Astrology Secrets Revealed by ERIC FRANCIS

What House System Do You Live In?


Originally posted


August 12, 2005


Dear Eric,


I have noticed you use the Koch house system in your charts. Why do you prefer this system? I have mostly seen Placidus in use.


Thank you


A Reader



Dear Reader


While many of the charts that have appeared in this column use Koch houses, I'm not particularly hung up on the whole issue or topic of house system. I do respect the technical points of astrology and love focusing on the finer points of technique. I'm also aware that there is an at-times hot discussion of 'what is the right house system' that at various eras in the past has preoccupied the astrological community.


My basic feeling is that, at this point in my work, I read the chart that is in front of me. I feel similarly about Tarot cards; I am happy to work with any deck I've got, or with playing cards, or with a D20 or two (20-sided gaming dice) or whatever. Though I use about 80 asteroids and minor planets, most of the time, writing the daily horoscope this week, I dispensed with that entirely and used the most basic charts I have.


Silly as it sounds, the computer from which I export the charts for this column is set to Koch houses. I think the one I'm typing on now is set to Placidus houses. For a while, I would rotate through the house systems and see if I could notice a difference. They all seem to work pretty much the same -- for me. If a client says, "please look at my chart in Regiomontanus houses," of course I will look at it. Basically, as Martha Lang Wescott says, you have to trust your chart.


For a while I used Topocentric houses, part of a new system; these houses are close or identical to the Placidus cusps. What's cool about Topocentric is that when you're casting a chart for Alaska in the winter time (far north, far into the shortest days, important if you live in Seattle for example where tons of people are transplants born in Alaska), no other house system will give you a good chart. So Topocentric has a special application.


Now, when you cast your charts in different house systems, you will notice that some of the planets change houses. But often, the planets that change are near the house they were in, using the prior house system. Other times they are not. The thing to remember is that house cusps, while appearing as lines in the chart, are usually more fuzzy in how they actually work -- most of the time. William Lilly, the first published astrological author in the English language, says that you need to allow five degrees before the new house and begin to count planets in that zone as part of the next house. Usually, you can get a good reading off of the ambiguity; the blending of the houses tells important stories about the nature of our reality.


For example, the 5th is the house of play and the 6th is the house of work. Planets on the cusp between the 5th and 6th will help blend those two facts of life. The 5th is the house of recreation and creativity and the 6th is the house of health. The two themes are associated.


Other times, there will be an exact event when a planet changes houses. I have never done a study of what happens in other house systems when something interesting happens in another system. Basically, unless I have a special reason to make the inquiry, I would not say that one system was more accurate than another than I would say that reading tea leaves is more accurate than reading coffee grounds. I assume that on one important level the whole astrological system is basically a figment of the imagination; it is part of the grand illusion, not an exact science. Astrology is a form of divination -- of asking and receiving information. The house system is like a container for that information. Best not to let it get in the way.


This does not, however, mean that it's not an astrologer's prerogative to choose the right house system for himself or herself. Work with what works for you; if you're curious, study the history of the different systems, see which astrologers are into different systems, and make up your mind based on an informed investigation. Otherwise, just pick a system and work with it.


One potential reason to change houses systems involves the issue of interceptions. An interception is what you call a situation where a sign does not have a house cusp going through it. For example, the 10th house might go through Gemini, and the 11th house through Leo. In that case, Cancer is floating in the middle of the 11th house.


I won't get into that in great detail here -- it's an essay of its own -- but when you change house systems, you can change the interception pattern. In other words, a different sign can be floating in the middle of a house. So -- bookmark that issue, under the general heading of 'interceptions'. It's worth a close look, because they can provide a lot of interesting information from a natal chart.


The house cusps that don't change are called the ANGLES or ANGULAR HOUSES -- the ascendant (1st house cusp), the descendent (7th house cusp), the IC (usually the 4th house cusp) and the MC (usually the 10th house cusp). Some, indeed, many house systems, use the IC and the MC as the 4th and 10th cusps respectively; a few others do not.


All that house systems change is where the cusps of the 2nd/8th, 3rd/9th, 5th/11th and 6th/12th houses are placed. In other words, each quarter of the zodiac is divided by three -- trisected. The different systems use a variety of different methods for doing that division, which I'll get into next week.