In our journey through the horoscope going counter-clockwise, we now alight on the 10th house.
This house is at the very top of the chart. In the Placidus house system, the 10th house is ushered in by the Midheaven or MC, which is the highest point reached by the Sun in its arc through the sky. The MC represents our aspiration, what we want to be seen as in society, our contribution to others, and the 10th house is essentially a vehicle that gets us there.
The 10th house is opposite the 4th, so while the 4th house signifies our home and private life, the 10th house signifies our career and public life. Actually career is not completely accurate; a better word to use would be vocation. You might have a career in finance, say, but your vocation, that which you aspire to in terms of contribution to society, could be as a writer, or artist, or teacher. Many of us don’t aspire to do the job we do day in and day out. We would rather be doing something else, something we are passionate about, by doing which we fulfill our aspiration and give something meaningful to the world.
Public life as a 10th house signification can also be taken to mean how the public sees us. This is different from the ascendant’s role as how we come across in person to others. The public at large sees us through our socioeconomic status (e.g. mother of 3 kids, millionaire), job title (e.g. head of PTA, Vice President), talent (athlete), etc. without knowing anything personal about us. Imagine someone with Cancer on the ascendant. In person, they will come across as introverted, kind, emotionally expressive–in other words, they will demonstrate Cancerian traits in one-on-one situations. Their MC, which is the cusp of 10th house, is in Aries (very likely), and the world at large knows them as a serial entrepreneur, or a pioneer in some notable activity, or someone who takes a lot or risks in pursuing their goals–all Aries traits that are highly visible to the world.
The association of status with the 10th house arises from the fact that Capricorn signifies status, and is the sign of the natural 10th house. Another signification is respect, which is also a Capricorn quality–you crave respect through the 10th house activities of status building and contribution to society. Climbers of the social, economic, or professional ladder demonstrate this 10th house need to be respected.
Another signification of the 10th house is authority, a Saturn trait, associated with the 10th house because Saturn is the ruler of Capricorn. Gain or loss of authority is seen through the MC and 10th house, and is especially useful in predictive astrology. Reputation is another Saturn characteristic that is tied to the 10th house: people with an emphasized 10th house have their reputation firmly tied to their public image.
The MC-IC axis is called the parental axis, and carries the influence of the parents in the development of the personality. As you might imagine, this has enormous significance in interpretation. Astrologers are divided over which end of the axis represents which parent. To some astrologers, the MC (and 10th house) represents the father, while the IC (and 4th house) represents the mother; to others it is the opposite.
In a purer, more abstract sense, the MC and 10th house represent the parent who was the authority figure in childhood, and this could be either the mother or the father. Similarly, the IC and 4th house represent the parent who made the childhood home, and provided care and nurturing, and again this could be the father or the mother. The MC-father/IC-mother association speaks to the traditional model where the father is the authority figure and the mother is the care giver.
The MC-mother/IC-father correspondence comes from the perspective that the mother in early life translates into the world in adulthood: how we saw and felt our mother is so deeply embedded in our DNA that as adults we see and experience the world in the same way. A controlling mother? We grow up believing that the world controls us and we don’t have sufficient agency to direct our life the way we would like. A nurturing, warm mother? We expect the world to provide for us, and have faith that whatever happens, we will be ok. At the other end of the axis, the IC-father connection is seen as the patriarchal ancestry, our roots coming down the father’s line.
In your own horoscope, you might want to look at the sign on the MC and IC, then see which one corresponds most with how you see your mother, and whether the other then corresponds to your father. For example, if you have Taurus–Scorpio on the MC-IC axis, which of your mother or father was more emotional and driven by feeling (Scorpio) and which of them was practical, grounded, and intent on building material security (Taurus).
The sign on the cusp of the 10th house, which is essentially the sign of the MC, suggests the kind of career one might have, or the impact one might aspire toward. For instance, Gemini on the MC suggests a career in communication, brokering, writing, teaching, media, technology, and other Gemini pursuits. Taurus on the MC suggests a career in the arts, fashion, design. And so on.
Planets in the 10th house draw extra attention to career and aspiration. In general, when there are planets in a house, that house becomes more important to the person. A house with no planets in it is neutral territory-you can still gauge the quality of manifestation of that house’s significations, but you will place relatively less emphasis on them. Keep in mind, though, that if a planet is close to the MC from the 9th house side, it will definitely have a significant bearing on career and reputation.
Lest you think that an empty 10th house means no career, or no public profile, or no success, there are many people with no planets in the 10th house who have successful careers, or are of some renown. You need to go no farther than US President Barack Obama to see this. Here’s his horoscope:
The 10th house is empty, and there are no planets close to. the MC on the 9th house side. One way to think of the empty 10th house is that it’s a blank slate, into which you can draw as you wish. Planets in a house bring a certain charge and an obligation to live out their energies. With an empty house, you are free to do as you please, and you can write your professional story with more abandon.
On the other hand, you might have a lingering sense of indecisiveness or confusion about which career path to follow because there is no compulsion to go one way or the other. Often, then, the attention switches to the 6th house, which holds the key to the skills we develop, and the daily work that we might enjoy doing, and the career then evolve organically out of deploying these skills and doing the work. The resonance practically jumps out of the 6th house in Obama’s horoscope: the Sun as leader, and Mercury as communicator; these are the skills he brought front-and-center to his job as President.
Last but not least, if your MC sign is Gemini or Pisces or Sagittarius, you are likely to have multiple occupations. The reason is these signs are the so called double-bodied or dual signs: the symbol for Gemini is the twins, that for Pisces are two fish, and the symbol for Sagittarius is man and beast. Being on the MC, this implies “two” (or more!) professional/vocational activities or occupations.
Sometimes this could mean multiple gigs at the same time (“jobbing”), other times it could be serial careers in different fields. This duality is particularly true of Gemini and Pisces, more so that Sagittarius. And it doesn’t always have to be a paid profession, either. You might find such people doing the 9-to-5 thing at one career, but avidly pursuing a hobby (the vocation, as different from just a job) on the side that takes a substantial amount of their time for which they may or may not be paid.