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Dignity & Debility: What Astrology Can Teach Us About Social Constructs

astrology coaching Apr 10, 2024
Dignity & Debility: What Astrology Can Teach Us About Social Constructs

One of the things that goes into reading an astrology chart is knowing how functional a planet is. There are a LOT of things that go into understanding that but one of the main things is determining the dignity or debility of each planet.

Another way of thinking about it that I’ve heard is that you’re determining if a planet is ‘gifted’, ‘disabled’, or ‘normal’ or how much they struggle vs how easy it is for them to complete the tasks they are assigned. Yup, all of the planets have jobs to do in your chart, cool right?

The thing is, I have issues with this framework and I think there is a better way of thinking about it.

I’m not going to get into all of the factors that go into evaluating how the efficacy of a planet is determined, I’m just going to focus on the big four; domicile, exaltation, detriment, and fall. 

And then I’ll explain a more useful way of thinking about it.


When a planet is in their domicile, that just means they are in their own home, or homeland. They are king or queen of their empire and it is where they are the most powerful.

Sometimes this is called rulership because it describes the signs different planets rule. 

This is where they are the Lord or Lady and it is why when you have an annual profection in a specific sign, a specific planet becomes your ruler for the year.

  • Mars is in domicile in Aries and Scorpio
  • Venus is in domicile in Taurus and Libra
  • Mercury is in domicile in Gemini and Virgo
  • The Moon is in domicile in Cancer
  • The Sun is in domicile in Leo
  • Juputer is in domicile in Sagittarius and Pisces
  • Saturn is in domicile in Capricorn and Aquarius 


Exaltation is similar. Think of it as a dignitary visiting a foreign capital - they’re going to be treated like an important guest and every effort is going to be made to make them feel not only comfortable but pampered and adored. 

This is a sign where the planet gets along really well with the planet that rules it.   

  • Mars is exalted in Capricorn
  • Venus is exalted in Pisces
  • Mercury is exalted in Virgo (because it gets along best with itself)
  • The Moon is exalted in Taurus
  • The Sun is exalted in Aries
  • Juputer is exalted in Cancer
  • Saturn is exalted in Libra


Detriment is the sign(s) opposite of a planet’s home (domicile). This is where they are most uncomfortable, it’s a foreign land with entirely different values and rules and navigating life is infinitely more complicated.

  • Mars is in detriment in Taurus and Libra
  • Venus is in detriment in Aries and Scorpio
  • Mercury is in detriment in Sagittarius and Pisces
  • The Moon is in detriment in Capricorn
  • The Sun is in detriment in Aquarius
  • Juputer is in detriment in Gemini and Virgo
  • Saturn is in detriment in Cancer and Leo



Another form of planetary debilitation is when it is said to be in fall. Interestingly, the original Greek term can be translated as “depression” - which I think is a pretty good way to think about how the planet acts when it is in fall.

A planet is in fall when it’s opposite its sign of exaltation. Traditionally, it’s said that the planet is in fall because the lord of the sign doesn’t get along with the planet. 

  • Mars is in fall in Cancer
  • Venus is in fall  in Virgo
  • Mercury is in fall  in Pisces
  • The Moon is in fall in Scorpio
  • The Sun is in fall in Leo
  • Juputer is in fall  in Capricorn
  • Saturn is in fall  in Aries


What do the planets signify?

The whole concept of essential dignity and debility is to know how easy it is for a planet to do their jobs - some of which they have just because they were born to do those jobs and some they have because of the houses they rule. 

Let’s say Mars rules your 2nd house of resources. How dignified or debilitated he is tells us how easily he is able to gather resources. But it also tells how you express strength, what you think it means to be a man, how you take action, and how you express your sexuality. 

Dignity and debility suggest there is a “best” and “worst” way for a planet to exist in your chart. Let’s briefly talk about what each of them signifies - or, what their job is or what they’re known for.

Just so we are perfectly clear, this is not an exhaustive list, it’s not even a remotely complete list. It’s a high-level overview.

  • Sun: Fathers, leadership, agency, Kings, emperors, public reputation
  • Moon: Mothers, women who rule, physical body, nurturing, rest, relaxation, the unconscious
  • Venus: Women, pleasure, harmony, desire, love, marriage, the arts
  • Mercury: Thinking, communication, and commerce
  • Mars: Men, strength, action, sexuality, violence
  • Jupiter: Expansion, prosperity, education, patronage
  • Saturn: Work, discipline, grounding, maturity, boundaries, the elderly, tradition

This suggests that there is a best way to love, to be a woman, to be a mother or father, to be a man, to think and communicate, to nurture, to experience sexuality, or to grow old. 

It also suggests that there is a way for all of these to be done “wrong”.

Planetary Spectrums

The thing is, right and wrong or best and worst are social constructs. They’re just thoughts that people have based on the society that raised them. 

Next week, I’m going to talk about Venus in Aries where she is in detriment but I want to give you some quick things to think about.

Mercury represents communication. In Virgo and Gemini it is easier for Mercury to communicate in a socially appropriate way - which is to say linear. In Pisces the communication might be more fluid and filled with imagery which makes it more difficult for ideas to be directly expressed, but creates phenomenal poetry, fiction, and music. 

Society tends to place a higher value on clear and concise communication (think about the respect given to doctors, lawyers, and finance leaders) but that doesn’t mean imagination and artistic expression are less valid forms of communication, they simply aren’t valued as highly (think about songwriters, novelists, and music or art teachers).

I bring this up, and I’m going to be talking about it a lot going forward, because I have to do a lot of planetary rehab when I do an astrology reading for some clients.

People will come to me who have been told their Venus in Scorpio or Moon in Capricorn is a problem and they feel bad about themselves as a result. But the real issue isn’t that the planet is a problem, it’s that they’ve been told that what is normal and highly valued is the goal and that if it’s harder for them to reach that goal or if they aren’t remotely interested in the goal then they are the problem. Absolutely untrue. 

I also have to do a lot of thought examination (or mental rehab) when I coach because people think their way of existing in the world is wrong when most of the time it’s that they weren’t built to exist within the social construct that we currently live in and they’ve been told they’re wrong for wanting (and indeed being designed) to exist in a different way. 

Now, don’t get it twisted. I’m not saying each placement is equally easy. Of course, it’s not. Planets in detriment and fall have to work harder to do their thing just like anyone who wants to fit into the system but who isn’t valued by the system has to work harder - but that doesn’t make them less valuable and it doesn’t make the “normal” system the best or only way. 

For example, women have had to work significantly harder than men to earn the right to do very nearly everything outside of the realms ascribed to Venus and the Moon - but that doesn’t mean women are less violent, less capable of being leaders, or have less of a desire to be successful in business (all things that are the domain of the Sun and Mars). 

Then there’s the flip side. What does it mean for a Venus in Libra person to exist in the world? It’s not all tea parties and polite conversation, trust me. The struggle for a person who has Venus in Libra isn’t that he or she doesn’t know how to fit within the socially acceptable archetype. They know exactly what is expected of them and can probably wear the mask flawlessly but planets don’t exist in a vacuum. Let’s say that person has Venus conjunct Pluto. They may be able to wear the mask of propriety but they may have trouble letting the depth and capacity for transformative love break through the facade they’ve embraced.

Here’s the thing. Astrology is great, it’s my framework for reality, it’s how I game the Matrix, fate is absolutely a real thing and astrology can help prepare you for the future.

But it’s also been codified based on the thoughts of people who were living within a social construct that they probably just thought of as reality.

Women had roles, men had roles, there was a right way to be a leader and there was a wrong way for women to express sexuality.

That’s why the addition of coaching that uses critical thinking to examine the framework of our thoughts and the construct within which we live is crucial for really understanding ourselves, astrology, and the world around us.

Alrighty. That’s your introduction. Next week we’re going to go hopping down the rabbit trail to talk about Venus in Aries and I can’t wait. I hope you’ll join me.

Until next time, my wish for you is the ability to see beyond the walls of the social constructs that confine you. -Robin

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