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house two
Trying to Making Sense of the Astrological Houses

If you want to get a fight started between astrologers, bring up the subject of House systems. (Click here to see an explanation of the Houses in astrology.)There are many different systems for dividing the horoscope into houses and every astrologer cleaves to his or her choice with a zeal that is almost religious. A rousing discussion of the House in the horoscope can turn a room full of mild-mannered, tree-hugging star-gazers into a riot scene in no time.


Recently, I decided to settle this matter (at least for myself).  I took the horoscopes of some people born in the higher northern latitudes (where the distortion of the angle between the Ascendant and Midheaven are the most exaggerated) and charted them with three of the most popular house systems. The systems I used were the Placidus system, the Koch system and the Whole Sign system.


The Placidus systems dates for the 17th Century and is probably the most commonly used system by modern astrologer, particularly in the U.S. The reason for this is that it was the system taught during the revival of astrology during the late 1900s and, for most of the 20th century, it was the only house system for which calculation tables were available. The problem with the Placidus system is that it breaks down when we are charting horoscope for people born in the extreme northern latitudes (Scotland, Scandinavia, etc.)


The Koch system is a 20th century development and it has gained wide-spread popularity as an alternative to the Placidus system. In the interest of full disclosure, it is the system that I use. The Koch system also gets wonky when applied to extreme northern latitudes.


The Whole Sign system is probably the earliest system of houses and it is advocated by people doing Classical and Heliocentric astrology. What the whole sign system has going for it is simplicity. Essentially you take the sign that’s on the Ascendant and make that whole sign the First House. The next sign becomes the Second House, the next the Third and so on. You use the Ascendant and Midheaven as significant points in the horoscope, but not to demarcate houses. The Whole Sign system can be applied to any latitude without difficulty.


So, I looked at the three horoscope I had charted for each of my examples to see which of these house systems better represented the events in that person’s life. What I found out was remarkable, but also disappointing.


What I learned was each house system worked fine for at least one of my examples, but that no house system worked seamlessly for all of them. Obviously, a lot more work needs to be done in this area, and I plan to continue my experiments. But, in the meantime, there seems to be no definitive answer to which house system is the most reliable. Keep that in mind the next time you’re with a bunch of astrologers, and talk about the weather instead.

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