An Answer to Planetary Dignity and the Zodiac Debate

I have just read an interesting piece from the International Astrological Conference on Indian Vedic Culture and Western Astrology. This was entitled Planetary Dignity and the Zodiac Debate by Richard Fidler.

This lecture was delivered with the noble aim of trying to bring together the two sides in the debate between Tropical and Sidereal Astrology, although like most attempts at attaining such an end was done very clearly from one side’s ( Sidereal ) perspective.

There are a number of points made in this article that I would like to take aim at, but I would start by focusing on its very premise as a means to either bring these two approaches to Astrology together or to promote the strengths of one over the other.

The issue is between Sidereal and Modern Western Astrology which uses the Tropical Zodiac.

I am happy to be seen as a member of the second camp and my views on the use of The Sidereal Zodiac are well known to my regular readers but for anyone else can be seen here – Sidereal of Tropical – That is the Question

It is important to point out that my issue is between Sidereal and Modern Tropical, not necessarily Traditional Western Astrology.

The basic assumption of this article is that planetary dignities form an extremely important central premise of Astrology both Western and Vedic.

I would dispute that. In Traditional Western Astrology, they do but in Modern the system of dignities is very much down played.

Both Traditional and Vedic as far as I can see have a much larger investment in simple binary terms of good / bad, auspicious and inauspicious than Modern Western.

Modern Western Astrology is much more interested in psychology and the varieties of personal expression. This is a simple reflection of modern life.

2,000 years ago people were not so much interested in their own psychology, they were invested in their fate and so the type of astrology used was less based on sign types and more on houses.

I am not saying that one approach to life is any better than another. There are many aspects of modern life with its obsession with ” personality ” that I view as a serious impediment to our growth as human beings.

But the astrology that we have is one that reflects our culture today.

And we are not so caught in this old fashioned good / bad dichotomy that so stymies many religions.

Planetary dignities can easily be interpreted in such a way to reinforce this good / bad narrow way of looking at the world. To make us believe that Mercury in Gemini ( its sign of dignity ) is somehow better than having it in Pisces ( its detriment ).

In Western natal Astrology one placing is not really seen as being better than an other. They are different, and some people might even believe that the insights afforded to someone with Mercury in Pisces are of more value to humanity than that of Gemini.

Either way, these good / bad definitions are not helpful in Western natal astrology.

But they do seem to be an essential part of Traditional and Vedic.

Of course its important to recognise that many of the theories on which Traditional Western Astrology is based come from a time in history when the Sidereal and Tropical Zodiacs were more or less in alignment.

Modern Western Astrology is far more focused on planetary aspects than dignities. In fact you could say that aspects is the most important theme in it, more so even than signs.

The writer of this article ignores aspects altogether and bases the comparison on dignities, which as I’ve said plays a much smaller role in Modern Astrology.

Whether this omission is deliberate or not I cant say. I have come across other Sidereal astrologers making comparisons whilst deliberately withholding important chart facts with an aim to pull the wool over the eyes of the reader.

But in this case I shall assume this omission was not deliberate. Maybe the writer’s experience of Western astrology is of the Traditional variety.

A more specific point about the charts presented in the article as evidence that Sidereal is a more effective system than Tropical is the reference to Mars in Taurus.

In Traditional Astrology Mars is said to rule Scorpio and therefore it is in detriment in Taurus. Planets in the sign of their detriment are assumed to be weak and the examples given were those of Hitler and Muhammad Ali, both people that you would assume to have a strong Mars.

Mars is in dignity in Aries and in detriment in Libra and the indecisive and think before you act nature of Libra is obviously not a strong place for Mars. The hesitancy of Libra would render Mars weak.

However Modern Western Astrology does not accept Mars as the sole ruler of Scorpio and many astrologers would not even give it part rulership.

Modern Astrology has Pluto as ruler of Scorpio. This works on many levels. Scorpio is the sign of greater emotional range and depth than any of the others, and Mars has never been associated with depth. Pluto is the ruler of the underworld and it works through annihilation and transformation, which is  natural Scorpio territory.

It is difficult to test and prove rulerships because of the subjectivity implicit in interpretations, but I have run tests with Contest charts in sport and found using Pluto as ruler for charts with Scorpio rising gives better results than using Mars.

And as someone who gambles on Astrology and sport I am happy to put my money where my mouth is on this one.

So given that Pluto is the ruler of Scorpio and Mars is not, the red planet would also not be in detriment in Taurus.

This makes sense. Because there is nothing about the sign Taurus that would indicate that Mars would be weak there. Taurus is not like Libra in that respect. It’s symbol is the Bull and is a Fixed Earth sign of great stamina and determination.

If anything the aggressive qualities of Mars would be more dangerous in Taurus than in Aries because there is a consistency and a continuity about it. Mars in Taurus would be more able to win its battles in the end than in Aries, a sign that is known to start strongly but ultimately run out of steam.

There is no way that Mars is weak in Taurus. It is an absolute powerhouse, it might not be the fastest placement but in terms of absolute brute strength it is the strongest Zodiac placing for the planet. And anyone who doubts that should try showing a red rag to a bull.

So the first example in the chart was that of Hitler. The assumption made by the writer was that the most evil figure of the 20th century could not possibly be a Taurus, he would have to be an Aries.

This is again heading into that good guy / bad guy territory that plagues traditional forms of astrology and seriously gets in the way of any real understanding of personality types and the Zodiac. To assume Hitler must be an Aries is absurd, and also shows a weak understanding of the sign itself.

He was the most powerful man in the world for 12 years, there was no sign of burnout or losing interest after his initial battles and forays. If anything he was ultimately defeated because he kept fighting too long and overreached himself.

Hitler’s chart has always been a difficult one for astrologers, whatever method they were using. In the pre war period many astrologers believed that World War 2 would not happen because his chart was not evil enough to cause it.

My own feeling was that Hitler, who was aware of the power of astrology and the occult, gave a false birth time to hide his true rising sign, which I explain in this article Adolf Hitler – Only Got One Aspect

The other point about Hitler was also brought up by the writer. He had the Moon conjunct Jupiter in Tropical Capricorn, which has to be by any reckoning a far more appropriate symbol than having this conjunction in Sagittarius.

Both systems would have Hitler with Libra rising, but my own version ( see the above article ) suggests a different birth time which gives him 0 Degrees Tropical Scorpio rising. You only have to look at pictures of him to see this. Libra was his perfect Aryan image. Scorpio is the dark and sinister little man with the funny moustache.

The article makes other references to explaining Hitler’s character through Jyotish.

I am not arguing against the use of the whole Vedic system. I am no expert in it, I have very little experience of it. This is not because I don’t have respect for it. On the contrary I recognise that it is a whole complex system that has worked for millennia in India and I wouldn’t look to study it unless I was able to give it the proper time and attention which would take many years.

My argument is that Sidereal should be only considered as a part of the whole Vedic system and not taken as a bit part that can be tacked onto a Western modern psychological approach. And that Sidereal does not work in this context for people born in the West.

The simple fact remains that Hitler’s chart cannot be used as an argument for the Sidereal Zodiac over the Tropical one. If anything the Sun and Mars in Taurus with Capricorn Moon works better than Aries and Sagittarius.

The 2nd example used was that of Muhammad Ali. Again the argument used is that of Mars in Taurus and how could the greatest boxer the world has ever known have Mars in detriment.

As I have shown, this argument does not hold water. Mars In Taurus has exactly the brute strength, determination, persistence and sheer stamina to win 15 round boxing matches. In fact Ali’s rope a dope style where he would drop his guard and dance out of the way while his opponent tried to land a punch and then got exhausted so the Greatest could finish him off is the very opposite of Mars in Aries burnout style.

In fact the most common Mars sign amongst Boxers is Taurus for these very reasons, whereas other sports like Motor racing and Athletics are more Arien and have a greater propensity of stars with this sign strong.

My article Float Like a Sun / Uranus / Neptune Grand Trine, Sting Like a T Square Apex Mars in Taurus  about Ali’s chart shows exactly this.

And the thing that made Ali so ferocious and such a great fighter was not so much the sign placing of Mars anyway but the fact that it was the apex planet of a T Square.

I have engaged other Siderealists who have conveniently omitted certain obvious points to try and pull the wool over people’s eyes.

One of the most absurd ones asked the question how could Lucy Lawless who played Xena be a Mars in Tropical Taurus, when she was so obviously Mars in Sidereal Aries.

Putting aside the previous stuff about Mars in Taurus, this writer neglected to inform his readers that Lawless was also a Sun, Moon, Ascendant in Tropical Aries. By Sidereal she would be a Sun, Moon, Ascendant in Pisces, but of course this fact was not mentioned.

This is nothing more than a Sidereal con job and the writer concerned should have been ashamed of making such an obviously intentional omission.

With this in mind it is interesting that the writer of this article has ignored the most obvious difference between the Sidereal and Tropical versions of Ali’s chart.

Ali had Tropical Leo rising, Sidereal Cancer.

” I am the Greatest ” ? The greatest what ? Mom ? In his own backyard ?

The case for Tropical over Sidereal should really be simply made by this one fact. And its interesting that the writer of this article neglects to mention it.

The next example in the article is that of the writer himself.

I always find inclusion of personal details in articles like this to be unhelpful. The writer is not a famous person whose biography and personality are well known, so it is pointless to include it and cannot help his argument.

I could equally say that I am a Sun, Moon and Ascendant in Capricorn. Sidereal would have me as a Sun, Moon Sagittarius. I have lived with myself for 64 years and I can assure you that I am definitely not a Sagittarius, the exact opposite in fact.

So we move onward to J P Morgan.

The argument here is particularly tenuous. It is along the lines of how could someone so rich and famous not have the planets Venus, Jupiter and Saturn in the signs of their exaltation ?

I often feel I have to point out to people even including other astrologers that the whole point of an astrological placement is its uniqueness.

The fact that the Sun is in Aries is special because 11/12ths of the people born in that year do not have it.

An Aries Ascendant would be even more special because a similar number of people born that day would not have it. In fact with northerly attitudes this becomes even more special as it is a sign of short ascension.

Jupiter spends a whole year in any one sign, Saturn 2.5 years. Morgan was born in April 1837. Everyone born from August 1836 to 37 would have Jupiter in Leo.

In Western astrology we take these things into consideration. Because Jupiter – Pluto spend so long in any one sign we don’t give that placing much consideration in terms of assessing personality. Pluto particularly can be in a sign for up to 30 years.

So the fact that Jupiter is in Tropical Leo or Sidereal Cancer is neither here nor there, but even if we did consider it to be important, surely anyone could see that such a big player as J P Morgan is more likely to have it in the big noise sign of Leo rather than stay at home Cancer, even if it is supposed to be exalted in the latter.

The same thing would apply to Saturn in ruthless Tropical Scorpio or easy going Libra.

And even more so to Venus in assertive Aries rather than in nebulous, dreamy Pisces.

The more of this article I read, the more I am convinced that the author has just discovered planetary dignitaries and has yet to learn about aspects.

J P Morgan’s chart has two T Squares. This is what gives him all the power that he had.

Both of them have the Mars / Jupiter conjunction in Tropical Leo – thats Leo, the sign of the King as opposed to Sidereal Cancer the sign of the Waltons.

The most powerful of these two T Squares focuses onto an apex Sun in Aries, which on its own would be enough to describe the kind of character he was.

By the way Morgan by Tropical has a 4 planet stellium in Aries, whereas by Sidereal he has only 2 planets there and Venus and Pluto in Pisces.

There is no way that J P Morgan’s chart could be seen as an example of Sidereal above Tropical. How this writer’s obsession with dignitaries has allowed him to rationalise it in this fashion is a real testimony to the kind of deluded nonsense that I often see put up by these astrologers.

By the way the same writer ( a respected Western Siderealist who I will not embarrass by publicly naming him ) who tried to pull the wool over people’s eyes with the piece about Lucy Lawless also tried to claim that Mick Jagger is a Sun Sidereal Cancer rather than Tropical Leo, simply on the grounds that he likes cricket.

Anyone who has ever seen Jagger on stage would laugh that one out of the room.

As for arguing that Paul McCartney has Mars in Sidereal Cancer rather than Tropical Leo because his wife Linda had breast cancer. I will just say WTF ?

And Nicolas Culpepper had the same thing and his mother died of breast cancer.

One thing that I have noticed that Sidereal people will do when challenged on their interpretations of a sign placing. They will say that it refers to someone else in the native’s family, mother, father, husband and wife etc, 2nd cousin twice removed, anyone they can find that would fit what they are trying to convince us of.

Modern Western Astrology tends to see the chart of the person as their own, not that of their extended family.

Again this vision of life may be better suited to the Indian culture / temperament and perhaps even more so 2,000 odd years ago. It has little relevance to modern life in the West.

The next piece in the article was of the writer’s client who had Mars in Sidereal Cancer which is used to explain why her husband was trampled to death by an elephant.

This is the kind of bizarre thing that is just included as obvious evidence. Of what ? Does Cancer rule elephants then ? Rather than Tropical Leo which if we were going to go down this weird path, might better resemble a large animal like that.

From there, the author goes on to consider Jim Jones and Marshall Applewhite being evil and therefore must have Mars in Sidereal Cancer rather than Tropical Leo.

Are we in some kind of Leo equals good, Cancer equals bad thing then ?

If so perhaps we should look at the fact that both of these guys have the Moon and Venus in compassionate Sidereal Pisces or Tropical Aries.

The next guy for the Sidereal examination is Bill Clinton. How anyone can possibly think Clinton had Venus and Mars in Sidereal Virgo rather than Tropical Libra is beyond me. I cant even be bothered to argue this one. I’m only amazed that the writer was naive enough to include it.

The same argument applies to Chuck Berry’s Sidereal Venus in Virgo as an explanation for sexual misconduct. Why this placing can be thought to have anything to do with that simply because Venus is in the sign of its so called Fall, is just silly.

Venus in Tropical Libra shows what attractive and magnetic characters both Clinton and Berry were. It was the square of Venus to Pluto that showed how Berry was prepared to manipulate that status to have sex with under age girls.

Next up is Condoleezza Rice whose career success is supposedly indicated by having Mars in Sidereal Capricorn rather than Tropical Aquarius. For some reason the writer considers Mars to be weak in Aquarius, a sign ” in which he gains meagre glory “.

This is the kind of arcane ancient astrologer speak that fools no-one in the 21st Century.

A sign is simply a type of expression of energy. The difference between Aquarius and Capricorn is generally seen to be one where the latter adheres to convention and the former does not. If this was simply a matter of strength or weakness, then presumably no Aquarians would ever reach high office and all Capricorns would do.

The other factor here is that having the Sun exactly on the Midheaven in Tropical Scorpio is far more likely to provide the determination and sheer ruthlessness for a black woman to succeed in a white man’s world, than the Sun in Sidereal Libra. The same applies to the placings of Rice’s Mercury and Venus.

Whether or not she has the Moon in Tropical Cancer or Sidereal Gemini is largely irrelevant because it is the Moon’s conjunction with Jupiter and Uranus that helped her to rise above what the writer seems to assume was her natural station.

Next up Vincent Van Gogh. The argument seems to be that his Tropical chart does not sufficiently describe his emotional and mental impetuousness. Which is odd because an Ascendant in Tropical Cancer would be inclined to do just that over and above the same placing in Gemini.

Mercury’s conjunction with Pluto would also cover it whatever sign it was in.

Astonishingly the writer includes Donald Trump in the list of people who have the Moon in Sidereal Scorpio rather than Tropical Sagittarius as back up for this.

If ever there was anyone who would be first on the list to prove Tropical over Sidereal it would be Trump. Everyone surely can see that this first grade motormouth has the Sun in Tropical Gemini opposite Moon in Sagittarius.

While is true that any interpretation of character has to have some kind of subjective element surely we have to draw the line somewhere. Trump, the man who immediately vocalises the first thing that comes into his head is so obviously not a Sidereal Taurus Sun, Scorpio Moon. This kind of thing should be compulsory in astrology kindergarten.

Nikola Tesla is used as an example based not on his character, but simply on the fact that he was an inventor.

This in itself is very weak astrological argument. If you take this to its logical conclusion all Doctors would be Virgos, all Capricorns would succeed in their career and if you didn’t have a Cancer stellium you would be homeless.

Tesla’s success comes mainly from his T Square to an apex Sun ( an aspect that gives a very powerful drive to succeed ) and to other 3rd house planets along with an extremely intense Pluto rising.

The final example is Albert Einstein who was a genius but some how not one that was allowed to have the Sun in Pisces, despite the fact that his own actual personality resonated very well with this sign. On the other hand the writer is bigging up the choice of Mercury in Sidereal Pisces rather than Tropical Aries.

Also there is the neglect of the fact that Einstein’s Moon was in Tropical Sagittarius, which given the area of his enquiry fits somewhat better than in Sidereal Scorpio.

The thing about this article is that not one of these examples proves the point that Sidereal is more efficient description of character than Tropical. In fact there are many of them that do exactly the opposite.

But this is the problem with these kind of articles.

Just like the Sidereal astrologer who put one placing of Lucy Lawless chart forward as evidence without pointing out that every other major factor in her chart said exactly the opposite, people tend to cherry pick the isolated points that they believe will promote their own argument.

And unless someone can be bothered to go through them with a fine tooth comb looking at the chart as a whole, people tend to adopt the writers pics as evidence of what he is trying to say.

There are enough cherries being picked in this article to fill a whole warehouse with Sidereal jam. Which is of course the point.