In interpreting an astrological chart, the positions of the planets in the signs and the aspects they make to each other detail the important characteristics of the subject. The system of houses indicates how these characteristics are exhibited in everyday life, as each house concerns a specific area of existence.
While the positions and aspects of the planets depends only on the approximate time for which a chart is constructed, the houses in a chart are dependent upon the exact time and geographical location for which the horoscope is begin prepared. So for the most complete interpretation of a natal horoscope, both the exact time and location (latitude and longitude) of birth must be known. When the time or place of birth is unavailable, a solar chart can be drawn up with the sign the sun is in as the Ascendant. This kind of chart describes the subject in terms of their innate characteristics, whereas a chart drawn using the true houses takes into account the effects of the subject's surroundings on him or her.
The Ascendant, Descendant, Midheaven and Nadir
There are a number of systems of dividing a chart into houses - such as Equal, Placidus or Koch - but all split the chart into twelve (not usually equal) divisions, with the lines between them called cusps. The sign rising on the eastern horizon at the time and location of the chart is called the Ascendant or First House cusp. The opposite, setting sign is the Descendant or Seventh House cusp. The sign overhead is the Midheaven (MH), MC (medium coeli - 'middle of the sky') or Tenth House cusp. Its opposite sign is the Nadir, IC (imum coeli) or Fourth House cusp. These four house cusps are known as the cardinal or angular cusps, and are the most significant in a horoscope, with the remaining eight cusps dividing each quadrant of the chart into three houses. The houses are numbered in anticlockwise order, starting with the Ascendant.
The signs of the zodiac are defined by the earth's annual orbit of the sun, but the houses are defined by the earth's daily rotation on its axis. This means that the houses are especially useful when considering the role of the outer planets in a chart. These planets - Uranus, Neptune and Pluto - have such long orbits (84, 165 and 248 years respectively) that they remain in each sign for long periods of time (averaging 7, 14 and 20 years respectively). This makes their influence through the signs more generational than personal, whereas their influence through the houses is more specific to the subject, as each planet moves through all of the houses every day.
It was mentioned above that there are a number of different house systems, and the one used depends on the preference of the astrologer. The simplest and most compelling is the Equal system, which starts with the Ascendant and divides the chart into twelve houses of equal length.
One of the most commonly used alternatives is Placidus, invented by Placidus de Tito in the 16th century. As with most house systems, Placidus does not work at all when a chart is for extreme northern or southern latitudes, as the Midheaven is related to the highest point the sun will reach in the sky on the day in question. Another common system is the more recent Koch, developed in the 1960s by German astrologer Walter Koch. Other, more rarely used house systems include Campanus, Porphyry and Regiomentanus.
Each house system is different, so the house a planet is in for any given chart depends on the house system used in constructing the chart. Some astrologers favor a single house system, whereas others argue that different systems suit particular purposes, and may use one system for natal charts and another for predictive work.
Like any systematic combination of symbolic meaning, astrology is useful from the purely subjective standpoint of self-exploration, even if there is no knowable or actual correlation between the positions of the stars and events on earth. For those wishing to promote astrology as a largely objective, scientific discipline, the houses really are a major problem. A chart drawn up with one house system is different from one produced with another, and astrologers cannot agree on which house system is the most valid, even for a particular type of chart.
Rising Sign Overlays, Intercepted Signs and the Natural Zodiac
Once the sign of one house cusp has been determined, the rest of the signs and houses match up in the usual zodiac order, giving rise to twelve possible rising sign overlay patterns. So if the Cancer is the Ascendant, then Leo is on the Second House cusp, Virgo on the third, and so on.
As explained above, most house systems do not produce houses of equal size. Signs always occupy 30 degrees, but an individual house may span more or less than this value. Thus a sign may be contained within a house without appearing on either cusp, and such a sign is said to be intercepted. A sign may also be found on both cusps of a house occupying less than 30 degrees.
Whatever the case, at least part of a sign will normally lie in the house that corresponds to its natural overlay pattern. So if Cancer is rising, then Leo will be found somewhere in the Second House, even though it may not be on the house cusp. Bear in mind, though, that at extreme northern or southern latitudes, systems like Placidus do not work at all.
The overlay pattern that occurs when Aries is the Ascendant (so Taurus is on the Second House, etc.) is called the natural zodiac, and it is this pattern that is the key to understanding the attributions of the houses, as each house is fundamentally linked to its associated natural zodiac sign.
The First House or Ascendant
The First House represents the subject of a chart, their self-awareness and self-expression. The First House cusp is the most important in the chart, as the sign in this position is the subject's Ascendant or Rising Sign, showing their personality and appearance. In a natal chart, the First House also deals with the subject's formative circumstances and influences.
The Second House
The Second House deals with material resources and possessions. In a natal chart this house concerns the subject's ability and desire to earn a living, find stability, meet financial obligations and acquire belongings.
The Third House
The Third House deals with thinking and communicating. In a natal chart this house shows the subject's ability or otherwise to think clearly, reason logically, get ideas across to others, and act perceptively.
The Fourth House or Nadir
The Fourth House deals with the home, the family and the environment subjects create for themselves. In a natal chart this not only concerns the physical home and the people in it, but the 'inner home': those things that the subject feels comfortable with, and includes habits and unconscious processes.
The Fifth House
The Fifth House deals with romance, creativity and pleasure. Activities pertaining to self-expression and popularity belong to this house, and as such it governs the creative arts and entertainment.
The Sixth House
The Sixth House deals with work, application and health. In a natal chart this house reveals the subject's attitude towards work and their ability to get on with things practically. It also concerns their general health and how good they are likely to be at looking after themselves.
The Seventh House or Descendant
The Seventh House deals with relationships, partnerships and legal matters. In a natal chart, this house deals with the kind of relationships the subject is likely to have, the sorts of people they try to be with, and how the subject is perceived by others.
The Eighth House
The Eighth House deals with joint resources and ventures, and governs sex, death and money. In terms of finance, it particularly concerns money resulting from united efforts like business or marriage. In relating to death and decline, the Eighth House is also concerned with inheritance, legacies and rebirth.
The Ninth House
The Ninth House deals with the far horizons: knowledge gained from institutions, established systems and long-distance travel. It deals with the dissemination of knowledge through teaching, publishing and established systems of religion, academia and law.
The Tenth House or Midheaven
The Tenth House deals with career, reputation and social standing. In a natal chart this house indicates how ambitious the subject is, and how likely they are to fulfill their ambitions.
The Eleventh House
The Eleventh House deals with friendships, humanitarian activities, and the ability to work as part of a group for common goals. In a natal chart this house indicates the subject's ability to make friends, and their capacity to help, work and communicate with others.
The Twelfth House
The Twelfth House deals with what is hidden: the subconscious mind, psychological baggage and mystical inspiration. In a natal chart, this house concerns the subject's deep-seated habits and emotional responses. It reveals those areas in which subjects are most likely to deceive themselves.
From THE ASTROLOGY OF PERSONALITY by Dhane Rudh
1. Awareness of self; subjective viewpoint. “The Sower”. Form-principle. The particular destiny.
2. The life-substance to be used by the self; the material to be redeemed. “The Soil”. The heredity. The social substance disposable to work out the destiny (wealth, possession). The chemical substance of the body. Food. Metabolism.
3. Relationship of personal self to physical substance, of Sower to Soil: the Seed. The formative intellect synthesizing sense-impression and bringing together individual destiny and social elements. The environment.
4. Concretization of self; the Soul. Its base of operation. The father whose seed carries the astral pattern, the plan of the body.
5. Exteriorization of Self. Creative and procreative activity. Recreations.
6. Conflicts resulting from exteriorization of self. Enmity of other personal selves, including cells of one’s own body. Sickness. Relation between master and slave, employer and employee.
7. The sense of human relationship on a basis of giving and taking. Interchange of vital energies and of ideas.
8. Destruction of personal limitations as a result of human interchange. Enlargement of viewpoint. Regeneration and death. Practical occultism, also modern business based on contract and instalment buying.
9. The abstract mind and the sense of relationship between relations. Worldwide contacts; mental adjustment to racial ideas and collective needs.
10. Concretization of relationships. Base of operation in human society. Business, state affairs. The mother in whim racial consciousness and the national Soul are concretized.
11. Exteriorization of social position. The circle of acquaintances and the friends. New ideals of human and social relationship. The Reformer’s dreams and efforts.
12. Conflict with the inertial forces of society. The limiting power of the race’s level of consciousness; and the rising above it by individual efforts of will occultly exerted. Karma, and the fatality of rebirth in a limited form of selfhood, either to neutralize failures, or in compassionate sacrifice. Forces which brought the self into incarnation. The overcoming of Karma. Liberation.
From THE MANUAL OF ASTROLOGY by Sepharial
* The First House - denotes the body of the native, his physical condition and appearance.
* Second House - Money; possessions of value; trade; gain or loss.
* Third House - Letters, papers, writings, journeys by land or short water journeys; all means of communication, vehicles, railways, etc.; brothers and sisters, near relations, neighbours.
* Fourth House - The residence, the place of birth; houses, landed property, grounds, mines, places under the earth, the grave; the mother in a man’s horoscope, the father in a woman’s horoscope; the mother-in-law in a man’s horoscope and the father-in-law in a woman’s.
* Fifth House - Pleasures, love affairs, sex ties outside wedlock; children, theatres, schools and educational influences; places of amusement, bathing, the bedroom, and all sensuous enjoyments.
* Sixth House - Health, servants, food, clothing, physical comforts, persons employed, small animals and domestic creatures, climactic and other conditions bearing on health; the father’s brothers and sisters in a female horoscope; the mother’s brothers and sisters in a male horoscope.
* Seventh House - the husband in a female horoscope, the wife in a male horoscope; partners, contracts, agreements; persons opposed to the native in contests, litigation, etc.; open enemies, rivals; the grandparent - according to sex of horoscope (vide Fourth House).
* Eighth House - Death, dissolution, losses; the wife’s or husband’s wealth and possessions; the partner’s property; legacies, bequests; the property of the dead; will.
* Ninth House - Religion and philosophy; publications; voyages; foreign countries; long distances from the birthplace; dreams, spiritual occurrences; lawsuits, lawyers; the clergy, church affairs; legal arbitrations, money in chancery; marriage relatives.
* Tenth House - The occupation, credit, honour and rank; the father or mother - according to sex of horoscope; the employer, superior, master; business affairs generally, and the government of the country.
* Eleventh House - Friends, councillors, companions, associates; society in which the person will move; wishes and hopes; financial affairs of employers and those in command over the native.
* Twelfth House - Confinement, restraint, prison, bondage, exile; secret enemies, ambushes and plots; large animals, horses, etc.; the mother’s relatives in a female horoscope, and the father’s relatives in a male horoscope.
From THE ELEMENTS OF HOUSE DIVISION by R.W. Holden
* House I: The appearance, disposition and manner of the native, outlook on life, carriage, capacity for self-development, vitality, health, inherent strength and physical condition, mental and emotional qualities.
* House II: Hereditary and social background, financial standing, money, movable possessions and property, gain and loss of income, earning and spending capacity, personal debts, manner in which money is acquired and in which obligations are met.
* House III: Power of mind, dexterity, cleverness, education, short journey, near relatives, neighbours, writing, communications, recording, lecturing.
* House IV: The home and domestic affairs, recollections, residence, base, end of life, private affairs, old age, early home life, lands, houses, estates, mines, things stored-up, the hidden or unconscious, social care and concern, the sea.
* House V: Offspring, creative and procreative urges, recreation, games, pleasures, artistic efforts, romantic affairs, gaming, speculation, risks, acting, theatre.
* House VI: Food, clothing, pets, capacity to serve, employees, health, diseases, employment, daily work, servants, diet, hygiene.
* House VII: Partnership, co-operation, marriage, war, legal contracts, lawsuits, divorce, treaties, enemies.
* House VIII: Birth, death, regeneration, sexual instincts, occultism, legacies, others’ property, investigation, after-life.
* House IX: Philosophy, religion, law, travel, exploration, research, foreign lands or people, higher education, publishing.
* House X: The personal image, authority, honour, prestige, career, ambition, father, organisations, rulers, employers.
* House XI: Friends, contacts, clubs, social groups. Humanitarian enterprises, altruism, hopes and wishes.
* House XII: Sacrificial service, repercussions, neurosis, hidden enemies, prisons, asylums, institutions, occultism, mysticism, secrets.