Planetary Strength – A Commentary on Morinus

Bob Makransky


This is an  intermediate level textbook on natal horoscope interpretation.  Taking as its point of departure Astrologia Gallica by Jean Baptiste Morin de Villefranche (1583 – 1656), Planetary Strength explains the differences between the strengths conferred upon planets by virtue of their aspects, sign and house placements.  A detailed system of keywords is augmented by insightful “cookbook” interpretations for each and every planetary combination. The depth and quality of the analysis – as well as the hundreds of practical examples and tips – make Planetary Strength an essential reference work which both neophyte and experienced practitioners will consult every time they read a horoscope.

Weight 220 g

Bob Makransky is a systems analyst, computer programmer, and professional astrologer. For the past 40 years he has lived on a farm in highland Guatemala, where he is a Mayan priest and is head of the local blueberry growers’ association. Bob became interested in magic at Micky Russo’s Spiritualist Church in San Francisco in the 60s, but it wasn’t until twenty years later that he began channeling spirits himself. He moved to Guatemala in the early 70s and started a farm which operates on principles akin to Rudolf Steiner’s Biodynamics, but with a Mayan slant. He became involved with local Mayan priests because of Mayan calendar software he had written, which they had adopted; and he was given a ritual to invoke Mayan spirits himself. He studied Mayan astrology and shamanism and performed ceremonies with his teacher, don Abel Yat Saquib, until don Abel’s death in 2009. Bob is the author of Planetary Strength, Planetary Hours and Planetary Combination.

Jean Baptiste Morin of Villefranche has been hailed as the greatest of all the French astrologers. He was a medical doctor, mathematician and astrologer. In those days, a knowledge of the stars was a prerequisite for medical school. He was the astrologer for the Bishop of Boulogne from 1613 to 1621 – yes, the church used astrologers! His system of Houses is still in use today, though not as popular as Placidus or Koch. His classic work was ASTROLOGIA GALLICA – a 26 volume tome that was published
posthumously and neglected for many centuries. Only recently have some of the volumes (not all) been translated to English.
There aren’t too many people alive who are qualified to write a commentary on these writings, but Bob Makransky is one of them.
This book is “red meat” for the serious student. It has real nutrition. It’s juicy. At times he is provocative and this is good. He forces the reader to think more deeply about basic things.
As the title suggests, It is a most beautiful discussion of planetary strengths and weaknesses. It is not enough for us to know the planetary placements. This is the merest of beginnings when it comes to chart analysis, we need to know the strength of weakness of the planet. Two natives with the Sun in Aries can
manifest very different qualities – because in one chart the Sun is strong, while in the other it could be weak – and so on and so forth for all the other planets in the Horoscope.
His discussion of the different strengths – Celestial, Terrestrial and Aspectual – and their relative merits, is by itself worth the price of the book. I have never seen a discussion of the various combinations that happen when a planet is strong Celestially and weak Terrestrially and vice versa. But Makransky gets into
these things.
Each chapter contains delineations for the different scenarios – the strength of weakness of each of the planets. This gives the student much food for thought.
But there is so much more here. He discusses the meanings of the Sole Dispositor, the unaspected planet, the meaning of retrogrades and stations, the synodic phases of the planets, the greatest brilliancy, and the meaning of the fixed stars when a planet is conjunct.
You come away from this with an appreciation of the nuances in a Horoscope. The chart is infinite. There are so many nuances – nuances upon nuances – that in the end it is like a piece of music – something you experience on a non-verbal level. From this infinity the Astrologer must “extract” the data that will be
most useful to the client at that time. This is the real art of Astrology. We must make the Infinite finite and
the Law of Functional Relevance must be our guide.
Can we quibble with the author here and there? For sure. Some of his remarks – especially about the retrogrades and unaspected planets – are sure to ignite controversy in the astrological world. Any work by a seminal writer such as he is, will inevitably generate controversy and debate. But this is a good.
Everyone will have to think more deeply on the subject. New knowledge and insight will arise. All the different positions will be seen more clearly.
The book is beautifully written. With Makransky, whether you agree or disagree is not the issue – you will always get a good read. It is clear. He has done his homework. He makes the genius of Morinus accessable to english speakers. He shows us how to “think astrologically”.
If you are a beginner I would pass on this book. But if you are a serious student and want to go deeper, this is a must read.

Joe Polansky Diamond Fire magazine

What Do We Mean by “Strength”?

Bob Makransky

The term “strength” is bandied about rather loosely in astrology. It will be the purpose of this article to take a look at some different kinds of “strengths” and to examine what these imply in terms of corresponding character traits in the interpretation of natal horoscopes.

One way in which we might define “strength” is increased capacity for free choice. A planet may be “strong” because it is in its ruling sign, angular, well-aspected, high in Shad Bala or Astrodynes, etc. (Shad Bala and Astrodynes are measures of planetary strength in the Vedic and Church of Light systems, respectively.). All of these methods of assigning strength are different ways of assigning importance to one type or another of capacity to act with free choice; and debility in this context refers to bondage or inability to exercise free choice. Strong planets show where and how in a person’s life they can realize their own desires and control their own destiny. They are productive of ease, tranquility, contentment. By contrast, weak planets show a helplessness or vulnerability – a cringing or defensiveness. Strong planets are good for material things and weak planets are good for spiritual things, such as learning self-denial (which may be the root of the contradictions encountered between the Vedic and occidental definitions of strength).

Just as contradictory testimonies don’t contradict in the person’s personality (but are exhibited at different times); so too do testimonies of similar personality traits (e.g. of dominance, cooperativeness, absolutism, timidity, dourness, humor, whatever) tend to “add up”; to reinforce each other. Lots of testimonies to a positive, lucky attitude tend to make that the person’s thought form predilection; and lots of testimonies to anger and vindictiveness tend to make that the person’s usual thought form state.

Since a planet can be in bad celestial state (detriment or fall) yet still be in good terrestrial state (conjunct an angle), then obviously the various types of strength must have different meanings in the horoscope. We have an example of this in the use of two different and contradictory zodiacs which nonetheless utilize the same scheme of essential dignities. Yet these contradictory schemes of dignities all seem to work for the individual practitioners who use them.


Celestial State

Morinus considers that the two most important types of planetary strength are Celestial State (dignity or debility due to zodiacal sign placement, also termed Essential Dignity) and Terrestrial State (angularity), in that order. On the other hand, Charles Carter says (in Some Principles of Horoscopic Delineation) – and I concur – that: “In my view sign-position is the least obvious of the three main factors that compose the horoscope [aspects and mundane position being the other two]. Let me put it this way. Tabulate twenty cases wherein Mars is in Leo, and as many more in which it is in the 5th house, and again, twenty wherein it is in conjunction with the Sun. I believe that it will be found that the last list will show the action of the conjunctions clearly, and in the second list also the value of the house-positions will be easily discernible; but, without an intimate knowledge of the dispositions of the natives, it will sometimes be found hard to discover the significance of the sign-positions.

“It is also difficult to distinguish the difference between one planet in a sign and another body in the same sign. … Again, try to distinguish Saturn in Cancer on the M.C. and the same planet in Capricorn in the same mundane position. Again we can talk easily enough as to what the difference should be but in actual practice the distinction is not so easy, and I believe that, in such a configuration, roughly two-fifths of the totality of significance is derived from the planet and as much to the mundane position, whilst only about a fifth can be ascribed to the sign concerned.”

Here’s one way of getting a handle on how different planets respond to being located in the different signs. Consider, as an analogy, a group of tourists in New York City. Harry goes to see a Broadway show; Mary goes to Central Park; Joe goes to the stock exchange. The observed behavior is the result of individual temperament, not of New York City per se, which but provides a backdrop, or range of possibilities. A farm would provide a different range of possibilities: Harry and Joe might be really bored and frustrated there, but Mary would be in her element. Similarly, the signs provide a range of possibilities for the activity of the planets, and some signs are more harmonious with certain planets’ inherent natures than are others. (See the Table of Essential Dignities in the Appendix).

As an example, consider the case of Venus. Venus is adept at creating opportunities, and some signs provide an ambience more favorable to this activity than others. But Venus will create opportunities no matter where she finds herself; only with greater difficulty in the more rigid, unyielding signs. For example, Venus in bad celestial state is controlling rather than playful; thus Venus in Virgo is picky, critical, never satisfied; and Venus in Scorpio is great in bed and ready to boogie any time, any place, but the sex is mechanical and egocentric – there’s nothing tender or romantic about it. As another example, Mars butts his way through things, but experiences greater frustration in trying to do this in the softer, more sensitive and temporizing signs. The point is that the traits observed when a given planet is posited in a given sign will be a product principally of the planet, not of the sign.

We can take as a rule of thumb that a planet in bad celestial state is more vulnerable, confused or fuzzier. Bad celestial state renders the active planets (Sun-Mars-Saturn) passive and the passive planets (moon-Venus) active. Mercury and Jupiter are more detached and mental – not classifiable as active or passive per se. We can say that good celestial state increases the definiteness of whatever a planet symbolizes, rendering it more flexible, adaptable, spontaneous, and alert to opportunities; whereas bad celestial state tends to be either more ambivalent or else more adamant – stiffer, more uncomfortable, missing opportunities. Thus, celestial state can be characterized as ATTITUDE: planets in good celestial state get the point; planets in bad celestial state miss the point (of the activity symbolized by the planet). Good celestial state shows an easy, effortless, positive attitude; whereas bad celestial state shows a self-conscious, labored, defensive attitude.

Essentially dignified and debilitated planets point to the natives’ chief spheres of interest and concern, their moments of heightened attentiveness and self-awareness (or self-consciousness, in the case of the debilities). Planets which are essentially dignified are SPIRITED: they concentrate and direct energy; planets which are essentially debilitated are NON-PLUSSED: they dissipate energy. But peregrine (i.e. neither essentially dignified nor debilitated) planets operate in more of an automatic, perfunctory, taken-for-granted manner. For example, Mercury essentially dignified is serious-minded, self-controlled, and intent upon living up to some idealized image; whereas Mercury peregrine is perfunctory, unapologetic, and matter-of-fact. Mars essentially dignified is challenging, probing, analyzing, and intent upon proving its mettle; whereas Mars peregrine is accepting, credulous, and inclined to take things at face value. Dignified planets are operative in the native’s most attentive moments; peregrine planets operate in the native’s automatic-pilot moments.

Natives with a preponderance of planets essentially dignified (5 or more in ruler and exaltation) are bold and self-certain, suave, and stylish. You contest issues with all your verve; yet you can take setbacks with relative equanimity. You are imperturbable and self-sufficient, deal with situations smoothly and impersonally, take things as they come. You don’t permit yourself to be put out or touched too deeply. Albeit smug and remote, you are principled and idealistic, and always try to make the best of things.

On the other hand, a preponderance of planets essentially debilitated (5 or more in detriment and fall) indicates that you are self-conscious, nervous, and wary. Albeit sociable and outgoing, you are super-sensitive, easily hurt, and take things very much to heart. You shrink from reproach and placate or temporize wherever possible. You feel a strong need to be looked up to, and usually try to play the good fellow. You tend to be shy or awkward, but are genuinely unassuming and friendly.

When a preponderance of planets (4 or more) are posited in their ruling signs you possess an attitude of superiority, nobility of character, and a can-do spirit. You project a sense of loftiness or superiority. You decide for yourself where your responsibilities and commitments will lie, and you don’t much bother yourself about anything else. Self-reliant and self-content – even a bit complacent – you can strike other people as being unduly stuffy or stiff. Yet on the positive side you are both idealistic and gracious, possessing an unimpeachable personal integrity.

When a preponderance of planets (4 or more) are posited in their detriments, then you tend to be defensive and self-protective. You are not so much self-effacing as unvarnished, rough around the edges, with an “aw shucks” simplicity of manner and a lack of subtlety and diplomacy. You can be quite blunt and bluff – you don’t especially try to make an impression on anyone. There may be a sense of effeteness or ennui about you, or a cantankerous pernicketiness. On your positive side, you are plainspoken, forthright, and truly solicitous for the well-being of others.

A preponderance of planets (3 or more) posited in their exaltations makes you insouciant, untrammeled, and willing to act in complete fidelity to your own instincts and desires. You are confident and imposing, shrewd and opportunistic. You take things as they come and can usually turn them to account. You are self-promoting and self-aggrandizing, but you are inimitably yourself at all times, and you grace your actions with a hallmark of personal touch and flair.

By contrast, a preponderance of planets (3 or more) posited in their signs of fall makes you insecure and uneasy, with an air of constant vigilance. You may put on a bit of a front since you never seem to just relax and let go. You tend to see yourself as a victim; or life as a series of bewildering maneuvers or dodges. You are somewhat sulky and inclined to labor your acts, but you are frank and aware of your limitations.

On the other hand, when all planets are peregrine (no planet in a sign of dignity or debility), what is indicated is nonchalance: you are relaxed, slow-paced, but rather desultory in your interests, lacking in real gusto for life. But because you have few axes to grind, you manage to get along quite well with all sorts of people.


Terrestrial State

The disposition of the planets with respect to the circle of the houses gives rise to the dignity of Terrestrial State, or propinquity to one of the four angles of the birth chart: Ascendant (ASC), Midheaven (MC), Descendant (DESC) and Lower Meridian (or Imum Coeli, IC). Terrestrial state refers to the natives’ approach to social relationships. A planet posited in an angular house (1st, 4th, 7th, 10th) tends to find social relationships stimulating; a planet posited in a succedent house (2nd, 5th, 8th, 11th) tends to find social relationships challenging; a planet posited in a cadent house (3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th) tends to find social relationships overwhelming. Angular planets do not indicate favorable relationships (which is shown by being well-aspected) so much as an easy control of relationships – an ability (symbolized by the particular planet) to land on one’s feet and dominate the proceedings. Cadent planets, by contrast, are more in thrall or in bondage to their social relationships – these planets bring a schooling in self-denial or renunciation.

Terrestrial strength – more than any other type of dignity – is a measure of adaptation to social conditioning. Where celestial strength is inborn – a gleam in the eye – terrestrial strength refers to learned strategies of social dominance. Angularity is not merely a matter of social skill. It also implies a certain take on everyday society – thoroughness, leaving nothing to chance or happenstance, enforcing one’s own will rather than just crossing one’s fingers and hoping for the best (as most people do). Therein inures the real strength of an angular planet: taking complete responsibility for the proceedings.

In general, society trains people to shut up and obey blindly; to take as little initiative and personal responsibility as possible. However, some people – at least in some areas of their lives (shown by their angular planets) – come to the realization that it’s all just a game; and that the game does have rules; and that those rules can be manipulated to advantage. Often this knowledge is learned from rather singular parents, who tended to make or break the rules themselves. This is perhaps why Gauquelin found that “children tended to have the same angular planets as their parents, especially if the latter’s were just past the Rising Point or MC.”

In any given area of life, most people are milling around aimlessly, waiting for someone to tell them what to do, and there’s a small minority of people giving all the orders. These latter people are symbolized in astrology as those who have angular planets. Actually, angular-planet people don’t know much more about what’s happening than anyone else, but they seem to: they have a facility for projecting the impression that they know what they’re doing. There’s a self-assurance and economy to their actions that induce other people to defer to them and cede them the lead.

Angularity symbolizes a sense of belonging, of being in the know, on the inside track. Angular types are not unconventional, but rather are above convention. They go through the motions of meeting – indeed, exceeding – social expectations; but they put very little importance upon appearances. They are aware (as most people are not) that social conventions and expectations are wholly arbitrary and not to be taken too seriously. Therefore, they are able to make social role-playing a joyous, fulfilling, fruitful activity, rather than an onerous or daunting enterprise (as it seems to cadent planet people).

Practically everyone is personally ambitious; what distinguishes angular types from the rest is their understanding that there is a science to life – a technology for getting what you want. They don’t sit around waiting for their “lucky break” to drop down from heaven; nor do they just put in the time while slowly moving up the ranks. They intuit that life is a game, with definite rules – definite steps and decisions that can be made to succeed in the game. Where most people obey the rules, or more accurately, stumble around in the dark trying to figure out what the rules are, angular types make the rules.

Angular types possess a talent for self-promotion, not in an officious way, but with a definite noblesse oblige. In contrast to the strength conferred upon planets by virtue of their being posited in their ruling or exaltation signs, angular planets exhibit little exuberance or effusiveness. They possess a natural self-control which arises not so much from discipline as from a sense of ease, patience, and forbearance – a sense that life is at one’s service, so there is no need to be pushy or overreaching. There is nothing blatant or indelicate about angular planets; their energy is not expended needlessly in demonstrativeness or attitudinizing, but is conserved, held back in reserve until needed. All angular planets make for a hard, cold practicality – even the so-called “nice” planets (moon, Venus, Jupiter) are nice only because that is the easiest way to manipulate people and get one’s own way with them.

People with angular planets are the winners in life because they make that assumption – that they are winners. And because it’s lonely at the top, angular planets also indicate a certain solitude and isolation. If those with angular planets quite consciously manipulate people and make decisions for the group, they also understand the responsibility that this entails.

Angular planets give people that sense of easy self-assurance associated with being a member of the ruling class. In earlier ages this meant membership in the aristocracy; in today’s meritocracy it shows the educated and upwardly mobile as well as those born in the upper classes of society. People born in the upper classes have a winning attitude inculcated into them from birth (that they “belong”, that they are destined to rule), which is why angularity is associated with high social class and success in life. The members of the upper classes were historically the people who were “bred” to lead and succeed.

The angular houses are houses of action, whereas the cadent houses are houses of thought. Angular planets do; whereas cadent planets hold back and watch rather than jump in and stir things up. Thus, being cadent isn’t as bad a debility for mental planets such as Mercury and Jupiter as it is for active planets like the Sun and Mars. What is shown by terrestrial state is how the native interacts in social groups – as a leader or follower, and in what ways. Angular planets are puppet masters, or Pied Pipers, who have everyone dancing to their tune. In one fashion or another (shown by the particular planet) angular planets maintain the upper hand: their POSITION is DOMINATING, whereas that of cadent planets is REACTIVE. The particular planet involved indicates how the native interacts (e.g. in a Mercurial, Jovial, Saturnine fashion); and the particular angle involved indicates in what type of social group the native interacts in that fashion.

Angular planets symbolize strategies of control, and the four angles symbolize four different types of social relationships: casual, face-to-face relationships (Ascendant); formal and group relationships (Midheaven); intimate relationships and partnerships (Descendant); and standing alone (Lower Meridian).

Take Saturn as an example: Saturn controls by fiat and fear – by sheer adamancy. Thus when on the Ascendant, Saturn is cold, gruff, and forbidding. Saturn conjunct the Midheaven moves unerringly into power vacuums to seize command. Saturn on the Descendant makes for obstinate or absent partners and difficult partnerships (planets conjunct the Descendant project their nature onto the partner – i.e. describe the type of partner chosen). And Saturn on the Lower Meridian closes up into itself and goes its own way. Thus the ASC and MC can be considered active and the DESC and IC passive in their operation. The planets other than Saturn operate similarly, according to their respective natures: Sun on any angle disarms by self-assurance and forthrightness; moon conjunct an angle is vulnerable and puts all its cards on the table; Mercury on an angle is glib and convincing; Venus conjunct an angle is gracious and accommodating; Mars conjunct an angle butts ahead and insists on its own way; Jupiter plays the impartial arbiter. All of these are bids for control; and the particular arena of control is shown by the particular angle (ASC = superficial, tête-à-tête relations; MC = formal and group relations; DESC = intimate relations; IC = solitude).

Angular planets have an angle: they have a come-on, a spiel. They are like used-car salesmen – in one way or another, they are selling themselves. Angular planets show a technique of self-promotion (depending upon the particular planet). Angular planets usually manage to land on their feet, and to dominate or capitalize on their situation.

If you have a preponderance of angular planets (4 or more) then you have an air of sublime self-assurance and a quiet bravado. You are shrewd, calculating, Machiavellian You project the sense that you are in possession of yourself; can handle yourself in any circumstances; and you want everyone to know it. You can be unduly self-absorbed at times and affect an aloof benevolence, but you possess a unique point of view and love to demonstrate your skill. In the context of an afflicted chart this usually means that you feel a constant need to prove yourself and demonstrate your prowess and superiority – you play to the gallery. In a well-aspected chart it means you tend to insulate or isolate yourself – to go your own way and do your own thing, making as few waves as possible.

Having no angular planets means that you have no angles, no come-ons. You are not trying to set the world on fire or impress anybody. This is not to say that you are particularly humble or self-effacing; but there is a certain hesitancy about you, a willingness to just go along. On your positive side you are artless, unaffected, unvarnished, and plainspoken. You’re a straight shooter; a simple person; what people see is what they get. You’re not trying to sell anybody anything; nor are you driven by a need to have other people see you as successful. You tend to conform to what is expected of you by your social milieu; you do your job as well as you can; and you do not call special attention to yourself.


Aspectual State

Where terrestrial strength refers to success in social role-playing, aspectual strength refers to ease or effort in the native’s adaptation to his or her immediate environment. Everyone has certain prototypal personal experiences and relationships just by virtue of their being human: infancy – childhood – play – schooling – adolescence – sexual awakening – marriage – parenting – work – participation in religious and social activities – etc. etc.; and these are what individual aspects refer to. For example, sun-Mercury and sun-Venus (taken together) refer to the Inner Child (and the native’s relationship with the parent); moon-Venus and sun-Mars aspects refer to the Anima and Animus – the female and male sides of the native’s personality (and, by extension, relationships with women or men in general); Venus-Mars aspects refer to relationships with the opposite sex; and so forth.

The aspects in a chart reveal what is normally considered good or bad luck in everyday life relationships and situations: well-aspected charts indicate an easy adjustment to – and good luck in – everyday life; afflicted charts indicate the contrary. Aspectual strength doesn’t measure success as angularity does, but rather the basic take on life: cooperation / comfort versus sacrifice/struggle. People who seem to be able to get things to click for them with no sweat have charts which are largely well-aspected; and people for whom things only come by blood, sweat and tears – and not even then much of the time – have afflicted charts. But this is not the same thing as success in the world: charts with lots of angular planets will tend to be more successful (get what they want) than charts without angular planets, no matter what is going on with respect to the aspects, which indicate only how success (or failure) comes – easily, or with difficulty.

Everybody is in pain; everybody is suffering. That’s just life, as the Buddhists say. Natives with well-aspected charts are in no less pain than natives with afflicted charts. However they’ve learned better pain management. They don’t allow their pain to obsess them; they relax into it instead of clenching up against it. Ergo, they can relax into pleasure as well. Afflicted chart natives bear their pain openly. They have an itchy, picky impatience with themselves and other people. They confront their pain directly – keep pinching themselves – instead of masking it or passing over it. They hug it to their bosoms, deferring their pleasure indefinitely.

The difference between well-aspected- and afflicted- chart natives is that the former live strategically, go with the flow, and as a result people tend to accept them on their own terms; whereas the latter stumble and bumble and struggle against the flow, and as a result they tend to be rejected by people. Well-aspected ACTIONS are DETACHED; whereas afflicted ACTIONS are MALADJUSTED. Well-aspected chart natives avoid getting involved in other people’s karma; whereas afflicted- chart natives actively seek to mirror their own inner turmoil by projecting it outward in relationships and circumstances. Well-aspected chart natives are loose and easy, whereas afflicted chart natives are tense and tight. Well-aspected chart natives take things in stride; whereas afflicted chart natives take things personally and are easily affronted. Well-aspected chart natives let go, whereas afflicted chart natives cling and cling.

As might be expected, well-aspected planets and charts are better for material matters, and afflicted planets and charts are better for spiritual matters. Natives with well-aspected charts have the ability to make the best of things and not get into too much of an uproar; but they also tend to be complacent, self-satisfied, and spiritually lazy. By contrast, natives with afflicted charts are intense, blustery, jarring, and at war with themselves and their environment, but their discontent is a powerful motive force towards the development of true detachment and wisdom.

So, in the case of the well-aspected/afflicted distinction, what is being measured is how well the natives get things to come through for them with a minimum of fuss. A well-aspected chart is not usually good for meticulousness, thoroughness, endurance, steadfastness, etc. unless there are strong testimonies to the contrary, such as a stellium or preponderance of planets in earth signs. Natives with well-aspected horoscopes are more apt to walk away from serious difficulties or compromising entanglements; indeed, they will rarely draw these sorts of circumstances to themselves in the first place, since they don’t enter into relationships or situations which they cannot control. On the other hand, afflicted charts are not usually good for things like calm, reasoned decision or disinterested objectivity. These natives are scrappers, who are always impelled to choose sides (often the losing ones). As Charles Carter says in The Astrological Aspects, “It stands to reason that, since to achieve anything notable is ex hypothesi difficult, the map of the man who does this must contain difficult elements.”(4)

Even when they are strong by celestial and terrestrial state, afflicted charts indicate frustration, obstacles, unfulfilled expectations; anticipated rewards for expended effort not forthcoming. These natives are unable to fit in or get others to cooperate; thus peoples’ afflicted planets show how and why other people reject them.

In short, where celestial and terrestrial strength refer to inner states (satisfaction and adroitness, respectively), aspectual strength refers to interaction with the outer world: whether a planet operates smoothly and efficiently, or only with great effort and expenditure. Where terrestrial strength refers to success in social relationships, aspectual strength refers to success in personal relationships (whether the native is accepted or rejected by others and by the vicissitudes of circumstances). This is why unaspected planets are actually “stronger” than even well-aspected planets, since they sidestep the issues of success vs. failure; winning vs. losing; and acceptance vs. rejection. The meaning of an unaspected planet is similar in meaning to that of the planet conjunct the Ascendant; and is also about of the same strength: forthright, unhesitating, gut-level, self-expression. Unaspected planets are relatively detached; and therefore they will not be discussed in this article (which for heuristic reasons emphasizes the well-aspected vs. afflicted polarity).

Well-aspected planets (and charts) tend to get things to click for them; whereas afflicted planets (and charts) stumble over every pebble; balk at every mischance; take the things that happen very personally rather than shrug them off philosophically. Whether this mindset attracts difficult circumstances; or whether difficult circumstances condition a negative mindset; is moot. The point is that afflicted charts make for Hard-Luck Harrys. In other words, of the three principal types of strength – celestial, terrestrial, and aspectual – aspectual strength is most closely indicative of what is commonly referred to as “luck” – getting the outside world and other people to cooperate.

Aspects cannot really be looked at in isolation but must be considered in terms of the greater configurations to which they belong. I.e., it is not enough to sum up the number of harmonious and disharmonious aspects (within given orbs) to a planet in order to determine its aspectual strength. Rather, each planet must be viewed in terms of any configurations in which it participates to evaluate whether that planet is well-aspected; afflicted; or a mixture (successful and capable in some types of situations and relationships; self-defeating in others). In particular, the short leg of a T-cross can be considered to be seriously afflicted; and the mediating planet of a wedge (180° – 120° – 60°) can be considered to be quite well-aspected indeed.

When there are both harmonious and disharmonious configurations in the same horoscope, then in some areas of the native’s life (shown by the symbolism of the relevant planets and houses) the native’s life will be harmonious; and in others, disharmonious.

Preponderance of well-aspected planets (6 or more): you are natural, at ease, and inclined to take things as they come. You live in a world of your own, and don’t permit yourself to become too personally involved or committed. You keep loose, aloof, circumspect. You are practical and down-to-earth, and operate smoothly and effectively.

Preponderance of afflicted planets (6 or more): you are headstrong, proud, and unyielding. You tend to be a bit vain or possess an air of smug superiority, and you tend to be headstrong, pugnacious, and heavy-handed in dealing with others. . You often feel beset on all sides, and rather easily become frazzled or harassed; and you rely upon dogged obduracy to see you through.


Appendix: Table of Essential Dignities and Debilities of the Planets


Planet Ruler Detriment Exaltation Fall
Mercury GE – VI SG – PI VI PI
Venus TA – LI SC – AR PI VI
Mars AR – SC LI – TA CP CN
Jupiter SG – PI GE – VI CN CP
Saturn CP – AQ CN – LE LI AR
Node     GE SG


UR-NE-PL (the essential dignities are not applied to the modern planets)

(excerpted from Planetary Strength)