In every corner of my soul, there is an altar to a different god.
~ Fernando Pessoa

Just as there are 12 signs, there are 12 astrological houses that closely reflect the meanings of the signs. Although this book does not attempt to deal with the complex astronomical realities of astrology, it is important to understand that in astrology we deal with two kinds of movement – the movement of the Earth and the other celestial bodies around the Sun, and the movement of the Earth on its axis during a 24-hour period. The zodiacal signs are subdivisions of the first kind of movement – that is, of the Earth's yearly journey around the Sun – and the houses are subdivisions of the second – that is, of the Earth's rotation in a day, from the sun's rising at dawn, to its culmination at noon, to its setting at dusk, to midnight in the depths of night and back again to dawn. All the planets likewise rise, culminate and set every day.

The Angles: Ascendant and Midheaven and Their Opposite Points

Astrologers use very specific mathematical calculations in order to 'cast' the horoscope or birth chart for a specific time and place of birth. This is why astrologers want to know the exact time of birth, for this is what brings the zodiac down to earth for each individual. The moment of birth determines the degree of the zodiac rising over the Eastern horizon- the 'sunrise' point – also called the Ascendant. This point describes the unique personality which is coming into being. The Ascendant represents the individual view of the world, and the way in which the complexities of the whole chart will relate to the environment. The inner world meets the outer world here, and from this juxtaposition our sense of identity emerges: our physical appearance, our typical style of response, our overall orientation and unique mind-set. The Ascendant is the beginning point of the first house, the house of the self.

In this book we do not attempt to teach calculation of the birth chart. For readers who want to learn this, there are many books which provide step-by-step instruction, such as The Complete Astrologer by Julia and Derek Parker and The Practical Astrologer by Nick Campion. If you are on the internet, the simplest and quickest way to calculate your Ascendant and birth chart is to visit the Swiss Astrodienst site at which has a free on-line chart calculation service. The enormous advantage of this site is that it includes the very latest information about time changes, summer time and the latitude and longitude of over 200,000 cities, towns and villages around the world. For further details, see the section on Astrological Resources.

The Ascendant: Entering The World

The Ascendant or Rising Sign is so important that it bears further definition. The psychologist Carl Jung wrote about the 'persona', or the outer mask we wear in the world in order to function in an ordinary, everyday sort of way. There is nothing intrinsically false about this mask, for we all need a protective lens through which we perceive the world and allow others to perceive us. The Ascendant therefore has a socially adaptive function as well as a self-introductory function: we present ourselves to the world in a certain way, but there is always much more beneath the surface. When we feel close and safe with people, we reveal more of ourselves, more of our chart – the inner complexities of our nature.

For example, at a social gathering, the person with Sagittarius rising will breeze into the room as though he already knows everyone, and his casual, open if somewhat clumsy style helps to break the ice. He exudes an enviable optimism and friendliness which, if you get to know him intimately, takes on a far more sober demeanour when he lets you see his serious Capricorn Moon. The person with Pisces rising could be on her third drink already and compassionately engaged in conversation with the person whose leg is in a cast. All this while her Mercury conjunct Pluto is gathering new material for her next novel. The Leo Ascendant arrives late, carrying three bottles of expensive champagne: heads turn, for his warmth and radiance is irresistible. But actually, he feels more comfortable in the kitchen where his Sun-Venus conjunction in Cancer goes to work preparing the sumptuous baked Alaska he's promised. Gemini rising is chatting with everyone, but her Scorpio Sun is not letting on about what she really feels. Not yet, and maybe never. All of these caricatured personality types have many other layers to their natures, but it is the Ascendant which is first perceived, which leads our way into the world. But the Ascendant is even more than this. Its qualities denote the individual path that will lead to self-realisation. As astrologer Liz Greene has described it, the Sun is the kind of hero we are, but the Ascendant is the journey that takes us on the hero's quest.

The Descendant

Opposite this rising degree is the Descendant, which describes the 'other', the natural partner. The Descendant marks the cusp of the seventh house, the realm of our experience of other people: what we want from them, give to them, get from them, and project onto them. Planets in this house will have a major influence on the way we interact with others. Planets in this house will have a major influence on the way we interact with others – what we have to learn, to confront and to enjoy. The Ascendant and Descendant form an axis, a polarity: neither can be fully understood without the other, suggesting that our own identity is intimately influenced by our relationship with others.

The Midheaven: What Will I Be When I Grow Up?

The moment of birth also gives the Midheaven. This is the uppermost point of the chart, symbolising the height of worldly success and public position. The Midheaven or 'MC' (Medium Coeli or 'middle of the sky') represents our aspirations and ambitions, and describes the type of career we will seek to develop. It represents status and self-esteem, and the image we want to cultivate in the world, the way we would like to be seen. Whereas we express the qualities of the Ascendant naturally and spontaneously, without self-consciousness or effort, we consciously aspire to develop and express the qualities of the Midheaven. The MC also describes our experience of authority figures, and the ideals which govern our interactions with the world. In one of Freud's outstanding papers, 'The Ego and the Id' (1923), he describes the development of the internal agent of judgement in a way that succinctly expresses the dynamics of the Midheaven and its opposite point, the IC (Imum Coeli or 'bottom of the sky'), which together form the 'parental' axis.

... here we have that higher nature, in this ego ideal or super-ego, the representative of our relation to our parents. When we were little children we knew these higher natures, we admired them and feared them; and later we too them into ourselves ... What has belonged to the lowest part of the mental life of each of us is changed, through the formation of the ideal, into what is highest in the human mind by our scale of values.

What does it feel like to be helpless and dependent on authority figures? And how does it feel to be an authority figure, taking responsibility for ourselves and others? The MC describes this dynamic, and also the qualities we wish to develop and work for in the outer world.

Imum Coeli

The opposite point of the Midheaven is the lowest point of the chart, called the Imum Coeli or 'IC'. Just as the MC denotes our outermost role in the world, the IC describes the innermost and the least exposed area of experience: early home life, ancestral influence, and the unconscious roots of personality. This point links us to our personal past, the ancestral soil, and therefore indicates our need for privacy and security and the way we feel about home and family life. In the Placidus House system, the IC is the beginning point of the fourth house. The IC and MC form an axis of innermost and outermost life experience.

The Four Angles

The Four AnglesFigure 7.1 The Four Angles

The Ascendant, Descendant, Midheaven and Immum Coeli are called the four angles of a chart. Planets which are conjoined at these points have marked importance and power in an individual's personality, and are referred to as 'angular' planets.

The Ascendant-Descendant line divides the circle into upper and lower halves, the lower part symbolising a more subjective experience or consciousness, and the upper part symbolising objective consciousness and experience in the outer world. The Midheaven-Imum Coeli line divides the circle into an Eastern and Western hemisphere; the Eastern hemisphere is to do with the self and self-activity, whilst the Western hemisphere is linked with others' influence and the way this impacts on an individual's life. A chart with an emphasis of planets located in the lower half of the Ascendant-Descendant axis, for example, suggests a more self-oriented, interior, personal bias whist an emphasis of planets in the upper half suggests much activity in the outer world.

These four quadrants of the chart are further trisected to finally give the 12 houses or domains, places of life experience and psychological development. Although there are different house systems that result in slightly different intermediate house cusps, there is universal agreement among astrologers on the meaning of the houses, the foundations of which stretch back to antiquity.

The word 'house' suggests a place where one resides, and this is exactly what occurs in a birth chart: the planets occupy different sectors or compartments of the chart, showing the area where their energies will 'be at home' and function automatically. And although it may be a crude analogy, people have different 'compartments' to their personalities. Some of these compartments are very visible and accessible, just like the first and tenth houses, whereas others are more hidden and private, as are the fourth and eighth houses.

The houses of the birth chart are numbered in sequence from the first to the twelfth house in a reverse direction from the diurnal motion of the planets, beginning at the Ascendant. The meanings of the houses have a close affinity with the twelve signs, eg Aries as the first sign places great value on self-motivation and potency, and the first house is the house of all things to do with the self meeting the outside world.

The 12 HousesFigure 7.2 The Twelve Houses

First House

The race advances only by the extra achievements of the individual. You are the individual.
~ Charles Towne

This is the house of the 'self' – self-awareness, self-image, self-activity, perceiving the world from a unique subjective standpoint. It relates to the outer persona, body type and personal style, where we meet others face to face and make a first impression. The Ascendant begins the first house, and one's personal interests and approach to life are defined by this 'rising sign'. The individual is 'earthed' at birth

in this specific point, which signifies the manner and direction in which he or she will express the combined qualities of the whole chart. Signs and planets in this house brand or colour the personality very powerfully, and are expressed in an innocently assertive way – directly, physically, spontaneously, openly. For example, if Mercury is in this house, the individual's quick, nervous, enquiring attitude will be a dominant and very visible component of the personality. Saturn with the Ascendant or in the first house inhibits, constricts, but also deepens the personality which will be strongly coloured by a serious mental attitude, conservatism, and a sense of responsibility. Margaret Thatcher, the Conservative Prime Minister whose policies called for discipline and self-denial, has Saturn exactly conjunct the Ascendant. Pluto in the first house colours the personality with intensity and mystery. Leonardo DiCaprio, the young actor who rose to fame for his role as a passionate but star-crossed lover in the film Romeo and Juliet, as well as Titanic, has Pluto conjunct the Moon in Libra in the first house.

Second House

If a rich man is proud of his wealth, he should not be praised until it is known how he employs it.
~ Socrates

This is the house of personal resources, the life substance that will be exploited for survival, growth, and success. The first house announces our arrival, but with the second house we get 'stuck in' to life and find out what we are made of. We experience our second house by feeling effective in the world and through enjoying the physical world around us. We feel pride in our capacity to earn our own living; it makes us feel 'real'. Signs and planets in this sector indicate how we develop and build an identity, what we value and feel we must hold on to, what we work with to 'ground' ourselves in life, and the specific innate talents we possess which may attract wealth and which we use to build secure foundations for living. In general, the second house shows our attitudes towards the material world and possessions. For example, a person with Venus in the second house values beauty, love and the good things of the earth; she could be adopt at creating a beautiful working environment and may attract wealth due to her positive feeling about the material world (although aspects from other planets would enhance or limit this). Moon in the second house values emotional security, attached long-lasting emotional significance to possessions, and could earn money through serving or caring for others. Princess Diana had the Moon in the second house, and it could be said that her greatest resources was her 'personal touch' in her approach to empathising with others and caring for those in need.

Third House

Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

This is the house of mental functioning – thinking, learning and communicating; the intellect exploring the world, ideas and relationships. This is where we interact with others in our family and home, and in school and the wider community. Developmentally, this sphere corresponds to the stage of learning to walk and acquiring language, and how we employ both acquisitions to explore our environment. In the second house we gain security; in the third we gain mobility. Signs and planets in this house say something about our experience with siblings; they also express our approach to learning and the exchange of information. For example, a person with Neptune in the third house would have a highly imaginative and intuitive approach to learning and communication, and may even discover they can write poetry (and communicate telepathically!), but they also might have a propensity to day-dream and to wander and easily get lost in their environment. With Mars in the third house, the mind is forceful, eager, maybe highly strung and prone to get into verbal slanging matches (especially with siblings). This person knows that 'thoughts are things'; for him, getting his message across is an act of will. Oprah Winfrey, the hugely successful talk show hostess who fires questions and gets the knowledge she wants, has Mars in the third house.

Fourth House

The family is the nucleus of civilisation.
~ Will Durrant

This is the house of early home origins. It is often referred to as the 'midnight' part of the chart, referring to that which is most habitual and unconscious. This house reveals our past, our family roots and traditions, the emotional soil in which our identity learned to grow, and therefore the stuff we are made of. Signs and planets in this sector reveal something about our experience of belonging to a first 'group' or clan, as well as describing the way we experienced our mother or caretaker. Parental influence is shown as well as how it feels to be in a hierarchical relationship. The realm of our earliest experiences becomes our psychological future; this house describes those earliest experiences and how they were digested to become deeply embedded patterns that are passed on to subsequent generations. The house also reveals how we retreat into our own private domestic world, how we like our home to be. Mercury in the fourth house suggests an early life that had a distinctly intellectual feel, or one in which there was lots of discussion, communication, movement and travel, and constant to-ing and fro-ing and busy learning. The Sun n the fourth house is an individual who identifies strongly with there roots, who seeks to dominate their own private world, and who will seek to make inherited values conscious and individual. The American actress Sissy Spacek has the Sun in the fourth house; when working on a film she moves her whole family – children, grandparents, pets and all – to be there with her.

Fifth House

No matter how old you get, if you can keep the desire to be creative, you're keeping the man-child alive.
~ John Cassavetes

This is the realm of pleasure and where what we do is for our own enjoyment. In this house we take one step away from the fourth and discover our unique talents and the delight of being creative, of nurturing and engaging with that which springs from within us. It is here that we indulge in self-expression for our own pleasure. This is the house of playing, loving, risking, children and all the creative 'products' of the self. It therefore embraces a wide area – love affairs, speculation and creative activity in general. Signs and planets in this house give an indication as to our enjoyment of the creative experience and the way in which we achieve the feeling of being unique, important, 'someone special' who is appreciated and valued for simply being us. It is intimately linked with the experience of being a child, when we play in imaginal realms and believe the sun shines for us alone. With Saturn in the 5th house, there can be difficulty in freely expressing one's creativity. Saturn bring fears that one's creative efforts will be found wanting, but on the other hand, Saturn here gives enormous commitment to work seriously on creative projects. Venus in the fifth house enjoys beauty and romance and can indulge with great style in pleasurable activities. Barbara Cartland, the author of many romantic novels, has Venus in the fifth house. Also with this position was Princess Diana who was admired for, amongst other things, her colourful fashion sense and the way she brought dynamic, flirtatious, Venusian energy into any environment.

Sixth House

When people are serving, life is no longer meaningless.
~ John Gardner

This is the house province of the chores and routines which keep our normal everyday life ticking over. It is here that we establish those habit patterns (shopping, eating, brushing our teeth, sleeping) which keep us grounded in our bodies. Therefore, this is the sector of the chart linked with health and the mind-body connection: when we look after our bodies, we feel, think, and function optimally; we can be more creative. It is also the house of work and service, where we dedicate ourselves through practice to developing the talents we discovered in the fifth house. 'Practice makes perfect' is one of the mottoes of this house, reflecting the fact that becoming an accomplished artist or craftsman in any field requires constant vigilance and effort. Elbert Hubbard once said 'we work to become, not to acquire', suggesting that the work we do in life is what w need in order to become who we are. Through constant adjustment and attending to what needs doing, we get there in the end. This house reflects our attitudes to employment, to being an employee and also to employing others. Signs and planets in this sector show how we bring different aspects of our nature – mind, body, feelings – into an integral and happily working 'whole'. Jupiter in the sixth can crate extremes in health regimes, and work could involve travel, education or sports. Moon in the sixth finds security and comfort by clocking into the daily routine and seeing to the practical needs of others. Adelle Davis, the American nutritionist who wrote Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit, had Moon conjunct Pluto in the sixth in Gemini.

Seventh House

Take away love and our earth is a tomb.
~ Robert Browning

'No man is an island' is the message of the seventh house. It is here at the opposite point to the Ascendant/first house that we make our debut into the outer world – there are people out there we need to meet. This is the house of relationships – how we meet 'the other' in life, the kind of person that complements our nature and who we are attracted to. Its qualities reflect the marriage partner and also, interestingly, 'open enemies' – those with whom we provoke direct opposition or conflict, such as opponents in legal matters, as opposed to the 'hidden enemies' of the twelfth house. This house will show what we easily 'project' onto others and, through close encounters with the other, can learn to balance and reintegrate within ourselves. Through important relationships we find out about qualities in ourselves that are unconscious. In the realm of the seventh, we become aware of our need for love and relationship, and yet, how much do we co-operate, and how much can we assert ourselves? Grappling with these issues and balancing needs in relationships is part of the task of the seventh house. Signs and planets in this house describe the qualities we seek and experience through egalitarian relationships. Uranus in the seventh seeks freedom-loving qualities in a relationship, and sometimes finds it hard to make a commitment. Jupiter in the seventh will grow and feel good in the presence of others, and may seek understanding, wealth and prestige through the partner. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, whose two marriages brought her both status and enormous wealth, had Jupiter in the seventh.

Eighth House

If it is not erotic, it is not interesting.
~ Fernando Arrabal

This house takes the seventh house one stage further: here we meet our deepest need for intimacy and our feelings our dependence. The eighth house governs our attitudes towards passionate intimacy and raw, instinctual experience, and the sharing of material resources. What happens when two people attempt to 'merge', when we dive into another individual's world with our own values, hopes and dreads? We meet at the deepest level, expose parts of our nature that we normally keep hidden, and experience a transcendence of our finite self through sexual ecstasy. This is the house of sex and shared possessions, of psychological change and regeneration, of death and rebirth, and of combining energies with an intimate 'other' for a mutual enhancement of power. Eighth house transactions can be a catalyst for fears about survival which are rooted in early childhood trauma; power struggles can then ensue which can lead to the divorce court, unless we use these experiences for greater self-knowledge and self-healing. This house governs the biological transitions of life: birth, puberty, sexual potency and death. Signs and planets in this house say something about our physical appetites – do we control them or go with them? A person with the Sun in the eighth house would find her path through deep and courageous involvement with others. Coretta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King Jr, has Sun in the eighth; she survived many personal attacks throughout the civil rights movement, and continued her husband's work after his assassination. Freud had Saturn in the eighth, which is fitting for a man who spent his professional life studying the links between mental health, infant sexuality and the death instinct.

Ninth House

Neither man nor nation can exist without a sublime idea.
~ Dostoevski

After the cathartic experiences in the eighth house, we surface in the ninth house to gain a greater perspective on our journey through life. This is the house of the 'higher mind' – education, philosophy, religion. Its province includes our need for enduring precepts by which we 'make meaning' and navigate through life's unfolding process. This sector of the chart reveals the way we seek underlying patterns in life, the way we make sense of what happens to us, the way we fit things into a larger whole. It also describes our experience of travel and new cultural experiences: do we welcome or fear mind-expanding experiences? The way we approach education and the development of our intellect is shown by this house. Signs and planets in this sector say something about our larger mind-set and the perspective through which we learn the rules of the game of life. If Saturn is here, we take a scientific approach and prefer the conventional road to knowledge, a more left-brain emphasis; but we may easily feel insecure and daunted by what we don't know and understand with absolute certitude. Mars in the ninth suggests a forceful, 'positive-thinking' approach to philosophy and belief systems. If Neptune is here there is a more intuitive, all-inclusive, artistic and heart-oriented approach to understanding the world. The great mythologist Joseph Campbell had Neptune in the ninth; he taught and wrote about the unifying vitality of the great transcultural myths whose meaning transcends words. Albert Einstein had Jupiter in the ninth; although he was a scientist, he was also a philosopher who felt deep moral concern regarding the power his discoveries unleashed on the world.

Tenth House

Every individual has a place to fill in the world and is important in some respect, whether he chooses to be so or not.
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

This is the house of vocational aspirations and career, of one's role in public life, as well as representing parental influence in the shaping of the individual personality in the world. The tenth house incorporates the MC or Midheaven whose qualities reflect the way we would like to be seen and appreciated by others, the characteristics and ideals we espouse and for which we want to be respected. This is the highest point of the chart and represents the ultimate flowering of one's role and status in society, and the esteem we receive for our influence in the world. The zodiacal journey reaches a pinnacle here: from being a 'somebody' in objective reality. How do we feel about authority figures, and how do we feel when we are in positions of authority? The tenth house addresses these questions. Signs and planets in this house reveal something about our ambitions, the way we carry responsibility, and our aims to achieve recognition. Those with Uranus in the tenth could follow a revolutionary path to career success, and may gain recognition for changing or challenging the status quo. Vanessa Redgrave, the accomplished and rebellious actress who is also a vociferous political activist, has Uranus conjunct the MC. Pluto in the tenth suggests a career involving research into the hidden and healing power of the mind (psychology, psychiatry), or other forms of the use, or abuse, of power (politics, espionage, the occult). But equally those with Pluto in the tenth may feel impotent in the face of all the power they project out into the world. The famous crime fiction writer Agatha Christie had Pluto in the tenth house.

Eleventh House

Love they neighbour or thyself, but choose your neighbourhood.
~ Louise Beal

This is the house of ideals, social values and friendship. It rules the 'collectives' and groups one identifies with in order to feel connected to something larger than oneself. We are linked to friends and associates by the underlying ideals we cherish and wish to see expressed in society. Its opposite house, the fifth, is where we discover our unique self with our very own talents; but it is here in the realm of larger groups of people that we put our talents to work in the service of a collective purpose: the individual engaged with the collective. In this sector of life we participate in a 'group consciousness' and experience a sense of belonging in a different way than we do in the fourth house. The eleventh house is where we gain a sense of identity with a group – social, professional, political, religious – and that affiliation with augment, dissipate or repress our individual identity depending on planetary configurations in that house. Signs and planets in this sector reveal the way we relate to the 'group-mind', the way we fit into the society in which we live. Saturn in the eleventh house searches for a more secure sense of belonging through professional groups. Uranus in the eleventh house may play the 'wild card in the deck' and gravitate towards groups that work for the liberation of humanity in some way. The actress-turned-politician Glenda Jackson, who is known for her convictions about contributing to the collective good, has Venus conjunct Uranus in the eleventh house. In the chart of Prince Charles, Uranus is in the eleventh house; he is known for his alternative views, a fact which has brought a new, challenging influence into his 'group', the monarchy.

Twelfth House

In solitude, be a multitude to thyself.
~ Tibullus

We begin with the first house and the urge to manifest the 'self' as real and distinct from others; and we end with the twelfth house where the urge is to identify with something larger than ourselves, with the universal matrix of all life. This is the house of endings, sometimes referred to as the house of self-undoing, for it represents the yearning for liberation from earthly confines. Here the urge is to withdraw from egocentric struggles for worldly attainment, to cultivate the joys of solitude, to commune with our innermost self which we intuit can only be communed with, rather than defined with certitude. It is also linked with 'hidden enemies', or those aspects of life and of our own natures which we block out and which end up sabotaging us at the last moment. Sometimes we relinquish more than we bargain for: we may try to escape life's struggles by becoming behind-the-scenes workers and helpers, the extreme of which is the martyr who takes on the sufferings of others. Signs and planets in this house indicate what one sacrifices for the larger good of others, or how one approaches solitude and working 'behind the scenes'. Planets here also express their energies in strategic or unconscious ways – they never want to be 'seen'. Mars in the twelfth is motivated for the common good rather than merely for personal gain, but may sometimes miss personal opportunities due to his reluctance to separate out his own desires from the collective. Venus in the twelfth communes with beauty on her own, and sometimes indulges in clandestine romances. Camilla Parker-Bowles has the Sun, Moon and Venus in the twelfth, a fitting placement for someone who is famous for her 'behind-the-scenes' romance.