Aug 8

Mercury: Rulership, Exaltation, Detriment and Fall

After taking a look in essential dignities of the Sun and the Moon in previous articles, we are continuing our series with exploring the Mercury’s rulership, exaltation, detriment and fall. Mercury rules both signs of Gemini and Virgo, and is also exalted in the last. Its detriment is in Sagittarius and Pisces, where also is its fall. The terms of rulership, exaltation, detriment and fall are also briefly explained, for readers that have not yet read the previous articles of the series.


When a planet is positioned in the sign that it rules, it is considered to be in rulership or domicile. Its power is strengthened even more, and it can function with great effect, which usually has a very positive outcome to the native.

Mercury is never appearing to be more than one sign from the Sun, in either direction; thus it is from the ancient years considered to rule the two signs on either side of Leo and Cancer: Virgo and Gemini. When diurnal, Mercury is ruling Gemini, while when nocturnal, he is domicile in Virgo. Both signs are strongly associated with the intellect, and when Mercury is present there he strengthens everything that has to do with the mind. As the planet is well dignified in this position, it creates a logician, a speaker and a searcher into all kind of learning. A person with his Mercury located in Gemini or Virgo can excel in being a merchant, or in any other way involved in marketing, sales or promotion of ideas or material objects. Traditionally, if one of the two signs should be named as home to Mercury, it would be Gemini. There has been a lot of dispute among astrologers about this subject, as many believe that the real ruler of Virgo is the asteroid Chiron, and that Mercury is just being in exaltation in this Autumn sign. Nevertheless, there is no real difference in practice. Mercury functions very good in both signs, and when positively aspected by other bodies can even create geniuses.

The mind tends to be sharp and the road to knowledge a priority in the native’s life. Natural curiosity is present and highly important in his life – sometimes though leading to misunderstandings and disappointments. The natural urge to constantly drink new information can blur the native’s borders of curiosity, making him invade into other people’s lives, or knowledge that he would prefer to be unaware of. When Mercury is domicile in Gemini, the person is rather talkative; when in Virgo, the same amount of information is being processed in his mind, but lots of his thoughts are being kept for himself.

When a planet is positioned in the opposite sign of the one it rules, it is considered to be in detriment. Its power is weakened, and its function is debilitated – at least slightly if it is receiving a lot of positive aspects from other planets. This does not mean that it brings a negative outcome, but definitely the planet does not operate in its full power.

The opposite sign of Gemini is Sagittarius, and Mercury is feeling out of place when located in this fiery sign. Sagittarius is ruled by Jupiter, and is traditionally connected with high philosophy and learning, the abstract big picture and universal knowledge. This is exactly what Mercury is afraid of, as it is mostly drawn towards the details. When present there, Mercury feels the urge to expand towards wholeness, while trying to hold on to details. This is a rather impossible thing to do; one must stop seeing individual trees if he wants to catch a glimpse of how the forest looks like. This detrimental placement leads natives who have it towards a lot of confusion and worrying. They sometimes spend a lot of time investing effort to obtain knowledge, yet in a totally wrong way. Self-deceit is very probable to happen, as one can have difficulties in observing himself as a whole. A pattern that tends to re-appear is being overly sarcastic, bragging, blunt and rude. This can be intensified if squares or conjunctions with Mars or Uranus are present; in such situations the native’s speech can be even aggressive towards people that he is afraid that are smarter or have deeper abilities of mind. Mercury is also in detrimental position in Pisces, but this we will examine in a next paragraph, as Pisces is also the sign where the planet is in fall. This double combination of debilitation makes Mercury act in Pisces lot worse than in the traditional detriment in Sagittarious.


There are some certain signs, that when a planet is placed is functioning pretty well. This is called “exaltation” and the planet is operating as if it is in its ruling sign, although slightly less powerfully. The influence is quite positive and its action runs smoothly.

Mercury is exalted in Virgo, one of the two signs that he also rules. The 15th degree is where he feels most powerful, and functions as the healer. Virgo is the sign mostly responsible of serving, both individuals and humanity as a whole. Thus, when Mercury is present here, the native can develop strong healing abilities, mostly through speech and intellect. It can create very good psychologists. People with this placement are charming and well-witted, and if Mercury resides in the 9th house they will probably be drawn towards writing and publishing, religion, philosophy or metaphysics. Their diplomatic skills are exquisite, making them able to convince others very easily, and their mind is very logical and structured. Furthermore, a good sense of humor is most likely to appear, if Mercury is not in some hard aspect with Saturn.

In addition, when Mercury is conjunct the fixed stars Coxa and Zosma located respectively at the 11th and 13thdegree of Virgo, the native has extremely strong occult abilities. That placement is an open gate to archetypical knowledge and the person can easily access the information present in the collective subconscious.  There are possibilities of foreseeing the future through oracles; on the other hand a negative effect this placement offers is heavy over-thinking of details, a nihilistic approach towards life at some periods and a rather weird personality. This exact conjunction with the two stars will be furthermore analyzed in an article yet to come.

The sign opposite of the exaltation sign, is called a “fall” sign for a planet. It tends to lose in strength and not operate well, although being in fall is lot better than being in detriment.

Mercury is in fall when located in Pisces; indeed this placement is the weakest that a native can have. The passivity of Pisces can bring a lot of worries and fears, and imaginary problems can be piling up in the native’s mind during all his life. He is afraid to face reality, preferring to procrastinate and accept any type of misery that coincidences might bring. Mercury feels powerless in this watery sign, and is so sure about it that in the end he becomes exactly what his fear is.  There is difficulty in communicating with the rest of the world, as the words and ideas in the native’s head can have totally different meanings and structure than in any other average person. Sometimes, when Mercury is heavily afflicted, the native can have minor mental handicaps and syndromes; those can be from problems of expression and an introvert character, to dyslexia and autism. On the other hand, a person with Mercury in Pisces can have a very vivid fantasy and a unique internal world; if he finds ways to express himself he can excel in the arts. Of course, the average person with such a placement does not face such extremes- the most likely thing to happen is that he will be unproductive, lost in his thoughts and daydreaming of a better life that he does not even make a single step to chase. The 15th degree of Pisces is where Mercury feels most uncomfortable, exactly opposite to his degree of exaltation in Virgo.

When a planet of a natal chart is neither in its rulership, nor in detriment, exaltation or fall, it is called peregrine. This position is rather neutral, and the planets functions are mostly determined by aspects received by other planets. Around 70% of the planets of any random natal chart, are in peregrine state.

When Mercury is in Aries, the rather dry and fiery sign gives strong will-power and an aggressive approach. The person can be cynical, rather smart but most likely narrow-minded. Mercury feels less comfortable in Taurus, receiving a lot of feminine and passive characteristics from Taurus’ ruler Venus, but the fertile sign opens rather good horizons to the native for learning. When at the end of Taurus, Mercury starts to feel at home as Gemini is the sign that it rules. Cancer is a rather poor position for the planet of intellect, as the Moon’s characteristics that blend with it lead the native to unpredicted behaviors and too much sentimentality. Leo is a rather good placement; especially when Mercury is located in the last decan it functions as if it is in Virgo. The presence of the fixed star Regulus (The heart of Leo) on the cusp of Virgo can be very beneficial when conjuncting Mercury. People with such a placement can excel in theater and whatever else involves pompous speech. When in Libra, Mercury is rather easy-going; while when in Scorpio there is danger of giving dark characteristics to the native’s mind. In the best case, this can be sarcasm and black humor; in the worst case though, when ill-aspected from malefics Mercury can bring out a vicious mind, hateful speech and sorcery. Capricorn gives very strong logic, while Aquarius Mercury can be a very beneficial position as the Uranian energy presence will make the mind very innovative. A person with such a placement will most probably be eccentric – most times a pioneer of new ideas and thoughts. Even if Mercury is not exalted or domicile in Aquarius, it acts as it is. This particular placement will be also analyzed furthermore in an article yet to come.

It should be stated, that even when a planet is in detriment or in fall, strong positive aspects by other planets can totally eradicate the handicap of its natal positioning. No matter how important are these natal states of planets, they are just the board on which one’s life evolves. The game itself, even if influenced by the board, is mostly depending on the movements and the transits of the celestial bodies. Life is not a still snapshot, but an eternally evolving multi-parameter function.

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About the Author:

Xaos is the author of all astrological articles on Free-Spirited Mind. He bears no responsibility for any other articles or opinions of authors.