As a traditional natal and horary astrologer who typically uses only the seven planets of antiquity and their various modes of essential and accidental dignity, I don’t assign zodiacal signs of exaltation to the modern (aka “trans-Saturnian) planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. In fact, I barely use those planets in my work at all, but that’s another topic. Back in the ’70s when esoteric (sometimes called “spiritual”) astrology first flourished (at least for my generation, although Alice Bailey, Aleister Crowley and Paul Foster Case were way ahead of that curve), it was thought that each of these distant solar sidekicks evoked one of the classical planets at a “higher octave” (e.g. at a more rapid rate of vibration) due to their rarefied but still vaguely similar intonation in the life of the native.
As I recall, Uranus (modern ruler of Aquarius) was considered to be “Mercury on a higher arc” because both “plied the airwaves;” Neptune was thought to express Venus at an exalted level because of its languid and glamorous (albeit slightly more dangerous) magnetism; and Pluto was supposed to be the exponent of the glorified Sun because of the obvious association with molten volcanism, and also because some occultists considered it to be the dark “Sun-behind-the-Sun,” sitting above and behind the nuclear Sun and bestowing profound “rays” upon it. These assumptions don’t square with modern ideas about where in the zodiac the “transpersonal” planets should be exalted (i.e. at their most effective), and “expert opinions” are all over the map (which should tell you something about the half-baked assumptions behind them). This madhouse is one of the reasons I don’t bother with exaltation for Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, and I won’t repeat the drivel here, not even to ridicule it..
However, the “higher octave” idea played into my deliberations in reformulating the planet-and-sign correspondences on the paths of the Hermetic Tree of Life. The higher one goes up the Tree, the more numinous the energies become until the realm of pristine, entirely non-corporeal spirit is reached at the pinnacle of the structure. According to many psychological astrologers, the operation of the outer planets is quite abstract and non-specific when factored into the delineation of a natal horoscope. They are considered to function more at a “generational” than a personal level (that is, all members of a generation will be “stamped” with their signature qualities in approximately the same manner and measure); note that I don’t necessarily subscribe to this theory, but that was the general consensus at the time. Thus, in my Qabalistic work, it was obvious they should reside at the very top of the Tree and above the Abyss, where beatific abstractions are the rule rather than the exception.
Uranus as a more transcendent elaboration of Mercury always made sense to me, and it fits seamlessly on the path of the Magician, itself an expression of Mercury at a recondite level. Although Uranus is technically exalted in Scorpio (one of the other “scientific” signs), I placed it in the sign of Gemini to bring all of these threads together; I also moved the Primal Element of Air to this path as a secondary correspondence rather than keeping it tied to the Fool, which I took in a different direction. There isn’t much more to say about Uranus, except that it seems to have a stronger grip on people as individuals in this “twitter-y” electronic age.
I deposited Neptune on the uppermost path of the Middle Pillar formerly occupied by the High Priestess and her cohort, the Moon, and placed it in Cancer for a couple of reasons: 1) Neptune has a real affinity for the Water signs, and the home of the Moon seems to both magnify and enrich its languorous, mystical nature; and 2) although Neptune rules Pisces and its alter-ego Venus is exalted there, I wanted to create a zodiacal continuum across the first three vertical paths, with Leo, Cancer and Gemini following one another right-to-left in the customary “clockwise” order of the diurnal zodiac. I gave this path to the Hanged Man, which seemed correct since it joins the celestial Primum Mobile (the sphere of Pluto in my model) to the solar sphere of the “Sacrificed Gods” (Christ, Osiris, Odin , Buddha, et al who symbolically “died” and were “resurrected” to mirror the seasonal peregrinations of the Sun); and of course, “sacrifice” is one of the keywords for the Hanged Man since he is “dangling down” as if being crucified. I kept its secondary correspondence to the Primal Element of Water.
Pluto is unique in that it sits at the outer fringe of the Solar System, symbolically putting it in direct contact with universal forces that are then channeled down the path of the Fool via the Wheel of the Zodiac; consider it the inbound “cosmic messenger” to Mercury’s outbound “solar messenger.” The second sphere of the Tree (Chokmah) was traditionally ascribed to the zodiacal belt but I changed that to Uranus, the “patron sign” of astrology and the mythological father of Saturn, which occupies the next sphere of Binah. Thus, we have the deeply transformative Plutonian energy leaving the sphere of the Primum Mobile (or Pluto) and entering that of radical Uranus and then cautious Saturn in turn (Neptune is out of the main flow for my purpose here since it lies on the vertical “Path of the Arrow” instead of on the zigzag “Path of the Flaming Sword”). I placed Pluto in the Fire sign of Leo to recognize it as an esoteric extension of the Sun, and I put the Primal Element of Fire here as well, for its relation to both Leo and the Plutonian idea of volcanism.
So what became of the High Priestess in all of this? I placed her on the horizontal path between Uranus and Saturn, and assigned her the attribution of Saturn in Libra, the sign of its exaltation and domicile of greatest judicial severity. The scroll or book in her lap (Akashic Record?) seems to link her to Fate or Justice (called by Barbara Walker “the Goddess from whom nothing could be concealed” and “the woman who knows the All”) as befits her station on the Tree. I like the idea of giving her a more active role in the weighing and mediating of matters at the Supernal level rather than just representing an “express elevator for the Soul” between the Sun and the “Cosmic Seat.” (In my opinion, the Hanged Man is a much more compelling archetype for arduously “going against the flow” to get there.) I figured that, rather than merely representing the misty and mysterious Lunar Goddess, she is enough of a “tough cookie” to intervene between father (Uranus) and son (Saturn).