What It Means When Your Horoscope Mentions A "House"

Photographed by Rochelle Brock.
Any astrology rookie knows the feeling: You innocently open your horoscope, ready for news of the upcoming week. And then, just as you're digesting what the stars have in store, you encounter a sentence like this: "Neptune will turn retrograde in your 10th house of career." Record scratch. What on Earth (or any other planet, for that matter) are these houses your 'scope is always referring to?
The 12 houses of the Zodiac may be more intimidating than, say, the planets, but they aren't a totally opaque concept. And getting to know them a little better will deepen your understanding of your horoscope and your natal chart.
According to astrologer Annie Heese, the houses rule different areas of our lives, from the relationships we'll have with others to the personal milestones that we'll hit. That sounds pretty similar to the role that the planets play in our lives, but here's the difference: The planets represent different properties (such as action, affection, and communication) and the houses can tell us where in our lives we'll feel them most intensely (in our work, in our relationships, or in our personality, for instance).
Planets move through the houses in the same way they do with signs, imbuing the houses with their energy along the way. For instance, when your horoscope states that "Neptune is moving into your 10th house of career," that means that your work life, public image, and your sense of structure will be affected by Neptune, the planet of dreams, intuition, and spiritual healing. So you may feel more introspective about your work or concerned about how your job is fulfilling your larger life goals.
But if you check your chart or 'scope only to find that one of your houses doesn't have any planets in it, don't worry — an unoccupied house doesn't reflect any kind of deficiency in your life, only a lack of emphasis. One Redditor suggests thinking of an "empty" house as the opposite of having a stellium in your chart: Having zero planets in your second house of money isn't a signal that you'll go broke — rather, it suggests that financial matters just won't play a huge role in your life.
Before you can become an expert in interpreting the planets' placement in your houses, you need to know what each house represents. Ahead, we've consulted Heese's work and our very own Astrotwins to break down the significance of each house of the Zodiac.