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Planetary Exaltation and Debilitation

The concepts of planetary exaltation (i.e. the “easiest” sign for a planet) and debilitation (i.e. the “most challenging” sign for a planet) are often considered to be astrological fundamentals. Yet, many people view exaltation and debilitation through a simplistic and inaccurate prism of good and bad.

If you haven’t read my post on “The Planets As People,” which forms a sort of framework for much of the discussion on Astro Thoughts, looking it over before reading further might be helpful. That’s because viewing the planets as people, which means being aware of their specific personalities, strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes, is a big help in understanding how they respond to different environments.

If, for example, if Mars is placed in its exaltation sign of Capricorn, Mars’s specific nature makes it comfortable and allows it to express itself as an energetic, brave and action-oriented planet within Capricorn’s house. However, if Mars is located in its debilitation sign of Cancer, it becomes uncomfortable within Cancer’s calm, nurturing environment, often resulting in Mars “acting out” and expressing unhealthy qualities such as loss of temper, obnoxious behavior and so forth.

Yet, being comfortable isn’t necessarily a recipe for success and being uncomfortable isn’t necessarily a recipe for failure. Some people excel where their exalted planet is located, taking advantage of the opportunity for that planet to fully express its positive qualities. For others, the same scenario may lull them into a false sense of confidence, resulting in wasted potential. Sometimes, a difficult, uncomfortable life situation crushes somebody’s confidence and makes that person timid, but for a others, such a roadblock can serve as added motivation.

Furthermore, each planet’s exaltation sign and debilitation sign are directly opposite one another (i.e. 180 degrees apart in the zodiac), so a debilitated 4th-house Mars, for example, will be uncomfortable regarding 4th-house indications such as the home environment, yet its opposition aspect will reflect on its exaltation sign, sending powerful, positive Martian energy to the 10th house, which is related to career and status.

Ultimately, the biggest lesson of exaltation and debilitation may be that the importance of analyzing every chart as a whole cannot be overstated. Although much of the learning process must occur step-by-step or the information would overload students and fail to register properly, the reality is that every chart is an organic entity that is equal to much more than the sum of its parts.

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The Planets As People

Sometimes it can be tricky for astrology students to get a feel for how different planetary energies express themselves and interact with each other. Viewing the planets as people has been a significant help to me in this regard. Some astrologers suggest viewing the planets as gods, which I think works out about the same. Without getting sidetracked in a theological discussion, I’ll just say that for the purpose of astrology, capturing the planets’ archetypal nature by picturing them “come to life” is key. Of course, they are “come to life”… but sometimes that can be easy to forget when the process of study tends to make almost anything feel academic. This is one reason I like doing celebrity horoscopes – they’re a way to discuss astrology literally happening, as opposed to hypotheticals.

I’ll use this as a jumping off point for further discussion about planets in signs and houses, aspects, dashas, varga charts and pretty much everything else. For that reason, I want to keep it pretty simple and just focus on who the planets are and what they’re all about. There are multiple indications for some planets, and I’m not addressing every last thing here; this is just meant to be an introduction and reference sheet.

The Sun (ruler of Leo) is the father, king and general. The Sun is in charge and likes it that way; the Sun’s individualistic nature and ambition make the Sun want to shine, but sometimes the Sun can forget about fair play, equality and humility.

The Moon (ruler of Cancer) is the mother and a representation of the mind and emotions. The mind and emotions are what make us human and the archetypal mother cares for us and nurtures us. The Moon is loving, kind and thoughtful, but can become clannish and overly attached to routine. Continue reading

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