Book review: The Houses Temples of the Sky

Deborah Houlding is a contemporary English astrologer specialized on traditional astrology. She published her only book, The Houses Temples of the Sky, in 1998 and revised it in 2006. If you want to find more about her you can visit her impressive website Skyscript.

In the Introduction the author writes about two theories about houses, used in modern astrology: one which equates signs with houses (Aries with the 1st house, Taurus with the 2nd house etc.), the other which presents houses like a psychological wheel. She sustains that those two conceptions are wrong and departs astrologers from the fundamental traditional meaning of houses. In the present book she wants to restore the traditional meaning of houses and the principles behind the houses symbolism, being convinced that:

“Herein lies the key to successful astrology: a confident and unambiguous application of its symbolism.”

In Chapter 1 – Introducing Houses: An Historical Overview the author explains when and where took place the first astrological observations . About the houses, this book’s subject, their first presence in an astrological chart is dated from the year 22 BC in Manilius Astronomica.

In Chapter 2 – The Angles: Significance of Egyptian Solar Philosophy the author presents the angles in relation with an Egyptian theory which sees the Sun in his daily cycle like a man in his life, marked by events like birth (represented by the Ascendant), maturity (MC), death (Descendant) and Underworld (IC). With this background image, Deborah Houlding depicts the characteristics for each angle: the Imum Caelum (IC) and 4th house shows our origin, family, home, ancestors, roots; the Ascendant and 1st house represents our life, appearance, basic character, health, will, vitality; the Midheaven and 10th house shows our social status, reputation, how we manifest in the public world; the Descendant and 7th house shows our opponents, partners, last years of life. The interpretations made to the four angles have some differences from the general modern view, for example: the Ascendant represents also the basic character and the Descendat, being the place where the Sun “dies”, has a much more bad reputation than nowadays, in modern astrology, symbolizing the final years of life, death, enemies. About the 4th house, I saw that signifies sometimes the father, sometimes the mother, generally the parents, but I agree more with the explanation given by Robert Hand who associates the 4th house with the “mothering process” in his book Essays on Astrology.

An interesting aspect is that after every house presentation there is a little box named The house association through history where are presented different views of the house from 6 sources: Manilius, Others (classical), Firmicus, Al-Biruni, Lilly and Modern.

Chapter 3 – Aspects & Gates: The 2nd/8th House Axis starts with the author attempt to convince astrologers to stop trying to demonstrate that all the houses are good and to accept that are good, favorable houses and bad, weak houses (traditional astrology principle). For example:

“The 8th house remains the house of death, loss and grief, no matter how pleasantly we wrap that up in digestible phrases such as personal – transformation.”

Generally, the bad houses (2, 6, 8, 12) are those which don’t make a major aspect with the Ascendant, which don’t see his light. She analyzes the second/eight house axis showing that the 8th house has no relation with sex or pregnancy, which belongs to the 5th house, and the 2nd house is not so favorable how is seen today because she has no aspect with the Ascendant.

Planetary Joys

In Chapter 4 – Planetary Joys: The 5th/11th House Axis the author writes about the planetary sect , a very important subject in traditional astrology, and presents the planetary “joys”. A planetary “joy” is the house where a planet rejoice, equivalent of the zodiac domicile for houses. The planetary joys are: Mercury in the 1st house, Moon in the 3rd house, Venus in the 5th house, Mars in the 6th house, Sun in the 9th house, Jupiter in the 11th house and Saturn in the 12th house. Then, Deborah Houlding presents the 5th and 11th houses in strong connection with the planets Venus and Jupiter, planets which rejoice there: the 5th house is the area of love, children, pleasure, games, pregnancy and the 11th house represents friends, hope, happiness, benefactors.

In Chapter 5 – The King and Queen: The 3rd/9th House Axis the author uses the same method like in previous chapter, deriving the explanations for the houses from the planets which rejoice there. She demonstrates how the characteristics of the 3rd house (messages, short journeys, letters, travelers) can be likened more easily with the Moon than with Mercury and the associates the couple 9th house and the Sun with religion, faith, revelation, long journeys, philosophy.

Chapter 6 – Cadency & Decline: The 6th/12th House Axis presents two of the most difficult houses, 6th and 12th. The author finds 3 reasons for the bad lore associated with those houses: they are cadent, don’t aspect the Ascendant and are rules by t
he malefic planets Mars (6th house) and Saturn (12th house). Then, she presents the general characteristics for the houses, not very different from what is accepted nowadays: the 6th house governs disease, health problems, hard work, poorly rewarded work, small beasts, pets while the 12th house governs imprisonment, disgrace, infirmity, hidden activity or secret enemies.

House rulership

Chapter 7 – House Rulership in Practice presents more detailed than in the previous chapters the houses rulership grouped in sections like Main Rulership, Horary Astrology, Mundane Astrology, Lawsuits, Events, Medical Matters, Commerce, Colors, Qualities, Direction, Associated Planets and Signs, Names. Here you’ll find only what a house rules, not explanations, theories, principles. For example let’s see some lines from the 5th house analyze:

“Main rulerships: children, pregnancy, sex of the unborn child. The health and condition of the children. If afflicted trouble and distress from the children. Romance, love affairs, lovemaking, procreation and conception. […] Pleasure, gifts and all pleasant things. [….] Dancing, music, merriment. Clothes, fineries, rich, luxurious things. […] Sports and places associated with it. […]

In horary astrology: children of the querent. The possibility of pregnancy and the sex of the unborn child. […] The father’s wealth and his personal possessions. […]

In mundane astrology: the supplies, ammunition and resources of a town under attack […] All public places of enjoyment and recreation: parks, publicly owned state buildings, national and art galleries etc. […]

In medical matters: the stomach, liver, heart and back. […]”

This is only a little part, you’ll find in the book approximately 2-3 pages for every house. The author is very well documented and succeeds in presenting a clear and realistic image of our current understanding about houses, focusing on the traditional astrology literature. Especially the part where she writes about house rulership in Horary Astrology is very interesting.

In Chapter 8 – Difficulties of House Division the author explains the methodology behind the most popular house systems: Morinus, Campanus, Regiomontanus, Placidus, Alcabitius, Koch, Equal-Houses, Whole Sign Houses, Porphyry. You’ll find when and how they developed and what are the differences between those various systems.

In Chapter 9 – Ptolemy’s Powerful Places Deborah Houlding writes about Ptolemy’s method to determine the houses. Ptolemy chose 5 “powerful places” for planets: 1, 7, 9 and 11 house. After that theory, the author presents some historical facts in order to prove that traditional astrologers put a lot of efforts to determine the exact degree of the Ascendant, which is seen by the author like an argument that they were not using Whole Sign House. She, also, is an astrologer who does not sustain the Whole Sign Houses system. The problem with the best system of house division is a very confusing area of astrology, where nobody had found until now an answer accepted by all astrologers. Let’s see a final thought:

“In this, I am guilty as anyone else, but my summary is that the modern astrologer, seeking to resolve the problem of house division by reference to historical sources, will ultimately conclude that those sources do not, will not and cannot provide an authoritative voice. The problem exist because there are so many valid frames of reference and it is impossible to fully recognize the symbolic potential of them all within any one technique. So, we must make our selection according to where our inclination lie.”

The idea behind this conclusion, which also results from other passages of the book, is that everyone can use the house system which works better for him. That we shouldn’t look for a house system which works on every situation, for any person. I saw this idea in Bernadette Brady’s Predictive Astrology also, but I don’t agree. I think we must find one real, reliable, true house system division that works for everyone, in every situation. I can’t analyze a chart with one system and another astrologer with other house system and both to be good! It is a nonsense! For example, supposing the houses symbolizes the same things for all, if two astrologers analyze a chart and in one system the 3rd house is in Gemini, in the second system is in Taurus this will bring very different results. How can this situation be explained?

The final part of the book has an Appendix named Glossary of traditional terms, one with the planetary hours and one named Al Biruni’s advice on finding the hour of birth.


Conclusion. Deborah Houlding’s Houses Temples of the Sky is a book which comes in a very controversial territory of astrology: houses. We generally know what houses signify, but there are important debates on a decisive matter: house division, a “detail” which can change tremendously the interpretation. This book don’t even try to solve that problem and, also, does not give a good explanation to another issue: the houses succession. We receive an explanation for the angles succession based on the Egyptian solar philosophy, but the other houses are explained mainly by using planetary joys, the aspects with the Ascendant and the relation with angles. Nothing about the relation of the 8th house with the 9th house, for example. More, the explanation for angles succession is based on the move of the Sun from the 1st house to 10th and 7th, so in reverse order. In conclusion, if you use the Sun symbolism in this way to explain the angles then you must be able to explain every house in this order. If you say that the Sun is born in the 1st house and mature in 10th, then explain what is happening in 12 or 11 house. In my opinion, these are the two subjects which deserved more attention from the author
: house division and house succession.

Beyond that, the book is excellent and will give answers to almost any question relating houses. You’ll find a detailed analyze for every house and the house symbolism not only for natal astrology, but also for horary, mundane and medical astrology. The author succeeds to make a clear synthesis of what is written about houses, paying more attention to the traditional astrology texts. My evaluation is 8,2.