old Hollywood Frankenstein movies, when a bolt of electricity sears through the Monster and brings him to life, it’s because this is a fitting metaphor for what Uranus represents. Plus, it’s no accident that the original subtitle for Mary Shelley’s Gothic novel was The Modern Prometheus (referring not to the monster, but the main character who decided to play God, Victor Frankenstein).
URANUS ON THE BIRTH CHART – WHAT DOES IT DO?
Since it is a slow moving planet (averaging 84 years through the whole zodiac) Uranus works on a collective level. Thus, to get any sense of how you’re affected by personally by Uranus on the birth chart, look at which house he appears in and what kind of aspects are made to personal planets, the ascendant and Midheaven. Uranus shows where the aforementioned spirit of independence and freedom is writ large – here, you cannot be held back by convention or other people’s rules, and certainly you cannot abide anyone placing restrictions on you. Not only must you ‘do your own thing’ where Uranus is placed, but you will delight in being different and even eccentric if the mood takes you.
You can also be innovative and inspired wherever Uranus is, enjoying new and novel ways of doing things – because you are awakened (there goes that word again) to new possibilities. But you may well experience Uranus via projection (Uranian energies manifesting in your life through other people). Though Uranus can be projected on to any situation, this is likely to be especially true in the third (brothers/sisters), fourth (mum or dad) fifth (lovers) or seventh houses (live in partners, friends).Here it just may seem that either siblings, parents or partners are intelligent, fascinating freedom-loving creatures, or they are people who disrupt your life with their unreliability and wilful perverse behaviour. You decide!
1. (Raggio, Olga (1958). London: Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. )