Is the natal Moon in Capricorn the same as Moon conjunct Saturn? What about Venus in Scorpio versus Venus square Pluto? You’d think a planet in a sign would act the same as that planet aspected by the sign’s ruler. While there are general similarities, the two situations are really quite different.
Assuming that Moon in Capricorn has the same emotional issues as Moon/Saturn can result in misleading relationship assumptions. Fortunately, it’s easy to understand the difference, once you understand how signs and planets work.
The What and the How of It
Natal planets represent what is being expressed. Signs describe how a planet expresses itself.
If your natal Moon is in Scorpio, your needs and emotions (what) is expressed intensely (how). If your Moon is in Aries, your needs and emotions are expressed impulsively and assertively.
But let’s say your Aries Moon opposes Pluto (ruler of Scorpio) in Libra. Two “whats” are connected, with Pluto adding the expression of power and penetration to your needs. But those needs will still be expressed in an Aries context, and Pluto’s energy will be expressed in a Libra context.
Maybe you swing (Libra) between needing independence (Aries) and needing a relationship (Libra). Or, maybe you unconsciously project your need for a challenge (Aries) by getting involved with partners (Libra) that trigger crises in your life.
Any aspect between the Moon and Pluto creates an interplay between needs and the urge for power, penetration and authenticity. That interplay will be colored by the signs it takes place in. House position adds another layer, describing the area of life where the energies are expressed.
Assuming it’s not unaspected, your Moon in Scorpio will be influenced by aspects of other natal planets. If it trines Jupiter in Cancer, your need (what) for intensity and authenticity (how) will be expanded by Jupiter in Cancer’s enthusiastic nurturing. Jupiter’s expansion and ideals (what) are expressed through Cancer’s nurturing, sensitivity and parent/child archetypes (how).
The following can be helpful in differentiating between planets in signs, and planets aspecting sign rulers: sign rulers tend to express exaggerated versions of that sign’s qualities when they aspect personal planets (especially hard aspects).
Venus in Scorpio expresses love through the lens of Scorpio intensity: all or nothing, passionate, ready to dive into the deep end. Pluto in hard aspect to Venus concentrates Scorpio’s energy. Venus in Scorpio can certainly be obsessive, but Venus square Pluto seems to run into more difficulties with obsessive behavior.
Venus in Scorpio is magnetic, but Venus conjunct Pluto takes that magnetism up a notch, and there is often an increased awareness of sexual magnetism. Or (conversely) there’s an attraction to those who manipulate you. A sign’s energy is general, because the sign is an archetype. But a sign’s ruler takes the how of the sign, and turns it into a what, giving it focus through its contact with another planet. In the case of Venus conjunct Pluto, Scorpio’s archetypal themes of merging and evolution through intensity become personal. They are given a recognizable hook (Venus).
Using another example, Mars in Libra suggests that action and sexual desire is indirect and flirtatious (Libra). The Libra archetypes of relating and diplomacy color Mars’ actions. Contrast this with Mars conjunct Venus (Libra’s ruler). The pursuit (Mars) of relationships (Venus) is much more pronounced, and the drive to attract is heightened. The Venus/Libra archetypes are given a shot of Mars-flavored steroids, as the attraction principle is fused with action.
Moon in Capricorn is, in general, emotionally controlled. But Moon square Saturn can take that control and ratchet it up to repression, fear and delayed emotional development (all in the context of the houses and signs the Moon and Saturn are in).
An aspect to a sign ruler (especially if it’s an outer planet) will indicate a specific reason for the behavior or blockage. Moon square Saturn suggests a difficult relationship with one or both parents. Moon trine Saturn suggests a supportive (but still somewhat restrained) relationship with a parent. By itself, Moon in Capricorn says nothing specific about the parental relationship, except perhaps that your mother was traditional. And even that’s a stretch. You need to look at the aspects your Moon is making (plus its house position) to get the specifics on your experience of that relationship and its impact on your emotional development.
Despite the articles that astrologers (including myself) have written about Venus in Libra or the Sun in Pisces, you really need to look at the entire chart to get an accurate picture of relationship potential. A key part of this is analyzing aspects between the planets and interpreting them in the context of sign (and house) position.