What is essential dignity?


The term ‘essential dignity’ describes the ‘condition’ of a planet in a horoscope.

By ‘condition’, we mean the planet’s strength, fortitude or quality. Or its ability to express its best version of itself; or to be (or not) on its best behaviour. On the other hand, a planet in a part of the zodiac where it has little or no essential dignity finds it difficult (but not impossible) to express itself positively. Let’s look at a simple example.

Mars rules (or ‘governs’ or ‘is associated with’) Scorpio and Aries. When Mars is in Scorpio or Aries in a horoscope, it is has good, or strong, essential dignity. Mars is best able to be a ‘good Mars’ in Scorpio and Aries. That is, Mars is more likely to be on its best behaviour in those signs of the zodiac. Mars also has strong essential dignity when it is in Capricorn. That’s because Mars is ‘exalted’ in Capricorn. Exaltation is not quite as strong as rulership. But it’s not far behind.

An essentially dignified Mars is likely to be assertive rather than violent. Action-oriented, but not reckless. These more positive qualities of Mars are more likely express when Mars has strong essential dignity.

And so it is for the other planets. They each have zodiac signs where they are stronger. The Sun is strong in Leo (rulership) and Aries (exaltation). Venus in Taurus, Libra (rulership) and Pisces (exaltation).

On the flip side, planets can also be essentially weak, or weak in essential dignity. A planet in this condition is said to be ‘debilitated.’

An example of this is when a planet is in signs opposite its signs of rulership and exaltation. For example, Mars in Libra or Taurus (these are the signs opposite Aries and Scorpio) is essentially debilitated, weak in essential dignity.

This is because Mars is in the sign of its ‘detriment’; the sign opposite the sign of its rulership.

In detriment, Mars struggles to be on its best behaviour. Likewise Mars in Cancer – the sign opposite its exaltation. This is the sign of Mars’ ‘fall’, and also a debility.

Confused? Well, we’re not done yet!

Essential dignity is actually more subtle and nuanced than what I’ve outlined above.

There are many ‘shades of grey’ between a planet in rulership and exaltation at one end, and detriment and fall at the other. These in-between levels of dignity are mostly ignored by modern psychological astrologers. But they have been a part of traditional Western astrology for hundreds of years.

Essential dignity is like ranks in the military, from Major down through the ranks to Private. The highest rank, is equivalent to planets in the signs they rule (like Mars in Aries or Scorpio), their strongest essential dignity. Slightly less strong is a planet in its exaltation sign (for Mars, this is Capricorn).

Now it gets a bit more complicated. There are sub-divisions of the 30 degree of a zodiac sign. Different parts of a sign have different levels of dignity for a particular planet.

For instance, next down the essential dignity scale is when a planet is in its own ‘triplicity’. Lower still is dignity by ‘Term’. And finally there is ‘Face’ (or ‘Decan’). And a planet with no essential dignity at a particular degree of a sign is said to be ‘peregrine.’ This is akin to beinga homeless wanderer.

A peregrine planet has little ability to act; not much strength or quality. It’s a long way from home. But hey, things could be worse.

What’s worse, dignity-wise, is a planet in detriment. And a planet in fall is also in poor condition — but in an exaggerated way. Things are bad, but not quite as bad as they seem.

Why is all this relevant?

It’s relevant because essential dignity – and its counterpart accidental dignity/debility (to be covered in a later post) provide astrologers with wide palette of planetary energies in a particular horoscope.

Let’s look at one small feature of Donald Trump’s horoscope, to put this into a practical perspective.

Birth horoscope diagram for Donald Trump.

Horoscope for Donald Trump, born 14th June, 1946, Jamaica NY, 10:54 AM.

Trump’s Mars (green arrow) is at 26° Leo. How much essential dignity does his Mars have? How well is it able to be a ‘good well-behaved Mars’?

To find out, we generate a dignity table for his horoscope using astrology software. Here’s Trump’s dignity table:

What is essential dignity

Table of dignities for Donald Trump’s horoscope.

First, look for the Mars symbol in the left-hand column. Then look across Mars’ row. You’ll notice ‘plus’ signs under the Term and Face columns. This indicates Mars at 26° Leo has dignity by both Term and Face.

So Trump’s Mars has fairly low quality essential dignity. This does not make Mars ‘bad’. It simply means Trump’s Mars will be prone to expressing Mars instinctually, the rough and tumble side of Mars that’s more likely to ‘act first, think about it later’. His assertiveness (Mars) is likely to be rather unregulated.

An astrologer would usually look at the essential dignity or debility of all the planets when analysing a horoscope. And they’d also look at ‘accidental’ dignity/debility, which I’ll cover that in a future post on this blog. And as you can see in Trump’s case, his Mars is in a prominent spot in his horoscope, i.e. right near his Ascendant, or ‘rising sign’ of Leo. This placement is one small part of ‘accidental dignity’, which is a separate but closely related topic I’ll cover in another post in the near future.

Summary: what is essential dignity?

Essential dignity describes the quality of a planet’s energy at a particular degree of the zodiac. If the planet is strong in essential dignity, the individual has a better chance of expressing that planet’s true and positive nature. The weaker in essential dignity, it becomes more difficult to express the ‘good’ side of that planet’s inherent nature, and the more likely to express a lower quality version of that planet’s energy.


I’ve put together a table of dignities PDF for each sign, at a particular degree of the zodiac.






  1. Wow… so interesting. Thank you. I’ve never seen your site before. I’ll return!

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