So in our last post, we looked at empty Houses – that is, Houses in a chart that have no Planets in them. Some simple math will show you that there’s actually no way to not have at least a couple of empty Houses in a chart: even if you prefer a more modern approach to Astrology, with a more liberal view toward what qualifies as a worthy “Planet” in chart interpretation, you’ll still end up examining the distribution of 10 or 11 Planets out into the 12 Houses. Obviously, at least one or two of those Houses will end up without any tenants – more, if you have the kind of chart in which a bunch of the Planets clump together in only a few Houses.
This becomes an important concept, and one that often worries newcomers to Astrology. Last time around, I did my best to debunk the popular first assumption that if a House is empty in a chart, then the chart-holder must be doomed to go through life without having any experiences at all in the realm of activity that’s generally encapsulated within that House…
This assumption is understandable, but it’s also not one that holds up all that well in the face of any real scrutiny. Consider even this quick conceptual set-up: imagine a person whose chart has an empty Third House. Lots of people have charts like this – millions, probably. My chart has an empty Third House!
Now recall that H3 is where we go whenever we deal with the transmission and reception of information…it’s the exploration of our local environment…it’s our conscious, rational thought processes…and many astrologers believe that H3 also holds our short journeys and our siblings. So if having no Planets in this House really did translate as having no H3 experiences at all, then I, and the millions of other “Empty H3” people out there, wouldn’t be able to interact with our fellow humans, perceive our surroundings, or walk down the block, and each one of us would be an only child. I would counter these conclusions, though, by testifying that I can and do both give and receive information, my five senses do work, I communicate with people all the time, I navigate my local area on a daily basis, and I even have two siblings… So the main lesson here is that while I do have plenty of H3 experiences after all…these just aren’t the experiences that will end up having the most sweeping karmic repercussions for me in this life. I incarnated in this form at this time to work on other major existential issues, and those issues are located in Houses other than my H3, that’s all.
But so then even if we allow for the idea that the biopic that Hollywood will certainly one day make about me won’t feature much in the way of H3 activity…I might still want to know some basics about my own Third House. Even if my H3 experiences in this life will be more like footnotes than headlines in my own Personal Myth, it’s still my life, after all, and I’d still like as much information about it as I can get. If a birth-chart is like a User’s Manual for a person’s lifetime, then I don’t want to feel like any of the sections in mine are just blank pages, even with respect to the “lesser” material (i.e., those pages that cover the areas where I won’t be called on to spend much energy or perform any serious maintenance).
So how do I do that? How do I get a feel for what my Third House experiences will be like for me in this lifetime if there are no Planets there to set the tone…?
Here’s the trick: we can use the cusp of any given House to help give us a good helping of relevant information on that score. The “cusp” of a House is simply the line separating that House from the one that came before it. It’s a dividing line. The Second House cusp separates the Second House from the First. The Eighth House cusp separates H7 from H8. Each cusp extends outward from the center of the chart until it hits the Zodiac Wheel that makes up the chart’s outer rim…and so each cusp basically points right into one of the Signs. That Sign then serves to set the tone for the affairs of that House, even if the House is empty of Planets.
Let’s look at Marvin Gaye’s chart again. Last time around, we saw that his Seventh House has no Planets in it. We also saw that for an empty “House of Partnerships,” the man certainly saw no shortage of action there, what with his two wives and four singing partners. But what was the flavor of his activity there? What was the tone? He didn’t have his Mars there to make things all fiery and passionate in his partnerships; he didn’t have his Neptune there to make them all dreamy and mystical and spiritual. So what were his partnerships like…?
Take a look at his Seventh House cusp – it happens to be one of four cusps that get special treatment in chart analysis, and you’ll find each of these rendered in bold ink and marked with a two-letter designation. The Seventh House cusp is also known as the Descendant (marked “DC”). Like the House it announces, the DC is very much about our wiring for important partnerships. Marvin Gaye’s DC – his H7 cusp – points into the Sign of Capricorn.
So we can apply what we know about that Sign to get some pretty helpful clues about the general tone that vital partnerships had in Marvin Gaye’s life. Capricorn the Sign lends an air of practicality, of seriousness, of a slightly conservative nature. Capricorn-energy tends to want tangible results in its work, and it has an urge to build great things over long periods of time.
With this in mind, we should be able to fairly describe Marvin Gaye’s important partnerships as having been somewhat traditional in set-up…and yes, it does appear that at least to outside observation like ours, he was involved in pretty standard marriages and artistic/business collaborations, with nothing radical or shocking about them. We could also expect that these partnerships would have yielded substantial results of a concrete, physical nature, some of which would have taken time and dedication to bring to fruition. And this also appears to hold true: Marvin married Anna Gordy, the sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy, and this partnership intertwined for several years with his professional world, where he built his finances and reputation (Capricorn-y stuff). The relationship also yielded several songs (co-written with Anna), while its eventual dissolution served as inspirational fodder for an entire album by Marvin. His singing partnerships with Tammi Terrell and with Diana Ross likewise resulted in tangible output (i.e., musical recordings) that required time and dedication to complete, and that generated great practical results (record sales and distribution, and considerable revenues). Quite arguably, then, Marvin Gaye’s important life-partnerships functioned for him in very Capricornian ways…
So that’s the technique: if a House in a chart stands empty of Planets, then in order to get a feel for the general tone of the activity that will take place for the chart-holder in that House, you follow that House’s cusp to see which Sign it lands in. That Sign will tell you a lot about how the affairs of that House will tend to tumble out for the chart-holder.
Next time around, we’ll finally circle back to the technique I mentioned a few posts ago, in which we use Planetary Rulerships to learn more about the Houses in a given chart…