What Are Houses In Astrology?

If you've ever been asked about your sign, chances are you've had the answer ready to go. However, there's more to astrology than your sun sign, and the study of astrology can get very complicated, very fast if you're going alone. Some beginners make the mistake of thinking the written-out list of the zodiac signs and planets most astrology websites generate is their birth chart –– but that's not the case. Your full birth chart refers to the actual natal wheel with your planets in their respective houses and the aspects they form to each other (via The Cut).

As the experts at Sanctuary Astrology write in their book "What's Your Sign? A Guide for the Cosmically Curious," the houses in astrology add a deeper layer of understanding to how the planets in your birth chart interact with one another. Learning what houses means in astrology is one of the biggest obstacles many astrology newbies face. 

Why you need to know your houses

In astrology, the 12 houses of the zodiac each represent a larger theme of your life such as your career, love life, sense of self-identity, and more. "A rule of thumb to remember is that the zodiac signs measure your inherent qualities, the planets influence those qualities, and the houses indicate the direction for them," writes Theodor Laurence in "Foundation Book of Astrology." Your birth chart is divided into 12 segments — known as houses — and each house also has its own natural planetary ruler and sign that will likely differ from your personal one. And because each of the 12 signs is represented in your chart, each zodiac sign will also occupy a house section in your birth chart.

It's important to know that the wheel of houses and the zodiac wheel are not the same. The zodiac wheel is based on the sun's apparent yearly rotation around the Earth, while the houses in astrology are not astronomically fixed because they are based on your ascendant sign, which means modern astrologers use different methods for dividing them up. Choosing a specific house system won't become a pressing issue until you've moved past the point of novice. However, when you do decide to explore house systems, you'll want to start with the most popular types like whole sign, equal houses, Placidus, Koch, and even Vedic astrology (via MindBodyGreen). Try your birth chart out in each house system and choose the one that speaks to you.

The 12 houses of astrology, explained

So, how do you put it all together? Think of your birth chart as a giant compass, and the houses in your birth chart as directions for the different areas of life you'll experience. Each section of your chart holds a smaller part of your overall story and energy. As astrologer Kathryn Hocking explains it, the angles of your birth chart influence the energy with which you'll read your houses. The houses in your birth chart that fall below the horizon line of your chart (houses one through six) will deal with your private life and personal matters, while the houses that fall above the horizon line of your birth chart (houses seven through twelve) deal the areas of life that deal with the public eye and society on a larger scale.

In addition, the houses that fall on the eastern hemisphere of your birth chart (houses ten, eleven, twelve, one, two, and three) deal with your development and growth as an individual, while the houses that occupy the western hemisphere of your chart (houses four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine) deal with interpersonal development and relationships with those around you. As Queerstrology on TikTok explains it, you'll start on your ascendant, which starts on your first house, and read your chart by moving through the houses counterclockwise. Any house that has planets occupying it will then have an added influence of that planet, and can add a deeper layer of understanding your cosmic blueprint.

What are empty houses in astrology?

An empty house in astrology means there are no natal planets located in that house. There are only 10 planets in astrology, while there are 12 houses, which means every person has at least two empty houses in their birth chart. "The empty house simply means that part of your life is not as challenging as a house with one or more planets," astrologer Wayne Gonzalez tells Astrology.com. "The houses with planets are the houses that we have more lessons to learn or to focus on in this life." Other astrologers believe that the empty houses in a birth chart show the area of life where an individual may struggle to express themselves fully.

Luckily, the energy of an empty house in your birth chart can be understood by using the other placements in your own birth chart as a guide. "Empty houses means you need to pinpoint the information even more for packed/active houses," astrologer Novi Brown explained in a Twitter thread. "You don't think about them or obsess over them as much. However, they are still illuminated throughout the seasons through transits." When interpreting empty houses in astrology, look at the sign on the cusp of the house and its planetary ruler (via Elite Daily). For example, if your second house is empty and starts in the sign of Aries, you would find your Mars sign to see how the energy of your second house expresses itself, because Mars is the planetary ruler of Aries.