House Systems

In my last post we spoke of how varying house systems have gone in and out of style over the years. In my case, during the 70s I used Campanus houses, Koch in the eighties, switching over to Placidus in the 90s through the 2000s. Then I started using exclusively whole sign houses for a time, then I switched to Regiomontanus.

All these systems worked fine and gave good results.

So what gives?  If they all work fine, then why use one over the other? 

For many of us, we use the house system that our teachers used.  I used Campanus in the 70s because that’s what Charles and Vivian Jayne used. I used Koch in the 80s because Robert Hand, Marion March and Joan McEvers were recommending using it. I later used Placidus because that’s what most of my astrologer friends were using.

I got into WSH because Robert Hand (after the late 80s) and more recently Chris Brennan among others were saying that WSH was the system that Valens mainly used. Lilly used Regiomontanus for horary and natal and elections, so I started using that, also.

The point I’m making is that often the house system we use is a result of who we happen to study with.  We find that it works well and get used to it.  If we switch it makes us uncomfortable because some of the planets are in different houses, yikes!

And of course, sometimes we make a switch to other house systems because we want to experiment with ancient, medieval, or renaissance techniques, and thus want to work with the house systems that were used during the period that we are looking at.

That being said, it is all very well to use a house system because that’s what our teacher used, or because this or that ancient, medieval or renaissance astrologer did or didn’t use it, but now that we’ve looked at these various techniques, it would be nice to have a discussion that looks at each of the major house systems and compares them, looks at how they are arrived at and what they are based on, and above all, to explore the symbolic implications of each of them, and based on that discuss the strong points of each one.

I propose to do that in my next post, but in the meantime, I’ll make two blanket statements about the subject:

  1. The various house systems are calculated and based on varying celestial circles: some are based exclusively on the ecliptic, some use exclusively the celestial equator, some use the prime vertical, and others use diurnal circles. So to understand how the house systems differ, we need to look at the celestial circles that they are based on and think about what they might symbolise.
  2. That the reason all the house systems seem to work, even though a planet in one system might be in a different house in another system, is because they are looking at the same subject from a different perspective!

For example: I was looking at a natal chart that had a stellium of planets in H12 in Placidus.  But in WSH, most of them switched over to the first house.  So, what is the story here?  Is one “right” and one “wrong”? Absolutely not!

I know this native very well, the H12 chart (Placidus) chart described a psychological/emotional issue that the native had to deal with.  The H1 (WSH) chart perfectly described a completely different area of the native’s life!

The point here is that if one chooses two use two house systems to describe the same native, we don’t get to choose the one we like best!  We must use BOTH! For the two charts are describing the same native from different perspectives.

I’ll stop here.  Next time, we’ll look at each of the major house systems and go into more detail vis-à-vis how they are calculated and what they might symbolise.