warning: this is a technical post…
In a link I posted the other day, I made the comment that I have the worst Mercury in history.
Naturally I exaggerate…just a little. Nevertheless, it prompted a few comments, emails and questions.
Sure the comment was, as most of my comments are, tongue in cheek, and it seems to have awoken the competitive instinct of others, but why exactly did I say that I have the worst Mercury in history? Aside from the point that it just is?
Let’s work through it, connect the dots, so to speak- that’s what we do when Mercury is in Gemini.
In traditional astrology, planets are either essentially dignified or debilitated in different signs. This is something that is necessary when it comes to horary astrology, but also, I think, important to know when understanding your own chart.
Dignity isn’t just about how straight you stand or whether you can act proper like in civilised company. Dignity, astrologically speaking, can come in many forms.
Generally speaking, planets with dignity have the motivation and power to act. It doesn’t mean that planet is good or bad (although traditionally that’s exactly what it can mean)- but the more essential dignity a planet has, the closer it conforms to its essential nature. Aspects with other planets will, of course, make this easier or more difficult.
It’s a little like the whole nature & nature debate- and how even good people can make stupid decisions if they run around with the wrong group…planets are the same.
Accidental dignity (or debility) will give the planet the power to act. This means that a planet essentially debilitated (so not operating to the best of its ability) if accidentally dignified, will have the power to do their worst. On the other hand, a planet essentially debilitated but also with accidental debility, doesn’t have any power to act- good or bad.
Get it? No?
Planets essentially debilitated, or in the sign of their fall or detriment, don’t work to their best advantage. Their behaviour is altered from the way that it should be.
Example? Take the Sun.
The Sun, in nature, is hot and dry. It’s all about radiating warmth, and everybody else orbits around it. The Sun is, by nature, ego-centric.
At home, in rulership, in spotlight centric Leo, the Sun is in his detriment in Aquarius- a sign where ego comes second to that of the group. The same applies to Aries where the Sun is exalted.
When a planet is exalted, or in the sign of its exaltation, it’s treated as a favoured guest, it’s given the good biscuits and the fluffy towels.
Aries is all about the individual, being first. It’s childlike and selfish. Yes, I said it. It’s about the ego. So is the Sun.
In Libra, however, where the Sun is in the sign of its fall, the focus is on the partnership, not the individual- the Sun is unable to act in the way that it is most comfortable.
Notice something? It’s all about the opposites.
Mercury is at its best in Gemini and Virgo- signs where information is gathered and organised. In Virgo, Mercury is both ruler and exalted. This means that when Mercury is in Pisces it is in the sign of its detriment and fall. It’s in a sign that it’s most uncomfortable in. Why? Pisces doesn’t think the way that Mercury likes to think. Pisces doesn’t learn or communicate in a way that Mercury normally likes to learn or communicate.
Then we come to accidental dignities.
A planet has some extra strength if it’s accidentally dignified by being placed on an angle- ie the 1st, 4th, 7th or 10th house. The closer to the cusp, the stronger the dignity.
A planet is said to be accidentally debilitated if it is in the 6th, 8th or 12th house.
Taking our example of the Sun again, say you have your Sun in Aries. It’s exalted, it’s potentially powerful…but it’s in the 6th house- the sign of service, outsourcing and sickness. It might have the motivation to do amazing things, but it’s power is given to others. Your challenge is to find a way through service to others to help that Sun shine. Get it?
There are two other ways in which a planet can be debilitated- if it is natally retrograde or if it is combust, within 8 degrees of the Sun and therefore blinded by the Sun’s rays.
Actually, there are other ways as well, but we won’t go into these now.
So, my point is… just what was my point?… that my Mercury is about as debilitated as you can get.
I did have an astrologer (who should have known better) make the comment once that obviously I had problems with my early learning. The answer to that is a categorical WTF?
On the contrary, I read voraciously, and at an advanced level. I regularly topped my year and was, on the whole, a nerdy smart arse. The thing is, I learnt differently to that of my classmates. I still do.
Mercury may be debilitated in my chart, but somehow, I have learned how to not only adapt to that, but to make the most of it.
And, as it turns out, it’s a perfect placement for a writer- especially a writer of fiction. It’s my way of turning a debilitated planet into something that has the potential to be extraordinary.
The same can’t be said of my Saturn- which is both essentially debilitated and accidentally dignified, but that’s an entirely different story.
The message? Debilitated planets can be opportunities- it’s a matter of how you look at it.
Check out the relative dignity of your planets in the (simplified) table below and let me know- what are the trump cards in your chart?
Want to take this further?
Check out this excellent resource at Skyscript. It goes right into understanding planetary terms and face and other technical words. Then at the end, there’s a point scoring system if you really want to get serious.