Astrological Choices – Equal and Unequal House Systems
I don’t know if you can tell it or not, but I’m on a mission in this series of articles to provide basic explanations for the rudimentary principles of astrology. This is my sixth house in astrology Choices article having already presented tropical or sidereal system, heliocentric or geocentric perspective, and types of charting available. For this article, we will look at the tropical system of both equal and unequal houses. I am not a sidereal astrologer so please rely on someone who is skilled in the sidereal system for an explanation of sidereal house layouts.
The outside of a typical astrology wheel shows the positions of the zodiac for a single date at a specific moment in time, at a specific longitude or latitude. If any of those four elements, date, time, place by longitude and latitude are changed in any way, the zodiac positions around the wheel itself will change. No two objects can occupy the same space at the same time so an exact duplication of charts is not possible unless a team of doctors does something amazing and that would present a conundrum to astrologers everywhere. The universe emphasizes individuality and this specificity of birth based on the four elements given allows for the individuality offered by the universe to be mapped. Within our solar system, it takes just under 26,000 years for a pattern to apparently repeat itself exactly. By that time we will have moved so far along in the galactic spin that no real duplication is remotely possible. Individuality is the norm; only mankind works hard to develop conformity out of individuality.
There are two general types of tropical house systems, equal and unequal. The equal house system divides the 360-degree circle into 12 equal compartments of 30 degrees each. I don’t know your experience of life but mine is that life certainly is not equal, just look around you at the variety of possibilities and the rampant inequality. While I can see value in any house system (they could all serve a specific yet perhaps unknown purpose), I do not practice the equal house method. One of the best personal readings I ever received was from an overlay of equal and Placidus, I do not discount the value of the equal system, but it is my choice to read the unequal.
It is important that you understand the difference between the Midheaven (Medium Coeli – MC) and Zenith as well as the Immum Coeli (IC) and Nadir, which are different in measure and application but are often confused with one another, In order to do this, we will assume an accurate Ascendant, let’s just say 29 Gemini. If I look straight overhead to 29 Pisces, that is Zenith. If I look straight down at my feet at 29 Virgo that is Nadir, each an exact 90 degrees from the Ascendant. The opposition to the Ascendant is the Descendant in all house systems, in this instance 29 Sagittarius. All the houses would read 29 degrees starting with the Ascendant proceeding counterclockwise around the wheel in zodiac sequence. This is an equal house chart. You may choose to “float” the traditional Midheaven if known to you in the house it naturally falls or you may choose to ignore it. Personally, I can’t imagine life without a Midheaven!
The Earth revolves on its axis while it orbits the Sun, a dual motion that is in play every moment of every day. This orbital path is called the ecliptic (path on which eclipses occur) and it travels through the middle of the 12 zodiac constellations we use astronomically and astrologically. The rotation of the Earth on its axis is not in a 90-degree relationship with its orbit, instead, Earth is tilted approximately 23 ½ degrees to the path of its orbit. This tilted rotation causes the Earth to spin in and out of that exact 90-degree relationship with the center of the zodiac, distorting the way the zodiac is experienced here on Earth. The reality of the situation is the natural distortion that reflects itself in the unequal distribution of space for houses. The Midheaven may or not be at a 90-degree angle to the Ascendant. My own is almost a trine (120 degrees).
In tropical tradition, the IC is the exact opposite to the MC including sign, degree, and minute. The Midheaven represents the highest point to which a planet can rise before it starts to descend toward the western horizon, termed setting. The IC represents the lowest point to which a planet can fall before it starts to ascend toward the eastern horizon or rising. This distortion produces an unusual and unique distribution of zodiac degrees around the wheel of the chart that reflects in the unequal house systems. Technically next would come the division of that distortion by either space or time but that will have to wait for another article as it requires more space than I have available. This article is only intended to help you understand equal and unequal houses.