Date: 22 Nov. 98
It has been stated on the Uranian Group list that the choice of a house
system is controversial and furthermore that houses can be disregarded
althogether. Evidiently, Uranian and Cosmobiology techniques
can give accurate and insightful results without the use of a house
system. However, it does seem that most if not all of us on this
list do in fact use house systems.
Ed Falis' excellent article on house system makes us better informed,
especially with regard to the Campanus system. In this post
I will attempt to add to our knowledge of houses, refering to the following:
Equal, Koch, Meridian, Equal, Regiomontanus, Porphyry,
Campanus, Topocentric and Placidus. This is not a scholarly
treatise, but rather a concise review with personal opinions and questions
added. Comments and criticisms are welcome.
The Equal house system was used in acient
India and by Ptolemy. Today we find it used in Britian, as it was
promoted by Carter, Hone, the Faculty of Astrological Studies and The Mayo
School of Astrology. Each house is, of course, exactly 30 degrees,
and it is therefore the easiest system to construct. The equal house
system supposedly reveals the essential spirit, soul, and personality of
an individual. It can be argued that this system is unscientific
since the house cusps are based solely on time; the place of birth is irrelevant.
Fred Gettings (Dictionary of Astrology) states that the equal house system
"is of exceedingly dubious value".Except in rare occasions, the MC / IC
axis does not coincide with the 10th / 4th cusps.
Porphyry (c. 300 A.D.)contended that the four Angles should correspond
to the house cusps: ASC=1, DSC=7, MC=9, IC=4. A rough
and antiquated system which is no longer used today.
The Campanus system - revealing in
psychological orientated work.
Campanus lived in the 12th Century.
The 8th Century Arabian astrologer ben Djabir derived the system that
Placidus di Tito supposedly invented in the
17th Century. It became widely used because of its ease of printing
it in table form. Raphael published it in 1821, and many subsequent
ephemerides included these table. It remains popular to this day, probably
due to its availability rather than any inherent advantageous characteristics.
Regiomontanus - this is used
primarily in hoary work.
Meridian - evidently this is
the favoured house system for Uranian astrology (is this advocated by the
Hamburg school?). One advantage is that it does not become distorted
at high or low latitudes eg. for births in Scandinavia, Alaska, Singapore
or Quito. The first house cusp does not necessarily coincide with
Topocentric - this system relates
directly to the natal latitude rather than to divisions of time.
It was first published in 1961 by Polich and Page of Buenos Aires.
British astrologers Kemp and Cornelius stated that this is the most precise
house system, but the cusps are nearly identical to the Placidus system.
Tables are available for any latitude, 0 to 90 degrees.
Koch - widely used in Germany,
where it was devised in 1962, and other European countries. Apparently
gaining popularity elsewhere. Not valid for high latitudes.
Especially useful for timing of events.
Date sent: Sun, 10 May 1998
HOUSE SYSTEMS - BY ED FALIS
You'll find advocates of many, many house systems, each swearing
the one s/he uses works most effectively.
I use a "3D" version of Campanus for most of my natal work.
do much in the way of event-oriented work, which may explain
preference somewhat after the explanations below.
My fundamental assumption is that the different frames of reference
used to derive the house systems each has a validity - each offers
perspective or point of view on the chart. The trick is
analogical thinking about how the system is derived mathematically
define the perspective you're viewing from. This assumption
on my experience and thinking about the issue. Your mileage
Based on this assumption, there are two kinds of house systems:
geometric and proportional time.
For both geometric and proportional time systems, we start with
space around the earth. The center of this space for most
the location of the "event", though for some systems the
the earth is used.
We imagine this space as a sphere with infinite bounds around the
center point. The space could also be viewed as a cubic space with
y and z coordinates, but since astrological work is intimately
interwoven with the idea of cycles, it tends to be done only in a
spherical conceptual space.
Now we'll talk about geometrically derived systems, but note that
systems embody the complementary derivation as a background.
"Space-based" systems are implicitly driven by time; "time-based"
systems implicitly work against a geometrical/spatial background.
Each heightens the perception of one element and puts the other
the background. This is why treating the systems as points
has power - any point of view reveals some aspects of a whole
hiding others: it's in the nature of our attention.
GEOMETRICALLY- DERIVED HOUSE SYSTEMS
Derivation of a geometric system starts with determining a plane
through the sphere to be used to make the equal divisions
corresponding to the houses. The plane is viewed as a "great circle"
on the surface of our imaginary sphere, and the houses are defined
by dividing the circumference into 12 30-degree sections. Some
the planes used in various house systems are the celestial equator
(regiomontanus), the prime vertical (campanus), the horizon
(Zenithscope / "local space"), and the ecliptic ("equal house").
Next a plane or space within which to determine a house position
a body or point is selected. In most systems, this is the
or standard zodiac. Note that unless the measurement plane
same as the house derivation plane, the houses will have unequal
sizes in the measurement plane. By analogical reasoning,
house systems are a bridging or synthesis of two distinct
perspectives (more on this later).
Finally, a zero-point and direction of measurement is selected.
typical house systems the zero-point is the intersection of the
horizon with the ecliptic (the ascendant) and the direction is
counter-clockwise - the order of numbering the traditional/modern
houses. Sound arguments can be made for a clockwise measurement
well - see Joseph Crane's reconsideration of the lunation cycle in
the Feb/Mar issue of The Mountain Astrologer, that gives some idea
to how one might apply the same approach to diurnal motion.
Many natally-oriented astrologers seem to prefer
geometrically-derived systems, though there is definitely an
of preference based on whichever table of houses happened to
widespread in a given locale before the widespread availability
astrological software (e.g. the Placidus preference in the US).
Michael Myer and Gordon Brown have recently written about this
preference for Humanistic Astrology as one that provides an
undistorted representation of personal psychological ("local") space.
Proportional-time systems are derived by equal division of the
for a point in space to move from one geometrical divider to
The common systems (Placidus, Koch, and more obscurely,
mentioning, the Topocentric) divide movement from the ascendant
the MC, MC to descendant, descendant to IC and IC to ascendant
various ways. As commonly derived, the points are points on the
ecliptic, derived mathematically. I believe placidus divides
the quadrants defined above into equal periods of time, and looks at
where the ascendant would be at each elapse. I believe Koch looks
30 degree divisions of right ascension/sidereal time,
measured from the RAMC and calculates ascendants for each of these
locate the intermediate house cusps. The topocentric system uses
model based on equally dividing an "apparent cone of rotation" of the
sky from the position of the observer. So, each of these has
implicit geometric component.
Some of the systems, when used for progressions and transits,
into account a body's deviation from the ecliptic (celestial
latitude) when timing events, as seems logical; others don't.
I've found that astrologers working with events tend to prefer
proportional-time system, as these systems are according to these
practitioners more effective/precise for timing events.
The topocentric system is interesting in that its originators
its theoretical explanation on empirical timing. The value
inductive derivation was questioned by Geoffrey Dean in Recent
Advances in Natal Astrology, where he pointed out that there
many potential contacts that the findings used in the derivation
statistically insignificant. I found the system reasonably effective
when I studied it.
PROBLEMS WITH APPLICABILITY OF SYSTEMS
Many house systems (in particular those that project or measure
the ecliptic) run into problems at extreme geographic latitudes.
This is because there are times when the mathematical foundations
their derivation fail. For instance, the horizon can coincide
the ecliptic at the arctic and antarctic circles, making it
impossible to define an ascendant (the point of intersection
horizon and ecliptic). Or, for systems based on proportional
division of a quadrant of movement in time, a point on the ecliptic
may never appear above or below the horizon at certain
latitudes and times of year, so no basis for division of time
The topocentric system has a somewhat odd alternative formula
dealing with this.
Another problem with most systems is the insistence of working
ecliptic. All the systems mentioned so far that measure
the ecliptic place bodies depending on their zodiacal position
relative to the zodiacal positions of the house cusps.
easily lead to placement of a planet with a large latitude above
below the ascendant/descendent axis, when the body is actually on the
other side of the horizon (eg. pluto placed in the first house after
it's risen). A solution to this is center house-oriented analysis
the basis of position in the plane of division for geometric systems,
and to refer to the ecliptic for synthetic information, such as sign
relationships to the house cusps.
PHILOSOPHICAL MEANINGS - WHICH HOUSE SYSTEM FOR WHAT?
Ok, these are my current set of opinions, based on thinking about
this for some time.
The starting point is that we exist in multidimensional space-time.
Choice of emphasis on time or space is nothing other than that
choice. We make distinctions to help ourselves understand
effectively. We then elaborate these distinctions as logical
used to discover order when we apply them, or to filter what
experience so we can deal with it from a given perspective.
is the nature of cognition, then different systems will work in
different contexts, for different intents.
Where I find a problem is with the "one, true perspective" approach
a single effective system in a context is generalized as the
to do things. The distinction and elaboration at its foundation
forgotten in its application - its context and intent are lost.
think that this effect is very prominent in the use of houses.
this is why there are so many arguments over it - as we blind people
touch the elephant, we have valid perceptions and reasoning, but we
forget that we're blind, and are experiencing a partial perception
intimately tied to our perspective.
In software development, a lot of effort has gone into modeling
systems we build. Some of the more sophisticated
come to the conclusion that our models (views on the system)
be partial - that a given system can only be well-understood
cycling through multiple models using different perspectives.
oriented towards events or behavior of a system brings some aspects
to attention and hides others; similarly for data (space),
functionality and agency (who does what) views. The whole system
eludes a given view because it exists at a level beyond these
IS IT ANY DIFFERENT WITH ASTROLOGY ?
House systems fundamentally are trying to describe the interaction
local space with more generic orbital relationships (described
zodiacal positions) as mediated by the daily axial rotation of
earth. They do this through what are essentially mathematical
abstractions: arbitrary distinctions (with some physical
correlations) such as horizon, prime vertical, prime meridian,
zenith/nadir and paths or trails of either the physical bodies
abstract mathematical points.
Is this anything other than a modeling system to help us understand
and order our experience?
If it is a modeling system, then the characteristics of models
in software, mathematics and systems theory are likely
that the reality can be captured only partially in any given
and that the meaning of phenomena in that model are driven by
intent and derivation of the modeling tool. Not to mention
experience of the practitioner in correlating the abstraction
In local space relative to the observer, two common measurements
available: measurement by prime vertical (the foundation of Campanus)
and measurement along the horizon (local space directional).
a vertical measure; the other horizontal. These are perhaps
closest frames of reference to the individual, and should measure
most personal experience in these two dimensions. Thus,
the Humanists preference for the Campanus house system for
psycho-spiritual work (the vertical dimension), and the use of
horizontal system for physical and geographical work.
A system like Regiomontanus, which divides the equator
moves more to
the implicit diurnal motion perspective that is attacked more
explicitly by Placidus, Koch and the Topocentric approaches.
event is the perspective we look, with varying degrees of remove
from the spatial abstractions of the geometric systems.
The equal house systems, based on MC, ASC or Sun (or other
that matter) are basically casting the physical relationships
planets within the distribution of the meaning of the primary
used. A cycle is a cycle, complete with phases that cut
particular cycle being studied. These systems measure the
the points or bodies mentioned in the frame of the earth's orbital
relationship to the sun - somewhat more remote than the first two
sets of perspectives.
And so on. The orbital cycle of the earth can be viewed
in the plane
of the ecliptic, geocentrically or heliocentrically. Aspect
relationships can be viewed in the ecliptic or along great circles
geometry, or as a phase cycle in the orbital plane of the slower
planet. To treat time or space in the foreground, its complement
And to further open up the wonderment, we can relate two
perspectives, as most house systems do, by projecting measurement
one plane into another, typically the ecliptic. The problem
this is that it corresponds to our modern tradition, where we've
forgotten that we're projecting local space or time into orbital
space/time and often confuse the two. So we treat a planet above
horizon as in the first house - we abstract a bit too far from what's
in our faces when we go outside and look at the sky. And we engage
in endless debates about the relative merits of our abstractions and
points of view, instead of communicating the true sophistication of
this reality-modeling discipline in which we engage to the rest of
From: Michael Munkasey
On houses: my book "The Astrological Thesaurus, Book One, House Keywords,"
484 pages, 1992, Llewellyn Publications, $19.95 U.S.; contains a chapter
called "How to Choose a House System." In that and previous
chapters I go
to great length to explain the astronomy of house systems, as well
a logical explanation of how one can assess to use which house system
In an appendix to that book I describe twenty-three different
systems, and I also give the trigonometric formulae for determining
these house systems. In addition, I have a chapter in that book
the astrological usage of Quadrants and Hemispheres. The book
has been out
for over five years, and is still in print, available from local bookstores.
I am always amazed when I see comments from astrologers about
how to choose
a house system or what house system should one use, who obviously are
aware that such a resource is available, and has been available for