House Foundations

Maritha Pottenger

We continue our journey through the horoscope with the Tenth House. Here we face our career in the larger sense: what we hope to accomplish in the world. The Tenth House symbolizes our dealings with physical reality: the limits of our world and how we cope with them. This includes our ambitions regarding career accomplishments; responsibility; handling of power and dealings with authority figures. We learn about cause and effect in our attempts to control the world, to achieve stability and predictability.

Our first major authority figure is usually a parent or person playing the parental role. In the Tenth House, we are dealing with the conditional love parent (where the Fourth House parent is an unconditional love figure.) In traditional roles, mother is the unconditional love figure and father the conditional. In “real life,” either parent may play either role—or both. And other people (grandparents, aunts, uncles, older siblings, adoptive parents) may provide parenting as well.

Unconditional love is provided by the person who takes care of us simply because, as infants, without that nurturing and nourishment, we would die. We don’t have to DO anything; we have only to BE, in order to be loved. The conditional love parent teaches us to grow up and be responsible. We learn the consequences of our actions. We learn how to earn approval now. We are appreciated for what we DO; it is no longer enough just to BE. (Clearly, this distinction is somewhat arbitrary; most parents provide both conditional and unconditional love. It is a matter of the predominance.)

In discussing parents, it must be remembered: the horoscope does NOT depict our parents (or parental figures). Rather it depicts OUR PERCEPTION of our parents. It is a reflection of our experience and interpretation. It does not necessarily fit with reality. Thus we see, for example, a family with four children and each of the four having a different picture of the parents reflected in their horoscopes. (“Parents” refers here to those people that provide nurturing, support, responsibility, etc. It is by virtue of their roles, NOT by virtue of birth.)

Mars in the Tenth ties identity to career, responsibility, control, work, achievement and the conditional love parent. Such people tend to feel a need to work. If they aren’t working, they may feel useless. There is often a strong drive to succeed, to achieve, to control the world around them. They may push too hard against the limits of reality, and have to learn that certain things are not possible at times. They may learn through fights or arguments with authority figures; through taking on too much in their work and eventually being overwhelmed (physically or emotionally); through butting their heads against any of society’s laws or conventions and receiving the consequences, etc. This extreme Zip Dobyns calls over-drive.

Another extreme she calls “self-blocking.” Such individuals satisfy their needs for control, stability, predictability by over-controlling themselves. They do not try. They give up before even beginning, telling themselves: “Why should I attempt it? I know I’d just fail anyway.” They have the predictability of knowing what will happen. (Nothing will happen because they try nothing. However, to some people, the security of KNOWING they will have nothing feels safer than the risk to get something.)

The over-drive and self-blocking extremes are possible with other one-ten combinations, e.g. Saturn in the First House, the ruler of the First in the Tenth, Saturn in Aries, Mars in Capricorn, etc. Any theme of importance in the character will be repeated, in more than one way, in the chart. The planet is always the strongest statement. Thus, if other factors are equal (which they seldom are), Saturn in the First is slightly more prone to self-blocking, and Mars in the Tenth slightly more prone to over-drive.

Between these two extremes is the happy medium of people who work hard and achieve much, but without trying to run the whole world. Such people put a lot of energy and drive into their careers. The find challenges exciting. They often have a pioneering or entrepreneurial outlook. They are very independent in their careers. They actively seek responsibility and control. They feel confident to go after what they want in the world and get it, within the limits of society.

The conditional love parent (more often father) is a role model. If the natives got along with and admired their Dads, they probably want to be just the same. Otherwise, they want to be just the opposite. (Generally, there is a mixture. Dad is a positive role model in some areas and a negative role model in others.) But the conditional love parent is the mirror. The individual compares him/herself to that parent (or those parents). The parent is the standard by which the individual measures her/his achievements (or lack thereof.)

This parent teaches the individual to use Mars: either by positive or negative role modeling. The positive example is energetic, confident, assertive (without stepping on other people’s rights), with a firm sense of identity that still allows for change. The negative role model may block any of these potentials, or over-do any of the Martian energy. Excesses can lead to an argumentative, quarrelsome, even violent personality. There may be an excessive selfishness. Whether the individual gets the positive or negative role model, the mirror is there. From one, we learn what TO do; from the other, we learn what NOT to do. (When a parent or significant other over-does any part of life, the lesson is generally not for us to do what they do, but to take the energy they are misusing and use it in moderation, in appropriate ways.)

With Venus in the Tenth, we seek ease and comfort in reality. We look for a career to provide beauty or pleasure. We often do not want to work too hard. We want achievement that is stable and secure. We want control over the physical, sensual world—over things. We may choose an artistic career, or work with material resources (e.g. money, possessions). We tend to pick achievements we can enjoy.

If we project the Venus onto a partner, we may expect him/her to work for us. We may be willing to be supported by another. We may expect reality to be smooth and easy.

We may use beauty and charm as a way to control the world. “If I’m sweet enough, people will do things for me.” We may be too tied to the need for money and possessions to feel secure.

We have the potential of a comfortable, accepting relationship with the conditional love parent. There may be much affection. It is also possible the parent may be overly materialistic, self-centeredly sensual, and/or lazy. This parent is a role model for later love relationships. Unresolved issues with Dad (or whoever is the conditional love parent) will be faced again with partners. The issues are likely to involve money, security, affection, comfort and pleasure.

People with Mercury in the Tenth want to put their minds to work. They desire a mentally-stimulating, varied career. They are prone to changing jobs if one gets boring. Their technique for controlling the world is to think and/or talk. They tend to have a logical, pragmatic approach. They seek “security” through understanding, but prefer variety to stability. If they over-do the need for mental control, they may doubt their own abilities. Because they want it JUST so, they may feel inadequate mentally or suffer from a communication block.

Such individuals have a parent who role-modeled Mercury functions: thinking, communication, the light touch. Said parent may have been bright, talkative and versatile. S/he may also have been gossipy, trivializing, and scattered. S/he may have been all intellectual detachment and no emotion. The individual with this placement was given a role model (positive or negative) for learning to think, communicate, and detach.

This is also a parent-sibling (or other relative) mixture. We may have a sibling (or relative) who played a parental role to us. Or, we may play a parental role to siblings. Our parent(s) may treat us more like a sibling: a peer to talk to and share with, rather than being an authority figure. Once we are old enough, having a parent who treats us as an equal can be great. If equality is expected too soon, it may just put excessive demands on the young child who could retreat into giving up and not trying. (The giving up in this case would be on the mental, communication world.)

If the Moon is in the Tenth, we have a mixture of the unconditional with the conditional love parent. One parent may have played both roles. Or, parents may have switched traditional roles. Or, parents may be like one another: both able to be nurturers and teachers of consequences. Ideally, the parent(s) provide(s) warmth, acceptance, and unconditional love when the individual is young, and reality testing, responsibility-teaching as the individual gets older and learns to cope with the world.

In less than ideal situations, there are a couple of possibilities. Parent(s) may give too much unconditional love too long. The child grows up leaning a lot on Mommy and Daddy. The child does not develop his/her own strength because the parent(s) provide(s) all. Eventually, confronting the “real world” comes as a shock when the individual discovers not everyone will take such good care of him/her as Mommy and Daddy did. S/he may be overly helpless and dependent. (And, of course, some children will grow up responsible and capable despite being “spoiled” by their parents.) An alternative is parents who provide an excess of conditional love. The child is forced to “grow up” very young. The child often is responsible and hard-working while still quite small. The child may even be put in a position of being responsible for his/her own parents. Such a child may grow up strong and efficient, but always yearning for the nurturing s/he never had. Or, s/he may rebel when older, saying: “I’ve done enough for others; it’s time for someone to take care of me!” Etc. We must always remember the importance not just of what parents do, but how the child REACTS and interprets his/her experience. Another alternative is the mixtures: parents who were too unconditional in some areas and too conditional in others.

Again, the planet is the stronger statement. Moon in the Tenth is more often a professional, or working mother. It is more prone to over-doing nurturance and care-taking, encouraging dependent children. Saturn in the Fourth is a bit more likely to indicate a father right there at home (e.g. farm family) or very important in the home scene. Work and responsibility from childhood on are likely and an excess of conditional love is more a danger.

Individuals are likely to seek power and control through nurturance or dependency. If they never grew up, they may continue to seek out others to care for them. If they developed their own strength, they are likely to look after others, including in their career. This may be in a literal physical sense: providing land or food or people’s basic physical needs. It may be more emotional: nurturing children, taking care of the sick, counseling, consoling, etc.

With the Sun in the Tenth, charisma and magnetism may be sources of power. These individuals may seek control through being the center of attention. They gravitate towards careers in entertainment, teaching, sales, promotion, and performing arts. They want admiration and attention for their accomplishments. There is a flair for being a star.

This “star quality” was first met in a parent. Said parent may have been strong, dynamic and exciting. S/he may have had creative talent, a gambling instinct, a taste for risks. S/he may have been excessively dominating and self-centered: expecting the family to revolve around his/her needs and wishes. The parent provided a negative or positive role model for shining, for using charisma to persuade and control others, for risk-taking, for doing more than has been done before.

This is also a parent/child mixture. The parent may exhibit childlike qualities: zest, enthusiasm, naiveté, and a childish self-centeredness. The parent may act like a child, expecting the native to take care of him/her, while the parent just has fun. The parent may have the spontaneity of childhood, while still being a responsible adult. Children of the native are likely to bring up issues s/he faced with that parent. His/her own parent may become like a child (when young or in old age) and need caretaking. One or more children of the native will tend to elicit the same feeling s/he experienced with that parent. Unresolved issues around power and how to use it; charisma; fun versus responsibility; risk-taking versus security will be faced again through the child(ren).

Ceres in the Tenth may symbolize a working mother. Mother is often a role model for career and attitudes on responsibility and the “real world.” Mother may be an authority figure. If mother is too strong and efficient, we may feel criticized, judged by her. This can also be a nurturing, care-taking father. The parent is likely to value work, practicality, thoroughness, but also caring. If over-done, the parent may feel nitpicky and hard to please to the child.

The career often involves service to others, health, and/or practicality and precision. One possibility is the professional mother: someone who devotes their life to raising children (their own or other people’s). (Moon in the Tenth can also do this.) Anyone in health care or healing work is possible. Careful, painstaking work (research, accounting, etc.) is possible.

Vesta in the Tenth is also often talented in careful, thorough work, with good obsessive-compulsive potential. Work is often pursued for its own sake and workaholic tendencies may be pronounced. All of this applies both to the native and also his/her authority figure parent.

The parent is likely to role model analysis and discrimination. If s/he over does this, through criticism and nitpickiness (whether directed internally or towards the child), the child may learn to always criticize his/her efforts. If the practicality is well-handled, the child learns a sense of craftsmanship and the job well done.

Either parent or child may cop out of the challenge of doing efficient work by developing ill health. (This can also occur with Ceres.) The ill parent may encourage one child to follow his/her footsteps into sickness. Another child may develop self-reliance, strength, and pragmatism through caring for the ill parent. Etc.

Pallas or Juno in the Tenth suggests control issues with people. The native may seek a career working with people (e.g. counseling, consulting, etc.). S/he may seek to dominate and control partners, or attract partners who strive to dominate or control him/her. There may be an equalitarian outlook of shared power, or an expectation of dominating others. Balance may be sought through a visual, artistic career such as photography, architecture, interior decorating, etc.

Parent(s) may share the power, treating the native as an equal partner. This can help develop the native’s skill in peer relationships, unless it is done too soon. A child expected to be a peer before s/he is really capable may get locked into a “one-up; one-down” view of personal relationships and carry that on from parent to later partners. On the other hand, a child that is a loved and appreciated peer of his/her parents may remain “partners” with them even into adulthood—still in contact. If the bond is too strong, this may even interfere with other partnership potentials.

The parent is role-model for partners. Unfinished business with Dad (and/or Mom) is faced again in peer relationships. We attract people who elicit in us the same feelings we had with Dad (and/or Mom). We meet our unfinished issues again and again until we can resolve them. The challenge is to balance power through sharing. The danger is that one partner will play parent to the other. The ideal is for them to take turns. BOTH need to be responsible, able to work, practical and realistic. Neither one can or should do it all for the other. The power and responsibility must be shared.

Pluto in the Tenth is another power-oriented potential obsessive-compulsive. A passion for details is often present. Thoroughness and endurance are literally “to the death!” The career may involve power over joint resources (insurance, taxes, government funds, inheritance, sexuality), or any depth work (psychotherapy, archaeology, investigation, etc.) The native seeks control by going beneath the surface. Face value is rarely accepted. The world is probed and sometimes taken apart!

The parent is likely to be strong, perhaps dominating. There may be abuses of power—sexual, monetary, physical, etc. There may be attempts at domination through emotional blackmail and manipulation. Criticism may be used as a power-play. If well-handled, the parent role-models SELF-control, not striving to dominate others. The child learns through example to probe and question him/herself in order to transform and grow. The parent who over-develops self-control role-models excessive denial and asceticism to the child.

If the parent overdoes his/her power drive, the child may go into over-control of the self in reaction. S/he may see ANY power over others as bad, and constantly hold him/herself back from having any impact on people. Another child may fight the domineering, overwhelming parent, and thus develop her/his own strength. Whether that child then uses that strength wisely to share or unwisely in attempts to dominate others is a further challenge.

Here too, at least one parent is role model for partners, for what we attract in a mate. We learn to share with parents and peers. Before we learn, the battleground is usually physical/sensual: struggles over sexuality/sensuality, shared possessions and money. Learning to share openly, without possessing or manipulation, generally necessitates depth probing of our psyche as well as others’.

We often idealize a parent with Jupiter in the Tenth. We may feel s/he is perfect. We may believe s/he SHOULD BE perfect, and feel let down when the inevitable faults manifest. S/he may feel we should be perfect—have standards too high to reach. If we idealize the parent, s/he may be brilliant and knowledgeable. S/he may travel a lot (or even be missing) making the idealized image easier to maintain.

That parent is a role model for our handling of values and expectations. Through him/her (for good or ill) we learn to develop values and priorities. We distinguish “good” and “bad.” We decide what to trust and what to believe in. Often much of our faith and trust is placed in a career and status and/or in that parent.

If our or the parent’s expectations get out of bounds, we end up in a no-win situation with impossibly high expectations bound to a critical awareness of any flaws. If we learn to set reasonable goals and keep striving, we can reach the balance of a vision of understanding and knowing more backed up by practical steps to achieve our visions, and long-range goals.

Similarly, in our career. We may look for the “perfect” job, and job-hop when the hours, or pay or something end up less than ideal. We may demand we do our work perfectly, never making a mistake, always reaching the ultimate of what we set out to do. Then we set ourselves up for chronic dissatisfaction. Or, we may look for work to make a more ideal world, to satisfy our thirst for truth, knowledge, and the meaning of life. Our career might involve higher education, religion, philosophy, travel, books, spiritual issues, etc. The connecting theme is a questing, a seeking sense, wanting to go further, to know and understand more.

Saturn in the Tenth is “at home.” The desire for control, stability, and predictability is doubled. Individuals may seek to be responsible for the whole world. This may be a way to feel safe: “It’s at my fingertips.” Or, it may be a way to avoid guilt: “I SHOULD do it.” Some individuals will retreat to doing nothing—the security of not trying anything.

A parent (or both) will role model the handling of power, work and responsibility. The parent (and native) may be a workaholic. S/he may overdo conditional love by being critical—always focusing on the flaws—in the self or in others. The parent (and native) may overdo responsibility or hold the self back too much (for fear of doing it incorrectly.) The super parent who works too hard and does everything may raise dependent children. The inadequate parent sometimes forces the children to grow up too soon, perhaps having to parent their own parents.

If the individual does not give up and retreat into doing nothing, s/he is likely to go into a career that is exact and precise, where the world seems predictable. Science, especially the physical sciences, is a likely option. Business is also possible. There is talent for hard work, thoroughness, practicality and endurance. There is often some executive ability. Performance is sometimes a reaction to strong fears of inadequacy, of not being able to cope. The major distinction (for both parent and native) is between those who fall prey to their fears of inadequacy, of losing control and giving up, versus those who achieve despite (or perhaps in reaction to) those fears.

Uranus in the Tenth is a very different trip. The native may challenge the status quo in his/her career: through new age knowledge (including astrology), advanced technology, or some kind of unique, revolutionary work. S/he does NOT want to be ordinary. The individual has an equalitarian approach to power, and is often willing to help dismantle the hierarchy. Risk and change are often valued over security and stability. Such people may job-hop, especially if their career gets routine, boring, or has no intellectual challenge. They are likely to be independent and individualistic, which may lead to some arguments with entrenched authorities.

In a positive expression, this indicates the parent as friend: encouraging the child to develop her/his uniqueness to the full. There is the potential for much tolerance and understanding. The parent may role-model the capacity to be independent, original, brilliant and open to all possibilities. Negative expression could include a totally weird parent, too eccentric to handle the “real world.” Or, a cool, aloof parent, too intellectual to relate on a feeling level. Or, a parent so into astrology, social causes or new knowledge, s/he has no time for the child. Or, a parent too restless and independent to be tied down by parenting. Etc.

Ideally, the child learns (through positive or negative examples) that there are appropriate times to shake up reality, make changes, try a new approach. And there are times to accept the current situation and work with it. People (parent and native) who do not learn that lesson remain torn between conventionality and unconventionality; between social roles and their individual uniqueness; between following the rules and making new ones. Etc.

Neptune finishes, as usual, by reminding us that “reality” is often relative. With Neptune, we confront our dreams and visions. We may create a beautiful dream, only to have it dissolve before our eyes. Our parent role models Neptunian energy. Said parent may be ideal: loving, giving, spiritual, artistic, graced in almost every way. We may emulate that ideal vision, or give up and become a victim because we can never be as perfect. We may feel our parent SHOULD be ideal, and feel hurt and disillusioned s/he shows human shortcomings. We may have a missing parent, or dissociate ourselves enough (selective amnesia) to PRETEND the parent was ideal, whether or not that is the case. Our parent may feel we should be perfect, and let us know of his/her disappointment when we fail to measure up. Or, our parent may idealize us, think we’re perfect.

Some parents will play savior: taking care of all the world’s needy (which may mean insufficient time and energy for the savior’s children.) Some will play martyr, trying to succor everyone, and complaining all along about the burden. Some will play victim, and retreat from a world that is less than perfectly beautiful. They may retreat into drugs, alcohol, psychosis, sleeping a lot, running away, etc. The child may be encouraged to play savior to a parental victim, or to become a victim, so a parent can play savior.

We tend to choose a career that gives scope to this search for a more ideal world. Possibilities include the professional artists, the professional savior (helper/healer) and the professional victim. We may expect the perfect job and leave or run away when it doesn’t flow like a beautiful dream. We may expect to do our job perfectly: be loving, spiritual, and make everything utopian. We can be terribly hurt and disillusioned (sometimes sufficiently to retreat into a fantasy world, become a victim) when both the job and our performance fall short of perfection.

The major value of Neptune lies in showing us something beyond Saturn. We come to realize that the nitty-gritty physical world is NOT all there is. We see that “reality” is often less important than our vision of reality, our images and perceptions. Ideally, we learn to blend and meld the two together, working cohesively between. In negative forms, we get too hung up either in the nitty-gritty, critical arena, or in our imaginary world.


Oversimplification is a chronic danger in astrology, but also a chronic temptation. I am succumbing to the lure in the following table.

This table is emphatically NOT any kind of final or total word on the Tenth House. It does address one aspect of the Tenth House which particularly fascinates me now. I am currently involved in some heavy issues around power in relationships (which I think are reflected by my Capricorn ruling the Seventh and Eighth Houses; Saturn in Libra and Pallas in the Tenth House at least.)

It occurs to me that Letter Ten in all forms (Saturn, Capricorn, Tenth House) ought to indicate (among other things) our “control style.” That is: where we seek a sense of power, what we depend on to give us stability and predictability in the world, the tool through which we hope to manage an unruly reality.

Looking then to the Tenth House part of this:

MARS: Assertive power, self-power, power through vitality.

“I feel in control when I act.”

VENUS: Pleasure power, power over things, control through charm.

“I feel in control when I can manipulate things or sensations.”

MERCURY: Mind power.

“I feel in control when I can think and communicate.”

MOON: Nurture power, power through sensitivity.

“I feel in control when I am taking care of, or being taken care of.”

SUN: Magnetic power, charisma.

“I feel in control when I am the star.”

CERES, VESTA: Work-power, precision power.

“I feel in control when I am exact and thorough.”

PALLAS, JUNO: Shared power, power over people.

“I feel in control when people cooperate with me.”

PLUTO: Unconscious power, power through uncovering.

“I feel in control when I look beneath the surface.”

JUPITER: Quest power; power through searching.

“I feel in control when I can seek the truth.”

SATURN: Predictable power; power through cause-and-effect.

“I feel in control when my world is predictable.”

URANUS: Change power, power through unconventionality.

“I feel in control when my world is unpredictable.”

NEPTUNE: Dissolving power, dream power.

“I feel in control when I know control is a false issue.”

Copyright © 1980 Los Angeles Community Church of Religious Science, Inc.

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