21. Astrological Houses
(and Instructions for Casting a Horoscope)
by Tom Gilmore
All graphics by Tom Gilmore
Part I – The Houses
A Long-Lost Gnosis Revealed
It is no coincidence that 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. These pairs are the “exalted” planets of the Signs. 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 (Initial) 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
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). 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 sidereal 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
Depending on the angle of view (the declination), the House segments are wider at the top and bottom of the oval and narrower at the sides of the oval.
Instructions for Casting
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). A Table of Houses and an Ephemeris covering the date of birth are needed. These can be purchased from the Rosicrucian Fellowship in Oceanside California.
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. The table of Houses may include locations of major cities, but locations can always be determined from global atlases.
Familiarity with Planet symbols (below) and Sign symbols (above) is helpful because the Ephemeris uses these symbols.
Only the 7 traditional “Planets” (roving astral bodies) are considered valid for esoteric interpretation, and the main thrust is centered on the 5 “inner” Planets of Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, and Mars.
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. The 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 adding the cumulative sidereal time (found in the daily Ephemeris) adjusts the local time of birth, of 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.
The birth “node” is the previous midnight or noon, depending on which is used for the ephemeris. The Table of Houses is set for noon, and if the ephemeris uses midnight, the sidereal time listed will have 12 hours added so it matches the Table of Houses.
A – Plot the cusps of the Houses
To calculate the sidereal adjusted true local birth time:
Sidereal time from ephemeris
Plus 10 seconds for each 15 degrees west of Greenwich (minus 10 for east)
Plus interval from previous node to true local time of birth.
Plus 10 seconds for each hour of interval from node
Plus 12 hours if in Southern hemisphere
For example: local birth time 7:54 PM, longitude 121 degrees west
7:31 sidereal time (arbitrary choice)
0:01 +80 seconds for 121 degrees west
19:54 birth time interval from prior midnight
0:02 + 120 seconds (10 per interval hour)
26:88 (-0:60, +1:00) = 27:28 (-24) = 3:28 sidereal adjusted time
Use the sidereal adjusted true local birth time to look up the House cusps in the table of Houses. The table only specifies the cusps of 6 Houses, since the cusp lines extended to the opposite side are the same degrees, but of the opposite Signs. The table typically uses entries of about 4 minutes apart, and a calculation is needed to proportion the entries to the adjusted time, usually mentally evaluated to the nearest whole degree, because planetary positions plus or minus 1 degree from the cusps are considered to be in both Houses (and within 3 degrees, to be strongly influenced from the adjacent House). A sidereal adjusted birth time of dawn will place the natal ascendant at the cusp of Aries.
Because the House cusp degree is used to determine which House to place a Planet in (based on the Sign and degree of the Planet), the House cusp lines need only be roughly proportionally marked on the Signs’ pie-chart (usually with dotted lines) and then labeled by degree. In the example above the Ascendant is at 6 degrees of Taurus.
A Natal Horoscope castor next locates the natal Tropical Signs of the Planets by degrees, and places them in the pie-chart of the Zodiac (this automatically locates the Planets in the Houses). In the sample chart above the Sun in 280 of Aries is posted. Although it is at the cusp of Taurus, it is in the 12th House, 8 degrees away from the cusp of the 1st House.
B – Locate the Planets
To locate the Planets by degree an Ephemeris is used, which logs the daily planetary positions by degrees and minutes 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 adjusted time of birth 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.
For example a location in California 121 degrees west would add 121x4=484 minutes, or 484/60 = 8.07 Hours = 8:04
To convert decimals of hours to minutes multiply the decimal by 60 to get the minutes. (.07 x 60 =:04)
So if the true local time of birth is 10:58 PM = 22:58 MT, the adjusted time of
22:58 + 8:04 = 30:62 = 31:02 (– 24) = 7:02 AM of the following 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 ½ 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 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 by mental estimation for most of the Planets (especially for the slow moving outer planets of Jupiter and Saturn), using the adjusted time of birth to proportion between ephemeris logs. For example if the Greenwich time is around Noon the Planet position is half-way between the midnight logs, and if around 6 PM, then the Planet position is 3/4 between the midnight logs.
Arguably only the position of the Moon needs to be precisely calculated, and perhaps Mercury and Venus. The reason is that 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 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.
Orbital 24 Hour
Mercury 88 days 4 degrees
Venus 225 days 1.6 degrees
Earth 365 days 1 degree
Mars 687 days ½ degree
Jupiter 12 years 5 minutes
Saturn 30 years 2 minutes
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 shown above.
General steps for locating precisely:
* Assumes the local time of birth has been adjusted to Greenwich time
Calculate a proportional multiplier
Calculate the interval between prior and subsequent ephemeris logs
Multiply the log interval by proportion to obtain proportional interval
Add proportional interval to prior ephemeris log (to get Planet position)
Detail steps with an example:
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 (MT), add 12 hours for PM. Due to the legacy of base-12 time reckoning, decimal math requires you convert adjusted time of birth either to total minutes, or to convert minutes to a fraction of an hour. It is easier to work in hours, by dividing minutes by 60 and adding that to the hours as a fraction.
Divide the adjusted birth time interval from the node by 24 to get the proportion applicable to the motion of the Planet over the 24 hours between position logs.
For example, assuming an adjusted time of birth of 6:40 PM, it is 18:40 MT, which is 18 + 40/60 = 18.67 hours, and 18.67/24 = .78 (the proportional multiplier).
The position logs are converted to decimal degrees in a like manner, dividing the minutes by 60 and adding to degrees as a decimal fraction. 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 30 degrees to the subsequent position log degrees.
For example if the Moon’s midnight logs are Aries 240 35’ to
Taurus 70 40’, the interval is:
(7 + 40/60) +30 - (24 + 35/60) = (37.67 – 24.58) = 13.09 degrees.
(Prior position log = 24.580)
The proportional multiplier times the interval length gives the proportional interval.
With an interval of 13.090, and the multiplier .78, the proportional interval is 13.09 x.78 = 10.210
The proportional interval is added to the prior position log
Thus the natal position of the moon is:
(24.58 + 10.21) = “34.790 of Aries” = 40 47’ of Taurus.
(.790x60)=47’ and (34-30=40, Aries à Taurus)
You can leave degrees in fractions
for the chart, making for less work and easier to evaluate aspects.
To convert decimal degrees to minutes multiply the decimal by 60 to get the minutes.
For positions equal or over 30 degrees subtract 30 and use following Sign.
Part III -- 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.
There are many sources for esoteric interpretations. For the most part, popular sources are at best frivolous, and at worst totally discombobulated.
A comprehensive detailed set of interpretations is presented in “Message of the Stars” by Max Heindel, published by the Rosicrucian Fellowship. 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
The Rose and Cross was said to be the coat of arms for the family of Martin Luther, who is credited in 1517 as starting the protest movement against the corrupt Catholic Papacy, who’s sins against God had become intolerable, especially in the sales of “indulgences”, a document which purported to absolve sinners of their transgressions, but Luther also protested myriad evil aspects of the politicized Catholic oppression, and this led to Protestantism. Luther diverged from Christianity altogether, and progressed into becoming a gnostic atheist (a Rosicrucian), who like Jesus, rejected all churches and priests as hypocrites.
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 Dogmatic
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.
The nuanced interpretation is dependent on which Planets are involved in the Signs and Houses.
For House interpretations refer to the chart in Part I.
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 (the 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 (especially (+,-)) are considered most beneficial because they are also in the same element. There are 4 Grand-Trines, either in Fire (shown below in red), Earth, Air, or Water. There are other (+,-) aspects but they pair different elements.
The secondary factor of the aspects is in the Elements involved (Fire, Earth, Air , or Water).
Some physical associations:
Fire Scorches Earth
Water Nourishes Earth
Air Feeds Fire
Water and Air Support Life
Quick Aspect Finder
There are 78 possible aspects, but 12 of them are Conjunct, which is self-evident, so the 66 other aspects are listed in the chart below. To use the chart, look up the lower of the 2 Signs using the Red Sign symbols. The red Signs are in sequence so the lower Sign of the two can easily be picked out. The stacks of pairs are also in Sign sequence. The aspects are identified with a symbol (key at lower right).
Preparation for Interpreting
The 5 active Planets can be compared to the 5 forms of energy:
Sun Light Identity
Moon Magnetism Ego
Mercury Electricity Thought
Venus Heat Feelings
Mars Fire Actions
There are 10 inter-relations between these 5 Planets, and the 10 connections can be represented by a pentagram within a pentagon, labeled with the Planets (such as shown below). For multiple uses make a blank diagram and copy.
Using whatever shorthand suits you, the Signs, degrees, element and polarity of the Planets can be posted at the vertices, and any significant aspects posted on the connecting lines.
In the example below, any squares, trines, or conjuncts are shown, and any aspect at all within 3 degrees is shown in red (you can circle or underline). This data allows quick reference to all the inter-relations between the active Planets. Note: The aspect angles are between Signs, the pentagon is only for display.
In interpreting, for example there is a strong trine between the Sun and Venus in Fire which could be interpreted as one being in touch (Sun) with their active feelings (Venus) (in Earth with their grounded feelings, in Air with their elusive feelings, in Water with their fluid feelings).
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.
For the example above, moving the Moon from Scorpio into Sagittarius will change the Square aspects with Venus and Mars to Trine aspects, and form a Grand Trine in Fire between Sun, Moon, and Venus/Mars. In rough generalities, using the keywords listed previously, this entails changing the personal emphasis from “intense emotionality” to “idealistic ambitions”.