Some thoughts on the Astrological Houses: Placidus, Equal – or what ?

Sooner or later, it dawns on the student or budding astrologer that the method of dividing the inner space in a horoscope into twelve sectors or spheres of life, known as Houses, poses some problems.

Astrological Houses

Astrological Houses

Firstly, since there are a number of different house systems – click HERE for more detail on this – which should you choose?

Secondly, to a varying degree depending on your chart, planets can move house. In my chart, for instance, by Equal House I have no less than SIX planets in the Twelfth House. When I first saw my horoscope in  Placidus houses, one planet, my ruler Mercury, had migrated to the Eleventh. O joy! I need all the help I can get here, I thought then. But, as you will soon see, it’s not as simple as that…

Then there is a further problem. In Placidus, the MC/IC axis always defines the cusp of the Tenth/ Fourth Houses. If you use Equal House, the MC/IC axis can fall through any pair of houses from the 8th/2nd to the 11th/5th. How do you deal with that?

I have worked with only two systems over the years, i.e. the most commonly used ones in the UK – Equal House and Placidus. I used Equal House from the early 1980s perfectly happily, finding that the system worked well for me. Then I changed to Placidus in 1995. I didn’t choose it for any carefully thought through philosophical or practice reasons; it was simply the system used on the Diploma course I was doing. Now, in 2015, I am moving back to using Equal again. For philosophical reasons this time, as you will see shortly.

A class experiment

Ever since a small group of my ‘old’ students persuaded me to run a refresher class for them starting last August 2014, I have really enjoyed returning to astrology teaching. Those students were all very rusty, and wanted to cover the basics again. Inevitably, the question of house division came up. Having covered the core meanings of the houses in an introductory class, we recently spent a whole tutorial looking in more detail at the issue of house division.

The methods I adopted on this occasion were twofold: firstly, I gave the class copies of their charts in Equal House to compare with their existing Placidus charts. Then I drew up a grid, of which we all had a copy. This listed all the planets, Chiron and the North Node as well as the pair of houses through which the Equal House MC/I C axis ran. Thus we could see at a glance those features which stayed the same in both systems, and which ones changed. In some charts many features changed. In others eg mine, there was very little difference.

I have always taught astrology with every student having a copy of everyone else’s horoscopes, including mine. With permissions always asked and given before the start of a course, and appropriate emphasis on confidentiality, this way of working has been very effective. It creates each class as a kind of mini qualitative research laboratory, where astrological theory can be tested out there and then, observing to what extent it manifests accurately in the nuts and bolts of the everyday lives of those present. It is a model which makes for very lively teaching…

We worked our way round everyone in the small group, including me, discussing how interpretations might change, and most importantly, how much that mattered by potentially altering the emphasis on key horoscope themes.

For instance, the Moon in one student’s horoscope changed from the Placidus Ninth house (a location she really liked for her Moon, being both a teacher and an education junkie!) to the Tenth by Equal House, which emphasised the importance of her vocational/career life but not the dimensions of teaching and learning which are both Ninth House concerns. However, we pointed out to her that this didn’t really matter in terms of overall accuracy of interpretation; she really was very well endowed with Jupiterian energy anyway, given her Moon’s trine to Jupiter in Aries, as well as her Sun’s square to Jupiter.

This was just one example in which, whatever shift we saw of planets from one house to another, there was invariably an underlying strong theme in the birth chart, so that the emphasis being slightly shifted in one context made little if any difference to the overall accuracy of interpretation of the whole horoscope. Interestingly, more than half of our small group, despite my having worked with all students with Placidus from 1995, said that they preferred the relative simplicity of the Equal House system.

In my own case, although ruling planet Mercury moved from the sociable, group-oriented Placidus 11th House to join five other planets in the reclusive Twelfth by Equal House, I have an exact semi- square from Mercury to 10th House Uranus in both systems, Uranus also strongly aspecting the Sun and Moon, so the Aquarian/Uranian/11th house ‘tone’ remains strongly emphasised. That Mercury energy also flows from the Twelfth House to an exact sextile to Neptune, and a square to Third House Jupiter in both systems. So any reclusive tendencies brought by the move are well and truly restrained by other horoscope factors!

The students could see from our small experiment something which is fundamental to the accurate reading of any horoscope: strong themes will shine through, whatever way you divide up the circle. As U.K astrologer Robin Heath so memorably observed a number of years ago: “…astrology appears more and more to behave like a hologram. You can perform almost any technique with the data, turn the chart inside out or slice it up, and still the symbolic pictures remain….” (i) Both this statement and our class experiment bore out the conclusion at which I had  arrived some time ago. It doesn’t really matter much what system you use. What you get is the same overall picture…

Horses (Houses!) for courses…

I went on to outline the way some astrologers use different house systems for different purposes. Since the Equal House system is based on the Ascendant/Descendant axis which is the axis of “… here I am in relation to you… “, this system can be used when the client in their reading wishes specifically to address matters pertaining to relationship.

Since the IC /MC axis can be seen as an arrow flowing from the person’s deepest self and origins (IC) to their future direction (MC), then issues of roots, vocation and life direction are most appropriately contemplated, some astrologers think, via the Placidus lens since that system can be seen to emphasise the MC/IC.

Also, although I have never worked with the Koch system myself, I know that some astrologers swear by the accuracy of its house cusps in plotting transits and progressions.

The Equal House MC/IC “problem”

The placing of inverted commas above gives you a clue that I do not see the shifting placement of the MC/IC axis in the Equal House system as a problem at all. Quite the opposite. I think that working with the MC/IC axis against the backdrop of either the 2nd/8th, 3rd/9th, 4th/10th, or the 5th/11th adds a layer of richness to the interpretation of the MC/IC which of course should remain just as focal and important in the Equal House system as in any other where the MC/IC  is always the cusp of the 10th/4th Houses.

For example, I have often encountered clients or students with 2nd/8th backdrops in professions involving finance and collective money, those with 4th/10th backdrops have their strong life focus on career/vocation emphasised. With 5th/11th emphasised, you often find “creative” types who work co-operatively and collaboratively in the pursuit of their careers. And in my own case, the 3rd/9th backdrop is highly appropriate since writing and higher education have been central to all the diverse vocational paths I have pursued throughout my working life.

Equal House: the return

In conclusion, the students were very keen to know why I had decided to return to working with Equal House.  For giving me the final shove in that direction I have to thank Phoebe Wyss and her excellent recent book “Inside the Cosmic Mind” . I  would urge any astrology student or practitioner to read this book if they are inclined, as I am, to perceive astrology as a ‘top down’ art whose practice and interpretation reveals us as expressing in micro form, the shifting macro patterns of the whole cosmos.

In Phoebe Wyss’ own words:

“ Archetypal astrology is an approach to astrological chart interpretation that is based on this cosmological view. The meanings of the chart factors such as  zodiac signs, houses, and planets are then seen to derive from the twelve basic categories of meaning associated with the astrological archetypes. These fundamental cosmic principles and their inter-relationships are symbolised in the geometry of the zodiac…”(ii)

Wyss’ book – which builds on the recent work of Richard Tarnas, Kieron Le Grice and other pioneers in the field of archetypal cosmology – has taken me back and re-grounded me in the basic geometry of sacred numbers, whose symbolism reflects the core shaping principles or archetypes governing the movement of energy throughout the whole cosmos. The number twelve is one of those sacred numbers.

From that symbolic, geometric perspective, dividing the inner space of the horoscope symbolically into twelve equal parts seems more appropriate than using any other house system, including Placidus, whose devising arises purely from measurements limited by the view from planet Earth in relation to the solar system in our tiny corner of space/time 

Endnotes:

(i) The Mountain Astrologer, Issue 78, April/May 1998, Letters p 11

(ii) Inside the Cosmic Mind, Phoebe Wyss, Floris Books 2014, p 93

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Zodiac

  • 1600 words copyright Anne Whitaker 2015/2018

    Licensed under Creative Commons – for conditions see Home Page

16 responses to “Some thoughts on the Astrological Houses: Placidus, Equal – or what ?

  1. Hello Anne, Again I read your thoughts here and found a lot that resonates with my own knowledge in studying astrology (exclusively Placidus system) and some side readings in numerology and tarot. In natal charts there can be shown some insecurities when looking at the positioning of planets in houses regarding the field orbis. I learnt it could vary between 5 or 10 %, which e.g. changed my Uranus from 9 to 10 and my moon from 1 to 2. The house/field dimension in the personal natal charts is essential for these changes with planets located at the end of one house and probable shift to the next house as it is a percentage.
    But as you described, it is true, that each theme of the planets in a certain environment (equals the house!), is present in the chart how ever you look at the positioning of planets – this is through aspects between planets in the chart or for personal planets ( sun, moon, venus, mercury and mars – jupiter to some extend) through the signs they are placed in the zodiac circle as well as combinations of houses and signs – how peaks of houses fall into a sign or are including a sign. I also study transits intensely – and found the relevant themes all there!!! It cannot get lost, I think, as you said.
    Also when reading about life path numbers and other subjects in numerology or tarot readings the focus themes are popping up 100 %!
    Therefore I am a strong believer of these scientific and spiritual based knowledge! It can serve as a real life coach and helps us to make decisions, go the right path and learn more about our purpose on earth… Love and light Sabine

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Via Facebook:
    22.4.18:
    RenaHDesign:
    An intrepid topic Anne:) In late 2015, the discovery of a mistake in the data base changed my chart by an hour and threw my world out of kilter for a while. It’s amazing how attached one can get to what we believe defines us. When I 1st started astrology with Dawn, she showed us our Heliocentric chart and it blew my mind. Is that really how the Sun sees me? So I have a thought to add to your wonderful treatment of this subject. Actually, 2 thought streams blended – one is how people can look so different in photographs from moment to moment – and sometimes, even though it IS actually a shot of them, it doesn’t look like them. The other is how different each life can look through the lens of a chart type. So, presently, I’m seeing each chart that relates to a person as a snapshot – and I like the idea of the snapshot being a hologram. After strictly Placidus astrological diet, the Whole Sign house has taken some getting used to – and in many ways it is freeing. Currently playing with the idea re: choosing a House System is more along the lines of that it may actually choose us… wonderful, thought provoking article Anne – in appreciation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Via Facebook:
    18.4.18:
    Valerie:
    I have found from experience that using and combining the equal house and placidus systems together can bring some other perspectives to a chart reading. They sort of tweak each other and work well, bringing extra dimensions to an interpretation, complementing each other. Sometimes planets work out to be in other houses, but somehow this still works and is relevant to an interpretation. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Valerie, Facebook also appears to have eaten my earlier reply to you! Yes, I think this flexible working allows one to get the best from the different systems. It’s much more constructive both for our clients and ourselves not to take a fundamentalist stance on the efficacy of only one system.

      Like

  4. Via Facebook:
    22.4.18:
    Anne Sweeney:
    All during the 80s I used Equal and then, when it was fashionable to do so, I used Placidus. That use continued for many years until I constructed a chart for my nephew’s daughter who was born in Alaska. The distortion was so great that I went back to Equal and have used that system since although that gives me 5 planets in the 12th house. I can live with that !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Anne, I left you a reply earlier, but Facebook seems to have eaten it🤔… that was an interesting demo of the limitations of Placidus…and yes, my Equal House chart gives me six twelfth house planets…handy if I am feeling extra reclusive! So I can well empathise…

      Like

  5. Via Facebook:
    22.4.18:
    Nuria Quitt:
    Placidus, then Equal house as learned on the FAS Foundation Course but now back to Placidus. No less than 7 planets change house if I use Equal House. My solution was to observe myself over about 18 months to see which one worked better. It was a Uranus transit that convinced me to go back to Placidus. It simply made no sense under Equal.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Just a thought, but could the variability of house systems be recognisant of the fact we have ‘free will’? Think about it😜

    Like

  7. Via Facebook:
    22.4.18:
    Chrissy Karas:
    I look at both Placidus and Whole sometimes Porphyry, depending on the client. I like Placidus for my own chart because it puts Venus in its joy. I have Jupiter there too. teaching children

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Chrissy. I think this flexible approach works best in relation to the house system debate. As with so many other things in life, there is unlikely to be only one answer…

      Like

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