In his 1598 book A Treatise of Mathematicall Phisicke, or briefe Introduction to Phiscike, by Iudiciall Astronomy, the author “G.C. gent. Practitioner in Phisicke” has a surprisingly strong explanation of planetary reception. Certainly, it is more nuanced and a more complete representation of planetary reception than William Lilly, who explains only mutual reception in Christian Astrology, though he utilizes classical (one-way) reception in his examples. I updated the spelling of G.C.’s book for easier reading, with my comments in brackets.
If planetary reception is a new concept for you, think of it as a helpful factor that increases your odds of achieving a desired result, especially in a horary context (though it has a strong role in natal astrology, as well). For instance, if my planet applies to that of a house I wish to purchase, and the house’s planet receives my planet, I am more likely to complete the transaction and perhaps benefit by the deal. Reception ensures the asked-about party or thing takes my request seriously. There is more to it than that, of course, but this is intended as the briefest of introductions. For a more in-depth treatment of planetary reception, I like Benjamin Dykes’s book, Introductions to Traditional Astrology, as well as Deb Houlding’s intro-level and more advanced articles.
Starting on page 194 of the pdf as scanned by Philip Graves of astrolearn.com (the original has no modern pagination):
Reception is either:
- When one planet is in the dignity of another aspected as Venus in Virgo [and] Mercury in Cancer. Here Mercury receiveth Venus, yielding to her his light and virtue. [NG: This is the most standard type of classical reception, and as such surprises most modern-trained astrologers. It only goes one way, but it’s still reception! When I learned about classical reception, coming from modern training which only teaches mutual reception, classical reception blew my mind. For classical reception, we need two things: one, there needs to be an aspect between the two planets. Two, one planet must be in the other’s major dignity (sign or exaltation, or two of the minor dignities – triplicity, bound, or face). Since Mercury receives Venus into his domicile and exaltation, he will bend over backwards to give Venus whatever she wants. If you are Mercury and Venus is your sibling coming to you for a loan, you are likely to look kindly upon her and accede to her request. You receive her into your figurative home as an honored guest who must be treated with generosity.]
- When a planet in his own dignity aspecteth another having none, as Moon in Taurus [aspects] Saturn in Virgo, where Moon giveth strength to Saturn though he have no dignity in her place. [NG: This is what the Arabic authors called “pushing power,” (see, for instance, Dykes’s Introductions to Astrology: Abu Mashar & Al-Qabisi, p 167). It is simply a planet in its own dignity applying to another. The interpretation is that the dignified planet lends some of its strength to the other planet by virtue of the applying aspect between them.]
- When a planet in his essential dignities aspecteth another, having also dignity in his place, as Sun in Aries [aspects] Mars in Leo, where Mars and Sun receive one another and this [is] mutual reception. [NG: This is called “pushing two natures,” where “if some one of the planets situated in a place of dignity [here, the Sun exalted in Aries] applies itself to another having dignity in that same place [Mars has dignity in Aries as well.]
Where note that in Reception the Planet having most authority yieldeth up his light more than the other aspected doth give unto him; as if Saturn be found in Cancer and Moon in the term of Saturn beholding him, she receiving him most forcibly than he unto her, and [she] yieldeth to him her light and Disposition. [NG: The implication here is the Moon lends Saturn some of her strength by receiving him into her domicile, Cancer.]
Also Reception is either from:
- House as Moon in Aries [aspects] Mars in Cancer, where is mutual reception by a square between Moon and Mars. [NG: This is the one type of reception that seems to have survived into the twenty-first century. When I ask most people if they know what reception is, they nod and give some version of this example, though not necessarily with the planets in aspect, which is a prerequisite for classical reception that seems to have dropped out prior to the twentieth century.]
- Exaltation as Moon in Aries [aspects] Sun in Cancer where Sun receiveth Moon in his exaltation, giving to her his light and force. [NG: This is an example of what we today might call mixed mutual reception; the Moon receives the Sun into her domicile, while he receives her into his exaltation.]
- Triplicity as Saturn in Aries [aspects] Sun in Gemini, here Sun giveth light to Saturn. [NG: The Sun receives Saturn into the Sun’s exaltation, but Saturn may not receive the Sun (Saturn may receive the Sun by minor dignity, but we would need to know the Sun’s degrees to be sure). This means the Sun acts as a generous host to Saturn and is more likely to attend to Saturn’s wishes. For instance, if you are Saturn and a potential job is the Sun, you stand a chance of success because the job wants to be a good host and make you happy. Though of course, you are still represented by Saturn in Aries…]
- Term and Face as Mercury [at] 23 Taurus [aspects] Saturn at 23 Cancer here Saturn, receiveth Mercury and yieldeth to him strength and virtue, and this is the weakest reception, for it cannot be only in a face except it has some other Essential dignities. [NG: This echoes the traditional dictum of some authorities, that a planet can only be received in a major dignity or two (or more) minor essential dignities. C.G. is saying that this is the weakest reception as Saturn is only received by face/decan.]