The 4 Essential Dignities of Planets in Astrology, the Keys to Understanding Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Photo: W+G Creative
Just like people have different levels of friendship that indicate the degree of closeness we have for people in our lives, so do the planets. In astrology, these groupings are broken down into four categories: domicile, detriment, exalted, and fall—the essential dignities.

Like birth charts, the essential dignities are fixed, meaning they don't change over time. “The moment you're born, that is your chart,” explains intuitive energy reader and astrologer, Shekinah ‘Ninah’ Davis, and you can use it to determine if any of your planetary placements appear on the essential dignities chart.

astrology dignities

For example, in my chart, my moon is in exalted in Taurus, and my Neptune is in fall in Capricorn. Note: You may not see any or all of your planets represented in the four essential dignities since not all of them have placements within this quadruple. Now that you have your placements, let’s break down what each means.

Domicile placement in astrology

When planets are in domicile, you can rest assured that you are going to experience the fullness of their energies. This is your happy place.


Examples of what this coupling can look like when embodied are Jennifer Lawrence, Demi Lovato, Barak Obama, Viola Davis, Elizabeth Moss, Sandra Bullock, Meghan Markle, Martha Stewart, Ben Affleck, and wife, Jennifer Lopez, who all have their sun in Leo. “The sun is what you want from life,” explains astrologer Ally Lewber. “It’s the brightest star; it wants to be seen, and it wants to shine.”

If you think about the group as a collective, they all appear comfortable in the spotlight. “People with their sun in Leo are very comfortable and don’t need prodding to go on stage,” Davis says. “But if your sun is in Leo, don’t forget to turn off your light sometimes. Remember, even the sun has to set.”

Detriment placement in astrology

Detriment is the opposite of domicile. Each of the twelve zodiac signs has an opposite partner that sits six signs away from it. If we take the moon for example, it's in domicile in Cancer, but in detriment in Capricorn, which is the crab's opposite sign.

When a the sign of a planetary placement is in detriment, “things won’t be as straightforward as someone in domicile," Davis says. But there is a silver lining. "You’re going to bring opposing ideas and a new perspective on things,” she adds.


A great example of this type of flip-sided thinking is Lady Gaga, whose Mercury is in detriment in Pisces. People whose Mercury (planet of expression and communication) in detriment in Pisces can experience a level of being misunderstood, Davis says, which rings true for the Born This Way singer. Back in 2012, during the opening show of her Vegas residency, Lady Gaga even gave an emotional speech about people not getting her, saying in part: “For a really long time, I felt so misunderstood—the way I dressed, the way I talk, and my attitude, they thought it was shallow. But this s**t is deep as f**k.”

Exalted placement in astrology

“Exalted, also known as exaltation, is where the planet can do its best work, expression, and achieve its highest potential,” Lewber says. "It’s all about being able to be in the place and space that honors your energy and allows you to express it well."


Taylor Swift's chart sees her Jupiter in Cancer, which is in exaltation. Jupiter is known as the planet of luck and fortune and has a connection to generosity, kindness, and optimistic thinking. “Jupiter in Cancer shows empathy and wisdom that expresses itself creatively," says intuitive astrologer and healer, Rachel Lang. These are traits visibly seen (and lyrically heard) from the "All Too Well" singer.

Fall placement in astrology

Fall is the opposite of exaltation and is considered the most negative expression of a planet. While this may seem unfortunate, Davis reminds those with these placements that there is a positive perspective. “Planets in their fall have the advantage to shift and progress stagnant, depressed, or unexpressed energy,” she says.

Fall placements will require questioning yourself and your choices in this sector of your chart and life. Davis says, “One of the secret keys to using a planet in its fall is asking yourself, 'Am I falling back to something that has been limiting me, or am I falling forward into something greater?’”


Davis gives the example of Snoop Dogg (moon in fall in Scorpio) and his 1992 debut album, Doggystyle. On it, the track "Murder Was the Case," is a semi-autobiographical retelling of a murder charge he faced. “He fell forward by turning his experience into music after proving he was innocent,” Davis explains. “He could've fallen back into a system that was set up for him to go to jail, but he chose to do something different.”

Loading More Posts...