As we’ve discussed in Essential Dignity, Accidental Dignity shows us whether a planet has occasion or power to act. Since this is a vast topic, in this article we are only going to consider its most important issues: house placement, motion and aspects.
The four most powerful points in an astrological chart are, in order: Ascendant (AS), Medium Coeli (MC), Descendant (DS) and Imum Coeli (IC). They are called the angles, and in many house systems (such as Placidus, for example) those points correspond to the cusp of the first, tenth, seventh and fourth house respectively—the so-called Angular Houses. A planet in conjunction with one of the angles is dominant, and has great power and influence over the chart. Planets that are still in angular houses, but not in conjunction with the angles, immediately follow.
Then come Succedent Houses and Cadent Houses, with some exceptions: planets in the sixth, eighth and twelfth house are particularly debilited. Remember, they represent obligations/illness, death and confinement/imprisonment—basically, bad places you don’t want to be in.
Here is the ranking from the strongest to the weakest spot:
|Second, Fifth and Eleventh house|
|Third and Ninth house|
|Sixth, Twelfth and Eighth house|
Planets in Joy
Traditionally, each planet is in joy in a given house. This because it is in the area of life that mostly allows it to express itself: the Moon in the third, Mercury in the first, Venus in the fifth, the Sun in the ninth, Mars in the sixth, Jupiter in the eleventh and Saturn in the twelfth. Since the planet likes being there it has a little more power.
Direct and Retrograde Motion
From a geocentric perspective a planet can move forward (along with the Sun and the Moon) or it can seem to be going backwards. The former is called direct motion, the latter, retrograde. Being the Sun and the Moon the luminaries (light bringers) their motion—which is always direct—is called the “direction of life”. For this reason retrograde planets are considered debilitated.
The truth is that retrograde motion is not necessarily something debilitating. In fact we can say that while the “direction of life” concerns Nature and the outer world, retrograde planets are temporarily dealing with inner issues.
Most of the times, if your mind is clear you can act straight away; if you need to think it means that you are still struggling with something. This is why retrograde planets are great for shadow work, but weak when it’s time for action.
Like people, planets can support each other or being hampered. We can figure out what’s going on by looking at the aspects they are making. Usually, difficult aspects such as opposition or square are a hindrance: the planet may be strong but another one is getting in the way. On the contrary, trine and sextile represent relationships where things come easy. Conjunction is not strictly speaking an aspect, but since planets merge in a single astral force, essential debilities weaken the result while essential dignities strengthen it.
Combustion and Cazimi
In conjunction, the Sun is an exception because it is always debilitating. We refer to this phenomenon as Combustion: the Sun is so strong and powerful that every planet in conjunction with it is combust (burned out). This means it is highly debilitated. To be combust a planet must be in the same sign as the Sun, within eight and a half degrees.
Cazimi is the heart of the Sun, and its effect is the opposite of Combustion. Basically the planet is in the heart of life itself so—instead of being burned out—it’s extremely boosted. The Sun disc however measures only 35′ (minutes) in diameter. So to be in Cazimi the planet must be within 17 and a half minutes from the Sun!