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Meaning of Angular, Succeedent, Cadent
Wheels & Signs: Theories on House Meanings

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

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Part 3: Space Based Solutions

In view of the problems that arise from ecliptic based methods of space division, there have been attempts to construct a method of division which does not begin with the ascendant but from the true point of east. The most notable is the Morinus System which starts from the intersection of the equator with the meridian and horizon in the east and then divides the equator into twelve equal sections, with house cusps taken from where celestial longitude projects those points onto the ecliptic.

As a result the midheaven is always located 90° from the 1st house cusp, but the degree of the ascendant can fall in any of the houses, including the 7th house. The system was invented by the French astrologer Jean-Baptiste Morin in the 17th century but like any other that has attempted to disassociate the ascendant and 1st house, has never gained popular favour. The obvious reason is that the ascendant and descendant have absorbed their own astrological significance which ties them into a natural association with the 1st and 7th houses. The act of rising and setting has played as much a part in dictating the meanings of these house, as has their association with east and west.

It appears that it is simply not possible to reconstruct a system that corresponds to Manilius's perspective yet remains sympathetic to conventional ecliptic-based astrological practice. It has also been suggested that Manilius's system was, in fact, an idealised framework of heaven, based upon the prime vertical which was probably assumed to equate with the ascendant. The fact that this was not always the case in his region was possibly overlooked or deliberately ignored in the way that Platonic philosophy favours the spiritual ideal over material reality. As astrologers we take a similar stance in concluding that from a philosophical point of view the ascendant is symbolic of east and therefore, astrologically, assumes that importance.

From such a perspective, the system that comes closest to that of Manilius, which may even have been the one to which he referred, is the Campanus system, because this also rejects a direct division of the ecliptic in favour of the prime vertical, the great circle which cuts the east and west points of the horizon and passes through the zenith and nadir at right-angles to the observer's meridian. This is divided into twelve equal sections with the corresponding intersection with the ecliptic taken as the house cusps. Although this system is attributed to Johannes Campanus, a prominent 13th century mathematician, it was used by Al-Biruni in the 11th century under the name 'the system of Hermes', suggesting a much earlier, unknown origin.

The point in favour of Campanus is that it readily lends itself to a three dimensional view of space by emphasizing the planet's position in relation to the horizon and meridian at the place of birth - hence there is a subtle shift of perspective in which the houses are not simply projected onto the zodiac, but rather the zodiac is viewed through the houses as determined by the local sphere. The point against it, is that by undermining the role of the ecliptic, the symbolic connection of the Sun's orbit around the earth is weakened and some would see this as a more fundamental origin to house meanings. A more practical disadvantage is that Campanus is highly sensitive to distorted angles at extreme latitudes.

The latter problem is perhaps the main reason why Campanus has never been a real contender in universal house systems, but has always remained a popular choice for those who reject the most favored methods. In 1985 it was claimed to be the most preferred system in England after Placidus ([5] ) and it was greatly endorsed by Dane Rudhyar who saw it as an ideal approach to 'person-centered' astrology because of the acknowledgement that it gave to 'the space at the centre of which the individual stands'. ([6] ) Rudhyar also proposed that a future development of the houses could utilize Campanus as the basis of a three dimensional 'birth sphere', in which the effect of planetary latitude could be fully acknowledged; although to do so requires some alternative way of representing this information other than our two-dimensional chart forms which only show measurements along the ecliptic. Those who consider the three dimensional perspective important, argue that defining house positions by zodiacal degree alone can often prove inaccurate since it assumes that the cusps cut through the ecliptic in a straight line whereas in reality the lines are curved, formed by great circles passing through the earth and meeting at the poles. affect of house distortion as shown by the chart of yeats
This curvature results in an angle that moves several degrees across the ecliptic when latitude is considered. David McCann has illustrated how this distortion manifests in the chart of William Butler Yeats, for whom Pluto has a latitude of 15°S. The diagram above shows that by zodiacal degree alone Pluto appears to be in the middle of the 2nd house but when latitude is taken into account it is actually on the 3rd house cusp. ([7] ) Anyone seeking a house system that attempts to reconstruct a division of local space would see this as a major inconvenience, while those that prefer ecliptic-based systems may argue that the astrological significance of the cusps and houses are linked only to the degrees where the house cusps cut the ecliptic, and latitude is therefore irrelevant in this matter.

Another house system that is often compared to Campanus, and frequently claimed to be a development of it, is the Regiomontanus system, because it also utilizes a great circle other than the ecliptic as its main frame of reference. Regiomontanus, however, is based upon an equal division of the equator rather than the prime vertical - it is the same method as that suggested by Morinus, but bows to convention by commencing from the ascendant. Although it found popularity later than Campanus, it is also known to have been used in the 11th century ([8] ) and in all likelihood developed along principles entirely of its own. In emphasizing the equator, advocates claim that it pays a greater recognition to the Earth's daily rotation, rather than the movement of the Earth around the Sun as measured by the ecliptic. It also has the advantage of being less sensitive to house distortion in high latitudes than Campanus.

The system is named after the 15th century mathematician Johan Muller of Konigsberg, (also known as Regiomontanus), who popularized its use at a time when printing techniques could ensure that information required to support it was easily available. With a ready supply of tables it became the main European method for several centuries afterwards, and as the method employed by many prominent 17th century astrologers including William Lilly, it continues to be popular today, particularly amongst horary astrologers or advocates of Lilly's methods.

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Notes & References:

  5 ] Colin Evans, New Waite's Compendium of Natal Astrology; revised by Gardner, 1985, p.47
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  6 ] D. Rudhyar; The Astrological Houses, CRCS Publications; Op. cit., p.26
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  7 ] I am grateful to David McCann for allowing me to reconstruct his example, first published in 'The Problem of Domification, Part 2'; the AA Journal, Vol 38, no.6, Nov-Dec: 1996, p.379.
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  8 ] It is described by Abenmoat of Jaén, in a manuscript believed to have been owned by Regiomontanus. J.D. North, Horoscopes and History, 1986, op.cit. pp.35-8.
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© Deborah Houlding

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Extracted from
The Houses: Temples of the Sky
by Deborah Houlding
print version
Introduction Ecliptic division Morinus Campanus Regiomontanus Placidus Alcabitius/Koch Porphyry Equal/Wholesign Ptolemy's slant Classical system Conclusion

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