Learn About: Essential Dignity

Digging into Dignity

You might have heard folks saying something like "well the ruler of my chart is in detriment" or "my Moon is exalted in Taurus," or such and such a planet is someone's "lord of the year." Why are people talking about lords and rulers and other hierarchical status markers from antiquity?

It's called: essential dignity. What is essential dignity?

And as the name suggests, it's essential. The doctrine of dignity is vital for understanding how astrology works, employing it successfully, and accurately translating what's seen in the stars into useful narratives or stories that... do whatever it is you're trying to do with astrology. (That's a whole other conversation.)

Essentially, the doctrine of dignity says that a planet's condition can be assessed by considering the fit between the planet and their location in the astrological sky.

(By astrological sky I mean the combination of physically observed celestial phenomena together with abstract conceptual readings of 'the sky' which yield something that is of, and from, but not the same as the vault of heaven we observe nightly.)

The schema of dignity emerged way back in the ancient times and are modeled on a system of legal administration of militaristic empires that existed back then.

I stress this because I was asked once by a student about whether I had an alternative set of metaphors and analogies for this purpose. I had to admit then that I'd yet to find a framework that suits my intersectional bias. And I must admit now, I still haven't (though I'm working on it).

The Essential (Dignity) Tradition

The metaphors of essential dignity presuppose a state, private property, and at least the rough outlines of the notion of citizenship, rights, and resposnibilities.

The types of essential dignity are:

  • Domicile: where a planet is said to be at home in a sign that it rules, like a king in a castle, or a lord on his estate, etc.
  • Triplicity: where a planet is said to be like one who has the support of allies in a sign in which it operates as a leader of the triplicity, or to cooperate in it.
  • Exaltation: where a planet is said to be like an honored guest in the home of another (the domicile lord of the sign)
  • Term or Bound: where a planet is said to be like a local administrator who sets the terms by which the rules of the domicile lord are enacted
  • Decan: where a planet is said to be the face of a particular part of a sign

You're right to note that decan doesn't fit the pattern, and that's because it emerged at a different time, and from a different conceptual position.

February 2023 update:

This page is meant to be host to a series of articles and videos exploring essential dignity in-depth. There's a lot to build out for this website and quite a few other projects going on, so this page is a bit sparse at the moment.

Check back from time to time for more. And be sure to sign up for the newsletter to find out when new content drops!

Learn more about Astrology

Essential dignity is just one part of the set of inter-related components of astrology. In fact, essential dignity is a measure of the relationship between the planets and the signs. Learn more about them below:

Learn About the Planets in Astrology
The planets in astrology are the actors of the chart.
Learn about the Signs in Astrology
The gives the tones, vibes, and colors of astrology.


Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune; Amor Fati Publications, Chris Brennan

Ancient Astrology in Theory and in Practice: A Manual of Traditional Techniques, vol. 1 - Demetra George

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If you'd like to reach out to Bear directly you can reach him at: contact@bearryver.com

Bear Ryver is a professional astrologer helping his clients hone strategies for grounded growth and embodied empowerment by bringing them back to the BASICS. Winner of OPA’s Most Promising Astrologer in 2018, Bear has lectured at conferences like NORWAC and ISAR. He holds certifications in Hellenistic, Electional, and Horary astrology, and specializes in Intersectional Astrology. He was a teacher for the Portland School of Astrology, and has volunteered as a mentor for AFAN. When he’s not talking stars, or pulling cards, you can find him climbing rocks and playing guitar.