Astrology Secrets Revealed by ERIC FRANCIS

Houses and Signs

October 22 2004


Dear Eric:

I want to hear about the correspondence between houses and signs. People say the 1st house is like Aries and the 2nd house is like Taurus and so on. But it seems more complicated than that. And why are there both houses and signs? And what is the difference, anyway?


Drexcel of California



Dear Drexcel,

I am so glad you asked. This is one of my favorite subjects, because it reveals so much about the whole nature of astrology.


When an astrologer looks at a natal chart, the wheel they have in front of them is actually two wheels, both divided into 12, but laid over one another. [See chart example, above.] This is a good metaphor for astrology's tendency to work simultaneously on multiple levels of reality, and to create as many variables as possible. If there are 12 signs and 12 houses, your Moon can be in any of 144 conditions based on these two facts alone.


The signs are 12 equal slices of the sky, of 'What's your sign?' fame. The signs point to actual directions in space that you could get into a flying saucer and visit, which very loosely correspond to the constellations -- actual groupings of stars that are near where the Sun makes its apparent path through the sky as the Earth orbits it. For about 30 days each year, the Sun is in each of these signs. And the rest of the planets also move through the signs. Some go quickly; the Moon goes through a sign in under three days. Some go slowly; Pluto takes 12 to 20 years to go through a sign; Uranus takes about seven years; and so on.


Hold that thought.


The wheel you actually see consists of the houses. This wheel also has 12 slices, each of which get spokes; these are the lines you see drawn into the chart. Astrological charts do not generally draw lines where the signs change. If you want to know what SIGN a planet is in, you look at the symbol next to the planet, which tells you the planet's address. If you want to know what HOUSE its in, you see what slice of the wheel it falls in.


The houses represent the view of the heavens as seen from Earth. The signs represent the actual directions in space that you would be looking at.


The Earth is spinning, hence the Sun seems to 'rise' each morning, as the Sun passes over the horizon (the 1st house cusp) and into the 12th house. It rises along with the sign it is in, and the wheel keeps turning. So to say that a planet is in a particular house is to say that it has that particular relationship to the horizon. Let's keep using the Sun as an example. When the Sun is in the 12th house, it has just risen; when it's in the 11th house, it's mid-morning; when it's in the 10th house, it's approaching noon. The 10th house is always up no matter what time of day it is; the 12th is always to the east; the 7th is always to the west. They are the directions as related to the horizon. They always stay more or less the same.

The Sun (to give an easy example of a planet) can be in any sign when it's in a given house. The Sun's house placement (high in the sky, etc.) tells you the time of day, and is in fact based on the time of day. Somebody born in late February just before noon will have the Sun in Pisces in the 10th house, high in the sky. Somebody born in late December just after sunrise will have the Capricorn Sun in the 12th house, exactly to the east.


The time of year tells you the Sun's sign. The time of day tells you the Sun's house. With the Sun, it's easy to figure out in your head. With the Moon and the other planets, it's nearly impossible, but the same basic ideas of interpretation apply. Any planet will fall in a sign (based on its cycle around the Sun) and a house (based strictly on the time of day). This is why the date AND time of birth are so important.


The sign a planet is located in tells the relationship between that planet and the larger cosmos; it is the energy coming through. The house tells about how that energy is expressing itself on the Earth. Houses are strictly a local affair. As a result they are much more personal and expressive, here on Earth. This is the key to understanding the difference between a sign and a house, in interpretation. Signs represent a feeling of cosmic energy. Houses represent the way and lace that the energy is generally expressed.


A planet generally represents a person or thing. Its sign placement modifies the quality of the person or thing. Its house placement, finally, tells us exactly where the whole business is happening. Here is an example. The young red dog (Mars) acted frisky (in Aries) in the vet's waiting room (6th house).


Many people assume that a sign and its corresponding house have the same properties, that is, that the 12th house is just like Pisces. Other people, usually ones who get a headache when they think, like to toss in the corresponding planet. Pisces is just like the 12th house is just like Neptune. It's not that simple, and you cheat yourself out of enjoying the subtle aspects of astrology if you call that astrological thought; it is not. If it were that simple, we would all just hang out on Neptune and watch movies and not bother studying astrology carefully. And there is a good reason we have planets, signs and houses working together, that reason being that we often come to astrology seeking very specific information and these three elements provide it.


Now let's consider some differences between signs and their corresponding houses. In general, you could say that the sign contains the root idea of the house, but the house expresses and develops it.


Let's use Aries, the 1st sign, and the 1st house, as an example. In the Northern Hemisphere, where the astrology we use was developed, the Sun's first day in Aries is the first day of Spring. This is the root idea: initiation and birth. Aries contains the energy of beginnings, but this energy exists in potential only. It needs to find expression in the tangible world.


The 1st house is where that self-expression happens. It takes the idea of Aries into practical reality. This is always the difference between a sign and a house. You could say that the sign is the blue print and the house is, well, the house. So whereas Aries can represent the energy of beginnings and the idea of the beginning of the self, examining the 1st house (which can have any sign involved) tells us how we actually make that expression. If you happen to be Gemini rising, you're likely to define your existence through communication.

Conversely, if you have Aries on the 6th house, you're likely to bring a lot of that initiation power (Aries) into your work (6th). Signs modify things and among the things they modify and explain are houses.


Let's try another example: contrasting the 12th sign Pisces, and the 12th house. We know that Pisces is about 'illusions' and 'fantasy'. And we know that it's natives can be imaginative people. Many of these people (Pisces types, with the Sun or important points in Pisces) would love to work in the movie industry, and we often find them there. The corresponding 12th house would be the movie theatre itself. Very down to Earth. This metaphor works quite literally. When you sit in a movie theatre, you gaze at a screen that is suspended just above the Earth's horizon -- exactly where a planet is when it's in the 12th house. It may be an action film (Aries involved in the 12th house for example) but it's still a film (12th house).


Let's try one last example. The 10th sign, Capricorn, contains a lot of energy of ambition; it's an organized energy, it's a cardinal sign (a little like Aries, it likes to initiate things) and it's grounded, earthy and has a material quality. Take this notion to the 10th house, which develops the idea into official power, reputation, and professional inclinations -- in reality. One can have any sign on the 10th house cusp, and that is the energy we will most naturally seek to develop into that house. I happen to have Pisces, so I need a very imaginative career (some would say astrology is totally a hallucination, and as a Pisces I retort: the world is a big hallucination, now let's go out for a good bottle of wine amongst colleagues).