Precession and the Origins and Implications of the Planetary Exaltations and Domicile System in Western Astrology

The planetary exaltations are well known to the practitioners of Western tropical astrology, and are given as follows:

Sun exalted in 19° Aries

Moon exalted in 3° Taurus

Mercury exalted in 15° Virgo

Venus exalted in 27° Pisces

Mars exalted in 28° Capricorn

Jupiter exalted in 15° Cancer

Saturn exalted in 21° Libra

 

Such an arrangement appears to have derived from the Age of Aries – specifically from 786 BCE – based upon the following ancient Egyptian and Babylonian conventions:

 

  1. The civil New Year’s Day (1st Teshrit = 7th lunar month) must occur concomitantly with the heliacal rising of Spica. However, currently, said heliacal rising takes place around October 30/31 – our All Hallows Eve (Halloween). This is a full month later than when such phenomenon occurred in 786 BC, when the exaltations were 1st established.
  2. The 1st Nisan and 1st Teshrit must both be Saturdays, thereby comprising a so-called Great Sabbath. This condition was met in 786 BC, when April 4 (1st Nisan) and September 29 (1st Teshrit) were both Saturdays. However, since as noted above in (1), 1st Teshrit no longer corresponds with the heliacal rising of Spica, condition (2) – even if met at some point in the future – becomes somewhat moot.
  3. Total eclipse of the Moon must occur for the year in question.[1]

 

Now, since 1st Teshrit is a lunar month determined by observance of the 1st New Moon (“neomenia”) of Autumn, the exact date can only ever oscillate approximately between September 9 and October 5 for all time. Thus, condition (1) can only occur between 4,000 BCE – 0 CE ±25,920 year increments. Furthermore, for all three conditions to be met, we are ostensibly left with only one possible candidate: 786 BCE. It thus follows that the planetary exaltations – while having a special significance for that single year in the distant past – have long since lost any objective functionality for astrology today, and it must be noted that it is mere conjecture to assume that they had any astrological (as opposed to calendrical and/or historical) significance to the ancients.

 

Since the planetary exaltations are typically not considered nearly as significant for astrological prognostication as the more widely known domicile system, the above considerations may be little cause for concern amongst tropicalists. However, the situation with the rationale concerning the even more important planetary domiciles in astrology is still more fraught with relictualism (and even sophistry) than that of the exaltations. The classical system of domiciles, or rulerships, is given as follows:

 

Sun rules Leo

Moon rules Cancer

Mercury rules Virgo (diurnally); Gemini (nocturnally)

Venus rules Libra (diurnally); Taurus (nocturnally)

Mars rules Scorpio (diurnally); Aries (nocturnally)

Jupiter rules Sagittarius (diurnally); Pisces (nocturnally)

Saturn rules Capricorn (diurnally); Aquarius (nocturnally)[2]

 

In Celestial Arcana, it is discussed how this system ostensibly originated with Ptolemy via his Tetrabiblos written circa 145-168 CE,[3] although the particular rulerships ascribed therein suggest that the source can be traced back to an Egyptian origin as early as sometime around 4000-2000 BCE, during the Ages of Taurus and Aries. This calls into question Ptolemy’s rationale for his ascriptions, as his logic fails to account for the shifting vernal and solstitial points due to precession. This in turn has thrown the current tropical House system into a confusion of semantics, which are completely at odds with the incontestable sidereal facts. The question of whether there is any need for a redefining of the planetary Houses to account for precession is addressed, and a novel solution is proposed which expands the seasonal connotations of the Houses to embrace the cycle of the Great Year itself.

[1] Fagan. Zodiacs – Old and New. Pages 13-20.

[2] Fagan. Astrological Origins. Page 6.

[3] The actual date the Tetrabiblos was written is unclear, but it is known that it was written after the Amalgest (145 CE), and Ptolemy died in 168 CE.