Essential Dignities

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Wheel of Essential Dignities[1]

In Traditional Astrology planets have essential dignity if they are in the sign of their Rulership or Domicile, the sign of their Exaltation, Triplicity, Term, or Face or in specific degrees of other signs where they function well.

A dignified planet is stronger than one lacking in essential dignity.

Essential dignity refers to the relative strength or weakness of a planet or point's zodiac position by sign and degree, or its essence - what the 17th-century astrologer William Lilly called "the strength, fortitude or debility of the Planets [or] significators." In other words, essential dignity seeks to view the strengths of a planet or point as though it were isolated from other factors in the sky of the Natal Chart.

By comparison, Accidental Dignities indicate how much strength a planet or point derives from its position in a natal chart, such as its relation to the other factors in the chart: for example, its proximity to other planets, or to the four Angles of the chart, or to stars, as well as the Aspects (or symmetrical angular connections) it forms with other planets or points in the chart.

For example, the essential dignity of Mars, if located at 27 degrees of Capricorn would take into account the fact that Mars is exalted in Capricorn, and also that it is the "bounds" ruler of the 27th degree of Capricorn and also the face ruler of the 27th degree of Capricorn. This is a considerably dignified Mars.

If that Mars were located in the twelfth house of a natal chart, Mars's accidental dignity would be poor, since it would be located in a weak or malevolent Cadent House. If Mars was also squared to a malevolent planet, such as Saturn, and would be receiving a dexter Square Aspect from malefic Saturn, ruler of Capricorn, this would further hinder Mars's strength and ability to operate benevolently. These accidental dignity factors would tend to weaken a Mars which is otherwise strong in essential dignity.

Traditionally the five essential dignities are:

For post-Classical astrologers, such as Guido Bonatti or Lilly, the dignities had a hierarchy. The most important dignity was domicile rulership; slightly less important was exaltation. Triplicity rulerships were still fairly important in medieval astrology, but nowhere near as vital as they were for Hellenistic astrologers such as Ptolemy. Terms or bounds rulerships became very much diminished in importance, and face rulers were almost entirely ignored. Lilly said that the only function face rulers served was to keep a planet from being entirely peregrine; that is, without any essential dignity whatever — which was considered a malefic condition.

However, Hellenistic astrologers had a very different view of the dignities. To earlier astrologers, such as Ptolemy and Vettius Valens, domicile rulership, exaltation, triplicity rulership and bounds rulership were all of equal strength in influence.

Many modern astrologers take little heed of essential dignities, with the exception of domicile rulerships. This is most likely the result of the simplification of astrological technique that occurred when astrology lost popularity beginning in the eighteenth century.

Table of the most commonly used of the traditional essential dignities[2]

Sign Domicile Detriment Exaltation Fall
Aries Mars Venus Sun Saturn
Taurus Venus Mars Moon None
Gemini Mercury Jupiter None None
Cancer Moon Saturn Jupiter Mars
Leo Sun Saturn None None
Virgo Mercury Jupiter Mercury Venus
Libra Venus Mars Saturn Sun
Scorpio Mars Venus None Moon
Sagittarius Jupiter Mercury None None
Capricorn Saturn Moon Mars Jupiter
Aquarius Saturn Sun None None
Pisces Jupiter Mercury Venus Mercury

Modern dignities

Many modern astrologers, eschewing the use of the other essential dignities, use the three outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto as the modern rulers of Aquarius, Pisces and Scorpio, respectively. The practice derives from the similarity between the nature of the planets with the nature of these signs. This as illustrated by the differences in the two "decans" tables above. It has also included more recently the dwarf planets Ceres and Eris relating them to Virgo and Libra, the same as the signs Scorpio, Aquarius and Pisces.

Sign Affinent Ruler Detriment Exaltation Fall
Aries Mars Eris Sun Saturn
Taurus Venus Pluto Moon Uranus
Gemini Mercury Jupiter Eris Ceres
Cancer Moon Saturn Jupiter Mars
Leo Sun Uranus Neptune Pluto
Virgo Ceres Neptune Mercury Venus
Libra Eris Mars Saturn Sun
Scorpio' Pluto Venus Uranus Moon
Sagittarius' Jupiter Mercury Ceres Eris
Capricorn Saturn Moon Mars Jupiter
Aquarius Uranus Sun Pluto Neptune
Pisces Neptune Ceres Venus Mercury

Most Important Essential Dignities and Debilities[3]

Planet Domicile/
Detriment Exaltation Fall
Sun A39_209.gif Leo A32_137.gif Aquarius A49_249.gif Aries A47_252.gif Libra A48_246.gif
Moon A35_150.gif Cancer A30_130.gif Capricorn A45_214.gif Taurus A46_218.gif Scorpio A44_205.gif
Mercury A34_146.gif Gemini A42_262.gif Sagittarius A43_197.gif    
  Virgo A27_109.gif Pisces A24_071.gif    
Venus A25_087.gif Taurus A46_218.gif Scorpio A44_205.gif Pisces A24_071.gif Virgo A27_109.gif
  Libra A48_246.gif Aries A47_252.gif    
Mars A33_140.gif Aries A47_252.gif Libra A48_246.gif Capricorn A45_214.gif Cancer A30_130.gif
  (Scorpio A44_205.gif) (Taurus A46_218.gif)    
Jupiter A29_112.gif Sagittarius A43_197.gif Gemini A42_262.gif Cancer A30_130.gif Capricorn A45_214.gif
  (Pisces A24_071.gif) (Virgo A27_109.gif)    
Saturn A26_087.gif Capricorn A45_214.gif Cancer A30_130.gif Libra A48_246.gif Aries A47_252.gif
  (Aquarius A49_249.gif) (Leo A32_137.gif)    
Uranus A40_238.gif Aquarius A49_249.gif Leo A32_137.gif Scorpio A44_205.gif Taurus A46_218.gif
Neptune A38_160.gif Pisces A24_071.gif Virgo A27_109.gif Cancer A30_130.gif Capricorn A45_214.gif
Pluto a13_174_pluto4.gif Scorpio A44_205.gif Taurus A46_218.gif Leo A32_137.gif Aquarius A49_249.gif

See also

Dignities and Debilities of the Planets



  • Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, complete. online (sacred texts; translated by J. Ashmand, 1822)
  • Vettius Valens. Anthology. Book III. (translated by Robert Schmidt and edited by Robert Hand, Project Hindsight, Greek Track, Vol. VIII (Golden Hind Press, Berkeley Springs, WV, 1994)
  • Late Classical Astrology: Paulus Alexandrinus and Olympiodorus (with the Scholia of later Latin Commentators). (Translated by Dorian Gieseler Greenbaum. Archive for the Retrieval of Historical Astrological Texts (ARHAT), 2001
  • William Lilly, Christian Astrology, Book 1: An Introduction to Astrology; Book 2: The Resolution of All Manner of Questions, 1647. 2nd ed., 1659. Re-published by Astrology Classics (Bel Air, Maryland), 2004; by Ascella Publications, ed. Deborah Houlding, London, 1999; and [in facsimile of 1647 edition] by Regulus Press, London, 1985
  • William Lilly, Christian Astrology, Book 3: An Easie And Plaine Method Teaching How to Judge upon Nativities, 1647. 2nd ed., 1659. Re-published by Astrology Classics (Bel Air, Maryland), 2004; by Ascella Publications, ed. Houlding, London, 2000; and [in facsimile of 1647 edition] by Regulus Press, London, 1985
  • Hand, Robert. Horoscope Symbols. Schiffer Publishing (Easton, PA., 1987), ISBN 0-914918-16-8
  • Crane, Joseph. Astrological Roots: The Hellenistic Legacy. (Wessex Astrologer, Ltd., 2007.) ISBN 1-902405-24-2
  • Marion D. March and Joan McEvers, The Only Way to Learn Astrology, 6 volumes (ACS Publications, San Diego, 1982) ISBN 978-1934976067

Notes and References

  1. Mechanism designed by Claude Dariot (1558)
  2. This table of Lilly is perhaps the source referred to most commonly, but the same table will be found in Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos, Valens' Anthologiae, Guido Bonatti's Liber Astronomiae, and a great many other major textbooks and sources
  3. The signs in brackets are those that have been used before the discovery of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto (which is in accordance to the Thema mundi). Nowadays these dignities still get used in Horary Astrology and in Electional Astrology, where the three Trans-Saturnians usually are not considered. See also Wikipedia: Thema Mundi