Planets have dignity according to where they are placed in the horoscope. This can be either essential or accidental.
Essential dignity measures the strength of a planet at a particular point in the zodiac; it is the ability of a planet to realise its own nature. It is a measure of quality. It comes from the zodiacal degree in which the planet is found and there are five different levels: sign rulership, exaltation, triplicity, term and face. Detriment and fall are debilities; signs of detriment and fall are opposite those of dignity and exultation respectively.
Planets with essential dignity are able to act and control their own destiny. A planet with no essential dignity is peregrine; it is under the influence of the planets who have essential dignity in the degree of the zodiac which it occupies; these are known as despositors. For example, Mercury desposits Venus when she is in Gemini or Virgo. See Receptions.
This is not a judgement that a planet is bad, it’s simply a measure of how well it can express itself. Mars by its essential nature is a selfish planet. You need a selfish streak to keep you alive at times. Having Mars in a co-operative sign does not mean you cannot survive, you just survive in a different manner. Good examples of successful Sun and Mars in Libra people are Nelson Mandella and Ghandi respectively.
A planet can have strength from its position in the zodiac, essential dignity, or due to where it is found in the chart, and what other planets or points support him: Accidental Dignity.
Essential dignity comes from the zodiac; the Sun in Leo or Mars in Scorpio will always have essential dignity, they have the ability to act. However, the position relative to the rest of the chart may enhance this further or put obstacles in its way. A planet conjunct the ascendant or MC is accidentally dignified, as is a planet in a beneficial aspect to Venus or Jupiter, a particular fixed star or swift in motion; they have the opportunity to act. For a full list of the considerations to access accidental dignity see Skyscript.
A planet can have little essential dignity but lots of accidental dignity, for example, the Moon in Capricorn conjunct the MC. Planets in situations such as these are punching above their weight and can lack substance although they do not want for opportunity. Consider the following:
- a King in his throne room has power and opportunity – Sun in Leo conjunct the MC
- a King in the kitchen has power but little opportunity – Sun in Leo in the sixth house
- a goatherd in the kitchen has little power and little opportunity – Moon in Capricorn in the sixth house
- a goatherd in the throne room has little power but opportunity – Moon in Capricorn conjunct the MC
Essential Dignity shows power, accidental dignity shows opportunity.