I have just read two illuminating books on houses systems in astrology. Robert Hand’s “Whole signs – The Oldest House System” and the “History of the Houses” by Robert Powell. Between the two Roberts I think I have found a house system that works and has the weight of history and scientific analysis to back it up.
The whole of modern Western Astrology is based on the tropical zodiac, which is based on the seasons and nothing to do with actual star-gazing. The AC represents 0 degs Aries, the beginning of the vernal equinox, the start of the pagan year spring. New life, new starts, birth and so on, showing the evolution of the soul through the signs, which are really the months of the year.
The earliest house systems where split into 4 quadrants going clockwise. Therefore we have the rising (AC), upper culmination (MC), setting (DC), and lower culmination (IC). Gauquelin conducted research on thousands of peoples charts and came up with Plus zones which corresponded with these angles. He showed a statistically significant strength in rising and culminating planets and at a lesser scale on the last two angles. He found these planets strongest in his zones for certain careers; Mars for sports, Jupiter for actors, Saturn for writers and the Moon for writers.
Gauquelins Plus Zones
Gauquelin says” The favorable zones should have been progressively expanded to thirty degrees after the rise and culmination of planets, ie houses 9 and 12. Instead the thirty degrees before the rise and culmination of planets were adopted as more essential for knowing the natives character and social status. When will the Astrological community admit there was an error?” 
The most powerful of ALL houses according to Gauquelin would then include most of the much maligned 12th house, the so called “House of Self-undoing” So, was there an error? Or has there been some serious Neptunian “fogging”?
Scientists have used Gauquelin’s research (as well as the precession discrepancy) as part of their ammunition to debunk Astrology. Indeed Gauquelin isn’t credited by Astrologers either, because his research does not support the traditional interpretations of the houses.
But the point is, Gauquelin actually proves Astrology works rather than disproves. But Astrologers have not made a noise about it. We need to go back in time and see why and when Astrology went awry.
So we had a clockwise house system with the Ancient Egyptians until the arrival of Hermes Trismegistus, the divine God of wisdom and magic which was part Hellenistic Hermes and part Egyptian Thoth. From these teachings we get the basis of the mystery schools like the Golden Dawn. Famous Hermeticists were Paracelsus, John Dee (Queen Elizabeth the 1st’s Astrologer and famous occultist) and Aleister Crowley.
Hermes is credited with being the originator of the houses, though astrological history is patchy around this time. Whole signs system ( and Equal house) described the Suns path around the ecliptic rather than the equator (Unlike later systems). The houses were supposed to exactly overlap the signs because they derived from the Zodiac on the ecliptic. 30 degrees each.
But the signs were really not important, the house/zodiac divisions of 12 were simply a way to ascertain the strength of a planet. The suns strength obviously stronger in high summer (Leo) than in winter (Aquarius). So from this came the system of dignities. Hellenistic Astrology was formed around this period. And this is where it just gets weird… Suddenly the system flips anti-clockwise, and it seems complex magical formulae took over from actual observation of the sky.
“The Rule of Hermes and the hermetic house system are fragments remaining from this ancient mystery teaching. The comprehensive teaching was no longer understood, but it’s impact was such as to bring about the implementation of an anti-clockwise house system completely superceding the archaic clockwise system” 
Why did this happen? Maybe the reason the house systems were flipped is that they are supposed to be seen as two distinctly separate entities to be continued to be used together, not instead of.
Today we use a combination of aspects, signs and houses to understand a planet. But I put it to you that (as Hand says), houses/signs form one element, aspects another and the next consideration is whether a planet is rising or culminating.
So why was this successful method of defining a planet dropped altogether? No one seems to know. My guess is that things were deliberately tampered with, rewritten and kept secreted for those in the higher echelons of the magic fraternity. The masses were warned away from these power zones by naming the 12th house “The place of Bad Spirit”. This all rather suspiciously seems to coincide with the growing power of Christianity and the Dark ages where Astrology became more and more complex, muddled and maligned.
Eventually the Whole sign system was pretty much dropped and replaced by the unequal house systems of Porphyry, Placidus, Campanus and Regiomontanus to muddy the ground further. Interestingly the Whole signs system is one that remained in use by Sidereal Astrologers.
But I cannot discount the symbolism of the anti-clockwise house system altogether. Since I have used it for enough time to know it works 75% of the time. I just think it needs re-evaluating in the light of the Gauquelin evidence and the re-emergence of the Whole Signs system.
The Magic of Twelve
The knowledge that Whole sign houses are related to the 12 signs of the zodiac and the Hermetic tradition leads me to want to investigate further. Do the 12 houses relate to Numerology, the Tarot, Sacred Geometry and the Kabbala? And if so how? All these things have correspondences and must contain wisdom to help us understand the true meaning of each of the 12 houses.
Michael Schneider has made an interesting study of numbers in Constructing the Universe. He calls number 11 The Passageway. “The number eleven is quite a mystery. References in sacred literature, philosophy, art and architecture are rare and obscure, but they do exist. It was considered to trespass beyond 10, but incomplete approaching 12.”
When Uranus was discovered it opened up the Universe. Saturn was no longer the boundary. Micheal equates 10 with the earthly world (Saturn/Capricorn) and 12 as the cosmic world (Neptune/Pisces). Therefore the 11th is the bridge house to endless possibilities, but we are not yet there in reality. It is supposed to be our hopes and wishes, which fits very well with the Uranian 11th house and the number 11 in general.
Another reason that the anti-clockwise house system has a magic, is because of the “Hermetic rule” which looks at “The whole period from conception to birth as a time of preparation of the human being’s destiny, which subsequently unfolds between birth and death.” 
This absolutely makes sense, that conception would be at the 1st house cusp and work through the houses below the horizon. The soul gestating in the nocturnal houses, the underbelly, in the darkness of the womb. And the baby does come into the world backwards in a way, upside down and head first!
Why Whole Signs?
- The houses and signs work together. I regard the houses as our inner ecliptic, and it really makes no odds which hemisphere you are in either!
- Whole sign houses will very often put 12th house planets in the 1st which visually supports Gauquelin’s evidence.
- The AC, MC etc, are seen as points. Therefore the MC is freed from being anchored to the 10th and can be read as having an 8th, 9th or 10th influence if it happens to fall there. Incidentally in Ancient times the 10th house was known as the house of the Goddess (9th was The God” house) which explains why the 10th is associated with the Mother. Even though paradoxically we think of Saturn’s house as being very fatherly, it’s the mother who is often the disciplinarian.
- Whole sign houses work at high latitude.
- It was the house system used while developing the Arabic parts.
- Whole sign houses correspond to 12 months. Roughly 29 days = 30 degs.
- The Signs do not fight with the Fixed stars because they are taken off the ecliptic ring and are contained within the house meanings.
So this re-evaluation really effects those with stelliums in the 12th and 9th houses. If this applies to you, try the whole signs and see how this changes your chart and if it make more sense to you. If the planets still remain in the 12th and 9th just take a look at the Plus zones and evaluate the planet that way.
UPDATE 2013! This post is now 3 years old. At the time of writing I was still using Koch as my main houses system and was only experimenting with whole signs. I have since moved to using whole sign houses exclusively. I really need to update this post to explain why I have come to this conclusion more fully. I am also studying and bringing traditional astrology techniques into my practice which of course mainly advocate whole sign houses due to more evidence uncovered by Project Hindsight.