Astrological Houses and Angles – 3:
Groupings; Strength; Types of Houses in Astrology

Written by Philip Graves, Dec. 30, 2003
– Reformatted for WordPress, June 5th, 2016


Associations of the house groupings

The Individual houses form the Trinity of Life, representing the body (1); soul (5); and mind (9).

The Temporal houses, which refer to the individual’s temporal (i.e. material) status, form the Trinity of Wealth, representing possessions and property (2); comforts (6); and honour and position (10).

The Relative houses, which refer to human relationships, form the Trinity of Association, representing ties of consanguinity (3); ties of conjugality and legality (7); and ties of friendship (11).

The Terminal houses, which refer to endings of conditions in the individual’s life, form the Trinity of Psychism, representing the individual’s environment in each epoch of life (4); the influence of others upon this environment (especially through death or inheritance) (8); and confinement and other impedances (12).

The Angular houses, (1), (4), (7) and (10), known anciently as the cardinal or pivotal houses, are considered the strongest placements for any planet. The Descendant was known as the Setting Place, and the Immum Coeli as the Subterraneous Pivot Point (as reportedly translated by Robert Schmidt from the ancient Greek).

The Succedent houses, (2), (5), (8) and (11), known anciently as the post-ascending houses, are considered almost as strong but attracting less public notice, therefore more neutral overall in quality.

The Cadent houses, (3), (6), (9) and (12), known anciently as declines, are considered environments characterised by a quality of ‘falling away’, so that it is impossible for planets tenanted therein to thrive, so they are the weakest positions.


Characteristics of the hemispheres

The Western houses, (4), (5), (6), (7), (8) and (9), are associated with awareness and recognition of others and their needs, consideration of will with respect to its effects on others, sharing, relating, being moulded by one’s social environment, having one’s life direction shaped by others, and in some cases using others to one’s own advantage. In these houses, malefic planets (i.e. primarily Mars and Saturn) are said to be strengthened, and benefic planets (i.e. primarily Venus and Jupiter) weakened, especially in their impact upon the individual’s health.

The Eastern houses, (10), (11), (12), (1), (2) and (3), are associated with self-expression and the exercising of personal will, whether in relation to the self and immediate environment (in the cases of (1), (2) and (3)), or to more impersonal, even universal, matters (in the cases of (10), (11) and (12)). The three above the horizon, (10), (11) and (12), are deemed to strengthen planets there posited.

Houses below the horizon, (1), (2), (3), (4), (5) and (6), occasionally referred to as Northern Houses, are the personal houses: areas of inward reflection and subjectivity, without social involvement, and describe self-absorption; the seeking of security from within and in the local environment; relating to the outside world with reference primarily to its personal impact on the self; the introspective search for what is personally meaningful; the development of personal inclinations that require experience before they can be openly expressed with success or applied to more impersonal concerns; and frequently a state of relative retreat from the outside world.

Houses above the horizon, (7), (8), (9), (10), (11) and (12), occasionally referred to as Southern Houses, are the impersonal or social houses. They are associated with active involvement in the outer world, community issues and society, and the ability to relate to them objectively on their terms rather than with reference to personal subjectivity; the establishment of a public identity; frequently discomfort at introspection and self-nurturance; and the connection of self-image with achievement in public, social and professional life.


Other House Strength Considerations

Houses are also considered stronger or weaker in relation to their house distance from the Ascendant / Descendant axis (the horizon), in accordance with the natural aspect formed between their cusps and this axis. Thus, houses whose cusps are in natural trine (5), (9) or sextile (3), (11) relation to the Ascendant are more favorable positions, while those whose cusps are in natural square (4), (10) relation to both the Ascendant and Descendant.

Houses whose Lords (cusp sign rulers) are situated in a house whose cusp is in natural trine / sextile relation to the horizon gain strength in the individual figure.


Intercepted Houses and Signs

A house containing two or more sign cusps is said to contain an intercepted sign. Conversely, a sign containing two or more house cusps is said to be contain an intercepted house.

In many figures cast using quadrant house systems, particularly in the more northern latitudes of the northern hemisphere, one opposite pair of intercepted houses, and one opposite pair of intercepted signs, will be found.

Where a sign is intercepted inside a house, the qualities of the sign on the house cusp come under stress from the competing demands for expression of the intercepted sign, whose qualities are contained inwardly by the individual rather than being overtly expressed. This inward expression intensifies the sign qualities and presents a learning and development challenge of their nature to the individual.

Where a house is intercepted within a sign, the areas of life signified by the intercepted house and the next house (on whose cusp the sign also occurs) will be tied together as avenues for expression of the general character of the sign, whose influence in the life will be increased.


Derivative Houses

The Derivative House technique involves perceiving a house (x) from the standpoint of its numerical distance in houses (z) from any other particular house (y) before it, and drawing inferences about the means or necessary consequence (z) of bringing the purposes of the motivating house (y) to fruition.

On a more concrete level, each house may naturally combine two other house concerns: as with the 9th house representing grandchildren (5th from the 5th).


Reading a House

When synthesising an interpretation of a house in any particular natal figure, the following procedure of considerations is recommended:

(1) The general significations of the house, which are universal principles applying to all natal figures.

(2) The modifying influence of the sign on its cusp, as a filter to its character.

(3) The position by sign and house of the dispositor or Lord (i.e. cusp sign ruler – see Rulership and Dignities article) of the house, as a further description of how (sign) and in what domains (house) the affairs governed by the house will manifest in the individual’s life.

(4) Any mutual reception between the house under consideration and the house tenanted by its dispositor, as this will more closely link the principles of the two houses involved.

(5) Any aspect the house dispositor forms to the Ascendant, as a strengthening or weakening influence on the house.

(6) The signification of any planets posited in the house itself, as operating in the areas of life represented by the house, taking into account the character of these planets as modified by the signs in which they are placed (which may not be the same as the sign on the cusp of the house that governs the affairs of the house overall), aspects they receive from elsewhere in the figure, and the condition of their dispositors in the figure.

(7) Relation of all that has thus been signified about the affairs of the house to the context of the overall life, as revealed by the remainder of the figure.


Houses in Ancient Astrology

The ancient Greek word for an astrological house, topos, literally translates as ‘topography’ or ‘place’, whereas the idea of a ‘home’, oikos, was applied to the domicile of a planet – i.e. the sign over which it is the domicile ruler.

In ancient Greece, the Whole Sign system of house division and demarcation was in common currency. Each house thus formed was considered to have a very specific function. This system is still the standard in Vedic astrology to this day, and results in very different boundaries to each house in relation to the angles and intermediary house cusps, because the houses are considered to start at the beginning of the sign in which their cusps are placed, in contrast to the Equal House System, in which similarly the houses are all of equal arc on the ecliptic but start from their cusps and extend for thirty degrees in a uniquely forward (anticlockwise) direction around the zodiac to the equivalent degree of the next sign. Using whole sign houses, thus, on average 50% of planets will appear posited in the house before the one in which they would appear when using the Equal House system.

However, the Equal House system itself had already achieved recognition by Ptolemy’s time, but Ptolemy himself counted back five degrees from the cusp of each house to mark its beginning, whereas moderns tend to start the houses exactly at the cusps, allowing at most two or three degrees’ retrospective leeway for inclusion of planets that are posited towards the end of the previous house.

The Porphyry House System (as summarised in the first page of this article) is the earliest known example of a house system based on the division of the horscope into quadrants centred in the angles at the horizon and meridian around the birthplace or equivalent place on the Earth’s surface under study. Vettius Valens noted the Porphyry system in the 2nd century A.D., strongly associating the placement of planets in angular houses with increased strength and those in the cadent houses with debilitation. Valens had dedicated much of his life to gathering ancient astrological traditions from his travels to to Egypt, so it is reasonable to presume that this example of a quadrant system was in use centuries earlier.

A quadrant system was also employed by Antiochus of Athens, who, like Ptolemy, considered houses to become effective starting five degrees before their cusps.

The angular houses were anciently considered indicators of times of life, based on a circuit around the horoscope in the reverse of the usual forward direction, following in effect the apparent diurnal motion of the Sun in a figure, the 1st house being considered a marker of the start of life, the 10th one of the prime of life, the 7th one of old age, and the 4th one of death and what follows it.

The following table provides a summary of selected translated and original ancient names and concepts for the houses. Also the 3rd house has been called the good decline while the 10th house has been called that of praxis, meaning one’s life activity. Deborah Houlding translates Epicataphora as ‘casting down‘, yet according to Joseph Crane the 8th house was known also as idle.

House Concept Name
1st Rising Place Anatole
2nd Gate of Hades Anaphora
3rd Moon Goddess Dea
4th Subterraneous Ypogion
5th Good Fortune Bona Fortuna
6th Bad Fortune Mala Fortuna
7th Setting Place Dysis
8th Idle Epicataphora
9th Sun God Deus
10th Midheaven Medium Coeli
11th Good Spirit Bonus Daemon
12th Bad Spirit Malus Daemon


Solar Houses

Another ancient system of house division completely ignores the birthplace or event place, and instead treats the position of the Sun as the start of the first house, then marks out twelve equal houses of 30º from there around the zodiac in the usual direction, so in effect it works same as the Equal House System but with the Sun substituted for the Ascendant. A figure based on solar houses is sometimes called a heliarc figure.

Solar houses were anciently delimited as whole-sign houses, just as the houses of the horoscope often were. This technique has been brought back into use in the 20th century with the advent of Sun sign forecasting, whereby the current transit of each luminary and planet to each whole-sign solar house for each natal Sun sign is taken into consideration in assessing current influences upon all individuals born under that Sun sign.

In a modern solar figure based on the placement of the first house cusp on the exact degree of the Sun, the position of the Moon is equivalent to that of the Part of Fortune in a horoscope figure; that of Mercury is as that of the Part of Commerce or Understanding; that of Venus is as that of the Part of Love; that of Mars is as that of the Part of Passion; that of Jupiter is as that of the Part of Increase; and that of Saturn is as that of the Part of Fatality. (A separate article on the Arabian Parts will be prepared in March 2004.)

The solar figure visually highlights aspects to the Sun; and the delineation of planets tenanting its houses should be referenced to the general principles of the Sun as a significator, as distinct from the Ascendant.


Lot Houses

In antiquity, figures were cast with the Part of Fortune (as ordinarily calculated) placed defining the cusp of the First House, and twelve equal houses marked out from there in the usual direction, the placements of the planets etc. therein being used as significators of fortune with reference to their essential functions as planets when expressed through the areas of experience and life denoted by the houses in which they were placed. These were mostly used for horary astrological purposes or for event charts, rather than for nativities.


Continue to Part Four of Four…

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