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THE SIXTH HOUSE – the House of Health

The Sixth is probably the most unglamorous, underrated and overlooked area of the horoscope in most astrologers’ eyes, governing boring routines, hard work and petty beaurocracy. Add to this list small animals, illness, nasty medicine and basket weaving, and a pretty unappetising picture emerges of this apparently most mundane of ‘mundane houses’. I think it gets overlooked in large part because it governs activities which we do in order to do something else. The issues of work and health, however, are so fundamental to most people that they overlap into practically every other area of life, so whether we like it or not, it is as well to attend to the concerns of the ‘engine room’ of the birthchart.

Health is, famously, one of the main things we take for granted, so this may also provide an explanation why the 6th is so under-appreciated. It may seem strange to give a talk about the 6th without talking in much depth about health matters, but then, I am not a medical astrologer. Medical astrology was once one of the cornerstones of the art, and in my experience of consulting, it’s the most asked-about matter after love & money. I often wish that I could be of more assistance, but it’s a sensitive, complicated, almost taboo area to discuss in relation to astrology. I do have a couple of charts of sportsmen that I will discuss later in relation to their general health and well-being.

The ancient style of presenting astrology in a series of aphorisms seems to derive from a time when the whole philosophical climate was different. The majority people probably believed in the Christian faith, and would not necessarily go to an astrologer for spiritual or metaphysical guidance. Hence we have a generally more down- to -earth astrology dealing with more mundane material matters. The same is true in the Vedic system, where astrology has its own place, being mostly concerned with knowledge of the future, and techniques of self-realization are dealt with elsewhere. Astrology has always been part of occult philosophy, parallel esoteric tradition, but in the modern secular world, it has become elevated to the status almost of a self-contained religion, expecting it to provide us with all the answers. Of course we have the Theosophists to thank for that, and now that it is here we can’t undo it.

As the natural home of Virgo, the Sixth is an ‘Earth-house’, though it is connected neither solely with money, or necessarily with career ambition, but forms a link between the two. Everyone needs money (Second house), but the Sixth relates to relatively menial work we may do to support something else we really aspire to (Tenth house). Thus it is known as the house of ‘adjustment to necessity’ and ‘deferred gratification’, and many budding actors or musicians, for example, with planets in the Sixth can be found working in offices or waiting on tables and bars during the day. Older authorities refer to the Sixth as the house of ‘sicknesse and slavery’, and while at least half of this hoary definition no longer applies, anyone experiencing a difficult Saturn transit of the Sixth today will realise that the ancients were simply ‘telling it how it is’. When one loses sight of the gratification one is supposedly ‘deferring’, employment becomes mere wage-slavery, and one’s health often suffers as a result.

People with prominent planets in the Sixth generally have at least one thing in common, namely: a keen understanding of the technical aspect of their trade. No matter if they are an artist or an artisan, a brain surgeon or a bar tender (the world’s most underpaid psychologists), there is a certain craftsmanlike approach which characterises their life and work. It’s an attitude. One could identify a person with, for example, Mars in Aries in the Sixth house as a natural leader in the workplace, but someone who is not necessarily pushy outside this environment. They may study the relevant skills and go on Effective Leadership courses, but to them it’s simply their work, no more, no less. Similarly, the poet with the beautifully aspected Venus/Neptune conjunction in the Sixth may sit at his desk in pensive mood for a fixed length of time each day, and then go out for a stimulating walk at a certain hour, because that is how he approaches his ‘trade’.

He is referring to a boxer here, who could: “Take a man out with just one punch”, like Muhummad Ali, perhaps, who has the Sun in Capricorn in the Sixth. Behind even Ali’s apparently spontaneous and instinctive genius lay an analytical mind, someone who well knew the importance of technique throughout his career, and who would adjust his method to suit the challenge of his various opponents. With the Sun, Moon and Mercury in this house, Ali might have been expected to have a slightly more modest and understated approach, but as he said: “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.”

Had a very difficult life, despite all his fame and fortune. Saturn in 10th House ‘doth cast men from their preferment’. Ruler of the 6th in the 10th, almost as famous for his illness as for his boxing. Stripped of his world title in 1968, because of his refusal to fight in Vietnam – which meant three years in the wilderness at what would have been the height of his career.

In any case, it’s the chart of a self-confessed obsessive. An obsessive football fan, who measures his life out in Arsenal fixtures. Anyone who has read Fever Pitch might recognise the elaborate rituals that he constructs around his footballing fixation, and the amazing knowledgeable-ness that marks him out. Fever Pitch is actually not the best example of Hornby’s Sixth House-ness: his second book High Fidelity shows this much more clearly. A fictional record-store owner maps his love life out in his favourite records and obscure B-sides. [etc…], categorising records and making irrelevant lists of otherwise unrelated songs. The book actually opens with him making a list of his top ten most painful relationship break-ups.
This illustrates the Sixth-house type’s ‘know-all’ tendency, what in collector’s circles are known as ‘complete-ists.’ ‘I have the complete collection of Grateful Dead bootlegs’ for example. I think the ‘complete-ist complex’ is simply a kind of perfectionism, the desire for a sort of abstract Ideal. Both Hornby’s books have become best-sellers and instant classics, so there must be many people out there who share this outlook on life.

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