Ikigai and the Earth Houses


A client said to me the other day “I just want to find my Ikigai.” At first, I thought they were using an ironic term for soul mate, but it soon became clear that here was a lifestyle concept encapsulated within a word, and of course it was a Japanese word, because the Japanese are really good at encapsulating lifestyle concepts into single words, from bushido to wabi-sabi to my personal favourite shinrinyoku (lit. ‘forest bath’). Ikigai means ‘a reason for being’ although not literally, because it is vaguely untranslatable, but it implies a sort of harmony between the four pillars of purpose in a human life, what you: love doing, are good at, can get paid for and is useful to the community.

Searching for Ikigai is a life’s work for many people, and that’s even before they get started on the actual task that has been found to be ‘the one’. It is little surprise therefore that it is one of the areas for study in which I am most frequently consulted in my work.

At a basic level, we begin this task by searching out the obvious and understanding factors such as the rulers and tenants of the earth houses: the 2nd, 6th and 10th. Broadly these correspond to what you can be paid for, how you spend your time, and your calling or vocation. These do not map directly onto the concept of Ikigai, but they overlap and for the purposes of astrology we can create a functional model of ‘a reason for being’ here. Of course, we can posit all sorts of correspondences, since the chart is a whole, and we are its product, but in terms of work, vocation, making a living, this is a good start.

Even this is a vast stage upon which to tread, and I do not want to exhaust either of us by attempting to encapsulate every facet of such a study, but instead I want to pose a question about the relationship between these house rulers and the quality of life that this confers. It is not truly a procedural study because it is subtle, and it is esoteric, so you will have to feel your way along.

First of all, it is useful to bear in your mind the sense that tenants fade, and rulers grow to prominence. By this I mean that there is a human tendency to explore and wear down the tenant of any given house and as time and age permit, the house ruler gains greater and more apparent supremacy over the affairs of that house. This effectively means that when we are young, we follow the path of the house tenants, so to use an example if we have Neptune in the 2nd house then we might earn money as a bartender when we are young, but if the 2nd house is ruled by Mercury in Virgo then by the time we are into our 40s, we are more likely to be earning money from an analytical or studious role. Admittedly, we might be working in the accounts department of a brewery, or simply have been promoted to keeping tabs on the stock for the bar we used to work at, but the essential point is that this gradual shift in emphasis between tenants and rulers is a broad truth for us all and for this reason, the relationship between these rulers is likely to define the essential quality of the ‘work’ conundrum that comes to settle in place upon us.

Now, it seems intuitive, obvious even, to suggest that the situation, placement and aspects to a house ruler will determine some of the qualities of that house and how we experience it in our lives. If the 2nd house ruler is afflicted, in detriment, and squared by several outer planets, then the inevitable truth is, resources will not flow gently, effortlessly and pleasantly into our lap. Perhaps less obvious then, is to consider that the relationship between the rulers of two houses will denote the essential quality of how those houses work together – or don’t work together, in the scheme of our lives.

When we can put these factors in context we have a powerful diagnostic tool at our disposal.

The relationship between the rulers of the 2nd and 6th houses, for example, tells us something about the ease or quality of how we earn money, and how we spend our time. If the ruler of the 2nd house is in a sympathetic sign and trines the ruler of the 6th, then money comes easily. What we enjoy doing with our time is lucrative. Here is a condition shared by such diverse luminaries as William Wordsworth, Freddie Mercury and Charles II, each of whom enjoyed comfortable, affluent, and even lavish lifestyles by the standards of their time, and that affluence resulted from doing something that came effortlessly and pleasantly to them. There is no sense that being a poet, a songwriter or a king was in any way a chore.


Bob Marley had 12 children by 9 different women

An interesting counterpoint to this is the singular case of Reggae star, Bob Marley, who despite having been one of the most lucrative recording artists of all time was not interested in money, and made little time for it, with the result that when he died he left 12 children, wives, several mistresses and numerous music producers, band members and other stake-holders to fight over his chaotically mismanaged millions. Marley’s 6th house ruler Venus, is in Aries and squares his 2nd house ruler Saturn, also in detriment in Cancer and the 7th house.

cropped_Jackie_JFK_John_F_Kennedy_engagement_anncmnt_photos_Richard_AvedonA similar set of conditions surrounds Jackie Onassis Kennedy, who despite being the daughter of a wealthy stockbroker, and the wife of a president and later an oil tycoon, never generated or earned any of her own money. Her Jupiter and Mars were in square, with the 2nd house ruler Jupiter in detriment in the 7th house of marriage squaring Mars in the 10th. So, there are difficult conditions attached to her resources and how she spent her time: both of which were dependent upon marital status (7th & 10th).

So, having the rulers of the earth houses in relationship is arguably more important than any other factor in terms of generating resources, and finding your Ikigai. Even having those rulers in unsympathetic signs and in hard aspect is better than there being no context between them. Bob Marley and Jackie Kennedy both illustrate the principle. The detriment, the hard relationship is no barrier to wealth, indeed, it promotes wealth, but the conditions around it are burdensome, in Marley’s case because he had so many dependents, in Kennedy’s because her wealth was entirely dependent on the men in her life. So you see, there are conditions, responsibilities, commitments.

But, let us be clear, there are many factors which govern the quest for contentment and fulfilment in a human life, and in the astrology, these are only a part of the overall scheme. We have to consider all parts to appreciate the whole. The earth houses only determine the realm of earthly comfort after all. They do not illuminate our aspirations, our tribal affiliations, our loves, hopes and dreams except through the most mundane and prosaic of lenses. What of the earth planets? What is the condition to the 5th house and our sense of doing what we enjoy?


Heinrich Himmler: October 7th 1900, 15:30 Munich, Germany.

And allow me to finish this rambling foray into the human condition with a cautionary tale. When searching through many thousands of charts for any which encapsulated the ideal of material placements, I found one individual who evinced the rulers of the earth houses in a Grand Trine configuration: Heinrich Himmler, architect of the holocaust. The ruler of the 2nd, Mars, trines the ruler of the 6th, Moon, trines the ruler of the 10th, Jupiter. Whilst we could discuss the implications of this arrangement endlessly, it does set in stark relief two profound technical principles. First, the rulers of the earth houses are in perfect harmony. Himmler rose from absolute obscurity – at one stage he was a chicken farmer, to become the second most powerful man in the Third Reich in a matter of a few years: a truly meteoric change of circumstance. Second, the Grand Trine which facilitates this dynamic is, not for nothing, plagued by a tendency toward being the path of least resistance. As the well-known maxim says: Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority: still more when you superadd the tendency or the certainty of corruption by authority.


2 comments on “Ikigai and the Earth Houses

  1. Such a great article and theme Jem! Lots of stuff for thought. The rulers of my 2nd and 6th houses are in square aspect with the 2nd house ruler being in detriment and afflicted – earnings or wellbeing or even a sense of contentment never came easy (if at all) to me.

  2. Misty Rivers says:

    Hello and compliments on another great article! My rulers of the houses are Mercury (2nd house), Saturn (6th house) and Venus (10th house). Mercury sextiles Venus, Venus semisextiles Saturn (one of the tightest aspects) and Mercury squares Saturn. What I can say is that I found a regular job somewhat late in life and it is far from doing what I love but it doesn’t mean I won’t get there eventually. Keep up the great work, Jeremy!

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