The Twelfth House
The first house is “I, me, mine; who I am, what I do.” The twelfth is frequently “what I am not, what I do not do.” Traditionally, it is described as “self-undoing, hidden enemies,” including karma, bondage, prisons, hospitals, ashrams, monasteries, institutions, places of research. In Vedic astrology, one of its meanings is “final liberation,” or total freedom from ego and karma. It is the most important of the “moksha” or spiritual houses.
The 7th, the 12th, or more precisely, the qualities of the sign on the cusp and energies of any tenanting planets are likely to be projected onto others and the environment. Both houses seven and twelve correspond to the times of the day when the Sun is close to the horizon. One can be blinded by the light and deceived by the long, deep shadows thrown at those hours – dawn and sunset.
Planets in the 12th are not weak or weakened. It is the “house of the risen Sun.” They are very powerful, although the person may be strangely oblivious to the strength of the influence. An example was a young man with Uranus in Leo in the 12th. He had a very charismatic manner; his style of dress and haircut were distinctly different. He once asked me if he looked “weird” because he wanted to appear normal and fit in, or so he thought. I suggested he take a good, hard, long look in the mirror and then think about getting a new hair cut and different clothes. He gave all sorts of rationalizations why that would not work and continued to look “weird” while convincing himself he looked just like anybody else. Had Uranus been in his first house, he would have put much conscious attention on cultivating a dramatically different personality image. He would have wanted to look weird.
The seat of the collective unconscious is the 12th. It is from there that the archetypes can enter and overtake the personality. Archetypes are universal principles or energies. As mythic figures, they reveal inherent psychological processes embedded deeply in the collective psycho-mythology and work throughout the human species. They are neutral, yet to the degree an individual or a society represses, suppresses, or denies them, they become good or evil, angelic or diabolic. The material we store in the 12th, the unconscious, may be unacceptable because of trauma or conditioning and because it threatens the persona. It is the underside, the dark side, and the hidden part of the person. What we try to hide and deny to ourselves is often apparent to everybody else – like the emperor’s new clothes. Our hidden enemy, obvious to everyone but ourselves, is, more often than not, ourselves.
The house of dreams and imagination is the 12th. This is where we become aware of the contents of our own subconscious as well as that of the social and collective world. As the opposite of the 6th house of work, health and service, the 12th is retreat, respite, isolation, and withdrawal, long term or chronic health concerns. During the month that the Sun transits our 12th house we may want to “hole up,” sleep more, read, work alone on creative projects, or commune with nature. As Saturn and the other slow moving planets go through the 12th, we have the opportunity for long periods of introspection and communion. When we do not consciously choose to go inward as the rhythms of our nature dictate, we run the risk of becoming ill, of being forced to take time out.
Perhaps one of the more interesting facets of the 12th house to metaphysically inclined people is that it provides clues about our past lives. When we synthesize the meanings of an individual’s twelfth house, its ruler, and the ruler’s position by sign and house, planet(s) tenanting the 12th, along with the Moon and Saturn, we can make some interesting speculations about past life scenarios. On one occasion, I did that at the request of a client with Saturn and Pluto in his 12th house. I sketched several scenarios, all with similar themes. He then told me he had past life regressions under hypnosis and had come up with almost identical scripts. His reason for consulting a hypnotherapist and an astrologer was to try to find some explanation for his chronic health problems.
Planets in the 12th indicate prenatal conditions. Usually this can be verified by talking to the parents, other close relatives, and the attending physician. In the case of the above-mentioned client, Saturn in the 12th indicated a long labor, a labor induced by his mother’s rage during an argument with her own mother (Pluto was square the Moon in his chart). Neptune here indicates the use of anesthetic during delivery. In one ease, the mother had gone to a party and gotten drunk and was “under the influence” during labor. Mars can indicate unusual bleeding, either of the mother or from injury to the infant. Additionally, it can indicate minor head trauma, which can result in “minimal brain damage” syndrome, resulting in later learning difficulties. An astrologer can look at an infant’s chart and suggest what health areas the pediatrician needs to concentrate on and check out carefully if the child is having problems of any kind, and especially if he or she has one or more planets in the 12th house.
Charts with three or more planets in the 12th house, or one of the lights and an angular house ruler posited in this house, are frequently found among physicians, nurses, professors and others who work in hospitals or universities. A well-tenanted 12th house is also common among writers who must spend time alone working with their imagination and their mind, tuning into the muses. Very talented, very tragic people, like Judy Garland and Janis Joplin, and the notorious propagandist, Tokyo Rose, had many planets in their 12th houses. Pierre Teillard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest and monk, achieved distinction in paleontology and geology. He was acclaimed for his scientific and genetic research, and wrote spiritually philosophical works. The title of one of the best known of these was “To Build the Earth.” He had a stellium in Taurus, including the Sun and Moon in Gemini, all in the 12th house.
About the author:
Eleanor Buckwalter has studied, practiced and taught astrology in Los Altos, CA for more than twenty-five years, including three years with the late Richard Idemon, a psychological astrologer. Her primary astrological focus of interest is parent-child relationships and family dynamics.