How to Use the 12 Houses

Astrologers read horoscopes by judging the results of each “house” in a chart. I will explain how to do it. This is not exactly an “entry level” article, but I will try to write it in such a way that you will come away with important knowledge regardless of your current level of understanding astrology.

It would, however, be very helpful if you knew what the houses mean.

These principles might not work reliably well on charts cast using a tropical zodiac and using a modern house system, but they will be extremely sound and reliable if you apply them to birth charts cast using a sidereal zodiac and the ancient “whole-sign house” system.

Background Knowledge

Before we start, you need to be perfectly comfortable with house lordship, house types, and the definition of benefic and malefic planets.

Lords of Houses

You have to understand how this works before you can do anything else, so let’s start here. If you find this too confusing you should first go read my explanation on how astrology works, and then return to this article.

Whichever zodiac sign is rising in the east becomes the “first house.” The next sign is the second house, and so forth. So, if you have Aries rising, then Aries is the first house. The next sign, Taurus is the second house. Gemini is the third house, etc. If Cancer, instead, is rising then Cancer is the first house, Leo the second, Virgo the third, and so on. This is how the “whole-sign house” system works. If you use this simple system with the accurate sidereal zodiac, it works.

The zodiac signs are places owned by planets – just like people own land on which they build a house. Each sign has a specific owner. You should already know this, but here it is anyway:

Ownership of the Signs
Moon & Sun

Let’s say Cancer is the first house. The Moon would therefore be the owner of the first house – the “lord” of the first house – because the Moon owns Cancer. If instead Leo were the first house, then the owner of Leo – the Sun – would own the first house. If Capricorn were rising, Saturn would own the first house. The second house would be Aquarius, so Saturn would also own that house. Jupiter would own the third, Pisces. Mars the fourth, Aries, etc.

This is how you figure out which planet is the lord of which house. It is fundamentally important to know which planet owns which houses. For understanding the results of a house in a chart, the owner of that house is as important as the house itself!

Types of Houses

There are 2 types of houses: “good” and “bad”. Good really means “abundant” and bad means “scarce.” A good house is abundant, so planets living in such houses get supported and pampered. A bad house has scarcity. Planets in bad houses have to work and embrace deeper principles to be happy.

The good houses are the “triangles” and “square corners” of the sky. The triangles are houses 1, 5 and 9. The square corners are houses 1, 4, 7, and 10. (Yes, the first house is both a triangle and a square corner. It is the most important house in the horoscope.)

Altogether there are 6 “good houses”: 1, 4, 5, 7, 9, and 10. In the rest of the article, whenever I say “good house” I am talking about these.

The other 6 houses are bad houses. Three of them are OK, though. The three that are really “bad” are 6, 8, and 12. Whenever I say “bad house” I am talking about these. If you want to know why these are “bad” or “scarce” houses you can just contemplate my description of the 12 Houses.

Benefics & Malefics

“Good” and “bad” are not perfect synonyms for benefic and malefic. Understand that benefics are gentle and malefics are harsh. Gentle things are more pleasant, so they feel “benefic” or “good” on the surface – but harsh things are also important and have good, important roles in our lives, even though they feel difficult, bad and “malefic” on the surface. If you want to explore this in a little more detail you can read my article on Male vs. Female / Malefic vs. Benefic.

With that out of the way here are the benefic and malefic planets.

Benefics & Malefics
Benefics Malefics
Venus Mars
Jupiter Saturn
Mercury Sun
Bright Moon Dark Moon

It is really quite important to note that not all benefics or malefics are equal in strength, so please pay attention to the order I listed them in. Those closer to the top of the list are more strongly benefic or malefic, those closer to the bottom are more mild and neutral. There are two planets not included here – the lunar nodes: Rahu and Ketu. These planets are huge wildcards more than they are specifically “benefic” or “malefic.”They will significantly amplify the benefic or malefic nature of whatever they planet they contact in a chart.

Another important bit of background information to grapple with for a novice is the idea that planets get in different moods depending on what houses they own. So you can have a benefic in a really “bad mood” if they own difficult houses in the chart. Visa versa, you can have a malefic in a very “good mood”. For example when Capricorn rises, Jupiter owns a “bad house” (the 12th), and this puts him in a “bad mood”. Jupiter is always a gentle and benefic planet, but for some rising signs he is in better moods then others.

I am going to give you a practical example of how to apply all this info later on in this article.

How to Interpret a House

Every house governs a subject area. For example, the first house specifically governs the tangible things in life, including one’s body, strength, and level of material success. When reading a horoscope you start by getting a general feeling of how positive or negative a house is – so that you can start to interpret how positively or negatively the topics of that house will manifest.

When a house is very “positive” it will be an important part of your life – an important source of things that come more easily and amply to you. When a house is very “negative” it will also be an important part of your life – an important source of things you will work on and strive to improve and understand in your lifetime. The more bland a house is, being neither positive nor negative, the less important it is in your life.

Here is how to determine the basic positivity or negativity of a house:

Positive Factors

  1. Does the house lord occupy a good house?
  2. Does the house lord occupy good sign(s), etc?
  3. Do benefics influence the house?
  4. Do benefics influence the house lord?

Negative Factors

  1. Does the house lord occupy a bad house?
  2. Does the house lord occupy bad sign(s), etc?
  3. Do malefics influence the house?
  4. Do malefics influence the house lord?

Does the House Lord Occupy a Good or a Bad House?

This one is mercifully simple. Lets say Pisces is rising. So the lord of the first house is Jupiter. If Jupiter is in a good house, this is a positive factor. It means the First House will be positive – you will have a good body and good material success.If on the other hand Jupiter is in a bad house, it is a negative indication – you will not be so pretty or sound in body and will lack in material success.

If you think you can stop there, you are nuts. You are just beginning to begin to understand the horoscope. Keep that in mind. But this first step does give you the first overall vision of the positivity or negativity of the house.

You can also take notice of the specific house involved. Lets say Pisces rises, and Jupiter is in the 7th House – this indicates that the first house is positive (because the 7th house is one of the “good places”) and also indicates that the goodness of the First House is connected fundamentally to the nature of the 7th House – which is all about the ability to relate with other people and form relationships. So in this case you can interpret that the person will have material success and physical happiness as a result of their ability to interact with other people and form good, healthy relationships.

Does the House Lord Occupy Good or Bad Sign(s), etc?

For this you have to learn which signs cause exaltation, debilitation, etc. for each planet. Here is a quick table of the two greatest extremes:

Exaltation & Debilitation
Exaltation Debilitation

If the lord of the house is in exaltation, or in a sign he owns, it is positive. For example, lets say Aries rises. That means Mars is the lord of the first house. If Mars is in Capricorn (exalted) or in one of the signs he owns (Aries or Scorpio) it is a positive indication for the first house.

If the lord is in debilitation, or in the sign of a planet who is his enemy – it is negative. You need to know about planetary friendship and enmity, of course, before you can figure out if a planet is in the house of a friend or an enemy.

I use the word “sign(s)” with a parenthetical “s”… why? Because a planet is in more than one sign! The space within a single sign contains many subdivisions where other signs are prominent within it. To learn more about this, start with my article on variations within a single sign. Luckily, the main sign in the normal zodiac is the most important. You should also at least also consider the sign the planet occupies in the navamsha subdivision when you are assessing if the sign occupied by the lord of a house is positive or negative for that house.

I also use the word “etc”. That is because there are other considerations that fall into this general principle. Combustion of a house lord is a negative indication, for example – as is placement in certain degrees of a sign (“baalaadi avastha”). It is a bit beyond the scope of what we can immediately teach and learn, though.

Do Benefics or Malefics Influence the House and House Lord?

First thing you have to ask yourself is, how does one planet influence another? Primarily by:

  • One planet joining another in the same sign
  • One planet aspecting another

As far as aspects go, to put it really simply and quickly, every planet influences the sign it is opposite from. For example, any planet in Aries will influence Libra – because Libra is opposite (“7 signs” away from) Aries. Three other planets have additional aspects.

  • Mars also influences the 4th and 8th signs from it. So Mars in Aries, for example, influences Libra (like normal) and also Cancer (the 4th sign from Aries) and Scorpio (the 8th sign from Aries).
  • Jupiter also influences the 5th and 9th signs from it. For example, Jupiter in Aries influences Libra (of course) as well as Leo (the 5th sign from Aries) and Sagittarius (the 9th sign from Aries).
  • Saturn also influences the 3rd and 10th signs from it. So if Saturn were in Aries, he would influence Libra, Gemini and Capricorn.

There is a very important rule: The lord of a house is never going to be negative towards that house. For example, lets say Aquarius rises. Saturn would therefore rule the first house. Saturn is a malefic, yes. But when you are assessing the first house, if you see that Saturn influences it, you must not think of Saturn as a negative influence, because he is the owner of the house. The owner of a house will never intentionally damage that house. So whenever the owner of a house interacts with that house, it is always a positive indication – regardless if the planet is benefic or malefic, etc.

Positive + Negative = Neutral?

Never, ever make the mistake of thinking that a house with 3 positive factors (for example) and 3 negative factors is a house with 0 total factors! Positive and negative do not cancel each other out in astrology. Rather a house with both positive and negative factors is going to have some positive effects and some negative effects. To know which effects will be positive and which will be negative you need to advance further in your study of astrology and know how the various planets and signs and combinations involved will affects different themes of the house under evaluation. That is out of the scope of this article. We need to stick to the basics, one step at a time.

The Moon’s Houses

After you have evaluated a house the normal way, you should repeat the exact same process on the house in relation to the Moon. Lets say for example you want to evaluate the fifth house of a chart where Pisces rises and the Moon is in Aquarius. The 5th sign from Pisces is… (Aries is 2, Taurus 3, Gemini 4, Cancer 5) …Cancer, so you do this whole system on Cancer, like I just described. Then, when you are done, you examine the 5th House from the Moon. In this case the Moon is in Aquarius, so the fifth house from the moon is… (Pisces is 2, Aries 3, Taurus 4, Gemini 5) …Gemini. So you repeat the process now focusing on Gemini.

Now I hope to clarify and unify all this information with a practical example.

Simple Example

Let’s evaluate the first house of this example chart using the principles of this article.

The first house is Capricorn. So Saturn is the lord of the first house.

Does Saturn occupy a good or a bad house?

Saturn occupies the 4th House, which is one of the good ones. So far so good! You can interpret this to mean that much of the person’s physical good fortune and material success must come from his basic emotional nature (the 4th House).

Is Saturn in a good or bad sign?

Saturn is in Aries, which means he is debilitated, so this is bad. Now, you would want to look next at the person’s navamsha, and you would also want to check how much modification (“cancellation”) of debilitation there might be. But let’s stay simple for now. The first lord is debilitated, period. So we can interpret this to mean that the first house suffers as a result of Saturn being debilitated in Aries. This means: the person experiences practical unhappiness and lack of material success due to his lack of patience and prudence.

Do malefics or benefics influence Saturn?

The most obvious influence on Saturn is Jupiter, who aspects Saturn in Aries because he is in the opposite sign, Libra. Jupiter is a benefic. No other planets directly influence Saturn. So we have another positive indication for the first house of this chart because a benefic and no malefics influence the lord of the first house.

What does it mean? It means this person will experience happiness and success as a result of things pertaining to Jupiter, and Jupiter’s location in Libra and the 10th House. So for example he will be very happy and successful in religious, philosophical, or counseling (Jupiter) social roles (10th House) which involve the ability to relate well to the common person (Libra). You could also say that his sense of truthfulness and equity (Jupiter in Libra) is a very positive factor by which he can achieve success and happiness in life.

If you want to consider Jupiter’s mood… Jupiter is not in the best mood because he owns a bad house (the 12th). So this person loses happiness and material success as a result of being overly renounced (Jupiter is a religious planet, his ownership of the 12th promotes renunciation). In fact this person lost a fantastic opportunity for huge success and fame as a result of becoming a religious renunciate.

If you put the whole thing together, though you see the planet of sound (Jupiter) owning the house of communication (3rd House) as a basically positive influence, and you start to think the the person must be involved in music or in oration as a powerful speaker.

Do malefics or benefics influence the first house?

Three planets influence the first house in this chart: Mars and the Sun do because they are 7 signs away in Cancer. And Saturn also influences the first house as a result of his influence on the 10th sign from himself.

You might be tempted to say that Saturn is a malefic, but Saturn is the lord of the house we are examining, so his influence on the house is never negative. Thus the physical being of this person, and his material success benefits as a result of his Saturnian qualities: like detachment, tenacity, work ethic, etc.

The Sun is a mild malefic, so there is a mild negativity about this. You can say that the native mildly loses happiness and success as a result of being somewhat too intense or assuming a bit too much authority.

Mars is the strongest malefic, so this person really loses material happiness and successes as a result of lacking (because Mars is debilitated in this chart) martial qualities such as a competitive spirit, a strong material drive, and a will to fight.

The same house from the Moon

This is the same chart viewed from the Moon’s perspective instead of the Ascendant’s perspective. The first house from this perspective is Taurus, which belongs to Venus.

Does Venus occupy a good or a bad house?

Venus occupies the 4th House from the Moon. This is good. Again we feel that this person should enjoy happiness and success as a result of his basic inner, emotional makeup.

Is Venus in a good or a bad sign?

She is in Leo, the sign of her enemy, the Sun. But the Sun is close by so their relationship improves and becomes neutral. This is a null point. There is nothing to interpret from it, basically.

Do benefics or malefics influence Venus?

Venus shares Leo with a mild benefic, Mercury. This means that the persons ability to organize and intellectualize and communicate is a mild factor promoting material happiness and success. She also shares her sign with Ketu – a wildcard. Since Ketu is with two benefics, it amplifies the benefic power. So you should interpret that the person’s mystical insight (ketu) into emotional topics (4th House) is big factor in promoting his material happiness and success.

When there is more than one influence, you should combine them. The combination of these planets, sign and house show that the person’s material happiness and success benefits a lot as a result of poetic, artistic ability to connect with emotions on a mystical and spiritual level.

Do benefics or malefics influence the house?

The only influence on Taurus, the first house of the Moon, is the Moon. Of course, this will always be the case – because by definition the “first house from the Moon” is the sign occupied by the Moon. But in this case it is worth noting because the Moon is exalted. The Moon and the 4th House have a lot in common, so this further strengthens your interpretation that the power of emotional expression, etc. is a major factor of this person achieving happiness and success in their life.


What I explained in this article was developed in very ancient India. It was recorded in Sanskrit in “Parashara’s Encyclopedic Treatise on Astrology.” This article explains the last few verses of the 13th chapter and first few verses of the 14th chapter of that great and ancient tome.

If you think this is complicated, you should hear the insane complexity of the way seasoned astrologers talk to one another. I actually think that most astrologers drift off into complicated topics because they haven’t clearly understood basic principles. This article may be advanced or difficult for a non-astrologer to understand. But from an astrologer’s point of view it is very, very fundamental and basic. Yet this so-called “basic” principle and technique yields profoundly solid and accurate interpretations. If you follow this simple and basic principle clearly and carefully, not just on the first house but on each of the 12 houses, you will be able to make sense out of the houses and arrive at interpretations of a horoscope which are both useful and accurate. By focusing on mastering such fundamental techniques (insofar as mastery of this subject is possible) one can actually become a good astrologer.

– Vic DiCara

© 2010 Vic DiCara, all rights reserved

7 thoughts on “How to Use the 12 Houses

  1. Good analysis – But In Case of a Yoga karaka planet say saturn ( malefic by nature) for Libra if will its aspects be considered benefic or malefic aspect

  2. Hi Vic,

    Read in ur article”s” that “If the lord is in debilitation, or in the sign of a planet who is his enemy – it is negative” and its comfortable in friend’s house (apart from his own). A query – Lets say, for example, Saturn is in Mercury’s house and that too conjunct with Mercury…now Saturn treats Mercury as friend whereas Mercury treats Saturn as neutral…So how will saturn behave in & effect Mercury’s house and how will the same effect Saturn’s own houses. Please reply whenever convenient


  3. Vic – Thanks for the note highlighting its is never black and white – but it is not clear how do we interpret for the apsects of yogakarka planet like saturn (Malefic by original nature) in say Libra ascendant for its placement and aspects to 3 , 7 and 10 to analyze a house and its aspects

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