The first house is led off by the ascendant at the cusp. Because the ascendant is of such great importance in the projection of the personality, the first house is one of the very first things that an astrologer will consider when interpreting a chart.
The root keyword for the first house is self. We can amplify this keyword into several meanings. One of them is self-image. The ascendant sign and any other sign contained in the first house, as well as the planets placed there, inform and influence the self-image. The self-image is not just something the individual possesses. It is also something others very clearly see or sense.
Someone with Libra rising (ascendant sign) will want to be pleasing and popular, while someone with Scorpio rising will want to reveal as little of themselves as possible, and would thus be taciturn. A person with Jupiter in the 1st house will tend to come across as a cheery, positive soul while a person with Neptune in the 1st house will be perceived as dreamy, woolly, or demonstrably empathetic.
Often the 1st house will hold two successive signs, one for the ascendant, and the next sign for the rest. So, for instance, the ascendant could be in Leo, which covers part of the 1st house, while the rest of the house has Virgo. This can result in the individual offering a more nuanced projection of themselves to those with whom they come in contact, especially if there is a planet in that second sign that doesn’t quite jell with the qualities of the ascendant sign.
Imagine vibrant, warm, expressive Leo rising, with Pluto in Virgo in the 1st house. Leo draws people in, but it’s almost like there is a line beyond which the warmth and extroversion turns to a quieter, possibly sullen, and entirely mysterious Plutonic image that wants to keep the world at bay, or wants to not give too much away. People who really know such an individual might eventually come to terms with this change in appearance when the line is crossed. But for the more casual acquaintance, this mixed bag may be more perplexing, and they might feel they will never really know this person even though they seem to be approachable.
Another amplified meaning of the word self is body. The bodily shape is very obviously influenced by the sign or planet in the 1st house. But the 1st house is not the sole factor here, body shape is also impacted by the Sun and Moon. Taken by itself, for example, Jupiter in the 1st house would tend to “expand” the body–the individual might be fleshy or overweight. Uranus will tend to “sharpen” the image with a nervous nervous energy, an electric buzz that others around them can feel. Venus in the 1st house would tend to endow the individual with beauty, grace, or charm.
Rocker Bruce Springsteen has Uranus in his 1st house, and if you have ever watched his performance, you can see and feel the sheer dynamic energy that he brings to the show. It’s not just high energy, there’s a certain edginess that is very apparent. Former US president Bill Clinton has Libra rising (pleasing and popular), with several planets in the first house: Venus (charm), empathetic Neptune (“I feel your pain”), Jupiter (cheery persona, indulgence leading to girth). He also has Mars in the 1st house, which would normally come across as combative, but here Mars is in Libra, which tones down the aggressiveness quite some, and moreover the Martian assertiveness is softened up considerably by the presence of Venus and Neptune.
The first house is often considered to be a proxy for the chart as a whole. This means any influence on the 1st house will makes its presence felt in the entirety of the life. Meaning, the influence can’t be compartmentalized and tucked away in a corner, while life goes on. One such obvious impact is on the body – if there is any issue with the health, or any kind of bodily debilitation, it invariable affects the entire life.
In predictive astrology, the 1st house becomes an especially important marker of major life changes, especially ones that result in physical relocation, or have a transformational impact on the body or appearance.