An Introduction to Archetypal Astrological Analysis, Richard Tarnas, Ph.D.
The Sun represents the central principle of vital energy and conscious selfhood in the birth chart. Just as the Sun is the central entity in the solar system, so is the Sun the central entity in the individual psyche reflected in the birth chart. The Sun represents the center of personal identity, the conscious ego, the autonomous willing self, and is associated with one's sense of individual self-directedness and self-expression. It rules one's basic energy drive, the will to exist, to express oneself dynamically as an autonomous individual. It represents that dynamic expression of the personal will which influences and draws upon all the other planetary energies. It is the part of one that, simply put, strives to be: to "shine," to create, to achieve, to manifest itself. It is tied to one’s basic personal identity in life: "I am John Smith, this is who I am, what I've done, where I'm going" etc. In mythic terms, the Sun is associated with the Hero archetype, and is yang in nature.
When the Sun forms a major aspect with another planet in one’s birth chart (for example, a conjunction with Venus, or an opposition with Mars), then this second planetary archetype will tend to be particularly prominent in one’s life and character, infusing its qualities into the basic energy of the self as represented by the Sun. Any major Sun aspects are therefore of great importance in one’s chart. Also, in both women's and men's charts, the Sun tends to reflect significant male figures in one's life.
The Moon, by contrast, represents the feminine side of the psyche, the anima in Jungian terms. It is closely associated with the emotionally and instinctively responsive personality, with the psychosomatic basis of one's being, and with the early mother-child relationship. The Moon symbolizes, in a sense, the womb or matrix of one's being. While the Sun reflects one's sense of autonomous conscious selfhood, one's personal identity and will, and is more active and self-directing in nature, the Moon represents more one's underlying psychological character--those parts of oneself that are more hidden to one's conscious ego--and is more receptive and spontaneously reactive or responsive in nature. In particular, the Moon corresponds to one's feelings and those pervasive but largely unconscious psychological patterns that were established deep in one's past. It is not that the Moon simply is the unconscious; rather it is archetypally associated with what the modern self tends to be unconscious of: the psyche's emotional, physical, imaginal, familial, and ancestral ground or matrix.
The Moon corresponds to how one feels about oneself even before one thinks about oneself--as well as how one tends to relate spontaneously to others and to life's various situations. Like the ever-shifting cycles and phases of the Moon, the lunar part of the psyche, associated with one's moods and feelings, tends to be changeable and fluctuating in character, though on another level its deeply imprinted patterns are very enduring. The Moon concerns one’s immediate psychosomatic mode of response to life that begins in one's earliest years, that is partly a matter of inheritance, and partly forged in one’s early interactions with the world--especially with one’s mother and other mother-figures, one’s family (siblings, father) and one’s early home environment in general. It governs one's sense of belonging (or not), how one tends to nurture and be nurtured, and is associated with both the maternal instinct and the needs and instincts of infancy and childhood. In later life, the Moon reflects the nature of all one's intimate relationships, familial and otherwise, as well as one's home life. In mythic terms, the Moon is associated with certain aspects of the Great Mother goddess, and is yin in nature.
Again, as with the Sun, if any major aspect is formed between the Moon and another planet in one’s birth chart, this second planetary archetype will tend to be especially significant in one’s life. But in this case that second archetype will tend to channel itself through those parts of one’s life governed by the Moon: one’s emotions and moods, one’s infancy and childhood, one’s mother and early familial environment, one’s intimate relationships and domestic life, and so forth. Also, in both women's and men's charts, the Moon tends to reflect significant female figures in a person’s life.
It is important to remember that both women and men have both the Sun and Moon, the basic masculine and feminine archetypes, within their psyche. These principles represent the great yang-yin polarity that pervades existence. It is unclear how much of our masculine and feminine "natures" is culturally conditioned and how much is innate, though certainly there does seem to be a greater intrinsic resonance between the Moon archetype and a woman's body and psyche in her childbearing and nurturing capacities. However, on another level, it seems to be one of the main challenges for all human beings to attain an inner balance between these two fundamental polarities--between the striving for autonomous individuality and the sense of connectedness to a larger whole, between active and receptive, will and feeling, conscious and unconscious, self and psyche.