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I've complained about the Celtic Cross spread before. And I still hate it! In addition to a "general reading" spread of my own creation (details at the link), I like using the standard astrological houses spread for all-purpose readings, including ones for myself at the solstices and equinoxes. I'm fairly familiar with astrology, and much as I'm not really super into the brand of occultism favored by the Golden Dawn or Crowley et al. (it's a little Christo-pagan for my liking), I recognize that Tarot as the divination tool it is today owes a lot to them, so there are concessions I'm willing to make, and the astrological associations are one of them. I find it to be the best paradigm for the Thoth deck in particular, since it makes no secret of putting the astrology right there in the image for you. Not only that, but astrologically themed readings are by nature complex and systematic, and I can't think of two better words to describe the Thoth deck than "complex" and "systematic."

I should note that within its full context, an astrological spread like this would actually constitute the "third operation," and would only be performed if the first two were successful. But more on that in another post. I have become quite taken with the first two operations myself, but frankly I don't think you need them if you have your own method going, so I'll touch on them later.

Sometimes my understanding of the houses in the context of astrology doesn't always translate to a good intuitive feel for what they would be in a divinatory context, though, so this entry is as much an attempt to share knowledge as it is to nail it down, hah.

Before I dive in, here is some background information on the houses (in the context of natal charts).

Anyway, a finalized version of how I use the houses in a Tarot reading.

The First House

First and foremost, I see this as a summary of the upcoming period in question, or as a significator for the querent (depending on if you're reading about the future or "right now"). If it's a card associated with a particular sign, whether Major Arcana, Minor Arcana, or court card, it sets the the ascendant for the rest of the reading. This is actually really important, because this will determine which cards are well-dignified and which ones are ill-dignified.

For example, let's say that the card that turns up in the first house is The Chariot. This card is associated with Cancer, and thus puts Cancer on the ascendant. The next house will be ruled by Leo, and then Virgo, and so on.

If the card isn't associated with a specific zodiac sign as per the Golden Dawn (so: the Princesses, the Aces, and the elemental/planetary Major Arcana), the natural rulers of the houses are used throughout the spread. In a nutshell, this is how you figure out which cards are reversed (more or less) in the Thoth deck. How I do it, anyway. ;)

It occurs to me after writing all of this up that an alternative method of house distribution in a spread might be continuing until you hit the first zodiacal card in the spread. So if you have The High Priestess, the Ace of Swords, and then the 3 of Wands, you would start with Aries in the third house (3 of Wands being associated with Sun in Aries), which translates to Aquarius in the first house. Or maybe you would check the the angular houses first, than the succeedent, then the cadent. (Angular succeedent cadent whaaat?)

But more on this in another post!

On a less esoteric level, the first house in a Tarot spread represents:

your personality
your approach to the world
the persona you want to project
your body (materially, e.g. injuries or accidents; health overall comes later)

Paul Foster Case's method also includes "[your] own initiative and action" in this category. The natural ruler of the first house is Aries.

The Second House

The second house is about wealth. Specifically: how you earn it. What talents do you have? It's also a house about values: what do you value in yourself? in others?

The natural ruler of the second house is Taurus.

The Third House

The third house is about cognition. It's about knowledge -- the ability to grasp facts, and remember and understand them -- and it's about the world immediately around you. It's about short trips, writing, communication, and siblings. Neighbors also fall into this category, as does basic schooling.

The natural ruler of the third house is Gemini.

The Fourth House

The fourth house is all about family. From siblings in the third house, we're now moving back into ancestors. This is the house that rules the cozy, home-y parent (or the cozy, home-y side of both parents). Traditional gender roles ascribe this to mothers, but it's a new world and gender roles are bullshit. This is the house of the "good cop" in the "good cop/bad cop" parenting dynamic.

Beyond that, it's also the house of real estate, land and property, and everything else about roots.

The natural ruler of the fourth house is Cancer.

The Fifth House

The fifth house is fun. Love affairs, gambling, the arts, children, all that good stuff. This is all about creativity and expressing yourself.

The natural ruler of the fifth house is Leo.

The Sixth House

The sixth house is about work and maintenance and duty. What do you do to keep things going? What does your everyday life look like? This is also the house of health issues (not surprise accidents or injuries, but whatever ongoing problems that you need to take care of).

Case also notes "relations with superior and inferiors."

The natural ruler of the sixth house is Virgo.

The Seventh House

This is about partnerships, unofficial and official (but especially official). It's the house of marriage, contracts, open enemies, negotiations, and court cases.

The natural ruler of the seventh house is Libra.

The Eighth House

One of the two ~scary~ houses in astrology (the other being the twelfth house) because of its historical association with death and matters connected to it (inheritances, spirits, etc.). Good times! The other Big Two in the eighth house (besides death) are taxes and sex. The occult is also part of this house.

In Case's tradition (specifically within his sequence of operations), this house is some bad ju-ju (unless you're inquiring about a spiritual or occult matter). Its reputation is a bit softer today, and we generally refer to it euphemistically as a house of transformations. Its natural ruler is Scorpio.

The Ninth House

The keyword for this house is "broadening horizons." It's related to higher learning (university as opposed to primary school), philosophy, religion, long journeys, and the law. To frame it within the context of the old joke, the third house is about knowing that the tomato is a fruit; the tenth house is about not putting it in fruit salad.

Its natural ruler is Sagittarius.

The Tenth House

This is the house of persona and career. What's your role in society at large? How does the public perceive you? It's also associated with the "bad cop" parent (traditionally the father, but again: gender roles are for chumps) and authority in general: governments, bosses, etc.

Its natural ruler is Capricorn.

The Eleventh House

This is the house of friendship and ideals. Government is the purview of the tenth house; the eleventh is about aspirational political groups. Case also notes "hopes and fears; finances of the employer."

Its natural ruler is Aquarius.

The Twelfth House

The other ~scary~ house of the zodiac, the twelfth house rules the subconscious and the unconscious. It's the house of hidden enemies and blind spots, and it's also the house of anything that takes us out of waking, ordinary life: prisons, hospitals, substance abuse. Case also notes secret societies associated with this house.

Its natural ruler is Pisces.

First house: Ace of Cups (-)
Second house: 7 of Cups (+)
Third house: High Priestess
Fourth house: 5 of Cups (!)
Fifth house: 3 of Swords (+)
Sixth house: 4 of Swords (-)
Seventh house: Ace of Swords (!)
Eighth house: The Hermit (+)
Ninth house: The Devil
Tenth house: Prince of Swords (-)
Eleventh house: 3 of Cups
Twelfth house: Knight of Cups (!)

Since the Ace of Cups isn't associated with any zodiac sign, we take the houses with their natural rulers. Using elemental dignities, we can determine which cards are well dignified and which are not. I mostly think of this in terms of strength of expression. Ill-dignified cards have a hard time expressing themselves. Well-dignified cards have an easy time. Neutral cards are just that, and the same element tends to crank expression up to 11 (for better and for worse).

Fiery Aries is a poor match for the Root of the Powers of Water, so this card will be read as ill dignified. Cups do better in earthy signs such as Taurus, so the 7 of Cups is well dignified there. Water and air are neutral to each other, and so The Priestess (associated with the Moon, a watery planet) just hangs out and does her thing. Watery fourth house has watery 5 of Cups, so that one is full-on. Leo, the ruler of the fifth house here, is fiery and complements the 3 of Swords well. But the suit of Swords doesn't do as well in the sixth house, ruled by Virgo. Ace of Swords, the root of the powers of air, is much more at home in the seventh house. And the water of the eighth house and the earth of The Hermit are complementary, while the fire of the ninth house and the earth of The Devil are neutral. Airy Prince of Swords struggles in the tenth house, but 3 of Cups is neutral in the eleventh house. Finally, Knight of Cups is right at home in the watery twelfth house.

I'll leave out an interpretation there, because this is already getting long for what I wanted. But you can see at least how elemental dignities would provide important context for each card. You can also see why I think a spread like this gives a better snapshot of a person's overall life situation than the standard Celtic Cross.
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