wtf is a house

an introduction to the astrological houses

One of the goals of my research is to develop a primer for houses. House division is a contested topic in astrology, and everyone has their preferences. I just want to organize my thoughts on the topic.

A house is a subdivision of a chart. I will stick to a circle chart and the tropical zodiac, because that’s what I practice! The tropical zodiac is aligned with the seasons (equinoxes) rather than constellations. In tropical astrology, the astrological calendar begins with the spring equinox at 0º Aries.

According to Hellenistic Astrology, the subdivision of the sky into 12 parts can be traced back to Egypt. They kept track of time based on what stars were rising on the horizon, and built their calendar as such. Each different star, or cluster was linked to a 10 day week.

Houses and signs, or the zodiac, are different things. If the “hour marker” or ascendant, is 14º Capricorn, then the first house, or rising sign, is Capricorn. The first house is not always Aries.

In the 5th century Mesopotamians divided the ecliptic into equal segments of 30 degrees each, which the Greeks called the zodiac, named after the animals found in the constellations1. These constellations used to be aligned with the tropical zodiac, but are now in other signs because of the procession of the equinoxes. The division of the sky into 12 parts in sidereal astrology is based on the positions of the constellations, while the tropical zodiac remains based on the spring equinox.

The zodiac is one of the most abstract concepts in astrology. The zodiac tells the story of our collective associations with these segments of the sky. It’s very Jungian, even though it predates Jung, and semiotic. I don’t think it predates semiotics. Aries is the sign of spring. Libra is the sign of fall. The zodiac signals something. It could have even invented semiotics.2

The zodiac relates to a greater archetypal narrative, like the hero’s journey, as it literally tells the story of the earth making its way around the sun. The houses are more like the timing of an individual’s life. It shows how events that are going on outside of you can affect you personally, because we are all living under the same sky. The meaning of the houses comes from how the sun or planets are/n’t visible from the horizon.

The houses add a more personal dimension to the birth chart. They show different areas of an individual’s life, or an event. This is why birth time is so important. There are very many people who born on March 3, 2021, but not everyone has 11:11 AM as a birth time, and not everyone was born in Berlin. The placement of planets in the sky relative to the time and place of day gives extra detail. Without a birth time, there are ways to look at a chart, but houses are something that becomes out of the question.

The angles in a chart are one of the most important things to consider. Most astrology heads know their rising sign (or ascendant, Ac). That is the horizon, where planets rise. This is one of the most important points in any chart. It references the individual themself, the ground they stand on. Then there is the midheaven, which is the highest point in the sky, where planets culminate. 

The midheaven (Mc) refers to someone’s legacy, or what they are known for. It’s total visibility, it’s what is public. There are multiple things that refer to the midheaven: it can be exactly 90º from the ascendant, it can be the literal meridian (where the north-south axis intersects the horizon), or it can be simply the 10th house3. This has lead to confusion. Western astrology has a garbled lineage, so somewhere down the line there have been alternate interpretations for what constitutes the Mc, leading to the endless house system debate.

These two points also have their 180º polar opposites. The ascendant (As), where planets rise, has the descendent (Ds), where planets set. This axis is literally the horizon. The midheaven (Mc), or culmination point of highest visibility, has at its opposite culminating point, the Imum coeli (Ic)., which is where planets have the least visibility possible. If the ascendant is you, then the descendent is other people or relationships. if the Mc is your public life, then the Ic is your private life.

While house systems are not a constant, the zodiac is something that is. If you do not have an inception time for a certain chart, it still has value. There are just some things that are impossible to do without a timed chart. Predictive (and psychological) timing techniques like progressions, profections, and zodiacal releasing, are not possible without an accurate birth time. With no birth time, you can’t say with confidence what someone’s rising sign is, or what their moon sign is. In some cases you can’t even tell what someone’s sun sign is! In astrology, timing is everything. That birth certificate is truly necessary for an accurate delineation.

Apart from creating confusion among casual astrologers and enthusiasts about what the Mc refers to, the issue with different house systems is they lead to different delineations. There ought to be a greater understanding of the significance of the house systems, why they have certain meanings, and how those meanings still hold up in modern times. At one point someone started drawing a circle chart with Aries at the helm and some astrologer just spitballed and made Aries and Mars the meaning of the first house. I need to unlearn these associations! I would like to approach houses from a more geometric, less universal place, looking for more accuracy by studying their origins.


need a fact check


Brennan again