View Full Version : Exaltations

13-06-2004, 17:10
If considered as idealized abstractions, rather than planetary aspects, what would we actually be looking at if viewing a chart with each of the traditional planets, and the nodes, in the positions of their exaltations?

This is kind of like imagining the exaltations as art, where no individual planet would be seen as exalted, but rather presenting all the planets in a state of exaltation at the same time.

This would mean allowing Mercury to be in Virgo while the Sun was in Aries, and so on ~ something beyond the physical universe as we know it, taken up an octave to a higher plane.

And then there is the question of the Moon, exalted in Taurus, while the other fixed signs silently embrace the lunar perfection. My thinking is we are being shown something sacred, an ancient expression of great, and perhaps mysterious meaning.

All comments are welcome.

14-06-2004, 08:29
As you say, its physically impossible for all the traditional planets to be in their exaltations at the same time. However the interesting issue is what do the exaltations mean?

There's some indications that the exaltations are the oldest form of planetary dignity. The problem is that they are so old that it is no longer clear where they are derived from.

In part it may well be calendar related - The Sun's exaltation in Aries being the beginning of its power (the beginning of Spring). As Saturn opposes the Sun's rulership of Leo, it also opposes it's exaltation - with Saturn exalted in Libra, where the Sun is in Fall.

The Moon's exaltation in Taurus may be because, if we take the Aries New Moon (Sun's exaltation) the Moon begins it's first quarter and visibly increase in light in Taurus. The idea of increasing in light is clearly related to the phases of the Moon. Also there is an analogy to the Sun's increase in Power as it moves from the Vernal equinox (Northern Hemisphere) to it's dominance in high Summer.

Whilst these assignments seem reasonable the rest of the exaltations seem vague and poorly explained - the ones we have are those given by Ptolemy in Tetrabiblos and seem to have no clear system to them. Therefore what they mean or meant is unfortunately lost in time - though there must have been some system for their allocation. You may well be right about these assignments having sacred meaning - we just don't have that meaning easily to hand.

The modern view is that planets in their exaltations are 'honoured guests' and therefore there is a 'duty' on their hosts (sign rulers) to see to their needs - they tend to get their way because someone sees to it.

I certainly would like to see more research on the nature of exaltations and hopefully we might begin to recover some of the 'sacred meanings' that they once had. Project Hindsight's research into Hellenistic Astrology (the fount of moder Western Astrology) may one day answer this question.

15-06-2004, 06:24
Excellent reply, Minderwiz

Rather than try to guess why ancient astrologers termed certain planetary positions as exaltations, since after all we will never know all the details, why don't we focus on the simple facts?

Your example of the Moon in Taurus would be a good place to start. We know, we now here living today, know that the Moon is termed exalted in Taurus. Again however, let us also consider that if one planet is exalted then they all are: that "eaxaltation" applies to an abstract (and sacred) alignment of all the planets. Also, for our purposes, let us temporarily dismiss the notion of descensions. Thus, exaltation refers to a singular totality.

Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius are the only houses without exaltions, but in fact that seems very, very significant. The fixed houses are all aligned upon the Moon's exaltation, sharing and amplifying it, dominating the entire concept.

Now, with our enlightened naivete, what is it our wisdom is trying to understand? What huge clue is staring us right in the face?


16-06-2004, 04:00

Firstly, I don't think we can ignore the 'falls' of planets - they are not just the polar opposite signs but tell us as much as the exaltation does - can you examine Spring without reference to Autumn or Yin without Yang?

Also I'm not sure that there is any meaning to a situation in which all planets are in exaltation (even for abstract purposes) - Exaltation is a measure of planetary strength - which is a comparative, implying that at least some of the planets must be comparatively weaker.

However, let's put those doubts aside for the moment - take your argument one stage forward and outline your theory, it has certainly piqued my curiosity

16-06-2004, 06:34
One way to creatively imagine exaltations as abstractions, also involves "falls" or descensions. The Nodes. Although these are termed imaginary or "shadow" planets, they do exist and actually represent a very significant fact: eclipses. Eclipses may be studied logically, but in terms of sheer wonder and awe, they are unsurpassed astrologically.

The North Node and the South Node are forever linked.
They exist as a single unit.
Their exaltations are in Gemini and Sagittatrius,
and so their position is established immediately
after the Sun in Aries and the Moon in Taurus.
Also, they are in mutable houses.

If we then see the exaltations of the Sun and Saturn as a similar singularity, there is where the notion of "fall" may allow for a suspension of disbelief in regard to the negativity of descensions.

How am I doing?

16-06-2004, 06:58
Well I certainly agree with you that the lunar nodes have great importance astrologically - even though they are points and not planets - as you say when there is a Full Moon at or near the nodes this becomes a Lunar Eclipse, and a New Moon near the Nodes produces a Solar Eclipse - both of which are highly symbolic - both in terms of Astrology and Religion.

The nodes can indeed be seen as a unit - by their very nature they are inextricably linked. Now whilst I see your analogy with Sun/Saturn and indeed agree with it - New/Old. Summer/Winter, etc - this is a rather different dichotomy.

However, carry on - I'm intrigued

16-06-2004, 20:25
The Nodes

As a bit of background to the peculiar significance of the Nodes as non-planets being allotted exaltations in mutable Gemini and Sagittarius, I think it helps to remember that the rulerships of the four mutable signs is uniquely given to Mercury and Jupiter.

Mercury (Gemini and Virgo)
Jupiter (Sagittarius and Pisces)

Mutable signs hold a special place, and this may often be overlooked. And yet there for all to see is the Mercury-Jupiter combination of rulership over the mutable quadruplicity. What a marvellous phenomenon: Behold the wisdom of the Ancients. And as if to leave no doubt as to their intentions, Mercury is exalted in its own sign of Virgo.

Modern astrologers have revealed a complete lack of understanding when it comes to exaltations by including Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, placing their exaltations in Scorpio, Cancer, and Leo respectively. They even try to move Mercury to Aquarius.

They just don't get it: it isn't about horoscopes. The traditional exaltations are like the jeweled perfection of a perfectly cut diamond. They represent an idealized view of astrology, providing an image of flawless beauty. Like the hand of God at work upon the moment of creation.

The Sun, Moon, and Earth appear to our eyes to be the same size, seemingly "revealed" by the exactness of their overlapping during an eclipse. Imagine the intellect required to pinpoint the positions of the North and South Nodes, and the sense of wonder felt at such an awesome awareness of their presence.

Therefore the Nodes are indeed given status as exaltations, in the very heart of the houses of the zodiac, in the central, mutable signs, the axis upon which all else turns.

02-07-2004, 00:36
...also consider Aleph Mem 'Sin when contmplating the
vacant exaltations of Aquarius Scorpio Leo.

isthmus nekoi
03-07-2004, 01:07
Fulgour, if you wouldn't mind explaining, what is the Aleph Mem 'Sin ? This is certainly a very intriuging subject - I for one never understood why Mercury was exalt and dignified in the same signs.

03-07-2004, 01:19
Though I am speaking in terms of the Phoenician alphabet,
according to Hebrew alphabetical terminology:

Aleph Mem and 'Sin are the 3 Mother Letters
Air Water and Fire

The 7 Doubles are the traditional 7 Planets

The 12 Simple Letters are the 12 Months

all of which equals 22, and thus the Major Arcana.


Exaltaions are misunderstood as "dignities" by most
horoscope focused astrologers. I think they are sacred
designations, an ancient system of abstract perfection.
The best way to understand Mercury exalted in Virgo
is to embrace the beauty and simplicity of its purity.

Mercury has a much longer history than our own, and
it was Thoth to the Egyptians, Hermes to the Greeks,
and the Babylonians originally called it Nebo.

The exaltation of Mercury in Virgo is deeply respectful.

isthmus nekoi
03-07-2004, 02:01
I think Crowley was all about this w/Thoth. In his deck:

Air/Aleph= the Fool
Water/Mem= the Hanged Man
Fire/'Sin= the Aeon (or Judgment)


Maybe I didn't phrase my question clearly: what I meant was, why is Mercury exalt in the signs it rules while the other planets are exalt in signs they don't rule?

03-07-2004, 02:12
Originally posted by isthmus nekoi
...why is Mercury exalt in the signs it rules while the other planets are exalt in signs they don't rule? Mercury has rulership in Gemini and Virgo, and then exaltation in Virgo only.
But your question is sort of like asking, Why is the sky blue? There simply are exaltations "because" ~ or as the Greeks might put it: Quia.

Beginning with Aleph as the 1st letter
and thus Tarot card, we find:

letter 1. Aleph (Air) is The Magician: 1
letter 13. Mem (Water) is Death: 13
letter 21. 'Sin (Fire) is The World: 21

30-07-2004, 20:23
I have never felt that there was anything negative about
an "exaltation" at all. The idea of a "fall" seems too textbook.

05-08-2004, 21:23
Originally posted by Penelope
I have never felt that there was anything negative about
an "exaltation" at all. The idea of a "fall" seems too textbook.

There is a tendency in modern Western astrology to downplay the importance of essential dignities, especially with regard to 'qualifying' the more negative aspects. However they were of prime importance in traditional astrology of the medieval and renaissance period, and if there is astrological symbolism within the tarot iconography then it is reasonable I think to expect as much reference to both positive and negative aspects, to fall as well as exaltation. Sun sign astrology is a modern concept of course, and thus totally anachronistic I feel to apply to the symbolism of pre-20th decks.

The modern transposition of Justice/Strength for example I feel is unnecessary on astrological grounds [the transposition made to fit in with Leo/Libra symbolism]. It is perfectly possible for example to associate 'Strength' with Libra through planetary dignities, Libra as the 'House' of Venus and the 'Fall' of the Sun.

The image itself is as has been noted elsewhere a common mnemonical devise found strategically placed at liturgical stations within cathedrals and churches, symbolic of the 'Triumph of Faith'. As a mnemonical device within a Christian context then the most obvious associations will bring to mind the stories of Daniel in Lion den, and the angel who seizes the Jaws of the Lion, and of Samson and Delilah.

In another post on the Hebrew letters I have made shown how the story of Daniel and the Lion can be associated with the symbolism of Libra. I feel the story of Samson and Delilah can also be associated with Libra through the planetary dignities of Venus and the Sun.

The Lion is a symbol of the Sun, Royalty and Leo; but represent only 'half' the story, to simply then allocate it to Leo I feel doesn't take into account the full symbolism, of the the image of the woman who has seized the Jaws of the Lion; as also the Lion is seemingly overpowered by the woman it seems to me 'undignified' as a correspondence with Leo. Who is the woman? If we take the Lion as a symbol of Samson then the woman is Delilah. Samson is obviously Leonine, the root of his name SMSVN is SMS, meaning Sun, he wears the skin of a lion. The root of the name DLYLH is DLY, meaning 'water pitcher, Aquarius'. So in Samson and Delilah we have the zodiacal pairing Leo/Aquarius, opposite signs of the zodiac, the house and detriment signs of the Sun. Delilah is a 'foreign woman', symbolised by the planet Venus [the marriage to foreign woman was frowned upon at certain periods and was associated with the temptation to worship foreign divinities, Astarte/Venus was associated with this through the story of King Soloman]. Both Venus and the Sun are associated with Libra as the House of Venus and the Fall of the Sun, and to me fits in with the image of the strong woman in whose hands the Lion is seized. We may note also that the magical image of the 26th degree of Libra is of a woman and lion. The story also includes of course references to Sagittarius and Aries; but I feel it is Libra that the two main protagonists come together within the dignities, positive and negative, of one sign.


05-08-2004, 22:40
Of Justice we may note the in the Sefer Yetzira the letter Kaf is attributed to the Sun. One of the meanings of Kaf is pans of a pair of scales, thus the scales of the figure could be seen as a reference to the Sun, ruler of Leo.


06-08-2004, 00:09
Originally posted by Fulgour
If considered as idealized abstractions, rather than planetary aspects, what would we actually be looking at if viewing a chart with each of the traditional planets, and the nodes, in the positions of their exaltations? I think a chart such as this did exist, constituting a sacred image
of the universe, and was not intended as an astrological model.

In the Tarot, card number 12, corresponding to letter 12, Lamedh,
matches up with the 7th solar house, which we today term as Libra.

Looking at XII Le Pendu we may easily perceive
Saturn exalted, and the Sun in fall.

But I really like the imagery suggested by Samson and Delilah,
however beyond the intended application of Tarot it may be.

06-08-2004, 00:53
Originally posted by Fulgour
But I really like the imagery suggested by Samson and Delilah,
however beyond the intended application of Tarot it may be. [/B]

Other than we know its earliest references are as its gaming purpose, I don't know what you mean by its original intention and how, or not, such symbolism fits into it. It does however have all the elements required for use as Ars Memoria, and I suspect it may have been adapted to this purpose by Marranos and Converso's, who used it on Friday evenings as a cover, and as a tool of recollection for their secret continuation of Judaic beliefs and practices.

The figure of 'Strength' is of particular relevance here because the image is a standard mnemocic device used upon liturgical stations in churches. Interesting coincidence in this respect is that one of the standard motifs used to 'place' mnemonic images was the 42 stations in the Sinai wilderness, called in Hebrew Tarok ['stations in the wilderness'].