Up until this point we have discussed the basic zodiac and planetary associations with regard to individual birthcharts. This information is enough to start investigating your own personality and that of your close friends. With sufficient knowledge of these two areas vast amounts of information can be gleaned, especially when taking into account and the subtle interplay between the various associated attributes of all the 10 planets combined. After some time of practice the information will start seeming a little vague and too universally applicable. It might seem like you're not speaking about an individual, but a complicated and specific category in which several very different people can fit. Indeed, you are, as that is precisely what astrology does. The deeper you go into astrology the narrower you are capable of defining the category, yet a category it will remain, the individual never being precisely located. Still, the category can be very narrowly defined.
The next two sections we'll be dealing with, The Houses and The Aspects, can get into very specific associations, often extremely precise and undeniably accurate.
The sky is split into twelve sections, known as 'houses'; Six below the horizon, six above the horizon. They run from east to west, splitting the sky into slices. The first house is the one just below the horizon towards the east. The 6th house is below the horizon towards the west. The seventh, just above the horizon towards the west and the twelfth completes the circle just above the horizon towards the east. The numbers match up to the Zodiac signs with the first house to Ares and the last to Pisces (see the chart). It may be a little confusing when first looking at the chart because we are uses to East being to the right and West being to the left, while on the birthcharts they are reversed. It's made this way because the Zodiac charts were most commonly drawn onto ceilings, making it line up in this 'reverse' order.
Another thing worthwhile to note at this point is that the 'default' position for each sign places six signs below the earth and six signs above it. The six below are considered the Material signs and the six above are considered the Spiritual signs. This does not mean that a Taurus is always materialistic and a Saggitarius is always spiritual. Very often the reverse can be true. What it means is that the first six signs rule over the material world and the latter six rule over the spiritual world. This is more evidenced in the associations of the signs outside the birthchart than within it. It does seem to be the case in people that the people of the first six signs who are spiritual express their spirituality more from within the physical world and through it, while the spiritual people of the latter six express their spiritual in a more 'pure' form. Likewise for the reverse; materialistic people of the first six signs tend to express their materialism in a 'pure' form, while those of the latter six tend to 'physicalize the spiritual', to harness the spiritual for physical purposes or project physical matters onto the spiritual world. Again, there is alot to elaborate here, but for introduction purposes this should suffice.
The twelve houses represent the twelve regions of a person's life; the twelve realities in which we all live and busy ourselves with. One could call them areas of concern, houses, objectives or whatever. Thus we have a completion of an entire world view: The zodiac signs determine the modalities, the planets are the 'sockets' or attributes within a person which the modalities affect, and the houses are the regions of existence within which a person focusses the attention of his attributes.
Note that the house within which a planet resides is not the only place where the attribute ruled by the planet is active, but it is where the planet 'feels at home' - where it acts in the most positive way. Like the rest of the system of astrology, it is an influence and not a determinant. This means that if a person were born with his mars in the fifth house, he would be driven to create something that will last beyond his years and his motivations will mostly go towards providing for the future, especially the next generation. If this person were put in a position where he was obligated to look after his grandmother for an extended period of time, however, and tried his best to fight his instincts and look after her with joy, then one day he may find that he is instead driven to helping the elderly and he loses a great deal of his motivation to provide for the future.
House #1: This house represents the Self, more specifically the external self; the sun region of a person's existence. Mars - the external driving force - is at home here, where it represents a drive towards self-improvement. When in Ares this means developing into a strong and confident individual.
House #2: This house represents the Material World. Not only posessions and material resources but also plantlife and artistic pursuits. Venus - the power of attraction - is at home here, where it represents a fondness for beauty, the natural world and material posessions. When in Taurus this makes a to develop and grow the material world.
House #3: This house represents Intellectual Development, childhood and logical aptitude and in part external communication (though power of communication is also determined by the 7th, 8th and 11th house and even more by the planet Mercury). The planet Mercury is at home here, where it represents a logical and powerful ability to communicate logical ideas and get information across clearly and effectively. When in Gemini this adds a quick wit into the mix, making an extremely capable speaker.
House #4: This house represents the Home. Not necessarily a house, it could be an office, a plot of land, a castle or an island. It determines what kind of a home-base a person enjoys and concern over creating a pleasant home atmosphere. The Moon is at home here, where it represents a strong emotional attachment to the home and a need for a place that is emotionally fulfilling. When in Cancer this makes a joyful and comfortable home.
House #5: This house represents the Legacy that a person leaves behind. Usually this refers to children but it could also refer to a business, artistic pursuit, social reformation, global kharmic improvement, etc. The Sun is at home here, where it represents vicarious living through the next generation and a desire for personal immortality (usually through children). When in Leo this makes a strong and opinionated parent who is very aware of the needs and capabilities of his children.
House #6: This house represents the Mundane Routine of a person's life. Bathing, brushing teeth, driving to and from the workplace, cleaning up after one's self, daily exercise, daily meditation and prayer, all manners of rote and ritual belong to this house. The Asteroid Belt is at home here, where once it would have represented higher awareness (zen-state) through repetitive activity, but now it's loss means naturally succumbing to lack-of awareness.
House #7: This house represents Close Personal Relationships, the vast majority of the time refering to a Partnership and within this specification it usually refers to a person's Spouse. This includes what kind of a spouse would be best for a person and how easy close, personal relationships for a person are. The planetoid Chiron is at home here, where it represents a close association that is able and willing to give good advice. When in Libra this also means a balanced relationship, and that the advice given by the partner will be mostly on how to have a balanced lifestyle.
House #8: This house is the least understood of all the houses. It has been called the house of Death, Change, Energy, Depth, Sex and more. I choose to call it the house of Mystery, because all the associations it has can fall under this category; the potent mysteries of existence. The planet Pluto is at home here, where it makes an individual, capable of vast and long lasting social reformations, and also the ability for vast and permanent destruction. When in Scorpio this makes the drive for reformation towards freedom, inner consistency and an outer display of peace and contentment.
House #9: This house represents a person's individual Adventures and Journeys, what excites and causes enjoyment and general physical activity. Not exclusively, however, this house can also represent philosophical and spiritual journeys. The planet Jupiter is at home here, where it represents good fortune in travel and plenty of opportunities for adventure. When in Saggitarius this definitely refers to physical journeys and a desire to travel to exotic locations.
House #10: This house represents a person's Occupation. What kind of a job a person will be drawn towards and potential successes or failures. The planet Saturn is at home here, indicating a challenging yet rewarding career. When in Capricorn this indicates a career in line with a person's ideologies where there is plenty of room for advancement and financial stability.
House #11: This house represents Social Relationships on a broad scale. The seventh house is close relationships, the eleventh is more broad ranged contacts, a person's relationship with the general public, and first impressions given. The planet Uranus is at home here, making an individual with a strong social identity and involvement in the community. When in Aquarius this makes a kind and giving individual whose identity depends upon the ability to provide for the community and support everybody involved within it.
House #12: This house is one that is also difficult to understand. It has alternately been named the house of Enemies, Meditation and Inner Self. I choose to call it the Inner World, because it includes the second two names in the description. The planet Neptune is at home here, indicating a strong internally directed imagination and a rich and diverse inner life full of creativity and inspiration. When in Pisces this makes a strong musical orientation and a unique ability to keep complex images inside the head while still engaging the outside world.
The Ascendent is arguably the most important part of a birthchart. It is the line between the 12th and 1st house, representing the eastern horizon. The sign that is on the eastern horizon at the time of a person's birth determines the True Self of an individual - the way he makes decisions and utilizes all the other resources. It is interesting to note that The Ascendent lies between the houses representing the Outer Self and the Inner Self, making this truly the nexus of individual identity.
Only a keen observer will be able to tell a person's ascendent by observing them, because it influences every part and action of a person but is found in none of them. It is not found on the surface, or at the limit of the depths, but at the central nexus between every part.
One may ask at this point, that if even the manner in which we make decisions is determined by Astrology, how do we have the free will that I talked about before? The answer is that The Ascendent itself is flexible, as with all other attributes. Through a serious effort one can change every part of one's essence, the manner of decision making included. The Jewish path does it through molding one's will to Halacha, literally 'the way', refering to the code of Jewish Law. Other religions such as Taoism, Buddhism, AA, etc. all preach their own 'way' for living, which usually includes decisionmaking standards - a remolding of The Ascendent. But one may further ask, is this free will? Choosing to follow a written inclination instead of a naturally determined one? Following one's nature (one's desires) does not make one free. Being subjected to an external set of rules does not make one free. Even making up your own 'objectively determined' code of conduct doesn't make one free, it just binds one to a more individualized path. Is it then true that there is no such thing as freedom?
The answer is that freedom exists in the ability to choose one's servitude. We all must serve something or another, be it our stomachs, the media, the clock on the wall or a religious doctrine. We are never free of influences, internal or external. Free will is deciding, either all at once or moment by moment, which of these influences to follow.
Astrology maps out the natural, internal influences. The Ascendent marks the default 'weave' a person follows within these and other influences. For example, a person with an Ares Ascendent would weave through his internal and external influences in such a way that he can confront issues directly and push through them with whatever resources he has available. A Libra rising would manoever through the influences in such a way that every force is considered and, if possible, utilized and counter-balanced one against the other. A Pisces Ascendent will choose the path of least resistance, the one that is easiest and/or the one that will allow for the most free time before or afterwards.
Now that we've finished our exploration of the houses we can get to the North and South Nodes. These demarcate the northern and southern tilts of the moon, a cycle that takes 19 years to complete (making roughly 1.6 years per sign). The north and south nodes are, obviously, always directly opposed to one another. Most often the south node is ignored and the North Node (also called 'True Node') is used.
The North Node represents the primary purpose in a person's life; the area of a person's life which his soul has been incarnated in order to repair. The North Node is more associated with the house that it's in than with the sign that it's in, indicating the area of a person's life which will be the most difficult to be engaged in (for various reasons) and the one that needs the most attention payed to it. The sign that the North Node is in will tell you the direction in which the world indicated by the house should be drawn to. For example, if a person's North Node were in Gemini in the 7th house, it would mean a person's main objective in this life is to develop a strong relationship with his spouse. The direction that should be focussed on is developing strong communication and a constant sense of newness. This is good advice for anybody to be sure, but a person with his North Node in Gemini in the 7th house will immediately identify this as both a major difficulty and a grave necessity. Very often in such a case the person may be completely clueless about relationships, not realizing exactly how much effort needs to be put into it, finding it cumbersome to make even the slightest effort to concern himself with that area of his life. The same is very often true with any North Node position.
The south node is said to be the exact opposite of the North Node, being the area in which a person finds the greatest ease and success with the least amount of resistence. I have personally not observed this in myself or many others, though occasionally it does seem to be the case (my south node is in Capricorn in the 10th house... where's all this success I'm supposed to be getting in business?)
All of the planets can be approached without a birthtime and will still say something about a person. The North Node, however, will tell you nothing without being in the appropriate house.