A common practice in modern astrology texts is to equate the houses with the signs in a straight, one-to-one correspondence. Thus, Saturn in the second house can be interpreted in the same way as Saturn in Taurus, or Mars in Cancer has the same or similar meaning to Mars in the fourth house. This shorthand method makes learning the symbolic language of astrology much easier than if one had to learn the meanings of the houses as well as the meanings of the signs.
Historically speaking, in the evolution of astrology, the meanings of the signs and houses are quite different, with the signs offering descriptive information about the planets, and the houses showing the planets’ influence – where they are empowered and where they show incapacity or weakness. In The Houses, Temples of the Sky, Deborah Houlding takes the long view of the houses, how their meanings came about in the first place, and how they evolved over time according to the great astrologers and their writings. Her scholarly approach is an eye-opener for the more humanistic astrologers, those who look at the bright side when interpreting planets in the sixth, eighth or twelfth houses. In her mind, and apparently in the minds of some of the great astrologers from the past, planets in the eighth house, or transits through this house, bring catastrophe, plain and simple. Planets in the sixth house may bring bad health or require servitude to others, while planets in the twelfth house bring misery, bad luck, and enemy action. According to Houlding, the derivation of the house system began around the time the Ascendant was added to charts around 4 AD. The practice was already recorded then, so the house system may have been in use far before that, but the classical astrologers Manilius and Firmicus provide the best sources for the more ancient meanings of the houses. The well-respected Ptolemy hardly mentioned houses, but the Islamic astrologer Al-Biruni and William Lilly provide the other sources for interpreting the houses. Using these classic sources, Houlding presents the play-by-play development of the house meanings, and then stands them in contrast to the modern interpretations.
Those interested in the history of the houses will find this book rich with insights, and likely emerge amazed at the true origins of the house system we use today. Based on the original consideration of the chart as a map of the heavens, everything above the horizon showed where the planets were during daylight hours (diurnal), while the planets below the horizon were called the nocturnal planets. Diurnal planets had power of expression, so they were considered to be empowered, while the nocturnal ones were weaker. Then, every two hours a new sign would arise, so night watchers were posted to check out these developments. The division into two-hour segments is the actual origin of the twelve houses, and the term “horoscope” means scoping the hours. According to Houlding, the favorable or unfavorable interpretation of planets in houses had to do with the house’s position in the diurnal scheme, and its relative aspect to the Ascendant. The eighth house is considered fairly calamitous because it’s near the end of daylight, and so doesn’t hold much promise. The fifth house is more favorable because it trines the Ascendant, and the eleventh house is likewise favorable because it’s sextile the Ascendant and growing in light. It’s all quite fascinating, and is bound to give those who study this pause in their thinking about houses. After the illuminating historical discussions, the author then presents the meanings of the twelve houses as they should be used today. Each house is given general interpretive meanings, and then these are followed by what the house signifies in horary astrology, mundane astrology, medical matters, commerce, and a few other categories. Try working with these house meanings and you’ll likely see better results in your ability to read what’s happening in the horoscopes, especially if you’ve been using the signs-equals-houses method.
Chris Lorenze – Dell Horoscope