Due to a heavy barrage of questioning recently, I’m going to jump in and tackle that most unsexy of houses, the third. Have you noticed that people tend to skim over the third house as if it doesn’t matter? Oh, the planets in it do–but interpreting those planets within that house is often avoided, and the house itself is almost an embarrassment that we sweep under the astrological carpet and hope no one notices. Why? Because we don’t really know what it’s doing there–like the old Abbott and Costello baseball routine, Who’s on first (the Ascendant), What’s on second (what we own) and I Don’t Know’s on third.
The associations with the third house go from the lofty (lower Mind) to the mundane (siblings) to the downright silly (bus rides and television). How are we supposed to make sense of this? All houses have their ordinary, developmental and spiritual levels of interpretation, but none as diverse as those of the third. (Well, maybe the sixth house runs it a close second–health, servants and pets?)
Looking at it through the eyes of Gemini and Mercury helps a bit. We understand the associations with ordinary mind and learning–making connections is a Mercury/Gemini thing. (Truly understanding something, however, as opposed to knowing it, is part of the higher mind of Jupiter). Synapses belong to Mercury. So do short journeys, which are ruled by the third house–long journeys or overseas journeys are ruled by the 9th. Rational thought is a 3rd house process. Inspirational thoughts/dreams belong to the 9th (and literal dreams the 12th). Communication devices are part of the third house. It gets confusing when television itself–the ones in our homes connected via cables or airwaves–is a third house thing, but broadcasting, the dissemination of information in any form, is a 9th house thing. (Filmed drama belongs to the 12th house –illusion and symbolic language using collective archetypes–but the broadcasting of it belongs to the 9th.) The third house is where we make our connections, the ninth house is how we develop them and in the 12th house they are absorbed into the collective consciousness.
But how does this fit into the interpretation of a natal or progressed chart? What does the third house mean in relation to the individual?
The association with siblings provides a key. We may assume that the connection with siblings comes purely from Gemini, the twins, but it goes deeper than that. Why would siblings be associated with the third house, particularly when the parental axis of 4/10 comes after it? And anyone who has a sibling knows the answer to that–we have a conscious relationship with our parents, who hopefully connect with us and provide us with the means of survival, but our siblings are just there. Like the furniture.
The first quarter of the natal chart, from the Asc/horizon down through the IC to the Descendant, is the hidden part. It is literally below the horizon, whereas the other half of the chart, with the MC bisecting it, is in the sky above. The first six houses (below) are considered personal, relating to individual development, and the last six are relational, where we develop our individuated selves in relation to others, both in personal partnership and through interaction with the collective.
The natal chart is quartered by the cardinal points, but the crisis houses of these cardinal points are the mutable signs, the ones that come directly before. I’ve written before about the mutable houses and the development of mind–both personal and collective. As the third house flows into the fourth (0 Cancer), the sixth into the seventh (0 Libra), the ninth into the 10th (0 Capricorn), the 12th into the 1st (0 Aries), we literally manifest our information–we become what we think/expect. Cardinal houses initiate, but what are they initiating? Whatever is gathered and experienced in the previous quarter.
The IC is where the individual, conscious Self is initiated. The birth associated with it is symbolic of the birth of conscious awareness. It is the deepest part of the “I,” the deepest root of our being, and also the darkest part of the chart. (Ever notice that, no matter what planets and aspects we have, we somehow keep returning to the fourth house and/or it’s ruler? It’s as though we can’t shed enough light on that area of life.) However, the fourth house consciousness is the result of the accumulated experience of houses 1, 2 and 3. House one and house two are about what we are and own. House three is how we experience that raw material within a specific context. We begin to relate to the world around us and recognize parameters.
The first three houses are relatively unconscious. The first house represents an instinctive “I” (See the series on The Roving “I”), the second represents what is innate in us. (We should know what these things are, but have you noticed how difficult it is to access our talents and abilities?) It takes tussling with the outer, conscious part of the chart to learn who and what we are. The third house, entirely internalized, puts the who and what of the first two houses in the context of a ‘where.’ In the third house, we make connections by interacting within an environment, but this environment is not the conscious one of acknowledging ‘home’ or family or belonging of the fourth house–it is the environment itself which we instinctively negotiate through learning. It is the way we instinctively move through our world. And it is the vehicle by which our awareness grows. From these, we begin to construct a conscious Self. In order to be conscious, we must connect.
A child isn’t aware of the separation between itself and its environment, and internalizes its experiences–both constructive and destructive. The third house is where we begin to build awareness of an exterior through experience. But it isn’t something that can really be controlled. It’s learning process is instinctive.
The third house describes how we move–how our early, pre-conscious environment taught us how to move through the world. When we have planets there, they often describe in very general but very accurate terms how we negotiate life. One of the earliest pictures taken of me shows me, aged about 9 months, holding a toy telephone to my ear, with a frown on my featureless face that says very clearly, “most serious baby ever born.” (I still hate the phone.) I’ve framed it under the title , “Third House Saturn.” Pluto there instinctively feels that life is dangerous. Jupiter in the third can be very happy-go-lucky. A lot depends on aspects. If Pluto is squaring that Saturn, for example, you can add danger, threat, violence and fear into the bargain.
The third house often describes how we literally move–Gene Kelly had a third house Jupiter in Sag, opposite a disciplined Saturn (I’ve noticed that a number of dancers have a prominent Jupiter–they give mere movement meaning). The ruler of Fred Astaire’s third house, Uranus, was on the Ascendant and opposite the Moon within a few minutes. Athletes often have Venus there–no matter the sport, there is the gift of coordination of movement.
Our third house is the way we instinctively define our existence. The way we experience the world is how our ideas about the world are formed–our experiences create instinctual definitions ideas beyond words and rational thought. Ever notice how difficult it is to change our ideas about who we are? The third house has a lot more power than we give it credit for. The ideas that we take in via the third house are not easily wrested from the psyche. Our early environment teaches us definitions and patterns that are often all but impossible to change. What we learn via the third house is a pre-conscious definition of ourselves and life that will take a lifetime of awareness to shift. (The third house is a powerhouse of working psychology–the regenerative/processing aspect of psychology is attributed to the eighth, but the psychological matter and patterns themselves are in the third.) The gift of the third is its flexibility, as our connecting function changes, our thinking changes, and then so does the way life manifests itself (4th). Change your thoughts and you change the world.
In synastry, planets falling into the third stimulate the mental processes and reflect how you experience that person on a day to day basis. Pluto falling there may stimulate a fascination with the other’s mind. They also may bring out any hidden difficulties that occurred in the early environment. The Moon there will promote understanding, with light falling on emotionally-generated thought patterns. Mars there can be very aggressive, always challenging mentally and often dominating the environment. (People with third house Mars have a tendency to be bullies in their environment–check for third house Mars when you’re looking at potential roommates.) Uranus falling in the third is exciting, but can make you plain nervous.
If you are sincere about making changes in your life, begin with the third house. What have you unconsciously absorbed from your environment that is preventing you from moving forward? Then break the patterns and make new connections, taking baby steps at first. You’ll soon find yourself in your stride, headed for new horizons.