Understanding the Houses of Astrology

This is the 8th section of a primer on astrology, a multifaceted discipline that I consult when developing and refining the characters and timelines in my fictional works. While I am not a professionally trained astrologer, I’ve been studying astrology independently for nearly three decades. This primer is not a complete guide to astrology, but offers readers a basic understanding of an astrological chart.

Catch up on previous astrology blogs

Astrology—The Planets Astrology—The Signs (Part 1)  Astrology—The Signs (Part 2)  Astrology—The Signs (part 3) Astrology—The Aspects Astrology—Aspect Patterns Astrology—Chart Patterns

When looking at a traditional astrological chart, you’ll notice that there are lines radiating out from the edge of the innermost circle that stretch to the outer circle. These lines mark the borders of each of the chart’s twelve houses. If the chart was a compass, the arrow pointing due west would pinpoint what sign was rising on the eastern horizon at the time of your birth, and at what degree. The ascendant, which defines where your houses start. From there, the rest of the houses continue on in a clockwise manner.

Each of these houses represents a certain essential aspect of life. The first six houses, known as the personal houses, govern more personal aspects of life, subjects like self, home, daily life, and community. The last six houses are known as interpersonal houses, and they govern aspects of life that are more dependent on social interactions, aspects like education, friendships, partnerships, and careers.

Each of these houses has a natural ruling sign, but the sign and related planet that rules the houses in a specific individual’s chart depends more on which sign was rising on the eastern horizon at the time of their birth. The first house is naturally ruled by Aries, the second ruled by Taurus, the third by Gemini, and so on through all twelve zodiac signs. If, however, a child is born when Virgo is on the eastern horizon, their first house would be in Virgo, their second in Libra, their third in Scorpio, and so on through the signs. (There are a few exceptions to this, especially when using the Placidus method of division for the houses.)

Because a person’s ascendant depends on the placement of the sun at the moment of birth, knowing the date of your birth isn’t sufficient to determine where their houses are in connection with the wheel of the zodiac, you need to know the time and place of their birth as well.

House Divisions

There are many methods that astrologers use to divide up the astrological houses, but the most commonly used house systems in the Western world are whole house, equal house, and Placidus.

1) Divided by the whole house system, each house is exactly thirty degrees wide, and the entire sign is contained in each house. So, if Taurus is rising over the Eastern horizon at 11 degrees when you are born, then your first house starts at 0 degrees of Taurus and ends at 0 degrees of Gemini.

2) Divided by the equal house system, each house is still 30 degrees wide, but the start of the first house corresponds directly with your ascendant. By the equal house system, an individual with Taurus rising at 11 degrees would have a first house that spanned from 11 degrees of Taurus to 11 degrees of Gemini.

3) House divisions by the Placidus system, which became popularized during the Renaissance era, can be a little more complicated. It is based on the movement of the sun directly after the person’s birth. The ascendant once again corresponds directly with the start of the first house, but instead of measuring houses by marking thirty degrees, they are measured by which sign is on the horizon every two hours after your birth and at what degree for 12 hours. These measurements give us the first six houses. The boundaries of the final six houses are determined by extending these lines across the wheel of the horoscope. These can be calculated by hand, but most people in the modern world use astrology programs to determine their Placidus house cusps.

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