The astrological houses are the twelve sections of the astrological chart that describe the different spheres of human activity. The planetary placements in the houses tells us in what area of a person’s life the planetary energies, and the signs they are in, will be most operative.
In other words, if “the planets are the WHAT of astrology and the signs the HOW, the Houses are considered the WHERE. Where in the person’s life, in which area of earthly existence, does the energy indicated by the planet-sign configurations manifest itself with the greatest intensity?” (Alan Oken’s Complete Astrology. 1980. p. 312).
The houses, defined by an individual’s place of birth, rotate the 360 degrees of the sky every 23 hours, 56 minutes. That is the length of the sidereal day. Because of the Earth’s revolution around the Sun, the duration of the solar day is 4 minutes longer.
The field of the twelve houses in which the planets have their “mundane” or apparent motion is defined by the intersection of the eastern horizon with the plane of the ecliptic where the sun rises. In other words, the constellation rising at the time of birth marks the cusp of the first house. The cusps of the four major angular houses: the 1st, 4th, 7th and 10th roughly correspond to 6:00 A.M., Midnight, 6:00 P.M. and Noon, respectively.
The twelve houses are divided into quadrants or hemispheres that represent the four seasons. So, we begin the natural cycle at the Vernal Equinox on the cusp of the first house and complete the cycle at the same place where we began—Alpha and Omega.
The significance of this will become clear as we discuss the houses themselves. It should be noted that in an individual chart the cusp ruler will determined by the Ascendant, so if, for example, the Ascendant is in Gemini, then Mercury will become the first house ruler.
However, because it is in the natural house of Aries, qualities of the latter will be imparted to that house.
The first house cusp is always marked by the Ascendant, which passes through one degree every four minutes. This is why a precise time is so important in astrology. Without knowing the Ascendant, which changes signs every two hours, an astrologer cannot tell which sign is ruler of the first or subsequent house cusps.
The first house is the natural house of Aries and represents the qualities of the individual’s essential self, including the physical appearance of the individual as well as the inherent nature of the self.
This house is also indicative of how others see us. Aries are sometimes referred to as the children of the zodiac because the sign is young and feels free to act without fear of consequence. It is also revealing in the area of the native’s essential vitality. This house is the activator of the chart. As we progress through the houses it will be seen that each represents a stage in human development.
The second house cusp marks the sphere of sense impressions, personal possessions and money.
This is the natural house of Taurus. The key to this house is found in the search to find oneself through what one owns.
It is material and sensual, representing one’s own money and possessions, in contradistinction to the 8th house that is concerned with other people’s money and inheritance. More than anything else, this house reveals one’s material resources and the process of earning money and acquiring material things. Planets in this house can tell much about an individual’s attitude and abilities in these areas of life.
The third house cusp primarily signals the domain of communication and also the native’s sense of humour. This is the natural house of Gemini, and is the sphere of finding the self through what one knows. Many writers and communicators have strong elements in this house.
The energies of this house relate to the individual’s means of mental stimulation and activities such as thinking, speaking, writing, and even hobbies that stimulate or entertain the mind.
It governs formal, particularly early, education and the ability to develop perception. It also governs short journeys as well as the development of accurate, logical reasoning.
The Fourth House:
This fourth house cusp marks the Nadir, the northern sector, also known as the Imum Coeli, (I.C.).
The fourth house delineates the nature of the individual’s private environment or home. This is not limited to the family of origin and parents, particularly the Mother, but extends to the native’s sense of cultural roots.
The fourth house is the natural house of Cancer. It represents a native’s very sense of belonging to a familial group or “tribe.” In brief, it is the native’s environment and the search to find the self through feelings.
The Fifth House:
The fifth house cusp, marking the natural house of Leo, is the domain of energy flow involving the structure of the individual’s private environment.
This is sometimes referred to as the “house of children,” but it is also the house of pleasure. This includes the stimulation provided by the individual’s friends, social network, offspring, and entertainment. It is also the house of the performing arts and other means of creative self-expression. In short, this house is concerned with what the native can create.
The Sixth House:
The 6th house cusp describes the house that is largely concerned with work and health. This is the natural house of Virgo. It controls activity within the individual’s private environment. The energies of this house describe the native’s private work, type of employment, and service to others within the native’s private world. The 6th house is most commonly referred to as the “house of service.” In this house, the native seeks to find him or herself through what is learned. It is also very revealing in the area of health.
The Seventh House:
The cusp ruler of this house is known as the Descendant, just as the ruler of the 1st was called the Ascendant. This is the natural house of Libra. The 7th house is the sphere of partnerships, either marital, business or social. Often, these are legal partnerships.
It relates to the establishment of the self in the public world in which partnerships of some kind are inevitable. It governs the native’s characteristic public self-expression and therefore reveals how the native presents his or her self to others. It is the house of social cooperation and the self’s desire to unite with others.
The Eighth House:
Also known as the house of sex, death and inheritance. This house cusp is the natural house of Scorpio. It also relates to the physical structure of the individual’s public self. It covers energies emanating from the body, so it controls sexual attraction and death. The 8th house is almost as difficult to read as the 12th, since the secrecy of its ruler enshrouds this house in mystery.
The actual house cusp, as well as the degree and aspects of the planets within its sphere can reveal a great deal. Mythologically, Hades or Tartarus is the domain of the dead. So, the 8th house is associated with the “property” of the dead, such as possessions, wills, and legacies as well as the occult, which simply means “hidden.” This house also operates in the sphere of profound personal transformation, when as aspect of personality “dies.”
The Ninth House:
The 9th house is the natural house of Sagittarius. Whereas the 3rd house is, among other things, the sphere of early education, the 9th house cusp marks higher education, philosophy and the individual’s public self.
It is the house of personal conscience, confidence and devotion to life goals. It encompasses mental expression and public activities such as lecturing and publishing. It is also an indicator of long-distance travel, just as the third house indicates short journeys.
The planets and aspects associated with this house will describe exactly how this energy will manifest itself. The self finds itself through seeking and exploring, both physically and intellectually. For more on the nature of this energy, read the article on Sagittarius.
The Tenth House:
The 10th house cusp is known as the Medium Coeli (M.C.) or zenith, in opposition to the Nadir of the 4th house. The term M.C. is Latin for Midheaven. Whereas the Nadir is the northern sector of the astrological wheel, the M.C. marks the Southern sector. The 4th house was concerned with the security of the home.
The 10th is an indicator of the character of the individual’s public environment. The 10th house is the natural house of Capricorn, and is the sphere in which the native strives to make his public aspirations and goals a reality. Just as the 4th house Nadir describes the Mother (or Mother substitute) the M.C. describes the Father both literally and metaphorically.
The Eleventh House:
As the natural house of Aquarius, this house is occupied with the pursuit and impulses of altruistic and humanitarian ideals.
This is expressed through social networking. The Aquarian impulse to uranian innovation that seeks to revolute and surprise, even shock the existing order, reveals much about the concerns of this house. Although Aquarius is a “lover of humanity,” it does not tend to express this in a personal, so much as a global way.
Innovations and “blows against the Empire” express themselves as challenges to the social order and the abuses of power. So, the flavour of this house is decidedly humanistic as well as “scientific.” Technical advancements will be produced for the benefit of others. It is the house of hopes and wishes. This is the beginning of the altruistic impulse that finds its ideal in Pisces.
The Twelfth House:
This is the natural house of Pisces. By its very nature, the 12th house is always the most difficult house to read. It is the house of secret suffering, hidden enemies and ripened, or ripening karma. On the other hand (or foot) it is the house of hidden support.
It works on the principle of what you sow is what you reap. It is the house that rules meditation, mysticism, intuitive affairs as well as solitary retreat. It also contains the seed of re-birth. In other words, it is the house of unfinished business.
This is the last house of the cycle of human experience—the final stage of the wheel. The 12th house is analogous to what the Tibetans refer to as the bardo, or in between stage. The true Pisces has one foot in this world and the other in the next, and this fact goes a long way in describing the nature of this house.
This house also denotes selfless service to the public, and activities that serve to dissolve the self. The self is found through self-forgetting: through the final dissolution of the ego one finds the true Self.