Astrological Planning for Rituals
Part II: Planetary Dignities & Debilities

by Simon Jester
copyright 2011

The last blog entry discussed how to use planetary aspects in magical operations. Aspects were defined as geometrical relationships between planets, and I supplied a link to a website that provides instant data about what the aspects for the planets are at any given time and place. Now lets look at another facet of astrology that should be considered when performing magical rituals: planetary dignities & debilities.
      Whereas astrological aspects designate the relationships that a planet forms with other planets, the terms dignity and debility indicate the kind of relationship a planet has with a Zodiac Sign. This adds another degree of complexity to the task of effectively using astrological data to plan magical rituals, but this one is a little bit more straight-forward and easy to use because geometry isn't as involved and you don't need to measure the distance between planets in terms of degrees. All you have to do is discover what Zodiac Sign a planet happens to be in and then determine the kind of effect that Sign has on the given planet.
      Again. picture yourself at the center of a large circle. The Zodiac with its twelve Signs is visible along the circumference. Between you and the encircling Zodiac Signs are the ever-moving planets (including the moon and the sun, which are also designated as “planets” according to the ancient Greek meaning of the term.) Whenever you look at a planet from your central position, behind it you will see a particular Zodiac Sign and you will say that the planet is “in” this particular Sign.
      A planet may be said to rule in a given Zodiac Sign. The ancient system of astrology, which is still commonly used by many magicians today, only employs seven “planets” and there are twelve Zodiac Signs. Consequently, while the Sun and the Moon each rule only a single Sign, all the other traditional planets rule two Signs each. Here is a chart, taken from the Astrotheme website, that will help you to discover how the Zodiac Signs effect the planets:

The Sun--Rulership in Leo, exaltation in Aries, detriment in Aquarius, fall in Libra.

The Moon--Rulership in Cancer, exaltation in Taurus, detriment in Capricorn, fall in Scorpio.
Mercury--Rulership in Gemini and Virgo, exaltation in Virgo too, detriment in Sagittarius and Pisces, fall in Pisces too.
Venus--Rulership in Taurus and Libra, exaltation in Pisces, detriment in Scorpio and Aries, fall in Virgo.
Mars--Rulership in Aries and Scorpio, exaltation in Capricorn, detriment in Libra and Taurus, fall in Cancer.
Jupiter--Rulership in Sagittarius and Pisces, exaltation in Cancer, detriment in Gemini and Virgo, fall in Capricorn.
Saturn--Rulership in Capricorn and Aquarius, exaltation in Libra, detriment in Cancer and Leo, fall in Aries.

      How does all this data get put to good use when planning a magical ritual? Generally, if the planet you want to work with is in a Sign that it rules or is exalted in a Sign, then it is strengthened by the Zodiacal forces at that time and no Zodiacal banishing needs to be preformed. But if the planet is in a Sign in which it is falling or deterred, then negative Zodiacal forces must be dealt with by using appropriate banishing rituals.
      To give an example, let's say you're preparing to take an exam and you want to invoke the forces of Mercury to help you study. You consult the page to which I provide a link below, and see that Mercury is currently in Pisces. This is not a favorable Sign in which to find Mercury, a planet that is deterred in Pisces. Therefore, one of the ritual operations you must undertake if you still plan on working with Mercury at such a time will be a banishing of the undesirable Piscean energies. This is done with the Greater Banishing Hexagram drawn for Pisces.
      Another example: You want to invoke the forces of Mars to help you deal with an overly assertive co-worker, but discover that Mars is currently falling in Cancer. Again, use the Greater Banishing Hexagram Ritual, only this time draw it for Cancer in order to insulate your Martial working from the negative effects of that Sign.
      Sounds simple, doesn't it? Sometimes it is. However, there are other considerations that add an element of complexity to the procedure. Let's say you want to work with Venus in order to eliminate some emotional difficulty that you've been experiencing. You decide to do your operation on a Friday (the day of Venus) but discover that Venus will be deterred in Aries on the Friday you've chosen. You immediately decide that an Aries banishing is required, but then notice that Mars, the planet that rules Aries, will be exalted in Capricorn and trine Venus on the Friday scheduled for your ritual. This is a very beneficial aspect, and indicates that the ruler of Aries, a Sign that normally has a negative impact on Venus, is now both exalted and favorable to Venus. You would not wish to inadvertently close off a Zodiacal channel that, although it is usually not beneficial to the planet you're working with, is currently projecting some of the beneficial forces of its ruler toward Venus. You decide not to banish Aries, and instead perform an invocation of Mars using the Lesser Invoking Hexagram in order to strengthen the supportive Martial energies before moving on to your main business, i.e., the invocation of Venus.
      This also works in reverse. Say that you're going to invoke Jupiter and discover that this planet is currently in Cancer. Normally, this would be a very positive position, since Jupiter is exalted in this Sign. However, you see that Cancer's ruler, the Moon, will also be falling in Scorpio. What this means is that you shouldn't expect to receive too much in the way of astral support from Jupiter's current position in Cancer because the Moon, Cancer's ruler, is being being drained of beneficial energies by its current placement in Scorpio. In this case, you might actually want to begin with a Scorpio banishing in order to insulate your working from the baneful effects which that Sign is exerting, albeit in an indirect fashion.
      As you can see, working with the dignities and debilities of the planets takes on an added degree of complexity when one also factors in the influences of the planetary aspects. The easiest way to begin grasping all of this is to stop thinking of the planets and the Zodiac in materialistic, scientific ways, and start to look at them the way magicians in non-technological cultures looked at them for millenia, namely, as spiritual beings. In his recent book on the Grimoiric tradition, Aaron Leitch says that the Grimoiric magicians saw the planets and stars as interrelating in much the same way as the various monarchs of the medieval societies from which the grimoires derived. These celestial beings were interpreted as forming ever-changing alliances and belligerent relationships, and astrology provided a means of keeping track of these celestial/political re-groupings. Although this is a somewhat antiquated metaphor, using it actually helps one to begin understanding the complexity of the factors one must consider when planning magical operations in accordance with the stars.
      Here, once again, is the link to a website that will give you quick and relevant astrological data about planetary aspects and dignities:

Planetary Positions at Sacred Texts