The house systems can be classified into three major categories:
Ecliptic-based houses – These house systems divide the ecliptic itself. Whole Sign Houses, Equal Sign Houses, and Porphyry are in this category.
Space-based houses – These systems divide space in the celestial sphere in various ways and then determine how the resulting house cusps relate to the ecliptic. Campanus, Morinus, and Regiomontanus houses are space systems.
Time-based houses – These divide the time of the daily rotation of the Earth and then take the timing positions and project them in various ways to the ecliptic, resulting in house cusp positions. Alcabitius, Koch, and Placidus are of this type.
For this article, I’m only going to compare the ecliptic-based house systems, because that is all we will need to cover in order to make an initial point regarding the importance of taking into consideration the celestial circles that come into play when considering methods of arriving at house cusps.
Whole Sign houses (WSH) is simplest system because the cusps of the astrological houses are defined by the 30° division of the constellations that rest along the zodiac. Each 30° sign equals one house.
The zodiac sign that rises over the horizon at the time of the birth or event defines the entire first house. If the Ascendant is at 29° of a sign, all the planets in that sign are considered first house planets in this system of house division. The remaining eleven signs create the rest of the houses, moving in a counter-clockwise direction.
This is a non-quadrant house system and does not use the ascendant or midheaven to define the beginning of the first and tenth houses. The ascendant and midheaven in this system are floating.
In WSH, the ascendant always floats somewhere in the first house. Depending on the latitude, the MC can be present anywhere in the upper hemisphere, although in moderate latitudes it is usually found somewhere within the 9th through 11th houses.
This is an interesting feature of WSH. It adds a layer of interpretative symbolism which can be put to good use in delineation. If for example, the MC falls in the 11th House, we can then blend 11th House topics with 10th House topics when articulating a delineation: the native’s career will be significantly linked to their friends or a professional group. If the MC falls in the 9th House, a possible delineation could be the native’s career will take place in a foreign country. And so on.
In WSH, we define the house cusps by the 30° division of the constellation of stars themselves, which is interesting in itself. Let’s think about what this might suggest symbolically.
We’ve all heard the expression, “As above, so below”, attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, the mythical founder of horoscopic astrology. Basically, the idea is that what we see manifested in the physical world is modelled on a perfect Form found in the spiritual world. We also may have come across Plato’s theory of Forms or Ideas, where he says that Forms are mind independent paradigms or abstract objects, which he calls “particulars”, and that the particulars are imperfect copies of their Platonic spiritual form.
Image: Ptolemaic cosmology-Sheilla Terry
Looking at the above diagram, we see that the Platonic Forms exist in spiritual form at the level of the Primum Mobile, the Prime Mover or “God”, and their first manifestation is at the level of the firmament, where we find the constellations of stars. Their energy then passes through the level of Saturn, then Jupiter, then Mars and so on in Chaldaic order until finally they manifest as elemental Fire, Water, Air and Earth.
The point is this: the cusps of whole sign houses are based on the 30° division of the constellations or zodiac. These 30° divisions are then projected downwards onto the ecliptic, which is the Sun’s apparent path around the Earth. Since the Ascendant and MC are floating, the ecliptic takes on heightened symbolic importance in this house system. Let’s explore this.
The constellations are in the heavens and are beyond the planetary spheres. They reside firmly placed as the first physical manifestation of the Primum Mobile. It is an extra lunar system, rather than a sublunar one. They are not of this earth.
To return to the neo-Platonic expression “As above so below”, what we see manifested on the physical plane here on Earth is indeed modeled on that which is above, but as the original spiritual, non-physical Form/Idea descends, a change is affected when the spiritual form is finally filtered through the Light of the Moon and manifests on Earth as the sea, the mountains, the vegetation and forests, the birds, the animals and the humanoid forms.
The word that was traditionally used to describe this journey from the higher worlds to our physical one was “corrupted”. Now perhaps to our modern minds and world view this is too strong a word, so without putting a negative value on it, we can simply say that as the subtle spiritual Forms descend to our physical plane, they undergo significant change in the process.
Whole sign houses define their cusps from these upper reaches of the heavens, only tenuously linked to the earth by its floating Ascendant and MC. Symbolically speaking, we could say that this house system represents how things ought to be in an ideal world; we could perhaps say that they represent things more along the lines of how the Primum Mobile – God, if you like – wished them to be. Put in terms that Spinoza (or Rudhyar) might use, we could say that whole sign houses represent the Universe’s unfiltered original intention for the native in the context of nativity, before Mother Nature had her way.
There is another level of symbolism at work here, that of the ecliptic itself. The ecliptic is the path of the Sun. Because all the planets follow its path and are roughly on the same plane, the ecliptic is used to measure longitudinal position of the planets and luminaries as well as other objects in space. There is an entire coordinate system based on the ecliptic used to measure objects in outer space, which was the primary coordinate system used by astronomers for many centuries.
The symbolism of the ecliptic is solar. The Sun in astrology among other things traditionally represents the King. In Hermetic Kabbalah, the Sun is placed in the Sphere of Tiphareth on the Tree of Life, which is said to be the seat of the Soul, the place of the High King, or in Jungian nomenclature, the unconscious mind. The Soul/Unconscious mind is said to know the true life-purpose of the native. One of the great quests of the conscious mind is to discover this purpose, this is the meaning of the Greek aphorism, “Know thyself”. It follows that a system of house cusps that is primarily based on the celestial circle of the ecliptic and defined by the 30° division of the constellation of stars themselves would relate to the original intention of the Soul for the conscious native.
This Platonic version of defining house cusps has many uses, both when using time lord techniques involving fate, as well as in the context of nativities, but the ancients (Dorotheus, Ptolemy, Valens) thought it would be a good idea to have other methods of defining house cusps that were more anchored to the sublunar realm. Which brings us to our next ecliptic-based house system: the equal house system.
In the next post, we will look at the Equal House system and its symbolism.
Before moving on to the astronomy of the ecliptic-based house systems, I had another thought on the current WSH war.
Those of us interested in Hellenistic Astrology owe a great debt to the research done by Project Hindsight (PH) and the folks who did the research, primarily Robert Hand and Robert Schmidt, and at the start Robert Zoller. Also we can give our gratitude to Chris Brennan, whose book Hellenistic Astrology (HA) attempted (and largely succeeded) to put the entire doctrine of HA as understood by Project Hindsight and himself into one volume. This was followed by two volumes by Demetra George on the praxis of Hellenistic delineation, with Volume 1 looking at planetary strength and other technical subjects from a mostly Hellenistic perspective, and Volume 2 to looking at house delineation in a way that included the entire astrological tradition, from Hellenistic to 20th century astrology.
Thanks to these efforts, HA and some of its techniques have become widely popular, so quite naturally other scholars and academics are joining in and looking at the relevant texts in their original languages (Greek, Sanskrit and Latin). Further interpretations and alternative views of the Hellenistic tradition are beginning to appear as time passes. One hopes that the PH point of view will not become dogma and that folks will listen to other viewpoints with an open mind.
Deborah Houlding has an alternative interpretation of Anthologies by Vettius Valens.
I believe that folks have misinterpreted her recent talk at the Astrological Association of Great Britain in thinking that she was saying whole sign houses (WSH) never existed. What she meant to get across was that no ancient or medieval author ever formally defined or endorsed their use, which is not the same thing as saying WSH never existed. One can either agree or disagree with her point of view. Also, she didn’t mean to leave the impression that prior to the 80s, no one wrote about or mentioned WSH, ever. She simply meant that prior to PH, WSH were not a “thing”. It wasn’t generally talked about in the astrological community, indeed, even people like her doing traditional astrology (as medieval and renaissance astrology was called back then) were considered slightly mad. Hellenistic astrology was strictly for the academics.
Unfortunately, her presentation contained inaccuracies, snide comments about colleagues and bordered on presenting PH as a kind of evil cabal. This was not helpful to her cause, which was to present an alternative view on how ancient astrologers worked with houses. Completely lost in the subsequent furor was her fascinating discussion of primary vs secondary motion as it related to WS and quadrant houses. The lesson to be learned from this is when presenting an alternative view on a hot-button topic, it is best to stay away from personalities and stick to principles; to stay on topic and avoid dragging out the dirty laundry along the way.
Chris Brennan responded to Houlding with a video stream where he played her entire talk and calmly responded to it, point by point. He also did interviews with Robert Hand, one of the founders of PH, as well as with Demetra George, an early PH participant and proponent, each of whom gave their reactions to the Houlding talk. For anyone who is interested in Hellenistic astrology, these videos make for fascinating watching. Responding to the Houlding talk almost becomes secondary; one gets a sense of what PH was and how it developed; the interviews are in no way a shouting match.
I saw a YouTube video recently depicting Chris Brennan as some kind of power hungry, evil empire Darth Vader type for responding to the Houlding talk. Nothing could be further from the truth. Brennan is by no means a HA fundamentalist, just look at his podcast: He has medieval and renaissance astrologers on the show, he has psychological astrologers, he has evolutionary astrologers, vedic astrologers, he even has had “pop” astrologers present their work. Brennan promotes astrology in all its forms. Outside the context of his book and HA course, his astrology is a blend of Hellenistic and modern practices, as is D. George’s. I believe that Houlding in her talk was simply speaking from her heart and calling things as she saw them. However, because the talk unfortunately contained a good deal of hyperbole and what Brennan considered falsehoods, he felt obliged to respond. I don’t see how we can fault him for that.
With all that being said, the understanding of Hellenistic house division practice is evolving and we are beginning to hear new viewpoints. We’ve heard the one by Deborah Houlding. Here is a new viewpoint from Martin Gansten, a traditional astrologer who is also an academic. He reads Greek, Latin and Sanskrit and is thus able to do his research using critical editions. He recently responded to those who call him a whole sign denialist in a short piece written by an astrologer for other astrologers (rather than for academics) . He did so in a way that simply laid out his points in a line, for all to consider, to either accept or reject. It is a model of how a debate on a controversial subject ought to be conducted. Here is a link to the piece:
As I mentioned in a previous post, I’d like to gently shift things away from the WSH controversy, and instead of focusing on which ancient astrologer used which house system, and for what, I plan to look at the astronomy and symbolism of the ecliptic based houses: WSH, Equal Houses, and what today we call Porphyry Houses, which is an exquisite quadrant system that was used in Hellenistic times.
Each of these systems emphasizes particular celestial circles. WSH emphasize the ecliptic itself. Equal Houses bring the great circle of the horizon strongly into the mix. The Porphyry system of house division adds the local meridian of the native or event.
In my next series of posts, I’ll discuss the interesting features of each of these three systems, without promoting one over the other. We’ll look at the celestial circles that come into play in determining the house cusps, and together we will discuss their possible symbolic implications.
(The chart to the left was cast in whole sign houses. The same chart, to the right, was cast in a quadrant house system, today known as the Porphyry House System. Note how some of the planets and symbols shift houses)
After listening to the various responses on the internet to Deborah Houlding’s talk in 2022 at the Astrological Association of Great Britain on whole sign houses, I found that my reactions matched precisely with that of Anthony Lewis, whom I will directly quote:
“Recently I watched a video on astrological domification posted by Deborah Houlding, whose work I have followed and admired for many years. Deb expressed her concern that the current popularity of what are called “Whole Sign Houses” might interfere with the newer generation of astrologers being able to understand the conceptual underpinnings of mundane houses. Unfortunately, Deb was somewhat polemical and provocative in her presentation and at times made factually inaccurate statements, which her critics have pounced on rather than trying to understand the gist of her presentation. Nonetheless, I felt that Deb’s argument was worth pondering, and I posted a link to her video on my Facebook page. The response to the link to Deb’s video was quite startling. I felt like a tourist visiting the Holy Land when the Crusades broke out. It was like being in the midst of a religious war with opposing cults battling each other to the death over whose dogma had God’s blessing. In any case, the back and forth discussion did produce several valuable statements and references, which I’d like to summarize.” ( To read the rest of Anthony Lewis’ article, click here).
I studied Hellenistic Astrology with Brennan as well as horary (we used whole sign houses!) and I also led a study group for a number of years where we went over, paragraph by paragraph, his excellent book entitled Hellenistic Astrology, in which he attempted (and largely succeeded) to outline the entire Hellenistic astrological tradition as understood by Project Hindsight and its adherents.
I went on to study medieval and renaissance astrology with Christopher Warnock, who re-introduced me to the discrete pleasures of quadrant house systems, which I continued with horary studies with Deborah Houlding, Lee Lehman and Wade Caves. All to say that I know and respect all the players in this Whole Sign House (WSH) war. In my current astrological work I use both WSH as well as quadrant house systems, depending on what I’m doing, and I have had excellent results using both.
I agree with Anthony Lewis’ assessment that most of the attacks on Houlding and her talk are missing the point she was trying to make, which, as far as I can make out, was answering the question: Signs as Houses. Are astrological signs the same thing as astrological houses?
Houlding’s answer was that clearly they are not.
Signs are in the heavens and relate to the ecliptic, houses are tied to the earth, specifically, the rotation of the earth and the great circle of the celestial equator. Houses move in a clockwise diurnal direction driven by the earth’s rotation, which is at an approximately 23.5° angle to the ecliptic. The ecliptic is concerned with the planets that move along its 12 signs in secondary motion, or counterclockwise motion. (c.f. David Cochrane for the astronomy of this, click here for his recent YouTube talk: Are Whole Signs the Oldest House System?).
Essentially, the problem with exclusively using WSH is that they are not tied to the great circles of the horizon and the local meridian: They do not reflect primary motion and local space. They are exclusively tied to secondary motion, and everything that the celestial circle of the ecliptic symbolizes.
This is not to say the WSH are useless: WSH have many uses, however, they DO have their limitations. The ancients dealt with this by also working with equal houses, which ties the house cusps to the earth’s horizon, as well as quadrant houses, which anchor the house cusps to the earth by linking them to the horizon and the local meridian (i.e. the local geographical longitude line extended out to the celestial sphere).
Personally, along with Lewis and Gansten, I believe that WSH were used extensively in Hellenistic times for the simple reason that they are so easy to calculate. Lewis has compared the use of WS to the way Sun sign astrology has been used from the time of Alan Leo onwards. If, for example, I know that a Taurus and a Scorpio are disputing with one another, I don’t need to see their entire natal chart to have a fairly good idea of how things will turn out, or to divine how flexible each will be in adapting to the other’s point of view. But if I wanted to go into more detail, I would need to see each of their respective complete horoscopes.
WSH work much the same way. In Hellenistic Astrology, it is possible to judge a chart just by 30° house aspects, which we call whole sign aspects. For example, any degree in Aries aspecting to any degree in Leo would be considered a trine. But as Valens says, for more precision, one would need to use degree-based aspects along with degree-based equal or quadrant houses.
Why was the use of WSH so prevalent? Remember, back in ancient Greece, no one had computers, obviously. Nor did they have digital watches. They didn’t even have Timex watches! If it was cloudy outside, that further complicated things. Too, many people didn’t have a precise time for their birth, so using WSH and WS aspects would make a lot of sense in this context, and it gave good results! Just as today, knowing someone’s Sun sign will tell you quite a lot about the person without having to cast an entire nativity.
Many astrologers today aren’t great with math, thank goodness we have computers. It probably wasn’t any different back in the time of the ancient Greeks. The great astrologers were also astronomers and mathematicians, but alas, not everyone was. So those who weren’t would have used exclusively WSH, and get acceptable results with their clients. But as Valens mentions at one point in Anthologies, to get superlative results, one would use degree-based aspects and houses.
To finish, I think Houlding was expressing the frustration that many traditional astrologers (i.e. those practicing medieval or renaissance astrology) feel about a new wave of astrology enthusiasts being told from one source or another that WSH is the one and only true system, where WSH = GOOD, and quadrant house systems = BAD, which of course is ridiculous.
As one traditional astrologer friend recently wrote me:
“There can be few “astrologers” that are unaware of the omnipresent propaganda and pressure to adopt whole sign houses. They are the BEST house system and EVERYONE must use them. This has been shouted from the rooftops for some time and is increasingly fervently believed. This has a very clear practical effect, for example recently I have had a prospective client for a reading, insist that they would only accept a reading done using whole sign houses and similarly I had a student whose only question was did I use whole sign houses. For both, the answer “no” meant instant rejection, that was all they needed to know. “
I think the main takeaway from Deborah Houlding’s talk, at least for me, was that generally we need to give our students and the public in general more awareness of how WSH, Equal, and the quadrant houses are calculated, what celestial circles in the sky they are based on, and how that affects the symbolism of the house system. I hope to contribute to doing that in future posts.
This is a short video which considers what traditional astrology has come to mean today, as opposed to what it signified in the recent past. The differences between traditional and ancient astrology are broadly discussed.
If video takes too long to appear, click here for direct link.
Almost everybody has heard of natal astrology. That’s the branch of astrology that gives information about the nature and course of a person’s life based on the relationship of various astrological symbols in the heavens at the time they were born. While natal astrology looks at your entire life, horary astrology answers a specific question. You don’t need to know the time of your birth or what your rising sign is, all you need is a sincere burning desire to have the answer to your question!
This 6-minute video explains what a horary reading is, and how to pose a horary question.
I’ve been thinking about the astrological Ages of Man.
Illustration: Joy Usher – A Tiny Universe: Astrology and the Thema Mundi Chart
These are divisions of time using the Chaldean order of planets to describe a psychological progression in the stages of human life, which we find described in the Hellenistic astrologer Ptolemy’s work, Tetrabiblos.
Briefly the seven “stars” or visible planets and luminaries each describe a stage of life and its experience, with a certain number of years aligned to each (see illustration above).
The quality of the period depends on the condition of the ruling planet in the nativity of the person in question, which we would determine through using either Hellenistic or medieval/renaissance traditional techniques (or both…)
I tried this on my own chart by simply using essential dignities to determine planetary condition. I’m in the crone stage of my life (i.e. I am pushing seventy…) so I’ve reached the Saturn Age already. In looking back over my life, I found the planetary ages corresponded quite nicely with what I experienced
My partner is roughly the same age as me, and their periods also corresponded accurately. I’m going to include this technique as a quick way of getting a sense of a native’s life in working with nativites.
I’ll let you know if my Saturn period works out as I expect when I am 98 years old!
I’ll be giving a talk this weekend at an event hosted by AFAN, the Association for Astrological Networking. Here is a list of the speakers:
AFAN has a spectacular lineup to celebrate International Astrology Day. In fact, they are celebrating all weekend! Mark your calendar for March 19 and 20.
I’ll be giving a talk there on astrological houses on Saturday, 19 March. The talk will be be a tour through the major house systems and how they are calculated. We’ll look at the celestial circles upon which they are based (without going into the math…) and touch on possible symbolic interpretations of each.
The conference will be held on Zoom, it is free, but one needs to register at this address: afan.org/iad2022/
Here is the schedule:
Saturday March 19, 2022 (Pacific Time UTC -7)
Using Astrocartography for Natal and World Events
9:00am (5pm UTC)
Rhys Redmond Chatham
A Non-Partisan Overview of Astrological House Systems
Prenatal and Postnatal Eclipses
1:30pm | 13:30
Release into Pisces’ Waters : A Sound Meditation
3:00pm | 15:00
Imperfect (Celestial) Bodies:
A Disability-Affirming Framework for Interpreting the Planets
4:30pm | 16:30
Positive Saturn! Understanding the Symbology of the Karma Planet (Vedic)
6:00pm | 18:00
Filling Our Cup, Feeding Our Soul – An inspirational talk on Jupiter in Pisces
7:30pm | 19:30
Saturday March 19, 2022 (Pacific Time UTC -7)
Controlling Dance of the Malefics – Saturn, Mars, and the Lunar Nodes (Vedic)
Between Heaven and Earth:
How Myth & Astrology Can Help Us To Navigate These Difficult Times
Nathan Theo Naicker
Introducing the Southern Tropical Zodiac: A Holistic Astrology for the Future
1:30pm | 13:30
Dwarf Planets as Higher Octaves: Sedna – Ceres – Moon & Eris – Pluto – Mars
3:00pm | 15:00
Holistic Health & Astrology: The Luminaries Explored in Everyday Life
Ruler of the first house in the first house (or to use Hellenistic jargon) “Lord of the Hour-Marker in the first place”:
What this signifies depends on the planet in question. When the ruler of the first house is in the first house, the planet’s natural significations come to the forefront in characterizing the native’s life direction and focus. For example, if Venus is the Lord of the hour marker (Ascendant) the native would normally excel in activities that are Venus related.
If it’s Saturn, then Saturn related. It means that the native will tend to gravitate towards and attempt to excel at things associated with that planet over the course of their life.
Further information can be determined by looking at the planet’s essential condition, accidental dignity or detriment as well as aspects to the planet.
Since the first house has to do with appearance, bearing and attitude, the person who has the ascendant ruler there will be conscious of their appearance and how they present themselves, according to the nature of the ruler.
Saturn on the Ascendant…
Depending on the planet, essential dignity, and aspects, this can be a good or bad thing. The native might be overbearing with a “me first attitude”, especially if the ruler of the first house is the Sun!
Generally speaking, the native might express themselves through the way that they look, their orientation to life sometimes tends to be self-centered. The native will be self-motivated, with their own wishes and ideas being paramount.
Mercury has its joy in the first house, so it stands to reason that the first house shows our style of communicating; the planet that rules the Ascendant will influence that, especially if the first house ruler is in the first house! For example of Saturn is in the first house and its ruler, the native’s style of communicating would be serious and structured, if Mars, then the style might be brash, courageous and sometime impetuous. Venus would be diplomatic and pleasing, and so on.
In traditional astrology the second house represents possessions and assets rather than one’s values, so the arena of life covered by the second house is more focused than what we find in contemporary astrology. The topic of what one “values” is spread out over the rest of the chart, for example planets in the fifth house would show us what one values in terms of children/amusements/pleasures. The tenth house would show us what the native values in terms of a career, and the like.
When the ruler of the second house is found in the first house, the native may be strongly financially motivated with much time and thought given to how one earns one living. Money and what it stands is an important theme in the native’s life; this is a position favorable for those working in financial services. The ruling planet and its condition will show the native’s approach to their possessions and assets. A dignified, well aspected ruler would suggest a smooth financial flow and strong earning ability.
Planetary disability or difficult aspects to the ruler would indicate financial challenges, and solutions or alternative approaches would need to be found for this native.
As always in traditional astrology, having an afflicted planet does not necessarily mean it will be operating in a challenged manner 24/7! However, it is a warning signal for potential problems that will crop up from time to time throughout the native’s life. Rather than stick one’s head in the sand, we believe that to be forewarned is to be forearmed! And the good news is that once a solution is found to the challenge, it usually works quite well, as long as the solution is kept in place.
The third house traditionally has to do with siblings and close relatives, with travel and short journeys, with letters, messages, and reports. It is the house of the Goddess and the Moon has her joy there.
With the ruler of the first house in the third house, communication of the native’s thoughts becomes important, whether it is in the form of the written letter or any other means of communication or expression. Look to the planets involved for further detail on this.
With the ruler of the first in the third, the native might find themselves caught up in one way or the other in the affairs of their siblings and close relations. Travel is something that the native will either enjoy, or it will be a component of their life or career, for this is the house of short journeys.
The third house is also the house of the Goddess, the Moon has her joy there. On a spiritual level, in the West this house rules alternative forms of the divine: the third house is also known as the house of the heretic. All to say that the native’s approach to life as well as how their persona is projected out into the world may very well be dictated or informed by their inner path and metaphysical beliefs.
As always, look to the planet involved for more information on this, for example, Wicca is a Moon-ruled religion. Various traditional authors (e.g. Al-Biruni, Lilly, etc.) give guidance on which planets rule which religions.
When we find this configuration in a natal chart the native’s home and family will be a focal point in their life, with the home representing security to the native. This can be true even if the native moves about quite a bit, for the native has the ability to turn wherever they are into their home.
The fourth house represents the home in the largest sense of the word, Manilius associated it with the foundation of all things, which may manifest in the native having strong patriotic feelings, or having a deep connection with their roots. Depending on the planet, much of the native’s activity may center around the home. This is a good position for a homemaker, or for someone who works out of their home, such as a writer, composer, or perhaps even an astrologer!
Whatever the profession, there may be a tendency to view friends as an extended family, treating them as such. They probably express themselves best when surrounded by such friends and by family. The character of the native will express itself through the filter of the security of the foundation of a solid home and family, or lack of one. Their experiences with their parents and family will strongly influence the way the native interacts with the world.
The fourth house is at the bottom of the chart, the subterranean place. A person with the ruler of the first in the fourth will probably have a need to withdraw on a regular basis in order to recharge their batteries. While this by no means delegates the native to a life as a hermit, a periodic retreat to their figurative cave will do the native a world of good.
When we look at a person’s character in traditional astrology, we look at the person’s Ascendant and first house, which shows their appearance and personality, their style of communication and character. To find out which topics in life will be a primary concern to the native, we look at the ruler of the ascendant and first house.
When the ruler of the first house is in the fifth house, the first thing the astrologer will do is think of which topics relate to the fifth house. Traditionally, what instantly comes to mind is children, and often a native with the lord of the first house in the fifth will have a strong connection of some kind with children, either their own or perhaps other people’s kids in the context of schools, vacation colonies, and the like.
In traditional astrology the house significations are often connected with the planetary joys, and Venus has her joy in the fifth house. Venus rules things like beauty, pleasure, and the arts, which is where the fifth house association with amusements comes from.
The fifth house is an astrological house that is concerned with having fun, and the last time I looked, I certainly found having sex to be quite fun, even amusing! So, in traditional astrology we associate love affairs, exciting liaisons, and sex with the fifth house. Of course, it is possible to have fun with other things beside bedroom sports, so sports in general are happily included in fifth house activities!
Because Venus rules the arts and all things beautiful, this house becomes a particularly important one where creative people and artists are concerned.
When the ruler of the first house is in the fifth house, the native’s persona will be strongly linked to one of the topics in the arena of life represented by the fifth house. They will normally be fun-loving, athletic, drawn to beauty and the arts, and other people’s children will probably be attracted to them. In the romantic area, they will just love being in love! Their love life will either be flowing along smoothly, or with great ups and downs, depending on aspects and the essential dignity of the ruler, among other factors.
The primary traditional signification of the sixth house is illness, so with the ruler of the first house in the sixth, the native will be concerned, in one way or another, with health issues. Whether these issues will be their own or those of others depends on the condition of the first and sixth house lords.
We look to the lord of the first house and the Sun to give a sense of the native’s vitality and overall health and compare that with the lord of sixth. For good health, generally we would like the ruler of the first to be essentially stronger than the ruler of the sixth. Whatever the case, issues involving health, disease and illness will be on the native’s mind, one way or another, throughout their life. On the positive side of things, we would not be surprised to see this configuration in the chart of a doctor or other health professional.
Another way this configuration could manifest is in the chart of a middle manager of some sort, someone who oversees other people. The sixth house represents the people that work for us. Traditionally it represented the people we engaged to do the things that we did not want to do ourselves: our servants. In contemporary society it can include anyone who works for us. If we work for a large company, it can signify the people who work under us. For a band leader it would signify the musicians hired to play in the band. One way or another, with the first in the sixth, the agenda of the sixth house of illness and servants is something that will be on the mind of the native on a daily basis.
Not all things in life are pretty. The sixth house is not a happy house, in addition to illness it signifies the misfortunes of life, accidents and injuries and open enemies, so with the ruler of the first in the sixth, it is possible that these conditions will be major themes in the life of native. If there are aspects to the tenth house of profession, the native could work in a career that would put them in touch with those in such a condition.
On the positive side of things, the sixth house also rules small animals and pets. Having the ruler of the first house in the sixth would be a lovely placement for a vet!
When we find the ruler of the first house in the seventh house, the native will need the appreciation of others to feel complete; life is oriented towards partnership, co-operation, and competition. The seventh house rules marriage, the spouse, and partners of all kinds, as well as open enemies and opponents. The planet or luminary that rules the seventh house will give an indication of what motive or vision the native will have with respect to the seventh house situation, and its essential condition will set the tone that the relationship will take.
For example, with the Sun ruling the seventh house, the native might be literally the light of the partner’s life! Or – depending on the ruling planet’s condition – perhaps the Sun would very much like to be the partner’s light but has difficulty in achieving this goal. As always with traditional astrology, we look to the ruling planet’s essential condition to determine its strengths and weaknesses, as well as any aspects to the planet and its sect, at which point we can make a judgement.
A note to say that in ancient astrology, open enemies are attributed to the sixth house, the logic being that hidden enemies is a twelfth house topic, and the sixth house is at the polarity point of the twelfth, hence: open enemies. However, as the tradition evolved and certainly by the medieval period, open enemies came to be attributed to the seventh house, an open enemy falling into the category of “other”, the polar opposite of the first house “self”.
Personally, in horary I use the seventh house exclusively to signify open enemies, but I keep an open mind on this question for nativities.
When the ruler of the first house in a natal chart is in the eighth house, the difficulty is that the ruler cannot “see” the ascendant by Ptolemaic aspect, that is to say, when the ruler is in the eighth house it does not make an aspect by sextile, square, trine or opposition to the ascendant.
Traditionally, this symbolizes that the planet cannot directly govern the houses that it cannot see, in this case the ascendant and first house, which is the house that is our interface with the outside world.
The analogy often used for such a situation is with a boat: that the person who is steering or guiding the boat cannot see the helm, or the front of the boat. The person who steers cannot see where they are going!
One way this can manifest in life is a certain confusion the native might have regarding their life direction. If this is the case, then the native will have to depend on another planet in their chart to help them with this. For example, if the ruler in the eighth house makes an aspect by degree to the MC, or by degree or even by sign to a planet in the tenth house, which can see the ascendant, this could be a solution to the problem. It would be as though the person steering has no direct line of sight to the helm, so they ask a trusted lieutenant to tell them what is up ahead!
So the bad news with this configuration is that the ruler has no direct line of sight, but the good news is that once a solution is found along the lines described above, it usually works quite well, as long as the solution is kept in place…
Aside from this issue, another thing to keep in mind is that in traditional astrology the correspondences of the eighth house are a bit different from that of contemporary astrology.
From the twentieth century up to the present astrologers have been working with the twelve-letter astrological alphabet where Scorpio = Eighth house = Pluto, with the correspondences of the house, associated planet and sign being interchangeable.
In ancient and traditional astrology, we keep the planet/sign/house meanings separate as the correspondences we use for houses and are not always the same as those of planets and signs. The correspondences for houses come out of an older tradition based on the Thema Mundi and the position of the planetary joys in relation to the ascendant.
As an example, in traditional astrology the eighth house does not relate very much to having sex, unless having sex causes you a great deal of fear and anxiety (an eighth house signification). Traditional astrologers view having sex as a Venusian activity, and Venus has her joy in the fifth house. Also, the last time I looked, having sex was fun! So we generally put sex in the fifth house, the house of pleasure and amusements.
For astrologers from Hellenistic times up to the renaissance, the eighth house is primarily the house of death and things that are related to death, such as inheritances, wills, and the like.
Magic has always been represented by Mercury throughout the astrological tradition, so for occult matters we look to Mercury as well as the third house, which is the house of the Goddess.
Faust. Illustration: Edwin Austin Abbey
The Moon has her joy in the third house. The third house rules the Mother religions, such as Wicca, as opposed to the ninth house, the house of the God, which rules the Father religions, such as the Abrahamic religions. The eighth house is concerned with the darker side of the occult, particularly necromancy, black magic, or any dark magical art concerned with death.
On another level, the eight house rules other people’s money, being the polarity point of the second house, which represents the native’s finances or moveable possessions. Using derived houses, insofar as the eighth house is second from the seventh, the house of marriage and partnership, in certain contexts the eighth house represents our partner’s money.
Coming back to the ruler of the first house being in the eighth, depending on the planet and its essential dignity, as well as how it is configured to the midheaven and/or other planets in their chart that can see the horizon by Ptolemaic aspect, it could very well symbolize a native who is constantly in contact with other people’s money. We often see eighth house activity in the charts of bankers and money managers.
As always, the nature of the ruler and how he or she will rule is determined to a large extent on which planet or luminary is the ruler and its condition.
On the other hand, the raw material and the subject matter the ruler will have to work with is always determined by the houses involved, in this case the first house – our interface with the world – and the ninth house, which represents foreign lands and travel, religion and spirituality, philosophy, astrology, anything that takes our minds further.
For example, a signification of having the Sun in the ninth house could very well be having a father (Sun) who was born in a foreign land (ninth house). However, if the ruler of the Ascendant is in the ninth, it ties the planet directly in with the native:
In traditional astrology, we look not so much to the Sun to describe character, as we do to the ascendant and any planets in the first house. We also look at the ruler of the ascendant and first house. With the ruler of the first house in the ninth, the character, the way the native presents themselves to the world, how they see the world, will be colored by the ninth house and its agenda.
We would expect travel, foreign countries, theology/religion, or higher learning of some kind to play a significant part in the native’s life. Swami Vivekananda had Saturn exalted in Libra in the ninth house ruling Capricorn rising. After studying with the Indian saint Ramakrishna, he traveled extensively on the Indian subcontinent and then traveled to the United States, where he conducted hundreds of public and private lectures, disseminating the tenants of Hindu philosophy, not only in the States, but also in England and Europe. Vivekananda is someone who lived in a very public way (first house) the ninth house life! Natives with the ruler of the first house in the ninth often have an interest or are concerned with topics such as sociology, travel in general, theology, philosophy, or are involved on some level with higher education of all sorts.
Ruler of the First house in the Tenth House
Photo: Studio Lipnitzki – Paris
One time around the year 1910, the Russian impresario Sergei Diaghilev of the Ballet Russe wanted to introduce the great choreographer Nijinsky to a young composer named Igor Stravinsky, with a view to having the young composer write a score for a new piece by Nijinsky.
Diaghilev set up a meeting, asking Nijinsky to meet Stravinsky at the harbor when his boat arrived. “How will I recognize him?”, asked Nijinsky. “Oh,” said Diaghilev, “he’ll be the one that looks like a composer!” And as things turned out, Nijinsky had no problem picking out Stravinsky from among the crowd disembarking from the boat.
And THAT was because Stravinsky had the ruler of the first house in the tenth house!
When the ruler of the first house of appearance, style of communicating and character has its ruler in the tenth house of career, the native might very well wear their career on their sleeve, sometimes literally! Much of the unity pole of their ego revolves around their career or vocation. If I’m a bartender with my first house ruler in the tenth, then by golly, I’ll be doing my best to LOOK like a bartender! If I’m a poet, I’ll make sure that I look like one!
The tenth house is also the house of authority, so taking a back seat is not in the cards for this native. The first house likes to project out into the world, so this is a great configuration for someone in entertainment, politics, or being in charge in some way. The native likes to be noticed and has a deep need to be appreciated and to gain public recognition for what they do, whether it is for being the best plumber there ever was, or, well, it doesn’t matter WHAT the particular profession is! The native wants to be known and appreciated for it!
As always, we look at the condition of the ruler to see whether the reputation is likely to be one of honor or one of scandal. Of course, nothing in astrology ever depends on just a single factor, but one thing for sure is that the native will be a take-charge kind of person. It is also possible that one of the native’s parents played an especially important part in their life, and a good astrologer would normally query the native about this .
To sum up, when we find the ruler of the first in the tenth, the native’s life is directed towards their public and professional life, with self-expression focused on preserving their reputation for doing whatever it is that they do in life.
Ruler of the First house in the Eleventh House
First house: shows appearance, personality, style of communicating and character.
Eleventh house: friends and allies, groups one associates with, hopes and aspirations, house of the good daemon.
What do Patti Smith, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., David Letterman and Thurston Moore have in common?
Well, for one thing, all of them have appeared before large groups of people, and also, they all have the ruler of the first astrological house placed in the eleventh.
One of the ways that this placement can manifest is through the native identifying or being deeply involved in causes, movements and/or associations with people with similar interests, to such an extent that their way of communicating and their very character becomes synonymous with that of the cause or professional grouping.
Both Patti Smith and Thurston Moore (formerly of the rock group Sonic Youth) have this configuration in their chart and both are identified (first house) strongly with their music. Often people with the ruler of the first in the eleventh express themselves best when they share their creativity with other people, or at the very least, their lives are oriented towards interactions with a group of some kind: they work best in collaboration with others.
David Letterman has his ruler of the first house in the eleventh, and the ruler in question is an exalted Venus, the planet of connectivity. He connected with large groups of people over an extended period of time, his Late-Night show ran from 1982 until 2015!
When we think of the eleventh house, we think of not only the house of friends and allies, but also hopes and aspirations. So it is no surprise to learn that Dr. Martin Luther King, of “I Have a Dream” fame, has the ruler of the first in the eleventh, as with Letterman, the ruler in question is Venus ruling his Taurus ascendant.
Ruler of the First house in the Twelfth House
Clockwise: Gandhi, Che Guevara, photographer Sue Rynski, composer John Cage.
What do Gandhi, Che Guevara, photographer Sue Rynski, and composer John Cage have in common?
They have their ruler of the first house in the twelfth house!
In traditional astrology we have good houses and bad houses, just the way in life we have good moments and bad moments. The twelfth house is one of the bad houses, bad in the sense that traditionally it represents negative things such as prison, confinement, isolation, hidden enemies, and self-undoing. It’s considered an unfortunate house that is associated with sad things such as sorrow, anguish of mind, phobias, and the like. It’s a dark place, let’s face it.
With this in mind, it is important to remember that everyone has a twelfth house and that the significations of any planets found within it depend on their condition and what else is going on in the chart. A strong Jupiter in the twelfth house can indicate triumph over hidden enemies as much as it could indicate self-undoing through overindulgence of some kind.
When the ruler of the first is in the twelfth, the agenda of the twelfth house and its topics impact somehow on what the native is projecting into the world.
Mohandas Gandhi had the ruler of the 12th in the first. He spent most of his life fighting for the independence for India, having spent many years in prison. Che Guevara was born with Mars in Pisces in the twelfth house ruling his Aries Ascendant. When he was in university, he spent time in South America and witnessed poverty, illness and exploitation that impacted on his life direction and inspired him to armed revolution, becoming a leader in the Cuban revolution, eventually being captured and executed by enemies while fighting in Bolivia. Here we see the themes of the twelfth house becoming prominent in his life such as witnessing suffering and having enemies.
Having the ruler of the first in the twelfth does not necessarily have to manifest as dramatically as it did for Gandhi and Che Guevara. It could simply mean that the person makes an impact on the world (first house) by working behind the scenes in some way, such as a writer, who works behind closed doors and makes an impact through the publication of their written word. Or a photographer, who works behind the lens of the camera and who is not generally seen by the public, or a film director, or even a composer!
George Orwell, who wrote Animal Farm and later his shocking futuristic novel 1984 had Mars in Libra in the twelfth house ruling his Scorpio Ascendant and first house.
John Cage, the American composer and essayist had Mercury in Leo in the twelfth house ruling his Virgo Ascendant. Those of you who know a bit about Cage’s life know that he was also a performer and often in the eye of the public. One might object that there is nothing very 12th house about that, now is there?
To answer this we must look, as always, at what is going on in the rest of the chart. We can attribute Cage’s “in-the-spotlight” aspect to his Sun being in the first house, which would put him more in the public eye, and yet, we see the twelfth house impact in his life when we think of all those hours at his desk composing behind closed doors, or all the time spent cutting up bits of audio tape to make Fontana or Williams Mix, not to mention the hours and hours he spent throwing dice to arrive at the random numbers he needed to control every musical parameter of his aleatoric work for piano Music of Changes!
I’ll finish with a story about Sue Rynski, who has been a photographer of note on the punk/underground rock scene in the States and Europe since the late seventies. She has her Sun in the twelfth house and it rules her first house. When she takes photographs, she gets on stage with the performers whenever she can (MC in Leo!), but with her back to the audience (Sun in 12th house!). Photographers in general are hidden behind the camera lens, which is twelfth house symbolism.
All to say that in traditional astrology we have bad houses, yes. But in the context of a natal chart, how planets in a bad house manifest will really depend on what else is going on in the chart.
In this post I am going to contrast the Alcabitius semi-arc system of house division with the Placidus house system.
Both Alcabitius and Placidus are time-based house systems, as opposed to Porphyry, which is purely an ecliptic-based system.
In Porphyry, we start at the point of the ascendant (the point where the horizon meets the ecliptic) and measure the number of degrees along the ecliptic to the MC (the point where the ecliptic meets the local meridian). We trisect that into three equal houses and in this way get the cusp positions for the tenth, eleventh and twelfth houses, and by extension for the fourth, fifth and sixth houses. Easy!
Then we measure the number of degrees from the MC to the descendant and trisect THAT! That will give us the house cups for the seventh, eighth and ninth houses, and by extension the first, second and third houses. Note that in the chart above, houses 7, 8 and 9 are smaller than houses 10, 11 and 12.
To a certain extent, using the local meridian in Porphyry takes into account the latitude of the native in that unless one was born on the equator, the distance from the horizon to the midheaven (MC) will not be the same as from the MC to the descendant.
Let’s contrast Porphyry with how the Alcabitius house system is calculated:
In Alcabitius, instead of simply trisecting the ecliptic between the ascendant point and the MC, we trisect the amount of time the Sun takes to rise along the ecliptic from the ascendant to the MC.
So for example, in Paris today the Sun rose over the horizon at 7h33m13s and reached its culmination at the MC at 13h54m26s. So, we subtract the time of the Ascendant from that of the MC and find that it took 6 hours 21 minutes and 13s for the Sun to travel from the ascendant to the MC.
Here is the chart of the Sun rising on 1st April 2021 over Paris:
Using the Alcabitius system, we simply divide the total time by three to get the eleventh and twelfth house cusps. 6h21m13s divided by 3 = 2h 7m 4.33s. We take the quotient of the division (2h7m4.33s) and add it to the time of the ascendant (7h33m13s). By doing this, we learn that the Sun was at the cusp of the 12th house at 9:40:17.33s.
To get the time the Sun arrived at the 11th house cusp, we simply add 2h7m4.33s to the time of the 12th house cusp, which would be at 11:47:21.65s
Then, with the help of basic high school trigonometry, we determine what degrees on the ecliptic the Sun would have been on at the times we just calculated, and we have our house cusps!
Here is a chart of the Sun culminating over Paris. Because of the latitude, the culmination point is not directly above our head, but slightly to the west. Because of this, notice that houses 7, 8 and 9 are smaller in ecliptic degrees than houses 12, 11 and 10:
Alcabitius semi-arc houses – Sun culminating over Paris.
And now, we finally arrive at the Placidus house system!
Placidus is very similar to Alcabitius, but it takes Alcabitius a step further.
By trisecting or dividing the ecliptic in three equal parts from the ascendant to the MC (and then again from the MC to the descendant), Alcabitius is not taking into account that the twelve signs of the zodiac do not necessarily have the same ascension times as they pass over the ascendant: Depending on the native’s latitude, some signs take long to pass over the ascendant than others!
Straight versus crooked signs:
As we saw in the last blog, because of the earth’s tilt in relation to the ecliptic, in the northern hemisphere Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius take longer to pass over the ascendant than the other six signs, and are called “signs of long ascension” or “straight signs” or “signs of right ascension”. The other six signs are Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus and Gemini, and are called signs of “short ascension”, or “crooked signs. Because of the earth’s tilt, the crooked signs actually appear to be flatter or “stooped” than the other signs, and as a result, they go by faster as they pass by the horizon due to the earth’s daily rotation.
In the southern hemisphere, the perspective is reversed, so what is a “long sign” in the northern hemisphere becomes a “short sign” in the southern hemisphere!
Going back to the northern hemisphere now: Even with the six “long ascension” signs, the ascension times are not uniform. The duration of the ascension time very much depends on what latitude the native is placed on. So a native born in Chicago at 11am will have a different set of ascension times than a native born in Houston, which is further south and obviously at a different latitude.
So the beauty of Placidus is that it takes into account of the latitude of the native when determining the ascension time each sign takes to go over the horizon at the time of birth.
As with Alcabitius, we measure the time it takes for the Sun to go from the Ascendant and MC and divide the total by three. Let’s say the quotient of this division is 2 hours 33 minutes 15 seconds.
And then we go a step further in Placidus:
We physically measure where the Sun will be in its rotation on the ecliptic 2h33m15s after it was at the point of the ascendant. Where the Sun will be on the ecliptic depends entirely what latitude the native is on using Placidus, for as we have seen, some astrological signs take longer for the Sun to pass through than others, even though they all have the same longitudinal width of 30° on the ecliptic!
If we have a long ascension sign like Libra on the horizon, the sizes of the houses will look quite different than if we have a sign of short ascension on the horizon, such as Aquarius.
Here are two chart cast for the same place and time using Alcabitius and Placidus. Have a look to compare the difference:
Left xchart: Alcabitius houses. right chart: Placidus houses.
Note that the Sun took longer to move (in a diurnal direction) through Placidus than it did through Albitius. In Alcabitius, the Sun arrived at the twelfth house cusp at 20° Leo 03′. In Placidus, the Sun arrived seven degrees earlier, at 27° Leo 44.
The reason for the discrepancy is because in Alcabitius we are simply trisecting the distance between the Ascendant and the MC. Each of the three houses have the same number of degrees. In Placidus, the length of time it takes for the Sun to pass through each of the signs is taken into consideration, hence the differences when we compare the cusps.
To conclude, both Alcabitius and Placidus are timed-based house systems, with Placidus being more concerned with the native’s latitude than Alcabitius and is thus more sensitive to the native’s location. In this way it is more geocentric or earth-based.
Speaking of earth-based house systems, it would be difficult to imagine a celestial circle that is more earth-based than the celestial equator, which is simply the earth’s equator projected out to the celestial sphere.
There are a number of house systems that are based on the longitudinal degrees of the equator, rather than the ecliptic. Perhaps the best known of them is the Regiomantanus house system. This was the system used by William Lilly. We’ll be taking a look at how Regiomontanus is calculated in the next installment.