As we mentioned in the Overview of Astrology, the Zodiac is divided into twelve Houses. Each House is ruled by the Sign located on its cusp in the Horoscope.
In a generic Horoscope, Aries, being the first Sign, rules the First House, and therefore, the planetary ruler of the First House is Mars. Taurus and Venus rule the Second House, Gemini and Mercury rule the Third House – and so forth, until we end the chart with Pisces and Neptune as the rulers of the Twelfth House. These signs and planets are the Natural Rulers of the Houses of the Zodiac.
The Houses represent different parts of our lives, and they retain the qualities of their Natural Sign Rulers. Houses fall into three categories: Angular-Cardinal, Succedent-Fixed, and Cadent-Mutable.
An Angular-Cardinal House, as its name suggests, is located on an angle. The angles are the four primary points on a chart: Ascendant (East), Descendant (West), Nadir and Mid-heaven. Planets found in angular houses are traditionally considered strengthened by their position, or “dignified”. These are the First, Fourth, Seventh and Tenth Houses.
House 1: Rules the personality, natural disposition and tendencies; a person’s self-interest and general outlook on life. It represents how we appear to others, as first impressions. It also rules the head and face.
House 4: Represents the mother, the home environment, domestic conditions, primal urges and responses, privacy, and one’s situation at the end of life. It is the House of the family – one’s roots – so to speak. It governs the breasts and digestive organs.
House 7: The Seventh House rules unions, partnerships, marriage; relationships and the public in general. Therefore, it is also the house of friends – and enemies! The kidneys, ovaries and lower back are represented here.
House 10: This is the House of profession, career, and social standing. It is the highest, and thus, the most “visible” House. It is publicity: honor, fame, recognition. It also represents the father, and the employer. In an impersonal chart, it shows the affairs of a business, or government. The knees are ruled here.
Succedent-Mutable Houses follow the Angular-Cardinal Houses. Their properties are fixed: a planet in one of these Houses is considered neither strengthened nor weakened. These are the Second, Fifth, Eighth and Eleventh Houses.
House 2: This is the House of money, financial affairs, and monetary prospects. It is also the House of values: what one values, sees as valuable and also, one’s sense of self-worth. The throat and ears are ruled by the Second House.
House 5: The Fifth House represents children, love affairs and dating, pleasurable activities and speculation. It’s the House of games and entertainment. The heart and back are ruled here.
House 8: Legacies, bequests, and inheritances; loans, credit and the money or goods of others. It is the House of death and taxes, and represents the wealth of partners. It is also the House of sexuality and reproduction. The muscular system, bladder and sex organs are ruled.
House 11: The Eleventh House represents associations, networking, social life and social media. It also shows the financial condition of one’s employer. It encompasses public communication – radio, television, telephones and the internet. This House rules the ankles.
Cadent-Mutable Houses follow the Succedent-Fixed Houses. The qualities of these Houses vacillate, and therefore, planets that fall into them are traditionally considered weakened, or “debilitated” – unless the ruler of that House is the same as its Natural Ruler. These are the Third, Sixth, Ninth, and Twelfth Houses.
House 3: Communication, short trips and journeys, local travel and transportation. Additionally, writing, studying, mental inclination and ability are found in the Third House. It is also the House of siblings and relatives. Many parts of the body are ruled by this House: hands and arms, lungs, collar bones and the nervous system.
House 6: This is the House of health and sickness, hygiene and medicine, diet and food. It is also the House work or occupation, either as a servant or otherwise in service. It also represents small animals or pets, and uniforms. This House rules the solar plexus and bowels.
House 9: Long trips and voyages – foreign travel and to places remote from one’s birthplace. This House also represents higher knowledge, worldview, philosophy and religion; the sciences, philanthropy and spirituality. It includes a partner’s siblings. The liver and thighs are ruled.
House 12: The final House of the Zodiac is the House of secrets. It holds unexpected or unseen troubles, seclusion, isolation and restraint, and for those reasons has been associated with hospitalization or institutionalization. It represents large animals or pets. The feet are ruled.
General information concerning a person’s vocation, including work habits and professional inclinations, can be assessed by looking at the Moon’s location by House.
The Ascendant, or Rising Sign
The time of a person’s birth determines which sign is actually rising on the cusp of the First House. For example, I am a Virgo, born at 7:50 AM in Ohio, USA; my Sun is at 18° Virgo, and 24° Virgo is the Cusp of my First House. That means my First House is ruled by Virgo/Mercury, my Second House is ruled by Libra/Venus, and so forth. Pinpointing the degree of the Ascending Sign, by birth time, is one reason put forth by astrologers to explain why identical twins may not truly be identical!
Using an Equal House System, the cusp of every House in my natal Horoscope would be 24° of each Sign. However, the location of my birth determines what the Zodiac looked like, based on the view of the sky at the time. This causes a slight mathematical discrepancy. When we consider location, and Equal House System isn’t always accurate, and the cusp degrees must be adjusted.
There are many different, ancient and modern ways to calculate the House cusps, and all are debated among astrologers. I prefer to use Placidus Houses.
Using the Placidus method, the paths drawn for each degree of the ecliptic to move from the Nadir (North pole) to the horizon (East-West axis), and from the horizon to the mid-heaven (South pole), are trisected to determine the cusps of houses 2, 3, 11, and 12. The cusps of houses 8, 9, 5 and 6 are opposite these.
If that sounded complicated – it is! In today’s environment, though, that’s what computers are for.
In an accurately calculated Horoscope chart, it is extremely common to have more than one sign located in a House, making the House areas of life a bit more complex and more interesting to interpret.