A Different Definition and Praxis of Magic

Posted: August 29th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Buddhism | No Comments »

Strange thoughts come to you at 1 in the morning when your sleep schedule is wonked, but let’s see what comes out of this rambling jangling bundle of ideas I have going through my head.

I have this weird ability where I dream of the future that started back when I was in high school. I would dream of some mundane scene and forget about it. When I encountered the scene in my life, I would be struck with a heavy sense of deja vu. Within a day of that sensation, something important would happen. The last time this happened was during my recent meditation retreat. That day I had a big personal breakthrough in insight.

When I had my big break with magic a few years ago and turned to Theravada, I deliberately stopped practicing divination as well. As you can see by these posts, I’ve started to dip my toes back in. One reason is because even after making a clean break I still kept having dream portents that were coming true.

The Buddha never said that the whole magic/divination rigamarole didn’t work. It’s just that it didn’t lead to the elimination of suffering and that it was unseemly for people devoted to that to pay attention to that stuff. For laypeople, the big thing he was against was believing in signs and portents and auspicious activities rather than kamma, the law of cause and effect that underpins much of our experience of reality.

This is actually a liberating viewpoint because kamma gives you the ultimate freedom and ultimate responsibility for how your respond to your life and how to create your future experiences. Karma is not an impersonal force. It is intensely personal. It is, in fact, built up out of your volitions.:

“…Bhikkhus, what one intends, and what one plans, and whatever one has a tendency towards: this becomes a basis for the maintenance of consciousness. When there is a basis there is a support for the establishing of consciousness. When consciousness is established and has come to growth, there is the production of future renewed existence. When there is the production of future renewed existence, future birth, death, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, displeasure, and despair come to be. Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.” SN 12.38, Bodhi.

“…It is volition, bhikkhus, that I call kamma. For having willed, one acts by body, speech, and mind. And what is the source and origin of kamma? Contact is it source and origin…” AN 6.63, Bodhi.

Each little act of will that we perform pushes out a ripple of cause and effect that culminates into our experiences, our contact, which is technically the meeting between one of our senses, a sense object, and a subsequent consciousness arising from that meeting. Senses in this case is our five physical senses and our mind.

Thus, at some point, “I” must have done actions that have culminated in my ability to have these dreams, and push me toward divination, magic, etc. I willed the action, which set ripples through time and space, and ripened in an experience of contact. There is a functioning brain, the dreams touched it, consciousness of those dreams arose. What normally happens is that the experience triggers feelings and perceptions which lead to further volitions, causing further experiences.

Which brings me to magic. The cliche definition of magic is the “Science and Art of causing Change in conformity with Will.” Donald Kraig, in Modern Magick, defines it as “the science and art of causing change (in consciousness) to occur in conformity with will, using means not currently understood by traditional Western science.”

If we were to view kamma as described above through the lens of magic, kamma is magic and the experience of our lives is one very long spell that we’re maintaining. This isn’t to say that everything we experience is due to kamma though. We may have willed to continue existing in a body, but the rules of the universe have set it so that bodies do get sick, grow old, and die. We can’t change that. There are limitations to which experiences our minds can bring about. Also, there are things that may have been set off many many lifetimes ago that finally get a chance to bear fruit in your life that the current “you” didn’t cause but you’re the recipient anyway. Astrology, to my mind, is a way of getting a sneak preview of those sorts of things. But if you had a prepared mind that could skillfully handle anything that came your way then there would be no need for divination. You’d just deal with it and keep on going.

In fact, I wonder just how much divination systems hang on the acceptance of the tenets behind them for their accuracy. There are so many systems out there and their users all say that they work, assuming they’re not acting as charlatans. Some systems require great buy-in into a belief structure, such as many ATR divination systems, or the system of Mo divination used in Tibet. Others require nothing more than the belief that x means y for whatever you’re manipulating. It doesn’t even have to build off of an existing symbol set. A.O. Spare details how he made his own divination decks in The Zoëtic Grimoire of Zos (see 5th section.) One could take this argument further to say that we have language as our symbol set and we have to “believe” our language accurately symbolizes reality enough to take volitional actions based it, but that’s a rabbit hole I’ll leave for another time.

What I want to theorize on is how to make the constantly on-going spell of our life better by talking about a subject in the suttas that doesn’t get much attention in western Buddhist circle. It’s called the four iddhipadas, the four bases (lit. roads) to spiritual power. They are an important component of the path, especially later sections, but they can be developed. In fact, you may already have.

Here they are in brief according to the suttas:

  • The basis for spiritual power that possesses concentration due to desire and volitional formations of striving.
  • The basis for spiritual power that possesses concentration due to energy and volitional formations of striving.
  • The basis for spiritual power that possesses concentration due to mind and volitional formations of striving.
  • The basis for spiritual power that possesses concentration due to investigation and volitional formations of striving.

There’s that volition thing again! The Buddha doesn’t say that this is just a Buddhist form of gaining spiritual power:

“Bhikkhus, whatever ascetics or brahmins in the past generated spiritual power completely, all did so because they had developed and cultivated the four bases for spiritual power. Whatever ascetics or brahmins in the future will  generate spiritual power completely, all will do so because they will have developed and cultivated the four bases for spiritual power. Whatever ascetics or brahmins at present generate spiritual power completely, all do so because they have developed and cultivated the four bases for spiritual power.” SN 51.6, Bodhi.

The formulas break down into a two part refrain (concentration and volitional formations of striving) and a differentiating component (desire, energy, mind, investigation). Let’s start with the refrain.

Concentration, in this instance, means “one-pointedness of mind”, the ability to keep the mind fixed on an object. This is the primary skill that concentration meditation teaches, e.g. keeping the midn on the breath. The best sort of one-pointedness is to be able to access certain states of meditation absorption called jhana. I am uncertain how the jhanas and the iddhipadas might work together in practice, since you’re applying concentration on four factors that aren’t usually used to enter that sort of state. But certainly the ability to clear the mind and place full attention on one thing is key for the formula to work.

The other part of the formula is “volitional formations of striving.” To quote SN 51.13, “he makes an effort, arouses energy, applies his mind, and strives.” But he does so in four specific ways:

  • To prevent unarisen states you don’t want from arising
  • To overcome arisen states you don’t want that have appeared
  • To generate unarisen states that you do want that aren’t there yet
  • To maintain arisen states that you do want that are present

If I was to put it as a simile, your current life is a boat. Your previous kamma is the stream the boat is on. The volitional formations of striving are signals in the water that steer you toward or away from your goal. Concentration is the driver of the boat. But we still need an engine and that’s where the other components come in.

First, desire (chanda). Those of you familiar with Buddhism may wonder why desire is here since the goal is to get rid of desire. This is true, but there is also the desire for desirelessness. Also, the word used in the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering is tanha, craving. More literally, thirst.

Chanda is merely the “wish-to-do”, but tanha normally has greed wrapped up in it. It is a craving that has a needy, wanty, grabby component to it, like how a thirsty person would want a drink of water on a hot day. Chanda doesn’t have this grasping quality. To use another example from the suttas, it’s like saying to yourself “I will go to the park.” You then go to the park, and the desire is terminated because it is fulfilled.

This, in my opinion, is why lust for results and magic made under extreme emotional duress doesn’t often work. The greedy, craving part of the mind interferes with the purity of the desire. In fact, there is another refrain that I will get to that talks about this in a bit.

However, that doesn’t mean that your wish needs to be weak! Chanda must be very strong for it to activate the path. To quote Ledi Sayadaw: “It is the kind of desire that evokes the thought, ‘If I do not attain this accomplishment in this life, I shall not rest content. It is better that I die rather than that I shall not attain it.'”

If you can concentrate on your desire with your whole mind and direct it according to the four volitional formations of striving, this is one of the roads. Much of the magic that’s getting shuffled around in success books uses this principle a lot. Setting up vision boards, affirmations, visualization, and other practices keep the desire in the mind. There is also often a lot of work done on keeping negative thoughts counter to the goal down and boosting positive ones.

The next path is energy. It’s one thing to have a desire, but you need the energy to do actions to move toward it as well. The kind of energy sought is not an intense, shaky one. It is a firm, steady effort ready to go as long as necessary to attain the goal. To go back to the park metaphor, it is the energy to follow through with the desire to go to the park, pushing you to get dressed, go to the car, and drive to the park. When energy has accomplished its purpose, it dissipates just like the desire.

Like desire, energy has to be present until the goal is accomplished. You have to become infused with the thought that your desire can be attained with energy and effort, and that it won’t go slack no matter how long the process might take or how hard the road may be. There is a lack of discouragement. In fact, the word viriya, energy, is connected with our word virile. It is a manly energy that doesn’t give up.

Again, the energy has to be channeled with concentration toward states that are in line with the goal and away from those that aren’t. You can’t have a desire in your mind to go to the park and spend all your energy playing video games instead.

The third basis is mind (citta). I don’t particularly like the term mind as a translation, but it’s the most succinct one. It’s more like the climate of the mind. Think about the last time you were angry. You had angry thoughts, but along with those thoughts there is an angry mindstate. The thoughts feed the mindstate and the mindstate inclines your thinking toward anger. This background mindstate is the citta.

Citta isn’t just the rational mind, but it is also the emotional mind. There really isn’t much difference from this viewpoint. It’s all the mood of the mind. You can think of it as putting your heart into something, to generate the mind state that aligns with your desire and your energy.

Generating concentration on citta means that you keep your mind focused on your desire no matter what distractions may come up. Again, from Ledi Sayadaw: “Although one lives amidst the beauties and luxuries of the world, amidst acquired powers and fortunes, amidst the sacred books and the study of them, one is not allured, but one’s mind is always turned towards the iddhi. One attains satisfaction and tranquillity only when one’s mind is absorbed in matters connected with the iddhi. It is like the absorption of the alchemist engaged in the transmutation of the baser metals into gold or silver. Such an alchemist has no interest in anything else but his alchemy. He forgets to sleep or whether he had slept or eaten. He does not notice anything when out walking. Citta is great absorption or attachment of this nature.”

Ledi Sayadaw is a bit hardcore about it all, but he was a monk. This whole-heartedness also needs to be one-pointed and in line with the volitional formations of striving. We’ve all had experiences when we said we want to do something and try to do it, but our hearts aren’t into it. That lack of wholeheartedness will sap your energy and desire. As another magician put it, “enflame thyself with prayer.”

In my opinion, this is what a lot of the theater and belief structures in magic are for. It brings about a strong citta and raises energy in the mind to make the desire happen. As to whether or not the actions performed in an act of traditional magic do work with the spirit realm is beyond this particular discussion. From the point of view of kamma anyway, you put forth your will to summon a spirit and now you receive mental contacts in line with what you planted. That doesn’t mean the spirit doesn’t exist, but your experience of it is the fruition of your kamma. If I’m understanding it right anyway.

The final road is investigation. This is the trickiest one. It is the governor that recognizes whether or not the other three factors are working correctly, and that what you want is really what you want. We all have desires, applications of energy, and mind states that pop up all the time, but the wisdom and skill to discern whether this is something you truly want, and that other things are what you don’t want, is the power of investigation.

When investigation is satisfied, there is no more quibbling about whether or not your desire, energy, and mindstate are being used correctly. Nothing can distract you from the goal. I personally have a lot of work to do with this one. I often go off on desires to do things that I turn my entire attention toward, but only after I’ve been in it for a while do I realize that this isn’t something I really wanted to do. I didn’t investigate things enough to kill my doubts and jump in wholeheartedly.

Even just cultivating one of these four roads would be enough to help someone achieve a certain level of success. Imagine what could be done if you cultivated all four!

There is also a refrain on how these four should be cultivated: “Thus my X will be neither too slack, nor too tense; and it will be neither constricted internally nor distracted externally.” And he dwells perceiving after and before: “As before, so after; as after, so before; as below, so above; as above, so below; as by day, so at night; as at night, so by day.” Thus, with a mind that is open and unenveloped, he develops the mind imbued with luminosity.”

  • A slack mind is one that is accompanied by lassitude or laziness.
  • A tense mind is one that is accompanied by restlessness.
  • Constricted internally is a mind that is full of mental and physical fatigue (get your sleep!)
  • Distracted externally is a mind that is repeatedly distracted and disturbed externally by sense pleasures.
  • Before/After is keeping your mind on the task you’re trying to accomplish and staying mindful throughout.
  • Above/Below is a little weird. The text refers to a contemplation on the parts of the body. I would assume this removes attachment and distractions caused by the body due to developing a lack of identification with the body.
  • Day/Night is to keep the goal you’re going after the same at all times (using the same qualities, features, aspects, etc.)
  • And what about the luminous mind? Apparently if you can do these roads well and keep the mind in this sort of state, you become percipient of light.

I think this is the closest I’m going to get to true Buddhist magic. While the overall goal may be to break the spell of samsara, these roads are a handy trick to getting that to happen. But they are also a trick to helping you achieve things in this world too. How does your practice generate these conditions from a subjective point of view? Does it? Would love to hear your thoughts!





Almuten Calculation

Posted: August 28th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »

Just a quick post this time about Almuten calculation and what that means. Almuten is a corruption of an Arabic term meaning “the victor”. Every degree in the zodiac gives different amounts of dignity to different planets. The one or two planets that have the most dignity for a particular degree are the almutens.

To calculate it, you make a running tally of how many points of dignity each planet has on the scale of essential dignities. The one with the highest number wins. Let’s take my ascendant degree, 27 Virgo.

The ruler of Virgo is Mercury

The exaltation is Mercury

The triplicity rulers of Earth are Venus, Moon, and Mars (I have a diurnal chart)

The term ruler is Mars

The face ruler is Venus.

So we have the following ranking:

Mercury = 9 points

Mars = 5 points

Venus = 4 points

Moon = 3

Mercury is clearly the winner.

Almutens are used all over the place in special techniques, but for general delineation they are calculated for the house cusps as a sort of co-ruler. In fact, if the sign ruler is very weak and the almuten is very strong, it can serve as a replacement for the sign ruler! In most positions the sign ruler is going to be the almuten, but not always. It can be shared with another planet or completely supplanted by another, most commonly in signs where a planet is exalted.

Since this post is so short, I want to share a basic delineation of a house:

Female #2

Let’s take the 2nd house. Everyone loves money! But the 2nd house is more about “moveable wealth”. Not a lot of people had actual cash back in those days. Moveable wealth means stuff. So we go back to our list of questions:

1. Will there be wealth?

2. What kind of wealth?

3. How will the wealth come about?

4. Why will it come about that way?

We start with the 2nd house. There are no planets in the second house so we can skip that section entirely. The next thing is the significator. Which is stronger, the ruler of the house or the almuten of the 2nd?

Venus is in Cancer and very strong essentially. She has triplicity, term, and face, giving her more dignity than even the sign ruler (6 points vs. 5 points.) Thus, Venus is the almuten over her position in the chart. She is succedent, so she has power to act, but there are some major afflictions. She is quite combust and is also conjoined with Mars. We would rather not use this though we cannot ignore it due to it being the sign ruler.

Who is the almuten of the 2nd house cusp?  Saturn has exaltation and triplicity over the position of the 2nd house cusp, so he is the Almuten. Is he strong though? No, he is not. He is in detriment in Aries. However, there is a square from a very strong Moon to him, and the moon is benefic in this chart. More on this in a bit.

Saturn doesn’t receive much help from aspects. The Moon is waxing in this chart but it is squaring Saturn, and the Mercury sextile doesn’t help too much since he is retrograde. Venus has the aforementioned conjuctions, but also has a sextile with the Ascendant and a sextile with Jupiter. Positive aspects can boost a planet, so let’s see if Jupiter is helping. Sadly, not so much. Jupiter is in detriment.

So out of the sad options available, Venus looks the most promising. She herself is very strong but is afflicted by outside forces. She will be trying to realize, but outside forces keep yanking it away. If Venus wasn’t essentially strong, I would have judged that there is little chance for wealth. However, since Venus is essentially strong, I would say that wealth will come and go many times.

We cannot ignore the Almuten though, and it is in the 8th house. The 8th house is death, but it is also the spouse’s finances (2nd from the 7th). Saturn may be in detriment, but he is supported by the moon. The ruler of the 8th is afflicted as well though, so even with this extra help I judge unstable wealth.

So we’ve identified whether there is wealth. There is, but it is very unstable. Sources will come from the partner’s finances, friends,  and organizations (another 11th house meaning). But what kind of wealth? Venusian wealth! The native will have access to many sensual experiences, multiplied hotly by Mars and Venus. The pursuit of luxury will dissipate the wealth.

So we have a native who can get wealth thanks to strong Venus and a very strong Moon assisting the Saturn Almuten, but it gets burned up again and again in the pursuit of luxury. She treats her friends and herself to much venusian-related experiences and pleasures.

Next week, we go more into delineation!

Arabic Parts

Posted: August 21st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »

Now for another tricky subject, the Arabic parts. Modern midpoint astrology is basically a hyped-up version of using Arabic parts. Indeed, there were some traditional astrologers who lamented on over-reliance on Arabic parts. Bonatti wrote a treaties on the parts and numbered 128 of them. Other authors added even more!

So, remember at the outset that these add color. They do not override the basic interpretation of a house! It is way too easy to see a poor house and then try every special technique in the book to find an exception to the rule in a vain attempt to gain hope. Better to take action to improve the situation in the future.

These parts were mostly used in horary astrology, the astrology of questions. But a few of them are used in natal astrology as well.  However, there are some special delineation techniques that require knowledge of certain parts and how to interpret them. So, here’s what you need to know.

The word Part actually comes from Latin pars which means both “part” and “an allotment of fate”. They are called Arabic because they popularized them, though they did not invent them. There is evidence of them in Greek and Egyptian astrological system. They are mathematical points along the ecliptic. They are found by taking the difference in longitude between two astrological bodies and projecting it from a third point.

Let’s take the most common one as an example, the Part of Fortune. This point is derived differently depending on if you have a nocturnal chart or a diurnal chart. If the Sun was above the horizon at the time of your birth, you have a diurnal chart. If it is below, nocturnal. The calculation of many of the Arabic parts varies depending on whether the chart is nocturnal or diurnal, or whether the native (the owner of the chart) is male or female.

If it is a diurnal chart, find the Sun in your own chart. Move your finger in the order of the signs until you reach the Moon. Calculate the distance between them. Now put your finger on the ascendant and move your finger in the order of the signs the number of degrees you calculated. That’s where the Part of Fortune is in your chart.

However, if you have a nocturnal chart, then start with the Moon and move toward the Sun in the order of the signs, then project that distance from the ascendant in the order of the signs.

The Part of Fortune is used for many things:

* It is an indicator of wealth, but ONLY if it is not afflicted and there isn’t another significator of wealth that is stronger than it. If it is the indicator of wealth, the house that it belongs to will show where wealth will originate, as modified by the part’s ruler, almuten, and aspects. In this sense they are almost treated like sub-houses.

* Longevity calculations, which I very much doubt I’ll ever cover but were a topic of exceeding interest.

* The calculation of the Almutem Figuris, the strongest planet in the chart. This I will cover in a later post.

* Several other special techniques.

My teacher states that if a part is cadent that isn’t enough to afflict it, but if its ruler is cadet then it is afflicted. He also states that a planet needs to be within 5 degrees of the part to form an aspect. Ideally, the planet that aspects the part will have dignity in the position the part is in. So, if the part is in Sagittarius, we would love to have Jupiter aspect it with a trine.

Again, the parts add color. I refer you to Bonatti’s Treatise on the Parts or future posts for more information on the parts.


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The Ptolemaic Aspects

Posted: August 14th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »

Aspects take a rather secondary role in traditional astrology compared to sign and house placement. Modern astrologers have entire books written simply on what different aspects mean in intricate detail. But from a traditional point of view, you cannot understand what an aspect is saying until you understand what a planet is doing overall in a chart.

Aspects are seen as one planet mingling in the affairs of another planet. Depending on the planets involved, their dignity, and the type of aspect this mingling yields different beneficial or unbeneficial results. Let us define the major aspects, the so-called Ptolemaic aspects:

Conjunction – 0 degrees

Sextile – 60 degrees

Square – 90 degrees

Trine – 120 degrees

Opposition – 180 degrees

The sextile and the trine were seen as beneficial aspects. The square and the oppoisition were seen as unbeneficial. The value of the conjunction depends on the planets and their states.

Now, how do you find these? It’s trickier than it is in modern astrology first of all, and the definitions have changed over time. On paper, may look pretty simple. Count the number of degrees between one point and another point and see if it matches one of the categories above. But in the earliest texts, and still in a lot of Vedic astrology, aspects were measured by signs. Thus, any planet in Aries would be sextile to planets in Gemini, square to those in Cancer,etc. The degree measurements above were used to measure strength. The closer the planets were to precisely 60 or 90 degrees apart, the stronger the aspect. Those who use whole sign methods are more inclined to use this method. However, it can multiply connections unnecessarily.

Focusing on the stronger aspects helps the astrologer tease out the real themes amidst the noise. Thus, they came up with the concept of orbs. It’s another one of those tricky concepts, especially if you’re used to modern aspects, but it’s not so hard if you picture it.

Imagine that each planet has a field of influence that surrounds it, something like an aura. This is their orb. Different planets have different amounts of orb surrounding them.

Sun: 30 degrees

Moon: 24 degrees

Saturn: 18 degrees

Jupiter: 18 degrees

Mars: 16 degrees

Venus: 14 degrees

Mercury: 14 degrees

So you have the planet in the very middle, and then a field of influence stretching to either side. Thus, for the Sun you’d have the sun in the middle and then 15 degrees on either side of him for the full 30 degrees of orb.

If you want to see if there is an aspect, the orbs have to overlap, but it was difficult to draw a line where you could truly say the aspect was working. So they came up with a compromise solution called the moiety. They would take a “part” of the orb, half actually, and see if both sides overlapped. This half is called the moiety. To check for an aspect, you would divide the orbs by two, add them together, then divide by two, like so:

24 degs for Moon orb/2 = 12 degrees sun moiety

14 degs for Merc orb/2 = 7 degrees mercury moiety

12 + 7 = 19 / 2 = 9 degrees, 30 minutes.

Skyscript has an excellent picture illustrating the concept:



Here we have the orb and the moiety of the Moon and Mercury. When the planets are 9 degrees and 30 minutes apart their moieties just begin to touch. As they get closer together, the aspect gets stronger.

So, to find out if two planets are in aspect, measure the angular distance between them then subtract the number of degrees for the aspect you’re looking for. If the remainder is less than the calculation above, the aspect is there.

Honestly, I rarely have to calculate aspects by hand. My program does it for me, but it’s always good to double-check your work.

But how do you go about interpreting these? First, you have to completely understand the roles the different planets have in the chart on their own before you start studying the relationships between them. If you’re looking at a conjunction, see it as two people working as one as best as they can. Likely one of the pair will be stronger than the other and will dominate. In fact, conjuctions with the Sun are seen as bad because he is so powerful compared to the other planets. Such planets are said to be combust and cannot work well. It is a form of debilitation.

The other aspects correspond to the other planets. Sextiles are Mercurial and trines are Jupiterian. Squares are Martial and Oppositions are Saturnine. You should know the qualities of the planets by now. Just think about how the two planets would work with each other from these viewpoints. Also think about the active and reactive nature of the signs they’re in. Remember that reactive signs show things that happen to the native from outside and active signs show what the native does on their own. There will be examples of this when we get to full delineation.

The Houses

Posted: August 7th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »

We’ve now discussed the signs and the planets. Time to turn our attention to the third major component of the chart, the houses. The planets create and the signs filter that creation, but that creative energy is disposed into twelve different regions of life that are represented by the houses.

As I learned them from my studies in traditional astrology, the most basic meanings of the twelve houses are these:

1st: Life, inner talent, and the body

2nd: Money

3rd: Siblings

4th: Family

5th: Children

6th: Servants

7th: Other people and partners

8th: Death

9th: God

10th: Profession, the native’s actions and public face

11th: Friends

12th: Illness

This is about as broad of an overview as you can get, and it’s probably best to start by keeping it simple for now. However, a better understanding can be achieved through studying the original texts. Many of the meanings in that link are achieved through derived houses, which is a topic I won’t get into because it is extraordinarily confusing at first. Let’s start with basics!

When a planet is in a particular house, it tries to generate results in accordance with its nature and its sign in the realm of experience the house represents. For instance, if Jupiter is in Sagittarius in the 2nd, I know that the principle of expansion and abundance (Jupiter) modulated by an active fiery sign that fluctuates between taking and giving (Sagittarius) is trying to create money in the life of the native. This is a good placement for Jupiter because he is in his rulership. Because he has high dignity, he can deliver what he promises.

This would be all the more true if the 2nd house is also ruled by Sagittarius. If you’re unfamiliar with how to tell which sign rules a house, take out a circular chart. The lines radiating from the center mark the houses. The horizontal line across the chart represents the horizon. The top of the chart is the southern sky. The bottom half is the northern sky as seen under the earth.

If you put your finger on one of the lines and trace it to the outer circle, you’ll see that it runs into a sign. The ruler of that sign is the ruler of the house. The houses are numbered counter-clockwise around the chart starting with the east side of the chart. If you’re using a square chart, the triangle with its apex pointing directly left from center is the 1st house. The cusp (the name for those lines) positions will be written just above the lines.

If you’re new to looking at charts, you may notice that a lot of houses are empty. Does that mean that astrology says nothing about those things? Not at all. A rule from Jean-Baptiste Morin guides our thinking in this case:

“The good or bad signified by a house emanates from the ruler of the house.”

By good or bad, I mean what the house delivers. Not all of the houses are sweetness and light! Everyone has these 12 domains in their life, and each one of them is ran by the ruler of the house. The ruler will bring about results in that house’s domain in line with the planet’s nature, sign, and condition. The house that a planet is in and the houses that the planet rules will be closely linked.

Here is another rule. When examining patterns in life in a native through looking at a house, the sign of the house will give the initial state. As the situation matures, it will shift toward the quality of the house ruler. For instance, if you have an empty 10th house ruled by a planet in the 7th, and that planet is the ruler of the 10th, then the affairs of the tenth will lead to experiences signified by the planet and its house placement.

Remember, the planets are the actual “doers” in the chart. Their domains spread through the signs they rule. So it’s not enough to look at what an Aries 10th house might mean in terms of Aries. You’ll get the start of the pattern but it will complete depending on Mars.

Another key point. How can you tell if a planet is causing others to act toward you, or if it is pushing you to take action to make the affairs of the house happen? That is where the polarity of the sign comes in. Active signs will push you to act in accordance with the planet involved. Reactive signs will draw others to you to bring results related to the planet involved. Thus, if Jupiter was in the 2nd in Sagittarius, you would be pushed toward earning wealth and probably doing a good job. If he was in Pisces though, money would flow to you from outside sources.

What about planets that don’t make good sense in a sign? Take Saturn in the 7th. Does that always mean that the native will be restricted from love? No. Planets do three things in relation to houses. They produce things, they deny things, or they bring it about and then destroy it later. Dignity has a major role in this. If Saturn were dignified, then it would have the power to bring about a relationship, but it will be one full of limitation, hindrances, and obstacles. It will be a marriage of duty and not love. One or both partners will be unhappy, but due to Saturn’s strength the relationship will last.

Knowing whether or not a planet will bring something about, deny it completely, or bring it about and then destroy it is tricky. This is where experience comes in, and the actions of the native. Going back to the whole karma thing, it is my opinion that very strong indications of dignity and debility are from karma. The weaker indications show where there’s some wiggle room for the native to push in a new direction.

Another vexing thing about astrology is house systems. There are a bunch of different ways to calculate the house cusps, and all of them have their proponents. My advice is to use the system your teacher uses. Each house system has its own idiosyncrasies that can only be learned through immersion. I learned traditional natal astrology through the Alchabitus system. Occasionally I will use whole houses for certain older techniques (mostly things from Ptolemy). Avoid picking and choosing house systems just to get certain results.



Planets and Signs

Posted: July 31st, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »

The next most important thing to grasp after essential dignity is how a sign and a planet interact. Planets “produce” a very wide range of possible outcomes. The signs act like 12 different kinds of polarizing filters across the light of the planets to modulate their effects. Or put another way, if the planets are particular kinds of character actors, the signs are costumes. Some fit very well. Others they wouldn’t be caught dead in but have to wear anyway.

In the last post we talked about planets in very broad terms from the perspective of traditional natal astrology. Now we need to look at how the signs work and put them together to make intelligent delineations. Delineation is a fancy term for describing what a chart is presenting to you. It is atemporal. A fully delineated chart gives you a lifetime of possible factors but no placement in time. However, you cannot predict when events will occur in time without first delineating those events clearly. Delineation first, then prediction.

Going back to the polarizing filter metaphor above,  signs can be seen as sets of three different polarizing filters. The first is polarity, the second is mode, and the third is element. These are my terms for the traditional terms masculine/feminine, quadruplicity, and triplicity respectively.

Polarity is the easiest to understand. It makes the production of a planet act in an active or reactive way. If you are familiar with the whole yin/yang thing, you can think of it in that way as well. Take a moment to think about each planet and see how it might act in an active way and how it can act in a reactive way.

We’ll take Mercury as an example in the two signs of its rulership, Gemini and Virgo. Gemini is an active sign and Virgo is a reactve sign. In Gemini, Mercury will want to actively express cunning, intelligence, and information seeking in active way. This could manifest as curiosity or garrulousness. It shows a mind that likes to pursue information actively. In Virgo, Mercury acts reactive. It will take in information and hold it. A reactive Mercury responds to other’s information and then acts. If they are the calculating type, they will hold their plans in secret and act only when the time is right.

Mode is probably the trickiest to understand. First, let’s take a look at why the zodiac is the way that it is. One of the common complaints against astrology is that the signs don’t match up with the actual backdrop of stars, and this is true. The constellations do not fit in convenient 30 degree slices of sky either. Those who make this complaint don’t really understand the Tropical Zodiac that is used in Western Astrology.

Where in the sky does the zodiac begin? Traditionally it begins in degree 0 of Aries, but when does that begin? The beginning of Aries is marked by the point in the sky where the sun rises on the day of the Vernal Equinox. The sky is then divided up in 30 degree segments from that point. Against the actual backdrop of stars, this point will shift by a degree once every 72 years thanks to a wobble in how the earth rotates. If you could live 25,920 years, then you’d see the Sun make the full trip, if the math is correct.

When Greece was the heart of astrological research, this point was in the constellation they called Aries. Now it is in Pisces. Soon enough, it will be in Aquarius. These are the great Astrological Ages, which were popularized in the 1960s by all the talk about the Age of Aquarius.

Astrology is an observational science. So what were our forebearers observing when they were investigating the signs? They were investigating seasonal changes. You can learn quite a bit about a sign by investigating the natural world at the time the Sun is in that sign. For example, what happens during the time of Aries? Everything starts to spring forth, willy-nilly. Everything starts exploding with life. Thus, Aries is known for its explosive, devil-may-care attitude. When do Saturn’s signs of rulership come down the pike? January and February, the dead of winter.

They observed that each season lasted about three months. The were born, persisted for a little while, then decayed. That’s the idea behind the three modes, known as cardinal, fixed, and mutable (sometimes known as common in other texts).

The cardinal mode pushes with vigor. It is throwing out its energy. It conducts its element clearly out into the world. All of the cardinal signs happen at the start of a season, destroying the old season that is being left behind. A planet in a cardinal sign will push its viewpoint hard, seeking recognition. Its struggle to be born cannot be hidden.

The fixed mode is strong and stable. Its seasonal kingdom has been established. It reflects the glory of the element of the sign. It is the persistence of life that has made it through birth and childhood. In in seasons of a fixed sign there is no way another season could be mistaken. In Leo, it is summer. All sign of spring is gone. There is no sign of autumn. Moreover, because the season of that element is established, it will draw in qualities that agree with it and fix them in the life of the native.

The mutable or common mode is the kingdom in decline. The next season is starting to assert itself but it is not strong enough to break through yet. The element in this time wavers between the old and the new, from being fixed to being cardinal. It is an unstable sign. The whole Groundhog Day thing about whether we’ll see spring early or not can be traced out of this. Will the end of February and March still be snowy and icky during mutable Pisces, or will the forces of Spring be more ascendant before Spring finally slays Winter when the Sun reaches Aries?

Another way to think of mutability is that the sign is absorbing or withdrawing the element of the sign in preparation for the next phase of life. A seed draws Water to start life, then destroys itself to sprout (Pisces). The growing plant withdraws Air to stop its growth and extension in space to prepare for maturation (Gemini). The plant stops strengthening itself with Earth and prepares itself to fruit (Virgo). Finally, the plant withdraws the fire of life and prepares for death (Saggitarius).

The mode is one of the trickier concepts to grasp, but it is so important for later delineation. Picture how a planet would act in each of the three modes. Then go to the chart about sign qualities and use the listed combinations of gender and mode to make further combinations in your mind.

Going back to Mercury’s rulerships, Gemini is an Active Mutable sign. Virgo is a Reactive Mutable sign. This befits Mercury’s nature as someone who changes back and forth between genders and dispositions. Mercury is the go-between of the gods in mythology. He/She cannot push in just one way (cardinal), or stand still and draw things toward him (Fixed.) He/She is free to travel wherever he/she pleases. When Mercury is in the sign of his/her rulership, the mind will be broad and liberal.

Finally, we get to the elements. I’m going to assume that the reader has no idea what a classical element is, so if a lot of this is old hat bear with me. The elements, as astrologers see them, are qualities of reality. They are not the fundamental building blocks, as the word element would suggest from science. Instead, they can be seen as states of reality that are constantly transforming themselves into each other.

The four classical elements are Fire, Air, Water, and Earth. These words are pointers to deeper concepts. Sometimes people conceive of them as plasma, gas, liquid, and solid. While these are correspondences, they don’t do much better in describing just want the elements are getting at. Remember, the elements along with the polarity and the mode are polarizing the qualities of the planets in particular ways. Here’s my way of looking at it.

Fire: Light, life, heat for both good and ill, power, action.

Air: Extension in space and communication of qualities. Pervasiveness. Expression and movement

Water: Cohesion and dissolution. Bonding. Emotional security.

Earth: Solidity, manifestation, fecundity. Physical security.

If you look at the wheel of the chart, you’ll see that all of the active signs are fire and air signs, and all the reactive signs are water and earth. This is easy enough to see if you look at the actual substances. Fire and air both leap up and expand to fill the available space. Water and earth will fall down, coalesce, and absorb things.

Now that we have all three components, we can now examine a sign in itself fully. Let’s take Aries. Aries is an active cardinal fire sign. I find it easiest to work my way backwards. The fire element wants to be active and powerful. In what mode does it want to do it? In the cardinal mode. It wants to charge forward with its type of expression. It seeks to overturn power and action that it doesn’t agree with. It’s maximum go-go-go. And because it is a fire sign, it is active. We’re looking for maximum action, maximum doing, maximum creative force. As Aries is the sign of spring, Aries wants to pump as much activity as all those seeds are in April.

Now, if we place this sign in front of a planet’s energy, what do we get?

Sun: This is not the life-giving ruler sitting on the throne now. This is the conquering king that seeks dominion. The Sun is fighting here to project its power and prestige as far as it can into the world. He is a dissatisfied king that wants more and has the authority to do it. Note that Aries is the Sun’s exaltation. The Sun can achieve great effects here, but they can easily be swept away by change. This is also a sign where the Sun can burn itself out working far too hard.

Moon: The Moon is changeability and nourishment. Put in this costume, the Moon seeks novelty. New emotions, new experiences, and a dissatisfaction with staying still for even an instant. This is the person at the salad bar who takes a little something from everything, even if it doesn’t all go together, just because it’s different.  Moreover, it is not afraid to change themselves or their external circumstances as necessary to match the changing whim of whatever houses the Moon is ruling. Also, if an Aries Moon wants to take care of someone, they’ll do it on their own terms, even if it may not be for the best of the person they’re caring for!

Mercury: A bold communicator, a someone with devious cunning. They will not be shy to express a viewpoint. They will be full of their own ideas that burst forth with life from within their own brain, and not be likely to take in what others might say.

Venus: This is the sign of her detriment. Venus wants to unite people with bonds of lust and love, but Aries makes Venus too restless to stay anywhere for long. This can lead to a frustrated person who can’t find just the right type of person they want. It can also lead to a person who sleeps with as many people as they can just so Venus can express all that extra oomph. To form a bond needs time and qualities from other elements. Aries blows these connections apart too quickly for Venus to be satisfied. So she’ll take what she can get.

Mars: This is the sign of Mars’ rulership. What is more driven, gung-ho, and more creative of something new than warfare, courage, valorous action, and the other positive sides of Mars. In Aries, Mars can go as hard is it likes, and also has the freedom to act with power in ways that it sees as appropriate rather than being forced into narrow channels.

Jupiter: This is a dangerous sign for Jupiter. Jupiter can be the rocketing star that expands to new heights, but can also be the one that overshoots too far and becomes a shooting star falling back to Earth. Jupiter in this sign can mean a libertine in the broadest sense. Someone who wants to achieve maximum freedom as fast as possible, and woe to anyone who gets in their way.

Saturn: Saturn is in fall in Aries. Saturn wants to restrict and contain, but Aries doesn’t allow that at all. This can manifest itself in several different ways. It can be the neurotic that wants to push their rules onto everyone else. It can be the rudderless person that tries a thousand different ways to organize themselves, but can’t stick with one. It’s like a pressure cooker. Aries will apply heat to the firm vessel until something explodes. If the native is fortunate, there is a release valve built into the chart. Otherwise, it’s gonna be ugly.

You may have noticed something in these descriptions. All of the notes had martial tones to them. That’s because the signs also have some of the qualities of the planets that rule them. This is another important link between signs and planets, and will be very helpful in interpretations later on.

Try taking all the lessons so far and make your own descriptions for the planets in different signs. Don’t worry about if it is exact or weak. Just put something down. Experience will help you refine it as you learn more. Better to have a little something to start from than staring at a chart with nothing at all.

As you can see, as planets gain and lose dignity moving through the signs, they will be able to bring about what they talk about in the chart in varying degrees. If they’re in the right sign, the expression flows freely with good things. Even the malefics, which do bring about negative things, can bring them about in positive ways if things are good. This is also assuming there’s no interference from aspects, accidental dignity, etc.

One thing to note about malefics. When they’re debilitated that’s not a good thing. While it does decrease their malefic nature it makes it far worse when it does find the right conditions. The always polite person under stress that snaps and goes on an indiscriminate killing spree may just have a Mars in Libra.

There is one more important piece of grammar that we must cover. Now that we have the creators and their costumes, we need the stages that they’ll act upon. These are the houses.

Astrological Theories and the Seven Planets

Posted: July 24th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »

The seven planets of traditional astrology are the producers of actions, if you view them in the traditional sense. There are at least five different theories about why traditional astrology works, which are detailed by Ben Dykes. I’ll summarize them here:

Aristotelian-Ptolemeic: The planets cause things to happen through some application of whatever physics is popular at the time. Most people in this camp also believe that there is some free will, but that will is also causally determined by the planets so it’s not entirely free.

Stoic: Everything is determined by some sort of cosmic mind or Logos. Thus, the planets do not cause effects, but they signify meanings. Thus, astrology is a science of interpretation and divinational, not a physical science as in the former camp. This viewpoint allows the least amount of free will. Though it may appear that we have free will, even our choices are predetermined. However, there is some slight leeway because a planet’s signification may only signify a type of thing with the details left undetermined.

Platonic: Take the Stoic view, but add more free will. The lower parts of our soul, the emotions, instincts, and the body are causally determined by the planets, but our reason can control these and study the heavenly motions to understand the eternal mind beyond the heavenly movements. An enlightened person could study these movements and bring that wisdom back to help less-enlightened people live better lives.

Christian: Unlike the previous three views, the Christian viewpoint believes that we do have indeterminate free will. Human free will is a weak version of God’s radically free will. However, most people do not exercise their free will even if they think they are. Through God’s Grace, we can access our free will and break beyond what our charts say. However, unsaintly people are still controlled by their charts.

Magical: A hodgepodge of viewpoints that seek to contact and petition the planets and related spirits directly to modify what the chart predicts. Astrological rituals, talismans, the use of gemstones, and other practices are related here.

These viewpoints do have overlap, and many of them do have counterparts among modern astrologers. I personally take a bastardized mixture between the Christian viewpoint, the Stoic viewpoint and the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic viewpoint. I believe that we do have a very free will, but we are caught by long-standing patterns of previous actions and conditions coming from myriad sources. These patterns combined with our reactions to them are the causal determinants of what will happen to us.

Through effort these patterns can be influenced to produce more favorable patterns in the future. The planets signify particular parts of human experience that can be read in advance and prepared for. Caught early enough and given enough effort and mindfulness, the initial pattern set at birth can be changed. However, most people never do this because they don’t know the patterns or how to change it. Astrology gives us a karmic mirror to see ourselves, albeit an imperfect one. Astrology can never give a complete picture of a person any more than a biography does.

However, when reading a traditional astrological text, it can be helpful to discover which of these five viewpoints the author is using so you can understand their reasoning. While I disagree with many of the author’s reasons why astrology works, the observations they made have held water in my experience.

So, with that out of the way, we can now talk about the planets. The planets signify particular areas of human experience that are productive. Or, if you like, the planets are the engines that cause different effects to happen. The planet’s ability to cause actions is filtered through the sign that the planet is in and disposed into the houses that it has control over in the chart. The quality of those results is colored by essential and accidental dignity as well as aspects.

Here are what the seven planets produce in basic detail:

The Sun: Life, ego, success, recognition, power, light, creativity, beauty, spontaneity, some types of sexuality, prophecy, enlightenment.

The Moon: Change, growth, decay, nourishment, transformation, transmission of the other planet’s powers.

Mercury: Analysis and assimilation, whether for positive or negative purposes. Cunning. (Remember that this planet had a lot of either/or categories in those charts? That’s because it takes on the qualities of whoever he is hanging around with, whether by planet, aspect, or sign ruler. )

Venus: Lust. When highly dignified she expresses love, but in most charts she means lust. The lesser benefic. Her benefits are very individual.

Mars: Aggression, zeal, initiative, daring, courage, and other such terms. Not sex, but can be mixed with sex in the pursuit of power. The lesser malefic. Limited in time and space.

Jupiter: Freedom, abundance, wealth. Removal of limitations. The greater benefic. His effects are more wide-reaching than Venus’.

Saturn: Limitations, hindrances, secret things (including wisdom, esotericism, etc., esp. when combined with Mercury), obstacles, solitude, endings, death.

How does dignity work with these in practice? Let’s take Jupiter as an example. If Jupiter is well dignified, then it signifies the above, that is, the removal of limitations. However, if Jupiter is debilitated, then he is trying to remove limitations but in a poor way. The individual could become a libertine or a poor bon vivant. Or perhaps opportunities for freedom come along but they are snatched away. It depends on the signs and houses involved.

In fact, let’s take a look at how the signs and the planets interact next week. It’s an extremely important topic. Stay tuned!




More on Essential Dignity and Debility

Posted: July 17th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »

Last week I talked about how to calculate the five essential dignities. Let’s take it further now.

It is possible for a planet to have multiple levels of essential dignity. For instance, the Sun in Leo will always have rulership and triplicity dignity at the same time since Leo is a fire sign. Traditional astrologers often use a point system to help calculate how much power a planet has by assigning different point values to different conditions. It’s convenient, though in tricky situations with a lot of other factors going on it may prove inaccurate. Nevertheless, it’s a good tool.

The point values for essential dignities are:

Dignity Points
Rulership 5
Exaltation 4
Triplicity 3
Term 2
Decan 1

Thus, the Sun would have 8 points total. But what does dignity mean when you read a chart? Every planet produces particular effects. The quality of those effects rises as the planet gets more dignified. Even in planets that are traditionally malefic, like Saturn, a very dignified Saturn can bring about positive effects in line with its nature such as wisdom and good judgement.

So what do each of the dignities mean exactly? There is a set of metaphors. Rulership is like it sounds. A ruler on their throne. That planet can do anything it wants to do within its domain. Whatever it wants to do, it will do and will stay done. Put another way, the planet can act like a person can in the privacy of their home.

Exaltation is like a conqueror. The actions of an exalted planet are dramatic, but they do not last without work. People with exalted planets will get what the planet predicts at a very high quality when the conditions are right, but they could easily be taken away again. This would not happen in rulership. This is something to watch for in predictions.

Triplicity is like being among friends. The planet has to hold itself back from acting as they’d like, but they are among friends who understand them. In fact, in certain situations a planet in triplicity can indicate a lot of associates and friends.

Term is like being around strangers or acquaintances that honor you. The planet’s behavior is even more restricted, but there is a respect there that allows the planet to act. Nevertheless, this is still a pretty weak dignity.

Decan is the weakest dignity. It’s like getting recognized by the bartender at your local pub. Your face is known and acknowledged, but you’re not necessarily going to get any special treatment. Still, better to be a little known than not at all.

What if, like the Sun in last week’s example, a planet has no dignities at all? The first thing to see is whether or not the planet is in fall or debilitated. A planet is in fall if it is in the sign that is opposite the one that it is exalted in. A planet is debilitated if it is in a sign opposite from one that it rules. To know what sign opposes which, count six signs away from the one you’re examining. Thus, the opposite sign of Aries is Libra. Mars would be debilitated in Libra and the Sun will be in fall.

If a planet has no dignities, but also doesn’t have any debilities, then that planet is called peregrine. A peregrine planet is like a wanderer or a tourist. The planet will still want to produce things in accordance with its nature, but it would depend on the local laws as signified by the ruler of the sign the planet is wandering around in. If that sign ruler has low dignity, then they will have a harder time, and vice versa. However, the general characteristic of the ruling planet must also be taken into account. A planet in peregrine in a house ruled by a malefic will still have a tough time even if the sign ruler is dignified.

A planet in fall has a lot of similarities to a planet in exaltation but in reverse. Remember that a native with an exalted planet will get what the planet signifies often with hard work, but it can slip away at any time. A planet in fall will make the native want those things, but rarely provide it. The poor schmoe that drinks at the bar saying “I coulda been a contender. I had everything and I lost it all”, that’s a planet in fall.

A planet in detriment is like someone in prison or among enemies. They either cannot produce what they promise or whatever they make crumbles quickly. These will signify weak areas in the native’s life, unless assisted by other planets.

Sometimes a planet may have debilities and dignities mixed together. Take Saturn in Leo. Saturn is in detriment in this sign, but is also in triplicity. How to read this? Considering the point scale above, think of fall as -4 and detriment as -5. Take the stronger one and use that as the basis. We could say that Saturn detests traveling through Cancer more than Leo, but he doesn’t have fun in either of them much at all. Don’t let the presence of a dignity amidst debility overshadow the debility unless there are a number of dignities.

Remember that we are only talking about essential dignity for now, which is a measure of the dignity or debility of the planet itself, rather than accidental dignity which is a measure of how that planet’s location adds or reduces dignity (e.g. angular vs. cadent planets). Dignity is a measure of the quality of the effects that a planet will try to produce within a chart. But what are those effects? For that, we have to examine the planets in more detail. More on that next week.

Essential Dignity

Posted: July 10th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Astrology | No Comments »

Essential dignity is one of the most important concepts to grasp about traditional astrology, so we’ll go there next. We need a chart to work with to help our study, so let’s pick a random one from the Astro Databank.

Leona HelmsleySqu

A brief aside. This square chart is the normal chart used by traditional astrologers. It’s also used in some schools of Vedic astrology. Each of the little triangles is one of the 12 houses. The triangle with its apex on the left side of the square is the 1st house, then one counter-clockwise from it is the second, and so on. More on the houses later.

One thing that trips up new students in astrology is judging the strength of a planet in a chart. There are two ways to do that in traditional astrology: essential dignity, and accidental dignity. We’ll look at essential dignity in this post.

Planets that are more “dignified” or have more “honor” are more capable of bringing about what they are signifying than those that are weak. Planets may have different amounts of dignity, or debility. Most people will have one or more planets that have more weight in the chart than the others.  When you start to examine how planets work together, this plays a crucial role. But before we can get to that, we have to look at what makes a planet dignified.

Every degree in the zodiac is ruled by a number of planets. If you are familiar with modern astrology, you are familiar with the idea of planets “ruling” signs. This is the first essential dignity, and the most powerful. The following planets rule these signs:

Planet Rules
♊ and "♍"
♉ and "♎"
♈ and "♏"
♐ and "♓"
♑ and "♒"

If you chart these out around a circular chart, you can see that the rulerships have a nice symmetry around the chart.

The second essential dignity is called exaltation, which is also used in modern astrology. The placements for these are not so symmetrical:

Planet Is Exalted In
♍ (yes he has both rulership and exaltation in this sign)

There are three others that are not used in modern astrology. The first is called triplicity.

Element Diurnal Nocturnal Participating

If a planet is in a sign that matches the element above, that means it has triplicity. This is further broken down into Diurnal, Nocturnal, and Participating rulers. In a diurnal chart, one in which the sun is above the horizon, the order in planets in power goes like the chart above. In nocturnal charts, the order would be Nocturnal, Diurnal, Participating.

So, for instance, if you had ☉ in ♐ and ♃ in ♌, assuming no other dignity, both would have triplicity dignity. Both are in the line for Fire triplicity above. If the sun was above the horizon, then the Sun would edge out Jupiter. But if it was night, then Jupiter would edge out the sun. Poor Saturn will always be last.

The next essential dignity is term, and I’m not about to recreate the chart for that so let me post a picture:


From Altair Astrology

DON’T PANIC! I never memorized this particular chart. It’s a bit confusing to read, so let break it down. This is a table of the Egyptian terms. A term is an uneven division within a sign that is ruled by a particular planet. The circle of the sky that the planets travel within, the ecliptic, is divided into twelve 30 degree segments we call signs. This chart is showing where in each sign the terms lay. Let’s take Pisces as an example.

We see 0, then ♀, and then 12. From 0 degrees ♓ until just before 12 degrees ♓, the ruler is Venus. Once it hits 12, the ruler is now Jupiter until it reaches 16 degrees, and so on across the chart ending with ♄ ruling 28 degrees ♓ to the end of the sign. Notice that the Sun and the Moon cannot receive a term dignity.

Finally, the last essential dignity is decan, also known as face, which I’ll also show with a chart:


From Skyscript

The decans are 10 degree divisions of each sign, and they follow a regular order. This is the so-called Chaldean order and it follows the apparent speed of the planets across the sky as they move against the backdrop of stars in the sky. It starts with Mars on the first decan, then the Sun and so on around the chart. I found it easiest to pick one planet and memorize its decan positions and then count off from there until I reached the decan I needed. If the planet you’re examining is in the decan it rules, then it has decan.

To keep this from going overly long, I’ll refrain from talking about why the essential dignities are like this or where they come from. Just consider it like those weird rules you’d hit when you started learning a language. Roll with it for now.

If you’re utterly confused, here are a few examples of dignity analysis using the chart at the start of the post. Leona Helmsley’s Sun and Mercury are in 12 degrees Cancer. Which one is stronger than the other by essential dignity alone? (Note for the advanced people, yes, there is cazimi going on here but we’re ignoring it for the example.)

First, rulership. Neither the Sun nor Mercury rule Cancer, so that’s out.

Exaltation? The Sun is exalted in Aries and Mercury is exalted in Virgo, so that’s out.

What about triplicity? Cancer is a water sign. Neither the Sun nor Mercury are in the Water entries, so they’re out. Note that this chart is a diurnal one though!

Term? Venus rules 12 degrees Cancer to 16 degrees, 59 minutes Cancer. No term dignity either!

Do we get lucky and have face? This is the 2nd decan of Cancer. Aha! Mercury has face, so is dignified just barely over the Sun. Overall though, both of these planets are very weak.

More on essential dignity, and debility, in next week’s post.