beliefnet astrology matthew currie empty house
…and some Houses need a little work…

AT writes: “I know you use whole house astrology (not sure on my terminology) and using it that way, my Mars would be in my 12th house, but if used the other way Mars is in my first, right? But Mars in Scorpio in my first house doesn’t seem right to me. So I don’t know what to say if someone were to ask other than ‘it depends on which system you use?'”

A good question, and one that gives me a chance to expound on one of my favorite subjects of late: Whole Sign Houses.

A good astrological interpretation isn’t just gathered from a checklist of factors in the birth chart. You can’t just look at the chart and say “you have Mercury in Gemini, so you talk a lot” (well, okay, you could say that but there’s a good chance you’d be wrong). Astrology, like life itself, has nuances and layers. House placements and rulerships are one of the most important layers of meaning to be considered in a birth chart. Whereas the planets represent the basic building blocks of your personality (your drives, desires, the things that compel you, and so on) and the Signs give each of those planets a distinct flavor, the House placements and rulerships tell us more about how and where those energies are most likely to manifest.

Here is an overly-simplified example: Mars is where you get your drive and ambition from. Planets in Aries flare up a lot but also tends to settle down quickly once it gets its way. The Ninth House rules higher education, religion, and the “Higher Mind.” Therefore, a person with Mars in Aries in the Ninth House is constantly getting kicked out of lecture halls and churches for arguing with the lecturer/preacher. See? I told you it was over-simplified, but you get the picture.

One of the biggest bones of contention among astrologers can be what House System to use. Most Western astrologers use what is called the Placidus House System. Odds are good that if you’ve plugged your birth data into an online service somewhere, that’s the system they used. If your Ascendant is 17 degrees Taurus, that’s where your First House starts, and if your Midheaven is 29 degrees Capricorn, that’s where your Tenth House starts.

Whole Sign Houses is a much more ancient technique, and I find I get better overall results using it. That’s not just because it’s “ancient.” “Ancient” isn’t always better. If you start getting terrible headaches accompanied by mood swings, go with the doctor who recommends an MRI to check for frontal lobe damage… not the one who says your humours are unbalanced and starts putting leeches on you. In the above example, all of Taurus is the First House, and you go around the Zodiac with one Sign equalling one House. This means that in the above example, the Tenth House is Aquarius, and the Midheaven is a point in the Ninth House… which really freaks some people out who are used to Placidus Houses.

I have come to the conclusion that Placidus Houses do have their usefulness, but that it is often more psychological than observable. For example: Venus in the 7th House can indicate someone who has pleasant long-term relationships and benefits from them, often even when they are over. Venus in the 8th House often indicates a love of sex and/or romance but a capacity to make bad relationship decisions based on that. Going by Placidus Houses, I have Venus in the Seventh House. By Whole Sign Houses, I have Venus in the Eighth House. Ask me about how my two marriages started, and how they ended (hint: with all my worldly possessions in two suitcases) and then you tell me which House System is more “accurate.”

Now, dear AT, as for your question: yes, in your chart it DOES depend on the House system being used as to whether your Mars is in the 12th House or the 1st House. Traditionally, Mars in the 1st represents someone who tends to be be assertive in their movements and actions, and a 12th House Mars tends to be shy and retiring. Both have their validity: there are probably times when you’d rather avoid an argument… and you and I may have occasionally disagreed about political matters on Facebook.

(Pause while the half dozen or so mutual Facebook friends of AT and myself roll around on the floor laughing.)

NEXT TIME: Using Whole Sign vs Placidus Houses to look at the birth chart of George Lucas, not only because it’s instructive but, as many of you may know by now, I’m a huge geek.)

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