Just as every zodiac chart is divided into 12 signs, it's also divided into 12 houses that overlap those signs. Each house represents a different aspect of life, from travel and romance to career, and every planet in your chart is located in both a sign and a house. These two placements illustrate how a planet's influence can appear in your life.
It's a lot wrap your head around, which is why astrologer Chani Nicholas, author of You Were Born For This: The Astrology of Radical Self-Acceptance, suggests imagining the mix of planets, signs, and houses in astrology as a theater production. "The planets are the characters, the signs are the costumes they're wearing, and the houses are the stages, or areas of life, where they're lived out," she says. "Planets express their energy in the style of the sign they are in and show up prominently in whatever domain of life, or house, they are located [in]."
While you can look for the sign and house placements for every planet in your chart using diagrams like the one included above, it can get overwhelming. A good place to start is figuring out which house your sun sign occupies. To do this, simply enter your birth time, place, and location into a natal chart generator, like this free one online, and scroll down to the written description of your sun sign. There, you'll learn what house it's in.
"The house that the sun is in within your chart tells you a key area of life in which your essential life purpose is lived out and where you need to express yourself." —Chani Nicholas, astrologer
"The sun represents our essential self and is a core part of our life’s purpose," says Nicholas. "The house that the sun is in within your chart tells you a key area of life in which your essential life purpose is lived out and where you need to express yourself. [For example], if your sun is in Virgo in your 10th house of career, you will need to express yourself—the sun—in a skillful, discerning, detail-oriented manner—Virgo—through professional avenues or public roles—the 10th house." She adds that a person with a 10th-house Virgo sun would make a good editor or doctor, because both are leadership positions that require attention to detail.
Another important note: The sun is happier in some houses than others. "If the sun is in the 9th house, for travel and learning, it's said to be in its joy—the house it feels most comfortable shining in," says Nicholas. The 1st (self), 10th (career), and 11th (community) houses are also known to be easier placements for the sun, while the more complicated 6th (physical health), 8th (mental health), and 12th (inner life) houses can sometimes be a bit more challenging for this fiery planet. But if you find yourself with your sun in one of these houses, don't let it freak you out. Rather, think of it as a growth opportunity.
"Frida Kahlo’s sun is in her 12th house: the house of hidden life, secrets, sorrow, loss and behind-the-scenes work," Nicholas says, as an example. "Kahlo contracted polio early in life as well as survived a very near-fatal bus accident, both of which demanded that she spend time in isolation healing. However, these periods of intense self-reflection led her to create art that addressed sorrow, loss, identity, beauty, and the human condition—all 12th-house topics—leaving behind a treasure trove of work and leaving her indelible impression upon her profession."
Nicholas goes into more detail about the houses in astrology—as well as the sun, moon, and rising signs—in You Were Born For This. But even without her intel, you can glean value and understanding from knowing which house contains your sun by checking out your chart and referencing the illustration above. "The houses of our chart give us context for where things will occur, and understanding and developing a relationship to the house that your sun is in will be integral to living out your life's purpose," says Nicholas. "My hope is that the faster we radically accept ourselves, the quicker we can put our talents to use and be of service to others." In other words, you officially have permission to spend even more time going down astrology rabbit holes.
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