A Closer Look at Exaltation: an Afterword

by Andrew Carter

In the interests of a more comprehensive survey of the subject, it should be noted that Komilla Sutton, along with almost all other Vedic astrologers, states that Caput Draconis is of the element of air while Cauda Draconis is of the element of fire; this seems to be generally accepted within the Hindu tradition. However, within the European tradition, there exist several variants on which of the elements is allotted to the head and tail of the dragon. Pseudo-Agrippa allots the element of earth to Caput and water to Cauda; he dismisses the tradition that allots earth to Caput and fire to Cauda, even though this is the tradition that was later adopted by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Nevertheless, Martin Goodson, a British astrologer and geomancer who works within the tradition of the Golden Dawn, allots Caput to fire and Cauda to earth; while GH Frater PCA states that the effect of Caput Draconis is similar to that of Neptune and the effect of Cauda Draconis is similar to that of Uranus. In terms of the elemental attributions assigned to these planets by Victorian astrologers, this allots water to Caput and earth to Cauda and reverses the attributions of pseudo-Agrippa. And these are just a few examples of the differences of opinion that exist among various authorities or, more aptly, conjecturists.

For myself, I tend to accept the judgment that allots earth to Caput Draconis and fire to Cauda Draconis, as this seems to make the most symbolic sense. The only air sign other than Gemini in which a planet is exalted is Libra, in which Saturn, which is cold and dry in temperament, is exalted; the only fire sign other than Sagittarius in which a planet is exalted is Aries, in which Sol, which is hot and dry in temperament, is exalted. In the psychology of temperament, the element of earth is cold and dry, invariable; while the element of fire is hot and dry, volatile.

Claude Dariot, the sixteenth-century French astrologer and contemporary of Michele de Nostradame, writes: “The head of the dragon is in all points like to Mercury, good with the good planets, and evil with the evil; for being joined with the good planets, he doth increase their goodness, and with the evil their malice.” Thus, Caput Draconis is “like to Mercury,” who is himself “of mutable nature, good with good and bad with bad planets … according to the planets to whom he is joined; but of his own nature cold and dry.” Again, in the psychology of temperament, the element of earth is cold and dry.

In alchemical symbolism, the wingless dragon is the personification of Sulphur and its nature is masculine. The fifteenth-century alchemist Arnaldus de Bruxella notes that Sulphur corresponds to earth; Sulphur is earth cooked by heat. Dom Antoine-Joseph Pernety, the eighteenth-century Benedictine monk, writes: “The philosophical Sulphur is an earth of an extreme tenuity, igneity and dryness; it contains a fire of a very abundant nature, this is why it has been called Fire of the Stone.”

The wingless dragon impregnates himself by swallowing his tail, which represents the male organ; his mouth represents the female organ. The dragon consumes his body into his head when he devours his tail; Sulphur is transformed into Mercury: “They that hold Sulphur and Mercury to be the First Matter of the Stone, by the name of Sulphur they understand Sol; by Mercury the Philosophic Luna.” The masculine dragon whose nature corresponds to Sulphur is the wingless dragon Caput Draconis; he exhales a poisonous vapor, a “most pernicious poison.” The winged dragon is the personification of Quicksilver and its nature is feminine. The modern magician Taylor Ellwood notes that liquid Quicksilver corresponds to molten fire. Sir Edward Kelley, the sixteenth-century alchemist, writes: “Know that Quicksilver is a consuming fire which mortifies bodies by its contact.”

The female dragon whose nature corresponds to Quicksilver is the winged dragon Cauda Draconis; she is transformed into a creature who exhales fire only after she unites with the wingless dragon which corresponds to Sulphur. These two dragons themselves represent the perennial tension of opposites; the winged dragon tries to prevent the wingless dragon from flying. In analytical terms, individuation is impossible until the wingless dragon flies.

editors Afterword 🙂

I have found Andrew Carter’s contribution to the discussion on exaltation very valuable. It shows the application of a mode of thinking that can be called the principle of reversibility. A commonly used concept is looked at backwards. This usually opens new vistas of insight. And so it is very thought provoking to think of the domiciles of the planets being derived from the exaltations…

Thank you very much indeed Andrew!


3 thoughts on “A Closer Look at Exaltation: an Afterword

  1. Sie sind der meiste willkommene Philosoph der Nullpunkte!

    Further to the above afterword, see my comments appended to “A Closer Look at Exaltation (4).” Anne Wright of the Fixed Stars site explains the symbolism of the caduceus very aptly:

    “The caduceus also unites the four natural elements and their symbolic qualities. The rod corresponds to Earth, the wings to Air, and the serpents to Fire and Water. However, it is not simply their snaking movement, like the waves of the sea or the flicker of flames, which identifies serpents with water and fire, but their very nature. Their poisonous bite is fiery, their fluid movement almost liquid, making them the source of both life and death.”

    Compare her comments with the extract from Gloria Mundi sonsten Paradeiss Taffel, the words of Nicholas Flamel, and the reference from Carl Jung.

    In Vedic astrology, the nodes are given full planetary status, even though there is little agreement among practitioners as to their domicile and exaltation (there are several schools of thought on this). In European astrology, the lunar nodes were almost completely neglected; of the Renaissance astrologers, William Ramesey is the most generous in his opinion of them.

    Astronomically, the lunar nodes are the eclipse points, i.e., the shadow of the dragon. Ever-present vortices of energy, the nodes reveal hidden shadow issues eclipsing our mind, issues of increase and of decrease; effort with reward is unsatisfied (the south node), reward without effort is unappreciated (the north node). As Ellen McCaffery notes of Cauda Draconis, “It inclines to wash away the things of the house and sign in which it is placed.”

    It may be noted that in the exaltations, the Sun is placed at precisely 45 degrees from Caput Draconis and 135 degrees from Cauda Draconis, while the Moon is precisely 30 degrees from Caput and 150 degrees from Cauda. There is evidence of conjunction, opposition, trine and quartile aspects as well, but none of the quintile series of aspects invented by Kepler and adopted by Placidus.

  2. When I first wrote these articles, there were some sources of information I had not been aware of before. I would now like to provide that information as well as encourage others to reflect on the implications of these ideas.

    From “The Astrological Judgment and Practice of Physick” by Richard Saunders:

    “Caput Draconis is of the nature of Jupiter and Venus, Good and Fortunate, Temperate in Heat and Cold, but moist in the first, &c. Both Masculine and Feminine, Active and Passive, Ascending and Descending, friendly to the Life and Nature of Man, causing few Diseases, but apt to help all Diseases, when the Moon is therewith.

    “Cauda Draconis is of the nature of Saturn and Mars, and is most Evil and Unfortunate, Untemperate, Destructive, Active, Masculine, Ascending, an Enemy to the Life and Nature of Man, causing many Sicknesses and Diseases.”

    From “The Soul of Astrology” by William Salmon:

    “As for Contrantiscions, which some Authors have made a great noise about, I esteem them to be but Chimeras, and so not worth taking notice of, since Points or Nodes emit no rays, as those men themselves have maintained.”

    From “Dragon of the Alchemists” by Frederick Carter:

    ” … just as the typical symbol of the Sun is the Lion, so that of Mercury is the Dragon.

    “The astrological definitions of the relation between the Dragon, and the Sun and the Moon, reveal their position in the ordering of the seasons. In the three signs representing Spring, Aries, Taurus, and Gemini; the Sun, Moon, and the Dragon are respectively Exalted: in Autumn, they are in Fall. In Summer, the Sun, Moon, and Mercury are in the signs in which they rule — Leo, Cancer, and Virgo: in Winter, they are in the signs of their detriment. Thus, as Mercury can be equated with the Dragon, the four seasons of the triad are, Spring — the time of their Exaltation, Summer — their Rule, Autumn — their Fall, and Winter — their Detriment.”

    From “The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire” by Roger Beck:

    “If an eclipse in Leo is the worst defeat the Sun can suffer, what are the circumstances in which this outcome is impossible? The answer is simple: since eclipses by definition occur at the lunar nodes, an eclipse of the Sun in Leo can only occur when one or other of the nodes is in Leo. Remove the nodes from Leo and its opposite sign, Aquarius, and an eclipse in Leo becomes an impossibility. If you wish to locate the nodes as far as you can from Leo and Aquarius, the pair of opposed signs to pick is the pair in quadrature, Taurus and Scorpius.”

    Or you can transpose the quadrature from Virgo and Pisces to Gemini and Sagittarius and transfer the symbolism to the solstice gateways.

  3. Hello Andrew,
    Thank you very much for the update on your article! Especially interesting is using the Dragon as an image of Mercury, which does have some alchemical correspondnces.

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