The First House. There are houses on the coast built right to the cliffs, with breath-taking views of sea and sky. What would life be like being born into such a home? Or how different might one’s perspective be, starting out in the desperate tangle of a South Bronx tenement, or a bleak stretch of the Australian outback? As in life, in astrology, one’s birthplace has a shaping power. When you’re born arranges the planets into signs and degrees. Where you’re born drops them into particular houses. It assigns you an altogether different celestial citizenship than someone born at the same moment in another part of the world.
Location counts. It's holistic. More than country, town, or street, family may be the strongest environmental pressure. My mother and her sister haven’t spoken to each other in years. Do you think they share the same reality? Not only is Capricorn rising in my mother's chart, her 1st house holds Saturn in Aquarius. She still has goals, keeps making plans and lists. Then there’s Paul. The Second House. Like a mischievous boy releasing a mouse in a roomful of cheerleaders, try dropping the subject of money into a gathering of metaphysical people. Watch how many scramble for the tabletops. When you're discussing the 2nd house, you have to talk money. Yet in most spiritual circles, money is a dirty word. Craving dollars is an affront to spirit and decidedly uncool (except of course, for those spiritual teachers whose hands are always open for donations).
Nor is astrology exempt. More than once I've heard that charging for readings is blasphemous, since astrology is a “gift” (this might explain the profession's drive to prove that it's a “science”). New Agers, on the other hand, like money. Whether money is dirty or evil--or spirit-inspired--or as is more likely the case, energetic but neutral, “How do I get more of it?” The 2nd is a “succedent” house. The role of the 2nd house, therefore, is to support whatever entity was birthed in the 1st. Your 2nd house ground must be worked. The Third House. When my son was three, we'd often walk to the small park fronting the neighborhood swimming pool, so Branden could ride the “wee!” (his toddler word for "slide"). I remember the time we were joined by an elderly woman.
She was chauffeuring her grandson in a little red wagon, or as Branden called it then, a "ride. " The boy was some months older than Branden, and as the boy crawled out of his wagon, my son studied him carefully. Briefly the boy eyed him back, then scrambled over to the bushes, where he picked up pieces of redwood bark and started throwing them at the plants. After a few minutes, my son walked over to the boy. The 3rd house rules siblings, neighbors, short trips, grammar school, the acquisition and use of language. We learn from our siblings and neighbors; from short trips around town; from the words that shape our world; from the social and informational structures we meet at school. The 3rd is what's known as a “cadent” house. Last Christmas I got a Harry Potter wand. The Fourth House. When I was growing up, at least once or twice a summer my mother would command my sister and I to toil on the big hill in our backyard, weeding the dandelions and mustard grass that flourished there.
Weeds must be pulled by the roots or they'll just grow back again. But perched on the hill with my cardboard box, while the kitchen window that held my mother's warden eye was so small and distant, and the earth below was so hard and rocky the weeds were fixed to the ground, I took the easy way out. I yanked the damn things off at the stem.
Unhappy feelings are a lot like weeds. The 4th is where we go when we collapse. This is not the definition I got from my astrology books. The books said I might cherish my extended family or get into exploring the family tree. The books also said with a 4th house Sun, I'd be lucky in real estate. It was definitely a milestone when I bought my first property. None of the textbook readings for the 4th house seemed quite right. Close your eyes now. The Fifth House. If you've seen the movie Chocolat, you'll understand an essential problem with the 5th house. This is the house of joy and spontaneous self-expression. It's the house of risk-taking, creativity, children, and love. There's a simplicity and innocence in this house that revels in the unbridled pleasure of being alive.
What could be wrong with that? This is the house about which many are curious when they schedule astrology readings: Is a romance on the horizon? Will a child be conceived? In the movie, Vianne Rocher is a scandalously single mother, whose wanderlust takes her to a sleepy village in post-war France. Vianne is a wild one. There is vital life force energy in the 5th house. People often come to astrology readings because they feel stuck. Among working adults in particular, this disease may have reached epidemic proportions. At some point people realize something is missing from their life. If resisting pleasure is not your problem, congratulations. Of course! The Sixth House. Anna Lee was one of my first clients. I gasped when I saw her chart. She had five planets in the 6th house: the Sun, Venus, Mercury, Pluto and Uranus. What’s more, they were all in Virgo, the natural sign of this house.
To my novice mind this information jumped from the page with exclamation points. But what did it mean? At the time, I had no idea. I looked forward to the day when I could look at charts and instantly "know. " I'm alternately envious and suspicious of those who can make instant analyses of a chart with no knowledge of the person who’s living it. Work or health problems often appear during transits to the 6th. Over the next few months, at Saturn's grueling pace, Anna Lee struggled with her situation. " So why didn't you leave? " Her eyes flickered. " Oh, I don't think I could do it. Victimization, insecurity, a loss of options, plus the willingness to work like a steamroller—I checked these qualities against other 6th house Suns that I knew. The Seventh House. Dear April, Writing about the 7th house of partnership, I don't trust myself. That is why, dear friend, I'm asking you to share my column. Not only are you happily married, you have an expressive 7th house Moon.
If anyone can balance my approach, it’s you. You can see why I don’t trust myself. So if by soul mate one means that idyllic partner who, just like us, loves anchovy sandwiches and hates The Lord of the Rings, who appreciates fine Italian marble and is undaunted by our moods, who understands us, as no one else can, then to hunt this person down in the house of opposites is a risky proposition. But why should this be so? It starts with the Ascendant, our first mask or rising sign. Mr. A good rule of thumb is that any individual who provokes us into a strong emotional response, who affects us, has unwittingly invited a shadow dance with our 7th house.
The 7th house holds many stories. Money was the central fact in my parent’s relationship: they argued about it constantly. The Eighth House. Writing about the 8th house isn’t easy. “After all,” says my friend Geraldine, “who truly feels comfortable talking about their experiences of love, death, and sex outside the privacy of personal conversation?” The 8th comes up in most of my astrology consultations. But usually I’ll enter through a side entrance, discovered in the course of conversation, without announcing I’m going in.
I’ll step out just as gingerly. This is the house of secrets after all. It rules sex, other people’s money, taxes, debts, loss, and death. It’s difficult to talk about the 8th, but we all know 8th house territory. Transformations here aren’t always bad. Like the 7th, this is a house of “others.” Monsters in the Closet I remember a client who used to call me every couple of months, always with the same question. Rebecca lived alone. The 8th house can describe the monsters hiding in our closets. The progressed Moon finally entered Rebecca’s 9th house. Quicksand of the Past Facing Death What About Sex? The Ninth House. I like to think of the 9th house as a happy place. Here’s where we don lederhosen, toss a knapsack on our back, and stride gaily through the wide world, singing as we go, “Valderee, Valderah, Valderee, Valderah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.”
Here we feel adventurous and free. The 9th holds our personal Alps, where the spirit soars, the mind expands, and life acquires new meaning. The 9th takes us to uncharted territories and gifts us with new perspectives. It rules travel to faraway places, higher education, religion, philosophy, mysticism, divination, and publishing—endeavors that increase our understanding and broaden the scope of our lives. When there is a 9th house emphasis by transit, progression or solar return, we might get justifiably excited: A new adventure is on the way!
Rarely do we worry about planets in this happy house. The year my Aunt Nancy had five planets in the 9th house of her solar return, she read voraciously—about past lives, auras and astral travel. Did it matter? The Tenth House. "I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody-instead of a bum, which is what I am. " Who among us does not ache with Marlon Brando, as the has-been prizefighter Terry Malloy, when he utters these famous lines in On the Waterfront? Every astrological house has its secret anguish. In the 10th house it's failure, the discovery that we didn't make good on our dreams. I'll never forget the chilling confession of one of my high school English teachers, the one with the impressive Jesuit education and the faint smell of alcohol always on his breath. What you make of yourself is a 10th house matter. So intimately is the 10th house tied to success or failure, we can use it to predict success in simple horary questions.
The 10th shows how others see us-especially those who don't know us too well. Yet among the living, preoccupation with the 10th is perhaps unmatched by any other house (except of course the 7th of relationships). Such a victory can belong to you, too. The Eleventh House. From my cozy vantage in one of the overstuffed reading chairs at the local Barnes & Noble, I heard a strident voice, followed by a distinctly snotty laugh: "No you're not. That's silly. You're just a little boy. " Likely it was the seven-year-old girl who'd been holding court at the children's table, organizing puzzles and, with an oozing superiority, instructing the three and four year-olds not to fold pages or run in the aisles. What poor child was she humiliating, I wondered. Then I heard the voice of my then three-year-old son: "I am too. I am Batman. " Instinctively I got up, my hand in a fist. The 11th is the house of friends.
But that's not all. Multiple keywords are a bothersome feature of many houses. Classical astrologers called the 11th “Bona Fortuna” (“Good Fortune”) and the “House of Good Spirit.” According to John Frawley, another modern expert in the traditional approach, the 11th’s good fortune further derives from its position as second house from the 10th. The Twelfth House. Over the years, I’ve received more inquiries about the 12th than any other house. The ones who write are usually in distress. Sometimes they’re new to astrology and are panicked to learn they’ve got planets here: “I’ve heard the 12th is a terrible house. Am I doomed?” Other times, it’s people who know all about the 12th. In fact, they’ve got a long tale of 12th house woe and are hoping I can predict the precise moment its trials will end.
Classical astrologers have called this house “the valley of miseries,” “the dark den of sorrow and horror,” the “portal of toil,” and the house of “Bad Spirit.” There is karma here. Thank goodness Dane Rudhyar, the father of modern astrology, declared, “There are no bad houses.”  And so modern astrologers, like a happy Extreme Makeover crew, took their axes to this structure of doom. “Things you cannot see” would be the game show category for this house. The First Emperor of Chin was a tyrant. Katie has a 12th house Moon. Chin had two sons.