When you look at a horoscope for the very first time, it’s easy to get lost in the morass of details and not see the forest for the trees. How to get a quick, immediate feel for the person behind the chart? Should you look at the Sun and Moon? The ascendant? Should you look at the distribution of planets by sign, as in 2 planets in Taurus, 1 planet in Aries, etc? All of these are valid pathways into the horoscope, but it’s like wandering through a house without having a holistic sense of its structure: how tall/wide is it, is it a colonial or a ranch, through what part of the house would the sunlight stream in the morning, what is the curb appeal?
This is the type of big picture feel you want to get with your first take of the horoscope, and the best way to get that feel is to look at two things: the grouping of planets by hemisphere, and the element/modality of the angles. In this post, we’ll look at the hemisphere-wise grouping, and get into the elements and modalities of the angles in the next.
When planets group together in large numbers in a particular hemisphere of the horoscope, the person tends to live their life in a particularly pointed way. There are four kinds of grouping by hemisphere: a preponderance of planets in the southern or northern hemisphere, or a ganging up in the eastern or western hemisphere.
Eastern hemisphere emphasis
The eastern hemisphere is defined by the focal point of the ascendant. The ascendant is the self, and when a large number of planets are in the eastern hemisphere, there is a pronounced tendency to protect the ego, to keep one’s resources-both material and otherwise-close to the self, to not give much away. There could be a significant emphasis on presenting oneself in the best light through fitness, fine clothing, jewelry, beautification, etc.
Here is the horoscope of the celebrated singer Cher (AA rating for birth time accuracy from Astrodatabank):
Just look at that picture of Cher! And this was in 2019, when she was in her seventies–the light of the self was still glowing brightly. It is no surprise that 7 of the 10 planets in the horoscope, including the light giving Sun, are in the eastern hemisphere, thereby skewing the center of gravity substantially toward the ascendant of the horoscope. The grouping around the ascendant is tightened even more by the lack of planets in the 3rd or 10th houses so that all of the eastern planets are bunched up in just 4 houses. “All of us invent ourselves”, said Cher. “Some of us just have more imagination than others”. Speaking of inventing the self, she ditched her last name real fast (at least as far as the public was concerned), and went by the single name Cher. Related to imagining a self is the square of imaginative Neptune at 6 Lib 02 to the ascendant (presentation of the self) at 8 Can 37.
Western hemisphere emphasis
With a slew of planets in the western hemisphere, the person tends to give themselves away: to other people, to groups, to causes. The focal point of the western hemisphere is the descendant, which signifies the personal relationship with others, as well as the public life. With planets around the descendant, one tends to put the health of relationships above oneself, and is not beyond sacrificing the self for the greater cause.
A good illustration of the western hemisphere is found in the horoscope of the actor Andrew Garfield (AA rated by Astrodatabank for accuracy of birth time):
8 of the 10 planets in the horoscope, including the Sun, are in the western hemisphere. Three planets are in the 7th house (one-on-one relationships), 2 in the 6th (service to people or to a cause), 1 in the 5th house (creative output to the world), 1 in the 8th house (other people’s resources), 1 in the 9th (broad perspective of the world). A couple of his quotes tell the tale of just how deeply his self is given to others. “I love that idea that if you know someone’s story, it’s impossible not to love them.” The phrasing here is remarkably congruent with the 7th house of love tied to the planet Mercury of ideas, and Mercury is right on top pf the the descendant. “I’ve gone through my whole life caring deeply what people think of me.” Like with Cher’s horoscope, Neptune (losing the self) is square the descendant (and Mercury).
Northern hemisphere emphasis
Here, many of the planets are below the horizon, which is the ascendant-descendant axis. The focal point of this emphasis is the IC, the bottom-most point of the chart, which corresponds to the darkest hour of the night. The darkness here symbolizes the inner recesses of the person. Such a person is highly introspective, with a rich inner life. They tend to live within themselves, seemingly self-sufficient, with little need for engagement with others. They are swayed little by outer circumstances because what matters to them is their inner life–if that is in good shape, all is well with the world.
Here’s the horoscope of Stephen King (rated A by Astrobank for birth time accuracy):
8 out of 10 planets are below the horizon in the northern hemisphere. If you have read Stephen King, or even have a nodding acquaintance with his novels, you will doubtless know that he dives deep into the inner life of his characters and relentlessly peels off the layers of protection and dissembling until he gets to the core. This makes his books timeless because they have nothing to do with the world as it was at a certain time, nor to do with characters that behave a certain way because they live in a particular kind of circumstance. It’s about the depths of human nature, and the more you descend, the more you leave the world behind.
Southern hemisphere emphasis
The southern hemisphere is above the horizon, spreading outward from the focal point of the MC. A crowding of planets here signify an ongoing concern with the world and an engagement with it. Personal growth and a sense of belonging depend on interacting with others in a way that informs and establishes one’s position, status, and presence in the world and one’s community. Because the self is given to dealing with all kinds of worldly issues, there may be a tendency to be buffeted around by circumstances. A rich life is one that is rife with outer-world experiences.
As an illustration, here’s the horoscope of Einstein (rate AA by Astrodatabank):
All planets except the Moon and Uranus are above the horizon, showing an all-consuming interest with the outer world. Unlike most people, Einstein pushed this to the extreme, soaring well above the world into the universe and outer space, tying the local-world concept of gravity to the warp of space-time. His work is the ultimate expression of concern with circumstance, and figuring out what living in the world truly meant at the cosmic level. And in an astounding manifestation of living the horoscope, Einstein steadfastly refused to recognize quantum weirdness, the strange behavior of sub-atomic particles that are at the deepest core of all matter–his life was given to the issues of the horoscopic southern hemisphere, and at least in the realm of physics, he was in denial of the deepest reaches signified by the northern hemisphere. “Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” Note the Sun-MC conjunction in Pisces!
One thing to remember in conclusion. We don’t want to see a northern hemisphere emphasis and jump to the conclusion that the person is an introvert, just as we don’t want to assume that a southern hemisphere emphasis implies extroversion. One can be constantly pulled into worldly obligations and concerns (southern hemisphere), while still very much being an introvert: they can go about their business without a lot of off-the-cuff interactions of the extrovert type. Likewise, one can be introspective and live in their head, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are introverted. Introversion and extroversion are tied to the sign placements of the planets and angles.
Similarly, an eastern hemisphere does not mean one doesn’t care for others-you can care for others, and still be highly self-protective at the same time. And while you are more likely to give of yourself freely to the world with a western hemisphere emphasis, you can take steps to make sure you don’t give the shirt off your back to every sob-story peddler. To reiterate, the sign positions of planets, as well as the aspects they make will have more to say about how you can still find touch points with qualities of the non-emphasized hemisphere. It’s just that you will need to be more aware of the imbalance so you can take measures to make sure you don’t go off the deep end.