The Origin of the Planetary Exaltations

- their Signs and Degrees

Andrew J. Bevan, QHP, DMS Astrol. (c) 1995

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The exaltations of the planets has been a subject of topical interest, but modern writers seem to be rather confused regarding the origin of these planetary dignities, how the exaltations were divided, and more specifically, why were planetary exaltations also were connected to certain degrees. There is a rational explanation that will be treated in this short document-

The general notion has been as follows;

Due to its outstanding heat and brilliance, the Sun was accounted as principle among the planets and King above the rest. Aries is the principle point, first sign and head of the zodiac, therefore Aries was allotted to the Sun as the sign of his exaltation. The other superior planets are assigned to the other cardinal points, i.e. Mars to Capricorn, Jupiter to Cancer and Saturn to Libra. (ref. Coley p87) The inferior planets have their exaltations appointed to signs of lesser strategic importance.

However, Porphyry (233-303 AD) noted in his commentary of Tetrabiblos that the diurnal planets were exalted according to their trines; i.e. the Sun from Leo to Aries, Jupiter for Pisces to Cancer, and Saturn from Aquarius to Libra. (Maternus pg306)

Nocturnal planets are exalted according to their sextiles; i.e. the Moon from Cancer to Taurus, Venus from Taurus to Pisces and Mars from Scorpio to Capricorn.

Mercury is the only planet with the same sign for his exaltation as his rulership. This is because of his interchangeable nature; Mercury can be either masculine or feminine, or diurnal when rising before the Sun and nocturnal when setting after the Sun. Porphyry suggested that Mercury received exaltation in his own sign because he was tired from his constant risings and settings. The correct explanation is more likely that Mercury is so easily coloured by the influence other planets that it is only in his own sign, Virgo, that his virtue is purified and therefore fortified.

The planets cast their exaltations with the clock, which is against the order of the signs. The exceptions are with Mars and Jupiter who are masculine planets but exalted in feminine signs. They cast their exaltations in the opposite direction to the others.


Concerning the specific degrees

From antiquity the planetary exaltations were connected to specific degrees. The correct list is as follows;

The Sun in 19 degrees Aries, the Moon in 3 degrees Taurus, Mercury in 15 degrees Virgo, Venus in 27 degrees Pisces, Mars in 28 degrees Capricorn, Jupiter in 15 degrees Cancer, Saturn in 21 degrees Libra and the Moon's Northern Node in 3 degrees Gemini.

The Sun received exaltation in 19 degrees Aries because the entire zodiac consists of a 360-degree circle and the square root of 360 is 19. The exact exaltation is at 18AR56.

The Moon receives exaltation in 3 degrees Taurus because when she as new has departed the Sun with 14 degree, she appears from under the Sun's beams and becomes visible. Al-Biruni says that a planet that appears from under the Sun's beams (by 15 degrees), by direct motion, is vazarite (Al-Biruni p486) and in a state of great fortitude (see also Bonatus par54,p25). Hence, the degree of the Moons exaltation.

Mercury receives his exaltation in 15 degrees Virgo because when he in his forward motion has departed with 15 degrees from the Sun's dominance in Leo, then he is accounted as free from the Sun's beams and will be visible in the evening sky shortly after Sun set.

Venus is exalted in 27 degrees Pisces because here she has yet two degrees ahead of her and has a solid grip at the end of the last sign. This symbolises completion, contention, peace and rest.

Mars is exalted in 28 degrees Capricorn because here he is in the height of the sign, which represents the achievement of ambitions. But he is also ready for redirection, because the degree of his exaltation touches the 29th degree and a planet in the last 3 degrees of a sign is already looking for the next (derived from Bonatus aph.30,p19 & Lilly, CA p122). This makes him restless and impatient, ready to move towards new aims.

Jupiter is exalted in 15 degrees Cancer because when he in direct motion has escaped the Sun by 15 degrees, here represented by Leo, he appears as a star in the Eastern hemisphere shortly before dawn.

Saturn is exalted in 21 degrees Libra because he holds a 2 degree orb to opposite place of the exaltation of the Sun. Then he is in a position of total destruction. Whatever is signified by a planet within 2 degrees of the opposition of the Sun will be disrupted and fall in ruin (CA aph 23, p300).

The Moon's northern node, or the dragon's head is exalted in 3 degrees Gemini, because the nodes follow the Moon. The Moon's southern node, the dragon's tail is exalted in 3 degrees Sagittarius and in opposite to the northern node.

Henry Coley (1633-1707 AD) said that a person represented by a planet in its own home sign or its exaltation, signified a person who was fortunate and in wealthy circumstances. He was not needing of the goods of life and was like a person in his own castle, safe from danger. (Coley p86-87)

William Lilly (1602-88 AD) says (CA p102) that a planet in his exaltation represents a person of a proud and haughty condition. He is arrogant and assumes himself more than he is due.

A planet in exaltation is in its highest ascendant and expresses itself with unobstructed power. In questions concerning war, competitions and nations, a planet is better and stronger positioned in its exaltation than in it's own sign. In all other questions this is considered opposite.


Fixed stars

The planets are also counted as exalted when they align with fixed stars of their same nature.


Practical work

In practical work I often observe how a chart significator joined to the exaltation degree of a planet will give it's disposition to that planet. The exaltation degrees step in and will represent the same planet. A planet within two degrees of the exaltation of the Sun, 19 degrees Aries, is disposed by the Sun. If that planet is significator the person may be born in the sign of Leo, be some distinguished person or come from some place ruled by Leo, i.e. Italy. The exaltation degree of the Sun appearing in some significant place always gives the chart an alert or an importance to be noted.

A sensitive point in 28 degrees Capricorn (the exaltation of Mars) signifies violence, strong passions, rashness and damage. If a planet in this degree is significator the person a victim of unfortunate circumstances. By conjunction, square or opposition, do not apply an orb over two degrees. If the contact is by aspect, the person has been a witness to violence, but need not have been on the receiving end of the aggressive action.

The exaltation degree of Venus indicates pleasure, art and beauty, but the fall of Venus in 27 degrees Virgo relates to the interest rate to be paid on loans. It may indicate some bodily weakness or ailment. It is the price to be paid for the incarnation or attachment to matter, which is the fall of Venus.

The exaltation degree of Mercury indicates a mental alertness, important news or decision- making, commerce or the signing of papers. Although the fall of Mercury will indicate some foreign tongue, confusion, thieving, counterfeit or lie.

The exaltations of the luminaries indicate honours and people in authority. The fall of the Moon - ill health.

(c) 1995 Andrew J. Bevan