After horoscope signs and the planets, the house systems add another layer of interpretation and complexity to understanding one’s natal astrology chart.
While the zodiac sign gives us a flavor for how a planet may express itself, the house shows us where in our lives those astrological energies play out. Each of the 12 houses rules a particular experience or area of life, such as ideas, people, work, health, and so on. A planet’s placement in the natal chart, particularly the sun and the moon, will often reveal what areas of experience will be strongly emphasized in a person’s life.
There are several house systems in astrology and it is often a cause of debate in astrological circles about which one to use. The three major house systems are Equal house, Koch, or the most popular Placidus. In the Placidus system houses are divided by complicated mathematical calculations.
The houses begin from the ascendant, which is the point where the zodiac touches the horizon, and would be 9 o’clock on a clock face. It then moves counter-clockwise up and around in a circle and back to the ascendant. Each of the 12 houses, or spokes of the wheel, correspond to a zodiac sign as well as a planet and is determined by the time you were born. In this system the main houses and angles of focus, which also correlate to the cardinal directions of East, South, West, and North, are the 1st (Ascendant), 4th (the Nadir/IC), the 7th (Descendant), and the 10th (the Midheaven). Planets near the lines of these houses are most impactful and important in someone’s life.
Below is a basic description of each house with its major themes used in interpretation:
Themes: personality, outlook on life, self-image, general outlook on life, defense mechanisms.
Themes: possessions, money, self-worth, sensuality, capacity for pleasure, resources, values
Themes: intellect, writing and speech, memory, education, short trips
Themes: home, family, emotional foundation, intuition, circumstances influencing childhood, ancestry, domestic life
Themes: playfulness, romance, self-expression, drama, joy, fun, children, hobbies
Themes: routine, service and everyday duties, health and healing, diet/food, environment
Themes: partnerships, contracts, marriage, one-to-one relationships
Themes: letting go, sex, death, instincts, mating and intimacy, occult, taxes, inheritance, healing sex
Themes: philosophy, consciousness, religion, higher education, long journeys, foreign travel
Themes: status, career, ambition, destiny, profession, authority figures
Themes: social groups, relationships, social change, revolution, idealism, friendships, gifts we give to the world
Themes: spirituality, serve, self-transcendence, fantasies, addictions, mysticism, subconscious, inspired
An interesting thing to notice right away in a chart is which planets are above the horizontal line of the birth chart that is the 1st and 7th houses (or 9 o’clock and 3 o’clock on an actual clock). This line indicates which planets were visible in the sky when you were born and which ones were hidden, or below the horizon. In this way the houses can also represent what people see in us and what we might tend to hide or be unconscious of.
In my case, my sun is in the 11th house, above the Ascendant and Descendant, which has the area of life associated with friends and social groups. I am energized and come alive, themes of the Sun, in these situations. In contrast, my Mars in Libra is in the 3rd house, below the line, which is ruled by communication and Mercury, can mean that I tend to interrupt people when they are talking (Mercury), and it took me a long time to realize I did this.
Astrologers also have a classification system of the houses and how much power they may hold over an individual in their lives. The categories are angular (houses 1,4, 7, and 10), succedent (2,5,8, and 11), and cadent (3,6,9, and 12). The progression of houses from angular through succedent to cadent also mimics the flow of life experience and helps us understand our experiences and challenges related to action, security, and learning.
While I have mentioned the importance of the cardinal houses, there is also a hierarchy inherent in the houses beyond the main four that somewhat coincides with their classification though not necessarily. Here they are in potential importance rather than numerological order, though the explanation of the order is more complex than would be useful to explain here:
Strongest: 1, 10, 7, 4
Medium: 11, 5, 9, 3
Weak: 2, 8, 6, 12
Whether your chart has clusters of planets in the 7th house or you can see all the planets are below the Ascendant, learning the house system offers a magical way to deepen astrological knowledge through the wheel of the zodiac.