It is common to hear modern astrologers criticize the traditional astrology concepts of debility, detriment and fall.
For those of you who do not use these interpretive terms, a planet in a sign opposite to the one it rules is in detriment, and a planet opposite its exaltation sign is said to be in fall. To be in rulership or exaltation is called being dignified, and to be in detriment or fall is called being debilitated. In traditional astrology both detriment and fall will tend to hinder or create problems in the expression of that planet.
There is much criticism of the negative connotations of these terms, and much insistence that a planet in a debilitated state can be a strong asset in a chart. Let a planet just be as it is; any sign placement of any planet can be used positively.
What I maintain here is that the concepts of debility, detriment, and fall can give useful information as to how a planet will play out in a person’s life. They can provide useful information on how to deal with the planet’s expression.
To illustrate that, I want to take a detailed look at a debilitated planet I know very well from experience – Mercury in Pisces in my own natal chart.
Mercury in Pisces is in both detriment and fall, so it is doubly debilitated.
Now obviously this does not mean I am not intelligent or that I cannot communicate verbally – I was a top student and national merit scholar in school, and I make my living as a computer trainer. Also, I have written a book on traditional astrology that has received very good reviews, I am sitting here writing this entry in my online journal, and you are reading it.
So, that completely discredits the notion that a planet in detriment and fall cannot express positively.
However, I want consider the meanings of those two terms here, detriment and fall, and see how they have played out in my life.
A planet in detriment is said to be out of control, scattered, not in its element. Projects started tend to fall apart and come to nothing. There is a lack of ease, comfort, at-home-ness.
A planet in fall is said to be not respected, not heard or listened to, accorded little honor – I call it the Rodney Dangerfield of debility.
Can I see evidence of these problems with detriment and fall? You betcha, and I wish I had been conscious of them a lot earlier in my life; it would have saved me a lot of grief.
Detriment – I can’t count the number of book projects I have started writing and not finished. When I read my attention often jumps all over the place, and I will pick up one book, read a couple of pages, then put it down and jump over to another.
Another characteristic of Mercury in detriment, is playing loose with the truth, lying and being deceitful. When I was younger you could describe me as an oblivious liar – I thought of myself as basically truthful but didn’t mind stretching things a bit – or a lot – to make myself look good. I got myself in trouble with that.
Fall – I have often had the experience of feeling like I was being ignored, not taken seriously, not listened to. Have you ever had the experience in a meeting of making a suggestion and having it blown off, then having someone else make exactly the same suggestion a little later and have it be welcomed? I’ve been through that a lot – and, btw, I understand that is a common experience of women in the business world in a meeting made up mostly of men.
Internally I have always felt that the way I think was kind of odd, out of sync with the world around me, so I felt misunderstood, not listened to. After one too many funny looks when I said something I was thinking, I learned to keep my mouth shut. I also learned how to play the game of fitting in with the world around me.
Have I made this difficulty work in my favor? Yes, I think so. Precisely because issues with Mercury were a problem, a sore spot, I spent a great deal of time and effort studying and working on all aspects of the mind and communication, verbal and non-verbal both. Over the years I think this has given the ability to articulate what I am thinking and feeling quite clearly, and also to listen carefully to how others communicate, to really hear what they are saying.
I try to speak only truthfully, but I am often aware if the desire or tendency to clean things up a bit to look better. Do I think I am completely truthful? No, but I think the “stretches” get less frequent and less stretchy.
Do I look at the world a bit differently than most people around me? Yes, I do, and after much work I have gotten pretty good at communicating what I am thinking in a way that is now often well received, precisely because it is different, a bit odd, a bit out of the norm.
That was a long hard road, especially when I was younger and wasn’t very aware of what is going on.
Now, let’s take this and put it in the context of my visiting an astrologer for a reading.
A good, positive-slanted modern astrologer would talk about how intuitive and artistic I was, maybe how spiritual and sensitive. One astrologer dwelt on how I often used humor to communicate my ideas, and that is true.
I could walk out of a reading like that feeling vaguely puffed up at how very spiritual and evolved I was.
It would have been very useful to me if I’d found an astrologer who had talked about the problems – you don’t feel respected or taken seriously, you feel odd or misunderstood, you don’t always talk in ways that other people understand, your mind can get scattered and jump all over the place, you start a ton of projects you don’t finish and can stand to work on consistency and discipline, you can be deceitful and a liar sometimes, and so on.
I had to figure out all those things on my own, the long, slow and hard way.
So there is my point – debility, detriment and fall, are not judgemental terms, they are descriptive terms. Talking about problems or difficulties is not a put-down and does not mean you are destined to be second rate. It does mean that you have some work to do, and an increase in awareness is helpful and necessary to deal with the problems.
Trust me – I am Mercury in Pisces, and I know this point really, really well by now.