Planet Waves

New York, Oct. 8, 2016 | View as Webpage
It's All in the Houses: Class Notes
by Eric Francis Coppolino

Patric Walker was one of the truly great horoscope writers. Anyone who read him would tell you he was the best. The idea that "it's all in the houses" was passed from Patric to Jonathan Cainer to me. Patric was such an excellent astrologer -- that is to say, accurate and relevant -- because he understood the houses. He knew WHERE the action would be.

Let's say you're writing a daily horoscope column the day of a Venus-Mars conjunction. How do you personalize that? The way you do it is: it shows up in a different solar house for every sign. So you know where that meeting of Venus and Mars will take place for each of the signs. You know this from the houses.

Once you know the houses and what you're doing, you can read a chart. To ask, "What is a house?" is to ask how you read astrology. The houses are the central organizing principle of a chart. They are as basic to organizing a chart as the chapters are to a book.

Seen one way, the houses provide a structure in which to frame an issue you're inquiring about. Astrology can cover any subject; you narrow down the subject when you assign it to a house. For example, if a person you're reading for asks about their career, you know to check the 6th house (work-related activities) and the 10th house (professional advancement).

Houses provide the context for the overload of information that is presented with any chart. A house helps you focus the reading on specific subjects. Houses are the place to begin your inquiry.

The interesting thing about houses is that there are just 12 of them, though there are an infinite and exponentially increasing number of topics in the world. But the houses can accommodate this. The 3rd house covers snail mail (usually local), and it also covers email (routine). Traditionally the 9th house covers religion, and in a modern context it covers spirituality.

The houses have interesting histories. I have found that the best reference point as to the origin of a house's meaning is an easily available book from 1647 called Christian Astrology.

What a House Physically Is

Physically, a house is a direction relative to your place on Earth, or the place where the chart was cast. Charts are geocentric -- the Earth is "in the middle," though the horizon line -- from the 1st house cusp (the ascendant) to the 7th house cusp (the descendant) -- stretches across the chart.

The houses stay put; the signs move behind the houses, taking the planets with them. Think of the signs and planets as being "out in space" and the houses as being "here on Earth."

For example, the 1st house is always below the horizon in the east. The 12th house is above the horizon to the east (where the Sun seems to rise).

The 7th house is always above the horizon in the west (where the Sun seems to set). The 6th house is always below the horizon to the west.

The 9th and 10th houses are always overhead (where the Sun is at noon) and the 3rd and 4th houses are always below your feet (where the Sun is at midnight).

Depending on the time of day, the signs (which contain the planets) can align with any house. Think of the signs as a wheel spinning behind the 12 houses. The wheel closest to us is the one containing the houses, and further back are the signs. The houses are a purely LOCAL affair; related to real life, real things, real people and actual daily subject matter as found on Earth.

One definition of a house is a "department of life." But they are a little more than that. They are environments; they are topic areas; they describe relationships.

A house represents:

1. Physical location. Any house corresponds to one or more physical spaces or environments. When you can connect a house to its physical location, you understand the house from a physical perspective.

2. A confluence of themes. Note that I did not say a group of subjects. Rather, the subjects in a house are interrelated, and when you have a sense of what they have in common, the house starts to have real meaning.

3. Relationships. Every house represents relationships, whether to self-to-self, self-to-other, or among other people.

The houses represent actual, real, basic things.

When you have a grasp on all three of these areas, you understand the meaning of that house. In essence, selecting a house is to choose the where, who and why of the subject you're addressing.

The physical location associated with the house tells you most of what you need to know. It tells you whom and what you will find there.

Yet it's also possible to start with the who, or the why. It really doesn't matter which of these three angles you take on understanding the house; different situations will call for different approaches. Just remember: houses represent locations, themes and people, and these are all related to one another.

Studying a House

When reading a house, you check several things. First, take a look at the house cusp. This is where the house intersects with the sign that is behind it. You will need this information soon. Using the cusp, determine what planet rules the house (that is, if the house has Sagittarius on the cusp, the house ruler is Jupiter, even though it may not be located in that house. Notice the aspects made to that planet.

Then check the contents of the house; look what planets are there. Notice what aspects those planets make -- those come into the story of the house. Using houses, signs and planets, you interweave the story of the chart. Though it helps to start with a question: for example, what is my true career? What am I made for?

Let's pretend that a person has Leo on the 5th house, and the Sun in the 10th house. From that you might surmise "career as artist." So the ruler of a house can express the affairs of the house in ANOTHER house. Meanwhile, in this case, the contents of the 5th would give additional information.

House Cusps Are Transition Zones

This idea comes from William Lilly's 1647 text. He describes how any planet within five degrees of the next house cusp starts to act as if it's in the new house. There is a visual paradox in that the houses have black lines dividing them, but are really gradients. The signs have no lines (in the chart) dividing them, but are more of a clear metric.

In my experience, something is in one sign or another. I recognize that there is a discussion of "sign cusps," and some people will swear that something at the end of Aquarius starts to act like it's in Pisces. I would be cautious about that idea, particularly since, as long as something is in Aquarius, it's under the dominion of the planets associated with Aquarius. Let's set that aside for a while and discuss at a more appropriate time.

From the idea that the house cusp is a transition area, I have developed the idea that it's a unique environment. It's a little like where a freshwater river meets the saltwater ocean. There is a special term for that in marine biology: a brackish estuary. It's a special environment that blends marine and freshwater qualities, and unusual critters live there.

That's how to think of a house cusp: as a transitional area between environments. I'll give two examples.

The ascendant is the dividing line between the 1st and the 12th houses. The 1st house is what is clearly shown, admitted to, and known. It's the house of "I am." You might say it's the house of clear consciousness. It involves things like one's name, identity, and certain physical characteristics.

The 12th house has the opposite quality: that which is unknown, lost, or denied. It's the house of dreams and illusions.

What is so interesting is that the 12th is on the day-side of the chart, and the 1st is on the night side. This is an interesting paradox that produces a lot of information. Many people live a fantasy about who they are and attempt to project that into the day-side of their lives -- into normal waking consciousness. Along with that, they deny plenty, and at the same time attempt to convince others that they are what they are not, or are not what they are.

On the night side, in the 1st house, are a diversity of characteristics that they might actually acknowledge, even if they are variable (changing hair color, changing names, changing occupations).

The place where the two meet is the ascendant. The ascendant is a point of mediation between who you are and who you think you are; what you conceal and what you expose. It's a transition area with consciousness flowing back and forth between "the real you" and "the imaginary you."

This is partly why the ascendant is so complex. For additional information, it will help if you read the conditions of the ascendant ruler (the planet that rules the sign that is rising) and the 12th house ruler (the planet that rules the sign on the 12th) and study them for more information about the houses in question. Are they in aspect to one another? What aspects do they make to other points and planets in the chart? That kind of thing.

One last example: the 6th house cusp. This is the place where the 5th house meets the 6th house.

The 5th house covers:
Children and conceiving children
Art and creativity
Sex for fun
Risks and speculation

The 6th house covers:
Daily work
Healing practices
One's occupation
Getting 'lost in one's work'
Mental processes

Now for the question: where do the two meet, and what does that feel like? Whom does it represent?

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