Astrology is often thought of as a fun part of our lives that only applies when we read our daily horoscopes or obsessively check the sun sign compatibility between us and our crush. But if you take the time to delve beneath the surface of your sun, moon, and rising signs and check out your personal birth chart, astrology is a detailed and fascinating ancient practice that can help you learn a ton about yourself. And if you've witnessed astrology lovers blabbing away about their birth chart to anyone who'll listen (guilty as charged!), then you've probably heard about the 12 houses of the zodiac and wondered what that meant. Because finding out that someone's "Venus is in the 10th house" or that their "fifth house is in Aries" may sound like literal astro-gibberish right now, but not to fear, sis-stars. You're about to get an explanation of astrological houses that will help you make a little more sense of your birth chart — and in turn, understand more about who you are according to the stars.
Most people are already somewhat familiar with the concept of signs and planets in astrology — and if you're a little more advanced, you may be familiar with astrological birth charts, too, which are essentially maps that show where each planet was in the zodiac at the time you were born. In your birth chart, all the planets are sprinkled throughout 12 astrological houses, each of which represents a different area of your life. "The birth chart, which is one's personal roadmap in life, describes our personal vibes and goals — and it is divided into 12 houses that describe the areas in life that are important to us, according to astrology," astrologer Lisa Stardust tells Bustle. "This is dependent on the date, location, and time of which one is born." Which house (or area of your life) each of your planets is in affects how that planet's influence will manifest for you. Each of your house's cusps will also fall into one of the 12 zodiac signs in your chart, which will give you even more insight into the energy of the area of your life ruled by that house.
If you read your own birth chart, you'll see that it's circular and looks like a pie. That pie is divided up into two sets of overlapping slices — one wheel of slices being the 12 astrological houses that we're talking about. These slices will always be in roughly the same place, as the cusp of the first house of anyone's chart will be around the 9 o' clock mark. The second set of overlapping slices in a birth chart represents the 12 signs of the zodiac, and this could look different for everybody. So whichever sign-slice the cusp of each house-slice falls into is the sign that rules that house in your personal chart. (Note: In the chart above, the signs align perfectly to the houses, but this would rarely happen in real life!)
Collectively, the 12 houses are said to represent all the areas of one's life and experience. Houses one through six are known as your "personal houses," or houses revolving around matters of your self, while houses seven through 12 are your "interpersonal houses," or houses relating to your connection to the world around you. As you move through the house system and their meanings, you'll notice a thematic journey building outward — from your personal inner world, to your transcendent and interpersonal connection to the outside world. And unlike planets and signs, houses aren't about a certain type of energy — rather, they give context about the landscapes in our lives in which the planets and signs interact.
Each house also has its own natural planetary ruler and sign that will likely differ from your personal one. So, for example, the first house of the zodiac is naturally ruled by the sign Aries and is associated with the planet Mars. But in your personal chart, it could easily be in the sign of Libra and house the planets Mercury and Jupiter. Make sense?
It's helpful to know exactly what each house in astrology represents — but remember, in order to know what that area looks like for you, you'll have to consult your birth chart (which you can calculate online for free, so long as you have your exact birth date, time, and place). If all of this sounds complicated, a professional astrologer can be a huge help when it comes navigating your birth chart and understanding the houses, as well as the signs and planets that you have in each of them.
Let's take an astrological open-house tour, shall we? These are the basic meanings for each of the 12 houses in astrology.
First House: The House Of Self
Naturally ruled by: Aries & Mars
What it represents: Your first house is also known as the "ascendant" and it begins our ride through the astrological houses. It represents "you" in the simplest terms, and governs our self-image, our sense of self, and the image we project to others. It even literally rules over our physical appearance. The first house (very fittingly) covers concepts relating to "firsts" and new beginnings — things like the first impression that you make or the way you take initiative and begin new things. Also, if you know your rising sign, that's going to tell you sign that your first house is in — because the rising sign is just another term for the cusp of the first house. If you have any planets in your first house, it's likely that they'll show up pretty significantly in your life and personality.
Second House: The House Of Finances & Value
Naturally ruled by: Taurus & Venus
What it represents: The second house is the house of all things tangible — including your five senses and all of your basic sensory experiences. It's also about money, wealth, and earthly possessions, as well as your attitude toward those things. Additionally, it deals with value — and when I say value, I mean both how you value material things and how you value yourself, so your self-esteem and self-worth are affiliated with the second house, too. On the darker side, this is also an area of the chart that, depending on your placements, could indicate issues of greed, low self-worth, or financial hardship.
Third House: The House Of Communication
Naturally ruled by: Gemini & Mercury
What it represents: The third house is where we begin to move outside of ourselves just slightly and interact with the people, places, and things that are all around us — so it rules how you express yourself through words (this includes virtual communication via the internet and your devices), your basic goings-on (like getting to and from work), the way you think and use basic logic, as well as your most basic, simple relationships (like with siblings, neighbors, and colleagues). And as it's ruled by chatty Gemini and communication-forward Mercury, it also rules over things like small talk and gossip. In other words, it rules over the areas of your life that tend to get messy during a Mercury retrograde period.
Fourth House: The House Of Home
Naturally ruled by: Cancer & The Moon
What it represents: This house is your foundation (literally, it's found at the very bottom of the zodiac wheel!) and it represents matters of the home and family unit. This covers matters of security, both literal (like housing security and a safe place to live) and emotional (like the ways you feel safe, nurtured, and parented). Ultimately, it represents your sense of home — both in the literal place that you live, as well as the people who bring you comfort. The house also relates to your ancestors, your memories, your past, and your sense of nostalgia. Planets here can indicate a lot of energy going toward your family life.
Fifth House: The House Of Pleasure & Creativity
Naturally ruled by: Leo & The Sun
What it represents: This house is all about creative energy and the attainment and expression of your pleasure — in short, it's about having fun! This covers things like hobbies and recreational activities that you do just to make yourself happy, as well as all things related to romance, love affairs, and casual sex. And in a literally creative sense, it also rules over children. It's also considered a house of "luck," so look to the planets you have here if you want to know how you might fare when it comes to games of chance. This is the house of the heart — your pleasures, your passions, and both your romantic and creative pursuits — so analyzing your planetary placements and sign in this house can tell you about how you deal with these matters.
Sixth House: The House Of Health & Service
Naturally ruled by: Virgo & Mercury
What it represents: This house is all about the work and service you put in during your life — what your work ethic is like, how you personally make yourself of service to others, and even the mundane tasks that are required of us in our day-to-day lives. It's less about what your career is, and more about the work and dedication you actually put into it. This house also rules wellness (which, of course, dictates how physically capable you are of actually doing work). This relates to all aspects of a healthy lifestyle, like diet and nutrition, exercise, and the quest for self-improvement. It's also interesting to note that this house is the ruler of pets and small animals, perhaps because of the role they play in both our health and our daily responsibilities.
Seventh House: The House Of Partnerships
Naturally ruled by: Libra & Venus
What it represents: As this house falls opposite to your first house of self, so does what it governs — so instead of a focus on the self, this house is about our one-on-one connections to other people. It rules relationships and partnerships of all sorts, which includes marriage, as well as business partnerships (anything with a contract between multiple parties, basically!). Conversely, it rules over negative relationships too, like competitors, enemies, divorces, or lawsuits. As you may have noticed, legal issues are a theme here (Libra is the sign of justice, after all), so look out for your planetary placements in this house as potential indicators to be wary of binding contracts. Overall though, this house covers one-on-one relationships on the whole, so planets here may also simply indicate ways in which you relate to other people and function within a community.
Eighth House: The House Of Sex & Transformation
Naturally ruled by: Scorpio & Pluto
What it represents: The eighth house has a reputation for being rather mysterious, wide-ranging, and hard to define — and given that Scorpio is at the helm, it's also stereotyped as being on the darker side. According to AstroStyle, the house rules "death, regeneration, taxes, inheritances, wills & legacies, sex ... latent occult ability, joint resources ... bankruptcy, losses, personal sacrifices, alimony, clairvoyance." Um, yikes, that's a mouthful. But to sum it up, this mystical house is about transformation. It's about endings, yes, but also the subsequent new beginnings that they inevitably bring — a natural sort of transfer or exchange of energy. That probably explains why seemingly random things like taxes are included here alongside things like sex. This house is about personal growth, personal boundaries, and the sacrifices we must make and crises we must face to facilitate these things.
Ninth House: The House Of Big Ideas
Naturally ruled by: Sagittarius & Jupiter
What it represents: This house is highly philosophical, as it pertains to our core belief systems, higher learning, religion, and the pursuit of knowledge. Remember how the third house pertains to basic thoughts? This house, its opposite, rules higher and more complex thought, as well as higher education. In true Sagittarius form, it also rules over our sense of adventure, which includes travels, long journeys (literal and spiritual), and the exploration of different cultures or languages. The ninth house is where we search for life's deeper meaning, broaden our horizons, and challenge and develop our personal beliefs.
Tenth House: The House Of Public Image
Naturally ruled by: Capricorn & Saturn
What it represents: The cusp of your 10th house is located at the tippy-top of your chart, and is also known as your "midheaven" in astrology. It's particularly important, as it pertains to your overall life path and career. This house governs your public-facing image, reputation, professional life, social status, and even brushes with fame. It also represents authority — which can translate to representing a "father figure" or paternal influence in your life. Look to your placements in this house for insight on your career path, and watch out for anything that indicates a tendency to see yourself too much through the eyes of other people and become preoccupied with your reputation.
Eleventh House: The House Of Community & Friends
Naturally ruled by: Aquarius & Uranus
What it represents: Unlike the house of partnerships, which focuses more on contractual or one-to-one relations, this house focuses more on community, memberships, organized groups, and working together. The eleventh house is the ruler of friendship, teamwork, networking, and additionally, social justice — and a very Aquarian desire to shake up the norm. It also represents our collective or lifelong goals and aspirations for the betterment of humanity, and what we do to make those fantasies a reality. Look to your 11th house placements to glean insight into your role within communities or other group dynamics.
Twelfth House: The House Of Subconscious & Secrets
Naturally ruled by: Pisces & Neptune
What it represents: Welcome to the mystical and mysterious 12th (and final) house. Given that this is the last house in the zodiac, it represents endings as well as the deepest evolution of our souls. It rules over our unconscious, secrets, dreams and sleep, karma and past life trauma, our shadow self, surrendering, the occult and paranormal energies, and imprisonment (both literal and metaphorical). In other words: heavy stuff. This house rules over the depths of our unconscious — the parts of ourselves that we run from, or perhaps don't even know exist — so working to understand any placements you have in your twelfth house can help you understand the deepest inner-workings of who you are. The more we work on healing any deep, hidden wounds, the less we have to worry about darkness manifesting in our lives in other confusing ways.
Now that you understand a little bit more about the house system in astrology and what part of your life each of the houses represent, take a look at your birth chart! Once you find out the sign that each house falls into in your chart (as well as the planets you have living in each), you'll find out even more about yourself and how you relate to all different aspects of your life.