What is traditional astrology?

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.

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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.