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Why Aries ≠ the 1st House

If you’ve ever referred to the 8th house as a “Scorpionic” house, this article is for you. Originally I wanted to write an article to definitively show how the 8th house shouldn’t be associated with sex, until it became way, way too long. I realized that in order to back up that argument, I had to first show why the conceptual framework for coming to that conclusion was insufficient to begin with. So, this is why the Aries=1st House paradigm is wrong.

It’s called by a few different names, the 12 Letter Alphabet, the Astrological Alphabet. I prefer to call it the Aries Alphabet. They all refer to a system where the houses are archetypally linked to certain signs. So the 1st house is an Aries-like house, the 2nd house is a Taurus-like house and so on. Associations are made between the modes of the signs and the angularity of the houses, as well as between the elements of the signs and some of the significations of the houses. Sort of like this.

I understand why this is attractive, tempting, comforting, and honestly, some of these associations work fairly well. But the truth is they’re accidental rather than archetypal, and are only specifically relevant for everyone with Aries Rising. The Aries Alphabet is most commonly attributed to astrologer Zipporah Dobyns who came up with it in the ’70’s. It’s understandable as a modern attempt at a conceptual understanding of the houses, but astrology as we understand it goes back to at least ~2 BCE, and the meanings of the houses were originally attributed to a semi-mythical figure called Hermes Trismegistus from that time. So if there’s a conceptual framework to understand the houses, we’re going to have to go a lot further back than the 1970’s. Astrologers of the Hellenistic era of astrology (~2 BCE-~7 CE) reference a mythical, theoretical chart for the beginning of the world called the Thema Mundi, and it looks a bit different from the Aries Alphabet.

This arrangement is a statement/reflection/(basis?) of many fundamental astrological concepts, including rulership, aspects, exaltations and more. Interestingly, it has Cancer rising. There are a few reasons for this but ultimately it’s what makes everything else about the chart work. While it’s a theoretical chart, it’s rooted in the astronomy of our solar system, by arranging the planets visible to the naked eye by visibility and/or order. Sort of like this:

Definitely not to scale.

Now, you may be saying the Thema Mundi is bullshit because it doesn’t include Uranus and Neptune. Well of course it wouldn’t, not just because they didn’t know about them, but because it’s a system predicated on visibility, and the outer planets are invisible to the naked eye. The best human eyesight in optimal conditions can detect magnitudes down to 6.5, and Uranus deviates between 5.38 and 6.03, so it’s really not that visible. It’s barely visible once a year when it opposes the Sun, and you’d have to know where to look. You really have to bend over backwards to look at Uranus. (You right now: ಠ_ಠ)

If you were going to reinvent astrology, you’d probably have to distinguish between planets which are organically visible versus the ones which require technological assistance. This is another reason why Saturn signifies limits and Uranus signifies breaking past barriers, because Saturn is at the limit of human visibility and Uranus is beyond it. Weirdly enough, if you continue to place planets into the Thema Mundi, Uranus goes into Aquarius and Neptune goes into Pisces. This is pretty bizarre because modern astrologers made these associations between these signs and the outer planets before knowledge about the Thema Mundi was recovered late in the 20th century. I personally think that the outers are beyond rulerships because they’re beyond visibility, but I think it’s interesting in any case.

You may be wondering though, why is the Thema Mundi so much better than the Aries Alphabet? So let’s continue on now with the various problems with the Aries Alphabet, and why the Thema Mundi provides a solution to each of them.

Problem #1: If the 1st House is equivalent to Aries, the order of the signs do not qualitatively match the Sun’s apparent diurnal motion.

The Sun’s rising would be equivalent to it being in Aries, which makes sense as the sign of its exaltation, a fiery sign for the beginning of the day. As it rises through the 12th (equivalent of Pisces) and the 11th (equivalent of Aquarius) it typically culminates in the 10th (equivalent of Capricorn). Does this actually make sense for the Sun’s culmination to be associated with Capricorn? It does if you yourself are an Aries Rising, but does it make sense to use this as an archetypal reference for the meanings of these houses overall?

The association between Capricorn and the 10th house tends to be rationalized through Saturn’s frequent connection to one’s career, responsibilities, etc. But if we’re honest we’ll also wonder why one of the coldest (earth sign ruled by Saturn) and darkest signs (literally darkest in the northern hemisphere) is supposed to represent where the Sun is at its highest and the day is brightest and warmest. The same problem exists when the Sun comes to rest on the IC around midnight. By this system it’s naturally associated with Cancer, even though this is where daylight is lopsided and ruled by a luminary. And if you think this is too northern-hemisphere-centric, have I got an article for you.

Contrast this with the Thema Mundi where sunrise in the 1st is associated with the balmy light-ruled sign of Cancer (and was considered to be co-ruled by the Sun by the Zoroastrians). The Sun’s culmination in the 10th is associated with its fiery exalted sign of Aries, matching the brightness and heat of day. The Sun’s setting in the 7th is associated with the cold earth sign of Capricorn as the day ends, and the Sun’s resting around midnight in the 4th is associated with the cool air sign of Libra.

So the elements of the Aries Alphabet do not qualitatively match the Sun’s apparent diurnal motion at least half the time, whereas the Thema Mundi does a better job of qualitatively reconciling the opposites of diurnal motion and zodiacal order by associating the most diurnal solstice and equinox with the most diurnal angles. It’s not a perfect match, but it’s impossible for them to perfectly match, because diurnal motion and zodiacal order go in opposite directions. That’s actually really important and we’ll definitely come back to that.

Problem #2: If the 1st House is equivalent to Aries, the houses lose their interpretive association with different aspects. 

Each planet has its most characteristic distance from the Sun.

Somewhere, NDGT weeps.

Mercury can never be more than one sign away from the Sun, so Mercury is linked to the contentious contrarian so-called semi-sextile or adjacent aversion (⚺). Venus can never be more than two signs away from the Sun, so Venus is linked to the friendly sextile (⚹). Mars is close to the degree of its direct station when it last squared the Sun, so Mars is linked to the hostile square (□). Jupiter stations retrograde and direct very close to its trine with the Sun, so Jupiter is linked to the generous trine (△). Saturn is the next planet out and is hard to see until it goes retrograde and nears its opposition so Saturn is linked to the so-called quincunx or opposing aversion, a blind spot, a lack of connection (⚻). We’ll get to the opposition.

 

These astronomical relationships between the Sun and the planets form the basis of the rulership system. For example, Mercury-ruled Gemini and Virgo are both in adjacent aversion to Cancer and Leo.

Venus-ruled Taurus and Libra are a sextile away from Cancer and Leo. Mars-ruled Aries and Scorpio are square Cancer and Leo. Jupiter-ruled Sagittarius and Pisces are trines from Cancer and Leo. Saturn-ruled Aquarius and Capricorn are a so-called quincunx away from Cancer and Leo. The lines finally cross between the nocturnal and diurnal arrangement with Saturn’s signs of darkness opposing the signs of the lights.

Similarly, the houses have planetary associations. This is why the 2nd and 12th are related to different sides of Mercury because they are in aversion to the Ascendant, (currency and calculations in the 2nd and distractions or enemies in the 12th).

This is why both the 3rd and 11th are related to different sides of Venus, (personal friendships in the 3rd, impersonal friendships in the 11th). This is why both the 4th and 10th are related to different sides of Mars (we sever from parents from the 4th and we take action in the 10th). This is why both the 5th and 9th are related to different sides of Jupiter in that they signify good things we either generate for ourselves or experience. Both the 6th and the 8th are largely houses of difficulties, and the “quincunx” is Saturn’s aspect. The 7th is both a place of weddings and partnerships but also death and exile, and it is opposite the Ascendant. The only opposition in the Thema Mundi is between the Moon and Saturn, and the opposition is alternately  a receptive/exchanging relationship or excluding/oppressive relationship. In my estimation the opposition is a lunar and Saturnian aspect.

While there is some overlap between what the Aries Alphabet and Thema Mundi show about the houses, you run the risk of generating some confusing mismatches. Here are two of the clearest examples: The 11th house=Aquarius association is weird whether you think Saturn or Uranus rules Aquarius. It’s a house of gifts, friends, networks, alliances. Saturn is austere, dispassionate, solemn, restricting. Uranus is unconventional, rebellious, iconoclastic. In the Thema Mundi, Taurus is in the 11th where Venus rules, the Moon is exalted and where Jupiter joys. Tell me which one you think is a better fit.

The 12th house=Pisces association is also off. The only way it makes sense is if you completely reject Jupiter as a ruler for Pisces. The 12th is about enemies, suffering, isolating, retreating, imprisonment, etc. Jupiter is jolly, abundant, expanding, generous. Neptune is deceptive, addictive, synthetic, virtual, chemical, mystical. In the Thema Mundi, Gemini is in the 12th where Mercury rules and Saturn joys. Saturn is a depressive, restricting planet, while Mercury is duplicitous and can have a bad side. Anyone who’s been Mercury Retrofuckedcan attest to this.

Problem #3: If the 1st House is equivalent to Aries, the Exaltations lose their interpretive connection to the houses. 

Sometimes there is some overlap between the Thema Mundi and the Aries Alphabet. For example, the 9th house is ruled by Jupiter in both systems, and we still most commonly associate Jupiter with wisdom, belief, knowledge, religion, etc. However, if you overlay the Exaltations on top of the zodiac with an assumed Aries=1st House equivalence, the planets end up in houses that are not particularly relevant to their meaning. For example, Venus ends up in the 12th house. Even if you can draw a connection between Pisces and the 12th house, what particularly does Venus have to do with the 12th? Why should Venus be exalted in the natural 12th house of enemies and self-undoing?

If you overlay the Exaltations on top of the Thema Mundi, all of the planets end up in houses which are relevant to their meanings.

For example, Venus is exalted in the Piscean 9th House in the Thema Mundi. While that may not make a whole lot of sense to the modern understanding of Venus, Venus themes of purity, cleanliness and sacredness are certainly “exalted” in most religious traditions. Christianity has Baptism, Judaism has the Tvila, Islam has Wudu. They all use water as a part of religious rites to cleanse or sacralize themselves, literally and spiritually. So Venus has this special role in religious practices that relates to its nature and even with the water element of Pisces. This makes far more obvious sense in the context of the 9th rather than the 12th. As a people we also hold the romantic principles of Venus in such high esteem that we make marriages official either through a wedding in a religious tradition or in a courthouse, both places suggested by Jupiter’s association with the 9th house (via Pisces rather than Sagittarius). This is just one example that stands out.

Problem #4: The Houses do not ultimately derive from zodiacal associations, and even if they did, they would more likely apply to relationships to Cancer rather than Aries.

“So how did we get the meanings of the houses?” you might be asking yourself. Great question! The meanings of the houses are emergent properties, primarily a result of the tension between diurnal motion (turn of the Earth) and zodiacal motion (planetary motion through the zodiac).

This is diurnal motion, the regular day/night cycle over a period of 24 hours. The Sun, planets and stars rise in the east. As the Earth turns, they set in the west. At the location in this gif, you’re in the northern hemisphere looking south, so you can see the Sun rises on the left and sets on the right.

This is zodiacal motion, how planets transit through the zodiac. Below is the same location at the same time every night over ~3 months. Notice how the planets are moving through the zodiac from west to east, or from this perspective, right to left. You can really see it with the Moon and Mars especially.

These opposing motions of a planet’s diurnal motion versus its zodiacal motion are where the meanings of the houses come from, especially in relation to the angle they’re closest to. Here are the 4 angles:

  • IC – where the Sun rests as the Earth completes its turn to start a new day for a given location. This is why the IC is associated with our origins and private places, our home and parents, where we come from.
  • Ascendant  – where planets emerge and make an appearance, similar to our own emergence at birth. This is why the Ascendant is supposed to represent ourselves in a more specific way, who we are.
  • MC – where the Sun peaks, and so the the MC represents our actions, the height of our reputation and lives, what we do.
  • Descendant – where planets in the sky finally meet the earth, so it is similarly a meeting place in terms of marriage and partnerships, who we are with. It’s also where the Sun sets ending the day, so it’s also a place that shows old age and the end of life. “‘Till death do us part”.

For example, the reason why the 3rd is about siblings is because it’s where diurnal motion pushes a planet away from the 4th of home and family, suggesting places or people that are not quite your home and parents, but in proximity. The planet’s zodiacal motion tries to move back toward the 4th of home and family, suggesting people and places that are almost your parents and home, but not quite. This is why the 3rd is about close relatives, friends of the family, local neighborhood, etc.

We also know the 3rd is a sextile from the Ascendant, which is Venus’s aspect, so it’s a social place, which matches the associations with siblings and friends. In the Thema Mundi, Virgo is in the 3rd place, Mercury is there, Mercury rules there, Mercury is exalted there, the Moon joys there, etc. These other considerations fill out the notions of this house as a contrarian, unorthodox, busy, mobile place.

Meanwhile the 5th house is on the other side of the IC and is often associated with fun, entertainment, recreation, leisure, children, procreation. The 5th is where diurnal motion pushes a planet towards the IC of origins, showing people or places that eventually become like home and family even if they don’t start off that way. Zodiacal motion shows the planet is moving away from the IC of origins, showing people and places that are further removed and past your origins. It’s the next generation, your children.

We also know the 5th is a trine from the Ascendant, which is Jupiter’s aspect so it’s a generative place of fun and happiness (typically). In the Thema Mundi, Scorpio is in the 5th place, Mars is here, nothing is exalted here, Venus joys here, etc. This also gives us a picture of it being a place of romance, passion and the necessary elements of risk and danger to enhance the thrill of excitement. This is also where Scorpio gets its sexual connotations, and Mars and Scorpio are associated with the genitals. You might also begin to see how Scorpio’s association with the 8th and the 8th house’s association with sex doesn’t really…make any sense. But I’m going to handle that entire issue separately.

So if you want to know what a house is about, check it against all of these various factors and you can see how the most common significations of the houses came about, and how you might apply them to all different types of things unstated in tradition.

  1. Day & Night (Sect): Diurnal houses in the sky above are about intangible things of the mind or spirit, whereas nocturnal houses on the other side of the Earth, effectively through the ground below, are about tangible, physical things of the body or matter.
  2. Diurnal Motion: The 4 most pivotal points of the Sun’s daily journey are symbolically equated with a life cycle, from conception in the 4th, to birth in the 1st, to the height of life in the 10th, to death in the 7th, etc.
  3. Angularity:  These 4 most pivotal points of the Sun’s journey, or angles, are strong houses, central and focal to one’s life. Each succedent house is a stable house, things which are more constant throughout someone’s life. Each cadent house is a weaker house, with themes less central to the narrative of one’s life.
  4. Zodiacal Motion: The cadent houses have already moved past the angle, so they signify things that happen before the event of the angle. The succedent houses have yet to move past the angle, so they signify things that happen after the event of the angle. These are also extended towards the ages of life represented by the sun’s apparent daily cycle.
  5. Aspects: Each house that makes a whole sign aspect to the rising sign is considered a “good” sign, productive or life-supporting. The houses that don’t are considered “bad” signs, unconnected to what supports life. The 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th, 9th, 10th and 11th are connected to the Ascendant by conjunction, sextile, square, trine or opposition, and these are the “good” houses. The 2nd, 6th, 8th and 12th do not form proper aspects to the Ascendant, and so they are the “bad” houses.
  6. The Thema Mundi/Rulerships: The order of the signs themselves do bear relationships to the houses, but the correlations begin from the lights rather than the beginning of the zodiac. This is all borne out in the Thema Mundi’s planet and sign placements.
  7. The Thema Mundi/Exaltations: The exaltations of planets are signs which embody each planet’s diurnal/nocturnal and benefic/malefic nature relative to their domiciles, but only within the horizonal reference of the Thema Mundi so that all exaltations are in “good houses”, able to make a whole sign aspect with Cancer. Exaltations are a blend of planetary, zodiacal and horizonal concepts, and are therefore relevant to the interpretation of houses.
  8. The Joys: The Joys of the planets are houses which match each planet’s diurnal/nocturnal and benefic/malefic nature, so those houses take on the nature of those planets.
  9. Relative Houses: Some significations of the houses are interpreted by their relative position to other houses, especially the opposite house.

So while the Aries Alphabet makes some associations that aren’t totally off-base, they’re purely accidental. They’re a function of Aries and Cancer both being cardinal signs with some similar rulerships, or different malefics associated with each house in each system, making it harder to distinguish between them. In any case, the meanings of the houses do not derive from the signs, but instead derive from the directions a planet in a sign moves by diurnal and zodiacal motion. If you’ve put a lot of stock in the Aries Alphabet, hopefully by now you at least have more information to judge whether or not you should continue to. Aries can be the 1st house if you’re an Aries Rising, but Aries can’t be archetypally equivalent to the 1st house. Spread the word.

4 Replies to “Why Aries ≠ the 1st House

  1. I love the way this article is written but i do feel it is unfinished because you did not give your perspective as to what the first house should be ruled by. Do you have a solution to the problems you’ve listed? I would very much be interested in hearing about that as well.

    1. Nah he doesn’t. He clearly just wants to shit on the aries alphabet cause people use it (and it works better than the rigid theory some old men came up with more than 2 millennia ago lol). And the issue is that we use it because *it makes sense*. That graphic he uses at the beginning of this article to poke fun at the aries alphabet for being nonsensical sadly makes more sense than the rest of the article. For some reason the houses meanings align with the aries alphabet almost perfectly and not the Thema Mundi. Why? Who knows, who came up with the house meanings? That’s why people use it, because it makes sense, and until someone literally rewrites the houses to go along with the Thema Mundi, which by the way its bullshit because such chart is astronomically impossible and its was made following a series of ancient philosophical concepts and ideals rather than to represent a supposed original birth chart of earth, we’ll have no choice but to keep using the aries alphabet.

      Honestly I think its better to follow the judgement of the collective unconscious, that its closer to the Divine than that of a single egocentric man who thinks he knows better than years and years of practice by many different people. I have many issues with the Thema Mundi myself regardless of how perfect mathematically it may be on theory, and it’s been found many times essential dignities don’t work well in tropical astrology, ie charts of criminals or serial killers with 4 exalted planets, and charts of self-made entreperneurs who later succeded and became billionares with 4 planets in detriment or fall. It’s ridiculous and you end up seeing why so many people think astrologers are the dumbest people on the planet and that we are wasting our time. So many astrologers are too far up in their own ass to admit their systems are completely obsolete and in need of revision to keep running and instead keep running their readings and predictions on work arounds to explain when the traditional theory contradicts something they saw on someone’s chart, and each school keeps carrying on the last generations same mistakes. At this point you could just redo the Thema Mundi based on the Aries alphabet and you may end up with something that makes more sense that the original one. After all the only thing that isn’t nonsense in this chart is the order of the planets. The choice of the ascendant in cancer is as subjective and arbitrary as deciding that the year starts in the old aries sign because the whole earth is reborn. It’s all about perspective, like the sidereal vs tropical debate.

      1. Hi Tired sidereal astrologer,

        I realize this will not change your mind but I will still try to respond to your statements in good faith.

        “For some reason the houses meanings align with the aries alphabet almost perfectly and not the Thema Mundi. Why? Who knows, who came up with the house meanings?”
        The topical associations for the houses were attributed to “Hermes Trismegistus” by Nechepso and Petosiris, and while we don’t know exactly who “Hermes” was, it was probably a pseudonym for a person or small group of people, since what we could recognize as horoscopic astrology appeared on the scene very quickly, within a 100-year span. There is some evidence it was Eudoxus of Knidos from the 4th century BCE. It’s clear that the house meanings arise from a confluence of different frameworks, the planets and their relation to the Joys, the Thema Mundi, the exaltations overlaid onto the Thema Mundi, planetary-aspect associations, and primary vs secondary motion. Over time, houses got more significations for their relative position to other houses.

        Meanwhile, the Aries Alphabet relies on the rulerships established by the Thema Mundi to make any sense, because there is no inherent reason by which Mars can be said to rule Aries from a construct which places Aries as an archetypal 1st house. Even if one wanted to appeal to the Sun’s exaltation in Aries as a justification to archetypally associate Aries with the 1st house, that would still be relying on the original exaltation schema which comes from the Thema Mundi.

        “…the Thema Mundi, which by the way its bullshit because such chart is astronomically impossible and its was made following a series of ancient philosophical concepts and ideals rather than to represent a supposed original birth chart of earth, we’ll have no choice but to keep using the aries alphabet.”
        The degree positions were not necessarily specified in descriptions of the Thema Mundi and by sign, the Thema Mundi is absolutely astronomically possible. The Thema Mundi just presents idealized representations of each planet’s most characteristic distance/aspect from the Sun and the primary way that domicile rulership was established, which even modern astrologers use to this day, notwithstanding the use of modern rulerships. Also, even these ancient guys themselves didn’t think it was actually a birth chart of the universe. Firmicus Maternus from the 4th century CE said this: “There was no birth chart of the universe; for it did not have any certain day of origin. There was no one there at the time when the universe was created by the plan of the divine Mind and foreseeing Will. … The divine wise men of old invented the birth chart of the universe so that it would be an example for astrologers to follow in the charts of men.”

        “Honestly I think its better to follow the judgement of the collective unconscious, that its closer to the Divine than that of a single egocentric man who thinks he knows better than years and years of practice by many different people.”
        What I am proposing as an alternative to the Aries Alphabet are the foundations of our craft which have lasted over 2000 years to the present day, leading to techniques I can guarantee you yourself have used and benefited from, so where’s your humility? If you think years and years of practice matters, one wonders why you hold some rigid theory by a bunch of old people from the 70’s in higher regard than the cumulative work of astrologers from the previous 2000 years?

        “I have many issues with the Thema Mundi myself regardless of how perfect mathematically it may be on theory, and it’s been found many times essential dignities don’t work well in tropical astrology, ie charts of criminals or serial killers with 4 exalted planets, and charts of self-made entreperneurs who later succeded and became billionares with 4 planets in detriment or fall. It’s ridiculous and you end up seeing why so many people think astrologers are the dumbest people on the planet and that we are wasting our time.”
        I wonder what you think essential dignity actually means? I’d also wonder about those specific cases: What planets were actually in control of their nativities? Planets can represent other figures or potentials for certain topics in their life, not necessarily themselves, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a person with a bunch of fallen planets could still be financially successful if the ruler of the 2nd house of finances was in great shape, for example. What about the exaltation/trigon/decan/bound/monomoiria rulers? You could have a planet that should be in a good sign but might otherwise be modified by their other rulers. Were these people always wealthy or did they come into it at a specific point in life when they might have come into their most favorable timelordships? When you take lifelong timelord techniques like Zodiacal Releasing or dasas into account, it’s clear that in some cases someone may not be able to make the most of their chart because they’ll only experience a handful of their lesser planets as timelords over their lifetime, while in other cases someone with an unpromising chart might just happen to make the most of their chart because the few planets they get as timelords happen to be their best ones. These are the questions and considerations I’d hope you’d be considering whether you’re doing tropical or sidereal otherwise it would be an incomplete assessment. I agree that sometimes astrologers don’t put their best foot forward and can often fall into the trap of validating certain arguments skeptics make against them. On the one hand we have to recognize that some of these arguments are not made in good faith, are uninformed or otherwise make assumptions that don’t match astrology’s claims or methodologies. On the other hand there are some arguments that have some validity, and we should do our best to avoid logical fallacies and other pitfalls of dealing with astrology, the hardest art and squishiest science.

        “So many astrologers are too far up in their own ass to admit their systems are completely obsolete and in need of revision to keep running and instead keep running their readings and predictions on work arounds to explain when the traditional theory contradicts something they saw on someone’s chart, and each school keeps carrying on the last generations same mistakes.”
        Astrologers should remember that all astrological traditions, old and new, are imperfect cultural reflections on the genuine phenomenon of celestial-earthly correspondence. Having said that, I think that there is a lot of wisdom in exploring astrology’s history, not as a dogmatic endpoint but something to incorporate and build on. When I genuinely can’t explain something, I’m honest about it and try to review my assumptions, and that has been instructive, it’s helped me refine my approach. I may not be perfect at astrology every time I look at a chart or the general transits, but I do think there is a genuine astrological phenomenon whether I can understand it in a specific instance or not.

        “At this point you could just redo the Thema Mundi based on the Aries alphabet and you may end up with something that makes more sense that the original one. After all the only thing that isn’t nonsense in this chart is the order of the planets. The choice of the ascendant in cancer is as subjective and arbitrary as deciding that the year starts in the old aries sign because the whole earth is reborn. It’s all about perspective, like the sidereal vs tropical debate.”
        There is an actual historical reason though why Cancer is the rising sign, it wasn’t totally arbitrary. It most likely originates from the heliacal rising of Sirius which heralded the Egyptian new year and the flooding of the Nile River. Its connection to the Sun’s position in the middle decan of Cancer is the most likely reason that the sign of Cancer developed an association with the astrological 1st house, where the Sun rises in the hottest/longest days of the summer in the northern hemisphere. Cancer also has a lot baked into it than simply being the start of the year. The motion of the Sun in the sky over the course of one day is a qualitative match for the season of the year as the Sun moves through the signs if Cancer is rising. It’s also the basis for so much of essential dignity that if you have any value for that it becomes impossible to dismiss as arbitrary. If you get rid of the Thema Mundi, you get rid of domicile rulerships, exaltation rulers, etc.

        This connection between the Sun and Cancer is probably why the Zoroastrians even held Cancer to be another sign that the Sun rules, with the Moon as a co-ruler. While that particular idea didn’t survive and the Moon just took on the primary role of rulership for that sign, that would actually make the Thema Mundi even more symmetrical. The Sun is the celestial object most associated with the qualities of one’s soul or spirit, while the Moon is the celestial object most associated with body and matter. The rising sign always has a portion of itself above the horizon (associated with soul/mind) and below the horizon (associated with body/matter). Cancer then is the only sign which has that connection to both luminaries of the day and night, while the 1st whole sign house is the only rising house which straddles both day and night. So if there was any sign to be linked to notions of what the 1st house is about, it would be Cancer.

        If we were going to make a new Thema Mundi for our times on the same principle, it would probably make the most sense for it to be Capricorn rising rather than Aries rising, because that’s where the Sun is when we begin the new year on January 1st. Cancer has tradition and conceptual cohesion on its side. Capricorn would at least have some logic that bears resemblance to the original idea. From this point of view, Aries would be a more arbitrary sign to associate with the 1st house on an archetypal level than Cancer or even Capricorn. In any case, you do you.

        Best,
        Patrick

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