When the casual observer looks at an astrological chart for the first time, it is easy to make the incorrect assumption that the 12 "pie pieces" are the 12 signs of the zodiac. These lines indicate the house divisions, which can begin or end at different places in different signs. (The sign divisions are traditionally not represented; if they are, they are around the periphery of the wheel.) Astrologers disagree about how to draw the houses, although most agree that the first house should begin on the eastern horizon and the seventh house (180° away) should begin on the western horizon. All of the other divisions are disputed, although the great majority of systems begin the tenth house at the degree of the zodiac that is highest in the heavens and the fourth house at exactly 180° away from the cusp of the tenth house. The equal house system is one of the few systems of house division that utilizes a different axis for the tenth and fourth houses.
In equal house system, as the name implies, all the houses are equal in width. Thus, someone born when the eastern horizon intersected Virgo at 26° would have a first house that began at 26° Virgo, a second house that began at 26° Libra, a third house that began at 26° Scorpio, and so forth. It is an ancient system of house division that is still used in Vedic astrology, although most Vedic astrologers use the full 30° arc of the rising sign as the first house. In other words, if one's rising sign was Leo— whether 1° Leo, 29° Leo, or any point in between—the full 30° arc of Leo from 0° to 30° Leo would be the first house. Then the full 30° arc of the next sign—in this example, Virgo—would be the second house, and so forth through the natural order of the zodiac. The most ancient house system used in Western astrology was the same "whole sign" approach to houses as Vedic astrology.
For the most part, the equal house system had passed out of circulation among Western astrologers until relatively recently. Several popular astrology books, particu larly Derek and Julia Parker's The Compleat Astrologer (first published in the United States in 1971), propagated the equal house system because it is the easiest system to use. The increasing popularity of Vedic astrology in the West, in combination with the new interest in recovering Western tradition astrology, has also helped the older whole sign house system make a comeback. Most contemporary astrologers who do not use the equal house system are severely critical of it.
Frawley, David. Astrology of the Seers. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press, 2000. Gettings, Fred. Dictionary of Astrology. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985. Hand, Robert. Whole Sign Houses: The Oldest House System. Reston, VA: Arhat Publications, 2000.
Parker, Derek, and Julia Parker. The Compleat Astrologer. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971. Reprint, New York: Bantam, 1975.
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