Understanding the three Debilities of Detriment, Fall and being Peregrine

Every traditional astrologer is familiar with the three debilities known as ‘detriment’, ‘fall’ and being ‘peregrine’, all of which show planetary weakness in three particular forms. They are complementary to what is known as essential dignity where a planet is strong. A planet with dignity has the power to act whereas one that is debilitated does not. Does this mean that every debilitated planet is evil? Given some consideration, the answer is no. As always the context is important. A debilitated planet in a natal chart must be judged differently than one in horary chart or even a mundane chart. But before we look at this question in more detail first a quick review of what each of these debilities represent;

  • Detriment – the planet finds itself in the sign opposite to those it rules. The Sun for example is in detriment in Aquarius. This is the weak winter Sun that hardly is able to warm the earth as compared to the Sun in Leo.
  • Fall – the planet is in a sign opposite to its exaltation. The Sun is in fall in Libra for example. This is a weakening Sun no longer able to quicken, as compared to the exuberance of Spring when the Sun is in Aries.
  • Peregrine – the planet is wandering, it has no essential dignity at all, neither the greater nor the lesser dignities of triplicity, term and face nor is it in detriment or fall. It is weak, like a wanderer or pilgrim it is homeless and vulnerable. The Sun for example is peregrine in Taurus and Cancer which are where the Moon is strong and in Pisces, also a winter sign.

Now to the pith of our question. I would like to begin by quoting Boethius. He is speaking about human beings but the text can equally be applied to our topic:

“Now, there are two things on which all the performance of human activity depends, will and power. If either of them is lacking, there is no activity that can be performed. In the absence of will, a man is unwilling to do something and therefore does not undertake it; and in the absence of power to do it, the will is useless …Therefore, men’s power or ability is to be judged by what they can do, and their weakness by what they can’t do.” (p. 88 Penguin ed. of “The Consolation of Philosophy, trans. Victor Watts)

He also discusses the difference between the good man and the wicked, which is extremely helpful for understanding debilitated planets:

“…So that without any difference of instinct all men, good or bad alike, strive to reach the good… Since, then, both groups want goodness, and one obtains it and the other doesn’t, surely there can be no doubt of the power of the good and the weakness of the bad?” (op. cit.)

We can say, when we use this argument, that every planet irregardless where it is placed strives for goodness, only the one has power, that is has essential dignity, while the other is debilitated and is therefore weak. It is through its weakness that makes it “evil”.

There is still the question about position. There is also what is called ‘accidental dignity’. This means that the planet receives dignity by for example being conjunct a benign fixed star such as Spica or is on an angle, notably the Ascendant or the Midheaven. But does this mean that the malefic debilitation is mitigated or strengthened? Through accidental dignity a debiltated planet receives power to act and here again the astrologer must consider context in order to judge how this power is then used.

19 thoughts on “Understanding the three Debilities of Detriment, Fall and being Peregrine

  1. Hi Thomas,
    This is always a great topic as it forever begs the astrologer to reconcile circumstances that seem contradictory.

    Have you ever noticed a natal chart that indicates debilitated planets should create disaster and yet the individual comes out with uplifting results?

    In my philosophy, “Every knock is a boost,” and it is through debilitated planets where astrologers can help a client develop the most benefit from such circumstances.

    In the many charts I have worked with, weaker planets in a natal chart are the ones we need to improve upon. As water seeks its own level, so do the energies we are born with. Stronger placed planets will supply the drive, power and will to uplift the debilitated planets and help fulfill the balance between the well placed planets and the ones with less than obvious benefits.

    At birth we might see a debilitated planet drawing various negative results but the individual eventually learns to work around such negativities. Later, the individual has become well fortified by the negative planets only to find that the hard work and persistence has now become an asset.

    We often see such positive results through primary and secondary progressions as they move out of their debilitated placements and then onto better horizons when they either reach a benefic planet by a positive aspect or change signs.

    “Every knock is a boost.” We just have to stop and pause and then look for the benefit. That benefit is usually just above the emotional level.

    Thank you,

    Great post,
    Sir Arthyr

  2. Dear Thomas and Sir Arthyr,

    Thank you for this interesting topic and of course for the enlightening response.

    To slightly paraphrase the above, I like to quote my spiritual teacher, let’s call her auntie B. for the moment, who said: ” It is not from the Honey we learn, it is from the Vinegar!”

    Yes, there is the question about position, an old argument between astrologers.
    It reminds me of the difference between the Almuten Figuris and the Lord of the Geniture. How much should we take accidental dignity into consideration?

    I would love to hear other people’s opinions.

    Thank you,


  3. Dear Peter,

    This question does indeed arise in discussions on the Lord of the Geniture or the Almuten Figuris. What often is ignored is that there is also such a thing as accidental debility. A planet may be in its own sign but if it is cadent, retrograde and conjunct a malefic star is it still able to act? This is the other side of the coin. I find the Boethius text helpful as he speaks of ‘power’ and ‘will’. So we might have to consider both aspects! A planet may be debilitated in a natal chart but has accidental dignity. We could then say that the native through an act of will may find the means to master difficulty and grow from it. Conversely the power to act might be there, but if the will to truly take advantage of it is lacking, nothing happens!

    your welcome :-),

  4. Dear Thomas, Arthyr and Peter

    Continuing your discussion on Accidental Debility:

    I have often cited the chart of Princess Margaret Rose of England as being the most ‘essentially dignified’ chart I had come across. She had 6 planets in rulership and two in exaltation, and yet seemed to have contributed nothing of significant public value with her gifts, and in fact it is only for the scandals surrounding her life that she is remembered now that she is dead.

    Perhaps this is because her natal Lord 1 Mars is the only planet not in his own domicile and was located in the cadent 3rd house? Thus Margaret was favoured by all her other planets but her own chart ruler lacked both the ‘will’ and the ‘power’ to use them, that Boethius speaks of.

    I have often wondered why Margaret never made a bid for the throne. Her chart on the surface if far more regal than that of her elder sister!

    But in fact the Princess has 3 cadent planets. The Sun and Mercury in the 6th and Mars in the 3rd. The Sun on Regulus could also be classed as an accidental ‘debility’ inasmuch as power, honour and riches were given at birth, only to be taken away by trouble, disgrace, sickness and ultimate ruin.

    What intrigues me is the testimony about ‘accidental dignity/debility’ by aspect given by
    Abu ‘Ali Al- Khayyat. He tells us in Chapter 32 “The Judgement of Nativities” that:

    “To investigate the native’s power and his kingdom, consider the planet that has an application to the lord of the ascendant, or contrariwise, to which the lord of the ascendant applies. If it is in its own exaltation, it signifies the conjunction of the native with kings and nobles . . .”

    Yes, so far so good. Princess Margaret did associate with kings and nobles.

    But in chapter 13 he says:

    “The separation of the Moon from a planet in its own domicile, or posited in its exaltation, signifies that the elder brothers (sibling) will have high position and great fame.”

    And so, according to AK the present Queen, her elder sister, will always take precedence over herself.

    I wonder then if Lord 3 Mercury in rulership and exaltation could be viewed through the lens of the cadent house and aspects as an accidental debility thwarting Margaret’s ambitions?

    Best Fishes

  5. Dear CarO,

    Thank you for your comment. I’ve tried to add the chart here, so that it can easily be referred, but it isn’t technically possible, so I’ll have to add it in a separate posting.

    best wishes,

    Here are the details that I could find:
    Princess Margaret
    Aug. 21, 1930 21:22
    Glamis Castle 3w00 56n36

  6. Dear CarO and Thomas,

    thank you for sharing this interesting chart with us and for the supply of the chart data.

    I just brought it up in Solar Fire, but I am not sure if I have the correct data.

    I can only find 5 planets in rulership, not 6 as you say, CarO. Jupiter is exalted in 12 Cancer but not in his domicile, although in H4 which seems to be fitting.

    I have used the above data wich gives me 22:21 BST and ASC 06*08 Aries.

    Perhaps I am missing something here?

    best wishes

  7. Dear Peter,

    You have reversed hours and minutes. Easy to do with all those 2’s 🙂 The given time is 21:22 or 9:21 pm. The chart has now been posted in the article on the Grammar of Accidence…

    best wishes,

  8. Dear Thomas,

    it gets complicated now!
    I have erected the chart for 21:22, as given in your posting, but mixed it up in my reply and typed 22:21 instead, which is of course WRONG.
    (But then you say 21:22 equals 9:21pm, which really is 9:22pm; you are right, too many 2’s here)
    So please take the content of my posting to be valid with only a typo for the time for which I appologize.

    Best wishes,

  9. Good Morning Peter

    Oooops! Yes thank you. What I meant and should have said was that Princess Margaret had 6 planets in rulership and/or exaltation. 5 in rulership, and two in exaltation to be precise; with my point being that only Mars Lord 1 was is the only planet not so essentially dignified.

    Perhaps Thomas would be good enough to change the 6 to 5 on the other article please?

    Thanks for the ‘heads up’ Peter. 🙂

    Best fishes

  10. Of Will and Power,

    (and I would say also of desire and acknowledgement, as regards the development of a soul incarnated who seeks atonement)

    there can be no greater exercise than directing conscious attention towards the strengthening a debilitated planet.

    This will be done through a type of “astral projection,” and assuming an effort that is not inherent naturally. It is fully possible with proper guidance, to certain levels of increase. Every bit of increase means to polarize towards mastery, and is indeed the purpose of incarnation.

    Here is where proper living is needed, and great mental focus and concentration (meditation) is required. Here is that debilitated planet the actualized catalyst for strength, honor and dignity: the defining of one’s will, and the decision towards dignity, rather than debility.

    Fateful astrologers define their limitations by defining their limitations through the horoscope. Evolutionary astrologers, for example, believe in the will to create, which comes from the “sacred heart.” The sacred heart is not part of the mechanics of astrology, and so there is a missing link that must be filled in by the adept.

    If ever by primary direction that planet reaches a new sign whereby it gains more dignity, a great fury of energy shall be released, as the astral effort find an actual place of manifestation.

    In counseling another, the projection of a proper focus which may be lacking in an individual can be holographically set into place, both with stones, and if the artist has the capability, psychic powers in a similar manner.

    Mercury in Pisces, a very poor debilitation, can for example be overcome by memorizing the Archetypes (which are shown plainly in the tree of life), and allowing the lesser experiences of communication to find root in these exhaulted guideposts. Pisces points to the grand overview, and Mercury knowledge. By discovering the archetypes, there will be less wandering, and the mind will be strengthened in ways that other minds could not possess! And now there has been a polarization towards strength and much has been achieved in the perspective of one’s soul and incarnation.

  11. Hello Joseph,

    I am not sure I have understood you completely, but the gist of it seems that those who have many debilitated planets can still find the means to make something of their lives.

    If anything, the radical chart and its directions show potential which may or may not be realized (the same applies for charts that have many strongly dignified planets!) As implied by the Boethius quote there are two components needed to realize any promise of a chart whether dignified or debilitated. Will and power. Position might give a clue. And it is important for an astrologer in examining a chart to consider this and not take a schematic approach.

    The use of esoteric methods may or may not always be necessary or helpful. I think that the wise astrologer, even one adept in esoteric techniques, always bases his or her counsel on the needs of their client and speaks the clients’ language.

    Thank you for your comment and sharing your approach.

    best regards,

  12. As a practicing astrocartographer (with a considerably debilitated chart) who stumbles over how to share the “bad news” a chart sometimes foretells for a client, I found Joseph’s remarks quite esoteric and refreshing!

    I’m sure everyone is not as mentally astute as Joseph, but the implications that we can all consciously work on our own “debilities”, whether astrological or otherwise, in the development of character (largely triggered by the presence of squares & debilities in a natal chart), is encouraging and inspiring. And that those efforts can eventually come to fruition is indeed hopeful.

    The astrologer’s task is to help the client understand ones’ dilemmas consciously, and then to encourage potential paths for resolution or appropriate expression, urging the client to allow oneself the time and potential non-successes along the way that conspire to make us give up in dismay or self-judge harshly. Such elements are intrinsic to “debility” in the planetary makeup of one’s chart. But they need not stop our soul progress.

    For some, perseverance is the right approach; for others it may be to shift course and try something new; while others would benefit best by attracting allies, teachers and friends to assist, guide and encourage, or serve as role models. Some will find divine guidance from within to shine the light on one’s path.

    Life is an upward climb for most of us, but the summits are not for all. To find contentment and purpose along the way and to know and accept one’s self without coveting the lifestyle or attributes of another – in other words, to discover the authenticity of the true self – is the real goal.

  13. Dear Betsi (?),
    Nietzsche expressed it thus: “Werde, der Du bist.” (Become, who you are). It is as you say, the means for overcoming a debility can take on many different forms. Recognition and acceptance are the first steps towards turning an incipient disadvantage to an advantage. A chart can indeed show which direction to turn to. For example someone may have only debilitated or peregrine planets but most of them are angular. Here will and preservation are the key. Someone else may have a similar situation, only most of the planets are cadent. Then reception among the planets may be important. Perhaps there is one planet that is angular and through reception is able to strengthen the others. This is what you describe as attracting allies or friends. Climbing to a summit is strenuous and often dangerous. I sometimes think that debilities reflect this much better than dignities. With strong dignity there might even be the temptation to remain in the lush and comfortable valley…

    Thank you for your thoughtful and astute comment. It seems to me that those with debilitated charts are the ones who try to fathom the question and in so doing enrich the understanding of astrology. That in itself shows that debility can have another dimension ( Jean-Dominque Bauby’s, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” is a good example).

    with very best wishes,

  14. Abraham Linlocn has the most debilitaed planets I have seen in a chart! I think six of them were in fall or detriment! It is true that he suffered from a chronic depression but he was one of the most high minded and evolved people to ever live! It seems debility can be overcome in an impressive way!

  15. I am using the chart I found at the bottom of this page http://www.auxmaillesgodefroy.com/essential_dignity and it looks like every single one of my planets (well except the outer planets, looks like they don’t do this calculation for those?) is peregrine.

    Sun 28 Sco (also unaspected)
    Moon 15 Leo
    Mercury 20 Sag
    Venus 8 Sco
    Mars 14 Sag
    Jupiter 9 Leo
    Saturn 12 Vir

    Am I doing this right, and if so what does this mean? They might have accidental dignities, I haven’t looked at that. The rest of those planets have aspects. I can provide my birth data if you are interested.


    • Hello E,
      The table provided by the author of the above website is not entirely accurate. Somehow the detriment of Venus in Scorpio or Mercury in Sagittarius or Jupiter in Gemini has been overlooked. A planet that is in the opposite sign of its domicile is in detriment. Always. That means it cannot be peregrine in that sign. Mercury in your list is in detriment, which means that not all of the planets are peregrine. Even if they were all peregrine, one would still have to check for accidental dignity. Planets in peregrine are as the name suggests wanderers without an address. That means that in those areas of life that they signify great effort and willpower is needed to stay on the way, but when achieved is accompanied by great satisfaction. If you are American than it would be similar to walking the whole of the Appalachian trail and not breaking off after 50 miles because the weather isn’t right.
      best regards,

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