One of the first things we learn when pursuing the study of astrology—after the requisite dismissal of magazine horoscopes as being inadequate to say the least—is the house system.
When we look at a birth chart, we see a circle divided into the 12 signs of the zodiac, and then we see it further divided into 12 numbered houses. The planets plotted on the chart then fall into signs and houses.
These houses, on an astronomical level, capture and divide the space around our earth, and on an astrological level, are representative of areas of life which the signs and planets within them are expressed. For a cookbook astrology example, someone with Sun in Libra in the 9th house of higher learning could spend time studying, learning, and possibly even teaching on matters of relationships and the philosophy of how people relate to each other. This person might have a big interest in sociology. Of course everything is contingent on the other aspecting planets in the chart.
There are many, many different house systems; meaning different mathematical methods of dividing time and space to create the 12 divisions of the houses, some being based on time it takes points to move through the sky, some being based purely on the space of the sky itself. I’m not going to get into that in this post.
Some things will remain the same, however. The line of the horizon, which gives us your ascendant and descendent points, will remain static. Of course your ascendant point reveals your immediate impression upon the world and the energy with which you move through life, and the descendent point is indicative of what you tend to seek out in relationships with others. Additionally, the vertical line from the very highest point in the sky to the lowest point in the sky (beneath the earth, if you were to look down) will remain static. The apex of this line is your medium coeli, or midheaven, and the bottom is your imum coeli, or nadir. These points reveal your greater reputation in the world and matters of career (midheaven) and where we want to escape the world and lick our own wounds (nadir).
On the left is my own chart using a Placidus house system, which uses a mathematical method to divide space. On the right is whole sign, in which each house is occupied by one whole sign.
Anyway, with all of that information and disclaimer out of the way, on to today’s show. I’m going to explain my interpretation of the meanings of the 12 houses and the areas of life they cover with my own metaphor: the houses as rooms in a house. Note: Not everyone will have this many rooms in their actual house, myself included. This is not an article on socioeconomics. Use your imagination.
So here we go. The house is your whole life. Here are the different rooms in that house:
1st House: The Porch
The first thing people see when they see your house is, well, the outside of your house. Is your porch looking rundown and covered with cobwebs or is it freshly painted with some pots of flowers on it? The person walking through the neighborhood can make an educated guess about the state of the house by looking at the porch. Someone with three rusted inoperable washing machines sitting there with weeds growing up through the deck probably has more weird shit going on inside their house. But as this is just the outside of the house, we have to remember that looks can be deceiving. You might never know that the person with the normal-looking porch with pleasant Christmas wreath on the door actually has an entire room in there dedicated to their creepy troll collection. So is the same about the 1st house in astrology. It’s the front door to the rest of the chart, so it gives us a glimpse into that individual’s whole energy, how they present and identify to themselves to the world, and how they generally move from room to room in their house/life, but it’s only the very first thing we see. This house is ruled by Aries.
2nd House: The Kitchen
The kitchen is where we come to nourish ourselves. We decide which foods will be best for our body at any given time, and we either reach for those or maybe we reach for what we know isn’t optimal. We spend time cooking a fancy meal or we microwave a Hot Pocket. The 2nd house in astrology is our values and physical possessions. How do we value ourselves and what do we value in the world? Are we going to nourish our bodies with fruits and vegetables? Do we avoid certain food groups for moral reasons? What we do in our kitchen is foundational to the rest of our lives. The 2nd house is ruled by fixed earth Taurus.
3rd House: The Game Room
When you want to have fun with your siblings or friends, you go hang out in the game room. This is where you can play board games and talk it up with your people. You’re also required to think and exercise your mental muscles in this room, especially if you’re playing something like chess or Risk. The 3rd house rules thinking, communication, and learning (on a smaller Mercurial scale—we aren’t studying Aristotle up in the game room). On a literal level, this house also rules the neighborhood and small trips, such as the “trip” of completing a game from start to finish, therein placing yourself into that game. This house is ruled by Gemini, of course.
4th House: The Bedroom
When it’s time to take care of ourselves and be more comfortable, we go to bed. Maybe it’s because we need sleep, but it could also be because we just got dumped and are having an Elle Woods eating chocolate in bed moment. Maybe we just want to tune out from our stressful lives and binge on a show. When we’ve been out all day and night and say we “just want to go home,” we often mean we just want to go to our bedroom and lie down. The 4th house in our chart is our home and where we retreat to. It is also how we take care of ourselves and others. It’s not where we socialize and interact with people; it’s where we are quiet, calm, and finding restoration. The 4th house is ruled by Cancer.
5th House: The Backyard
The backyard is where we bask in the sun, forget our obligations, and have fun. It’s often where we work on messy projects so as not to spill paint in the house. As kids, we wanted to just run outside and play, often playing make-believe games. In the chart, the 5th house is pleasure, enjoyment, creativity, and children. Maybe we want to barbecue with our friends, or maybe we want to sit peacefully and do something artistic. Whatever it is, we find fulfillment and light here that bolsters the rest of our lives. This house is ruled by Leo.
6th House: The Gym
There are certain things that we just know we have to do every day. Go to work, take our vitamins, and get our exercise. The 6th house is our daily routine and our health. The gym is not the stage where you win the bodybuilding competition, but it is where you do daily work to make it to the stage. The same holds true in the 6th house: This isn’t the culmination of your career, but it is where you’re going to work every day and grind. You have to take responsibility in this room of the house. Only you can decide to get on the treadmill or not. How you manage your routine affects how you reach the peaks in your life. Virgo is the ruler of the 6th house.
7th House: The Dining Room
The dining room is where we come together with friends, family, and spouses and share a meal while discussing our days and the world. We relate to each other in this room, and for the most part we try to keep things pleasant in this room. If we’re just eating alone, we will opt for the couch, but when we’re with others, we like to sit down here, and we try to stay mindful of everyone's contributions to the conversation. The 7th house in the chart is the house of relationships. It indicates not only whom we are attracted to and how we behave in romantic relationships, but also business partnerships and other individuals in general. Whereas the opposite house, the 1st house, is about us, the 7th house is about others. Libra rules the 7th house.
8th House: The Bathroom
What room in the house do you generally keep out-of-bounds to anyone but yourself and not discuss what goes on in there? Where is the one room where, when you close the door, you can do the strange things you won’t do anywhere else? That would be the bathroom. This zone is not one we talk about with others and is where we are at our most vulnerable. The 8th house in the chart is this restricted area. It rules our deepest, darkest selves and the desires we don’t tell people about, as well as raw power. It also concerns matters of energy exchanges with other people, be that of a sexual nature or even other people’s money and taxes. The 8th house is death, which is definitely something people don’t like to talk about. With death comes transformation, however, which is another area ruled by this house. Besides gross toilet things, some of us also use the bathroom to put on makeup and transform into the “better version” we want to be that day. Scorpio is the ruler of this house.
9th House: The Study
When we want to expand our minds and learn about the world, we go to the study and open up a big leather-bound book. The 9th house in the chart rules this intellectual expansion. Whereas its opposite house, the 3rd house, deals with smaller day-to-day learning, we come to the 9th house to study philosophy, religion, law, and all other “big” ideas. You may take a 6-week painting course in the 3rd house, but in the 9th house you are getting your art history degree. Things in the 9th house have not only an expansive quality, but also an optimistic and truth-seeking quality. Here is where we try to find out how the world works and why. The ruler of the 9th house is Sagittarius.
10th House: The Front Yard
Think of your stereotypical suburban neighborhood and all the suburban moms and dads spending hours on the weekend mowing and manicuring their lawns, pruning their gardens, and cleaning their bird baths. They want their neighbors to know who they are. The whole front yard makes a bigger impression than simply the porch in the 1st house, and it requires much more work and dedication. The 10th house in the chart, along with the midheaven point, is the house of career, whatever “career” means to you. More generally, this is our ultimate goal, reputation, and status. The Jones family keeps their grass as green as possible, their flowerbeds as full as possible, and their cobblestone walkway as swept as possible so that the rest of the neighborhood knows they’re doing all right. They also put campaign signs for their candidate of choice in their yard so that the neighbors know what they stand for. It’s not just about what other people think, however, because Mr. and Mrs. Jones feel pretty good themselves when they drive up to their house and see their fabulous yard. Whereas we’re plodding away day after day in the 6th house of work, this is all aimed at what we’re achieving long-term in the 10th house. Capricorn is the ruler here.
11th House: The Living Room
The living room is where we come to hang out with our groups of friends that we’ve invited over, where we have more intellectual conversations with others about how we think the world can be, and if we’re in our own home flopped on our own couch, have more liberty to be ourselves. This is the space that we have for welcoming people into our home. Whereas the 7th house deals more with one-on-one interactions, this is for the whole group. The 11th house in the chart is the area of the community and groups of friends. It is opposite the 5th house, which is the house of what’s best for us. By contrast, the 11th house is what’s best for others. We may provide food and beverages to our guests here, we may discuss how we think world hunger could be solved, and we yearn to make other people comfortable. The ruler of the 11th house is Aquarius.
12th House: The Attic
The attic is space in our house that is up and removed from the rest of the rooms. It could be where we store old relics and keepsakes from past generations that we like to pour through nostalgically, putting ourselves in other planes of time. If we want to escape our daily life, we might come here. In the chart the 12th house is where we undo our current physical self, where we melt with other energies and planes, and where we have the tendency to escape. Like the attic, this house is just on a different level than the rest of the home where the same rules don’t apply. It’s a highly spiritual house; for many people the idea of God and the afterlife involves oneness and a release of all things physical. However, we can also resort to things like addiction to escape, so we have to be careful here. The 12th house precedes the 1st where the cycle starts over, so here we part of the pool of the Universe before we create our independent identity. The ruler of this house is Pisces.