Dignities in Astrology

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Dignities or “essential dignities” describe the condition of a Point in certain signs, relating to the Point’s fortitude, strength/weakness, and quality in those signs. The four dignities are rulership, detriment, exaltation, and fall. These assignments only apply to the original seven Points visible in the sky before the discovery of Uranus in 1781.

What is Rulership?

Rulership describes the Point (Sun, Moon, Mercury, and so on) that “rules” or is strongest in a Sign. For example, the Sun “rules” Leo. Rulership also describes the Sign that rules or “lords over” a house. Aries rules the 1st House, while Taurus rules the 2nd House. The sequence of the signs follows the sequence of the houses. So, Pisces, the 12th Sign rules the 12th House.

Rulership Table

Below is the table of rulership:

HouseRuling SignRuling Point(s)
1AriesMars
2TaurusVenus
3GeminiMercury
4CancerMoon
5LeoSun
6VirgoMercury (slowly being replaced by Chiron)
7LibraVenus
8ScorpioPluto (classical ruler, Mars)
9SagittariusJupiter
10CapricornSaturn
11AquariusUranus (classical ruler, Saturn)
12PiscesNeptune (classical ruler, Jupiter)

Classical Rulership Wheel

Before the discovery of Uranus (1781), Neptune (1846), Pluto (1933), and Chiron (1977), the rulership pattern looked like this:

Classical Rulership Wheel

Why Rulership Matters

If a Point is in a Sign, it rules, then that point will have natural priority in a chart. It will stand out. The Point is said to “be at home” where it is most comfortable and willing to express itself freely and strongly.

Exaltation, Detriment, and Fall

Points not only rule certain Signs but they are also exalted (do very well) in certain Signs. They are also weakened in certain signs and will find themselves in detriment or fall. The detriment Sign for a Point is the Sign opposite its rulership. Mars rules Aries but is in detriment in Libra. A point in detriment is said to be “exiled” and is least comfortable and most restrained in the Sign of its detriment. The Sign of a Point’s fall is opposite the Sign of its Exaltation. Only the original seven classical points have these four designations, as shown by the chart below:

PointRulershipDetrimentExaltationFall
SunLeoAquariusAriesLibra
MoonCancerCapricornTaurusScorpio
MercuryGemini/VirgoSagittarius/PiscesVirgoPisces
VenusTaurus/LibraScorpio/AriesPiscesVirgo
MarsAries/ScorpioLibra/TaurusCapricornCancer
JupiterSagittarius/PiscesGemini/VirgoCancerCapricorn

Dispositorship

Dispositing is the term used to determine where a Point in a Sign looks in the chart if it is NOT in its rulership. That Point “looks to” the Point ruling the Sign it is in. Let’s say you have Mars in Taurus. If you do, then it disposits to where Venus is in the chart. Say Venus is in Gemini. If so, then Mars “disposits” to Venus. However, Venus is nfot in its sign of Rulership, so you keep dispositing until:

  1. You get to a Point that is in the Sign of its rulership, or
  2. You get to the Point that “looks back” to your starting point.

Whichever one it turns out to be, that Point is the “final dispositor”, which has the “final say” or the most help to give to the starting point.

Two Examples

  1. Mars/Taurus > Venus/Gemini > Mercury/Virgo (stop!) – Mercury rules Virgo, so the final dispositor for Mars is Mercury.
  2. Mars/Taurus > Venus/Gemini > Mercury/Sagittarius > Jupiter/Aries > Mars/Taurus (go back!) – Jupiter in Aries is the final dispositor for Mars in Taurus, in this second example.

Understanding dignity and dispositing can help you learn why people with the same Sun sign can be so very different. Knowing these concepts enriches your understanding of astrology and adds to the nuance of interpretation when working with a chart.

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