ESSENTIAL DIGNITIES PART
Both ancient and contemporary astrologers have attempted to define any symmetry of reasoning within the core structure of the exaltation system, on technical, symbolic and philosophical levels.
Most of the exaltation signs of the planets form a positive geometric relationship upon the wheel to one of the signs that the planet in question holds original domicile dignity with (and also usually that of joy) thus;
Saturn in Libra Exaltation – trine Aquarius dignity/joy of Saturn
Jupiter in Cancer Exaltation – trine Pisces dignity of Jupiter ( joy of Jupiter is Sagittarius)
Mars in Capricorn Exaltation – sextile Scorpio dignity/joy of Mars
Venus in Pisces Exaltation – sextile Taurus dignity/joy of Venus
Sun in Aries Exaltation – trine Leo dignity/joy of Sun
Moon in Taurus Exaltation – sextile Cancer dignity/joy of Moon
Mercury in Virgo Exaltation – already in own sign of dignity/joy.
In the overview, any the promise of the above pattern is seen to falter at Jupiter and (appropriately) appears to become confounded when applied to Mercury. As well, the exaltations of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars and Venus are seen to be in a conflicting relationship to the other signs of their dual domicile dignities.
These signs, although of the dual domicile dignity, are generally not also those of the joy of their respective planetary lords. The further this line of analysis continues (particularly in looking to Mercury and the two lights) the more the apparent logic of pattern appears to degenerate into further confusion.
the holistic geometry of the circle and such like, the point that some
‘abrasive’ symbolic relationship that is seen to exist, towards other domicile
signs, must in itself have its own validity. Such a complementary pattern, simply suggests
the honouring of the totality of the zodiacal wheels inherent alchemical
apparatus and the philosophic nature of duality. In that there are, thus indicated, also the
existence of some balancing and very vigorous processes and this does not negate
the nature and power of the exaltation system.
To state it simply, when enlisting a general awareness of duality, for all the apparent lack of consistency here, there is still the suggestion of a fair amount of harmony of principle. The quest then becomes to seek the seeds of that harmony, a challenge that so far, seems to have contributed to many misunderstandings.
So, it is observed that this curious emergence of pattern
may seem to warrant the stimulation and the validation of a certain degree of
pondering and more sophisticated research. Perhaps the shadows of clues, to a deeper
philosophical understanding of the greater holism of the patterning, are
one thing is certain regarding the dignity of exaltation, is that it has come to
us from very ancient times, therefore through periods of ancient gnosis and may
be potentially related to some form of a bedrock astrological principle.
It is interesting in itself that the basic classification of exaltation had maintained throughout astro-history, to be still of some form of a presence today. This has been seen largely void of any of the heritage of its known lore, or a clear underpinning of philosophical regard. Also, the surfeit of the tenets of ‘modern’ astrology has now become embodied as a veneer upon the exaltation principle and the nature of dignity in general.
As seen, a loss of understanding can lead to a form of the loosening, of the esoteric infrastructure, of astrological symbolism and therefore leads to a squandering of symbolic principles. Thus to state it once more, inferred is an accompanying line of philosophy/symbology, that is still to be further brought to light.
definition of exaltation and how it may have a slight difference in its tone, to
that of domicile dignity.
The ancient astrologers literally described an exalted
planet as of the rank of an ‘exalted guest’, thus there is a sense of nobility
and dignity still being ‘served’. However, one is ‘visiting’ an environment
that is not entirely ones own, as is more well-reflected by the greater dignity
of domicile position.
Although a planet may be essentially very comfortable, as when in exaltation, but nonetheless the sign concerned actually still ‘belongs’ to another domicile lord. For instance, to compare the perception that the Sun, which is of a supreme symbolic power in its own sign of Leo, as this position is at once, the domicile and joy of this body. Thus in comparison, a Sun when it is in Aries, is seen as in exaltation but nevertheless is answering to the lordship of Mars and not that of itself, as it would if at home.
Within such identified condition of exalted dignity, the Sun is said to be possibly ‘elevated’ and potentially capable of becoming ‘refined’, even more so, then when in domicile. Yet, there is still a greater degree of adaptation, or a difference in the alchemising, than when being in domicile, thus exaltation is seen as a secondary essential dignity.
analogy that has been drawn of a planet ‘visiting’ another lord’s stronghold is
as an ‘honoured/exalted guest’. Thus, the question as to what state is the
lord of the exaltation sign is in, becomes another factor in further qualifying
the nature of the situation. Or, in continuing the metaphor, what kind of
‘host’ is contributing to the tone of the environment of this ideally exalted
Although exaltation is a strong essential dignity, the potential for some instability to the planetary archetype is more so than when in a sign of domicile. Hence the condition of exaltation is seen as not necessarily the most solid, although it may be of a great potential. In the tradition of astrology, depending upon the entire picture, exalted planets have been seen to reflect the mechanisms of marked rises and falls. However, in the thinking of this heritage, it was said that with exaltation one is more likely to redeem the fall.
The Latin ‘exaltare’, to ‘put up high’, underlies the word ‘exaltation’. In the dictionary
this word becomes concerned with concepts to do with praise, promotion,
intensification and rising. In addition, to be in exaltation is to be
within an experience of extremely heightened happiness. Another definition is
that of being an official term to signify an ‘exaltation of larks’. The ‘high spirits’
are therefore reflected so that they may be lent to a planetary symbolism by
This collection of definition captures the essence of the term, which although heightened in tone, also has a certain sense of pressure present. The exalted planet is not on its own throne and is thus not in total control of its natural symbolic agendas. Hence, planetary tone and strength may fluctuate more easily, when under this class of dignity.
The zodiacal condition of exaltation has been observed as ‘highly charged’ and in the ultimate, concerned with ‘an extra-natural condition or spiritualisation of quality’. At best an exalted planet may be well-tempered, even solidly supported and serene of expression – or it can be more prone to become unstable or extreme.
The essence of the character of exaltation has been encapsulated here:
“. . . the exaltation of a planetary quality is a somewhat
different matter [in relation to other dignities], as it relates more to the
“super refinement” of a given quality to a degree rarely met with. This process is
essentially alchemical, although it does occur in Nature, accidentally, as it
were. And we
must remember that art is Nature prodded by the artist under knowledge. Nevertheless, there
is something unnatural about the exalted planets, for they indicate a degree of
refinement which begins to bring in qualities that are somewhat uncharacteristic
of the planetary quality under any other circumstances”.
So an exalted
astrological component is classically gifted with the potential for some form of
virtue and vision within its manifest/reflected experience. It appears that a
body in such zodiacal condition may not handle some forms of stress very well,
as when in domicile, being more prone to destabilise. Particularly in
exaltation a planetary archetype has to ‘stretch’ itself, in answering to
another lord’s voice.
This is a factor which may be viewed as a part of its essential character, as a symbol within the horoscope. Nevertheless, in its essence, as with the previous dignity of domicile, an exalted planet may come from a base of promising a lot of promise and reflect the existence of some variety of potential support. Once more the astrologer is called to see how and where this promise may find further mitigation and expression.
of the Major Essential Debilities______
In the case of a
planet posited in its opposite sign to that of domicile, the body is then said
to be ‘detrimented’. Thus a planet is within the boundaries of a
sign that is not seen as a zone of archetypal comfort to its nature; hence it
may be nominated as essentially debilitated.
In astrological tradition, a celestial component within its sign of detriment is at the most furthest distance of separation upon the wheel, in being in the sign opposite to that of its own domicile stronghold.
The planet, or light, is thus far removed from its place of familiarity and is seen as vulnerable, thus it may be called to work harder or have to adjust itself, in order to fulfil that what it may pertain to. To reiterate this listing;
Sun domicile of Leo thus Aquarius is the opposite sign of detriment.
Moon domicile of Cancer thus Capricorn is the opposite sign of detriment.
Mercury domicile of Gemini/Virgo thus Sagittarius/Pisces are the opposite signs of detriment.
Venus domicile of Taurus/Libra thus Scorpio/Aries are the opposite signs of detriment.
Mars domicile of Aries/Scorpio thus Libra/Taurus are the opposite signs of detriment.
Jupiter domicile of Sagittarius/Pisces thus Gemini/Virgo are the opposite signs of detriment.
Saturn domicile of Capricorn/Aquarius thus Cancer/Leo are the opposite signs of detriment.
As can be seen in regard to detriment, the logic of the domicile system is simply reversed, to the polarity zodiacal sign upon the ecliptic. Thus to touch on a previous mentioned example, the Moon when in its detriment of Capricorn, is posited within a symbolic field of energy that is not at all essentially ‘lunar’ in its respective symbolic tone.
Once more, this is not necessarily ‘bad’ in itself, as at this point, it is more so that there is simply less harmony of planet/sign resonance, whatever it may eventually express as. To continue the example, the sign of Capricorn is actually the cold, dry domicile sign of the cold, dry lord Saturn. Obviously the essential lunar symbolism as given by the Moon is called to adapt to expressing through a lens that is quite removed from its moistness of nature.
Thus seems the
core essence of a body being detriment, that is, the respective archetypal
templates of the sign and planet reflect a dissonance, or clashing, which may
prove truly debilitating/destructive in the extreme.
Or conversely, to the other end of the scale, such positing may promise extremely galvanising dynamics, potentially making for a highly original, or individual form of expression (i.e.; non-archetypal). However, as with essential dignity, what is ultimately defined will always be relative to the core character and temperament as symbolised by the actual celestial body concerned.
astrological tradition, the planets of a basic ‘benefic’ nature were considered
to be generally lessened in their typical effectiveness.
Those planets that have been classed as essentially ‘malefic’ were seen as more primed, when in a position of debility, to become more challenging in their nature. It is as if a detrimented (and fallen) celestial body by sign, is dealing with having to ‘work’, or ‘care’ for aspects of its possible expression and experience.
Certainly the planet or light has to adapt and is in the stronghold belonging to a lord who is more alien to its own knowing. For instance, in answering to Saturn, when in the sign of Capricorn, the Moon is dealing with having to integrate another planetary symbol that is very far removed from its own essence.
when the term ‘detriment’ is further researched, it is seen to hail from the
Latin ‘deterare’, meaning ‘wear away’, out of
translates to ‘rub’ or ‘wear’. Thus as a potential foundation of thought as
to the nature of a planet detrimented, it is finding the sign that it is in
‘wearing’ upon its essential nature and agendas.
The process of wearing equals a sense of attrition and things may therefore wear off, wear out, and wear down. To the planet so posited, its essential nature experiences an alteration, or a corruption (change) which may be felt at the core of its being. In the extreme, there may be also be indicated some manner of ‘impairment’ and hence the potential delineations of anomalies, aberrations and such like within the symbolism. Logically, the planetary archetype concerned may be weakened in its essential nature and called to adjust itself quite radically.
although very dependent upon the holism of the birth chart, the planet/light in
question may be indicated as lacking in support, such as would be relative to
its unmitigated nature. Thus, as with the further delineation of
planets whose condition is further qualified by essential dignity, once those in
detriment are identified, the greater story and symbolism within a horoscope
will allude to the more individual analysis. Therefore other astrological chart dimensions
will usually also adulterate and alchemise the planet’s further story, whatever
its base zodiacal condition.
One may say that it is simply that a planet in detriment is ‘not feeling itself’ and this may always require a sense of mindfulness, relaxation and care. As with its polarity of domicile dignity, a detrimented body is not always to prove undermining, or difficult at all, but dynamic and individual.
As with the
previous essential debility of detriment, the position of fall is defined by the
opposite sign to that of exaltation. Therefore the fallen zodiacal positions of
the planets and lights are as follows:
Sun exaltation of Aries thus Libra is the opposite sign of fall.
Moon exaltation of Taurus thus Scorpio is the opposite sign of fall.
Mercury exaltation of Virgo thus Pisces is the opposite sign of fall.
Venus exaltation of Pisces thus Virgo is the opposite sign of fall.
Mars exaltation of Capricorn thus Cancer is the opposite sign of fall.
Jupiter exaltation of Cancer thus Capricorn is the opposite sign of fall.
Saturn exaltation of Libra thus Aries is the opposite sign of fall.
Fall is the other major essential debility and although of challenge to a planetary archetype, is traditionally considered not as strong as the category of detriment. Having stated this, the general thoughts, meanings and mechanisms, as addressed with the previous of detriment, are essentially the same. Once more a celestial body is seen to be in a zodiacal position not naturally familiar, or supportively relative, to its own archetypal nature.
To touch upon the
deeper nature of the classification of fall, ancient thought saw it as a planets
archetypal expression and agendas becoming ‘imprisoned’ within the thematic of
the sign concerned (and its lord). There is a concept of being ‘buried’, or ‘put
below’, as the sign of fall is the opposite to the sign that promises the
symbolism of exalted heights. Another traditional attitude saw the situation
of fall as a reduction in potency and strength, yet also with ‘hopes of
again, the birth charts entirety and the position/condition of the lord of the
sign of the fall will become the further and important contributions to the
Some other definitions or approaches to the idea of the
Suggested are mechanisms of averting, dropping, lowering and in the extreme, the metaphor of ‘free-fall’, as a fall is in essence, a fast, sudden drop. Could it be that the sign of fall cannot ‘hold’, with ease, the nature of the planet concerned?
To fall is also to become less, reduced in value and may refer in particular to, a ‘lowering of volume’. Thus a sign of fall may be viewed as lowering the ‘volume’ of the essential archetypal symbolism of the celestial body in question. In the dictionary, ‘fall’ is also said to refer to the ‘entering into an unspecified state’.
All of the aforementioned thought and symbolism seems to give reflection to the different mechanisms and tones within the astrological debility of fall. Here are the general nature of the dynamics that may occur between the archetype of a planet and a sign, in the context of debility.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Donna OConnor - is writer and facilitator of
Mercurius Tutorials, a series of classes in
Astrology, ranging from foundational to advanced levels. Donna is recognised as
an Accredited Astrological Teacher with the Federation of Australian
Astrologers, tutoring many people over the years, including some award-winning
students. She also holds a Diploma Honours with the Astrological Guild of
Educators International, for a thesis on the Ancient
Doctrine of Planetary Sect in Astrological History.
Donna writes and lectures, for both
the professional astrological community and those who are interested in any
aspect of the Art. She is also an astrological consultant and offers specialist
service to those creating any work or articles involving the subject.
Donna can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
 Essential dignity and debility stems from very ancient times of astrological tradition – it thus refers to and works as an holistic system, in regard to the ‘ancient’ planets (that is the ’personal’ and ‘social ones, Sun/Moon/Mercury/Venus/Mars/Jupiter/Saturn), and does not concern the ‘modern’, transpersonal bodies (Uranus/Neptune/Pluto). The outer planets appear to have a different function of symbolic resonance in their own right.
 An astrological body may also become ‘accidentally dignified’, as compared to being ‘essentially dignified’. Essential dignity concerns the relationships of signs and planets and is intrinsic to these components of the system. Accidental dignity is transferred by other chart conditions, which are to be addressed at a more advanced point of study.
 Loosely called ‘rulership’.
 From the foundation of Project Hindsight in 1994 and of ARHAT (Archive for the Retrieval of Historical Astrological Texts), a variety of astrological scholars have undertaken the retranslating, translating and observing of the knowledge of ancient and medieval authors. Much depth of awareness and revisioning of the nature of the components of astrology is promised, given the early findings so far – astrology is on the potential edge of a possible ‘post-modern’ phase, whose hallmark may involve the revising of the modern misunderstanding of facets of astrology and a clarity of potential, in regards to the ancient and fundamental, becoming integrated into the astrology of the modern psychological age – however, it seems only the earliest of ‘days’, as yet. Nevertheless, the traditional and ancient astrological knowledge is demanding of respect and becoming further disseminated. Recommended is the work of Robert Hand, Robert Zoller, Joseph Crane, John Frawley, Lee Lehman.
 There was an ancient concept, where a planet and a sign were seen as a ‘husband and wife’ – meaning that one alone, nor the other, could truly ‘create’, or give manifestation by itself (or ‘have children’, according to the analogy). That is, a planet and a sign require each other to begin any form of personalised statement in a birth chart and to become more symbolically representational.
 The astrological commentary of the ancient Claudius Ptolemy was strongly embraced in the revival of astrological knowledge in the West, particularly by the English school of astrology, from the 1600’s on. Hence the nomination, at times, of things being ‘Ptolemaic’, e.g.’ ‘Ptolemaic dignities’, ‘planets’, ‘aspects’, ‘terms’, etc. This is an informal and general term of reference, as this author is mainly known as an observer, recorder and commentator on the subject, passing on, modifying a little at times, the ancient heritage that was already in form. Therefore he is not the originator of these models, as some have thought.
 Similarity, as compared to familiarity, are not the same when it comes to the concept of dignity. The root of the word ‘familiar’, is Latin ‘famulus’, or ‘servant’. The term ‘familiar’ thus also relates to that of the magicians, or witches, ‘familiar’, or ‘most intimate server’. Thus inferred is the concept of a sign and planet ‘serving’ each other, due to having familiarity, rather then similarity. To offer an analogy, if I am walking down the street, in need of borrowing some money for a coffee, I am more likely to receive support from those that I am ‘familiar’ with (not only by blood), then those that I am ‘similar’ to and will have an even more challenging time, finding the unconditional support from those alien to me. In other words, with those to which I am familiar, I may be said to ‘have dignity’ with and they may ‘serve’ me, as there is a resonance of knowing, or a certain ‘receptiveness’, which may allow for an ease of the exchange of things or vice versa.
 Plus also the subsequent ‘letter’, or ‘number’ systems, as extensions.
 i.e.; Mars is the traditional astrological lord of two signs, of the twelve in the zodiac, Aries and Scorpio. Thus it will hold ‘dignity’ wherever these signs may be posited in the birth chart; however it cannot hold any dignity with the first house, unless either of these two signs is present upon its cusp. The point is that a planet has a natural (‘essential’) lordship with a sign, not a house, and the house cusp may relate to a planet only via the sign it is dealing with. To reiterate in this essential context, as individual astrological components, it is signs, not the houses that have a natural, essential relationship to the planets, in this context. Certainly it is seen that other contexts, in particular that of ‘accidental’ dignity, which may further fortify a planet and this is a different and additional approach, as compared to that of essential dignity. Therefore a planet can never be the ‘natural ruler’ of any house, but only of the sign residing upon its cusp. Therefore, in relating the 12 signs as generally equivalent in meaning as the 12 houses, as has happened in modern astrology, the mistake then arises in thus declaring that a planet may be a ‘natural ruler’, of a house, due to the sign it is ‘naturally associated’ with. Therefore the point is, in this chosen example, that the planet Mars cannot be the so-called ‘natural’ lord of the first house, or any house, unless either of its own two domicile signs, of Aries or Scorpio, are present upon its cusp.
 This is a reference to the modern astrological ‘number/letter’ system, which is a further extension of this modern/sameness approach and apparently is to add to the ‘convenience’ of understanding this version of ‘natural’ rulership.
 That is Uranus 1781, Neptune 1846, Pluto 1930.
 Conversely and ironically, in attempting to ‘shove’ Uranus, Neptune and Pluto into this original harmony, seems as reflective of mythic Ouranous/Uranus stuffing his own new children into the belly of the ‘mother’, in this case the bedrock system of essential dignity and debility. It seems more suitable for these ‘gods of change’ to emerge from an entrapment within such a model.
 Just as with the likes of the universal laws of quantum phenomena that are underlying the physical world, it is also said that there are metaphysical universal laws that things may be governed by. Generally, by both of these camps, it is stated that it is the acknowledgement of universal law that may allow for any form of prediction, be it scientific or mystical. Thus the law of duality, when compromised or ignored in a metaphysical system (astrology), reflects an important lack in the larger awareness of the symbolism of the greater, more subtle, ‘nature of things’ and therefore the nature of the practice. Even modern meteorologists and other scientists, make this statement today, regarding the approach to their concrete understanding and thus weather-forecasting, as astrology, is said to be, by its own practitioners, ‘as much an art as it is a science’.
 c.1780’s - Raphael.
 Plus, it must also be noted that some prefer to subscribe Pluto, as lord, to Aries, the other Mars–ruled sign.
 Particularly through the general ‘modern’ period of astrology (18th-20th centuries), which appears to have become largely Theosophical in influence, especially in terms of the systems addressed by Western metaphysics, such as astrology.
 See previous footnote #6.
 In addition, the points of the Moons nodes are considered as exalted in the axis of Gemini/Sagittarius. Some consider this exaltation negligible, particularly as the nodes are not celestial bodies.
 In fact Saturn ‘rules’, or to be technical, is the domicile lord of Capricorn – many terms have been used to describe the relationship thus for instance, here Saturn would be said to have ‘rulership’, ‘dispose’, or be the ‘domicile lord’ of, or ‘have dignity’, of the Moon in the sign of Capricorn.
 As exaltation is the secondary major dignity, it must be observed that in the tradition of astrology, another body, point or house cusp in a chart may also have an ‘exalted lord’ (or ‘exalted ruler’) – for instance the sign that is the exaltation of the Moon is that of Taurus, thus anything in a horoscope dealing with the sign of Taurus, may also be dealing with the Moon as this signs other lord of strength.
 Domicile rulerships are listed on p.3 of these notes.
 Hopefully, as not to encourage confusions, but to be thorough with the information; reflective of the reference to domus/domicile/home, it is of interest to note that in ancient astrology, the domicile signs of the planets were also called their ‘houses’ – in turn, houses, as the divisions of the chart, have also been called ‘places’. Thus, for example, in this context Aries is the diurnal ‘house’ of Mars, in complement Scorpio is the nocturnal ‘house’ of Mars, Cancer is the ‘house’ of the Moon and so on. Thus, rather than the Sun being in its own sign of Leo, it would have been said that the Sun was ‘in the house of Leo’, or to be correct, ‘in the house of the Sun’, in this case its own sign. To give another example, Venus in Aries, would have been called ‘Venus in the day house of Mars’ (as Mars is the domicile lord of Aries – the sign of its ‘yang’, or diurnal face). This originates in antiquity and has nothing at all to do with the modern ‘natural house’/’natural ruler’ similarity system. As this reference, of a sign as a ‘house’ of a planet, does not concern any transfer of symbology, in terms of making the ‘natural’ order of the signs to colour the meanings of the divisions of the houses.
 That is, trine or sextile
 To explain the traditional concept of a planet having its ‘joy’: in the ancient heritage of astrology a planet was said to find ‘joy’ in one of the two signs that is the lord of. Excepting the Sun and Moon, as the archetypal ‘lights’, find a direct joy in their solo signs of domicile dignity (as does Mercury, in its own fashion). Being in a sign of joy is actually a further and ‘accidental’ form of dignity, adding to the power of the domicile. Joy is qualified, in this case of the signs, by the further enhancing of a planet due to a zodiacal sign’s diurnal or nocturnal references. For example Venus finds her joy in the domicile of Taurus, as this is a feminine (nocturnal) sign and of an even greater harmony to this essentially feminine planet, then its dual domicile of Libra, which is a ‘yang’ masculine sign in its essence and the more sanguine face of Venus. It must also be mentioned that in the ancient approach, a planet also finds its joy in a certain house, and there are two systems to this basic effect – this is another long forgotten category of accidental dignity which appears worthy of resurrection and observation, is an entirely separate model of joy, from the reference to the zodiac that is being dealt with here.
 (that is square and quincunx Capricorn, Sagittarius, Aries, and Libra respectively)
 The work of astrologer and scholar Robert Zoller must be called to mention here –the esoteric nature of exaltation is discussed in his work, The Arabic Parts in Astrology, The lost keys to prediction, pp. 62-29. This fine thinker explores the doctrine of sacred number and how it may philosophically and symbolically relate to the nature of astrological exaltation. Thus offered is a salient hypothesis as to the nature of this essential dignity.
 Robert Zoller, The Arabic Parts in Astrology, pp. 62-69.
 Ibid, p. 62.
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