The Most Important Significators of Life Themes
and their use in chart delineation and astrology software
by Hank Friedman
Part One: The true signifiers of life themes.
The renowned astrologer Jean-Baptiste Morin, aka Morinus, pioneered in Western astrology a principle that has always been a core approach in Vedic astrology:
That the planet ruling a house and the planets in a house are much more important in determining the nature of a life theme than the fixed (aka Universal) significator of the theme.
For example, the ruler of the 7th house and the occupants of the 7th house are far more important than Venus in describing ones relationship and relationship partner.
Why? Because the Universal significator for any theme is identical in all charts, but since the rising sign and planetary positions are in constant motion, the sign of the 4th house, its ruler, and the occupants of the 4th house will always be changing, and therefore reflect the uniqueness of every person (and the unique qualities of each theme in their lives).
Unfortunately, this approach has been all-but-neglected by many modern Western astrologers, by almost all Western astrology programs, and by virtually every Western astrology cookbook. They act as if the significator is all that matters, when it is often the least important factor. This is at least partially because the insights of Morinus were largely unread for centuries, and his work has still not been studied by most modern Western astrologers.
For example, if Mars as the ruler of the 7th house is in the 10th house, how many Western astrologers would look at major transits to Mars for information about the status of a relationship? Or if the ruler of the 4th house was in the 9th house and seriously combust (i.e. within 3 degrees of the Sun), how many would see the Mother as significantly impaired by this configuration? Or when looking at an Astro*Carto*Graphy map with an exalted Saturn as ruler of the 3rd house, how many astrologers would instruct the client to move to a Saturn line to write their book?
And yet, all of these would be very valuable and effective approaches.
[One hypothesis as to why house rulers have fallen out of favor in modern Western astrology, even though they are the foundation of Vedic astrology to this day, might be that house rulerships work better when determined using Whole Sign Houses and the Sidereal Zodiac.]
In any case, it is vital to focus on the house representing a theme and its occupants and ruler (and even planets that aspect it) more than just on the planet that represents that theme for everyone.
For example, the Moon represents Mother for everyone. But the sign of the 4th house, the ruler of that sign, and the occupants of the 4th house will all be different for each chart, and are therefore both more individual and better descriptors of specific patterns with the person's Mother.
Here's an example:
Julia Robert's Western Chart
If we only focus on Julia Robert's Moon, we see a planet in a basically good placement by Western standards. It is in Leo (and its Essential Dignity is positive), applying trine to Mars and trine to the MC, and conjunct benefic Jupiter. Yes it is in a separating square to Neptune, but its overall placement seems quite good. If, however, we look at the more temporal factors of the 4th house and the 4th lord, we see the 4th house has the South Node, a peregrine Sun, and an astronomically combust Mercury in it -- factors that can indicate real problems with Mom. In addition, the 4th lord Venus is in its Fall and conjunct Pluto, quite a difficult position by any standard.
The Vedic analysis is similarly revealing:
Julia Robert's Vedic Chart
While the Moon in her Vedic chart is waning and therefore weak, it participates in a Raja Yoga with Jupiter (1st lord + 9th lord) and a Dhana Yoga with Venus (1st lord + 11th lord) and receives only the aspects of benefics. Again we'd expect, using only the fixed significator Moon, a positive relationship with Mom. But Julia's 4th house has many issues: it has the malefic Ketu (South node) with the debilitated Sun and a strong malefic Mercury (made malefic by being in the same house as Ketu, and strong due to retrogradation).
In reality, while her Mother was undoubtably a positive influence in many ways, Julia suffered greatly when her Mother divorced her Father, whom Julia had been much closer to. This was a great loss. Subsequently, her Mom married a man who didn't like (and allegedly mistreated) Julia.
What this shows is that relying only upon the Universal significator of Mother, the Moon, gives an incorrect assessment of the theme, while also taking into account the occupants and ruler of the 4th house gives a more accurate delineation.
Therefore, every astrologer should pay a great deal of attention to the house and house ruler in delineating charts, and not just the fixed planetary significators.
Part Two: Using this approach
To apply this understanding about what signifies a theme in horoscopy, one must integrate the following concepts:
1. Give the correct weight to each factor.
As my Vedic Guru Hart de Fouw has taught:
A. Attribute to the house itself about 40% of the influence on the theme. This includes the occupants of the house and the aspects the house receives*.
B. Attribute to the house ruler about 40% on the influence of the theme. If the house ruler is in a bad house (6, 8, or 12) this can represent major challenges in the theme under examination; similarly, but to a lesser degree, if the house ruler is 6, 8, or 12 houses from the house it rules (counting from the house it's in), it indicates challenges to the theme. If the house ruler is weak (e.g. combust, weak by sign, etc.) the theme is similarly detrimented, while if the house ruler is strong or part of positive combinations (Grand Trines or Vedic Yogas), the theme is significantly enhanced.
C. Attribute to the Universal significator of the theme about 20% of the influence on the theme. Note: if the Universal significator occupies or aspects or rules the house that represents the theme, it then becomes the most important significator. E.g. my Moon signifies Mother and is in the 4th house too, and so becomes the major representer of Mother themes.
2. Synthesize the meanings of all of the factors.
In the Julia Roberts example, both the negative and positive factors concerning Mother should be taken into account. So in addition to her Mom breaking up the family and marrying a man bad for her daughters, we need to also see that the Raja Yogas involving the Moon show that her Mother was a major positive influence, e.g. in Julia's career development. It is rare, in other words, that there is any completely congruently positive or negative theme in a person's chart (there are usually both + and - factors) but if a theme's indicators are congruently good or bad, then the theme really will stand out in a person's life.
Here are two examples:
Paul Newman's Vedic Chart
In the Vedic chart of Paul Newman, above, there is a high degree of consistency in the description of his marriage. The 7th house, its lord, and its significator all are influenced by benefic planets, including the very strong Jupiter in Sagittarius. In addition, when any planet aspects its own house, like Mercury does here, the themes of that house tend to be significantly enhanced. (The one blemish was the aspect of the exalted Saturn on the house ruler and significator, but not on the 7th house itself.)
Remember that since Venus both Universally represents marriage and aspects the 7th house, it becomes the primary significator of relationship themes, and therefore its placement is paramount. It is with both a strong benefic Mercury (which has directional strength -- dig bala -- by occupying the 1st house), and an even stronger benefic Jupiter (which is in its own sign and has directional strength).
As indicated by all of these factors, Paul Newman, unlike so many other actors, had a stable and long-lasting marriage that became a model relationship for so many others in the acting profession.
Marilyn Monroe's Vedic Chart
Similarly, the Vedic chart of Marilyn Monroe indicates congruent challenging themes with her Father. [Note: in Vedic astrology, the 9th house is most commonly used to represent the Father, not the 10th house.]
The 9th house has no occupants and receives no aspects, and therefore one immediately focuses upon the other two factors: the house ruler and the Universal significator. The house ruler, Jupiter**, is both in a bad house -- the 8th house -- and is 12 houses away from the house it rules (also detrimental). These are already congruent indicators of trouble with Father. When we then look at the Sun, the Universal significator, we see that the only aspect it receives is from malefic (Mars)*** and the Sun is also in the sign of an enemy (Taurus).
In her life, Marilyn was never even sure who her biological Father was, as she never met either of the men who were likely to be her Father. During her childhood, she was shuttled from one foster home to another, had no male role model, and one of her foster fathers even tried to molest her. In other words, Father themes are strikingly bad in Marilyn Monroe's life.
Part Three: Astrology Software and Significators
It is much easier and more convenient for those writing delineations for astrology programs to use fixed significators exclusively, whether they are writing natal reports, compatibility assessments, transit delineations, or assessing astromapping lines.
This is very unfortunate, and compounded by the fact that the condition of each significator is completely ignored by virtually all natal, compatibility, transit, and astrolocality reports. E.g. if Venus were combust, in its sign of Fall, and aspected by Saturn and Mars, it would be interpreted exactly the same in astrology reports as if it were exalted in Pisces, aspected by Jupiter, and in Sect****.
[Nevertheless, as I've said before, writing astrological reports is a truly huge undertaking even when one only delineates planets in signs, houses, and aspects, each separately from other factors. So while taking into account additional factors is out of the question in report writing, one should still respect the great effort made by those who do write astrological reports.]
The signficator issue extends further in astromapping. The introduction of "theme maps" or "treasure maps" is an excellent idea, i.e. theme maps require no astrological understanding on the part of those receiving the maps. They just present lines on a map, for example, showing where to move for love (or career, etc.). The problem with this approach is that it again usually relies completely on Universal significators, like Venus for marriage. And since both Venus is usually the least important factor (as compared to the occupants of the 7th house and the ruler of the 7th house) and it may also be in a very weak and challenged position in a person's chart, this approach is flawed.
That's why I gave the Matrix program Horizons (now included in Win*Star 4) a "thumbs up". While it, like all other astromapping programs that have theme maps, does not take into account planets that occupy the relevant houses, its theme maps do take into account relevant house rulers, which a major step towards more accurate theme maps. Astrologers can also create new themes for maps (and edit existing themes) within Horizons, to suit their needs.
Part Four: Conclusion
In the future, both Western astrologers and astrology software writers will undoubtably pay more attention to the most important factors pertaining to life themes: house occupants and rulers. When this happens, delineations will become even more potent and effective.
* In both Traditional (Western) and Vedic astrology, a house is aspected by all planets in the opposite house. In addition, in Vedic astrology, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mars have special aspects and can influence a house 5 & 9 houses forward (Jupiter), 3 & 10 houses forward (Saturn), and 4 & 8 houses forward (Mars) respectively (the count includes the house occupied by the planet, so -- for example, Jupiter aspects houses in the same element as itself, or as Western astrologers would say, in trine to it.)
** In traditional Western astrology, as well as in Vedic astrology, Jupiter rules Pisces.
*** Vedic astrology uses Whole Sign aspects, i.e. planets aspect all of the sign (and house) that they aspect, regardless of orb.
**** Except, of course, in planet-in-sign delineations where only the sign would be correctly delineated.
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