Further Reflections on Triplicity Lords

In the previous post I commented on a view of triplicity rulers that was prevalent in the 15th century. Having recently watched an interview with Jenn Zahrt done by Mychal A. Bryan, I was interested in comparing what Jenn had to say with the 1485 text of Diego of Torres who taught astrology to university students in Salamanca. One of the comments that Jenn made, which garnered a lot of interest, was the idea that the third triplicity lord of the 9th house had to do with one’s relationship to astrology and divination.

For those unfamiliar with triplicity rulers, let me give a brief overview. Triplcity is one of the five so-called essential dignities of Western astrology. Most astrologers are familiar with dignity by domicile, the home sign(s) of a planet. For example, the home signs or domiciles of Mercury are Gemini and Virgo. A planet’s home is his castle, where he rules and decides what happens there. The next essential dignity is exaltation, where a planet is “raised on high” and treated like an honored and distinguished guest. Planets that are placed at such a high or powerful level usually feel quite happy about it, but sometimes it can “go to their heads” and they can become somewhat haughty or arrogant.

The third essential dignity is triplicity, which refers to a type of rulership related to the elemental nature of the signs (Fire, Earth, Air, Water). Each element is allotted a community of three triplicity lords, one that comes first in day charts, one that comes first in night charts and one that comes in third all the time. The Fire and Air signs are considered diurnal, masculine, yang or of positive valence, and their lords come from the group of diurnal planets: Sun, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mercury which rules and Air sign and is diurnal when it rises before the Sun. The Earth and Water signs are considered nocturnal, feminine, yin and of negative valence, and their lords come from the community of nocturnal planets: Moon, Venus and Mars. Even though Mercury rules Virgo, an Earth sign, and is nocturnal when it rises after the Sun, Mercury is omitted from the group of nocturnal triplicity rulers. Thus, the traditional scheme of triplcity rulership looks like this:

The fourth essential dignity is called term or bound, and it refers to divisions of signs into five unequal parts, each of which is ruled by a non-luminary visible planet. William Lilly used the terms or bounds as descriptors of the physical appearance of clients and as symbols of material manifestation. In a sense the terms are like your extended kin who bear some physical resemblance to you because they are blood relations.

The fifth essential dignity is called face or decan. Face is the weakest of the essential dignities. Jenn Zahrt mentions that in Renaissance astrology the dignity of face by analogy is like a stranger who is allowed to stay in a foreign land because he or she possesses some special skill or talent.

Triplicity Lords in Chart Delineation

Many astrologers primarily utilize the domicile lord of the sign on the cusp of a house to signify the matters assigned to that house. Two millennia ago Dorotheus proposed using the triplicity lords to futher refine the delineation of particular areas of life. A post in Seven Stars Astrology makes it clear that Dorotheus regarded all three triplicity rulers to be active all the time but in a particular order of predominance:

The triplicity of Aries: its lords by day are the Sun, then Jupiter, then Saturn; and by night Jupiter, then the Sun, then Saturn.” (Dorotheus, Book I, Ch. 1, #4, Dykes trans., 2017, p. 61-62)

In other words, in a day chart, the 3-member community of triplicity lords of the diurnal Fire sign Aries are, in order: Sun, Jupiter, Saturn but …

in a night chart, the 3-member community of triplicity lords of the diurnal Fire sign Aries are, in order: Jupiter, Sun, Saturn, all of which are ruling the Fire triplicity in a nocturnal chart in this order.

It appears that medieval and Renaissance astrologers may have misunderstood Dorotheus and thus mistakenly believed that one of the triplicity rulers got turned off when the Sun went down. Instead, Dorotheus seems to be stating that all three triplicity lord are active all the time but that the first one predominates and is modified by the other two.

A further twist on triplicity lords was to use them to assign the many significations of a house of particular planets which belong to the triplicity’s three-lord community. The following is a very brief summary of such a subdivision based on the writings of Al-Andarzaghar (6th century?), Al-Qabisi (Alcabitius, 10th century), Ibn Ezra (12th century), Bonatti (13th century) and Diego de Torres (15th century). There are some disagreements among these authors about which triplicity lord rules which significations of the house in question.

In this scheme, the planetary ruler of the house cusp gives the primary and most compelling description of all the significations of that house. The triplicity lord of the particular signification being studied acts as a kind of secondary ruler which modifies the interpretation of the cusp lord but does not supplant it.

For example, in the chart by Dorotheus below, suppose it depicted a horary question about whether a certain animal would make a good pet for the querent. Pets are ruled by the 6th house which has Sagittarius on the cusp, so the potential pet is signified by Jupiter, which happens to be exalted in Cancer in the angular 1st house, indicating that it would make a very good, though perhaps a bit haughty or arrogant, pet, probably a cat. It is a day chart and pets are further signified by the 3rd triplicity lord of the Sagittarius 6th house, which is Saturn who happens to be without essential dignity at 17 Pisces 59. The peregrine Saturn in the cadent 9th house as a secondary lord of the pet indicates some type of problem with this otherwise wonderful (exalted Jupiter) animal.

File: AlcabitiusLibellus2.png

1st House Triplicity Lords:

First Lord: the life, life force, preferences, desires and nature of the native; the first years of life, the start of any undertaking
Second Lord: the life, body and strength of the native; the middle years of life
Third Lord: the life, body and strength of the native, the final years and the end stage of life

2nd House Triplicity Lords:

First Lord: acquiring possessions, food and wealth at the beginning of life
Second Lord: acquiring possessions, wealth in the middle of life
Third Lord: acquiring possessions, wealth in the later years of the life

3rd House Triplicity Lords:

First Lord: older siblings (born before the native)
Second Lord: middle siblings (close in age to the native)
Third Lord: younger siblings (born after the native)

4th House Triplicity Lords:

First Lord: Parents (father and mother), the father (Ibn Ezra)
Second Lord: lands, field, countries, real estate, homes, cultivated lands, buried treasure, concealed objects
Third Lord: final outcomes, endings, prison, the final period of life, the end of anything

5th House Triplicity Lords:

First Lord: children, offspring, pregnancy; (some authors give the 1st lord to the oldest child, the 2nd lord to the middle child(ren), and the 3rd lord to the youngest)
Second Lord: pleasures, vices, enjoyments, love affairs, clothing, gifts (Ibn Ezra); eating, drinking and being merry
Third Lord: messengers, emissaries; giving of presents or gifts for benefit (Bonatti)

6th House Triplicity Lords:

First Lord: illness and recovery from illness, disease, sickness, infirmities, injuries, defects, wounds, poor health
Second Lord: slaves, servants, maids, workers, employees
Third Lord: the activity and benefits of slaves/servants/employees to the native, small cattle, domestic animals, prison, calumny and confinement

7th House Triplicity Lords:

First Lord: spouse, intimate partner, women, sex partner, coitus (sexual intercourse)
Second Lord: conflict, controversies, disputes, confrontations, war, adversarial relationships, litigation, thieves, open enemies
Third Lord: covenants, formal and legal agreements, business associates and partnerships, social intercourse

8th House Triplicity Lords:

First Lord: death, fear, grief, ruin, anguish of mind (some authors give anguish to the 3rd lord)
Second Lord: old things, anything ancient
Third Lord: inheritances and legacies from the dead

9th House Triplicity Lords:

First Lord: journeys, travels and their suitability
Second Lord: religion, faith, ethics, honesty, religious observance, eminence in matters of religion
Third Lord: science, knowledge, wisdom, visions, premonitions, omens, divination, astrology, and the truth or falsehood of such matters

10th House Triplicity Lords:

First Lord: authority, honor, high rank, governance, career, profession; the mother (Ibn Ezra)
Second Lord: reputation, fame, dignity, bravery, boldness, style of action, ability to command
Third Lord: the stability and endurance of one’s authority or fame, professions according to some authors

11th House Triplicity Lords:

First Lord: hopes, things given in trust, recognition from others
Second Lord: friends, companions, allies, patrons
Third Lord: benefit or harm from friends or allies

12th House Triplicity Lords:

First Lord: enemies (al-Andarzagar), secret enemies (Bonatti); sorrow, sadness, grief, poverty, fear, disgrace
Second Lord: imprisonment, fortune or misfortune; laborers (Bonatti), some authors give sadness, grief and sorrow to the 2nd lord
Third Lord: large animals that you can ride; enemies (Ibn Ezra)


An Example from Dorotheus of the Early Use of Triplcity Lords

The above use of triplcity lords derives from the works of Dorotheus and Valens, who took a somewhat different approach. Here is an example from Dorotheus in his 1st century text (the chart below is my re-creation with modern software of one that Dorotheus delineates):

Example of the use of triplcity lords from Dorotheus in the 1st century. This is an approximation of the chart utilized by Dorotheus.

Because this is a dirunal birth, with the Sun above the horizon, Dorotheus delineates the triplcity rulers of the Sun. If it were a nocturnal chart, he would have studied the triplcity lords of the Moon, instead:

“This nativity was diurnal  and the first lord of the triplicity is the Sun, the second Jupiter, and both of these are in the cardines in their own exaltations, so that the native should be praised with the praise of kings and nobles and wealthy men. Because Saturn is the third lord of the triplicity and is cadent from a cardine and Jupiter aspects it in its house [Pisces] from trine, so for that reason he will be praised with the praise of kings.”

[Source: Carmen Astrologicum Book 1 by Dorotheus, trans. by David Pingree, Ascella Publications, p.40]

With the Sun in Aries, a Fire sign, in this birth chart, the triplcity lords are, in order, Sun – Jupiter – Saturn. The first lord, the Sun, is powerfully placed in an Angle (the Midheaven) and is in its exaltation. The second lord, Jupiter, is also powerfully placed in an Angle (the Ascendant) and is in its exaltation. The third lord, Saturn, is cadent which is a weak position and Saturn is not in its own domicile or triplcity, but Saturn is bolstered by a trine from an exalted Jupiter and occupies Jupiter’s sign Pisces so that Jupiter is kindly disposed toward benefiting Saturn. The overall interpretation of the simultaneous interaction of all three triplcity rulers is that “he will be praised by the praise of kings.”

About Anthony Louis

Author of books about astrology and tarot, including TAROT PLAIN AND SIMPLE, HORARY ASTROLOGY, and THE ART OF FORECASTING WITH SOLAR RETURNS.
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6 Responses to Further Reflections on Triplicity Lords

  1. Peter Orne says:

    Hi Anthony,

    It was good to read your analysis. Thank you.

    To be sure I am getting it right: With Aquarius on the 9th, may I in turn infer that my 9th House triplicity lords are Saturn, Mercury, and Jupiter?

    9th House Triplicity Lords: First Lord (***Saturn***): journeys and their suitability Second Lord (***Mercury***): religion, faith, religious observance, eminence in matters of religion Third Lord (***Jupiter***): science (higher knowledge), wisdom, vision (premonitions), omens, divination, astrology, and the truth or falsehood of such matters

    9th House is especially interesting to me because North Node is also there.

    Wishing you a good Memorial Day.

    Best, Peter Belmont, MA


  2. Hi Peter,
    If you have Aquarius on the 9th cusp in a day chart, then the Air triplicity rulers are, in order, Saturn, Mercury and Jupiter, which being the 3rd triplicity lord is the one most connected to astrology and divination in your chart. You would study the sign, house placement and general condition of your natal Jupiter to get a sense of your relationship to astrology. Jenn Zahrt explains this point very clearly in her recent interview at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sr5DQbx7o10

    Best wishes,

  3. Kevin Lopez says:

    what is interesting is that Dorotheus gives different meanings for the triplicity lords of the 4th house in Book 4:
    “And look at the fourth stake from the ASC, and the lord of its triplicity by day and the lord of its triplicity by night – [see] which planet it is. For indeed, from the 1st tri lord is known death, and from the 2nd one is known chronic illness.” Carmen Astrologicum Book 4 Ch. 2 17 pg. 208 trans. Dykes

    Dykes also cites Hephaistion II. 14 (Schmidt p. 51) as agreeing with the Arabic Dorotheus.

  4. Kevin Lopez says:

    One other point. I’ve noticed that while Dorotheus does give all three triplicity lords for each triplicity when he first introduces the concept, he doesn’t consistently use all three triplicity lords for delineation. Neither does Valens. Sometimes they appeal to the 3rd triplicity lord in their example charts but at least just as often they don’t even mention them at all.

    This point is evident with the quote I gave above about the triplicity lords of the 4th house in which only the first two are given a delineation. Earlier, in Book 1 when he recommends using the tri lords of Mars to look into the matter of siblings he only mentions the first two tri lords: “For if you found the two lords of the triplicity of Mars, the first and second ones, in a bad place, it indicates a scarcity of siblings…” CA Book 1 Ch. 23 pg. 93 trans. Dykes. And then in the example chart that comes several paragraphs later, he only mentions the first two triplicity lords of Mars again.

    So I would say that Dorotheus (as we have received him) is inconsistent – though perhaps there are passages missing. Sometimes he only mentions one triplicity lord, sometimes two triplicity lords (as in the 2nd, 3rd, and 8th example charts in Book 1) , and occasionally all 3 (as with the 4th example chart above, the 5th, 6th, and 7th. And the same is true of Valens’ example charts when he demonstrates the tri lords of the sect light technique. Sometimes he appeals to all 3, but in other charts he only appeals to the first 2.

  5. Thanks, Kevin. Good observations and useful information.

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