So I’m afraid I owe all of you a bit of an apology… In the previous post, I got into the concept of Planetary Rulership: what it means when astrologers talk about Planets “ruling” Signs, and how the potency of a given Planet can rise or fall depending on which Sign is hosting that Planet in a chart. I then closed by saying that in this next post, I’d get into an additional (and very helpful) use that we can get out of the Planetary Rulership concept…
But I wasn’t thinking ahead as flawlessly as I should have been. That additional property of rulerships is very much based in House theory – in other words, we first need to talk about the Houses before that other business will make any real sense.
So the new plan is that 1) we’ll be putting a thumbtack into that additional rulership technique, to mark our place for later; 2) we’ll go over the basics of the Houses for a minute; and then 3) I’ll loop back and tie that rulership idea to the House system in a subsequent post, as promised.
And with that out of the way…the Houses!
So far, we’ve looked at two major symbol-sets in Astrology: the Planets and the Signs.
As discussed, the Planets represent certain drives within us humans. The Planets describe what we do. Meanwhile, the Signs modify the actions of the Planets, and they therefore tell us how we do what we do.
Which brings us to the third of the three major symbol-sets that we need to understand if we want to get any kind of a grip on Astrology and chart interpretation: the Houses.
The Planets are based on the actual bodies that seem to travel around us in the solar system, while the Signs are the divisions of the “Zodiac belt” – that large circular track in space around which all of the Planets seem to roam, as we look out at them from our vantage point on Earth. Like the Planets, the Signs themselves also appear to move around us in space as we gaze outward from our terrestrial home and into the void…
The Houses are likewise based on our earthbound perspective, but in contrast to the Planets and Signs, they don’t seem to wander around us; rather, the Houses are an invisible framework that’s always tethered in place, and as we watch, the Signs and Planets appear to travel continuously through the Houses.
As an illustration of this, consider the eastern horizon: at any time of day, no matter what else seems to be whirling past us in the sky, be it birds, helicopters, fluffy clouds, the Planet Mercury, the Sign of Virgo…the eastern horizon is always lying right there to the east of us. It’s a fixed point of reference. And then know that in a chart, the critical point that we call the Ascendant is another way of saying “the eastern horizon.” They’re the same thing. The Ascendant (= the eastern horizon) always serves as the beginning, or “cusp” of the First House, and the rest of the House system then builds onward from that point of origin. If we follow the Houses all the way around, we eventually arrive back again at the Ascendant, which both ends the final House – the Twelfth – and begins the First.
The Houses are represented graphically in a birth-chart as the 12 numbered “pie-slices” into which each chart’s interior is divided. And the Houses add another critical dimension to the interpretation and understanding of a chart. While the Planets tell us what we do, and the Signs describe how we do it…the Houses point out where the work of each Planet will be naturally predisposed to occur in our lives.
Consider an example… Say you have two friends, both of whom have charts that feature a placement of Mars in Aries. Most astrologers would immediately point out that this is an indicator of potential for some serious “Warrior-energy.” At their best, a Mars-in-Aries person might well be strong-willed, courageous, and skilled at combat of all kinds…and at their worst, a person with this placement might have anger management issues, and might get into hostilities just for the sake of the conflict, and not because the conflict is truly necessary. But a big question is where in the lives of these people does all that Warrior-energy emerge? It’s the Houses that explain why the life of one Mars-in-Aries person might be very different from the life of another.
Let’s say that one of these two hypothetical friends of yours has their Mars-in-Aries in their Fourth House. Sometimes referred to as the “House of Home,” the Fourth House is all about our origins, our ancestry, our early formative years, and our most private affairs. With this placement, we might be looking at a person who rarely shows their anger and their lust to the world at large, but who rather keeps them under wraps until getting home, where few to no people can witness them. This might be the type of person who seems extremely quiet and polite and low-key when out in the world, maybe even downright stuffy and conservative, but who finally becomes a tiger behind the closed and bolted doors of their inner sanctum. They might harbor an explosive sex drive, but will only feel comfortable unleashing it on their own “home playing field,” when they feel assured of privacy and a sense of propriety over the venue. They might also squelch similarly intense urges toward anger or competition when out and about, only finally setting them loose upon their close family members when they’re all in the family house, and the public has been locked outside.
Next, let’s say that the other hypothetical friend has their very similar Mars-in-Aries placed in their Tenth House – the “House of Career” (among other things). This House lies opposite the Fourth, and where the Fourth House is arguably the most private House in a chart, the Tenth House is the most public. If a Mars-in-Aries is placed here, then it will most likely become a part of that person’s public reputation, and will inform whatever it is that they become known for in the world. A placement like this could lead to someone becoming a “professional fighter,” be that as a literal combatant/competitor (like a soldier, a martial artist, or an athlete), or as a fighter in some less tangible/physical sense (such as a lawyer who fights battles in a courtroom context). It might also manifest as the kind of sheer, intense drive that enables many people to achieve great fame and/or success in ultra-competitive fields such as acting, finance, sales, modeling, and music.
Both of these hypothetical friends have their Mars drives (aggression, courage, lust) working in Aries fashion (fiery, bold, impulsive), but the energies end up manifesting in very different areas in these two lives. The one sees them coming out in the privacy of the home, where they may go completely unguessed at by the rest of humanity, while the other experiences them in the realm of their career and their very public reputation, where humanity might have a hard time missing them. The Houses explain where the Planetary energies each want to enter into the world.
This is also the layer of Astrology that’s very dependent on knowing a person’s exact time of birth. While the Planets move through the Signs at a relatively slow pace, and we can nail down a lot of the Planets-in-Signs data even with a very approximate birth-time, the Houses change with the rotation of the Earth. A single day sees all 12 Houses flash by, and if we don’t have a precise time of birth, we can’t accurately establish the person’s House information. This robs us of that critical dimension of “where” things will be happening in that person’s life, and it also prevents us from knowing where certain key “Points” are, such as the Ascendant (which tells us our Rising Sign) and the Midheaven (which speaks volumes about our true vocation in the world).
Next time, we’ll meet the Houses as individual entities, and soon after that, we’ll get back to that business of the device that uses Planetary rulership associations to add additional connections to our House-spawned information…