Here I respond to the idea that there is a close similarity between groups of signs planets and the houses.
8 groups of signs planets and houses claimed to be similar and called ‘archetypes‘
1) Aries: initiative. Mars: action. First House: how we strike out as an individual.
2) Taurus: stability and enjoyment. Venus: comforts. Second house: money matters.
3) Gemini: interaction. Mercury: communication. Third house: learning and exchange of ideas.
4) Cancer: Homely, contained. Moon: mother. Fourth House: home, family.
5) Leo: expressive. Sun: self identity. Fifth House: creative expression.
6) Virgo: detailed, skilled. Mercury: study. Sixth house: Work.
7) Libra: engaged, gracious. Venus: relationships. Seventh house: the other.
8) Scorpio: destructive, intimate. Pluto: intense. Eighth house: transformation, sex.
Example 1: Aries: initiative. Mars: action. First House: how we strike out as an individual.
While the words “strike out” are a manner of speech there might be less confusion if they were replaced with “present”: The first house shows how we present as an individual. This presentation includes attitude, physical health, demeanour and appearance, among other things.
The first house is much more than how we strike out as an individual. It can actually show a ‘wait and see attitude’. If a passive sign is on the ascendant or the ascendant ruler in a passive sign there will be less ‘striking out’ and more withdrawal or cautious approach to life.
With other factors such as the house location of its ruler and aspects to the ascendant, the first house shows temperament style and general attitude to life, which may be nothing akin to Mars or Aries.
The odds are only one in twelve that the sign on the ascendant will be Aries and the wide scope of other possible expressions cannot all be described as Arian or Martian.
Neither should we restrict the red planet to its daytime domicile of Aries. It is also the nocturnal ruler of Scorpio although this is rarely considered or understood.
Associating Mars with the first house also ignores the other two planets which have a connection to this house.
The first is Mercury, which has its joy in the first house. The joys of the planets is a worthwhile study of its own. Mercury has a natural association with the brain and head and this correlates well with the association of the first house with the head. Mercury is also associated with speech and communication. Mars has no natural association with the head or brain, unless you are thinking of using your head as a battering ram!
In the system of planetary joys Mars is placed in the sixth house of injuries and sickness, a place where it is at home.
The first house straddles the boundary between day and night which is an apt fit for adaptable Mercury as the go-between.
Saturn also has a first house association because this is where the soul is entrapped within the body as it incarnates. Saturn is the natural ruler of doorways and the first house is the soul’s doorway into physical life. The eighth house of death is the exit doorway, also associated with Saturn.
Example 2: Taurus: stability and enjoyment. Venus: comforts. Second house: money matters and living.
Yes Taurus is about stability and physical comforts and pleasure, but has little to do with money itself. Venus, the planet which rules Taurus, is about the comforts that money can buy, the adornments and beautiful things. But money itself is represented by Mercury, the natural ruler of exchange and financial dealings. Mercury does the buying and Venus does the enjoying. Venus does not represent money; that is Mercury’s domain. Jupiter, the planet of wealth and prosperity, has a natural association with the second house. In the Chaldean order of the planets Jupiter follows Saturn (see diagram). Saturn is associated with the first house, Jupiter with the second house.
Example 3: Gemini: interaction. Mercury: communication. Third house: learning and exchange of ideas.
It is understandable that, at first glance, the third house would seem to have an association with Gemini and Mercury.
However in previous generations it was clearly understood that the third house was the house of the goddess, and the Moon had a special relationship with this house.
In horary astrology the Moon is frequently seen as conveying messages between other planets in its role as ‘the translator of light’. Among the seven classical planets it is the fastest moving body, linking planets as it aspects one and then to another. This sequential linking is very significant in questions about communication, linking people together, or the movement of goods. In this latter respect it also has an association with transport.
Example 4: Cancer – Homely, contained. Fourth house – Home, community
Historically the 4th house is associated with foundations and property, the land, deep roots, mines and wealth from under the ground.
Compare these fixed traits to that most fluid and movable of planets: the Moon. This is not a good fit. The changeable Moon is much better suited to the busy comings and goings of the 3rd house.
In the ancient model of the “4 Ages of Man” the IC is associated with the winter of our lives. Yet in the northern hemisphere where Western astrology arose the Sun passes through Cancer at the height of summer. Neither is the 4th house a good fit for Cancer.
Historically the 4th house is associated with the father, not the mother.
Example 5: Leo – expressive. Fifth house – creative expression
The Sun is the supreme ‘Commander-in-Chief’, the symbol of might and mastery, power, truth, light and enlightenment. The superior planets genuflect and step backwards in retrograde motion when they come face to face in opposition with the Sun, and all the planets disappear in his blinding light when in conjunction with the Sun.
The fifth house is the house of fun and frivolity, parties pleasure and entertainment. In a sense this is the most superficial of houses and is in no way deserving as the home of the Lord of the Heavens.
The Sun represents so much more than parties, children, pleasure and sporting games. The importance of these activities pales into insignificance when faced with the majesty of his presence. In many religions and spiritual systems the image of god or the force which guides the universe has a solar representation.
To suggest that the Sun is restricted to the rulership of the house of fun and creativity is to diminish his great power and demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of his role in the heavens and in astrological interpretation.
In the diagram above describing the joys of the planets we see that the Sun rejoices in the ninth house, the house of higher learning, spirituality, and the search for the ultimate meaning of life. The joys of the planets describe places where planets are most comfortable and ‘feel at home’. The Sun is much more comfortable than in the ninth house of spirituality than in the fifth house of frivolity.
Neither is Leo a good fit for the fifth house as it is regarded as a barren sign because of its dryness. The 5th has long been known as the house of sex procreation and children. In horary astrology in questions of fertility and in electional astrology when choosing a suitable time for conception Leo on the ascendant or on the fifth house cusp is generally avoided because of its association with infertility and sterility.
To link the sign associated with barrenness with the house associated with fertility and creativity shows a misunderstanding of basic astrological principles.
Example 6: Virgo – focused, skilled. Sixth house: Work
Confusions relating to the meaning of the sixth house are worthy of an article on its own.
The association with work in the sense of career or profession can be attributed to a misreading of Lilly where he refers to the 6th house as the house of service. He was actually referring to servitude and servants.
The modern equivalent are the working poor doing menial jobs, in the service of another. There has never been, at least until recent times, a sense that the 6th house is associated with anything resembling a career. Historically this is, among other meanings, the house of slaves. While perhaps there are few real slaves in the Western world, the unskilled worker going from job to job is a close equivalent. These workers are typically more lacking in skills, rather than being skilled.
Going back to the objection mentioned above that Virgo is focused I am not sure how focus is a noteworthy trait of the sixth house, or even that Virgo is especially focused. Virgo is after all a double-bodied sign. Scorpio Aries and Capricorn also have some claim to being focused.
It is more common for people to confuse the sixth house with Virgo because of Virgo’s association with health. However the sixth house is not the house of health; that honour belongs to the first house. The sixth house is the house of ill-health and also injuries, the opposite of health. The preoccupation with exercise and diet typically associated with Virgo is better explained by the combination of the dry earth qualities of Virgo when combined with its discerning ruler: Mercury.
It is the first house which is the house of life and health and vitality. Mercury rejoices in this house and is much more comfortable here than in the sixth house of sickness and injuries.
It is Mars which rejoices in the sixth house. It is of course the minor malefic and is well suited to the house where the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune beset us all from time to time. Incidentally in mundane astrology the sixth house is associated with the military which has an obvious connection with Mars.
Example 7: Libra – engaged, gracious. Seventh house – relationships
Yes the seventh house is about relationships of all types. As well as amorous relationships and contractual business type relationships, also included are adversarial relationships with open enemies and those involving a sporting or other type of contest.
Relationships involving open conflict can hardly be confused with the graciousness associated with Libra or the pleasantness associated with Venus. These relationships could better be described as Martian. As the enemy rides over hill towards you, rifle at the ready with bayonet attached, Venus is nowhere to be seen. These situations are better described by Mars. So should we associate Aries and Mars with the seventh house, as well as Libra and Venus? The logic is similar. It should not be ignored that the seventh house is as much about engagement with the enemy as it is with the lover or friend.
The seventh house is about ‘the other’ we engage with, for whatever reason, whether it be the terrorist or the lover, the violent bully or the loving spouse. The relationships associated with the seventh house can be associated with love or hate. The seventh house is primarily about the people we engage with, and the type of engagement cannot be restricted to just Venus or Libra. The planet which usually best describes the type of engagement is the one ruling the sign on the seventh house cusp or a planet conjoining the descendant.
The confusion concerning the eighth house is connected both with the adoption of Pluto as Scorpio’s modern ruler and the adoption of the ’12 letter Alphabet’ system by some astrologers. In the 12 letter Alphabet, invented by Zip Dobyns, the meaning of the houses planets and signs are merged. For example the eighth house, Scorpio, and Pluto are seen to have a similar theme, referred to as an archetype. Pluto’s association with transformation and regeneration and Scorpio’s association with sex are both transferred to the eighth house.
However the eighth house is the house of death. While it’s true that some astrologers have associated the eighth house with sex because sexual orgasm is sometimes called ‘the little death, the purpose of sex is to procreate, to bring life into the world, not death.
Previous to the modern era the eighth house was not associated with sex. This modern confusion is perpetrated by a misunderstanding of the primary functions of the houses. Sex is a fifth house matter. Death and bringing life into the world are opposite things. One should not be confused with the other.
I have often heard it said that death is only one form of transformation and somehow this justifies assigning transformation as a core meaning for the eighth house, which in turn validates Scorpio’s and Pluto’s association with the eighth house.
It is ironic that Pluto’s mythical association with rape is rarely mentioned in conversations about eighth house sexual activity.
The tangled web of confusions associated with the interchange of Scorpio Pluto and the eighth house is mind boggling and really does take us a long way from the real meaning of the eighth house. Followers of the 12 Letter Alphabet system associate intimacy with the eighth house because of its new association connection with Pluto.
The core meanings of the eighth house have to do with death in the physical and real sense; fear and loss; the resources of those we engage with, and inheritance.
The eighth house is not a particular pleasant place no matter how much we might like to romanticize it or give it a positive spin. The sign on the cusp of the eighth house and the planet which rules that sign are what is relevant in any type of astrological interpretation of the 8th house.
Consequences of using the 12-letter alphabet
The 12-letter alphabet represents a shift away from the fundamental principles of astrology.
New invented meanings for planets
In some cases, users of the 12-letter alphabet make further associations between the planetary ruler of the sign and the house with which it is associated and come up with new invented meanings for planets, which are a corruption of the meanings of these planets. Example 1: Because in the 12-letter alphabet Venus is associated with the second house it is said to rule money, which is a second house matter. Before this invention Venus was only said to rule the pleasures and comforts that money can buy. Mercury rules agents and exchange and is a perfect fit for money. Example 2: Users of the 12-letter alphabet associate the Sun with children because it rules the sign of Leo which they associate with the fifth house. Before this invention the Sun ruled royalty, leaders and leadership, domination, truth and life giving energy, among other things, but not children.
Signs take on planetary meanings
With the interchange of meanings used in the 12 letter alphabet signs are seen to rule things. However the signs describe and embed qualities into planets as they pass through the signs. But the signs do not themselves have rulership over things.
An analogy can be made with signs to adjectives: the signs describe. However in the 12 letter alphabet system the signs are referred to as ruling over various things. For example, Cancer is said to rule women, the home and babies; Libra beauty and art, Aries war and destruction.
It is the planets which are analogous to a noun. Planets are like the actors on a stage; they take action. The signs can be compared to the various costumes worn by the actors. It is the planets which have rulership over the many things in our universe.
It astrological conversations it is easy it is to slip into the habit of referring to the signs’ rulership over different aspects of life. This happened in previous eras but even then it was generally taken for granted that the reference was connected to the planetary ruler of the sign spoken about. While it is a convenient way of talking it is very easy to forget that the signs do not rule things. They imbue qualities to the planets which pass against their backdrop and it is these planets which have rulership over things in this world.
New source of meaning
Perhaps the greatest irony is that many modern astrologers are now informed of the meaning of the signs by the links they have made between the planets and the houses using the 12-letter alphabet of archetypes. The 12-letter alphabet has become the new source of astrological education, totally bypassing the wealth of knowledge contained in the long tradition of astrology. The result is a corrupted and largely impotent form of astrology.
The claim that the 12 letter alphabet describes 12 archetypes is simply not correct. An archetype is a pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied. However the astrological houses signs and planets are not things of the same kind and therefore cannot together form an archetype.
Above I have described important differences between the astrological houses and signs. One example is that the houses are terrestrial in nature and the signs are celestial in nature.
I have also shown that the numbering of the houses from 1-12 does not describe an order in which the house meanings follow each other. Rather I have shown that these numbers refer to an ordinal number series which describe the order of planets as they rise above the ascendant through the course of the day.
The Houses, Temples of the Sky, by Deborah Houlding. This is an excellent reference for understanding the houses. On the Heavenly Spheres, A Treatise on Traditional Astrology by Helena Arelar and Luis Ribeiro. This is a comprehensive work highly recommended for both the beginner and the experienced astrologer. Traditional Astrology for Today, An Introduction by Ben Dykes. Scala Coeli, The Ladder of Heaven, A Collection of astrological Essays by Mari Garcia and Joy Usher. The Horary Textbook and The Real Astrology by John Frawley.
Other works by these authors.
My writings are informed by these and other authors such as Robert Zoller, Robert Hand and Joseph Crane. I do not mean to suggest that astrological study should be restricted to these few, or that one should be preferred to the other, but I do recommend them as a starting point.