Rulers of the Houses in Traditional Astrology.

Ruler of the first house in the first house.

I’m taking a tour at the rulers of houses in the houses at present and jotting down some thoughts on each one, here are some notes on the ruler of the ascendant in the first house.

Ruler of the First House in the First House

Image by Omar Lopez

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.

Ruler of the First house in the Second House

Photo by lilzidesigns

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.

Ruler of the First house in the Third House

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.

Ruler of the First house in the Fourth House

Photo by Jimmy Dean

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.

Ruler of the First house in the Fifth House

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.

Ruler of the First House in the Sixth House

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!

Ruler of the First house in the Seventh House

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. 

Ruler of the First House in the Eighth House

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.

Ruler of the First House in the Ninth House:

Photo by Timo Stern

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.

Placidus vs Alcabitius House System

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!

Porphyry houses.

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.

Until then!


Short versus Long Ascension

In the first time-based house system that we looked at, the Alcabitius system, we carefully measured the time it took for the point of the ascendant (the point where the horizon meets the Sun’s path along the meridian), to reach the culmination point of the Sun at the midheaven, or MC (Medium Coeli).

Illustration from C.T. Definitions

We then took the total time of the Sun’s path along the ecliptic from the ascendant to the MC and divide the time it took into three equal parts.  Adding one of these parts to the time of the ascendant gives us the time when the point of the ascendant reaches the 12th house cusp, adding the sum again gives us the 11th house cusp, and we convert those times into degree points on the ecliptic.

Illustration from

The beauty of this system is that it is linked to the local meridian, and thus more directly to the location of the earth-based native of the chart.

With Alcabitius, at first glance it would appear that since time is trisected between the ascendant and the MC, that the time it takes for the Sun (or any planet) to travel would be the same for each of the trisected houses, since each of the houses represent an equal amount of time.

However, this is not the case.  And this is where the innovation of the Placidus system enters the picture.

The fact of the matter is that the Sun transverses some astrological signs more quickly than others. This is what William Lilly referred to as “straight signs” versus “crooked signs”.  Or put another way, “signs of right ascension” as opposed to “signs of oblique ascension”, or “signs of long ascension” vs “signs of short ascension”.

Because of the way the earth is tilted with respect to the ecliptic, six of the constellations along the ecliptic seem flatter/not as tall/crooked/shorter than the other six, which appear to be standing upright, “straight”, or long.

 The Sun takes less time with the crooked/oblique/short signs to “ascend” along the ecliptic than it does with the upright, straight, or long ones.

In the northern hemisphere, the signs of right ascension (straight/upright/long) are: Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio and Sagittarius. 

The signs of oblique ascension (crooked/oblique/short) are: Capricorn, Aquarius, Pisces, Aries, Taurus, Gemini.

In the southern hemisphere, due to the earth’s tilt of 23.5° in relation to the ecliptic, these are reversed: i.e. the signs of long ascension become the signs of short ascension.

You can easily see for yourself how widely the ascension times vary for each sign in any astrological program capable of animating a chart wheel, such as Astro Gold or Solar Fire. I’ve prepared a demonstration video in Solar Fire to demonstrate this, you can do it yourself at home!

And here is a lovely YouTube video using Stellarium and Sumer 1.3 by Rumen Kolev which demonstrates the phenomenon of long ascension versus short ascension quite nicely, observe especially the image on the right:

So in summary, Porphyry is an ecliptic-based system which simply divides the ecliptic in three equal parts from the ascendant to the MC, and then again from the MC to the Descendant, and by extension to the rest of the 12 astrological houses.

Alcabitius is a time-based system, which measures the time it takes for the point of the ecliptic to move in a diurnal (primary, literally “to the right”) direction until it reaches the MC. We then divide the time by three (rather than dividing the ecliptic itself).  Then we do this operation again from the IC to the ascendant, and by extension the rest of the twelve astrological houses.

Placidus was an innovation, in that it took into account that although the signs are a standardized 30° each on the ecliptic, the Sun moves along these signs at different rates of speed due to their positioning in relation to the local meridian. It is thus a more accurate representation of the size of an astrological house in relation to the native’s position on earth.  We do not get this in any of the other previously mentioned house systems.

We will go more deeply into the Placidus system in the next post.


Alcabitius House system

We’ve discussed ecliptic-based house systems such as whole sign houses, equal houses and Porphyry. Now I’d like to move on to two of the “time-based” house systems: Alcabitius and Placidus.

Ecliptic systems divide the ecliptic itself into houses.  In the whole sign house system (WSH), the astrological sign itself becomes the house, with each sign/house consisting of a standardized 30° of ecliptical longitude. The Ascendant is floating freely within the first house, and the midheaven (M.C.) is generally floating anywhere between the 8th – eleventh houses.

Ditto for equal houses, except each house starts with the degree of the ascendant.

The Porphyry house system takes the distance from the Ascendant to the midheaven, and trisects it into three equal divisions, which determines the house cusp degrees for houses 10, 11 and 12, and by extension for houses 4, 5 and 6. Then, the longitudinal distance between the midheaven and the descendant is measured and trisected, giving us the degrees of houses 9, 8 and 7, and by extension the degrees for houses 3, 2 and 1.  The Porphyry system is the simplest form of “quadrant house system”, so called because it divides the 360° circle of the ecliptic into four quadrants.

Now we come to the Alcabitius system of house division, which is called a “time-based” house system.

So how is Alcabitius time-based? What does this mean?

Consider the ascendant, the astrological point to the East where the horizon meets the ecliptic… This is the point where the Sun rises.

As the earth rotates this point will rise along the diurnal arc (i.e. the ecliptic) until it becomes the midheaven (MC), the point where the Sun culminates (not to be confused with the zenith).

The “time” we are speaking of here is the time it takes for the point of the ascendant to move along the “semi-arc” of the until it reaches the MC, the cusp of the tenth house, where it transverses the local meridian

This amount of time is then trisected in Alcabitius: it is divided into three equal parts, which we refer to as “trisecting the semi-arc of the ascendant”. 

Thus, we are trisecting time in the Alcabitius system, as opposed to a system that is dividing solely the ecliptic, such as WSH, equal houses or Porphyry, and all that this implies symbolically (which we shall discuss in more depth a bit later on).

Back to Alcabitius now…

So, let us say that it takes 5 hours, 32 minutes and 16 seconds for the point of the ascendant to rise in a diurnal direction (primary direction) to the midheaven. 

All one does is divide that by three, which gives us 1 hour 50.7 minutes. To determine the 12th house cusp we simply find out what longitudinal degree the ascendant was on at 1 hour 50.7 minutes after the precise hour of the rising point. We double that to find the eleventh house cusp, and to check one’s work we simply multiply by three, and if our calculations were correct, we arrive at the same degree as the midheaven.

Easy, right?  At least it is conceptually.  It is a beautiful and elegant system which was used widely in Europe from around the 10th century up until the introduction of the Regiomontanus system in the late 15th century.

The second and third house cusps are found the same way as the eleventh and twelfth, except rather than moving forward in time, we look back to when the point of the ascendant was at the IC, determine what time this occurred, divide the time it took by three and follow the same procedure for the lower semi arc that we used for the upper one.

One advantage of the Alcabitius system is that there is little less distortion in the relative sizes of the houses.  For example, in Placidus – another time-based house system – at the latitude of Paris we sometimes find a huge sixth and twelfth house. In the Alcabitius house system the houses tend to be more evenly distributed, as a general rule.

Chart 1: Placidus (note H6 & H12). Chart 2: Alcabitius.

Indeed, we would probably be using Alcabitius widely today if it had been included in Raphael’s Ephemeris, which was the standard reference for astrologers during the 19th and well into the 20th century.  But alas, it wasn’t; it was Placidus that was included, which goes a long way to explaining the current popularity of Placidus, for astrologers tend to use whatever house system their teachers used.  Quite understandable, of course.  Though perhaps unfortunate.

In our next discussion, we will look at the Placidus system of house division to see how it is calculated, and compare it with Alcabitius.


The three great celestial circles: the ecliptic, the local horizon and the local meridian.

Earlier, we spoke of ecliptic-based house systems (c.f. blog 24 January 2021).

In the course of talking about these older house systems, we are going to look at the ecliptic, the horizon and the meridian, see what they look like in the sky above us, and finally we will look at how they are represented in an astrological chart.

The easiest house systems to calculate are the ones that are based on the ecliptic. The three major house systems based primarily on the ecliptic are: (1) the whole sign house system (WSH), (2) the equal house system, and the (3) Porphyry house system.

These three house systems use as their basis three great celestial circles: the ecliptic, the local horizon, and the local meridian and are easy to calculate.  All one needs to know is the longitudinal position on the ecliptic of where the ecliptic meets the horizon, this is called the ascendant.

Then we need to find the point where the ecliptic meets the local meridian, this is called the midheaven. 

Once we know these positions, the rest of the calculations can be done in one’s head!

I’d like to introduce a more complex house system, but before we get to that, let’s review the basic celestial circles that we have covered so far: the ecliptic, the horizon and the meridian.

The Ecliptic:

The ecliptic, of course, is the apparent path of the Sun as it is seen from the point of view by an observer on earth. 

Illustration: Christopher A. Weidner

The five visible planets never drift too far from the path of the ecliptic, so in astrology we usually measure the longitudinal position of the luminaries and planets, including the outer ones, as longitudinal degrees along the 360° circle of the ecliptic, which by convention we divide into twelve sectors of 30° of longitudinal position each.  Each of these twelve sectors is represented by an astrological constellation (Aries, Taurus, Gemini, etc.), which may or may not correspond with the ones in the sky.

The Horizon:

The horizon is the great circle on the celestial sphere that is directly between the zenith (the point directly above you) and the nadir (the point directly below you).

Illustration: Christopher A. Weidner

The horizon is always perpendicular to the local zenith and nadir, that is to say the horizon is 90° from the ascendant.

The Meridian:

The meridian is the great circle passing through the celestial poles, as well as the zenith and nadir of an observer’s location. In astrology, the midheaven is defined as the point where the ecliptic meets the local meridian.

Illustration: Christopher A. Weidner

How the great circles are represented in an astrological chart:

In an astrological chart, we squish these great celestial circles together, we flatten them so that they are represented by straight lines:

The outer circle represents the ecliptic, and on it we see the degrees of the house cusps, which were calculated in Porphyry in this chart.

The vertical line going from left to right, from 5° Leo to 5° Aquarius, represents the horizon, which of course is actually a circle, not a straight line.  Because western astrology was developed in the northern hemisphere, the Sun was always to the south.  So since the chart assumes that we are facing south, the east is on the left and the west is on the right.  This convention has stayed with us through the ages, and we use it today, even if we live in the southern hemisphere.

Finally, the vertical line that goes from the bottom at 15° Libra to the top at A5° Aries represents the local meridian, which of course is also a great circle, and not a straight line (c.f. illustration 3).  The point of the midheaven represents the point where the two circles intersect: it is the point of intersection of the meridian with the ecliptic.

The beginning of the tenth house in a quadrant house system such as Porphyry, Alcabitius, Campanus, Regiomontanus or Placidus is called the Medium Coeli (M.C.), which is Latin for midheaven.

The M.C. is where the Sun reaches its highest point in the local sky, NOT to be confused with the zenith, which is the point directly above the observer. 

So, to give an example, if one is in the northern hemisphere at a mid-latitude location, for example Wisconsin, or in Europe in France, the Sun would be towards the south as it rises, culminates, and sets.  The Sun only passes directly overhead the observer at the equator.  The Sun travels along the ecliptic, the local meridian is perpendicular to our local horizon, so basic physics tells us that the Sun will reach its highest point when, travelling along its path on the ecliptic, it meets our local meridian. 

Our local zenith is also on our local meridian, it is directly above where one is standing.  But the local zenith is not on the path of the ecliptic, unless we happen to be standing exactly on the equator!

Having reviewed these three basic circles, in the next blog I hope to cover later astrological house systems.  The next one we will cover is the Placidus house system.


A Neptunian question!

What is the difference between the way a contemporary astrologer would interpret Neptune on the descendant, as opposed to how it would be interpreted traditionally or Hellenistically? 

This is a question that came up recently in a study group that I participate in.

It’s true that the approaches would be quite different. 

Even though many astrologers working with traditional and/or ancient techniques work mostly with the seven visible planets, if an outer planet (Uranus/Neptune/Pluto) touches an angle, many of us will take that into consideration.

Here is how I would define the difference between the contemporary approach and that of traditional or ancient astrology:

In contemporary natal astrology, each of the seven visible planets represents a component of consciousness within the native, and the three outer planets symbolize an element of the unconscious mind (in its Jungian sense). The natal horoscope is interpreted as a map of consciousness and the various psychic impulses of the native. The entire natal chart and all the astrological symbols within it become a means of analyzing character and the psychology of the native.

However, in both traditional and ancient astrology, the approach is different: The ascendant, any planets in the first house and the ruler of the first house symbolize the native, both physically and psychologically.  Houses other than the first house represent everything outside of the native. 

So, for character analysis, both traditional and ancient astrologers interpret the ascendant, the first house and any symbols found within it.  Additionally, a traditional astrologer (medieval, renaissance) will make an analysis of the native’s “manners”, by which is meant the temperamental balance of the chart.  Is the person choleric or melancholic?  Sanguine or phlegmatic? Or perhaps a combination thereof…  These serve to give us effective delineations of the character of the native.

Keeping all this in mind, let’s return to the original question:

How would a contemporary astrologer interpret Neptune on the cusp of the seventh house? The seventh house being the house of marriage and partnerships.

Neptune is in the seventh house of this chart.

Simply put, a contemporary astrologer’s interpretation would be that the native approaches seventh house relationships in a Neptunian way!

If the aspects to Neptune are soft ones, the native’s relationship strategies will probably manifest in a positive way (a spiritual approach, total immersion with the other person, etc). If there are hard aspects, then the manifestations would more likely be negative (difficulty seeing the other person in the relationship clearly, confusion, etc.)

For the traditional/ancient astrologer, the approach would be to see Neptune as a type of person or situation external to the native. If I saw this in a client’s chart, one of the first questions I might ask is if they happen to be married to a musician! Or poet… Or negatively, perhaps a drug addict!

And if it turned out that they weren’t currently in a relationship, the next step would be to use various traditional and ancient time lord techniques to find out when they would be likely to meet such a person.

That, for me, is the traditional approach (renaissance, medieval) , and also the Hellenistic (ancient) one.

Another related question that came up during our study session was: if the client is having a problem of some kind with their seventh house Neptune, how do we help them with it?

Using the contemporary psychological approach, we help our client by identifying the exact nature of the problem, for example if their Neptune was square or in opposition to Venus, we might explore whether they had difficulty seeing their love interests clearly.  We’d help them identify the exact nature of their problem, and offer strategies as to how the difficulty might be solved.

The traditional astrologer’s approach would be to help the client by identifying the type of person likely to appear in their lives, when this person would be likely to next appear, and to advise them as to whether this person ought to be accepted with open arms, or to run for the hills!

 If it turned out that the Neptunian influence was negative for some reason, then the next steps for the traditional astrologer would include looking at the various significators for the seventh house (its lord, other planets contained within and aspects to them), also looking at the lot of marriage and the lot of eros.

And THEN, we’d look at Venus for the boys and Mars for the girls, and by the time we’ve finished doing all that, we’d have quite a bit to talk about and will have normally helped the client see things more clearly vis-à-vis their seventh house issues.

At least that’s what we hope!


Ecliptic-based houses

Let’s look at each of the major house systems one by one with a view to understanding how they are calculated and how this might affect the symbolism of the horoscope.

The easiest house systems to calculate are the ones that are directly based on the ecliptic. The three major house systems based directly on the ecliptic are (1) the whole sign house system, (2) the equal house system, and the (3) Porphyry house system.

To understand these systems and what they might symbolise, let’s review what the definition of the celestial circle known as the ecliptic.   

The ecliptic is the plane of Earth’s orbit around the Sun. From the perspective of an observer on Earth, the Sun’s movement around the celestial sphere over the course of a year traces out a path along the ecliptic against the background of stars.

Here is a helpful illustration of the ecliptic:

As you can see from the illustration, the Earth revolves around the Sun and as it does so, from the perspective of someone on Earth, we see the 12 signs of the zodiac, a different sign each month! The ecliptic in the above diagram is the celestial circle in red, which, being a circle, is divided into 360° of celestial longitude, and is the circle we see represented in two dimensions when we look at a horoscope.

In astrology, each of these signs which we find along the ecliptic are divided up into 30° of celestial longitude. Of course, astronomically speaking, these constellations of stars do not literally and uniformly take up exactly 30° of longitude, indeed some of them are larger and some are smaller. It was towards the end of the 5th century B.C. that Babylonian astrologers divided the ecliptic into 12 equal “signs”, by analogy to the 12 months, each sign containing 30° of celestial longitude, thus creating the first known celestial coordinate system.

This system of division of the ecliptic was used by the ancient Greeks in the form that is now called “whole sign houses”, where the division of the ecliptic was made into 12 portions of 30° each, each of these portions known as “houses”.  The two other house systems that were used during this period were the equal house system, and the Porphyry method of division.

It is not my purpose here to debate the prevalence of one house system over another during the Hellenistic period, nor will I make any attempt to conjecture how and for what purpose these systems were used in ancient times. My aim here is to simply define how these systems are calculated and how we might begin thinking of their symbolic significations in a contemporary context.

The Whole Sign House System:

  • The Whole Sign House system uses the zodiac signs on the ecliptic to define the twelve houses.
  • The zodiac sign which rises over the horizon at the time of the birth or event defines the entire first house. The remaining eleven signs create the rest of the houses, moving in a counter-clockwise direction.
  • Each house begins at 0° of the zodiac sign and ends at 29° and is thus 30° in size.
  • 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. The ascendant always defines the first house. The MC can be present anywhere between the ninth and eleventh houses.

The Equal House System:

  • The Equal-House system is a variation of the Whole sign House system (WSH). The difference is that the degree of the ascendant defines the start of the first house and becomes the starting degree of each of the remaining eleven houses.  The MC floats and does not define the start of the tenth house.
  • Symbolically speaking, the personal point of the degree of the ascendant is emphasized in this system as a defining feature which dictates the remaining eleven house cups. The symbolism becomes a bit more tied to the earth in that the eastern horizon takes on an elevated importance.
  • The equal house system is a non-quadrant house system.

Porphyry – a quadrant house system:

In quadrant house systems the ascendant and descendant define the first and seventh house cusps, and additionally, the midheaven (MC) is used to define the tenth house cusp, while its opposite point the I.C. (Imum Coeli) defines the cusp of the fourth house.

This creates four sectors or zones within the circle of the ecliptic, otherwise known as quadrants.

The earliest quadrant house system, used in Hellenistic times, is known as the Porphyry house system, named after the third century Neo-Platonist Porphyry, although he was not its creator as this system was described in the second century by Vettius Valens in his astrological textbook entitled Anthology.

In the Porphyry system of houses, the span of the ecliptic between the horizon and midheaven is trisected equally to produce three houses. Because the number of degrees between the horizon/ascendant and MC/midheaven varies according to location, time of day and season, the quadrants are not of equal size.

So, the three houses from the rising quadrant, i.e., from the degree to the culminating degree (MC), houses 12, 11 and 10, will be a different size to the setting quadrant, i.e., houses 9, 8 and 7.

This difference is carried over diagonally across the horoscope into the houses below the horizon.

So, in Porphyry, the ascendant forms the first house cusp, and the MC forms the 10th house cusp.  The Porphyry system, though quadrant, is still based on the ecliptic, as are whole sign houses and equal-houses. Yet one could say that symbolically it is more earth based in that a heightened important is given to the ascendant and MC; also, the geographical location of where the chart is cast is highlighted insofar as the cusp of the first and tenth houses reflect the earth-bound location.

Initial conclusions: Whole Sign houses, Equal-houses and Porphyry houses are arrived at through division of the ecliptic, which is a celestial circle. So in order to understand its symbolism, we need to reflect upon what the various celestial circles might symbolise.

The celestial circles used to arrive at the major house systems are as follows:

  • The ecliptic
  • The prime meridian (runs north through south through the poles)
  • The prime vertical (runs east through west through the zenith)
  • The celestial equator (which is projected from the earth’s equator)

Returning to our consideration of the ecliptic, where is the ecliptic located? 

It is the apparent path the Sun takes around the earth when viewed from an earth-based, geocentric perspective.

It is extra-lunar rather than sublunar.

A good deal of symbolism could be drawn from this.  We will begin to consider it after we have covered the other major house systems and how they are calculated.

Next up: House systems coming out of the astrolabe.

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.


House systems (1) from December 2020

I wanted to do a post on my checkered past with astrological house systems:

In the seventies I used Campanus houses because my aunt and uncle were professional astrologers and that’s what they used. I was not yet an astrologer in the seventies.

In the eighties, I decided I wanted to cast my own charts. This was a bit before the time astrological software was commonly used, so with the aid of my trusty copy of The Only Way to Learn Astrology (Vol 2) by Marion D. March and Joan McEvers, I learned the math for casting charts by hand.  March & McEvers recommended using Koch houses, and the Table of Koch houses book came with a handy form by Robert Hand that one used to do the calculations.  Hand said he liked Koch because it put his Mars in the fifth house, rather than the sixth! Since it did the same for my Mars, and because I figured if Koch was good enough for Robert Hand, it was good enough for me, I started using Koch houses.

Then the 90s came and astrological software made using house systems as easy as pulling down a menu.  I started using Placidus because that’s what most of my friends were using.

The readings I got from astrologers who read my chart using Campanus were accurate and spot on.  When I started reading charts myself using Koch and Placidus, aside from sometimes putting planets in different houses, I got consistently good results.

Then, about five or six years ago I was having coffee sitting in a Parisian café with my friend Lynn Bell, who was telling me about her work with the planetary joys and the good and bad daemons of the eleventh and twelfth astrological houses. At that point in time, I didn’t fully understand what a planetary joy was, so Lynn helpfully explained that it was a concept coming out of traditional astrology. I figured I had better find out more about this branch of astrology…

So I downloaded a workshop by Demetra George entitled “Traditional Astrology 101”.  Looking back, I think it should have been called “Ancient Astrology 101”, since what it covered was Hellenistic astrology, but I found it fascinating and eventually enrolled in Chris Brennan’s Hellenistic astrology course, which covers the subject exhaustively. I also took some workshops with Kelly Surtees and Austin Coppock, all of whom used whole sign houses in their work, so I started using whole sign houses, too. 

I got good results using whole sign houses.  After completing his full Hellenistic Astrology course, I took my first introductory horary course with Brennan, and whole sign houses were used.  Horary is an area of astrology where you one can’t fudge around.  You either get it right or you don’t in horary, it scary that way for the astrologer. I got consistently good results using WSH in horary as well as in natal charts.

About twenty years ago, I apprenticed with a Welsh magician and studied ceremonial magic with him, eventually joining a lodge based in the UK. Through Brennan’s Astrology Podcast, I became aware of astrological magic and a magician who had been practicing it for many years, Christopher Warnock. My own work in magic only touched on astrology, so about two years ago I began my studies with Warnock, who specializes in the astrology of the Renaissance and all things Lilly! It is normal when we study with an astrologer that we use their house system, so I started working heavily with Regiomontanus. After studying magic for about a year with Warnock, I embarked upon and completed his full horary course; and it being astrology of the renaissance, we worked with Regiomontanus houses.  I got good results from this system also.

The point I’m making here is that I got good results from using a wide variety of house systems.  What gives? Is one better than the other? Why would I use one over another? Is deciding which system to use a matter of fashion or taste? Or peer pressure?

Well, of course it could be any of those things. But one likes to think, when we move past our teachers and start thinking for ourselves, that there might be a deeper reason for choosing one house system over another than doing so because it is what another astrologer used, be this astrologer a modern one or one of yesteryear.

I have ideas concerning how to go about doing this that I would like to share, which I will do the next time I post.


From 27 June 2020: Tropical vs Sidereal Astrology

A study group that I’m part of was looking recently at three possible zodiacs: the constellational zodiac, the sidereal zodiac, and tropical zodiac.

For those who are not quite sure what the differences are between these zodiacs, I’ll provide an explanation below, but I’d like to start off with the point I wanted to make first.

I’ve heard debates from time to time within the astrological community on the subject of which is better: the sidereal or the tropical zodiac. My viewpoint is that this is a dumb question, it’s asinine. As Robert Hand once famously said concerning the various house systems, asking if one is “better” than the other is like asking if German a better language than French.

It could be argued that both zodiacal systems couldn’t be “true”. It must be a zero-sum situation. One must be false and the other true, because in one system a person’s Sun can be in Libra, but in the other their Sun is in Scorpio. So how could they both be right?

The response to that question is: when looked at within the parameters of its own system of correspondences, each tradition (sidereal and tropical astrology) is “right” with respect to itself. It is like taking a photograph of someone from two different perspectives. We are looking at the same person, but from different points of view.

Indian astrology is based on the sidereal zodiac. It goes back 2000 years or so and it works just fine! So does Western sidereal astrology.

Tropical astrology has a history going back to early Hellenistic times, and it works just fine, too!

So which zodiac do I use? I use the tropical zodiac. Why?

Well, to be honest, I learned astrology at the feet of my uncle and aunt (Charles and Vivian Jayne), and they used the tropical zodiac, so that’s why I use it. And these days I have my hands full getting my head around medieval and renaissance astrology, so I don’t have time at present to add sidereal astrology to my toolkit. I’ll leave that to those who specialize in it. Just as there are many traditions within the community of magic, so there are within
astrology: we each choose the path that has heart for us.

Ok, that’s my viewpoint. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here is a quick explanation of the different zodiacs:

The constellations in the sky are not of equal sizes. For example, the constellation Virgo is much larger in terms of zodiacal longitude than Cancer. They are of unequal size. This is the way the stars look in the heavens when we view them. This is the zodiac that the ancient astrologers used.

Eventually, by the 5th century BCE, the astrologer-astronomers of Mesopotamia standardized the zodiac so that it contained twelve signs of exactly 30° each. This is referred to as the sidereal zodiac and is an idealized division of the zodiac – the ecliptic of the Sun – into 12 equal parts: 12 signs of 30° each. The sidereal zodiac roughly corresponds visually to the actual constellations that we see in the sky.

When Hellenistic astrology was developed a few centuries later, the seasons were roughly aligned with the sidereal zodiac. The beginning of the seasons aligned with the cardinal signs: Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn.

The tropical zodiac is measured relative to the seasons; its starting point is the vernal equinox at 0° Aries. After that, the other signs are measured out in 30° increments starting from there.

That the qualities of the 12 signs were drawn from both the sidereal and tropical zodiacs became problematic later on when the two zodiacs started drifting apart due to an astronomical phenomenon called precession. this phenomenon is known as the precession of the equinoxes.

Precession is due to the Earth wobbling on its axis very slowly over the course of 26,000 years. The result is a drift between the two zodiacs of about 1° every 72 years, with the two zodiacs differing presently at about 24°. This ends my brief technical explanation.