This article arose out of a series of conversations with a student about horary predictions based on a planet’s change in dignity. John Frawley, with whom I have studied, uses this technique extensively and to great effect. I searched for examples of this technique in William Lilly’s work to see if and how he used this technique in practice, and what we could learn from his example charts.
Lilly will often note planets’ passage into the preceding or next sign to identify recent or upcoming aspects, and from there discuss past or future events. However, he only rarely points out the change in dignity that comes with a change of sign, and this is our somewhat obscure object in this study. I identified two examples of this practice in Christian Astrology. We will examine both in detail.
Change in Dignity Portends Ill for the Presbytery
Christian Astrology, Chapter LXXX (80), page 439-442
“If Presbytery shall stand?”
Date (as given): 4:45 PM, March 11, 1646/7. London, England.
Date (modern): March 21, 1647, 4:50:10 PM.
This question was asked at the height of power of the Presbyterian Puritans (if that sounds like a fun-loving bunch, you are right) in English politics, when the Presbyterian Parliamentary party controlled much of England, partly through the Presbyterian faction in Parliament and in the Westminster Assembly (1643-1649). This influential ecclesiastical body was formed to debate and establish a new catechism and church organization, and to advise Parliament on religious matters. At the time of the question, the Presbyterians in Parliament wanted to dissolve the New Model Army under the facade of a cost-saving measure, but actually motivated by animus toward the Army and Oliver Cromwell. King Charles I was already under arrest and had rejected a settlement with the Presbyterians. Cromwell’s New Model Army seized Charles and marched toward London to shift the balance of power to their side.
The querent was Thomas Middleton, an MP and member of the Army, who naturally had much to lose if the Presbyterians won. (identified by Catherine Blackledge in The Man Who Saw the Future, p 52-53)
Lilly gives the Presbyterians the ninth house, since they are a religiously motivated political party, as well as Jupiter, “a generall Significator in Religion, Religious Rites and Ceremonies” and notes that Jupiter is currently stationing direct at 28.54 Cancer. It’s not often that Lilly notes a change of dignity of a significator, so we can assume that this is a technique he uses especially when he is looking for a longer-term forecast of a person or party’s fortunes. Jupiter next “enters the fixed sign Leo, and into the Terms of Saturn, but in the first six degrees thereof he meets with severall obnoxious fixed Starres, and thence passes into the Termes of Mercury, who is now in the Signe Pisces his Fall; yet angular, entred into the Decanate of Mars.” (440)
Lilly does not spell out the exact implications of the sign change, but to an astrologer, his meaning is clear; the Presbytery will falter due to Jupiter’s change of sign and concurrent loss of major dignity (Jupiter is exalted in Cancer but holds no corresponding dignity in Leo); entering into the terms of a malefic, and encountering malefic fixed stars. The problems for the Presbytery do not stop there, however, as Jupiter travels through Leo, he will next enters the terms of Mercury, a planet strongly influenced by other planets, which is currently in its sign of detriment and fall and in the decan of Mars. We can see that Lilly moves Jupiter around the cosmic game board and examines its condition throughout. Note that he only moves it forward a couple of terms, a guideline for those of us tempted to move planets forward a few signs until they enter major dignity.
Next we have another example, where the change of dignity is kept as a side-note to the main question.
Change in Dignity As Financial Improvement
Christian Astrology, Chapter XXXVIII (38), page 219-222
“If I should purchase Master B. his houses?”
Date (as given): 31 March 1634, 6:00 PM. London, England.
Date (modern): April 10, 1634, 6:02:25 PM.
This is one of Lilly’s more famous horaries, as it concerns his purchase of the house in which he was living. We will only go into the part of the chart that concerns a change of sign, but the entire chart and Lilly’s analysis is recommended for further study.
Part of Lilly’s difficulty in doing the deal is that he lacks cash; most of his capital is illiquid and he cannot sell the assets in time to raise the money. He already knows that he will have to borrow most of the purchase money, so his major concern is whether he can in fact do so. Lilly’s money is governed by the Part of Fortune (or as the ancients called it, the Lot of Cash Moneys*), which is disposed by Jupiter at 25.32 Gemini. Lilly takes Jupiter’s imminent change of sign from detriment to exaltation as encouragement that he will get the loan: “Jupiter Lord of Fortuna in sextile with the Sun no ways impeded, but by being in detriment [!] in sextile platic with Venus Lady of my Ascendant, shortly entering his exaltation, gave me such hopes as I doubted not of procuring Moneys when he entered Cancer, and Mars became direct, which he did 12 days after, at what time a friend lent me 500 pounds.” (221)
DIY Change in Dignity
What can we learn from Lilly’s examples? He uses the change in dignity sparingly, and both examples listed here utilize Jupiter. This is not to say that you can only do this technique with Jupiter, but you will notice that Jupiter is a superior planet that changes signs only once a year. Lilly does not pay attention to upcoming dignity changes of the inferior planets, which is far more frequent and therefore less special. Jupiter and Saturn change signs infrequently, so when we see an impending significant gain or loss in dignity by Jupiter or Saturn in a horary, we sit up and take note. The giants move slowly, so each step they take is worthy of our attention.
*Well, that is what I call it.