"The sky is that beautiful old parchment in which the sun and the moon keep their diary."
This article explores the twelve houses of the chart and the corresponding
areas of life they relate to, from a more esoteric point of view.
The birthchart is divided into twelve houses, indicating the areas of life where the planetary energies are expressed. Each house governs particular aspects of physical manifestation, and relates to everyday activities, lessons, and opportunities for soul growth and progress. The houses are said to represent the area of the life where karma is being worked out, and can relate to the body, and to the environment. Each house is associated with a certain sign of the zodiac, which is called the essential ruler of that house - Aries rules the first house, Taurus rules the second, and so on. The position of the planets in the chart suggest the life experiences in which their influence wil be focused. A planet placed in a house affects the area of life represented by that house, in the characteristic way of that particular planet. If a house is untenanted, it does not mean that the area it represents is unimportant during that incarnation, but perhaps suggests that the soul has chosen to concentrate on other matters during that particular lifetime.
"The position of the planets in the chart suggest the life experiences in which their influence will be focused."
When studying the signs, there are three well established categories to consider - element, quality and polarity. In this way, a lot of information about the specific energy of the sign, and how it operates in the life, can be learnt. The traditional classification of a chart takes into account the mode or quality of a house placement, that is - is the house angular (cardinal), succeedent (fixed) or cadent (mutable). The angular houses - the first, fourth and tenth - are related to the mode of active experience. These are houses of action, where energy is channelled into a particular occupation or pursuit, and endeavours in the outer world are the main areas of focus. The succeedent houses - the second, fifth and eleventh - are related to the mode of instinctive experience. Here, security, the feelings, and reactions to life's lessons are the centre of attention. The cadent houses - the third, sixth and twelfth - are related to the mode of cognitive experience. Here, the inner world of thought is emphasised.
No formal significator is given to the category corresponding to the element, but through studying the houses in terms of their elements, that is - is it a fire, earth, air or water house, it can confer a deeper understanding of the individual life lessons, and areas in which they will be brought into manifestation, for the person whose chart is being studied. The essential meaning of the elements are well known. Fire is related to the spirit, and the search for inspiration and meaning. Positively channelled, it is warm and active, and its creative energy can open up new possibilities. Negatively or uncontrolled, it can be consuming or impetuous. It is essentially concerned with the establishment of identity and the attitude to the experiences of life. The fire houses teach the lessons of love. Here, inspiration and aspiration are the main focus. Inspiration from within in the first house (Aries), from creative endeavour in the fifth (Leo), and from higher learning in the ninth (Sagittarius). Earth is related to the physical realm, the sense of values, and resources that can be draw upon. It is practical and productive and concerned with bringing things into form and fulfilling the needs of physical incarnation. Essentially, it is a self-sufficient element, and pertains to satisfying needs in the material world. In the earth houses service through practical issues are highlighted, to self through money and possessions in the second (Taurus), the service given and received in the sixth (Virgo), and through the career and social position in the tenth (Capricorn). Air is related to the mind - setting the sights on infinite possibilities, and expressing ideas, concepts, insights and theories. It is a connective element, where communication and the exchange mental energy is paramount. The mind and relationships are the main focus of the air houses, where true brotherhood is the lesson. It is applied in the immediate environment in the third (Gemini), in partnerships in the seventh (Libra), and with friends and groups of people in the eleventh (Aquarius). Water is related to the feelings and emotions. It is attuned to subtle shades of meaning, and to inner rhythms and cycles. Psychic attunement and the soul world are highlighted, and sometimes this element is concerned with the letting go of the past. The water houses teach the lesson of peace. The emotions are at the heart of these houses, and can be seen to be centred in the home in the fourth (Cancer), towards transformation and regeneration in the eighth (Scorpio), and to the inner life in the twelfth (Pisces).
"Houses one to four are essentially concerned with the self, that is, in developing self-knowledge."
Perhaps a few examples will help to clarify the effect of a particular house element on the placement of a planet. Mars is a fiery planet and will therefore be more at home in the fire houses - one, five or nine. It will not be so happy in an earth or water house. If Mars is placed in an earth house, for example, to express the Martian energy at its highest, it has to be directed in a practical and methodical way, that is, grounded to give practical results. In the same way, the Moon is a water planet, and if placed in an Air house, the emotionalism associated with the Moon can best be diffused in mental pursuits, communication, or in relationships with others.
The third of the conventional categories are positive and negative signs. The fire and air signs are termed positive, as they are associated with the masculine, active and outgoing polarity. An extroverted, sometimes even aggressive expression may be present. Here, the orientation is more towards ideas, the objective world and the future. In these houses, the soul is learning through outwardly gaining experience in the physical realm. On the other hand, earth and water are termed negative signs, as they are associated with the feminine, indrawn, and receptive polarity. Here the soul is predominantly learning through quiet inward reflection and thought. A protective, reserved and somewhat introverted tendency is suggested, where the orientation is more towards the subjective world, and the past.
It is usual to take account of the basic balance of the signs which dominate a chart. It could also be helpful to work out a basic balance of the houses, as in most cases, it differs from that of the signs. By looking at the balances in this way, it could even more strongly emphasise a particular element. On the other hand, if an element is missing or weak by sign, it could be brought into prominence by a house element emphasis. The basic balance of the signs relates to qualities in the character, whilst the basic balance of the houses relates to life experiences. This gives a wider understanding, and helps to clearly define the lessons or karma undertaken for that particular incarnation of the person whose chart is being studied.
As an example, if the basic balance of the signs is cardinal/fire, it suggests that the nature of the person is basically Arian - outgoing, enterprising, initiating ideas, and pioneering. At the same time, if the basic balance of the houses is mutable/earth, it suggests that sixth house matters will be emphasised. The person is likely to express this pioneering and enterprising nature by concentrating his or her efforts into the area of work, service, health etc. These are general guidelines, and as always, attention must be paid to the possible modification by sign and aspect of each planet.
Another helpful way of viewing the houses is in their zodiacal order, taking them sequentially in groups of four houses. This can help to clarify and expand both the lesson and its likely outworking in the life, of a planet in an individual house. Houses one to four are essentially concerned with the self, that is, in developing self-knowledge. In the first house, personal identity is sought through involvement in the world. It is here that self-expression, the mental attitude, and the general outlook on life are formed. At its highest level, the soul can become aware of its own inner powers. In the second house, the interaction with matter is immediate. It is here that the establishment of a solid sense of worth and values are formed. It could be said that this is the house of respect for self, as it relates to the possessions - both in a material sense, and those of the soul - which have been earned through past service and effort. The third house relates to self-expression in daily life. It suggests how the early environment and education shapes habitual ways of communication, both on a social and intellectual level, and also relates to the exchange of ideas and knowledge. The fourth house is spiritually a very powerful house, as it concerns the hidden indrawn aspects of life. It denotes activity at the deepest emotional level in order to assimilate past experiences - both from the present and previous lives. It is here a deep connection to self can be experienced, often precipitated by times of seclusion which renew spiritual strength and peace.
"Houses five to eight bring lessons involving other people."
Houses five to eight bring lessons involving other people. In the fifth house, identification with others is sought through children, partners, or through an expression of the creativity within. Here the soul is learning through instinctive affection, and the experiences of giving and receiving love. In the sixth house, the attitude to fellow workers is explored. It concerns daily routine, orderliness and duty, according an opportunity to learn humility and the acceptance of limitations - perhaps through teamwork, or interaction with employers and employees. As can be seen, the main focus is giving and receiving service from others. In the seventh house, the person is learning awareness of other people and personal relationships. The soul encounters lessons of brotherhood through interaction with those whose nature and outlook might seem discordant. Here, the mind can be used to connect to partners or the public, as this house represents anyone with whom we interact for a mutually defined purpose. In the eighth house, relationships with a higher level of consciousness can be entered into. In this house, the attitude to sharing self in an intimate relationship, shared feelings, and deep emotional encounters with others are explored. Joint finances and resources are denoted, as are possessions of or from others.
"Houses nine to twelve are concerned with the universal aspect of life."
Houses nine to twelve are concerned with the universal aspect of life. In the ninth house, the pursuit of universal truth, and the impulse to understand Divine Law is awakened. The search for a deeper meaning in life encompasses the higher self, and all things associated with attaining higher knowledge, such as travel, religion, education, and the law. Here, the soul is learning through the intuitive mind, and so spiritual and other ideals are exemplified. In the tenth house, the soul is propelled towards wider service and responsibility. Making a contribution to the good of the whole, social responsibilities, discipline and ambition are represented. At its highest level this implies service to the Universe. Tapping into universal feelings can be experienced in the eleventh house. An awareness of being part of a greater whole through developing social skills, humanitarian values and group awareness can result in a deep spiritual understanding. Here, a concern and reverence for the well-being of all life - including the other kingdoms of nature - can be cultivated. The twelfth house is connected to Universal Consciousness and the interconnectedness of all of life. It is here that a reconnection to the whole can be experienced as the soul seeks the peace of a higher unity, and acceptance of past karma.
This article was first published in the Astrological Journal 'Altair' in August 2001.
Looked at in this way, it can be clearly seen that the houses consecutively teach the lessons of self-knowledge, interaction with others, and the recognition of the universality of all life. By synthesising all of the above, a more comprehensive and inclusive understanding of each house can be attained. It might be useful to use keywords to represent the quality, element, polarity, and direction of each house, and in this way, a general overview of the differing lessons of particular areas of life can be seen:-