How to read your Birth Chart Part Four: Astrological Houses
Your birth chart, or horoscope, is usually shown in the form of a wheel, symbolising the cycles periodically undergone by all living things on this planet. The symbols ("glyphs") displayed stand for the astrological signs, planets and other chart factors representing forces which may affect your life at any given time.
Each of these astrological factors represents a coded set of drives in your sub-conscious. Drives may be activated and brought to your awareness by circumstances in your life, presenting you with a range of choices. Of course, your choices are to a considerable extent limited and determined by your character, which is itself revealed through an understanding of the symbols that make up the chart.
The outer rim of the chart wheel marks off the twelve astrological signs, but the inner rim represents what astrologers call the circle of "mundane houses". Each of the "spokes" delineates areas of specific environmental influences, called cusps (power points). The houses represent the sorts of circumstances you will have to deal with in this lifetime—challenges you have set yourself, so you may grow in personal understanding and consciousness.
Cusps of houses in a chart do not usually coincide with the cusps of signs. The cusp, say, of the sign Aries is the first minute of the first degree of Aries, whereas the cusp of any house may be located at any degree and minute of any sign, depending upon the time and place of your birth. The cusps of the houses in your chart are indicated between the rims on the outer part of the wheel, with the degree in bold type, followed by the glyph of the appropriate sign, then the minute in normal type, while the number of the house is found at the innermost circle, near the centre of the chart. Ptolemy says the influence of the house begins to be felt 5° before the actual cusp.
The angles of the chart are the strongest, most potent sectors. In most house systems these mark the beginnings of the first, tenth, seventh and fourth houses, in order of potency. Any planet in conjunction with an angle will have a marked influence that resonates throughout the chart and greatly colours its overall meaning. Planets located in the angles of the chart are the strongest and most significant. Because of their primary importance, the angles are often referred to as the cardinal points and they relate directly to the cardinal directions: east, south, west and north.
Here is a table of the houses in numerical order, divided into angular, succedent and cadent:
There is more to it, however. According to William Lilly and other traditional authorities, the order of power and significance is actually this, from left to right:
Note that 2nd and 8th houses, though succedent, are considered weak and unfortunate, so placed lower in the hierarchy of planetary support. The reasoning behind this is beyond the scope of this article, but experience bears it out.
The first house is called the ascendant, or rising sign. This corresponds to the sign rising over the horizon at the time and place of your birth. The cusp of this house is the degree of the sign rising at the precise moment of your first breath. This sign sets the tone of your self-image: the way you see yourself. It also tends to have an effect on your appearance.