Most Western astrological systems divide the horoscope into a number of houses (usually 12) whose positions depend on time and location rather than on a date. The word 'house' suggests a place where one lives, and this is exactly what happens in a birthchart: the planets occupy different sections of the chart, showing the area where their energies will be at home and function best. The placement of a planet or zodiac sign in a house will determine to a large degree the area of life in which it acts, and the goals and activities on which its drive or impulse will be focused.
The three most common house systems today are The Equal House System, The Koch System, and The Placidus System. The Equal House System is most frequently used and the one which students of astrology are advised to start with. It is one of the oldest and was favoured by the ancient Egyptians. It is also the simplest - the 12 houses being divided into 12 equal segments of 30 degrees.
The houses are divisions of the path of the sun across the sky (the ecliptic plane) as seen from the earth at the time and place of the horoscope in question. They are numbered anti-clockwise from the position of the eastern horizon (the cusp of the first house) at the time of the subject being charted. Houses 1 to 6 are below the horizon, whilst houses 7 to 12 are above the horizon.
In this section, you'll find out more about the house system, including details of the rising sign (or ascendant) - the sign on the cusp of the first house), what each house represents, and how the house may be grouped together.