Essential dignity

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Essential dignity, in astrology, 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."[1] 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 dignity indicates 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. Were Mars to also be 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 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 (see article on ruling planets.) This is most likely the result of the simplification of astrological technique that occurred when astrology lost popularity beginning in the eighteenth century (see History of astrology.)

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

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[edit]

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 Mars 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

Decanate dignities[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ This (Lilly 1999) 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.


  1. ^ Lilly (1999a), p. 101.
  2. ^ Lilly (1999a), p. 104.

Works cited[edit]

  • Lilly, William (1999a) [1647]. Houlding, D. (ed.). Christian Astrology, Book 1: An Introduction to Astrology; Book 2: The Resolution of All Manner of Questions. London: Ascella Publications.
  • Lilly, William (1999b) [1647]. Houlding, D. (ed.). Christian Astrology, Book 3: An Easie And Plaine Method Teaching How to Judge upon Nativities. London: Ascella Publications.

Further reading[edit]