Cafe Astrology .com
Home | About Us | Site Map | Search

House Overlays

House Overlays (Transposed houses):

Synastry & Relationship Astrology

Back to Synastry Main Page

On our main Synastry page, we offered an overview of considerations for compatibility. On our Compatibility Analysis page, we offered a weighting system for various interchart aspects and positions. On the More on Synastry page, we explore more Synastry details and compatibility factors. On our Synastry Books Compared page, we reveal our favorite books on relationship astrology, and why we like them.

On this page, we explore House Overlays in more detail.

House Overlays

When we look at interchart aspects, we learn much about how two people in a relationship interact and what kind of impact they have on one another. If we place the planets and points of one chart into or around the other, we become privy to important information about which areas of life this interaction is concentrated, and how each person views the other person in more specific terms.

Generating bi-wheel charts, such as the ones pictured below, is helpful when we are studying house overlays. Because it's a two-way affair, two bi-wheels can be used—one with person A's chart in the center and person B's planets in the outside wheel, and another bi-wheel with the reverse: person B's natal chart in the center and person A's chart outside.


In the above example bi-wheel chart, we have Britney Spears' natal chart in the center, inner wheel, and we have overlayed Justin Timberlake's natal chart (his planets and points are found in the outer wheel). This way, we can easily see where Justin's planets and points fall in Britney's chart. For example, we see that his Sun conjunct South Node fall in her 5th house, at her Moon. We also see Mars and Mercury overlaying her 5th house (Mercury is very close to her 6th house cusp). His Moon conjunct Neptune overlay her 3rd house. His Saturn falls in her 1st house, near her Ascendant. His Ascendant falls in her 11th house, and so forth.

With this information, we can see more clearly and specifically how Justin impacts Britney.

The above chart is the reverse. We have overlayed Britney's chart onto Justin's, whose chart is in the middle. This bi-wheel chart helps us to visually discern where Britney's planets and points fall in Justin's chart. We can see that there are a number of Britney's planets falling in Justin's 4th house, for example—namely, Uranus, Mercury, and the Sun. Her Neptune technically does fall in his 4th house, but it is tightly conjunct his 5th house, so we consider her Neptune as overlaying his 5th house. You can also see that her Neptune falls on his own Moon and Neptune conjunction. Now we have a clearer idea of how and where Britney impacts Justin's life. 

House overlays go two ways. If my Sun overlays your sixth house, for example, you will view me as useful. If my Sun interacts with your planets in a generally challenging way, you may ultimately consider me to be counter-productive or meddling. I awaken sixth house issues in you. You may feel somewhat dependent on me in the areas of routines, work, and everyday issues, especially since the Sun is a positive, yang energy, and the sixth house has a yin, receptive energy. You receive, and I give, which can set up a co-dependent relationship if other factors in the synastry between us support this. 

Another example: If your Sun overlays my fourth house, you affect me in a very deep way. Because you bring out a very needy feeling in me, it would be easy for me to be extremely sensitive to your actions in our relationship. 

It can take students of astrology a bit of time to wrap their brains around the concept of house overlays in synastry. In order to get a clear understanding of the effects of house overlays (or transposed houses as they are often called), I have found it easiest to think about it this way: When somebody's Sun or Moon (or other planet) falls in a particular house in my natal chart, it is much like that person has the effect of a permanent transit to that house in my natal chart! If your Sun falls in my eighth house, for example, when I interact with you, it is somewhat like the Sun is transiting my eighth house, highlighting and illuminating 8th house issues for me. Similarly, if my Sun falls in your third house, I have a similar effect on your life as the Sun transiting your third house.

Where the Moon falls in house overlays can be very revealing as well, especially in intimate relationships. I was consulted by a woman whose intimate friendship with a man had ended, and she felt completely torn apart. Their relationship wasn't lengthy—lasting perhaps 8-9 months—but it had affected her to "the core of her being". She had had longer relationships with men that ended, and she felt she recovered from these more easily than she could from this comparatively brief relationship. Of course, many factors are involved, but one stood out for me, and it helps illustrate the importance of house overlays in relationship analysis. Her Moon falls in his fifth house, and his Moon falls in her fourth house (near the IC, the fourth house cusp). His affection towards her impacted the very "core of her being" (her words) in profound ways (fourth house/IC feelings!). She felt dependent on him for emotional sustenance. When their relationship ended, she felt what she expressed as "primal anger", but predominantly a tremendous amount of hurt. He told her that he was saddened that the relationship ended as well, but he did not display the same kind of neediness and attachment to the relationship that she did. He missed the good feelings they shared, the laughs (fifth house feelings). He told her that no one he had ever met made him feel so good about himself. She had been a very receptive audience to his stories and jokes, and he expressed that he missed that aspect of their relationship very much. 

In the chart examples above, we can see that Britney's Sun and Moon (and many other planets) fell in Justin's 4th and 6th houses. These are both dependent, subjective, and receptive houses. On the other hand, Justin's Sun and Moon fell in Britney's 5th and 3rd houses, which are more outgoing houses. The fifth house has much to do with ego and identity, as it is a fire house, the house of Leo. The third house is another outgoing, active house. It is the house of Gemini, and has a social and mental quality to it. There is a clear imbalance represented here. I have no idea what happened between them, but these overlays suggest to me that the relationship affected Justin in a deeper manner than it did Britney. Perhaps, to her, the relationship was more fun and games than anything. 

Very often, we hear of breakup complaints in which one person feels used by the other, or accusations that one person did not care as much as the other. House overlays can be extremely illuminating for these situations. It can also help us to understand and accept instead of accuse. Let's say you and I were in an intimate relationship. If your planets fall primarily in houses that are active, positive, and outgoing in my chart, and my planets fall primarily in houses that are receptive in your chart, you may ultimately feel "used" by me. You may have impacted my identity, purpose, and ego more than anything, while I may have cut much deeper in my effect on your life. Because your very heart and soul were on the line, you may, in the end, consider me to be rather heartless. However, if I was involved in a relationship in which the tables were reversed, I might be the sensitive one whose heart and soul were on the line. Most relationships are more balanced than these examples. However, when you do come across these basic incompatibilities in house overlays, it should be noted as very significant.

So, we can see that incompatibility issues can be clear when person A's planets primarily overlay person B's outgoing houses and B's planets primarily overlay A's receptive houses. [Note: outgoing houses are the 1st, 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th, and 11th houses; receptive houses are the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 10th, and 12th houses.] 

The difference between the outgoing houses and the receptive houses can be thought of as in terms of objectivity versus subjectivity. A person whose partner's planets are flanking his or her receptive houses is very subjective about the relationship. It is very difficult for this person to be objective or detached about the partner or the relationship. 

We can also pay attention to the elements associated with the houses. The 1st, 5th, and 9th houses are fire houses, and have much to do with identity and ego. The 2nd, 6th, and 10th houses are earth houses, and are more practical and material in nature. The 3rd, 7th, and 11th house are air houses, and these houses have a social and mental nature. The 4th, 8th, and 12th houses are water houses, and are emotional in nature. If I primarily activate (let's say with my Sun and Moon and one or more other planets) your earth houses, you may see me as a means to an end. You may be dependent on me for material support or emotional security, for example. Or, you may view me as particularly useful in your life. How this plays out will depend on how I react to this. I may feel like you see me as an object rather than a person, and this may be difficult to deal with. On the other hand, your seeming dependency on me could feel good to me. Perhaps I feel more useful, and I am boosted by my relationship with you as a result. 

If I primarily activate your water houses, my actions will have a deep impact on you. You will likely be very sensitive to me, viewing me as someone with whom you need to relate to intimately and profoundly. You may rely on me for emotional support, for example. Again, how I respond to this can be critical to the success of our relationship. 

If I primarily activate your fire houses, I will be integral in developing and perhaps transforming your ego and identity. I may inspire and stimulate you to express yourself and your creativity. You may see me as someone with whom you can have a good time. If I primarily activate your air houses, I may stimulate your social life, you may see me as a good friend, and perhaps not much more than that! Although I generate warm and friendly feelings in you, I may want a more profound relationship. I may want to "get to you" more deeply, and I might feel like your feelings for me are superficial. On the other hand, I might enjoy the lightness and good feelings that this partnership generates.

Let's say that there is a general compatibility with the elements of the houses in overlays. This should be a good thing, although if it is too concentrated, the relationship may be unbalanced and lacking. For example, let's say my Sun and Moon and many other planets primarily activate your water and earth houses, and the same is true of your planets activating my water and earth houses. We may view each other in similar ways, and this can be a source of compatibility. However, in this case, because the air and fire houses are not activated in either direction, the relationship might easily become co-dependent and challenging. We might function as a couple for years, but at some point, either you or I (or both) might recognize the lack. The relationship may seem too heavy and lacking in fun times (Fire) and mental stimulation (Air).

Similarly, if there are stelliums in each person's natal chart, we will find strong emphases on particular houses in the overlays. If my stellium overlays your 11th house, and your stellium overlays my 7th house, we are both activating outgoing, air houses in each other. However, there can be some disagreement nevertheless, as you may view me as a good friend, while I see you as an ideal partner—someone with whom I want a rather exclusive partnership. 

In our example near the beginning of this article, when we compared a couple's Moon overlaying the 4th and Moon overlaying the 5th, if we can expand our analysis by looking at the overall pattern of the overlays, we can see why this couple had such misunderstandings with regards to what the relationship was all about, and what it meant to each person. Her planets primarily overlayed his 5th and 11th houses. Only one of her personal planets overlayed a receptive house, the second house. Students of astrology may recognize these houses as fixed ones. On the other hand, his planets primarily overlayed her 4th, 6th, and 8th houses. She depended on him and their relationship, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that the impact of their break-up was so profound for her. With her planets primarily overlaying his 5th and 11th houses, he saw her as a friend, a romantic interest, and something rather light and casual in comparison to how she viewed him. She responded to him with a lot of emotion, and her dependency on him eventually wore him down. He did not return those deep feelings. Although he truly liked her and enjoyed her company, she wanted something more profound and intimate, and they had to go their separate ways.

Perhaps ideally, there should be a better spread of overlays over the elements of the houses, in each of the two overlays. Otherwise, the relationship may become burdensome and unfulfilling over time. Of course, much depends on what is expected of the relationship. This brings us to our bottom line: House overlays can reveal whether or not there is a basic agreement on what each person expects from the relationship and from each other. However, it should be noted that even with this compatibility and agreement, it does not tell us whether or not the individuals involved will eventually outgrow the relationship. 

Note that in Love Formulas-2 by Nance McCullough, the author emphasizes that overlays of the Sun, Moon, or Ascendant to the second person's 7th house are very important in synastry. She feels that someone is most attracted to a person whose Sun, Moon, or Ascendant falls in their seventh house. She also suggests that many times when the attraction is one-sided, it is the seventh house person who is the one who is attracted. If the other person's seventh house isn't activated, he or she may not return the feelings.

Read our article You Light Up My Life: The Sun in the Houses in Synastry for more details about the Sun falling in specific houses in synastry. Read our article Planet Overlays in Houses for more information about house overlays.


Note that I never underestimate the power of house overlays (transposed houses) in synastry! In fact, it is one of my first considerations when I do a relationship analysis. When birth times are unknown or uncertain, I am disappointed that I cannot apply this portion of the analysis to my reading, as I consider it extremely revealing. 

Next: More on Synastry