A bit about my theory of houses

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My old friend and multi-lifetime collaborator Dale O’Brien wrote me an email about houses today. I thought I would share my reply. The technical references are not all in, as this is astrologer to astrologer — but if anyone has questions I will do my best to answer. Note, Dale suggested I use Porphyry houses. I searched for a moment and came up with an explanation by an astrologer I respect, Bruce Scofield. Here is that link. Note, since this was written, we now know that Whole Sign Houses are the oldest system, which are an obvious lead-in to Equal Houses. What I like about Porphyry in theory (as you’ll read, if you read Bruce’s article) is that the method is simple, it’s based on the ecliptic and easy math.

Hi Dale,

Briefly, most of what I know about houses I know from “Whole Sign Houses” by Rob Hand. I recognize how everyone else is trained. Remember that as a horoscope writer, I use solar houses/whole sign houses much of the day — in the “general” interps.

Re more complex charts, natal, horary, event, etc.:

Debbi Kempton-Smith noted that the houses have cusps; the signs do not. The house cusp is not a bold line, however, it’s like a gradation area. The signs change more abruptly. I read that idea when I was starting out. Then I read some Lilly (William Lilly, 17th century astrologer), who describes the house cusp as a gradation as well. So Debbi had this on good authority (she was well trained). Lilly gives the five-degree rule — that a planet with five degrees of the house cusp picks up the energy of the next house.

Turns out, what Rob dug up researching Whole Sign Houses (which is now his Ph.D. thesis) is in accord with this. The whole sign is the house (this gave rise to aspects, i.e., Aries to Cap is a square). The whole sign is the house, and the house has a cusp, originally conceived of as a peak of energy within the whole sign house.

The cusp might be the degree of the ascendant (echo of equal houses) or it might be the degree of the house cusp if you use a house system.

Here is what I do.

— The angles and the angular houses I give the most weight to (ascendant/descendant, midheaven/IC).

— I use whole sign houses.

— Simultaneously, I use Koch houses, and use the house cusp as a light border and also as a peak of energy.

— I have delineations of the cusp zone of each house, which I regard in the way that a salt marsh or brackish estuary is different than river, sea or land. The cusp zone is its own region, and a planet can speak to me based on that.

For example we all know the lurking effect of a planet one degree inside the 9th, on the cusp of the 10th. It has that “almost 10th” feeling, and Wescott suggests that it’s “twelvthie” in that it’s a hidden zone behind the house.


I like Koch houses because the visual pattern is interesting — the houses have odd shapes. They are modern, by one of our recent contemporaries, and they are not hooked into a religion.

Previously I used Topcentric for many years, which is a morph of Placidus.


Eric Francis

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5 Responses to A bit about my theory of houses

  1. Imo imoabraham says:

    Thanks, Eric. Remarkably clear. I agree– Debby Kempton-Smith and Rob Hand are wonderful reference points. So happy to hear I’ve been drifting along with the same overstandings. I do look forward to your article and interception comments. My astrology teacher, Simeon Nash, said that the sign within the interception manifested ‘spontaneously’, or ‘automatically’. e.g. Pisces intercepted in the fourth–finding yourself living near water, particuarly oceans, of course.

  2. Hummingbird says:

    Thank you. I look forward to your article.

  3. Eric Francis Eric Francis says:


    I would need to write a short article with a few examples. Or do it as an audio. I will keep that on my radar. Please remind me again.

    In sum — think of it as a house within a house; a hidden room.

    To get in or out of the hidden room, go to Serennu and check the planet or point that is at the very end of one sign and the beginning of the other — on both ends of the interception.

    Also, check the rulers of the intercepted sign — and see what they point to, by placement, house, sign, aspect, etc.

  4. Hummingbird says:

    Thanks for the article, Eric. I would, however, like to know what you think about interceptions and the planets that are intercepted.

  5. paola paola says:

    Thank you Eric. Quite interesting.
    If I apply whole sign houses to natal theme, every house shifts by one sign, which makes like a second way of looking at it.
    Actually, because of a summer hour issue, this is how my theme has been for many years. So it all makes sense! Nothing is by accident – even in astrology.
    I find this view/shifting quite liberating.

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