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Join Date: 20 Apr 2002
Location: Wigan, UK
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Traditional Terms used in Horary Astrology


This post is designed to give a list of terms and their meanings for people who want to try their hand at Horary readings, especially in relation to the Horary DIY thread but also for any horary you try to do, whether you post it or not.

I'm going to put the terms in order of their use, rather than in alphabetical order and I'll give a brief explanation of each one. This thread will be made a sticky, so it's easy to find This first post will be on the Essential Dignities.

1. Terms Relating to Essential Dignity

Essential dignity is derived from a planet's position by sign. Five types are commonly used though of these only 2 are used in the modern form of Astrology and even then not in the same way. They are in order of importance:

Rulership (score=5)

Each planet rules two signs, except for the Sun and Moon, which have one sign each. A planet has to be in it's own sign to achieve this dignity. Sometimes this is referred to as the 'domicile, or house of the planet (note 'house' here is not the same as the houses of a chart The rulerships are:

Sun Leo Sun side signs go in Zodiacal order from Leo
Moon Cancer Moon side signs go in reverse zodiacal order starting from Cancer
Mercury Gemini (Moon side) Virgo (Sun side)
Venus Taurus (Moon side) Libra (Sun side)
Mars Aries (Moon side) Scorpio (Sun side)
Jupiter Pisces (Moon side) Sagittarius (Sun side)
Saturn Aquarius (Moon Side) Capricorn (Sun side)

A planet in its own rulership or domicile is 'at home' and can do what it likes.

Exaltation (score=4)

Exaltations are sometimes used in Modern Astrology. The basis is not entirely clear though there are some good theories. Here is the list

Sun Aries
Moon Taurus
Mercury Virgo
Venus Pisces
Mars Capricorn
Jupiter Cancer
Saturn Libra

Using the 'house' analogy a planet is exaltation is rather like an honoured guest. Nothing is too good for them and they have a lot of freedom of action.

Triplicity (score=3)

Traditional Astrologers all agree on Rulership and Exaltation but there are different systems for Triplicity. The two most common ones are Egyptian and Ptolemaic. Despite it's title 'Egyptian Terms' are those developed by Hellenistic Astrologers in Alexandria (founded by Greeks) and is not connected to ancient Egypt, Ptolemaic Terms are called after the Hellenistic Astrologer/Astronomer Claudius Ptolemy , who actually did live in Egypt, most probably in Alexandria. He was a Roman Citizen but wrote in Greek (He too was Hellenisitic) He was a revisionist and wanted to base Astrology solely on reason, rather than symbolism.

Both sets of triplicities were used right the way throug the traditional period. Lilly uses the Ptolemaic Triplicities but I would think the majority of Traditional Astrologers probably used the Egyptian version

In both cases the Triplicities referred too are the signs of the same element - Fire, Earth, Air and Water. Each system uses a ruler by day and a ruler by night, reflecting the Greek origins of both (the Greeks basing much of their Astrology on the differences between day and night). In the case of the Egyptian triplicities, three planets are involved. A day ruler, a night ruler and a 'participating ruler. Ptolemy dropped the participating ruler and kep to day and night. There are some minor differences between the day and night rulers for each system. In Hellenisitic Astrology the Triplicity ruler was a lot more important than in Medieval and later Astrology.

Terms (score=2)

Again there are two main versions, Egyptian and Ptolemaic. Lilly used the Ptolemaic version but it's probably that over the whole classical period, more Astrologers used the Egyptian version. Early Astrologers used the term 'Bounds' for what Later became known as 'Terms', so you should see these as limited areas of a sign where a planet has rulership. Each sign has 5 Terms, but of not equal length. Thus despite the fact that 30 divided by 5 = 6 some terms can be longer and others shorter, within the same sign. Long here is 7 degrees short is 4 degrees. Morin in the Seventeenth Century tried to do a Ptolemy and rationalise the dignities, He proposed dropping the Terms altogether - something which has happened in Modern Astrology

Face or Decan (score=1

These are still used by some Modern Astrologers and divide each sign into three sets of 10 degrees (hence the name Decan). They are therefore intrinsically easier to understand.

You will also find different versions of the Faces or Decans, but not to any extent in the tradition. All traditional Astrologers that I've read, use the same system. The first Decan of Aries goes to Mars and then decans are allocated by planetary order right the way through the rest of the zodiac, repeating the sequence as necessary. So The Sun gets the second Decan of Aries, Venus gets the third one, Mercury gets the first Decan of Taurus, Moon the second and we then start again from Saturn which gets the third. Jupiter will get the first Decan of Gemini, and so on

The Face or Decan is the lowest form of essential dignity. Lilly uses the analogy of being a person who has at least got a roof over his head, rather than being out on the street whith no where to live.

Essential Debilities

Just as planets can gain strength by being in a sign they can also lose strength by being in a sign. There are three essential debilities

Detriment (score=-5)

Detriment is where a planet is as far from 'home' as it can get - that is being in a sign opposite to it's rulership or domicile. Note that there are clear pairs here For example, Mercury is in detriment in the signs ruled by Jupiter and vice versa, The same goes for Mars and Venus and finally The Moon is in detriment in Capricorn ruled by Saturn, and The Sun in Aquarius, also ruled by Saturn. Saturn in turn is in detriment in the signs of the Sun and Moon

Fall (score=-4)

This is when a planet is in the sign opposite it's Exaltation.

Sun/Leo; Moon/Scorpio; Mercury/Pisces; Venus/Virgo; Mars/Cancer; Jupiter/Capricorn and Saturn/Aries

Peregrine (score=-5)

Finally we have the situation where a planet has no essential dignitiy at all at it's current location. This is called 'Peregrine' and can be interpreted as having no real direction or power to act. A planet that is Peregrine can achieve but only if it is supported by a much stronger planet - usually a favourable aspect to the sign ruler will indicate this.


In the next post I'll give a list of the Accidental dignities Some of these are in modern use but most are ones not used at all and therefore ones you will not be familiar with
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