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The Houses: Temples of the Sky, by Deborah Houlding
The Houses: Temples of the Sky

Nominated International Book of the Year, Spica Awards, 1999
 




Book Review - The Houses: Temples of the Sky by Deborah Houlding

Review by Claire-France Perez


This review was published in The Mountain Astrologer Magazine



The controversy on the houses has been raging for nigh on several thousand years now, and it continues. It is well to know the history of the houses and their very ancient associations which formulate their basis in the astrology practiced today. Look for a new title by Deborah Houlding, "Houses: Temples of the Sky."

There is so much in astrology which refers to this house tradition that it becomes a matter of greater and greater necessity to refer to more and more ancient writers.

As Rob Hand says, in the foreword of Deborah Houlding's masterful new title, The Houses: Temples of the Sky, "I have had access to many of the older books in the oiginal languages and in translation, (but) I realize that most students of astrology have not had this access. What is needed is a discussion of the issues of house interpretation along with a good summary of the evolution of their significance through time. This has not been available up until now." As Hand concludes from his forward, "With this book I believe that there is no excuse for ignoring the history of the tradition."

What Houlding's expert manuscript reveals is the basis for the houses. She details how the dilution of the old tradition too often ties the meaning of the houses to their numerical order or to their seeming zodiacal assignations, without really understanding the archetypal pattern. The true basis for the order of the houses is established by Houlding in a manner reversing current tradition. Instead of satisfying herself on current material, she consults the oldest texts, Manilius, Ptolemy, Ibn Ezra and ancient Egyptian temple cartouches to find the original "theory" of house delineation, a theory developed from the time when the ascendant first began to be marked upon charts. The elaborate mythologies of early Egyptian sun-worship formulate a flooring for astrology's later development, articulating a pure metaphor of the cycle of death and rebirth in the circular observation of the sky. "Depictions of the Egyptian Sun-god show him aging as the day wears on. In the morning he appears as a young and vigorous child-god; by midday he has grown to maturity and towers over the Earth; by sunset he is depicted as a doddering old man who dies as he sinks beneath the western horizon." Thus, the houses each describe the development of the day, the sinking at night and the darkness of that gestation at midnight. Several mythological observations come as a surprise, but resonate so powerfully as to be newly appearing touchstones in astrology.

According to Houlding's research, the Iannana myth of transformation describes the descent of the goddess in the 8th house, where she must remove her jewelry before her initiation into the mysteries. The 2nd would therefore signal her return to the Upper World, where her possessions are restored. An astonishing amount of detail in the appendix makes for fascinating reading, and Houlding's great care to include these details is a credit to the worthiness of her project. Imagine a 3rd Century BC astrologer on a cloudy night when the prince is born and no direct sky observation is to be had to ascertain the ascendant. What would the astrologer do? Count the hours with the water-measure until dawn, then count backwards to the time of the birth. In the rush of modern life we are apt to forget the tribulations of our forebears, forced to produce a chart under adverse conditions.

Today we glance at our watch and turn on the computer. But the sky and all its instinctual and natural metaphors are more lost than ever. Houlding's book covers the ancient material in 134 pages, and includes an index, appendices and chapters organized by house. She has produced a new standard-bearer, one that will become a reference to writers and astrologers everywhere.

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