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Which House System in Astrology Classes?

Thank you to WK who reached out to me today. I thought other people might appreciate thinking about the issue of house systems, too, so I decided to share it in this format.

Hi Toby,
I am considering studying with you.
Do you teach using equal house system?
If so, what is your rationale for choosing equal house system?
There are key differences in house location of planets in the natal chart between different house systems. Does this not matter?
Can you shed light on the differences found in natal charts with the different house systems. 

WK

Hello WK,

Thanks for getting in touch. Yes, the matter of house systems does bring up a number of things to discuss, and I do have some thoughts on the matter.

To answer your first question, when I teach, I initially set students’ charts in the natural wheel — in other words, with Aries as the 1st House, Taurus as the 2nd House, etc. That way, we can compare more easily one chart to the next in regards to planets in each of the twelve signs. 

A few lessons in, we establish the astronomical definition of the Ascendant. At that point, I have each student “turn” their chart so that the sign of the Ascendant becomes the entire 1st House, the sign following that becomes the 2nd House; you may recognize this as the Whole Sign house system. I flag up the original definition of the word ‘cusp’ meaning a significant point in the house, not the borderline. (I learned that from Robert Hand.) In Whole Sign houses, someplace within the 1st House will be the ‘cusp’ that is the Ascendant.

Soon after that, I introduce the Equal House system, where the Ascendant is made the start of the 1st house and subsequent houses begin every 30° from that. We then go on to explore the astronomical definition of the Midheaven as well as its astrological interpretation. Students see that the Midheaven can fall in a great range of a chart — typically anywhere in houses 8 through 11 (whether you are using Whole Sign or Equal houses).

Seeing that there is so much overlap between the Midheaven and matters of the 10th house, I then introduce the practice that many astrologers have of making the Midheaven the start of the 10th house and constructing their charts in one of the quadrant house systems.  I love using Stellarium (see stellarium.org ) to help illustrate what we are actually doing to the sky when we split a chart into quadrants.

Personally, I like keeping the 10th house and the Midheaven as separate things, and I like the extra layer of interpretation that can result when using the Equal House system. For example, I like to ponder that the 10th house might say more about the circumstances of a career but the MC might say more about what the person aspires to be within that career. There is much that I like about Whole Sign houses, too, but I do like to honour the difference of whether a planet is above or below the horizon. The Equal House system does that.

From a pedagogical standpoint, I believe that students who learn to interpret Equal House charts early in their studies have a much easier time of switching to a quadrant house system (like Placidus) than those who attempt the reverse. That’s another reason I use Equal House charts with students — so that my students will have more success navigating astrology for themselves after they leave me. 

Not to be taken lightly is the point that the Equal House system works for casting charts for people born at extreme latitudes. Many other house systems break down for people born in places like Iceland.

You may know the work of Bernadette Brady. She reminds us that some house systems are divisions of space whilst others are division of time. That might come into play when making a decision on which system to use. Some people may have lives (or just occupations) where they deal with spacial issues more than they have to work with the clock. I thought that was an interesting factor in how to choose a house system for specific people.

Another thing I like to share is that the division of the Ecliptic into signs was something from Babylonian astrology. The idea of dividing the constantly moving sky into houses was from Ancient Egypt. When the Greeks invaded both, they tried putting these two systems of thought together. Maybe they never should have. 

I believe very much that different house systems have different ways of coming up with the same answers.

In conclusion, right from the beginning, I have my students see that there are a number of ways of looking at the same components of a chart. I believe very much that different house systems have different ways of coming up with the same answers. I recommend that you choose a house system that makes sense rationally and philosophically, and to stick with it. It doesn’t have to be the system that I use. But don’t fall into the trap of only seeing yourself through the eyes of one house system and not another. In that situation, astrology is limiting you rather than opening up possibilities for you. Don’t become a slave to your chart — whichever chart you think that is.

Thanks again for your question. I hope this sheds some light on what I do in my astrology teaching.

Best wishes,
Toby

2 replies on “Which House System in Astrology Classes?”

Thank you so much for your answer.
I understand the geography of proximity to the poles.
Here is my concern: using the equal house system in your sample chart, a planet 15 degrees Taurus is in the 11th house whereas the same planet 15 degrees Taurus is in the 12th house in the Placidus house system. Surely that is a dramatic difference when both interpreting a natal chart and transits etc. How does one take into consideration the two different planetary house placements with the different house systems?
Does this not muddy the waters?

You’ve raised an important point, and I agree with you. A planet viewed in the 12th house is really giving a different message than that same planet in the 11th. Yet both placements could give meaningful interpretations.

I think it is important to approach one’s practice with a chosen house system set in mind. It makes the astrologer skilled with a particular set of tools. Perhaps it even helps us attract clients (or students) who could benefit from that particular system.

It can be somewhat magical when the planet at 15° Taurus in the 11th House by Placidus may have links to the 12th house anyhow. Perhaps that very planet rules the 12th. Or maybe it aspects a different planet that rules the 12th. Of course, this doesn’t always happen, but it’s fascinating when it does.

You were asking how we should take into consideration different house placements with different house systems. Maybe the answer is that we shouldn’t. Yes, that will, as you say, muddy the waters if we do. This is one of the reasons I like to expose my students to different systems right from the start – so that they are aware that a choice needs to be made at some point.

Best wishes to you, WK. Thanks again for writing.

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