Bright night sky showing stars

Tracing the stars #1: Quadrants, houses and zodiac signs

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One late October night, I stood on a tall slab in rural Cyprus, gazing at the stars above the ocean.

I had climbed the highest spot I could find, to look at the stars, planets and Moon. But I wanted to see further into the distance – so my dad, who’d been watching, handed me a telescope.

It felt awkward, not knowing how to hold this thing or where to look. And I was clumsy, as any eight-year-old would be.

But soon I got the hang of it and used the telescope to zoom into the distance. I explored the rugged surface of the Moon and marvelled at the rings of Saturn.

Through the telescope, I could see stars a million miles away and wondered what lay beyond the reach of the telescope.

Many years later, I thought back to that night, when the moon shone bright, and pondered: Do the stars have a story tell?

Tracing the stars

Stars tell tales of birth, bloom and death that take millions of years to unfold. Their stories are written in the sky – day in day out – some visible to our eyes and others barely legible with a telescope.

We’ve been mapping these stories for ages. The oldest accurate records of planets and star constellations known today even date back to the time of the Egyptian pyramids.

Over the centuries, our map of the cosmic system has become more precise thanks to improvements in technology and record keeping. We can now capture observations of the sky in a 360° drawing known as a horoscope.

What is a horoscope?

A horoscope is a 360° drawing of the sky as observed at a specific time from a chosen location on Earth.

In a horoscope drawing, the horizontal axis typically shows the horizon, with the Eastern-most point (where the Sun rises) on our left, and the Western-most point (where the Sun sets) on our right. The vertical axis shows the perfect South (where the Sun is at its highest) and perfect North (where the Sun cannot be seen).

If we look at a horoscope drawing now, we see that our two axes split the sky into four distinct zones. These are known as quadrants.

Four zones of the horoscope shown in a diagram. South, North, East and West  split a circle into the four zones.

The four quadrants

The quadrants extend into four directions: North East, North West, South East and South West. You can refer to these quadrants based on the direction they point in. But io simplify matters, astrologers decided to number to quadrants anticlockwise from the x-axis.

The idea behind this was that if the Sun moves across the sky from East to South to West (on the Northern Hemisphere), the Earth must be rotating in the opposite direction. Mapped onto a 2D chart, the Earth’s movement would be anticlockwise around the North Pole.

With the Eastern sunrise as our starting point, this would make the North East our first quadrant, the North West our second, and so on.

Four quadrants numbered with the first quadrant starting in the East, going anticlockwise.
Four quadrants

Division of the quadrants

Lower quadrants

When the Sun is in the first or second quadrant, it has ‘disappeared’ below the horizon. These two quadrants are therefore known as the lower quadrants or quadrants of the night.

Any stars, planets or other objects in the lower quadrants cannot be seen from the perspective of a person standing on the surface of the Earth. These two quadrants therefore represent things that are hidden from view, including our subconscious and innermost self.

When there are many planets in the two lower quadrants of a person’s horoscope, this shows that the subconscious has a strong influence on their life. Inner values, beliefs and attitudes may also be more important to them than leaving a mark in the outside world. Hence, it might look like the person is reactive and adapts to outside events instead of actively creating reality based on their desires.

Upper quadrants

Quadrants III and IV are known as the upper quadrants, because they lie above the horizon. Planets, stars and celestial bodies in these quadrants can be seen by a star gazer, so they represent what is visible to the outside world.

When there are many planets in the two upper quadrants of a person’s horoscope, this shows that the conscious and material world are important in their life. Taking deliberate action, being seen and acquiring assets may be more important to them than exploring the murky terrain of their subconscious. This person may prefer to change how things are in the outside world over modifying inner beliefs or values.   

Eastern vs. Western quadrants

In the Eastern quadrants, stars and planets rise slowly to the top of the sky. The upward movement of planets is linked to the growth of a consciousness, the start of new projects and development of ideas. People with dominant placements in Eastern quadrants may be go-getters who venture along their own trail and prioritise taking action over seeking feedback or confirmation from others.  

Once planets and stars have passed the Zenith, they move into the Western quadrants. Here they seem to be falling or moving down the sky. For this reason, Western quadrants are associated with harvesting the seeds one has sowed, being receptive to feedback, and letting go while accommodating a natural phase of decline. People with dominant placements in Western quadrants may build social connections and serve communities with a higher purpose than forging a unique path for themselves.

Individual quadrants

We can use the previous divisions (upper vs lower, Eastern vs Western) to derive a meaning for each of the four quadrants.

Quadrant I

The first quadrant combines the subconscious, instinctual realm with new beginnings and actions. It is associated with the season of spring. Like a seed that sprouts from the concentrated energy within, this quadrant invites us to develop our body, discover our self-identity and become a distinct individual.

Quadrant II

The second quadrant combines hidden, inner values with receptiveness towards the outside world. Here we begin to connect with others in social situations, but just like a young seedling that absorbs nutrients from the Earth, much of our growth still happens below the surface. We are learning to express ourself and beginning to share ideas and talents with the world.  

Quadrant III

The third quadrant combines the conscious and visible realm, with receptiveness to our environment. It invites us to learn from external influences and events, respond flexibility to outside stimuli and explore our surroundings. The goal of this quadrant is to develop an open, optimistic view of the world.

Quadrant IIII:

The fourth quadrant combines the conscious and visible realm with direct action and new beginnings. Here the seeds we have sowed are ready to harvest. Depending on what we planted and how well we nurtured the crops, we may yield rewards in our reputation, status, friendships or spirituality. The fourth quadrant is also associated with progress towards societal goals and reflection for a new cycle of growth.

Houses and zodiac signs

Now that we’ve established how the four quadrants work – let’s go one level deeper. If we think of the four quadrants in astronomical terms, they represent four distinct phases of the day. From nighttime (North) to sunrise (East), from sunrise to midday, from midday to sunset, and finally from sunset to nighttime.

While this early system is still the base for time-keeping today, it has become more and more precise over the centuries. The Egyptians introduced time-measurement based on decans, or 36 constellations, all around 10° apart, to divide day and night into 12 distinct hours. These decans form the basis of the zodiac and house systems used in astrology today.

House systems

While astrologers have developed different house systems, they all trisect the four quadrants, leading to a total of twelve houses.

Just like the quadrants, the houses show the rotation of the earth around its axis. Thus, we can use the anti-clockwise system to number the twelve houses:

  • 1st quadrant: Houses 1-3
  • 2nd quadrant: Houses 4-6
  • 3rd quadrant: Houses 7-9
  • 4th quadrant: Houses 10-12

Houses and their symbolic meaning

Each house represents one of twelve spheres of life. These spheres are based on the four quadrants and the idea that each quadrant can be developed in three distinct stages.

In the first stage we begin something new; in the second stage we consolidate and protect what we have discovered; and in the third stage we build on and develop that aspect further.

The spheres of life are therefore given the following meanings:

1st house

Self-identity, core, self-sufficiency, sports, initiative, action, body, willpower, determination, drive

2nd house

Finances, resources, assets, values, politics, land ownership, private property

3rd house

Loose connections, networks, transport, communication, learning, languages, information

4th house

Home, office, facilities, heritage, culture, family, clothes, emotions

5th house

Creativity, self-expression, public image, fun, events, play

6th house

Tasks, routines, health of employees, cleaning, medicine

7th house

Relationships, partnerships, interior design, etiquette, manners, strategy

8th house

Power dynamics, influence, shared assets, debts, transformation, change management

9th house

Travel, philosophy, higher education, foreign cultures, religion

10th house

Reputation, status, law, public figures, norms, recognition, government, structures

11th house

Innovation, friendship, independence, technology

12th house

Spirituality, higher consciousness, phantasy, supernatural skills, soul

Zodiac signs

Zodiac signs, like houses, are based on the mapping of fixed stars in a coordinate system or drawing of the sky. Fixed stars are stars that always seem to be in the exact same position. Some fixed stars appear close together, and they were grouped into constellations by the Babylonians.

Twelve of these constellations make up the astrological zodiac today. They are called Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Sagittarius, Scorpio, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces.

List of zodiac signs and the icons astrologers use to represent them
Illustration of the 12 zodiac signs

In Western astrology, the 12 signs are mapped on our 360* drawing based on the tropical system. This system considers 0° of Aries to be coinciding with the spring equinox.

Zodiac signs shown on a horoscope
Zodiac signs shown on a horoscope

Note: The sidereal system (used in Eastern astrology) is more precise, because it accounts for the movement of fixed stars by 1° every 72 years from the perspective of the Earth due to axial precession.

Symbolic meaning of zodiac signs

Each zodiac sign is associated with certain attributes, personality traits of ways of doing things. While the house described a sphere of life, the zodiac sign describes how we act.

In traditional astrology, the zodiac signs are given the following meanings:

  • Aries: fast, aggressive, fiery, dynamic
  • Taurus: slow, steady, stable, valuable, resourceful
  • Gemini: quick, communicative, energetic
  • Cancer: pitiful, empathetic, nurturing, kind
  • Leo: shining, glamorous, arrogant,
  • Virgo: clean, meticulous, perfectionist, organised, helpful, servient
  • Libra: balanced, harmonious, beautiful, aesthetic,
  • Scorpio: powerful, revealing, manipulative, deceptive, deep
  • Sagittarius: exploratory, thoughtful, wise, adventurous
  • Capricorn: traditional, structured, bureaucratic, authoritative
  • Aquarius: revolutionary, advanced, technical, novel, inventive
  • Pisces: spiritual, dreamy, imaginative, nebulous, unclear

In the upcoming articles of the tracing the stars series, I’ll introduce you to planets, elements and modalities and give you everything you need to analyse your own business horoscope. Stay tuned for part II!

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