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The Definition of ‘Peregrine’

By Deborah Houlding
Some modern astrological works1 describe a peregrine planet as one which lacks any kind of essential dignity or debility, and so imply that peregrine status acts as a kind of neutral state, being the default value between the fortitude of essential dignity and the disablement of essential debility. This incorrectly defines a term which is traditionally intended to express weakness through a lack of essential dignity. Older sources are clear that whilst a peregrine planet can never be dignified, it can suffer additional levels of essential debilitation when placed in its sign of detriment or fall. Even without any extra debility, a peregrine planet is far from neutral, with a symbolic significance which is expected to range ‘from weak to worse’. The current confusion presents an opportunity to sharpen our understanding of the linguistic roots and traditional use of this symbolically-loaded and highly descriptive term. The Latin word peregrine has been used since the early Middle Ages to describe someone who is passing through unfamiliar territory.2 The word comprises a collection of Latin components which, together, express the state of travelling outside of one’s own (national or personal) territory.3 In its general archaic use, the adjective4 ‘peregrine ‘is used to describe strangers, pilgrims, travelers, or anyone who journeys across land over which they have no claim to ownership, from which they obtain no lawful privileges, and to which they give no personal allegiance. This sense of being outside of legal rights and ownership is embedded into the astrological term, which describes a planet that is poorly situated, unable to claim any level of essential dignity by being outside its own sign, exaltation, triplicity, term or face.5 Being a Latin word, the historical evidence for its astrological use begins with the Latin translations of Greek and Arabian texts, which started to become popular in the 12th century.6 The oldest instance of its astrological use is uncertain, but it can be found in the Medieval Latin translations of 9th century Arabian works such as those of Sahl, Masha’allah and Umar. An example is seen in the anonymous Latin translation of Sahl’s Introduction (a text known to have been available in Latin since the 12th century), which says of the ways that planets are debilitated:
Octavus ut sit planeta in domo in qua non habet testimonium .i. aliquam dignitatem .i. ut non sit in domo sua: aut exaltatione sua: vel triplicate etc et ut sit peregrines et iam insequutus a sole …7 8th, if the planet were in a house in which it has no testimony, viz, some dignity: that is, it were not in its own house or exaltation, nor triplicity etc, and so were peregrine and followed by the Sun…8

In this instance Sahl’s text appears to define as peregrine a planet which is not in its own sign, exaltation or triplicity, but which may or may not be in its own terms or face (since these are not mentioned in the text but implied by the “etc”). Early translators were using contemporary words to convey what was written in the text, and were most likely not aiming to set strict definitions for what would later be looked upon as traditional technicalities. So initially the term may have been loosely used, as a way to say that a planet was not in its own house or any of the areas where it could claim essential dignity, whatever those relevant dignities were considered to be. Sometimes a planet could be described as ‘peregrine from its own sign’,9 and we can see from other references (included at the end) that specific mention to the lesser dignities of term or face were occasionally included in the texts of authors who failed to mention them elsewhere.

© STA, Deborah Houlding, July 2010.


or peregrine or essentially debilitated. or may not. this passage is also of interest to the argument of whether participating triplicity rulers should gain recognition of dignity (this text suggesting that they should not). exaltation or triplicity is called by us peregrine: and therefore there are two ways to be peregrine : one simple without essential debility. of Aries. from 1609-1617: Peregrine.12 And William Lilly’s Christian Astrology (1647) p. and another for a planet which is debilitated. and less confusingly. canon 24): Whether some planet is peregrine or feral: A planet is said to be peregrine. that. rather than a philosophy which incorporates elements of subjective reasoning. Some examples include Schoener’s Opera Mathematica (1561. How then did the waters get muddied enough for modern authors to become confused about its meaning? The seed of misunderstanding appears to have been set in the publication of the French astrologer Jean Morin’s Astrologia Gallica (1661). as with the Sun in Aquarius. in fewer words. 2 .An interesting example of the word’s early use in horary can be found in a short treatise attributed to Masha’allah. Perhaps because Morin had no real interest in the symbolic application of the word.16 It is almost as if Morin suddenly realized that he had made misleading comments in other parts of his slowly compiled life’s work. © STA. Deborah Houlding. 28. In fact – demonstrating how heavily traditional authors remain dependent upon each other – the example of Saturn in Aries. is usually used in the formal definitions of when a planet is peregrine. However. which states that the term has two applications: one for a planet which is not debilitated. because then he is in his own Term. be essentially debilitated too. he could not be termed Peregrine. July 2010. De Cogitatione which concerns the astrological resolution of ‘contemplated concerns’. or of his Triplicity. but the other mixing with essential debility. peregrine”.15 could suggest that a planet is either essentially dignified. even in Morin’s text we see that this is not the case because he also includes a (rather vacuous) definition. and this is worse. Exaltation. And note that every planet which is situated outside of its own home. or he having in that degree neither Term or Face. [but] had he been in 27. its sign of fall. and is not a statement on how the planet is (or is not) essentially debilitated. that Sign being not his House.14 Taken by itself. a text which reveals an open dislike of the concept of essential dignity due to Morin’s inclination towards measuring astrology as an astronomically objective science. as with the Sun in Capricorn.10 The text refers to Saturn as the dispositor of the Part of Fortune. but cannot be two of those conditions simultaneously. when it is not in any of its own essential dignities: as Saturn in the 6th degree of Aries possesses no essential dignity. &c.112: A Planet is then said to be Peregrine.13 Exploring the astrological use of this word across a number of historical authorities offers a clear demonstration that the definition of peregrine status is only about a lack of essential dignity.11 Besides demonstrating the recognition of peregrine status in a sign of detriment. when he is in the degrees of any Sign wherein he hath no essential dignity. Whatever the situation. as Saturn in the tenth degree of Aries. Which is seen again in John Searl’s Ephemeris for Nine Years Inclusive. Which takes us back to what the older authorities were able to say more elegantly. describing it as “in Leo. is when a planet is found out of all his essential dignities: as Saturn in the 6th degree of Aries. and so sought to include a definition which had little value other than to justify the contradictory ways in which he had used the term himself. and similar references from Morin. he gave a misleading description of a planet “in a mediocre condition such as peregrine”. he is then said to be Peregrine. and so is said to be peregrine. the net result of Morin’s definition is to say this: a peregrine planet is one which lacks essential dignity. and it may.

exaltation.* &c. (1947. it were not in some of its own dignities. because then he is in his own term. and if they were in signs in which they have testimony. nor in its detriment or fall. and likewise there is no impediment. that is. * Here terms are mentioned as a way to escape peregrine status. in their houses or exaltations or triplicities or terms. 1 © STA. &c. ‘Callidus’ might mean cunning. Deborah Houlding. or in the midheaven or in the eleventh. of Aries. the verb egre ‘to surpass/overstep/go beyond’ and the suffix ine ‘pertaining to’. if it were not in its own house or exaltation and it were direct and in a good place from the ascendant. Had he been in 27.† that is. or he having in that degree neither term or face. † SATURN PEREGRINE IN ITS SIGN OF FALL “A planet is said to be peregrine.” William Lilly. and ager (‘field/acre’) but my own belief is that the components are the prefix per ‘through/passing though’. [then] it will be (accessed 16 July 2010). 41: Of a peregrine planet If a planet were on a peregrination. C. This presents the idea of a peregrine planet having to live on its wits. or of his triplicity. as Saturn in the 10th degree of Aries. their malice is increased and their impediment is made greater. p. when he is in the degrees of any Sign wherein he has no essential dignity. they refrain from malice. its mind and nature will be crafty. p. if they were not in their own house nor in exaltation. Face is mentioned below. as is exaltation. their fortune and good is diminished. face. And if they were in a sign in which there is testimony. C. he could not be termed Peregrine.51) which declares “A planet that is not in any of its own dignities. 2 The word ‘peregrination’ is dated to the 12th century in the Online Etymology Dictionary at http://dictionary. that is.* their fortune is magnified and perfected and their good is augmented. Christian Astrology (1647) p. 4 The related verb is ‘to peregrinate’ and the related noun is to make ‘a peregrination’. Notes & References: Influential modern texts which present a misleading definition include Nicholas de Vore’s Encyclopedia of Astrology. clever or crafty (sharp in thought). that sign being not his house. 3 The usual view is that the word derives from the Latin components per ‘through/passing though’. that is. is peregrine”. 28: On fortunes which are or are not peregrine If the fortunes were in a sign in which they have no testimony. 3 .. July 2010. 28.Use of the Latin term peregrine in Sahl’s (Zael’s) Quinquaginta precepta ‘Fifty Principles’ C. (2005.102. 26: On malefics in signs in which they are or are not peregrine If the malefic planets were in a peregrine sign. nor in triplicity.275) which states “Said of a planet posited in a sign where it possesses no essential dignity: where it is neither dignified nor debilitated” and John Frawley’s Horary Textbook. which might be a good thing if the planet has accidental strength.

or void of essential dignities.400). its sign of fall (C. 2010).sas. 4 . 14 Holden translates as ‘intermediate state’. ut ^ in à: alterum vero mixtam cum essentiali debilitate. One concerns the fortunate position which it may occupy. Persian Nativities Volume II.renaissanceastrology. he cannot then be said to be peregrine: understand this in all the other ed. p.php?p=36398: ‘Peregrine: what definition do you use?’) © STA. 16 Astrologia Gallica.This accords with William Lilly’s definition of the term. translated by Benjamin Dykes (Minnesota. or in any other position congenial to it. he cannot be said to be peregrine. aut trigonem.. ch. in the midheaven or ascendant or in the 11th … it signifies its own greater years. Umar’s Three Books of Nativities expresses the principle in regard to the determination of greater years for strong planets and lesser years for weak planets: 7 … if it were in its own domicile or exaltation or its own triplicity. while if either in its detriment or its fall. for bringing this comment from Morin to my attention (a thread which explores this issue can be seen at http://skyscript. See Juste’s notice for Zael. the 33rd principle of Sahl’s Fifty Principles refers to a benefic being impeded when it is “peregrine from its own sign or cadent from the ascendant”. if.htm (accessed 15 July 2010). Caput XIII: ‘Of the Essential Dignities of the Planets’. the lord of the Part of Fortune was Saturn. A Latin translation is available as a digital facsimile by courtesy of the Warburg institute at http://warburg.html for he lists the terms of Saturn and then writes: 5 The meaning whereof is that if Saturn in any question be in any of these degrees wherein he hath a term. its lady.svkol. in fifteen degrees. 9 For example. 11 Dominus quoque partis fortuuae erat Saturnus. 8 The meaning of this comment is that a planet which lacks essential dignity and is receding in its synodic cycle is weak and debilitated – a point we see more clearly expressed in similar references from the same period. but I am leaving these outside of the scope of this short article. The Latin translation is available as a digital facsimile by courtesy of the Warburg institute. not received. it may have one or more of these it signifies its own lesser years. July 2010. C. 10 The treatise is included in the compendium of translated texts in The Works of Sahl and Masha’allah by Benjamin Dykes. An example can be seen in Ramsay Wright’s 1934 English translation of Al Biruni’s Elements. Introductorium at http://warburg. where he describes Hopton’s significator. ut ^ in â & haec deterior est. calamity is added to the alien situation.306).uk/forums/viewtopic. but she was being joined to Venus from the quadrate aspect. p. non receptus. and the Moon likewise was in Libra in the house of Venus in ten Bk 21. in the house of the Moon. Deborah Houlding. The translated passage can be found on leaf 1 and 2 of p. qui erat in Leone peregrinus. In Christian Astrology (p.pdf (15 July 2010).sas. 2010). Published in 1609. And the Moon was peregrine. (p. peregrine and in Aries.. who was in Leo. exaltationem. v. dica à nobis peregrinum: ac proinde duplicem esse peregrinationem: unam simplicem sine essentiali debilitate. Outside of the Latin texts alternative terms are used to express the same concept. 13 A practical example is found in Lilly’s horary concerning Sir William Waller’s battle engagement with Sir Ralph Hopton. For example. because she was not in her own domicile nor in exaltation nor in triplicity. that any level of essential dignity avoids peregrine status. available as facsimile at www.10 in the PDF file. And if it were peregrine and occidental in those places. e.g. ch. as wholly unfortunate being accidentally afflicted. 4th paragraph for a similar implication of peregrine as an intermediate state.94 of the Warburg PDF). was in Cancer. or be in its exaltation.II. and Venus. Liber XV. or if he be in any of these degrees allotted him for his face or decanate. (11th cent.14. Also. II.htm (16 of which the ascendant was the ten degrees Taurus. the Latin reads: 12 Noteturque planetam omnem qui versatur extra suam domum. in particular the member ‘janeg’. it should be lord of the house in which it is situated. I am grateful to the members of the Skyscript forum.496. and was received. If however it is not in a favourable situation it is said to be peregrine (gharfb). Warnock 2004 – see www. A facsimile is included in the collection of 82 texts on The Renaissance Astrology CD library. The translation of the relevant passage reads: A question was offered. p. concerning ‘Testimony and Dignity’: 6 The expressions testimony and dignity are synonymous terms and are applicable to a planet in two different ways. v. 15 See also book 18. the Latin reads mediocriter affectus: Astrologia Gallica.