In Vedic astrology, certain specific planetary placements are said to be "of exaggerated condition".
Exaggeration, as an attribute in Jyotisha, means overly strong or overly weak, but by examining the different types of exaggeration, much more can be understood.
Exaggerated strength occurs when there is a Bright Moon or a planet is exalted or retrograde. Exaggerated weakness happens when there is a Dark Moon or a planet participates in a planetary war, is debilitated, or combust.
[Brief definitions for the students of Jyotish: A Bright Moon is a Moon that is 6, 7, or 8 signs from the Sun, while a Dark Moon is a Moon within 72 degrees of the Sun. Planetary war occurs when any two of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, or Saturn are within one degree of each other. Combustion occurs when a planet is within 6 degrees from the Sun.]
Exaggerated strength can imply being distorted, ungrounded, inflated, excessive, and egocentric.
The common story of exaltation, for example, is that you go to visit a friend, and they treat you like a king, the profoundly celebrated guest. But we are human, and too much of a good thing can go to our heads, and make us over-confident, and lead us to overestimate our value and capabilities.
Conversely, exaggeration of the negative type can mean over-reacting, hypersensitivity, lack of confidence, insecurity, and not trusting ones abilities.
Two considerations in evaluating the effects of exaggeration
1. Benefic/Malefic Nature
A benefic with exaggerated strength has a powerful uplifting effect upon the houses and planets it aspects. Any person or theme that it signifies may be both augmented and overblown.
A benefic with exaggerated weakness, on the other hand, can signify a person or theme that is impaired, and its aspect provides only minor support.
A malefic with exaggerated strength can powerfully overwhelm and disturb the planets and houses it aspects, and signify a person or theme that is excessively compelling (Mars/Sun/Rahu) or blocked (Saturn/Ketu).
A malefic with exaggerated weakness is very unhappy, and casts a pall upon the planets and houses it touches. The person and themes it represents embody an uncomfortable deficiency.
2. Pristine/Besieged Condition
I am introducing the terms "pristine" and "besieged" because they describe two states of being of a planet that have a powerful impact upon how the planet functions.
A planet in a pristine state is untouched (by conjunction or aspect) by any malefics. It is therefore fundamentally free to express itself in a completely unperturbed fashion.
A planet that is besieged, on the other hand, has no benefic aspects or conjunctions, and is aspected by or conjunct one or more malefics. The weaker the besieged planet is, and the more poorly placed, the more impact malefics will have on it. For example, if the planet is combust and in the 12th house, it will be greatly affected by the aspects of malefics.
A planet that is pristine as well as exaggerated fares quite well, because it can find balance and perspective relatively easily.
A planet that is besieged as well as exaggerated fares much more poorly, because it is more likely to become defensive, overcompensate, and react excessively.
Types of Exaggerated Strength
Exaltation: Being too full of oneself can easily happen with this placement, i.e. being "spoiled", entitled, over-reaching, and "expecting the world to fall at your feet".
Exaltation is the most "wobbly" of the exaggerated strengths because its actual strength can be illusory. If the exalted planet is debilitated in the Navamsa or if the dispositor of the exalted planet is weak then "the king has no clothes", or in other words, the person believes they have great abilities but can't fully manifest them.
Even when the planet in exaltation has its full strength, there can be too much self-reference and often too little empathy.
Jack Nicholson is an example of a person with many exaggerated planets. His Sun and Rahu are exalted, his Moon is Bright, his Ketu and Jupiter are debilitated, and his Mars and Venus in retrograde. Reports of his inflated ego have not been exaggerated!
(Note that the majority have exaggerated strength.)
Several film critics describe him as "bigger than everyone else" and one said "He thinks men have egos that overpower everything around them and appetites that require constant maintenance to be restrained." (from thisrecording.com)
Of course, a planet in exaltation can form very powerful yogas and create much success in a person's life.
Retrogradation and the Bright Moon
These exaggerated strengths can amplify the attributes of the planets, but usually without the sense of entitlement that exaltation can bring. Given that planets moving retrograde are going "against the grain" (opposite to the "normal" movement of the planets), retrogradation can bring with it a sense of different-ness, alienation, uniqueness, rebellion or willfulness, and simply being out-of-sync.
As a result, a person with prominent retrograde planets (or the Bright Moon) can be unsure of their gifts, uncertain of their reception, and may need to gain stability in their lives before they can flower.
Note: Dr. Charak has illuminated another effect of retrograde planets, that they can give rise to serious illnesses in some cases.
Helen Reddy, who has four planets retrograde, was born into an acting family and by the age of four believed she would be a star. However, the loss of a kidney prevented her from dancing. She had a very long and rocky road before her career finally took off, including a period when she walked away from it in rebellion.
Maya Angelou, on the other hand, has a Bright Moon -- in fact a Full Moon -- that represents her phenomenal talents.
While the 8th house placement of her Lagnesa, and the Mars aspect upon her Moon both reflect the challenges she had to encounter and surmount on her life journey, the Second House Moon expressed itself in her command of several languages, potency as a speaker, and champion of her culture.
Types of Exaggerated Weakness
Combustion and the Dark Moon
Since being treated as (and feeling) invisible can be frustrating and undermining, those with combust planets and the Dark Moon often feel that they have to over-perform to get any recognition at all. Combust planets have very deep and powerful gifts (due to the inner illumination by the Sun), but these gifts are often difficult to express.
Further complicating the issue is that if the Moon is close to New, the fruition of the yogas in the chart may be greatly diminished. Similarly, the themes of the houses ruled by combust planets are at least partially obstructed and impaired.
Robert Duvall was one of the few famous people with two combust planets, and because his chart has powerful Raja Yogas, he was able to achieve fame despite them. Perhaps his being a "late-bloomer", getting his breakthrough role at the age of 31, was the result of the combust planets.
Robert Downey Jr. is an excellent example of someone with a Dark Moon. His career (Moon in the Tenth House) was often in upheaval because of his unreliability, and he became infamous for his struggles with addiction. Notice that his Moon is aspected by Saturn. His father introduced him to drugs at the age of six, and his parents divorced when he was 13 years old. Surmounting his issues, he has become a very famous and well-regarded actor.
I was surprised to discover, from the lives of clients whose charts I've read, that people with planets in planetary war often have childhoods filled with intense strife. The magnitude of the struggles varies a great deal, depending upon the planets involved and their placement.
John Lennon has a planetary war between Lagnesa Jupiter and Saturn in his chart. His childhood was fraught with challenges, including being handed over to his aunt because his mother was taking such poor care of him, and being forced to choose between his mother and his father (losing contact with his father thereafter for 20 years)
Karen Carpenter has a more serious planetary war, because it took place in the 8th house. She had, according to a book by Randy Schmidt, a very controlling and inhibited mother who was unable to show Karen love. She developed anorexia, and died from it at the age of 32.
A planetary war calls upon the person to weather the storms of their lives as well as possible, to find the healing support of others (and receive it), and to commit to their own recovery.
Those who have planetary wars in their charts often develop great determination to surmount their histories and to succeed in life.
If a planet is debilitated (called Neecha in Jyotish), then its expression is compromised in some manner. Often, the themes represented by the planet (e.g. wisdom for Jupiter, emotions for the Moon) become sensitive areas in the person's life, i.e. not feeling wise enough (Jupiter) or feeling overly emotionally sensitive (the Moon).
The weakness of the debilitated planet can, like combustion, cause the person to overcompensate and over-perform, as well as to doubt and/or devalue the abilities that they actually have.
When a planet is debilitated, one must immediately ascertain whether the debilitation is ameliorated by the placement of the planet's dispositor.
The Neecha Bhanga Raja Yoga (the breaking of the debilitation yoga) has many forms; a couple of the basic ones are that the dispositor of the debilitated planet is strong or that it aspects the debilitated planet.
Therefore, like exaltation, debilitation is much affected by the condition of its dispositor.
When Neecha Bhanga does occur, something interesting happens. The "reversal" represented by the bhanga gives the person special skills, e.g. an unusually unique and acute aesthetic sense (if Venus is neecha) or a comical, insightful, or creative communication style (for Mercury).
Notice in Fred Astaire's chart, for example, that Lagnesa is debilitated Mars. But its dispositor, the Moon, is exalted and in an angle (causing a Neecha Bhanga Raja Yoga), and so Mr. Astaire's abilities proved to be unique and outstanding.
I searched and searched for someone famous who had a debilitated Lagnesa poorly placed and without benefic influence. This proved to be very difficult. Almost none of the tens of thousands of charts in my file had these conditions!
In the process, I discovered that an amazing number of successful performers have a debilitated planet in the house of performing (the 5th house) with Neecha Bhanga or the influence of a benefic.
However, one of the founders of rock and roll, Chuck Berry, came closest to meeting the criteria:
While he does have both a Dainya Parivartana Yoga between Venus and Mercury, and his Jupiter aspects his debilitated Venus, Jupiter is also debilitated, and Venus is in the 12th house.
As might be expected, Mr. Berry did have a few bumps along the road, most notably his imprisonment three times in his life. Prisons are ruled by the 12th house, and he was sent to jail twice during Venus bhuktis!
Exaggerated strength amplifies a planet's actions and exaggerated weakness increases a planet's uncertainty. Recognizing a planet's predisposition reminds us to pause and make decisions from a place of centeredness, compassion, and spaciousness.
Exaggeration can also represent a creative force that once harnessed can be very valuable, and a sensitivity that makes one appreciate life more.