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Updated and Revised June 1, 2016

Choosing an Astrological House System

Once upon a time I received the following email:

Subject: Koch vs Placidus

Dear Dr. Z,

I know as a Scorpio, you must have a logical or scientific reason for your choice of house system. As a student I'm interested. Could you point me toward materials that I could learn from?

Best Regards, Jon

Rolling my penetrating, mesmerizing Scorpio Sun Sign eyes... I shared Jon's earnest missive with my Virgo Rising "Significant Other (S.O.)." I did this so that she, too, could have a good chuckle over Jon's unwavering faith in my investigatory Scorpio Sun.

Ever true to pompous, pontificating Jupiter located on my Gemini Ascendant... I then went on to enthrall (torture) my "S.O." by expounding upon a few of my rationales for having chosen the modern Koch House System.

Finally - after finishing my magnificent discourse - my long-suffering, ever helpful, Virgo Rising "S.O." patiently responded: "See there... you do have some very distinct reasons that you could share with Jon."

My S.O. has her moments... and she certainly has a way of pricking a pin in my puffed up ego, bringing me back down to earth, and then ever so gently, deftly grounding me... ugh...

I'd Rather Be Nibbled To Death By Geese
Most of the current articles out there on this subject appear to be relatively accurate as to details... so, yep, the reality is that my Gemini Ascendant would rather be nibbled to death by geese than to sit down and attempt to reinvent the wheel in this article... boring...

Anyway... my best suggestion for Jon (and you) is to do an internet search for:

choosing house system astrology

You'll be able to read up on many of the various house systems... such as the always popular Placidus (rumored to be as old as 13th Century but first verified confirmation in 17th Century), Equal (pick your own date), Porphyry (2nd or 3rd Century), Campanus (11th Century or earlier), Koch (20th Century in the 1960s), Regiomontanus (15th Century), Alcabitius (sometime between the 1st and 5th Century), and more... and you'll be able to read up on their various (fascinating) theoretical rationales as to calculation.

(ACS Publications booklet has what's likely the best treatment of the subject, but be prepared to fork out a few bucks.)

Confessions of a Woolly-minded Archetypal Astrologer
Which house system should you use? Which house system is the (mythical) best house system?

Due to having previously moderated an active internet astrology forum for 7 years, I realize only too well what a burning question this can be for folks relatively new to the study of astrology. For that matter, it can be a highly heated (ie sometimes downright nasty and rancorous) topic for those folks that have been around for a while.

Note: According to astrologer Hank Friedman, many years ago - during a gathering of Canadian astrologers - an actual fist fight broke out over which house system was the most accurate house system. (It's hard to imagine a bunch of Canadians fighting over anything other than hockey.)

On With The Confession of a Heretic
As much as I hate to admit it... I'm much too predictable. A good part (not all) of why I use the Koch house system (as opposed to Placidus or Equal) is (probably) because Koch was the original house system I was introduced to.

Yep! The very first paid birth chart and birth chart reading I received utilized the Koch House System.

Note: Curiously, in hindsight, I have to wonder if my introduction to Koch was nothing more than a "fortunate error" due to my still "wet behind the ears" astrologer, Veronica, having not yet fully mastered her knowledge of astrological software. You see... I distinctly remember her telling me that she utilized the Equal House System. And take my word for it... it's a wee bit difficult to ever confuse the Koch House System with the Equal House System. (She was also adamant that I, with Gemini on the Ascendant, was Cancer Rising.) In retrospect... I was probably due a substantial discount...

Also, at a time when I started to further and dig deeper into my astrological studies, the more modern Koch house system (although Placidus was then and now clearly King of the Mountain) appeared to be rapidly gaining a wider acceptance amongst many of my more prominent peers.

My own personal favorite astrological writer, at that time and still today, Stephen Arroyo, primarily used (during that time) Koch. It also appeared that the honorary grand-dad of astrological software, Rob Hand, was (during that time) primarily utilizing the Koch House System.

Fortunately, my Texas mentor at the time, Penny, with an extraordinary expertise in working with Solar Arcs and midpoints, never made the mistake of shoehorning a particular house system on me. She was wise (and patient) beyond her years.

External vs Internal - Maybe
Scuttlebutt, at the time, was that the Koch house System tended to work better on an "external" level and (among other things) was generally considered to be better for predictive and practical purposes, while Placidus was primarily "internal" and "psychological" in nature.

I find it more than a little amusing that nowadays, reading current material on the subject, some of the more prominent and staunch advocates of Koch now put forth the belief that Koch is more "psychological" in nature and Placidus is more "external."

Anyway... at the time, while choosing to hang in there with Koch, I nevertheless experimented around with (primarily) Placidus, Campanus, Equal, and Porphyry.

In the spirit of full disclosure... with my being Oppositionally Defiant toward most all authority and conventionality, the Placidus house system probably never had a fighting chance. I eventually came to the less than scientific decision that for most purposes I still liked and did my best work using Koch.

Note: It may surprise you to know that little used Porphyry and Campanus (endorsed by the likes of Dane Rudhyar and Gret Baumann-Jung) are tied for second favorite. And when doing Horary charts I go with 15th Regiomontanus. Also, the much more ancient Alcabitius house system is generally very similiar to the Koch house system.

Why Is Placidus King of the Mountain?
Placidus is still the ruling monarch of the astrological house systems, because old habits die hard. During the 19th Century - and much of the 20 Century - Placidus was the only house system that was easily accessible to rank and file astrologers. This easy availability of the Placidus house system was via the well-circulated and popular Raphael's Ephemeris.

It's only been since the late 1970s - and the advent of astrological software - that rank and file astrologers began having the ability and option to make relatively pain-free comparisons between the differing house systems. And it's obvious that we now have way too much time on our hands...

So... whether or not they can bring themselves to admit it... most astrologers, like me, tend to go with what they were first introduced to. Most folks (even today) are first introduced to Placidus.

Bottom Line - I'm an Unabashed Heretic
My best heretical advice is try not to get too worked up about the whole thing, as it's certainly not worth coming to fisticuffs over... and then treat the 8 non-angular house cusps as nothing more than (imprecise) rule of thumb guideposts.

Truth be known... it's the 4 angles of the chart (Ascendant, IC, Descendant, and Midheaven) serving - in most house systems - as the cusps of the 1st, 4th, 7th and 10th houses that you can reliably count on and should be focusing on.

Whether one is considering interpretation of the birth chart or looking at the birth chart for predictive purposes, it's inevitably going to be the planets located on (or passing over) the 4 angles of the chart (Ascendant, IC, Descendant, and Midheaven) that are of the greatest import.

Home > Basics > Choosing House System

If all of this is way beyond you, go here for Dr Z's take on what the 12 houses of the birth chart represent.

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