Astrology basics: houses of the chart (part 1)

Astrology basics: houses 1-4 of the natal chart

If you look at your natal chart, it resembles a round pie sliced into twelve pieces.  Those pie pieces are what astrologers refer to as the houses of your chart.  Each house has a particular meaning, relating to a specific facet of your life.  Two people with the same sun sign may express that sign’s energy differently depending on which house contains their Sun.  Having an astrology reading will reveal which house your Sun is in, as well as the house locations of your Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars and outer planets.

The first house is the mask we wear. (Mask/photo: Lauren Raine, via Wikimedia)

You will notice that two lines intersect the circle of the natal chart “pie” more strongly,  one line dividing the “pie” approximately in half horizontally, the other dividing the circle in half on the vertical axis.  If you look to the left side of the circle, just below the horizontal midpoint line is the first house.  Alternately, if you think of the chart as an analog clock, the nine-o’clock point is the beginning or cusp of the first house.  The zodiac sign which sits on the cusp of this house is what astrologers call your rising sign or your ascendant.

The first house relates to the image you present to the world, and is also the lens through which you see yourself.  A person with a Libra ascendant tends to look at the world as a web of social relationships, while someone with Scorpio rising looks for the hidden power dynamics of any situation.  If a person’s chart has the sun located in the first house, that individual often has a sun-like quality—for better or worse.  That person may easily attract others’ attention, like the sun being orbited by the planets of the solar system–or they may simply expect to be the center of their social universe.  Determining which one is more likely is part of the art practiced by experienced astrologers like Norah who can expertly read an individual’s tendencies and talents from the natal chart.

The houses which sit immediately counter-clockwise to those two lines which halve the circle of the chart vertically as well as horizontally are referred to as angular houses. Planets located in these 4 houses—the first, fourth, seventh and tenth– exert a strong influence on the individual.  The first is particularly powerful—knowing someone’s ascendant sign and the planets in their first house can give you as much or more insight than knowing their sun sign.

One shortcut to understanding astrology is what is sometimes called the “astrological alphabet.”  The ABC’s of astrology note that there is a correspondence between the houses of an astrology chart and the order of the natural zodiac.  This means in your chart, the first house always carries something of the flavor of Aries, the first sign of the zodiac, along with whatever sign is actually on its cusp.  By following this concept of the astrological alphabet, we see that the second house has some correlation with the second sign of the zodiac, Taurus.

Moving counter-clockwise from the first house, we come to the second house of the natal chart. While the key phrase for Aries and the first house is “I am”, the key phrase underlying Taurus and the second house is “I have.”  This expression of having or owning obviously includes possessions, bank accounts and possessions but also extends to the other things you value such as beliefs and opinions.    The planets in the second house, and the zodiac sign on its cusp, help shape your ideas about financial security and how to acquire what you value.

Individuals who have several planets in the second house may find that issues relating to money and beliefs recur frequently throughout their lives.  However, it is not as simple as “all people with a second house sun (or sun in Taurus) will be wealthy.”  Depending on each person’s unique natal chart, as well as individual circumstances like having rich or poor parents, these money/belief issues may manifest as a conflict between beliefs and the means of earning money; as frequent changes in fortune; or sometimes as chronic lack of funds.

The third house (corresponding to Gemini if we continue to use the astrological alphabet) relates to our immediate surroundings and shorter, informal communication with others and brief travel.  The key phrase to the Gemini/third house sector is “I think.” The planets in the third house, along with the sign on its cusp, provide clues to your relationships with siblings, neighbors and co-workers; the quick messages you use to communicate with people around you and the degree or ease or difficulty you feel in making friendly social chitchat.

The fourth house in someone’s natal chart relates to their home as well as their parents.  The fourth house relates to the home, not only the house or apartment where you currently reside, but home as a sense of roots—your parents and the community which shaped you as a child.  Since the key phrase for Cancer and the fourth house is “I feel”, this house also reveals your emotional life.  Experts like Norah the Astrologer look to your fourth house to determine whether you felt nurtured and protected as a child.

As we noted above, the fourth house is one of the angular houses which sit counter clockwise to the horizontal/vertical cross drawn across the face of the natal chart pie or clock, forming four pillars of an individual’s personality structure.  The bottom half of the line which vertically intersects the circular natal chart is known as the nadir.  The nadir marks the cusp of the fourth house.  Its name indicates that the fourth house tends to be the most hidden part of our lives, not only in the sense that many people keep their home lives private, but also in the sense that this house relates to the most unconscious part of our identity, the attitudes we assume without questioning them.

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