QUESTION: I have often wondered if "House 4 past" goes beyond the physical past and also points to where we’ve been before birth? Is that unanswerable?
When looking at what came before birth using horary, it all hinges on the astrologer’s understanding of the context. That is rule #1 of horary regardless of the subject being investigated. And there are two possibilities here.
If we are asked a question about a past life the chart will describe the situation and/or event in the past life and we choose the significators and read the chart in the same way we read it for the present life. We read the entire chart, not only one house, such as house 4.
Horary describes the passage of time, whether the time period is in this or some other life makes no difference.
The second possibility is a question about the time in-between lives (between incarnations). In that case, again, as in all cases, the horary astrologer must have an understanding of the context otherwise the interpretation will be based on mere imagination.
If the question is just “where was I before birth?” then it is too general and therefore the answer be equally general and horary’s purpose is defeated.
“Where was I before birth?”
Answer: in the astral realm, in-between lives. Or in another lifetime. Depending on how long “before birth” you are asking. Or, what about where you were “before the first incarnation?”
So, it would depend on our models of psychology, cosmology, and metaphysics and on our direct understanding of the experiences related to each of those fields.
Still, we can make associations of those models with symbols. But they will be vague and not be much of a satisfactory “answer”. Unless one is satisfied with vague answers.
A horary for any subject will just give us symbols. How to interpret them requires a concrete context and the astrologer must understand it. Always. If we have a personal direct experience or memory of previous lives or of the period in-between lives we can answer questions about them. If not, it won’t work and any attempt will be reduced to story-telling, not horary.
Regarding house 4, if we want to know what influences came before birth or from family/genetics onto the present situation in a horary we can interpret house 4 for a description. This is very common in both natal and horary medical astrology as lots of house 6 issues have a genetic component and the charts show it via a relevant house 4 or L4 placement.