What Are the 12 Houses in the Zodiac? An Astrologer Explains

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Have you ever read your horoscope and felt confused by the terminology? If so, you’ve probably been wondering: what are the 12 houses of the zodiac? To put it simply, each individual astrological house represents a different area of your life. Each planet in your birth chart sits in one of these houses, dictating how and where this planet’s influence can be felt the most. Think of each planet as a character in your story, while the zodiac sign that planet is in describes the climate and atmosphere of the story’s setting. However, the house a planet is sitting in describes the nature of the story that’s being told and the overall narrative arc.

The 12 astrological houses sit in the form of a wheel in your birth chart. This zodiac wheel is based on the sun’s yearly rotation around the Earth, and the 12 houses are based on the Earth’s 24-hour rotation on its axis. Sounds a little confusing, right? It can get a little tricky, which is why it can be easier to perceive the 12 houses of astrology as parts of a ticking clock. Each of the 12 equally-divided segments represents a different area or aspect of your life journey.

It all begins with the first house—AKA the ascendant or “rising sign”—which focuses on the self, the identity and the way we navigate the world. The second house focused on money, self-sufficiency and self-esteem, while each house that follows continues to expand outward, spreading away from the “self” and moving toward topics like family, love and career.

STYLECASTER | The 12 Houses of Astrology, Explained

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The 12 Houses of Astrology, Explained

  • First House: self, physical body, appearance, identity
  • Second House: value, money, self-worth, possessions
  • Third House: immediate communication, close friends, siblings
  • Fourth House: home, family, roots, ancestral patterns
  • Fifth House: romance, play, creativity, sex, pleasure
  • Sixth House: daily routines, work, health, customs
  • Seventh House: allies, enemies, spouses, partners
  • Eighth House: investment, intimacy, death, transformation, transactions
  • Ninth House: higher education, religion, media relations, adventure
  • Tenth House: career, public status, legacy, reputation
  • Eleventh House: friendships, hopes and dreams, community, social networks
  • Twelfth House: endings, unseen energies, spirituality, subconscious

When interpreting a birth chart in astrology, which houses the planets reside in your chart reveal you unique destiny. The planets and locations are all unique to the moment you were born. This tells us much more than just your sun sign. Your entire birth chart beings with your rising sign, or ascendant sign, which rules your first house. Looking at the planets and their current positions in the sky today, can offer insight on how the stars are affecting you right now. This will bring up major themes or transformations you may be undergoing. This is also how astrologer’s decipher the astrological weather for the day.

In astrology, you can look at where the planets are currently in the sky to see how they affect your personal chart. These are transiting planets—they’re different than the energies of your natal, or birth planets. Depending on which houses the transiting planets visit, they lights up that part of the birth chart wheel and energizes those houses’ energy and life focus. In predictive astrology, this is how astrologers reveal what parts of your life might come into focus in the future. It can help us decipher what actions to take next for the best possible outcomes.

The First House is also referred to as your rising sign (or ascendant). This is the zodiac sign that was rising on the Eastern horizon at the exact moment of your birth, describing the moment you took your first breath and your soul entered your body. It’s easiest to think of this house as when the sun rose at the beginning of your life. Of the 12 houses in the zodiac, this is the House of Self and it reveals the most insight about who you are, your appearance, ego, drive, self-image and personal views. Any planets in this house (either in your birth chart or when transiting) will greatly influence your personality and how others perceive you.

Fittingly, the First House also covers all the “firsts” in life—think first impressions, taking the initiative, fresh starts and new beginnings. These new beginnings relate to you as an individual and ask questions like: Who are you? What is your potential? Who will you eventually become? What is the best path for you to take to be as successful as possible? The First House is all about not only reaching your ultimate personal potential, but also taps into how you can uniquely contribute to the world.

This area of the birth chart can also offer insight on your early childhood experience, leadership abilities, self-expression and is the mask you wear when you first meet others.

The Second House is also known as the House of Possessions. It rules over money, material objects and self-esteem. Questions this house encourages you to ask are: What do you place value in? What do you own now and what do you want to own in the future? What are your motivations for wanting to obtain and own certain material items?

This house doesn’t simply relate to the tangible, either. It also includes owning up to your feelings and emotions as well as claiming ownership of yourself. The Second House rules our self-worth. When we compare all of the houses, the Second House reveals our sense of self and security. How are your actions and your emotions intertwined? Think hard especially in relation to making and spending your own money. How do your sense of self-worth and the money your earn interact with one another? Does it matter how you earn it or how much you earn and what you spend it on?

This house also encourages you to focus on the five senses. It’s so important to be in touch with the pleasures that come from the five human senses (taste, smell, touch, sight. With Venus as the ruler of the Second House, the exploration of beauty (mostly in relation to how you can possess it) lives here. What is your relationship with luxury? Think home decoration here. Do you crave the finer things in life but can’t afford them? The Second House reminds you that what you surround yourself with has a direct impact on how you feel.

The Second House also includes income potential, banking, investments, savings, debt, wealth, budgeting and financial status.

The Third House is known as the House of Communication and Local Affairs. Corresponding to zodiac sign Gemini, this house has everything to do with how you communicate with others. It rules our thinking patterns, talking style, language, logic and technology (computers, cell phones, apps, video games, etc). It also serves as a reminder of how powerful, quick and versatile your mind really is. Harnessing your intelligence and finding a way to share it effectively with others is the spirit of the Third House. If the Third House had a motto, it would be: Think. Process. Share. Repeat.

The Third House also covers immediate conversations on a day-to-day basis. It’s in this house that we focus on secondary relationships (siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles), kindred spirits/mental connections and neighbors. The Third House also covers areas of life like local or short distance travel, libraries, early (pre-college) school experiences, teachers and community affairs. It’s here that we dive into topics connected to our communities, neighbors, social/religious groups, etc. And of the importance to take what you learn and share it with others.

The Third House also includes indicators about an individual’s taste in reading and writing, as well as local transportation (including mail and other deliveries) and local culture.

The Fourth House is the House of Home and Family (aka the IC or “Imum Coeli”). This is the lowest part of your birth chart (and the most private). When you think of “home sweet home”, what comes to mind? As this house explores what the words “I’m home” mean, it encompasses a broad range of associations from your ancestral roots and early childhood experiences to old age, endings and your final resting place. This House is also

We find our foundation in the Fourth House. This is an area of the birth chart that extends to your physical house. This rules the place you find shelter and whatever structures you are able to feel safe with—and not only in a physical sense. Safety also comes with a feeling of belonging. By making a home for yourself and the ones you love, you create a sense of security and comfort. That feeling of having a sanctuary, the place you call home, is central to this house.

Obviously the Fourth House encompasses physical structures like houses and other real estate, but beyond that it represents family history, customs and traditions. The idea of parents stems from this house as well, specifically the mother, or whoever your more nurturing parent is. This person most likely helped you develop your true sense of home and what you require to feel secure.

The Fourth House also includes privacy, security systems, children, your own parenting abilities and self-care.

The Fifth House is known as the House of Pleasure and Self-Expression. This house represents everything to do with feeling good. Creativity is a major theme here, as well as artistic creation and fulfillment. The questions asked by the Fifth House are: Does this feel good? Is it pleasurable? If the answer is yes, it likely falls under the Fifth House!

Naturally the physical pleasure that comes from romance and romantic relationships. Relationships begin under the Fifth House’s parameters, but it also covers the emotional satisfaction you get from others. Especially if there’s some risk involved. Living on the edge is pleasurable for a lot of people, and risks in love, money or just in general can be found in this house as well. We’ll find gambling in the Fifth House, too. Finding pleasure in actions is what the Fifth House is all about—whether it’s from games, love or hobbies. Of all the houses in astrology, this is where the most fun happens!

Children and childlike fun are important themes in the Fifth House. It allows you to bring back that creative spirit you had as a kid. This is where we tap into our inner child. Here, you can give yourself permission to be more creative or live life through your own children’s eyes. Things like art, music, theater, dance and literature are addressed here. Any type of play that brings you (and your children) emotional enrichment and enjoyment, too. Whatever your pleasure, the Fifth House is about doing it in a big, dramatic way!

The Fifth House also includes colors, sports and other hobbies. There is a desire to feel special, to be an influencer and to escape from responsibility. Affairs, flings and one-night stands also live here.

The Sixth House is the House of Work and Health. Maintaining good health is essential to your ability to work—and so these themes go hand-in-hand in this house. In order to reach your highest human potential, this house asks: What are my shortcomings? How can I improve? How will I react in the face of adversity?

Unfortunately, emergencies, illnesses and bad luck are all part of life, and this house seeks to explore ways you can overcome them and reach your full potential. This is a house where we can explore our shortcomings and course correct. What bad habits do you want to get rid of? Duty, responsibility and personal growth are major themes of the Sixth House, and it naturally extends to include work and service. Employment (employees, bosses, coworkers, clients, etc) people you serve/people, and who serve you are the focus. This also extends to any type of caregiving situation—the people who depend on you. Planets in this house remind you to stay healthy (physically, mentally and emotionally) enough to do the work you need to do for yourself and others.

The Sixth House defines health as it relates to the routine of your daily life. The themes of this house remind us to eat right, exercise, balance work and leisure. There’s also a very strong element of doing things for others here. But make sure you have enough time for yourself. There is definitely a workaholic energy to this house. Energy or planets in a birth chart here can cause us to strive for an unrealistic sense of accomplishment. It’s important to remember that to be truly healthy, we must juggle all those parts of our life. That is truly what will lead to total fulfillment without being overly critical of yourself or of others.

The Sixth House also includes a cautious mentality, the quest for perfection, diet, medications (including natural remedies), fitness/meditation, hygiene and daily chores/routines.

The Seventh House is known as the House of Partnerships, which is often referred to as the “Descendant”. This house represents everything to do with relationships and interacting with other people on a one-to-one level. It governs all partnerships, both personal and professional. It also focuses on all matters linked to those partnerships like contracts, business deals and more. While the Seventh House represents your strongest allies and supporters, it also reveals information about who your enemies and adversaries might be.

This house shifts the focus from yourself and instead questions your existence as part of a partnership. By interacting, cooperating, relating and sharing, you learn more. Uniting with others allows you to achieve something greater than you’re able to achieve on your own.

The love relationships found here are different from those in the Fifth House because they’re more permanent. (Remember, the Fifth House is all about fun and pleasure, indicating flings and affairs more than marriages and other committed relationships.) Seventh House relationships are about commitment and sharing, and they generally serve a purpose other than just having a good time together. They are long-lasting unions and bonds.

The Seventh House also includes platonic intimacy, companionship, separations, divorce, personal/professional enemies and lawsuits.

The Eighth House is often reduced to being nothing more than the House of Sex and Intimacy, but it’s so much more than that. The Eighth House revolves around the give and take of your relationships—sexual, emotional, financial—and the way you set boundaries with others. Other major topics covered in this house are death and rebirth, as well as transformation and healing that comes with reaching rock bottom and rising from the ashes like a phoenix. Intimacy and grief are both major themes here. When we think of transformation it could be as trivial as getting a new haircut after a breakup to the long grief cycle after a loved one’s death. Both bring forth a rebirthing of self.

The Eighth House encompasses shared resources and transactional things like inheritance, as well as emotional support and financial sponsorship. We can also see the restraints placed on various relationships by society here. This is one of the most complex houses in the birth chart. Life’s mysteries (the biggest of all being death, of course), the unknown and the secrets you keep are included in this house as well. This is a very psychological house with depth. Nothing superficial resides here.

In regard to the transformational nature of this house, this is also where we find the love of occult, rituals and more. Spooky and spiritual live here. What you celebrate and choose to exalt and/or memorialize has a huge bearing on who you are as an individual. Questions that are commonly asked in relation to performing rituals (such as spells or funerals) are: What form will this ritual take? How will it help me heal/transform? Will this ritual benefit individuals personally or a larger group as a whole? And how will this affect my legacy?

The Eighth House also includes taxes, insurance, bankruptcy, alimony, crime, the occult, revenge, bad karma, jealousy and control. It is a place a merging beyond body and into the soul.

The Ninth House is known as the House of Higher Learning and Academia. It has everything to do with learning, the higher mind, travel and adventure. Philosophy and spirituality are a major theme here, in relation to the search for the true meaning of life and all it entails.

All forms of learning are within the Ninth House’s parameters, but it also covers as inspiration and optimism. Typically when we look to learning and the Ninth House we think college or graduate school. This is where expertise and knowledge intertwine. Traveling the world and gaining deeper meaning via exploring other cultures and life experiences also occurs in the Ninth House. It all comes down to the desire to understand things—yourself, others and the world around you.

Higher education is an important theme in the Ninth House and major areas of study here include philosophy, sociology, spirituality, psychology and ethics. This house guides you on your ultimate life journey and helps you discover how to navigate your ideals and morals. This is where we recognize that the universe is far greater than you and you’re just a small part of what makes up the world you live in.

Finding out more about yourself through your interaction with others is also part of the Ninth House. Cultural expansion and love of new language and cultures thrive here. International adventures are encouraged by this house. This house teaches us respect for the people and customs you encounter that are different than your own. It’s time to meld your greater life’s quest for meaning and truth, with adventure and scenic vistas!

The Ninth House also includes books, writing, international relations, publishing, long journeys, religion, collective thoughts and truth.

The Tenth House is known as the House of Career and Reputation, also called the Midheaven (the highest part of your birth chart and the most public). It has everything to do with your social status, reputation, outward persona and the way you to climb to the top of your field. Power and prestige are major themes here, as well as success as a claim to fame. Don’t worry, we’re also concerned with financial gain. The questions asked by the Tenth House are: Are you satisfied with your current position? How much more do you want to achieve? What is your ultimate role in society and how can you best fulfill it?

The Tenth House covers where you fit into society and the role you have in your community. Career is covered here, but it also extends beyond that to the work you do. Of all the career-related houses, this house is deeper. It looks at how you’re actually manifesting your true self. Ego is tied to the Tenth house as well, and how you are seen by others.

The question of how you manage your gifts and talents and the resulting status that comes with them are important here. It asks you to think about how you will manage these gifts and talents and put them to their bets possible use. Will you use them strictly for personal gain, or to further society in some way?

The Tenth House also includes honors, prestige, awards, promotions, fame, legacy, employers, government rules, discipline, fathers and fatherhood.

The Eleventh House is known as the House of Friends and Acquaintances. This is the most socially “connected” of houses in the birth chart, which is why it can explain what your network looks like. This house represents everything to do with community, large groups, gatherings and being social. Humanitarianism is also a major theme here. And we also find social justice and rebellion in this area of the birth chart. In regard to your friendships, the questions asked by the Eleventh House are: Are you contributing meaningfully to your community? What do you do for others? How do you view your fellow inhabitants on Earth and how do they view you?

Naturally all types of groups (personal/professional clubs and organizations, etc.) are within the Eleventh House’s parameters. But it also includes the feeling and belief that there is strength in numbers. The Eleventh House knows the power of teamwork. Together can be greater than the efforts of the individual. The focus is on strengthening those bonds through networking and other forms of connecting.

The opportunity for growth via the organizations you’re involved and the social media connections you’ve made in is an important theme in the Eleventh House. Here, we’re encourages to develop bonds and connections with others in the community to further enhance and add value to your life. The future is also a main focus of the Eleventh House. This area governs our hopes and dreams—what we hope to achieve in the long-term.

The Eleventh House also includes networking, collaboration, goals, electronics, surprises, inventions, science fiction, technology and tends. And fun fact—it also rules astrology!

The Twelfth House is known as the House of Unconsciousness and Undoing. This house represents everything to do with your subconscious and ability to avoid confrontation. Reality doesn’t exist here. And fantasy is a preferred escape then dwelling on the negative. Dreams, intuition and psychic ability are also important to this house. There is a strong otherworldly quality to this house, as it’s the final house and final zodiac sign. This is where we meet endings, and this is certainly one of the more esoteric houses in astrology.

As the last house, the Twelfth House is sometimes known as the House of Reckoning, and it helps you review what you’ve done in the past and decide where to go from here. This is a private house, and prefers to keep both strengths and weaknesses hidden from public view. At the same time, your subconscious is hard at work trying to make sense of it all. This house deals with the pain that comes from keeping everything inside and puts the focus on the things you suppress and keep hidden from others. (Oftentimes even what you hide from yourself.)

The Twelfth House asks you what you can learn from your subconscious and how can you put those learnings to use in a practical and intentional way. Karma comes into play in the Twelfth House—and it’s time to deal with consequences here. This is where we can transform our lives. The lighter things your subconscious produces like whimsical thoughts, imaginative ideas and fun dreams are also represented by this house. There is a strong streak of creativity and artistry here.

As the last house, this house recognizes your tendency to be stuck/confined in life, so institutions such as jails, prisons, hospitals and institutions are represented here as well. The Twelfth House also includes art, music, dance, the afterlife, old age, hidden agendas, compassion, empathy, drugs/alcohol and sacrifices.

StyleCaster | The Manifest Issue 2023

Remi Bader. Design: Sasha Purdy / StyleCaster


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