The discussions below deal with issues that frequently come up in debates between practising astrologers. They are somewhat technical in nature and presuppose some knowledge of astrology.
The house issue: are whole signs a system?
[For readers with a particular interest in this topic, a fuller discussion may be found in this academic paper published with Open Access.]
Platice vitae locus est in eo signo, in quo est horoscopus constitutus, spei vel pecuniae in secundo horoscopi signo, fratrum in tertio, parentum in quarto, filiorum in quinto, valitudinis in sexto, coniugis in septimo, mortis in octavo. […] Sed haec, sicut superius diximus, platice ad informanda initia discentis dixisse sufficiat; postea vero, quatenus haec loca suptili partium definitione monstrantur, explicare curabimus.
The place of life is roughly [located] in that sign in which the ascendant is established, that of hope or property in the second sign from the ascendant, that of brothers in the third, that of parents in the fourth, that of children in the fifth, that of illness in the sixth, that of the spouse in the seventh, that of death in the eighth. […] But as we have said above, it suffices to have related these things roughly to sketch the beginnings for the student; later, indeed, we shall take care to explain how far these places are appointed by the accurate boundaries of degrees. (Firmicus Maternus: Mathesis II 14,3–4)
Since the publication of Annual Predictive Techniques, I have been made aware of accusations of ‘whole-sign house denialism’. The dogmatic overtones of such expressions seem to call for a calm and level-headed look at the role played by whole-sign houses in astrological tradition.
A substantial number of preserved horoscopes from (mostly Late) Antiquity, some of them outlined in written works – primarily Valens’ Anthologies – give only the sign positions of the ascendant and of some or all of the planets, without any degrees. From this fact we can conclude, among other things, that using the zodiacal signs themselves as houses (or, to translate the Greek terminology more correctly, places), beginning with the rising sign, seems to have been a common practice – as indeed it still is in India, where such a chart is known as the rāśi-cakra, ‘sign wheel’.
Technically astute and conscientious Indian astrologers often complement this diagram with the bhāva-cakra (‘house wheel’) or calita-cakra (‘moving wheel’), which displays quadrant house positions, with separate tables giving the exact longitudes of planets and house cusps. Similarly, ancient Greek and Latin authors give explicit instructions for determining places by degree, either equal houses (Valens, Ptolemy, Firmicus) or quadrant houses (Valens, citing the earlier author Orion). To the best of my knowledge, there are no corresponding statements formally equating whole signs with houses, nor is it ever stated that houses calculated by degree are to be used only for special purposes. It cannot even be convincingly argued that the astronomical midheaven used in quadrant houses was introduced later than the ascendant, as both have their roots in the pre-horoscopic Egyptian practice of noting the rising and culminating decans.