Ptolemy's Essential Dignities Table


Table copyright ©, 1999 by Scott Withers. Students are free to print or download the table for private study. If the table is moved to any other Web site, credit must be given Scott Withers, per Linda Reid, Panplanet. Email Scott Withers

The degrees given in this table must be read as the ending longitude and should be interpreted as being an exact longitude X°00'000.00".

In the Ptolemaic system Mars rules water day and night.

The participating ruler is not used in the Ptolemaic system.

Subtract one degree when calculating Terms, Faces, etc., as this chart begins at 1° and we start at 0°.

Rulership and Essential Dignities

Copyright 1996 by Frank E. Piechoski

Much of astrology is about order. The order of the signs, the arraignment of planets in the houses, the different divisions of 360 degrees to form the aspects and the assignment of the elements and modalities to each sign. Another way that astrology shows order is by the rulership assignments. The way that the inherent order in rulerships is reflected best is by using the 7 original heavenly bodies, Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. These are the planets that have been used in astrology for thousands of years as rulers of various signs. The outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were discovered much more recently and do not have the thousands of years of astrological study behind them to lend them true credence within the system of rulerships and essential dignities. The modern planets and other points which have recently been proposed as rulers of signs, such as Chiron, are outside the purview of this work. Most of the material presented here can be found in William Lilly's "Christian Astrology," first printed in 1647 in England.

A planet is very strong in a chart when it has many essential dignities. The essential dignities are as follows: rulership, exaltation, triplicity, term and face. There are also essential debilities called detriment and fall. A planet which has no essential dignity is called perigrine.

Before going into the other types of essential dignities, we will focus on rulership.

When a planet is in its own sign (called its own "House" in older texts) it is in a very comfortable place and works well. A planet is comfortable in its own house, as it were. Using the old rulerships, the Sun rules Leo, the Moon rules Cancer, Mercury rules Virgo and Gemini, Venus rules Libra and Taurus, Mars rules Scorpio and Aries, Jupiter rules Sagittarius and Pisces and Saturn rules Capricorn and Aquarius. If you notice, all the bodies except the Sun and Moon rule two signs, one masculine sign and one feminine sign. Also notice that if a planet rules an airsign in the masculine expression, it rules an earth sign in the feminine; and if it rules a fire sign in the masculine, it rules a water sign in the feminine.

This system has a basic symmetry and order that resonates strongly through astrology. To look at this visually, take the wheel of the Zodiac and place the two signs where the Sun is at its highest in the northern hemisphere, Cancer and Leo. Place the two rulers of those signs, The Moon, as the main feminine archetype, and the Sun as the main masculine one. Place the rulers of the other signs in their proper places and draw lines between the identical planets. The planets after the Sun and moon go in a logical progression form closest to the Sun, Mercury, to the farthest, Saturn. Symmetry. The seven visible points distributed among the 12 signs. Seven and Twelve, two numbers normally not divisible by each other, but fitting in this scheme perfectly.

After seeing the simplicity and order in this rulership system, let's look at some ways that we can use rulerships. Using the ascendant, or chart, ruler and seeing where it is placed can be illuminating when delineating a chart. Take Sagittarius rising for example. In a hypothetical example Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter, which is placed in Pisces in the 4th House. Jupiter rules Pisces also, so it is very comfortable there. In the 4th House it would denote an attraction towardthe home. A happy home life is indicated and will be a very strong issue in the native's life. As another example, take Aries rising, with Mars in Libra in the 7th House. Mars rules Aries, so it is the chart ruler, but is placed in Libra, ruled by Venus, in the 7th house. This is normally not a comfortable position for Mars, and could lead to a native who is argumentative and has difficulty in partnerships. You can look at your own charts and find other examples such as these and also look at the rulers of different houses and where and how comfortably they are placed.

Moving on to the other types of essential dignities, we first come to exaltation. Planets are exalted as follows: Sun in Aries, Moon in Taurus, Jupiter in Cancer, Mercury in Virgo (Which it also rules), Saturn in Libra, Mars in Capricorn and Venus in Pisces. Two additional exaltations are listed: The Moon's North Node in Gemini and the South Node in Sagittarius. A planet in exaltation is very strong, but acts much more independently than one in it's own sign. Being in exaltation allows to planet to express itself strongly and it is not softened by being placed comfortably in its own sign. Thus, Venus in Pisces is the true romantic, and Mars in Capricorn is the driven achiever.

The triplicities of the elements also have rulers which differ depending on whether the chart is diurnal(day) or nocturnal (night) , that is whether the Sun is above or below the horizon in the chart. The Triplicities are as follows: Fire - Sun (d) and Jupiter (n), Earth - Venus (d) and Moon (n), Air - Saturn (d) and Mercury (n), Water - Mars (d & n). Mars rules the water triplicity both during the day and night because its nature is best tempered by Water.

The most complex of the essential dignities are the terms, in which each sign is divided into five unequal portions, each ruled by a different planet. This is a weaker dignity, but still important in assessing the relative strengths of the planets in a chart. There are also the faces or decanates, which are also listed on the table. These are weaker than the terms and are equal divisions of ten degrees for each sign. How does one begin to use the essential dignities? William Lilly devised a point-based system to find the relative strengths of the planets. He assigns 5 points to a planet in its own sign, 4 points if in its exaltation, 3 points if in its triplicity, 2 points if in its own term and 1 point if in its own face. He also subtracted 5 points for a planet in its detriment or if peregrine and subtracted 4 points if in its fall. Basically, detriment is the sign opposite the sign of rulership and fall is the sign opposite the exaltation. Once you have totaled up the points for all your planets, you can then assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of the different planets in your chart. Rulerships and essential dignities are yet another powerful tool for the astrologer when used to interpret a chart.

Many thanks to Frank for allowing me to use his article at Starcats. Visit Frank at Frank Star.




Copyright © 1998, 1999 by Claudia D. Dikinis. All international rights reserved.