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Essential Dignities and Debilities, with Charles Obert

Essential Dignities and Debilities

In episode 156 astrologer Charles Obert joins the show to talk about the concept of essential dignities and debilities, and how they are used to determine the condition of a planet in an astrological chart.

The essential dignities are essentially the ancient equivalent of the modern sign-rulerships, except it represents the original and more elaborate set, which includes multiple rulerships and co-rulerships for each of the signs of the zodiac.

During the course of the discussion we review each of the five essential dignities, and talk about their conceptual motivation and interpretive value in astrology.

The five essential dignities are:

  1. Domicile
  2. Exaltation
  3. Triplicity
  4. Terms/Bounds
  5. Decans/Faces

You can download a handy printable table for the dignities here:

Essential Dignities Table

Charlie teaches at Kepler College, and he is the author of a new book on the essential dignities titled Using Dignities in Astrology.

You can find out more information about his work on his website:


This episode is available in both audio and video versions, and you can find both below.

Watch the Video Version of This Episode

The video recording of this episode is available on The Astrology School YouTube channel:


A full transcript of this episode is available: Episode 156 transcript

Listen to the Audio Version of This Episode

You can either play this episode of the podcast directly from the website or download it as an MP3 to your computer by using the buttons below:

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  • Good episode, still too many digressions. For example, Chris, your comments about Angelina Jolie were pointless, irrelevant, and went no where.

    Charles, I found this on Skyscript: “Finding a ruler of a triplicity situated in its triplicity during its period of power is another indication of dignity and strength. ” Does this mean that the only time triplicity confers dignity is if the planet is a triplicity ruler and is in its triplicity and sect? (e.g. the Sun in Sagittarius in a day chart.)

    • Yeah, I had some point with that chart example originally, but lost it midway through the sentence and couldn’t recover it. Congratulations on pointing that out…

      • Personally I love digressions. Garrison Keillor made his life’s work out of digressions. A lively, free conversation is built on digressions. It is where creativity occurs.

      • I am another fan of digressions, but tbh I always enjoy the way you keep a structure on the episodes through guiding the conversation and also clarifying what the other person is saying. Even though your guests ramble, as a host you really manage to keep the themes on track.
        I am so much more dispersed in my speech, and as such I agree that it’s a space where intuitive insights and creativity have a chance come to surface.

      • tbh, the point was that venus might not like being in aires but it can still manifest its venusian archetypes in the aires environment

  • Very tricky, especially the exaltations and the tripilicities. Some structure can be seen a sto sect (trine and sextile as well referred to) but is that the origin of the two? Is astrology always about order, logos, which Brady correctly relates to the Greek mind, sometimes overplaying a systematic approach. This may( and I stress may) not be the origin of the exaltations. Chaos in the cosmological creation myths as in Mesopotamia might be closer to some of the concepts as exaltation we may not grasp completely yet. It is also connected to which paradigm is underpinning your astrology, so very different in Greek terms or Mesopotamian. We might be victims of an overstructuring of the zodiac. The proof might be in whether it works… I would take another approach to Muhammad Ali, as a siderealist and will come out with a very good delineation of his Saturn as responsible for his fight with the establishment as a conscientious objector. Anyhow, I would be careful when teaching essential dignities without looking at the sidereal take.

  • Great episode one of the best in my opinion. Clarifies the meaning of dignities.

    LL Listen to Charles and Chris’ delineation of Muhammed Ali’s chart with Mars in Taurus in a night chart. I have the same issue in own chart as the great boxer but it worked it self out in a different way , due to its placement. But the same theory of interpretation holds!

  • That segment doesn’t answer my question. Does a triplicity lord only confer dignity when in sect and when in its own triplicity?

  • Marvelous discussion, Chris and Charles. I never tire of learning more about dignities and reception, especially when those topics are situated in their historical contexts. Charles’ first book is excellent and I eagerly await delivery of his new one. Thank you both!

  • I agree with Steve. This was a great episode! The issue of sect is a complicated one though. You have to also consider the planets phase (direct/fast vs retrograde/slow), sign, aspects and place /house. Chris does a great job of breaking this down on his planets lecture for the course. Its also wonderful to see and hear a post 2nd Saturn return astrologer share his wisdom. I ordered both his ebooks from his website. Thanks Charlie and Chris!

  • Great podcast. This really helped me to see the nuance and variety of the dignities and debilities and to see them as less fatal. Thus chart interpretation can tend more to subtley instead of “your screwed!”.

  • I have a question about a detail regarding the bounds; on your table you start with Aries/Jupiter with as number of degrees 6 (6). However in this lecture you used a table displaying bounds only and in this one you list the first five degrees for Jupiter in Aries. (and so on the the other planets/signs). This is not the first time that I encounter this discrepancy and wonder what the root of this is in order to make up my own mind. Thank you.

  • Chris, I’ve been devouring your podcasts for the last 6 months or so. Thank you so much for your work! I have a background in classics (and a long history of exploring western hermetic traditions) so I’m really connecting with the hellenistic / traditional approach. I’ve recently been wrestling with the issue of exaltation, looking for an underlying logic. This show was really helpful, but in my reading online I came across an ‘alternate’ system for deriving the domicile, exalted, detriment and fall rulerships that feels really intuitive. I wonder if you’ve come across this and if you have any thoughts: http://astrohoroscope.info/stoycheff/?p=269 .

    The approach results in some oddities, especially in the mutable signs, where a planet like mercury or jupiter can be both exalted and in fall or detriment at the same time. But I feel like this open up layers of interpretation, thinking about what aspect of the planet is exalted (feminine or masculine) and the idea that sometimes you can have too much of a good thing… that a planet which is an ally or a blessing in one respect, can also in some way be the very thing that trips the native up or is their undoing.

    I know your a champion or critically understanding the underlying logic of the systems we use and not just deferring to tradition or history, so I would be interested in your thoughts. I’m thinking about enrolling in your hellenistic astrology course in an upcoming round, so perhaps we can talk then!
    Regards 🙂

  • Such a fantastic episode, I am watching it for the second time already. Thank you so much for your wonderful work. Would it be possible for you to share your version of the Wheel Style you have created for Solar Fire, the one that incorporates the Egyptian Bounds within the wheel itself (not the one you have previously shared with the calculation table, but the one where they are embedded within the wheel itself)? I prefer your version much more than the generic one already available in Solar Fire. Thank you in advance!

  • Thanks very much for sharing. Is it possible to put the transcript version also? They are very helpful for non-English astrology learners 🙂