Tag Archives: dignity

Current Events | Newtown School Shooting | Malefics and the 3rd House

Note: It is my belief, given my years of studying astrology and meeting astrologers, that no one could have predicted that a horrible school shooting would occur at Sandy Hook in Connecticut on the morning of December 14th.  Whether we may ever have that capacity from the reading of astrological signs is something beyond my power to know.  Personally, I still feel that the astrological arts are too immature for even the performance of ‘psychic’-style readings as so often observed.  However, there is much to be gained by research and data collection, especially in terms of examining the ever-flowing pen of history against those charts highlighted by the original mundane (i.e. pertaining to worldly events) astrologers as providing signs for events in a location over a period of time.  That is all that I endeavor to briefly cast light on here.

As a father of two young children, I was deeply shocked and saddened by the recent school shooting in Connecticut.  I offer my sincere condolences to the loved ones of the victims.  I do not intend this examination of the astrology of the events as a means of implying that things were “in God’s plan” or anything of that sort.  My faith in both astrology and God are too frail for me to speak confidently about any purposeful underpinnings of such tragedy.  I only stand continually perplexed by recurrence of thematically relevant signs in the sky. I mean the term signs within the astrological interpretative guidelines of horoscopic astrology’s original practitioners.

Analysis of the Charts

In ancient mundane astrology, the most important charts were those of the moments of the equinoxes, solstices, and lunations (new and full moons; eclipses).  In fact, Abu Ma’shar gave 6 hierarchical levels of mundane chart types (which I’ve discussed previously) and all of those charts types consists of moments of equinoxes/solstices and lunations, of varying significance.

For specific events affecting a community, we will typically be interested in the chart of the New Moon from that location which projects signs for the significant facets of the month.  For very influential events, particularly those involving transformation of the political, cultural, or physical landscape, we look beyond the month to the quarter, the year, and higher level charts reflecting bigger periods.

21-23 Sagittarius

It is unusual for the US to have two major public shootings in one year.  That itself is cause enough to examine the chart of the year, which is the Vernal Equinox of 2012.  While it is not a traditional indication, it is intriguing to me that the Sun was conjunct asteroid Atropos (that one of the three fates which brings death) at the equinox this year (Atropos was at 00ARI39 when the Sun hit 00ARI00, the equinoctial point).  In my analysis of the shooting in Aurora, IL, I primarily examined the shooter’s chart.  A shocking and fascinating parallel exists between the chart of James Holmes, the Aurora shooter, and the timing of the Sandy Hook shooting (which was by a different shooter, Adam Lanza).  James Holmes (the shooter in the Aurora shooting) was born on December 13th with his Sun at 21 Sagittarius, conjunct Saturn at 23 Sagittarius.  The New Moon (conjunction of the Sun and Moon) that occurred the day before the Connecticut shooting in the Sandy Hook area, occurred on December 13th, Holmes’ birthday, at 21 Sagittarius, with the Sun having reached 23 Sagittarius by the morning of the shootings.  Click to enlarge image below.

New Moon 12-13-12 Sandy Hook
New Moon 12-13-12
Sandy Hook

These degrees have some sort of obvious tragic importance for the year. In fact, a friend of mine was born on December 14th, and filed for divorce on his birthday this year amidst very dramatic circumstances, less than a year after his celebrated wedding.  What is it about these degrees for this year?  There is much mundane astrological literature still yet to be translated into English and published, so perhaps future study will provide more elucidation.  For now, my best guess is that the degree area is marked out as particularly linked to afflictions of Saturn for the entire Air epoch in the Jupiter-Saturn cycle, as the 1980 Vernal Equinox from DC, which projects signs relevant to major events in the US from 1980 to 2159.  Saturn, planet of loss and afflictions, was at 23 Virgo in the chart of the Vernal Equinox of 1980 from DC and was in the 7th House which can be a house of enmity, as well as in the bound of Mars, planet of violence.  Sagittarius is dominated (i.e. in inferior square to) that Saturn and 23 Sagittarius is particularly afflicted by it as the dominated degree.  Still, there are many gaps to fill.

Vernal Equinox 1980
Vernal Equinox 1980 (from Washington DC)

The Shocking New Moon and Event Charts

Turning again to the New Moon which occurred about a day and a half before the Sandy Hook shooting, we see some very striking symoblism. Saturn was out of sect, conjunct the Ascendant within a degree, and in the nocturnal house of Mars, while Mars was in the 3rd House, the main house of schools and primary education, and in the nocturnal house of Saturn, while 4 planets were in dark places disconnected from the Ascendant (Sun, Moon, and Mercury in the 2nd; Jupiter in the 8th).

New Moon 12-13-12 Sandy Hook
New Moon 12-13-12
Sandy Hook

News reports indicate that the police were called from the school at about 9:30am on the morning of December 14th.  Therefore, the violence started some time slightly earlier than this.  I use the time of 9:15am in the chart of the shootings below, but the shooting of the man’s mother occurred earlier in their house and the school shootings likely spanned past 9:30am, so this is only an approximation.  Of importance is the fact that the majority of the killing, if not all of it, occurred while a Moon-Mars conjunction in Capricorn was rising.  The Moon is symbolic of the body and congregation, while Mars is symbolic of violence, so this configuration can potentially signify bodily harm and waves of violence.  It is an effective configuration when the Moon and Mars are in the same sign, but even more so when the Moon is applying within 13 degrees according to Hellenistic sources.  Here the Moon is applying within 11 degrees, and is actually in a condition of being besieged, as she has separated from the malefic Saturn and applies to the malefic Mars.  This is symbolic of particularly destructive occurrences, as the Moon rules the general flow of events, with her applications and separations here indicating a movements from bad to worse (sect malefic to non-sect malefic). For a better understanding of what maleficence means, please check out my early post on the malefics.

Newton Shooting 2012
Newton Shooting 2012


I’ve presented a few more examples of the sky saying something that we should seek to understand more deeply.  Unfortunately, I have little more to offer at this time and can only hope that a great deal of fruitful research into mundane astrology will occur in the coming decades as we learn more about the techniques of the original practitioners of this art.

One thing that stands out in this examination is the strong relevance of Mars in Capricorn.  Mars was also in Capricorn during the 9/11 attacks.  This is worth noting because many traditionalists insist on a separation between “zodiacal” state and “accidental” or “terrestrial” state, along lines explored by Morin of the 17th century, in which the planet is basically qualified as pleasant/unpleasant and so forth by zodiacal dignity (among other things) and then directed to pertain to certain sets of affairs more than others and is quantified in strength by terrestrial placement (i.e. house placement).  In addition to this doctrine, many believe that a zodiacal state of a planet in exaltation represents an indication of immense power for good (i.e. in the case of a malefic, its transformation into an accidental benefic).  On many occasions I have explored reasons why one should abandon the belief that dignity makes for more or less beneficence.  For instance, the fact that Dahmer’s character indicators and chart in general is burgeoning with planetary dignity while Ted Turner’s are quite ill-dignified.  Additionally, contrary to the doctrine of this division of labor between zodiacal and accidental state, it is the case that accidental indications of sect and place were far more relevant for the assessment of beneficence/maleficence in Hellenistic astrology.  We see further support here for my positions on these matters and the dismissal of medieval dignity pointing, the dignity=beneficence theory, and the Morinus separation doctrine.  Both this shooting and 911 occurred with Mars in Capricorn (the exaltation of Mars), and the Aurora killer, James Holmes, had Mars in Scorpio (a domicile of Mars), while Dahmer has Mars in Aries (a domicile of Mars).  Such events and characters have been in no way representative of a dignified martian expression, but do show a greater prominence of Mars (i.e. augmented quantity), as well as a more malefic expression, possibly linked to the rulership of Mars by a malefic (itself, or in the case of exaltation, Saturn).  Zodiacal state and accidental state interact and mix in so far as indications of quantity, quality, and topic with the accidental indications typically providing the more cogent and specific modifications of the natural indications of the planet itself.

On a more personal note, there seem to be a lot of events in my life leading me to explore these matters of brutality more closely.  Perhaps this is on account of a return of my own Mars in Capricorn.  The masterful film, “We Need to Talk About Kevin”, by director Lynne Ramsay immediately became one of my favorites when I saw it this year.  More recently I discovered the graphic novel, “My Friend Dahmer”, by Derf Backderf which was brilliantly done and brought clarity to Dahmer’s troubled origins.  I highly recommend those works.

Character | James Holmes | Advancement and Dignity Revisited

The events of July 20th, 2012 in Aurora, Colorado were deeply disturbing. They were so disturbing that some modern astrologers simply refused to look into the killer’s chart much, believing that something so heinous must be beyond astrology.  I’ve always been very interested in the astrology of the worst experiences in life, not so that I can blame them on the stars as some might believe, but because I view astrology not as causal but as a language, as a system of signs from the gods or some higher intelligence.  Therefore, when something particularly bad happens, I wonder if there was any such indication given by the gods or some higher intelligence through a celestial language of signs.

It is not easy for me to come to grips with the fact that this world creates people like Adolf Hitler, Jeffrey Dahmer, and James Holmes, who commit horrible atrocities.  However, the world does create such people and they are indeed part of our reality, one that ranges from the most sublime expansive spiritual experiences to senseless random unfair cruelty like this tragedy in Colorado.  I do astrology because it’s what I do, but I remain agnostic about my beliefs with regards to a great many things, so events like this repulse me, make me cry, and lead me to pray for the victims and their families and for protection for myself and my loved ones against such idiotic displays of cruelty.

About a week ago, the birth certificate of the Colorado movie theater shooter, James Holmes, was unearthed and his birth time uncovered.  In ancient astrology a valid birth time is essential to character analysis as it sets the rising degree which determines which topics are assigned to which signs, in what is called the houses of the chart.  Now that we have a birth time for James Holmes, I would like to make a couple brief notes about the chart which reiterate some of the important points I’ve raised in past posts about critical factors for character analysis, issues with the use of essential dignity in the community, and the use of advancement in assessing planetary prominence.  This will not be an in depth look at the events and will largely be devoid of timing techniques.  I may delve into such topics at some future point.


James Eagan Holmes was born on December 13th, 1987 at 9:04pm in La Jolla, California (source).  His basic chart is shown below.

James Holmes Natal Chart
James Holmes Natal Chart

Some of the most important factors in character analysis include the Ascendant and 1st house, its lord, the Moon and her separations and applications, the Sun, Mercury, and general planetary strength and weakness.

Holmes has Leo rising, with the Ascendant in the bound of Mercury, so we expect some “self-identification” with the Sun and Mercury, with their placements in the chart being fairly important to the character, even more so than typical.  The Sun would make someone attention-getting, competitive, leading, powerful, achieving, and dominant, but this more so if the Sun is regarding the Ascendant also, strong, and is somewhat prototypical (in a place of its dignity).  Mercury would make someone clever, flexible, complicated, analytically skilled, and possibly a bit mischievous, and again more so if also regarding the Ascendant, strong, and somewhat prototypical.  Both the Sun and Mercury regard the Ascendant and are advancing (see the last post for more on advancement), so we do expect something of the solar and mercurial to be quite evident in the nature of the character.  In his chart these planets are together in the 5th house, that of Good Fortune, which pertains to physical enjoyments and achievements, such as entertainment.  They are ruled by Jupiter which is in the 9th house, which among other things pertains to higher education, and is particularly scholarly here in the bound of Mercury (also stationing direct, bringing very good benefits through higher ed to the native).

However, we find that the solar personality is modified quite substantially in the chart by the fact that the Sun is adhering (i.e. applying conjunction within 3 degrees) to the out of sect malefic, Saturn, in Saturn’s bound.  Saturn pertains to darkness, death, the macabre, and cruelty, especially when out of sect, so there is a sense of this solar being staying in the room of a malicious Saturn and powerfully joining up with Saturn over time.  Mercury is also in assembly with this Sun-Saturn (applying conjunction within 15 degrees in the same sign) while under the beams of the Sun, signifying hidden plans or communications.  So overall, from the lord of the Ascendant and its bound lord, which are also two of the chart factors that have some general bearing on the look at the mind and spirit in the chart, we get the sense that James Holmes is a solar-mercurial figure with a somewhat choleric personality belying some darkness, depression, dark malicious thoughts and so forth. Additionally, the twelfth-part of the Ascendant, which can show a hidden emphasis in the mind of the native, is in the 8th place of death and harm (as are the twelfth-parts of Fortune and Spirit, and the regular position of the Lot of Necessity).

Holmes Natal with Twelfth-Parts
Holmes Natal with Twelfth-Parts

Another very important factor for personality is the Moon, which Ptolemy (2nd century CE) regarded as particularly important for understanding the more instinctive or body-linked part of the mind (i.e. the subconscious), as opposed to the rational mind (which he associated with Mercury).  The separations and applications of the Moon were thought to be extremely significant by many ancient astrologers, and are, for instance, delineated by Julius Firmicus Maternus (4th century CE) with descriptions that have bearing on character.

The Moon in this chart is at 29 Virgo, in the sign of Mercury and the bound of Saturn.  So far we are seeing a reiteration of the importance of both Mercury and Saturn in understanding the character, revealing again a sense of intellect or scholarship, as well as possible darkness, obstruction, or cruelty.  The Moon is also conjunct the South Node of the Moon very closely, which is the eclipse point, and often associated with Saturn, suggesting again a sense of darkness.  Turning to the Lots we find that the Moon is also conjunct, in the same degree, the Lot of Affliction, which is the lot which pertains to the worst sorts of evils, afflictions, and problems (more on the Lot of Affliction here).  Also, the Lot of the Moon, called Fortune, which pertains to physical and circumstantial happenings, is very closely conjunct Mars, the planet of violence and aggression.

Holmes Natal with 5 Lots
Holmes Natal with 5 Lots

The Separations and applications of the Moon are also interesting in the chart.  The Moon separates from a square with Saturn, but applies to nothing, being void (i.e. the Moon completes no application within the next 13 degrees of travel, or about a day, thus is not “connecting” with any planets, “connection” being the terminology for a degree-based aspect).  So it is as if we have a Moon fresh off connecting with a rather cruel Saturn from a rather tense square aspect and then just going off aimless, suggesting a personal impulse from cruelty toward randomness, with Saturn (bound lord and last planet connected with) setting the tone.


In the last two posts, which were part of my beginner series, I looked at the importance of advancement in assessing planetary prominence.  James Holmes will be particularly well known for his brutally violent criminal actions.  In his chart we find Mars as strong as can be, actually conjunct an angle, the IC at the bottom of the chart.  While I haven’t gotten into the “stakes” of the chart yet, it is also important to mention that Mars is in a “stake”, the 4th house, which also makes it more prominent.  The next most advancing planets are the assembly of Mercury, the Sun, and Saturn.  However, note that the only two planets that are retreating in the chart are both benefics, Jupiter and Venus, which are additionally cadent (i.e. the 12th, 6th, 9th, and 3rd are also weaker houses).  Thus, while the events in the life see the volume turned way up on Mars, they see the volume turned down on the benefics.  Competitiveness, aggression, and violence get “featured” in the life.

Dignity Revisited

It’s probably a good time to revisit the issue of essential dignity and its misuse and general overuse in the astrological community.  As with my polemic on this issue in which I discussed Jeffrey Dahmer’s many highly “dignified” planets, including Dahmer’s very dignified Mars in Aries, the chart of Holmes also warns against using dignity in any sense in which it makes a planet act more benefically or more “dignified” in its expression.  Mars is in Scorpio, both in domicile and with first triplicity (a solid +8 in late traditional dignity pointing systems), yet the display of violence that this person brought into being was anything but dignified.  What we see instead is a Mars that is quite prototypically Mars, as in violent, and in the bound of Mercury adds a sense of cleverness, irony, and weirdness.  A Mars more Mars-y, but definitely not a “better” Mars in a beneficence or honor sense.

Even in terms of strength, we must be careful not to attach a lot of importance to sign-based dignity.  It is worth noting for instance that Michael Phelps has Mars in Cancer, the sign of its fall.  Mars being a planet of brawn, competitiveness, and atheticism, we’d be mistaken to say that these things are weak with Michael Phelps because Mars is in fall.  On the other hand, from an associative point of view, Mars in Cancer fits Phelps well, as it links those things with water, both by being in a water sign and the sign of the Moon, which rules over bodies of water and swift travel.


It’s my hope that this short look at the chart of the mass murderer, James Holmes, will assist astrologers in more quickly picking out those chart factors that matter for character delineation and will encourage critical thought with respect to the status quo manner by which traditional astrologers today tend to evaluate planets by sign-based dignity.

Twelfth-Parts | 3. Dahmer, Turner, and Dignity Revisited


In the last couple posts I’ve discussed the use of the twelfth-parts, also known as the dodecatemoria or to some, simply the duads/dwads.  Please quickly read over the first post and the second post on twelfth parts before continuing.  In this and a series of future posts, I’ll be revisiting analyses from prior posts and adding to them with information from the dodecatemoria positions.

The Curious Case of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Turner

In many of the posts on dignity, I pointed out the folly in relying on sign-based dignity in evaluating the benefic or malefic associations of a planet.  The first of such posts compared the chart of Jeffrey Dahmer (click here to read it), who had a whopping 4 planets in domicile, with only 2 peregrine and only 1 in fall, with that of Ted Turner, who has no planets in domicile or exaltation, 1 planet in fall, 3 planets in “detriment” (detriment was not an actual concept in itself in Hellenistic astrology, the way that fall, domicile, exaltation, and such were, so I don’t agree with its use), 2 planets peregrine, and only 1 planet with what an astrologer using the weighted dignity system (which was invented by a Perso-Arabic astrologer nearly a millenium into the tradition) would call “a positive dignity score”.

I found Dahmer and Turner to be the perfect minimal pair for explaining the trouble with dignity, not just in terms of beneficence and maleficence, but also for strength.  I do use some sign-based significations like domicile, exaltation, fall, triplicity, and bound, for strength myself, but I tend to put less stress on those dignity-oriented significations than I place on advancing/retreating, being in a stake, stations, phasis, and relationship to the lights (including being in a domicile of a light).  Obviously, Dahmer’s life was not filled with more joy, goodness, and positive productivity than that of Turner, as might be expected if dignity pertained to beneficence and maleficence.  Similarly, while Manetho, Maternus, and other Hellenistic astrologers suggested that one’s stature and power depend to a great deal on the number of planets in domicile in one’s chart, it is clear that this also cannot be the case, as we would expect the lack of dignity in Turner’s chart to suggest he is very much held back, while we would suggest that Dahmer has immense social mobility.  Therefore, while I believe that being in domicile, exaltation, triplicity, or bound is strengthening and reinforcing of a planet, it is obvious folly to depend too heavily on dignity for planetary strength and particularly for evaluating social status and mobility.

Enter Twelfth-Parts

With the above said, it is interesting that the twelfth-parts tend to reveal much more strength and beneficence in Turner’s chart, including strength attributable to sign based dignity, while the twelfth-parts reveal additional weakness and maleficence in Dahmer’s chart.

Ted Turner's Natal Chart with Twelfth-Parts on Outside of Wheel
Ted Turner’s Natal Chart with Twelfth-Parts on Outside of Wheel

The 3 planets in “detriment” in Turner’s natal chart shift to being in their own domiciles in the twelfth-parts, and Saturn in fall shifts to being in “detriment” (actually into being in triplicity and the sign of the sect light, as detriment is a spurious label in my opinion – being in triplicity and in a sign of a light, especially the sect light is quite strengthening).  Additionally, the Sun, which was peregrine and retreating in the 12th, in a sign of Mars and the bound of Saturn, ends up in the 10th with the Moon, in a sign of Mercury and the bound of Jupiter.  Both lights being in the 10th provides a very strong indication of attaining power and influence, and generally being socially mobile. Additionally, the twelfth-part of the sect benefic, Jupiter, falls into the 12th of the natal chart which is the place of the Sun and Fortune (as well as Venus), indicating fortunate circumstances very strongly.  The other benefic, Venus, lands in the 11th, her domicile, the place of the Moon (and Mars).  Thus both benefic twelfth-parts occupy the places of the lights; very fortunate!

Dahmer's Natal Chart with Twelfth-Parts along Outside of Wheel
Dahmer’s Natal Chart with Twelfth-Parts along Outside of Wheel

We find the opposite type of thing happening with Dahmer’s chart when we look at the twelfth-parts.  We go from 4 planets in domicile and 1 in fall to 3 twelfth-part planets in fall (and 1 in “detriment”), while no twelfth-parts are in domicile or exaltation.  Additionally, the twelfth-part of Mars, in fall, occupies the powerful 10th place, square to its natal position, thus increasing its malice (see quote in last post referring to twelfth-parts that square or oppose their natal positions).  Mars-Moon combinations, such as the one in the natal chart, have significations that relate to bodily violence, and the twelfth-part of Mars in the sign of the Moon, and square to the natal Moon and Mars further accentuates this signification, as does the occurrence of the twelfth-part of the Moon in Scorpio, a domicile of Mars, in the bound of Saturn (significator of death), and in the 2nd place (one of the dark places).  The Moon is relevant for character, especially in terms of irrational impulses and instincts, as Ptolemy identified it with the irrational part of the soul (see Tetrabiblos, Book III, Ch. 13).  While the Ascendant and Mercury, two of a handful of factors relevant for character delineation, are in the bounds of Jupiter in the natal chart, their twelfth-parts are in bounds of Saturn, and the twelfth-part of Mercury is additionally with the twelfth-part of Saturn in the 11th, pertaining to friends and networking.  Additionally, the ruler of the Ascendant, the twelfth-part of the Ascendant, and the ruler of the twelfth-part of the Ascendant are also very important for character.  We find the ruler of the Ascendant, Venus, to be in the 8th pertaining to death, fear, and harm, in the bound of Saturn, and we find the twelfth-part of the Ascendant in that same place and bound, ruled by Venus, thus piling three important character significators into the bound of Saturn, planet of death, in the 8th place, the place of death, ruled by and occupied by Venus, planet of sexuality.


Twelfth-parts give very important additional information about planets and points in the natal chart.  While dignity is not the most important factor in planetary strength, we see that it can play a role in strength so long as we are diligent enough to examine both natal and twelfth-part positions.  The ancients stressed how the twelfth-parts are responsible for major modulations in planetary signification within a sign that would be missed from looking at the natal chart alone.  In this sense, perhaps dignity relating to twelfth-part positions is even more important than that related to natal positions, but more work would have to be done researching in this area to be sure.  In any case, the twelfth-parts positions reinforce or contradict significations in the natal chart, helping us to sort the wheat from the chaff.

Mercury in Gemini, Mercury in Virgo | Not Strong for the Intellect

The main idea here is that Mercury in its own signs is a counter-indication of intellectual strength, rather than the exact opposite as might be assumed by an over-reliance on the concept of dignity for general strength of natural signification. 

If you believe that Mercury, planet of intellect, must bode well for the intellect in its own domiciles, Gemini and Virgo, then you are mistaken.

For those who don’t know, I use “dignity” for rulership, pertinence, and various qualitative considerations in my own astrological work, but I abhor the typical over-reliance on dignity in traditional circles for matters of strength and goodness of a planet, especially when it comes to the latter.  I have made it a point to speak out against such usage of dignity whenever possible, to completely avoid use of dignity in that manner in my own work on the blog, and to frequently engage in polemics about the idiocy of heavy reliance on dignity in such a way.  For instance, I’ve discussed the dignity problem in “The Curious Case of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Turner” (and its sequel) and “Dignity: The Biggest Problem with Late Traditional Astrology“.  Here I look at one particularly cogent error of the dignity approach, the belief that Mercury, natural significator of the rationalizing mind, bodes well for the intellect in the signs where it is most dignified, its domiciles Virgo and Gemini.

Mercury in Virgo or Gemini Can Be An Indication of a Small Intellect

Both Masha’allah (On Nativities, c.f. Dykes trans., 2008, Section 5) and Abu’ali al-Khayyat (The Judgment of Nativities, c.f. Dykes trans., 2009, Ch. 5) discussed the signification of Mercury in terms of manner of thinking and speaking through different sorts of signs, with a particular emphasis on quadruplicity (whether in a Cardinal/Moveable/Changeable sign, a Fixed sign, or a Common/Mutable sign).  Their comments take place in their discussion of delineating character, mind, and will in the chart, using the lord of the Ascendant, and Mercury, with Mercury indicating the manner of speaking (and also of intellect, to at least Abu’ali).

They seem to agree that Mercury in a Cardinal sign indicates an enthusiasm, fast grasp of things, and even skill in speech, while in a Fixed sign a deeper more serious search for truth and good advice is indicated, both in contrast to Mercury in a Common sign, which includes Virgo and Gemini as well as Sagittarius and Pisces, and is indicative of a small intellect which is quick to anger and slow to understand.  Additionally, Abu Bakr, in a passage pertaining to indications of quickness to rage, noted Mercury in one of his own domiciles as an indication of instability.  These passages are summarized below.

Mercury through the Quadruplicities

  1. Cardinal/Moveable/Changeable Signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, Capricorn): On Mercury in a cardinal sign, Masha’allah said, “…strong and in a moveable sign, it indicates he has a good way of speaking, and an honored one, and one fearing God” (Dykes, 2008, Section 5, p. 398).  On Mercury in a cardinal sign, Abu’ali said, “…it signifies the intellect’s loftiness, easy grasp [of things], and [its] beauty, and love of the sciences, and religion” (Dykes, 2009, Ch. 5, p. 236).
  2. Fixed/Solid Signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, Aquarius): On Mercury in a fixed sign, Masha’allah said, “…it indicates he is going to be honored, and by means of truth and goodness and counsel in his life, and his advice will be most truthful in every way, and will free hindered advice from hindrances” (Dykes, 2008, Section 5, p. 398).  On Mercury in a fixed sign, Abu’ali said, “…it signifies prudence, constancy, mercy [or pity], and the fulfillment of things undertaken” (Dykes, 2009, Ch. 5, p. 236).
  3. Mutable/Common Signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, Pisces): On Mercury in a mutable sign, Masha’allah said, “…it indicates he has little wisdom, and is liable to anger, and as a rule he does not believe the advice of another” (Dykes, 2008, Section 5, p. 398). On Mercury in a mutable sign, Abu’ali said, “…it signifies a small intellect with great speediness, and quickness to anger, and a scarce and small stability or perseverance in something undertaken, or advice, or business” (Dykes, 2009, Ch. 5, p. 236).  Additionally, Abu Bakr noted, “If Mercury were in his own domicile, the native will be fearful and unsound” (Dykes, 2010, On Nativities, Book II, Ch. 1.2, p. 143).


The delineation of intellectual strength is not something to be taken lightly.  Intellect cannot be delineated based on the quadruplicity of Mercury’s sign placement alone.  What is significant is that Mercury in a mutable sign, especially Mercury in its own domicile, is one indication of a weaker, more superficial and unstable, intellect.  It is in contrast to both immediate competency or directness (cardinal) and probing steadiness (fixed).  Mercury, as a significator of intellect and speech, moves from place to place and constantly connects things, much like the syntactic force of natural language, training complex ideas together.  Similarly, mutable signs are associated with back-and-forth between two things or parties, and are all domiciles of Mercury and Jupiter.  It would seem that a mutable sign accentuates the instability of Mercury, rather than directing it and stabilizing it.  When he’s just working for himself, so to speak, Mercury is even more unstable.  This seems to be particularly so in Gemini, which is additionally an Air sign, accentuating the flitting quality of Mercury.

In my own experience, I find the sign quadruplicity of Mercury to be one of the weaker indications of intellectual strength.  However, in that matter, it seems many more noteworthy intellectuals had Mercury in a sign of Jupiter, Sagittarius or Pisces,  where it is said to be in detriment or fall, than in Virgo or (particularly) Gemini.  For instance, Copernicus, Schopenhauer, and Noam Chomsky, all have Mercury in a sign of Jupiter.  Rulership by Jupiter at least links Mercury with wisdom, philosophy and/or religion, and the search for greater truth. Rulership by Jupiter also links Mercury with gain and fortune. Noam Chomsky and Christopher Hirata (child prodigy with a very high IQ who started work with NASA when 16), both have Mercury in Sagittarius, combust the Sun in Sagittarius, not regarded by its ruler Jupiter, but conjunct an angle and in a stake, with strong identification with Mercury as it is either in the first or ruling the first house in both charts.  Copernicus too has Mercury with the Sun in a stake in a Jupiter-ruled sign (Pisces), with Mercury ruling the first house (Virgo), though he has Jupiter regarding Mercury. In these cases, we see that the link of Mercury with Jupiter by rulership, the prominence of Mercury by advancement, and the identification with Mercury shown through some important rulership of the Ascendant and/or position in the stakes, may be more important indicators of someone known for their intellectual prowess than factors like dignity, quadruplicity, combustion (though the converse of Mercury with the Sun showing additional public importance attached to a planet may be the case), and reception.

On a personal note, I’ve always been quite blown away by my own daughter’s very early and articulate usage of language.  She has Mercury in Pisces and combust, within 3 degrees of the Sun, though strongly advancing and in the 5th. 4 of her 7 planets are in Air signs, including a Gemini Moon.  The ruler of Mercury, Jupiter, is cadent and retreating in the 12th, so does not aspect Mercury. She was fluid and articulate in her speech from when she first began to speak, and has always been ahead of the curve both linguistically and mathematically.  At every parent-teacher conference, the teacher has been most impressed with the depth of her story-telling and social abilities, noting that for a 6-year-old, she tells her stories with an unusual amount of detail and is not afraid to attempt to write larger words [update: I find this still to be the case now that she’s 10].

I may address the delineation of intellect at greater depth in another post.  The main idea here is that Mercury in its own signs is a counter-indication of intellectual strength, rather than the exact opposite as might be assumed by an over-reliance on the concept of dignity for general strength of natural signification. 



al-Tabari, U., & al-Hasib, A. B. (2010). Persian Nativities II:  ’Umar al-Tabari and Abu Bakr. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.
Bishr, S. ibn, & Masha’allah. (2008). Works of Sahl & Masha’allah. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.
Masha’allah, & al-Khayyat, A.  ’Ali. (2009). Persian Nativities I: Masha’allah and Abu  ’Ali. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.

Character | 1. The Curious Case of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Turner Revisited

In an early polemic on the overuse of dignity in traditional astrology, called “The Curious Case of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Turner“, I discussed how dignity is definitely not a good indicator of a planet’s tendency towards more positive or negative elements of its significations, taking a quick look at the charts of Jeffrey Dahmer (4 planets in domicile) and Ted Turner (4 planets in fall or detriment) as cogent reminders of how inaccurate the use of dignity for beneficence can be. However, now that we know how little dignity tells us about the “goodness” of planets, and particularly about the goodness and the level of success or social mobility of a person, the question remains as to how one should judge such things.  As one might suspect, these are difficult issues, pertaining to delineation of character, morality, and eminence.  Of those, character is the easiest to delineate, and traditional astrological methods will tell you far more in this regard than modern psych-astrology approaches.  Eminence is a much messier can of worms, and in application of eminence techniques, I often find more relevance in terms of social mobility, than in terms of a pre-ordained hierarchical “rank of fame”, as some traditionalists describe it. Eminence will be explored at some later time.

Let’s look briefly at Dahmer’s and Turner’s charts in terms of character/morality.  Due to constraints of space and time, both analyses must be considerably abbreviated.

Character Basics

Abu’ali on the Lord of the Ascen­dant and Mer­cury: “these sig­nify the mat­ters of the soul, and the morals of the native, just as the Moon and the Ascen­dant sig­nify the body” (The Judg­ment of Nativ­i­ties, Dykes trans., 2009, p. 236). Abu Bakr on the other hand has us look at dom­i­nant plan­ets in the chart, par­tic­u­larly in the 1st or 10th, which I feel is in a similar spirit as “vic­tor of the chart” approaches. Ptolemy looks at Mer­cury for the ratio­nal mind and the Moon for the irra­tional, mir­rored in the modern-day notion of a con­scious and uncon­scious mind.  I should note that overall, in character analysis, I tend not to lean heavily on delineation of the Moon just in herself, or even Mercury as such.  I find the Ascendant Lord(s) and the dominant planet(s) to be the most important starting points of the delineation.

Rather than using all strength/weakness and beneficence/maleficence con­di­tions at my dis­posal in the lit­er­a­ture, I’m going to restrict myself, almost exclu­sively, to those which I find of the most impor­tance for this brief look, which I sum­ma­rized in this post in the sec­tions in which I dis­cuss such things.

Per­son­ally, I rec­og­nize at least 3 dis­tinct types of strength, 1. Vol­ume, which per­tains to the extent a planet pours out its nat­ural sig­ni­fi­ca­tions far beyond its acci­den­tal sig­ni­fi­ca­tions (advancing/retreating, sta­tions, pha­sis, apogee), 2. Stability/Prototypicality which in many ways is less impor­tant than #1 (var­i­ous con­di­tions of con­gruity, includ­ing being in a place of “dig­nity”), 3. Per­ti­nence, which is the rel­e­vance of a planet to a par­tic­u­lar mat­ter, such as a planet in the 1st or one of its stakes, par­tic­u­larly the 10th, being per­ti­nent to char­ac­ter­iz­ing the per­son (nat­u­rally sig­ni­fy­ing some­thing; being in a place, rul­ing a place, or regard­ing a place par­tic­u­larly by oppo­si­tion or right-side square or right-side trine). To me these are very dif­fer­ent from beneficence/maleficence which per­tains more to nat­ural sig­ni­fi­ca­tion, sect, place, and plan­e­tary influence.

Jeffrey Dahmer: Malefics through the Moon and Venus

Note: this particular discussion of Dahmer’s character, and the previous two paragraphs on basic character, are primarily a copy and paste job from remarks I made as to how I’d analyze Dahmer’s character in the comments section of the original post.

I recommend watching this fascinatingly candid interview with Dahmer in which he discusses the impetus of his actions.

Ruler of 1st (Com­monly used because of acci­den­tal sig­nif­i­cance, includ­ing by Masha’allah in On Nativ­i­ties, and Abu’ali in The Judg­ment of Nativ­i­ties, among many):

Dahmer's Natal Chart (outer wheel positions are twelfth-parts)
Dahmer’s Natal Chart (outer wheel positions are twelfth-parts)

Venus, a natural benefic, pertaining to beauty, sensuality, and pleasure is made malefic by being out of sect, in the 8th place, regarded on the right-side most closely by Sat­urn (by trine) in the 4th. Sat­urn is the dom­i­nant plan­e­tary influ­ence over Venus, as she is over­come by Sat­urn and in Saturn’s bound (bound ruler of the Ascen­dant Lord is very impor­tant to Masha’allah, in show­ing the native’s involve­ment in some­thing), while Sat­urn, planet of death and the macabre, is in the 4th which has sig­ni­fi­ca­tions related to the dead and buried things, and rein­forces the sig­ni­fi­ca­tions of death and harm of the 8th. That Venus does not regard the Ascen­dant is sig­nif­i­cant, putting the native in con­nec­tion with hid­den or dark ele­ments of life (not nec­es­sar­ily in itself mak­ing the native immoral, as it is com­mon for instance for those involved in social reform and the prison sys­tems, etc. to have the ruler of the 1st in the 6th or 12th, and for those involved in lend­ing and insur­ance to have it in the 8th, depending on the types of sig­ni­fi­ca­tions rein­forced). It also prompts us to look more closely at the influ­ence of other rulers, espe­cially Sat­urn which is the exal­ta­tion and first trip­lic­ity ruler. Sat­urn is in the 4th, and retreat­ing (make it more per­sonal, less pub­lic, but very sig­nif­i­cant by being in a stake), and in the bound of Venus, adding to the sig­nif­i­cant rela­tion­ship between Sat­urn and Venus, the 4th and 8th, in char­ac­ter­iz­ing the native’s per­son­al­ity, i.e. pleasure-seeking, asso­ci­ated with death and dirge, the macabre. Venus made bad, as an impor­tant per­son­al­ity sig­ni­fi­ca­tor, tends to per­tain to shame­less excess. Super­fi­cially, we would think that he’d seem gen­tle, possibly effem­i­nate, some­what depres­sive, and quite shy.

In Dahmer’s case, the Venus in the 8th significations tended toward abuse of alcohol (Venus signifying drinks, made malefic signifying intoxication and harm), compulsive indulgence, and difficult sexuality. He was considered a catch within the gay community and was able to charm and manipulate men into positions where he could harm them. His ultimate motivation for all of his murders was sexual attraction and a desire for sexual possession. The associations of this Venus with death and masculinity are very strong. Venus is not only in the 8th place of death, but is in a very close relationship with Saturn, lord of death and dead things. Venus becomes developmentally activated from the age of 14 to 22, roughly the ages of sexual development. During Dahmer’s adolescence he went from the Mercurial highly curious boy of Mercury in the 9th, to the withdrawn, secretive, Saturnine Venus in the 8th, harboring very vivid sexual fantasies of necrophilia.

Mer­cury (also used by many, includ­ing Masha’allah, Abu’ali, and Ptolemy, among oth­ers):

Mer­cury is not nec­es­sar­ily strong for intel­lect in Virgo or Gem­ini. Mer­cury in a com­mon (i.e. muta­ble) sign, such as Virgo or Gem­ini, was said to sig­nify a small but quick intel­lect, liable to anger, an unstable mind, and with lit­tle per­se­ver­ance, as opposed to the extremely hon­or­able intel­lect of Mer­cury in a fixed sign, and the con­fi­dence, quick grasp, enthu­si­asm, and good-speaking abil­ity of Mer­cury in a move­able (i.e. car­di­nal) sign. This is a rather weak indication though, as there have been a number of great geniuses with Mercury in mutable signs (especially Sagittarius and Pisces due to the positive association with Jupiter signifying gain through intellect).

Dahmer’s Mer­cury is out of sect, and while in a some­what good place, it is apply­ing to Mars, and scru­ti­nized by Mars in a very close appli­ca­tion in which Mars over­come Mer­cury, so there is a vast range with Mer­cury in terms of benefic thru malefic sig­ni­fi­ca­tions. Mer­cury is somewhat weak­ened though, par­tic­u­larly for intel­lec­tual activ­i­ties from the mutability, but also from cadency, and possibly the combustion.

Dahmer was said to be a relatively good student as a youth, though didn’t pursue higher education, and was not an intellectual. Overall, his intellectual abilities were capable enough to allow him to commit murder and cover his tracks over many years, though were particularly maligned. His focus was on deceit, from drugging men at clubs to take advantage of them, to secretly raping, murdering, and even eating men. In a sense, the chart reveals Mercury to be most active as an accomplice of Mars, as it applies to Mars which overcomes it.

The Moon and the Dom­i­nant Planet:

The Moon hap­pens to also be the dom­i­nant planet in the chart, as she is so strongly advanc­ing, adher­ing to the Descen­dant in the same degree. Mars, Sat­urn, and to a much lesser extent, Jupiter, are also quite dom­i­nant by being in the stakes, but the Moon is in a stake and gen­er­ally strong, con­junct the angle. The Moon is the planet sig­ni­fy­ing the irra­tional mind, or subconscious, as well it today.  She has an extremely strong influ­ence in the life, as if broadcasting from a loudspeaker all over the life, and this makes Dahmer particularly attuned to her very subjective, vivid, irrational influences. The Moon is co-p­re­sent with Mars so her sig­ni­fi­ca­tions are mixed with Mars, and accord­ing to Ser­a­pio, the planet in early zodi­a­cal degree not only over­comes by regard, but also when two plan­ets are in the same sign, it also can be dom­i­nant in the rela­tion­ship.  Mars also rules the Moon, which can make it dif­fi­cult to sep­a­rate out these two mar­t­ian influ­ences upon the nature of the Moon’s sig­ni­fi­ca­tions, but in any case, the Moon is strongly influ­enced by Mars. The Moon is in the bound of Mer­cury, but the dom­i­na­tion by Sat­urn in the 4th, which is scru­ti­niz­ing (within 3*) is a much stronger influ­ence. Over­all, through cop­res­ence with, ruler­ship by, dom­i­na­tion, and scru­ti­niza­tion by the malefics, as well as being out of sect (also the 7th is not a very benefic influ­ence), the irra­tional impulses are pulled along malefic, par­tic­u­larly vio­lent and macabre dimensions.

The Moon is in the 7th which pertains to encounters with others, and particularly with partnerships and significant others.  Mars rules and occupies the place, while Saturn dominates the place.  Both Mars and Saturn are in “stakes” and thus very strongly important to the person themselves, but both are retreating, and thus are private, quickly retreating behind the scenes, avoiding any loud broadcasting of their significations, in contrast to the Moon which is blaring a general lunar energy across the life, and particularly predisposed to channeling the significations of Mars and Saturn.

Interestingly, some focal issues in Dahmer’s early life revolved around his mother’s anxiety and combativeness, and the stress that created in his home. His first murder happened just after high school at a time when his mother unexpectedly left him in the house alone for an extended period of time. The Mars-Moon has some symbolism regarding mental illness, particularly anxiety, and very vividly the mother’s anxiety (Mars shows an overload of energy). Mars-Moon also symbolizes Dahmer’s unconscious need (Moon) for violence (Mars) against partners (7th house).

Conclusion: Dahmer is strongly influenced by the Moon, and pulled by Venus, into irrational vivid experiences and sensual indulgence.  The nature of the irrational mind and sense of beauty are colored predominantly by the malefics, with themes of violence and the dead particularly prominent.  The personality is overall phlegmatic’melancholic, somewhat feminine, with a vividly personal and subjective feel characteristic of the Moon. 

Ted Turner: Aggressively Ambitious and Gregarious Mercury

Ruler of the 1st:

Turner's Natal Chart (outer positions are twelfth-parts)
Turner’s Natal Chart (outer positions are twelfth-parts)

Jupiter is the ruler of the 1st, and is the sect benefic, in the 3rd of siblings, communications, journalism, current events, and transportation.  Jupiter naturally signifies a cheerful disposition, charisma, faith/positivity, and a desire to seek greater truth.  Jupiter is benefic, being naturally benefic, in sect, and dominated by Venus.   Jupiter is influenced by many planets, being very closely dominated by the Sun, closely dominated by Venus, closely overcome by the Moon by trine, overcome by Mercury by sextile, and overcome by Mars by trine.  Jupiter is also in the bound of Mars and the domicile and triplicity of Saturn, therefore, there is quite a bit going on with Jupiter, and most dominantly it is influenced by the Sun, then Mars, then Venus, in my opinion, bringing out a much more choleric or ambitious Jupiter with aesthetic dimensions.  Jupiter is not particularly strong in its own position (cadent, retreating), but is relevant to eminence through its close regard by the Lights, and its weakness is counter-acted by the strong advance of Mars and Saturn, its rulers, in the chart.  Overall, we expect a cheerful, gregarious, likeable personality, that is a bit heated and very geared toward power plays. He values style and sensuality, and is likely to have particular connection to matters of communications and/or journalism (the 3rd) in some way.

Mercury and the Dominant Planet:

Mercury is the dominant planet in the chart, both generally, and in terms of the person, as Mercury is strongly advancing towards the Ascendant in the 1st.  Mercury is in its bound and in the sign of Jupiter, reinforcing Mercury’s natural significations relating to news and communications.  Mercury is also the natural significator of business and commerce.  Mercury is out of sect, and very closely overcome by Mars, so Mercury can pertain to malefic significations, despite position in the very good 1st place.  However, the range with Mercury is great.  Negative significations with this Mercury in the 1st, very relevant to character, are tied to Mars in the 11th of friends and popularity, and so can pertain to a propensity for aggressive speech, words reflecting bad on one’s character or creating problems in friendships, and even a desires to deceive.  It’s most well-known manifestation in Turner’s life has been a propensity to put his foot in his mouth and to publicly make controversial statements, reflecting both a Jupiterian casual humor and a bit of Mercury’s more mischievous side. Mars makes the mind very keen, intense, and aggressive, and makes it difficult to turn off or control the mental and verbal chatter.

The Moon:

The Moon is out of sect, in the bound of Mars, co-present with Mars, and opposed by Saturn, therefore the Moon can signify very difficult matters.  The Moon is in the 11th, which is one of the most benefic places of the chart, and the Moon is naturally benefic so there is a range, but overall the Moon is somewhat torn between an overt hot ambition, particularly for popularity, achievement, and sensual pleasure, shown by the advancing Mars in the 11th and in the sign of Venus, and the weight of obstruction from Saturn with obligation, restrictions, and responsibilities.  The Moon, Mars, and Saturn are in some of the most benefic places in the chart though, the 11th and 5th, but we expect difficulties in mental extremes between surge and weight on a subconscious level, with a very open reactive choleric temperament of great restlessness.  Most problematic from the influence of the malefics may be matters of friends, children, romance, and personal leisure.

Conclusion: Mercury plays a huge role in characterizing Ted Turner as someone constantly involved in media, analysis, and business.  The role of Jupiter is also very strong, but both are also characterized across particularly choleric dimensions.  We expect someone who is fast-thinking and busy, curious, mischievous, and aggressively ambitious, particularly when it comes to opinions, commerce, and technology.  We expect and over-arching benefic sense to the personality of wanting to do good, help out, and expose truth, due to the important identification with JupiterThe combination of Jupiter and Mercury makes for a very gregarious and humorous personality overall, a mix of the sanguine and the choleric. Tendency to domineering speech through Mars overcoming Mercury and the sheer prominence of Mercury, but as it’s in a mutable sign ruled by a cadent retreating planet, there may be a tendency for more chatter than substance. 


Dignity: The Biggest Problem with Late Traditional Astrology

One of the most ubiquitous aspects of later traditional astrology (i.e. late medieval through early modern astrology) is the use of a dignity pointing system in which the domicile ruler of a position gets 5 points, the exaltation ruler gets 4 points, the triplicity rulers each get 3 points, the term ruler gets 2 points, and the ruler of the decan gets 1 point.  This pointing system is found in the astrology of very late Persian medieval astrologers, through the astrology of Bonatti, throughout Renaissance astrology, and in the astrology of William Lilly and Morinus.  It is still leaned on heavily in the traditional community at large. 17th century English astrologer William Lilly made extensive use of it and combined it with other factors in his own very comprehensive pointing system.

I consider the over-emphasis on dignity and the use of weighted dignity pointing systems to be one of the single biggest corrupting influences leading to the degradation of astrological accuracy up to today’s traditional circles.  Here I take a closer look at dignity pointing, and why it should not be used, and why dignity as a factor should be given much less weight than it currently receives, particularly in considerations of bonification (i.e. in considerations of how fortunate a planet is made by its configuration).

The Current Place Dignity Holds in the Traditional Astrological Community

Dignity is used extensively in point-adding techniques to find what’s called the al-mubtazz/almutem/almuten (translated the “winner”) for a number of topics in the late middle ages.  For instance, Abraham Ibn Ezra used such a pointing system, in which dignity points combined with points for different house placements, and the planetary day and hour, to derive a calculation system for finding the “chart ruler” or planet symbolic of the guardian angel in the chart.  Robert Zoller follows suit in his books and astrological course.  Astrologers such as Deborah Houlding, of the insightful and informative Skyscript website, largely seem to follow Lilly as the authority in their approach to chart work, relying heavily on dignity pointing and also viewing peregrine planets (those with no specific dignity) as afflicted or debilitated.

Additionally, there is something of confusion in traditional circles as to whether more dignity points means a planet is stronger, more fortunate, or both.  The consensus appears to be that it makes it more fortunate, for the most part, or “dignified”, giving more socially acceptable and honorable expressions.  However, astrologers like Robert Zoller have implied that it involves both strength and quality, suggesting that a planet with more dignity is more capable and competent, while a planet with negative dignity is like someone who has consumed a substance counter to their own vitality, i.e. like a drunkard.

Ptolemy’s “Predominator”

The use of a pointing system for dignity was absent in Hellenistic astrology and early Persian medieval astrology.  In fact, according to Benjamin Dykes (Persian Nativities II, 2010, pp. xiii-xiv) it is the invention of a Persian astrologer who had something of a reputation as a con man in the 9th century C.E.

As far as I’m aware, the only time some form of dignity pointing is used in Hellenistic astrology is in Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos (entire English translation is available to read online).  There he uses a different pointing system in which each of the aforementioned dignities gets one equal point, except for decan which is absent, being replaced by what is often translated as “face”, and appears to be regard (i.e. whether or not a planet is in whole sign aspect to the place, an important consideration in later Persian work as well).  For instance, any planet that was the domicile ruler, exaltation ruler, triplicity ruler, term ruler, or was regarding a position, would get one point of rulership over that position for each circumstance.  For instance, if the position was in Scorpio in the term of Venus, and Venus regarded the position from Virgo (a sextile) then she would get one consideration for triplicity, another for term, and another for regard, and if Mars does not regard the place then she would be the “predominator” or most important ruler of the place (i.e. Mars would have only domicile and triplicity, the Moon would have triplicity and possibly regard, and all other planets could at most have regard).

Ptolemy introduces this “predominator” method in Book 3, Chapter 2, in a rather convoluted method of chart rectification. In that method, you first try to estimate the sign by ascensions, then you take both luminaries for a conjunctional birth (i.e. a birth taking place after the New Moon and before the Full Moon) or just the one(s) above the horizon for a preventional birth (i.e. a birth before the New Moon), and you find the predominator(s) of it or them by looking at the planet(s) ruling the triplicity, exaltation, domicile, term, or in regard. The degree of the predominator is the degree of the Ascendant. There are other notes for if there are more than one predominator, and there’s no pointing system given in that place.

The other times he uses it are to find the “ruler” of a place that has the most say over that place (Book 3, Ch. 3) and in assessing the “quality of the soul” (Book 3, Ch. 13). It is only in finding the place “ruler” that he first notes that a planet with numerically more of the five claims to a place has more say over it. He does not seem to use this method in his material on personality, but it is unclear. He simply instructs that Mercury and the Moon are most relevant to the quality of the soul (personality) and that planets “dominating” them also give important indications. He definitely allows for more than one planet to govern the soul, dominating the Moon and Mercury.

The fact that so few mentions of this method of finding a “predominator” are made in the Tetrabiblos, and even then partial and rather informal in scope, suggest that Ptolemy may have included this as a convenience to drive home the point that planets having some rulership over a point and regarding a point, have an influence over it.  This would be contrary to the strict “add-it-up” type of procedure that figures heavily in the technique of many traditional astrologer who espouse the Ptolemaic approach (c.f. Joseph Crane in his book Astrological Roots: The Hellenistic Legacy, in discussion of special techniques for personality and other topics).

A common mistake among traditional astrologers in their treatments of Hellenistic astrology is to treat of Ptolemy’s methods as typical of Hellenistic astrology.  In addition to Ptolemy’s odd use of the “predominator”, he also didn’t employ Places or Houses for topics, and described planetary nature and the workings of astrology in terms of physical causality through Aristotelian physics, all at a variance to the approaches of other astrologers of the day.  Therefore, the method is not only rare in Ptolemy’s own work and doesn’t involve a rigid nor weighted pointing approach, but Ptolemy is also an odd breed of Hellenistic astrologer.

Why Dignity Pointing is a Problem

There are three reasons why an emphasis on dignity and its pointing leads to bad astrological chart work. In order of importance they are:

  1. Misleading: Dignity is misleading, because while it is easy to spot, and it carries the name “dignity”, it is not a strong indication of bonification (i.e. not a good indication of when a planet is made more fortunate in effect) and it is a weak strength consideration.
  2. Inaccurate Weighting: The particular weighting system used appears to be contrived and inconsistent with the earlier strains of the tradition.  In addition, while sign-based and place-based rejoicing conditions existed in Hellenistic astrology, use of even “predominator” techniques appears to have been extremely rare (Ptolemy is the only astrologer I know of that used one, and it is even rare in his work, as elaborated above).  Furthermore, the sign-based rejoicing conditions had nowhere near the emphasis placed on them in later traditional astrology, particularly that since the Renaissance.
  3. Turns One into a Numb(er) Skull:  Astrologers utilizing a weighted point system for dignity tend to become attracted to overly simplistic solutions to complex delineation issues.  For instance, the planet becomes high scoring or low scoring in a subtractive manner based on one consideration, but what of the conflicting considerations?  Are we acknowledging that some planets tend to swing to greater positive and negative extremes in signification within the same chart, as is the case in some people’s lives?  Going down this road of numerical cut-and-dry solutions to sticky, complex, even contradictory, life situations, we may get to the point where we start adding up numbers to find the planet of the guardian angel of the chart, based on some spuriously invented 12th century technique while deceiving ourselves about its ancient origins, then in the next breath we use a different spuriously invented 16th century technique to find the name of the holy guardian angel based on more mathematical derivations, then we pay $150 more for a talisman that sees Jupiter as +8 rather than +6, and so on and so on.  This is a sad fate to be avoided.  Astrologers going down this road are also likely to eventually realize that chart work goes very wrong quite often, and sadly they’ll chalk this up to a subversion of the fundamental archetypal planetary order of the platonic reality by the temporal evils of the age, rather than look to improve their art.  I’m serious; such “numb skulls” do exist and they move astrology further and further away from sense, coherence, critical-thought, and falsifiability and closer and closer towards the new age-ness that traditional astrologers so often criticize (albeit it will be a “darker” new age-ness). 

The Curious Case of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Turner

The truth is that essential dignity tells you quite little about the “essential dignity” of a planet.

In a subsequent post (available here), I will explore in greater depth the obsession with dignity pointing, almutens, and sign-based indications of fortune/misfortune, which has done more to harm today’s practice of traditional astrology than anything else.

In this post I simply give the curious case of the charts of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Turner, who quite strikingly illustrate how misleading essential dignity can be, particularly when it comes to evaluating the “essential dignity” of a planet’s effects, as in whether it tends to be more stable and fortunate or unstable and unfortunate.

Dahmer: A Chart Overflowing with Essential Dignity

Dahmer was exemplary in how undignified the display of aggression, sexuality, depraved mentality, and fear was throughout his adult life.  He just so happened to have been born with a whopping 4 planets in domicile (Mars, Venus, Mercury, Saturn; i.e. the planets of aggression, sexuality, mentality, and fear).  The planets include the ruler of the Ascendant (Venus) and the almuten of the Ascendant (Saturn).  To most traditional astrologers using a dignity pointing system, Dahmer had an extremely dignified Venus (+8) (note: his first kill occurred in response to a male hitchhiker refusing to have sex with him, while later kills were of men and underage boys he lured into abusive sexual relations and then raped, dismembered, raped while dead, ate, etc.), an extremely dignified Mercury (+8), a very dignified Mars (+5), and a very dignified Saturn (+5), while the Sun and Moon were peregrine and only Jupiter was negatively dignified.  In other words, there is an unusually high amount of planetary dignity in Dahmer’s chart.

Dahmer's Natal Chart
Dahmer’s Natal Chart (Outer Wheel Placements are 12th Parts)  – CTRL click to enlarge

Ted Turner: A Man with Much Detriment

For those unfamiliar with Ted Turner, he is a billionaire philanthropist and media tycoon, who inherited his father’s billboard business at age 24 and developed a huge media empire, including CNN.  At his worst, he has been known to put his foot in his mouth.  Poor Ted has 3 planets in detriment, another 1 in fall, and not a single planet with two forms of minor positive dignity or one form of major dignity.

Ted Turner's Natal Chart
Ted Turner’s Natal Chart (Outer Wheel Placements are 12th Parts)  – CTRL click to enlarge

So, there you have it.  Dahmer’s chart contains mostly planets of very positive essential dignity, while Turner’s chart contains mostly planets of very negative essential dignity.

Dignity and Character

Keep in mind that that the condition of the ruler of the Ascendant and that of Mercury are typically used as strong indicators of the character and moral disposition (c.f. Masha’alah: On Nativities (Sec. 5); Abu’Ali Al-Khayyat: The Judgment of Nativities (Ch. 5);  Ptolemy: Tetrabiblos (Book 3, Ch. 13), though Ptolemy looks at Mercury for the mind/reason (i.e. conscious mind) and the Moon for the senses/irrationality (i.e. subconscious mind); note: for later astrologers like Bonatti (c.f. Treatise 9, Part 3) the ruler of the Ascendant is typically the most important signifier in this matter). The most common alternative is to look at the strongest planets in the chart for this information, particularly planets in the 1st, 10th, or one of the other angles or “stakes” of the chart (c.f. Abu Bakr: On Nativities (Book 2)).

If essential dignity is the most important factor, or even one of the major factors, in consideration of the good/bad quality of planetary significations, then Dahmer, with ruler of the Ascendant highly dignified in domicile, exalted ruler of the Ascendant highly dignified in domicile, Mercury highly dignified in domicile, and the angular planet, Mars, highly dignified in domicile, would be said to be of unusually stellar moral disposition.  One could argue that other factors could mitigate, but if dignity is a major factor, and they are minor, then it would be expected to take many of such factors to signify a diminishing of Dahmer’s moral greatness, let alone signify such a subversion of it.

The Message

If you’re learning, or even more importantly, if you’re practicing traditional astrology, then don’t you think you owe it to yourself and your clients to get out of the essential dignity trap, and investigate those factors more important to making a planet fortunate or unfortunate in the western tradition?  There are factors which were used many centuries before the dignity pointing system was invented.  Personally, I am against the widely-used, contrived, medieval, weighted dignity pointing system, which is accepted as scripture by most traditional astrologers.  I find dignity to be a “STRENGTH” consideration of medium to low level importance (when considered relative to advancing/retreating, stationing, phasis/combustion/cazimi, place, and regard by lights), and insignificant in consideration of planetary beneficence/maleficence.  In Hellenistic astrology, planets in a condition of rejoicing or joy are thought to be significant by many of the astrologers, but there is more consistent stress on matters of the fundamental nature of the planet, the sect, the place, the regard (aspect) by other planets, and the nature of the ruler(s) when the matter of good/bad quality are discussed.

I’d rather have a malefic in fall, in sect, in a good place any day over a malefic in exaltation, out of sect, in a bad place (I’ve actually have a malefic that is exalted but out of sect and in a bad place in my own natal chart, and activations of that exalted planet haven’t been so fun).

In honing the art of astrology, we often find it difficult to prove a doctrine, but by using strong minimal pairs we can at least disprove the effectiveness of certain techniques or interpretations. This minimal pair provides some of the strongest evidence against the interpretation of planets with high dignity scores as being “well-placed” and conferring in themselves significant fortune or positivity in natal charts or any other type of astrological chart-reading. The sooner astrologers discard dignity pointing, and downgrade essential dignity to a lesser consideration, the sooner they learn to read more important factors in the chart and the art moves forward.