What does it mean when we say a planet is "exalted?" For example, the Moon is exalted whenever it's in Taurus, which it is for two days every month. But what exactly does that mean?
Astrologers have posited relationships between planets and signs since ancient times. Exaltation reflects an affinity between planets and signs. Planets in signs of their exaltation are strengthened, as are planets in the signs they rule. Exaltation represents the highest expression of a planet’s energy while rulership is its most effective expression. The word "exalted" implies something superior, or an idealized form of a planet’s potential.
A planet in the sign opposite its exaltation is in its "fall," symbolizing a difficult relationship between planet and sign. A planet in its sign of exaltation resonates more purely. When planets are challenged by their fall, though, the journey to understanding them is further, but ultimately richer.
The inner planets
The Sun is exalted in Aries, the first horoscope sign of the zodiac, which represents pure existence. Aries is the spark of life, the Sun's primal expression. The Sun’s fall is in Libra, the relationship sign that must compromise individual will to meet the needs of others.
The Moon, representing nourishment, is exalted in the rich earth sign of Taurus. Contentment and material well-being are traditional qualities of the Bull that feed the needs of the hungry Moon. The Moon is in its fall in Scorpio where a profound sense of desire and expectation of loss is often a challenge to one’s emotional comfort.
Mercury is exalted in Virgo, making it exceptional since it also rules this sign. The mental acuity of the intellectual planet is raised in this rational and analytical earth sign. Mercury’s fall is in fuzzy Pisces where feelings dominate and logic may be lost in the fog of fantasy.
Venus, on the other hand, is exalted in spiritual Pisces where its capacity for love is filled with idealism and compassion. Her fall, then, is in critical Virgo where the possibilities for love must be passed through the critical filters of this relatively unemotional sign.
Assertive Mars is exalted in ambitious Capricorn where its impulses to act are directed in a constructive fashion. The Warrior planet falls in Cancer where the drive to act is blunted by the self-protective instincts of the Crab.
Jolly Jupiter is exalted in Cancer, where its generosity and wisdom are warmly lavished on close friends and family. But the optimistic nature of Jupiter is constrained in rigid Capricorn, the sign of its fall.
Stern Saturn’s exaltation is in justice-loving Libra, where its deliberate style fits well. Impulsive Aries, though, is where Saturn falls with lack of preparation and foresight.
The outer planets
Tradtionally the outer planets, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto, do not have exalted or fall signs, because these outer planets influence the greater world and society, rather than the individual. The closer "personal planets" mentioned above have far greater impact on the individual. Still, many modern Astrologers have assigned exaltations and falls for these three outer planets, as follows:
Uranus the Awakener is exalted in Scorpio, where its urge to expose the truth, no matter how shocking, is right at home. Uranus' fall is in Taurus, though, where the Bull's stubborn, grounded, and practical nature limits Uranus' wild energy.
Dreamy Neptune's exaltation is in Leo, where fantastical, imaginative concepts can be expressed fully. Mental Aquarius is Neptune's fall, because this detached, unemotional sign doesn't allow Neptune's immense feelings to flow.
Controlling Pluto is exalted in Aries, where leadership and power are so strong. Pluto's fall is in Libra, though, where Pluto's need to overpower others clashes with Libra's cooperative style.