Exaltation, Detriment, Fall: The Moon

The waxing and waning cycle that we touched on in our discussion of the Sun’s exaltation, detriment, and fall finds analogy in the cycles of the Moon. When the Sun is exalted (lifted up), it is essentially at the beginning of its yearly ‘waxing’ stage, gaining strength and angle in the sky on its way to its full strength. When the Sun is in its fall, it is losing strength and the amount of light it provides is waning. Its detriment shows it at its weakest point. We will look at this concept of increasing and decreasing strength more in depth as we explore the exaltation, fall, and detriment of the Moon.

As we’ve discussed, the Moon rules Cancer, next door to the Sun’s sign of Leo. The Moon is exalted in Taurus, in its fall in Scorpio, and in detriment in Capricorn. Where the diurnal planets, including the Sun, find their exaltations in trine from their domicile (the house of their rulership), the nocturnal planets, such as the Moon, form sextiles to their exalted signs. This means that the domicile of the Moon and its exaltation sign do not share an element (Cancer is water, Taurus is earth) nor a modality (Cancer is cardinal, Taurus is fixed). They do, however, share a gender, and as the Moon is first and foremost defined by the feminine principle of reception and reflection, it will only find strength in a feminine sign.

The degree of the Moon’s exaltation in Taurus is in part determined by its distance from the Sun’s degree of exaltation in 19 Aries. Traditionally, planets can be strengthened or weakened by a close aspect to the Sun – if they are conjunct within 17 minutes, this is called cazimi and considered a notable strength. Any wider orb than that, up to 15 degrees (though the exact degree varies in different sources) is considered to be combust, which is a debility, as the light of the Sun obscures the visibility of the planet (think of light pollution). A body 15 – 17 degrees away from the Sun is said to be under the beams of the Sun and is beginning again to become visible, though not at its full strength.

Now we have two reasons for the Moon’s exaltation in Taurus: one, it is a feminine sign with a feminine ruler (Venus); two, at 3° Taurus, the Moon is 14° away from the Sun’s exaltation and thus just starting to be visible again as a luminary in its own right. Remember that exaltation refers to the beginning of the planet’s ‘lifting up’ in strength. Moon in Taurus is like a new crescent moon in this sense – very newly visible and holding the promise of fulfillment of a cycle.

The Moon is in fall in the opposite sign of its exaltation – Scorpio. As a feminine water sign, we might be tempted to think the Moon would be comfortable here, but as Scorpio is ruled by very masculine Mars, we find that the Moon’s feminine receptivity is overpowered when in Mars’s house, and she may reflect some of these qualities or else submit to them. Whereas Moon in Taurus is like a waxing crescent, Moon in Scorpio is waning, beginning the end of its cycle.

Finally, the Moon’s detriment in Capricorn, opposite to its domicile of Cancer. Whereas Cancer is considered the sign of the mother, Capricorn is the sign of the father. Seasonally, we may think of the solid, watchful father standing in wait on the barren winter earth for the seed of new life to be borne of the mother. Since the Moon in Capricorn is acting in relation to its opposite complement, her action is in a sense dependent on this context – she is not acting grandiosely, not able to embrace the full lushness of life on earth, but instead nurturing something small and as yet invisible with the faith that, in time, it will grow.

Exaltation, fall, and detriment are referred to as different measures of ‘strength’ of a planet, but I find that this conception is imprecise. The body in question has not changed, merely its circumstances. The Sun is still the Sun, the Moon still the Moon, regardless of exaltation or detriment. These classifications are meant to, first of all, tell us what we already know about the nature of planet and its cycles – the Sun’s strength in summer and weakness in winter, for example, is the very basis for the tropical zodiac and universally understood even by those who do not study astrology. Second of all, dignities and debilities give us more concrete info on how a planet behaves in certain circumstances, which is not so simple a matter as ‘stronger’ or ‘weaker’, and it may help to relate it to human life cycles: an exalted planet, being ‘lifted up,’ is akin to the beginning of adulthood – one has not reached full potential yet, but has eyes on the prize and will get there. A planet in fall is like someone who is retiring – that particular energy is not the focus and is fading naturally. A planet in its detriment is both like old age and very new youth – neither is very strong physically but there is a lot of wisdom to be gained through rest and patience.

Now that we’ve covered Sun and Moon – do you have either of the luminaries in exaltation, fall, or detriment in your charts? How do you experience them?

18 thoughts on “Exaltation, Detriment, Fall: The Moon”

  1. Another brilliant piece! I’m printing out your posts and putting them in my Astrology lesson notebook (going on the 3rd big fat one now). I applaud you Caitlin. Elsa scored when she brought you on board. She has a great many followers, and I am among the most loyal of them. I’ve said this before… every morning it’s coffee, Elsa, astrology. She is the whole entire kitchen, you are a great meal. Loving your posts!!!

  2. Keep these coming! As Elsa wrote in her Mercury Rx piece, it’s great to have fresh perspectives. Kudos for her generosity and openness to allow guest writers.

    For myself, this Gemini just loves the fact that I have an exalted Taurus Moon
    exactly conjunct my dual ruling Mercury at 19 degrees. Having Virgo rising, my Moon
    grounds that all that nervous energy and makes me practical with dogged perseverance. I wouldn’t have it any other way, although, I’ve been told that if you ask me the time,
    I build you a clock !

  3. You say the Sun is at maximum exaltation at 19 Aries….I’m curious, where does that particular degree come from? Pardon my ignorance!

    1. Good question, gemini. I do not precisely know where that degree comes from, though the second decan (10-19’59 deg) of Aries is ruled by the Sun, and it seems to be a rule that holds true that the last degree of a sign or other subdivision is the strongest, or most pivotal. The curtain call or summary of the influence, where it is seen most clearly, perhaps.
      And, an article on Mars is upcoming! I will do all of the traditional planets in this series. Appreciate your interest 🙂

  4. I have Sun in detriment in Aquarius, combust my Mercury and Mars. 🙂 Yaaay! My Moon is in Leo so I guess as it’s a masculine sign, again not the greatest placement…

    1. Moon in Leo is a great placement in my opinion — I think the Moon is comfortable being ruled by the Sun, as that is where she receives her light anyway. I would imagine that this placement would emphasize whatever phase the Moon is in, which, given your Aqua Sun, would be right around full. You’ll have to look at the exact Sun-Moon angle to determine this, but it’s a wonderful confluence!
      The Moon in a masculine sign I think makes the Moon more active (versus her natural embodiment of passivity) as she takes on / reflects the influence of her sign ruler.

  5. Great articles, I’m learning alot, thank you. I have much to think about as I have sun in Leo and moon in Capricorn. I can see both in me and sometimes I can see how they work together, sometimes not so much.

  6. the basis of tropical, as in the northern hemisphere, of winter/summer you mentioned is known without astrology. so what happens if an individual is born in Australia or in the tropics, elsewhere where winter/summer is opposite or different seasons, meaning there is only one season — for tropical islands too. is Sidereal or Vedic better to use? I notice that Indian astrologers use Vedic more.

  7. Thank you for the interesting information. My moon is in detriment. Plus, it’s on the cusp (29 degrees Capricorn moving into Aquarius) and I feel the Aquarius more than the Capricorn. For some reason, I have almost none of the qualities of Capricorn. I have no material security, never wanted to be a CEO or in a leadership position with my job, never made much money (altho’ I worked hard), am not at all conservative in anything at all, and on and on. I have even wondered if my mother (who has passed) might have gotten the time of my birth a little wrong, maybe it was an hour later at 0 degrees Aquarius. This whole moon thing has bothered me for years.

  8. I’ve just come across this and found it useful. I have placements in cancer (Sun, Mercury, Mars, Asc & SN) with my Moon in Capricorn. I’ve always felt the description of the Moon in detriment was really quite negative, yet that’s not been my experience. Maybe that’s the saving grace of it being conjunct Jupiter (also in Capricorn). My experience has more been than when things get read (when the sh*t hits the fan, per say) My ability to deal with it, to get thru it in a constructive and helpful way is, hands down, NOT a detriment. In emergency situations, I’m able to function in a real, useful way that helps to better the situation for both myself and others involved. I can access both (Sun is opposite my Moon in Cancer), so on Sunny days, when life is easy, I can live my Cancer, maternal, creative side. Then when things are hard, emergencies happen, I can live my Moon side, taking control of myself, working thru the situation. Not that I don’t live both sides of this opposition daily, this is just an example of how using both has been helpful to me.

  9. Avatar
    James Slattery

    With a Gemini Sun at 27′ and Cancer Mercury at 14′ I guess Mercury is combust with a 17′ difference. I didn’t know this. Is Mercury not expressed then?

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