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.


Scorpio and Taurus, the 2nd and the 8th

I have been working as an astrologer for a long time now, although it is only very recently that I have felt any confidence at all about making an accurate analysis of a particular chart and whilst my skill has increased proportionately with my reading and study what I have found that is most marked and intriguing, is that as my understanding has improved, my theories have gradually simplified. Thus my understanding of astrology is now much more basic than it ever was 25 years ago when I first read extensively on the subject.

As an example I once understood Jupiter to be analogous with a raft of Jovian concepts, from tinned foodstuffs to the law and the judiciary, but this kind of disparate list-making rather obscured the point of it all, Jupiter in my mind now governs the principles of expansion and preservation; thus all things that broaden the mind and spirit, that exalt and dignify human life and community are good candidates for Jupiter’s benefic domain, but equally, Jupiter can broaden and preserve less desirable traits also, and too it can over-broaden and over-preserve, thus giving rise to dissolute and self-indulgent modes of behaviour at the same time. Thus, the clarification of astrological concepts depends on getting into the very heart of the matter and extrapolating out from that kernel, rather than the opposite (and much more commonplace methodology) of starting from the full viscera of all possible connotations and attempting to find which one fits the bill. You could say then that a Piscean rather than a Virgoan approach is better suited to the art of synthesis, but really the one is dependent upon the other for sustenance and put together they become a chicken or egg proposition, because the many and the one, microcosm and macrocosm are but sides of the same coin and the truth of astrology, as much as anything else in life, lies in the polarity.

An excellent candidate for this approach is the difficult 8th house. I frequently despair of the amateur astrologer’s rather benighted insistence that the 8th is the house of death and the attendant portents of doom and disaster that are implicated in transits and placements to its cusps. The insistence comes from the association of the 8th with those fundamental states of existential transformative powers, the so-called “birth, sex and death” triplicity so favoured of ‘planets by house’ textbooks. Of course, it might be fair to say that with the ruler of the 10th in the 8th there might be some possibility of a career in probate, but that is merely a mundane side-effect at best, it certainly does not describe anything about the core polarity.

This polarity is derived in its entirety from the Taurus-Scorpio axis, and if we are to assume that the 8th is the house of death then we should be equally comfortable with the notion that the 2nd is the house of life. But actually, nobody ever made that claim, because (quite rightly) it is not a factor in the polarity.

The polarity covers a number of themes, and if we consider the mundane side-effects of the 2nd then we might get some insight into the 8th as well. The 2nd is the house of money, of material resources and wealth. Thus the 8th has some affinity, not with death but with resources and values. Now let us dig a little deeper and understand that the 2nd has this association with resources, not because it was just decided thus at some point in history, but because it is the natural house of Taurus and this actually informs the concerns of the second and by extension forms the resonant polarity with the 8th. The 2nd then is nothing more than the mundane and natural area of concern of the Taurean principle. You might even say that it is the area of interest that a true Taurean might most closely attend. That is why the 2nd is about money, because Taurus, fixed earth, is a lover of the finest material joys of earthly existence; it enjoys good food, good wine, the finest and most sumptuous silks, the tactile sensations, contact with the earthy stuff and there is no more accessible means to realising fixed earth than through money.

The polarity of Scorpio, and thus the 8th, is also concerned with resources, but because Scorpio is fixed water the resources are emotional instead of material. Now we are not concerned with food for the body, but actually with food for the soul, now we need to discover what sustains us that we cannot touch. If Taurus is about having enough to survive, then Scorpio is about having little enough to survive. Taurus is about wealth and Scorpio about austerity and this informs the 8th house because it contains a lesson of Scorpio at its heart and by its polarity that lesson is tied up with Taurus. This is why the 8th is frequently concerned with legacies, because these are bequests of other people’s resources and astrologically other people are contained within the opposition and if Scorpio tells us to be self-reliant in a non-material manner then our money is likely to come from others simply out of necessity. A strongly Scorpionic individual, or one with many 8th house placements is just not going to be motivated to amass wealth in the way that a Taurus/2nd house native will be and so a legacy might well be their best bet for material comfort in this incarnation. Of course, this matter of legacies goes deeper still because the essence of Scorpio is ‘loyalty unto death’, and this level of devotion that is aligned to an ideal higher than mere financial improvement makes a powerful ally; actually the type of ally that one might consider worthy of reward when one is composing one’s will.

So the 2nd then is about having enough to be self-sufficient and the 8th by contrast is also about not needing so much to be self-sufficient. They are both powers with the same objective: self-sufficiency but with diametrically opposed methods. The 2nd says “wealth buys freedom” while the 8th says “less is more”. The 2nd represents life only in the sense that it clings to the earthly vibration with a vicelike grip while the 8th transcends the earthy fixation of Taurus and finds sustenance in the emotional consistency of such ideals as loyalty, self-reliance and above all Spartanism. Taurus then is Louis XIVth while Scorpio is Leonidas.

If you understand this, Louis and Leonidas, then you understand the 2nd and the 8th.