The First House

As the house on the eastern horizon, the first house concerns the vitality and primary motivations of the native, with planets in the first house, the houses they rule, and the placement of the ruler of the first house unlocking everything from a native’s physical characteristics to the expression of their talents.

Published Categorized as Fundamentals
Painting shows rising sun on the horizon with its bright rays illumuniating the world.
The horoscope marks the eastern horizon where the powerful sun is reborn everyday.

Mercury in Scorpio is a young man who is cunning, scheming, and stinging. He never forgets his wounds and waits for the right moment to take his revenge. Two roles in Bollywood history depict this planet in sign combination to perfection. One is Vicky Malhotra, who rises from the dark trauma of his childhood to take revenge by stabbing the businessman Madan Chopra in a ferocious rage, laying bare an inner turmoil that seems to justify his actions. Another is the psychopath and obsessive lover Rahul Mehra, who relentlessly stalks his friend’s wife and dies as a result. Both are anti-hero roles and any actor aspiring to don them in 1990s Bollywood was putting their reputation on the line. Shah Rukh would prove everyone wrong. Baazigar and Darr, both movies released in a span of six weeks in late 1993, would establish him as one of Bollywood’s finest actors.

What does all this have to do with the first house?

The eastern horizon has been associated with birth and beginnings since ancient times. The ever-glorious Sun rises in the east and that is where it is reborn each day. It is a place of life force and vitality. Similarly, the exact degree of the zodiac that rises in the eastern horizon when a human being is born is marked as the Horoscope, the Ascendant or the cusp of the first house. It reflects our beginning, our motivations, our character and personality, our appearance, our approach, and our style.

Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan
Famous Indian actor Shah Rukh Khan

Let’s take a closer look at the astrology behind Shah Rukh Khan‘s fame. He was born on November 2, 1965, when the Sun was just about to rise and Mercury tagging along. Both were in the tropical sign of Scorpio and so was the eastern horizon. Mercury in Scorpio in the first house, in its house of joy, conjunct the rising Sun that rules the Leo Midheaven, promises career ascendancy and fame through Scorpio-related themes. Mercury was the firdaria sub-period ruler in 1993 when the movies Baazigar and Darr were released. Such is the power of a planet in the first house that, throughout his long career, Shah Rukh Khan would take on additional Scorpio roles in films like Don, My Name is Khan, Fan, and Raees.

Physical Body

The most obvious effect of the Ascendant is our appearance. The first house or the Ascendant, its ruler and planets in the Ascendant shape the physical body. This should be evident if one categorizes people based on their Ascendant sign. Gemini and Virgo Ascendants (Mercury ruled) often are youthful in appearance and of average build; Pisces and Sagittarius Ascendants (Jupiter ruled) are generally large figures; Taurus (Venus ruled) Ascendants tend to put on weight; Aries (Mars ruled) Ascendants are athletic, and so on.

Judith Hill, in her book The Astrological Body Types Face, Form and Expression provides a good pictorial description of the body types based on the zodiacal sign and the planets. One could apply that template to the Ascendant sign and the planets placed in the first house.


Portrait of Indian politician Rahul Gandhi
Rahul Gandhi, the Gemini boyish physiognomy
Portrait of Indian actor Rajinikanth
Rajinikanth, the Capricorn goat physiognomy

The pioneering research on physiognomy by Dr. H elucidates the role of the Ascendant’s decan sign and the decan ruler’s sign placement for facial features. Make sure to use the Varahamihira decan or the decans based on triplicity rulers. For Shah Rukh Khan, the Ascendant decan in Scorpio conjunct the Sun imparts the aquiline nose, coarse hair, and intense look, all classic Scorpio traits.

Indian politician Rahul Gandhi has his Ascendant in Libra in the third decan (since the Ascendant is in the 26th degree of Libra and the third decan lies between the 21st to 30th degree of Libra). The ruler of the third decan (Gemini) is Mercury, which in his birth chart is placed in its own sign of Gemini. Both the decan sign and the decan ruler’s sign in Gemini contribute to Rahul’s boyish looks.

Reversing the process, the Ascendant’s decan hence could be ascertained or rectified based on matching the native’s actual appearance and the decan sign (and its ruler’s sign). In practice, it may not be always possible to do so, as other factors could muddle things—like placements of other planets in the Ascendant or tight aspects to the Ascendant degree. But some examples are very clear.

Famous Indian actor Rajinikanth was born with Leo rising with reported birth time indicating the 2nd decan of Leo rising. The 2nd decan of Leo is Sagittarius, ruled by Jupiter placed in Pisces. We don’t see much of Sagittarius or Pisces influence on his facial appearance. Note that the ruler of the Ascendant is the Sun, which is in Sagittarius along with Venus in the 5th house. Venus/Sagittarius is indicator of his “style”, made famous by his mannerism, especially his walk and habit of tossing his hair. His facial appearance though, clearly evident in his later years, mirrors that of Capricorn, the goat. One cannot miss the resemblance—the ovate face with tufts of hair at the sides, the aging skin, and the skinny figure. For another striking example of the Capricorn goat look, see VOC – Charles Dickens. For Rajinikanth, Mars is in Capricorn and it rules the 3rd decan of Leo, hence as a rectification step, we would fix the birth time to be between 10:12 PM and 10:54 PM.

Apart from the luminaries (the Sun and the Moon) the Ascendant also needs to be considered for assessing physical vitality. When the Ascendant is directed by primary direction to the body or aspect of a malefic (Saturn, Mars, the South Node, or an accidental malefic), or the malefic is directed to the Ascendant, the physical body is harmed through illness and injuries. Even death could occur. The 17th-century astrologer John Gadbury used this fact to rectify horoscopes, as seen in his collection of horoscopes book Nauticum Astrologicum. One can see the contemporary astrologer, Dr. H, using this technique in his rectification as well.

The Presidential Ascendant-Malefic directions

Portrait of American President Ulysses S. Grant
The Mexican-American War (1845-1847) can be read from Ulysses Grant’s horoscope through the primary direction sequence of dexter sextile aspect of Mars to the Ascendant.

In A Rectification Manual, we see several examples of the malefic harming the physical body when they or their aspect is directed to the Ascendant. Direction of the Ascendant to the body of Mars timed Thomas Jefferson’s death. Direction of the dexter sextile aspect of Mars to the Ascendant timed Gerald Ford’s Word War II military service and his narrow escape from death. Directing an aspect of John F Kennedy’s Mars to his Ascendant timed his brother’s death and the D-day invasion of 1944.

Planets in the 8th, ruling the 8th or a high scoring killing planet, when directed to the Ascendant, could cause harm as well. In James Monroe’s birth chart, Mercury is the 8th house ruler, and when the Ascendant was directed to Mercury it resulted in his death. Similarly, opposition of the Ascendant directed to the Sun in the 8th house cusp timed John F Kennedy’s death. For Dwight D Eisenhower, Jupiter, a high score killing planet, directed to the Ascendant timed his death.

The Moon is the ruler of the nocturnal sect and when directed to the Ascendant is akin to extinguishing its light, hence when it (or its aspect)  is directed to the Ascendant or the Ascendant is directed to the Moon (or its aspect), we get a negative result. Direction of the Moon to the Ascendant timed Ulysses S Grant’s ruptured neck artery and the death of Abraham Lincoln’s sister. Direction of the Ascendant to the Moon timed John Quincy’s death and the death of Franklin Pierce’s wife.  A dexter trine of the Moon in William Taft’s birth chart falls in the bound of Saturn/Aries. When this aspect was directed to the Ascendant it caused his head injury in a carriage accident. Opposition of the Moon directed to the Ascendant timed Dwight D Eisenhower’s near-death through blood poisoning.

Mercury rules strokes and hence can act as a malefic when directed to the Ascendant. Direction of the Ascendant to Mercury timed John Quincy Adam’s stroke. Jupiter is in Gemini, a Mercury ruled sign, in Theodore Roosevelt’s birth chart. An aspect of his Jupiter directed to the Ascendant timed his fatal stroke.

For presidents, even mundane conflicts and wars could be seen through Mars-Ascendant directions. Directing Franklin Pierce’s Mars to his Ascendant timed the brutal events of Bleeding Kansas (1855-1856). An aspect of Ulysses Grant’s Mars to the Ascendant timed the Mexican-American War (1845-1847). A similar direction in Warren Harding’s birth chart timed the 1922 Herron Strike Massacre. We do live in a deterministic world!

Planets in the First house

One of the most important rules in astrology is that location is more immediate than rulership. This means that the effects of a planet in a house are more evident than the planet that rules that house.

The first house is like a door to the person and the planets in the first house represent what one experiences on encountering the person. Jupiter in the first house is an exuberant person; Saturn in the first house, a melancholic; Mars in the first house, a choleric person. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, an important figure during World War II, has Jupiter-Mars conjunction in the first house.

A first house Venus will greet you with a smile and turn on their charm. Former US President Bill Clinton is a good example with Venus in Libra in the first house. Many actresses and singers have Venus in the first house, including Angelina Jolie and Judy Garland. Miss World winners from India, Aishwarya Rai and Priyanka Chopra, both have Venus in their first house.

Bollywood actors Kajol, Priyanka Chopra, and Rajesh Khanna are actors with the Moon in the first house. They emote exceptionally well. Watch Chingaari Koi Bhadke from the Rajesh Khanna film Amar Prem, released during his Moon firdaria-subperiod. The lamenting actor in a night boat ride with his lady is the Moon in action! The Moon in the first house is often found in the birth charts of seers and psychics as well. The father of science fiction, Jules Verne, who foresaw many of the advancements of modern science, has the Moon in Aquarius in his Ascendant.  

Portrait of Judy Garland
Judy Garland has Venus in the first house ruling her Pisces Midheaven

Abraham Lincoln is a near-perfect example of Saturn in the first house. The president’s melancholy is matched by his Saturnian appearance. Saturn in the first house is also what gives the Indian actor Dhanush his skinny frame. Another example is the 14th-century Italian scholar Marsilio Ficino, who advocated the Stoic philosophy of willingly accepting one’s destiny. Hunchbacked, frugal, and melancholic, he attributed these traits to Saturn in his first house.

Often, planets in the first house reflect one’s profession or possible professions where the archetype of the planet is best utilized. Mars in the first house could indicate a warrior on the front lines; Mercury in the first house, a first-hand news reporter; Venus in the first house, a receptionist, and so on. Adding the sign in which the planet is placed, one can see a clear expression of the planet-in-sign.

Francis Galton was born with a rising Mars in Virgo at sunset (this special rising configuration is known as “acronycal rising”). Mars in Virgo is his professional significator as a data researcher and statistician. Alfred Dreyfus, the artillery officer, also has Mars in Virgo in the first house. The sign Libra is strongly associated with grace, and Grace Kelly has Venus in rulership in Libra in her first house, and so does the Bollywood dance choreographer Saroj Khan. Walt Whitman, the author of Leaves of Grass, has Mercury in Taurus in the first house. Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady”, has Saturn in Scorpio (a Mars ruled sign) in the first house. Martin Bormann, the Nazi official known for his organizational and administrative skills, has Saturn in Capricorn in rulership in the first house.

Houses ruled by planets in the Ascendant

The house that the planet in the Ascendant rules is helps to understand the planet’s expression. After all, a planet is trying to support the house it rules. Being in the first house provides it with extra vitality to fulfill its role. For example, the planet ruling the 10th house (or the Midheaven) in the Ascendant means that career comes easily to the native. Often people with this placement find themselves lucky in their professional life. They are actively sought after and don’t have trouble landing a job. We have already seen the example of Shah Rukh Khan, who has the Sun ruling the Leo Midheaven in the first house. Astrologer Robert Hand, who spent his life teaching and learning, has the 9th house Pisces Midheaven’s ruler Jupiter in the Ascendant. Al-Biruni, the 10th-century scholar, has Mercury in its own sign in Virgo ruling the Midheaven. He was the astrologer for Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni. Traveling with him to India, he devoted his life to describing Indian customs, religion, and worldview.

Indian actors Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol
A first house onscreen pair – Shah Rukh has the Sun in first house while Kajol has Moon in the first house

Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe has Jupiter ruling the Sagittarius Midheaven in the Ascendant, along with Venus ruling the 9th and 4th house. King Frederick II furnished him with an estate on an island to establish his research center, named Uraniborg, to conduct astronomical observations. Indian maestro AR Rahman has Venus, the ruler of the 5th house, in the first.

A planet ruling the 7th in the first means that marriage partner or legal conflicts come easily to the native. One example is Theodore Roosevelt, who has Jupiter ruling the 7th in the first house. His dispute with cattle baron Marquis de Mores is timed by a Jupiter-MC primary direction (for more details, see ARM).

Planets ruling the 8th in the Ascendant could signify how death comes to the native. Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated by suicide bombers, has Mars, the ruler of 8th, in the first house. King Henry VIII has Mars in the first house ruling his Aries Moon in the 8th house. He was notorious for beheading two of his wives. Mahatma Gandhi, assassinated by a fanatic, had Mercury in Scorpio ruling the 8th in the first house. R G Collingwood, who died of a stroke, has Mercury, ruler of the 8th house, in the first house.

Planets ruling the 12th in the first house mean that imprisonment, secret enemies, mistakes, and self-undoing plague the native. Indian freedom leaders Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru both have the ruler of the 12th in the first house and they spent multiple terms in prison. Robert Peary, the Arctic explorer, had the Moon, the ruler of the 12th, directed to the Ascendant through solar arc when he claimed to have reached the North Pole on April 6, 1909. His claims were disputed, and recent research indicates he did not reach the North Pole but came close.

Ascendant ruler and Primary Motivation

The Ascendant sign and its ruler describe the primary motivation of the native. The Ascendant is the life force, and the ruler of the Ascendant tells us how the native goes about actualizing the soul’s purpose. The ruler of a house is the cause and outcome of the house. Hence, the ruler of the Ascendant needs to be considered along with the Ascendant to get the full picture. Its placement in another house elevates the importance of that house’s affairs. A few examples will help clarify how this works.

Both Ernest Hemingway, the American writer and Ingmar Bergman, the Swedish film director, have Virgo Ascendant with ruler Mercury in Leo in the 12th house of evil spirits, fears, and anxieties. Hemingway suffered from depression and committed suicide. Bergman directed movies focusing on 12th house themes.

President Theodore Roosevelt, who suffered losses in cattle ranching, has Mercury, ruler of the Ascendant, in the 6th house combust. Scottish psychiatrist RD Laing, who wrote the Divided Self and The Self and the Others, has both the sign and exaltation ruler of the Aries Ascendant in the 7th house in Libra. Arctic explorer Robert Peary, whose primary life purpose was to earn fame, has the Sun, the ruler of the Leo Ascendant, in the 10th house. Napoleon Bonaparte has Jupiter in Scorpio in the Ascendant ruled by Mars in the 11th house of politics.

As the eastern horizon, the house of the rising sun, the first house is one of the most important houses. From primary motivations to the expression of vital force, this house provides a front door to the native’s life. Examine the layers of planets in the Ascendant, houses ruled by those planets and the ruler of the Ascendant to add nuance to your understanding of the native. Start your delineation with it to become a better astrologer!


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