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Reception as a Mitigating Factor in Astrology

Reception as a Mitigating Factor in AstrologyIn the 25th episode of the show I talk with astrologer Ryhan Butler about the concept of reception, and a specific debate surrounding the technique and the way that it can be used as a mitigating for afflicted planets.

Ryhan is the author of the Starlight Knight Astrology blog, and he also recently launched a comprehensive online resource for the theory, techniques, and practice of medieval astrology called the Medieval Astrology Guide.

He has lectured on the topic of reception at the recent NCGR and ISAR conferences, and he’s also published a series of articles on reception on the website of the Association for Young Astrologers.

The main point of the episode is a debate that has come up over whether reception acts as a mitigating factor when malefic planets are received by other planets, or whether it only acts as a mitigation when other planets are received by malefics.

We start the episode by introducing the concept of reception and talking about it a bit before launching into the debate.

Episode Outline

  • We start out by defining reception.
  • Chris speculates that the original definition was that it occurs when a planet aspects its domicile lord.
    • In the standard medieval definition the planet must be directly applying to an exact aspect with its ruler.
      • Abu Ma’shar says that it can be just by sign, but most medieval authors say it is primarily by degree.
    • Masha’allah only defines reception by domicile and exaltation.
      • Later expanded to include domicile, exaltation, triplicity, term, or face lord.
        • Sahl says that you need two of these lesser dignities at the same time to qualify.
  • Discussion about the terminology:
    • Latin: receptio: the act of receiving, reception, from recipio: to welcome, receive, admit.
    • Arabic: qubūl, from qabila – to accept or receive someone, agree, yield, approve, admit, accept.
    • Greek: ὑποδοχή – reception, hospitality, acceptance, support.
  • Some examples of reception.
  • What is the conceptual basis of reception?
    • Based on the guest/houst relationship between planets in a sign and their domicile lord.
      • Sahl talks about it as if the planets see each other as family or related and therefore welcome each other, versus not recognize each other as family and therefore refuse or disapprove of each other.
    • Pushing management: Planets push significations to other planets they apply to, that planet then decides what to do with it.
  • How does it work out in practice?
    • Mitigating factor for difficult applications.
    • Typically ensures success or ease.
    • Deborah Houlding’s summary of Bonatti’s statements on aspects with or without reception.
  • Segue into the debate over whether it still acts as a mitigation if malefics are received.
  • Discussion about textual support for the debate.
  • Discussion about it from a conceptual standpoint.
    • Possible difference between the role of reception in guaranteeing the perfection of a matter in a horary chart, versus acting as a mitigating factor in a natal chart.


A full transcript of this episode is available: Episode 25 transcript

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1 comment
  • Great discussion. I really got a lot out of this as it inspired me to revisit the concept as it is outlined in the old medieval texts. I have to say though that there is no reason to restrict things on a conceptual level because ultimately the actual life circumstances need to be taken into account in order to really see how reception is manifesting. The 8th lord receiving the 1st lord as a sign of freedom from death makes a lot of sense, but in another situation involving reception with malefics etc. this kind of thinking might not make sense. I also don’t see why the aspect has to be applying for reception to occur. It makes sense that an applying aspect is more powerful within the context of reception but clearly a received planet still receives some virtue or aid from the lord of its domicile especially when reception is present. Bonatt: “And it is said that if some planet is joined with the Lord of the sign in which it is (or with the Lord of the exaltation of the same sign, or with the Lord of the bound or triplicity, or face), whether by body or by aspect, that the planet who is the Lord of the sign (or some dignity of it), commits and gives its own disposition and nature and virtue to it” – pg 223 Treatise 3, translated by Ben Dykes. Nothing is said about applying vs separating. The guest/host relationship need not be restricted to a single conceptual scenario. In certain cultures the guest is catered to to the point where perhaps it opens them up to commit evil, like in the story of the Trojan war when Paris is a guest in Menalaus’ home and steals his wife. On the other hand in modern American culture I don’t think it is uncommon for a guest to cower before his host; think about a young man going to dinner at his girlfriend’s parent’s house for the first time! Malefics can also be accidentally benefic and viceversa. Yet another thing I have noticed is that often reception with malefics doesn’t entirely cancel things out but instead restrains the malice that could or would occur without the reception. A square is still a square, but when there is reception it becomes workable etc. I’ve seen cases where Jupiter was clearly overpowering Saturn, and actually creating trouble for Saturn rather than the other way around. So many things need to be taken into context and this discussion is a really valuable one because it points out that reception doesn’t always save the day, the context must be understood.