1. Using the Astrological Alphabet
Whether you learned this from a teacher or read it in a book, please stop limiting yourself with the application of sign = planet = house style rulership. Indeed, Aries is the domain of Mars and Taurus the domain of Venus (and on it goes), BUT that does not mean Aries/Mars is the same as the first house. It's simply not. A planet sometimes associated with war and separation does not equate to the house of Life, Body, and Spirit. And Taurus does not = the second house of your income. Scorpio does not = the eighth, Aquarius does not = eleventh, Pisces does not = twelfth.
Aries may be the first sign of the zodiac, if you work that way. But there are other ways to work, and other perspectives to take. For instance, Capricorn could be the first sign of the zodiac: when it is darkest in the northern hemisphere, think of a gestating seed - or if that feels limited: when the sun has bottomed out and travels (from our perspective) at its most southerly declination, the Tropic of Capricorn.
Or you might want to think of the sign Cancer as the first position - as it is the first house in the all important Thema Mundi (see the diagram below). Vettius Valens, in his second century text, writes: it is the house of the moon, feminine, solstitial, the Ascendant to the universe... With the Thema Mundi in mind, consider Jupiter's exaltation in Cancer (life giving and life promoting) versus Mars' exaltation in Capricorn (the seventh sign, and traditional house of death: the place of the setting sun). And Libra on the fourth, Saturn's place of exaltation: under ground, under earth, the crypt; also one's family, parents, origins, history, ancestors; even Valens notes: a diminisher of estates, the Lower Midheaven of the universe... And Aries upon the tenth, where of course the Sun is exalted and shines maximally with its culmination. ...the Midheaven of the universe and the cause of rank, writes Valens. Sexy Scorpio as the fifth sign; divinatory and dream-rich Pisces on the ninth; Aquarius, Saturn's domain (a planet of death) on the eighth; and so on.
Give it thought. Expand your vision, exercise your mind, and end the habit.
2. Outer Planet Rulership
In my view it's absurd to even think about ruining the perfection and intelligence of this cosmic symmetry. If you still think Aquarius is ruled by Uranus, why? Why the defensiveness around it. Actually, that may provide a clue in itself. If you have Aquarius on an important angle in your chart, or your Sun or Moon is there, and you just can't see yourself as Saturnian, you may have a limited perspective on Saturn. See Joseph Crane's Liberating Uranus and Aquarius.
As for Mars and Scorpio - do you think it's okay to strip Mars of its transformational qualities? I don't. I doubt Mars does either. Please participate in restoring Mars' wildly powerful transmutational and revolutionary sides. Much of this quality comes in and through this planet's connection to the sign Scorpio. Pluto does its own thing; sometimes very unrelated to Scorpio. Think about it.
Same goes with Pisces and Jupiter. This is the sign of arts and music and great love, precisely because it is the exaltation of VENUS. And it's the sign of spirituality and dreams and exploring the collective psyche and unconscious, because it is the domain of Jupiter. Neptune might convey a few things related, sure, like with film and projected images (tied to the timing of its discovery). But we all know Neptune can signify a lot more than that, sometimes quite troublesome, nebulous, and draining in nature. These are habits of correlation that Pisces and Jupiter would like to see end.
Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto each mean so much more than what could possibly be derived from the zodiac signs. These are trans-personal, outer planets for a reason. They have more to offer, and to tell us. A lot like the asteroids, actually. They govern over extremes and surprises, genius, and utter destruction - topics and areas that simply transcend the day to day experiences symbolized by the zodiac signs. Please liberate them from this treatment.
3. Essentially Dignified Planets are always Awesome
So you have a planet in its own sign, huh? Before your ego expands to wild dimension, I'd just like to remind you that Jeffrey Dahmer did too, FOUR of them.
We say a planet that is essentially dignified has the power to do what it wants. That may or may not be good for the native. And that may or may not be good for anyone else. A planet with power to do what it wants, does not equate to doing the right thing or being very consciously aware or caring or enlightened. And a planet in its own domicile is actually, in a way, limited, as it is focused on its topic (its sign/house) sometimes to the exclusion of other topics (signs/houses). And without -or depending on the type of- reception and aspects, these planets can sometimes be ruthlessly single-minded (and selfish), and can lack communicating with or acting supportive to other areas or people as signified in the chart.
Also, if you're examining one of those oh-so important planets in their sign of exaltation - please remember that its dispositor is incredibly important. It literally has the power to make or break whatever this lucky planet signifies. Sometimes with a lack of continued coherence and support (or when in bad company), you'll see an exalted planet behave in bombastically arrogant and ignorant ways, depending on what it rules or where it's posited. Additionally, a planet's immediate sign and house position is thought to signify the way something starts out, and where it disposits shows how the matter evolves or ends. So exalted planets that lead to less 'dignified' places, or lack reception, tell us a lot about where this matter is going.... maybe nowhere.
4. Final Dispositor FOLLY
A final or sole dispositor in the chart is not always helpful and it is certainly not necessarily nice. For instance, having a planet like Saturn in Capricorn or Mars in Aries as the one and only dispositor might require a bit (or a lot) of extra caution. These two especially seem to wreak havoc. Capricorn being the nocturnal sign for Saturn (a planet that prefers the light of the day -and diurnal signs- to warm its cold, dry bones) and Aries for Mars (a nocturnal planet which can use some cooling and grounding -provided by earthy or watery (yin) signs) can both be prone to a bit too much bullying, if not mitigated and/or used consciously.
It also helps to have reception, especially mutual, to break up the dispositing. Several dispositors are good, or loops between them. Unless a chart is working for a benefic (in an advantageous house), sometimes the focus of a final dispositor can bring one down or bulldoze over others with its unlimited pursuit and nature. Even a planet like Venus, as I've seen many times with charts of people with drug or food addictions, can cause a lot of trouble for the native.
5. North Node is Karmic and MOst Important
Seriously, it's an eclipse point. And it is the head of the dragon, Rahu, for a reason. Look at Donald Drump. And the south node, also an eclipse point, is the tail: a place of release, sure, a place of gifts and wisdom too. Please do more research if you actually think the south node is just a useless point to be ignored and left behind, or that the north node is entirely holy and the only way to go.
As for karma, if it exists, it is represented by the whole chart; not just the nodes, not just Saturn, not just the twelfth house.
6. Hard Aspects Are Bad
Squares are productive. Squares blend polarity, like antiscia (and unlike oppositions, actually). Blending polarities: yin/yang, feminine/masculine, is wildly energetic, creative and fruitful, and conveys an attempt to make something complete and whole, or new. We all know nothing happens without pressure, without attraction or repulsion, love and strife. Squares move us.
As for oppositions, especially those in close degree-based aspect with malefics (specifically 3 degrees), they can indeed be crunchy and cruel (depending on house rulership and/or position and players).
7. Easy Aspects Are Good, Especially Grand Trines
Smooth flowing aspects are comfortable, compatible, and often very lazy. Yes, they can show natural talent. They can also show being at ease, or being in a big rut. With a grand trine it is ideal to have one factor (at least) in square aspect to another planet. Thank the gods if you do. Here's someone who, sadly, did not.
8. There is Only One Kind of Reception: Mutual
Astrologers should note all kinds of reception, including one-sided. I am personally a huge fan of mixed reception and even reception with minor dignities. And I think it is the key to practicing really good astrology. Reception between planets in aspect tell us how and where things are actually working and where there is likely disfunction. If a planet is compatible, comfortable, and supported in its contact with another planet - it's like it is saying Yes, let's do this. And if it is uncomfortable in the contact and rejecting what is offered (for instance an aspect with a planet in the aspecting planet's place of fall or detriment, or no dignity at all) it's saying, No thanks, I don't want what you have to offer. Of course this can work for good or ill, in both cases. A malefic can be strengthened, for instance receiving an aspect from a planet in the malefic's domicile or exaltation, and without a lot of awareness, that might not be such a good thing.
Noting these kinds of connections, and rejection of connection, lends a lot of nuance to your chart reading. There is a specificity that comes alive when you spend time with it. A deep study and consideration of this is well worth your time and effort.
A good article on this is at the Gryphon Astrology site.
9. Peregrine Planets are Useless
Actually, like I've alluded to in several points above, so much depends on how planets disposit, and how (and by whom) they are received. A planet without essential dignity can be mightily supported with the right kind of reception through aspects (by degree and by whole sign!). A 'wandering' (peregrine) planet may even be more integrated in the chart as it communicates with several areas and topics if it is well received by several planets. This sort of thing could prove fruitful and unifying for several areas of the life! Too many planets that are essentially dignified and not in reception are not communicating with one another, for better or worse. These cases naturally lead me to wonder about a kind of fragmentation in the chart (and personality). Parts not conversant, are telling us something.
10. Debilitated Planets are Ineffective
It is my working opinion that a planet not 'well-placed' by sign (including being in its detriment or fall) can have a tremendous amount of influence and power to protect and effectively foster the topics of the houses it 'sees' which are under its domain. Additionally, as my colleague Charlie Obert wrote about recently, there is a very real, tangible effect that comes about with time and effort spent to learn to be effective in the realms these planets signify. All is not lost.
You'll want to especially take note, as iterated many times above, of the ways in which these planets disposit and are received, these are not minor details. Also note their so-called minor dignities (often these can and do equate to a whole lot more than minor efficacy in practice). Well supported debilitated planets, imo, may point out more than just issues to work on, they are likely the path, the life's work, the point. Bless them.
p.s. the notion of sex and the eighth house isn't entirely true... more on this later.