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Voice of the Sacred

lets translate the sacred language of the stars


Whole Sign vs Placidus

“Which house system should I use?” is, perhaps, the most frequent question I hear, and unfortunately there is no defined answer for that. Astrologers cannot decide which zodiac system to use (see article here) and they also cannot decide on one house system. 


This is what happens when you try to translate and calculate something that goes beyond the spectrum of the human senses. You get 20 different methods that could all be correct, with no way of actually finding “the one” correct answer.


And so, for the calculation of the astrological house system we have 20 different options (at least), but betweem them Whole Sign & Placidus are the most used ones by professional astrologers.

Let’s see what’s the main difference between them.





What are the Houses?


Let’s start with the basics:

What are the astrological houses?

How are they calculated? 


In the birth chart, there are 10 celestial objects that truly interest us:

the Sun, the Moon, and the planets of our solar system. 


To calculate their position in SIGNS, we need to track their movement on the Sun’s ecliptic.

During one day, from sunrise to the next sunrise, the planets will barely move on the ecliptic (some faster than others: Moon is the fastest, traveling one sign in 2,5 days and Pluto the slowest, traveling one sign in 15-20 years).


To calculate their position in HOUSE, we need to track their movement in the visible sky.

We divide the sky into 6 (visible) segments above the horizon and 6 (unseen) segments underneath the horizon, the first segment starting with the Sunrise. During one day, from sunrise to the next sunrise, the planets move through all the houses. They all rise and set in 24 hours.



It all sounds pretty simple, we just divide the sky into 12 equal segments, right?


Well, the process is a bit more complicated.


The ancients did exactly that. 

They divided the sky into equal segments (exactly like the signs - 12 segments of 30 degrees) with the zodiac sign in which the Sun was rising as the first house. The Ascendant (the exact point of the rising, the intersection of Sun's ecliptic and the horizon) was inside the 1st house. This is the Whole Sign system, all simple and clear.


But the more astrology spread throughout the continent and the more advanced our astronomical calculations became, the more questions and opinions appeared. 


The most important one being:

Where is the “highest point” in the sky?


The 10th house in the chart symbolises the middle of the sky, or the highest point in the sky. 

Planets there represent maximum visibility, they are part of your reputation, they help you shine and be recognised by the world.


The whole "Whole Sign vs Placidus" debate is about the calculation of the 10th house, which is essentially a debate about which point is actually the “highest” in the sky.



To answer the question Where is the “highest point” in the sky?


Whole Sign: 

The highest point in the sky is the zodiac segment that forms a 90 degrees angle with the zodiac sign of the Ascendant & Descendant. Or, in a simpler way, the zodiac segment which sits right in the middle of the signs that are at rising & at setting.


Placidus

(and all the other astrologers before him who used this method)

The highest point in the sky is wherever the Sun is at noon (astrologically noted with Mc).

Sun’s noon position is at the intersection of the Ecliptic (Sun’s apparent path on the visible sky) with the Meridian (an imaginary line that extends from the north celestial pole to the south celestial pole and passes over the head/zenith). 


 

In Placidus (and all the other unequal house systems) the 10th house always starts with the Mc (midheaven). 

In Whole Signs, the Mc can be anywhere above the horizon (between 7th and 12th house).



Whole Sign.  a zodiac sign = a house  the zodiac sign of the Ascendant = the 1st house  each house is 30 degrees  MC can be anywhere above the horizon (from 7th to 12th)
Placidus. the exact position of the Ascendant = the beginning of the 1st house  each house can be between 1 degree and 125 degrees  MC is always the beginning of the 10th house


You can watch this video created by Adam Elenbaas where he wonderfully explains the difference between the calculation methods:




 

The problem with using Mc as the beginning of the 10th house is that Mc's position varies a lot due to Earth's tilt + the change in seasons. For someone who lives close to the North Pole, Sun’s noon position can be very very close to the line of the horizon. In this case we have charts where some houses have 1 degree (or less) and others have 125 degrees.




Here is an example of a chart created close to the North Pole.



The Ascendant is Sagittarius.

The Ecliptic intersecting with the Meridian is quite low, very close to the horizon (the rising point).


In the Whole Sign system you can see this through the Mc being in the 12th house - very close to the Ascendant. In this system we take Virgo (90 degrees from Sagittarius) as the highest point in the sky, so Virgo = 10th house.


In Placidus, Mc becomes the 10th house, which makes the 10th, 11th and 12th houses extremely small and the 7th & 8th houses huge. Mirroring the same dynamic underneath the horizon, the 4th, 5th and 6th houses are extremely small and the 1st and 2nd houses are huge.




From an Esoteric perspective


Mathematically, it’s a debate with no end. Whole sign astrologers will say that visibly the Mc is not higher than the zodiac sign which forms 90 degrees, then Placidus astrologers will say that it does not matter because they look only at the Sun’s path and where the Sun is at its highest position.


In modern astrology Placidus has been the most used system because all the books that taught astrologers how to calculate a chart by hand were written by astrologers who worked with Placidus.  (see Chris Brennan's video here)


Nowadays the majority of professional astrologers choose to work with Whole Sign system (most of them switch from Placidus - myself included). In my case, I made the switch when I began working with clients, and I’ve had access to more and more data about charts-transit-lived experiences and I witnessed how everything fits in the Whole Signs.


But more importantly, I’ve heard about the esoteric perspective about the astrological houses.


The houses represent the 12 areas of our life, the possibility of us expressing or experiencing something in those areas of life.

A system that shrinks half the chart so much is basically a system that says: based on where you are born on earth, you have less chances of being active/experiencing something in half of the 12 areas of life.

(less chances of being born with planets there & very quick transits through the houses)

Which is impossible from an evolutionary point of view. The souls, no matter where they choose to incarnate, need to have the full experience of being involved in the physical world.

We, as souls, are equal. Our karmic blueprints are built on the same pillars. 


The house systems which use unequal houses are incredibly useful for very pragmatic astrological methods such as Horary where we can ask questions about lost objects and missing people. But when we talk about souls and their life paths, we need the equal houses, we need equal chances of playing in this human world.


I've also seen astrologers talking about how the more someone identifies with the material world and forgets about the spirit, the unequal houses (like Placidus) will be more relevant instead of the equal ones (Whole Signs). The more you turn towards spirit and your soul's mission, equal houses will work better to show that path in the birth chart. This is why, perhaps, the majority of people who lost the connection to the Sacred & are deeply focused on the Matrix of life resonate more with their chart when using unequal houses.


It seems that medieval astrology has been ignoring and replacing a lot of methods from antiquity that were centered around the spirit (ex: the 5th element, aether) in order to make astrology very practical. Only recently modern astrology started to revive the spiritual aspects of astrology, which were very much present in antiquity. My personal opinion is that only now we are getting out of Kali Yuga, and we start to remember and use the tools we had before the Kali Yuga (Ig post about his here).


 

To end this post, I will share an article written by James H. Holden (the Research Director at the American Federation of Astrologers).



THE SIGN-HOUSE SYSTEM OF HOUSE DIVISION

by

James H. Holden, FAFA A.F.A. Research Director


During the more than two thousand years that have passed since the invention of horoscopic astrology, many different systems of house division have been proposed, and a few of them have come into at least some use at one time or another. The system most commonly used today is the Placidian system that was published in the mid-17th century.


It has largely replaced the Regiomontanus system that first appeared in 1490. That in turn replaced the Alchabitius system, which is named after a 10th century Arabian astrologer, but that actually goes back to the Greek astrologers of the 5th century.


But the original system of house division was what I have called the "Sign-House" system. It was devised by the Alexandrian astrologers who invented horoscopic astrology in the 2nd century B.C. It was used by the majority of classical astrologers for half a millennium. Its system was very simple. The rising sign - all of it - constituted the first house! The next whole sign was the 2nd house, the next whole sign after that the 3rd house, etc. The 10th whole sign from the ASC was called the "midheaven." There were no "cusps" in the modern sense of the word. Or, if you will, the cusp of each house was the Ist degree of the sign constituting that house.


The concept was that the celestial houses were related to each other by their sequence, not by some geometrical division of the celestial sphere. Visualize a street: the ASC is the first house that you come to; the 2nd house is the house next door, and, going along the street, the 3rd house is the house after that, etc.


Neither the ASC degree nor the MC degree were considered to be "cusp markers." Rather, they were treated as "sensitive points." Special attention was paid to the ASC degree, but the MC degree was little noticed in classical Greek astrology. It was not "the midheaven." The 10th house was the midheaven! And the MC degree could fall in moderate latitudes in either the 9th house or the 10th house.

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May this knowledge bring you home,

to your spirit and to your inner wisdom.

Aho

- Diana

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