Last week we talked about essential dignities- the relative strength given to a planet based on the sign that it’s in. It’s about having the motivation to act.
The thing is, as we know, it’s one thing to be motivated to act- it’s entirely another to have the power to do so…and that’s where accidental dignity comes into play- the astrological equivalent of being in the right place at the right time.
Accidental dignity can give a planet in the sign of its’ rulership or exaltation, and extra burst of energy. It also 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.
It’s a little like concept of how even good people can make stupid decisions if they run around with the wrong group…planets are the same.
Get it? No?
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 its’ 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, ie 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.
Looking at my natal Mars. In Scorpio, it’s in the sign of its’ rulership. It has other lesser dignities too. It’s motivated to do big things. But…and it’s a big but…it’s accidentally debilitated by being in the 8th house and is further weakened by being retrograde when I was born. The spirit is definitely willing, but the flesh is weak. I tend to take a little longer to get going and stay going.
My Mercury is about as debilitated as you can get. Not only, as we saw last week, does it have no essential dignity, it also has no power- being in the 12th house and natally retrograde.
On the other hand, Saturn is in the sign of its’ detriment in Aries, but is accidentally dignified by being in the 1st house. Let’s just say he has the power to cause all sorts of havoc for me- I battle daily with worry over what others think, and whether I’m good enough. As for boundaries and knowing when to stop? Sorry…
The thing is, knowing about dignities can help you make the most of opportunities you could otherwise take for granted, and help you pinpoint those areas of challenge where you can make the most difference.
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 message? Debilitated planets can be opportunities- it’s a matter of how you look at it.
Doing it for yourself…
- What planets in your chart have accidental dignity?
- What planets in your chart are accidentally debilitated?
- How does this alter your view of your “strongest” or “weakest” planet?
Want to take this further?
Check out this excellent resource at Skyscript. It goes much further than this 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.