Tarot decks in the Temple of Aphrodite, on the sacred island of Delos. Digital photo by Eric Francis.

By Eric Francis

1st House (the east) also called the Ascendant or sign rising -- In the solar house system, it's not really rising, but presumed to act that way; really it's the house the Sun occupies. In any case, the essential message is: I am. Personal identity, and a more subtle level of identity than either the Sun or Moon, which rule the "sense of self." The ascendant, for example, covers the subject of one's name. How you say, "My name is..." and how you react to their reaction, is a classic 1st house skit. This area of the chart is an important meeting point between the self and the world, and a useful place to work out that relationship. Some say the ascendant covers physical appearance. The planet that rules the rising sign is a meaningful significator for you in your own natal chart and elsewhere. The ascendant represents your soul's journey, what you could call 'The Continuing Story of I Am Becoming', but of course, this is a statement that could be applied to the whole chart. The 1st house also represents the question itself in horary astrology; or the subject of the question; the one making the inquiry; or all of the above.
2nd -- What you value, including your body, your most deeply held principles, your money, your possessions, your talents, and your sense of self-worth or self-esteem. It doesn’t have to be large; it can even signify your favorite No. 2 Pencil from your favorite special little place. Note the word "your" keeps coming up; this house has a lot to do with being self-possessed, owning yourself, owning your stuff, claiming it back, and being true to your values, or not. Self-esteem crises can be revealed here better than nearly anyplace else but the 8th helps a lot on this question, too. The 2nd house reveals volumes about how someone feels about himself or herself. In regards to sex, the theme is masturbation, an origin of sexual feeling for many.
3rd -- One's local environment. Siblings, straight away, and all ideas, concepts and experiences that grow out of that idea. Mental processes, opinions, writing, analysis, some aspects of publishing, local travel, your immediate surroundings and one's ideas. But if you are in a foreign country and trying to speak the language, that's the 3rd house aspect of your journey. The 3rd is the expression of all that you feel and believe in the 2nd house. It's not unusual, however, for siblings to turn out with "night and day" values -- which is an expression of the Gemini quality of that house, the essence of dualism, or complimentary relationship. This house represents the hidden psychological legacy of the father. To address the contents of the house, it helps a lot of you're willing to consider your dad's inner trip and the psychological and emotional legacy he's handed you.
4th / IC (the north) -- The emotional environment; the past as it relates to one's emotional processes NOW; the security base; the conditions inside one's home; the influences of parents, particularly father and grandfather (and the past in general). There is a controversy regarding the house attribution of parents, with some people giving the 4th to mother and the 10th to father and some doing the opposite. It's good to experiment with both, but over and over, in real-life situations, I've seen the 4th apply to the affairs of the father and his side of the family and the 10th apply to those of mother and her side. You could experiment with the idea that the 4th represents the non-dominant parent. Also, the cusp itself, the IC or the division between the 3rd solar house and the 4th, can represent the genetic lineage. Note, we live in a patrilineal society in most Western civilizations and trace lineage through father. The 10th cusp could certainly be the matrilineage.
5th -- The house of taking risks, pleasure, play and creative love. These all call upon a person to dare. Of all the previous houses, the 5th has the greatest feeling of surrender. Romance, children, adventure, gambling, bungee jumping, hang gliding, and sex for fun or passion, including when you're in love. This house can have an unusual karmic quality to it; there is a relationship to something that's beyond immediate experience or perception but which activities of that house can bring out. The way a charismatic person seems to have a glowing aura, this is a manifestation of 5th house flair. Look for examples when there are transits or progressions. Also look to the 4th house, which would be the one that tells us whether we're really secure enough to enjoy life.
6th -- Well-being and health. Balanced existence. The medical profession and other 'service' type professions such as teaching or administrative; and the military. Your place of work. Your work and work relationships. The drive or impulse to serve others, or to serve the whole, service being the underlying idea of the 6th place. Balancing service to others with service to self. Healing and healing practices. Your sense of the "here and now." One common experience of the 6th is that of getting lost in one's work, and four hours go by feeling like five minutes. Or another experience can be filling the day with errands and appointments and cleaning to fill in the gaps. A day doing nothing means scheduling relaxing  appointments for specific types of massage. The occupied 6th house is a busy one. This house covers mental health, since the 6th is such a powerful indicator of psychological processes, a kind of extension of the 3rd house in this respect, but it specifically addresses health.
7th / Descendent (the west) -- We are. Relationships, partnerships and open enemies; all the common ways people define their one-to-one associations. Direct encounters and those to whom we relate directly. "Your opposite sign." It is a point of public contact, and the energy we express from the 7th has a strong influence in our relationships, who we attract, and how we feel about them. The 1st and the 7th both represent contact points with society; all the angles do, but at times the cusps on the horizon have a peculiar way of reversing their meaning and sense of impact. It's important to pay particular attention to the planetary rulers of the two houses and their relationship by aspect.
8th --­ This is the most influential house of the zodiac in modern times; we are living in the Era of the 8th House. I call it "The House of the Mysteries of Birth and Death." As expressed in real terms, the themes are: sex, death, jealousy, money, power, control, secrets, surrender and transformation. Hence the 8th tells you about this thing known as "issues." Originally, it was the House of Death and Dowry. It involves contracts, agreements and in general always involves another person or people in a situation where there is some kind of power, economic relationship or deep emotion involved. In terms of sex, the sex you need -- and the experience of orgasm with another person. Oh -- reproduction and the transfer of genetic material fall under this house, as an attribute of sexuality.
9th -- Traditionally, the 9th covers long-distance travel, international cultures, ideas, higher education, spirituality, the ministry, the higher courts and the intellectual arts. Colleges and universities; great libraries or databases; any body of knowledge, things larger and more expansive than one's individual experience; compare with the 3rd house. The yearning to know everything about, for example Goethe, and spontaneously buying the unabridged complete works, and then laughing about it later, is an ordinary 9th house exaggeration. Some  aspects of publishing. Spiritual ideas and spiritual leaders. Astrology tends to hang out there a lot. It's also the house of the higher self or higher power, which is a modern psychological take on all the God stuff. Planets in this house tend to work very well, if we bother to access them. They can easily be taken for granted. This house also represents the hidden psychological legacy of the mother. In order to access the gifts of this house, it's necessary to address that legacy.
10th / MC (the south) -- The 10th represents your highest aspiration and your most cherished goals. This house can bestow stage presence, or eliminate stage fright; it is one of the most present houses of the lot. It represents your sense of whether you're respected, what you'll do to earn respect, and the actual honor and place in the world you can or may receive or accept. This is the house of the (sometimes elusive) "calling" in life. What you are known for, or strive to be known for. What you absolutely must do or achieve in this lifetime. Reputation, power, government, corporations show up here too, and our personal involvement with them. In the 10th house we make contact with the world. But there is a reach involved, and the necessity to push out against the world a little bit, or a lot. The 10th also represents the mother or dominant parent, and the process of ego formation that teaches us to interact with the world.
11th -- The larger community, one's circle of friends, one's sense of having people to share, live with, in the context beyond the family. That means Girl Scouts, 4H club, bridge, PTA, joining a cult or starting a company. It is the house of 'all of us here', and the space where the 'general public' intersects with the personal public. Often described as the house of hopes and dreams, but really it's much more. It's also the house of your expression of your gifts to the culture, and information about what you have to express and offer. The material and social rewards of your actual career. Social status. In terms of sex, polyamory, group sex, sex among friends.
12th -- Not such a simple house; it's the end of the story or the time before the beginning. The great unknown. Blissing out, blessing out, the space of meditation, but more often in our age, paranoia and fear -- the kind that tricks you late at night. In Vedic astrology, the 12th represents the pleasures of the bed -- sex with the kind of pleasure or spiritual merging that you can't really describe (as contrasted with the 8th, a more urgent, emotional surrender to the power of another). Things too large to comprehend, including massive institutions like the government, hospitals, prisons. Movies and illusions. The house of dreams, as in the kind we have when we're sleeping (the dreams we remember tend to occur when the Sun is transiting this house); the abyss; the ocean of experience; the total surrender of identity, sometimes associated with death. Its other associations are things like deep space, identity beyond definitions, one's relationship with God, existence and nonexistence.
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