The Eighth House – The House Of Trauma, a Door to the New Country
In the Birth Chart, the eighth house is the house of trauma. Its primary characteristic is in the experience of situations that we deal with only by calling on our deepest reserves of strength to produce growth. It is associated with some of our most fundamental physical functions and our most sublime spiritual ones and can truly be called the “house of necessity.” It is best symbolized by a doorway, which take us out of the familiar world and into a new landscape.
Here we deal with things we cannot escape: birth, death, debt, taxes, surgery, sex and a lot more. Trouble in this area can cause violence and perversion, while beneficial aspects can produce a healing or an inheritance. In all cases, such events have ramifications, which change the individual, altering the progress through life. They become turning points on the road.
In a purely physical sense it deals with the organs of sexual reproduction and elimination. For this alone it justifies its crown as the source of most humor. Humor helps us deal with uneasiness in the face of what scares us. Both sexual and scatological jokes deal with these bodily functions that can give us so much concern and are the most personal and private. This house governs all things that have become useless and unnecessary–and the process of dealing with such wastes. Every male can probably recall his first “wet dream” and every young girl remembers the onset of menarche. Both were events which rid the body of unneeded material but yet were events that had impact. They could not be escaped. The body does what it does and does not ask permission. Even the traveler’s experience of diarrhea or constipation can be a painful memory.
In a social sense, the 8th house deals with trash and garbage of all kinds. We must somehow deal with wastes. There is no option. In an earlier time it may have seemed easier, but in today’s more crowded world there is greater urgency. All city water purification plants and waste treatment plants and dumps where trash is placed come under the eighth house mundane rulership. Many city landfills have become “new land” which is turned into parks or golf courses. Breakwalls along shores that protect beaches and docks are often constructed of debris and become new reefs in their turn.
The 8th house deals with garage sales and the recycling process, because all that is waste is eventually broken down into its component parts which are then rearranged for another use. Manure becomes compost, which becomes organic material for vegetables and flowers in gardens. Waste must decompose if there is to be a world that is reusable. In all of this there is the element of “necessity.” These things simply must be done somehow. They are not options. Any device that breaks down waste and turns it into something else comes under the eighth house. A septic system qualifies. So does the disposal in the kitchen sink, which chops up the food scrap. So does a wetlands, which cleans nature’s liquid runoff and turns it into clear water and habitat for living creatures. Companies that sell jackets made of the fiber that once housed liters of soft drinks are doing eighth house work. These tasks have become necessities as our world fills up with leftovers.
The eighth is associated with the sex act, which leads to new life, and it is also associated with death, which is recognition that the very body itself has become a waste product. It deals with the “expelling” of semen, which is needed to produce a fetus when joined with an egg to create new life.
Associating the 8th house with its natural sign, Scorpio, and Scorpio’s two rulers Pluto and Mars, it is Pluto, in its supreme role as arbiter of life and death, that determines our manner of death. The ways in which we deal with and benefit from the deaths of others, whether financially or simply as the end of a difficult period are also illustrated in this house. Planets in the eighth speak clearly, not about the final period of life, but the manner of its ending. The sign on the cusp, its ruler and planets in the house can be quite specific in detail. Death comes to all of us in its time. We cannot choose a life that does not include it.
As one of the water houses, through its association with Scorpio in the natural cycle of the Zodiac, this is bound to be a house of emotion and in its polarity with the second house, and its asscoiation with Taurus it deals with shared resources of all kinds and our feelings about them. The 2nd house and its Taurus connection is the simple house of “mine” but the 8th house and Scorpio is the complex house of “ours.” When “I” marry “you” I give “mine” to you and you give “yours” to me. We reveal our resources to each other. In a simple way, children express this by the perennial “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.” They can be talking about what’s in a pocket or their homework pages or their bodies.
Thus, as the house of joint resources, all complicated finance beyond simple possession and earnings (which come under the second house) are experienced here. When we invest, we allow someone to use our money and they pay us for the privilege with “interest.” When we want to use theirs, we borrow it and pay them the interest. Therefore, the 8th house deals with loans, mortgages, mutual funds, money markets, annuities, insurance, credit cards, stocks, bonds and all inherited money. But loan repayment is not an option, and investing or saving is a necessity if we want to have a secure old age. Inheritance is outside our control. It deals with taxes-one of the “inescapable” things in life– in which we contribute a share of our resources for the common good. It deals with pensions, in which an employer shares resources with us. It deals with the spouse’s finances, of course, and tells a great deal about how our spouse handles money and how much he/she earns in the first place. In a business partnership it has the same function.
Since the 8th house is so closely tied to sex and money, it is no wonder there are serious ramifications in marriage and in society when problems develop here. Marriages may not be made in the bedroom and the checkbook but they can be broken there.
Psychological attitudes to “sharing” or “buying” or “borrowing” can come into conflict here. This is why some people equate love with “things.” They learned as children when their parents didn’t share time or love with them but substituted material possessions. They grow up judging value by price. They argue over family inheritances because that is how they judge how much they were “loved.” They examine gifts for the dollar amount and rank all relationships that way. Confusion between love and sex can arise. along with issues of self worth. The eighth house does not deal with romantic love, but rather the sharing that love requires. The sharing is needful. There is no other choice if partnership is to be viable.
The eighth house has a secondary Mars rulership, through its association with the sign Scorpio and deals with cuts and wounds and forceful openings, such as childbirth. Thus, all trauma medicine comes under this house as well as anything that spills blood. All surgeries qualify as trauma. An emergency appendectomy is easy to classify this way, but so is the removal of a cancerous kidney or the sewing up of a stump where an arm was cut off in an industrial accident. In all cases the body must heal after a difficult experience. In another sense, surgery reconstructs life by preventing the waste of the human being. Some surgery simply removes waste, such as the diseased appendix, but other surgeries actually deal with repair and reconstruction of damaged organs. But they are all trauma.
And in all trauma there is the question of “necessity.” Or perhaps this word: inevitability. If you have a cancerous kidney it has to come out. There is no other treatment option, at least at present. You do it or you die. The eighth house rules instruments of surgery as well as those of death and a mortician’s tools. Because it is the house of death, it deals with instruments of mass destruction such as bombs, as well as things which can improve the production of life, such as fertilizer, a reconstitution of a formerly waste product. These reflect the Pluto co-rulership of the eighth house.
The eight is the house where one thing is transformed into another. Seeds, the ultimate end product of the life of a plant, which contain the future of life after the plant itself has become waste, are eighth house matters, as is the kind of genetic manipulation that alters the next generation. Hybrid plants and breeding programs of all sorts, whether to produce a faster horse or a prettier rose or to avoid inherited disease, come under the eighth house. DNA, the genetic code, is a matter of the eighth house.
Unless change occurs, what has happened before will happen again. The genes will replicate and the next generation will be like the first. It is the business of the eighth house to interrupt this otherwise static state of affairs. It does this through events that are traumatic but needful. Mutation is one way nature creates change. Something has been changed into something else. In a way, it reflects the principle of Chaos (action) as the second, ruled by Taurus, reflects Entropy (stasis). Again, it is the irresistible force on our immovable object. When there is a collision, things take a new direction.
And so we come to its chief claim as the house of necessity, the trauma that remakes our lives. Trauma is inescapable. We have to deal with it. We can face it bravely or try to run away but the fact is there is no way out. We must pay the piper. We recognize this with the old expression “You can get out of everything except death and taxes.”
The eighth house will have its due. A woman in childbirth is a woman in trauma. It is necessity, which holds her in its grip, and she cannot escape. The child must be born or she will die. There is no other option. This is trauma with a capital T. Trauma is any event of such physical or emotional or spiritual power that it breaks downs our old parameters and forces us into new ones. Whatever happens to the woman in childbirth, she will never be the same again. Neither will her husband, for that matter. Whether they lose the baby or take it home to be raised, the result is the same: Their lives are changed forever. In every life trauma comes. It cannot be avoided or denied. Thus, the eighth is the house of turning points, beyond which lies new country; unexplored and unknown but which we must enter whether we will or no. Trauma is the doorway.
Many eighth house events contain inherently the kind of power that becomes traumatic, sending us into that new country. Any psychologist knows that even toilet training the very young child can be a pressure-filled event that alters mother/child relationships and can leave a deep mark on the psyche. Sex – the good kind or the bad kind – forces us out of childhood and into a new kind of dealings with the adult world. The first sexual experience has great power to determine the quality of all subsequent relationships. Rape or sexual abuse can so damage the spirit that the victim requires years of therapy and even so may never completely recover. Sexual abstinence until marriage can give sexual experience transcendent meaning and intense power. Pregnancy can provide a traumatic event to both parents. But the experience of sexuality comes to all, whether through activity or inactivity, choices are made, and experiences are met. All humans have gender and must deal with what that means. Gender is inescapable.
Peril, threats and danger are all eighth house matters. They are a form of trauma. If we do not have sufficient peril, threat or danger in our lives, we are apt to introduce it with rollercoaster rides, scary movies, and mountain climbing. Some individuals require more of this than others do, but who has not read a ghost story or watched a murder mystery on TV? All the instruments of peril or threat or danger to the life also belong to the eighth house-such as knives, guns, and the like.
Surgery or wounding (in war or anywhere else) with its concomitant pain and rehabilitation and recovery can force us to take another look at our lives and ourselves and build coping mechanisms. We must find our courage, learn endurance and deal with fears and impatience. We must enter new territory as human beings in order to deal with the experience and the experience, in its turn, alters the territory of our future because it has happened to us.
Many great and powerful people have written books or developed new desires or philosophies of life during such times of recovery from some trauma that led them to shattering conclusions and new, far-reaching personal decisions. They moved into “new country.”
Even the financial matters of the eighth house can be seriously traumatic. A spouse whose spending sends one into bankruptcy, a parent whose legacy is a shock (for good or bad) to the child, the education in financial matters required by one who comes into a money windfall or a terrible loss are all traumatic events.
Lawsuits are assigned by the 7th, but their financial outcome is the 8th house. That can include child support-the result of a 7th house divorce matter. The eighth is the house where we pay for the justice of the 7th. In that sense it is also atonement or “repayment,” and has a karmic element. In any case, we cannot escape the penalty we have incurred. Even bankruptcy, so often chosen as an attempt to escape repayment of debts, has its own set of inescapable penalties and ramifications. In trying to avoid one necessity, we find another.
Trauma doesn’t have to be bad. Good trauma is still trauma and forces change. Many tales are common knowledge of those who inherit wealth and are crushed by it, frightened by the responsibility or intimidated by advisors and fearful that all those who express any simple kindness or friendship are “after my money.” But there are many who are invigorated and renewed by windfalls, who lose weight, get a hair transplant or a facelift, buy new clothes, take up new interests and rejoin the human race after years of drudgery and discouragement. They have welcomed trauma.
In both cases, necessity, the unavoidable event, the death of another person and their gift of a share in their resources, has brought the individual to the door into the new country and change follows.
All transformation has a metaphysical side and can become spiritual in its dimension. The butterfly and the principle of metamorphosis has become symbolic of such work and is one of the best known symbols of the eighth house. Even the New Testament contains a vivid description of what the apostles believed was a spiritual transformation they said they witnessed as Jesus filled with light and appeared superhuman in an episode upon a mountain. There are records of such transformations all through the spiritual literature of many religious traditions in which these things are said to occur to advanced yogis, or saints or teachers. Perhaps they are meant to entice us to travel the road to the new country of the spirit.
Some take such a road by walking away from everyday life into a religious world. They do not escape trauma, however. Spiritual writers speak vividly of the rocks and stones along such a way, the struggles they will face which will be too much for many. These are the tasks of years, or a lifetime. Even such a man as Mahatma Gandhi wrote searingly of his struggles against the lure of the flesh, his own eighth house challenge.
Some spiritual crises-of faith or belief-can also produce turning points. They have a ninth house connotation. In such times one often turns inward to find answers, and that can be a matter of the 12th from the 9th — or the 8th. Thus the eighth house experience has power to force us into agonizing reappraisals of our destiny, in a kind of spiritual or emotional trauma. One great mystic of the Catholic tradition, St. John of the Cross-, referred to such times as “the dark night of the soul.” An apt expression for the eighth house.
In all astrological work we deal with the total human being. The eighth is only one house of the chart, but can be a pivotal point when aspects and transits or progressions bring it to the fore. Some birth patterns say specifically that traumatic events will force major change in the destiny. But all lives contain some necessity and all lives will have some trauma.
Any planet in the eighth will produce trauma during the life. The kind of trauma will depend on what the planet is and what it rules and what it aspects. Its depth of transformation and its quality are also shown. Pluto, dark lord of the unknown, sends its natives deep into the new territory when it occupies the eighth. Examining the rest of the chart can see how well the individual copes with that trauma and what kind of journey he or she will take into the “new country.”
Necessity and trauma are destiny’s handmaidens which lead us where we otherwise would not go. They bring us to places where we can grow and thrive and become better human beings. When we realize we have passed into some kind of new country many times on our life’s journey, there will be less to fear when we reach the last doorway of all. We will walk confidently into a final “new country.”