An Accident of Birth?

I am by no means a traditionalist when it comes to the study of astrology, but by the same token neither am I so much of a modernist that I am happy to discard much of the ancient wisdom either. In truth my only genuine difficulty with traditional astrology is its fixed bias, but I don’t want to get stuck on the debate of ancient vs. modern. My own view is clearly delineated in between the lines of almost every article I write and I am happy to use traditional techniques where they are an aid to measurement, and the scoring of essential dignity is undoubtedly of great benefit in gauging the relative ease or difficulty of any given placement in the nativity.

I have already made a foray into the value of essential dignity in my previous article: Dignity and debility and the fine art of furniture making. In that discussion I make the case for my understanding that whilst essential dignity is a useful technique it is a measure of ease and not potential. Indeed, it is arguable that essential dignity retards potential in the sense that there is no requirement to work at any given mode of expression; craftsmanship is more likely to evolve in cases where there is essential debility than dignity.

One other problem with the system is that it does not account for the houses of the chart. We all know that Venus is at home in the 7th (and to some extent also the 2nd, at least in her monetary guise) and that she “joys in the 5th”, but such wisdom is not included in the measurement of essential dignity and what is unquestionable is that Venus is immensely helped in her expression when she is found in any of these houses. I would certainly be inclined to improve her scoring if she were to be found in the 7th, the 2nd or the 5th. When a planet is found within its natural house, we make note of such accidental dignity and account for it.

But that is accepted wisdom, and the understandings of astrology are fully concomitant with this insight, and yet they make no account of accidental exaltation. By this understanding, Venus ought to also be improved in the 12th house, and arguably, by a greater measure even than in the 7th.

Technically, in traditional lore, accidental dignity is not simply determined by the house position of a planet, it is more correctly determined to be made up by any helpful factor that is not essential. That means that Venus (as per our example) will always be dignified in her own sign (because it is of her essence), but she might be further and accidentally dignified by any number of other less obvious factors, one of the most recognisable of which is her house position. By the same token she might be accidentally dignified through good aspect (especially to a helpful influence, such as Jupiter), through being placed on the Midheaven (and thus exalted and directly sheltering the nativity) or any number of other factors: the ancients listed a great raft of conditions such as speed of travel, not being combust or under the beams, or configured to a beneficial star, but for the most part these methods become obscure to the point of impracticability, or certainly to the point of questionable relevance, due to a law of diminishing returns.

As an astrologer, the key gift of experience is to be able to make a swift consideration of any given planet’s dignity, not necessarily in this exhaustively technical manner, but at the very least by taking into account the strength or weakness of the major factors, which have to be, in a vague order of insistence, placement by sign, house, aspect (or lack thereof especially) and angularity; the last of which is always significant where it is found, (a principle understood as the Gauquelin sectors).

We all ought to understand the basic principles of essential dignity, but the principles of accidental dignity are only at best, vaguely understood within the literature. It ought to be very helpful to have Venus therefore in the sign of Libra, but if she is in the first house squared by Pluto and stationary, then any genuine benefit from her essential dignity would at best be severely curtailed by this level of accidental debility.

By the same token, the sign Aries is not the happiest of placements for harmony and relationship focused Venus, but she might be ably assisted and indeed ‘lifted up’ by other factors of accidental dignity, Perhaps she might be trined to Jupiter and in the 7th house, and these would certainly help to boost her powers and therefore her better qualities might be easier to express. This is absolutely the key insight too, because this score that we are attempting to grasp is only a crude measure of how comfortable the energy of that planet is to express and it is for this reason a means to apprehending an underlying princple; it is not the score itself that matters, but its raison d’etre.

So, Venus in the 7th is much improved because there is no easier place to express the Venusian quality than in a marriage. She ‘joys in the 5th’ because in romance she is allowed to show her best qualities too, and she is comfortable in the 2nd because money earned is her realm as well and all material things that assist in comfort, leisure and ease are her natural domain. By the same token, Venus in the 1st ought to be a considerable block in this most Martian of houses, her influence will be self-directed, so Venus here is more concerned with appearances than with marital harmony; it is a placement that encourages vanity at the expense of partnership.

I would moderate (albeit in an intuitve manner) the essential dignity scores according to all of these factors when considering a nativity. Essential dignity (as determined by sign will always be the first consideration, but it cannot be the only consideration. House position is key as well, and indeed every house has its sympathy with every planet and we ought to understand this. I would consider Venus to be strengthened in the 2nd, 5th, 7th and also the 12th; indeed, I would consider the 7th and 12th to be her strongest positions, because these are the houses of her rulership (Libra – 7th) and exaltation (Pisces – 12th). Each gives a markedly different form of expression, with the 7th representing personal love and the 12th universal love, but in either house, Venus will be considerably more able to express her quality than in the selfish 1st and the workaday 6th. The former struggles to think of the other person and the latter struggles to feel romantic and neither bodes well even for an otherwise essentially dignified Venus.

I hope that the principle is clear enough. Here then is a table of correspondences with which I would modify the essential dignity scores (and please bear in mind this is an attempt to quantify what I would normally consider to be a rather immeasurable understanding, so do not take it too literally, we are concerned with the principles that are posited by the rules, not the other way around!)

Rule.
Exaltation
Joy
Gloom?
Fall
Det.
Sun
5
1
9
3
7
11
Moon
4
2
3
9
8
10
Mercury
3
6
1
7
12
9
Venus
7
12
5
11
6
1
Mars
1
10
6
12
4
7
Jupiter
9
4
11
5
10
3
Saturn
10
7
12
6
1
4
Uranus
11
8
2
5
Neptune
12
4
10
6
Pluto
8
2

Of course there are various provisos to all of these various positionings but as a general rule I would modify the essential dignities by 3 or 4 points either way for accidental dignity or debility according to house position. I would be prepared to modify those factors according to the more general conditions of a nativity, but the fundamental message that this entire apprehension of placement is intended to convey is that scoring is designed to facilitate a correct feeling for any given placement, but more importantly how that fits into the whole. It is simply not good enough to say that an essential dignity score of (say) -9 is a recipe for disaster without considering the various other factors that are in play: of these house position is very nearly as important as sign; it is all very well being able to sing like an angel, but if the only place you are able to sing is in the bath then it is not going to affect your destiny to any great extent.

Next time around I will be considering an example where these principles are thrown into very sharp relief.

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One comment on “An Accident of Birth?

  1. Z says:

    I concur with your assessment of a third house sun as gloom…I have a third house sun, and the gloominess is more or less a constant.

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