by Robert Wilkinson
Today we re-visit a topic requested by readers involving something that is very common in birth charts, but not much has been written about it. If you've wondered how intercepted signs work, and how this impacts a planet in a sign that's intercepted, then by all means read on!
This ties in with our on-going series about which house system to use, and what it means when the house cusps in charts change depending on which system we’re using. One system may yield an entirely different set of signs on cusps, and often the signs that are “intercepted” change depending on which house system we use.
This is a common but little understood phenomenon. Almost everyone born above a certain latitude has intercepted signs, while those born closer to the equator almost never have them. So let's have a look into what these can indicate in a chart.
To keep this intelligible, I'm not going to go into the astro-physics of the phenomenon, as it could prove sleep-inducing and I wouldn't want to precipitate that! Generally speaking, the concept of interception involves two houses having the same sign on the cusp, the two opposite houses also having the opposite sign on two houses, while denying two other signs occupancy of a house cusp.
Whether this occurs or not depends entirely on what house system we use. It can never happen when we use Equal Houses, since that puts the natural sequence of signs on successive houses beginning with the Ascendant.
As an aside, my old friend and Master Astrologer Carl Payne Tobey held the opinion we should also examine charts using Equal Houses starting from the Midheaven degree, since that doesn't change according to latitude. This would certainly produce different results from an Ascendant based system (except near the equator, when the houses are pretty much equal house anyway, regardless of what system we use).
I explored the issues around house systems and what they're about in previous articles posted the past two days, so please check them out if you want to know more about the intricacies of the different house systems and why I use the approach I do. Those who have read those articles know I have a somewhat different approach to multiple house systems than most astrologers, and you may find a resolution to some dilemmas in those articles.
Back to interceptions. Using my own chart as an example, when calculated using the Placidus House system, I have 11 Leo on the Ascendant, 2 Virgo on the 2nd and 28 Virgo on the 3rd, 30 Libra on the Nadir (IC), 6 Sag on the 5th and 11 Capricorn on the 6th cusp. Obviously the signs opposite to these go on the opposite house cusps. So where are Taurus and Scorpio?
They are "intercepted" in the 10th and 4th houses respectively. The cusp of my MC is 30 Aries, while the cusp of my 11th is 6 Gemini making my 10th house 36 degrees wide. That means I begin the house at the end of Aries, and it's wide enough to encompass all of Taurus and a fifth of Gemini. The same with the 4th, but with opposite signs.
My 2nd house, on the other hand, is only 26 degrees wide, as is my 8th. Planets move through my 2nd and 8th houses quickly, but stay longer in my 4th and 10th, since those houses are wider. Again, this is all about how space or time are "bent" by which house system you use to calculate charts.
In another example, when using the Porphyry House division system (my favorite) my cusps change significantly. I'll always have 11 Leo as an Ascendant and 30 Aries as a Midheaven (MC), but using Porphyry I have 7 Virgo on the 2nd, 4 Libra on the 3rd, 4 Sag on the 5th, and 7 Cap on the 6th, with opposite signs on opposite houses. Thus you can see the rulers of my 3rd and 9th houses change when I change house division systems, also moving my Saturn from the 3rd (Placidus) to the 2nd (Porphyry). However, Taurus and Scorpio remain intercepted in both these systems.
The Koch system is closer to the Porphyry cusps, though it expands my 4th and 10th while narrowing my 6th and 12th houses. Campanus also is close to the Porphyry cusps, and expands my 1st and 7th while narrowing my 4th and 10th.
Regiomontanus, on the other hand, is closer to the Placidus cusps (Virgo on the 3rd) and widens my 3rd, 4th, 9th, and 10th houses while it narrows my 2nd, 6th, 8th, and 12th houses. In all systems other than the Equal House system, Taurus and Scorpio remain intercepted. Again, if this has you confused, reading the previous articles on houses will help some of this make sense.
So what does all this mean? When two houses share the same sign, they are both ruled by the same planet. When a sign is intercepted, it means the previous sign is the cusp ruler, but the intercepted sign exerts a very powerful influence, since all signs get their due in our life experience. We all have all the signs somewhere, and exactly where is why some of us have similar or different approaches to our life arenas (the houses).
As you can see, whatever houses share a ruler is determined by which system we use. As you will learn by consulting the other articles in this series, my personal approach is that each cusp is actually a zone created by using any three systems, creating a degree span where the two houses in question meet and overlap each other.
In our example, using Equal, Placidus, and Porphyry together, we see that the cusp between my 2nd and 3rd houses is anywhere from 28 Virgo to 11 Libra. This is the "commons" where my values meet my attitudes, where my resources and how I use them contacts my environment and close relations.
There are other correlations as well, such as the border between my 8th and 9th being between 28 Pisces and 11 Aries. This is where my desires meet my truth and future, or where my shared values and resources meet my ethics and philosophy. Any time a planet moves through these zones that planetary principle activates the shared "zone of influence" and I get new insights and activities about what is common to those different houses through that planetary lens.
Just because a sign is on 2 houses doesn't make it "more powerful," and the intercepted sign "less powerful." More obvious and less obvious might be a better way to approach this phenomenon, or tuning it inside out, "narrower" and "wider" spans of experience.
The same sign on two adjacent houses implies a harmonic linkage, but also shows a narrow range of influence, since the same sign on two houses always indicates a house that's less than 30 degree wide. If anything, an intercepted sign makes a house wider, thus opening that span within us to a wider range of experience. Not necessarily stronger, but more diverse.
That would also go for any planet in an intercepted sign. The fact that we don't have the same sign on a cusp for a planet in a house does not make a planet in that sign "weak." Intercepted is not weak - no planet is "weak."
A planet in an intercepted sign shows that the influence works independent of the general inclination to approach the house affairs through the sign of the cusp and whatever planet rules that sign. As I've noted, it shows a very wide house, encompassing three sign energies, which would mean when any planet transits through that house it would have a long stay and a wide range of experience.
Remember, the planets always express their nature and qualities. While the signs on our cusps show our general inclination of approach in those life areas, those areas only express through events when a planet occupies that sign, or when a hot spot is set off by a progression, transit, eclipse point, a major planet conjunction point, a Solar Return emphasis, or other such indicators.
An intercepted planet is still very strong, and will show its influence every time something makes an aspect to it. It may work as a background influence, or a non-obvious influence, but it will still show itself.
For example, my Venus in Taurus in the 10th is intercepted, but no one would ever think it was not a powerful influence in my life! And I can assure you that Scorpio transits to my 4th are very powerful, since they aspect quite a few of my planets.
When two cusps share the same ruler, obviously we look to that ruler to see what "governs" the affairs of those houses, and we will often see similar movement in both areas as its ruler moves through its yearly dance with itself and all the other planets in our charts. Just remember that the outer Invisible Triad of Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto work out transpersonally and collectively, and if we want to see what's going on in our personal and interpersonal affairs we must reference the traditional rulers of the signs.
Unless you're a global force majure, you'll usually understand more about your life affairs by looking at Saturn as ruler of Cap and Aquarius, Jupiter as ruler of Sag and Pisces, and Mars as ruler of Aries and Scorpio. And even world rulers and major players are under the traditional rulers, though their decisions may work out as Uranian, Neptunian, or Plutonian energies in the world.
So please take a new look at how interceptions work if they apply in your chart, since it's a very powerful influence even though those signs aren't on a cusp. And of course, they might be if you approach cusps as zones of influence rather than hard lines fixed in space-time.
Here are the previous articles in this series:
© Copyright 2007, 2013 Robert Wilkinson