Choosing Your House System in Astrology
There are over 30 filters, or ways of seeing your world, in astrology. The 30+ house systems divide the circle up differently. This is why astrologers use completely different systems.
It is very common for astrologers to drop one house system, and replace it with another, as they grow older. Robert Hand famously did this, as the astrology chart he used for himself back in 1976 with his classic book Planets In Transit, has been replaced by a Whole Sign house system later in life. Seventies Mr. Hand is not Twenties Mr. Hand. Nor is his future. That’s the way astrology rolls.
Astrologies, Not Astrology
Many astrologers play with reality all the time, by switching house systems.
I started out with Placidus, because that was commonly taught in Britain (and my old Eighties Liz Greene computer chart used Placidus).
I’ll talk about that more at the end of this feature, and how you can do it too. In fact, if you come along to this Zoom talk on 1st March, you’ll be trying the ‘astrologies, not astrology’ experiment with other astrologers and readers too.
The House Systems On This Website
I’m often asked about the house systems I use for the natal chart you see on this website (if you’re a member) and the usual Sun Sign charts too.
I predict the news headlines before they happen, and have done so with Brexit, the virus we came to know as Covid, the October 2020 decline of Trump (who got Covid that month), the arrival of a female Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in the United Kingdom and more. AstroGold software calls it Zero Aries and Astro.com calls it Whole (1=Aries). I call it Natural Astrology.
I began working like this to counter attacks on the accuracy of astrology by Professor Richard Dawkins. I wanted to show astrology could date-stamp the news months or years before it came to pass. It turns out this system also date-stamps prediction for people too.
House Systems Zoom Event 1st March 2023
You can come along to my next Zoom event with the Sydney Astrological Research Society, The House Systems in Astrology at these times and dates in your nearest city, to discuss all this and more. We’ll be too late for America this time, but SARS record the Zoom session. To find the exact time and date where you are, start with Sydney 7.00pm on Wednesday 1st March 2023 then find out when that is, in your own city on Time and Date. Here is the link.
Solar Chart or Sun Sign Prediction
I use two systems at once. Your Sun Sign or solar chart shows the public you. The natal chart (using Natural Houses) shows the private you. Sun Sign astrology in print, goes back to 1551 and author Johannes Indagine (1467-1537) who was a German monk. He was also called also John of Hagen. John (pictured) gave us the Sun sign on the cusp of the First House in the quaint old-fashioned square horoscope system. A rough Latin translation suggests the Sun in Gemini person is ingenious, a hilarious friend and intelligent. We might say that today too. This is the same system I use in 2023.
The Oldest House System in Astrology
Given that a horoscope translates as ‘time observer’ or ‘time observatory’ the oldest horoscopes in existence are made of stone. We have no idea what the mindset was of their creators and observers. Yet – we know it was about the Sun and Moon. People watched the sky and used stones to mark what they saw with megaliths. The most famous megalith is Stonehenge. In fact, Stonehenge predicts eclipses, as Robin Heath has explained, in his work. In Turkey, we have a stone time observatory that is 12,000 years old. It’s called the Gobekli Tepe. Figures on one stone may show a zodiac constellation.
Archeologists may turn up an older stone circle somewhere. Meanwhile, the cuneiform tablets stored in museums around the world, are only just starting to give up their secrets. These come to us from Babylon and it has only been this month, February 2023, that the Electronic Babylonian Literature Project has begun to decode (with artificial intelligence) 300,000 lines of text. It’s still too early in the history of astrology or cultural astronomy to call any way of carving up the circle – the oldest.
This horoscope, below, is by Virgil Master, dated around 1405. Pretty old. So… Is it the best? No. It was the best for Virgil.
Is the Stonehenge lunar time observatory (the 56 Aubrey Holes in the ground) the best, because it’s even older than Monsieur Master’s wheel? No. It was the best for those women, who were likely predicting their periods with it, or childbirth. Perhaps the tribe needed to know who the father was. Well, give me a better reason to dig 56 pits in that hard Stonehenge earth. The fact is, we may never know. We can but speculate.
When Libra Went Missing
Not a lot of astrologers talk about the rather embarassing fact that Libra went missing in horoscopes once. Romans had two Scorpios instead. No wonder Ancient Rome was inspiration for Robert Graves and I, Claudius. Not to mention Caligula. Sex, death and and money. Rome, at one point in her history, was dominated by Scorpio claws.
The zodiac had only 11 signs in antiquity, until it was corrected as Julius Caesar’s soul entered Libra, a new Latin-named invention by the Romans.
Libra used to be called Chelae. The claws of the scorpion. You can still see the old Chelae on some vintage maps and globes. This is (left) the Mercator Globe by Gerard Mercator 1512-1594, harking back to the glory, gory days of Rome when Scorpio hogged a couple of spaces on the circle and held the scales of Libra in its claws. (Image: Alamy). On the right is Scorpio holding Libra in its claws again – Libra is not a zodiac sign in its own right – from the Astronomicon, held in the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford. This is Italian and is dated 1460. Never mind the 13th sign nonsense, here’s an historic 11-sign zodiac.
Astrology is a Mirror
Astrology is a mirror of the times we live in. So it changes all the time. The Sumerian astrologers gave us Zib Baanna (Scales) and Girtab (Scorpion) according to Barnaby Rogerson, in The Guardian. Zib Baanna vanished in the hands of the Greek astrologers. Then the Romans became interested in the idea of a purely Latin constellation. In Marcus Manilius’ Astronomica (100 AD) we find, “The Balance attends the loins, and the Scorpion is lord of the groin.” (Discovery of the Zodiac Man in Cuneiform, John W. Zee, The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago). Suddenly, Roman buttocks had a zodiac sign.
Zee comments, buttocks were ascribed to Libra by Manilius, Psuedo-Galen, Vettius Valens, Hephaestion, Porphyry, Paul of Alexandria and Rhetorius. “An obvious motivation here was the appropriateness of connecting the two weighing-pans of the Scales (ie Libra) with body parts that come in pairs.”
Beyond bottoms, there were other associations. The Sun stood in front of Libra at the Autumn Equinox – equal day and night. The idea of equality began to take off. Justice and fairness. Libra became fashionable, and the Whole Sign House system became possible again, the scorpion’s claws having been cut off.
Libra, Rome, Italy and Caesar
In Manilius’ Astronomica, as translated by Katharina Volk in Celestial Inclinations, we find, “Its own sign Libra rules Italy. Founded under it Rome, the ruler of the earth, holds the decision over all things and raises and lowers the peoples placed in her scales. Born under it, Caesar has now founded the city in a better way.”
Robert Colborn (New College, Oxford) quotes the Goold translation of the Astronomica of Manilius: “What sign would better have the care of Italy, if Italy could choose, than that which controls all, knows the weight of things, marks totals and separates the unequal from the equal?”
Libra became common in the generation of poets after Vergil. Anne-Marie Lewis: “Astrologically, Chelae (Libra) was one of the two Domiciles of Venus which Caesar had reversed as his divine ancestor.” Adding, “Confirmation of the location of the new permanent dwelling place of Caesar’s soul within the zodiacal constellation Chelae (Libra) appeared in poems written after the event of Caesar’s deification.”
In the first book of his Georgics (29BC) Vergil wrote out loud to Caesar, suggesting “Blazing Scorpios itself now draws in its pincers for you and has left more than your due part of the sky.” Lewis references Ovid in his Fasti, commenting that Caesar had reformed the Roman calendar, bringing it into harmony with the solar year and clearly establishing the timing of the Sun’s path through each of the twelve zodiac signs in turn. Thus an archetype was born, in Latin hands.
Venus, Libra and Caesar
At 9.00am on January 1st, 42 BC, when Caesar was deified, Lewis writes, “Venus was nearby to the southeast in Capricornus. Although unseen in the daylight, the location would have been known…” So devoted to Venus was Caesar that he owned a painting by Apelles, called Venus Anadyomene, showing Venus emerging from the sea, naked. So, it all added up. The weird double Scorpio system which had interrupted history, was ditched by the Romans and a space was found in the 11-sign zodiac wheel for Libra (even now in Latin, meaning a pound, balance, pair of scales, or ad libram, of equal size.
As the soul of Caesar had been thought to have gone to Libra, the soul of Augustus was imagined to have gone to Virgo, the adjacent sign, according to Lewis in her forthcoming book. Celestial Inclinations: A Life of Augustus, will be published by Oxford University Press on 3rd May 2023.
Using Two House Systems
In the age of the internet and sophisticated astrology software, professional astrologers use two systems and sometimes more. My friend and colleague in Sun Sign astrology, Susan Miller, uses Solar and Placidus. Penny Thornton and Debbie Frank both worked for the late Diana, Princess of Wales. They use two.
Another friend and colleague, Deborah Houlding, uses Regiomontanus – just one system. I’ve worked with Deborah often at our Astrology and Tarot Meetups in New York, London and Sydney. I use a couple of whole-sign house systems at those events. Deborah works with horary astrology, based on what she calls ‘Regio’ which has always worked well for her.
How Sun Sign Astrologers Work
Sun Sign astrology in Britain was popularised in The Sunday Express, where I’m also published today, by R.H. Naylor who began writing his columns in 1936. Nicholas Campion cites Bernard Eccles (Bernard Fitzwalter, ELLE) in an interview with Garry Phillipson: “He said that we’re like chefs who end up working in fast food restaurants.”
Astrologers who use two house systems are thus offering you the burger and the steak.
Inventing New House Systems
Astrology is open to invention. When I donned my white robe to join fellow members of The Astrological Lodge of London, we honoured an astrology that was open to change. Not closed to new discoveries. There is really nothing to stop you from getting a biscuit tin, drawing around it with a pencil, and creating an 11-sign zodiac with eleven houses. One big scorpion holding the scales in its claws.
Here you can see the doubled-up scorpion again (SCORPIVS) holding Libra in its claws, discussed in The Secret Zodiac: The Hidden Art in Mediaeval Astrology (Fred Gettings, Arkana, 1987). This, below, is a photograph of a twelfth-century roundel from the constellational arch at Sacra di San Michele, Val di Susa (Alamy). Fred Gettings writes, “There is no pretence that this is a zodiac at all. Following the established classical tradition, Scorpius is sculpted as a scorpion grasping in its claws the image of Libra.” He goes on “Libra was at one time called Chelae (The Claws) and was viewed merely as a continuation into the stellar space of Scorpius.” And yet the Romans clearly saw their invention of the Latin libra as meaningful, astrologically.
Astrology is Constantly Reinvented
We don’t know who created this 16th century painting showing Pope Gregory XIII changing the old Julian calendar, but we know the zodiac signs in question altered the way people thought about the horoscope. The Romans popularised Libra, in the same way that some astrological businesses, try to popularise a kind of astrology today – when Julius Caesar reformed the calendar.
The astrologer who cast Rome’s horoscope, Firmanus, promoted Libra as a zodiac constellation, so it became fashionable. In other words, the times you live in, dictate the sort of astrology house system you will be offered or the sort of signs you use to guide you. Astrology bends with the culture and the need. For all we know, Libra could be dropped again in 2100.
Objective Reality Does Not Exist
So, what are we to make of this ever-changing matter called astrology? I think one of the reasons astrology is so successful, is that it is a neat match for quantum theory. Parallel universes. The multiverse.
Objective reality does not exist as we know – and astrology is the proof. For every universe in which an accurate prediction leaves your jaw on the floor, quantum theory says, there are many more universes where it never happened at all. When you read an accurate prediction, it seems impossible (against the odds). And so it comes true.
Well, perhaps, because you just ended up in a universe where it works. There are a ton of others, where it didn’t.
The Observer Effect proven by quantum physics, tells us that just measuring what is there, defines what we see. And astrology is all about measurements. We take a circle divided into 360 degrees, use 12 signs and 12 houses (unless we are disciples of 11 sign/house Chelae astrology) and measure away.
The aspects are 60, 90, 120 degrees apart and so on. We whip out our mental yardstick and judge what we find.
In 1979, John Wheeler took the famous two-slit experiment and revealed that an observer (you, the astrologer – or reader) can be made partially responsible for generating the reality of the past. We do this all the time when we cast a horoscope on AstroGold or Solar Fire and look back at (say) when we took a job, or got married, or had a baby. And now, a true story…
In 2008, the year of the Global Financial Crisis, two famous glossy magazines stopped paying me. They owed me around $20,000. My old Placidus chart showed I had a natal Second House/Eighth House opposition from Saturn to Uranus, being transited by Saturn. It looked dire, as oppositions are issues to fix and the Second and Eighth Houses are about money. A large tax bill arrived. What follows is a true story.
The Wow Factor in Astrology House Systems
I’d had quite enough of staring at a rotten horoscope in 2008. I sacked my Placidus house system. I used every one of the 30+ competing house systems in Stephanie Johnson’s Solar Fire computer program and ran the Second World War through all of them. I was taking my cue from John Wheeler. Back-predicting the past.
Only one house system matched the old headlines and it was what I call the Natural House System, also known as Zero Aries. The fun part started when I typed in my own time, place and date of birth and switched my horoscope. It was radically different. Jupiter (big benefits) went into the Second House (money). I checked back with my own history. Oddly, I had always won prizes and scholarships, since the age of eight. I’d never thought of myself as a Jupiter in Second House person, but the new house system did in fact, ring true.
Before I went to bed, I checked my bank account. The entire $20,000 was in there. I will never know if it was the legal department of the William Morris Agency, or just astrology, but that was it for me. Placidus got the sack and I never looked back. I had wandered into the right parallel universe where such things happen.
This is the wow factor of astrology which is really just a nice real-world example of quantum theory working on large objects. In other words, astrologers.
Geoffrey Cornelius and the Four House Systems
Geoffrey Cornelius uses four house systems in The Moment of Astrology, agreed by astrologers as one of the most important book about the profession, ever published.
His argument, that what we do in astrology does not work, without an astrologer involved (it cannot be reduced to a computer) is crucial in 2023 as artificial intelligence comes in.
Astrology is alchemy. You, your horoscope, your client or reader and the times we live in. Or you, your chart, your husband’s chart, and the times you live in. Unrepeatable combinations of astrology charts.
Natal astrology is a unique one-off that can’t be tested with statistics and cannot be mass-produced to reward investors. Well, you can try – but it won’t be proper astrology. I can’t really see an app deciding to offer you an alternative house system halfway through a consultation. Or a nice cup of tea.
The Astrologer Who Helped Churchill Win the War
Some astrologers are fond of talking about ‘best’ house systems. Maybe the best house system is the one that helps the man, who helped Churchill win the war.
On May 26th 1942, the highly regarded astrologer Brigadier R.C. Firebrace C.B.E. took on his other role as Russian translator, for Churchill’s government, at 10 Downing Street.
The Anglo-Soviet Treaty was the result, pledging twenty years of alliance between the United Kingdom and Soviet Union. Firebrace was co-founder of The Astrological Association of Great Britain. He was an observer and interpreter for Sir Winston Churchill at Potsdam and Yalta as well. Firebrace was also President of The College of Psychic Studies in London and a member of The Astrological Lodge of London. He was President of the London Astrological Research Group.
I bought this photograph from a collector, which shows Firebrace to the immediate right of Churchill (his right-hand man) with Eden on his other side. It was held in the files of The Daily Telegraph in London for decades.
Now, Churchill’s right-hand man, known as The Brig, used a fringe house system. What he called A and M Houses. I’ll look more at the house system which may have influenced the war, at this Sydney Astrological Research Society Zoom event on Wednesday 1st March 2023 at 7.00pm to 8.oopm local time.
I hope to see lots of you in London for breakfast online. This Zoom invites questions from you; involves a live Tarot reading; shows you how to double up with a Solar House reading and sets you a good house system test. For the first time in 248 years Pluto goes into Aquarius on March 23rd. Now, which house will it enter, and which house do you want it to enter? Bring a biscuit tin.
Sir Winston Churchill and Brigadier R. Firebrace C.B.E. at 10 Downing Street. Copyright Jessica Adams Ltd 2023. Not for reproduction.