We are all born with potentials and capabilities that can take us a lifetime to realize. Psychologists call this process of becoming “individuation,” “self realization,” or “self actualization.”
The path of self development has ancient roots. The astrological birth chart is one symbolic map of these innate patterns.
A birth chart has three basic parts – planets, signs, and houses. Put simply, the planets are drives and motivations, the signs give a specific flavor to planetary activity, and the houses tell where these activities play out in a developmental spectrum from the personal to the cosmic.
What are The Houses?
The houses in astrology are very important areas of manifestation for the different planets’ functions and energies. Houses are locations or fields of experience. The experience can be an outward / material / rational experience; or an inner / psychological / emotional one.
House System – Which one is really the best?
This subject is complicated by the existence of differing house systems. One topic that most astrologers feel strongly about is House Systems. The most common house systems are Placidus, Koch, Regiomontanus and Equal-houses. On-going debate and disagreement between astrologers about these systems makes it more likely that they all have some merit in the astrological delineation.
I’m sure each of us firmly believes that our system works the best and it probably does — for us. Others would almost certainly differ and provide us with rather persuasive reasons for their case. The reason it works the best for us is often that we have become familiar with it. With experience, we come to look upon a specific system as a virtual security blanket without which we would feel lost, traumatized, or disoriented.
Since all house systems (excluding the equal house system) agree with the calculation and placement of the major angles — the Ascendant, the Midheaven, the Descendant, and the Imum Coeli (IC), the real debate boils down to the positions of the interior house cusps. While these are also important, most astrologers would have to concede that they are certainly less crucial than the major angles, corresponding to the cusps of Houses 1, 4, 7, and 10.
One might argue that “But if the position of a planet changes with a different house system, isn’t one system necessarily wrong?” I’d have to answer by saying that I don’t believe so. Most of us would probably agree that astrological interpretations are infrequently that precisely demarcated. For example, when a client has Mercury in the 2nd or 3rd House depending on the House System used, most likely the individual’s mental pursuits or communication focus would be tremendously important in either case. It comes down to a matter of degree and fine-tuning how the specific planet fits into the client’s reality.
Some astrologers use more than one House system. Perhaps they use Placidus or Koch for Natal interpretations and Regiomontanus for Horary work. Who’s to say that they are wrong? It’s just that once we find something that works for us, we usually stick with it.
Why should we argue among ourselves about which system is best? I’m reminded of the scene in the movie “Stand by Me” where the boys are wondering who would win a fight between Superman and Mighty Mouse. We’re never going to have a clear winner in the House System discussion, either. We all have lots more important things to think about, don’t we?
Signs and houses do not coincide
A planet being in a house is different to it being in a sign. The sign describes how a planet’s influence is felt, the house describes where it is felt. Signs and houses do not coincide.
Even though we call Aries the first sign, it is not the same as the first house. The first house always begins at the left of the chart which represents the point of the Eastern Horizon. They also progress in an anti-clockwise direction as the signs do.
Note that although signs of the zodiac are always of equal length, the houses are not. The diagram below is our first example chart with the houses numbered.
There are 12 houses in a birth chart. Each looks like a pie section and signifies different fields of experience in a person’s life. Some astrologers and birth chart programs use a traditional, simple meaning for each house. However this often leads to a superficial, flat interpretation that doesn’t get at real meaning in a person’s chart.
Each house actually has a deeper, core meaning that’s important to understand. Taken this way, the houses represent the holism of life.
You could say the 12 houses describe the dance of life. They show the movement and patterns of life, with a circular beginning, middle, and end that tells the emergent, unfolding, expanding story of who we are meant to be.
You will see that the lines that are drawn between houses enclose areas of different sizes and they do not necessarily begin at 0 degrees of a sign.
Because houses are not a regular 30° as are signs, they can sometimes be so large that they take up all of one sign and part of another. That is why in charts, in the outer rim, at the beginning of each house line, there is a notation of the degrees and minutes that mark the start of the house. Only houses are drawn with lines, not signs. So all these lines represent the start of a house.
We call the lines ‘House Cusps’ because they mark the ending of one house and the beginning of another. The chart above shows the house cusps are as follows:
|1st cusp:||00° Libra 25″||7th cusp:||00° Aries 25″|
|2nd cusp:||22° Libra 11″||8th cusp:||22° Aries 11″|
|3rd Cusp:||20° Scorpio 37″||9th cusp:||20° Taurus 37″|
|4th Cusp:||00° Capricorn 34″||10th cusp:||00° Cancer 34″|
|5th Cusp:||10° Aquarius 25″||11th cusp:||10° Leo 25″|
|6th Cusp:||8° Pisces 43″||12th cusp:||8° Pisces 06″|
There are three things to notice with the house cusps on this chart.
1. One is that the signs Sagittarius and Gemini ‘missing’. This is because they are fully enclosed between their adjoining signs. This has occurred because the houses that enclose them are particularly large.
2. The second thing to notice is that some of the numbers are the same. Notice how house cusp 1 and house cusp 7 have the same numeric value and different signs. This is because every sign has an opposite sign and every house has an opposite house. So house 1 and 7 oppose each other across the chart, houses 2 and 8 oppose each other, houses 3 and 9, 4 and 10, 5 and 11, and 6 and 12.
Since signs have opposites we find the opposite sign on the opposite house cusp. There are always 12 houses although some can be quite small. When a sign is fully enclosed in a house we call it ‘intercepted’. It can still have planets there and then the planet is also intercepted. This does not occur in all charts. It depends on the location the chart is set for and you do not need to worry about the technicalities of that for now.
This will also depend upon which ‘House Calculation System’ is used. There are several ways of calculating house cusps which I won’t go into here, (more technicalities best left until later) but they usually depend upon the astrologers chosen favourite.
3. The third thing to notice in this diagram is that, because two signs are intercepted, there are other house cusps that have the same sign on them. In this example the 1st and 2nd houses both have Libra on the cusps and the 7th and 8th houses both have the opposite sign of Aries.
More commonly, the houses begin from the Ascendant, which is the point where the zodiac touches the eastern horizon – where the planets begin their (apparent) ascent up the sky.
Each system has a different way to calculate the houses from this point:
- Equal-house system divides all the houses from this point to arbitrary 30 degree slices. The Midheaven is considered a floating point of ambition and reknown.
- Placidus uses mathematical calculations to derive the exact size of each house, and considers the Midheaven to be the cusp of the 10th house.
Floating MC issue
The issue of the Midheaven (MC) often not being aligned with the 10th house in the equal-houses system is often cited. The Midheaven is considered a point of ambition and reknown, and some find it essential for it to be associated with the 10th house which deals with career and public image.
The following individuals should be studied in relation to this issue.
- Martin Luther King – has his sun conjunct the Midheaven in the equal-house 9th house.
- Marie Curie – has her sun conjunct the Midheaven in the equal-house 11th house.
- Virginia Woolf – has her sun conjunct the Midheaven in the equal-house 8th house,
- Also possible: Albert Einstein may have had his sun conjunct the Midheaven in the equal-house 9th house, depending on the exact time of birth and exactness of timezone (LMT).
The meaning of astrological houses
Each house tells one 12th of the story. The houses divide the experiences of life into 12 parts. For a birth chart, each house represents a part of your existence. See the overview at House Definitions, from there are links at that page to details of each house.
How and why the meanings are attached to each house is complex, something that evolved before history recorded the answer. The odd thing is that it does effectively divide everything into 12 very significant parts which allow you to focus and analyze them in order to gain new insights and understanding. Combining this with other astrological techniques provide simple answers to complex questions and a vocabulary for describing the relationship of the parts to the whole. In the world of design, I’ve never encountered any vocabulary that allows such precise discussions about abstract qualities of human experience.
When you look at the meanings of the houses, you may wonder why the Second house includes your values, your belongings, your lawyer representing you in court, the north-east and your throat. The list is endless and you need a full understanding of many aspects of astrology to fully grasp how many of these make sense.
The 1st house
The first house begins with the ascendant, and reflects planets which seek to manifest their own true nature in an assertive and dominant fashion. Planets in this house influence important life decisions and the general direction the native’s life takes. Non-personal planets in this house usually have more of a subtle influence, unless they are conjunct the Ascendant.
Read more about The 1st house
The 2nd house
The second house deals with pleasures of the senses and expression of the personal tastes and values, and planets here will influence those and be focussed on them.
Read more about The 2nd house
The 3rd house
The third house deals with thinking patterns, information and the sharing of it, wordy expression and contact, and planets here will influence the thinking and be focussed on these areas.
Read more about The 3rd house
The 4th house
The fourth house deals with familial context, influences of the parents, caring for others and domestic life, and planets here will reflect influences in and of these domains and be rather focussed on them.
Read more about The 4th house
The 5th house
The fifth house deals with enjoyment, games and fun, playful self-expression and self-appreciation, and planets here will reflect one’s ability and openness for these domains and be rather focused on them.
Read more about The 5th house
The 6th house
The sixth house deals with skill, routine processes, the upkeep of life, servitude and work mentality, and planets here will reflect one’s readiness and approach towards those and be rather focused on the regular works of this house.
Read more about The 6th house
The 7th house
The seventh house deals with personal social contact, association and shared activities, assimilation of external content, and planets here will reflect upon one’s approach and relationship contents and be rather focussed on them.
Read more about The 7th house
The 8th house
The eighth house deals with challenges, extreme experiences and activities, tests of will and character, examination of the dark side, and planets here will reflect one’s depth of character and be rather focused on seeking such experiences.
Read more about The 8th house
The 9th house
The ninth house deals with ideology, philosophy, exploration and participation on the social scene, and planets here will reflect one’s views of the world and of society, and upon the desire to participate and in what capacity.
Read more about The 9th house
The 10th house
The tenth house deals with one’s attitude toward self-advancement in society, one’s readiness for a serious career, attitudes toward public image and public work, and planets here will reflect upon these and be rather focussed on them.
Read more about The 10th house
The 11th house
The eleventh house deals with one’s readiness to break the mold and act on higher principles, attitude toward humanity as a whole, willingness to experiment with something beyond, and planets here will reflect upon these and be rather focussed on advancing them.
Read more about The 11th house
The 12th house
The twelfth house deals with one’s dreams, one’s world of imagination, the internal world and its content and unresolved baggage, and planets here will reflect upon these and be rather focussed on the internal experiences and the struggle for their expression.
Read more about The 12th house
In many charts, due to the time and day and the longitude and latitude of the location, some zodiac signs span more than one house, and others where the signs are intercepted in houses, never touching the cusp. The cusp of a house is the active point and defines the style of each house. The intercepted sign has significance to the planets, but has no effect on the cusp. For a metaphor – if a house were a room, the sign would define the decor of the room.
These signs govern more of your life than others, meaning there is less balance in all areas of life.
- Joanne Wickenburg: “Intercepted Signs: Environment vs. Destiny”, 1978 and “Your Hidden Powers” 1992
Last updated on December 4, 2017 at 1:54 am. Word Count: 2361