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Astro*Dictionary by Michael Erlewine





1 article for "Dignities"

Dignities and Debilities [DeVore]

Conditions of placement wherein a planet's influence is strengthened, are termed Dignities; if weakened they are termed Debilities. These are of two varieties: Essential and Accidental.

A planet in a Sign in which it is strengthened, is in one of its Essential Dignities; in a House in which it is strengthened, in its Accidental Dignity.

The Essential Dignities are:
(1) when a planet is in a Sign of which it is the Ruler, when it is said to be in its own Sign, or in its Domal Dignity. It is ambiguous and confusing to call this its House-position. If the Sign which a planet rules is on the cusp of the House in which the planet is posited, the planet may be described as the Lord of the House: but the strength as such depends upon its Essential Dignity by virtue of its Sign placement. Some authorities deem that placement in any other Sign of the same element as that of which it is the Ruler confers a degree of Dignity;
(2) When it is posited in the Sign in which it is said to be Exalted, wherein its strength is augmented and its virtues magnified. A planet in its Exaltation is only slightly less favorably placed than when it is in its own Sign;
(3) By ancient precepts, the placement of a planet in the same Triplicity as that of which it is the Ruler, in the same Term, or in the same Face, were deemed to be Essential Dignities of varying degree.

Relative values were computed by points as follows: Sign 5; Mutual reception by house, 5; Exaltation 4; mutual reception by Exaltation 4; Triplicity 3; Term 2; Face 1.

In the opposite Sign to that which it rules, a planet is said to be in its Detriment; which is to say, in opposition to its most congenial environment, hence materially weakened.

In the opposite Sign to that in which it would be in its Exaltation, it is said to be in its Fall.

The scale of Essential Debilities arc: Detriment 5; Fall 4; Peregrine 5.

A planet in its Debility is generally to be interpreted as an indi- cation of weakness in that it increases the bad effects of malefic, and lessens the possibilities for good of a benefic.

Of the Accidental Dignities the strongest is placement in Angular Houses: firstly, the Tenth; then, in order, the First, Seventh and Fourth Houses. The Succedent Houses come next, with the Cadent Houses weakest.

Other Accidental Dignities, according to older authorities, are: favorable aspects to Fortune; freedom from combustion; favorable aspects from benefics; swift in motion and increasing in light; and in a House which corresponds to the Sign of its Essential Dignity — as the Sun in the Fifth House, corresponding to Leo; Moon in the Fourth House, corresponding to Cancer; Mercury in the Third or Sixth House, corresponding to Gemini and Virgo; and so on.

Modern authorities, however, usually confine the use of the term to House placement or Elevation. Accidental Dignities arc not necessarily benevolent. The increased strength may result harmfully if expressed through unfavorable aspects. The number of planets which are accidentally dignified is a character — index of importance.

A planet so placed as to gain strength by way of Essential or Accidental dignity, does not necessarily confer a benevolent disposition. For example, a significator that is exalted, angular, and not afflicted indicates a person of haughty arrogant nature, assuming more than is his due. Charles E. 0. Carter considers that a planet in its own sign benefits quantitatively, but not qualitatively; i.e., its strength is increased, but not necessarily rendered benefic.

Point values by which to judge the relative strength of the Accidental Dignities, as listed by Wilson, are:

Ascendant or Midheaven5
Not Combust5
Besieged by Jupiter and Venus6
Partile conj. with Jupiter and Venus5
Conj. Cor Leonis6
Conj. Spica5
4th, 7th or 11th House4
Direct motion4
Partile conj., North Node4
Partile trine, Jupiter and Venus4
Partile sextile, Jupiter and Venus3
2nd or 5th House2
9th House2
Swift of motion2
Increasing in light2
Saturn, oriental2
Jupiter, oriental2
Mars, oriental2
Moon, occidental2
Mercury, occidental2
Venus, occidental2
3rd House1
In the Term of Jupiter or Venus1


Point values of the Accidental Debilities are:

Besieged by Mars and Saturn6
Partile conj., Mars and Saturn5
Conj. Caput Algol6
12th House5
Under the Sunbeams4
6th or 8th House4
Partile conj., SOuth Node4
Partile opposition, Mars or Saturn4
Partile square, Mars or Saturn3
Decreasing in light2
Decreasing in motion, or slow2
Saturn occidental2
Jupiter occidental2
Moon oriental2
Mercury oriental2
Venus oriental2
In term of Mars or Saturn1


Certain Dignities specifically ascribed to Fortuna are:

Conj., Cor Leonis6
Asc. or Midheaven5
Partile conj., Jupiter or Venus5
Conj., Spica5
Not Combust5
In Taurus or Pisces5
Besieged by Jupiter and Venus6
In Cancer, Leo, Libra, or Sagittarius4
4th, 7th, or 11th House4
Part;le trine, Venus or Jupiter4
Partile conj., North Node4
In Gemini3
2nd or 5th House3
Partile sextile, Jupiter or Venus3
In Virgo2
9th House2
3rd House1
In Term of Venus or Jupiter1


The Debilities ascribed to Fortuna are:

Conj., Caput Algol6
Besieged by Mars and Saturn6
12th House5
In Scorpio, Capricorn, or Aquarius5
Partile conj., Mars or Saturn5
6th or 8th House4
Opposition, Mars or Jupiter4
Partile conj., South Node4
In Aries3
Partile square, Mars or Saturn3
Term of Mars or Saturn1


The totals of the Dignities in comparison to the totals of the Debilities affords a determination of the potential strength of the planet.

According to the strength each assumes in a nativity, will its power to activate become manifest:

Sun builds
Moon nourishes
Mercury communicates
Venus allures
Mars energizes
Jupiter expands
Saturn endures
Uranus perceives
Neptune dissolves
Pluto consolidates


A fixed star is in conjunction with a planet when not more distant than 5° of longitude and 2° of latitude.

Of Dignities Calvin in "Scientific Astrology" says: "A planet in its own Sign, unless retrograde or seriously afflicted by the malefics, is as one who is master of his own house and goods. In its Exaltation it is strong, but less so than were he his own master. In its Detriment it is weak, as one in his neighbor's house and not master thereof. In its Fall it is as one who is poverty-stricken and without power."

Of Mutual Reception he says: "When two planets are in each other's Signs, even though in evil aspect to one another, the effect is beneficial, as of people exchanging courteous social amenities."

As to Accidental Dignities, he says: "A planet is strong if it is in an angle of the Figure, swift in motion, direct, and overwhelmingly in good aspect with other planets."

As to retrograde motion he says: "It tends to bring out the introspective rather than the objective qualities of the native, and is generally synonymous with belated or denied benefits."

Another generalization based upon the Accidental Dignities of the Geocentric Figure stipulates that "When the Moon is higher than the Sun, the personality and sensibilities usually rule. With their positions reversed the character will dominate the career. If both are below the horizon, the life will be correspondingly unfortunate." James Wilson expressed doubt concerning the efficacy of some of the dignities, and cited the Ptolemy dictum that "Planets are strong in the world when they are oriental, swift in motion, direct, and increasing in light; and strong in the Nativity when angular or succedant, particularly in the south or cast angles."

The following Table shows the Essential Dignities and Debilities:


Abbreviations: AR (Aries), TA (Taurus), GE (Gemini), CA (Cancer), LE (Leo), VI (Virgo), LI (Libra), SC (Scorpio), SA (Sagittarius), CP (Capricorn), AQ (Aquarius), PI (Pisces), SU (Sun), MO (Moon), ME (Mercury), VE (Venus), MA (Mars), JU (Jupiter), SA (Saturn), UR (Uranus), NE (Neptune), PL (Pluto), NN (Moon's North Node), SN (Moon's South Node).]
* Modern and arbitrary assignments.
** Some authorities give Virgo as the Exaltation of Mercury — as well as the Sign of its rulership; hence also Pisces as the Sign of its Fall. Others five Virgo as the Exaltation of Mars, and Capricorn as the Exaltation of Jupiter. A planet that is unfavorably aspected is sometimes loosely characterize as debilitated; also any Sign dessimilar in its nature to the Sign it rules — as Saturn in Pisces. Properly speaking, a planet is said to be in its Dignity solely by virtue of position, in distinction to any strength conferred by a supporting aspect.


The same table arranged in the order of the Signs follows:



Some authorities limit the Exaltation and Fall to specific degrees:

ExaltationAR 19°TA03°VI15°PI27°CP28°CA15°LI21°GE03°SA03°


Wemyss attributes the rulership of Pisces to the asteroids; probably fragments of what once was or was intended to be a planet between the Earth and Mars. Thereby he explains the lack of a consciousness of Destiny which is an outstanding feature of the Pisces nature.

Most authorities attribute to an Essential Dignity the force of a harmonious aspect, and to a Debility that of an inharmonious aspect. Some authorities speak of congeniality of planet in clement as a species of Dignity; Moon and Neptune in the Water Signs; Sun and Mars in the Fire Signs; Mercury and Venus in the Air Signs; and Jupiter and Saturn in the Earth Signs. The basis on which these Exaltations were assigned is lost in antiquity. Certain correspondences are worthy of notice, as bearing on their selection. The Sun as giver of life, finds an important function in Aries, which rules the head@he scat of the mind. The changeable nature of the Moon is stabilized by the fixity of Taurus — the provider of the home. Venus finds its most ready servitor in the philanthropic Pisces. Mars is stabilized and harnessed in Saturn — ruled Capricorn. Saturn finds a noble outlet in Libra — the purveyor of justice. Jupiter in Cancer, representing the home, is there sublimated into devotion. This supposed dignity seems to have had its origin with the Arabians. Almansor, in his aphorisms, says "Saturn and the Sun have their exaltations opposite, because one loves darkness and the other light; Jupiter and Mars are opposite, because one is a lover of justice and the other of misrule; and Mercury and Venus have opposite places, because one loves learning and science, and the other sensual pleasures — which are mutual enemies to each other."

It can be noted that harmonious aspects join the signs of Rulership and Exaltation, as follows:

MarsScorpiosextilesCapricorn(or Virgo)
JupiterPiscestrinesCancer(or sextiles Capricorn)


As explained by Ptolemy in the Tetrabiblos, the Moon and the Sun were assigned to the Rulership of Cancer and Leo because "these are the most Northerly of all the Signs, and approach nearer than any others to the Zenith of this part of the Earth: the Moon to Cancer because both are feminine, and the Sun to Leo, because both are masculine." This resulted in the division of the zodiac into a Solar semi-circle from Leo forward to Capricorn, and a Lunar Semi-circle from Cancer backward to Aquarius. In order that each planet might rule a Sign in each semi-circle, whereby it could be configurated with both Sun and Moon, Mercury, which is never more than one Sign distant from the Sun, was assigned to the rulership of Gemini and Virgo; Venus, which is never more than two Signs distant, to Taurus and Libra; Mars, because it is dry in nature, was assigned to two Signs of a similar nature, Aries and Scorpio, whose square relation to the respective Signs of the luminaries was appropriately discordant; Jupiter, whose fruitful nature deserved a harmonious relationship in which to operate for good, was assigned to the two trine Signs Pisces and Sagittarius; leaving Saturn, a cold planet in an orbit remote from the harmonious, to be assigned to Cancer and Aquarius, and for the added reason that their "configuration by opposition does not cooperate towards the production of good." As the basis on which the Exaltations were assigned is equally arbitrary it is no wonder that Wilson scoffs at and refuses to accept the entire doctrine of Essential Dignities.

To render matters worse confounded some of the moderns have endeavored to upset the scheme by assigning to Uranus the rulership of Aquarius, and to Neptune the rulership of Pisces, and are now in a battle royal as to whether Pluto shall be assigned to Aries or Scorpio. Looked at from a scientist's viewpoint the entire Doctrine of Dignities appears to be a fortune-teller's device whereby to find at least some answer to a question concerning a House which contains no planets, and is thus unable to give positive testimony regarding a question asked. Wilson seemed to think that Placidus side-stepped the doctrine as one with which he could not agree, but regarding which he dared not disagree. Marc Edmund Jones says that few modern practitioners pay much attention to the Essential Dignities and Debilities. v. Ptolemaic Astrology.

To distinguish between these dual rulerships, the positive signs were called Day Houses, and the negative signs, the Night Houses — although since they are signs not houses, the terms Day Home and Night Home would be preferable.

Day HomePlanetNight Home


A person born by night, with the Sun below the horizon, looks to the Night Homes of the planets to be the stronger; if born with the Sun above the horizon, the Day Homes.

The moderns have thrown this into confusion in an effort to ascribe rulerships to the newly-discovered planets — Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Many authorities prefer however to consider these as second-octave planets: Uranus of Mercury, Neptune of Venus, and Pluto of Mars.

Other systems of rulership have been variously proposed. v. Rulership.

For further observations on the relative strength of the Dignities: v. Synthesis.

Triplicity, Rulers of.
Another variety of Dignity, used in Mundane and Horary practice, is that of a planet posited in its own Triplicity. The rulerships of the Triplicities are, however, not always the rulers of the three signs which make up the Triplicity. For example, of the Fire Trigon, Mars as an enemy of the Sun is dethroned, and the Sun is made the ruler by day, and Jupiter by night. This was the Northern Triplicity, since because Jupiter brought to the Egyptians fruitful showers from out of the North he was said to rule the North; also the Northwest, because the outlawed Mars now and then brought in the West wind; and Southwest, because Mars is feminine, and the South is feminine. of the Earth Trigon Venus was its ruler by day and the Moon by night. This was the Southern Trigon, because "under the petticoat government of Venus and the Moon," as Wilson puts it, "they contrived to exclude Saturn — for what reason we are not informed." It rules the South because Venus brings South winds, and Southeast because Saturn brings East winds. of the Air Trigon Saturn rules by day and Mercury by night. It was the Eastern Trigon because Saturn brings East winds and persuaded Mercury to cooperate; and Northeast because Jupiter claimed a share since both are diurnal planets, hence related. The Water Trigon was ruled by Mars with the co-rulership of Venus by day and the Moon by night. It was the Western Trigon because Mars liked the West winds for the reason that they scorched the Egyptians; and the Southwest because of the share of Venus in the trigon. Concerning all this Wilson adds: "Its absurdity requires no comment; and since the doctrine that countries and cities are governed by certain signs and planets is solely founded on this folly, it is undeserving of the smallest attention."

In Horary practice a planet in its Triplicity denotes a respectable person who has a sufficiency of everything, hence is quite comfortable.

See also:
♦ Rulership ♦ Synthesis ♦ Ptolemaic Astrology


Astro*Index Copyright © 1997 Michael Erlewine