Compared to rulership, the exaltation of planets is a very unclear and speculative topic in modern astrology. The concept we are using today has no clear logic or origin and it seems as if it was just given to us. The conception of exaltation arises for the first time in Babylon. The astrologers in the VII-VI century BC. have noted that every planet has its own “hidden place” –“bit nisirti“, each “hidden place” corresponds to a specific constellation. The following omen (prophecy) after a planet was in its “hidden place” was relative to state affairs.
Babylonian horoscopes, Francesca Rochberg, page 108
In some of the preserved Babylonian horoscopes from the IV – II century BC, the term “hidden place” is used the following way: “A person was born in the hidden place of Venus”, however in that person‘s chart Venus is not in the constellation of Pisces (Venus is exalted in Pisces) nor is the Sun. This applies to all Babylonian horoscopes in which the “hidden place” was mentioned, this means it is unclear to us why and how the Babylonians used the term “bit nisirti“. One of the translators of these ancient Babylonian horoscopes, David Pingree shares hypothesis that suggests ancient astrologers used this method to describe the position of the moon‘s syzygy at the time of conceiving the child.
From that we can conclude, that the term “exaltation” in the horoscopes of the ancients was used in a completely different way compared to the way we use it today, as a planet’s dignity.
A planet is at its “hidden place“ when it reaches its farthest point from the ecliptic. At the time of the Babylonians Venus reached its maximum ecliptic latitude in the constellation of Pisces . This concept is presented for the first time by the Russian astrologer Vladimir Kovrigin. The Greeks translate the term “bin nisitri“ as “hypsoma“, which means elevation and in Latin in is translated as “exaltatio“ – greatness.
When does a planet reach its maximum ecliptic latitude? This occurs when during its motion a planet makes a retrograde knot. Look at the figure below.
But there is a problem, the planets distance from the ecliptic during their retrograde motion is very small, from 1-1.5 degrees for Jupiter to 8 degrees for Venus. This deviation is very hard to observe and calculate, furthermore the planets don’t reach their greatest ecliptic latitude every year. That is why the astrologers from the II-I century BC didn’t use their own observations for the exaltations but instead used the knowledge given to them by the Babylonians.
The periods of time in which the planets reach their “hidden place“ (greatest ecliptic latitude) are as follows:
Mercury – once every 20 years
Venus – once every 8 years
Mars – once every 15 years
Jupiter – once every 12 years
Saturn – once every 30 years
For example, on the 03.03.656 BC Venus has moved 8 degrees north of the ecliptic and is at the 27th degree longitude of the sidereal sign Pisces. Venus will reach again the same position in latitude after 8 years (with a difference of 8-15 degrees in the longitude!).
The interesting thing is that on this date Venus is at the 27th degree of Pisces, which today is considered to be its exaltation degree in the tropical zodiac. The same can be said about the following dates, in which Saturn and Mars were at their “hidden places“ (exaltations).
7 March 549 BC – On this date Saturn is at the 21st degree of Libra in the sidereal zodiac. This is the exact same degree of exaltation we use today in the tropical zodiac.
27 July 617 BC – On this date Mars is at the 30th degree of Capricorn in the sidereal zodiac. Today in the tropical zodiac, we use the 28th degree of Capricorn for the exaltation of Mars.
Here is how an ancient Omen sounds like:
“If Venus reaches her hidden place: good fortune will come to pass – she reaches the constellation of the Lion. On the other hand, if she does not reach her hidden place before disappearing the land will suffer”
It is interesting to note that in the ancient Babylonian texts Venus has another “hidden place” in the sign of Leo.
The second “hidden place“ can be explained by the astronomical fact, that planets can deviate both north and south of the ecliptic, they have two greatest ecliptic latitudes. Around the 7-6 century BC, Venus reached its greatest south ecliptic latitude in the constellation of Leo. That is why in the Omen above, Leo is pointed as the “hidden place“ of Venus, not Pisces. This fact has slipped by the astrologers who created the modern exaltation system or it was just ignored.
The Omen tells us that the Babylonians observed the moment when a planet reaches its maximum ecliptic latitude, using the term “hidden place“ to describe it. As already mentioned, a planet reaches its maximum ecliptic latitude when it moves retrograde. The retrograde movement of Venus begins when the planet is occidental of the Sun and is located approximately 30 degrees from the Sun. When Venus is about 8 degrees away from the Sun, it becomes invisible for us, disappearing in the Sun’s rays. We have been told the exact same thing by the ancient astrologers tell us in their Omen, that if Venus disappears (become invisible) before reaching its “hidden place” (maximum ecliptic latitude), the land will suffer.
Let’s put ourselves in the place of the Babylonians, who observed with naked eye the night sky in the year 656 BC. The date is January 1st 656 BC. Venus can be observed in the evening in its ultimate brilliance. It has reached its maximum elongation (distance) of 46 degrees from the Sun, and is located exactly on the ecliptic (0 degrees latitude). Its velocity is equal to that of the Sun, and starts to decrease. Venus is at the 3rd degree of the sidereal sign Pisces.
February 1 – Venus is now 40 degrees of longitude away from the Sun. In the time between January 1st and February 1st, Venus has moved 4 degrees of latitude above the ecliptic. Its ecliptic longitude for this date is 28 degrees in the sidereal sign Pisces.
February 15 – Venus is now stationary. Located about 30 degrees of longitude from the Sun, and has risen 6.5 degrees of latitude above the ecliptic. It begins to move retrograde and starts getting closer to the Sun.
On March 3 – Venus reaches its hidden place – 8 degrees ecliptic latitude and is positioned in the 27th degree of longitude in the sidereal sign Pisces. On the next day Venus disappears in the Sun‘s rays.
This ascent of Venus 8 degrees above the ecliptic, which Babylonian astrologers have observed, continues for two months in the sign of Pisces – “hidden place” of Venus, exaltation of Venus.
However the planets reach their greatest ecliptic latitude in a given period (8 years for Venus), also there is a shift along the ecliptic longitude, in which this event can be observed.
Here’s the problem itself – planets change signs (and degrees of longitude), in which they reach greatest ecliptic latitude (exaltation)! Their “hidden places“ are no longer located in the same signs given to us by the Babylonians. But in astrology today, we continue to use a system of exaltations, based on old observations, which are no longer accurate.
In a slightly different way stands the question for the exaltation of the Sun and Moon. Their places of exaltation are not mentioned in the ancient texts. The Sun don’t deviate from the ecliptic. The Moon on the other hand constantly changes the sign in which it reaches its greatest ecliptic latitude. Their exaltations in Aries and Taurus can’t be explained using the same method.
The interpretation of sidereal astrologer Cyril Fagan is that the Sun is exalted in Aries, because after the vernal equinox in Aries, the day becomes longer than the night, in other words the Sun begins to grow in strength.
The first crescent moon after the vernal equinox (which marked the start of the New Year in ancient Babylon), was often located in the sign Taurus. That is how the exaltations of the Sun and Moon were determined. However this is a concept that is related to the tropical zodiac!
We see that the concept of the exaltations mixes ideas from both the tropical and the sidereal zodiac. Is this approach for determining the exaltations justifiable?
Should we stick to the same signs that were observed more than 2000 years ago by Babylonian astrologers as places where planets are in theirs greatest northern or southern ecliptic latitude?
If we follow the same method, which the ancient Babylonian astrologers used, we need to calculate where the current greatest ecliptic latitude for all the planets is. But no one does this…
For example, Venus reached its maximum southern ecliptic latitude in the 21st century on 21.08.2015 at 19 degrees in tropical sign Leo (24th degree of sidereal Cancer).
On 23.08.2007 Venus was in its exaltation at the 21st degree of Leo (26th degree of sidereal Cancer).
On 23.03.2009 Venus reached its maximum northern ecliptic latitude at the 10th degree of Aries (15th degree of sidereal Pisces). These are the dates and degrees in which Venus was at its “hidden place“ in the early 21st century.
One of the first astronomical observations made by Babylonians in ancient times were related to the exaltations of the planets. Several centuries later, around the III-II century BC the astrological concept of rulership was formed, probably in Alexandria, Egypt, and was represented in the so-called “Horoscope of the world” or “Thema Mundi” (a symbolic astrological chart for the birth of the Earth)
After it was determined which planet rules over which sign, the Hellenistic astrologers looked for other signs in which the planets had dignities. They adopted the Babylonian concept of the exaltations, created in the VII-VI century BC. Today we continue to use the same exaltations: Sun in Aries, Moon in Taurus, Mercury in Virgo, Venus in Pisces, Mars in Capricorn, Jupiter in Cancer, Saturn in Libra. Let’s call it the traditional concept of the exaltations.
But as I said before, the planets no longer reach their greatest ecliptic latitude in the signs we use for their exaltations. A medieval Arab astrologer named Abraham ibn Ezra faced this problem and on top of the already existing concept of exaltation, created a new exaltation concept determined by the greatest ecliptic latitude of planets at his time. Despite this conflict between theory and reality today, compared to the ancient times, everyone who uses astrology for example knows that Mars is well placed in the sign of Capricorn, the same can be said for Saturn in Libra.
When astrology was first formed, the known planets were: the two luminaries – the Sun and the Moon, and five other planets – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn.
Every sign was given a ruler. According to Ptolemy, who in his work Tetrabiblos refers to the knowledge of the ancient astrologers, states that the signs Cancer and Leo which are the closest signs to the Zenith are related to the Sun and Moon. This may be only true for the tropical zodiac, because it uses the turning points (tropikos) of the Sun. Therefore, the concept of rulership comes from the tropical zodiac.
And because the sign of Cancer is feminine in nature, it became the Moon’s domicile, and Leo being a masculine sign became the Sun’s domicile.
We all know that the Sun rules Leo and the Moon rules Cancer
If you look at the chart below, between the signs Cancer and Leo we can build an axis that divides the zodiac into two parts. Lets call it the “axis of reflection”. The half from the side of the Sun, Ptolemy calls the Solar semicircle and the other the Lunar semicircle.
The so-called “horoscope of the world” (Thema Mundi) – a symbolic astrological chart for the birth of Earth
Mercury rules over Virgo, Venus over Libra, Mars over Scorpio, Jupiter over Sagittarius, Saturn over Capricorn. The planets are ordered according to their speed, starting form the fastest all the way to the slowest.
Here is what astrologer Firmikus Maternus says about Thema Mundi in the IV century AD.
“The divine wise men of old invented the birth chart of the universe so that it would be an example for astrologers to follow in the charts of men.”
This chart does not describe the actual point in time when the Earth was created, it presents an idea, a concept that astrologers should use as an example, a model, when interpreting natal charts!
Now let see what will happen if we use the same method for the other half of the Zodiac, again using the axis of reflection:
Mercury is reflected from Virgo into Gemini
Venus is reflected from Libra into Taurus
Mars is reflected from Scorpio into Aries
Jupiter is reflected from Sagittarius into Pisces
Saturn is reflected from Capricorn into Aquarius
The Sun and Moon rule over Leo and Cancer, all other planets rule over two signs – one masculine and one feminine sign.
Table of rulership
When a planet rules over a masculine sign it manifests more of its Yang nature. We say that this planet is the diurnal ruler of the sign.
When a planet rules over a feminine sign it manifests more of its Yin nature. We say that this planet is the nocturnal ruler of the sign.
This was the system of rulership that was used in ancient and medieval times. If this concept of rulership is correct, we can use it for the newly discovered planets Uranus, Neptune and Pluto as well, let’s see if this is true.
If we follow the same astrological logic we should position Uranus, Neptune and Pluto after Saturn, according to their speed of movement (distance from the Sun). Uranus becomes the ruler of Aquarius, Neptune of Pisces (widely accepted in modern astrology), Pluto should rule Aries (many modern astrologers think so too). Today it is generally accepted that Pluto rules the sign Scorpio, which is located on the other half of the axis, reflecting Aries. It is clear that this system of rulership is correct, it fits in well with the old and new astronomical discoveries.
New exaltation concept
Author: Kiril Stoychev
We saw that the concept of exaltation we use today comes from the ancient Babylonian astrologers. It is unreasonable to use the same concept today, because the planets change the sign in which they reach their greatest ecliptic latitude. Furthermore these observations were made using the sidereal zodiac, not the tropical one currently used in Western astrology.
Now I will bring to your attention a new concept for the exaltations of the planets. When I first came to this idea in 2001, I reasoned as follows – the Sun is exalted in Aries and the Moon in Taurus. If we use the same logic as the ancient astrologers did in Thema Mundi, we can put the planets in order, according to their velocity in a similar way as when determining the rulership.
The new positions of the planets we get are the following: Mercury in Gemini, Venus in Cancer, Mars in Leo, Jupiter in Virgo, Saturn in Libra.
Using the exaltation of the Sun in Aries and the exaltation of the Moon in Taurus as starting points we can build a new axis of reflection which is perpendicular to the axis we used for the rulership.
By reflecting the planets in the other half of the chart the same way we did for the first axis, we can see that each planet has a second sign of exaltation. Now we can create a new concept for the exaltations which will be applicable for the tropical zodiac.
If we reflect the planets in the other half of the chart the same way we did for the first axis, we will see that there is a second sign of exaltation for the planets.
|Exaltations in the Lunar semicircle
|Exaltations in the Lunar Solar semicircle
|Mercury in Gemini (the same as its rulership, meaning the planet is very strong in this sign)
Venus in Cancer
Mars in Leo
Jupiter in Virgo
Saturn in Libra
|Mercury in Pisces
Venus in Aquarius
Mars in Capricorn
Jupiter in Sagittarius (the same as its rulership, meaning the planet is very strong in this sign)
Saturn in Scorpio
We see that the Sun, Moon, Mars and Saturn are exalted is the same signs as the ones we use today in the traditional concept of exaltation. This explains why the traditional scheme has survived through the years and we continue to use it today.
There are two problems in this new concept. The first one is the position of Mercury and Venus, today it is assumed that Venus is exalted in Pisces, also some modern astrological schools claim that Mercury is exalted in Aquarius. Furthermore if Mercury is exalted in Pisces, it enters in a contradiction with its detriment, because the opposite sign of Pisces is Virgo, which is ruled by Mercury. So let us apply the principle of Yin-Yang.
The masculine planets are the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. The feminine are Venus and the Moon. Mercury is considered to be a half masculine, half feminine planet. However if we take into consideration the seventh principle of Hermes and the Yin-Yang symbolism we can safely say that every masculine planet has a feminine side and vice versa.
When a feminine planet is exalted in a masculine sign, it is easier for its masculine nature to manifest and when a masculine planet is exalted in a feminine sign, it is easier for its feminine nature to manifest.
Let’s see what side of Mercury is exalted in Pisces. The feminine side of Mercury or the feminine side of the mind is a person’s intuition. Let us see if Mercury in Pisces gives a strong intuition.
Here are some famous people which have this position in their natal charts: Rudolf Steiner, Paco Rabanne, Edgar Cayce, Dane Rudhyar, James Redfield, Nicolaus Copernicus, Eckhart Tolle, Charles Darwin, Galileo Galilei, Rupert Murdoch, Arthur Schopenhauer, Herbert von Karajan, Georg Ohm, Evangeline Adams, Roberto Asadzhioli.
It is undeniable that all these people have a very strong intuition. On the other hand Mercury in Pisces is in its detriment because Mercury rules Virgo, and Virgo is in opposition with Pisces, this means that Mercury will have a weakness here, this weakness will be directed towards the person‘s practicality and dexterity, the basic characteristics of Mercury in Virgo.
Another interesting thing we see, is that Venus is exalted in Aquarius. Venus has a feminine nature while Aquarius is a masculine sign. Therefore, there will be a conflict between the two principles. It will be easier for the masculine side of Venus to manifest, which will lead to its exaltation in the aspect of friendship (we can say that friendship is the masculine side of Venus!).
On the other hand, the traditional feminine characteristics that Venus symbolizes will be weakened in the sign of Aquarius. Things like marriage, love and relationships can be very difficult, especially for women. This position (Venus in Aquarius) makes women very strong and independent, making it harder for them to find a man that meets their expectations. It can also increase a person’s attraction to the same sex.
Mars in Capricorn – exaltation of Mars (same as the traditional concept). A masculine planet is exalted in a feminine sign. This will lead to a stronger manifestation of the feminine nature of Mars, which is a person‘s willpower.
Jupiter in Sagittarius – a very strong position for Jupiter, rulership and exaltation (double strength).
Saturn in Scorpio – exaltation of Saturn. Increases the feminine nature of Saturn – patience and concentration.
Saturn in Libra – exaltation of Saturn. Same for both the classical concept and the new one.
Jupiter in Virgo. This is the second problem we encounter, the planet is exalted in the sign of its detriment, because Jupiter is the ruler of Pisces, the opposite sign of Virgo. This phenomenon can be explained the following way – in Sagittarius Jupiter is the sovereign master of knowledge. But in the signs of Pisces and Virgo, its nature and characteristics are divided in two. In Pisces Jupiter manifests its spiritual aspects of knowledge – religion, philosophy, psychology and even art, that is why Jupiter is the nocturnal ruler of Pisces. In Virgo on the other hand, Jupiter is strong in the field of science – physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, applied arts. Virgo being a feminine sign, will enhance the feminine nature of Jupiter, giving the people born with this position, luck and fortitude.
Mars – exaltation in Leo – Increases the masculine nature of the planet: activity, publicity, domination and sport
Venus – exaltation in Cancer – Increases the feminine nature of the planet: love and care for family and home
Mercury – exaltation in Gemini – a very strong position for Mercury, rulership and exaltation (double strength)
The Moon – exaltation in Taurus. Same for both the traditional concept and the new one.
The Sun – exaltation in Aries. Same for both the traditional concept and the new one.
This new concept of exaltations which I propose to you gives a better understanding of the planets and their strengths and weaknesses in different signs. It also helps us explain some astrological paradoxes that have bothered astrologers.
Exaltation of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto
In modern astrology there is a debate regarding the exaltations of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. There is somewhat of a consensus for Uranus, which is determined to be exalted in Scorpio. If this new concept of the exaltations is correct, that means the newly discovered planets should fit very easily in it, just like they did in the rulership concept. Let us see if this is true.
Let us follow the same logical path and put the three newly discovered planets in order, according to their velocity. We see that the exaltation of Uranus is in Scorpio, for Neptune in Sagittarius and for Pluto in Capricorn.
Uranus is exalted in the sign, which today is widely accepted for its exaltation (Scorpio).
Neptune is in harmony with the energies and characteristics of the sign Sagittarius, and fits its exaltation perfectly.
Right at this moment we can very clearly see the power of Pluto‘s exaltation. From the moment the planet entered Capricorn in 2008 a lot of large scale events took place – the economic crisis began alongside with a vast consolidation of power and capital.
We also see that the second sign in which Pluto is exalted is Leo. Some modern astrological schools use the sign Leo for Pluto‘s exaltation. For example, when in 1939 Pluto entered Leo, World War II began.
Now let us have a look at the chart Thema Mundi (horoscope of the world):
This chart combines both the concept of rulership and the concept of exaltation which I present to you. Here is how, the Ascendant of the chart is Cancer. If we use the following correlation between houses and signs: 1st House = Aries, 2nd House = Taurus, 3rd House = Gemini, 4th House = Cancer, 5th House = Leo, 6th House = Virgo, 7th House = Libra, we will see that the planets are in their signs of exaltation, we only need to switch the places of the Sun and Moon because it is more suited for the Sun to be exalted in the first masculine sign of the zodiac.
Conclusion: The concept of exaltation is encoded (hidden) in the Thema Mundi!
Furthermore, if we use a different sign for the Ascendant, for example Capricorn which is ruled by Saturn. We see that the Midheaven (MC) is taken by the sign Libra, the sign in which Saturn is exalted.
If we take Aries as the Ascendant, we see that the Midheaven (MC) is taken by the sign Capricorn, the sign in which Mars is exalted. With the new concept of exaltation this rule can be applied to all the planets. Because the places of the Sun and Moon are switched (reflected) when we put Leo on the Ascendant, at Midheaven (MC) we have Taurus, the sign in which the Moon is exalted. Putting Cancer on the Ascendant, means that MC will be taken by the sign in which the Sun is exalted – Aries.
In the opposite sign of its exaltation, the planet is in its FALL. However, if the sign of the planet‘s fall is masculine, only the feminine nature of the planet will be weakened, the same goes if the sign is feminine, then the planet‘s masculine characteristics will be weakened. In its final form the concept of rulership and exaltation looks like this:
For another example lets taka the sign Aries and its ruler Mars.
The sign on the Ascendant is Aries (Mars rules over Aries), the Midheaven (MC) of the chart is the sign Capricorn (Mars is exalted in Capricorn), at the Descendent we have the sign Libra (Mars is in detriment in Libra) and at IC we have the sign Cancer (Mars is in its fall in Cancer)
If we put on the Ascendant the other sign ruled by Mars – Scorpio, at MC we have Leo (exaltation of Mars), at the Descendant we have Taurus (detriment of Mars) and at IC we have Aquarius (fall of Mars).
If we put the sign Libra on the Ascendant, the ruler of Libra is Venus, at MC we have the sign Cancer (exaltation of Venus), at the Descendant we have Aries (detriment of Venus) and at IC we have Capricorn (fall of Venus).
We can do this for every planet, we take the sign ruled by a specific planet and place it on the Ascendant of the chart. By looking at the sign on MC, DSC and IC we can see the exaltation, detriment and fall of the planet. It is important to note that exaltation should not be considered always as a strong position and the fall should not be considered a weak position when interpreting a natal chart.
Thanks to this new concept we can now discover the following relation between a planet’s sign of rulership and it’s sign of exaltation. When the sign a planet rules rises on the Ascendant, at the same time the sign of the planet’s exaltation culminates on the Midheaven!
If we take the Houses for example, we all know a planet is very strong when placed in one of the angular Houses, this applies for the essential dignities as well. The planet manifests different characteristics of its nature in every sign, masculine or feminine, spiritual or material. This should be taken in consideration while interpreting natal charts
Exaltation of planets according to the new concept I presented to you. From a sign‘s point of view
Exaltation of planets according to the new concept I presented to you. From a planet‘s point of view
Kiril Stoychev – Astrologer
Chairman of the Bulgarian Astrological Association
Claudius Ptolemy. Tetrabiblos or treatise on astrology in four books. ZOGRAF Publishing, 2000.
Francesca Rochberg. Babylonian Horoscopes. American Philosophical Society, 1998.
Julius Firmicus Maternus. Ancient Astrology Theory And Practice. Astrology Center of America, 2005.