Traditional Astrology is an ancient system of study and understanding of the cosmos and planetary movements that correlates to the influences of earthly events around us. One of the key concepts in Traditional Astrology is that of the Essential Dignities.
Essential dignities are fundamental elements to learn before one can effectively delineate any kind of charts, be it Natal, Mundane, Horary or Event. Essential Dignities provide a way for us to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the planets based on where they are located on the natal chart, planet’s reliability and negativity, and also whether a specific planet is bound to sabotage your behaviour causing problems in your life.
In most modern and psychological astrology, it is not common to examine the conditions of the planets, whether they can do any good or cause harm to a person. This optimistic attitude can’t be helpful because we have to make the best of what we have. Concurrently, bad things happen to us and if astrology is an art that considers everything about an individual or event, then we need to consider both the good and the bad aspects of the individual’s or event’s astrological chart.
Let us take a look at a few examples on how modern and traditional astrology interpret the planets in their signs.
Modern Astrology Interpretation
Mars in Taurus = This person is assertive in a down-to-earth manner.
Jupiter in Capricorn = This person has luck and abundance so long as this person holds firm to what he or she believes in and works hard to accomplish his or her goals.
Traditional Astrology Interpretation
Mars in Taurus: Mars opposes its own sign ruler, Scorpio, which means working against its own interest, and Taurus is a Venus-ruled sign which denotes that this person may be too soft in his or her approach to handle situations. Thus, when Mars is in Taurus, Mars wanted to act like Mars, assertive and driven, but it’s restricted by the feminine Venus nature of Taurus.
Jupiter in Capricorn: Jupiter is averse to its own sign ruler, Sagittarius, which means indifference to its role in generating abundance and expansion, and Capricorn is a Saturn-ruled sign which could potentially create obstacles that slow things down for this person. This could result in some hesitation, delays or difficulty in advancing one’s goal or implementing any initiatives. Thus, when Jupiter is in Capricorn, Jupiter wanted to act like Jupiter, all-expanding and optimistic, but its function is hindered by the pessimistic Saturn nature of Capricorn.
In this article, we examine the core elements of Essential Dignities and discuss how they can be used to gain insights into our lives and the world around us.
What Is Dignity and Debility?
Dignity is defined as being good, proper and worthy. It speaks of quality and optimal function. On the contrary, debility is defined as the reverse of what is good. It speaks of weakness and the lack of power.
In astrology, dignity is a system that assigns two main dignities — Essential Dignity and Accidental Dignity — to each planet and five sub-dignities used to provide more specific descriptions of the planet’s quality in an astrological chart. The same goes for the two main debilities — Essential Debilities and Accidental Debilities.
What Are Essential Dignities?
Essential Dignity measures a planet’s full potential power and shows its ability to express its inherent nature in an astrological chart. It is determined by the position of the planets in the zodiac signs they rule and exalt, as well as the signs in triplicity, terms or bounds of the planets.
For example, Mercury’s nature is to be intelligent and quick-witted. When it is in Virgo or Gemini, it has a lot of dignity and thus known to be dignified. As a result, Mercury does a fantastic job being in these signs without showing its dark side of being sly or mischievous.
Take another example, the Moon’s nature is to be nurturing and empathetic. When it is in Cancer, it is dignified and thus gave the individual the ability to show care and empathy towards others, and not being hypersensitive, manipulative, or secretive.
What Are Accidental Dignities?
Accidental Dignity measure the ability of a planet to act on its environment determined by several conditions:
- The house placement of the planet,
- Favourable Part of Fortune Aspects to the planet in question,
- Freedom from combustion (means planets has to be more than 10 degrees away from the Sun to be free from being “too hot” and “getting burned”),
- Favourable aspects to benefics (planets that are naturally positive such as Venus and Jupiter),
- Planets that are swift in motion by itself,
- Positive interaction (in easy aspect) to other planets,
- Increasing in light (waxing phase; doesn’t necessarily apply to the moon),
- Planets being in the house of joy (read on for more info).
As such, we ask questions such as “how much can we expect from this planet and how much vigour does it have to produce intended results?”
For example, one may have a very dignified planet that functions very well but when placed in a house that is weaker, will make that planet less reliable. Planets in the houses 1, 4, 7 and 10 operate at 100% power depending on its essential dignity or debilities. The same goes for planets in the houses 2, 5, 8 and 11 at 50% of power, and planets in the houses 3, 6, 9 and 12 at 25% of power.
What Are Essential Debilities?
Essential Debilities refer to a planet’s unfavourable placements in a birth chart and shows its defects in producing results. This occurs the planet is in or part of a zodiac sign where it is at odds with its own nature or agenda. It is what we also call “corrupted planets”. Essential Debilities can include a planet being placed in the sign opposite to its rulership (detriment) or in a “fall” which is opposite to the planet’s exalted sign.
In the previous example regarding Jupiter in Capricorn, we see that this combination is clearly debilitated. Jupiter is a fall in Capricorn, and thus Jupiter is in bad quality and produces poor results.
What Are Accidental Debilities?
Accidental Debilities refer to the conditions that limit or weaken the planets’ ability to perform at its optimal state in the individual’s life. This is not only determined by the signs and houses the specific planet is in, but also how the planets are interacting with other planets on the astrological chart.
A planet that suffers from accidental debility doesn’t necessarily have to be in a bad place on the birth chart. It might just be receiving challenging aspects from another planet that causes problems for it. Alternatively, the planet could also be placed in or ruled over by one of the houses that has to do with unpleasant things such as the 6th House of illness, the 8th House of death and the 12th House of self-undoing.
For this article, we focus only on Essential Dignities and Debilities.
The Major Dignities and Debilities
The major dignities are domicile and exaltation. When a planet has dignity, it expresses itself fully and positively. Conversely, the major debilities are detriment and fall. When a planet has debility, its expression is weaker and inconsistent.
Rulership or Domicile
Rulership or Domicile is the most important dignity. Imagine being the ruler of your country or the head of your household. Does being a king or the decision maker feel powerful to you? It makes you more in control of yourself, isn’t it? As such, you are able to function at your peak. The same goes for planets in rulership. When the ruling planet is in the sing that it rules, it is dignified and thus more stable, optimal and productive.
How Are The Rulerships Assigned?
The zodiac is based on the four seasons of the year — Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Cancer and Leo mark the height of Summer (Summer Solstice) and thus they correspond to the period of greatest daylight. This is why they have two luminaries as their rulers.
The Moon rules Cancer, a nocturnal feminine sign, and the Sun rules Leo, a diurnal masculine sign. Saturn rules the two Winter signs, Capricorn and Aquarius. Because Winter is a time of scarcity and a period of the longest nights, Saturn belong to these signs simply because it is the furthest away from the luminaries (Sun and Moon). Symbolically, Saturn represents lack while the Moon and the Sun represent abundance and life.
The remaining planets are distributed according to their celestial positions in Chaldean order. Jupiter succeeds Saturn and rules over the signs of Pisces and Sagittarius. Mars rules over the signs of Aries and Scorpio. Venus rules over the signs of Taurus and Libra. Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo.
Mercury and Venus appear to be closer to the Sun because, as you notice, Mercury is never more than one sign from the Sun and Venus is never more than two signs from the Sun on the astrological chart.
The distribution of the ruling planets divides the zodiac into solar signs (Leo to Capricorn) and lunar signs (Cancer to Aquarius). Each planet is assigned a day ruler (diurnal rulership) for a masculine sign and a night ruler (nocturnal rulership) for a feminine sign.
How Planets Find Joy in the Signs
When a planet is in the sign of joy, the nature of the rulership planet is enriched by the nature of the actual sign. For example, Jupiter is a masculine and diurnal planet. It finds its joy in Sagittarius, an equally masculine and diurnal sign. Mercury is a dry planet and it finds its joy in cold and dry Virgo. Mars, which is essentially hot and dry, finds joy and balance in Scorpio, which is cold and wet, making this combination more constructive for the individual. Venus is feminine and nocturnal, just like the feminine nocturnal Taurus, finds joy in each other. Cold and dry Saturn, being diurnal, finds joy and balance in hot and wet Aquarius.
Detriment or Exile
Detriment or exile is a state when a planet is in the sign opposite its rulership. When this occurs, the expression of the planet is debilitated and therefore, its performance becomes weaker and its nature becomes distorted and defective.
When the Moon is in detriment, it can be challenging for one to make decisions and be intuitive without first taking the time to sort out one’s feelings and choices. When the Sun is in detriment, it can bring about the lack of vitality in a person or make one arrogant instead of being authoritative.
When Mercury is in detriment, it can bring about fraud and conspiracy. When Venus is in detriment, it can bring about overindulgence and superficiality. When Mars is in detriment, it can bring about cowardice or hot-headedness. When Jupiter is in detriment, it can bring about needless squandering and neglect. When Saturn is in detriment, it can bring about harshness and melancholy.
Exaltation or Honor
Exaltation or honor is a second state of dignity. Imagine being a second-in-command, such as the Deputy Director or the COO of a company. A planet in exaltation behaves as though it is in good functional condition but less consistent than the planet which is in its sign of rulership. Exaltation comes from the Latin word “exalto”, which means to raise up and to honor. As such, an exalted planet can even express its nature with greater intensity (tending toward a more ‘arrogant’ or ‘exaggerated’ state) than the planet in its domicile state.
Degrees of Exaltation
In traditional astrology, exalted planets follow an assigned specific degree of exaltation. These degrees seem to indicate points of greater strength from an ancient yet symbolic perspective. Therefore, the Sun is exalted at 19 degrees Aries, the Moon at 3 degrees Taurus, Mercury at 15 degrees Virgo, Venus at 27 degrees Pisces, Mars at 28 degrees Capricorn, Jupiter at 15 degrees Cancer, and Saturn at 21 degrees Libra.
Just like the case of the detriment, fall is a second debility which occurs when a planet is opposite the sign of its exaltation. A fall planet has difficulty expressing its nature in a productive and constructive way, and thus it becomes unstable and inadequate.
How Are Exalted and Fall Planets Assigned?
The exaltation of the planets is tied according to the degree of the planet’s fertility and to its association with a particular season of the year.
The Sun is exalted in Aries because when the Sun enters the sign of Aries, it signals the beginning of Spring when the days becomes longer and warmer. Sun is a fall in Libra because it is in a period when there is diminishing light, and it is the start of Autumn.
The Moon is exalted in Taurus, a feminine sign that is placed next to Aries. The Moon, when leaving the Sun’s ray, would be visible in Taurus for the first time. Conversely, when Moon is in Scorpio, it is a fall.
Dry Mercury is exalted in cold and dry Virgo, which is also the sign it rules. When Mercury is in cold and wet Pisces, it is a fall.
Wet and humid Venus is exalted in cold and wet Pisces, making way for fertility in Spring. Its fall is in Virgo, a cold and dry sign that paves the way for the start of autumn.
Hot and dry Mars is exalted in cold and dry Capricorn, its heat blended with the cold of Winter. When Mars is in Cancer, it is a fall.
Jupiter is exalted in Cancer because it is a sign signalling the start of Summer and the crops are ripe for the taking. Its fall is in Capricorn.
Saturn is exalted in Libra. Libra signals the start of autumn when temperatures become colder and days become shorter. The ideal sign for exaltation would be Saturn and logically speaking, Aries would be the sign of its fall.
A planet that suffers from debility is not a death sentence but a message to the individual that the issues which the planet potentially creates must be managed or mitigated.
That is all for now.
There are of course more to just Dignities and Debilities in this article such as Secondary Dignities and Debilities when we examine Diurnal, Nocturnal and Participant Triplicity, as well as Minor Dignities and Debilities such as Terms and Faces from the Egyptian standpoint.
All these information will be covered in my advanced astrology coaching for some of you who are interested to starting a learning journey with me where I bring you through my Ancient Astrology Programme.
At the end of the programme, you will be able to:
- Effectively delineate any birth chart using different House Systems and various astrology techniques.
- Gain insights into your dominant persona, hidden talents
- Discover your life purpose through the psychological lens in astrology using the ancient art of calculation.
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More articles coming soon!