by Robert Wilkinson
Anyone into astrology encounters the concept of the Rulerships, Detriments, Exaltations, and Fall positions of the planets. These have come to us from antiquity. Today we take a new look at what "rulership" and "exile" actually are.
Each of the 7 visible planets (known of the "Sacred Seven" throughout the ages) has two signs it is said to "rule," and therefore it logically follows that there are also two signs in which a planet is in "Exile" or "Detriment," said to be the signs opposite those a planet rules. Though tradition describes these positions in terms of "good" and "bad," this doesn't tell the whole story.
I first gave you this 7 years ago, and figured it would be a good time to review and renew our familiarity with the concepts of the planetary rulerships, which signs they are like and which they are not like. So today, with a few edits for readability, I will offer you anew what I wrote about which signs the planets “rule,” and which signs they find themselves in “exile.”
In traditional astrology, it was always believed that a planet in the sign it “rules” is good, while a planet in the sign opposite the one it rules is “bad.” However, to quote the Gershwin brothers, “it ain’t necessarily so.”
Over the years I’ve found that a planet in the sign it "rules" may show a negative manifestation, while a planet in its sign of "exile" may show a favorable effect. It's all in our point of view, and how we choose to use the energies at our disposal, since astrology describes the dynamic art of living rather than a static set of determined responses.
I covered a few of the basic concepts of planetary "rulerships" a very long time ago in the article This is A Remarkable Time - Venus trine Mars, Mercury trine Jupiter, and Sun trine Saturn, when we were experiencing a remarkable event of all the planets ruling opposing signs in harmony with each other. In that article, I offered:
The planets, or Inner Lights, "rule" the signs. This term is usually associated with "lordship" or "boss" but my friend Carl Payne Tobey put it differently. He thought that since a ruler measures things, the planets are the measure of how the sign expresses itself. I also see rulership as the inherent "Law" of how that planetary energy expresses itself. It is the standard of self-expression. That which rules an expression is also ruled by that self-expression.
The signs show the tone and color of how the Inner Lights shine through us. Each Planet is associated with two signs... the signs are six polarities, each a dual awareness of opposite but united qualities of life and expression.
Again, just because a planet is in the sign it "rules" does not mean it is a uniformly or universally favorable thing. For instance, I have a Mars in Aries. Though it rules Aries, meaning it's very naturally itself in that sign, I've still had to learn not to be too impulsive, abrupt, impatient, or any of the other problems associated with Mars in Aries. (And yes, I have plenty of scars from when I should have slowed down rather than sped up!)
Jupiter may be in its home sign in Pisces, but it is still subject to ambivalence, feeling too much sorrow, or submerging when it ought to be out having an adventure! The Moon may be a natural in Cancer, but it must learn to be caring and nurturing rather than defensive and touchy. The sign a planet rules is its natural home, but that doesn't imply it has nothing to learn in the way of productive responses. This ties in with the concept of the Planetary dualities.
Traditionally, each planet ruled two signs. The two signs a planet "rules" shows two parts of the same energy, even if they seem contradictory or don't seem to blend easily. There was also an amazing symmetry to how the ancients thought all these diverse energies related to each other. I'll start the sequence from a different point than the usual Aries, so you can see the mirroring effect.
Leo - Sun
Virgo - Mercury
Libra - Venus
Scorpio - Mars
Sagittarius - Jupiter
Capricorn - Saturn
Aquarius - Saturn
Pisces - Jupiter
Aries - Mars
Taurus - Venus
Gemini - Mercury
Cancer - Moon
You can see that the ancients set the Sun/Moon over Leo/Cancer at the beginning of the sequence of rulerships, then moved out in each direction in perfect dual sequencing, giving Mercury rulership of Gemini and Virgo, Venus rulership of Taurus and Libra, Mars rulership of Aries and Scorpio, Jupiter rulership of Sagittarius and Pisces, and Saturn rulership of Capricorn and Aquarius. This leaves out the invisible triad of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, since they are not “under our control,” symbolizing the Transpersonal forces that affect us all.
I believe if we want to learn the whole nature of any planet, we must examine both the signs it rules to get a sense of its larger nature. For instance, Venus is both the Earth of Taurus and the Air of Libra. It is the cardinality (movability) of Libra and the fixity of Taurus. And of course, through examination of the signs, we can refine our understanding to an even greater degree.
There are many other factors too numerous to go into here, but for example, the three decans (10 degree segments) of a sign give us more information about how that sign works. So Taurus has a Venus segment, a Mercury segment, and a Saturn segment (based in modern decan associations) and Libra also has the same three segments. So we can see how Venus, ruling these signs, has a liberal dose of Mercury and Saturn in its nature, if the signs it rules also incorporate these planetary energies.
The "Exile," or "Detriment" of the planets, are the signs opposite those the planet rules. Though seemingly negative, I have found that a planet can show a positive expression regardless of its sign position. Just because a planet is as far away from its "home" as possible, in a sign it is not familiar, harmonious, or identified with in any way, it can still show a productive, positive light. That said, here are the "detriment" signs of the planets, or the signs opposite its natural home.
Aquarius - Sun
Pisces - Mercury
Aries - Venus
Taurus - Mars
Gemini - Jupiter
Cancer - Saturn
Leo - Saturn
Virgo - Jupiter
Libra - Mars
Scorpio - Venus
Sagittarius - Mercury
Capricorn - Moon
You can see how some of these signs might be difficult for the planets involved, but again, there is always a positive way to express these positions. For example, Jupiter in Gemini would make a great teacher, one whose curiosity knew no bounds, always on the lookout for new information, new interpretations, new views, one who could make an adventure out of even a short journey or reading a good book. It certainly makes for one of the best reading specialists I've ever known.
So with what I've offered you in mind, take a new look at the planets in the signs, and let your imagination play with the possibilities. We'll cover the Exaltation and Fall of the planets in another article.
(Original article published April 2006)
Copyright © 2006, 2013 Robert Wilkinson