Dolly's Essential and Accidental Dignities

On the list of the best books for astrology students, Chris Brennan of The Astrology Podcast recommends a good, solid textbook on traditional astrology written by the Portuguese astrologers Helena Avelar and Luis Ribeiro. Once students have a working knowledge of the signs, planets and aspects, Chris suggests they explore with Avelar and Ribeiro traditional astrology as it was developed and practiced by the ancient Greeks 2,000 years ago. Texts written by these ancient astrologers were translated beginning in the 1990’s, and Avelar and Ribeiro studied them thoroughly, learning long-forgotten techniques for planetary analysis. This book contains a very clear explanation of their discoveries, and is a wonderful guide for those astrologers wanting to sharpen and expand their chart analysis techniques.


Ancient astrologers approached an astrological chart as diagnosticians, determining the strength or weakness of each planet to bring about its potential for the native. Avelar and Ribeiro, after identifying each of these analytic techniques, provide readers with a chart that lays out the strengths and weaknesses of each planet. Going back to the chart of Dolly Parton as an example, we look at what is called the “essential dignities” of her planets. Are they in signs they rule or where they are exalted – or the reverse? Do they also have dignity by the “triplicity” (the element) they are found in? Or does the planet rule the “bound” of their sign and degree, or the decan of the sign? Following the chart laid out in the book, we see that Jupiter is the planet with the strongest essential dignity in the chart, with Venus a close second. This certainly tracks for someone who was born with the Venusian talent of singing and songwriting, and who has earned Jupiterian wealth and has generously shared it through her charities.


Avelar and Ribeiro next guide us towards looking at the “accidental dignities” of the planets, or where and how they are placed in the chart. Certain houses increase a planet’s potential to work effectively for the native, and other house placements are detrimental. We see from Dolly’s chart that all her planets are enhanced by their house placement, but the Moon in particular is strong in her first house – which indicates a personality that wins popularity through its sweetness and its slight looniness as well. Planets also find joy in specific houses, and Dolly’s Venus is in its joy in her fifth house, increasing her creative power.


There are other qualities evaluated in this system, such as the planet’s speed, its motion, its distance from the Sun and its position in relation to the benefic and malefic planets. The authors guide us through each of these techniques, providing us with an even fuller picture of our planets’ powers.


Avelar and Ribeiro warn us, though, that this scoring table is merely a tool, a starting point to begin our interpretation. Understanding where our gifts and challenges lie helps us to recognize how we have worked and evolved with these energies, and to set our sights on the path ahead.