A complete guide to understanding the 12 Houses in astrology

what are houses in astrology

There's more to astrology than your zodiac sign. In fact, if you read your horoscopes at RUSSH you have almost certainly come across mentions of Houses. Sometimes people refer to the 12 Astrological Houses as zones, sectors or sections, and usually in tandem with notions like Romance or Friendship. The latter is shorthand for each of the Houses and what they stand for. Given that there are 12 Astrological Houses on your birth chart, they cover a lot of ground, from love, friends, money, identity, health and more. It also helps to know that the 12 Houses are arranged in the shape of a wheel to mirror the Earth's 24-hour rotation and each House accounts for two hours. But more on that in a minute.

When planets transit through Houses, the energies of both interact to create movement (read: drama) in our lives. If, for instance, analytic Mercury highlights our 11th House of Friendship, we might find ourselves becoming selective around who we choose to spend time with. Even though there are only 12 Houses and 7 main planets, you'd think this cause little friction. In reality, the combination of drama are infinite, as are the possibilities for goodness.

With all this in mind, it's time to take a closer at the Houses themselves. Then next time you read a horoscope that references, say, your “money zone,” you won't just nod politely and feign understanding. Below, find a definitive guide to the 12 Houses of Astrology.

1st House: Self

In the beginning there was the 1st House, associated with the face and complexion, with ego, identity, and selfhood. This is the part of the chart that reveals how we appear to others but also how we think about ourselves. For this reason, it is deeply introspective. The 1st House rules over head and mind. When aggressive Mars is placed there, we get personality types that might battle with themselves or become conflicted. Quicksilver Mercury, the planet of communication, finds its joy here because it can express itself to the world with ease. When Venus, the planet that corresponds with beauty, is in the 1st House, it's a time of self-confidence outward beauty. This is the house that completes “I am...”

2nd House: Money

Our money karma gets played out in the 2nd House. But not just money. This area of the chart also refers to profits, goods, value, and possessions. In a nutshell, ownership of things. If restrictive Saturn transits here, it can forewarn you to stash cash or limit your spending, while expansive Jupiter suggests an increase in possessions or fortune. Reckless Mars doesn’t do well here, and can suggest risky financial behaviour. Mercury indicates good powers of judgement. If the 1st House helps complete the sentence "I am", the 2nd House deals with “I have.”

3rd House: Communication

All manner of communication relates to the 3rd House – sending letters, starting rumours, texting friends, giving speeches, writing papers. But the 3rd House also governs over short journeys. Accordingly, the Moon has its joy in this House, and when in transit here it heralds more travel, errands, busy motions to and fro. Mercury (communication, remember?) in the 3rd House indicates precision with our words, while Jupiter can point toward a prolific output. This house also relates to siblings, cousins, and neighbours. Therefore Mars transiting the 3rd could predict verbal arguments with a sibling. Meanwhile, Venus could indicate sweet words toward them. The house of “I say.”

4th House: Home

We usually condense the meaning of the 4th House to home-related issues but it also has to do with land, properties, and inheritance. More than all this, this house pertains to the Father or father figures. The Sun transiting here predicts an auspicious time to be with Dad, while lucky Jupiter could suggest an increase in property. If Saturn, planet of lack, appears, it might predict the loss of home, while lovely Venus points toward a transit to beautify it. The house of “I dwell.”

5th House: Romance

One of the best Houses, it deals with fun, romance, creation, recreation, and procreation. It’s associated with nightlife, pleasures, and taverns. To be aligned with its energy, we need to be out and about, looking for trouble or love. It’s also the house for creativity and fertility in mind and body. Physiologically, the 5th House corresponds to liver (drinking), stomach (eating), and heart (loving). Uninhibited Venus has its joy in this part of the chart, which makes sense as Venus indicates desire and pleasure. When Venus or the Moon frolic here, beware or prepare for pregnancies, while dour Saturn turns all to seed. “I create.”

6th House: Routine

The humdrum House of the day-to-day, the 6th signifies diet, routine, busy work, and health. Destructive Mars has its joy here. Mars loves putting its energy to use and fittingly this section of the chart presides over tasks. The 6th also pertains to your work environment, your employees, pets, and habits. The Sun here portends a good time for medical check-ups, while Mercury transits indicate energy for good diet and calorie counting. “I work” is the spirit of this house.

7th House: Relationships

One of the major Houses, this part of the chart deals with partnerships (both business and spousal), marriages, relationships, sweethearts, and questions of love. If the 1st House is all about the self, this is the House of the other. What are the main karmic bonds that I must work through with people outside the bloodlines of mother, father, siblings? This House also refers to contractual agreements (legal, business and marriage contracts). When the New Moon passes through here, it suggests a time to ask questions to a partner. A Full Moon delineates a time to answer them. Aggressive Mars can indicate power struggles in the 7th. In contrast, Venus and Jupiter indicate understanding and harmony. Seeing that this house pertains to marriage, its verb might be “I do.”

8th House: Debt

Perhaps the hardest House to wrap one’s head around, this area of the chart has to do with financial debt – what we owe others, but also what others owe us. It relates to wills, legacies, and last testaments. In this sense, the 8th House is haunted by the shadow of death and how we will die. To make things even more complicated, it also refers to sex, taxes, and spiritual transformation. In medical astrology, it rules over the genitals. So, in addition to debt and death, this House has something to do with sexual intimacy – sharing and enacting our fantasies. In a more modern context, it relates to shared finances. Ultimately, there is an occult, dark, intuitive energy to this house. Be wary of anyone who says they understand the 8th House. “I owe” or “I share.”

9th House: Spirituality

In the olden days, this was the House of religion. In our more secular times, it refers to spiritual practice and higher learning. As a result, it also points to long distance travels. The purpose of this House is to take the mind or body from common to higher places, either physically (as in a life-altering journey overseas) or mentally through knowledge, books, spiritual insight. Naturally, wise Jupiter loves this house (and indicates things like studying abroad). The Sun has its joy here, too, which makes sense since Sun and knowledge are connected to mind. Unlike the 8th House, the architecture of the 9th seems more simple and clear. Its mantra: “I learn.”

10th House: Career

Again, one of the major Houses. Since the 10th House deals with career and public persona, it relates somewhat to the 1st House; both parts of the chart respond to how we are seen by others. The 10th House pertains strictly to recognition in the public sphere, though. It also refers to profession and vocation, honours and awards. Some call this the House of fame. Unlike the 6th House (which applies more to busy work and tasks), the 10th is deeper. It’s about calling. Sad Saturn here can deny professional recognition, while expansive Jupiter and the Sun increase it. This house also deals with the Mother. The Moon transiting the 10th could raise issues with her. Ultimately, this is the house of striving and ambition. “I achieve.”

11th House: Friendship

In our social media moment, the 11th House of Friendship probably has more importance for us than it did for the ancients. This House organises under its rubric friends, associates, and social networking. It deals in part with betrayals, trust, and confidence, too. Hopes and wishes likewise live under its roof. Jupiter has its joy in this house and when transiting here tends to dispense good luck through acquaintances (for example, getting a job due to someone you know). Harmonious Venus, a social planet, loves this placement too, while Mars can lead to in-fighting with your buddies. The 11th House’s motto: “I confide.”

12th House: Secrets

Like the 8th House, this one tends to exist beyond neat explanations. It corresponds with secretive affairs, the unconscious, dreams, and sleep. It deals with hidden enemies. Everything about this House is in the shadows. It brings up past traumas and can cause tribulations and sorrows. Fittingly grim Saturn, maker of mischiefs, has its joy here. This part of the chart has something to do with learning to let go of the emotional baggage for spiritual growth. In this regard, “I release” is its middle name.

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