In Shamanic Astrology, we see the Birth Chart as a Mandala, drawing all elements of Life and Psyche toward the Center. The Center is the Temple we find ourselves in when we meditate on the Chart.
The Mandala reminds us also of the Journey around the Circle, which is where the Experience and Explorations occur. Without such creative activity, there could be little to draw towards the Center.
So the Mandala is a mystical symbol of the Philosophy of Going Out and Returning, and the Wheel is not, therefore, a burden, but a gift.
The Circle and the Cross
The birth chart is divided horizontally by the equator or Ascendant-Descendant Axis, and vertically by the Midheaven-Nadir Axis. These divisions make it that most ancient of symbols – the Circle enclosing a Cross which divides it into the four sacred quadrants.
The cross inside a circle is said to symbolize the Self (as Ego and Personality) in the crucible of matter, time and space, journeying through the mystical cycles of life, death and rebirth. The Soul – in the form of the Higher Self, stands at the Centre of the Mandala, exchanging energy with the Ego/Self as it moves through the four quadrants.
As the Wheel turns, the Higher Self distills and integrates the fruits of each phase through which the Ego passes. This whole process is enfolded within an even larger version of the Higher Self – the Soul. Thus as it moves through life experience, the Ego receives sustenance and illumination from the Higher Self which, in turn, is the point of Light emanating from the Soul.
What follows is a delineation of the twelve houses and their life themes understood through the lens of a planet and the Sign it is said to “rule”…
We first divide the chart, however, into the Four Quadrants, each of which contains 3 smaller divisions – the houses – so as to make up the 12 Houses of the birth chart. Depending on the signs your planets were “in” at the hour of your birth, they will “fall” or be placed into one of the 12 houses, and this means in one of the Four Quadrants.
A quick glance at a chart can tell us which areas of life are going to be emphasized by which of the houses and, in particular, Four Quadrants, contain the most planets, especially “personal planets like the Sun, Moon, Mercury and Mars. Jupiter’s placement suggests education, wealth and travel, but Jupiter’s actual manifestation in one’s life will be very influenced by which of the 12 houses, and which Quadrant, Jupiter falls in.
We use the Natural Zodiac, shown here, as the Astrologer’s Rosetta Stone or Key…Each house has its “natural” Sign and Planet (some say this is the Birth Chart of the Planet Earth with the Aries of Spring Equinox Rising)…
It is the this Key which I expand on, below. The Natural Zodiac is usually seen as depicting the keys of meaning to each house, but is also seen as portraying a mystical “Twelve-House Cycle” in which a gradual process of illumination, transformation, and integration is taking place. The self- transformation through consciousness exploring time and space makes this Cycle truly Shamanic in nature.
We glimpse another Shamanic dimension to the Astrology in the possibility that we are in actual “dialogue” with the solar system’s bodies, as well as with Mother Earth, throughout our Journey. In other words, we are part of a conscious, breathing, living biosphere of which the planets, with their bodies and their consciousness, and human beings, with our bodies and consciousness, all belong.
To this picture we may add idea of reincarnation and karma as the Wheel of learning through cause and effect, through saying “I’ve looked at both sides now”. This is the cosmic principle of the unity of opposites which underlies our attention to the opposite/pairings of signs and houses, as well as other keys.
Fascinatingly, each of the planets has long been associated with different dimensions and “grades” of learning as we progress through our different lifetimes. In other words, Astrology introduces us to a large philosophical perspective on our lives.
It is not surprising that Astrology was revered and studied not only by the ancient world but by senior figures in the Catholic Church through the centuries, and secretly studied after it was officially forbidden.
No wonder, then, that formal religions frown on, and forbid the study of, Astrology – for it carries a hidden set of teachings which open us up to life on earth and to our connections with the heavens, quite literally, above.
Reading the Twelve-House Cycle of the Birth Chart from the perspective of many lifetimes can help us see why we might have finances, children and the world of everyday affairs very much emphasized (in terms of planets in certain Quadrants and Houses) in our chart. Another person might have a remarkable focus of planetary energy on travel, writing, education and publishing; and still another seem to be sailing – and getting lost – in the stormy seas of love, romance and friendship issues.
Many lifetimes helps explain the birth chart’s sense of movement and levels of complexity as a spiritual journey, though within each lifetime, the smaller Twelve-House Cycle unfolds as well from birth, through midlife and into old age.
No one can say for certain how the birth chart fits into the larger cycle of lifetimes, though some suggest that we move from one Sign to the next, and if so, I think the key here is when we arrive at a place where we have most of our personal planets in the same Sign as the Sun – a kind of deep Soul/Personality Alignment is taking place.
Some Astrologers have tried to relate the Sun Sign to the Ascendant Sign (demarcates the beginning of the First House) in terms of reincarnations and Soul/Personality relationship. This is a possible approach, but not yet more than a hypothesis…
And House systems do vary, so that one’s planets may appear in different Houses depending on the system your astrologer or you decide to use. Currently the Equal House and Placidus are among the most popular. Sometimes changing the House system can cause your birth chart to suddenly seem to “fit” and if so, that is the system one should switch to.
As we begin our study of the Natural Zodiac and Twelve-House Cycle we keep in mind that our Soul Energy enters the chart from horizon on the left of the circle in the East (imagine the bottom of the circle is the North, and you are looking down.
Streaming into the First House at the hour of your birth, this energy travels counter-clockwise, crossing the IM (lowest point) in the 4th house, travelling up across the Descendant in the 7th house, across the top of the chart passing through the MC (highest point) and down into the Twelfth House, where the mystical death of the Ego undergoes a mystical transformation in a death that is union with the Soul.
The First Quadrant * A New Beginning
The First Quadrant introduces you to life, once again, on Earth. Here is the Morning House, the dawn of self-awareness, recognition of a new Ego phase, a new birth, and a new physical body. The Houses in this quadrant are all about You.
In the First House, we find the Ascendant, sometimes called the Rising Sign. The Ascendant Sign represents the Ego – the Small Self developing through “Personality” – and the Sun Sign represents the Larger Self, or Soul – the Center of the Mandala drawing all our experiences and their meanings together. In the Natural Zodiac, the Sign on the First House is Aries, whose ruler is Mars, so here we have the primal instincts of the child, who comes into the world with a drive to survive, and to find a place for him, or herself, in the new physical environment.
The Ego and Self are natural partners in each journey through a 12-house cycle.
First House * I Am Born, I Am Aware, I Have a Body! (Aries – Mars) Fire House (Identity)
Second House * My Possessions, Values, Natural Abilities (Taurus – Venus) Earth House (Grounding)
Third House * My Mind, Neighbourhood, Siblings, First Schools (Gemini – Mercury) Air House (Mind)
So the First Quadrant of the 12-House Cycle represents the physical entity – You – coming into awareness of physical life, the need to sustain that life, and the enlarging environment from which to draw the resources need for that purpose.
Second Quadrant * The Self Emerges From Home Foundations Into A New World
In the Second Quadrant, an intense set of experiences occurs in the development of the Self. Here, we become of aware of an expanding identity – first in the awareness of the negative and positive bonds of Family, then in our bursts of adolescent creativity, dreaming and sexual awareness, and finally as we enter adulthood, the world of Work, where we express our growing identity in the larger environment of the working world.
Fourth House * Responsible Awareness of My Family and Roots, Karmic Endings Prefigured Here (Cancer – Moon) * Water House – Karma of family carried in genes and chakras. Karmic House.
Fifth House * Beginning My Own Creative Projects – Children of Body and Spirit – Loves – Adventures (Leo – Sun) * Fire House. (Is thought of as a Karmic House in Hindu Astrology, perhaps because one’s children are seen as a pathway through which karma enters one’s life!)
Sixth House – Establishing My Mundane World of Work, Health, Worldly Goals and Practical Service (Virgo – Mercury) Earth House – Spiritual Essence may be “Holding the Self Accountable”..
In the Second Quadrant there is the dawning of an enlarged awareness of Self. In the 4th house comes recognition of the family, and your role within it, your inability to separate your identity from your Family. Then, in the 5th house, you forge your own identity as a creative being, and this house rules children of the body and spirit, along with all artistic and creative adventures. Risks are here, as it is the beginning of the end of the familiar, though this may not yet be understood.
In the 6th house, the process is completed in the often frustrating attempts to find a working identity in the community, as you take responsibility now for your physical self and also discover abilities within to offer the community that you had not known were there.
Here, in the 6th house, you may encounter your old fears, insecurities and feelings of inferiority, as this is also the ancient house of slavery, servants and humble service. It is not till the 10th house that a larger vision of the self comes into view, and this may haunt one, in a life where the 6th house will come before success and name-in-lights recognition in the 10th house…
Third Quadrant * Mysteries of Culture and Power In A Shared World
As we step into the 7th House we make our move to the first house of the upper half of the Circle. Now comes the expansion of Self in the awareness of Other, where I Am changes to We Are. This is the part of the Journey where we discover a whole new Self, and the alchemy of union, the power of secrets, sex and knowledge…
In these three houses we leave behind the simple world of early childhood and early adulthood – these were the foundation, and will be truly tested in the World.
Here we start taking on personal commitments which literally force the growing Self in a web of interconnectedness. Though still focused on material concerns, the stakes are higher and we discover relationships – in marriage, occult knowledge and the mysteries of all union to be the source of wealth, knowledge and power. We become aware of the geography of Time and Space in the history of the planet Earth – we experience, whether we know it or not, our karmic roots beyond the Fourth House…
Seventh House * We Are, We Commit, we Contract, We Share (Libra – Venus) Opening to the World – Vulnerability – Our Opponents, from this and other lives appear. Air House.
Eighth House – We Own, We Create, We Have Power (Scorpio – Pluto) * Water House – Karma of Groups, Nations, Sex, Money and Power. Earth House. Karmic House.
Ninth House * We Know, Teach, Explore (Sagittarius – Jupiter) In the Seventh and Eighth Houses we explored the magical alchemy of Union of various kinds, whether in business and marriage, or with the more extreme, power-based unions of sex, money and the experiences of death. In the Ninth House, we continue our explorations, but move into the somewhat less dense atmosphere of the broad expanse of higher philosophy, religious messages, and concern for the education and thus evolution of the human race.
We are beginning to lose the Ego, once again, but coming out of the hidden depths of the Eighth House or private transformations of marriage and partnership. This time we are starting to lose the Self to visions beyond our own intense personality experiences. Here, we return to the themes of education in our childhood, but no longer by rote, this time fuelled by curiosity and an emerging sense of responsibility as caretakers of our own human race. Fire House.
The Third Quadrant carries with it dangers. Here we encounter the power of groups and clans beyond our own borders of self and family. In the 7th house old enemies and thus old karma may lurk, holding us to old contracts we need to get out of, or seducing us, craving our power for themselves.
In the 8th house, our ancient involvement with powerful group identities can come back to haunt us, as we struggle to review the energies from outside these entities: military, mob, banking elites, secret societies, CIA and other secret services. Here too, we meet the primal tests of managing energy – in sex, including all that is “taboo”, and money – creating it, sharing it, using it, losing it, “starting from nothing”….
In the 9th house, we emerge into higher realms, seeking philosophy and wide learning about spiritual matters from all the world’s cultures and religions. We leave 7th house single-contracts and 8th house group entanglements behind for our first steps on the contemplative road of higher learning, and may connect with university studies or travel to foreign lands. (Think Eat, Pray, Love!)
The Fourth Quadrant * Embracing and Surrendering the World
This is the Ego’s final great push to bloom, as connections with the Soul deepen. In the 10th, 11th, and 12th Houses we reach the heights of our ability to accomplish in the World, to be seen and recognized for our gifts and unique Selves.
Yet paradoxically, this draws us beyond personal (Ego) self to a worldly, responsible Self (10th House), widening the vision in the 11th house to Humanity as one world, one family, beyond national and other boundaries.
Finally, the Self will meet the Soul as it discovers its vast hidden potential in the 12 house of Dreaming the World.
As we move through this last Fourth Quadrant, we step out of the glare of one’s name in lights to the dark peace of solitude, sometimes imposed, always surprising. We find ourselves in the Balsamic Moon phase of our life – or set of lives. As we hold the World in our hands, we reach out to give it back, all of it, and let it go with joy…Here we find union with the Soul in an infinite variety of mystical death experiences.
Tenth House * We Bring Form and Shape to Civilization, We Govern, We Judge (Capricorn – Saturn) Earth House.
Eleventh House * We Connect Globally, We Teach, We Transform (Aquarius – Uranus and Saturn) Air House.
Twelfth House * We Withdraw, We are in Prison/Isolation, We Dream, We Die, We Are One (Pisces – Neptune) Water House – Spiritual Karma and Past Life Recall, Spiritual Weaving of Threads…Water House. Karmic House.
In the Fourth Quadrant, the Self goes beyond the quest for love, power and knowledge for self, and rises to take responsibility for the World.
The 10th house focus on government and structure in society suggests authority and responsibility – both take courage. This house is deceptive – finding ultimate recognition in worldly terms requires the Capricorn/Saturn energies, and these are extremely demanding in terms of mastering form and structure as part of worldly success…as one discovers in trying to forge a major career, or professional identity, as opposed to simply taking a job.
In the 11th house, we survey the masses – mankind spread over the earth – the general condition of Humanity viewed in terms of our ability to make a contribution. This is often when the extraordinary accomplishments of the 10th house are converted to public service and volunteer work in grass-roots communities. Political activism and ideals of one’s youth may return.
One may well wish to give up all of the “success” structures – marriage and career for example – of the previous years, in order to foster the growing awareness that Soul work must be the focus of the Ego.
In the 12th house, these altruistic developments come to fruition and we reach a time when Soul is all that matters. One turns to the Soul for its unique perspective and gifts in transforming Ego, and yet a new sense of loving the whole World is born. It is the mystical dimensions of the World now, the DreamTime.
We explore these new realms as we once explored the cities and religions and grass-roots movements of the everyday world.
Here is where we Dream ourselves and the World, pouring out in Mind and Spirit our shamanic willingness to journey and to “die to the world” – we may embrace a form of martyrdom and struggle to understand what is happening to ourselves.
The worldly Ego begins to die, and realizes, at last, that it is willing to do so. The 12th house is the mystic’s grove, the prisoner’s cell, the hermit’s cave, the hospice of the terminal patient, the Shaman’s portal to other worlds. It is the Bridge across Forever, the last Road on the Journey, the one that takes us Home.
© Carol Leigh Rice 2022