Traditional astrology uses a system of 5 levels of dignity or rulership. Modern astrology has kept only the two major dignities, rulership and exaltation, neither is emphasized very much, and both have lost much of their original significance.
The use of the minor dignities has pretty much been lost to modern astrology. Even those traditional astrologers who do use them often consider them only as having a small point value or as keeping a planet from being peregrine. The sense of the different dignities each having a distinct meaning has been pretty much lost.
I have been working extensively with the full system of major and minor dignities, and I find that even the different minor dignities each have a specific sort of nuance of meaning in terms of the role or position in society of the planet in question.
In this essay I want to look at the least of the minor dignities, that of face. I want to consider how the minor dignity of face can be interpreted in the context of a chart.
This example is from the chart of a friend of mine, a person I know pretty well who I admire. I am including only the portion of the chart that applies to our example interpretation.
Venus is also conjunct the South Node. In traditional astrology the South Node is considered to be of the nature of Saturn, and it diminishes or sucks the energy out of any planet that is near it. Venus here in the first house manifests as this person being somewhat shy and self-effacing.
The other planet we are considering here is the Sun, which is in Pisces in the 12th house. The Sun is peregrine in Pisces meaning it has no dignity or assigned place, and it is in the very self-effacing and invisible 12th house.
Looking at the planets together, note that Venus and Sun have mutual reception by exaltation – Sun is exalted in Aries where Venus is, and Venus is exalted in Pisces where the Sun is. The two planets value and support each other, so their mutual influence is strengthening.
Notice how the self-effacing quality of Venus is reinforced by her being conjunct the South Node, and also being in mutual reception with the Sun in the self-effacing 12th house.
However, the two planets are also averse, meaning they do not have any whole sign aspect, so they don’t see each other. There is something about their relationship that is out of awareness or control. There is no direct conscious communication between the two planets.
Now we will look at how the dignity of face fits here.
In the traditional system of 2 major and 3 minor dignities all of the dignities other than Face have some sense of control or responsibility – there is a domain and level of life where they have power. By contrast, with the minor dignity of face you have an assigned place, but it has no power, no clout, no authority. It can mean something superficial, an appearance or face you are putting on, or it can mean a situation in which you perform a service but don’t have any authority – like a volunteer position.
In addition, Venus in detriment – so not at home, not in control, or in an environment where Venus is off-balance or doesn’t fit that well.
Now let’s put it all together.
Sun is in 12th house, which is a house of self-sacrifice, self-undoing. It can also signifiy work in some kind of institution or environment where people are confined – a prison, a care facility, a hospital, a nursing home. Or, it can also signify work with people in that situation.
Sun in 12th can express as self-sacrifice, self-giving. In mutual reception with Venus in the first, that would mean this person expresses herself in self-sacrificing sorts of ways. With the two planets being averse, this self-sacrificing quality is mostly out of the person’s awareness – she doesn’t realize how very giving and unselfish a person she is.
Specifically, with mutual reception by exaltation – exaltation has less to do with power, and more to do with value or reputation, or recognition. In this case, values having to do with self-giving, self-sacrifice, self-obliteration, are highly valued, highly exalted, by this person. Her sense of self (1st house planet) and her self-sacrificing values (12th house sun) are blended together in the mutual reception.
Venus in face plays out as her doing volunteer work where she has no authority or recognition. With Venus in detriment, this work is in an environment, or a group of people, where she is not at home.
This person does a lot of volunteer work, and one of her positions involves working in a support group for convicted sex offenders who have spent prison time – that ties in Venus in detriment, and in ties in the 12th house self-sacrificing tendency, and the connection between the 12th house and prisons.
Venus in first mutual reception Sun in 12th – the person is very self-giving – but the two planets are averse – I am pretty sure she is not aware of just how unselfish and giving she really is.
A planet in her first house, expresses in a first house sort of way, in a Face sort of position where she is a volunteer with no authority or recognition, in detriment, where she does not really fit in with the people she works with.
The mix of all these different conditions – aversion, mutual reception, dignity by face, and debility by detriment – all combine to describe this part of her life situation very well.