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Home is where the heart is, as the saying goes. When most astrologers think of the Fourth House, they think of the comforts of home, family traditions, and mom's apple pie. When they learn about the real Fourth House, they're quite shocked. For one thing, mom belongs to the Tenth House, not the Fourth House. And when you think objectively about family traditions, they're not always that comforting.
The Fourth House is your foundation. It connects to your past, your family, and your ancestors. It's a literal foundation in that it represents real estate and land. It's where life begins, and where the cycle ends. It's time to meet the real Fourth House.
Angular House: The Fourth House is an angular house. In quadrant house systems, it's associated with the Imum Coeli or IC, which is Latin for "bottom of the sky."
Prominence: The Fourth House is a bit contradictory. On the one hand, it's the most private, most hidden part of the chart, so planets in the Fourth House should theoretically lose prominence. On the other hand, it's an angular house, and planets connected to any angle have direct access to the outside world and therefore gain prominence. Traditionally, planets in the Fourth House receive a score of +4 for prominence.
Relationship: The Fourth House describes your relationship to your family, your ancestors, your past, and specifically to your father.
Triggers: Triggers to the Fourth House, the IC, and/or the ruler of the Fourth House affect your personal and private life, your family relationships, and your home environment. Triggers to the Fourth House can also affect any real estate that you own.
The Fourth House is associated with both the beginning and the end of life, primarily because of its connection to the IC. Esoteric traditions relate that the IC is the point where the soul enters and eventually leaves the physical body. When traditional astrologers explored questions about the length of life and the timing of death — topics that are virtually unheard of today, but which used to be among the most pressing questions asked of astrologers — triggers to the Fourth House and the IC mattered a lot.
The Fourth House is also connected to land and property, both literally and metaphorically. Literally, the Fourth House is real estate, landscaping, farming, gardening, and anything that is buried or hidden in the ground. Metaphorically, the Fourth House is your roots and your foundation: it relates to your family, your ancestors, and your past. It's the soil you grew up in, and no matter how high you ascend, you will always maintain a deep, hidden connection to your past. Who you are and who you become are inexorably linked to who you were and where you came from. The Fourth House is your tribe.
On a more practical level, the Fourth House contains your personal and private life. It's your home environment, and your relationships with your immediate family, both of origin and of choice. And specifically, the Fourth House represents your father.
If you're new to traditional astrology, it may surprise you to learn that the Fourth House relates to the father, while the Tenth House relates to the mother. Modern astrology associates the mother with the Fourth House and the Father with the Tenth House. I had always assumed that the origin of this was somehow related to the idea of "natural houses" and the "Astrological Alphabet" which fabricates a nonexistent connection that links Cancer and the Moon with the Fourth House.
Thanks to the diligent research of Philip Graves, I learned that this aberration dates back at least to 1894 and an article in the British publication Astrologer's Magazine, and it seems to be influenced by Hindu (Vedic) astrology, where the 4th house is associated with the mother. In any case, the idea didn't gain popularity until the 1970s.
There are some excellent arguments that support the traditional association of the father with the Fourth House and the mother with the Tenth House, although admittedly, they're steeped in Western culture and a patriarchal bias. The Fourth House is your foundation; it's your start in the world, and it relates to how to live and survive in the physical world. These are lessons we learn from our fathers. Our mothers raise us to be productive members of society. They teach us how to behave in public, and this is the domain of the Tenth House.
The most important thing to note about planets that occupy the Fourth House is that they act in private. All of their behavior is on a "need to know" basis. The Fourth House is angular, so planets in the Fourth House are prominent and have an easy connection to the outside world, but only the people in your inner circle will ever get to experience that behavior.
The planet that rules your Fourth House represents your private life, your relationship to your family in general and your father in particular. But in the natal chart, the planet that rules your Fourth House is your secret identity.
If you have Aries or Scorpio on the cusp of your Fourth House, Mars, the Archetype of the Warrior is your secret identity. Only people who know you well in your personal life will recognize your Warrior self. You fiercely protect and defend your private life and your family. Your ancestors, your tribe, and especially your relationship with your father have a strong influence over your ego and "little s" self. You must discover if who you truly are resembles who your family thinks you should be.
If you have Taurus or Libra on the cusp of your Fourth House, Venus, the Archetype of the Beloved is your secret identity. Your quest for the Beloved is hidden and deeply personal. Only your family and intimate relations know what lies in your heart or what you truly value. While you may share the values of your family, and your father in particular, you must not let these relationships define you. Your experience of your Core Values is unique, and you must discover your own path to the Beloved.
If you have Gemini or Virgo on the cusp of your Fourth House, Mercury, the Archetype of the Storyteller is your secret identity. Your "little s" story is a continuation of your family narrative. You may not be conscious of how much of your "little r" reality is shaped by the expectations of your ancestors, and especially by your father. To become the Hero of your own story, you may need to break free of your family mythology.
If you have Cancer on the cusp of your Fourth House, the Moon, the Archetype of the Reflection is your secret identity. You look for safety in your private life and your home environment. As long as you have a solid foundation, you can operate in the world, but disruptions to your personal life can be devastating if you have attachments there. You draw strength from the strong emotional ties you have to your family and your tribe, but these connections can become restrictive.
If you have Leo on the cusp of your Fourth House, the Sun, the Archetype of the Hero is your secret identity. Only those whom you know and trust explicitly get to experience your authentic "Big S" self. Your Personal Standards of Integrity have strong ties to the values and expectations of your family in general and your father in particular. You know the truth of your identity, and embody it in your private life.
If you have Sagittarius or Pisces on the cusp of your Fourth House, Jupiter, the Archetype of the Dreamer is your secret identity. Your faith is private and personal, but it is also the bedrock of your life. Therefore, it's essential that you be conscious of where, and in what, you invest your faith. Initially, your faith is shaped by your family mythology, your heritage, and your father, but what you take from this must be the ability to build faith and nothing more. Faith is personal, and you must find your own truth on which to build your life.
And if you have Capricorn or Aquarius on the cusp of your Fourth House, Saturn, the Archetype of the Judge is your secret identity. You have a powerful connection with your ancestry, and a deep respect for the traditions, laws, and conventions of your tribe. The voice of your inner parent is the voice of your father, and his expectations are buried deep in the foundation of your life. Moving into Right Relationship with Saturn makes it possible for you to honor these traditions while following your own path, wherever it may lead.
It's important to understand the Fourth House in relation to the Tenth House and the Eighth House.
This is such a key distinction that it bears repeating here. Again. In modern astrology, the Fourth House–Tenth House axis is usually viewed as personal life vs. professional life, but this misses the bigger picture. Yes, the Fourth House contains your personal life, and the Tenth House relates to your professional life, but what differentiates them is private vs. public. The Fourth House contains the things that you would never want to post about on Facebook. The Tenth House is your Facebook profile.
Both the Fourth House and the Eight House are connected to death, although modern astrology emphasizes the Eight House connection to death and rarely mentions the Fourth House connection. Since present day astrologers rarely explore death-related questions, and almost never make death-related predictions, this hasn't been an issue. But for the record, the Eighth House — including the ruler of the Eight House — relates to how you die, while the Fourth House relates to when you die.
But before you go looking at your chart for answers, you need to keep a few things in mind. All of the resources relating to medical astrology, including illness and death are only accurate given the medical resources and technology available up to about the 16th or 17th century. A disease or health crisis that would have been chronic or fatal at the time is now eliminated with a dose of antibiotics. Medical astrology is fascinating, and still has some value today, but you must be certain to adjust the context of the interpretations.
As you might expect, the Fourth House is of great importance in horary and electional questions involving real estate. In these questions, the Fourth House and the ruler of the Fourth House represents the property itself. The buy–sell transaction is a First House–Seventh House issue. But if you're asking about moving or changing residences, you look to the Fourth House.
When considering competitions or sporting events, J. Lee Lehman and Bernadette Brady discovered that the Fourth House, not the Seventh House, represents the home team. The home team advantage in a sporting event is quite real, and it changes the model of the competition from First House–Seventh House open warfare to a First House–Fourth House castle besiegement. In open warfare, to win, one side must completely defeat the other. But in a castle besiegement, the holder of the castle (the home team) only has to survive to win.
In mundane astrology the Fourth House represents the land itself, and all things related to the land, including agriculture. Nationalism, as the love of country — and more specifically the love of one's native land — also belongs to the Fourth House. While the Tenth House in mundane astrology relates to the government, the Fourth House relates to the people, specifically as they are opposed to and subject to the government.
Rave Reviews for Principles of Practical Natal Astrology: Talented Astrologer Training Book 1
Mary Plumb, in her review in The Mountain Astrologer says:
“An excellent guide to astrology that is far more than a typical beginner book. Not only is Burk a skilled communicator (who has studied how people learn), he is also a funny, self-revealing fellow with an astute foundation in traditional astrology (and human psychology) … His book is an in-depth presentation that is spaciously formatted with color in the text and in the cartoons, charts, and tables. His knowledge of traditional astrology, informed by modern views of human development, and his obvious gifts as a teacher combine in this most useful training manual.”
Donna Woodwell, M.A., former Board Member of NCGR and ISAR says:
“A masterful step-by-step guide for learning traditional foundations of chart interpretation in a way that’s accessible to the modern astrologer. Brimming with tips and techniques, it’s fun and practical — the perfect addition to anyone’s astrological explorations.”
Find out what everyone’s talking about! Print and digital editions of Principles of Practical Natal Astrology are available here. Plus, you can download sample chapters of the book for free.
Kevin B. Burk is the Headmaster of The Real Astrology Academy. Established in 2013, The Real Astrology Academy provides astrology information, education, and training to astrologers and astrology students around the world. He holds an NCGR-IV Certification in Astrological Counseling, is the author of over a dozen books, including Principles of Practical Natal Astrology: Talented Astrologer Training Book 1, and helps clients around the world through his counseling practice.