Welcome back to my intro to astrology series! Last time I went over chart structure and today I will be taking a deeper look at houses and their classifications. This series is here for people who are clueless about astrology and would like to develop a working knowledge of it. So please, do not use my series to administer astrological consultations to other people, as this will not prepare you to be able to ethically do that. This is to empower you to understand your own chart and understand what astrologers are talking about when you consult them.
In the last article I only briefly wrote about houses as they were relevant to demonstrating how a natal chart represents the sky at a given moment. We now know the following critical structural points of a chart:
The ascendant – the point on the eastern horizon where the Sun and ecliptic rise into our view of the sky.
The descendant – the point on the western horizon where the Sun and ecliptic set out of our view of the sky.
The midheaven – the highest point the ecliptic reaches in the sky.
The ipsum colei – the lowest point, beneath the ground, where the ecliptic reaches in the sky.
These four points are associated with the cardinal houses 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th, and 10th. When you look at a chart, you know that houses that fall beneath the ascendant/descendant axis are below ground, while houses that fall above that same axis are in the visible sky.
We also know now that just as the ecliptic is divided into 12 zodiac signs, we also divide the ecliptic into 12 houses. The start of each house is called a cusp, and there are several different systems for calculating house cusps. One of the most common house systems people encounter is Placidus, which results in houses of varying widths of degrees within the ecliptic (remember the ecliptic is a 360 degree circle). Though it is common for western chart generators to default to Placidus, I find it can introduce unnecessary complication to learning houses and their role in the chart. Additionally, it is generally understood that Whole Sign houses is the housing system ancient astrologers likely used for thousands of years and is the primary housing system used by traditional astrology – both Western and Vedic. Therefore, when I refer to houses it should be known that I do so from the perspective of using the Whole Sign housing system. Let’s take a look at the significance of houses in astrology.
The Role of Houses
Houses in astrology represent the different areas of life within a native’s chart. In the whole sign house system, the houses are the zodiac signs and their numbering is determined by which zodiac sign the ascendant, which is always the 1st house, falls in at the time of birth.
The ascendant changes signs about every 2 hours, which is why an accurate time of birth is so critical to proper chart analysis. The ascendant is considered one of the most important points in a chart because it determines what areas of life the planets will rule over in the native’s chart. This is particularly relevant in Vedic astrology, where yogas, or planetary combinations, are often determined by the houses the planets have lordship over. One such type of yoga, a raja yoga, is formed when a planet that rules the 1st, 4th, 7th, or 10th houses becomes conjunct with a planet that rules the 1st, 5th, or 9th houses. Two people may be born on the same day, with two planets conjunct in the same sign, but whether or not that conjunction confers a raja yoga will depend on where the ascendant falls in their respective charts. This is why people who share a birthday can have incredibly different lives and even personalities from each other in natal astrology.
Houses are how an astrologer is able to assess what kind of results a planet will give in a native’s life. We know that the planets and zodiac signs carry their own unique significations, and you can certainly tell a lot of generalized information about a person from that alone. However, to be able to achieve a high degree of specificity in their analysis an astrologer must consult the houses, which are determined by your specific time of birth. This is how your chart becomes truly yours and reflective of your particular life story, as opposed to anyone else on the planet who shares your birthday. This is the role of houses in natal astrology.
For this section I will be using Vedic astrology as my primary frame of reference, since I am a Vedic astrologer. If you are interested in house classifications from the Western tradition, I recommend this article.
First we have the kendra (cardinal/angular in English) houses (the 1st, 4th, 7th, and 10th) which contain the cardinal points (the ascendant, the ipsum colei, the descendant, and the midheaven, respectively). Depending on the latitude of the location a chart is being cast from, the midheaven/ipsum colei axis may not fall exactly within the 10th/4th in whole sign houses, but they are still in essence associated with these houses. The kendras represent four pillars that hold up the life of the native: the self (1st), home/roots (4th), spouse/partnerships (7th), and our presence in the world (10th). When assessing a chart, looking at the lords of the kendras will give an astrologer a sense of the overall resiliency, capacity for power and achievement, and health of the native.
Next we have the trikona (trine in English) houses (the 1st, 5th, and 9th) which represent our fortune and purpose in life, referred to a dharma. These houses are important for supporting a native’s path in life. When the trikonal lords are well-placed, an individual has a strong sense of purpose driving them through life which empowers them to have faith in themselves and their goals.
You’ll notice that the 1st house is both a kendra and a trikonal house. Therefore, the ascendant lord rules both a kendra and trikonal house in everyone’s chart. You might notice this is similar to a raja yoga – the coming together of lords of both a kendra and trikonal house. Ascendant lords are generally not interpreted as raja yogas unto themselves, but they are auspicious planets for any chart as they represent the very native whose chart is being cast. In this way, the ascendant lord is imbued with many of the qualities of a raja yoga such as power and achievement, but it is not a raja yoga because it only involves a single house. Yoga means “to yoke” – and so the involvement of at least two houses are required to form a raja yoga, as a single house cannot be yoked to itself.
The next housing classification to cover are referred to as dusthana houses (6th, 8th, and 12th). These are considered inauspicious houses, often dealing with areas of loss, disease, conflict and obstacles. Do not despair, because the events these houses bring are often necessary for growth and overcoming our suffering and limitations. In fact, the 8th and 12th houses are strongly associated with spiritual strength and liberation – because it takes great spiritual strength to be able to surrender and release one’s attachments.
Another housing classification is known as maraka, or killer houses (2nd and 7th). Please do not be alarmed at the name. Under specific conditions, the lords of these houses can be involved in transits that bring death and difficulties in a native’s chart but they are not to be feared – often these are just normal events that happen to everyone at some point in life, not unlike dusthana houses. Everyone dies eventually, most everyone loses a parent or a loved one or has an encounter with disease and misfortune at some point in their life. The reason the 2nd and 7th houses are maraka houses specifically is because of the 8th house and a Vedic technique called bhavat bhavam (“house from house”). The 8th house is associated with longevity and death. Using the bhavat bhavam technique, we know that the 7th house is 12 houses away from the 8th – we say that the 7th house is 12th from the 8th in this case. We know that the 12th house is associated with loss & surrender, so the 7th house in this way is an area of the chart that is associated with the loss of one’s longevity or lifespan. We apply this same principle to the 2nd because the 3rd house is 8 houses from the 8th, and the 2nd is 12th from the 3rd.
The last housing classification I’m going to cover are called upachaya houses (3rd, 6th , 10th, and 11th). The word upachaya roughly translates to “increasing” or “growing,” so the upachaya houses are houses that get better over time. This makes sense when you look at the areas of life these houses are associated with – the 3rd being your self-expression and courage, the 6th being competition/work and work-life balance, the 10th being your career and reputation, and the 11th being your financial gains and group associations. These are things that just tend to improve as we accumulate resources and life experience across the lifespan.
Now let’s get into what the houses actually represent. There are twelve houses total, just like the zodiac, and each one refers to a specific area of life and relevant archetypal themes:
|1st House||Kendra/Cardinal, Trikona||Your physical incarnation on the planet; body, head, total being; personality, appearance, stature; true self, purpose|
|2nd House||Maraka||The mouth/speech and what goes into the mouth, face; what one accumulates/stores, as a reflection of your values; everything that you take in – mental, emotional, physical; wealth, family, possessions; values and self-worth, how you value yourself as internalized through relationships with the family|
|3rd House||Upachaya||Siblings, courage, communication; degree of courage vs conscientiousness when competing with siblings/peers, camaraderie/conviviality; early learning, curiosity, exploration, self-expression; seizing desires; short travels; arms/shoulders, neck|
|4th House||Kendra/Cardinal||Mother, home/comforts, happiness; real estate, vehicles; your emotional experience, intuition, knowing what brings you security/peace; sensorium, sensual experience of emotions/the heart; chest/breast|
|5th House||Trikona||Children, mind, creativity, intelligence; the heart’s desire, pleasure, spiritual devotion/mantras/prayers, seeking to understand the divine; purva punya, past life merits, the strength of the mind being brought from the previous love; heart, stomach|
|6th House||Dusthana, Upachaya||Enemies/competitors, legal battles, debts; health/disease brought from the struggle of routines/labor/work, sacrificing self; contention, struggle; purification, being in a state of struggle/dissatisfaction and seeking improvement; servitude, pets, inequitable relationships, apprenticeship; intestines, metabolizing/alchemizing matter|
|7th House||Kendra/Cardinal, Maraka||One-to-one relationships, marriage, partnerships, contracts/agreements; the “other” self, that which is not like ourselves, foreigners; equitable relationships; quality of the spouse|
|8th House||Dusthana||Sexual attractiveness, how others value you/wish to possess you; longevity, chronic conditions/health including death; other people’s possessions – they relinquish their resources unto you; speculative/risky activities, finances; sudden events, scandal; genitals/anus|
|9th House||Trikona||Father as teacher, guru; higher learning, long distance travels; spiritual teachings, impassioned spiritual faith; your purpose, how you embody divinity; ishta deva or the kind of god one is drawn to; thighs/buttocks|
|10th House||Kendra/Cardinal, Upachaya||How one is known in the world; career, duty, the karma we act upon the world; vocation pursued in service of the Self/dharma/purpose; reputation|
|11th House||Upachaya||Gains, group associations, status; the fulfillment of one’s desires/aspirations; one’s social sphere/community, networking; wealth, abundance, prosperity|
|12th House||Dusthana||Losses, release, surrender; sanctuary, privacy, withdrawal from the world; pleasures of the bed; surrendering oneself to merge with an other or the divine; hospitals, prison; feet|
That should give you a clearer idea of what the role and significations of the 12 houses are in astrology. I hope that the information I’ve provided is clear and easy to understand. Next article will be focusing on aspects between planets.
I am currently studying to become a professional astrologer and if you are interested in receiving a brief consultation please check out my rates and services page. I am grateful for opportunities to practice my skills and increase my experience.