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Part One

Introducing DignityPtolemys Table of Essential DignitiesThe Use of Dignity in JudgementEssential Debility Assessing Dignity/Debility through 'point-scoring'The Use of Reception between DignitiesTake a test on planetary dignities & debilities

Understanding Planetary Dignity and Debility
The Use of Reception between Dignities

back back to part 5


The 11th century Arabic astrologer Al-Biruni described reception as a planet arriving in the dignities of another and offering it a compliment - such as 'your servant' or 'neighbour'. In giving the visitor 'a reception' there is an implication of tolerance and attention from the host, as well as an element of influence and control.

Consider the Sun in Libra. Venus is said to 'receive' the Sun because he is visiting her sign. In this capacity Venus is known as the Sun's dispositor. Traditional works frequently advise us to consider the strength of a planet's dispositor when evaluating its own condition because a dispositor's well being influences any planet in its sign.

Remembering that the ancients referred to the signs as 'houses', the influence of a dispositor can be likened to that of a property owner towards a residing visitor in his or her home. The owner's benevolence, well-being and disposition towards the guest reflects generally upon the comfort of his stay. It is always a bad indication to find a planet in a hostile relationship with its own dispositor, as it is to find the dispositor weak or badly afflicted.

The Sun in Libra is also received, to a lesser degree, by Saturn since he has dignity in Libra by exaltation. If the chart is a nocturnal one, Mercury offers a milder reception as ruler of the triplicity. Should the Sun be at 25 Libra, the minor receptions by term and face are from Mars and Jupiter respectively. In this degree then, the Sun is received by (and therefore has some familiarity with) all the traditional planets except the Moon.

The Sun is so located in the following chart:

reception example

Here, not only is the Sun in the exaltation of Saturn, Saturn is also in the exaltation of the Sun. This is called mutual reception because the planets are both receiving each other. Mutual reception is a good indication of familiarity between planets and in the above chart will help to lessen the hostility of the opposition aspect. It demonstrates that the planets' need to remain aware of each other and have a reason to be equally considerate. An allegorical example is where the leaders of two hostile countries are simultaneously visiting each other's land. Ordinarily, the hostile situation would suggest great danger, but each feels protected by the knowledge of the other's vulnerability to their power. Remember that exaltation is not always a comfortable dignity. Usually a mutual reception by exaltation will show that each planet feels driven to express or demand respect, and this can create tension as well as flattering attention.

Mutual reception does not have to be by the same level of dignity. If one planet receives another by sign, and the second receives the first by exaltation, that too is mutual reception. Mutual reception only indicates that both planets are receiving each other at the same time, and we can see from the dignities involved the extent to which they are capable of offering benefit through reception. To be received by sign or exaltation is much better than being received by term or face.

Where friendly aspects exist between the planets, mutual reception heightens the benefits that arise from active co-operation; it reveals a situation where there is an easy trade of status and the potential for each planet to acquire something positive from the other. Where unfriendly aspects are involved, being received helps to protect a planet against the damaging effect of the aspect so that it can still draw benefit from the aspect.

Being received means that a planet is attended to. It is also less likely to be damaged by a malefic planet when it is received by it. This is the reason why many traditional authors have warned that aspects may be unable to produce a positive result if there is no form of reception between the planets.

Mutual reception shows willingness, potential and inclination from both parties.

Reception can aid the easy fulfilment of aspectual contact but the overall condition of the planets involved will show whether there is a realistic likelihood of benefit.

In the example above, mutual reception by sign shows a ready ability for the Sun and Saturn to be receptive to the other's influence. However, both planets are detrimented so they probably have little benefit to convey to each other. Tom Callanan has referred to the mutual reception of planets in detriment as "like two drunks helping each other home". Where there is an easy relationship between the planets this offers only the potential to be affected by each other rather than turn and walk away from the influence. The planets are also in opposition so metaphorically we might expect that these two drunks, taking each other's conversation seriously, will soon start fighting in the street. It's questionable whether mutual reception would really bring much advantage in this situation.

The disposing planet, (that is, the one which governs the territory), is the one which 'recieves' the planet visiting its territory. This planet is receptive to the visitor but it also conveys its influence upon it and the planet being received will be affected by this. A planet in the exaltation of another may feel overwhelmed by their dispositor, or through contact with them may experience a personally exalted state. The chart as a whole dictates how the influenced is expressed and received. Bear in mind the onus of the meaning is upon transference of influence or power.

In relationship charts a lack of reception, or disparity suggested when one planet receives another by exaltation whilst the other doesn't receive or receives by only minor dignity, can portray a situation where one partner puts the other on a pedestal, yet the other is oblivious or feels only a passing interest.

A difficult aspect without the assurance of reception usually shows a strained relationship with no inclination or practical advantages to working around the difficulties.

Learn the Dignities!

Test your ability to apply this information by taking the fun quiz: Twenty Questions on Planetary Dignity and Debility


  Dorotheus, Carmen Astrologicum, 1st century, (Trans. David Pingree, 1976)

Firmicus Maternus, 4th century, Matheseos Libri VII, 4th century, (Trans. J. Rhys Bram, 1975)

Al-Biruni, The Book of Instruction in the Elements of the Art of Astrology, 1029 AD, (Trans. R. Wright, 1934)

Ibn Ezra, The Beginning of Wisdom, 12th century, (Trans. Raphael Levy and Francisco Cantera)

William Lilly, Christian Astrology, 1647

William Lilly, Merlini Anglici Ephemeris, 1677.

Reprints of traditional texts are available from Ascella Publications and can be ordered through online suppliers such as Midheaven bookshop

© Deborah Houlding.

Horary Astrology
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Dignities Quiz
Playing the interactive quiz '20 Questions on Dignities & Debilities' will test and reinforce your knowledge of dignity rulerships
Ptolemy's Table of Essential Dignities

Schoener's Table to Examine the Strength &: Debility of Each Planet
Lilly's Table to Examine the Strength &: Debility of Each Planet
The Classical Use of Triplicities
Explains the basis of triplicity rulership and examines the way it was used in Hellenistic astrology
The Philosophy of Sign Rulership
A clear explanation of Ptolemy's account of the reasoning behind the rulership scheme
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