Essential Dignities

“Ordinary characters searching for or coming in contact with extraordinary beings or finding themselves in extraordinary circumstances.”

There is an illusion going around in modern astrology or at least, a giant misconception. The mistake has been made by people reading old texts and understanding “debility” to mean weakness. It is true that debility in the English language is synonymous with weakness, incapacity, or even disability, but the astrological signification of essential debility could not be further from the truth.

When a planet finds itself in fall, or in detriment, or peregrine, it does not signify “weakness”. Say the Ascendant ruler in a birthchart is peregrine. Is the person, their health and their life “weak”, physically weak? The Ascendant ruler is primary signifier of the human body, of the mind and of the state of the person, but a planet situated here is not necessarily weak.

Many times in Christian Astrology, there are references to planets without essential dignity being signifiers for “low born” persons whether they are 7th rulers and thus signifying the wife or husband, or whether they are Ascendant rulers signifying the asker in any question. What Lilly was describing using these judgements was not the “physical strength” that a person might have, but their basic social standing and more pertinently, their “blood” or “birth”.

A person born with their Ascendant ruler in essential dignity is privileged, they are born privileged in certain respects and get the best of what the sign in which that planet is has to offer. Throughout their lives they will always be in surroundings which are congenial to them, this is all that essential dignity really signifies. People who are happy with life because everything that they want comes to them at the right time, or that they are simply without real need are the essentially dignified people. Does it signify that they are strong, in a physical capacity or in character? To me it would be good reason for complacency if not laziness, which would eventually lead to weakness.

In similar fashion, when a person finds themselves in exile, it is not they are weak. The matter of being in a situation which is contrary to your desires or contrary to your essential nature would require on the part of that person a real fight, and in fighting, in struggle there is strength. In struggle there is achievement.

Essential debility such as for example Scorpio Moon signifies an emotional person finding themselves in a place of fear and death. As an example we might think of a young mother going down to a crypt in a Gothic novel. She obviously appears vulnerable in those circumstances, it´s not the protection afforded by a warm heated house. The surroundings don´t particularly fit the character, and that´s why it´s seen as “essentially wrong”. The notion of the need to survive rather than to protect may take over, nasty things can happen in a cold dark place with none of the comforts. But does it mean that the woman is weaker than she is in her essential dignity? What it means is that she must do everything in her power to get by, it means that she must act and she must be the guest of Mars rather than the mistress of her own home. Essential debility doesn´t mean less likely to achieve anything, it means more grit, and less opportunity to do as you please when you please. It means that you do things the hard way.  

In a sense, essential debility can be a great thing. The story will always be about a person that must struggle through adversity and what appears to be a difficult or alien situation. But this story is often far more interesting than the story of essential dignity. Suffering is not weakness, suffering is not getting everything that you desire, it´s not being satisfied and it´s doing things and making adaptations to that environment. A peregrine planet is far more interesting than an essentially dignified one, it signifies a person who has to search for happiness not having it where they are.  Though once again, it doesn´t mean that a planet in it´s sign is happy either, it simply means that it´s comfortable there.

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