ESSENTIAL DIGNITIES PART
_______The Use of
Essential Dignity and Debility_______
There are two
basic applications in the practice of analysing the astrology of a
* to qualify the essential symbolic nature and condition of any celestial body within the chart.
* to qualify the relationship of a planet to other components of the horoscope – other planets, houses and signs.
Regarding the qualifying of the further nature of a
Essential dignity and
debility are significant of whether the core archetype of any planet can
function with an ease, or conversely, with a great requirement for adaptation
and change in its typical mode of expression. The core template of the symbolism of
any celestial body, its ‘zodiacal condition’ (and conditioning) is further
reflected by sign placement.
As must be generally clear by now, a planet in essential dignity is in affinity, inferring a basic smoothness of function. Traditionally the ‘benefic’ planets (Venus and Jupiter) were given an increase in their potential boons and the traditional ‘malefics’ (Mars and Saturn), when in dignity were considered to be less prone to becoming problematic in their expression.
This symbolic reasoning is logical, as
in dignity a planet and a sign are naturally attuned in harmony, which is
supporting to archetypal strength and comfort. To offer an illustration: the
Moon in its domicile dignity of Cancer is obviously greatly strengthened in
essential nature. The Moon in
Cancer is thus functioning from a basis of nocturnal, cold, moist thematic, that
is, it can be very ‘lunar’ and fulfil such kind of analysis.
The Moon within its detrimented sign of Capricorn is now within a cold/dry Saturnian template and within the further template of a cold, dry, earth sign. In this detriment the Moon’s essential cold/moist nature is much compromised, in the sense that it is rendered very cold and its moisture is desiccated. The Moon in Cancer is archetypally sound, whilst in Capricorn it is archetypally unsound. Whether this is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ is not really the point, it is just the Moon is not very ‘lunar’ (in a ‘saturnine’ manner) when in her detriment and thus will not be naturally reflective of the normally expected lunar symbolisms.
The sign thus may become as a planets
crucible, or arena of alchemising.
Traditionally a planet in so-nominated ‘good’ zodiacal condition (strong
dignity) will always possess some variety of a ‘gifted’ aspect, to whatever
degree or context (and whether this is embraced, empowered, or not).
Reciprocally, it is also maintained that a planet in so-called ‘bad’ zodiacal condition, as to what it may symbolise, will always be seen to promote some form of ‘care’, no matter how positive its degree of ensuing function. This view honours the depth of the integral nature of general archetypal premise, in itself a vast discussion, well beyond the constraints of these notes.
Having put forth all of these statements, what is being addressed here is the essential nature of a planet/sign relationship. It must further be borne in mind, that off this fundamental astrological partnering, there are other things that will further mitigate, support and modify what is essentially stated. That is, other planets, aspectual relationships, accidental dignities and so on. Thus it may be seen that it is of an importance to ascertain the essential nature, power and temperament of any astrological body.
By its sign placement and zodiacal condition, once the core nature of a planet in a horoscope has thus been further defined, an extension of delineation can then have a further clarity of foundation from which to emerge.
Regarding the relationship between a planet and other chart components
Once all of the basic ‘building blocks’
of an astrological chart are understood, as individual units within the overall
construction (i.e.; the signs, houses, planets and aspects). The ‘art’ in the practice of astrology
then truly begins to open to a more philosophically creative level.
This can begin in spotting and synthesising the interrelationship that the various dimensions of a horoscope may have with one another. It is through the mechanism of a planet ‘holding dignity’, in the ultimate to varying degrees with any sign, which may offer keys to the doors of a greater astrological exploration.
Thus aside from contributing to the
character of a planet within a horoscope, the signs are as symbolic
intermediaries, serving to create a relation between a planet and other birth
Thus if the sign of Cancer were on the 2nd house cusp in a birth chart, the Moon, domicile lord of this sign, would be said to ‘have dignity’ with, or be the ‘dignified lord’ of the 2nd house. In addition, if for example the planet Mercury was in the sign of Cancer, by the same reasoning, the Moon would have dignity over Mercury. A planet may be regarded as having a ‘landlord’, or ‘backup’, which is this domicile lord of its natal sign of positing. The Moon would also be said to be ‘receptive’ to Mercury in Cancer, as the little planet is ‘wearing the cloth’ of the nocturnal light and is tinged with lunar tones.
Today the more informal and common terminology would tend to speak of the Moon as ‘ruling’ the 2nd house, or the Moon would be the ‘ruler’ of Mercury. Nevertheless, it must be noted that the expression ‘ruler’, is certainly of a very loose use (for instance, a planet may also ‘rule’, or have dignity, by exaltation, etc). Through this principle of a planet holding dignity with a sign, that planet may then relate symbolically and add its comment to where its sign of dignity may be and to what it, in turn, may have within its boundaries.
The principle of
planet/sign dignity will allow a planet to relate to a house cusp or another
celestial body. Via this principle,
houses may also be seen to relate to each other, because the lord of one house
(whose sign will be on it), may be contained within another house somewhere else
upon the wheel.
In addition this principle can be utilised to gain understanding of the delineation of an apparently ‘empty’ house in a horoscope; as it will still have one of the twelve signs upon its cusp and thus its further story may be gathered by the state of its ‘ruler’/domicile lord within the greater picture. Thus the principle of essential dignity may allow for a greater synthesis and expansion of analysis in birth chart delineation.
___The Nature of the Major Essential Dignities & Debilities___
Domicile, Exaltation, Detriment & Fall
The following discussion addresses the
four classifications of domicile, exaltation, detriment and fall, as these are
the major categories of essential dignity and debility. They are no doubt, a very important and
primary dimension of basic astrological understanding, as in knowing the
symbolic utilisation of the zodiac.
It must be noted that some planets, due to having essential dignity by
sign placement, may be ‘all dressed up’, on the apparent level, but ‘not going
anywhere’ (even though always inherently of a ‘strong’ potential). Others may present from the apparent
challenge of debility, yet, should also not always be judged ‘by their cover’,
as ‘rough diamonds’ do happen (nevertheless, in some sense, something must
usually always be ‘cared for’).
In other words, a planet in a sign and
the essential condition, although of importance, is always open to further
development and adulteration, the horoscope depending In addition, there is more leeway of
context and mode of expression, in today’s world, allowing for the awareness of
‘greys’ within the symbolism. Thus,
the components in any horoscope, although always retaining a core nature, may
become subject to other chart conditions.
For this reason, the debilitated can experience a certain reframing, as
can the dignified.
Further variances may
occur, even though a planet and its sign of residence, is of a primary
importance. A planet in a sign is a
major statement in itself, yet still relatively general, in regards to the
further details of delineation to be sought. This is as the basic symbolic foundation
of the combination is still open to be further developed, as a more
individualised analysis. That is
chart positioning, thus possible accidental dignities, such as house, angles, or
other planets and their relationships/aspects and so on, will also add an
extension, to the statement of the fundamental planet/sign
Again, the individual ingredients must be discerned and reflected upon, until a more extensive understanding may be attempted to be apprehended. The sign placement of a planet qualifies this essential ‘zodiacal’ (thus ‘extra-archetypal’) condition – or adds more detail, to the bottom line template from which the purity of a planetary archetype may function.
Often known simply as ‘dignity’ or
‘rulership’ in the more informal sense, domicile rulership is the strongest
category of dignity and concerned with giving a planet strength of
archetype. As already identified, a
planet has a sign(s) in which it is considered to be ‘domus’, or ‘at home’.
To the ancient astrologer, a planet in its domicile was like a ‘king
enthroned’, or within his own stronghold.
Thus it is noted that a planet within such a dignity is as its own ‘captain’, usually prepared to function with some manner of individual integrity and thus may be prepared to naturally pilot the strength of a more typical expression. The planetary component in question is symbolised as carrying the fortitude, of an ideally positive potential, at least concerning its essential symbolic template. When in domicile the planet, or light, concerned may become strongly harmonised with the tone of the zodiacal sign, ideally finding a base of symbolic integration and therefore a sound quality of archetypal expression.
In domicile placement, the zodiacal environment is ‘familiar’ to the planet and supposedly ‘serving’ its symbolic essence.
Most ideally, as to what is
being represented, the advantage of something being on its ‘home ground’ is a
naturally familiar, validating and supporting experience. A planet in its domal position was
considered strengthened or potent in its archetypal principles, for ill or
Although in the astrological tradition, usually any potential maleficence concerning the planet in domicile, may be seen to be salved, to some degree. Traditionally and generally, being in astrological domicile appeared to be as a very fortunate positing, promising a certain grace of the cosmos, as in being supportive.
Classically some form of ‘gift’/fulfilment concerning the archetypal function may also be potentially indicated. Whatever the domicile, or the dignity, the core nature of the planet in question, will maintain its central typos and thus also be of a great contribution in ‘affecting’ the nature of what is symbolised. When planet is ‘domus’, it may be seen to be within its own archetypal/symbolic frame of reference, thus being generally supported, for what it is, within a comfortable reinforcing boundary (i.e.; sign).
Such a planet may be said to be ‘disposing’ of itself, or giving of itself its own disposition, thus the consideration that it is ‘noble’, self-responsible, or possessive of esteem in inherent character. For the astrologer, once a very dignified planet is identified, the task then unfolds, as to how and where, this symbolism may further express itself, or not, given its further relationship to the greater holism of the picture.
The exaltation positions of the traditional planets are as follows, also listed with the sign and the degrees of exaltation;
Planet Sign of Exaltation Exalted degree
Sun Aries 19 degrees
Moon Taurus 3 degrees
Mercury Virgo 15 degrees
Venus Pisces 27 degrees
Mars Capricorn 28 degrees
Jupiter Cancer 15 degrees
Saturn Libra 21 degrees
Whether at an exact degree of its exaltation, or given this dignity simply by sign placement, this classification is second only in the rating of its power to that of domicile. There is no duality of sign assignation in this system of dignity and in addition not all of the zodiac are assigned the capability for exalting a planet, or light. Such are the points that have prodded astro-historians into postulating it being an older system than that of the dual domicile type.
When dissected the degrees and signs of exaltation appear to form no clear logical pattern, as does the system of domicile. Many other concepts exist regarding ideas of origin. For instance, these degrees of exaltation are said to be based upon prominent heliacal phenomena of ancient importance, or upon other facets concerning the nature of declination.
It is likely that the foundation of exaltation is more philosophical and abstracted in its original seeding, and then only strictly relating to technical phenomena, as astrology is also a system of gnosis. All hypotheses aside, concerning the doctrine of exaltation, the final answer is like much of the bedrock doctrines of astrology, the actual point of invention is lost in the veils of time.
GO TO PART 5 of ESSENTIAL DIGNITIES
Organic Divination for the Urban Jungle
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