A Closer Look at Triplicity

Up to now I have used the ptolomaic triplicity rulerships without question. This has changed. The discussion on how different results may be arrived at when using different triplicity rulerships has given cause to pause and think about their usage. It raises questions about how one approaches established tradition. Does one accept unquestioned everything that has been handed down over the centuries from such authorities as Ptolomy or Dorotheus? Even if there are apparent contradictions? This is the passive route. There are however two other courses of action. One either tries to fathom the contradiction or one corrects it. It is clear that any discussion for or against a particular system must come out of the tradition itself.

Jean-Baptiste Morin brings some powerful arguments for their reconsideration. He points out that in a great conjunction or an eclipse one looks to the nature and condition of the ruler of the sign in which the conjunction or eclipse takes place and not to planets that lack rulership there. This means that there should be no exception, not even for the rulerships of the essential dignity by triplicity. His arguments can’t be ignored.

I went through the rulerships as given by Ptolomy, Dorotheus, Schöner and Morin and tabulated them in the following manner. First I marked them from the standpoint of dignity by domicile/exaltation and debility by detriment/fall (table 1). I also marked those planets that are foreign to the triplicities that they are placed in. For example the fire signs are ruled by Mars, Sun and Jupiter respectively. Saturn has no rulership there. He is in fall in Aries and in detriment in Leo. There can also be situations when in a chart a planet is in detriment but at the same time has dignity by triplicity (Venus in Scorpio). This is the source of some consternation.

table 1

table 1

I have also looked at the rulerships in terms of sect (table 2). This seems reasonable as this particular dignity changes by day and by night. So sect must be important here. Otherwise why make the difference? With sect two conditions of the planets can be looked at. First diurnal planets should rule by day and nocturnal planets by night. Secondly in masculine signs the diurnal planet should be masculine and the nocturnal feminine just as in feminine signs the diurnal planet should be feminine and the nocturnal masculine. There is one difficulty here. All the truly feminine planets are nocturnal. The only planet that can be used as diurnal ‘feminine’ is androgynous Mercury.

table 2

If we examine the first table we see that of the four systems only that of Morin uses the domicile rulers of the triplicities consequently. The ptolomaic system uses the Moon for night rulership of the earth triplicity and Venus for the water triplicity. Neither has rulership by domicile in this triplicity. The Moon however is exalted in Taurus as Venus in Pisces, so one might think that that is the reason, but there is a problem, the Moon is also in detriment in Capricorn and Venus is in fall in Scorpio.

Dorotheus’s system (Morin calls it Arabic ) is similar to that of Ptolomy. The day and night rulerships for fire, earth and air are the same. There are two differences however. First the triplicity is extended to three planets with a third planet as partner planet. Ptolomy has only Mars as partner planet for the water triplicity. Second the water triplicity is ordered differently. Venus instead of the Moon has rulership by day and Mars instead of Venus has rulership by night.

Schöner’s system is similar to the Dorothean, at least in the rulerships for the water and air signs. For the fire signs he has Mars as partner instead of Saturn, making use of a true triplicity ruler rather than a ‘stranger’. For the earth signs he switches the Moon to day rulership and instead of Venus introduces the Sun, which is puzzling as the Sun is a ‘stranger’ here.

Morin’s system agrees with the other systems as to choice of day ruler for the fire and air signs. For the water signs Mars as night ruler is in agreement with Dorotheus and Schöner. As noted above his system is the only one that makes consequent use of the triplicity domicile rulers. He also relegates where possible planets that are in detriment or fall to partner planets. With the exception of Mars, he makes the most use of planets that are already in dignity by domicile and exaltation. If you count the number of planets with these dignities you have 8 for Ptolomy and Schöner, 9 for Dorotheus and 11 for Morin. The other systems all have Jupiter as ruler for the night for the fire triplicity. Morin uses Mars. The same is the case for the air triplicity. Instead of Mercury he has Venus as night ruler. The rulerships in the earth triplicity differ the most. Here he has Mercury and Saturn instead of either the Moon, Venus or the Sun. In trying to understand why there are such differences it is helpful to use sect as a criterion. It won’t answer all questions but still resolves a few.

It seems that Ptolomy’s system matches the genders of the planets with the genders of the signs. The fire and air triplicities are all masculine. The earth and water triplicities feminine. The favoured sign is Taurus with one planet each in domicile and exaltation. Scorpio is the problem sign, with one planet in fall, one in detriment and Mars the only planet that is in his domicile is relegated to partner planet. The Dorothean system tries to correct this by giving Mars, a nocturnal planet, rulership by night. This is the only place where it is not in accord with Ptolomy. I still riddle why Schöner gave the Sun night rulership for the earth triplicity. The only reasonable explanation is that by moving the Moon to rulership by day he wanted to compliment her with the other luminary. Morin has tried to use sect a consequently as possible. If a nocturnal planet is available then it is used for night rulership and if possible the gender of sign and rulership is also considered. That is why Mercury is given rulership by day for the feminine earth signs.

What are the consequences? The logical step would be to apply the Morin system of triplicities immediately as they seem to make the most astrological sense. The first thing will be to look with a new eye at already familiar charts and go from there.

We can start with Ernest Hemingway’s chart. Surprise, surprise. If we use Morin’s system Jupiter is no longer peregrine! He also has the most points if we use Schöner’s method of finding the LoG. But he is cadent. Jupiter is the ruler of the 4th house and so deposits Saturn. He is significator for the father. I still think Saturn is LoG. And for my chart? Well, the planet that is LoG is no longer peregrine. Hurrah!!!


40 thoughts on “A Closer Look at Triplicity

  1. Dear Thomas

    Well, you’ve almost convinced me!

    Morin’s idiosyncratic take on the Triplicity Rulers is logical, and makes perfect sense. In which case, why oh why didn’t any of his predecessors use it? Could it be that by using the three elemental domicile rulers it unbalanced the dignities in their favour? By using the domicile rulers as triplicity rulers, one is just ‘doubling up’ on their own dignities, whereas at least Ptolemy and Dorotheus add a little seasoning by way of ‘strangers’ to an element?

    This of course could be just sour grapes on my part, as Morin very inconsiderately fails to elevate my LoG from peregrination! 😉


  2. Dear CarO,

    That is exactly my question. Other than Mars as night ruler for Cancer he avoids the conflict of detrimented or fallen planets as triplicity rulers.

    I am beginning to think that when a planet is in its own triplicity and has no other dignities it is not peregrine even if it is given back seat in the triplicity tables. The Moon in a water sign is in her own triplicity. Ptolomy gives her rulership by day, all the others but her in the back seat as ‘partner’, with Lilly I am not sure as he gives Mars as ruler by day and night. So someone has the Moon in Pisces. Is she peregrine when the birth is at night? The Moon is a nocturnal planet as well. I am inclined to give her dignity by triplicity! Does that mean I have to make my own tables?


  3. ” He points out that in a great conjunction or an eclipse one looks to the nature and condition of the ruler of the sign in which the conjunction or eclipse takes place and not to planets that lack rulership there.”

    Does Morin say that someone looks just at the sign ruler where the eclipse or G.C. fall? I could not understand well this point.
    If so, Morin is very wrong and I never saw something like that.
    When considering a sizigy or whatever else we should always consider all 5 rulers, according their strenght, and aspects planets are doing with the point we are studying, before judging which planet has more power in this point.
    And, in Bezza group (where, believe me, they don’t like at all Renaissance astrologers like Cardano or Morin) they do the same for judge temperament in nativities.
    Now i will read again your post,

  4. Hello Gjiada,

    It seems reasonable that he means all five dignities. I think his implication is not using a planet that is not compatible. For example cold Saturn for fire signs.

    Whether or not I will decide to exclusively use Morin’s suggestion for triplicities is still open. But there are some very strong arguments for doing so, and so I feel obliged to take them seriously.

    The real purpose of my article is to stimulate thought about the question how we approach ‘tradition’. Whichever table of dignities we use, the important thing is to fathom the ‘why’. If I say for example that Venus is the day ruler of the water triplicity then I would like to understand why.

    Thank you so much for your comment.

    best wishes,

  5. Thomas said: “. . Moon in Pisces. Is she peregrine when the birth is at night? The Moon is a nocturnal planet as well. I am inclined to give her dignity by triplicity!”

    Hi Thomas

    This is why I have always felt much more ‘comfortable’ with the Dorothean Triplicity rulers rather than those of Ptolemy or Lilly, as at least Dorotheus includes the Moon as a participating ruler for the water signs.

    I agree with you: Morin’s idea is much more elegant, incorporating the domicile rulers in ‘sect’ as much as possible, but whether it ‘works’ or not remains to be seen.

    Are you suggesting we experiment with this for natal work only or should we keep a weather eye cocked on horary charts as well?


  6. Now i understand better, thanks.

    But Ptolemy considers triplicities according sex, hairesis, and ruler of fixed signs.
    Placido Titi explains like that “triplicitatem venatur a similitudine sexus, et conditionis, hairesis, et a dignitate domus, maxime in segnis fixis.”

    For example Fire triplicity (male and diurnal) is ruled by Sun and Jupiter (plus Saturn added by Dorotheus) is because Sun and Jupiter for hairesis and for sex and Sun because it rules fire fixed sign, Leo.

    In the case of Water triplicity (female and nocturnal) Jupiter in Morin list would be against both sex and hairesis and it is not the ruler of the fixed water sign, which is Mars.

  7. Ahah!

    I remember Dame Detrimentia going on about “Hairesis”. It is the Greek for the term we know as the Arabic ‘Hayz’ Thomas!


  8. Hello Caroline,

    That is the big question. Does it work? Which means keeping a wide eye open for both natal and horary charts and seeing what difference in triplicity rulership shows. Yes, it seems one has to experiment. It least that is the consequence for me. Gjiada has mentioned, ‘hairesis’, perhaps we’ll be a step futher along when she tells us what it is and how it works. Sounds Greek to me. I am inclined now to consider all three offered triplicity rulers before declaring a planet peregrine. Of course the more the conditions of sect etc., are met the better the dignity.


  9. It was not an experiment of mine but just how Ptolemy chose his rulers.
    It seems Morin has a different method in choosing his.

  10. Hi Gjiada

    I think Thomas meant that he and I will have to experiment with Morin’s Triplicity rulers; not that you had experimented with yours Gjiada!


  11. A well-researched article, Thomas. I have but one observation:

    Are you aware that if you were to use the Egyptian terms and all three Dorothean triplicity rulers, the almuten of any single position in the zodiac will always be either the domicile or the exaltation ruler? In other words, the Egyptian terms and the Dorothean triplicity rulers seem to work together as a sort of cypher to the logarithm of rulership: they may not make much symbolic sense on their own, but taken together, they can be used to determine whether the domicile or the exaltation ruler has precedence in any single position. Were they designed for this purpose? I agree with you that the system proposed by Morin makes perfect symbolic sense.

    And I thought I obsessed over details! 😉

  12. Hello Andrew

    Thank you for this tit-bit!

    Did Morin use Ptolemy’s Table of Terms? If so, then the combination of Morin’s triplicity rulers and Ptolemy’s terms also throws up either the domicile ruler or the exaltation ruler as the almuten of any single degree of the Zodiac.

    I haven’t checked against the Egyptian terms, I will leave that to Thomas!


  13. Hello Andrew,

    Now that you mention it, you did once mention that an ‘algorithm of exaltation’ but I didn’t make the connection with all of the dignities. But in looking at all of the dignities together that would certainly be an explanation for some of the differences. This opens up a very interesting line of thought! Thank you.

    In comparison, primary directions are simple! 😉

    best wishes,

  14. Hello CarO,

    Morin didn’t use them. He considers them ‘figments’ and ‘superstitions’ along with novenas, bright degrees, smoky degrees, monomoiriai, etc. 😦

    His proposal for triplicity rulership makes astrological sense, but that doesn’t mean one has to accept everything that he says!

    Thank you Caroline for taking the time to look at the rulerships. OK I’ll check them against the Egyptian terms…


  15. Hello Thomas

    Thank you for that. Checking just a few degrees at random, by using Morin’s triplicity rulers combined with the Egyptian terms I found that those comfirmed either the domicile ruler or the exaltation ruler as the Almuten of each degree of longitude.

    This is a Herculean task though, and one I am quite willing to delegate! 😉


  16. Hello CarO,

    That is what I thought to do as well. Random samples. It is Herculean to look at every single degree! 🙂

    Will post the results when I have them, in say a week?


  17. Caroline and Thomas … I did not know that the combination of Morin’s triplicity rulers and Ptolemy’s terms yields either the domicile ruler or the exaltation ruler as the almuten of any single degree of the Zodiac, or that the combination of Morin’s triplicity rulers and the Egyptian terms also yields either the domicile ruler or the exaltation ruler. This might lend some support to the utility of Morin’s triplicity rulers, confirming their symbolic significance. Or it might lend credence to my unique and marvelous theory that terms and triplicities were designed to work together to point toward the precedence of either the domicile or the exaltation ruler. 😉

    As Thomas points out, Morin rejected the use of terms and faces. Morin also argued that while a planet is more influential in the house it occupies rather than the house it rules, the exaltation ruler influences the house at least as much as the domicile ruler. One might perhaps argue that the domicile and exaltation constitute two separate but inseparable systems of rulership. Was this what the ancients were pointing to with their varying systems of terms and triplicities? I don’t know, but it’s an intriguing idea!

  18. Dear Andrew,

    “One might perhaps argue that the domicile and exaltation constitute two separate but inseparable systems of rulership. Was this what the ancients were pointing to with their varying systems of terms and triplicities?”

    Yes, a most intriguing thought! 🙂 It should be followed. If you think that the horoscope of the world, so to say the paradisical chart focus’ on exaltation, perhaps we have the shift to the domiciles with the Fall? Then the other dignities would in a certain sense be a balancing of these two, or a partaking. They each have their own particular characteristics. Triplicity obviously makes use of sect. The terms enable all five planets other than the luminaries to have dignity in each sign, and the faces are another threefold division that somehow reflect the triplicity rulerships. Hmm. This must be thought out…

    Very, very stimulating! Thank you.

    best wishes,

  19. Thomas,

    Morin’s system makes the most sense as it is based on essential dignity, and rulership by triplicity is an essential dignity not an accidental one like sect.

    However, I believe there is an error in your charts. You list Morin’s triplicity rulerships for water as

    Day: Jupiter
    Night: Mars
    Participating: Moon

    Morin’s system is based on the following:

    Day: Planet that has two dignities in the element
    Night: Planet that rules the cardinal sign in the element
    Participating: The remaining domicile ruler in the triplicity

    Day: Two signs – Jupiter is the domicile ruler of Pisces and exaltation ruler of Cancer so he is the day ruler of water.

    Night: The planet that rules the cardinal sign in the element: The Moon is the domicile ruler of the cardinal water sign Cancer, and should be the night ruler of water in this system.

    Mars rules Scorpio, the remaining water sign, and should be the participating ruler.

    Book XXI of Astrologia Gallica explains the rationale for his system.

    Nice work on the comparisons.


  20. Hi Tom,

    Thank you for your comment and for ‘proof-reading’! 🙂 I corrected and re-corrected the charts but it is always possible to make a mistake particularly with lists. I did use the Astrologia Gallica text, but somehow still managed to reverse Mars and Moon for the water triplicity! Of course it is even neater as none of the day and night rulers is in fall or detriment.

    best wishes,

  21. Tom said: “Morin’s system makes the most sense as it is based on essential dignity.”

    Hello Thomas, Andrew, Tom,

    Yes, and because Morin’s triplicity rulerships are all three derived from either the domicile or exaltation ruler surely it is a ‘given’ that only the domicile or exaltation ruler can be Almuten of any single degree?

    It means that either the domicile or exaltation ruler automatically start off with a point score of 8 or 7 respectively, whereas the most a planet can scrape up by term and face alone is 5 points – no matter whose set of Terms we use, Dorothean or Egyptian!

    All in all I agree with you. Morin’s system of triplicities definitely is the most elegant and logical system. I have just sent off for ‘Astrologia Gallica’ 🙂


  22. Sigh . . . . it us too early for my maths! What I meant was that the most points that any planet can collect who is NOT a domicile or exaltation ruler would be 6 points (3 for triplicity, 2 for term, 1 for face) and so by having the domicile or exaltation ruler as either the triplicity ruler of the sect or participating ruler and thus possessing 8 or 7 points, would automatically disqualify any other planet than the domicile or exaltation rulers from being Almuten!

    CarO (going in search of caffeine!)

  23. Excuse me,

    Do any of you use the Jean-Baptiste Morin table of essential dignities regularly in natal or interrogatory work?


  24. Due to the expressed interest, I thought this might be a good spot to explain a little of Morin for those who might wish to read him. He is not difficult to understand provided we keep three things in mind:

    1) He is a natural philosopher. In other words he attempts to understand everything in terms of nature. His astrology then depends on the natural movements of the planets or the movements as he understood them. He went to his grave believing the Sun orbited the Earth. Therefore, if it does not occur in nature, it is not valid. He hated profections, which he called progressions, and he would have hated solar arc directions had he known about them. There is nothing in nature that corresponds to the way they are directed. This is part of the reason he will not use the terms and faces. The other part is that he detested Arabs, and he mistakenly believed the Arabs invented them. He called them “Arab fictions,” or “Arab fantasies” depending on the translator. He lumped the lots in with this as well, but he did use fortuna. I don’t believe he reversed the formula for night charts.

    2) He often explains his methods by ridiculing others particularly Cardan, but he does not exclude Ptolemy and others. Keep in mind he does not ridicule their abilities as astrologers, only the philosophy that they employed. To criticize him for this is to criticize his style. If his methods deserve criticism, fine – criticize them and put his rather sizable ego aside.

    3) As stated above, Morin gives reasons for his beliefs. We are under no obligation to accept his beliefs, but many times his arguments are strong, and if we are to reject them, we ought to do so with reasons. Criticism of his ego is not a valid counter argument to his beliefs. He is not always correct, but he sure makes for interesting reading and conversation.


  25. Dear Tom

    Thank you for stepping up to the plate.

    Do you use the Morinus table of essential dignities yourself in your work? How effective is it compared to the Dorothean or Ptolemaic tables.


  26. Tom said: “. . Morin often explains his methods by ridiculing others particularly Cardan. . ”

    ROFL, talk about the kettle calling the pot black! But you are right Tom in that criticism of Morin’s ego is not a valid counter argument to his beliefs. I am afraid I have been guilty of that in the past, but you and Thomas have certainly whetted my appetite for his work now!

    I can’t wait for my copy of Astrologia Gallica to arrive, and so I join Jorge in urging you to tell us more please. 🙂


  27. Jorge,

    The power of triplicities isn’t so obvious as say exaltation or domicile rulership, so we’d really need to get our magnifying glasses out to see which system works best, if it could be done at all. Morin was a fine practicing astrologer using his system, so there must be some merit in them.

    Let’s look at the fire element. Morin and everyone else agree that the Sun is the day ruler. Morin goes with Mars for a night chart and Jupiter for participating ruler, whereas Dorotheus uses Jupiter as the night ruler and Saturn as the participating ruler. It would be difficult to come up with enough charts to demonstrate clearly that Mars or Jupiter is the correct triplicity ruler in each and every night chart. And there aren’t going to be too many AHA! moments that separate participating rulers, either. We just don’t use the trip rulers all that much any more.

    Where some work might be done is in cases where Morin would call a planet peregrine using his system and that same planet might not be peregrine using Dorotheus system or vice versa. But this would require a great deal of hair-splitting work .

    Another possibility is to look at triplicity rulers the way Dorotheus and Al Khayyat did, as indicators of thirds of life, and then compare the results using the two systems. But I’m not even sure this would produce anything definitive as to my knowledge, Morin did not use the trip rulers that way, and we are talking about three different traditions: Hellenistic, Arabic, and Catholic.

    Morin had no use for horary so he wouldn’t care if his system worked with horary or not.

    As for me personally, I keep my eye on the differences, but I can’t say that I’ve noticed anything of deep significance. I like his logic for the triplicity rulers and other things. However, I can’t embrace Morin completely as I happen to think the technique of directing or progressing a planet through the bounds has value and Morin would reject that outright. If the bounds are “Arab fictions” then we can’t direct through them.

    If I ever get the urge to do some research on triplicities, I’ll let everyone know the results in a few years. 😉


  28. Hello Caroline, Tom, Jorge!

    Yes, indeed, Jean-Baptiste had very strong views! One has to look through them as he truly lived astrology and did not fail to question the authorities, even Ptolomy! He is a good example of someone who thought his way through and wasn’t content to accept anything on authority alone. A virtue which we moderns, in my opinion, should also practice! His work is certainly valuable as a contrast. I have placed a link to the digital edition of the complete Astrologia Gallica, for those who may wish to chew their way through the Latin! Thank you all for your comments.

    Caroline has a point, about a almuten of any degree being a domicile or exaltation ruler. With five and four points respectively they are most likely to have the most points for most degrees, the triplicity rulerships will give with three points enough points to ignore the term and faces with their mere two and one respective points.

    I’ve tried Morin’s triplicity rulers for the charts that Abu Khyyat quotes from Dorotheus and Valens. The results were the same! I still have to look at the other charts…

    best wishes,

  29. Tom,

    I acknowledge your reply.

    My question was prompted by self-interest. My chart ruler Mars in the 24th degree of Sagittarius is peregrine in every system except that of Morinus which inclines me to investigate his system further.

    I thank you for your comments.


  30. Hi Tom

    I am disappointed Morin didn’t use horary. I had high hopes of transforming some inexplicably ‘unradical’ charts into ‘radical’ ones with a wave of his triplicity wand!

    I totally agree with you about progressing planets through the bounds. I too have found it to be a very effective technique, but as Thomas keeps saying, we don’t have to accept all of Morin’s views in order to benefit from a selected few of them.

    Thanks for your time and trouble Tom! 🙂


  31. Thomas: “. . . . I have placed a link to the digital edition of the complete Astrologia Gallica, for those who may wish to chew their way through the Latin!”

    CarO: Humph, those Latins! They have a different word for everything!

    I can’t see this becoming the most read text this week-end Thomas!


  32. I think the system that best fits to a natal chart varies from person to person, there are factors beyond my understanding. I hope I am not being subjective

  33. Very intersting, no matter how old the thread…

    I would love to hear more about your charts delineations using and comparing the different systems, as a way to assess their validity. You all here mostly discussed theories. Where is the practice, using real charts?

    I have in my natal noctural chart a very, very debilitated Mercury (in Pisces, cadent, slow, retrograde, caught in a grand Square without receiving any positive planetary aspect) yet it is ruling a great many key points such as Moon, Sun, MC, Jupiter, and also Pluto-Uranus in MC –and is their almuten too often. That is, especially if the Air triplicity is ruled by Mercury by night…. Now with Morin, Venus, rules Air by night, and so becomes the Almuten in many and points matters, where Mercury formely ruled. And she does have some tiny dignity in my chart.
    It is crucial for me to know how far I could/should rather invest more in Venusian matters/attitudes because I am indeed quite Mercurial (an intellectual, a thinker, a writer, etc) but not gaining much happiness from that. It’s just natural. Now switching to Venusian matters would be a life revolution –I could consider it…

    So please did you at last do practical comparisons by applying Morin to known charts (natal or horary)? Enough theory. Give Morin the only true test!

    • This webblog is primarily intended to share ideas and insights. There are worked examples to be found (see the right side of the page). If you want to look at really intensivley worked examples I would recommend trying to get hold of some copies of John Frawley’s Horary Apprentice. I do not advocate one system over the other. That generally leads only to polemic and apology and tends not to be very productive in the long run. If one is not a celebrity or person of historical interest then one can assume that the only one interested in one’s chart is oneself! I make it a point not to use charts of contemporaries and certainly not mine or those of readers.

      When looking at your chart, you might want to try treating it as if it were a horary chart. For example you could ask (I am purposely using a trivial example), ‘Should I keep a pet? If, yes what kind?’

      all the best

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