Almugea or Proper Face
The Astrological Tradition comprises an extremely rich system with which to evaluate the condition of a planet in a chart. These conditions are usually classified into essential and accidental dignities. Essential dignities relate to the quality of a planet, deriving from its position in a specific degree of a sign, whereas accidental dignities relate to the planet’s placement by house and/or in relation to other planets.
This article will address one of the accidental dignities, the lesser known condition of Almugea or Proper Face .
Almugea affects only the five classical planets – Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury – and it is directly related to the scheme of rulerships.
A planet is said to be in its almugea when it is distant from the Sun or the Moon by the same number of signs as it is distant from the luminaries in the scheme of planetary rulerships. It is mentioned by Ptolemy in Tetrabilblos1, who refers to this state as Proper Face (.d..p..s.p..). In book I, section 23, Of Faces, Chariots, and the Like he defines this condition saying it occurs “when an individual planet keeps to the Sun or Moon the same aspect which its house has to their houses”2 . The Medieval and later authors named this planetary state almugea, which comes from the corruption of the Arab term, al-muwajaha, which means “facing”. This condition is referred to by astrological authors as late as the 17th century.
The Scheme of Rulerships
To understand the almugea of the planets one must understand the structure of rulerships in which the planets are attributed to the signs according to their position in the celestial spheres.
- The Sun and the Moon – the Lights, the King and Queen of the Heavens – have their houses in the signs of summer, the season of the year when there is more light. The Sun is placed in Leo, a masculine sign, with the Moon in Cancer, a feminine sign. Both Lights are ruling luminous signs whose qualities match their natures. As to the planets, they are posited in two signs, one masculine and one feminine.
- Saturn, the darkest of all planets and the antagonist of life and light, is placed opposite to the luminaries, in the winter signs of Capricorn and Aquarius, as these represent the time of greatest darkness of the year.
- The remaining planets follow the order of the celestial spheres, also known as the Chaldean Order: Jupiter, Mars, Venus and Mercury3 .
This structure divides the Zodiac in two, the solar half (from Leo to Capricorn) and the lunar half (from Aquarius to Cancer).
The condition of almugea occurs whenever the position of the planets to the Sun or to the Moon repeats the pattern of sign rulerships. When the planet has the same distance to the King or Queen that it has in the rulership scheme, it is considered in a stronger position, that is, in an appropriate placement towards its lord or lady. Therefore there are two types of almugea, one to the Sun and another to the Moon.
To be in almugea to the Sun the planet must be in a sign following the sign the Sun is in. In the almugea to the Moon the planet has to be placed in one of the signs preceding the Moon.
Let’s consider the planet Jupiter. In its rulership of Sagittarius, it is four signs after Leo, the Sun’s domicile; in its rulership of Pisces, it is four signs before Cancer, the Moon’s domain. In a chart, Jupiter will be in its almugea when he is four signs ahead of the sign the Sun occupies or four signs before the sign where the Moon is placed. Note that only the distance to Sun or Moon must be repeated, the planets and the luminaries don’t need to be in the same signs of their rulerships, only the distances need remain the same. For example, if the Sun is in Capricorn, Jupiter will be in his almugea if placed four signs ahead, that is, in Taurus. In another example, if the Sun is in Gemini, Jupiter will be in almugea when in Libra (again four signs ahead).
Following the same examples as above, if the Moon is in Capricorn, then Jupiter will be in almugea when it is four signs before, that is, in Virgo. If the Moon were to be in Gemini, Jupiter would be in almugea in Aquarius (four signs before).
Although frequently mentioned, the usage of almugea seems to be somewhat secondary. It is considered a state that slightly strengthens the planet in the horoscope. Usually almugea is not accounted for in the tables of fortitudes of the planets. The only example known to me appears in the nativity of Giovanni Sagredo calculated by Galileo Galilei4. In the nativity of his friend, Galileo gives Mercury one point of fortitude for being in almugea to the Sun. The attribution of one single unit of strength suggest the almugea has a minor importance as other dignified conditions like direct, oriental, free of sun’s beams have a larger number of fortitudes (respectively 4, 2 and 5).
Galileo’s manuscript also clarifies a dilemma put forth by some modern commentators. Some texts seem to imply in their definitions of almugea that the planets would have to be in the same degrees of the signs. Returning to the Jupiter examples given above, almugea would thus require the planet to be in the same degree as the Luminary. Should this be the case, Mercury and Venus would never be in almugea to the Sun since Mercury cannot be more than 28º distant, neither can Venus be more than 48º away from him5 .
In Galileo’s example he pays no attention to the degree. In the chart the Sun is at 7º Cancer and Mercury at 2º Leo, and he still considers the almugea, because they are one sign apart, with Mercury ahead of the Sun. Also he is applying to an almugea to the Sun in a nocturnal chart, which implies that sect does not interfere with this condition.
When studying a chart the state of almugea represents an extra strength to the planet. There is no specific interpretation of this state, it just reinforces any strength of the planet or mitigates any state of debility.
The nativity of Leonardo da Vinci presents an interesting case of almugea. In Leonardo’s chart Saturn is in Libra, the Sun in Taurus and the Moon in Pisces. Saturn is therefore five signs ahead of the Sun and five behind the Moon, thus being in almugea to both luminaries.
This reinforces the position of Saturn, already a powerful planet in this figure. Being exalted and angular and, on top of this, also in almugea, Saturn is one of the most prominent planets in the chart. Saturn reinforces Leonardo’s solitary nature, as well as his interest in science and research. He dedicated his life to knowledge, and he never let religion or society set boundaries to his work.
Indeed, a strong Saturn signifies “profound imagination, great depth, studious nature and singularity of counsel” – all these things are applicable to Leonardo’s life and work. He has often been described as the symbol of the “Renaissance man”, excelling in fields like anatomy, optics, astronomy and civil engineering. On the other hand, most of his works remained unfinished, as Leonardo’s curiosity led him from one subject to another. This can be related to Saturn’s opposition to Mercury: both planets in moveable and masculine signs, emphasising frequent change.
Almugea is thus an interesting addition to chart interpretation, when considering the planetary states. It does not make a planet prominent by itself but it can enhance its role in the chart and it adds another level of detail to the delineation.
¹ Claudius Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos, London, Loeb Classical Library, 1998
² page 111, Loeb edition
³ The Sun and the Moon are not considered here because their position is already established.
4 This chart appears in Galileo’s manuscript Astrologia nonulla, BNF ms Galilei n.81.