19 September 2004
Oktotopos as alternative house system
About 8-fold division of the local space in Astrology
Various prolific minds concerned with Astrology are struggling to find the best system of houses among the overwhelming number of proposals, while in my opinion the problem lies somewhere else. Choosing “the best” of a dozen or so (or, as some say, a few hundred) systems of houses defined in the past is sensible only if one preliminarily assumes that:
- a) there are 12 houses
- b) they start with the Ascendant
- c) they are counted anticlockwise
- d) their meanings are the same as in the antique distich:
Vita, Lucrum, Fratres, Genitor, Nati ac Valetudo / Uxor, Mors, Iter et Regnum, Benefactaque, Carcer,
which is as follows: “Life, Profit, Brothers, Parent, Offspring and Health / Wife, Death, Journeys, Power, Kindness, Prison”.
Such a system of houses is a repetition of the zodiac; it also comprises twelve fields along the ecliptic, their order is the same as the order of the zodiac signs and their meanings follow the meanings of the zodiac signs, or rather are included in them, as they are narrower compared to the meanings of the zodiac signs.
In fact, at the time the Greeks started to practise astrology the houses were equal to the zodiac signs: the sign that was rising at the moment of the horoscope was the first house, the whole next sign was the second house, etc. If, for example, Cancer was rising (in other words the Ascendant was in Cancer) then the second house (one responsible for money) was Leo, the third (involving problems with siblings) was Virgo, etc. This means the natal planets were considered against the background of two zodiacs, one of which was common to all the people (it was the zodiac in its ordinary sense), while the other was individual, and this one was the system of houses.
Let us observe that during over two thousand years astrologists have tried to perfect this system, but hardly anybody questioned those four assumptions: that there should be twelve houses, that they are to be counted anticlockwise, that they start with the Ascendant (sometimes MC) and that their meanings are Vita... Carcer.
A lack of good solutions among the twelve-field, anticlockwise, ascendantal and “Vita-Carcer” house systems, and all of this after 23 ages of searching, means that there are no such solutions and astrology has put itself into a long-term cul-de-sac.
On the other hand, there should be something like the house system in astrology. Houses reflect the daily movement of the celestial sphere in relation to the place of standing, in relation to the surface of the Earth. Just using our common sense, if the planets influence us (– at least some of them!; and a person who deals with astrology, cannot doubt it) then the fact that some of them are located below the horizon and are not seen in the “optical zone”, while the others may be in the zenith position, should somehow modify their influence over the human mind. I don't think any astrologist would doubt that planets which are in the rising, setting, zenith or nadir positions have a special importance in the horoscope – and if we take into consideration the axes of the horoscope (Ascendant, MC, Descendant, IC) then we arrive at the starting point of defining the houses.
One by one I will question and consider these four assumptions.
Whence came the number twelve come into the horoscope? Why was it decided that there should be twelve zodiac signs, and earlier people learned to group the stars appearing along the planets' route on the sky into twelve figures? The number is not coincidental. The stars may be organized by observers into any number of groups; the human fantasy cannot be restricted here. How was it restricted then so that people arrived at twelve zodiac constellations? Everyone who has looked at the sky could see that the zodiac constellations are rather unequal: some of them consist of bright stars set into distinct groups (Leo, Scorpio, Gemini), others are only some faint star dust formations (Cancer, Libra, Capricorn). It is known that these twelve constellations were invented by force, that the reason lay somewhere else, not just in the stars. Something else made the ancient astrologists count the stars by twelves.
The reason is the movement of the Moon, Sun and Jupiter. The Sun completes its cycle, called the tropical year and closing the period in which the seasons change in 365.2422 days. New and Full Moons occur every 29.5306 days (it is the so-called synodic month). Thus, in one year there are 12.368 New and Full Moons, on average, and there are so many natural moon months. From one Full Moon to another the Sun proceeds by 29.107 degrees. Thus we can see that when the sky was divided into 12 equal sections of 30 degrees each and the sections were matched with particular constellations (which means the stars were joined with lines so that in every sign one characteristic star pattern could be seen), then it could be said that every subsequent Full Moon (or New Moon) occurred in a subsequent zodiac sign. This introduced a very good order in the sky; the order that was a basis for the calendar, while handling the time was a matter of great importance, particularly for agricultural societies and for the first state organizations. One can understand how difficult this task was by just looking at the fact that the Romans, who were such a developed society, fought the calendar mess (in the person of Julius Caesar) only in 45 BC, while the Jewish calendar has not been matched with the Sun cycle until now, not to mention the Muslim calendar, which is completely illegible for a European.
There is one more cycle to be counted in twelves by 30 degrees: it is the movement of Jupiter. One cycle of Jupiter takes 11.862 tropical years, which means that the distance between subsequent conjunctions of the Sun and Jupiter is 30.349 degrees! Thus it can be well said that every year Jupiter moves by one zodiac sign, or that the conjunctions (or, easier to observe, oppositions) every year occur against the background of subsequent zodiac signs. Thus, the movements of the Sun, Moon and Jupiter force the division of the sky into twelve sections of 30 degrees each. We can also form the following proportion:
Jupiter : Sun = Sun : Moon
Certainly in the eyes of paleo-astronomers it must have been the Great Mystery of the Skies!
It was also observed that between subsequent Full Moons (or New Moons) there are 29.5306 days. Didn't this number – about 29 and a half – appear in some other cycle? Yes, this is the number of the Saturn cycle: the revolution of Saturn takes 29.458 tropical years, while the conjunctions of the Sun and Jupiter occur in the sky every 12.221 degrees. The Moon moves almost the same distance during one day: 12.195 degrees. Thus we have another proportion:
Saturn : Sun = Moon : day
The first proportion (Jupiter : Sun = Sun : Moon) implied the calendar division of the year into twelve months, the division of the ecliptic into twelve zodiac signs and (earlier) grouping the stars into twelve zodiac constellations. (Let us also observe that astrology must have reversely influenced the grouping of the stars, as the zodiac constellations bear names that are matched so that they were mnemotechnic summaries of the characters of people born under these signs.)
There were also attempts to employ the other proportion with a similar purpose, but this was done less boldly; practically only Hindu astrology accepted the division of the sky into so many sections that their number reflects Saturn's and the Moon's 29 and a half. We are talking here about nakshatras, lunar constellations, of which there are 28 or 27. In the 80s I invented a “septuple zodiac”, which consists of seven times four, which makes 28 equally distant points of significance. The astrological meaning of these points I deduced, among other things, observing the days when the Moon was passing a particular point. It was described in my book titled “Zodiac Cycles” (1991, in Polish); in the 90s I matched this system with Minor Arcana of the Tarot, which was described in my next book “The Tarot of Divination and Vision” (2002, in Polish).
By the way, let us observe that the week, as a system of counting the time, arose from the fact that half the time from the Full Moon to the New Moon is 7,38 days; the approximation of seven, as we can see it, appears to have been sufficient so far.
Coming back to the number of 12: when we realize where the twelve-fold divisions come from, we will see that they have nothing to do with either the daily movement of the celestial sphere or with the rotational motion around its axis, the phenomena that are the basis for a (possible) division into houses. There are no reasons for the “local space” to have a twelve-fold structure!
Twelve as the number of houses appears as the result of struggling to make the day similar to the year, and the zodiac to the local space.
2) Ascendant as “the beginning”
...And why should the system of houses, a circular structure, have any “beginning”? Let us accept the considered assumption in a more “modern” form: that the possible good system of houses should contain four (possessing equal rights as to their “power” and “beginning” position) axes/cardinal points: the Ascendant, Medium Coeli, Descendant and Imum Coeli. In the northern hemisphere they are related to the four directions of the world: East, South, West and North. In a symbolic way they can be associated with the dawn, noon, dusk and midnight, an also with the spring, summer, autumn and winter. In addition they may have their equivalents in many other symbolic fours, about which some time ago I wrote in my book titled “Knowledge, Not Entirely Secret” (2004, in Polish).
3) The anticlockwise direction
The anticlockwise direction of house counting, that is the direction complying with the zodiacal (yearly) movement of the Sun against the background of the stars, but opposite to the apparent movement of the celestial sphere towards the terrestrial horizon is devoid of sense – if the system of houses (of any kind) is to reflect the motion of this sphere in relation to the place of standing. More accurate would be the clockwise direction (which in the southern hemisphere would still have to be replaced by the anticlockwise direction. And what would we do on the equator?)
4) Vita... Carcer
...Which means the analogy between the houses and the zodiac signs. So many stupidities offending reason have accumulated on this point and they are so naive that I will excuse myself from pondering over them. There is no reason for the planets that have just risen to be considered as particularly unlucky only because they stand in the ill-fated twelfth house, professing prison, tearing away your foot or being sent to mental hospital. Similarly, has anybody wondered during the last 2000 years what is so frightening in the south-west direction that the death is to come from there, possibly foretold by the eighth house? The intellectual quality of the dogma is lower than the faith in the black cat.
In order not to rubbish the mind with such and similar superstitions, it would be best to reject the houses – in any twelve-field, anticlockwise, Vita-Carcer and possessing the beginning point system. There are no better or worse systems of houses, there is also no rightful one although it is sought in vain; all of them are equally useless.
The problem is what to replace them with and how to divide the local space so that this division could be useful for the astrologist?
My suggestions comprise four points as follows. (In recent years, independently, Patrice Guinard has come to similar conclusions; see his article: ”Dominion, or the System of 8 Houses”.)
1) The local space has four distinct points (directions), that is, the axes of the horoscope (or cardinal directions): Ascendant, MC, Descendant and IC. (That is, every sensible division of the local space has to consist and consider these four axes.)
2) Together with the area between the axes there are eight of such distinctive directions. (Thus, we can talk about “the system of eight houses”, oktotopos – the term invented by Guinard.)
3) If it was necessary, for some reason, to sort out the points with a common direction of rotation, then turning right, clockwise, the direction of the apparent motion of celestial sphere should be chosen as the basic one.
4) Probably one system of such “octuple” houses is not sufficient – I think that for different purposes we should use three different systems:
- the first, vertical, projects on to the Prime Vertical; the cardinal directions here are east (geographical), zenith, west and nadir;
- the second, horizontal one, projects on to the horizon; the cardinal directions here are the east (as previously), south, west and north;
- the third, ecliptical, comes into being when we intersect the surfaces of the vertical division with the ecliptic; here the cardinal directions are the Ascendant, Medium Coeli, Descendant and Imum Coeli.
(In the southern hemisphere the direction of the north will be bound – also symbolically – with the zenith and Medium Coeli, not with the south as in the northern hemisphere. On the equator the zenith and Medium Coeli are not related to the horizontal directions. On the pole the horizon has no directions – all of them are contractual!, while the surface of the first vertical circle is not possible to define. In the polar circle once a day the ecliptic “merges” with the horizon and then most of the old house systems do not have sense any more.)
A good astrological program should show all three divisions; a good astrologist should look at the natal horoscopes in these three projections. Probably different ones would appear to be most useful for different purposes.
According to Patrice Guinard Imum Coeli is, in a symbolic way, connected with the Mystery – as should be so named what happens at the passage from non-existence to existence: of any being and, particularly, of man. We are faced with a mystery when we are trying to remember and understand our own beginning; a mystery covers our childhood and origin and it happens to be the mental glue that ties together a family. A similar kind of mystery hides the origin of states (as with Mieszko and Popiel – legendary first rulers of the Polish state), languages (the origin of the Slavs and, earlier, of the Indo-European languages), species (Homo sapiens) and the whole Universe.
The Ascendant is related with Self-knowledge, self-understanding, passing from the existence devoid of knowing itself to the existence that has recognized itself and left its mark. Originally Guinard calls this idea “the Communication”. It is the impulse that triggers the declaration: “Here I am!”.
The Medium Coeli is the situation when numerous “beings” somehow have to find room for themselves in a limited space. It is connected to the consciousness of limitations and coming across resistance, but also competitiveness and thr struggle for proving that “I am the better one”. Order and justice come from the same source, as the principle of dividing limited space, as well as rigour and organization. Guinard called this complex the “Position”
The Descendant is, in a symbolic way, connected with finding your complement, The-Other-One. Guinard called it the “Couple”.
As we can see, by giving the symbolic meanings of the four axes of the horoscope, Guinard does not leave the “centuries-old tradition”, which is justified by the fact that the four directions (axes) belong as its elements to the twelve-house system.
Moreover, the Imum Coeli relates to the first Stanislav Grof's basic perinatal matrix: Oceanic Unity. It also relates to the element of Water – which complies with recognizing (Tradition) the fourth house as the one similar to Cancer. Similarly, the Medium Coeli to some extent relates to the second of Grof's basic prenatal matrices, Oppression and the element of Earth. However, it would be much more difficult to identify the meaning of the Ascendant with Fire and the third matrix, or the Descendant with the fourth matrix and Air. Not everything must happen alike in the symbolic systems!
The four listed axes, the cardinal points of the horoscope, are the “primary” (in the octuple system) “houses”. Moving by five points (five and eight are successive terms of the Fibonacci sequence) we find the secondary or derivative “houses”, that is the ones that lie between the axes.
The derivative of the Imum Coeli, the Mystery, is the “house” called by Guinard Harmony, which lies between MC and Descendant, that is, in the south-west. In the house of Harmony man immerses himself in society and relations with others, becomes involved in a symbiotic relationship with other people and makes use of his wealth (not only material!), which derives from the others.
The derivative of the Ascendant – Communication is the “house” of Knowledge, which encourages attainment of knowledge of such a kind that it requires the attitude of a researcher and the distance towards the world. It lies under the horizon on the north-west side.
The derivative of the Medium Coeli (Position) is the “house” of Fame, whose sense lies in coming out to meet those who are afar: towards the audience, that is those who are afar in the space and towards the descendants, that is those who are afar in time. In space it relates to the north-east, still below the horizon.
The derivative of the Descendant (Couple) is the “house” of Friendship, according to which man opens himself to others and turns to social interactions. It is the area of the sky over the horizon in the south-east.
As we can see, in Guinard's system there are no ill-fated areas, such as the traditional houses (nobody knows why) sixth, eighth and twelfth. But we can easily say what positive and negative phenomena may develop from the presence of some planets in the specific areas of the oktotopos . I know, for example, cases of family tragedies for which Saturn and Pluto placed in the neighbourhood of the Imum Coeli were responsible.
Guinard's system also explains why Gauquelin's studies showed such a substantial excess of Mars in the fields of Communication (near the Ascendant) and the field of Position (near MC) in the horoscopes of sportsmen – because the specimen of the sports masters consisted of men selected as to their ability of highlighting their presence (such is the sense of the Ascendant – Guinard's Communication) and winning in the competition with others (which is the sense of the Medium Coeli, that is the Position in Guinard's system). Gauquelin himself understood his own charts in a more mechanistic way: that Mars (and other planets) are powerful while passing the Ascendant and Medium Coeli and they are weakened (in his terminology “they are in the area of low activity”) between the Ascendant and Medium Coeli. While according to Guinard in this situation Mars in the field of Friendship – between the Ascendant and Medium Coeli – would not lose its power but its activity in this field would not support winning sports tournaments and would be discharged in other fields of life.
I am happy that the old systems of houses should be rejected and that something new should be invented in this place.
Translated by Maya Florczykowska.