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You might as well know up front that if you don’t know the exact time (i.e. 11:38 pm) of your birth, then you won’t be able to calculate your Ascendant (which in turn sets the stage for determining the 12 Houses).

Dr Z and The 12 Astrological Houses

If nothing else about the basic concepts of astrology really manages to throw you a curve, then my attempting to explain the 12 Houses should do the trick quite nicely.

And I truthfully don’t know what to do about that. Hey! Give me break... I'm good, but even I’m not a miracle worker.

Well Worth Learning, Though
But as difficult as it is to initially get a good grip on how the Houses work... the Houses are also quite interesting and more than worth your time and effort to understand.

Why? Well, among other things, the Houses are when you first start to discover that you’ve got all 12 of the Zodiac signs contained in your birth chart.

Simply put: the Houses are the 12 places where stuff happens. And so the 12 Houses map out the “general areas of life” where you’re naturally the most attracted to and focused on during this lifetime.

Mansion on the Hill
One way to think of the Houses is they are like the 12 different rooms of a mansion. There are certain places in your 12 room mansion that you'd naturally end up spending more time in than you would the others.

Some folks might prefer spending most of their time in the living room, some in the dining room, and some would prefer hanging out in the den. (Elvis Presley preferred hanging out in the Jungle Room.)

Celestial Holding Station
In her book Adventures of a Psychic, clairvoyant Sylvia Browne relates this concept regarding her particular "road map of reality":

According to Sylvia, prior to being born on planet Earth, we're sent to a celestial "holding station" where we sit down and decide on 7 general areas of our soon to be life on Earth. These 7 areas are: Love, Social Life, Family, Career, Health, Finance, and Spirituality.

The 12 houses of the astrological chart are similar in concept to Sylvia's 7 areas of life. The main difference is however that astrology's "road map of reality" is saddled with 12 rather complex and fluid areas as opposed to Sylvia's simplistic road map that has only 7 areas. (By the way, astrology may have originally had only 8 houses, and then through the passage of time the number of houses was eventually expanded to the 12 houses we have today.)

The Shortcut
As mentioned previously, there’s a shortcut to understanding the themes of the 12 different Houses... and the shortcut is that the themes of the 12 Houses are very similar to the energies of the 12 Zodiac signs.

Of course, to benefit from this shortcut, you first have to become familiar with the energies of the 12 Zodiac signs. So begin get familiar with the energies of the 12 Zodiac signs, and then learning the themes of the 12 Houses will be a cinch. Like any other shortcut, it's not exactly perfect... however, for our purposes, it's close enough.

The themes of 1st house are very similar to the energies of Aries.

The themes of the 2nd house are very similar to the energies of Taurus.

And so on and so on…. So, again, if you get familiar with the energies of the 12 Zodiac signs, then the themes of the 12 Houses will begin to make a whole lot more sense.


 
 

Aries 1st house
Taurus 2nd house
Gemini 3rd house
Cancer 4th house
Leo 5th house
Virgo 6th house
Libra 7th house
Scorpio 8th house
Sagittarius 9th house
Capricorn 10th house
Aquarius 11th house
Pisces 12th house

(I’ll have a list of actual house characteristics a little further down below.)

Problem
Unfortunately, my little shortcut for learning the themes of the 12 Houses, can also cause confusion for some folks.
The confusion sets in when trying to factor in another main concept about the Houses.

This concept is: that each house of the 12 Houses is colored by the Zodiac Sign actually located on the cusp of the house.

I Need to Repeat That
Each house of the 12 Houses is colored by the Zodiac Sign actually located on the cusp of the house.

How all this works?
Take for example someone with “Gemini on the Ascendant” or "Gemini Rising." This (generally) means that the Zodiac Sign of Gemini is on the cusp of the person’s 1st house. (Relax.... “cusp” is just a fancy word for the exact beginning of the house.)

1st House
Remember the shortcut.... and that the themes of the 1st house are very similar to Aries’ energy? Aries is the “I am” sign. Aries is the first rush of spring! The new birth! Energetic, bold, fiery, and impulsive. So the 1st house is the place where “I am” stuff happens. It’s the house of your outer identity that you display to the world.

But with Gemini on the Ascendant, the 1st house of outer identity is colored by the sign of Gemini. And Gemini says “I communicate.” Gemini says, "I’m curious, youthful, flighty, mentally active, and often a wee bit mischievous." So the "I am" energies that you display to the world are that of Gemini.

2nd House:
Now let’s continue on to the 2nd house. The 2nd house themes are very similar to the energies of Taurus. Taurus is the “I possess” sign. Taurus is very concerned with matters of practicality, "I only believe in (and thus) value those things that I can actually touch." Taurus says I love comfort, physical security, and possessions. So the 2nd house is related to personal values and physical security. It’s generally associated with your money and personal possessions.

Remember though, in our example you have Gemini on the Ascendant? So (most of the time) you’ll have Cancer on the cusp (the beginning) of the 2nd house.

With Cancer on the cusp of the 2nd house, this Taurean-like house of money and possessions is where you’ll be the most Cancerian-like. Your 2nd house of money and possessions is where you’ll experience the Zodiac sign of Cancer. Cancer is the “I feel” or “I nurture” sign. So you may choose to earn and/or spend your money in ways that makes you feel good about yourself and that nurtures people.

3rd House:
The 3rd house is the house naturally associated with Gemini.  As already mentioned just above, Gemini is about communication, mental concepts, curiosity - as well as - short trips, siblings and the neighbors ….

Most often with Gemini on the Ascendant, the Zodiac sign of Leo will be on the cusp of the 3rd house of communication. Leo is the "I rule" or "I shine" sign. This means you’ll experience your personal creativity in the arena of communication and ideas. It also means you’re probably quite proud of your ideas, and much of your sense of self worth is tied up in your ideas and in your ability to communicate with all your neighbors. And so, chances are that you probably don’t deal real well with criticism about your ideas.

Well, that's enough of that. Hopefully, you've got the idea....

Commonly Asked Questions

Question: Dang it! I ain't got no birth planets in the  __  House?

Answer: This house is not missing in your life. This just signifies that during this lifetime you have chosen not to focus as much energy in these Houses. You've still got the house, and you've still got a Zodiac sign on the cusp of the house. You just won't likely be focusing on those places (or areas) as much as you will in a house where you have planets.

Focus and energy isn't always a pleasant thing. You might even consider yourself lucky not to have planets in a house. Fewer "issues" to deal with...

Question: Are some Houses inherently more spiritual or better than others?

Answer: Yes and No... The 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th house are often thought of as being spiritual or universal Houses.

However... in my way of thinking, spirituality is being is the best you that you can be. Spirituality is being fully who you are and living out your full potential and dharma (life-path).

So in the astrological "road map of reality" - your birth chart house placements assist you in mapping out the places (or areas) where you can potentially learn how to be the best you that you can be during this lifetime.

Granted... it would be awesome... but not everyone is meant to be another Gandhi. Not everyone is supposed to be another Martin Luther King Jr. Not everyone is supposed to be another Mother Teresa.

We each have different, distinctive, and unique road maps.

For example, in your unique road map, you may have several planets located in the earthy, practical 2nd Taurean house associated with money, values, and personal possessions. Your mission in this lifetime (should you choose to accept it) might be to build up a strong sense of inner-values, and then spend your hard earned money on these inner-values.  

List of Themes
Here's that list of house themes I mentioned before...

I was feeling a bit lazy when originally writing this final tutorial... so I borrowed (with permission) something a cyberpal named Chazz had written regarding the Houses... The following house descriptions are generally word associations (and I have expanded upon what Chazz originally wrote):

1st- Aries house, ruled by Mars... "I am"...
personality, physical appearance, competition, how others see us.

2nd- Taurus house, ruled by Venus... "I possess"...
personal possessions, sense of self worth, what you value and inner creativity.

3rd- Gemini house, ruled by Mercury... "I communicate" ...
mental activity, need for knowledge, short trips, community involvement, relationship to siblings, neighbors, primary education.

4th- Cancer house, ruled by Moon... "I feel" ....
opposite sex parent *, country, roots, home and family, nurture, history, tradition, memories-nostalgia, dependence and dependency, real-estate.

5th- Leo house, ruled by Sun.... "I shine" ....
Creative expression, romance and love affairs, gambling and speculation, fun and games (partying), children, giving love.

6th- Virgo house, ruled by Mercury... "I analyze" ...
service, commerce, physical health, diet, self-service, interaction with coworkers, attention to detail and perfection.

7th- Libra house, ruled by Venus... "I balance" ...
one on one partnerships (i.e., marriage or business), commitment to others, appreciation for the arts, what we look for in others, open enemies, fair play and harmony.

8th - Scorpio house, ruled by Pluto... "I desire" (this is the Jungle Room that Elvis spent a lot of time in) ...
Death, rebirth and transformation, other peoples resources, hidden mysteries, secrets, sex, mysticism, taboo, hauntings, intuitive understandings.

9th- Sagittarius house, ruled by Jupiter... "I teach"
Higher education, philosophy, religion, law, the big picture, long-distance travel, optimism, expansion and good fortune.

10th- Capricorn house, ruled by Saturn... "I build"
Same sex parent *, career, physical reality (i.e., the world), how we make our way in the world, social persona, how we like to be perceived in society.

11th- Aquarius house, ruled by Uranus... "I think"
Humanitarianism, ideals, hopes, friendship, receiving love, sudden happenings, rebellion, and outrageousness.

12th- Pisces house, ruled by Neptune... "I care"
self illumination, enlightenment, the collective unconscious, fantasy, karma, self-deception, hidden enemies, hospitals and institutions, serving others through compassion, psychic ability and sensitivity.

I warned you in advance that the house themes are complex and fluid...

*The 4th and 10th house meridian axis has historically experienced some serious "difficulties." It appears the ancient Greeks associated the 4th house with both "parents." Medieval astrologers replaced "parents" with the Father in the 4th house and shifted Mother to the 10th house. Many modern astrologers have now placed Mother into the 4th and Father into the 10th. If you noticed, I placed the different sex parent in the 4th house and the same sex parent in 10th house. To make matters even more confusing, Vedic astrology places Mother in the 4th house and Father in the 9th house. When I get really cornered, I simply call the 4th and 10th house meridian axis the "parental axis."

back to 4th house on this page.

back to 10th house on this page.

back to finish the Crash Course

I- Planets II - Signs III - Aspects IV - Houses

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