Learning about astrology can sometimes feel like a bait and switch. While you may have been pulled in by reading your daily horoscope or analyzing your Sun sign, you’ll then quickly find there’s an entire world filled with complicated charts, planet placements, and aspect analysis. If you’re brave enough to dive in, one essential element you’ll need to study is the houses, otherwise known as the 12 houses of the zodiac.
In short: Houses make up just one part of the birth chart puzzle, and knowing how to interpret them can tell you where different planetary energies will show up in your life. For example, Tali Edut, one half of The AstroTwins, ELLE’s resident astrologers explains: “If you have Venus, the planet of love and beauty, in your fourth house, which is the home and family house, you might feel like you need to be with someone who really gets along with your family.”
Need more? Below, everything you need to know about these 12 houses.
Astrological Houses, Explained
For a basic understanding of the houses, you’ll need to look at a birth chart, which is essentially the snapshot of where the planets were in the sky when you were born. As you can see above, that snapshot is then divided two ways: first, into 12 equal slices for the 12 zodiac signs (the outermost circle), and second, into 12 slices to represent the 12 houses (the innermost circle). Each planet will then fall within these slices and into a specific sign and house, giving you your own unique chart. (If you need, refresh yourself on what each planet represents.)
As for how to find the houses, know that the 12 houses represent the 24-hour rotation the earth makes around its own axis, with the first house starting on the eastern horizon, e.g. the 9 o’clock point on the chart, and then going in a counterclockwise direction.
Edut explains that each house on the chart reveals “a different area of focus, and [they] go in a very specific order.” She adds: “The first house is the house of self. The fourth house, which is at the bottom of the chart, is your roots, your home, your family. The seventh house, which is halfway around, is the relationship house. Then the 10th house is at the top of the chart—that’s your career house.”
If you were to group the houses, Edut explains, you’d see the first three houses are all about “me”: what you value, how you play with friends, how you communicate. The second trio is about family, kids, pets, and being of service to the people closest to you. The third group is more about “you interacting one-on-one with other people,” she says, focusing on things like sex, marriage, traveling, and philosophy. And the last three houses are about what you do in the world and the legacy you leave behind.
“It’s almost like birth to death,” Edut says. “Birth is the first house, and then old age, transitions, letting go, the spirit realm [are all] the 12th house.” And seeing which planet falls within each house can show you where the energy of a specific planet will show up in your life.
Interpreting the Houses
When you’re analyzing a birth chart, think of houses as where the action takes place. So, as previously mentioned, if you have Venus, the planet of love and beauty, in your fourth house of family and home, Edut says, “You may feel most romantic, most Venus-y when you’re in a chill, low key environment. You might want to cohabitate with your partner.” On the other hand, if you were born with Venus in your ninth house, which is about travel and independence and study, Edut says: “You may find that you’re someone who needs your own space. You don’t want to live together, or you can do a long- distance relationship, or you like to travel with your partner and learn new things together.”
Another example could be if you have Saturn in the ninth house of adventure. “Saturn’s kind of heavy and restricted,” Edut says. “You might be someone who doesn’t love traveling that much or only travels when everything’s all planned.” But if you have Jupiter, a more free-spirited planet, in the ninth house, “you might be on someone else’s couch every other week,” Edut adds.
It’s important to note that houses can also be used to look at where the planets are right now. Edut points out that, at this moment, everyone has Jupiter in Taurus, and Jupiter is traveling through a specific house in everyone’s chart. “For me, it’s in my fourth house of home,” she explains. “I just started doing a backyard renovation, and it got bigger than I thought it was going to, which is very Jupiter.”
Just remember, Edut says, reading a chart is like an interpretive dance, and there is no one set answer. “People might have the same placement, but it shows up differently.”
What Each of the 12 Houses Mean
The First House
This first house, which always correlates with your rising sign, is all about the self—where you express yourself, take initiative, and how you present yourself to the world. Edut explains, “It’s where you get excited about life, too.”
The Second House
The second house zeroes in your values, including your comforts, what you’ll spend money on, and how you manage your income.
The Third House
Still focused on all things “me,” the third house is about how you communicate, as well as siblings, neighbors, and your peer relationships.
The Fourth House
The fourth house has to do with your roots and your emotional security, including the home, the family, and the mother figure.
The Fifth House
The fifth house, associated with the zodiac sign Leo, is centered around romance, fashion, style, glamour, creativity, and fame.
The Sixth House
The sixth house has to do with wellness, daily routines, exercise, and organization. It’s also focused on being helpful and of service to others.
The Seventh House
The seventh house is about relationships: marriage, commitment, collaborations, and partnerships. It can also touch art, fashion, and beauty—anything aesthetic.
The Eighth House
Edut calls this the “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” house. As you might’ve guessed, it has to do with sex, reproduction, transformation, as well as other people’s money, whether it be investments or joint funds.
The Ninth House
The ninth house highlights higher learning, Edut says, so things like traveling, expansion, knowledge, adventure, and inspiration.
The 10th House
The 10th house, associated with Capricorn, revolves around your career, your public prestige, your legacy, rules, authority, and achievements.
The 11th House
The 11th house relates to activism, community, and groups, as well as technology, innovation, and futuristic things.
The 12th House
The final house touches on spirituality, including transitions, release, dreams, and mental health.
Madison is a senior writer/editor at ELLE.com, covering news, politics, and culture. When she’s not on the internet, you can most likely find her taking a nap or eating banana bread.