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17 June 2013 0 Comments

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13 August 2016 5 Comments

The 12 Letter Alphabet Astrology System Exposed

In a recent Facebook discussion relating to my post on 8th house misunderstandings a number of people reacted to my assertion that the 12-letter alphabet of astrology has no validity and promotes confusion among astrologers.
This article: The 12 Letter Alphabet Astrology System Exposed, is published in response to requests to explain this point of view.


My understanding is that Zipporah Dobyns first introduced this the term “The 12-letter alphabet” in the 1970’s. This system has also sometimes been called the “ABC system of astrology”.

In the 12 letter alphabet system the houses are said to correspond with the signs and their planetary rulers. For example, the 1st house (A) is linked to the sign Aries (B) and to the sign’s ruling planet Mars (C). Together the house sign and planet combination are often referred to as “an archetype”.

In the adjacent diagram is shown the general layout preferred by those who use the 12-letter alphabet.12 Letter Alphabet
The 12 houses in the centre are aligned with the 12 signs in the central wheel and with the planetary rulers on the outside. I have greyed out the traditional rulers of the signs to highlight the general preference of those who use this system to use the outer planets as rulers of Scorpio, Aquarius and Pisces.


The combination of house, sign, and planet is sometimes referred to as an archetype. For example it is said that the 1st archetype comprises the 1st house which is linked to Aries and its planetary ruler Mars. The 2nd archetype links the 2nd house to Taurus and its ruler Venus. This system of archetypes follows the circle of houses around the horoscope in an anti-clockwise manner. defines an archetype as “The original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype.”
I will discuss later whether houses signs and planets are things of the same kind.

Objections raised in the defence of the 12-letter alphabet

A. There are 12 houses and 12 signs.
This is too much of a coincidence.

B. There is a close similarity between the signs and the houses. 8 cited examples include:
1) Aries – initiative. 1st House – how we strike out as an individual.
2) Taurus – stability and enjoyment. 2nd house – money matters and living.
3) Gemini – interaction. 3rd house – learning and exchange of ideas.
4) Cancer – Homely, contained. 4th House – Home, community.
5) Leo – expressive. 5th House – creative expression.
6) Virgo – focussed, skilled. 6th Work.
7) Libra – engaged, gracious. 7th house – relationships.
8) Scorpio – destructive, intimate. 8th transformation, death, sex…

I will cover each of these objections. But first I will first describe some important differences between the signs and the houses.

Differences between the signs and the houses

1. Different systems

  • The signs are a celestial system
  • The houses are a terrestrial system

The celestial and terrestrial worlds are fundamentally different and cannot be interchanged.

2. Different measurement

  • The signs of the celestial zodiac divide the ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun, into 12 equal divisions.
  • The houses measure terrestrial spaces above and below the horizon into 12 parts (places). These 12 parts are comprised of 4 quadrants each containing 3 signs.

The divisions of the ecliptic and the spaces above and below the horizon cannot be mixed

3. Cosmology

cosmology rgbIn the ancient cosmological system, the universe was comprised of two basic divisions:

  1. The world of the divine glory and perfection, comprising the The Prime Mover and the Zodiac.
  2. The world of manifest material reality which is subject to birth decay and death.
  • The signs belong in the sphere of divine perfection.
  • The houses exist within the material plane.

Equating the divine with the mundane demonstrates a lack of understanding about the structure of our universe.

4. Different cycle

  • The signs describe a yearly cycle which is the apparent orbit of the Sun around the earth.
  • The houses describe a daily cycle, which is the apparent cycle of the planets around the earth.

The Sun’s yearly cycle describes something very different to the daily passage of the planets around the earth.

Zodiac Sign modes elements polarity5. Different make-up

  • The signs are constituted from the combination of the 3 modes (cardinal fixed and mutable), the 4 elements (fire earth air and water), and the 2 polarities (diurnal/active and nocturnal/passive). Each zodiac sign is a unique combination of these principles.
  • The houses are discreet areas of human experiences (physical, social, psychological, spiritual).

The essential nature of the signs and houses is very different and should not be confused.

6. Different nature

  • The signs are latent descriptive qualities which are not tangible. Planets traversing signs are energized in a manner specific to the quality of the sign, qualified by the planet’s unique capacity to express this quality.
  • The houses relate to specific environments of human experience, which together comprise the sum of all possible experience in the material plane.

Planets are not energized by the houses in which they are located (unlike the signs though which they pass).
Instead the houses describe environments which control how planets’ energies are expressed and the area of life in which these energies manifest.

7. Opposite directions

  • The signs are ordered in an anti-clockwise direction. The rising sign, which is determined by the time of birth, is located on the ascendant and the other signs are extended in an anti-clockwise direction around the chart. The rising sign can be any of the 12 zodiac signs.
  • The houses extend from the horizon in a clockwise direction towards the Midheaven, following the direction of the diurnal movement of the planets. This is the opposite direction to that of the signs, and is explained by the fact that the numbering has to do with the r: planets in the 1st house rise first across the horizon, planets in the 2nd house rise second across the horizon; and so on.

This last point often comes as a shock to astrologers who are accustomed to viewing the order of the houses from 1-12 in from the ascendant, down to the IC, then up to the Midheaven.
It turns out that the numbers assigned to the houses actually refers to something quite different: it is the order in which planets pass across the ascendant in their apparent daily passage around the earth, beginning at the ascendant, culminating at the Midheaven, and heading downwards towards the IC; exactly opposite to the 1-12 sequence most astrologers assume to be true.

8. Different foundation

  • The signs are formed by the orbit of the earth around the Sun in an ANTI-CLOCKWISE direction.
  • The houses are formed by the rotation of the earth as it spins on its axis in a CLOCKWISE direction.

Signs Houses DirectionsThe numbering of the houses has to with the order in which planets rise above the signs as the earth spins on its axis.

The numbering of the houses has nothing to do with a natural order of the houses in an anti-clockwise direction.
The signs and the houses do not flow in the same direction.
It is a basic and fundamental error to assume that the meaning of the 2nd house naturally flows from the meaning of the 1st house; or that the meaning of the 3rd house is a flow-on from the meaning of the 2nd house; and so on.
The numbering of the houses actually refers to a flow in the opposite direction: the rising of planets across the ascendant. It’s like the houses are standing in a queue: planets in the 1st house get to rise first; planets in the 2nd house get to rise next; and so on. Planets in the 2nd house rise (or succeed – which is why it is called a sucedent house) into the first, and are second in line to rise above the ascendant.
The movement of the planets is from the ascendant up to the Midheaven, and from there to the descendant and on to the IC.
The numbers given to the houses (1, 2, 3 and so on) refers to order of the movement of planets as they move across the ascendant towards the Midheaven through the course of the day,

Response to the 1st objection

“There are 12 houses and 12 signs. This is too much of a coincidence.”

Sun's pathThis objection is very superficial.
Above I have described above eight important differences between the signs and the houses, which together show that any attempt at interchanging the signs and houses does not make sense.
The numbering of the signs and the numbering of the houses refers to a flow in opposite directions. That there are 12 signs and 12 houses does not imply that they are the same or that they can be interchanged.
The adjacent diagram shows the path of the Sun as it moves through the houses. The Sun in the 3rd house moves into the 2nd house, and from the 2nd house moves (or succeeds) into the 1st house, and from there rises into the 12th house; and so on.
The same principle applies to the planets as they appear to move around the earth during the course of the day.
The meaning of the numbering of the houses relates to the order in which planets in the houses rise above the ascendant, with planets in the 1st house rising first, planets in the 2nd house rising next; and so on. House numbers are ordinal numbers; the relate to a sequence or series. They were not intended to show a natural flow or sequence in an anti-clockwise direction.

Simplifying astrology

The association of the 12 houses with the 12 signs was a deliberate attempt to simplify astrology, and has made the teacher’s job easier. This attempt has been attributed to Alan Leo in early 20th century England who was fighting a battle to avoid incarceration and sought to promote the idea that astrology was merely psychological.
While working with 12 simple principles that interchanges houses signs and planets may reduce the astrology teacher’s workload, it hinders rather than helps an understanding of astrology.
The mistake of extending the anatomical model
While it is true that there is an anatomical correlation between the signs and houses, with Aries and the 1st house both associated with the head; Taurus and the 2nd house associated with the throat and so on, it is a mistake to extrapolate this correlation to a psychological or other type of flow. There is no natural flow in a psychological sense from the 1st house through to the 12th house. While it is true that attempts have been made identify a sequential flow, it doesn’t make sense.


The 12-letter alphabet system suggests a natural flow from the 1st house through to the 12th house. However it simply does not make sense that the 5th house of children should come before the 7th house of relationships, or that the 8th house of death should precede the 10th house of career. If astrology does not make sense it is nonsense.

House construction

The fabric of house structure is constructed from different threads of meaning which bind them together, none of which has to do with a natural flow of the houses in an anti-clockwise direction. These threads include:

  • The diurnal movement of the planets through the angles, which begins with the ascendant and follows the Sun’s path to the Midheaven, then to the descendant and down to the IC..
  • Aspect relationships between the 1st house of life and the other eleven houses.
  • The joys of the planets.
  • The association of the Chaldean order of planets with the houses.

There is not the space here to describe how each of these threads contributes to the make-up of the houses.

Modern rulers

The addition of the modern rulers, Uranus Neptune and Pluto, to the 12-letter alphabet has further distorted the meanings of the 8th and 12th houses.
The primary meaning of the 8th house has to do with the resources and movable possessions of the partner, death fear and loss, and inheritance. Connecting the 8th house with Scorpio introduces the idea of sex and intimacy to the meaning of this house, qualities which in the very long history of astrology it never possessed previous to this invention. It is the 5th house which has long been associated with sex.
The association of Scorpio with Pluto further compounds these misunderstandings and adds intensity crisis and transformation to the meaning of the 8th house.
The 11th house is also an interesting case. Here the 12-letter alphabet system links the 11th house with Aquarius and Uranus. Uranus is said by some to rule networking and as a result the 11th house has become associated with groups.
One important irony here is that Uranus is also associated with individualism, which is at odds with the idea that the 11th house is associated with groups, a type of mutual exclusion which embodies a contradiction. It is actually the cohesiveness of Saturn in this sign of runaway ideas that makes it the perfect ruler of this sign.
Using the modern planets as rulers of the Scorpio Aquarius and Pisces ignores some fundamental astrological principles, which are beyond the scope of this article to explore thoroughly.
Most astrologers I have met who use the modern rulers are generally unaware of the logic of the ancient system of sign rulerships. Because their astrological education is lacking they have no reason to suspect that anything is amiss.
Secondly because their astrological education is lacking these same astrologers cannot explain what was so wrong with the original planetary rulers that they needed replacing. They don’t know what they don’t know. Did Mars stop being Mars? Is it true that the reason Mars rules Scorpio is no longer understood; forgotten? Perhaps it didn’t make sense that Mars would rule a water sign! Did Jupiter stop being Jupiter?

Response to the second objection:

There is a close similarity between the signs and the houses“: 8 examples

Example 1: Aries – initiative. 1st House – how we strike out as an individual

While the words “strike out” are a manner of speech there might be less confusion if they were replaced with “present”: The first house shows how we present as an individual. This presentation includes attitude, physical health, demeanour and appearance, among other things.

The 1st house is much more than how we strike out as an individual. It can actually show a ‘wait and see attitude’. If a passive sign is on the ascendant or the ascendant ruler in a passive sign there will be less ‘striking out’ and more withdrawal or cautious approach to life.

The 1st house is called ‘tJoys of the planets rgbhe house of life’ and rules health and vitality. It should not be confused with ill-health which is shown by the 6th house. Together with other factors such as the house location of its ruler and planets aspecting the ascendant, the 1st house shows temperament style and general attitude to life, which may be nothing akin to Mars or Aries.

The odds are only one in twelve that the sign on the ascendant will be Aries and the wide scope of other possible expressions cannot all be described as Arian or Martian.

Neither should we restrict the red planet to its daytime domicile of Aries. It is also the nocturnal ruler of Scorpio although this is rarely considered or understood.

Associating Mars with the 1st house also ignores the other two planets which have a connection to this house.

The first is Mercury, which has its joy in the first house. The joys of the planets is a worthwhile study of its own, anSoul's entry and exit into the bodyd worthy of a second article.
Mercury has a natural association with the brain and head and this correlates well with the association of the 1st house with the head.
Mercury is also associated with speech and communicating with others in our social sphere.
Mars has no natural association with the head or brain, unless you are thinking of using the head as a battering ram!
There is no logic in terms of astrological tradition to support the notion that Mars has an association with the 1st house.
In the system of planetary joys Mars is placed in the 6th house of injuries and sickness, a place where it is at home.
The 1st house straddles the boundary between day and night which is an apt fit for adaptable Mercury as the go-between.

The second planet that has a natural association with the 1st house is Saturn, because it traps the soul in the body as the soul enters this incarnation. Saturn is the natural ruler of doorways and the 1st house is the soul’s doorway into physical life. The 8th house is the exit doorway, also associated with Saturn.

Example 2: Taurus – stability and enjoyment. 2nd house – money matters and living

Yes Taurus is about stability and physical comforts and pleasure, but has little to do with money itself. Venus, the planet which rules Taurus, is about the comforts that money can buy, the adornments and beautiful things. But money itself is represented by Mercury, the natural ruler of exchange and financial dealings. Venus has absolutely nothing to do with money per se; that is Mercury’s domain.
The planet that has a natural association with the 2nd house is Jupiter, the planet of wealth and prosperity. In the Chaldean order of the planets Jupiter follows Saturn (see the diagram above).

Example 3: Gemini – interaction. 3rd house – learning and exchange of ideas

It is understandable that at first glance, to the beginning astrologer’s eye, the 3rd house would seem to have a natural association with Gemini and Mercury.
However in previous generations when horary and electional astrology were the mainstay of astrological practice, it was clearly understood that the 3rd house was the house of the goddess, and the Moon had a special relationship with this house.
In horary astrology the Moon is frequently seen as conveying messages between other planets in its role as ‘the translator of light’. Among the seven classical planets it is the fastest moving body, linking planets together as it aspects one and then another. This sequential linking by aspects is seen as very significant in questions relating to communication or the movement of goods. In this latter respect it also has an association with transport.

None of this is to deny Mercury’s role in communication or transport, just that historically the Moon has also played a significant role in this regard, although this seems to have been largely forgotten in modern times. Incidentally in mundane astrology the Moon represents the common people and is associated with public transport.

Gemini, with its dual nature, has no natural association with the house of the goddess.

It is the Moon which has its joy in the 3rd house. The joys of the planets is an ancient concept and plays an important role in the make-up and meaning of the houses.
Regarding the Chaldean order of the planets mentioned above in relation to the 1st house, it is Mars, the planet associated with sibling rivalry and the hustle and bustle of everyday life, that has a natural association with the 3rd house.

Example 4: Cancer – Homely, contained. 4th House – Home, community

4 Ages of ManHistorically the 4th house is associated with foundations and property, the land, deep roots, mines and wealth from under the ground.
Compare these fixed traits to that most fluid and movable of planets: the Moon. This is not a good fit. The changeable Moon is much better suited to the busy comings and goings of the 3rd house.

In the ancient model of the “4 Ages of Man” the IC is associated with the winter of our lives. Yet in the northern hemisphere where Western astrology arose the Sun passes through Cancer at the height of summer. Neither is the 4th house a good fit for Cancer.

Historically the 4th house is associated with the father, not the mother.

Example 5: Leo – expressive. 5th House – creative expression

The Sun is the supreme ‘Commander-in-Chief’, the symbol of might and mastery, power, truth, light and enlightenment. The superior planets genuflect and step backwards in retrograde motion when they come face to face in opposition with the Sun, and all the planets disappear in his blinding light when in conjunction with the Sun.

The 5th house is the house of fun and frivolity, parties pleasure and entertainment. In a sense this is the most superficial of houses and is in no way deserving as the home of the Lord of the Heavens.

The Sun represents so much more than parties, children, pleasure and sporting games. The importance of these activities pales into insignificance when faced with the majesty of his presence. In many religions and spiritual systems the image of god or the force which guides the universe has a solar representation.

To suggest that the Sun is restricted to the rulership of the house of fun and creativity is to diminish his great power and demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of his role in the heavens and in astrological interpretation.

In the diagram above describing the joys of the planets we see that the Sun rejoices in the 9th house, the house of higher learning, spirituality, and the search for the ultimate meaning of life. The joys of the planets describe places where planets are most comfortable and ‘feel at home’. The Sun is much more comfortable than in the 9th house of spirituality than in the 5th house of frivolity.

Neither is Leo a good fit for the 5th house as it is regarded as a barren sign because of its dryness. The 5th has long been known as the house of sex procreation and children. In horary astrology in questions of fertility and in electional astrology when choosing a suitable time for conception Leo on the ascendant or on the 5th house cusp is generally avoided because of its association with infertility and sterility.
To link the sign associated with barrenness with the house associated with fertility and creativity shows a misunderstanding of basic astrological principles.

Example 6: Virgo – focused, skilled. 6th Work

Confusions relating to the meaning of the 6th house are worthy of an article on its own.
The association with work in the sense of career or profession can be attributed to a misreading of Lilly where he refers to the 6th house as the house of service. He was actually referring to servitude and servants.
The modern equivalent are the working poor doing menial jobs, in the service of another. There has never been, at least until recent times, a sense that the 6th house is associated with anything resembling a career. Historically this is, among other meanings, the house of slaves. While perhaps there are few real slaves in the Western world, the unskilled worker going from job to job is a close equivalent. These workers are typically more lacking in skills, rather than being skilled.

Going back to the objection mentioned above that Virgo is focused I am not sure how focus is a noteworthy trait of the 6th house; or even that Virgo is especially focused. irgo is after all a double-bodies sign. Scorpio Aries and Capricorn also have some claim to being focused.

It is more common for people to confuse the 6th house with Virgo because of Virgo’s association with health. However the 6th house is not the house of health; that honour belongs to the 1st house. The 6th house is the house of ill-health and also injuries, the opposite of health. The preoccupation with exercise and diet typically associated with Virgo is better explained by the combination of the dry earth qualities of Virgo when combined with its discerning ruler: Mercury.

It is the 1st house which is the house of life and health and vitality. Mercury rejoices in this house and is much more comfortable here than in the 6th house of sickness and injuries.
It is Mars which rejoices in the 6th house. It is of course the minor malefic and is well suited to the house where the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune beset us all from time to time. Incidentally in mundane astrology the 6th house is associated with the military which has an obvious connection with Mars.

Example 7: Libra – engaged, gracious. 7th house – relationships

Yes the 7th house is about relationships of all types. As well as amorous relationships and contractual business type relationships, also included are adversarial relationships with open enemies and those involving a sporting or other type of contest.

Relationships involving open conflict can hardly be confused with the graciousness associated with Libra or the pleasantness associated with Venus. These relationships could better be described as Martian. As the enemy rides over hill towards you, gun at the ready, or you are going over the trench with bayonet attached, Venus is nowhere to be seen. These situations are better described by Mars. So should we associate Aries and Mars with the 7th house, as well as Libra and Venus? The logic is similar. It should not be ignored that the 7th house is as much about engagement with the enemy as it is with the lover or friend.

The 7th house is about ‘the other’ we engage with, for whatever reason, whether it be the terrorist or the lover, the violent bully or the loving spouse. The relationships associated with the 7th house can be associated with love or hate. The 7th house is primarily about the people we engage with, and the type of engagement cannot be restricted to just Venus or Libra. The planet which usually best describes the type of engagement is the one ruling the sign on the 7th house cusp or a planet conjoining the descendant.

Example 8: Scorpio – destructive, intimate. 8th transformation, death, sex..

The confusion concerning Scorpio is connected with the adoption of Pluto as its modern ruler. Pluto is associated with transformation and therefore because it has become associated with Scorpio and the 8th house has taken on the meaning of transformation.

And because Scorpio is associated with sex the 8th house has become associated with sex, and therefore somehow also Pluto has also been associated with sex.
The eighth house is the house of death. Yes it is true that some astrologers have associate the 8th house with sex because sexual orgasm is sometimes called ‘the little death’. Call it what you wish but aside from pleasure the purpose of sex is to procreate, to bring life into the world, not death.

Never, previous to the modern era, in the 2000 year history of the astrological tradition has the 8th house ever been given rulership of sex. This is a modern fantasy perpetrated by astrologers who have become confused about the primary functions of the houses. Sex is a 5th house matter, as is pleasure, birthday parties, fun and frivolity. Death and bringing life into the world are opposite things. One should not be confused with the other.

I have often heard it said that death is only one form of transformation and somehow this justifies assigning transformation as a core meaning for the 8th house, which in turn validates Scorpio’s and Pluto’s association with the 8th house.

And with this mixing of meanings Pluto has somehow become associated with rape. As Joseph Crane has pointed out the type of sex that Pluto is associated with is rape.

The tangled web of confusions associated with the interchange of Scorpio Pluto and the 8th house is mind boggling and really does take us a long way from the real meaning of the 8th house.
Intimacy seems to be attributed to the 8th house because of its association with Scorpio and the supposed connection with transformation.

The core meanings of the 8th house have to do with death in the physical and real sense; fear and loss; the resources of those we engage with, and inheritance.
The 8th house is not a particular pleasant place no matter how much we might like to romanticise it or give it a positive spin. The sign on the cusp of the 8th house and the planet which rules that sign are what is relevant in any type of astrological interpretation of the 8th house.

Consequences of using the 12-letter alphabet

The 12-letter alphabet represents a shift away from the fundamental principles of astrology.

New invented meanings for planets

In some cases, users of the 12-letter alphabet make further associations between the planetary ruler of the sign and the house with which it is associated and come up with new invented meanings for planets, which are a corruption of the meanings of these planets.
Example 1: Because in the 12-letter alphabet Venus is associated with the 2nd house it is said to rule money, which is a 2nd house matter. Before this invention Venus was only said to rule the pleasures and comforts that money can buy. Mercury rules agents and exchange and is a perfect fit for money.
Example 2: Users of the 12-letter alphabet associate the Sun with children because it rules the sign of Leo which they associate with the 5th house. Before this invention the Sun ruled royalty, leaders and leadership, domination, truth and life giving energy, among other things, but not children.

Signs take on planetary meanings

With the interchange of meanings used in the 12 letter alphabet signs are seen to rule things. However the signs describe and embed qualities into planets which move against their backdrop, but the signs do not themselves have rulership over things.
An analogy can be made with signs to adjectives: the signs describe. However in the 12 letter alphabet system the signs are referred to as ruling over various things. For example, Cancer is said to rule women, the home and babies; Libra beauty and art, Aries war and destruction.
It is the planets which are analogous to a noun. Planets are like the actors on a stage; they take action. The signs can be compared to the various costumes worn by the actors. It is the planets which have rulership over the many things in our universe.
It astrological conversations it is easy it is to slip into the habit of referring to the signs’ rulership over different aspects of life. This happened in previous eras but even then it was generally taken for granted that the reference was connected to the planetary ruler of the sign spoken about. While it is a convenient way of talking it is very easy to forget that the signs do not rule things. They imbue qualities to the planets which pass against their backdrop and it is these planets which have rulership over things in this world.

New source of meaning

Perhaps the greatest irony is that many modern astrologers are now informed of the meaning of the signs by the links they have made between the planets and the houses using the 12-letter alphabet of archetypes.
The 12-letter alphabet has become the new source of astrological education, totally bypassing the wealth of knowledge contained in the long tradition of astrology. The result is a corrupted and largely impotent form of astrology.


The claim that the 12 letter alphabet describes 12 archetypes is simply not correct. An archetype is a pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied. However the astrological houses signs and planets are not things of the same kind and therefore cannot together form an archetype.
Above I have described important differences between the astrological houses and signs. One example is that the houses are terrestrial in nature and the signs are celestial in nature.
I have also shown that the numbering of the houses from 1-12 does not describe an order in which the house meanings follow each other. Rather I have shown that these numbers refer to an ordinal number series which describe the order of planets as they rise above the ascendant through the course of the day.

Changing the mindset – my personal experience

When I first began my astrological studies in the late 1980’s I was taught the 12-letter alphabet system. Over the next 10 years I used this system, gained recognised qualifications, and like most of my peers, assumed that this system was correct.
However I was presented with Robert Zoller’s work and gradually I came to the understanding that what I had previously been presented with wasn’t the full story. There was much more to be learnt, and also un-learnt.
I think it is only reasonable to change one’s mind about something when you are presented with new evidence or information that was previously unavailable. I respect and admire other people who are able to do this.
I also understand that it is really difficult for some people to change their views, no matter how much new information they are presented with. Some seem to take it as a personal attack when it is suggested that the system they are using could be improved upon.
However would like to encourage those who use the 12-letter alphabet system to at least consider alternative presentations. I was able to do this and so perhaps so can you. My personal experience is that the shift back to core astrological meanings has enriched my astrology enormously. The world has become a more understandable place. My capacity for accuracy and precision in astrological interpretations has also improved.
I should also point out that the publication of this article is not intended to mock or ridicule those who use the 12 letter alphabet system. How could I do this when I was originally taught and believed that this system was correct? However the 12 letter alphabet system is based on some fundamental misunderstandings which seriously weaken astrological practice.
I believe that the 12 letter alphabet system does need to be challenged and exposed. I am not suggesting that it is a deliberate fraud, but it is a path that leads to confusion and seriously weakens our noble Art.
I invite you to at least consider, to open your mind to the possibility that there may be something more, that there may be more effective ways of using the astrology to interpret the world.

Some References

The Houses, Temples of the Sky, by Deborah Houlding.
On the Heavenly Spheres, A Treatise on Traditional Astrology by Helena Arelar and Luis Ribeiro
Traditional Astrology for Today, An Introduction by Ben Dykes.
Scala Coeli, The Ladder of Heaven, A Collection of astrological Essays by Mari Garcia and Joy Usher.
The Real Astrology by John Frawley.
Other works by these authors.
My writings are informed by these and other authors such as Robert Zoller, Robert Hand and Joseph Crane. I do not mean to suggest that astrological study should be restricted to these few, or that one should be preferred to the other, but I do recommend them as a starting point.

27 June 2016 1 Comment

8th house misunderstandings

Not shared resources or intimacy or sex

Some astrologers, generally those who follow the flawed ABC system of astrology (house = sign = planet), associate the 8th house with shared resources. However the 8th house represents the partner’s resources, not shared resources.

If the partner shares his/her resources with you then they are shared resources. Following the same logic if you share your resources with your partner, then we could say the second house represents shared resources. And again the same logic would suggest that if your sister shares her resources with you the 4th house (2nd from the 3rd house) would also represent shared resources. But really none of these examples, including that of the 7th house, represents shared resources per se.

In natal and horary astrology  the 2nd house represents the native’s or the querent’s resources, and the 7th house represents the partner’s resources, or the resources of some other person.

One astrologer justified the using the 8th house to represent shared resources by saying that 1 + 7 = 8.

However this logic reveals a basic misunderstanding about the structure of the houses. The houses are numbered in an anti-clockwise direction to show the order of the diurnal movement of the planets across the ascendant.

Planets in the 1st house rise first across the ascendant; planets in the 2nd house rise second above the ascendant; and so on. It does not make sense to combine the house in which planets rise first across the ascendant with planets that rise seventh across the ascendant and therefore conclude that the house where planets rise eighth across the ascendant shows shared resources.

Some beginning astrologers assume that the numbering of the houses 1-12 represents the natural flow of life. Unfortunately Howard Sasportas in his book The 12 Houses popularised the idea that the 1-12 house sequence represents a natural psychological flow which dovetails with chronological development. However if this is true how is it that the 5th house of children comes before the 7th house of relationships, or the 8th house of death comes before the 10th house of profession? It simply does not make sense. If astrological interpretations conflict with the foundation principles of astrology they need to be discarded.

The 7th house does not rule shared resources.

Followers of the flawed ABC system of astrology who associate Scorpio with the 8th house and suggest that the 8th house therefore represents intimacy. This is not correct. The 8th house is not naturally associated with Scorpio (or Pluto). The 8th house does not represent intimacy.

Neither does the 8th house represent the mysteries of the creation of life as one astrologer claimed on another Facebook site. While death itself can seem mysterious, to understand the mysteries concerning the creation of life we need to look to the 9th house, the house of higher knowledge. It is here that the Sun, the ancient symbol of divinity, has its joy.

28 April 2016 0 Comments

Mercury retrograde

This article is adapted from a similar article published in November 2012.

As we approach the coming Mercury retrograde period (Apr 29 – May 23 2016) we are likely to see astrologers from Mercury retrogradedifferent persuasions offer apparently wise advice and warnings about mix-ups in communication, delays in transport and the like. But is this really good astrology?

Ignoring for the moment the fact that there are always communication mix-ups and delays, sound astrological practice says that a Mercury retrograde period will only affect those whose charts indicate that they are predisposed to having communication mix-ups and delays during that period.

Is everyone susceptible to the pitfalls of Mercury retrograde? It will depend a lot on the natal condition of Mercury, whether it is direct or retrograde, the condition of the 3rd house ruler and its relationship with other planets, the Moon’s relationship with Mercury and other factors. And some people are more susceptible at certain times in their life and for this we need to consider progressions etc.. Transits alone may not do the job.

If it were true that these retrograde periods affect everyone all at the same time then our lives would be simpler and much more predictable. But people’s lives are not so easy to predict. Although we hardly need astrological validation to demonstrate our individual uniqueness, the study of individual horoscopes makes it obvious.

Communication mix-ups are more the norm than the exception. It is clarity and mutual understanding that is more remarkable.

There is an expectation among some astrologers that mix-ups and delays will be especially prevalent when Mercury is retrograde. But how often do mix-ups and delays occur outside this period? It is important to objectively reference expectations against the real world.

It is easy to copy and paste the same astrological advice for every Mercury retrograde period. It is the stuffing of countless astro sites.

If everyone in the world resonated predictably to planetary transits, independent of their own chart, astrology would rule science. But it is not true, certainly not on an individual level. It makes more sense that retrograde periods affect us on the mundane collective level, but even at this level it takes a skilled practitioner to predict the where and when.

Offering apparently wise astrological counsel to a group of unrelated individuals about the pitfalls of Mercury retrograde without reference to individual charts or the context of the bigger picture is not good practice in my opinion.

Horary Astrology Diploma Course by email correspondence 

8 May 2015 0 Comments

Confusions about derived houses Part 2

In Part 1 spoke about the using derived houses for a related series, such as the 3rd house from the 3rd house to identify 2 brothers on a chart. Each brother is related to the other. I also spoke about the stupidity of applying this principle to an unrelated series. An example of the latter would be identifying the 2nd husband. He is not represented by the ruler of the 7th house from the 7th house. In other words he is not the husband of the 1st husband.

So how do we identify the 2nd or 3rd spouse?

First let’s go back to basics. Everyone we encounter in this world is shown by a planet in the natal chart. We project the various planetary qualities shown in our natal chart onto the people we meet. At the time of the encounter these projections often coincide and reflect the qualities of planets transiting the natal chart.

In regards to finding the planetary representatives of a spouse, particularly when there have been several, the default is usually the ruler of the 7th house, which I will call ‘Lord 7’.

It seems that the majority of the population, at least those whose have had a number of long-term partners, tend to partner with the same type person over and over again. Different person, similar package.

It’s a sad testament to the incapacity to learn from experience. In many cases the astrologer can do no better than to declare that partner or spouse number 3 or 4 is represented by Lord 7.

As mentioned above it is a fundamental mistake to use the ruler of the 7th house from the 7th house to represent the 2nd spouse. Moreover the 7th from the 7th is the first, which is the same as saying you have married yourself. Very silly.

However there are other solutions.

Derived houses article part 2One is to look at planets within the 7th house, if there are any. Very often the one closest to the 7th house represents the 2nd spouse. Its sign placement and general condition will describe the spouse.

When searching for a planetary representative of a 3rd spouse a similar logic can be followed. The 2nd planet in the 7th house, moving in an anti-clockwise direction from the 7th house cusp, often describes the 3rd spouse. However it is important that this planet be in the same sign as the sign on the cusp of the 7th house.

In Miriam’s case (see chart above), her 1st husband owned a factory and did very well until he was killed in a freak accident. He is represented by Lord 7: Saturn in the sign of its rulership, Capricorn.
Her 2nd husband was a property developer who proved to be a womaniser and a great disappointment. He is represented by Jupiter, in the sign of its fall, close to the 7th cusp. She eventually divorced him.
Her 3rd husband runs a printing business in which she now plays a major role. He is represented by Mars in Capricorn, the sign of its exaltation.

This same principle can be applied to other unrelated series, such as the 2nd or 3rd CEO, the 2nd 3rd or 4th child and so on.

In Part 3 I will look at a 3rd option for identifying a 2nd or 3rd spouse.

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3 May 2015 0 Comments

Confusions about derived houses Part 1

There is a lot of confusion about how to identify the planet representing someone or something belonging to a series. Examples include:

  • The 2nd husband,
  • 3rd property on offer for purchase,
  • 2nd in a choice between 2 schools, and
  • the 3rd sibling.

One theory concerns derived houses. However in order to explain derived houses it is necessary to understand the astrological convention for counting the houses.

Counting the houses

We count the house we are starting with as house number 1 and count in an anti-clockwise direction.
Derived HousesExample 1
Identifying which house represents the sister-in-law. The 3rd house represents siblings. The 7th represents the spouse. Therefore the 3rd house from the 7th house represents the spouse’s sister (sister-in-law).
Count 1 for the 7th house, count 2 for the 8th house, and 3 for the 9th house. The 9th represents the sister-in-law.
Example 2

A client asks “Where is my child’s bicycle?”. Their child is the 5th house, and the bicycle is the 2nd from the 5th. Count 1 for the 5th house and 2 for the 6th house. This is the radical 6th house. The ruler of the 6th house represents the child’s bicycle.

Derived houses

These are alternatively called ‘turned’ or ‘rotated’ houses, are used in both horary and natal astrology. A derived house has a special relationship to something or someone in the client’s life. The use of derived houses enables us to identify the planetary significator of almost anything or anyone.

Generally the meanings of the houses are considered relative to the 1st house, which represents the client. The principle of derived houses takes these meanings and applies them to the house representing whatever is asked about. The house which represents the person or thing asked about is counted as number 1 and the meaning of all the other houses are considered relative to this house.

Siblings – The classic case

The concept of the 3rd from the 3rd is based on the idea of siblings where sibling 1 is Lord 3, sibling 2 is the 3rd from the 3rd house = the 5th house, sibling 3 is the 3rd from the 5th house = the 7th house; and so on. This makes sense because each sibling is a sibling of the other.

However some astrologers have made the mistake of extrapolating to people or things belonging to a series where successive person or thing is unrelated to the previous person or thing.
For example if you went to 2 primary schools the 1st would be represented by the ruler of the 3rd house but the second would not be represented by the 3rd from the 3rd house. The 2nd school is not the school of the previous school. It doesn’t make sense.

Neither can we extrapolate this principle to children. Your second child is not represented by the 5th house from the 5th house. It does not make sense that the 2nd child is the child of the 1st child. Unless of course you partnered with your first child to have another child, which is exceptionally rare and considered morally reprehensible in modern society.

Neither can we apply the this principle of derived houses in a related series to determine which planet represents a specific spouse. Example questions include:

  • Which house represents my 2nd wife?
  • Which house represents my 3rd husband?

In the first example the 2nd wife cannot be represented by the 7th house from the 7th house because she is not the wife of the first wife. She is not related to the 1st wife as a wife. In does not make sense and does not reflect reality.

I will cover how to identify the ruler of people or things in an unrelated series in a future post.

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7 March 2015 0 Comments

Horary astrology and the natal chart

ConfusedThe horary chart is a stand alone chart and we do not need to refer to the natal chart to find answers to questions.

This statement often triggers some interesting and animated responses.

One astrologer who has been practicing horary for decades claims that the natal chart needs to be referred to in order to obtain accurate answers to horary questions.

We often find that astrologers who refer to the natal chart also use the so-called ‘modern’ rulers of the zodiac signs. To read more about the connection between the use of the natal chart when answering horary questions and the use of modern rulers click here.

I have encountered astrologers who exclaim with a sense of wonder how amazing it is that some planets in the horary chart are aligned closely with planets in the querent’s natal chart. “What an extraordinary coincidence!” I heard one say.

However this coincidence only shows why the question is being asked in the first place. These coincidental alignments are the transits which triggered the horary question.

Not only is this coincidence not surprising, it is normal.

The querent is going through a challenging period and is prompted to ask the astrologer a question. This is normally a ‘should’ question: “Should I do this or do that?”

If you are unable to answer a horary without recourse to the natal chart you might need to brush up on your knowledge. Do some more study. The answer to the question is, in my experience, always there in the horary chart. If your astrology teacher suggests it’s necessary to refer to the natal chart perhaps it is time to change your teacher.

One of the big advantages of horary astrology when compared to natal astrology is that the horary chart is only about the question asked. Nothing else. There is no need to explore the many layers contained in the natal chart or to examine various derived charts, such as solar returns and secondary progressions.

If you want to save yourself time and find accurate and fast answers to questions, learn horary astrology.

Horary astrology diploma course

7 March 2015 0 Comments

Co-rulers = confusion

King henryThere are some astrologers who claim that they achieve the best results in horary when they also consult the natal chart.

In my experience it is very common to find that these same astrologers are using the outer planets (Uranus Neptune and Pluto) as rulers of the zodiac signs. This practice in part explains why they need to resort to the natal chart – they are unable to get accurate answers using the so-called ‘modern rulers’.

The use of the modern rulers shows that the fundamentals of astrology are not fully understood. Astrology does need to be studied in depth, with patience.

Stand alone

The horary chart is a stand alone chart and we do not need to refer to the natal chart to find answers to questions. Some astrologers exclaim with a sense of wonder how amazing it is that some planets in the horary chart are aligned with planets in the querent’s natal chart. To read more on this topic click here.

What is not working?

I usually ask astrologers who use Uranus Neptune or Pluto as rulers of Aquarius Pisces and Scorpio respectively: “What was deficient with the old ruler?” It usually turns out that they have a limited understanding of why the 7 visible cosmic bodies have rulership of the 12 signs of the zodiac; 1 each for the 2 lights and 2 each for the 5 visible planets. Without this knowledge they are unable to explain why the ancient rulers need replacing; and do not appreciate why it is even important to answer the question! It’s a classic case of ‘they don’t know what they don’t know’.


Some of these astrologers seek to walk the diplomatic line by suggesting that both the ancient and so-called ‘modern’ rulers can be used as rulers of the zodiac signs. However a ruler is akin to a king or queen. In real life few kings or queens would consent to sharing their power with another. Why should they? A ruler is a ruler, is regal, and is not really a ruler if power has to be shared.

Note that I am not referring to bodies such as the Moon which are sometimes referred to as a co-ruler of the querent. I am referring specifically to the term as it is applied to planetary rulership of the zodiac signs.

The implausible proposal that any monarch would choose to share regal power shows the ridiculousness of  using ‘co-rulers’. Can you imagine what King Henry VIII’s response would be to this proposal?

It’s a modern nonsense invented by well meaning people to accommodate their sense of democratic fairness. Hard to condemn such a fair minded attitude but it does betray a lack of understanding about the foundations of astrology.

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3 February 2015 0 Comments

The rules of horary astrology

Sometimes I encounter people saying that they should not have to follow the rules of horary astrology, that it’s OK to make up their own rules. However the so-called ‘rules’ of horary are not like something you have to follow or you will be punished, or something to rebel against.

The ‘rules’ of horary describe how it works. In a similar way we could provide instructions on how to drive a car and call it the ‘rules’ of driving a car. For example to increase spend press the accelerator pedal; to slow down press the brake pedal. You can rebel against this but the consequences might be terminal.

In relation to horary astrology perhaps we ought to replace the word ‘rules’ with something more palatable. The rules of astrology describe how horary works and how to interpret a chart to find an answer.

Perhaps astrology attracts people who for various reasons are in rebellion against society or convention. However I think it is a mistake to project personal issues onto astrology. Better to seek your therapy elsewhere.

And this conversation sometimes leads to the idea that everyone’s idea has validity, that we must respect any opinion as OK, that the planets signs and houses can mean anything.

No they don’t. Each planet sign and house has a specific meaning. The Sun for example cannot be said to represent darkness. It is the body which represents light, does not have a shadow side and casts no shadow.
Mars does not represent things soft and cuddly, unless modified by sign or other astrological features.
Venus, unless otherwise modified, cannot be said to represent things sharp and aggressive.
And so it is with the signs. Planets in Libra, unless otherwise modified, do not show an aggressive nature.

The planets signs and houses do have specific meanings as do the so-called ‘rules’ of horary astrology. Make up your own rules if you wish, but you are not practicing horary astrology.

If you want to use horary (and astrology in general) to find answers to specific questions then follow the instruction manual which is called the rules of horary astrology.

Horary astrology diploma course

11 November 2014 0 Comments

Planetary Aspects

Beginning students to the ancient art of astrology are often fascinated by aspects between planets. Once some keywords have been learnt about the planets there is an enjoyment in drawing aspect lines between planetary glyphs and identifying aspect patterns.

Unfortunately the learning of a few keywords does not provide an in-depth understanding of the planets. Consequently the delight experienced in the discovery of planetary pictures sometimes disguises a superficial knowledge.

For a deeper understanding of planetary aspects a knowledge of their affinity and disposition towards each other is required. And for this a knowledge of the essential dignities is indispensable, as well as a working knowledge of dispositions and receptions.

Once this knowledge has been acquired the various meanings which can be extracted from aspects include:

  • What people want from each other.
  • Whether people, as represented by the planets, have the ability to do what they want.
  • Whether people have the opportunity to act on their wishes.
  • If they actually get what they want.
  • What follows (consequences).

These meanings can be applied in the various streams of astrology: horary, electional, natal, and mundane.

I am now making available the Lesson 17 Aspect Meanings from my Horary Astrology Correspondence Course. While this lesson is intended for students beginning their astrological journey, it is assumed that Lesson 12 Essential Dignities, Lesson 15 Accidental Dignities and Lesson 16 Receptions have been understood. Students who have mastered these lessons are frequently much more advanced than many so-called professional astrologers.


4 November 2014 0 Comments

Changing places – astrological houses

Astrological Houses

Astrological HousesAstrological musical chairs


A common misunderstanding is that the people in our lives, represented by planets, can change places in the horoscope according to how we feel. The premise seems to be that feelings and sentimental stirrings determine how the horoscope is organised. A type of astrological ‘musical chairs’! The assumption seems to be that all everything revolves around their existence

But seriously the arrangement of the houses is not based on how we feel. Some may entertain this notion from a sentimental point of view but the horoscope is not a projection of our feelings. It’s about objective reality. The horoscope is not only about the person represented but also portrays their biological connections and place in surrounding world.

Where other people fit into the horoscope is determined by familial relationships and social roles, not by feelings. Biology and social place help define us. Once we start shifting people around because of how we feel our capacity to be objective is diminished. One common example is the parent-child relationship. Some parents endeavour to treat their children as friends, as equals, and in questions on astrology will assign their children to the 7th or 11th house. Relationships with adult children are sometimes treated the same way.

However our children are our children and our parents are our parents. This biological fact cannot change and neither do the planets which represent them in our horoscope. Try as we might to change these relationships in a behavioural context, the horoscope is unmoved.

We live in such a narcissistic age that many believe the horoscope will conform to their feelings. How ridiculous! The horoscope is not an extension of one’s feelings. Yes it can represent one’s feelings in certain ways but feelings do not determine which houses represent the people in one’s life. The reverse is true: it is the houses which represent the people in one’s life.

In astrology we don’t play musical chairs. The houses have set meanings and the people they represent do not slip slide around according to our whims and fancies.

Astrology deals with reality and once we start messing with planetary significators astrology starts to lose its validity.


I had a conversation recently with an astrologer who said she loved her dog as much as any mother loves her baby and therefore regarded questions about her dog as a 5th house matter. Needless to say she had no children of her own.

As you may know pets are represented by the 6th and the 5th house is reserved for babies. If this woman had ever given birth to a child any confusion she had on the matter would have evaporated instantly if her dog   attacked her baby. Whatever sentimental feelings we may have for a pet, it is still a pet.

Until humans start giving birth to pets the 5th house represents children and the 6th house represents pets. The person’s relationship with a pet may be incredibly loving, but that does not make it a human baby. Humans are humans and biological bonds run very deep.

Again the mistake in attributing pets to the 5th house is the premise that emotional ties determine house rulership. This is not good astrology.

Working relationships

I sometimes also encounter astrologers who see pets as a 7th house matter because they have a working relationship with the animal. Guide dogs, sheep dogs and ponies are sometimes included in this category.

However the 7th house is about equal relationships. The 6th house is about unequal relationships. If a pet is in a working relationship that is a 6th house matter. It is the human who is in charge, and it is the pet which is providing services for the human. The same applies when we contract a sub-contractor or employ someone: that person is represented by the 6th house.
Just because we have a relationship with someone or a pet that does not automatically make it a 7th house matter. It depends on the nature of the relationship, not how much we love the pet.
We can’t assume that because the 7th house covers our romantic relationships that it covers all relationships. There are many different types of relationships and just because the word relationship is used does not mean we can equate it with a romantic human relationship.

We have business and other relationships which belong in the 7th house. These can be adversarial or cooperative, but what they have in common is that the two people are roughly on an equal footing. Pets are never on an equal footing with humans, no matter how sentimental about the pet we may be.

Further learning

Below I have listed the lessons from my correspondence course which I have recently made available for purchase. These are suitable for beginning students and those at an intermediate level who wish to refresh and update their astrological knowledge.

Lesson 4: Understanding the houses
Lesson 5: House meanings 1-6
Lesson 6: House meanings 7-12
Lesson 6B: How the identify significators
Lesson 6C: Method for derived houses