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Click 1st, 3rd, 7th, etc. in the picture below to go to the house you want.
Click 1st, 3rd, 7th, etc. in the picture above to go to the house you want.
Above is a celestial sphere with stars and the zodiacal path the planets take among the stars. We are on the small greenish ball in its center, the earth. No matter where you are on earth you have a horizon, and that's what the horizontal line labeled "Horizon Plane" represents: a local horizon. This horizon line is actually the edge of a plane extending directly out of the picture towards you (see the view below), but because we're looking at it edgeon it appears to be a line. And since a plane is an infinite flat surface, the horizon plane goes out through the stars and cuts the celestial sphere in half. The plane perpendicular to the horizon plane that goes through the point directly overhead and the north pole is called the local meridian. It also is edgeon in the upper and lower views and appears as the vertical line labeled "The Meridian Plane". The word local has been repeated because each and every locality on earth has a unique local horizon and a unique local meridian plane, which when extended into space cut the celestial sphere into four unique quarters. Those two planes intersect the path of the planets at four points in space called the "angles," the most significant points in a horoscope. They are the "ascendant" angle where the horizon plane intersects the zodiac in the east, the "descendant" angle where the horizon plane intersects the zodiac in the west, the "midheaven" where the meridian plane intersects the zodiac above the horizon, and the "nadir" where the meridian plane intersects the zodiac below the horizon. Locate the four labeled angles in the above picture. The angles are the beginnings or cusps of the four angular houses: the first, fourth, seventh, and tenth. The 12 houses arise by first quartering the local sky with the horizon and meridian planes, then trisecting those quarters like slicing an orange. The resultant 12 slices or spherical lunes are the 12 astrological houses. Locate them in the upper and lower views. The houses other than the angular houses are called the "minor houses": the second, third, fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth, eleventh and twelfth. There are many different ways ("house systems") to trisect the quarters of the local sky to produce 12 houses, but most of them have the same angles, it's the minor house cusps they disagree on. Named after medieval monks and others, they are the Ptolemy or Equal house system, the Porphyry, NeoPorphyry, Regiomontanus, Meridian, Koch, Campanus, Placidus, Alcabitius, Morinus, Zariel, Topocentric and Sripati house systems. Placidus is the most popular due to a historical serendipity in its publishing, not to any intrinsic virtue. I use the Campanus house system that trisects the quarters of the local sky in spatially equal sections or lunes as shown above and below. The Placidian and other house systems instead trisect the time it takes a planet or other ecliptic point to go from the horizon to the midheaven. 
The celestial sphere above surrounded by six intersecting house planes could be thought of as a 3D astrological chart. A familiar 2D horoscope chart could be obtained by taking a crosssection of it through the plane of the zodiac (as in tomography) and then laying that slice out flat. Seen edgeon the intersecting horizon and meridian planes appear as a cross. This cross appears in every horoscope chart as the intersection of the ascendantdescendant and midheavennadir axes. It is the cross upon which all immortal souls incarnating on this planet are crucified in time (meridian) and space (horizon). Throughout a day the zodiac moves in relation to the horizon somewhat like a hoola hoop gyrating around a person's waist, dramatically changing how much of the zodiac is in each house. In the top view for example, there seems to be about 1˝ signs in the first and seventh houses and less than ˝ sign in the fourth house. When Libra the sign of balance is rising there are about the same number of zodiacal degrees in every house, but when Aries is rising there can be more than two signs in the first and seventh houses and very little in the fourth and tenth. The further north you go the more this discrepancy increases, until above the arctic circle every sign can be on the horizon at once. House numbers increase counterclockwise in a horoscope chart. Each house begins at its clockwise border (cusp) where it is strongest and extends counterclockwise to the next house cusp where it is weakest. A house is so strong at its cusp that its influence extends backwards into the preceding house. This extended domain of influence just preceding a house is called its “dark side,” and is most pronounced just before the first, fourth, seventh and tenth house cusps (the angles) where the zodiac intersects the local horizon and meridian planes. An important distinction between the signs and the houses is that the signs are relatively fixed to the stars (precession aside). The 12 houses, however, are a scaffolding constructed on each locality’s horizon at every location on Earth. So as the Earth rotates, everyone’s eastern horizon or ascendant sweeps through one sign every two hours, and through the entire zodiac every day. And with it the whole framework of 12 houses sweeps through the entire zodiac as well, causing every planet to move through each house in two hours. This is very different from the time planets spend in each sign, which varies from 2˝ days for the Moon to about a month for the Sun, Mercury and Venus—to 7, 14, and 21 years respectively for Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. This is why the time of day you were born is so important. Because of the earth's rotation each house cusp moves to the next degree of the zodiac every four minutes and in two hours all 12 house cusps will be in the next sign. So your rising degree changes every four minutes, and every two hours you have a different rising sign and every planet is in a different house. So through the continually rotating 12fold framework of the houses your time of birth individuates or distinguishes one human being from another more than any other astrological factor. 
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