Whole Sign Houses

I moved over to using whole sign houses exclusively in 2013. Here is the article about that change.  The books that prompted me to look into Whole Signs in the first place were; 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 degrees Aries, the beginning of the vernal equinox and start of the pagan year which is spring. The first house is naturally associated with new life, new starts and birth. It shows 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’s Plus Zones

Gauquelin conducted research on thousands of people’s 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 other 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.

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?” [1]

The most powerful of ALL houses according to Gauquelin would then include some of the much maligned 12th house, the so called ‘House of Self-undoing’ . Scientists have used Gauquelin’s research (as well as the precession discrepancy) as part of their ammunition to debunk Astrology since a powerful planet should not be found in the 12th house but be in the 1st. 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.

We had a clockwise house system with the Ancient Egyptians until the arrival of Hermes Trismegistus, the divine God of wisdom and magic. Hermes was part Hellenistic Hermes and part Egyptian Thoth. 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 Sun’s 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.

On ancient times the zodiac signs were really not important. Instead the house/zodiac divisions of twelve were simply a way to ascertain the strength of a planet. The sun’s strength is obviously stronger in high summer (Leo) than it is in winter (Aquarius). So from this came the system of dignities. Hellenistic Astrology was formed around this period.

Hermetic Influence

“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 superseding the archaic clockwise system” [2]

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 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 the archaic and very successful method of defining a planet dropped altogether? No one seems to know. 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.

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.” [3] 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.
  • 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 degrees.
  • The Signs do not fight with the fixed stars meanings 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.

1.Robert Powell. History of The Houses. Pg 26 & 17
3.Hermetic Astrology. Vol II Robert Powell

97 thoughts on “Whole Sign Houses”

  1. Hey, my starting to think that the constellations have little or no influence on us seeing as they are so far away, and with the precession of the equinox’ sit wouldn’t make sense, so then what is it that influences us? Where do these energies come from? Is it simply the geometric alignment of the planets to our Earth? Is it that the seasons (ie. Aries is start of spring therefore such and such an influence) affects us? If so, the southern hemishepere would be opposite the northern, and seasons aren’t so reliable, some years they start completely out of whack and on the equator there is no spring etc. So, do you think it is still the stars? Or something different all together?

    Also, could you expand on how the whole sign system actually looks in a physical way? I’m trying to get my head around how the heavens are being divided, say if one was in Sweden, going off the ecliptic would mean drawing a circle around Sweden perpendicular to the Mid Heaven or where the sun actually travels?


    • Wow, what a question! I might have to do a youtube video to answer this. With whole signs its more to do with numerology and the way the western world thinks in terms of 12. It’s just how our minds our wired. Sign equals house, but there is no physical slicing of the sky. I think the heavens are a projection of the aggregate Northern Hemisphere mind. White Australians are still wired to the northern hemisphere so there is no need to make adjustments. Chinese astrology works for East Asians because it was born out of Chinese peoples minds, culture and geography, same for Tropical Astrology. This is why the Vedics resonate more with sidereal astrology, as they don’t have a seasonal mindset. Native Europeans have a bitter Winter which is why we are so obsessed with the return of the Sun. That sensibility never leaves us, even if we move to a non-seasonal place.
      The simple answer. It’s the seasons that affect us!

    • With reference to Marina’s comment: I would like to point out that in East Asia there is, indeed, a seasonal mindset, but a different one than that of ours in more northerly areas; that is, the monsoon season, which is as important to that area’s agriculture and other important aspects of life as the winter is to those of us farther north. The same could be said of places like the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and most of Africa. In the Middle East, for example, there is a rainy season (winter), and in Egypt the season of the Nile’s flooding (and corresponding dry seasons). While seasons may not look/feel the same in these areas as they do to those of us farther north, they are still seasons that the ancients tracked very carefully. So the suggestion that “Vedics” are siderealists because “they don’t have a seasonal mindset” doesn’t hold up. We must be careful how we assess things from a distance.
      It’s more likely that the Vedic system is sidereal because it may be, at least in part, rooted in the ancient Babylonian (sidereal) system, and/or because basing astrological calculations on the fixed stars’ positions makes more sense than basing them on local weather patterns, which fluctuate and which vary from region to region.

  2. Hey,

    I am really interested on your approach on astrology. I am studying all kind of occult subjects, and have been interested for years to take such direction in astrology as well. I love astrology, but most of it these days seems to be too superficial and “new age-y”.
    I would be tempted to read more about this house system, and what in total is associated with the houses, if you abandon the association with houses and zodiac signs. And do you know which house systems were used in e.g. Golden Dawn? I am currently reading “Complete astrological writings” by Crowley, but he doesn’t mention it.. Also a little bit amused by a switch from a very strong “12th house moon” to a “1st house lunatic”, and that my stellium in 4th would now be in 5th. I can see this, but it takes a little bit time to adjust I guess… 🙂

    • I have no idea about Crowley I’m afraid. I would assume he wouldn’t have used whole signs since they have been revived from way back. Therefore they would not have been popular in Crowley’s time.

    • Thanks for your reply! Yeah i got curious since you mentioned the hermetic stuff- so are you saying that in the dawning of hermeticism this house system got strange? In my deck of hermetic tarot there are all sorts of quite complex decanate- and rulership- things going on. Very fascinating but quite puzzling at times.


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