Just as the signs are divided into three types depending on how they act (the qualities) so are the houses. Only the names are changed. Signs numbered 1, 4, 7, and 10 (Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn) are the Cardinal, or Action signs. The Houses numbered 1, 4, 7, and 10 are called the Angular Houses, and they show how this particular person starts things.
Signs numbered 2, 5, 8, and 11 (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius) are the Fixed or Stubborn signs. Houses numbered 2, 5, 8, and 11 are called the Succedent Houses because the "succeed" or come after the Angular Houses. These are the result houses. They show the results of the actions taken by the Angular houses.
Signs numbered 3, 6, 9, and 12 (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces) are the Mutable or Adaptable signs. Houses numbered 3, 6, 9, and 12 are called the Cadent Houses. They deal with communications, daily tasks, and service, things that provide the support that the angular houses need so they can take action.
The First House
Begins with the Rising Sign, the sign that was rising on the eastern horizon when you were born. This is also called the Ascendant or Ascending Sign and is one of the most important points in the horoscope. The Ascendant has an affect on your appearance. In some cases, a person can look more like their Ascendant than their Sun-Sign. The First House has to do with your "outer personality", the impression you make on people when they first see you. But it goes beyond that. It also shows how you begin anything, your first approach, your first action. For instance, someone with an Aries Ascendant (Aries Rising) will tend to charge right in, while a Taurus Rising person has to take their time and build up momentum. A Leo rising will get someone else to do it for them (probably some poor soul with Virgo Rising). The placement of planets in the First House is also important. Any planet there, especially if it is in the same signs as the Rising Sign, will give you traits of the Sign that the planet rules. In other words, if you have Mars in the First House, you will tend to be active and aggressive like an Aries Sun-Sign. Saturn will make you cautious and careful at first approach, like a Capricorn Sun-Sign. If there is more than one planet in the First House, the planet that is closest to the cusp (beginning) of the house usually predominates. The only exception is if another planet in the house is stronger by sign. The number of planets you have in angular houses can be significant. Click here to see what it means when you have A Majority of Planets in Angular Houses.
The Fourth House
People sometimes comment that there must be more to someone's character than the horoscope. After all, doesn't the way we are brought up have any effect? Sure it does. And that is shown right there in the Fourth House of the chart! The Fourth House shows your early life, how you were raised. It is your "home", your foundations, your roots, and as such, it affects you for the rest of your life. It also shows how you tend to act in the domestic area, what you are like in private. Paradoxically, it governs the last third of your life as well. The sign on the cusp (beginning) of your Fourth House and the planets inside show what you be like as you get older. For example, if you have Aries on the Nadir (the cusp of the Fourth House), you will tend to be active around the house and you will also become more active as you age. When other people your age will be using canes and walkers, you will be entering marathons going rollerblading. The Fourth House also rules the parent of "lesser influence". In most societies today, that will usually mean the father. Here's a neat trick. You can "read" your father from your horoscope. Just turn the horoscope wheel until the Fourth House is on the left side, where the First House should be located. Then, re-number the houses so that the 4th house becomes the 1st, the 5th house becomes the 2nd, etc. In other words, your 4th house can be read as your father's 1st house. Your 5th house (your romance) becomes your father's 2nd house (his money possessions, and values), etc. I'll give more details on this technique in the section on derived houses.
The Seventh House
On the horoscope wheel, the Seventh House is opposite the First. House One is you. House Seven is "other people". Specifically, it rules anyone else that you deal with as an Equal. This includes marriage and business partners of course. But it also shows your "open enemies". Some might think it strange that marriage and enemies are ruled by the same house. Others would find this very appropriate. What most books don't tell you is that the Seventh House rules the First marriage. If there is another marriage, it is shown by the Ninth House. How about a third marriage? A description of your third marriage (if any) is found in your Eleventh House. You see how this works? Start with the 7th House as the 1st marriage and go counterclockwise around the wheel, skipping every other house, to see all other marriages. Some people (like Elizabeth Taylor who has eight marriages) have to go completely around the wheel! To find out more about your first marriage partner, turn your horoscope wheel upside down so that the Seventh House is on the left side, where the First house is normally located. Then, Re-number the houses. House number 7 becomes house 1, the 8th house becomes house 2, and so on. Now read that chart as if it were the horoscope of your marriage partner.
The Tenth House
Yes, the Tenth House does rule your "career", but that is not all. It indicates the Goals of your life, your purpose. Yes, philosophers do disagree about whether or not life has a "purpose". But it is known these days that people who do have a purpose in their lives are generally happier and tend to live longer. This house begins with The Mid-Heaven, the point that is at the high point of the Sun's apparent path across the sky. The sign on the Mid-Heaven influences your career, as does the position of the planet that rules that sign. Planets inside the house also have an effect. For example, I recently did a reading for a man who had Aries (action) on his Mid-Heaven. Mars, the ruler, was in the Tenth House. So were Saturn and Uranus. Mars is action, Saturn rules careers that require lots of discipline and preparation (like research scientist or doctor; but it an also indicate a business career), and Uranus has to be independent. He was a surgeon (Mars also rules cutting) who was starting a business.