The Zodiac and the 12 Houses

A somewhat controversial topic that is worth exploring. Is there a connection between the houses and the Zodiac? Uncovering the deeper meaning behind the houses and the Zodiac signs.

A Western astrological chart has 12 Houses and 12 Zodiac signs, creating two major wheels along which all planets positioned and analysed.

Is it possible that the houses and the signs are somehow connected? Does one rule another, and if so which one is the master and which one is the subordinate?

To better answer this question we are going to explore their commonalities and differences. But first let’s understand how they came to be.

The art of dividing a circle

If the Zodiac signs or houses weren’t invented, an astrological chart would look like a clean circle – geometrically pure and beautiful but lacking specifics that make charts different.

Astrological chart showing aspects only
A chart with aspect patterns only applies to the whole world.

The Zodiac signs are essentially divisions of time along the ecliptic — a trajectory traced by the Sun throughout the year. An astrological year begins with the March equinox that loosely marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere where the Zodiac was “invented”. The course of the year is divided into 12 equal parts, each part having its unique name and flavour. That’s a super short description of the Zodiac circle. The Zodiac division applies to the whole world meaning it’s the same for any place on the Earth.

The methodology behind the Houses is somewhat similar. The zero point of the first house is the position of the eastern horizon along the ecliptic — the point of “eternal Sunrise”. Houses are unique for each specific geographical location and its local time.

Astrological chart showing aspects, the zodiac and the houses
A chart with the Zodiac and the Houses becomes a local and individual chart. Such a chart describes a position in space and time – a geographic location at a point in time for both annual and daily cycles.

Adding these extra two circles makes the chart much more descriptive, it now has:

  • season specifics, and
  • location specifics.

The same astronomical moment in time (usually expressed in astronomical Julian days that can be translated into universal UTC time) produces different charts. Two people born at the same moment in time will display different mental, psychological and health patterns.

Houses are deeply personal

As the Zodiac belongs to the world point of view, the houses are intrinsically individual. From the metaphysical standpoint, the sphere of the human head is the reflection of the celestial dome as perceived from a specific location on the Earth.

When your eyes are aligned with the ascendant point which is the east, the back of the head is pointing to the west (the descendant), the top of the head is pointing directly at the midheaven which is the cusp of the 10th house. The whole astrological chart can be constructed inside the sphere of your head.

Knowing the houses means knowing oneself. The houses define each unique personality.

Why is “twelve” a good number?

The 12 hour division of time was already in use during Ancient Egypt around 3,000 BC. The Babylonian numeral system was “sexagesimal” meaning based on the number 60. Modern hours and minutes are still divided into 60 parts.

The ancients divided the day and the night into 12 parts in their sundial clocks. This division of time is still in use and is known as “planetary hours” where duration of the day hour is different from the duration of the night hour with a rare exception of the equinox moments that happen twice a year.

From the symbolic standpoint, the number 12 works really well:

  • 12 expresses the seasonal flow as in 12 = 4 × 3 symbolising the 4 seasons with each season progressing through the 3 essential phases: beginning, maturation and completion.
  • Number 6 is the first simplest “round” number as neither of simpler numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 symbolise round and cyclical as well as 6 does
  • 12 is a sum of two 6s as in 12 = 6 + 6
  • 60 = 12 × 5 where 5 is the magical “power” number
  • 60 = 4 × 15 = 4 × 3 × 5 another beautiful cosmic pattern expressing the action of magic from the domain of ideas down to the domain of hard matter

Intuitively, it makes sense to divide the circle into 12 parts. Certainly one could divide the circle into any other number of parts, be it 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and so on. They are all valid divisions yet the 12 part one feel the most versatile as it interacts really well with other numbers. It integrates much better, it provides a better mathematical and symbolic model.

Rulership or symbolic correspondence?

The 12 houses only exist because the 12 Zodiac signs exist that in turn only exist because the Sun exists. In other words, the Sun gives birth to both the Zodiac and the houses.

If we take an analogy of a watch face with its hour and minute hands, the Zodiac movement is akin to the slower hour hand, and the house movement is akin to the minute hand (or maybe even second) that moves so much faster.

Clock face
Zodiac and house wheels

But both have the same birth origin — the movement of the Sun.

From this point of view the Zodiac doesn’t rule the houses since both originate from the same source, the Zodiac and the houses have symbolical similarities — like piano keys that belong to different octaves.

The beginning and the end, the “I am” and “I will be”

Both the 1st house and the the 1st Zodiac sign Aries symbolise beginnings of the personality and the Sun annual cycle.

The last 12th house and the last Zodiac sign Pisces symbolise the completion and transformation from one cycle to another. What has been accomplished and what became karmic debt or karmic credit.

The Midheaven and the “I do”

The Midheaven marks the beginning of the 10th house and is the second most important point in the chart.

The corresponding Zodiac sign is Capricorn, ruled by Saturn. The symbolism of career building, creating something tangible in the world throughout a person’s life span.

“Not every house has planets in it”

Having correspondence rather than rulership really helps in analysing the charts. How well each house interacts with the Zodiac sign into which the house cusp falls defines what kind of life challenges and opportunities are active in one’s life.

Is the first house in Aries or is in Pisces? Two different personalities emerge out of this placement.

Is the 10th house cusp in Sagittarius or in Virgo? The person’s interaction with the world will depend on that.

Having symbolic correspondence between the houses and the Zodiac signs allow us to answer the question of “this house of my chart is empty, what does that mean?” One way to tackle that is to look at the house-to-sign relationship. Another way is to observe that a human life is usually focused around a certain theme that is shaped by the planets and aspects they form. It’s the topic of one’s life “master thesis” — an invitation to stay focused and keep working on what is important and available.

Putting it all together reveals the interconnectedness between planets, the Zodiac and the houses.

Number Sign Ruler House qualities
1 Aries Mars “me”, personality, appearance
2 Taurus Venus taking things from the world, earnings
3 Gemini Mercury close surroundings, siblings, short actions
4 Cancer Moon roots, family, upbringing, subconscious, mother
5 Leo Sun creativity, love, procreation, affairs
6 Virgo Mercury health & diseases, service, patterns
7 Libra Venus partnerships, relationships, conflicts
8 Scorpio Mars & Pluto sex, occult, wealth
9 Sagittarius Jupiter body, studies, long actions
10 Capricorn Saturn skills, profession, career, father
11 Aquarius Saturn & Uranus groups, communities, social sphere
12 Pisces Jupiter & Neptune large institutions, transformation, karma

What becomes apparent is that both the Zodiac signs and the houses inherit energies of corresponding ruling planets.

For example, the 6th house exhibits qualities of Mercury, while the 7th clearly relates to Venus and so on.

This raises the following question…

Are the houses ruled by planets?

It would be very tempting to conclude that both the Zodiac and the houses are ruled by the planets. That clearly makes sense when looking at the table above.

In reality energies of the houses and the Zodiac signs are much broader than those of individual planets. Houses often blend qualities of several planets, for example, the 5th house has certain tones of Venus (love, affairs, creativity) that are powered up by the Sun. One may say that the 5th house corresponds to the Sun-Venus duo.

More complex houses like the 8th, the 11th and the 12th have dual planetary correspondences by definition thanks to the discovery of the three trans-Saturnian planets namely Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. How could the ancients think that the 12th house related to Jupiter only? There must be some Neptune in the mix.

So what rules what? Planetary archetypes to the rescue

The fundamental astrological unit of the solar system is the planets that all have originated from the one source, the Sun. Pretty much every flavour of the human psyche can be described using a combination of planetary energies that are the archetypes behind each planet and its reflected light.

The Zodiac and the houses are the next two steps down the ladder of causes and effects. They are both divisions of time and space and inherit certain qualities of their corresponding super principles, the planets.

Once one has learned the planets and their archetypal energies it becomes much easier to understand and navigate the mysteries of the Zodiac and the houses.