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House Systems --which do I use and why?
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Which house system do you use?
Placidus
50%
 50% 
Koch
0%
 0% 
Equal
38%
 38% 
Natural
11%
 11% 

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Paul
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Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2016 4:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

On an earlier post I demonstrated in an image the diurnal arc of the sun - the path it appears to take when it rises and sets.

In the space of time it takes the sun to rise and set, it will have passed through the 6 houses above the horizon. At high noon the Sun will sit on the MC. So we can imagine from dawn, when the Sun is at the ascendant, to noon, when the Sun is on the MC and take this as being just as equally valid a representation of a quadrant as anything else, and divide this up somehow into three to make three houses.

Alcabitius
Alcabitius approaches this problem by recognising that the length of time it takes a point on the ecliptic, for example the Sun, to be brought from the ascendant to the MC should be noted and trisected. So we divide by three how long it takes a point to rise and culminate. After each of those thirds of time after the ascendant has been on the horizon/ascendant has elapsed, whatever point is on the MC at that time is the cusp of the the next house.

So if, let's imagine, we have 4.5 hours for a point to rise and culminate, then after the first 1.5 hours (4.5/3), whatever point is on the Midheaven is the cusp of the 11th house. 1.5 hours later, the point now on the MC is the 12th house cusp. 1.5 hours later, the ascendant, the point rising, will complete its journey on the MC.

So Alcabitius is about dividing up evenly the time it takes a given point to rise, and recognising where, at that moment in time, other points on the ecliptic are which represent the key stages of its journey.

So imagine I'm a runner, I have to race 4.5 miles to reach my goal - my race is divided into three sections with flags at each one. However, at the time I set out, I notice that there are other planets and points at my various flags. They are already on the places I need to be at the 'thirds' of my race. These are the house cusps.

Alcabitius has somewhat fallen out of use, but it was once upon a time a very popular house system, particularly in the Arab world.

Koch
So Koch is a modern house system, in that it was invented only in the 20th century and is chiefly used by the Huber school - it is perhaps more popular in mainland Europe. It starts with some very similar basic premises as Alcabitius, in that is interested in trisecting time. However, in my previous analogy, I imagined the ascending point as like a sprinter with the MC as the finish line, and we've placed flags which are, at that moment in time, represent checkpoints at one third of the race.
Koch imagines it another way, imagine you are at the finish line, the MC, and you work back toward the ascendant and try to imagine where each sprinter was back in time at thirds of their journey.

You may think this is the same, but because during the length of time it takes the point to move from ascendant to MC, the ecliptic will have made new angles to the ascendant and because of the signs of long and short ascension mentioned in the post I linked to earlier, this isn't the case in fact.
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Paul
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Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2016 4:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Both Alcabitius and Koch try to make sense of the fact that a point will take time to move through each quadrant and to, in some way, divide them evenly.

However neither manage to fully capture the ratio of time in real life it would take the planet to move through the quadrants due to the dynamic distance involved caused by the fact that the ecliptic doesn't appear to rise at a uniform rate even though the earth spins at a uniform rate.

Thinking of Alcabitius again, if we imagine our sprinter, the checkpoints which are set out at thirds of the way to the MC only demonstrate where each third is right now at this moment - by the time the sprinter gets there, the distance to the MC will have changed, and so our flags are no longer at the same checkpoint.

Placidus
Placidus is like Alcabitius and Koch in that it trisects the time it takes a body to rise and culminate. But whereas for example Alcabitius essentially freezes that in place and notes at what points of the ecliptic the ascendant degree will be a third and two thirds of its way through its journey if nothing moved (and likewise for Koch), Placidus finds out at what point it will be a third and two thirds of its journey keeping in mind that as soon as it starts off, the ecliptic will continue to appear to stretch and shrink. To use my sprinter analogy, the race track is actually one which changes length through as time goes on - shrinking and stretching. Alcabitius and Koch both take cusps for a static moment in time which is real and meaningful for that moment as a snapshot, but for which we lose a sense of real dynamic movement when it comes to a planet in its own journey through that shrinking and stretching.

Placidus solves this problem - it notes where our sprinter will actually be when that sprinter is at thirds of its journey in real time through the course.

Now Placidus becomes quite interesting because outside of the problem of house division, we see echoes of Placidus philosophy elsewhere in astrology and indeed right back through antiquity in terms of actually telling the time (though we do not see Placidus cusps themselves being used at the time). In ancient cultures, one way of telling time was to use "seasonal" hours - these hours change with the seasons. So in Summer, when days are long, a Summer hour would be longer than a Summer night - so the time it takes the sun to rise and set is divided by 12, and the time it takes the sun to set and then rise again is also divided by 12. So an hour isn't a static set of time, but a proportion of time.

In a similar manner Placidus cusps are like a proportion of time, but rather than divide the time it takes the Sun to rise and and set by 12, it divides it by 6. It has echoes then of when we divided up the equator - a symbol of the rotation of the earth which in turn is a day - into 12 sections for the 12 houses. Here we're dividing up the time dynamically into 12 sections as well.

In addition, following the logic of seasonal hours, astrology uses planetary hours where a given planet has rulership over a given 'hour'. These hours are seasonal hours in that an hour in a summer's day is longer than an hour in a winter's day etc.

So two ancient planetary hours, and two astrological plaentary hours, are always equal to one placidean house cusp.

Ptolemy, the ancient astrologer and polymath, likewise appears to apply Placidus' philosophy, though it's entirely unclear if he uses it to divide up houses (it's a controversial subject), but we have clearer use of his understanding of this very same principle when it comes to primary directions. Placido de Tito, for whom we name these cusps, certainly believed that this was the method of division that Ptolemy himself used for his house cusps. Today it's altogether unclear with some people arguing a case for Placidus, others for Equal, others still for Whole and possibly more.

Finally just to compare time-based methods like Alcabitius and Koch with Placidus, to understand the kinds of conceptual problems Placidus solves, see this diagram of two charts below.
The time taken, in both cases, is one third of the time it takes the Sun to rise and culminate on the MC.

Notice how Placidus retains exactly the 12th house cusp as being 1/3rd of its own journey, whereas by the time the Sun gets to the same position the Alcabitius cusps have changed.


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Paul
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Posted: Mon Dec 12, 2016 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

So final summary of these houses and their calculation because these are the only houses I feel comfortable describing.

We've looked at the following houses and hopefully should have a clearer idea of how they're calculated and what kind of problems they have or problems they resolve.

    * Whole
    * Equal
    * Porphyry
    * Campanus
    * Meridian
    * Morinus
    * Regiomontanus
    * Alcabitius
    * Koch
    * Placidus


At this point it should be obvious that claims to "one true house system" start to seem almost ridiculous - clearly there are many meaningful ways to divide up the sky and which is the most meaningful is really up to us.

Or is it?

You may still want to find a one house system to rule them all, and may think "what of empirical evidence". Let me start baldly here: there isn't any.

Which again is not to say that there won't be many people who claim otherwise. Chief on this list is the likes of Koch or a system I haven't described here called Topocentric. The Huber school have made the claim that the only system to work reliably with their methods is the Koch house system - thus making it the most popular for astrologers who are inspired by the Huber system. However no evidence has been presented for this view, and when we think even of the house systems I've described here, but then remember that any given circle could be projected through any point, then the claims starts to look dubious at best. It's almost certainly not been the result of an empirical study of all the house systems with only this one working.

What of Topocentric and what are they? Another modern invention for a house system, sometimes called the Polich/Page house system after the inventors. Sorry, the discoverers. In the introduction to the presentation of this house system Polich and Page make the claim that they did not invent the house system but rather they discovered it by examining, empirically, primary directions to the house cusps of given nativities which ought to correspond with events in that native's life. They claim to have done this and, having done so, tried to figure out the mathematics that would model the house cusps which were so clearly obvious from their findings.

There are some problems - chief amongst them is, like with the Koch idea, these empirical findings are not presented for independent review. There is just a claim that this was done. The other bigger problem which belies this claim by some amount is that actually in practice the Topocentric are almost synonymous for most people with Placidus cusps. IF they were really doing this empirically why not model it on Placidus? There must need to be some compelling edge cases - but none are given.

Moving aside from these, typically you may hear people say something like "You must use Regiomontanus for Horary". But likewise this claim lacks any strong rationale - we know that William Lilly, a prominent horary astrologer, used Regiomontanus, but we shouldn't imagine that we need to follow suit. Indeed the Arabs from whom, indirectly, Lilly himself was following, were, almost certainly, not using Regiomontanus at all but probably Alcabitius, or something similar, perhaps at times Whole.

Likewise there has been almost movement recently of astrologers promoting Whole sign houses as the only true house system citing its ancient history - again this poses problems because the idea of moving to and from angles is completely lost in whole sign houses as they are not modelled on the angles. Nevertheless it remains an increasingly popular house system amongst some traditionally leaning astrologers though, to my mind, doesn't seem to do anything that equal doesn't do, at the very least, just as well and, at most, far better.

Finally there is a problem, often used as evidence amongst whole sign advocates, that quadrant house divisions or at least those involving the MC (essentially everything mentioned so far except whole and equal) fail at the polar regions.

Now this is something of a controversial problem as well, because they only fail in terms of the method in which they are calculated currently - they could be reimagined somewhat so as to not fail but this may involve something of a jump in how we define the MC to begin with.

The problem occurs because at extreme latitudes this idea of, say, the Sun rising in the east and culminating in the MC and then setting in the west etc. can break down. Think of the phenomena of the midnight sun, in which, in extreme northern climates, the Sun actually never sets at all - likewise in winter it doesn't rise.
This poses something of a problem for all the house divisions but the problem seems to only be levelled at quadrant divisions.

It's common to hear whole sign advocates cite such problems at polar regions in defence of a one true house system, namely whole signs, as they don't suffer from this problem.

In fact, I would argue that they of course do suffer from the very same problem, but instead of being a problem of computation, it becomes a problem of interpretation.

What happens, say, when the Sun never rises, is that the part of the ecliptic occupied by the Sun is not able to get over the horizon. If we imagine the MC as being the point of highest altitude of the ecliptic in the sky, the issue is that sometimes this 'flips' so that it's no longer toward the south, but can be momentarily north - so closer to the position occupied by the 4th house than the 10th.

The only way this doesn't affect whole sign house advocates is if they don't actually understand that, or if they dont' believe there is any astronomical phenomena underlying their house meanings - if there isn't, this could be an argument against adopting them to begin with, but we have the seed of this problem in whole sign houses already as we lose entirely the sense of moving to and from angles and the whole focus we have of being succedent, angular and cadent.

Because if we assign ideas of prominence, fame, visiblity, applause and so on to the 10th precisely because it is the point at which planets gain ultimate altitude, either in the course of a day (the MC and quadrant based 10th house) or at a single moment in time (nonagesimal - equal), then actually that highest point could be in the 4th house - the house we associate, amongst other things, with being hidden or buried.

To conclude then, my argument would be to abandon all pretence of there being a one true house system - all the house systems are true to some level. The thing is that some or other of the symbolism behind each house system will better appeal to you or not.

For me that's Equal and Placidus and so I prefer these two house systems because from them I feel I can tick as many boxes to describe the heavens in all its complexity in a way I don't get from the other houses. With equal I have an aspectual and symbolic relationship with all the houses to the ascendant, like I do with whole, but unlike with whole, I also have symbolically meaningful connections to the astronomical point at the nonagesimal. Equal, to me, is whole sign houses only more meaningful. Similarly Placidus brings in the connections to time and understanding of time in a manner that I think is lacking in Alcabitius and Koch.

If I had to name one other, it would probably be Regiomontanus.

Hopefully though, if nothing else, if anyone actually manages to read all that (and my congratulations, and commiserations, if you do), what at least you may come away with is the realisation that arguments over which house is better is reductive and overly simplistic. And whatever house system we use, it won't be because some wise authority claims it's best - we see now that such arguments are equally reductive and simplistic.
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Last edited by Paul on Thu Mar 16, 2017 11:50 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Donna Chang



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Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2016 1:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bravo! This is a very helpful review, clear, concise and comprehensible. Thank you so much.
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Paul
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Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2016 11:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Donna

It's a huge amount to take in so let me know if you have any questions on anything.

I think one of the things I would like to help to promote is the idea that whatever house system we use is fine, but if we are to promote it, we should at least understand the other house systems too and whatever house system we use should be because we find something about its construction or how it envisions the sky or models it that we find meaningful.
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Donna Chang



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Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2016 3:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paul wrote:
Thanks Donna

It's a huge amount to take in so let me know if you have any questions on anything.

I think one of the things I would like to help to promote is the idea that whatever house system we use is fine, but if we are to promote it, we should at least understand the other house systems too and whatever house system we use should be because we find something about its construction or how it envisions the sky or models it that we find meaningful.


You conveyed this message convincingly. As you explain, most house systems have a long history and a not-so-arbitrary foundation, and I agree it's important to understand our methods beyond "it works for me" (even though I've used that explanation.)

You're right it's a lot to absorb and I'm going over it again. I would like to be really grounded in this subject, and, you know, feel it. Right now I'm obsessed with angles!
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Deb
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Posted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 11:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You are not posting just for yourself Paul - there is really valuable content! Thanks for all your hard work.
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Paul
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Posted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 4:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Deb

I realise many of these are already covered in your book, but maybe it's due for a reprint to get back into people's consciousness!
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waybread



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Posted: Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good stuff, Paul. Thumbs up Thumbs up

(As a private joke, I hope a prior discussion on another forum, long ago and far away, helped to tease out the issues of the visible heavens vs. house systems, or at least of explaining them.)

In answer to the OP, I couldn't vote on the best house system. I don't think a single house system necessarily works best for all uses.

In his article, "An Astrological House Formulary," https://www.scribd.com/doc/6495552/An-Astrological-House-Formulary Michael Munkasey reviews different house systems, and argues that the "best" house system is the one that best describes the situation or person at hand. I don't think "best" is identical for each horoscope.

"... use that house system which divides space in such a way that the planets fall into houses which describe their function in the nature of the event; and, use that house system which gives cusps against which you can time events. That is, if the Moon function of this event is described well by a Moon in the eighth house, then the house system you choose should not place the Moon in the seventh or ninth, or some house other than the eighth house. Also, if subsequent events can not be timed to the house cusps derived mathematically and plotted on the horoscope,then choose some other house system."

If you're not trying to time an event using house cusps, maybe skip his second piece of advice. But theoretically a transit or progression of a planet into a new house in your natal chart should highlight some changes in your life that are consistent with the meaning of the new house.

Alice Portman www.aliceportman.com has argued that different people actually respond better or worse to different house systems. She found that Regiomontanus works well for the British royal family, and this is also the system preferred by many horary astrologers.

I normally use Placidus, but in doing a quick-and-dirty survey of the charts of extremely wealthy people (like Warren Buffett and Donald Trump) I thought I detected a second house Jupiter signature in some of the charts, but it showed up in whole signs, not in Placidus, for some.

The difference between whole signs and a quadrant system can make a big difference for people with a late degree rising.

To my personal way of thinking, there is not an ideal house system for people born at high latitudes. North of the Arctic Circle the sun doesn't rise or is very low in the sky and visible for maybe only a few hours in winter. We also see this distortion effect for northern countries.
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Paul
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Posted: Thu Dec 15, 2016 12:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

waybread wrote:
Good stuff, Paul. Thumbs up Thumbs up

(As a private joke, I hope a prior discussion on another forum, long ago and far away, helped to tease out the issues of the visible heavens vs. house systems, or at least of explaining them.)


As if I could forget Wink

Quote:
In answer to the OP, I couldn't vote on the best house system. I don't think a single house system necessarily works best for all uses.

In his article, "An Astrological House Formulary," https://www.scribd.com/doc/6495552/An-Astrological-House-Formulary Michael Munkasey reviews different house systems, and argues that the "best" house system is the one that best describes the situation or person at hand. I don't think "best" is identical for each horoscope.


This is a great primer for the houses if anyone is interested in computing them, however I actually feel that this could do with something of an update - I think there are probably easier ways to calculate/program the houses now. That said, is commentary on the houses is still useful and I agree whole heartedly with his promoting against an idea of there being some one size fits all house system too.
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Mark
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Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 12:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow Paul! I have been off Skyscript for a while. Just about to give a talk on house systems this week so your posts are literally manna from heaven! Thanks so much.

Mark
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Fleur



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Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I use Placidus always. I find Equal house charts confusing to look at mainly because the Midheaven is in the wrong place. The Midheaven is by definition the cusp of the 10th house.

Having said that, I do not use house rulerships and all the rules of traditional astrology, but I do like to see at a glance which house a planet is in and I hate it when this is visually confusing. The angles of the chart are absolutely vital, and I hate it when the Midheaven IC axis is skewed. But I don't care what the 8th house ruling planet is, never use that.

I am less concerned exactly where the house cusps are, and I am not sure always if a planet falls near the end of a Placidus cusp whether it should be in that house or the next one.

One reason that I don't find house rulerships useful is that they use the traditional planetary rulers, and I don't find these work as well as the newer rulers of signs. For instance, one of my houses, with Libra on the cusp, would traditionally be considered to be ruled by Venus, but I find IsisTranspluto and its aspects in my chart describes this house far better than Venus. There is no way that the affairs of that house are linked with Venus.


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Fleur



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Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 2:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Waybread, your comment is interesting:-

"I normally use Placidus, but in doing a quick-and-dirty survey of the charts of extremely wealthy people (like Warren Buffett and Donald Trump) I thought I detected a second house Jupiter signature in some of the charts, but it showed up in whole signs, not in Placidus, for some"


It still doesn't explain a planet I have in one house that I have often wondered if it should be in the next house, and even in Equal House it is still six degrees away from the next house cusp.
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Paul
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Posted: Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Mark

Let me know if you have any comments, critiques or questions. Hope you find it useful.

Fleur

I can only be brief here but the midheaven is not, by definition, the 10th house cusp. I hope you read through my early posts where I define what each thing is. The midheaven is an astronomical point irrespective of astrological considerations, even houses.
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Posted: Wed Feb 08, 2017 5:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Fleur, in a natal chart interpretation I would look at both the *commonly accepted* modern rulers and traditional rulers of a sign and house cusp. You probably wouldn't do this in traditional western astrology. But in modern astrology it's fine.

At Astrodienst www.astro.com you can play around with all kinds of house systems, and see which one gives you the best fit. If the right fit still seems ambiguous, try dating transiting or progressed planets to the house cusps. Ideally a planet exiting one house and entering the next one should highlight the affairs of the new house. Even if you do not much partake of the new house's activities in your everyday life, you may find yourself thinking or daydreaming about them a lot more than you did in the past.

Also, I would generally look at progressions only in relation to the natal chart, but you can construct a stand-alone progressed chart at Astrodienst that will give you different house cusps.

If you live a long distance from your birth place, you might also cast a relocated chart for you new location. You may find that that "misplaced" planet shows up in the "right" house for you with one of these methods.
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