How Do We Reconcile Placidus with Whole Sign, and Still Love Ourselves in the Morning?

‘Phaedra’ 1880 By Alexandre Cabanel {{PD}}

This is re-printed from ECLIPSE.

Thoughtful reader CC asked how to integrate info gleaned from Placidus and Whole Sign charts. That’s a very good question, and one I’ve wrestled with myself. I had been totally satisfied with Placidus, but when I experimented with Whole Sign what I experienced was a more complete and even-handed sense of the placements. By that I mean, the Placidus system, though handling the Houses on the angles well, tends to ‘hide’ the cadent and succedent Houses— while we can fix the Ascendant to the horizon, succedent and cadent cusps sometimes appear almost arbitrary (even though they are found by a complex series of calculations, with, for example, the 11th and 12th cusps determined by trisecting the rate of movement of any degree of the ecliptic from MC to ASC). Determining Placidus House cusps isn’t easy; these cusps respond to the latitude for the spot for which the chart is drawn, but Placidus is a time-based system, that works on fractions of diurnal and nocturnal movement. The higher latitudes are what give us the famous extreme variations in House size. This implies (and in practice allows for) a lesser possibility that placements will fall in these Houses, especially at higher latitudes–but that’s no reason to dump a system that can be exquisitely responsive in expressing the personality of an individual.

Though I’ve had great luck timing events in a person’s life to a body’s contact with an angle, the succedent and cadent Placidus House cusps were not so sensitive; in my experience things pass over them, often with nary a whisper. I found this frustrating, but not inexplicable—after all, many things are happening in a chart at any time, and we won’t see major experiences corresponding to each contact.  The problem for me, though, was that I should’ve seen something, sometime, when a succedent or cadent cusp had been contacted that signified a major corresponding response, internal or external, in the life of the individual, if this was truly a good system for delineating cadent or succedent Houses—but even when I watched carefully, I don’t recall this ever happening. If something did happen around that time, there was always a better, stronger (astrologically speaking) explanation for it.

What we get from use of Placidus Houses is a portrait of emphases within an individual—and with a correct or near-correct birth time, an extremely useful and descriptive Ascendant and Midheaven—and this is an important point: in Placidus, the Ascendant and Midheaven are really the focal points on which everything else hangs—and to my mind, this is also one of Placidus’ weaknesses. When we put so much attention on those two facets of Being, we quite naturally under-attend other life areas. Placidus feels to me as if it has a very Western, animus energy, concentrated on interfacing with the world (the ASC) and what you ‘do’ and how you are seen (the MC). There’s nothing wrong with that, but it short changes less aggressively oriented life areas, and specifically de-emphasizes anima-centered energies—thus effectively devaluing the natural orientation of roughly half the planet’s population, and framing receptive experiences as ‘less than’—and as well may leave those who don’t have career as the centerpiece of the life feeling like they’re failures.

When we use Whole Signs, though, just about the first thing you’ll notice is that the Ascendant and Midheaven are no longer the stars of the show; they are instead parts of a larger whole—and with this de-emphasis comes a balanced picture that is so at least in part because the artificial divisions are no longer—now we have the vibrational delineation of the signs themselves as House descriptors—and even as I write this I’m thinking that Houses in the Whole Sign system take on an even less restrictive nature than in just about any other system, as there’s no conflict between the placement of a sign and the boundaries of a House—so allowing for a more fluid and simple visual picture (which generally leads to a more fluid and clear understanding of the chart).

When we use Whole Sign Houses, many of us will see shifts of planets to new Houses; I encourage you to see it not as superseding your Placidus placements, but as adding dimension to them, and perhaps showing you a ‘more true’ picture of yourself—that’s what I feel I got, with a shift of Midheaven from 10th to 11th, with 10th now occupied by Scorpio rather than Sagittarius, and my Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, and Sun in Libra all now in the 9th. This fits me as a person a great deal better—I’m a natural teacher (Sun in 9th) rather than a professional one (old Sag MC), for example.

Placidus as a system has always seemed to me very personal; it focuses the energies through cusp designations that are highly sensitive to the place of birth—and so I believe correspond closely to the emotional or psychic essence of the individual who has chosen that spot at that time to incarnate, even though the succedent and cadent cusps themselves do not seem to be sensitive. The cusps in succedent and cadent Placidus Houses seem instead to designate boundaries to an area of sensitivity or energy focus, though they don’t seem to delineate it with any precision.

And that brings me to the practice of reading a placement as if it’s in the next House, if it’s close to the House cusp. I don’t subscribe to this, simply because it’s not placed in the next House, it’s placed in that one! (and we’re speaking only of natal positions, right now) If the placements have meaning at all, in any system, then we cannot simply decide to read things as we will—that will be denying the relevance of the placement, as if the individual knows better than the system—but just in this one instance. I believe this kind of thing has been encouraged because people become familiar with the theories behind Secondary Progressions and Solar Arcs, anticipating an early attitude or character change in life, and begin to think, ‘I’m not really like this, I’m more like that’, especially if they find the birth placement somehow unglamorous. When people say to me that they’re ‘not like’ their Mars in the 4th, say, but like the idea of Mars in the 5th, because somewhere they read that was a ‘sexy’ or creative placement, or they deny their father (the 4th) was ever a Martian figure, and so on, I always think (but don’t always say) ‘You may think that because you haven’t heard all the possibilities, all the facets of the placement’—it’s true that limited understanding often makes for dissatisfaction—with the other potential, of course, being that they don’t see it, because they really don’t know themselves, in anything approaching an objective sense.

6 thoughts on “How Do We Reconcile Placidus with Whole Sign, and Still Love Ourselves in the Morning?”

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve made the switch to whole sign houses, too, and am finding that so many things now make so much more sense. I also like the ASC and MC moveable, i.e., not always the beginnings of the houses. I’ll use Placidus for those who are used to it, but prefer whole sign houses for my personal work.

    Thank you for the confirmation, CJ–nice to know those are shared perceptions about it seeming to make more sense–for me there’s always a worry I’m going too much with feeling–and I totally agree about the ASC and MC–freeing those from delineating a House cusp seems to free them in other ways, too 🙂

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  2. Hi Julie,

    I use Koch. Years ago I found that Koch, with the correct birth time was accurate for prediction. The softer side is Placidus, I agree. I think whole sign brings you back to basics, and is absolutely itied to solar arc. Koch also makes a great case for use in tertiary progressions. Thank you for your continued good work! Mary

    Thanks for your input, Mary! I tried Koch years ago, but it left me cold 🙂

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  3. Tied. Not itied 🙃 mary

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  4. I have read explanations of my natal planet in houses, and I have found Placidus to be spot on and Whole House system totally wrong, unfortunately so, I may add 😦

    I’m a big advocate of using what works for you–I’m only explaining why I changed systems–though I discourage people from choosing a system based on their reactions to their personal placements in each system, as we aren’t the best judge using ourselves as the lens! I do find that Placidus offers good visual commentary on a natal personality through unequal size Houses and interceptions, I also find that those same emphases are reflected in the aspect and placement picture–and I just happen to prefer concentrating on that. Thanks, Alecs3000!

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    • Thank you, Julie; you’re definitely the expert here. One of these days I’d love it if you could interpret my chart even though, at present, I’m a little discomforted with astrology because I feel my particular situation is beyond the potential of aspects and transits in the natal chart. I do keep up with general aspects though and yours is one of the few newsletters I read eagerly and regularly 🙂

      So kind of you to say–I’m so glad you look forward to my posts 🙂

      I hope someday we can work together, too. Just know that whatever the situation, someone HAS experienced it before, and that means there’s precedent, in both life and astrology–so I hope you don’t feel alone.

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  5. I’m really conflicted about this. I’ve always used Placidus because my placement descriptions really resonate with me there so I never thought to try a different system. Whole sign and equal houses both put my moon from the 8th house to the 9th and I wholeheartedly feel BOTH which is driving me crazy. Dark family secrets and mental illness passes down the female line? 8th house check. Extremely secretive emotional nature? Deep interest in the occult from a young age? Lifelong series of crisis after crisis along with severe anxiety, crippling dark intrusive thoughts and nightmares, and physical illness? 8th house check check check.
    9th house moon: Mother working on PhD and bringing me with her to college as a child. Nomadic spirit and wanderlust. Dreams of living on the road. Always looking for *something more*
    It’s BOTH. I have no Scorpio or sag placements to negate one or the other. Is it possible to be the Placidus and whole sign placements at the same time?

    Hi Anna, That’s a good question, and I honestly believe one can find both placement definitions valid. Here’s why: House systems are just viewpoints made into a graphic in order to see and understand the energies and their manifestations more easily. One need only be sensitive to the ‘shift’ in viewpoint a particular House system demands in order to see how any system can be valid. For instance, with Whole Sign we see a shift in emphasis to likeness of energies through sign placement, through a kind of shared ‘energy commonality’, whereas with Placidus we might say the viewpoint is more culturally focused, due to the prominence of Ascendant and Midheaven, both designators of particular personas/ roles (ASC as the spirit’s point-of-entry, and MC as the public development ‘high point’ of the individual in the context of the chart, and both delineating the cusps of 1st and 10th in Placidus). To my mind, Whole Sign urges us to place more attention on the ‘natural’ delineations that happen through shared sign energy (and this emphasis has helped me remove any ‘artificial’ boundaries between bodies that might have occurred through same sign/ different House placements), while Placidus seems much more attuned to the placewhere an individual first entered existence on this plane–illuminating and descriptive, certainly, but for me putting a little too much emphasis on the actual physical environment/ actual place on Earth where one arrives. Everyone stays responsive to the Ascendant, no matter what House system one uses, but for me Placidus makes a little too much of that one point, by sort of nailing the individual too firmly into the birth place–and since few of us remain where we were born, it felt to me like too much attention to the birth moment and atmosphere into which one was born by placing the 1st House cusp there. There’s also the matter of House distortion at extreme latitudes for Placidus, which doesn’t exactly make them invalid, but instead may imply distorted emphasis in life areas represented by the larger Houses, and so short-changing the subjects of the ‘squeezed’ Houses. So, to my way of thinking, both are valid mechanisms for interpreting the natal scenario, just as long as we are aware of the implications inherent in using a particular system.

    Thanks for your question–I do hope that answer helped! jd

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