Exaltation, Detriment, Fall: Mercury

Mercury FlyingWelcome back to our series on planetary exaltation, detriment, and fall! Today we are tackling our most flighty friend, Mercury. Unlike the luminaries, whose phases can be clearly seen and understood through their apparent rotation around the earth, and thus are receptive to a fairly straightforward geocentric explanation of exaltation, detriment, and fall, Mercury’s phases are defined most readily just not by his relationship to Earth but also by his relationship to the Sun. Further, where Mercury’s domicile and exaltation come from his positive relationship to the Sun, his signs of detriment and fall derive from his (somewhat strained) relationship to Jupiter.

As the messenger of the Sun, Mercury is exalted in Virgo instead of Gemini because Virgo is his ruled sign that is closest to the Sun and his domicile in Leo (Gemini, Mercury’s other ruled sign, borders Cancer which belongs to the Moon). This preference for closeness to the Sun is readily apparent from a geocentric perspective, as Mercury is never more than 28° from the Sun in the zodiac. The planet itself, however, is still circumscribing an entire orbit around the Sun. When Mercury begins its orbital cycle, it is at its inferior conjunction – i.e. the conjunction Mercury makes to the Sun in the zodiac when it is between the Earth and Sun. At this point, Mercury appears from Earth to be retrograde as Earth is actually passing by the slower-moving planet. This is when Mercury shifts from setting after the Sun to rising before him, also sometimes known as Mercury’s Promethean phase. (This is reversed when Mercury makes its superior conjunction – it begins setting after the Sun again in his Epimethean phase. As a point of interest, the inferior conjunction may be related theoretically to the New phase of the Moon, and the superior conjunction to the Full Moon.)

Mercury is a curious planet insofar as it is the only planet to have its exaltation in the same sign it rules. I believe this can be explained by its preference for closeness to the Sun – any strength or ‘lifting up’ of Mercury must, by the planet’s nature, happen in proximity to the Sun. Virgo is the clear choice to represent this – far enough from Leo to avoid combustion & the Sun’s rays (the exact exaltation degree of 15 Virgo makes sense here, as 15° is a standard orb for Sun’s effects), but not back into Cancer, the domicile of the Moon, Mercury’s enemy.

Given Mercury’s dual domicile and exaltation in Virgo, he has both detriment (opposite to domicile) and fall (opposite to exaltation) in Pisces, and additionally is in detriment in Sagittarius, opposite his second domicile of Gemini. Notice that Pisces and Sagittarius are both ruled by Jupiter, meaning that Jupiter will similarly be in detriment in Virgo and Gemini. This natural mutual debilitation of Mercury in Jupiter’s houses and vice versa seems not to be a result of Mercury’s nature, but of Jupiter’s – perhaps Mercury is too earthly and detailed to please ethereal and expansive Jupiter. And, since Mercury is ultra-sensitive to, and even emulates, the behavior of the planets he aspects or who rule him, it makes sense that Mercury will not function well in the sign of a lord who feels enmity toward him.

Mercury, in his domicile and exaltation sign of Virgo, is concerned with the containment and refinement of energy, ideas, organization etc. In Pisces, the sort of boundaries needed for this refinement and organization disappear. This kind of environment can present a challenge to Mercury. Mercury in his domicile of Gemini plays both sides, not wanting to miss anything, the type of traveler who moves side-to-side across the path instead of straight forward. This is in conflict with Jupiter’s expansive, adventure-oriented Sagittarius. Thus Mercury’s full expression may be stifled here, as someone who loves exploring things from every angle may feel at odds with someone who only sees the forest, not the trees.

I hope this article has helped you understand the relationships to the Sun and Jupiter that inform Mercury’s degree of exaltation, detriment, and fall. As we get further into the relationships between planets and sign rulers in this series, it may help you to review this primer. Let me know what other thoughts you’ve been percolating on this topic!

26 thoughts on “Exaltation, Detriment, Fall: Mercury”

  1. I’ve read that a Mercury Pisces has “a thousand TVs in their head switched on at once”. Someone I am close to with this placement agreed. When he can’t put something easily into words, he reminds me of this.

    1. It totally is like that- 1,000 tv’s at once. Yes, that is exactly what it’s like, although I wouln’t call it blaring… it’s subtle…softer. But yeah, sometimes there is so much static, the info recieved from the subconscious turns into a fog and the rational mind can’t organize it. It can be hard to put ideas into words until the mist evaporates and you can find the thought/words you’re looking for. I have a Pisces Mercury.

      1. Avatar
        Southern Cross

        Absolutely. Then you have Neptune trine Mercury in Pisces, and it’s accentuated. If that’s possible.

  2. so weird that fall/detriment is mercury pisces and Sagittarius, because some of history’s speeches are legendary under pisces mercury. Abraham Lincoln’s pisces speech as an example with that Gettysburg address. it’s super popular and influential.

    1. Hi Elisa! In and of itself, debilitation is a relatively minor indicator. In fact, there may be many cases where conflict between Mercury and a sign ruler give rise to greater passion in communication, and even greater victory for those natives who express this placement well. We’d also look to planets supporting Mercury, a lack of afflictions or obstacles, Mercury ruling good houses, etc.

  3. Great article! What is your opinion on mutual reception between Mercury and Jupiter, ie Mercury in Sag in aspect to Jupiter in Virgo? I have read conflicting things on it so am curious to hear what you think.

    1. Hi Vajra — it will depend on the whole chart. If Mercury is otherwise free from afflictions with positive aspects from the Sun or Venus, you ought to see him yield good results in the houses he rules. Jupiter may be more challenged being in Virgo than Mercury is in Sagittarius, but again a strong Sun, Moon, or Mars can help him out. Again, it will depend on what other aspects are present and the houses ruled by the planets in question. Probably why there is conflicting info, because it does depend so much on the rest of the chart.

  4. I have Mercury at 14 degrees Virgo… But it’s hard for me to organize ideas. It opposes Saturn and is conjunct Chiron :/

      1. Falkor – I have a Virgo AC and stellium. I had a couple of long relationships with Pisces before I knew anything about all this. Then when I realised Pisces were too flighty for me I started avoiding the sign altogether – only to end up with heavily piscean/neptunian types in more undercover manners (e.g. a heavy 12th and so on – I once was even happy to attract a Virgo, only to find out his Sun was in his 12th!!). You might be attracting Virgoan types, but not necessarily Virgos as such?

        1. lol oh my goodness. it sounds like no matter what, you can’t escape the energies, they will not be under the sun, moon but they’ll be 12th house sun/stellium there as an example. my sisters attract libra energy and one married a sun libra, the other libra moon, libra venus. and plus they have children who are libra suns. I attracted aries/leo energy, and my husband has 1st house, and strong leo energy. the universe really does give you what you need ect.

        2. Or they won’t tell me because Virgos don’t believe in astrology? I have Pluto, Uranus, Venus, and Mars in my Seventh house. I can really not say that I would never meet men (Mars), women (Venus), or dogs (Pluto was actually named after the dog of Micky Mouse). But you don’t need a Seventh house like mine for this, although these are all possible meanings. Actually I’m attracting nobody.
          What I did indeed expect is that somebody with a strong Virgo energy would reply to my question.

          1. I don’t know if Virgos in general believe in astrology or not. Two of my very best friends are Virgo AC & Pluto on the AC (like me), and they do believe. I also have my moon and Uranus on my Virgo AC too. They make my life very beautifully rich but also very difficult.

            You’ve got such a power soup in your 7th. My guess is that people are scared away by your intensity and complexity, and/or you can’t be bothered with the majority of people. There aren’t enough smart people in the world, let alone smart + intense, let alone smart + intense + revolutionary + fanciable + neat!

            1. The skeptical Virgo is a stereotype. Not more to it. But what Virgos do is a check first before believing a stereotype or in astrology. Except when the stereotype is that all Virgos are smart.
              Uranus conjunct Moon must be terrible.
              I don’t know what it was supposed to mean that I can’t be bothered with the majority of people. There are people with the majority of planets following the AC, those people bother about themselves. I tried to learn from them, but their way just isn’t mine because it can’t be mine. Then there are people with the majority of planets following the DC, these people bother about other people. With seven out of ten planets in the third quadrant I’m definitely in this group. People are also not scared away by me. At least not those, who should. So I rather guess that you’ve not understood the Seventh house. It shows what you encounter and when it is the Seventh house of the natal chart, then it shows what you encounter throughout your life. That doesn’t need to be all at once and it doesn’t need to be one after the other. Some people think that the Seventh house is about a spouse or significant other. But that’s only one of the people, who you meet in life, while for a second spouse house Nine is to examine. So the Seventh house is mainly about other people and sometimes even about things. People with many planets in Seven avoid other people because they are annoying. Especially when Pluto shows mean people or Mars shows aggressive people.
              When your AC is in Virgo, then your DC is in Pisces. So when you had even a couple of long relationships with Pisces, then your DC did draw effectively Pisces to you. As you began (probably because of oppositions to your stellium) to avoid them, then the same energy came camouflaged. That’s how I presume that a DC should eventually work. But then my DC should keep drawing Virgos to me, no matter how much I’m trying to avoid other people.

              1. “can’t be bothered with the majority of people” = I meant being very selective.

                I certainly don’t believe that things are as clear-cut as ‘DC is just your spouse’, or ‘Pluto means meanness’, or ‘we attract what our DC dictates’. Sorry I have no idea why your DC doesn’t draw Virgos to you, or why you don’t attract people in general. I’ve noticed that people tend to meet partners in situations shown by the placement (house & planet) of their Jupiter, maybe have a look at yours and see where your ‘luck’ is, and what type of ‘luck’ it is? Mine is in my Leo 12th haha…

              2. I’m a virgo Asc girl and I have always been interested in astrology starting from very young age (12). I have been really into it since 2008. I have a strong Pluto in my 3rd house and Sun mercury in my 9th house. I read that Uranus aspects to sun and mercury may make someone interested in astrology and such and mine are aspects with Uranus. I also have Venus-Jupiter in aries 8th house, making me very interested in unconventional stuff, although I see astrology as “forgetten science. Just because you can’t see the energies and can’t touch them doesn’t mean it isin’t there!

                I don’t atract pieces energy males though! My closest friend has a pieces sun but shes a girl. I actually seem to attract every kind of males but pieces, for now :p. I myself prefer aries, virgo and pluto energies in a guy. Libras I can feel attracted to, but they are super boring! :p

  5. My Pisces Mercury squares it’s traditional ruler Jupiter. Jupiter is in Sag and conjunct Uranus. My mind tends to know things before it knows how to articulate. Sometimes I’m able to articulate things very sharply and intelligently, other times, I speak before my Pisces Merc has time to sift through all of the mist in my head.

    I have Saturn in the 3rd, so if I take the time to organize my thoughts, I can produce some pretty smart and unique ideas, where sometimes I can even suprise myself, but it takes a lot of patience that Uranus/Jupiter does appreciate. I rarely take the time to do this unless I have to, such as for school papers.

    But yeah, that Uranus/Jupiter squaring my Pisces Mercury can be very annoying. Its hard to pause before I express something.

    1. Jupiter in Sagittarius conj Uranus! A powerful configuration. Yes, I’d imagine Mercury acts like its ruler — sometimes brash or unexpected, but wise and unique! Very interesting, thank you for sharing.

  6. I find it unfair that Mercury shall have only two signs of dignity. The luminaries have two, but all other classical planets have three and Mercury isn’t treated like a luminary. So it should have a third sign of dignity and also a third sign of debility.

  7. @Clarice8:

    “I meant being very selective.”

    I’m certainly selective, but it isn’t something, that I would show to people. This means that I won’t tell anybody to go away. I’m so bad in keeping friends or making new friends that I would give everybody a try. I know that they will disappear soon because this is what all of my friends do sooner or later.

    “I certainly don’t believe that things are as clear-cut as ‘DC is just your spouse’, or ‘Pluto means meanness’, or ‘we attract what our DC dictates’.”

    I believe that astrology would be absolutely useless if there were no clear-cuts. Perhaps not as limited as the mentioned ones.

    “Sorry I have no idea why your DC doesn’t draw Virgos to you, or why you don’t attract people in general.”

    I’m examining this a longer time, so I can’t expect that you would have an idea to solve the mystery. But I find it interesting that you, with your Virgo stellium, are the one, who replies here to me, although you wanted to avoid the Pisces energy, which should include my AC. I have short encounters with mean people (Pluto in Seven) or with strange people (Uranus in Seven), but that’s all.

    “I’ve noticed that people tend to meet partners in situations shown by the placement (house & planet) of their Jupiter, maybe have a look at yours and see where your ‘luck’ is, and what type of ‘luck’ it is?”

    Jupiter? I haven’t noticed this yet, instead the ruler of house Seven is my main suspect. My Jupiter is in house Ten and Capricorn. A weak Jupiter could cause problems. Indeed, I rather see the lack of a career as my biggest problem. So you could be right.

  8. @Melinn:

    Another Virgo-ASC replies to me. It slowly becomes thrilling whether other people will too.
    Sun and Mercury in aspect with Uranus can I only confirm if minor aspects count: Mercury semisquare Uranus, Sun nonile Uranus.
    I agree to describing astrology as forgotten science. I sometimes annoy people with counting astrology to science.
    When I understand the DC right, then it shouldn’t show what you prefer, but only who feels attracted to you. It’s independent from gender. The ASC as cusp of Seven from Seven would show to whom you feel attracted. In so far it’s quite logic what you describe.

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