Many people are familiar with the 12 signs of the zodiac, but there are also 12 houses that are important in astrology. These are represented by the 12 “slices” on the astrology chart. In a natal chart, the circular chart represents a picture of the sky at the exact moment of birth. Each house represents a different area of life. Each planet or luminary falls into a specific house, which may highlight other qualities about how that will show up in your life. For example, if Mars, the planet of doingness, aggression, and work, is in your 4th House of home and family, you may have a tendency to turn that aggression and enthusiasm towards your family, either in the form of fierce protectiveness or arguments and conflict.
Astrology is a field of study that has likely existed for at least 5,000 years. As soon as people could observe the stars and notice their repetitive patterns, they tried to interpret their meaning. The astrological system most follow today is based on astrology from Ancient Greece, which in turn is based on a variety of ancient astrology traditions from Sumeria, Babylonia, and other ancient civilizations.
The system of astrology most people follow today is based on the conjunction of the Sun, the Moon, the planets, and other points in the sky with 12 constellations. Each constellation represents an astrological sign. Most people know their sun sign, which represents the astrological constellation the Sun was in during birth. The Sun represents your overall personality and where you shine brightest in life. The Sun stays in each constellation for about a month and follows the same pattern each year. So, no matter what year you were born, those born the same day as you will have the same sun sign.
However, there is so much more to your natal astrology chart. Each planet and luminary, as well as some asteroids and other points in the sky, fall into these signs and carry implications for your personality and life path. For example, Mars represents your relationship to doingness, work, anger, and sex. Venus represents your relationship to beauty, spending, love, and relationships. The sign and house these planets fall into shapes your connection to these ideas.
House Systems in Astrology
The only problem with the house systems in astrology is that there are at least 30 different ones, and many astrologers have strong feelings about which one to use. Some astrologers feel that there is only one correct house system and put the others down as completely wrong. In truth, many astrologers simply stick with the house system they’ve started with. However, some may also base their choice on how it is calculated and what tools they are using. Some house systems require complicated calculations, while others are easy to draw by hand. Luckily, today there are apps and calculators online that can do these calculations for you.
Most astrology apps and websites use one house system. However, a few, like Cafe Astrology and Time Passages, allow you to switch between different house systems which is a great way to experiment without having to do challenging calculations on your own. One way to find out which house system resonates with you the most is to use one of these multi-house system tools and compare the resulting charts to see which one feels most accurate.
My favorite advice about house systems is that amateur astrologers should start with the system they are most comfortable with. This may be the Whole House, Equal House, Koch, or Placidus Systems as those are probably the most commonly used. Once you are comfortable one, branch out and experiment with others to see how they feel for you. The important thing to remember is that there is actually no wrong house system.
The House Systems Defined
There are more than 30 house systems astrologers have developed over history. These are the most common ones you might encounter both in Traditional and Modern Astrology.
The Whole Sign system starts with the rising, or ascendant, sign as the 1st House. The 1st House starts at 0° of that sign. Each house takes up an equal 30 degrees on the circular chart and represents one full sign. Some astrologers believe this is the oldest and possibly the original form of house division. It is most popular in Hellenistic and Vedic Astrology as it fell out of favor in Western Astrology in the Middle Ages. However, it is coming back to popularity in Modern Astrology.
In the Equal House System, each house also takes up a full 30 degrees on the chart. However, the first house starts on the exact degree of the rising sign. For example, if the rising sign is at 14° Taurus, then the second house will start at 14° Gemini. So, each house contains two signs within it.
The M-House System is very similar to the Equal House System. The only difference is the chart determinant is the Midheaven, not the Rising Sign. The Midheaven is set as the cusp of the 10th house and the other signs are marked at 30 degrees from that point.
This system uses time instead of space to determine the houses. The degree of the ascendant defines the cusp of the 1st House. Then, the position of the horizon two hours later defines the cusp of the 12th House, and so on, going on until the 7th House. The first houses are defined using the last six houses. One downside to this house system is that it becomes incredibly distorted for those born nearer to the North and South Poles. In this system, the houses can have multiple signs and the same sign could be present in multiple houses.
This is another time-based system. The first reference is the natal Midheaven. This is then turned back in time until the Midheaven reaches the natal ascendant. This distance is divided into three equal houses to form houses 10, 11, and 12. The first three houses are determined using a similar method from the IC (Imum Coeli). Like the Placidus System, the Koch system can’t be used accurately for locations nearest to the poles. Each house takes up 30 degrees but can contain two signs.
The Porphyry House System uses the ascendant, descendant, Medium Coeli (Midheaven), and Imum Coeli as the boundaries of the four quadrants of the chart. These quadrants are then split up into equal thirds. So, the houses will usually be of different sizes (but the same size in each quadrant). With this system, the rising sign always starts the first house and the Midheaven always starts the 10th house. The houses may contain multiple signs, and multiple houses can represent the same sign.
This system uses the celestial equator, which is an imaginary extension of Earth’s equator into space. This equator is divided into 12 equal sections. These are then compared to the great circles of the ecliptic and the North/South Poles. Where these circles intersect defines the house cusps. In this system, each house takes up 30° but can contain two signs. One benefit of this system is that it can be used with people born at any Latitude.
How To Find The Houses in Your Zodiac Chart
Calculating your own astrology chart is a chore, but it can be done using a circular template, some study, and some serious knowledge about astrology. These days, most people use an online tool or app to find their full natal astrology chart, including the houses. When you do so, be sure to find out which house system the app or site uses. This is not an exhaustive list, but here are some of the most popular options:
CHANI – Whole Sign
Time Passages – Multiple Options
Co-Star – Porphyry
Time Nomad – Multiple Options
The Pattern – Whole Sign
Alabe – Placidus (for free natal chart)
Cafe Astrology – Multiple Options
Astro-Charts – Multiple Options
The 12 Houses in the Zodiac and Their Meaning
I tend to see the houses in astrology as a journey from the ego to the universe, going from one to 12. The first three houses are about the self and our relationship to the world. They tend to rule over early childhood experiences. The next three houses are about how we interact with the world and those who are around us, and how we grow and age.
Houses seven through nine are about how we choose the people we surround ourselves with, how we choose to move through the world, and what we believe in. These are more mature houses that support us in our search for satisfaction in life. The last three houses are about higher concepts: our dreams, our connection to the universe, and how the world sees us.
1st House – The Self
Ruling Sign: Aries
Ruling Planet: Mars
The 1st House represents the self and the identity. It is about the things that make you unique, including your personality, your ego, your habits, and your behaviors. It can also include what you look like. This is because some astrologers believe that your rising sign represents everything about how others see you – including your looks – and in most popular house systems the ascendent either defines the first house or is in the first house.
Any planets in your 1st House will shade your identity. For example, if you have Saturn in there, you may be quite boundaried, quiet, and responsible. If you have Mars in your first house, you may have natural leadership qualities.
2nd House – Material Possessions
Ruling Sign: Taurus
Ruling Planet: Venus
The 2nd House is ruled by earthy Taurus. So, it makes sense that this house is all about earthly possessions, finances, and what makes us feel materially secure. This house is also about things that have value to us that may not be material. However, it’s important to note that home, career, real estate, and business partnerships are covered in other houses.
The sign of your 2nd House and the planets within it will shade your relationship to finances and material comfort. They will also color how comfortable you are with things like borrowing or lending money, and your relationship to scarcity and abundance. For example, people with Mars in the 2nd House may become workaholics with Mars’ drive and the 2nd House’s love of security. People with Venus in the 2nd House can seem quite materialistic, but they really just want to feel all of life’s comfort.
3rd House – Communication and Intellect
Ruling Sign: Gemini
Ruling Planet: Mercury
The 3rd House rules over our communication, how we solve problems, how we learn, and how we analyze things. It is also related to our siblings, our neighbors, and short-term travel. It relates to any kind of communication – chatting on the phone, writing a letter or e-mail, or talking to your friends in person. The 3rd House can also relate to mass communication such as newspapers. While this house is not as much about relationships, it is about what types of intellectual connections light us up, and how we might connect with others through learning.
The planets in the 3rd House can affect your experience with the topics the 3rd House rules over. For example, people with Uranus in the 3rd House, value freedom of speech and thought. They may be particularly adept at communicating new ideas or using words to renew old structures of power. People with Pluto in the 3rd House may be particularly good at unearthing the truth through research and communicating difficult truths with a penetrating seriousness.
4th House – Home and Family
Ruling Sign: Cancer
Ruling Planet: The Moon
The 4th House has everything to do with our home and family lives. It also has to do with our roots – our ancestors, our elders, and even our own wisdom, aging, and death. While there are many esoteric concepts covered in the 4th House, there are also some more literal ones, like your physical house and real estate. This house defines where you might feel most comfortable laying your head after a long day of work and who you want to be in that space.
While it is overall ruled by Cancer, most people have a different sign for their 4th House based on their Rising Sign. This, in addition to the planets in the 4th House, has an impact on the experience. For example, people with the 4th House in Aquarius may prefer an unconventional home life. Perhaps they live the “van life” or move from place to place frequently. They are more likely to have a “chosen” family based on shared values than to feel close to their family of origin.
5th House – Pleasure, Creation, and Romance
Ruling Sign: Leo
Ruling Planet: The Sun
Traditionally, the 5th House is the house of pleasure. However, this also extends to creation and romance. In the conventional sense, the act of creation (of a person) is playful and pleasurable and often involves romance. However, this house is not only about procreation. In our modern society, many people choose not to have children. They may have other pursuits that they “birth” such as a business or creative endeavor that is as dear to them as a child. All of these pursuits involve a type of playfulness, creativity, and romance.
This house in astrology is really about kind of taking a chance in the pursuit of pleasure and fulfillment. Sure, some people get annoyed with their kids every so often, but overall, many have kids because it brings them joy. There is often lots of chance-taking and vulnerability involved in the creation of a child from the very first date or first kiss. The 5th house encourages us to be vulnerable and playful in pursuit of the things we want the most, whether that is a physical child or another creation.
6th House – Health and Routines
Ruling Sign: Virgo
Ruling Planet: Mercury
Perfectionist and service-oriented Virgo lends it sensibilities to the 6th House. This house is often called the House of Health, but it is about so much more than that. It is about the things that affect us on a daily basis. For example, this house may have insights into your career choice, and your relationship to giving or receiving service from others. The daily routines that maintain your health also have their basis in your 6th House. If you are searching for answers on how to maintain better routines, look to your 6th House for answers on what will most motivate you.
For example, people with the 6th House in Scorpio may become so dedicated to their passions or work that they neglect their health routines and fall out of balance. They can also allow their strong emotions, especially anger, to throw off their routines, further putting them into emotional turmoil. People with this house and sign combination can use this information to be particularly mindful of how they maintain their routines to stay healthy during times of stress and emotional imbalance.
7th House – One-on-One Relationships
Ruling Sign: Libra
Ruling Planet: Venus
The 7th House is all about partnership. For people with more traditional outlooks, this is the house of marriage. But it can also be the house of serious relationships, close friendships, and even business partnerships. Want a relationship tip? Dating people with placements in your 7th House is usually favorable. That means if you have an Aries 7th House, someone with an Aries Sun, Moon, or Venus, might be a good match.
As with all the other houses, the planets and sign of your 7th House will affect your experience. For example, if you have the asteroid Chiron in your 7th House, you may have a more challenging time with partnerships than others, but you may also have a special gift to help others with their own partnerships.
8th House – Sex, Death, and Transformation
Ruling Sign: Scorpio
Ruling Planet: Mars (Traditional)/Pluto (Modern)
Traditionally, the 8th House is related to sex and death. Based on earthly scientific concepts, all death results in rebirth and renewal, so this is also a house that can relate to the transformations you might experience throughout your life. The 7th House is all about building intimacy with others, and the 8th House is about how that intimacy can transform people. This house also rules your relationship with other people’s money. It may indicate whether you are more or less likely to receive financial gifts or be the one doing the gifting, in this lifetime. It also rules over your connection to the occult, magical ideas, and sex.
This is a house of depth. If you have your Sun in the 8th House, you are likely a deep thinker who hates small talk and prefers to go straight for the meat in a conversation. You may also be comfortable completely reinventing yourself multiple times throughout your life. This house also has a way of unearthing truths in our life, depending on the placements there.
9th House – Spirituality, Philosophy, and Travel
Ruling Sign: Sagittarius
Ruling Planet: Jupiter
Optimistic Jupiter rules over the 9th House which relates to religion, higher education, travel, and laws. If you have multiple important partners in life, you may find information about subsequent ones here, especially the second partner. The focus of this house is the human search for the meaning of life. People seek out new knowledge as they mature to understand the world better. All of the topics ruled by the 9th House help us with this pursuit. Even our relationship with legality helps us to understand society and people’s motivations to do the unthinkable.
The sign and planets in the 9th House may affect your outlook and desire to search for these answers at all. If you have Venus in the 9th House, you may need space and freedom in your relationships. You may also connect most with romantic partners when debating about philosophy or religion. However, if you have Saturn in your 9th House, you may feel most comfortable with one set of beliefs and not feel called to explore the meaning of life much.
10th House – Public Image and Career
Ruling Sign: Capricorn
Ruling Planet: Saturn
In most astrology house systems, the Midheaven or MC defines the start of the 10th House or is in the 10th House. That is why that line often has indications for your career and how others see you. This is everything about where you shine and where your ambitions lie. It may also have implications for your calling in life. In our modern age, this house may have to do with our relationship to social media, and how comfortable we are being in the spotlight whether at work or online.
It’s important to note that in our work-focused society, this house has a lot of weight. Some might say our society is imbalanced towards Saturnian ideals. The 10th house rules over fathers and we are dealing with thousands of years of patriarchy. So, this house may also have implications towards how you feel about work in general. For example, if your 10th house is in Aquarius, you may be hyper aware of how our working culture affects society and individuals. However, if you have 10th house in Virgo, you may be aware of these things, but also find happiness in being industrious and serving others through your career.
11th House – Friendship and Community
Ruling Sign: Aquarius
Ruling Planet: Saturn (Traditional)/Uranus (Modern)
The 11th house in astrology is about more than just friend groups, clubs, and group activities, though it does encompass those things too. It is also about how we interact with people on a collective nature. Do you feel more comfortable as a loner, with a few close friends, or in a huge crowd? Do you prefer having a friend group based on shared activities or shared values? Look to the 11th house for some answers. If you have multiple romantic partners in life, you may also find information about other partners besides your first one here, especially your third partner and beyond.
This house is also about what we can achieve when we work collectively. Even if you prefer to be alone or in smaller groups, you may still work with others or even connect with others virtually. For example, if you have Capricorn in your 11th house you may feel called to do work that helps the collective. If you have Pisces in your 11th house, you may feel especially called to do social justice or humanitarian work that helps large groups of people.
12th House – The Subconscious
Ruling Sign: Pisces
Ruling Planet: Jupiter (Traditional)/Neptune (Modern)
With the 12th House, our journey from the self to the subconscious comes to a close. Surprisingly, the 8th House that encompasses death is not the last one – it is the house of the unseen: the subconscious. This is where we find information about our dreams (both the ones we have at night and our hopes for the future), our hidden impulses, and our relationship to the hidden mysteries of the universe. The 9th house is about religion and spirituality, but the 12th House is about how it all feels to us. It also rules over things like addiction and how we escape from the material world. Those who believe in reincarnation also believe the 12th House holds lessons and information from previous lifetimes.
The sign and planets in your 12th House represent your relationship to all these unconscious ideas. Do you delve into them and explore them? Or do you shy away from them, preferring to focus on the surface? Do you feel stuck or rejected by the universe? If you seek a greater connection with the subconscious, the 12th House may have answers for you.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Anna Solovei/iStock via Getty Images
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