On Essential Dignity: II

Greetings, and welcome back to Journeys! This month I present part two of my series on Essential Dignity, this month covering the more granular details.

Last month I wrote about the four major categories of dignity: rulership, detriment, exaltation and fall. These are mostly considered the major forms of essential dignity. Part of what separates them from other forms of essential dignity is that:

i) They are all resonant within a single sign of the zodiac – the Sun is the ruler of all of Leo, the Moon is exalted in all of Taurus, etc.
ii) They are way more obvious and recognizable, often far more powerful and far less subtle as a result of the above.
iii) Within the astrological community there is largely a consensus on what they are – most astrological practices use the same systems for them, and so there is agreement that Mars is in its fall in Cancer, etc. This is not the case with the forms of dignity discussed in this post, because multiple systems exist in each case.

This last point makes it difficult to discuss these forms of essential dignity because they are more complicated by the fact that multiple systems exist for each of them. Rather than dive into each and every iteration of these forms of dignity and explain why I have chosen the ones I have chosen (a 12,000+ word article in itself), I will instead just state which system I use and focus as before on the practical interpretation of these forms of dignity, leaving aside the question of why I use one set of dignities over another. Do further research into this topic, conduct your own experimentation, and decide for yourselves whether Ptolemy or Dorotheus (or whoever) gets it right (assuming any of them do). The interpretative guidance offered in this message should apply (at least in part) regardless of which way you decide to cut things. I will also start with what is generally considered the most powerful type of dignity and descend in power scale from there. Finally, at the end of this journey you will then find a few examples of the entire doctrine in practice.


Triplicity is the most recognizable form of dignity that we will discuss here because it is basically connected to the 4 Elements we are familiar with as either students of magic or astrology. However, the traditional approach to triplicity also includes the concept of sect, which refers to whether a person is born during the day (diurnal birth) or the night (nocturnal birth). There is no being born at twilight in the tradition – you are born either before the Sun crosses the degree and minutes of the ascendant/decendant boundary or you are born after or exactly during it, which counts as being born after.

Use of triplicity is in a state of decline. In the earlier Hellenistic period the concept of triplicity seems to have been used interchangeably with the concept of sign rulership, being regarded as equal in power to that primary form of dignity, while in the later medieval period it is seen as being just below exaltation in terms of power. In the modern era, its relevance is almost ignored except by more traditional astrologers.

Simply put, the four Elements and thus each of the three signs which belong to those Elements are assigned a primary, secondary and a participating or support ruler, so that each of the 4 Elements is associated with 3 planets. However, the assignment of the primary and secondary rulers by triplicity is different for a day chart than it is for a night chart.

Fire Signs (Aries, Leo, Sagittarius): The 3 rulers are Sun, Jupiter and Saturn. Saturn is always the participating or support ruler. The Sun is the primary ruler for a day chart and Jupiter for a night chart.
Air Signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius): The three rulers are Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn. Jupiter is always a participating or support ruler. Saturn is a primary ruler in a day chart and Mercury the primary ruler in a night chart.
Water Signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces): The Moon, Venus and Mars are the three rulers. The Moon is always the participating or support ruler. Venus is the primary ruler in a day chart and Mars in a night chart.
Earth Signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn): The three rulers are the Moon, Venus and Mars. Mars is always the participating or support ruler. Venus is the primary ruler in a day chart and the Moon in a night chart.

In this scheme, every planet except the Sun and Mercury (which get assigned only once) are assigned twice. This is the method used by Valens and Dorotheus, not Ptolemy, who dropped the participating rulers and assigned Mars as the only Water Element ruler in an attempt to assign each planet only once.

So, if you are born in the day with your Sun in any Fire sign, that Sun is in its primary triplicity, and if its also in Leo (zodiac sign rulership), its super sunny. Or, if you are born during the night with your Moon in any of the Earth signs, then the Moon is also in its primary triplicity, and if it also happens to be in Taurus (exalted) it will gain even more power. However, if the same Moon is instead in Capricorn (its detriment), its ability to leverage its dignity by being in its primary triplicity will be challenged by the qualities of the sign in it is. In this way, the Moon in its detriment in Capricorn at night is not as detrimental as other detriments where a planet lacks any triplicity, but conversely the Moon in Capricorn is not as dignified by triplicity as Moon in Virgo, and far less empowered by dignity than Moon in Taurus (an exalted Moon) Thus, magical rituals to Capricorn made via the Moon would never be performed during the day, because they would be ruined by forces detrimental to the Moon.

Thus, triplicity is a blend of Elemental and planetary essential meaning, it is a form of dignity that planets have in relation to certain Elements. In modern astrology a huge amount of this has fed into our thinking about why certain planets ‘feel’ better in some signs, for example, why we tend to agree that Moon in Pisces is ‘a match’ – it’s partly because the Moon participates and acts as supporting triplicity ruler for all Water signs. It isn’t just because the Moon and Pisces both govern dreams and astral things, it’s that they both connect to dreams and astral things through their shared resonance with the Water Element.

The two traditional troublemakers, Mars and Saturn, are assigned to triplicities which will counter or lessen their ability to cause trouble – cold, damp, dark, wet, Magnetic Elements (Water and Earth) to curb the excessive heat and dryness of Mars, and hot, bright, drying, enlivening, Electric Elements (Fire and Air) to stir the torpid, sluggish, blocking energies of Saturn. In a night chart Mars is less malefic because the sky is ‘colder’, while in a day chart Saturn is less malefic because the sky is ‘hotter’. Similarly, in a day chart Jupiter is the more powerful benefic (because its nature is more diurnal – come to prayers) while in a night chart Venus is more benefic because she is more nocturnal (come to bed).

The fact that triplicity is based on a planets Elemental affinity, the Elements that lend it constructive support, means that this form of dignity has a tribal quality to it, the four Elements and their 3 signs being the tribes in question. To understand this form of dignity is very easy – simply imagine yourself at a competitive sporting event on the side of the winning team. The crowd is excited and energised and happy and you feel a part of that. Now imagine yourself suddenly and awkwardly teleported to the opposing side of the stadium, in the middle of the losing teams supporters. You have been stripped of your essential dignity by triplicity and so can no longer express yourself with all that support. You do not feel the tribe giving you that sense of security, and you may even learn to hide what you want to express.

This community spirit is therefore akin to a planet in the 11th temple, but the temples are about experiences and manifestation, while dignity is about something we carry within us, possibly as a result of experiences and manifestation. Triplicity is also more Elemental in nature, something that also distinguishes it from the 11th temple. This ‘tribal’ expression can, like the 11th (or the 3rd or 7th) manifest in a collective body of people which we draw our support from (an actual clan, a fan club) which helps explain why, for example, a Sun in Leo manages to draw a crowd, or why Venus in Virgo can easily get people working together happily.

Examples: Vincent van Gogh (diurnal Sun in Aries), k.d. lang (nocturnal Moon in Virgo), Stephen King (nocturnal Mercury in Libra), M. C. Escher (diurnal Venus in Cancer), Tom Jones (nocturnal Mars in Cancer), JP Morgan (nocturnal Jupiter in Leo), Christopher Lee (diurnal Saturn in Libra).


While there are multiple systems for assigning them, the decans or faces all follow a simple rule: each 10° of a sign is assigned a different planetary ruler (or a sign with a ruler), called the ruler of that decan. Thus, each sign will have 3 decans, resulting in a total of 36 decans, 9 for each of the 4 Elements.

I actually use 2 systems for this, one called the descending or Ptolemaic order (which I use for magical work) and another called the triplicity or Parasara order (which I use for natal chart interpretation and other non-magical uses of astrology).

In the Ptolemaic or descending order, we care about how fast the planets move, slowest first:

Saturn (slowest), Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moon, (back to Saturn).

Starting with Mars for the first 10° of Aries, this order is followed for every 10 degree section of the zodiac. So, the first 30° of the zodiac (or Aries) has Mars/Sun/Venus as its decanic rulers. The zodiac both begins (Aries 0-10) and ends (Pisces 20-30) with decanates of Mars, who gets given 6 decans in total, with the remaining planets gaining 5 each. This decanic system also informed the development of planetary days and planetary hours used in western magic as well as following the placement of the planets on the Hebrew Tree of Life, which is why it is more resonant with magic.

The full decanate pattern is then:

Aries: Mars/Sun/Venus
Taurus: Mercury/Moon/Saturn
Gemini: Jupiter/Mars/Sun
Cancer: Venus/Mercury/Moon
Leo: Saturn/Jupiter/Mars
Virgo: Sun/Venus/Mercury
Libra: Moon/Saturn/Jupiter
Scorpio: Mars/Sun/Venus
Sagittarius: Mercury/Moon/Saturn
Capricorn: Jupiter/Mars/Sun
Aquarius: Venus/Mercury/Moon
: Saturn/Jupiter/Mars

In the Parasara or triplicity method the first 10° of a sign are given over to that signs ruler. So the first decan of Virgo belongs to Mercury. The decans then follow the order of the signs for that triplicity, so in this case the Earth signs (Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn), so that the next 10° of Virgo belong to Saturn (ruler of Capricorn) and the last 10° then belong to Venus (ruler of Taurus). Thus, this method is more Elemental and zodiacal in nature, which is why I use it for natal charts. It is also much easier to work out in your head. Every planet gets 6 decans except the Lights which get 3 (since they only have 1 sign to rule rather than 2). The full decan pattern for this scheme is therefore:

Aries: Mars/Sun/Jupiter
Taurus: Venus/Mercury/Saturn
Gemini: Mercury/Venus/Saturn
Cancer: Moon/Mars/Jupiter
Leo: Sun/Jupiter/Mars
Virgo: Mercury/Saturn/Venus
Libra: Venus/Saturn/Mercury
Scorpio: Mars/Jupiter/Moon
Sagittarius: Jupiter/Mars/Sun
Capricorn: Saturn/Venus/Mercury
Aquarius: Saturn/Mercury/Venus
Pisces: Jupiter/Moon/Mars

As a point of interest, these two systems agree on the following 9 attributions:

Aries 0-10 (Mars), 10-20 (Sun)
Taurus 20-30 (Saturn)
Leo 10-20 (Jupiter), 20-30 (Mars)
Libra 10-20 (Saturn)
Scorpio 0-10 (Mars)
Aquarius 10-20 (Mercury)
Pisces 20-30 (Mars)

With decans we are lucky as we have slightly more historical evidence of their use and development, and this really helps us to interpret them. Some of the earliest references to them in Egypt link them to their calendar, which was generated from 36 fixed stars. Unfortunately, over many thousands of years of use these stars drifted through precession and so we end up with several decan systems, often being used simultaneously. These 36 stars delineated 36 ten day periods in the year, with 5 days existing ‘outside of time’ in which festivals for the major deities took place (effectively, these 5 days were their new year when time reset itself for a new cycle). Each of these 10 day periods were given over to a specific deity and certain activities, festivals and annual tasks, making the entire calendar a ritual cycle built around the decans and an ongoing cultural phenomena. Tokens and emblems of these deities would be crafted on these days and worn or left as offerings in temples and at the feet of statues, special foods would be cooked, specific types of seasonal or civil labour would take place, songs would be sung, stories told, and so on. It delineated how things were done in that time as well as a face of creation or divinity that needed to be honoured by having its methods and tools applied to daily life.

After the decline of Egypt the use of decans to describe an appearance or shape to things overshadowed these more spiritual connections to deities, so that the astrological use of decans settled into describing their effects upon the features of the body, but magical schools continued this tradition of perceiving the decans as a spirit of a time and place in the zodiac and so many medieval grimoires (such as the Picatrix) contain descriptions of what the spirits or daemons of a decan look like for this reason. The term ‘face’ literally represents the face that a specific intelligence of the zodiac takes in order to interact with human awareness while also representing the face that we must present to it in order to command its favour or attention.

This is why the decans are often given symbolic forms like those of the Sabian symbols for individual degrees, but (unlike the Elemental spirits of the Earth Zone that control individual degrees of the zodiac) decanic intelligences are the more direct offspring of planetary and zodiacal beings that have much greater and broader powers. In fact it is more accurate to call these beings one part of tripartite entities, each face being part of a larger tripartite being (the 3 decans in a sign), which is itself one of the facets, avatars or manifestations of an even greater tripartite entity (the 3 signs which share the same Element). Thus, the Water Element sign of Scorpio has a face that is like Mars, a face that is like the Sun, and a face that is like Venus in the descending order, and a face that is like Mars, a face that is like Jupiter and a face that is like the Moon in the triplicity order. At the same time, Scorpio is part of a unit that includes Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces, and this larger unit is being repeated (exactly like a fractal) within the internal structure of each of these signs. The triplicity/parasara scheme takes this principle to heart, but it is still a quality of every decanic system. The magic of division/multiplication by 3 and triple awareness are key instructions that these intelligences embody, each face being an emblem or totem for a deity with three faces or forms empowered to represent it.

The 36 decans also form a working bridge between astrology and the tarot. Taking the minor arcana cards and removing all of the so called ‘court’ cards (the Kings, Queens, Knights and Pages) as well as the 4 Aces (which represent the archetypal 4 Elements) leaves you with 36 cards, 4 suits (Wands or Fire signs, Swords or Air signs, Cups or Water signs, Pentacles or Earth signs), each suit being numbered from 2-10. The first three cards in each suit (numbered 2, 3 and 4) are given to the Active or Cardinal signs, the next three cards (numbered 5, 6 and 7) are given to the Stable or Fixed signs and the final three (numbered 8, 9 and 10) are given to the Reactive or Mutable signs. Thus, the 2, 3 and 4 (Cardinal signs) of Wands (Fire signs) is analogous to Aries, and so the 2 of Wands is the first 10° of Aries, the 3 of Wands is the middle 10°, and the 4 of Wands is the final 10° of Aries. The symbolic and visual qualities traditionally associated with the spirits of the 36 decans were used as inspiration when the Rider-Waite tarot was illustrated by Pamela Colman Smith under the instruction of A.E Waite. In this way these 36 cards in the tarot can be used to time things in the course of a year (to within 10 days) as well as serve as astral doorways for meditation upon the decanic Intelligences. You can also fold them into astrology and interprete the planets in your natal chart (and their aspects) in light of the minor arcana cards they are analogous to (or vice versa, apply you astrological knowledge of a decans characteristics to a tarot reading).

So a planet in its own face or decan is a representative form of dignity like a planetary emblem, banner, flag or token that we are bearing that identifies us as seeking the favour of a certain deity, and once we show that we are worthy of wearing this emblem its power will be activated. The essence of a decan is in the appearance that must be made (a ‘face’ that you have to pull off) but there is a deeper level that relates to the spirit things must be done in. Unlike other forms of dignity which are conferred upon us by collective will, dignity by decan has no innate power – instead it arises from the way our own efforts and specific actions can elevate us in terms of the respect others then confer upon us. It is bound up in how much we measure up to the emblem we are carrying, how well we fulfill the needs of that totem. This is why decanic talismans are extremely powerful ones in terms of character transformation, because by crafting a decanic talisman we are signaling that the bearer is making themselves ready to live up to what it represents. Living with a chart that has a planet in its own decan is no different. Therefore, having many planets in their own decan is a sign of a life that has taken on many quests, perhaps more than it can fulfill. While the failure to live up to what a planet in its own decan calls for does not come with any form of punishment, it leaves us feeling somewhat empty and unfulfilled, for we sense that we are not living up to our full potential.

Triplicity or Parasara Examples: Amelia Earhart (Sun in 1st decan Leo), Leonardo da Vinci (Moon in 2nd decan Pisces), Evel Knievel (Mercury in 3rd decan Libra), Neil Armstrong (Mercury in 1st decan Virgo), Frank Sinatra (Venus in 2nd decan Capricorn),Christopher Reeve (Mars in 2nd decan Sagittarius), T.S. Eliot (Jupiter in 1st decan Sagittarius), Jimmy Hoffa (Saturn in 3rd decan Taurus).


The smallest form of essential dignity (when measured according to how much space in the zodiac each unit occupies) is called bounds or terms and as before there are multiple methods for setting them out. Here I will be using the Egyptian terms, considered the oldest. However in all of the systems there is an overall idea – discounting the Lights, the 5 remaining planets then get a portion of each of the 12 signs (resulting in 60 sections) but they follow no overall pattern and these portions are not divided equally, they vary in size, and we have lost the rationale for why this is the case.

Aries: 0-7° (Jupiter), 7-13° (Venus), 13-21° (Mercury), 21-26° (Mars), 26-30° (Saturn)
Taurus: 0-9° (Venus), 9-15° (Mercury), 15-23° (Jupiter), 23-28° (Saturn), 28-30° (Mars)
Gemini: 0-7° (Mercury), 7-13° (Jupiter), 13-18° (Venus), 18-25° (Mars), 25-30° (Saturn)
Cancer: 0-8° (Mars), 8-14° (Venus), 14-20° (Mercury), 20-27° (Jupiter), 27°-30° (Saturn)
Leo: 0-7° (Jupiter), 7-12° (Venus), 12-19° (Saturn), 19-25° (Mercury), 25-30° (Mars)
Virgo: 0-8° (Mercury), 8-18° (Venus), 18-22° (Jupiter), 22-29° (Mars), 29-30° (Saturn)
Libra: 0-7° (Saturn), 7-15° (Mercury), 15-22° (Jupiter), 22-29° (Venus), 29-30° (Mars)
Scorpio: 0-8° (Mars), 8-12° (Venus), 12-20° (Mercury), 20-25° (Jupiter), 25-30° (Saturn)
Sagittarius: 0-13° (Jupiter), 13-18° (Venus), 18-22° (Mercury), 22-27° (Saturn), 27-30° (Mars)
Capricorn: 0-8° (Mercury), 8-15° (Jupiter), 15-23° (Venus), 23-27° (Saturn), 27-30° (Mars)
Aquarius: 0-8° (Mercury), 8-14° (Venus), 14-21° (Jupiter), 21-26° (Mars), 26-30° (Saturn)
Pisces: 0-13° (Venus), 13-17° (Jupiter), 17-20° (Mercury), 20-29° (Mars), 29-30° (Saturn)

There is something of a pattern to this arrangement – every sign ends with one of the traditional malefic planets, Mars or Saturn, and many of the signs (Taurus, Gemini, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius and Pisces) begin either with their ruler or the planet which is exalted in that sign. One other pattern is significant but unfortunately does not help us to understand much: the ancient astrologers presumed each planet to have three sets of time, a short period, a greater period and a greatest period:

Sun: 19/120/1460
Moon: 25/108/320
Mercury: 20/76/450
Venus: 8/82/151
Mars: 15/66/264
Jupiter: 12/79/428
Saturn: 30/57/465

We can see here that the short period for Jupiter and Saturn is aligned with the amount of time it takes for them to orbit the Sun and thus the zodiac, but the other shorter periods are mysterious, as are all of the great and greater periods. We also don’t know if these are days, months, years or some other unit of measurement. However this idea seems to be definitely connected to the terms/bounds, because if you add up the total number of degrees that each of the planets in the scheme of the bounds/terms has, this total equals the planets greater period: Saturn has 57°, Jupiter 79°, Mars 66°,Venus 82° and Mercury 76°. Unfortunately since we don’t know how these numbers were arrived at or what they were used for, it doesn’t help us figure out much about the terms/bounds.

The most reasonable guess is that the term/bounds are a relic from some older system which we have lost and the suggestion is that this was a system used to determine the length of a person’s life or the qualities of certain life periods. This would also explain why this form of essential dignity is called ‘terms’ (a measurement of time), or ‘bounds/confines’ (the length of a life) and why each sign ends with a malefic. In later centuries we also see terms/bounds for the ascendant being used to identify facial features and our appearance, which may indicate that in the older tradition the terms/bounds of the ascendant sign were important in determining the length of life, but all of this is just supposition and guesswork.

All of this leaves us at somewhat of a dead end in terms of what to do with terms, but in my ow experience I have come to see them as an important component of the essential dignity doctrine, and I have found the Egyptian terms (which are probably Babylonian in origin) to be the most functional and expressive. In an interpretive sense if we think of a sign as being the mansion or land of a particular planet (the ruler of that sign), and the decans as regions or floors within that territory, then terms or bounds are like rooms, occupants and features of the terrain. For example, the very beginning of Aries is an exceptionally hot and Electric territory because it is:

1) The land of Mars (its Electric or diurnal sign) and
2) The most personal terrain of Mars within that land (its decan/face, in both major systems)

However, from Aries 0°-7° there are features that stem from (Mars/Mars) Jupiter (a pushing force that brings abundance, energy, exhilaration, freshness, fast growth), after which things become (Mars/Mars) Venus like (still full of ‘pushing force’ but now flowery, perfumed, sensual, colourful), until the 10th degree of Aries when the decan changes to the Sun, changing the Mars/Mars/Venus territory to Mars/Sun/Venus instead, which is where the colourful and creative spirit of Aries really begins to show itself.

Yes, I just described the impulse that governs the first 10 days of spring, when the Sun is in the first 10 degrees of Aries. In this way the triple scheme of rulers/decans/terms can delineate a model around which yearly life activities can be structured as the Sun moves through the zodiac. The first 7-8 days of Aries every year bring that Mars/Mars/Jupiter zone into play for everyone, while the next 3 days or so switch to Mars/Mars/Venus, and so on. We are part of nature, for we are one of its children.

Terms are basically what it says on the tin – the terms of the contract, the bounds within which something must operate. It is also a form of confinement into a shape, which is why the Lights have no bounds, they are radiant and cannot be contained in a box. Terms delineate how things get done in that sign and decan and they can help a planet in its fall or detriment, showing the way out of those situations. Key concepts to think of here are toolboxes and tools, practices, instruments, boundaries, confines, shapes, passwords and instructions. A planet in its own bounds is well equipped and knows the boundary of the area in which it operates best. It knows what it needs to do and how to do it comes as second nature. A planet in the bounds of another planet must find ways to incorporate that planets essential meaning into its practices and skill set.

Examples: Neil Armstrong (Mercury in its own sign, exaltation, decan and terms in Virgo), Freddie Mercury (Mercury in its own sign, exaltation, decan and terms in Virgo), Oprah Winfrey (Venus in its own face and terms in Aquarius), John Travolta (Venus in its triplicity, exaltation and terms in Pisces), Donald Trump (Mars in its own face and terms in Leo), Barack Obama (Mars in its own terms in Virgo), Abdullah II of Jordan (Jupiter in its own terms in Aquarius), Frida Kahlo (Jupiter in its exaltation and terms in Cancer), Queen Victoria (Jupiter in its own terms in Aquarius), Sigmund Freud (Saturn in its own triplicity and terms in Gemini), Martin Luther King (Saturn in its triplicity and terms in Sagittarius), Barack Obama (Saturn in its own sign and terms in Capricorn).


Like much of astrology, the doctrine of essential dignity is an elegant design that is simplistic and straightforward on the surface but which contains many complexities, subtleties and a rich tapestry of symbolic meaning. It can be easy to grow extremely confused in the beginning, but with practice the rewards of including essential dignity in your astrological toolbox are immense.

One of the ways it can help you in the beginning is by drawing your attention to certain areas of the chart. If you see a planet with strong dignity and powerful aspects it will be a very prominent feature in that person’s life and character, and the same goes for a planet with very challenging dignity and troubling aspects, because that planet will show one of the major things that they are confronted with in this life. This is especially true if that planet is also angular.

So it can help you to quickly zone in on something that the person will clearly recognise and be able to understand. Using essential dignity in this way you usually pay attention to the rulerships, exaltations, detriments and fall of the planets described in the first post last month, and this way of using the doctrine is relatively unproblematic. You might run into problems trying to interpret what an exalted planet which is at the receiving end of a large number of squares and oppositions signifies, or conversely what a planet in detriment that is at the receiving end of lots of helpful trines and sextiles is all about, but experience and practice will eventually teach you what these things mean. In some cases, for example, an exalted planet in trouble at the level of its aspects with other planets could signify that the other planets are putting all kinds of excessive demands on that planets position, the person kind of leaning into it so heavily that it becomes stressed-out very quickly. Or, in the case of the debilitated planet in its detriment that has many strong supportive and helpful aspects, it could be that they get all kinds of support in behaving badly (trines are not always good things). Other possibilities exist and you will discover how things work along the way.

Many professional astrologers go further and assess every planets dignity overall, using the entire doctrine or some variation of it. Often this is done to assess planetary strengths and weaknesses as an additional layer to interpretation added to the sign, house and aspects. This is where it can get very complicated, especially from an interpretative standpoint. These articles set out my approach to interpreting the different layers of essential dignity, but your mileage may vary, and other astrologers certainly do.

However, there is not only an interpretive approach for you to decide upon, there is also the complication of reception and mutual reception described last month to take into account here. A planet in the bounds (or face, or sign) of Mars or Saturn and/or one that is in the bounds of a planet involved in lots of trouble in dignity or aspects will have problems, while one in the bounds, sign or face of Venus or Jupiter and/or an untroubled planet will experience the opposite. An exalted Venus in Pisces will make all of the planets in the signs, decans and bounds of Venus better off, and a Mars in its detriment in Libra will create more (indecisive) trouble for all planets in the faces, decans or the two signs of Mars. Reception adds a much deeper layer of complexity to the doctrine, and is where the greatest levels of confusion can arise.

The best approach is perhaps to take it slowly, adding one layer at a time to your understanding of the doctrine, and maybe focusing on the study of one particular planet, and additionally to look at as many charts as you can. To close off these articles I will now present a few that I find interesting and instructive.

Neil Armstrong and Freddie Mercury are interesting cases that highlight Mercury. They both have Moon in Sagittarius (adventurous souls, discoverers, explorers, pioneers) and Mercury in its own sign, exaltation, decan and terms in Virgo. With Mercury in its own sign and exaltation both are widely celebrated and respected for their Mercurial qualities (travel and scientific discovery in the case of Neil, vocal and dance performances for Freddie), and with Mercury in its own decan they wear it as an emblem or token of something that they aspire to and seek to embody, even worship (think of the flag on Armstongs suit and the American eagle, and the fact that Freddie was born as Farrokh Bulsara), while Mercury in its own terms/bounds equips them with all the tools, know-how and the skill set they need to practically apply all of that Mercury goodness (a rocket and Houston, a microphone and a global audience, etc). However, in Neil Armstrong’s case that Mercury is conjunct Neptune, relating it to cosmology and even with spiritual matters, while for Freddie it is conjunct the ascendant, going into his voice, his singing, his jerky movements and even his name.

Vincent van Gogh has the Sun in Aries and Venus in Pisces (widely conjunct), thus both in their exaltation, and both are also in triplicity. He also has Mars closely conjunct that Venus and is well known for both the anger fueled frustration and the pure energy and drive which compelled him to paint something exalted he perceived in nature and colour. His Mars in Pisces, the dispositor of his Aries Sun, finds itself in its own decan, showing that he wants to appease it, to create banners (paintings) displaying it, to exhaust himself showing his dedication to and adoration of Mars/Venus, and Mars is also in its own terms, giving him both the Mars tools he needs to work with and setting a boundary that involves a combat like arena for him to work in. This is aggravated by squares to a Moon/Jupiter conjunction in late Sagittarius, unsettling his mind. In this case, Jupiter in its rulership greatly expanded and enlarged this issue and the resulting breakdowns, but his Mercury in late Aries (in the decan of Venus and the terms of Saturn) sometimes helped to calm things down with its trines to Moon and Jupiter (medication).

Adolf Hitler also had Venus conjunct Mars, but in Taurus. Venus is not only in her own sign but also in triplicity (powerful tribal support) while also being in the decan of the Moon and the bounds of Jupiter. However, the Moon is in its detriment in Capricorn and Jupiter is conjunct that Moon in Capricorn in its fall, so the decan and terms that Venus is in are troubled. There is too much Earth making her heavy and stubborn and the trines she has with Moon and Jupiter are helpful but not enough because they are both so disempowered. She looks to her conjunction with Mars (whom she disposits) to get her out of horrible emotional quagmires and ruts, but he is far from home (in detriment) and lacks support. He like Venus is in the terms of a fallen Jupiter, squeezing his resources, and in the decan of a Moon in detriment, so he also needs to compensate for his disempowerment and he finds it through a mutual reception via exaltation with the Moon, whom he is also in trine with (he is in Taurus, the exaltation of the Moon, and Moon is in Capricorn, the exaltation of Mars). It’s not much, but his Moon and Mars team up in an effort to uplift one another as a way to satisfy that power and adoration hungry Venus, and we all know how that turned out.

Nikola Tesla was born with Mercury in Gemini (its Electric sign) and in its own triplicity. It was also in a mutual reception by decan with the Sun in Cancer, which is in conjunction with an exalted Venus in Cancer. Tesla was a gentle and polite soul who loved the pigeons of New York, with whom he felt a close kinship. He fed them and cared for them, and even felt so close to one bird in particular that he described their innocent relationship in familial and even romantic terms. His Sun in Cancer is also in a mutual reception by exaltation with Jupiter in Aries, so that both the Sun and Jupiter show each other a spirit that elevates them, adding a nobility to his character.

I hope this journey through the doctrine of essential dignity has been fun and educational, although it may seem confusing at first it becomes easier with practice and adds a great deal to astrology. Take a look at your own chart and check each planets position according to its essential dignity, and see what you can learn!

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