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  • Aswin Subramanyan

Detriment or Exile

Updated: Feb 13


Nelson Mandela

Image source: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/robben-island-a-monument-to-courage-62697703/


Modern astrologers do not always agree with the idea of debilitation or detriment and some astrologers don’t follow the essential dignities itself. Some traditional astrologers do not work with detriment in the natal context and associate detriment as an important factor only in Horary astrology. My stand concerning detriment is still not entirely fixed as I am studying the effects of detriment in natal charts for I have my own lord of the rising sign in detriment. Detriment seems to be an adverse condition in whatever I have examined so far. Receptions are an easy thing to miss and hence I think most of the detrimental positions in the natal chart are mitigated by reception from the planets.


Detriment is something that we might not have known if not for the revival of traditional astrological texts. A planet placed opposite to the sign it rules is said to be in a detrimental position. Jupiter ruling Sagittarius, posited in Gemini which is exactly opposite from Sagittarius is a detrimental position. The other detrimental sign for Jupiter is Virgo. This is one of the essential dignities of the medieval astrological tradition.


Chris Brennan, in his book, “Hellenistic Astrology - The study of fate and fortune”, clarifies the historical basis in stating that there is no reference to the concept of detriment in the Hellenistic tradition except for the text by Rhetorius the Egyptian.


Only by the end of the Hellenistic tradition do we see the concept starting to be clearly defined and referred to as a negative factor when determining a planet’s condition, primarily in the text of Thetorius. In Rhetorius he refers to a planet being placed in a sign opposite to one of its own domiciles as enantioma, which according to the lexicon means “anything opposite or opposed”, obstacle or hindrance, or opposition, incompatibility, conflicting, differences or discrepancies. [Hellenistic Astrology - The study of fate and fortune by Chris Brennan, page# 249].

However, detriment became a very important essential dignity in the medieval astrological tradition and it seems to have carried on to the renaissance because William Lilly has given tables of essential dignity which has detriment in it. However, Lilly’s prowess in Horary astrology and his works that are available drives the contemporary traditional astrologers to have a view that detriment has a major role to play only in Horary astrology. Before Lilly, Italian astrologer Guido Bonatti talks about detriment in his Liber Astronomiae and Bonatti is not only known for Horary astrology but he also has written materials on natal astrology. Lilly was obviously having access to Bonatti’s work and he had applied the idea of detriment in the context of Horary. Detriment is largely unknown in Indian astrology or if it is known, I am missing something.


Nelson Mandela - Man in the making for 18 years in Robben Island


The great Nelson Mandela is someone who doesn’t need an introduction and hence I am quickly jumping on to what I want to write about in this blog post. Mandela and his co-accused were transferred from Pretoria to the prison on Robben Island, remaining there for the next 18 years. Isolated from non-political prisoners in Section B, Mandela was imprisoned in a damp concrete cell measuring 8 feet (2.4 m) by 7 feet (2.1 m), with a straw mat on which to sleep. Verbally and physically harassed by several white prison wardens, the Rivonia Trial prisoners spent their days breaking rocks into gravel, until being reassigned in January 1965 to work in a lime quarry. Mandela was initially forbidden to wear sunglasses, and the glare from the lime permanently damaged his eyesight. At night, he worked on his LLB degree which he was obtaining from the University of London through a correspondence course with Wolsey Hall, Oxford, but newspapers were forbidden, and he was locked in solitary confinement on several occasions for the possession of smuggled news clippings. He was initially classified as the lowest grade of prisoner, Class D, meaning that he was permitted one visit and one letter every six months, although all mail was heavily censored. [Source: Wikipedia]. The entire situation doesn’t need explanation and Mandela was in the most stressful period of his life.

Nativity of Nelson Mandela

On 12 June 1964, justice De Wet found Mandela and two of his co-accused guilty on all four charges; although the prosecution had called for the death sentence to be applied, the judge instead condemned them to life imprisonment (source: Wikipedia)


Primary Directions


Considering the primary directions, Jupiter’s bounds in Capricorn was rising to the ascendant during the time Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment. Jupiter is placed in the 7th house of Gemini. Jupiter becomes the time lord and Jupiter rules the 1st house and the 4th house of the nativity. Jupiter is posited in the 7th house of detriment in Gemini and there is no reception from Mercury (ruler of Gemini) as Mercury (in Cancer) and Jupiter are in aversion. Even though Jupiter, as the lord of the ascendant is placed in an angular house (7th), due to non reception from Mercury, Jupiter is short of resources and direction in Gemini.


Jupiter ruling the 1st house indicates the overall life quality and nature of the native. Clearly, Mandela’s quality of life was poor and he was jailed where he suffered too much during the initial years. Mandela called the chapter, “The Dark Years” in his autobiography. “Long walk to freedom”. 4th house indicates the general comfort of the native’s life and the native’s association with home and the homeland. Jupiter in detriment bereft of reception clearly indicates suffering in uncomfortable places. Basically, this is a clear example to support the term ‘exile’ that some astrologers use to associate with detriment. In the natal chart, Mars is applying to a square with Jupiter and Mars rules the 12th house from the ascendant which indicates jail. On the other hand, this relationship between Mars and Jupiter indicates a strong public life because of the connection between the 1st lord and the 12th lord.


Saturn’s bounds is reaching the MC during those years when Mandela was sentenced which makes Saturn the time lord if we consider the Midheaven as the significator. Promissor Saturn rules the 2nd house and the 3rd house in the nativity. Saturn is posited in the sign of Cancer, in detriment. Saturn’s detrimental positions are the signs ruled by the luminaries, Cancer and Leo. Native sentenced to life imprisonment might not be entirely surprising but what makes this case even more worthy of consideration is the factor of detriment which is also called as ‘exile’. 2nd house is the house of family and personal stuff that belongs to the native. 2nd house matters are largely dusted because of the detrimental position and also the accidental debility of Saturn which is a double blow for the 2nd house matters.


Zodiacal Releasing: Spirit


Lot of Fortune is posited in Pisces and Jupiter is the ruler of Fortune. Releasing from spirit, we see that around July 1964, Pisces sub period is activated. Pisces contains the Lot of Fortune. Mandela was sentenced in June 1964 and one month gap is clearly not an issue here. Major period is Libra and the sub period is Pisces. Ruler of Fortune, Jupiter is posited in the detrimental position.





















After the end of the Pisces sub period, there is a shift of major period to Scorpio from Libra. Peak periods are those ruled by the signs that are angular to the Fortune. As Pisces is the ruler of Fortune, we now know that the water signs are of major significance in Mandela’s life. Scorpio is a water sign which is angular from Fortune contains Rahu. Generally, there is no surprise if a native is jailed when Rahu activated in 12th house.


The Scorpio major period is for 15 years and Mandela was in jail for 18 long years in Robben Island. Island is obviously surrounded by water and this is a symbolic indication of the fact that the peak periods are ruled by the water signs. The relationship between Mars and Jupiter is already mentioned in the earlier part of this post. Ruler of Fortune, Jupiter is in a hard aspect with the peak period ruler (Scorpio), Mars. Mars is also the most difficult malefic as it is out of sect and it almost further ruins the already strained condition of Jupiter.


To me, detriment seems to be a compelling essential dignity which we cannot ignore in the natal context and I will continue to study further as it is extremely revealing if the planet in detriment doesn't have a reception.


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