Domicile and Detriment

In a book I am currently reading, the author recounts an infamous incident involving a former US college (NCAA) basketball coach, Bob “Bobby” Knight, who in a fit of rage flung a chair across the court during a game. I don’t follow US college basketball so I had no idea who Knight was. Intrigued, I did some digging and found that he had coached the 4th most number of career wins in the men’s NCAA Division I games. His 1975-1976 Indiana team went undefeated during the regular season and won the 1976 NCAA title. The 1976 Indiana squad is the last men’s college basketball team to go undefeated for the entire season.

Clearly, Knight is a highly accomplished and celebrated coach. So what was with the chair incident? Was it a one-time outburst that grabbed headlines, and was seared in everyone’s memory forever, or was he a generally bad-tempered person who was prone to violent outbursts? Turns out he was a repeat offender. He was once arrested in Puerto Rico for a physical confrontation with a police officer. He regularly displayed a volatile nature–there is that videotape in which he appears to have possibly grabbed one of his players by the neck. He was accused of choking a player during practice. He was outspoken, combative, and highly demonstrative.

It was all clearly an expression of Mars energy-the anger, the combativeness, the violence–and not in a good way. I wanted to look at his horoscope, specifically to see how his Mars was placed. He was born on October 25, 1940. The Ephemeris shows the following planetary positions for his birthday:

Mars is in Libra? Really? Libra is known for its predilection to keep the peace, strive for harmony and balance, build relationships, be diplomatic in its dealings with others. You would think that the sharp edges of Mars would be softened by Libra, taming the person’s aggressive behavior, making them less combative. But with Knight you have the exact opposite. What gives?

What gives is the notion of a planet being in detriment or debilitation, a principle that is used routinely in traditional natal astrology, and also in horary astrology where it plays a crucial role.

To understand this, let’s start with the knowledge that each planet rules a sign. The Sun rules Leo, the Moon rules Cancer, Mercury rules Gemini and Virgo, etc. Traditional astrology (which does not use outer planets) assigned Mars to rule Scorpio (in addition to Aries), Saturn to rule Aquarius (in addition to Capricorn), and Jupiter to rule Pisces (in addition to Sagittarius). This made for a pleasing symmetry where aside from the Sun and the Moon, every planet (up to Saturn) ruled two signs. Traditional astrology uses the term “lordship” for rulership. As in Mars is the lord of Aries and Scorpio, Venus is the lord of Taurus and Libra, and so on.

Modern astrology (as of the turn of the 19th century) departed from the tradition of dual ownerships for Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, and instead, gave the rulership of Scorpio, Pisces, and Aquarius Scorpio to the outer planets Pluto, Neptune, and Uranus, respectively.

In traditional astrology, planets get special dispensation based on particular sign placements. The first such dispensation is that of a planet being domicile, or own sign. If a planet is in the sign it rules, it is said to be strongly placed. Strongly placed means that the planet is able to function in a constructive manner because it is in its “home” sign. When you are in your home, you feel secure and safe, which allows your best qualities to emerge.

Here is a quick lookup table for planets in their domiciles (traditional):


Consider Mars in Aries, where it would be in its domicile or own sign, since it rules Aries. As a result, all the Martian qualities–assertiveness, anger, ability to defend one’s ground, ability to fight for one’s rights, etc.–would find clear and well-modulated expression in Aries. Mars in Aries is angry at the right time, in the right way (without resorting to violence or explosive outbursts), when it defends its position. It is assertive when it wants to get things done, without stepping all over other people to achieve goals. Mars in Aries is comfortable in its skin, so it can express itself in a healthy and constructive way.

Now consider Mars in Libra. Libra is the sign that’s opposite to Aries, and Mars is thus said to be in its detriment, or debilitation in Libra.

Aries (0-30) is opposite Libra (180-210)

When Mars is in its detriment, it is less likely to behave itself. It is out of its element, uneasy and at odds with itself. Anger is misplaced, or misused. It’s energy is not modulated, and it tends to explode into violence when put in a spot. Assertiveness is untrammeled, used without judgment, so it gets vicious and steps all over others in getting what it wants. Questioning quickly turns to combativeness. Just like with Bob Knight.

A debilitated Mars need not always get out of hand, if other restraining factors and good sense are brought to bear. There are millions of people with Mars in Libra, and not all of them have major anger issues. So to get a better handle on the energy expression of Mars in Libra, I would look at the position of the ruler of Libra, meaning Venus, and see where is Venus placed. (Venus is said to be the dispositor of Mars, i.e. the ruler of the sign in which Mars is placed.) A Venus that is comfortably placed would help diffuse the sharp edges of Mars. (I would also look at the aspects made by Mars to understand if there is a provocative element that goads Mars into outbursts, but here I want to focus on the dispositor.)

Looking back at the birthday ephemeris for Knight, we see that Venus is in Virgo. This is not the best placement for Venus, either, in terms of bringing in gentleness and peace (Venus in domicile Taurus would do it), or harmony and fair-play (Venus in domicile Libra). In fact, Venus happens to be in its fall in Virgo. (Just like domicile-detriment, traditional astrologers used another polarity factor, exaltation-fall to evaluate the behavior of planets. I will take up this topic in another post.) A planet in its fall is not in a strong position to compensate for another planet’s bad behavior, it has its own complex issues to deal with.

I don’t mean to be judgmental with the interpretation of domicile-detriment (and exaltation-fall). Human beings are multi-faceted. Aside from other factors that can compensate, there is a question of innate maturity and good sense, and ideals of good behavior that can arise out of being nurtured in a supportive environment.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t turn a blind eye to such placements: if a person is indeed having issues with their behavior, recognizing these placements is a first step to naming the issues, which goes a long way to find ways to correct the behavior. Toward this end, I would look at a multitude of other compensating factors including the aspects made by Mars, the placement of the Moon–which is critical to overall behavior–and aspects of all the planets to Saturn, which is a restraining influence that promotes maturity.

At this point, I want to illustrate a couple of life-to-horoscope correspondences involving Mars that stand out. One is that Knight was named head coach of the Army basketball team (Black Knights) at West Point. He was only 24! The Martian symbolism here is staggering, because Mars signifies soldiers, and the army. And in a weirdly fitting way, Knight’s Mars really came out to play–it was here that Knight gained notoriety for his terrible behavior. He gained a reputation for an explosive temper. After one particular loss, completely lost control, kicking lockers and verbally blasting the official.

The other very interesting correspondence has to do with the Oscar winning actor Russell Crowe. In a post on the sign Aries, I wrote up a mini personality sketch of Crowe, who has the Sun in Aries. The point there was to illustrate that some of the Aries qualities of combativeness and aggression were taken to the extreme by Crowe, who exhibited an explosive temper and regularly picked fights that turned ugly. Rather like Knight. So what’s Crowe’s Mars up to?

If you look at the planetary placements for his birthday (April 7, 1964), you will see that aside from the Sun, Mars is also in Aries. It’s it in its own sign, so shouldn’t it shows its better side, and exhibit good behavior? And chances are it would, if it weren’t for the Sun also being in Aries. Apparently, the double dose of Aries got a bit much, and Crowe wasn’t able to control the surge. To add to this, it turns out that Jupiter is also in Aries in Crowe’s horoscope, which must have egged on Mars in a much bigger way than the Sun. Jupiter expands and exaggerates whatever it touches, and in this case, it appears to have amped up the Mars in Aries to explosive heights.

Question is: are Mars, Sun, and Jupiter conjunct? Let’s look at the degree positions for the Ephemeris on April 7, 1964:

Mars is at 6o38′, Sun is at 17o12′, and Jupiter is at 28o45′. The separation between Mars and Sun is over 10 degrees. In the post on the conjunction aspect, I mentioned that the Sun and Moon are the most important planets in a horoscope, and are therefore accorded wider latitude in the determination of conjunctions. So here I would definitely say that Mars is conjunct the Sun. The separation between the Sun and Jupiter is over 11 degrees. Again, this stretches the limit of the acceptable orb for a conjunction, but I would say it is acceptable. So what about Mars-Jupiter? Would that be considered a conjunction? Technically no, since the separation is over 20 degrees. But here is the thing. There are three planets here, all in Aries, which are clearly going to work together in unison. There are effectively acting through, or acting out, the qualities of Aries. They are also like planets, in that they all express outgoing, give-it-all, dominant energies, unlike say, a combination of Mars and Saturn, or Sun and Venus. In short, we have a tremendous accumulation of highly charged, gung-ho Aries energy that is just raring to go. And in yet another astounding turn of synchronicity, like in Knight’s life-to-horoscope correspondence, there is a remarkable connection in Crow’s life: the Oscar he got was for the role of a soldier/gladiator (Mars squared!) in the movie Gladiator.

We all need to wield drive, assertiveness, and anger in going after what we want, battling for resources, fending off threats, holding our own. All of this requires us to express our personal Mars traits. We are called to do this regularly, with family, friends, work colleagues, and the world at large. Especially if your Mars is in Aries/Libra, you need to pay extra attention to all that you have read in this post. (I haven’t talked about Scorpio, the other domicile of Mars, will save it for that other all-planets roundup post.) If your Mars is not in Aries/Scorpio or Libra/Taurus (Taurus being opposite to Scorpio), you are not totally off the hook! There are other factors that might set off the Mars, as for instance, Jupiter being in the same sign as Mars. More so if it is very close Mars. Or even the Sun being very close to Mars.

See the post on Ephemeris to know how to get the planetary placements, including Mars, for your birthday. Review the posts on Mars, and the signs, to draw a line from how you express Martian energies in your life to the placement of Mars in your horoscope. A healthy expression of Mars is absolutely vital in chasing down your goals, and attaining your dreams. Taking ownership of the Mars energy, and making it work for you in constructive ways, is one of the best things you can do for yourself.