The Issue of House Division in Astrology

The Issue of House Division in AstrologyIn this episode Chris and Kelly Surtees talk about the issue of house division in western astrology, and the range of different house systems that astrologers employ in practice.

The discussion was motivated by some recent threads in the Professional Astrologers group on Facebook, including a poll which showed that a surprising number of astrologers have switched to whole sign houses in the past few years.

During the course of the show we cover a variety of different topics related to the subject of house division, and the challenge of choosing which system of house division is right for you.

 Here is a list of some of the topics discussed:

  • Brief overview of some of the different types of house division.
  • Some discussion about the history of the house division issue.
  • The recent rediscovery of whole sign houses.
  • Paying attention to planets in houses versus planets ruling houses.
  • Using one form of house division for horary and a different one for natal astrology?
  • Testing different systems of house division.

There is also a brief astrology news segment at the beginning of the show where I mention the death of Michael Baigent, who passed away in June.

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Comments

  1. thanks for making this episode. whenever I see people not using WSH, I frown inside. the historical evidence is so powerful that anyone who takes a rational look into the matter will really have to start considering using WSH

    • Chris Brennan says:

      I think that the historical precedent is enough to warrant someone at least looking into it, although I don’t know if that is compelling enough to make a person adopt it outright, just because it is the oldest, or what have you. I do think that some of the practical advantages that set whole sign houses apart from the other systems in practice are compelling enough to cause people to switch though, and that is the most important part to me. It is like this complete package, where it is more compelling from a historical, conceptual AND practical perspective.

  2. Maureen Hastings says:

    Please, could you say a little more about what considerations one might think on to decide how to orient the chart as regards the position of the Ascendant? I have been using whole signs since I began learning a few years back and have my Ascendant degree at 19 of the first house. There are 3 options in my Delphic Oracle software; 1 for Ascendant at horizon, 1 for Ascendant at 15 degrees of rising sign and one for Ascendant at 0 degrees of rising sign, that is where I have it set. They make for very different charts.
    Thanks!

  3. Mar Habrine says:

    Your comments on the MC falling in a house other than the 10th does sort of raise a good argument for using a quadrant system.
    Its complicated and problematic to imply that the 10th house could have two rulers.
    A house system that was originated to predict a persons life span becoming more in favor over time seems also like an argument that it was getting better results. Tried and true. And also seems somewhat appropriate that it is now used by astrologers that believe in reincarnation.
    You have made observing transits with WHS more compelling and I’m trying it out. Thank you Chris!

  4. Hi Chris and Kelly,
    I just listened to this very interesting discussion. I used Placidus for years (doing hand calculations..). I gradually moved to Porphyry when Robert Blaschke explained (it took many conversations!) the mathematics of the different quadrant systems (he felt that Porphyry made the most sense mathematically) and stayed there for at least 15 years. I’ve been in Kelly’s long sex change process and have been using Whole signs for nearly 10 years, first just watching it, then applying it straight off. I have found, however, the Porphyry 8th cusp is sensitive in death charts..(I always look at Porphyry along with WS) By sensitive, I mean a transit or progressed Moon to the cusp of the 8th of the natal at the time of death. Having reached the age where I’ve had more clients and friends pass away, this has been quite noticeable..So, was particularly interested that Porphyry was (seemingly?) originally used for length of life issues..
    Thanks for all the good work..
    Best,
    Mary

  5. Mar Habrine says:

    Question for Chris and Mary. Do you practice the technique of profection with the WHS? Finding it sort of irresistibly fascinating :)

  6. Having fun with you again. Placidus was an outgrowth of Alcabitus, which has to do with the length of time it takes a sign to rise across the ascendant. You needed to know that in order to use Primary Directions, which were virtually the only forecasting method used for many centuries. Which goes back to Ptolemy, Valens and the Greeks in general. The availability of ephemerides was erratic, so if you could get the natal year, you could use primaries to forecast. Placidus was intended as a calculation aid for primaries. If this is true, then Raphael included them in his early ephemerides to produce a comprehensive annual guide. Lilly used Regiomontanus for the same purpose (Primaries) as the Placidus system was new to him and he did not like it. Sepharial and Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson were advocates of Primaries, and Placidus.

    The reason the Greeks did not invent Placidus – or any other system aside from Porphyry, was that they lacked a number system that would support the calculations needed. Before “Arabic” numbers were developed in India around 300 AD, all number systems were versions of hash marks. Of them, Romans were about the best. The Greeks got around this by inventing algebra, but algebra would not work for spherical trig. I am uncertain to what extent the abacus would work as an aid.. We think of it as a Chinese machine, but the Romans used it as well. It fell out of use in the west with the introduction of Arabic numbers, which in Europe dates to 1202 in Italy, from Fibonacci.

    You really should study the introduction of Arabic numbers, as whenever they appeared, knowledge shot upwards almost immediately. They are that powerful. I am surprised that David Pingree, who held the title of Professor of the History of Mathematics, said nothing about this.

    Porphyry divides zodiacal longitude, which is not a house system as it does not relate to the earth’s daily revolution, but it was the best one could do with Roman numbers. Calculate them in Romans sometime. Jeff Green’s use of it does not seem serious to me. Charles Carter was a fan of Campanus, as was the wonderful Kanya, in Harlem in the 1980’s. From him, there is still a distinct school of Black astrologers who use Campanus houses with the Fagan-Bradley sidereal zodiac. Carter’s associate, Margaret Hone, was an advocate of Equal, back in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, etc. Carter founded and Hone ran the Faculty of Astrological Studies in London. She would probably have used whole sign houses had she been aware of the distinctions. I do not know what the Faculty is up to these days as regards houses.

    Aside from Porphyry, quadrant house systems can be divided between those that divide various Great Circles – Regiomontanus, Campanus, for example, and those which divide time, such as Placidus, Koch, Topocentric, Alcabitus, etc. The time-based systems cannot be understood without reference to Primaries. It might also be said that horary is static, in that we use a chart once and throw it way, while natals are dynamic, in that we will use the same chart for the life of the individual. In this light, differing house systems might be justified, from horary to natal.

    I haven’t seen that any natal astrologer, aside from Morin and his followers, have a good grasp of houses. I have myself “innovated” a great deal in this area, but I do not think innovation is possible in a system as old as this. I am simply following my nose.

    The reference for houses is The Elements of House Division, by Ralph William Holden, published by L.N. Fowler, Essex, 1977. I would have reprinted it years ago but Mr. Holden, who has disappeared, is now 62 years old and one does not touch a book when the author is alive but unavailable.

    The split in the astrological community, AFA to AFAN, etc, was in the late 1970’s and was due to a fallout with Bob Cooper’s heavy-handed tactics. He retired four or five years ago and has since passed.

    Back in the 1980’s, when I learned the ropes, people were told to use Koch. The German-inspired Cosmobiology-based New York school, of Weingarten et al, pushed it heavily. People used them, they had no idea why, but since then the system has faded, as you have noticed. Joyce Wehrman made the ultimate use of Koch, for gambling, a system that works quite well and is extremely precise, specifying four minutes out of six hours, etc. The once when I tried Koch in a rectification, I found there was no “there” there and never tried it again. Once you understand why different houses systems were devised you may make better use of them. You will not win in Vegas with any form of equal or whole or Placidus. You just won’t. Wehrman’s system is specific to Koch. If you want to use primaries you will immediately return to Alcabitus, Placidus or Topocentric. In medical astrology we use a system of eight houses in decumbiture, but it is such a simple system that we merely track the moon..

    Medieval astrologers knew of the Hellenists, Lilly mentions them himself. He had a library of books some of which were several hundred years old. They abandoned many Hellenistic tenants in part as astrology, as a whole, evolved, due, I think, to the development of numbers, which made many new things possible. Morin made the best use of houses that I have seen, but his system was largely unknown until the mid-20th century. Many in Leo’s school a century ago rejected him.

    As I calculated several hundred charts by hand back in the 1980’s using Placidus, I had the chart mostly interpreted by the time I had it calculated. The text Kelley is referring to is the Rosicrucian table, which is organized differently from those of Dalton, ACS, AFA, Raphael, etc. The Rosicrucian is organized towards rectification, while the others are organized around latitude. All except the Rosicrucian were identical in layout to the Koch and Campanus tables I’ve seen. Once you had the final sidereal time worked out, you could still finesse the MC and ascendant, but there was no point bothering with the other cusps, which were read straight from the table. Entries were every 4 minutes, birth times are rarely that tight. Primaries need a great deal greater precision, but few bother with them. The Krishnamurti system uses the Krishnamurti ayanamsa with Placidus houses, their students simply rave at the precision. Krishnamurti publishes tables calculated to the minute, also to precise latitudes of specific towns in India. I have stocked them. Krishnamurti’s ayanamsa is similar to the tweak that Rick Houck made to Lahiri around 20 years ago.

    Myself, I use whole sign houses with Placidus cusps, with angles that are walls, which is my own observation. The planet-house-sign synthesis is powerful, as is the rulership issue. The quadrant issue is real, planets stranded in intercepted houses are real, planets on the wrong side of an angle are real, retrograde planets are read differently re: houses than planets that are direct, etc. Every now and then planets disappear entirely, so far as their house placements are concerned. There are such things as planets stranded by house.

    Topocentric was developed to duplicate Placidus. The difference between the two systems is that Placidus is a theoretical construction, Topocentric was based on the observation of the results of primary directions. It was the work of A.P. Nelson Page and Wendel Povich, of Argentina. The two systems mirror each other. I once knew an Argentinian who used Koch in northern latitudes and Topocentric in southerly ones. Which I did not understand at the time, but now I think he was trying to please his neighbors in New York while remaining a patriot to his native country.

    So far as the observation that quadrant systems do not work at extreme latitudes, there is a simple answer: There are very few pregnant women at such latitudes. Back in the late 1980’s at Henry’s place my job was to run charts. In four years I ran around 12,000 charts, all by computer. In that time there was precisely one woman who was born above 66 degrees north. She was a repeat customer. This is otherwise an imaginary problem.

    An interesting broadcast. I hope you enjoy my notes. Thanks.

  7. Very interesting article and obviously a well studied astrologer……..but forgive my ignorance could you expain your conclusions?

    As I’m not sure what you are saying in this statement you made ” Myself, I use whole sign houses with Placidus cusps, with angles that are walls, which is my own observation.”

    • Hello Steve, Thanks for your note. Since I wrote that I have seen the light and have given up. My system is complex and unworkable.

      For an example of how houses work, go here: http://theastrologypodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/james-patrick-watson-natal-full.jpg . Note carefully the big bold lines do not represent the angles, but rather, the 12th, 3rd, 6th and 9th cusps. Or, as it was explained to me, the four cardinal signs set to mirror the degree on the ascendant, the houses being equal. This was put up by the host and presenter of the Astrology Podcast, Chris Brennan a day or two ago. Unlike my personal system, this is traditional and can be explained in simple terms. Please forgive that I myself do not know what those would be.

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