One of the vexing problems of astrology is that at high latitudes the quadrant house systems are of little use. Horoscopic astrology is founded on the importance of the ascendant and at high latitudes the ascendant can simply disappear or not exist because the horizon does not intersect with the ecliptic plane.
By definition the ascendant is the point where the ecliptic (the apparent path of the Sun) crosses the horizon of the observer. At high latitudes there are long periods when the Sun (the ecliptic) never rises or never sets, that is, when the sun’s path along the ecliptic does not cross the horizon. At latitudes of about 66.5 degrees there are times of day when the circle of the ecliptic corresponds to the circle of the horizon, so that every point on the ecliptic becomes an ascendant. How can one do horoscopic astrology when there is no horoskopos (ascendant) or when every point is an ascendant?
Charles Carter attempted to solve this problem by proposing a system of “poli-equatorial” houses in which “the houses are demarcated by circles passing through the celestial poles and dividing the equator into twelve equal arcs, the cusp of the 1st house passing through the ascendant. This system, therefore, agrees with the natural rotation of the heavens and also produces, as the Ptolemaic (equal) does not, distinctive cusps for each house….” (Ch. 8, Essays on the Foundations of Astrology, 1947).” The problem with Carter’s approach is that the ascendant determines the starting point on the equator to be used for dividing it into 12 equal segments. If there is no ascendant, it is impossible to calculate the “poli-equatorial” houses.
David Cochrane has proposed another creative solution. In his YouTube video The Ascendant disappearing at the Arctic Circle: Problem Solved! Cochrane suggests that at high latitudes we use the prime vertical with its Vertex as the cusp of the 7th house and the Anti-Vertex as the substitute Ascendant degree. Here is a screenshot from his video in which David Cochrane explains that, in his view, the Anti-vertex becomes increasingly strong at higher latitudes as the Ascendant becomes increasingly weak in a kind of reciprocal relationship (at latitude 45 degrees, the Ascendant and the Anti-vertex are of equal strength).
Many years ago I did a careful study of house systems and tried on my own to come up with a solution to the problem of the disappearing ascendant at high latitudes. What I came up with turned out to be identical to the Morinus house system in which neither the Asc nor the MC form cusps of the houses but which hardly anyone uses.
Another solution is to use what are called “whole sign houses,” which are really not “houses” in the sense of a quadrant system based on the rotation of the Earth, but rather places (topoi) based on the ordinal numbering of the signs and the importance of numerical order in early Hellenistic thought. The Whole Sign system, however, has the same problem of the disappearing ascendant because the first sign is determined by the horoskopos, which may not exist at high latitudes.
Having thought about the issue of house division for many years, I had the following idea which is partly based on my study of antiscions, which are reflected degrees across the solticial axis. I agree with David Cochrane that the ascendant functions well up to mid-latitudes but not at high latitudes. My idea is to cast charts above 45 degrees latitude with a “reflected” latitude below 45 degrees (but still using one’s preferred house system, such as Placidus).
For someone born, for instance, at latitude 60 (which is 15 degrees above 45), one would cast a “reflected” chart for latitude 30 (15 degrees below 45), and someone born at the North Pole would have a “reflected” chart cast for the Equator. This method would always produce a chart with an ascendant (or at least a “reflected” ascendant), thus avoiding the problem of the disappearing ascendant at high latitudes. This method would obviously have to be tested with real people and known biographies to determine whether standard astrological techniques and interpretations would still be valid.
To illustrate, at the suggestion of a colleague I cast the chart of the deceased Finnish champion ski jumper Matti Nykanen for his birthplace and also for the latitude reflected across the parallel of 45 degrees of latitude. Here are the two charts:
In the natal chart for the birthplace Cancer rises, but in the “reflected” chart Taurus rises, which could possibly reflect his hedonistic lifestyle and the fact that he became a pop singer after he ended his skiing career.
He died at the age of 55 shortly after midnight on 4 February 2019, probably of complications of diabetes:
- in the birth chart the profected ascendant came to Aquarius (the 10th Placidus house) at age 55, making Saturn his lord of the year.
- in the “reflected” chart the profected ascendant came to Sagittarius (the 8th Placidus house) at age 55, making Jupiter his lord of the year.
- at the time of his death transiting Jupiter at 18 Sagittarius was almost exactly trine natal Jupiter at 18 Aries 34, which lies in the 12th natal house in either version of the chart. In the birthplace chart transiting Jupiter occupies the 6th house of illness whereas in the “reflected” chart transiting Jupiter occupies the 8th house of death and conjoins its cusp.
In this case, at least, the “reflected” chart appears to have some valid astrological symbolism, but a single case example does not prove a hypothesis and much more testing is needed to determine whether this is a valuable technique for studying charts of people born near the Arctic Circle..