by Robert Wilkinson
I've been receiving a lot of mail about the different house systems and how they affect our charts, since which one we use can shift our planets from one house to another. This is important as it involves how we trisect the quadrants of our chart. I wrote this a while ago when I was told some people were flipping out over which system to use. Enjoy, since it's still very relevant and may help resolve any conundrum you may have about this rather obscure, but very important, subject.
This is my original post:
"House Systems - They're all in your point of view"
Well, imagine my surprise to find an email in one of my accounts saying that over at a well-known astrology chat room an entire comment stream had been bombed due to excessively abusive discourse. Wow.
Here's what I was mailed, with the name of the site deleted:
To all members, Within the context of intellectual exploration and learning, debate is an essential element. (This site) encourages productive discourse. When a post or thread sinks to the level of caustic and inimical personal confrontation all focus and value is lost, (this site) and its members denigrated. The “What House system do you use?” thread fell into that category. The thread has been deleted, all good content along with the counterproductive. Verbal abuse of life’s demigods and demons, according to your perspective, is acceptable. Abuse within the ___ community is unacceptable.
As I said, wow. I've seen people get heated about various things, but never about which house system an astrologer uses. Can't figure out how it happened, don't really want to jump in over there, and it seems that this uncivil discourse mirrors the general state of affairs in our world today.
So of course, it leads me to try to explain what some of this business of different house systems is about. Basically, only the horizon (ascendant-descendant) and meridian (midheaven-nadir) are fixed by what time one is born, and where. How you derive the boundaries (cusps) between houses is entirely based on whether you calculate on the basis of a space-based system, a time-based system, or a space-time based system.
Placidus houses are space-time, Equal houses are space-based, as is Porphyry. There are others, such as Campanus, Koch, Regiomontanus, Morinus, Alcabitian, Albategnian, and even those that divide the sphere into 8 sectors instead of 12 as well as those that eliminate all the houses. An extensive article on the merits and demerits of each of these would probably bore most of my readers, so we won't go there.
Though there is no consensus on which system is the best (and it seems that some fans of certain systems are ready to come to blows with each other!), I have always used several systems simultaneously in my work with satisfactory results. I found when I first started studying astrology that some of my planets change houses depending on which system is in use.
For example, I have Saturn in the 3rd house using the Placidus system, whereas it's in the 2nd using Porphyry and Equal. So which is it? Well, reading the texts, I realized it seemed as though both were correct. That led me to the conclusion that since none of these house "boundaries" are set in stone, perhaps I should regard the wheel in terms of zones of overlapping house boundaries, those being the areas where the affairs of the first house and the second house interact, or the second and third, or where the affairs of the 8th and 9th houses overlap, and so on.
Over the years this has worked very satisfactorily for everyone, and helps to explain how to resolve certain dilemmas in how different areas of our charts and lives affect each other. In my case, with Saturn in the overlapping zone between the second and third houses, it would seem that I need to use my Saturn function to understand how it affects the areas of values (2nd) and perception (3rd), and where these meet within me. At times I must deal with a natural Saturn in the 2nd influence; at other times, Saturn in the 3rd. At all times, how these areas meet and interact with each other as expressed through my Saturn filter.
I learn about Saturn from both areas of my life, and find Saturn's influence in both areas, regardless of which house system is in use. You will also find this true in your own charts. When you have a planet that bridges two houses, it is very important in your evolution to link those areas of your life through the planet involved.
Perhaps it would serve astrology (and bring some peace back to the realm!) if we could get over the idea that one system is right and the rest are wrong, since I believe that to be delusional thinking based in linear, exclusionary rationalizations. "Winner-take-all" arguments are the foundation of religious wars by whatever name you call them. I would certainly not want any of my readers to come to blows or insults over something as ridiculous as whether one house system is superior to the rest.
Perhaps this is the biggest advantage to the quadrant system, or the "no house" system. We do not need frets on a guitar neck to hit a note accurately. They are just guide points helping give a reference between points A and B. It's the same with the lines dividing the houses. Anything nearer the horizontal axis is more in the realm of self-not self. Anything near the vertical axis is more in the realm of private-public, or subjective-objective experience.
The relative position of a planet to the meridians is what's important, not whether a planet is "more truly" in one house or another when it's on the cusp. And the idea of insulting someone because they don't agree with a house system is absurd.
(Originally published 12 April 2005)