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The House Systems in Astrology — Their Origins & Purposes

13 June 2023by Frederick0
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The House Systems in Astrology

The way we divide the celestial sphere in astrological practice is much like the way we carve up time into hours, minutes, and seconds. This division, known as the House System in astrology, is fundamental to the interpretative process and has evolved over time through the hands of some of history’s most noted astrologers.

House Division Methods Through Time
House Division Methods Through Time

First, let’s talk about the Whole Sign House system. This is the oldest system of house division. Its concept is simple, each of the 12 signs corresponds to a house, beginning with the Ascendant sign which becomes the first house, and the others following in order of the zodiac. For instance, if your Ascendant is Cancer, then Cancer is the 1st house, Leo the 2nd, Virgo the 3rd, and so forth.

An example of the Whole Sign House system
An example of the Whole Sign House system

The Equal House system follows, another early system dating back to around the 2nd century CE, based on Ptolemy’s account. This system also starts with the Ascendant, but instead of using the signs to define the houses, it divides the ecliptic into twelve equal segments, each 30 degrees wide, starting from the degree of the Ascendant. This creates a clear, geometric division of the astrological wheel.

An example of the Equal Sign and Porphyry House systems
An example of the Equal Sign and Porphyry House systems

Around the 2nd or 3rd century CE (based on Valens’ reference to the system around the 2nd century CE), a new approach emerged with the Porphyry system, named after the Greek philosopher Porphyry of Tyros. It divides each quadrant of the ecliptic into three equal parts between the four angles of the horoscope. This provides a dynamic relationship between the angular, succeedent, and cadent houses, effectively taking the birth moment into account.

By the 5th to 7th centuries CE, another system had been devised by an Arab astrologer named Alcabitius. Like Porphyry, this system divides each quadrant of the ecliptic into three equal parts, but this time the divisions are based on the Ascendant and Midheaven, providing a different emphasis within the chart.

The Campanus system of the 13th century CE (early references were made in the 10th century CE), named after Italian astrologer Campanus of Novara, uses the prime vertical to divide the celestial sphere. This system casts a slightly different light on the divisions between houses, as it pertains to the observer’s location on earth, rather than the ecliptic itself.

Moving on to the 15th century CE, we encounter the Regiomontanus system. There were earlier references for this system too, which was some time around 10th to 11th century CE. This system, named after the German mathematician and astronomer Johann Müller von Königsberg (known as Regiomontanus), divides the celestial equator, rather than the ecliptic, into twelve equal parts, creating a balance of influences between the two great circles.

Perhaps the most widely used system in Western astrology today is the Placidus system. This system, devised in the 17th century, divides the time it takes for a degree to rise from the horizon to the midheaven into three equal parts. This time-based approach, sensitive to geographical location, creates houses of varying sizes.

An example of the Placidus House system
An example of the Placidus House system

Lastly, let’s discuss the Koch system, established in the mid-20th century by the German astrologer Walter Koch. This system is based on the birth latitude and the birth time, converted into local sidereal time. While similar to Placidus, its emphasis on latitude makes it slightly different.

While these are some of the most prominent house systems, they are by no means the only ones. There’s the Morinus system, which, like Equal Houses, divides the ecliptic into twelve 30-degree segments but starts from the degree of the Medium Coeli (MC). The Meridian system too deserves a mention. It’s based on the midheaven degree, and while not as popular, it offers yet another perspective.

Lastly, let’s not forget the relatively recent Whole Sign from Ascendant (WSFA) system. This takes a cue from the ancient Whole Sign system but calculates the houses from the degree of the Ascendant instead of the beginning of the sign.

In sum, the astrological house systems provide diverse lenses through which we can view and interpret an astrological chart. They all have their unique perspective and can offer valuable insights depending on the astrologer’s approach. After all, the beauty of astrology lies in its adaptability and the multiplicity of its perspectives.

 

A Comparison of the House Systems in Astrology

Let’s transition into the examination of these various house systems, each one with its unique characteristics and methods of chart delineation. Indeed, it’s true that no house system is without its advantages and disadvantages, an aspect that becomes apparent as we dive deeper into astrological studies.

Astrologers, over time, develop a distinctive preference for certain systems. These preferences stem from personal experiences, the accuracy they find in their readings, or even the historical or conceptual allure that some of these systems possess. It’s worth noting that the discussion regarding the accuracy of these house systems isn’t a recent phenomenon. In fact, it’s a dialogue that stretches back centuries and remains a point of lively discourse within our astrological community.

That said, there is a degree of individual flexibility to this craft. Each practitioner should feel empowered to navigate their own path. By all means, use the house system that resonates with you the most. Your comfort with and comprehension of your chosen system are essential factors in producing clear and insightful readings. However, remember to keep an open mind and a critical eye to understand your reasons behind your choice. Your house system selection should be a considered decision, not just a matter of familiarity or convenience, but one rooted in your understanding and conviction of astrology as a profound interpretative art.

 

Table of the House Systems
Table of the House Systems

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