This text is courteously provided by Steven Birchfield A.M.A.

Divine Astrology

The following are excerpts from his upcoming book,

“In Judgement of the Planets”

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© 2004 Steven Birchfield A.M.A.



A Foreword on the Natural Fortitudes given by the remaining ‘Dignities’


In the next three chapters, I am gong to be discussing the remaining natural fortitudes of the planets: The triplicities, terms and minor fortitudes, which include decans or ‘faces’, the duodecimae, [1] and the novenaria. [2]

There are many things in astrology that cannot be wholly described in rational “scientific” language. If you study the methods in which the ancients dealt with describing the ‘nature’ of the planets for example, we find that no where do they in ‘so many words’ rationally explain them. Instead, they are conceptually given as demonstrations of effect to describe their essential natures through ‘key word’ association using adjectives and adverbs and lists of correspondences and elements.  Such is the nature of these remaining fortitudes.

What perhaps differentiates these fortitudes from the Domicile rulers and Exaltation rulers is that these remaining dignities all contribute in some degree to the life of the native in specific, yet different ways. That is to say, that they supply fortitude because of their specific contributions rather than an exclusive and purely ‘natural’ affiliation to the sign. The specific contributions demonstrate the degree of the planets fortitude.

I will be discussing these specific contributions in their proper place and order. However, I felt the need for this foreword because it is necessary to understand that it is through these specific contributions that we come to a clear understanding of just what fortitude the triplicities, terms and minor dignities offer. The demonstration of these fortitudes is that we can predict concerning the life of any native, an interrogation or mundane event.

The importance and fortitude of these specific contributions are most clearly demonstrated in the triplicities and terms. Bonatti takes up this discussion of how these divisions of fortitude, the triplicities and terms, are demonstrated and why some earlier astrologers preferred one to the other.


«There were some philosophers who preferred the lords of the terms to the lords [or rulers] of the triplicities and to the triplicities themselves. And there were some others who preferred the lords of the triplicities and the triplicities themselves to the lords of the terms and to the terms themselves. Some of them had a reason for this: The terms and the lords of the terms are preferred in direction, but the triplicities and the rulers of the triplicities are preferred in nutrition [3]


What does Bonatti mean by the terms were preferred in “direction”? Since the terms of the planets have their association to the zodiacal figure as “the givers of years of Life” [4] then their significance is to a specific state of being of the native. They are specifically determined to prediction. In his book, “On Solar Revolutions, Abu Ma’shar spends a good deal of his time explaining the direction of the significator through the terms, or “bounds” as they were also called.


«In the change-overs [5] of the year it is necessary to perform the circumambulations [6] of many places – of those fixed at the nativity and of those transiting; for each has its own signification that the other does not signify. That is, if a star or place indicates good or ill at the fixing of the nativity, then the signification will be manifest when the star has authority over the distribution for a certain period of years.»


«In order to recognise the place of the distribution and the distributor in the change-over of the times, one must perform the circumambulation as follows. Know to what star the bound [7] of the degree of the Hõroskopos of the inception belongs, and how many of the degrees of the bound of the star have been taken, and turn these into degrees of ascension of the city in which the child was born, and record the result. Then know how many degrees belong to the following bounds, and turn these into ascensions, and do this for all the bounds from both the Hõroskopos and from the remaining releasers;» [8]


If we speak in terms of directing the ascendant through the bounds then we are specifically dealing with predicting the state of being (esse), the good or bad, of the life of the native (i.e. the ascendant) for this is what the rulers of the terms are associated with as «givers of years of life».

«Nutrition» is different but perhaps in some ways more important. In the broadest sense, nutrition is a process or series of processes by which a living organism as a whole (or its component parts or organs) is maintained in its normal condition of life and growth. [9]

The triplicity rulers were conceived as rulers of periods of life, which could support and maintain, hinder or destroy that particular signification. Again, if we were using the Ascendant as the significator, then we would look at the triplicity rulers to describe the quality of support the native receives towards his state of being (esse) and life. If the chart were nocturnal and the Ascendant were in Taurus, then, we would look to the Moon (the nocturnal triplicity ruler) and her zodiacal state in the chart to tell us if the native’s esse finds support and the quality of that support in the first third of the native’s life. Then we would look to Venus (the second triplicity ruler) and judge the quality of support in the second third of life by her condition. Lastly, we would examine Mars, as the third triplicity ruler, to judge the support in the last third of the natives’ life by his condition.

I could perhaps make an analogy of these two fortitudes. If I have a car then I can make predictions as to its well being by the state of the motor. A new motor is in good esse meaning the well-being of the car is good. There are many types of motors. There are 4, 6 and 8 cylinder motors. Some are diesel, gasoline or another alternative energy source. Some have fuel injection. Some have some sort of fuel control etc. All of these factors describe the motor’s state of being. If however, the owner uses a gasoline that is inferior in quality (the nourishment of the motor) or uses an inferior oil to lubricate it, or doesn’t bother to shift the plugs or service the motor then the state of being of the motor will be affected and the owner may be faced with serious problems. The state of the motor could be seen as what the terms define. What is used to ‘nourish’ that motor is how you can associate the triplicity rulers.

The same can be said of a human. We each are given a beginning state of being. It changes over time (the direction of the Ascendant through the terms and the profection of the Ascendant through the signs) and those changes can be supported for good or bad by how one nourishes that body. We are what we eat. We are what we watch and read.

In the nativity, the state of being of a particular house and its significations is determined by the state of being or esse of the ruler of that house. If it is good, then the state of being of that house is good. If the triplicity rulers of that particular house are weak and ill placed in the nativity, then the future outcome of that good state of being can be also mitigated towards ill. 

The point I’m making here is that the demonstration of effect is directly indicating the fortitude of these dignities just as surely as the wordlist associations directly indicate the essential natures of the planets themselves.

he «Philosopher of the Arabs», Alkindi (Ya`kûb ibn Ishâk ibn Sabbâh Alkindi) wrote in the first chapter of his book “On the Stellar Rays”, [10]


«But some universals and their conditions, which sense did not teach, are formed in the reason, as for instance, the species of virtue from which operations proceed in bodies. Indeed the power of heating in fire is comprehended in the reason but its likeness is not perceived by sense because that power is not itself known by the reason but rather is only imagined by its effect which is perceived by sense, and through this that power is said to be comprehended by the reason. And this it ought to be known regarding individual things.»


Just as understanding the significations of the planets from the many “word correspondence lists” can help us understand the essential natures and beings of the planets, so understanding the significations and effects of these lesser dignities help us to understand the essential nature of those dignities.


The Triplicities of the Planets


“While a planet is in its own triplicity, it is like a man among his allies, his people, his ministers, and followers who obey him and follow him, but are not related to him by kinship.”


The signs were grouped by like elemental substance and complexion as well as sharing the trine aspect to each other. These groups, called ‘trigons’ or triplicities, were also given rulers. What is unique about these rulerships however is that they are largely determined according to the sect of the planet. I will discuss sect in a little more detail later when I discuss the accidental qualities or fortunes of the planets so I will forego further discussion at this point. Each of the triplicities contains one sign of each mode: Cardinal (moveable/tropical), Fixed (solid) and Mutable (common/bi-corporeal).


Diurnal Triplicities


The Sun was given the rulership of the diurnal domain or sect. In the Greek cosmology and science it was proposed that the four basic elements; fire, air, water and earth, are found in the sub-lunar realm between the earth and the circle of the Moon. Fire was nearest the circles of the planets, then air, water and finally earth. Fire and Air were given to the diurnal triplicity because fire and air were ‘light’ elements and they were in constant movement upwards.

The Fire Triplicity consists of the three fiery signs, Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius. These signs are all diurnal, masculine, and hot and dry. In the fire triplicity, the Sun is the sect ruler by day and by night Jupiter. The participating ruler, regardless of the chart sect, is Saturn.

The Air Triplicity consists of the three airy signs: Gemini, Libra and Aquarius. These signs are all diurnal, masculine, and hot and moist. The Sun has no rulership in this Triplicity but concedes his place to Mercury. Why this is so is not clearly spelled out in the record. One can speculate it is because of Mercury’s natural ‘airy’ qualities as ruler of Gemini or perhaps it is because of Mercury’s close association to the Sun never being separated far enough to form an aspect and spending the greatest part of his time in the presence of the Sun, I don’t know. But in the Air Triplicity Saturn was given the sect rulership by day and Mercury by night. The participating ruler, regardless of sect, is Jupiter.


The Nocturnal Triplicities


The Moon was given rulership of the nocturnal domain and the water and earth triplicities were the nocturnal triplicities. Water and earth were the two ‘heavy’ elements that were always moving downwards towards the earth and the Moons close proximity to the earth made her the natural choice of ruler for this nocturnal domain.

The Water Triplicity consists of the three watery signs: Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces. These signs are all nocturnal, feminine, and cold and moist. The sect ruler by day is Venus and by night Mars. The participating ruler, regardless of sect, is the Moon.

The Earth Triplicity consists of the three earthy signs: Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn. These three signs are all nocturnal, feminine, and cold and dry. Venus is the sect ruler by day and the Moon by night. The participating ruler, regardless of sect, is Mars.


Where and When are the Triplicity Rulers In Their Fortitude?


In William Lilly’s Table of Dignities, we read that only the sect and participating triplicity ruler has any dignity in a chart. In defining the essential dignity of the triplicities he says,


«[TRIPLICITY.] If he be in any of those Signs which are alotted him for Triplicity, he hath allowed him three dignities; but herein you must be cautious; as for example: In a Question, Nativity, or the like, if you find the Sun in Aries, and the Question, or Nativity, or Scheam erected be by night, and you would examine the Sun his fortitudes, he shall have four dignities for being in his exaltation, which continues through the Sign; but shall not be allowed any dignity, as being in his triplicity; for by night the Sun ruleth not the fiery Triplicity, but Jupiter; who had he been in place of the Sun, and by night, must have had allowed him three dignities: and this doe generally in all the Planets, Mars excepted, who night and day ruleth the watry Triplicity.» [11]


After closely studying the historical record of how the ancients used the triplicity rulers, I am not so sure Lilly’s definition is correct. With the exception of perhaps Ptolemy, the ancients considered all of the triplicity rulers fortunate when in their triplicities. The sect of the chart had nothing to do with whether or not a ruler had dignity! A good example of this is in Mâshâ’allâh’s text, “On Conjunctions, Religions, and Peoples”. The chart Mâshâ’allâh is interpreting is of the Great Conjunction indicating the shift in triplicities for the deluge (the great biblical flood).

The cusp of the Ascendant marks Sagittarius as the 1st house. The Sun is below the horizon in Aries in the 5th House. The chart is therefore a nocturnal chart.


«No planet except Jupiter can be found for the guardianship of this year because it is the lord of the Ascendant, and the Lord of its [the Ascendant] triplicity is the Sun alone and it confers its power upon it [the Ascendant] [12]


Here Mâshâ’allâh is saying that the Sun, the diurnal Triplicity ruler, is ruler alone of this triplicity in this nocturnal chart! If one were to first read Lilly’s definition then it would seem that this great ancient master in the art is making some kind of mistake here.

What is the solution to this seeming conflict of terms and understanding? The solution I believe is to return to the foundation of the whole concept and examine it a little closer and see if we can determine just what is stated and what isn’t.

We can start with Dorotheus, since it is in his writings that we find an example of their earliest uses. In his work, “Carmen Astrologicum”, we can read,


«As for the triplicities: Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are a triplicity; Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn are a triplicity; Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius are a triplicity; and Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces are a triplicity. Know the lords of the triplicities of the signs: the lords of the triplicity of Aries by day are the Sun, then Jupiter, then Saturn, by night Jupiter, then the Sun, then Saturn; the lords of the triplicity of Taurus by day are Venus, then the Moon, then Mars, by night the Moon, then Venus, then Mars, and in Virgo there is also a share for Mercury; the lords of the triplicity of Gemini by day are Saturn, then Mercury, then Jupiter, by night Mercury, then Saturn, then Jupiter; the lords of the triplicity of Cancer by day are Venus, then Mars, then the Moon, by night Mars, then Venus, then the Moon. I tell you that everything which is decided or indicated is from the lords of the triplicities, and as for everything of afflictions and distress which reaches the people of the world and the totality of men, the lords of the triplicities decide it.» [13]


So far, there is no indication or mention of ‘dignity’ or ‘fortune’ concerning these triplicity rulers. Instead, we are told that judgement concerning everything coming to men, i.e. prediction, is found from these rulers. In his use, he gives us several charts using these triplicity rulers to delineate the good or bad, which is indicated for the nativity.


We can first examine one of his diurnal charts.



«This nativity was diurnal [so look to the Sun in a diurnal chart]  and the first lord of the triplicity is the Sun, the second Jupiter, and both of these are in the cardines in their own exaltations, so that the native should be praised with the praise of kings and nobles and wealthy men. Because Saturn is the third lord of the triplicity and is cadent from a cardine and Jupiter aspects it in its [Jupiter’s] house from trine, so for that reason he will be praised with the praise of kings.» [14]


All three triplicity rulers share in the delineation. Just because it is a diurnal chart did not mean that Jupiter did not have any virtue in the chart! Remember, Dorotheus says, “the lords of the triplicity of Aries by day are 1) the Sun, then 2) Jupiter, then 3) Saturn, by night Jupiter, then the Sun, then Saturn”. All Three! He doesn’t say that since this is a diurnal chart that Jupiter has no virtue in it. All three planets have virtue in the day.

What about a nocturnal chart?



«This is a second nocturnal nativity [so look to the Moon in a nocturnal chart], and the first lord of the triplicity of the Moon is Mercury, the second Saturn. Because both of these are in a cadent in the vicinity of [the cardine] under the earth, the man will be needy with respect to property. But because Jupiter is the ruler of part of this nativity and is with the Moon in a cardine, he will have the closest thing to living out [his] days in poverty except that he will have the danger of the hand of fortune.» [15]


The Moon is ruler of this nocturnal chart so Dorotheus is looking at the triplicity rulers of the sign the Moon is in, Libra. He says in a nocturnal nativity, «the lords of the triplicity of Gemini by day are Saturn, then Mercury, then Jupiter, by night Mercury, then Saturn, then Jupiter». In his delineation, he takes Mercury, Saturn then Jupiter. All three triplicity rulers have virtue and a share in the chart, not just Mercury and Jupiter.


What about following astrologers? Vettius Valens writes,


«When we have ordered the zodiacal circle by difference and by property, we find two sects – a diurnal and a nocturnal sect of the Sun and of the Moon respectively. The Sun, being truly fiery, was associated with Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius, which was named its diurnal trigon and is also fiery by nature . . . . . Of the trigon in question, then, the Sun is master by day, the star Zeus is master by proxy by night, while Kronos cooperates with both.

Next, the Moon, as she is near the earth, took as her lot the rulership of the following trigon – Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn – which is truly earthy . . . . . Whence, at night the Moon stands in the forefront, Aphrodite in second place, and Ares in third. But in diurnal nativities, Aphrodite is advanced; the Moon cooperates in second place, Ares in third.

Next, Kronos will be master of the airy trigon, Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius by day, while Hermes will cooperate in the second place, and Zeus in the third. But by night, the star of Hermes is advanced, and the star of Kronos is in second place, the star of Zeus in third.

Next, the star of Ares will maintain the rulership of the watery trigon Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces by night, with Aphrodite in second place, and the Moon in third. But by day the star Aphrodite is advanced, after which is the star of Ares, and third the Moon»


Valens describes exactly the same as Dorotheus. What is interesting in Valens though is his wording, for example «But by day the star Aphrodite is advanced». It is clear he is making a distinction for the purposes of priority as to which planet is examined first, second and third. In each sect, both diurnal and nocturnal, all three triplicity rulers are included and contribute their virtue to the nativity. Valens, in the successive chapters goes into great detail to describe how each of these rulers contributes and what it signifies. For example he says when the first ruler is impeded, the first part of the natives life will be impeded but if the others are well placed then his fortune increases later in life.


Let’s look at one of his 130 charts he gives us in his “Anthology”.



«We will make use of illustrations for the diagnosis of the above matters [his discussion of the Triplicities and their rulers], setting a notable nativity at the beginning. Let the Sun be in Scorpio, the Moon in Cancer, Kronos in Aquarius, Zeus in Sagittarius, Ares in Scorpio, Aphrodite in Libra, Hermes in Scorpio, the Horoskopos [the Ascendant] in Libra. Since, then, the nativity is nocturnal, I seek the Moon [because the Moon is the luminary ruling the nocturnal sect]. This happens to be in Cancer in the trigon of Ares. [Valens calls it the triplicity of Mars because Mars is the nocturnal triplicity ruler] We found the star of Ares [Mars] to be post-ascending [succedent] in its own house and trigon [triplicity] and in its own sect [Mars is in his preferred nocturnal domicile, in a nocturnal chart and nocturnal quadrant]; then we find the star sharing with this, Aphrodite, to be marking the hour in its own house [The diurnal ruler, Aphrodite, ‘shares’ in the triplicity rulership in her domicile in the 1st]; third, the Moon to be culminating in her own house [the Moon is the third ruler of this nocturnal triplicity in a nocturnal chart and all three triplicity rulers confer virtue in this delineation, just like with Dorotheus]. It is clear beforehand, then, that the nativity is an estimable one, since the rulers [the three triplicity rulers] are suitably figured [they are all in their domiciles in ‘good’ houses]. By seeking, I find the Lot [of Fortune] to be in Aquarius. Its lord [Saturn] is upon this zoidion [sign], occupying the Good Fortune [the 5th house] in its own house and trigon [triplicity!!] [17]


This chart is particularly relevant to this discussion because had Valens only considered the sect triplicity ruler to be in dignity and only in the proper sect of the chart, he would never had said, «Its lord … in its own house and trigon» when speaking of Saturn, which is the diurnal triplicity ruler of Aquarius in this nocturnal chart!

The same is found in the later Arabic astrologers where they applied the triplicity lords not only to the signs but also to the «signs» defining the cusps of the houses. We can read in Ibn Ezra the rational extension of the original purpose.


«The fourth house denotes the father, land, houses and fields, and regions, and building, and hidden treasures and all hidden things, and the end of any matter. The first ruler of the triplicity signifies the father; the second [ruler signifies] land; and the third [indicates] the end of all matters.» [18]


The advancing of one ruler over another, depending on whether or not the nativity was nocturnal or diurnal, was only a ‘prioritising’ in order to judge which planet had rule over the first, second and third years of the natives life or a specific signification of a house. It did not exclude a planet from virtue just because it was the ruler of the opposite sect. Regardless of the charts sect, a planet in its triplicity has virtue!

The Sun, Jupiter and Saturn have dignity when in a sign belonging to the fire triplicity regardless of the sect of the chart. Saturn, Mercury and Jupiter are in their dignity when in a sign belonging to the air triplicity, regardless of the sect of the chart! The Moon, Venus and Mars are in their dignity when they are in a sign belonging either to the water or earth triplicities, regardless of the sect of the chart!

In the question of fortitude of the triplicity rulers, Lilly warns the student, «but herein you must be cautious»; namely in the chart sect.

Bonatti on the other hand throws all caution to the wind, not even bothering to tell his students the sect of the chart and simply declares that a planet in his triplicity has honours there.


«The Moon was in said 3rd degree of Aries and Jupiter, which is the lord of the first bound of Aries, was in the 5th degree of Gemini, Cancer, or Leo before the Moon, or in the 5th degree of Aquarius, Capricorn, or Sagittarius after the Moon; at this time the Moon was joined to Jupiter by aspect, and Jupiter himself received her by his bound and triplicity, and he committed his own virtue and disposition to her as if he received her from domicile or exaltation [because the Moon is in two of Jupiter’s dignities, namely triplicity and terms] [19]


This is typical of Bonatti, who shows no concern at all as to the sect of the chart when assigning virtue to a planet in its triplicity. The Moon was in Jupiter’s triplicity, regardless of the sect of the chart and Jupiter received her there because they are his dignities, regardless the sect of the chart!

So, is sect important? Should we beware as Lilly warns? There is no support for this in the record, where regardless of sect, the rulers all contributed their virtue to a chart. Neither is there support for this in the man who most influenced the return of Astrology to Europe in the middle ages, Guido Bonatti.

My conclusion based on the weight of evidence leads me to say that with all due respect, Mr. Lilly here has made a mistake in his understanding of the Triplicity Rulers. As I said in my foreword to the minor dignities, «…understanding the signification of these dignities helps us to understand the essential nature of those dignities».




[1] Duodecimae is the Latin rendering of dwadasamsas (Hindu) and dõdekatémoria (Greek).

[2] Novenaria is the Latin rendering of navamshas (Hindu) or noupachrates (Greek).

[3] Second Tractate – part 2, chapter XXXVI - Liber Astronomiae - by Guido Bonatti - translated by Robert Zoller and Robert Hand - published by Project Hindsight.

I refer the reader to the discussion of the “terms” in the next chapter of this work.

Enallagë. Revolutio in the Latin translation. That is to say, the Solar Return.

That is to say, the primary direction.

Horion. This is the literal translation of the Greek word. The Latin word is terminus, often translated as “term”.

Treatise III, section I - On Solar Revolutions - by Abu Ma’shar - translated by Robert Schmidt - published by Project Hindsight.

Merriam - Webster’s Dictionary, supplies this definition.

“De Radiis Stellicis” - by Alkindi, translated by Robert Zoller © 2000 New Library Limited.

Book I of Christian Astrology by William Lilly.

The Astrological History of Mâshâ’allâh by E.S. Kennedy and David Pingree - published by Harvard University Press 1971 - a Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series.

Book I, chapter 1 - Carmen Astrologicum by Dorotheus - translated by David Pingree - published by Ascella Publications.

Book I, page 40 - Carmen Astrologicum by Dorotheus - translated by David Pingree - published by Ascella Publications.

Ibid - page 43 & 44.

Book II, Chapter 1 - The Anthology by Vettius Valens - translated by Robert Schmidt - Published by Golden Hind Press and Project Hindsight.

Book II, Chapter 22 - The Anthology by Vettius Valens - translated by Robert Schmidt - Published by Golden Hind Press and Project Hindsight.

Chapter 3 - The Beginning of Wisdom by Avraham Ibn Ezra - translated by Meira B. Epstein - published by ARHAT.

Chapter XC, Third Tractate part 2 - Liber Astronomiae by Guido Bonatti - Translated by Robert Zoller and Robert Hand - Published by Spica Publications and Project Hindsight.



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