Posted by: Donna Cunningham | August 9, 2015

Why Understanding the Lead Planet in a Stellium is a Key to Good Results

©2013 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

handbook cvr sm

This is an excerpt from my ebook, The Stellium Handbook: an Owner’s Manual for people with Stelliums or Triple  ConjunctionsDownload a sample file here:  Stellium Handbook Sampler. The Stellium Handbook is $20.  Order it at

 The lead planet in a stellium—the first in zodiac order–is automatically the first affected by new transits—and new situations—that represent periods of challenge, change, and even crisis. It’s like the first responder at the scene of an emergency. What that person does on arriving has a huge influence on the outcome.

If first responders make the right moves, it helps stabilize the crisis, but if they make the wrong ones, the challenge is harder to overcome. The backgrounds of first responders may or may not suit the task, but they cope heroically until better-qualified helpers arrive, then step back unless they’re needed. The same is true of the lead planet in a stellium.

When you encounter new people or situations in matters described by the stellium’s house, observe how the part of you represented by the lead planet responds. It establishes ground rules and creates the structure for how the other planets in the group operate. It affects the functioning of the entire stellium, setting the tone for dealings with others in the situation.

The lead planet’s less desirable qualities affect people’s first impression of you and can have a negative effect on the mission’s outcome. On the other hand, capitalizing on the strengths and assets it represents increases your chances of resolving the situation to your advantage. Conscious awareness of that planet’s pluses and minuses can help you discover more successful tactics.

That planet sets up your automatic reaction to new events or changes in the status quo. That reaction is a defense mechanism. An undesirable response doesn’t have to be the automatic one, however, once you become conscious of it.

If the lead planet were Venus in a sociable sign like Leo or Libra, you’d be open and welcoming to new people.

With a well-aspected Mercury as lead, you’d communicate freely about yourself and your mission and would want to know all you could about the newcomer.

If it were Saturn, you might react fearfully and shut down while you figure out how to protect yourself.

Suppose Mars is the lead planet. It represents the urge to be first, to be a pioneer, to lead, and to win. It’s happiest as the lead planet, but aggressive outreach isn’t always an ideal approach.

Suppose it’s placed in signs where it’s uncomfortable, such as Scorpio or Pisces, or that it makes a number of difficult aspects, such as squares or oppositions to Uranus or Pluto. Then your first response might be an aggressive or defensive one to ward off conditions you perceive as a threat.

At its best, the potentials Mars brings to the table include a strong, proactive, energetic attitude, going after what it wants, and tackling obstacles head on. Its bravery, initiative, and “can do” attitude are qualities of natural leaders.

On the deficit side, Mars may show people acting rashly and not taking time to think through the long-term effects of those acts. Sometimes, they’re so intent on their goal that they don’t consider the effects of their actions on others. Again, awareness can help you focus on expressing Mars’ better qualities and eliminating the less desirable ones.

If Uranus is the first planet, you’re generally on the leading edge in your areas of interest. You may be an innovator and trend setter who people may find exciting. The old timers in that field, however, may find you disturbing and regard you as a maverick or trouble maker. (Words like upstart and gadfly come to mind.)

In doing the planetary strength tests here on Skywriter, you’re given a 5-point bonus for the lead planet. Here, in summary, are the reasons that planet has such a strong influence: 

  • It shows the first contact that others make with the stellium and its mission. It reveals your first impulse in approaching matters of that house.
  • It’s the first planet to be hit by a transit, and the others follow in sequence.
  •  Therefore, this first response alerts you to changing conditions in the house matters.
  • How effective that response is in dealing with the new situation makes a difference in the outcome of the mission. If it’s typically ineffective, you might want to devote a healing project to the qualities that planet depicts.handbookcvrsm

In all these stellium placements, so much depends on how well you’re using the energies those planets symbolize. If you don’t like the result, make a focused effort to change the ways you’re using them, and things will change for the better.

This is an excerpt from my guide to stelliums, The Stellium Handbook. Download a sample file here:  Stellium Handbook Sampler. The Stellium Handbook is $20.  Order it at

See more excerpts from my ebooks here:  Excerpts from Donna’s Ebooks


  1. Makes you think….very good Donna.

    • Donna here s a thought I had. You know the Constellation of Gemini reaches well into the zodiac sign of Cancer. Like fixed star Sirius is in the constellation of Gemini but in the zodiac sign of 13 degrees Cancer. Or fixed star Castor a twin of Pollux in the Constellation of Gemini but is 20 degrees Cancer . Whereas fixed star Rigel in the constellation of Gemini and the zodiac at 16 Gemini……In my stellium test I used them all as a Constellation Stellium…..just for fun. Have you done this with your planets in Gemini and Cancer zodiac to see if it makes sense?

      • An interesting thought, Barehand. You’re talking about the zodiac that sidereal astrologers use, which is based on the positions of the constellations currently, which results in the kind of differences you mentioned.

        The constellations do move backward–very, very slowly over the millennia–and now they are something like 23 or 26 degrees behind where they were when astrology was developed.

        So, ALL of my series of tests is based on the positions of the planets and zodiac signs in the more commonly used by astrologers.

        If you try doing the test in the sidereal zodiac, do let me know what you find. I’m not sure, but I THINK sidereal calculations can be done with astrology software like Solar Fire, and for those that don’t have their own software, the free charts available on places like AstroLabe or AstroDienst may have the sidereal zodiac as an option.

        Donna Cunningham

        As always, best regards, Donna

      • The stellium across the 9th mc and 10th house would all be in the constellation of Gemini with Venus/ Saturn conjunction parallel each other and the mc from the 10th house but also conjunt fixed star castor ( one of the twins) in zodiac cancer all parallel Mars conjunct parrale Uranus in Gemini conjunct fixed star ( Mars) bellatrix and Uranus conjunct either Capella or Rigel. They are also parallel the mc and Venus / Saturn. Ad Pluto in the 10th in Leo zodiac and constellation sign parallel Venus / Saturn, mc, Uranus/ Mars. So it’s all in the constellation of Gemini except Pluto . Yes the public age is obscure to most tho it garners respect in legal circles. Judges have commented on what a good lawyer I would make and I have turned down scholarships for law school. However no. Am. Indians who are spiritual in the traditions see me clearly while others who are not spiritual Indians do not. It is a particular kind of war medicine only few have been gifted with. It has served me well and is never to be misused. This also fits well with the ascendant stellium of Jupiter Chiron Neptune from the 12th house, all in the constellation of Virgo. However fixed star vindermaitrix conjuncts the ascendent in the constellation of Virgo . All but Jupiter are in the zodiac of libra. Both stelliums are Mercury ruled if you see them as in constellations. Would I look to my Mercury for understanding?

  2. I’m sorry, but I’m a tad confused by this part:

    “Suppose Mars is the lead planet. It represents the urge to be first, to be a pioneer, to lead, and to win. It’s happiest as the lead planet, but aggressive outreach isn’t always an ideal approach.

    Suppose it’s placed in signs where it’s uncomfortable, such as Scorpio or Pisces, or that it makes a number of difficult aspects, such as squares or oppositions to Uranus or Pluto.”

    Isn’t Mars actually very comfortable in Scorpio?

    • While Mars was designated the ruler of Scorpio in the centuries before the planet Pluto was discovered, most astrologers now feel that Mars qualities suit the direct, action-oriented sign of Aries well, it doesn’t really share the qualities or mode of operation of Scorpio. So, no Mars is not well-placed in that sign. Donna

      • Donna, I thought Pluto was a higher octave of Mars. What does that do to the relationship between the two planets?

      • In my mind, this is an antiquated system that was based on the fact that there were only 7 known planets at the time, and they felt a need to assign a ruler to each of the 12 signs.

        Higher octave? That would have to be a verrrrry evolved Pluto. Donna

      • Here’s the thing. You seem to be studying esoteric astrology.

        As an astrologer with degrees in psychology and social work, my approach is more psychological. I have 45 years experience with counseling people about problems they are experiencing, using their birth charts.

        My experience with how people use Pluto’s energies is that it takes years and years of life experience and hard work on managing Pluto’s energies before they can use it consistently in its positive qualities like transformation. I wrote a book about it, Healing Pluto Problems.

        So it’s fine for you to take an esoteric approach to astrology, and it’s fine for me to base my interpretation on psychological insights. We do not have to agree. In fact, astrologers disagree heatedly on all sorts of astrological issues. It’s what we do. Donna

  3. I understand what you are saying, Donna. The concept of higher octaves are just something that my mind retained when I read about it. I don’t really do esoteric astrology. Thanks!

  4. Hi, Donna. I wanted to thank you first of all for such an accessible and easy to understand website for an astrology novice like me — I got into astrology to flesh out fictional characters, and then took the leap to doing my own natal chart. I’m a mega-Cap, born 19 Dec 1988 (Sagittarius rising Gemini), and I have an 8th House super-stellium of Sun, Mercury, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The 8th House cusp is in Sagittarius, but Mercury, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune are all in Capricorn. Mercury is especially well-aspected, in conjunction will all mentioned planets (and tight conjunction with Neptune and Saturn), and is trine Moon in Taurus (12th House).

    My question is, what is my lead planet in the stellium? I vacillate between Mercury and Saturn — that Sag cusp and my Gemini rising make it difficult to pinpoint.

    • You’re using astrology to flesh out some of the characters you’re writing about? How fascinating–and fun! (I have a free downloadable mystery novel under the “Free” tab on the front page of Skywriter. The main character is an astrologer, and there are amazing correspondences with the various characters’ charts and the way the story unfolds.)

      The Stellium Handbook can help you put together all the planets in your stellium. There’s a whole chapter about the extremely rare Capricorn stellium generation of the late 1980s to early 1990s that you belong to.

      As for the lead planet, however, that is always the first planet degree wise in the combination. For instance, if Mercury were at 4 degrees of Capricorn and Saturn was at 6, followed by Uranus and Neptune in still later degrees, then Mercury is the lead planet. If however, Saturn was at 4 degrees and the rest followed in numerical order, then Saturn would be the lead planet.

      In the book, you’d find the potentially positive and the difficult expressions of all the planets and signs, and a self-inventory work sheet that you could create to help you more consciously capitalize on the positive ones and avoid the difficult ones. Donna

  5. (apologies for the long reply below — I got enthusiastic)

    Yes! For minor characters, I might just do their sun and ascendant sign, or sun, moon, and AS, but for more important characters, I’ll come up with a sun and ascendant sign, figure out a birthday based on how old they’d be in what I’m writing, and then plug them into a natal chart calculator. If I have a moon sign in mind as well, it leads to lots of fun fiddling around to get it exactly as I want it. For characters I intend to put into a romantic relationship, I’ll do a synastry chart for them. I love seeing the things I didn’t expect, like the distribution of planets, or where Mars ends up and how that might influence a character’s style of arguing.

    Thanks for the explanation. In that case, Uranus leads the stellium, as it’s at 1 degree of Capricorn, followed by Saturn, Mercury, and Neptune at 4, 8, and 9 degrees of Capricorn. Neat! My chart’s dominant planet, incidentally, is Pluto, 14 d. Scorpio in the 6th House — the only planet in the Northern hemisphere, and in its ruling sign, and in analogy with the 8th House. First, Third, and Fourth Houses are completely empty, while the others have asteroids or at least one planet.

    I think I have a pretty fascinating natal chart. I had a good laugh (in a “that explains SO MUCH” sort of way) when I saw the 8th House Capricorn stellium. I may be a Sagittarius, but I’m not an extravert by any stretch of the imagination. Adventures are all wild theoretical imaginings of how to upend and reinvent old myths and legends, and diving into academic explorations of dead languages and tackling physics paradoxes and ancient history and how to best incorporate them into an interesting story.

    From what I see in my chart, the greatest strengths here also have the potential to be my greatest weaknesses: extremely imaginative, highly creative, and an eloquent and fluent communicator in both spoken and written media. This can be (positively) emphasized by the 16 d. and 27R d. Taurus Moon and Jupiter in the 12th House (dreamy, nice introvert), and (negatively) emphasized by Pluto’s dominant position (analytical, sarcastic loner). With the 2nd House cusp positioned in Gemini, but most of it being filled by Cancer, and a mostly empty 10th House (MC 8d. Aquarius) occupied only by Pallas, I look to the Houses where their ruling planets are for where to find strength to supplement the lack in the 2nd House. To my great good fortune (I’m flipping back between this page and another as I work it out while I write), I have a Taurus Moon in the 12th House, and Mercury is in my 8th House Capricorn stellium. Also wonderful, the MC is in analogy with Capricorn and Saturn, reinforcing that stellium again — it could become an endless feedback loop, but Taurus determination and hard work, Jupiter’s outward-looking and generous nature, Mercury’s rational and intellectual aspects and Aquarius’ creative, friendly, and confident qualities can all help turn an ineffective, asocial dreamer who only dreams into an effective, sociable dreamer who also does.

    For all the empty houses in my natal chart (completely empty, like 1, 3, and 4, or occupied by asteroids and theoretical points, like 2, 5, and 10), there actually seems to be a great deal of balance so long as I’m willing to put in even the tiniest bit of effort. A completely empty First House might otherwise, I think, indicate a lack of personal identity, or a social chameleon, but there’s that 8th House Capricorn stellium, the Moon, Jupiter, and East Point in a Taurus 12th House, an Aries Mars in the 11th House, and a Scorpio Pluto in the 6th House, along with the Aquarius MC. For an introvert, I have personality to spare. My empty 5th House seems to have been split between the 8th and 12th Houses in terms of where my “fun” can be found, as I’m a dreamer and an intellectual, but not a party person. The Fourth House, again, seems to draw from other Houses, most particularly the 12th, where Jupiter and the Moon reside in Taurus. The weakest area, and one I have difficulty even finding the energy and motivation to work on, is the empty 3rd House in Cancer. I can communicate well and can *be* social, as the well-aspected Mercury and the Gemini AS can attest, but I don’t really enjoy it. Fake it ’til you make it, perhaps? With Cancer popping up again, I might have to take another side trip into my Taurus 12th House, not just for the Moon, but for Jupiter. I’m big on social causes and making the world a better place — it could be good to build my social circle through philanthropic and altruistic activities.

    This is just so interesting and eye opening, and it’s not even taking most of the aspects into consideration. Now that I’ve got the foundation laid and the framework up, I’m going to take a look at the walls, doors, and windows.

    • What a delicious project your book must be! I know when I was writing my two astrological mysteries, I woke up singing every morning–I couldn’t wait to get back to writing.

      Learning about my Gemini stellium in my earliest days in astrology (47 years ago) was a life changing event. I finally learned that I wasn’t just a weirdo, that I had a gift for writing and for astrology that would become the focus of my life and my career.

      My lead planet is also Uranus, and it is also the “alpha dog” in my stellium and aspects every planet in my chart plus my Ascendant and Midheaven. (You’ll find a post about the alpha dog on Skywriter as well.)

      I’m glad you’ve found astrology, too. It does explain so many things about us stellium folks that just don’t make sense otherwise. Donna

  6. What about Sun in Aquarius as the lead planet!!

    • You no doubt know what the Sun means, as it is the core of a person’s self and what a Sun sign Aquarius is like. For it to
      be the lead planet makes it even stronger. Donna

  7. i might enjoy a copy of this book just not enough info out there about the stellium
    so if my birthchart has a stellium that goes

    Neptune 5 degrees capri
    sun 0 degrees capri
    Uranus23 degrees sag
    mercury 18 degrees sag
    Saturn 14 degrees sag

    and it forms a grand mutable cross with these other conjunctions than the first planet to encounter the transit would always be saturn? or could it be neptune?

    venus 16 degrees scor
    pluto 9 degrees scor
    moon 11 degrees virg
    chiron 17 degrees gem
    mars 18 degrees pisc
    and lastly jupiter 16 degrees pisc

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