Wait, what’s a house?
Just as an astrology chart is divided into the 12 signs of the zodiac, it’s also divided into 12 houses. The houses describe different areas of your life, such as home and family (the 4th House) or friendships and community (the 11th House).
Ok, but what is an astrology chart?
An astrology chart, also called a birth chart or natal chart, is a snapshot of the sky at the moment of your birth. But that’s not all. Have you ever noticed that the night sky looks different if you travel to a faraway place? Or that the sun rises and sets at different times, depending on your location? Astrology is such a powerful tool for self-discovery because your birth chart is calculated from the precise moment and geographic coordinates of your birth. Your birth chart brings the skies down to you, forming your personal roadmap for this life.
On a more technical level, an astrology chart includes 3 essential components: the planets, signs, and houses. (See Chart Key below.)
The planets represent the central drives in a chart, such as the drive to love and connect (Venus), think and communicate (Mercury), or win (Mars).
The signs represent the manner through which those planets express themselves. Venus in the dazzling flames of Leo will love differently from Venus in the soulful waters of Pisces.
As mentioned, the houses identify where in the life activity stirs. While the planets in signs are calculated from an outer reality (the solar system), the houses are rooted in the time and location of your birth. Just to make things more confusing, their appearance in a chart can actually change depending on what house system you use.
Ok, got it. But what’s a house system?
House systems are different modes of presenting the houses in an astrology chart.
Think of a chart, and therefore the houses within it, like framing a photograph. In front of the camera is an objective reality: the sky as it appeared from the time and location of your birth. Depending on how you frame the shot, you can view the sky from slightly different angles and distances, emphasizing certain features over others. Though these decisions will alter how the image appears, it’s still the same sky. You’re not moving the planets around.
There are myriad house systems, which offer different lenses and ways of viewing your relationship to the cosmos. Each one emphasizes or de-emphasizes certain details, but none shift the objective reality of where the stars or planets were when you were born.
Most astrologers tend to choose one or two house systems to work with. For a few reasons, CHANI app uses Whole Sign Houses (WSH).
What is Whole Sign Houses (WSH)?
Whole Sign Houses is one of the oldest house systems, originating from the Hellenistic period. Put simply, the sign boundaries also create the boundaries of the houses. This is different from other house systems, where the signs and houses don’t overlap so evenly.
In WSH, each house is divided into 12 equal chunks of 30 degrees. Because the signs are also divided into 12 equal chunks (no matter what house system you use), the houses and signs line up together. For example, if you’re born with 22 degrees Pisces rising, all of Pisces will form your 1st House. Your 2nd House will begin at 0 degrees Aries, your 3rd House at 0 degrees Taurus, and so on.
Why we use Whole Sign
- We appreciate its visual elegance and simplicity. WSH makes it easier to visualize a chart in your head, because the signs line up perfectly with the houses. In the Pisces rising example above, your 7th House will always be Virgo, your 10th House will always be Sagittarius, and so on. All you have to do is memorize the order of the zodiac signs and count from the 1st House, or rising sign.
- CHANI app practices traditional (Hellenistic) astrology. We find some traditional techniques can be easier applied with a classical house system like WSH. Knowing that the signs and houses align, we can interpret the traditional sign rulers as rulers of the houses (and thus rulers of different areas of life). If your 3rd House is Aries, we can look to Aries’ ruler, Mars, to better understand 3rd House topics like communication, neighborhood, siblings, etc. This person may express themselves with a Mars-like style (direct, sharp, incisive). By interpreting the placement of Mars in the chart, we can find even more nuance about how that planet (and the themes of the house it rules) manifest themselves.
- WSH is part of a larger philosophical framework. There are a few different conceptual systems in traditional astrology, which interpret how a planet functions in each sign and house. Some of these systems include rulership (that is: which planets preside over which sign), angularity (how a house placement helps or hinders a planet), and traditional aspects (the geometric relationship between planets and how they “see” or “don’t see” each other). These concepts were plotted within the framework of Whole Sign Houses, and we find they’re more seamlessly integrated by working within that system.
- With some other house systems, the sizes of the houses vary wildly — especially if you were born at an extreme North or South latitude. That can make the chart difficult to read, with one sign cored up into multiple houses, and multiple signs wedged into one colossal house. We prefer the visual consistency of Whole Sign, because it portrays each house — and each corner of your life — evenly.
All that said: there is no right house system. There is a kaleidoscope of ways to see ourselves, which are all valid, helpful, and necessary. Thinking that there is only one right house system is like thinking there is only one right therapy or healing modality. Often, one system or modality can inform the other and work together in tandem.
It’s simply a matter of perspective — and choice. Many astrologers use different house systems for different purposes. While you might want to stick with one house system when you’re first learning astrology, to avoid overwhelm, viewing your chart in different systems can be a great way to understand your chart, and your life, from fresh points of view.