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Understanding the Houses in Astrology:

Mapping Your Potential

In astrology, houses are one of the three key building blocks of the birth chart, the other two being planets and signs. But what actually are astrological houses and what do they mean?

What is a House in Astrology?

Think of your birth chart as a circle on a piece of paper. This circle is a map of the heavens at the time and date of your birth, as seen from the place of your birth – a 360-degree view of the sky if you were looking straight up.

Now imagine that we’ve portioned the sky into twelve sections – like the hours on a clock, or twelve pieces of a cake.

These sections, zones, areas or segments are what astrologers call houses.

We make the first cut, if you like, in line with your Ascendant, which is the point rising on the Eastern horizon at the time of your birth. The other cuts – house cusps, we call them – follow from there in a counter-clockwise direction until there are twelve in all. We number them counter-clockwise too, so the Ascendant is the cusp of the first house, then comes the second house at the 8 o’clock point, the third house at 7 o’clock and so on.

What is a House System in Astrology?

There are a number of different, complex systems for calculating how big each slice of sky – each astrological house – should be, and astrologers like to argue among themselves over which system is best. The simplest method and one of the most widely used is to simply divide the sky equally into twelve, so that each astrological house is the same size. This is somewhat imaginatively called the Equal House System. Some of the other house systems are known as Placidus House System, Koch House System, Campanus House System, Porphyry House System and the Natural House System that puts 0 degrees Aries on the Ascendant. These are just some of the most popular house systems amongst astrologers but there are many more.

Regardless how the houses are calculated, astrologers do largely agree on what each house represents.

What Do Houses Represent in Astrology?

Astrological houses represent different areas of your life – different concerns, interests and sets of circumstances. For example, the fourth house represents your home and family life, while the tenth house represents your ambitions and your career. Think of the houses as different rooms in your home; if you want to cook something you head to the kitchen. If an astrologer wants to know about your creative potential, they’ll probably head to the fifth house.

What Does it Mean to have an Empty House?

You won’t have planets in every house. Some astrological houses in your natal chart will be empty, in which case it’s the zodiac sign on the cusp of that house which is used for interpretation. Other houses may have one or many planets in them.

Here’s an overview of what each house represents in astrology and what the planets or signs involved with that house might tell your astrologer.

What Does the 1st House Mean?

How you express yourself, how you come across and how you react to your world – these are all 1st house issues, because the 1st house represents your outward identity. The cusp of the 1st house is your Ascendant or rising sign, and this tells us a great deal about the impression you make on others and about how you behave overall.

How you choose to dress and how you style your personal appearance are also 1st house matters, because this is how you present yourself to the world. Planets within the 1st house can also have some bearing on your physical health, highlighting particular strengths or weaknesses within your body.

Think of the 1st house as showing how you put your best foot forward. This house shows us how you act and react to life, and how you play the role you find yourself in, wherever you are in life. It’s not quite the same as who you truly are: your inner self is reflected in the position of your Sun, which could lie in any of the astrological houses. But your Ascendant, the 1st house and any planets within it show your style of being and your way of handling life’s issues.

Because it’s about your outward expression, your 1st house is typically the first thing that other people pick up upon, and how they may label you. If you’re “the chatty one”, “the moody one” or “the quirky one”, you probably have your 1st house to thank for that.

What Does the 2nd House Mean?

The 2nd house is where we look in your chart to find your resources – your money and finances, but also your emotional resources, your self-esteem and your natural skills. We also look here for your personal values – the 2nd house sheds light on what you value in life, and why.

For most of us, the one key thing that money can buy is security, so it’s no surprise that the 2nd house also talks about your levels of emotional security – how secure – or not! – you like to feel, how you go about getting that security, and how you react when your emotional security is threatened.

The sign on the cusp of the 2nd house, and any planets within it, tell us a great deal about your attitude towards what you have and what you’d like to have. If you spend like there’s no tomorrow, this is where that will show up. If you’re an expert money manager and a prudent investor, the 2nd house will tell us that too. If debt leaves you lying awake at night, this house will let us know, and it will also offer some insight as to how you can get out of financial trouble.

As the planets move and transits hit your 2nd house, we can learn when your most materially successful periods are likely to be, and when you may need to tighten your belt. We can track your levels of self-confidence too and see opportunities for you to pick up new skills – new resources, remember, going back to this house’s key theme.

What Does the 3rd House Mean?

The 3rd house is about your mind, your thinking processes and your communication style. The sign on the cusp of this house determines whether your head or your heart tends to lead in your decision making. Here we also get to discover whether you like to follow step by step logic or whether you’re more of a make it up as you go along type of person. A creative, imaginative, free-thinker or a studious, scientifically minded analyst – it’s all here, within the 3rd house.

Your childhood education is also reflected in the 3rd house and so is your relationship with your siblings, if any – here we can learn how you grew and developed as a child and how that has a bearing on the person you are now. Of course, one of the key things you learned to do as a child was to communicate, and the 3rd house illuminates your skills in writing, talking, listening and getting others to listen. If you’re talkative and gregarious, your 3rd house will show so; if you’re more of the silent type, that’s here too. Your learning style is also represented here, so it’s useful in understanding how you best absorb, process and today’s levels of information overload.

As adults who have left home, our neighborhoods often take the place of the family home and childhood friends, so this house also reflects how you interact with neighbors and your local community. Short, local journeys are also a topic for the 3rd house.

What Does the 4th House Mean?

The 4th house is where you put down roots. From your current home and family to your historic ancestry and your genealogical history, this house identifies the foundations upon which your life is built. The sign on the cusp of the 4th house reflects your overall sense of home and belonging.

We look to the 4th house to see what kind of domestic environment you have or would like – from where you’d like to live to your interior decorating style, everything domestic has a signature somewhere in the 4th house. It also tells us about your approach to family life and your ethos as a parent. If you’re a strict disciplinarian, this house will help us understand why; if you’re a free-range parent, it will explain that too.

The 4th house also reflects your childhood relationship with whichever parent you were closest to. Difficulties growing up are evident here and so is the joy and stability which comes from a happy childhood.

Because of its connection with your ancestors and your history, the 4th house also expresses your attitude towards tradition and your approach towards “doing what has always been done”. If you’re the type who finds it hard to move on from the past, the 4th house will tell us so. It will also show us how well – or not – you learn from experience.

Transits involving the 4th house typically suggest changes at home and within the family; any planets which were here at birth will help us to analyze your reaction to such changes.

What Does the 5th House Mean?

The 5th house is about risk, pleasure and fun. This is where you party – and where you take impulsive leaps of faith. The sign on the cusp of the 5th house will show how reckless or risk-averse you feel and how easy it is for you to dare to be different. The 5th house also reveals your flirting and dating style at the beginning of any new relationship.

Essentially, whatever makes you smile, laugh or light up with joy comes under the remit of the 5th house. Here we can tell what hobbies you likely enjoy and what kind of sense of humor you have. Whatever you like to fill your leisure time with, we can find a hint of that within the 5th house.

Think of the 5th house as your inner child. There’s a real sense of fun here, and with that comes a not always sensible disregard for the rules. As well as your own inner kid, the 5th house reveals how you feel about children in general, and it reflects your own youthfulness and maturity.

Creativity is also a 5th house matter, and this house – and any planets within it – will tell us a great deal about what and how you like to create. Artists, dancers, writers, chefs and crafters have their creative talents reflected in their 5th house and so do the rest of us, who are far more creative than we dare to know. Understanding the energies of your 5th house will help you to unlock and shape that creativity.

What Does the 6th House Mean?

Time to get organized – the 6th house handles your day to day routines, the mundane realities of life and your relationships with co-workers and colleagues. It also reflects your health and wellbeing, both mental and physical.

There’s a strong sense of service about the 6th house, because here we find out what you need to do, or feel you ought to do, rather than what you necessarily want to do. It covers everyday responsibilities and time management, and it reveals your approach to routines. If life seems to be in a permanent state of chaos, the 6th house may well have something to do with that; if on the other hand you live your life like clockwork, structured to the minute, the 6th house is definitely in the driving seat.

One of the most useful things about the 6th house is the way it reveals your stress levels and suggests solutions for this. It can also shed light on your habits, both good and bad, and on your willpower and ability to change. Pets are a 6th house matter too, being both a responsibility and a healing and de-stressing influence – your rapport with animals is shown by the sign on the cusp of this house.

Planets in or transits to the 6th house show how resilient you are mentally and physically. That’s why the sign on the cusp of this house has a bearing on your health, because ultimately good mental and physical wellbeing is necessary if you’re going to cope with the challenges of day to day life.

What Does the 7th House Mean?

Ah, the house of love! The 7th house is where we look to find clues to your love life, your sense of romance, your commitment to a relationship and your own wants and needs from a partner. If you’re the cool, distant type, the 7th house will tell us; if you’re a hopeless romantic, that will show up here too. Planets in and transits to the 7th house are linked to your interpersonal relationships in many ways, from how faithful you are to how keen you are to settle down and what you’re prepared to accept from a lover.

It’s no coincidence that the cusp of the 7th house is directly opposite the cusp of the 1st house, which deals with your identity. The sign on the cusp of this house reveals how you blend with another person, becoming part of something greater than yourself as an individual. It’s not only about love, although that’s what this house is most known for – other partnerships like business partnerships feature here too. The 7th house also reveals how you deal with your enemies – love after all, is just a flip of the coin away from a very different emotion altogether.

The energies of the 7th house can be useful in showing your strengths and weaknesses in dealing with others, and this house also reveals how you cope with heartbreak and with disappointment in love. Whether you’re happily in love or wondering if the right person even exists, your 7th house is where we look for insight.

What Does the 8th House Mean?

The 8th house is the house of mysteries, but also of intense passions, jealousy and manipulation. Commonly known as the house of sex death and taxes, planets in and transits to the 8th house all reflect transformation in one way or another, and transformation rarely comes easily.

On the plus side, the 8th house tells us about your sex drive and your sensuality. On the minus side, it also lays bare the lengths to which you will go if you feel wronged, and that’s often not a pretty sight. The sign on the cusp of the 8th house reveals your hidden depths, for better and for worse. You may have tremendous inner courage or resourcefulness, which will be shown here, but you may also have a dangerously manipulative or jealous streak – how that may pan out is hinted at here too.

Other hidden things are revealed by the 8th house too, particularly hidden knowledge. This is one of the places we look to find your interest in and knowledge of esoteric topics and your fascination with life’s mysteries. This is also where we find long-held grudges or deeply buried secrets.

Don’t fear the 8th house. Despite its popular association with death, it doesn’t reveal how or when you will die. We’re not really talking about physical death here – more the death of ideas, plans or dreams. Many endings are associated with the 8th house, but from each ending a new beginning can come – that’s why this is the house of transformation.

What Does the 9th House Mean?

Expansion is a good keyword for the 9th house. This is where you expand your mind, your ideas and your physical horizons, whether through education or travel. It’s the house of philosophy, with planets here reflecting your worldview, your morality and your religious beliefs. Since the focus is on expansion, however, this house also reflects the way your ideas evolve and change as you learn and grow. Nothing stays the same forever and the 9th house will reveal how your knowledge accumulates and develops and how you handle challenges to your beliefs and opinions.

Higher education is a 9th house issue and so are the law and legal matters. Your attitude towards justice and fairness is shaped by planets in and transits to the 9th house. If you have experienced injustice on a personal level, the 9th house will also shed light on how that experience has shaped you, for better and worse, into the person you are today.

There’s a certain restlessness to the 9th house, because this is where your inner adventurer lives. Itchy feet and a desire to explore have their roots in this house, and the way in which travels broadens the mind is a direct link to this house’s intellectual roots.

The sign on the cusp of the 9th house reveal to what extent you seek change and adventure, or conversely, to what extent you cling to the status quo. It also shows how you react to inevitable change and how easy it is for you to adapt to new ways of life.

What Does the 10th House Mean?

We spend so much of our lives working – so the 10th house, which rules careers, status, ambitions and success, is an enormously important area of the chart. A special point in any astrology chart is the Midheaven. In many house systems, the Midheaven is the cusp of the 10th house, although in the equal house system the Midheaven can be in the 8th, 9th, 10th or 11th house. The Midheaven – and the rest of the 10th house - shows what kind of career you would like. If you’re stuck in an accountancy job when actually you’ve always wanted to be a zoologist, your 10th house is where this disconnect will show itself.

The energies of the 10th house also reveal what you want others to think about you. This is where your public image lives and where we can see how important status is to you. The amount of time and effort you’re prepared to put into your career is shown here, as is the truth of what really brings you job satisfaction. The 10th house also reveals something about your work-life balance.

The 10th house is known as the house of authority: here we find out how you react to authority figures and indeed how you behave as one. If you always want to kick against convention and the rules, it will show up in your 10th house. If you’re more conservative in your approach to life, that’s here too.

Speaking of authority figures, the 10th house also reveals your relationship with whichever parent was the main breadwinner as you were growing up (the other parent being reflected in the 4th house, the house of home). Following on from that, this house reflects your views on traditional roles in society.

What Does the 11th House Mean?

As the house of friendships, hope and manifestation, the 11th house talks of your connection to the wider world; it tells us what you wish for and how you can work with others to make those wishes come true. This is where we look to see how sociable you are, as well as how idealistic your goals are. If you want to change the world, that’s an 11th house matter. If you’d rather stay home and hug the cat, that’s an 11th house matter too.

This house rules anything which you’re a member of, so that’s clubs, societies, groups, social media communities and informal causes. The sign on the cusp of the 11th house, and any planets in it, tell us about how you work within those groups – how much you enjoy them, whether you lead them or follow them, how you manifest change through them and where that change is aimed.

The 11th house also rules freedom and individuality, so this is where we look for evidence of your inner rebel. Your political views are sometimes reflected here, and your humanitarian ideals certainly are. Here we also discover whether you pursue your goals through conventional or unconventional means, and we can find clues about your attitude towards technology and innovation. If you’re a social media expert, a gadget geek or an outright technophobe, it’s the eleventh house which will reveal this in your chart. This house also covers your leadership potential and your ability to inspire others.

What Does the 12th House Mean?

Your dreams, psychic abilities, spirituality, intuition and imagination – these ethereal concepts are all governed by the 12th house, which is one of the most mysterious parts of your natal chart. It goes much deeper than that, however – this house is also known as the house of sacrifice, because it also illuminates the sacrifices you have had to make in life. The 12th house also relates to your innermost fears and the things you’ve missed out on because of those fears. The sign on the cusp of the 12th house reveals your soul level connection to the global consciousness and the divine. Traditionally, however, this house also speaks of prison and confinement, although in the modern era it’s perhaps more likely to reflect situations which cause you loneliness or a sense of isolation.

The challenge of the 12th house is to embrace its positive, divine energies and to manifest spiritual growth, imagination, love, tenderness and compassion – rather than giving in to its more negative connotations and finding yourself trapped in despair, fear or guilt.

The 12th house is said to show your past life and to hint at your next; whether or not you believe in reincarnation or karma, there are strong spiritual links here which illuminate psychic or emotional debts you must pay as well as those which are owed to you. The sign on the cusp of the 12th house reveals something about your spiritual direction, and planets in or transits to this house highlight pain points which result in growth. Through 12th house energies, you can find great healing via prayer, meditation, mindfulness or stillness.

Saturn Retrograde

Uranus Retrograde

Saturn

The Moon's Nodes

Mars Retrograde

The Midheaven

Neptune

Venus Retrograde

Your Astrological Mask

Pluto Retrograde

Solar Eclipse

Jupiter

Understanding the Houses in Astrology

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