Planetary Reception, Part II: Guests and Hosts

Ryhan Butler

By Ryhan Butler

In the previous installment of this series, we scrutinized the medieval concept of pushing wherein lighter planets push their signification to the planets they are casting applying aspects to.  Here we hope to give the same level of attention to the technique of reception, which is one of the most consistent and obvious ways to tell if pushing is going to be successful or not.

Reception is a more complex technique because it requires a firm understanding of several other classical techniques.  Not only does one need to understand aspect theory, but also planetary nature, as well as planetary dignity.  With all of these separate considerations mixed together we can get a proper picture of reception and pushing together to help us delineate charts more effectively.

Essentially, reception is what happens when a planet aspects another planet who is one of its lords.  This means anytime a planet aspects the planet that is the domicile, exaltation, triplicity, term, or face lord of the sign it is in, there is reception occurring.  The figure below illustrates this point.  Here Mercury applies to the conjunction of the Sun in Leo.  Leo is the domicile of the Sun, so the Sun is receiving Mercury’s conjunction.

Classically, the signs of the Zodiac were conceptualized as the houses of the planets.  So, as planets moved through the signs they were thought of as passing through each other’s homes (the classical term “domicile” used for a planet in its rulership – Sun in Leo, Moon in Cancer – itself references this).  This means that Jupiter does not simply enjoy rulership over the signs of Sagittarius and Pisces, but that these are places that are like his home and he has certain responsibilities there.  Likewise, Jupiter is expected to fulfil certain duties to planets who find themselves in those signs, especially if they can aspect him while being there.  This is the reception; one planet welcomes another into his home and treats them as a host would treat his guest.

There are a few keywords to facilitate easier understanding of what exactly reception does.  Planets that receive others provide for them, accept them, giving permission to them, and cooperate with them.  They do not, however, show fondness or love and hate.  Jupiter will not receive or assist planets in Pisces or Sagittarius because he “loves” them, but because he is duty-bound to receive them there.

Reception is a planetary relationship, and as such it is important to scrutinize both of the planets to properly determine the outcome of the relationship.  Though it is a relationship, it is not necessarily one of equals. But Nonetheless, both play important, albeit different, roles.

The first role goes to the receiving planet.  The planet that receives another into its dignities has the role of a host.  This host must attend to its guest and takes responsibility for their wellbeing and safety to the best of its ability.  This will be determined by the host planet’s placement, dignity, and nature- the central idea is that planets share in their host’s fortune or poverty.  So a planet who has a lot is able to give a lot, but one who lacks will not be able to provide as richly and may even end up harming their host by not being able to muster up the resources to bring the thing being pushed to them to pass.

The other role goes to the planet being received, and this planet takes on the role of a guest.  We typically think of guests as individuals who must be well-behaved or be in danger of being asked to leave, but this is not the case with planets, as their hosts cannot evict them.  This means that host planets are often put upon by their guests who may behave badly by signifying bad or difficult things, thus the guest tends to be the boss or be in charge of the agenda.

In this example, Mercury in Pisces is being received by Jupiter in Cancer.  Here, Jupiter is the receiving planet and so must act like a good host and provide for his guest Mercury, but will Jupiter succeed in this endeavor?  Jupiter is a naturally benefic planet – showing an innate agreeableness – and is placed in his exaltation of Cancer, so has many resources to provide.  The only negative affecting Jupiter is his placement in the Twelfth house, but otherwise Jupiter is a great host who is going to be willing and able to produce what Mercury signifies.

What about Mercury?  Mercury is placed in Pisces, which is the sign of his detriment and fall while being the ruler of the third and twelfth houses.  So Mercury is not doing well at all and is signifying some pretty difficult things.  He represents a poorly behaved guest provided for abundantly by a generous host.  This application to and reception with Jupiter shows the likelihood of Mercury’s significations being brought out, but these significations might not be pleasant things for an individual to experience.  Mercury’s neediness may also be somewhat taxing on Jupiter who has opened himself up to working with a difficult planet.

As the above scenario suggests, there can be reception relationships that are not as advantageous to individuals.  It is important to remember that not every planet signifies or pursues healthful activities, and there may be times where reception can signify danger to the livelihood of an individual or scenario.  Therefore, it becomes paramount to ask questions like “Is this a planet that I want to be in control?” or “Is this planet asking for assistance with a helpful thing?”

These questions are usually answered by simple things like placement, planetary nature, and signification.  We see these kinds of considerations most clearly in fairly extreme situations.  The most prominent examples are the considerations concerning health and livelihood, particularly if the illness is serious enough to threaten death.

In such instances, we are told to consider the fortitudes of the Lord of the First house (signifying the life of the sick individual) and the Lord of the Eighth house (the planet that would signify death).  We are to be concerned if one of them were applying to the other (because it could indicate the possibility of succumbing to the illness), unless the Lord of the Eighth receives the Lord of the First into its dignities.  In such an instance, the Lord of the Eighth would be cooperating or allowing the Lord of the First house to do what it wants, in this case, to simply live and it argues recovery because the planet signifying death cannot hurt its guest.  However, the reverse of this is dangerous.  In instances where the Lord of the First receives the Lord of the Eighth, the planet signifying life allows the planet signifying death to do what it wants which is to kill its host.

From this we can extrapolate other instances where receiving certain planets may not be as advantageous or safe.  For instance, it is preferred that malefic planets receive others into their domicile, as their malevolence is restrained towards those who they receive and must protect. This consideration is also applied to the Sun and planets are not injured by Combustion when they join with him in Aries or Leo.  Malevolent planets being received, though, is not as fortunate as it shows other planets allowing the malefic’s bad behavior and signification.  Similarly, it is more effective for the planet signifying the matter to receive the planet signifying the querent, inceptor, or native.  This shows whatever is being sought being willing to work with the individual.  The reverse of this merely shows the interest of the querent which is not nearly as effective or meaningful.

It is also important to note that the benefic planets do not require reception to bring things about.  Since it is in their very nature to assist and allow, reception will only make the perfection easier.  On the other hand, malefic planets require reception to allow matters to perfect, because it is not normally in their nature to facilitate the wills of other planets.

The effects reception has on aspects and planetary relationships is most clearly seen in the work of Guido Bonatti.  In the beginning of his horary text he lists for us the different ways in which aspects perfect and bring about events.  The table below lists the effects of reception in conjunction with different aspects.

Aspect Effect
Trine or sextile with reception Comes easily, without striving, or difficulty
Trine without reception, sextile with reception Comes shortly without striving
Sextile without reception, square with reception Comes with striving and effort
Square without reception, opposition with reception Comes after striving, effort, obstacles, and labor
Opposition without reception Comes with greatest labors and distress, though still may not even occur

Bonatti’s table makes the effects of reception much easier to understand.  More difficult aspects are made easier if reception is present to help smooth them out.  It even has the effect of making an inherently difficult aspect like the square function more like a friendly aspect.

Throughout most of this, the examples of reception given are operating through the dignities of domicile or exaltation.  This is a very powerful form of reception, but it is not limited to these circumstances.  Reception can also occur through the lower forms of dignity (triplicity, term, and face), but since these lower forms are shared by multiple planets in a single sign it requires multiple levels of reception to be effective.  This is what is referred to as perfect reception and it is only when planets receive one another perfectly that the full benefits of reception can be gained.

In order to qualify as a perfect reception, a planet must receive another into its domicile or exaltation or into any combination of two of the lower levels at once. This means perfect reception occurs in reception by domicile, by exaltation, by triplicity and term, by triplicity and face, or by face and term.  Essentially, if we liken reception to receiving a guest into one’s own home and having the authority to decide something there, then reception by one minor dignity would be like trying to take authority over someone else’s home.  Saturn doesn’t have enough authority over Taurus in general to have the final say in something, and planets applying to him there would be better off consulting Venus.  However, if planets are applying to Saturn from 22°-26° Taurus where Saturn has dignity by both term and face, then this would be like asking to do something in Saturn’s room of Venus’s house, where he does have proper authority.

Finally, the last type of reception is perhaps the most well-known, and that is mutual reception.  This type of reception is fundamentally the same, but instead of one planet being in the dignities of another that it is aspecting, both planets are in the dignities of the other, such as Mars in Leo in a trine aspect with the Sun in Aries.

This is very fortunate as it shows both planets are willing to work and cooperate with one another.  In instances where astrologers are trying to find the best outcome for two parties (like marriages), mutual reception is the best placement to strive for.  That being said, its effectiveness is determined in the same way as general reception; the strength of the two planets themselves is paramount.

In this example above, the Moon in Scorpio is in a trine aspect with Mars in Cancer.  While this is a mutual reception, it is not a very effective or particularly helpful one as both planets are essentially debilitated in those signs, so neither has the resources or ability to assist the other.  This is essentially akin to two inebriated individuals helping each other walk home; they won’t get very far, but they are together.

Mutual reception has several incorrect assumptions associated with it.  Perhaps the most common is that planets engaged in a mutual reception are able to swap places with one another, however, a review of the classical literature regarding this technique make it very difficult to see where such an assumption might have arisen.

Another common misconception is that planets in mutual reception gain additional dignity from their relationship.  We see this documented most clearly in William Lilly’s textbook Christian Astrology.  However, even though Lilly seemed to include it in his work, he did not seem to utilize it himself in his example charts.  Likewise, earlier authors did not include anything that would suggest such cross-dignity possible.

A final misconception regarding mutual reception is that it must occur on the same level of dignity.  For example, mutual reception between Saturn and Mercury does not have to take a domicile to domicile form.  Mercury in Libra can aspect Saturn in Gemini and this is also a perfect mutual reception where Mercury receives Saturn into its domicile, and Saturn likewise receives Mercury into his exaltation.  This can also work on the lower forms of dignity where Venus at 12° Leo can be in mutual reception with Jupiter at 12° Taurus.  This would have Jupiter receive Venus by triplicity and face while Venus received Jupiter by domicile.

Reception assists astrologers in better understanding planetary relationships and further explores how planets treat others who occupy their places of dignity.  It allows astrologers an extra level of insight to see why some squares work out more easily than other squares and why some difficult placements don’t turn out to be quite as difficult.  However, there is another layer to planetary relationships that works as something of the inverse to reception and investigates how planets treat those who are located in their debilities.  This consideration will be covered in depth in the final installment, “Rejection.”

About Ryhan Butler:

Ryhan is the creator of Medieval Astrology Guide, and has studied classical astrological techniques with an emphasis on medieval astrology for just short of a decade.  He has lectured locally and as a part of national conferences, working to spread the techniques of medieval astrology to those who would otherwise not encounter them or may not immediately see their value.  He is also an active member of the Association for Young Astrologers and is currently serving on the steering committee of the Association for Astrological Networking.