Lesson Two: Houses 1 to 6
The houses can be interpreted environmentally and psychologically, operating simultaneously on both levels. They usually reflect aspects of the objective truth as well as of our subjective perception. As we go through each of the houses in turn, I hope to illustrate how this works in practice.
1st house: emerging (Aries house - natural ruler Mars)
There are two major factors to consider with the 1st house,
since the cusp of the 1st house is also the Ascendant. The east-west horizon,
or Ascendant-Descendant axis, is so significant that it deserves separate
exploration, and we will spend some time looking at the angles in more
depth next week.
For the time being, I want to focus on the Ascendant as the cusp of the 1st house, which is possibly the most important house cusp in the birth chart, since it describes the threshold between our existence in the womb and our physical birth into the world. It describes, often with extraordinary accuracy and detail, the process of birth itself. Amongst other things, the 12th house describes our pre-natal experiences. In the 12th house we are in a totally symbiotic relationship with our mother, dependent and vulnerable, experiencing everything that she experiences without any way of protecting ourselves or screening anything out. In the 12th house we also seem to be at one with all of human experience and with the whole universe, picking up mysterious influences and emotions that cannot be reduced to personal content only. There is so much going on that it is difficult not to be overwhelmed by the pervasive atmosphere of the 12th house, which continues to affect us throughout our lives. The 1st house describes our subjective experience of the world into which we are born, and the Ascendant or 1st house cusp describes the actual birth moment itself, our struggle to be born and to achieve our independent existence. This is such a powerful event that it continues to operate strongly throughout our lives, being re-constellated every time we approach a new beginning, however great or small, whether this is a new meeting, a new opportunity, a new job, a new relationship, or even the beginning of a new day.
Let's look at some examples of Ascendants in different signs, and planets conjunct the Ascendant, so we can begin to see how this actually works in practice. The 1st house is entirely subjective, describing our personal approach, response and reaction to the world around us. The entire Ascendant complex describes our instinctive outlook on life and the way we navigate through and engage with the world around us. I want to approach this on two different levels, one profound and one trivial, but both of which, in my experience, tend to be relevant.
Audience: Can you explain what you mean by the Ascendant complex?
Clare: Yes, the Ascendant complex is a combination of different factors which include the sign on the Ascendant, the condition of the planet or planets which rule that sign, any planets within 8° of the Ascendant, and any planets which make aspects to the Ascendant. When all these factors are combined, it is possible to make a particularly accurate and specific interpretation about the way an individual engages with the world and with all new beginnings. For this reason, the general descriptions I am about to give you are really just caricatures, because every Ascendant is much more complex and personal and accurate, when analysed properly.
Keeping it simple for the time being, how would you imagine that someone with Aries rising, or Mars in the 1st house, will perceive, and therefore relate to, the world?
Audience: Will they approach the world competitively and forcefully, and see everything as a personal challenge to be conquered?
Clare: That's right. They are likely to be instinctively independent, and approach life with considerable energy, determination and courage. Aries rising people are often initiators, looking for the next new project, goal or challenge to launch themselves into. And this approach will be reflected in the circumstances of their physical birth. Perhaps they were born very quickly, charging into life, a pattern that will continue to repeat itself every time they embark on new beginnings. Perhaps they were the first-born in the family, or are destined to lead the way, leaving their siblings to follow in their path. And since Mars rules knives and other sharp instruments, the birth process may have involved surgical instruments, some kind of cutting or tearing, or injections. In this case, there will be a deep memory, often on an unconscious level, that the world is a violent place, and that our personal survival demands the use of 'weapons' and courage in the face of obstacles and pain. This can be expressed positively by embarking on heroic missions to rescue and defend, or negatively with a particularly aggressive, combative approach to life.
Audience: So the planet that rules the Ascendant and the 1st house in this case is Mars. Does that give extra emphasis to Mars in the chart?
Clare: Yes, it certainly does, and the sign and house in which Mars is placed will significantly modify the interpretation of the Ascendant and the way we relate to the world around us. If, for example, you have Aries on the Ascendant, then that sounds very spontaneous, courageous and instinctive, but if your Mars is in the 4th house in Cancer, then that will modify the Ascendant, and you will be more cautious and sensitive and self-protective about the way you approach the world. Alternatively, if your Mars is in the 2nd house in Taurus, then that will lend more patience and perseverance. In fact, the planet which rules the 1st house and the Ascendant is so important that it is the ruler of the entire chart.
Audience: But I always thought that the ruling planet was the planet which rules your Sun. So if you are a Gemini, for example, then your ruling planet would be Mercury.
Clare: This is a logical assumption, but in fact the ruling planet is the ruler of the sign on the Ascendant. This reflects the importance of the moment of birth and the significance of the angles in the birth chart. It also explains why it is so important to have an accurate time of birth.
Audience: You were going to mention the 'ridiculous' level.
Clare: Oh yes, that's right. The point about the Ascendant and 1st house is that it represents not only our personal approach to the world, but it can also describe the personal vehicle in which we navigate through life. And our vehicle is our body, but it can also be our car - which is a way of making a personal statement about ourselves and our approach to life. So, for example, what kind of car would someone with Aries rising drive?
Audience: A red sports car?
Clare: Exactly. This makes a strong statement about personal potency, speed and drive, as well as independence, aggression and freedom. A red sports car is a message that everyone else should get out of the way and let us through. With Mars ruling or in the 1st house, we are unlikely to make good passengers, insisting that we are at the wheel ourselves - in the 'driving seat'. I have also noticed that many Aries rising or Mars ruled or Aries Sun people actually ride motorbikes - which represent freedom, speed, potency, and a refusal to be held back by the traffic. Although this may seem rather absurd at first glance, it can actually be psychologically revealing, since the car we choose often does say something about the way we approach life.
With Taurus on the 1st house cusp or Venus in the 1st house, our approach to life will be more passive, practical, gentle and graceful. With Venus ruling the chart, our personal security and comfort will be of primary concern, and we will want to take our time before embarking on any new ventures. It is also likely that we will resist change, since Taurus is perhaps the most fixed of all the fixed signs. The placement of Venus in our birth charts and of any planets in the 1st house will provide additional information, although it is likely that our personal appearance and, for that matter, our choice of car will be strongly influenced by practical concerns and by our personal values. Taurus is an earth sign, so we may, for example, be very conscious of ecological issues, dress ourselves in natural fabrics in soft earthy colours, and drive a car that uses very little fuel. Alternatively, we might want to show our substance and wealth to the world by wearing expensive jewellery and driving an expensive car. Speed will be less important than comfort and our main priorities may be the music system, heated seats, and make-up mirror. If we are engaging with the world in a particularly practical, earthy way, we may well drive a work vehicle, such as a catering van, flower delivery van, transporting musical instruments for our band or orchestra, or even drive a mud-splattered farm tractor. All of these options are ways of approaching the world in a Taurean or Venusian manner. The birth process itself is likely to have been a well-planned and gentle experience, and with Venus ruling the chart, the child may well have felt welcomed into the world.
With Gemini on the 1st house cusp and Mercury ruling the chart, or Mercury in the 1st house, it is likely that we have entered the world with great curiosity, looking around us at our new environment and taking everything in. Our approach to life will be inquisitive and curious, and we will engage with our immediate environment as an opportunity to gather information, to play, to have fun and to learn. There always seems to be a particularly light and youthful quality to Gemini rising or Mercury in the 1st house. Life is an opportunity to learn and to make connections, and should not be taken too seriously. People with Gemini rising or Mercury in the 1st house are often great walkers, since this gets them out into the open air, stimulates the lungs, and exercises the legs. Gemini rising or Mercurial people may not like the feeling of being inside a vehicle, which can make them feel trapped or restricted. So if they are not walking, then it is likely that they will travel around by bicycle, an archetypally Geminian mode of transport. Alternatively, a pair of roller skates or a skateboard might serve just as well.
With Cancer rising, and the Moon ruling the chart, or with the Moon in the 1st house, we are likely to have experienced an intense emotional symbiosis with our mother during the process of birth, an overwhelming experience of the power of nature, and feelings of being expelled from the womb, which is translated during our lives into a strong need for personal protection and care. With Cancer rising, there will be a marked emotional sensitivity to our surroundings, and a cautious, self-protective approach to life. As you can imagine, people with this placement tend to carry their shells around with them, both for their own protection and for the protection of their children and family members. It is therefore not unusual for those with Cancer rising or Moon in the 1st house to drive 'people carriers', or vehicles which are particularly safe, rounded and crab-like. Towing a caravan or driving a mobile home would also be appropriate for Cancer rising. Equally likely is the possibility that they don't drive at all, which might be one way of asking to be cared for.
With Leo on the 1st house cusp or the Sun in the 1st house,
there will be an innate feeling of being special, a sense that we have
been born to be noticed and recognised, to be in the limelight and to be
the subject of praise and adoration. It may well be, for example, that
our arrival into the family was of particular significance, for example
in the case of a pregnancy after many years of difficulty conceiving. An
individual with Leo rising may have a deep memory of being a much-wanted
child, whose birth was a cause for joyful celebration. Leo rising or Sun
in the 1st house people will naturally expect the world to reflect back
to them how special and unique they are, and they will often demand special
treatment, attention and recognition. They approach the world with warmth
and generosity. The particular way they go about seeking recognition will
depend on the position of the Sun in the chart.
In an ideal world, we could imagine that someone with Leo rising or the Sun in the 1st house would prefer to be chauffeured or, better still, carried around in a sedan chair. Their car of choice would be grand and eye-catching. Certainly, they would prefer not to have to travel with the masses, although other people also represent a potential audience, providing the Leo rising or Sun in the 1st house individual with an opportunity to take centre stage, drawing everyone's attention towards them. There is often something particularly dramatic about the way that Leo rising people approach the world and make their entrances.
With Virgo on the 1st house cusp, Mercury rules the chart once again, although this Mercury-ruled sign is concerned with practical efficiency rather than curiosity, as in the case of Gemini. Virgo is an earth sign and is particularly associated with health and the body. Virgo rising people are specialists and perfectionists and cannot take too much on board at once, since they are easily overwhelmed and, because of a strong psychosomatic or body-mind connection, they tend to be prone to intestinal or digestive problems. Virgo rising people are naturally modest and self-effacing, and they need to analyse, assimilate, restrict and carefully digest their experiences of the world. They want to get it right and they need to feel in control.
Audience: What kind of car do you think someone with Virgo rising would drive?
Clare: Well, first of all, they are unlikely to want to take up too much space, so a small white car would be ideal, since white is the colour of purity. However, because Pisces is always present where Virgo is concerned, there could be plenty of chaos in the boot or in the glove box. And because of the strong psychosomatic link, there may well be a sense of personal physical violation if the car gets scratched or damaged in any way. Virgo rising tends to drive slowly and carefully, paying great attention to detail. There may also be an element of anxiety about driving, because they are likely to be particularly concerned about following the rules of the road, obeying the speed limits, parking restrictions, and so on.
The person with Libra on the 1st house cusp, and Venus once again ruling the chart, is likely to present a pleasant and attractive face to the world, and to wish to make everything in their environment beautiful, peaceful, and harmonious. There is often a noticeable style, grace and balance about the way Libra rising relates to the world. It is almost as if both mother and child wanted to behave well and look their best during the birth process. And I have noticed that those with Libra rising generally prefer to be driven, rather than drive themselves, which is not surprising, since Libra is opposite Aries.
With Scorpio on the Ascendant or Pluto rising, the world is experienced as a dangerous place, full of hidden threats that may strike at any time. There is nothing superficial about this placement, and it is not unusual for the birth process itself to have involved a struggle for survival for either the child or the mother, or both. People with Scorpio rising are extremely private, but seem destined to experience many personal crises during their lives. As always with this sign, which is either black or white and very rarely anything in between, they tend to engage with the world either as ice or fire. For example, an individual with Scorpio rising can be impossible to read - inscrutable and silent, with a powerful magnetic presence that can be felt as soon as they walk into a room. If the element of fear is particularly strong, this can result in a kind of paranoia and a desire to manipulate the world in order to remain in control. The intense, burning side of Scorpio comes to life during crises, with the result that those with a Scorpio Ascendant or with Pluto rising often seem to live many lives during their one life, being impelled, like the phoenix, to walk into the fire again and again in order to renew and regenerate themselves. Every new beginning, for Scorpio rising, will evoke the original struggle for survival, a theme which will remain throughout life. As you can imagine, transport is a difficult issue for Scorpio rising because it is never safe to travel in the world. They may well choose a car that is as invisible as possible - just like every other car - in order to avoid attention. Alternatively, they may drive a black or maroon car with darkened windows so that nobody can see inside.
The individual with Sagittarius rising or Jupiter on the 1st house cusp is likely to approach life with enthusiasm, optimism and faith, seeing all new beginnings as opportunities for exciting new adventures. Life is a continuous journey into new territory and, because Sagittarius is a mutable sign, the adventures along the way are likely to be even more important than the eventual destination. Sagittarius rising people tend to make a big entrance into the world, and their birth is often dramatic or theatrical or larger-than-life in some way. They may, for example, be born in the middle of a thunderstorm or other kind of dramatic weather (since Jupiter, the god of storms, rules the chart), or on the move - for example, in the car on the way to the hospital, or on an aeroplane or ship. Whether or not these events are literally true, from a psychological point of view all Sagittarius rising people seem to be born on a wagon heading west, through new and unexplored territory and towards new adventures. Physically, those with Sagittarius or Jupiter rising are in some sense 'larger than life' - they often have the kind of presence which seems to extend beyond their physical bodies.
Audience: That's interesting, because I have Sagittarius rising and I am always covered in bruises, because I am clumsy and find myself crashing into things and other people. I think that is because I don't really know my limits.
Clare: I think that is often the case, and this is something you can try out for yourself next time you meet someone with Sagittarius rising. Ask them to show you their most recent bruises, and no doubt they will oblige, responding with the typical generosity of this sign. As for the mode of transport, Sagittarius and Jupiter rising people tend to catch planes as often as other people catch colds. Alternatively, they might drive long-distance coaches, taking groups of people on pilgrimages or other kinds of adventures. A gipsy caravan would be equally acceptable.
With Capricorn on the Ascendant or Saturn in the 1st house, life will be approached carefully, cautiously, responsibly and even fearfully. There is often a strong feeling of isolation, a sense of being alone in the world, as if one had been put straight into an incubator at birth, or a feeling that the birth process has been an experience of abandonment, of being expelled from the womb, cold and alone and isolated. Capricorn or Saturn rising people may feel that there is something particularly unsafe about the world and that they are unlikely to get their needs met. The actual birth process may well have been slow and painful, with a long labour involving extremely hard work for both the mother and baby, and all new beginnings will be coloured by this experience. They might drive an old black car, which can only go very slowly.
There is usually something cool, detached, charismatic and magnetic about Aquarius rising or Uranus in the 1st house. Aquarius rising people often engage with the world from something of a distance, and there is likely to be something unusual about their appearance or the way they dress.
Audience: I have Mars in Aquarius in the 1st house. Does that mean that I will engage with the world by competing? I can see the Mars in the 1st house part of this, but how do I make sense of the fact that Mars is in Aquarius?
Clare: The sign tells us how the planets will function, so Mars in Aquarius tells us how you will compete. I would imagine that you assert yourself in a detached, rational, idealistic, perhaps unusual or eccentric, manner. You are likely to have high expectations of yourself, and of other people, and will seek to make your mark on the world (Mars in the 1st house) by imposing (Mars) your personal ideals and particular vision (Aquarius) on your environment (1st house), making sure first of all that you have all the intellectual ammunition (Mars in Aquarius) you need. There is a great deal of forceful intellectual precision in this placement, and it could even describe the circumstances of your birth, which in this case may have been assisted by the latest scientific advances (Aquarius) or the use of a sharp instrument (Mars) of some kind.
Audience: This is amazingly accurate, although not in the way you have suggested. My mother is a Christian Scientist, and she was determined to give birth to me naturally, using the power of the mind to get through it, but in the end she had acupuncture for the pain, so there are the sharp instruments!
Clare: This is an excellent example of the multi-levelled meanings we find everywhere in astrology. The houses can be interpreted on many levels, from symbolic to intellectual to psychological to physical, and often we can find meaning on all these levels simultaneously. I don't think people with Uranus in the 1st house or Aquarius rising are particularly interested in transport, since they tend to find it difficult to accept their physicality, and often don't seem to live in their bodies at all, but rather in their minds. The Saturn co-ruler of Aquarius adds caution and reserve and hesitation to the way in which they meet the world.
Audience: Yes, I think that's true, because I have always felt rather disembodied.
Clare: With Pisces rising or Neptune in the 1st house, there are unlikely to be clear boundaries between life in the womb and life in the world. The birth process may well have involved the use of drugs or anaesthetics, so that the child was born, as it were, without consciously crossing the threshold. This might be the case with an induced or Caesarean birth. This is an immensely sensitive Ascendant, and the individual is likely to absorb their environment like a sponge, taking on the colour of their surroundings like a chameleon, without any clear sense of personal definition. People with Pisces rising or Neptune in the 1st house can be particularly hard to get hold of, since they tend to change shape all the time.
Audience: I have Pisces rising, and journeys are never simple for me. I never seem to be able to get anywhere on time, and I have no sense of direction at all. And I can certainly relate to the sensitivity you mention - I can be completely overwhelmed by what is going on around me, to the extent that I seem to lose myself altogether. I have had to learn to keep life as simple as possible.
Clare: I have spent quite a bit of time looking at the different Ascendants
because people often consult an astrologer when they find themselves at
a crossroads in their lives, perhaps contemplating a change of direction
or a new beginning of some sort. At these times, it is worth remembering
that the birth chart is exactly that - a chart of the birth moment itself
- and an astrologer's role can often be that of a midwife, helping their
client through and across this threshold of new beginnings. So it is important
that we examine the Ascendant complex very carefully whenever we are consulted
about new ventures or new directions, since our client's approach to new
beginnings is very likely to be different from our own.
Let's assume, for example, that we have Sagittarius rising, but that our client has Capricorn rising. Unless we are sufficiently self-aware, we could find ourselves reassuring our client, trying to convince them that all they need to do is to trust and have faith and that everything will turn out just fine. This may not be true at all in our client's experience, and they may well feel even more fearful or inadequate and alone by the time they leave your consulting room than they did when they arrived. But if we pay particular attention to the Ascendant complex of our clients, then we can more accurately reflect their experience of the world and provide the support and mirroring which will help them to navigate any changes in their lives.
Copyright © 2007 by Clare Martin.
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