House Cusps- Introduction
You might have heard of ‘being on the cusp’ or ‘I’m on the cusp of Leo and Virgo’. But what does that actually mean? What are ‘the cusps’ and how can we use them to read your birth chart without any planets?
In Astrology there are two kinds of cusps:
- Cusps of signs
- Cusps of houses
In this blog post I will focus on the latter one. However, just to clarify this matter, I will briefly explain the first point as well.
Each Zodiac sign has 30 degrees and as there are twelve of them, that gives us 360 degrees (12 x 30 = 360). When a planet is in the last 3 degrees of a sign, we would say that it is on the cusp of the next sign. Therefore we can say a cusp is a point where one element ends and another one begins.
For example: in this chart we have the Sun at 28 degrees Aries. We would say that the Sun is on the cusp as it will enter Taurus (the next sign) soon. Technically, the Sun is still in Aries, however the energy of the sign is starting to shift in the last three degrees. More on this in a different blog post.
Cusps and Houses
So, what about house cusps? Before we discuss them, let’s go back a step and think about houses themselves.
Just as we have twelve Zodiac signs, we also have twelve houses in Astrology. The houses divide the chart into twelve sections and signify different areas of life.
A reminder: Planets are archetypal characters. They are placed in a sign, which is a way in which they express their energies. Houses show where they express these energies.
Ie. Sun in Taurus in 5th House.
Sun represents identity and a sense of self. When the Sun is in Taurus it takes on a Taurean way of expressing itself- a grounded, reliable and steady identity. Placed in a 5th house, it expresses its grounded identity best when it comes to creativity, romance and children (5th house matters). Therefore this person could shine through their hobbies, especially ones that result in creating a tangible object. They could be a solid and reliable parent. They could also seek comfort and beauty through dating.
If you calculated your chart online, you might have noticed an option called ‘house system’. There, you have a list of many different names and titles. Yes, there is more than just one house system. The most popular one is called Placidus. Other ones include Regiomontanus, whole sign system, Koch, Campanus and more.
Personally, I use Placidus and this is the one I would recommend when you are just starting with Astrology. Once you have more experience you can experiment with different house systems and observe the differences.
Now that we know what houses are and we know there are different house systems, what else do we need to look at our chart?
Exact time of birth.
This is the main element necessary to calculate houses in every Astrological chart. Without the exact time, it is impossible to calculate the houses accurately. If you have an estimate like ‘between 3pm and 3.30pm’ this should be alright, but it will not produce an accurate chart. Still, it is better than nothing. If you don’t know the exact time, you can cast a chart for midday (12 noon).
Let’s say you have an exact time, you have cast your chart and now what?
Looking at House Cusps
Now we can look at your house cusps ( I would recommend astro.com as when you cast a chart you have an option of ‘Additional Tables’ which will give you a list of all the details you need. )
A house cusp is where the house is beginning. For example, the Ascendant is your first house cusp as this is where the house is starting.
If you are using Placidus house system, you might have two houses with the same Zodiac sign on the cusp. This is possible, as the houses are not of even sizes in this house system. If you have one sign on two house cusps, it means there will be a sign that is completely ‘swallowed’ in another house. This is called an ‘intercepted sign’.
What to do if you have really small houses and really big houses in your birth chart? Use a different house system. But seriously, it does not mean anything bad or negative. This is just how the Placidus system divides the chart into houses. Later, when you become familiar with predictive Astrology the size of houses does affect the length of transits in that particular house, but this is a more advanced topic.
For now if you have your chart calculated, you have an exact time and know where your house cusps are, you can read your chart without any planets in it. But how does that work?
Reading a Natal Chart Through House Cusps
Each house cusp represents an area of life, as we discussed earlier. When we add a sign to the house cusp, it’s as if we put a filter that colours that particular area of life. Think of your Ascendant.
The first house cusp is about you, how you present, what is your first impression. Once you add a sign to it, it affects the way you present yourself. Aquarius Ascendant- there might be something different about you, maybe you dress in a different way, maybe you like to present yourself in a shocking or unexpected way. Leo Ascendant- you enter the room and everyone notices you, you radiate an inner light. Libra Ascendant- your image is harmonious, refined and elegant.
You can also think of house cusps as different rooms. Ascendant would be the front door to your house. What is the colour of the front door? Are there any decorations? Or is it very simple and minimalistic? Maybe there is a security camera? Or some witty line written on the letter box?
This is what the sign on the cusp does, it colours that area of life.
In this way you can go through each house cusp in your chart to analyse the way in which you approach these areas of life.
It is a very clever technique that can provide you with a lot of information about the chart. It is also a simple way into reading the chart, without the confusion of which planet is in what sign and house.
House Cusps for Advanced Students
Once you are more advanced and feel more comfortable with signs, planets and houses you can go a step further. Identify the sign on the cusp of the house and look to the planet that is ruling that sign. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, look into essential dignities.
Ie. Your second house cusp is in Leo. So you would see where the Sun is in your chart to gather more information about your second house. In Astrology we call this ‘the ruler of…’ so in this case the Sun is the ruler of your second house. The sign, placement and aspects of the Sun would cast more light on the matters of the second house.
If you would like to learn more about Houses in Astrology, check out my Astrology Resource page here where I share my favourite books and resources.
I also recommend a great studyshop from Astrologos. You can find it here. I purchased it myself when I was just starting with Astrological Houses and it really helped me understand how to go about it.