This is the 2nd blog in the 3-blog series with frequently asked questions from readers and students.
Which house system to use?
I personally use both Whole Sign Houses and Placidus. Other astrologers in the Astro Butterfly team use Placidus, Whole Signs, or a mix of Placidus and Equal houses. We are house-system inclusive.
But this question keeps popping up: WHICH house system – which one is better?
To make it clear – I don’t claim I have the answer. I will simply explain my thinking around this topic and my personal experience with using different house systems.
Now, if you’re just starting with astrology, you may not even know what houses are, and this topic may feel a bit complex. Keep reading anyway – because if you have an interest in astrology, houses are the next most important thing you want to study, after planets and signs.
First Things First – What Are Houses?
Houses are divisions of the celestial sphere that represent different areas of life. Think of them as the stages on which the planets (actors) perform.
Unlike signs, which are cycles of time we cannot “see”, houses are more tangible. If you go outside, you can create a mental representation of the houses: the Eastern Horizon (where the Sun rises) is the 1st house.
The Western horizon (where the Sun sets) is the 7th house.
The highest point where the Sun culminates around noon is the 10th house, and the point directly opposite it is the 4th house, representing the nadir or the deepest point below us.
We can then split these sections into 12 imaginary areas of the sky. These are the houses.
We can actually “see” the houses; and what does this tell us? That houses, unlike signs, are more concrete, tangible expressions of planetary placements. If the Sign placement tells us how a planet feels and expresses itself, the house placement tells us what a planet actually does.
Libra Sun, Sun in the 5th house, vs. Leo Sun, Sun in the 7th house
Let’s say we have 2 people, a Libra with the Sun in the 5th house, and a Leo with the Sun in the 7th house.
Which one of them is the marriage counselor?
Hint: it’s not the Libra!
It’s actually the Sun in the 7th house. The 7th house is archetypally connected to Libra (hence the marriage counseling) but it’s a more concrete expression of the Libra energy. The 7th house Leo Sun will still come across as a Leo – but will express that Leo energy, that Leo style, in the context of the 7th house.
The 5th house Libra Sun will still come across as a Libra – they will seek harmony and be people-oriented – but they will not necessarily express the individuation drive of the Sun in a Libra-like profession, because their Sun is not in the 7th house.
Of course, this is an oversimplification (charts are much more complex than this) but we used this example simply to illustrate the difference between signs and houses.
If you’d like more examples signs vs. houses, you can watch Caro’s video HERE.
Which House System Should You Use?
Now let’s come back to our topic – which house system to use.
If the 12 signs are pretty straightforward (we have 12 signs aka 12 lunar cycles of 29.5 days in a year) – houses, less so.
There is no 1 single house system; there are several. They all ‘work’ in their own different ways. They all give us a different ‘flavor’ of the chart. Some house systems seem to work better with some techniques (e.g. transits). Some house systems capture the more ‘fated’ dimension of our chart. Others, our ‘free will’.
The 1st house system used was Whole Sign Houses. In the Whole Sign house system, each sign encompasses an entire house. For example, if your Ascendant is in Aries, your first house is entirely Aries, the second house is entirely Taurus, and so on.
With Whole Sign houses, we simply take the same theoretical framework used to come up with the signs (the division of 12) and apply it to houses. Since we have 12 signs, we have 12 houses. The signs are the foundations.
The fact that we have the same # signs and houses speaks of an intrinsic conceptual link between the 2. The houses – conceptually – originate from signs. That’s why we don’t have 24, 35 or any other random number.
Later, new house systems were developed. Equal Houses are similar to Whole Signs (they are 30° each) but they start with the degree of the Ascendant. So if your Ascendant is 5° Aries, your 2nd house is 5° Taurus, and so on.
Later, the Midheaven (MC) and the IC were included in the house calculation. Since the MC and the IC are not necessarily 90° from the AC/DC axis (unless we’re located right on the equator), these new house systems – called Quadrant House systems – generate unequal houses.
Your houses are no longer 30° each (like with Whole and Equal houses) – they differ in size. The quadrant house systems (Placidus, Porphyry, Koch, etc.) bring a new dimension – the space – in the equation.
For more details about the origin, the applications, and the pros and cons of each house system, you can watch the “Introduction To House Systems” video HERE.
Which House System Do I Use?
I started with Placidus which I solely used for approx. 15 years. Placidus is the most common house system used today. All major astrology software, as well as popular websites like astro.com have Placidus as the default house system.
If you got your chart (from the internet or an astrologer) and you’re unsure on which house system is based – (big) chances are, that is Placidus.
At some point I remember learning about Whole Sign Houses which I immediately dismissed as “ridiculous” and didn’t pursue it any further. Years passed.
I’ve been tracking my transits for years (if not decades) and after some time, I started noticing some clear patterns: every time a planet (especially a slow-moving planet) would change signs, it would immediately start activating my whole sign house.
EXAMPLE: Sagittarius is my 7th house cusp – when Jupiter, Saturn, or Uranus would enter Sagittarius, 7th house themes would immediately get activated (even if the first degrees of Sagittarius are my 6h Placidus house). Same thing with the other houses.
Then I started noticing the same pattern in other people’s charts. Nothing special would happen when a planet would transit the Placidus house cusp – but when a planet moved into a new sign, the themes associated with that Whole Sign house would immediately get activated.
If we think about it, considering that houses conceptually originate in the signs – it makes sense that there is some intrinsic connection between the two.
I now use a mix of Whole Sign houses + Placidus when I read natal charts, and use Whole Sign Houses for transits and house rulerships.
I still find Placidus an incredibly reliable and detail-rich house system. Other quadrant house systems like Porphyry or Regiomontanas are some of astrologers’ favorites – I’m convinced they work great, it’s just that I haven’t had the chance (yet) to study them. It really takes years, if not decades of research and practice to fully get a grasp of how a house system works.
Coming back to the initial question “Which house system to use”. I am a strong believer that all house systems work.
Here are some practical considerations when it comes to choosing a house system:
- Familiarity: If you’re just starting your journey into astrology, it’s perfectly fine to stick with the house system you’re already using or what your astrology software defaults to. This will help you build a solid foundation before exploring other options.
- Chart interpretation style: Different house systems can emphasize certain aspects of your chart differently. Consider what aspects of your personality and life you want to focus on in your readings. Some systems may align better with your interpretative style.
- Experimentation: For those already well-versed in one house system, experimenting with a different one can provide fresh insights into a chart. It’s like viewing the same picture from a different angle, revealing nuances you might have missed before.
- Transits and Progressions: Some astrologers prefer using specific house systems for transits and progressions because they find that it resonates more with the unfolding of life events. Whole Sign Houses, for example, can be particularly insightful for tracking transits.
- Personal experience: Just as I shared my journey with you, your own experiences with house systems may lead you to a preference over time. Pay attention to patterns in your readings and see which system aligns more with your observations.
Remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of which house system to use. What’s most important is your comfort and effectiveness in working with the system you choose. As you continue your exploration of astrology, you may find that your preferences evolve, and that’s perfectly natural.
In my next and final blog in this series, I’ll discuss the most crucial elements to consider when interpreting a natal chart. Stay tuned!
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