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What does reception do?

Reception can mean different things according to the context of the chart we are looking at.
One of its important uses is to indicate a responsive engagement in an aspect.
The table shown below is based on Guido Bonatti's explanation of how easily matters come to
perfection, as given in his Liber Astronomiae, treatise 6, chapter 2, 104v (Dykes translation,
This shows that reception is not expected to be taken as an answer in itself, but as a
descriptive factor in aspectual application. What follows is obviously an expression of a general
principle, which assumes all other chart-factors to be equal.

How do planets receive?

Below is a diagram to show one of the textual examples offered by Bonatti. He explains how
the Moon in Aries is aspecting Mars in Gemini by sextile. The Moon is received by Mars because
the aspect is cast from a place where Mars is dignified (by sign). This allows Mars to 'commit its
disposition' to the Moon, which increases the Moon's potential effectiveness.

Note that this is not a mutual reception, because Mars is not positioned in any of the Moon's
areas of dignity, and so the Moon does not simultaneously receive Mars.
It is important to realise that most traditional references to 'reception' are talking only about a
single-sided reception like this. Mutual reception, as its name suggests, offers an indication of
mutual reciprocity, the meaning of which is self-evident once the basic principles of single-sided
reception are properly understood.
Let's imagine that the Moon signifies our querent and refer to Bonatti's table for the expected

outcome of this aspect. Since it is the querent's planet which is moving most quickly, and so
making the application towards the quesited's planet, we can expect that this easy aspect,
which is received, is likely to work out well. However, the querent cannot expect the situation
to fall into her lap, but must be prepared to invest some energy and will power into an
opportunity which has the potential to be successful. Her planet is the one making the
application so the onus falls upon her to find ways to gain the quesited's attention.
If this sextile aspect was not received, the prospect of perfection would drop a level. Then we
are told that the good opportunity remains, but will only be actualised if driven home by the
querent, who must be prepared to be diligent and expect to work over some obstacles in the
accomplishment of what she seeks.
Now compare this to the situation where Mars signifies the querent and the Moon signifies the
quesited (as can often happen since the Moon is able to generally signify the matter asked
about). This gives an indication of the 'easiest perfection of all' because the matter asked about
is brought to the querent, as if it is dropped into his lap. Now the only thing to judge is whether
the querent really does want this thing which is offered to him without any strain. It is the
movement of the planets which indicates desire or motivation, so this manner of perfection although it is the easiest for the querent to accept if he wants it - may not indicate where his
own deeper motivation lies. Hence we can't really rely upon this being the most assured
indication that the matter will go ahead, unless we have other indications to show that the
querent genuinely wants it too. In relationship charts, the primitive desire to give chase and be
hunted often causes complications!
For those who believe that an unreceived opposition aspect can indicate perfection, take
Bonatti's final description in the table above and read it out loud - slowly. Then consider the
point he makes beforehand that matters which are perfected under these difficult signatures
may seem to work out in the end, but the perfection is not long-lived, and is usually destroyed
shortly afterwards. William Lilly's experience led him to agree with this, which is why he made
the comment that, even with reception involved, he has rarely seen anything brought to
perfection by opposition "but that the querent had been better the thing being undone". (CA
p.125) Lilly gives an example of pursuing a debt through the legal system, which cost more to
pursue than the debt was worth.

When do planets receive?

The links below go to longer articles where the traditional and philosophical principles of
reception are explained more fully. In a nutshell, some of the important points to remember
about reception are:
A planet will only 'receive' an aspect if that aspect comes from a place where it is
dignified. It will not 'receive' an aspect from a place where it experiences debility or
detriment. There is no such thing as 'reception by detriment'.
To 'be dignified' is different from 'having some dignity'. The latter can save a planet from
being peregrine but it does not describe a planet which is notably effective and
essentially strong, which is what we expect when we refer to it being 'dignified'. So in
the practical application of reception we are looking for the aspect to come from a place
where the planet being applied to holds a good, effective level of dignity, such as:
> it's own sign
> it's exaltation
> a place where it governs at least two of the other minor dignities
Many authors express the view that unless one of the three above mentioned conditions are
met, the reception will be too weak to be considered effective. Bonatti emphases this very
strongly in his third treatise where he says:

But if the Moon was joining Saturn, who is a ruler of the Aries triplicity but does not have any
other dignity there, he would not have received her: because he does not have more
than one of the minor dignities in that place, by which it is not possible to perfect
a reception.

Some of the text from Bonatti's work Liber Astronomiae, has been translated by Robert Hand
and is available online here.
For m ore about:
The principles of reception:
Lilly's use of Reception in Horary by Deborah Houlding
A brief comparison of the use of reception by historical authors by Deb Houlding
The use of planetary dignities:
A collection of resources and articles for beginners and advances students by Deborah Houlding
The use of three triplicity rulers:
The Classical Use of Triplicities by Deborah Houlding

Deborah Houlding is author of The Houses: Temples of the Sky (Wessex 1996), and
host of the astrology site www.skyscript.co.uk. Her personal website is at
This article and the diagrams it contains are made available for private, non-commercial use by
individuals. They may not be reproduced further, circulated in any other form, or made available
elsewhere on the web without specific permission from the author. Published online February 2010.


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