Before we consider the meanings of the individual houses, it is useful to stand back and look at the general shape of each birth chart, according to the distribution of the planets in the houses. At this stage we are looking for any kind of special emphasis - crowded areas of the chart will immediately tell us where the emphasis will lie. I would recommend Howard Sasportas' book, The Twelve Houses, in which he divides the houses into two, three, and four general realms of experience. 
Every chart is divided by the angles into two sets of hemispheres. The first six houses describe our personal development, and the following six houses describe our relationship to others, to society, and to the world in general.
The horizon (Ascendant-Descendant axis) divides the chart into a northern
hemisphere below the horizon and a southern hemisphere above the horizon.
Houses 1 to 6 lie under the horizon, under the earth, and are therefore
hidden from view. They are houses of self- development, describing
our subjective, internal worlds. Houses 7 to 12 lie above the horizon,
in full view, and describe how we relate to others and to the world
As with all opposites, these two hemispheres oppose, challenge, depend upon and complement each other. If we have an emphasis of planets below the horizon, no matter how active and successful we are in the outer world and however involved we are with other people, we will ultimately draw meaning and fulfilment from within ourselves, from our personal, private lives. Every house has a planetary ruler, which means that the houses above the horizon will be ruled by planets below the horizon. Experiences gained in the outside world need to be internalised, taken back into the inner world for processing. This means that the outer, public world always remains, to some extent, unfamiliar and rather uncomfortable territory.
Conversely, if we have a marked emphasis of planets above the horizon, then no matter how stable and secure we are on a personal level, we will ultimately draw meaning and purpose and find fulfilment through our relationships with others and with the outer world - it is these areas of life which will energise us. The personal, subjective, introverted approach is not for us, since the houses below the horizon will be ruled by planets which are above the horizon, so that our inner resources and values will be externalised, taken into the world and shared. This means that the inner, private world will remain, to some extent, unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory.
Does anyone have a marked emphasis of planets in one of these hemispheres?
Audience: Yes, I have. Almost all my planets are below the horizon, in the first six houses.
Clare: So we can presume that you are, fundamentally, a private person with a rich inner life. However demanding and active and successful your outer life is, nevertheless it appears that you will draw your strength and your energy from within yourself, and that it is there that you are most at home and most fulfilled, at the end of the day. We can also say that your outer life, your involvement with others and with the world, does not really fulfil you on a fundamental level. Does this ring true at all?
Audience: Yes, that is very interesting. Given the choice, I would much rather do my own thing than get involved with group activities, but I have always thought of this as a weakness and criticised myself for being anti-social.
Clare: Once again, this is a good example of how astrology can give us the confidence to accept ourselves just as we are, rather than feeling obliged to become what we think we ought to be.
The other major division of the houses is defined by the MC-IC axis
which divides the chart into eastern and western hemispheres, with
the eastern hemisphere being on the left, or 'oriental' side of the
chart, and the western hemisphere being on the right, or 'occidental'
side of the chart. Broadly speaking, if we have a marked emphasis
of planets in the eastern hemisphere houses, we are likely to be
self-defining - our orientation and perspective will be fundamentally
subjective. With such a chart, we tend to create our own reality,
and to rely primarily on ourselves and on our own resources. Ultimately,
relationships, however significant, will tend to be measured against
our own subjective needs and wishes, since the houses in the western
hemisphere will be ruled by planets in the eastern hemisphere. This
means that relationships are always going to be rather uncomfortable
territory, although it is also easier, with an eastern hemisphere
emphasis, to break off from negative or destructive relationships
which do not serve our personal needs.
Conversely, a marked emphasis of planets in the western hemisphere tends to indicate that we will define ourselves primarily in terms of our relationships, whether to family, children, work colleagues, partners, or to the philosophical or religious beliefs to which we adhere. Ultimately, it is through these kinds of relationships and connections that we define ourselves, and our subjective or individual identity outside these kinds of relationships is likely to remain unexplored, unfamiliar and rather awkward, since the houses in the eastern hemisphere will be ruled by planets in the western hemisphere.
Audience: The chart for our class has a marked western hemisphere emphasis.
Clare: Yes, and that is an excellent sign, because it means that we are likely to want to learn from each other and to listen to each other. Naturally, none of these orientations is any better than any other, since astrology is a descriptive language and has no moral agendas. But a marked hemisphere emphasis provides us with a valuable clue about the general orientation of our clients. I have almost always found that people with a strong eastern hemisphere emphasis take their autonomy for granted, and are much more likely to consult an astrologer about relationship issues, which are far more puzzling to them. Likewise, the big question for those with a strong western hemisphere emphasis tends to be how to define and identify themselves as individuals, outside the area of relationship. Perhaps that is our real motivation in this class.
Audience: Well, that is certainly true from my point of view.
Three phases of relationship
The houses can also usefully be divided into three areas of relationship: personal, social and universal. The first four houses describe our personal orientation and our relationship to our immediate environment. Howard Sasportas called this the experience of 'Me-in-Here'. For people with a strong emphasis in the personal houses, a major focus of their lives will be on personal development and security. Houses 5 to 8 are socially oriented, describing how 'Me-in-Here-meets-You-out-There'. For people with a strong emphasis in the social houses, relationships will be particularly important. Houses 9 to 12 are universal houses, describing our involvement with the world at large. The emphasis is on 'Us-in-Here', and on our contribution to the greater picture which involves us all. In each of these phases, we begin with the enthusiasm and optimism of the natural fire houses (1st, 5th, and 9th), consolidate and establish ourselves in the earth houses which follow (2nd, 6th, and 10th), develop new understanding as a result of these experiences in the air houses (3rd, 7th, and 11th), and withdraw to absorb and emotionally process what has been learned in the water houses (4th, 8th, and 12th) before moving on to the next phase, which will begin with the fire houses once again.
We can go one step further and divide the houses into four quadrants, which have been described by Howard Sasportas as the quadrants of self development, self expansion, self expression and self transcendence. I would also recommend Alexander von Schlieffen's book in the CPA seminar series, which is devoted to this subject and provides an excellent exploration of the meaning and interpretation of the quadrants in the horoscope. 
- Baring, Anne and Jules Cashford, The Myth of the Goddess (London: Penguin/Arkana, 1991) [hereafter Baring and Cashford), p. 681.
- Baring and Cashford, p. 681.
- Paracelsus, Selected Writings, ed. Jolande Jacobi, trans. Norbert Guterman, Bollingen Series XXVIII (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1951).
- Idemon, Richard, 'Part One: The Basics of Relating', in Through the Looking Glass: A Search for Self in the Mirror of Relationships (York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1992).
- Dethlefsen, Thorwald, The Challenge of Fate (London: Coventure Ltd., 1984).
- Sasportas, Howard, The Twelve Houses: An Introduction to the Houses in Astrological Interpretation (Wellingborough: Aquarian Press, 1985), 'Chapter 15: Grouping the Houses'.
- Von Schlieffen, Alexander, When Chimpanzees Dream Astrology: An Introduction to the Quadrants of the Horoscope (London: CPA Press, 2004).
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