Sunday, December 6, 2009

What is the Seventh House?

"Lords of the Seventh House" is the title of this blog. It may also end up being the title of the series of romances I will be publishing with Avon. The words have a nice ring to them. Everyone loves a lord, and the phrase, "The Seventh House," has an archetypal feel. But what does "Lords of the Seventh House" actually mean?

The phrase is one that comes from traditional astrology, which is the kind of astrology the heroine of my first book, Eliza Farrell, uses. Eliza is a descendant of William Lilly, England's most famous astrologer, so she naturally draws heavily on the techniques and terminology described in his landmark book, Christian Astrology. Christian Astrology was first published in 1647 and has remained in print ever since.

The term "House" as it is applied to a chart goes back to the ancient Greeks. It is the term used to describe each of the twelve segments into which the astrological chart divides the sky. Houses Seven through Twelve represent the portion of the sky that is above the horizon at the time and place for which a chart is cast.

The Seventh House itself represents the section of the sky that is closest to the western horizon--the place where the sun, moon and planets set.

Charts can be drawn up to investigate the nature of anything that can be defined with a place or a time. When a chart is drawn up for a person using that person's time and place of birth, each house on the birth chart describes how specific areas of the person's personality and life experience will play out.

The First House on our charts, for example, describes the way we assert ourselves in the world as well as the personality we show the world--a personality that may be harmonious with, or greatly at odds with, how we feel inside depending on other planetary placements.

The Second House describes our relationship with our material obsessions and more broadly what kinds of things we value. The Third House describes how we communicate with our immediate environment and those in it, including the siblings whose presence or absence in our immediate environment is so decisive in early life.

The Seventh House is where we look to find out information about the people with whom we form important, long-lasting connections. The Seventh House has become known as the House of Marriage because for most of us marriage is the most important partnership we will ever form.

But it's worth pointing out that the Seventh House is emphatically not the house of Love. The brief fling falls into the purview of the Fifth House, which is traditionally associated with, among other things, play, gambling, and love affairs. Astrology knows that marriage is not always or even mostly about love but is, instead, about functioning together as a unit in the eyes of the world.

When planets are found in the portion of the sky mapped by a specific house they color how the affairs of that house will play out. If Mars is in the Seventh House of a birth chart, anyone with more than a passing acquaintance with astrological theory will expect that the person's marriage will be energetic, sexualized, self absorbed, perhaps, and prone to flare up in dramatic quarrels. A person with Mars in the Seventh House is likely to be attracted either to a partner who has a strong Mars on their natal chart, or who is experienced by the chart's owner as having Mars-like characteristics: a strong sense of self, impetuosity, a taste for combat.

But what if, as so often happens, there are no planets in the Seventh House? It is then that Traditional Western Astrology comes to our aid, because it interprets houses by looking at the planet that rules that house--its "Lord" in Lilly's parlance.

Finding the ruler of a house is easy. When a chart is drawn up, each a specific degree of a sign is placed on the cusp or boundary of every house in the chart. Each sign, in turn, is ruled by a specific planet. If you understand the strength and chart placement of that planet, you can learn a great deal about the house it rules--though this is a BIG "if."

If the planet that rules the house is in a sign where it expresses its energy easily and if it makes harmonious aspects to other planets, the affairs of the house will unfold effortlessly. If the planet is placed in a sign where its energies are hindered or if it makes harsh square aspects to other planets they will present challenges.

Traditional astrologers evaluate that planet's strength using a highly complex set of rules that have been passed down and elaborated on by astrologers starting back in the days of the ancient Romans.

I have been having a great time this past year delving into traditional astrological techniques that have once again become fashionable in modern astrology over the past decade,and applying them to the charts I study--including those of the protagonists in my novels. I've found these traditional techniques extremely helpful as I go about writing the second book in my series.

I use real charts for my protagonists--a process I'll describe in a future post. The lovers in my second novel turned out to be two people with Scorpio Suns because it is standard astrological belief that Scorpios are happiest mated with other Scorpios. When I came up with charts that fit them, both of the lovers turned out to have Seventh Houses packed with planets.

This sent me back to studying the traditional meaning of the Seventh House. One thing that emerged was that in traditional astrology, while the Seventh House is indeed the House of Marriage, it is also the house that describes a person's enemies.

A person with a strong Seventh House filled with conflicting planets like those of my protagonists has a choice. They can engage the important people in their lives as partners or they can turn them into enemies. Couple this insight with the naturally suspicious nature of the person with a Scorpio Sun and their tendency to keep their real self hidden, and the conflict described by my protagonists' packed Seventh Houses began to emerge.

Can they trust each other enough to become partners or will these two passionate Scorpios end up as enemies? That is the dynamic that is driving the storyline of my second novel.

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