House (astrology)

Most horoscopic traditions of astrology systems divide the horoscope into a number (usually twelve) of houses whose positions depend on time and location rather than on date. The houses of the horoscope represent different spheres of life, described in terms of physical surroundings as well as personal life experiences. In delineation the placement of a planet or zodiac sign in a house will determine to a large degree the area of life in which it acts, and the goals and activities on which its drive or impulse will be focused.


The houses are divisions of the ecliptic plane (the path of the sun across the sky) as seen from the earth at the time and place of the horoscope in question. They are numbered counter-clockwise from the position of the eastern horizon (the cusp of the first house) at the time of the subject being charted. Houses one through six, are below the horizon, while houses seven through twelve are above the horizon.

There are a range of approaches to calculating these divisions and different opinions among astrologers over which house system is most accurate. To calculate the houses, it is necessary to know the exact time, date, and location of the event being charted. In natal astrology, some astrologers will use a birth time set for noon or sunrise if the actual time of birth is unknown. An accurate interpretation of such a chart, however, cannot be expected.

The Twelve Houses

The Babylonians were the first to set out the twelve houses used today by the majority of astrologers. [ Derek and Julia Parker, "The New Compleat Astrologer", p12, Crescent Books, New York, 1990] The houses were numbered from the east downward under the horizon, and represented areas of life on the following pattern with their areas of influence. These are their traditional Latin names first with their translations followed by other associated influences: 1. "Vita", Life ; 2. "Lucrum", Profit and loss; 3. "Fratres", Brothers; 4. "Genitor", Parents; 5. "Nati", Children ; 6. "Valetudo", Health and illness; 7. "Uxor", Spouse; 8. "Mors", Death; 9. "Iter", Journeys and journey-like undertakings such as religion or education; 10. "Regnum", Kingdom and dignitaries; 11. "Benefacta", Friendship; 12. "Carcer", Prison and enmity. These represent the basic outline of the houses as they are still understood today. The twelve houses are traditionally interpreted as follows:

1st House (Aries) : House of Self. Physical appearance, traits and characteristics. First impressions. General outlook into the world. Ego. Beginnings and initiatives. Also known as the Ascendant or Rising Sign.

2nd House (Taurus) : House of Value. Material and immaterial things of certain value. Money. Belongings, property, acquisitions. Cultivation and growth. Substance. Self-Worth.

3rd House (Gemini): House of Communications. Lower education and childhood environment. Mental facilities. Siblings. Neighborhood matters. Short, local travel and transportations.

4th House (Cancer): House of Home and Family. Ancestry, heritage, roots. Early foundation and environment. Mother or mother figure. The caretaker of the household. Cyclic end of matters. Also known as Imum Coeli.

5th House (Leo): House of Pleasure. Recreational and leisure activities. Things which makes for enjoyment and entertainment. Games and gambling. Children. Love affairs and sex. Creative self-expression.

6th House (Virgo): House of Health. Routine tasks and duties. Skills or training acquired. Jobs and Employments. Health and overall well-being. Service performed for others. Caretaking. Pets and small domestic animals.

7th House (Libra): House of Partnerships. Close, confidante-like relationships. Marriage and business partners. Agreements and treaties. Matters dealing with diplomatic relations of all kinds, including open(known) enemies. Attraction to qualities we admire from the other partner. Also known as the Descendent.

8th House (Scorpio): House of Death and Sex. Cycles of Deaths And Rebirth. Sexual relationships and deeply committed relationships of all kinds. Joint funds, finances. Other person's resource. Occult, psychic and taboo matters. Regeneration. Self-transformation.

9th House (Sagittarius): House of Philosophy. Foreign travel and foreign countries. Culture. Long distance travels and journeys. Religion. Law and ethics. Higher education. Knowledge. Experience through expansion.

10th House (Capricorn): House of Social Status. Ambitions. Motivations. Career. Status in society. Government. Authority. Father or father figure. The breadwinner of the household. One's public appearance/impression at large(audience). Also known as Medium Coeli.

11th House (Aquarius): House of Friendships. Friends and acquaintances of like-minded attitudes. Groups, clubs and societies. Higher associations. Benefits and fortunes from career. One's hopes and wishes.

12th House (Pisces): House of Self-Undoing. Mysticism. Places of seclusion such as hospitals, prisons and institutions, including self-imposed imprisonments. Things which are not apparent to self, yet clearly seen by others. Elusive, clandestine, secretive or unbeknownst matters. Retreat, reflection and self-sacrifice. Unconscious/subconscious. Unknown enemies.

Many modern astrologers assume that the houses relate to their corresponding signs, i.e. that the first house has a natural affinity with the first sign, Aries, and so on. However, the discovery of a document called the Thema Mundi, or chart of the world, by Project Hindsight, suggests something different. In the chart of the world, the sign Cancer is on the ascendant, Leo is on the 2nd house, and so on. The Thema Mundi is the chart that is considered the key to the Helenistic system of astrology, from which much of modern astrology is derived, though at times inaccurately.

Quadrants, Modality and Triplicities

In quadrant systems houses are classified as Angular, Succedent and Cadent. The house themselves are respectively ruled by signs according to the astrological modality: Cardinal, Fixed, and Mutable.

Angular houses are points of initiation and represent action. The signs ruling angular houses are all Cardinal signs: Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn. Succedent houses are points of purpose and represent stabilization. The signs ruling Succedent houses are all Fixed: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius. And finally, Cadent houses are points of transition and they represent change and adaptation. Cadent houses are ruled by Mutable Signs: Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius and Pisces.

Furthermore, the houses are also grouped together by Triplicity: When one of the four elements (fire, earth, air, and water) in which the zodiac sign that rules the house is placed. There are three zodiac signs that fall within one of these four elements, hence their respective moniker, "The Triplicities".

In old astrological writings (e.g. William Lilly), "house" could also be used as a synonym for domicile or rulership, as in the sentence "The Moon has its house in Cancer" meaning that Cancer is ruled by the Moon. It may be helpful to think of a ruling planet, in this case the Moon, as the "owner of the 4th House", and the sign, "e.g."Cancer, as the CEO or landlord who runs the house. In an individual horoscope, whatever sign occupies any given house can be thought of as the house's tenant. [See section heading Rulership below.]

In Indian astrology, the twelve houses are called Bhava and have meanings very similar to their Western counterparts.

ystems of House Division

There are many systems of house division. In most the ecliptic is divided into houses and the ascendant (eastern horizon) marks the cusp, or beginning, of the first house, and the descendant (western horizon) marks the cusp of the seventh house. Many systems of house division called "quadrant house systems" also use the midheaven ("medium coeli") as the cusp of the tenth house and the nadir ("imum coeli") as the cusp of the fourth house. Some house systems divide the celestial equator and the prime vertical instead of the ecliptic.

The earliest systems (whole sign and equal house) linked the houses to the signs of the zodiac. The equal house system defines houses as 30-degree sectors of the ecliptic, so that the cusp of each house falls on the same degree of each zodiac sign. One outcome of this is that a varying angle occurs between the ascendant and midheaven in higher latitudes. Attempts to reconcile the concept of "quadrants" with the varying angle between midheaven and ascendant lead to more complicated house systems. These became more relevant as astrology spread from subtropical regions to higher latitudes.

Goals for a house system include ease of computation; agreement with the "quadrant" concept (ascendant on the first house cusp, nadir on the fourth, descendant on the seventh, and midheaven on the tenth); defined and meaningful behaviour in the polar regions; acceptable handling of heavenly bodies of high latitude (a distinct problem from high-latitude locations on the Earth's surface); and symbolic value. It is impossible for any system to satisfy all the criteria completely, so each one represents a different compromise. The extremely popular Placidus and Koch systems, in particular, can generate undefined results in the polar circles. Research and debate on the merits of different house systems is ongoing.

Early Forms of House Division

The earliest forms of house division were those that link with, or run parallel to, the signs of the zodiac along the ecliptic. Proponents of the equal house system claim that it is more accurate and less distorting in higher latitudes (especially above 60 degrees) than the Placidean and other quadrant house systems. [ Derek and Julia Parker, "Ibid", p175, 1990 ]

Whole sign

In the whole sign house system, sometimes referred to as the 'Sign-House system', the houses are 30° each. The ascendant designates the rising sign, and the first house begins at zero degrees of the zodiac sign in which the ascendant falls, regardless of how early or late in that sign the ascendant is. The next sign after the ascending sign then becomes the 2nd house, the sign after that the 3rd house, and so on. In other words, each house is wholly filled by one sign. This was the main system used in the Hellenistic tradition of astrology, and is also used in Indian astrology, as well as in some early traditions of Medieval astrology. It is thought to be the oldest system of house division. [James Holden, "Ancient House Division", Journal of Research of the American Federation of Astrologers 1 (1982), pgs. 19-28. Also see Rob Hand, "Whole Sign Houses: The Oldest House System", ARHAT Publications, 2000.]

The Whole Sign system was originally developed in the Hellenistic tradition of astrology sometime around the 1st or 2nd century BCE, and from there it was passed to the Indian and early Medieval traditions of astrology. At some point in the Medieval period, probably around the 10th century, whole sign houses fell into disuse in the western tradition, and by the 20th century the system was completely unknown in the western astrological community, although was continually used in India all the way into the present time. Beginning in the 1980s and 1990's the system was rediscovered and reintroduced into western astrology.

Equal House

In the equal house system the ecliptic is also divided into twelve divisions of 30 degrees, although the houses are measured out in 30 degree increments starting from the degree of the ascendant. It begins with the ascendant, which acts as the 'cusp' or starting point of the 1st house, then the second house begins exactly 30 degrees later in zodiacal order, then the third house begins exactly 30 degrees later in zodiacal order from the 2nd house, and so on.

The distinction between equal houses and whole sign houses lies in the fact that in whole sign houses the cusp of the 1st house is the beginning of the sign that contains the ascendant, while in equal houses the degree of the ascendant is itself the cusp of the 1st house.

The MC in Whole Sign & Equal House Systems

In the whole sign and equal house systems the Medium Coeli (Midheaven), the highest point in the chart, does not act as the cusp or starting point of the 10th house. Instead the MC moves around the top half of the chart, and can land anywhere in the 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th or 12th houses, depending on the latitude. The MC retains its commonly agreed upon significations, but it doesn't act as the starting point of the 10th house, and instead it functions more like a sensitive point in the chart such as the 'vertex' or the 'lot of fortune'.

This is also the more common criticism of the whole sign and equal house method as it concerns the location of the Medium Coeli (Midheaven), the highest point in the chart. In the equal house system, the ascendant/descendant and midheaven/nadir axes can vary from being perpendicular to each other (from approx. +-5 deg at most at equator to approx. +-15 degrees at Alexandria to +-90 degrees at polar circle). As a result, equal houses counted from the ascendant cannot in general place the midheaven on the tenth house cusp, where many feel it would be symbolically desirable. Since this point is associated with ambition, career, and public image, the argument is that the Midheaven, therefore, must be the cusp of the similar tenth house. It has also been linked by extension with Capricorn (the tenth sign of the zodiac). Because the Whole Sign and Equal House system do not take the Midheaven into account, but relies on the location of the Ascendant, it can be found anywhere between the 8th and 11th houses. [ Jeff Mayo, "Teach Yourself Astrology" , p76, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1979 ]

Quadrant House Systems

Quadrant house systems divide the houses so that they agree with the "quadrant" concept (ascendant on the first house cusp, nadir on the fourth, descendant on the seventh, and midheaven on the tenth).


Each quadrant of the ecliptic is divided into three equal parts between the four angles. This is the oldest system of "quadrant" style house division. Although it is attributed to Porphyry of Tyros, this system was first described by the 2nd century astrologer Vettius Valens, in the 3rd book of his astrological compendium known as "The Anthology".


The predecessor system to the Placidus, which largely replaced the Porphyry . The difference with Placidus is that the time that it takes the ascendant to reach the meridian is divided equally into three parts. The Alchabitius house system was very popular in Europe before the introduction of the Regiomontanus system. Alchabitius (or "Alcabitius" ), was a 10th century Arabian astrologer (d. 967).


The celestial equator is divided into twelve, and these divisions are projected on to the ecliptic along great circles that take in the north and south points on the horizon. Named after the German astronomer and astrologer Johann Müller of Königsberg. The Regiomontanus system was later largely replaced by the Placidus system.


Similar to Regiomontanus, except that the east point is taken as the ascendant.


This is the most commonly used house system in modern Western astrology. The Placidus system is based on a division of "time" rather than space. The times taken for each degree of the ecliptic to rise from the nadir to the ascendant, and from the ascendant to the midheaven, are trisected to determine the cusps of houses 2, 3, 11, and 12. The cusps of houses 8, 9, 5 and 6 are opposite these. The Placidus system is sometimes not defined beyond polar circles (latitudes greater than 66°N or 66°S), because certain degrees are "circumpolar" (never touch the horizon), and planets falling in them cannot be assigned to houses without extending the system. This is the main weakness of the Placidean system according to its critics, which often cite the exceptional house proportions in the higher latitudes. [ Astrodatabank FAQ n.5] ]

It is thought the Placidus system was first mentioned about 13th century in Arab literature, but the first confirmed publication was in 1602 by Giovanni Antonii Magini (1555-1617) in his book "Tabulae Primi Mobilis, quas Directionem Vulgo Dicunt". Later it was popularized by Catholic Church as an argument for Ptolemy's geocentric theory of the Solar System, in the campaign against the heliocentric theory. Placidus, a professor of mathematics, was named as its author to give it credibility to his contemporaries. Placidus remains the most popular system among English-speaking astrologers


The prime vertical (the great circle taking in the zenith and east point on the horizon) is divided into twelve, and these divisions are projected on to the ecliptic along great circles that take in the north and south points on the horizon. It is named after Johannes Campanus.


A rather more complicated version of the Placidus system, built on equal increments of Right Ascension for each quadrant. The Koch system was developed by the German astrologer Walter Koch (1895-1970) and is defined only for latitudes between 66°N and 66°S. This system is popular among research astrologers in the U.S. and among German speakers, but in Central Europe lost some popularity to the Krusiński house system.


This is a recent system, invented in Argentina, that its creators claim has been determined empirically, i.e. by observing events in people's lives and assessing the geometry of a house system that would fit. The house cusps are always within a degree of those given in the Placidus system. The geometry is somewhat complicated and the reader is referred to [ this site for an explanation] . The topocentric system can also be described as an approximation algorithm for the Placidus system.


The Neo-Porphyry system of house division is similar to Porphyry houses except that instead of each quadrant being divided into three equal sized houses, the middle house in each quadrant is compressed or expanded based on the whether the quadrant covers less than or greater than 90 degrees. In other words, houses are smooth around the zodiac with the difference in quadrant sizes being spread in a continuous sinusoidal manner from expanded to compressed houses. Neo-Porphyry houses were invented and first published by Walter Pullen in his astrology program Astrolog in 1994.


A recently published (1995) house system, based on a great circle passing through the ascendant and zenith. This circle is divided into 12 equal parts (1st cusp is ascendent, 10th cusp is zenith), then the resulting points are projected to the ecliptic through meridian circles.

The house tables for this system were published in 1995 in Poland. This house system is also known under the name Amphora in the Czech Republic, after it was proposed there by Milan Píša after the study of Manilius's "Astronomica" under this name ("Konstelace č. 22" in: "AMPHORA - nový systém astrologických domů" (1997) and in the booklet "Amphora - algoritmy nového systému domů" (1998)).


In Hellenistic, Vedic, Medieval and Renaissance astrology each house is ruled by the planet that rules the sign on its cusp. For example, if a person has the sign Aries on the cusp of their 7th house, then the planet Mars is said to "rule" their 7th house. This means that when a planet is allotted a house, its nature comes to have some bearing on that specific topic in the person's life, and that planet is said to be very important for events specifically pertaining to that topic. The placement of this planet in the chart will have at least as much influence on the chart as the planets within the house. In traditional Western & Hindu astrology, each sign is ruled by one of the 7 visible planets (note that in astrology, the Sun and Moon are considered planets, which literally means "wanderers", i.e. wandering stars, as opposed to the fixed stars of the constellations).

In addition, some modern astrologers who follow the X=Y=Z or Planet=Sign=House doctrine, which was first taught by Alan Leo in the early part of the 20th century, believe that certain houses are also "ruled" by, or have an affinity with, the planet which rules the corresponding zodiacal sign. For instance, Mars is ruler of the 1st house because Aries is the first sign, Mercury rules or has an affinity with the 3rd house because Gemini is the 3rd sign, etc. This is sometimes referred to as "natural rulership", as opposed to the former which is sometimes called "accidental rulership".

Rationale Behind Twelve Houses

Babylonians started observing natual phenomena connected with ascending and culminating of the heavenly bodies. This evolved into 12 division system of houses before the discovery of the ecliptic. Later (around V c. bce) ecliptic was discovered (Schmidt&Hand "On the invariance of tropical Zodiac" and "Early house divisions in the Hellenistic era"). At the beginning this early zodiac it has no sign divisions, and only 18 bright stars were used as markers to measure planet positions. Fact|date=September 2007 Later in Alexandria astrologers introduced the twelve signs to fit the number and probably meanings of the houses, and named constellations after them. Nowadays, practising astrologers use a 12 house division. Most theoreticians attribute 8 fold division for misinterpretation of old texts only, but one theoretician Patrice Guinard [] has argued, contrary to that prevailing opinion, that there is a basis for an 8 house division. One prominent astrologer, Marc Penfield, uses 8 houses - dividing each quadrant using the same technique as in Koch & Placidus. Michel Gauquelin divided Placidus houses into 36 (instead of 12) "decans" and marked beginning of the 36th "decan" (the first before ascendant) as the starting point.


External links

* [ RGCSA] -- The Research Group for the Critical Study of Astrology
* [ NCGR] -- National Council for Geocosmic Research
* [ The Oktotopos Question]
* [ Study Astrological Houses]

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