Astrological Houses (and the Natal Horoscope)
by Tom Gilmore
All graphics by Tom Gilmore
Part I – The Houses
A Long-Lost Secret Revealed
The Astro-Logical Color Cube shown below is the key to the origin of the traditional esoteric interpretations of the Houses of Astrology.
The edges of the color-cube are labeled with Signs of the Zodiac, and the faces are labeled with 6 of the traditional 7 Planets. Each Sign is an edge that connects 2 faces in unique pairs. For example, refer to the cube above to see that Leo, the front-right edge, pairs the Sun and Mercury. The chart below lists the Signs in astronomical sequence, showing the Planet pairs for each Sign. You can verify the list by examining the color-cube above.
1 Aries Mars Sun
2 Taurus Moon Venus
3 Gemini Mars Mercury
4 Cancer Moon Sun
5 Leo Sun Mercury
6 Virgo Mars Venus
7 Libra Venus Mercury
8 Scorpio Mars Moon
9 Sagittarius Saturn Sun
10 Capricorn Saturn Venus
11 Aquarius Saturn Mercury
12 Pisces Saturn Moon
These 12 pairs of Planets are behind the traditional Hermetic interpretations of the Houses. Each Planet is assigned key-words that when concatenated suggest the life-segment that the Houses partition.
"Planet" Key-Words Key-Words
Mars Active Initial to Intermediate
Mercury Structure Mentality
Venus Relations Social Position
Saturn Transition Mature
House Pairs Concatenation Hermetic Tradition
1 Mars Sun Active Self Body & Personality
2 Moon Venus Regulator of Social Position Possessions & Obligations
3 Mars Mercury Initial Mentality Lower Mind & Education
4 Moon Sun Regulator of Self Homelife & Mother
5 Sun Mercury Self Mentality Emotionality & Creativity
6 Mars Venus Intermediate Social Position Employment & Health
7 Venus Mercury Structured Relationships Marriage & Partners
8 Mars Moon Intermediate Regulator Transition & Inheritance
9 Saturn Sun Mature Self Friends and Hopes
Higher Mind & Interests (traditional)
10 Saturn Venus Mature Social Position Positions & Honors
11 Saturn Mercury Mature Mentality Higher Mind & Interests
Friends and Hopes (traditional)
12 Saturn Moon Transitional Regulator Karmic Debt & Spirituality
It is obvious that the 9th and 11th House interpretations have been switched, because Saturn & Mercury (House 11) is "Mature Mentality", which logically would be "Higher Mind and Interests". These switched interpretations are shown in gray, underneath the corrected interpretations shown in Orange.
It is clear that the Houses are generally progressing through life. Mars represents the advent and progression of life (and Mars is distributed through the first 8 Houses), and Saturn represents the transition to death (and Saturn is clumped together in the last 4 Houses).
Part II – Casting the Natal Horoscope
The Base 12 Numbering System
Earthlings think mathematically with base-10 numbering. A numbering system utilizes a positional representation where the number in the position (reading right to left) is multiplied by the base to the positional power. With B for the base, the positional power (right to left) is: B0 , B1 , B2 , B3 , …
In Decimal, or base-10, this is 1, 10, 100, 1000, … So in reality a number such as 2934 is 4x1 + 3x10 + 9x100 + 2x1000.
Astronomy is the scientific portion of Astrology. The originators of Astronomy used base-12 measures, and that means the originators likely used base-12 numbering in their mathematical thinking. This is strong evidence that the originators were not Earthlings.
A number base requires symbols to represent the number values. For base-10, ten symbols are required (the familiar 0 to 9). For base-12, it is common practice to use 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,A,B. Here A has a Decimal value of 10 and B of 11. Earthlings think in Decimal.
However, the astronomical grid system comes with its own set of number symbols, in what are called the "Signs". The Signs as a set are called the "Zodiac". The measure system divides the circle into 360 equal segments called "degrees". The circle is sectioned into 12 slices of 30 degrees each. The segments are numbered by the Signs of the Zodiac. Using the names of the symbols, the numbering is 1-Aries, 2-Taurus, 3-Gemini, 4-Cancer, 5-Leo, 6-Virgo, 7-Libra, 8-Scorpio, 9-Sagittarius, A-Capricorn, B-Aquarius, and 0-Pisces. This means that the astro-number-12 is AriesPisces, or astro-(10)
Each degree of the circle of 360 degrees is subdivided into 60 minute (small) segments called "minutes", and each minute is in turn subdivided a second time into 60 "seconds".
Astronomy is a celestial mapping system, which also projects to the Earth surface as a global terrestrial mapping system. When projected onto the Earth, each geographic second is divided into 100 "feet" (named after being the average length of a Titan’s foot). Globes and flat projections onto maps are attributed to the mythical character Atlas, who the ancient Greeks intimated was a Titan explorer holding the position of mission navigator and cartographer with the expedition that came to Earth from the planet Titan in the solar system of the double star Sirius.
In addition to distance measured by degrees, Astronomy has an associated system of time measurement. The circle is divided into 24 "hours", and represents a full rotation of the Earth on its axis. Each hour is similarly divided into 60 minutes and 60 seconds, and each second of time measure is divided into 1000 "cubits". Cubits were used in navigating the oceans, because in this way the distance measure is commensurate with time measure. Using the stars to locate one’s longitudinal position requires knowing the time of night so that the daily shift of the stars in the night sky can be used to adjust the sighting to a fixed time, and reveal the location on the Earth where that sighting would occur. Consequently, measuring with cubits made the calculations easier.
(A cubit is equal to 1.5 geographic feet. Refer to the article on Earth Measures for more detail.)
Sidereal vs. Tropical Astrology
For Signs, Sidereal Astrology uses the positions of the actual star constellations, while Tropical Astrology is based on the seasons. Today, in Tropical Astrology, on the spring equinox the Ascendant is by definition at the cusp of Aries, but the actual constellation rising is Aquarius, due to the precession of Earth’s axis (refer to article on Sun, Earth, Moon). To work with Sidereal Astrology the Tropical Zodiac must be shifted back by 2 Signs, such that the spring equinox is near the cusp of Aquarius, followed by Pisces and then Aries.
For the Tropical Natal Horoscope the Signs do not represent the star constellations, they simply segment the seasons, and the locations of the Planets are likewise not the real Signs.
The Natal Tropical Horoscope uses a “pie-chart” format of the Signs. The Houses are numbered in the same order as the Signs.
A “cusp’ is the line segmenting the
Signs and Houses. At sunrise of the vernal
equinox the cusp of House number 1 always coincides with the cusp of Aries.
The House segments are wider at the top and bottom of the oval and narrower at the sides of the oval.
To cast a Horoscope, prepare a large empty pie chart on a sheet of paper, and if intending to cast multiple horoscopes make copies (or buy commercially available forms that also list the symbols for the Signs and Planets).
The Natal Ascendant is the degree of the (Tropical) Sign rising at the horizon at the moment of birth (first breath). The Ascendant is used to position the cusp of the 1st House in relation to the cusps of the Seasonal Signs.
Sidereal periods of rotations and revolutions of astral bodies are measured by a return to facing a given star, while solar periods measure by a return to facing the Sun. Due to the revolution of the Earth around the Sun in the same direction as the Earth's rotation, starting from facing the Sun a full sidereal rotation of the Earth does not return to facing the Sun. The Earth must rotate an additional distance to complete a full solar day, since it has moved around the Sun during that time in its orbit. The average solar day is longer than the sidereal day by 3.9425 minutes. This cumulative sidereal time is listed in the daily Ephemeris.
To position the cusps of the Houses, a “Table of Houses” is used. A single table suffices, set for the cusp of Aries, because subtracting the cumulative sidereal time (found in the daily Ephemeris) adjusts any day of the year to the spring equinox (cusp of Aries). However, the table has entries for every degree of latitude, because a 2-dimensional circle seen at an angle from the 3rd dimension is oval (see diagram above), and the greater the angle (called the declination) the more squished the oval, so the Table of Houses delineates cusps for the Houses for each degree of latitude.
In casting the Horoscope, the cusps of the houses are marked on the Signs’ pie-chart (usually with dotted lines) and labeled by degree. In the example above the Ascendant is at 5 degrees of Taurus (lines extended to the opposite side are the same degrees, but of the opposite Signs). Usually the Houses are split (unequally) between Signs. In this example the 1st House is split between Taurus and Gemini (but only by 3 degrees into Gemini).
In casting a Natal Horoscope, date, time and place of birth is needed. The place of birth needs to be located by longitude and latitude. Familiarity with Planet symbols and Sign symbols is needed because the Ephemeris uses these symbols.
Only the 7 traditional Planets are traditionally valid for esoteric interpretation.
A Natal Horoscope castor next locates the natal “Signs” of the Planets by degrees, and places them in the pie-chart of the Zodiac (this automatically locates the Planets in the Houses). To locate the Planets by degree an Ephemeris is used, which logs the daily planetary positions by degrees of Sign for midnight (or sometimes noon) at Greenwich, England (zero degrees longitude). The time of birth is adjusted to Greenwich-time by adding (if west of Greenwich) or subtracting (if east) 4 minutes for each degree of the longitude of birth (irregular time zones and daylight savings complicate this). The time of birth, adjusted to Greenwich-time, is used to proportion the planetary locations between the bracketed midnight position logs in the Ephemeris. If the adjusted time of birth exceeds 24 hours, subtract 24 hours and add one day to the date, or if it goes negative, add 24 hours and subtract one day.
Note: Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) is the average time at which the Sun passes the zero longitude (Greenwich Meridian), but due to the varying velocity of Earth’s elliptical orbit the solar day varies in duration by time of year. The elliptical orbit and the tilt of the axis combines to vary the discrepancy between the Greenwich Mean Time (an average) and when the Sun actually crosses the Greenwich Meridian (ahead by up to 16 ˝ minutes, and behind by as much as 14 minutes), with the result that the calculated ascendant using GMT is often inaccurate. This greatly effects the position of the Ascendant, which goes thru a sign in 2 hours, and somewhat for the Moon, which goes through a Sign in 27.3/12 =2.275 days, but for the rest of the Planets is not significant.
It is possible to obtain sufficient scientific data to calculate exact positions for the natal horoscope, but since the purpose is to derive esoteric interpretations, such exactitude is largely irrelevant. It is adequate to calculate Planet positions to the nearest half-degree, and this can be easily done by mental estimation for all the Planets except the Moon. The Sun-Sign is actually based on the orbit of the Earth, which has a period of about 365 days, and since there are 360 degrees to a circle, the “Sun” moves through about 1 degree in 24 hours.
The further distant the orbit is from the Sun, the longer the orbit of the Planet, and consequently the shorter distance of the motion in 24 hours. The parallax of Planet motions relative to Earth orbit motion will affect the apparent motion of the Planets, even to make them appear to move backward (called retrograde), but in general the movements are as follows.
Orbital 24 Hour
Mercury 88 days 4 degrees
Venus 225 days 1.6 degrees
Earth 365 days 1 degree
Mars 687 days ˝ degree
Jupiter 12 years 5 minutes
Saturn 30 years 2 minutes
For the Moon (and all the Planets for that matter), first a proportional multiplier is calculated from the adjusted time of birth (this multiplier applies to all the Planets). To obtain 24-hour time, add 12 hours for PM. Due to the legacy of base-12 time reckoning, decimal math requires you convert adjusted time of birth to minutes by multiplying hours by 60 and adding to minutes. Divide the total adjusted birth minutes by 1440 (24x60) to get the proportion applicable to the motion of the Planet over the 24 hours between position logs. The position logs are converted to minutes in the same manner as with hours, multiplying the degrees by 60 and adding to minutes. The prior position log is subtracted from the subsequent position log, giving the interval length (if the subsequent position log is in the subsequent Sign from the Sign of the prior position log, first add 30x60=1800 minutes to the subsequent position log in minutes).
The proportional multiplier times the interval length gives the minutes to add to the prior position log, to arrive at the position for the adjusted time of birth in minutes. To convert to degrees divide minutes by 60 (the remainder is minutes).
Consider using a horoscope calculating app, and receive a complete pie chart for interpreting (printed interpretations are often also available).
Interpreting the Horoscope
Esoteric Astrology (interpretation of the Natal Horoscope) is based on a generalized psychological system of human characteristics. It is primarily a platform for psychological counseling. The system of esoteric astrology defines characteristics common to all people, so interpretations are only selecting a personalized subset from a totality of aspects that all apply to everyone. Also, the Houses span all the Signs. Thus it is essentially irrelevant if the horoscope is accurate, or uses stars or seasons.
There is no established scientific connection between personal psychological characteristics and either the stars or the seasons, however an experienced astrologer with an accurate chart will find their readings to be surprisingly spot on.
Interpreting Signs by Keyword
For an arbitrary list the following is offered:
Aries Headstrong Single-minded
Taurus Stubborn Stable
Gemini Bipolar Ambivalent
Cancer Self-centered Changeable
Leo Arrogant Dignified
Virgo Self-righteous Virtuous
Libra Balanced Judgmental
Scorpio Intense Emotional
Sagittarius Idealistic Ambitious
Capricorn Practical Capable
Aquarius Ethereal Intuitive
Pisces Spiritual Supportive
All astrological interpretations are factors of human characteristics, and as such all apply to everyone, it’s just that some traits are more pronounced variously in various people. It is the commonality that makes astrology work, in applying psychology to help expose the nature of ones’ self.
There are many sources for esoteric interpretations. A comprehensive detailed set of interpretations is presented in “Message of the Stars” by Max Heindell. It breaks down the Horoscope to:
The Planets in the Signs
The Planets in the Houses
The Houses in the Signs
The angular “Aspects” between Planets
A Sign-angle treats the 30 degrees of a Sign as a unit. The Sign-angles between Planets are called aspects. There are 6 possible aspects:
Conjunct (in the same Sign)
Semi-Sextile (1 Sign apart)
Sextile (2 Signs apart)
Square (3 Signs apart)
Trine (4 Signs apart)
Quincunx (5 Signs apart)
Opposite (6 Signs apart)
The aspects primarily relate to the “polarity” of the Signs, positive, negative or neutral (Cardinal, Fixed, or Mutable). Like with magnetic poles, Aspects in opposite polarity attract (+ & -) and Aspects in the same polarity repel (+ & +, or - & -). Mutable is neutral.
The chart above shows the permutation of the 4 elements with the 3 polarities.
All planets are in aspect, but are considered more influential the closer in Sign-degree they are.
Square Planets are considered the most adverse. Grand-Squares are when all 4 of a polarity are involved (Fixed grand-square shown in blue below). Cardinal or Fixed squares are worst, but Mutable squares can be difficult also, leading to indecisiveness and uncertainty.
(+,-) Trine Planets are considered most beneficial because they are also in the same element. There are 4 Grand-Trines, either in Fire (shown below), Earth, Air, or Water. There are other (+,-) aspects but they pair different elements.
The interpretation is dependent on which Planets are involved in the aspect.
The secondary factor of the aspects is in the Elements involved (Fire,
Earth, Air , or Water).
Fire Scorches Earth
Water Nourishes Earth
Air Feeds Fire
Water and Air Support Life
Beyond the static esoteric interpretations of the Natal Horoscope, progressive esoteric astrology compares the natal planetary configuration with the current planetary configuration. It is possible that the angular relationships between Sun, Earth and Moon (and perhaps the other planets as well) affect the configuration of molecules of air, and stamp the body with that configuration at first breath. This concept could validate progressive astrology as comparing current air molecule configurations (being breathed) to the stamp of the first breath.
Opposing the Natal Conflicts
Clearly the most useful astrological reading will target the Square aspects and/or Planet/Sign conflicts and suggest the subject move their Planets’ Signs to appropriate adjacent Signs (especially if near the cusps), thus mollifying the negative aspects, or reversing them to positive aspects. This involves the subject concentrating in their lives on avoiding the Sign-traits in conflict and aspiring to the adjacent Sign-traits that are complementary. In this way the subject is helped to improve their life, rather than just identify their problems.