Recently I watched a video by astrologer Patrick Watson in which he discussed the birth chart of Scottish writer Irvine Welsh from both a Whole Sign and a Placidus house perspective. After presenting Welsh’s birth chart, Patrick maintained that his profession as a fiction writer “is not information that you would get from looking at this chart in quadrant houses — you would only see this by looking at the chart in Whole Sign houses, and it’s completely lost in a quadrant based house system.”
There is no question that Patrick is a gifted astrologer, but his claim about being unable to see Irvine Welsh’s profession with Placidus houses does not stand up to scrutiny. To be clear, I have great respect for Patrick as an astrologer and I enjoy his videos and posts. I simply disagree with him about his suggestion that Whole Sign houses are the single best system.
My own practice is to consider both Whole Sign and quadrant houses because they supply complementary information about a native from different perspectives. It’s not that one house system is better than the other. Both systems work and provide valuable information. The great French astrologer Morinus preferred Regiomontanus houses but he also used Whole Sign houses (which he called “accidental houses”) to supplement what the Regiomontanus houses showed him. I think this is the better path to follow.
Let’s look at the Placidus chart of Irvine Welsh to determine whether it is impossible, as Patrick claims, to see his profession as a writer with this quadrant house system.
Welsh has Sagittarius rising, with Jupiter ruling his Ascendant. We could say that he sees life as an adventure and loves to explore the world and the world of ideas in a Jupiterean fashion. With Jupiter ruling his Placidus 12th cusp, we could say that an interest in the downtrodden, disabled, drug-addicted and/or neglected members of society is important to his sense of identity.
Where is his Ascendant ruler Jupiter? It exactly conjoins the Placidus 9th house cusp of books, publishing, travel, higher learning, church affairs, foreign interests, etc. Although Welsh was born in Scotland, he has lived in Dublin and now lives in Chicago, so the theme of international travel is prominent. Professionally he has made a number of book tours in which he traveled around the world.
The 9th house, according to Lilly, gives judgments of “voyages or long journeys beyond seas; of religious men, or clergy of any kind, whether bishops or inferior ministers; dreams, visions, foreign countries; of books, learning, church livings, or benefices, advowsons; of the kindred of one’s wife, & sic e contrario.” Welsh’s Ascendant ruler conjunct the 9th cusp is one indicator that books and publishing will play an important role in his life.
Jupiter at 10 Libra 12 lies in the terms or bounds of Mercury (writing) and is disposed by Venus (ruler of the 9th of literature and publishing). The reason I look at the bound ruler where Jupiter lies is that Jupiter (Ascendant-ruler) signifies the life purpose of the individual. As Charles Obert explains in his book on Dignities (p. 61), the bound ruler “is in charge of how things are done, and does them ‘on their own terms’, with their own set of rules. … The domicile ruler needs to work through the bound ruler to implement its agenda…” In Welsh’s chart, Mercury (the bound ruler of Jupiter’s location) is in charge of fulfilling Jupiter’s agenda in his life. He fulfills his life Jupiterean purpose by doing Mercury-related things, such as writing and traveling.
Furthermore, 9th ruler Venus lies in the 10th of his career, indicating that writing and publishing may play a role in his career choice. Venus also rules his Placidus 5th house cusp of children, fun activities and creative projects, which could include writing books. In other words, his personal creativity (Venus ruling 5th) shows up in his 10th house of career (Venus in Scorpio in 10th).
Ninth ruler Venus closely conjoins the Moon’s North Node (a fortunate and expansive point of the nature of Jupiter) very close to the Placidus 10th house cusp. A basic interpretation would be that Welsh’s career expands and benefits greatly from doing things related to Venus (artistic pursuits) and the houses that she rules (4th, 5th and 9th, creative writing about his homeland).
The 9th ruler Venus in the 10th of career is also closely sextile Mercury (writing), dignified in Virgo in the 8th of death, its quality and nature, loss, fear an anguish of mind, the privy parts, poisons, etc. (according to Lilly). Deborah Houlding notes that “traditional astrology relates the eighth house to crisis, hidden matters, anguish of mind, poison and deadly fears.” Irvine writes stories about the depravity of the drug culture and gives a brutal depiction of the sordid (Venus in Scorpio, Mars in Libra) side of Ediburgh life, as you might expect with such an 8th house emphasis.
According to wikipedia: “As well as recreational drug use, Welsh’s fiction and non-fiction is dominated by the question of working class and Scottish identity in the period spanning the 1960s to the present day. Within this, explores the rise and fall of the council housing scheme, denial of opportunity, sectarianism, football, hooliganism, sex, suppressed homosexuality, dance clubs, low-paid work, freemasonry, Irish republicanism, sodomy [Lilly’s 8th house ‘privy parts’], class divisions, emigration and, perhaps most of all, the humour, prejudices and axioms of the Scots.” (highlights mine)
Welsh’s Placidus 10th cusp (the MC) lies in Scorpio and is ruled by Mars, which conjoins Ascendant-ruler Jupiter within 8 degrees. Mars is in detriment in Libra and also peregrine, so he must act through his dispositor Venus, ruler of the 9th of literature in the 10th of occupation. This combination suggests that Irvine will write about depravity (Mars in detriment in the 8th) as part of his career activities (Venus in the 10th disposing Mars in Libra in the 8th).
Mars, the ruler of his 10th of career, also rules his Placidus Aries 3rd house of writing and communication.
The modern planet Neptune, associated with fantasy and imagination, in the 9th could be interpreted as the potential to write fiction. Neptune in Scorpio is disposed by Mars, so that the way in which he expresses the Neptune archetype gets filtered into his career (Mars ruling the 10th) and also has to do with 8th house themes (Mars in 8th).
We often associate the 6th house with our day-to-day work, menial jobs, and the working classes. Mercury rules the 6th and occupies the 8th where it sextiles Venus (ruler of the 9th) in the 10th of career. This combination not only depicts Welsh’s daily work as a writer but also the themes he writes about.
In summary, although I greatly respect Patrick Watson as an astrologer, I believe that his claim that Irvine Welsh’s career as a writer “is not information that you would get from looking at this chart in quadrant houses” does not hold water; it is simply not true. In the Placidus system, the ruler of the 9th lies in the 10th and each one occupies the other’s domicile, the same planet rules the 3rd and the 10th, and the ruler of the 9th also rules the 5th of creative projects and closely sextiles Mercury, a natural signifier of writing. How could this not be interpreted as a potential career as a writer? Thus, I would urge astrologers to avoid the trap of trying to settle on a single best house system. Both quadrant and whole sign houses work; they merely provide complementary information from different perspectives, as I think the chart of Irvine Welsh demonstrates.