The Curious Case of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Turner

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Is Your Chart Dignified?

The truth is that essential dignity tells you quite little about the “essential dignity” of a planet.

Let us examine the curious case of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Turner. Their birth charts strikingly illustrate how misleading essential dignity can be, particularly when it comes to evaluating the “essential dignity” of a planet’s significations.

Behavior Worthy of Respect?

Sign-based dignity is often evaluated as the name would imply, as indicating whether a planet signifies something that is worthy of respect and admiration. For instance, whether a planet’s significations tend to be more stable and fortunate or unstable and unfortunate. Also, whether a planet is signifying people in admired or lofty positions or those with low status.

While this approach makes sense in theory, in practice it is often a poor indicator of “dignity”. Over-reliance on sign-based dignity, often to the exclusion of other more reliable indications, causes many traditional astrologers to strongly mis-read charts.

In another article, I explore in greater depth traditional astrology’s obsession with dignity pointing, almutens, and sign-based indications of fortune/misfortune. This obsession has done more to harm today’s practice of traditional astrology than anything else. First, let’s look at sign-based dignities failings in practice.

Getting Critical

Astrology suffers from cherry-picking and reinterpreting factors in inconsistent ways. This is true of both traditional astrology and modern astrology. In traditional astrology, an astrologer may put most of their emphasis on sign-based dignity for evaluating the good or bad of a signification, but then when confronted with a chart where it doesn’t work, change gears just for that chart and look at a different factor such as sect or house position. In this way, chart factors are interpreted in an inconsistent fashion, in which one “finds the life” in the chart.

There is nothing inherently wrong with finding the life in the chart. When we know something is true, we want to understand how the chart signifies it, so we look for that information in the chart. However, charts are complex with many factors and often contradictory information. More importantly, when we look at a chart blind and have to interpret it, are we just doing so using prevailing assumptions (such as that sign-based dignity signifies dignity) or are we doing so from real experience?

Confirmation Bias

The problem is that experience without critical thinking is simply a process of confirming assumptions in different ways on different charts. George Soros is very successful and his chart is full of sign-based dignity, therefore dignity indicates success, or so it goes. Astrologers seldom ask the hard questions that would enable them to think critically and say this factor is more important than this other factor for this type of signification, and then consistently rank them that way.

Question Received Wisdom with Negative Examples

It takes negative examples to determine whether an approach is really working. Let’s say we assume that by examining dignity we can determine “the dignity” associated with a factor (as in goodness or loftiness). Later, we run across some charts where that assumption leads us to the wrong conclusions. Then we need to adjust our practice and re-interpret sign-based dignity, even if it runs counter to our assumptions or sources. This is the “art” part of astrology and is necessary for improvement.

Clarify Mixed Indications with Extremes

Mixed indications similarly further our practice. Let’s say dignity is not successfully indicating what we thought it was indicating. Now we need to consider some other factors, such as sect and place position (dark place), as well as the influence of malefic planets. Perhaps we didn’t really consider these factors important before. Now we find we must incorporate them into our practice to fill the gaps. Our astrology improves again.

Let’s say we experiment with sect, place, and malefic planet influence. We find that these often do show hardship or harm associated with an indication. If sign-based dignity is a strong indicator of goodness or loftiness, especially when we are talking about a lot of positive dignity, then we would assume that it could mitigate against any extremes shown by these other indications. If it fails to indicate mitigation against extremes, both against negative extremes, and in the case of negative dignity, against positive extremes, then we must conclude that it either has to do with something other than ideas of “dignity” (i.e. has nothing to do with goodness or loftiness) or that it is an exceedingly weak indication of such as to be almost insignificant.


A Life Undignified

Dahmer was exemplary in how undignified the display of aggression, sexuality, depraved mentality, and fear was throughout his adult life. His first kill occurred in response to a male hitchhiker refusing to have sex with him. Later kills were of men and underage boys he lured into abusive sexual relations and then raped, dismembered, raped while dead, etc. He even ate flesh from many of his victims.

His life was a series of failures. He became an alcoholic in his teenage years and was an outcast with few friends. Discharged from the army due to poor performance, he did not associate with any lofty individuals, worked only menial jobs, and was frequently in trouble with the law. When captured after his killing spree, he was imprisoned, where a fellow inmate ended his miserable life.

A Chart Overflowing with Essential Dignity

He just so happened to have been born with a whopping 4 planets in domicile (Mars, Venus, Mercury, Saturn; i.e. the planets of aggression, sexuality, mentality, and fear).  The planets in domicile include the ruler of the Ascendant (Venus) and the almuten of the Ascendant (Saturn).  To most traditional astrologers using a dignity pointing system, Dahmer had an extremely dignified Venus (+8), an extremely dignified Mercury (+8), a very dignified Mars (+5), and a very dignified Saturn (+5). The Sun and Moon were peregrine and only Jupiter was negatively dignified.  In other words, there is an unusually high amount of planetary dignity in Dahmer’s chart.

Jeffrey Dahmer’s Natal Chart

Ted Turner

Billionaire Philanthropist

For those unfamiliar with Ted Turner, he is a billionaire philanthropist and media tycoon. He inherited his father’s billboard business at age 24 and developed a huge media empire, including CNN.  At his worst, he has been known to put his foot in his mouth.

A Detrimental Chart

Poor Ted has 3 planets in detriment, another 1 in fall. Not a single planet in his chart has two forms of minor dignity or one form of major dignity. Turner’s chart is a virtual vacuum of essential dignity.

Ted Turner's Natal Chart
Ted Turner’s Natal Chart

Dignity and Character

Hellenistic: Ruler of the Ascendant and Mercury

The condition of the ruler of the Ascendant and that of Mercury are typically used as strong indicators of the character and moral disposition (c.f. Masha’alah: On Nativities (Sec. 5); Abu’Ali Al-Khayyat: The Judgment of Nativities (Ch. 5);  Ptolemy: Tetrabiblos (Book 3, Ch. 13).  Ptolemy also looked at Mercury for the mind/reason (i.e. conscious mind) and the Moon for the senses/irrationality (i.e. subconscious mind).

Medieval: Ruler of the Ascendant or a Generally Prominent Planet

For later astrologers like Bonatti (c.f. Treatise 9, Part 3) the ruler of the Ascendant is typically the most important signifier in this matter. The most common alternative is to look at the strongest planets in the chart for this information, particularly planets in the 1st, 10th, or one of the other angles or “stakes” of the chart (c.f. Abu Bakr: On Nativities (Book 2)).

Dahmer’s Character

If essential dignity is the most important factor, or even one of the major factors, in consideration of the good/bad quality of planetary significations, then Dahmer should be of stellar character and moral disposition. Consider that the ruler of the Ascendant is highly dignified in domicile, the exalted ruler of the Ascendant is highly dignified in domicile, Mercury is highly dignified in domicile, and the most angular planet, Mars, is also highly dignified in domicile.

One could argue that other factors might mitigate. However, if dignity is a significant factor, then dignity itself would mitigate against any extremes indicated by those other factors How could those other factors, typically considered minor relative to dignity, significantly diminish Dahmer’s moral greatness, let alone completely subvert it?

The Message

Get out of the Dignity Trap

If you’re learning, or even more importantly, if you’re practicing traditional astrology, then you owe it to yourself and your clients to get out of the essential dignity trap.  Investigate those factors more important to making a planet fortunate or unfortunate in the western tradition.

Look First at Other Strength Factors

Personally, I am against the contrived weighted dignity pointing system accepted as scripture by most traditional astrologers.  I find dignity to be a “STRENGTH” consideration of medium to low level importance. It must be considered relative to advancing/retreating, stationing, phasis/combustion/cazimi, place, and regard by lights.

Ignore Dignity as a Beneficence Indicator

I find sign-based dignity to be insignificant in consideration of planetary beneficence/maleficence (and “dignity” in the dictionary sense). In Hellenistic astrological texts, there is a stress on the fundamental nature of the planet, sect, place, and the influence of other planets for analyzing good/bad quality. Sign-based rejoicing conditions are discussed but are less consistently stressed than sect, place, and planetary influence.

I’d rather have a malefic in fall, in sect, in a good place any day over a malefic in exaltation, out of sect, in a bad place. I actually have a malefic that is exalted but out of sect and in a bad place in my own natal chart. Activations of that exalted planet haven’t been so fun.

Parting Notes

In honing the art of astrology, strong minimal pairs we can at least disprove the effectiveness of certain approaches. This minimal pair provides some of the strongest evidence against the use of dignity for analyzing “dignity”.

Sign-based dignity does not confer or impede significant fortune or positivity in natal charts (nor in other charts). If it did then Dahmer would have lived a life surrounded by admirable and lofty circumstances, while Ted Turner saw lows of depravity. The sooner astrologers downgrade essential dignity to a lesser consideration, the sooner they will move away from mere confirmation-bias and toward the art of astrology.

Note: This article was significantly edited and revised in August of 2018. For more analysis of these two charts see the character analysis article and the analysis with twelfth-parts. A deeper exploration of dignity can be found in this article on dignity scoring. For alternative techniques for assessing strength and beneficence please see the series of lessons. 



Blogger interested in all things astrological, especially Hellenistic, medieval, Uranian, and asteroid astrology.

25 thoughts on “The Curious Case of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ted Turner

  • January 2, 2019 at 1:05 pm

    I recently read that when Dahmer was a boy he injured his scrotum requiring surgery which resulted in a long period of chronic pain, which according to his father, would make him cry sometimes. I wonder how this negative experience with the genitals may have impacted his psychopathology.
    The potential for this is shown in the natal chart with asc ruler Venus in the 8th which rules the genitalia and in the bounds of Saturn. She is also in an overcoming trine from Saturn and heading deeper in the sun’s beams. L6 is Jupiter Rx and in Fall in the stakes, co-present with Saturn and in a dominating square to Mars, also in the stakes, square Saturn and in the bounds of Venus.

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  • December 22, 2011 at 2:32 am

    In Vettius Valens Anthologies on page 59 chapter 2 entitled “The Significant Degrees of the Angles” is described the same 1/3 technique. Only the wording is different: operative, avarage influence, inoperative.

    In the free Morinus astrological software with SHIFT-F12 (switching to Por­phyry houses) is very easy to see if the star is advancing, medium advancing or retreating.

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  • December 13, 2011 at 1:46 am

    Dear Anthony,

    It’s a brilliant analysis. Well done. As I understood the dynamics of the chart are more important than strength/weakness of the planets. Is this resulting from your experience or did you learn from somewhere? More importantly where can I learn/study this kind of thinking?  You are very productive, you are writing more rapidly than I am reading 🙂 But soon I will a finish reading all your articles and then reread it again and again  Marvelous blog, thanks.

    I tried to find the source of Advancing/Retreating concept in Benjamin Dykes ITA book but I didn’t find any reference to the 1/3 zodiacal travel. Can you tell me where can I find more information about this concept?



    • December 13, 2011 at 9:34 am

      Hi Csaba,

      Thanks! I had a burst of opportunity to write, though I’ll be down-shifting a bit over the next couple months due to some obligations.

      My approach to the chart is primarily from my own experience with reading charts, trying to seek more predictive accuracy and clearer indications. However, I find the vocabulary is often richest in the Hellenistic period, which gives a lot to work with. Chris Brennan’s Hellenistic astrology course is the best way that I know to start diving in to that material with a great foundation and some accessibility. I like the factors and some of the interpretive tools used in Persian special techniques. So, in a sense, I’m a take the best and leave the rest type of person, which I guess is not something common or encouraged in the traditional community due to fear of mistransmission/mischaracterization. I’m not a great astrologer by any means, but I’d like my craft to improve rather than atrophy into some sort of historical reenactment.

      1/3 zodiacal travel is my simplification of the angular and succedent vs. cadent notion used with quadrant houses for strength later in the Persian period and onwards. Basically, it’d be the Porphyry houses equivalent. 1/3 travel, the 15 degree rule, and such, these are conveniences to keep things consistent and coherent, rather than rigid elements of interpretation. I don’t find that once a planet has made 1/3 travel from one angle to the next, it suddenly turns from weak to strong. I view it more as a range of volume of the planet, in a pervasiveness sense. It’s also somewhat relative, like who, of 7 people, is speaking loudest (and the Sun and Moon are always quite loud in this respect). For instance, Mercury in phasis in the 10th with dignity at the 1st, will have relevance for the character and the career, and be strong in both respects, while Mercury strongly advancing will display a huge range of Mercury’s significations all over the life, particularly the accidental ones, but well beyond. The native may be a business person, a linguist, and an astrologer, at the same time, encountering “Mercury”, so to speak, everywhere. Volume is the best way I can describe it. Not necessarily success, competency, stability, or pertinence to one specific thing, but the volume of the planet’s voice, it being hard to step away from in the life. I see many great artists with Venus in the 1st or 10th but retreating, and these artists seem to work best in private, their art is more private, and if they are stage performers, connected with a prominent 5th, then they may be very escapist on stage to “get to” Venus, because a retreating Venus does not want to be directly public and will try to hide. She may be prominent with them personally (pertinence), the person may be prominent, the promotion of the career to the public may be prominent, but Venus may be retreating. I hope I’m not confusing the issue, but “strength”, particularly, is a multi-faceted matter.

      To bring things back to Dahmer, with Saturn and Mars retreating, we don’t expect extensive exposure to all of the broad significations of Mars, from ambition, strong will, muscle, military, sport, courage, rough work, dangerous things, rugged masculinity, a taste for conflict and big changes, etc. We also don’t expect the father, land, real estate, minerals, oppression, etc. etc. to make its mark all over the life in general. Not that there isn’t some of both, due to “personal” prominence, but just that those planets are not constantly blaring in the life with broad significations. However, we expect both to be very important to the person on some level, and to typically become clearest privately, due to being in stakes, but retreating. It is the Moon that is blaring over the loud-speakers of the life, and she is strongly pushed around by Mars and Saturn. It IS extremely, extremely helpful to know which planet or planets are blaring over the loud-speakers, even though that planet or those planets alone won’t give you some quick key to understanding the character by themselves without taking account of context.

      Best wishes,


      • December 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm

        Your words was the final push for me to enroll in Chris Brennan’s Hellenistic Astrology course 🙂 He has plenty of material to study. This will keep me busy for a while. Thanks.

  • December 12, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Can you elaborate a bit about the character and moral of this two chart in the light of the traditional astrology?

    • December 12, 2011 at 4:45 pm

      Hi Csaba,

      Yes, but very briefly. How about I do Dahmer, then you do Turner? 🙂 Although with Turner, one of the biggest issues is eminence, which is a whole different can of worms from character. I’ll have an entire series on character analysis, coming up when I have time. It’s one of the few topics in natal astrology that I’m really into. I should also note that I’m an astrologer drawing on traditional techniques from the first millenium, and not a historicist or one seeking to exactly reproduce some particular historical figure’s approach to the chart, citing maxims and all that. There are indeed many astrologers of the Hellenistic period and beyond that insisted that one’s merit and success was directly linked to how many planets one had in domicile, exaltation, or bound. I strongly disagree with that view. Unfortunately, such opinions took on increasing importance, while the importance of sect and other matters faded. I’m very interested in testing and seeing what’s most effective.

      Abu’ali on the Lord of the Ascendant and Mercury: “these signify the matters of the soul, and the morals of the native, just as the Moon and the Ascendant signify the body” (The Judgment of Nativities, Dykes trans., 2009, p. 236). Abu Bakr on the other hand has us look at dominant planets in the chart, particularly in the 1st or 10th, somewhat along similar lines as victor of the chart approaches. Ptolemy looks at Mercury for the rational mind and the Moon for the irrational, mirrored in the modern-day notion of a conscious and unconscious mind, with the unconscious more strongly related to physiological processes.

      Rather than using all strength/weakness and beneficence/maleficence conditions at my disposal in the literature, I’m going to restrict myself, almost exclusively, to those which I find of the most importance for this brief look, which I summarized in this post in the sections in which I discuss such things. Personally, I recognize at least 3 distinct types of strength, 1. Volume, which pertains to the extent a planet pours out its natural significations far beyond its accidental significations (advancing/retreating, stations, phasis, apogee), 2. Stability/Prototypicality which in many ways is less important than #1 (various conditions of congruity, including being in a place of “dignity”), 3. Pertinence, which is the relevance of a planet to a particular matter, such as a planet in the 1st or one of its stakes, particularly the 10th, being pertinent to characterizing the person (naturally signifying something; being in a place, ruling a place, or regarding a place particularly by opposition or right-side square or right-side trine). To me these are very different from beneficence/maleficence which pertains more to natural signification, sect, place, and planetary influence.

      Ruler of 1st (Commonly used because of accidental significance, including by Masha’allah in On Nativities, and Abu’ali in The Judgment of Nativities, among many): Planet is Venus, the benefic, though she is made malefic by being out of sect, in the 8th place, regarded on the right-side most closely by Saturn (by trine) in the 4th. Saturn is the dominant planetary influence over Venus, as she is overcome by Saturn and in Saturn’s bound (bound ruler of the Ascendant Lord is very important to Masha’allah, in showing the native’s involvement in something), while Saturn is in the 4th which has significations related to the dead and buried things, and reinforces the significations of death and harm of the 8th. That Venus does not regard the Ascendant is significant, putting the native in connection with hidden or dark elements of life (not necessarily in itself making the native immoral, it is common for instance for those involved in social reform and the prison systems, etc. to have the ruler of the 1st in the 6th or 12th, and for those involved in lending and insurance to have it in the 8th, but this pertains to the types of significations reinforced). It also prompts us to look more closely at the influence of other rulers, especially Saturn which is the exaltation and first triplicity ruler. Saturn is in the 4th, and retreating (make it more personal, less public, but very significant by being in a stake), and in the bound of Venus, adding to the significant relationship between Saturn and Venus, and the 4th and 8th, in characterizing the native’s personality, pleasure-seeking, associated with death and dirge, the macabre. Venus made bad, as an important personality significator, tends to pertain to shameless excess. Superficially, we would think that he’d seem gentle, maybe effeminate, somewhat depressive, and quite shy.

      Mercury (also used by many, including Masha’allah, Abu’ali, and Ptolemy, among others): Against the beliefs of many, Mercury is not necessarily strong for intellect in Virgo or Gemini. Mercury in a common (i.e. mutable) sign, such as Virgo or Gemini, was said to signify a small but quick intellect, liable to anger, and with little perseverance, as opposed to the extremely honorable intellect of Mercury in a fixed sign, and the confidence, quick grasp, enthusiasm, and good-speaking ability of Mercury in a moveable (i.e. cardinal) sign. Dahmer’s Mercury is out of sect, and while in a somewhat good place, it is applying to Mars, and scrutinized by Mars in a very close application in which Mars overcome Mercury, so there is a vast range with Mercury in terms of benefic thru malefic significations. Mercury is weakened though, particularly for intellectual activities because of the mutable sign, and also because it is cadent and combust.

      The Moon and the Dominant Planet The Moon happens to also be the dominant planet in the chart, as she is so strongly advancing, adhering to the Descendant in the same degree. Mars, Saturn, and to a much lesser extent, Jupiter, are also quite dominant by being in the stakes, but the Moon is in a stake and generally strong, conjunct the angle. It may be a leap to say that having the planet signifying the irrational mind as such a strong influence in the life, would make someone somewhat more drawn to following irrational impulses, but I think that is an important component. The Moon is copresent with Mars so her significations are mixed with Mars, and according to Serapio, the planet in early zodiacal degree not only overcomes by regard, but also when two planets are in the same sign, it also can be dominant in the relationship, though rulership by Mars as well can make it difficult to separate out these two martian influences upon the nature of the Moon’s significations. In any case, the Moon is strongly influenced by Mars. The Moon is in the bound of Mercury, but the domination by Saturn in the 4th, which is scrutinizing (within 3*) is a much stronger influence. Overall, through copresence with, rulership by, domination, and scrutinization by the malefics, as well as being out of sect (also the 7th is not a very benefic influence), the irrational impulses are pulled along malefic, particularly violent and macabre dimensions.




      Masha’allah, & al-Khayyat, A. ’Ali. (2009). Persian Nativities I: Masha’allah and Abu ’Ali. (B. N. Dykes, Trans.). Minneapolis, MN: The Cazimi Press.

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  • November 11, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Note: I don’t consider decan nor face in this article, which are given 1 point by many modern traditionalist dignity-pointing enthusiasts (though this has no material effect on the analysis or points being made).


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