There are several different systems of determining the location and extent of the houses. Both Western and Vedic astrology have different systems of determining the houses and the controversies that go with them. Most of these variations of house determination are common to both. While house location and rulership are very important and central to Vedic astrology they are becoming less important to most western astrologers. Some western astrologers dispense with the houses altogether and just use four quadrants rather than twelve houses.
The main difference between Western and Vedic astrology is in the interpretation of the house cusps. Both agree that the cusp is the most important and powerful point in the house; that planets located at the cusp have the strongest effect and most typical meaning in terms of the house. However, while Western astrologers make the cusp the beginning of the house, in the Vedic the cusp marks the middle of the house. This can cause a difference in many house placements. The first house in Vedic astrology will contain half of the twelfth house in the Western system, and so on. Naturally this gives rise to some different interpretations.
Yet the distinction between the two systems is not as major as it appears. Most Western astrologers ascribe at least a 5 degree orb to the cusp of the house; sometimes this is extended to 10 degrees for the luminaries, the Sun and Moon. Planets located these degrees prior to the cusp, though technically in the previous house, are regarded as influencing the house through their conjunction with its cusp. In this way the difference in house determination is more like 5 to 10, rather than 15 degrees.
Some Western astrological studies have found that planets have the strongest effect if placed 8 degrees prior to the Ascendant or Midheaven. This gives credibility to the Vedic view that would place these points in the first and tenth houses, not the twelfth and ninth, which are not thought by anyone to be of to be as powerful locations.
In a Vedic chart, therefore, planets will not only go backwards the better part of a sign, they will also go backwards up to half a house.
The problem both Vedic and Western astrology share is how to determine the location of the cusps of the houses. All agree on using the Ascendant as the cusp of the first house. Some like to use the Midheaven, the point in the zodiac directly overhead, as the cusp of the tenth house. As house orientation is relative to position on the globe, this becomes more variable the further from the equator the place of birth may be. It is rarely that there are exactly 90 degrees between the Ascendant and the Midheaven, except near the equator or at the time of the equinoxes.
In other words, the Earth's orientation to the zodiac does not divide it equally except at the equator. As we move away from the equator it divides it in more and more unequal sections. This is just as the Sun appears overhead at the equator but is at points lower in the sky the further we move away from it.
Hence a twelfth of the day will not see a twelfth of the zodiac rising, just as the days vary in length the further we go from the equator. In arctic regions, with their long periods of darkness or light, lasting days or months, some signs will not rise at all for days on end. Others will not set for similarly long periods of time.
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