Posted by: Donna Cunningham | October 1, 2009

Transits from the 12th House to the 1st–Like Night and Day

astanalcvrsm©1999 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

Donna says: In response to the wish expressed by some of Skywriter’s  readers for information on 12th house transits, I’m reprinting here part of an essay in my ebook, Astro-Analysis:  Select Topics in Chart Interpretation, available at Moon Maven Publications.

Over the years, I’ve observed what happens when a planet that has been transiting the 12th house finally emerges into the 1st. It is then that an important process that has been deeply private for some time finally emerges for the whole world to see. Though hidden from view, the 12th house is rich with significance. Analyzing the associated signs and planets in the birth chart can reveal secret wellsprings of growth and strength, or it can point out ways we covertly undermine ourselves and create suffering. The difference between these two possibilities is willingness to consciously examine and take responsibility for self-defeating behaviors and thoughts and to take a look at feelings we don’t like to admit we have. The tendency of natal 12th house signs and planets, however, is to remain hidden from others and, all too often, from ourselves—we deny self-defeating patterns of behavior not only to other people but also to ourselves.

Typical 12th House Transits

 It is precisely during a transit of the 12th house that these hidden parts of ourselves are revealed so we can begin to work on them. We are given the opportunity—and, usually, the impetus—to change them if they are hurtful or to enhance them if they are of value. The unconscious becomes more and more conscious, whether through painful encounters with consequences of self-defeating habits or through voluntarily entering into contemplation and self-inquiry.

The 12th being a house of retreat, we are usually given the gift of space to work on these patterns in private, without having to expose our shortcomings or our wounds. Sometimes the circumstances that create this valuable space seem like misfortunes—a prolonged bout of ill-health, say, or a spell of unemployment—but in the long run they are revealed as gifts of Spirit. When we embrace the silent and often solitary process of self-exploration, we can stop undermining ourselves. The energy that self-defeating pursuits used to consume can instead be directed into growth and spiritual seeking. With our new insight, we are granted a compassionate understanding of others, so we may also find ourselves giving service in new ways.

Suppose, instead, we choose to remain in denial and even beef up our defenses against owning these painful facets of our lives. Then the 12th house transit can show a progressive intensification of old self-defeating habits and their destructive potentials. For instance, depending on the content of the 12th natally, we might escape into addictions to substances, compulsive or even abusive relationships, or workaholism, until they take on a life of their own.

As time goes on during the transit, we enter a “bottoming out” phase, madly persevering in these old behaviors despite their increasingly obvious failure to fulfill our needs and their increasingly painful consequences. In the end, we can only go so far down that path before we reach a turning point, and, hopefully, choose to pursue the 12th house’s more loving expressions.

A 12th house passage and the processes associated with it can go on for some time, as determined by the number of degrees in that house natally. You may even find that the month or two each year that the Sun, Mercury, and Venus are coursing through your 12th are a time when you instinctively withdraw from involvement in the world and its demands and devote time to inner life. It is only our results-oriented society that devalues these retreat periods as unproductive rather than recognizing the ways they restore and revitalize us and grant a new perspective on our lives.

The longer the 12th  house transit lasts, the more life-changing the process, and the more important self-awareness becomes. Jupiter transits generally last a year and Saturn takes two or three years to pass through a house. Uranus may take seven years, while Neptune and Pluto transits may endure 10-12 years.

The Shift from the 12th to the 1st

However long the transit, and however intense the inner process, there is a distinct shift when that planet emerges from the 12th house into the 1st. With slower moving planets, the energetic change can be gradual, as they cross the Ascendant, then retrograde back into the 12th a couple of times.

Let’s use Jupiter as an example. As Jupiter spends a scant year in each house in turn, it is there long enough to notice the effect of the transit on the matters of the house yet short enough to notice the sequence it creates when it moves along to the next. During Jupiter’s year in the 11th, there’s often a social whirl that seems to give way to a time of contemplative solitude during its sojourn in the 12th. People instinctively pull inward to contemplate their life direction and observe their emotional life. The 12th  house is the house of the ashram, and a Hindu word for Jupiter is Guru, so even those who have not been especially drawn to spiritual practices may find themselves studying philosophy more seriously.

These, of course, are the more positive expressions of Jupiter, which is supposedly very fortunate in this house. Still, Jupiter is inclined to excess, so this transit can exaggerate any self-destructive behavior patterns, as represented by natal 12th house placements. People overdo wildly in the belief that, “I can get away with it, God is on my side, and anyway I won’t get caught.” For those inclined to addiction or overeating, Jupiter’s thirst for More and More can lead to an intensification of the addiction.

When Jupiter shifts from the 12th into the 1st, the person who has taken the higher path with this transit moves out of self-imposed isolation with a new enthusiasm and sense of purpose. Having learned some important new truths during their period of study and contemplation, they may now feel they have something important to impart, so they may begin teaching or preaching. The signs of natal and transiting Jupiter determine what it is they want to teach and whether they are gifted at it or merely arrogant and opinionated. All the same, the year of quiet retreat with Jupiter in the 12th tends to rekindle energy and hopefulness.

Contrast that with Saturn’s two-year or longer sojourn in the 12th. In anticipating what it might bring, it is important to have a thorough understanding of Saturn’s natal condition—sign, house, and aspects. It is also instructive to assess how the individual, at this stage of life, meets Saturn’s demands for responsibility, maturity, self-discipline, accomplishment, and dealing with authority figures. If the individual is handling those functions well, there is less chance that a 12th house passage will bring unwanted repercussions.

If, however, the individual typically behaves irresponsibly and immaturely, has no real purpose in life or career direction, and expects authority figures to take on the role of indulgent parents, then Saturn’s passage through the 12th may well be an encounter with some sobering realities. Among the sobering realities would be reaping the consequences of destructive patterns signified by planets in the 12th natally.

Even those who are generally Saturn-friendly can find this transit challenging, though they have developed the tools and strategies to cope with Saturnian demands, both inner and outer. Highly-motivated achievers may find it a frustrating period, in that often the career or life goals seem to be on hiatus, enjoying few outer manifestations. The exception, of course, is for those who are pursuing 12th house related careers of service, in which case they may find themselves, finally, in administrative or supervisory positions. For spiritual disciples, also, it may be a time of important initiations.

Those who find themselves stymied or stagnant in their careers, however, may wish to recall what we said earlier about the merits of a retreat time which enables us to process and digest what has happened up to now. Here, it is time to evaluate our accomplishments and how they have or haven’t truly satisfied us. The 12th house is a house of service, and if we have accomplished a great deal or have been given much, perhaps it is time to give back to the world.

It is also a house of inner life, of spirituality, and of health difficulties brought on by repressed emotions or self-defeating practices. If we have sacrificed the inner life, postponed developing our spirituality, and neglected our health in order to achieve material goals, then this is a time to bring our lives back into balance. If we refuse to do so, in the course of this transit, we may be faced with anxiety or depression (Saturn emotional imbalances) or perhaps with work-related health complaints. We may suffer from spiritual angst as well, a sense of emptiness in the midst of material accomplishments that eventually has us turning to spirit for relief.

What happens when Saturn crosses the Ascendant and goes into the 1st depends completely on how the individual has used its passage through the 12th. Those who have a history of irresponsibility and who haven’t grown up any in the past couple of years may find, if they haven’t already, that there are times they simply have to pay the consequences of their behavior. Those who have overworked habitually and ignored their body’s needs and limitations may face a health crisis that forces them to let go of overwork and take care of themselves.

Those who have taken the quieter, more contemplative path of reassessing their life path and biding their time, however, are quite likely to find themselves with new skills and character development to offer the world. When Saturn emerges into the 1st, such individuals begin to impress others with their new-found maturity and capability, and so it is often a time when they are “drafted” to fill a highly responsible new position or role. The mantle of authority now sits more lightly on their shoulders, and they come into their own in a new way.

I won’t cover the outer planets and their slow passages through the 12th, but the same type of assessment will help you to understand the more gradual process these transits bring. What houses, signs, and aspects does the planet inhabit natally, and what does that suggest about the person? How important—or how muted—is its expression in the person’s life? Paramount, of course, is the strength of the 12th house in the birth chart and how the person has come to express any 12th house planets in the course of this lifetime. How has the person used that planet historically, and what development has unfolded in the course of a lifetime in that planet’s expression?

Note: This is an excerpt from an essay in my ebook, Astro-Analysis:  Select Topics in Chart Interpretation, available at  Moon Maven Publications.

Skywriter’s  Complete Miniseries on the 12th house:

See more articles on the 12 houses in the categoryHouses of the Horoscope.

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  1. Awesome post! I currently have Jupiter, Neptune and Chiron transiting in my twelfth. All of them more or less opposing my sun (the poor dear). Pockets of time when I can be alone have never seemed so important. In fact, I’m enjoying the peace. But, I must confess, there is a 6-12 conflict. The wanting to give it all up. Fortunately or otherwise, Tr Saturn is keeping me tethered 😀

  2. Right on the mark! I currently have Jupiter, Neptune and Chiron transiting my 11th house and this year was the year to join groups and volunteer. But I am already feeling the need to withdraw from the world and concentrate in my writing as Jupiter is inching close to my 12th house Pisces cusp. It will be interesting to see what happens when it goes to my first house in late 2010.
    When Uranus crossed-over my 12th house to my first house, I could immediately see the difference. I could not wait to share the skills that had popped up during the 12th house transit.
    It will be interesting to see what the jupiter/uranus conjunction does to my first house.
    Like nray I will also have Tr Saturn opposing that first house to keep me on tethered. Very interesting!

    • Thanks for giving examples like these, Neeti and Fabienne, as it gives all of us a chance to learn. I always say I learned the most about astrology through clients, not books. Donna

  3. My 12th house Jupiter transit, coupled with my 7th house Saturn transit, was one of the most awful, most transformative years of my life. All the inner work that Jupiter brought, and the outer that Saturn brought at the same time, changed me forever. There was a huge amount of time spent on philosophy and spirtual pursuits ~ more than any other time in these 57 years. It was an amazing journey, with many allies and helpers along the way.

  4. Pluto crossed my ascendant, at 23 degrees Sagittarius, and is starting the long move through my first house. I was diagnosed in March with multiple sclerosis. I’ve been trying to understand this…in many ways. Your articles on the 12th house of late are helping me put all this together.
    I just finished your last blog on 12th house luck. One bit stands out. “Chronic illness”. As an active person who loved to be physical, I hardly see this as luck. But, you know, I have been seeing this as karmic lessons lately. I must learn to slow down and be patient with myself and the lessons my husband must be learning are tremendous! Maybe I should see this as the luckiest time of our lives!

    • My heart goes out to you, Anne. All I can say is that when transiting Neptune was quincunx my 12th house Jupiter, my hips went bad and both needed replacement. I had no insurance, and so it took a long time of being housebound before the replacements were completed. In a peculiar way, it changed me and changed my relationships profoundly and for the better, I believe. I studied Buddhism seriously and I had to learn to let other people help me, a huge stretch for this fierce proud person. It’s a long story. I call it the God Works in Mysterious Ways transit. Donna

  5. I have had a second Saturn Return in 12. I really messed up my first return and this time I am re-visiting the old issues related to a Natal 12th House Saturn in Virgo such as lack of self-confidence and feeling as if I am never quite perfect enough, never quite educated or professional enough no matter what I do. I am trying to deal with it but it keeps rearing its ugly head. It’s definitely a father issue. My father was a tyrannical alcoholic who criticized every thing I ever did and would rip up my A+ papers in school saying that that was just not good enough and my teachers were idiots to award me anything other than failing grades.

    During my 1st Saturn return I had a full scholarship to commercial art school, but wouldn’t you know it the head of the school was a tyrannical control freak like my old man. I dropped out and have only been a ‘shadow’ artist since.

    This has played out in my health. I am always fatigued (well past normal for my age) and have muscle/joint pain & tenderness. I found I have Hepatitis C which is attacking my kidneys and muscles more than my liver. (Hep C is a very odd, chimeric disease)

    Now I am revisiting my art & photography and want to make it my late life career. My confidence is better than it used to be but still has a long way to go. Trying to start a creative business in a recession is hard work. I do have a “day job” that is okay for now to bring in money and pay off debts but I really want to do the creative work.
    My health challenges have forced me to take much time off from my work as there are many days I am simply too tired to get out of bed.

    I am uninsured and receive no sick pay,so that is a drain. The irony of it is my ‘day job’ is for the state social services, the agency that provides welfare and medicaid but doesn’t insure all its employees. Duh?

    • Hi, Melo, it sounds like you’ve had a lot to contend with. I’m retired from doing individual chart consultations now and do not comment extensively on individual charts on this blog. If you wanted some insight into the issues you mention, you could submit a letter by email to my advice column at Dell Horoscope magazine by writing to

      There is no fee for that, though I can’t guarantee it will be accepted. Because space is limited to four letters an issue, there’s a much better chance if you limit your request to just one or two central questions. Include full birth information–date, time, place of birth, current location. Donna

  6. Well what do you know, Saturn will be transiting my 12th house and natal Uranus and NN in Scorpio at the same time as Pluto square Pluto. So with the natal Saturn square Uranus and Pluto in 11th house, it seems like a lot of the same type of energy to me. Donna, is this NORMAL?! Or am I reading into it far more than I should? It feels like the horizon is expanding at an exponential rate at the moment. Yours truly, a slightly intimidated Tizer

    • You are correct, Tizer. When the aspect in the birth chart is repeated by a transiting aspect, it does bring forth all the qualities of that natal aspect, only you get to sort it out in a new way. (I call that echoing.) You’re an old hand at those aspects, but there’s always more to learn, new levels to reach. Donna

  7. Well it seems I will be learning – it will be Jupiter return time too. Strap me into the rollercoaster and let’s GO!

  8. Wow, I have just finished a 7th house saturn and 12th house jupiter transit and so many things written above apply to me too.

    Have been unemployed with no health insurance and struggling for money, then on top of this I was diagnosed with a chronic illness as well as two emergency hospital stays (I have neptune and chiron in the 12th at the moment too – they are both almost in the 1st now). I had to swallow my pride too and let other people help me, which is very hard to do. I feel like one big gigantic burden.

    However, ironically, I was thinking about this yesterday, the time that I had to myself and spent alone, thinking, reading or going to spiritual groups etc, I would not have given up for anything. I needed this time apart from society to heal my wounds from what went on directly before, and in essence ever Saturn knocked on my door strongly for the first time around 13/14.

    I needed this emotional reset, otherwise things could have got hairy, and I might have continued living past myself. I feel wiser now, regularly do yoga and have a lot more knowledge about the truth of life than I did before.

    Easing out back into society is difficult though since it can be toxic, but I guess I am ready – in my own way though.

    • Hello, Tolara, yes, you seem to have gotten the point perfectly–that we do need these periodic intervals of retreat to digest our life experience. Donna

  9. I was fearful about saturn transiting my 12th house with venus (my ruler) and mercury there. But after reading your article, I am more ready to accept any responsibilities that its passage may bring.

  10. Donna,

    Do you view a 12th house Saturn transit as kind of sowing seeds that will “emerge” when Saturn crosses the ascendant? Just wondering. Thanks.

    • Hmmm. I’d say so, but the type of seed and how well it grows depends on natal Saturn as well as how well the person has handled Saturn during the 2 1/2 years it’s been in the 12th. It could be a weed seed, or it could be corn to feed the whole tribe. Hopefully the person has also taken some time to let the land lay fallow, resting and contemplating what has gone on for at least the last 7 years. There’s a long bit about transiting Saturn in the 12th I wrote to Margaret in the comment section of the Q&A session on the 12th. I won’t repeat it here, but have a look. Donna

  11. Donna and Everyone, great article and posts 🙂 I have Venus in Pisces in the 12th, in mutual reception with Neptune quindecile Venus from Libra in the 7th and transiting Uranus fixin’ to cross my Ascendant when it gets to 2 degrees Aries. I’m in a 12-step program and am going through my third (in 33 years of sobriety) fourth step right now. As an Aquarian, I’m hoping that when Uranus does its thing I’ll be ready. Any tips would be appreciated. I found you through Victoria Bazeley’s 12th House Extravaganza, but couldn’t find her “Neptune, the Subconscious, and Self-Undoing” podcast (Drat!) I am glad that competent, professional astrologers like you and Victoria are available online to those of us who cannot yet afford an “Astrologer Life Coach”. God’s richest and best blessings to you all!

  12. I’ve been thinking of your comment that when your Saturn went into the 1st, you had a large promotion during your career at that time; hard work pays off. I thought I would cope with transiting Saturn in the 12th conjuncting natal Uranus, as I live with Saturn square Uranus energy every day and I’m a good Saturian girl. I’ve moved into a new career of teaching, in what feels like a very positive move (Saturn in the 9th!). When Saturn transitted Pluto it was intense energy to complete the training course – very full on but productive. I got the new job, but this involved moving to somewhere I don’t know anyone and the job doesn’t allow much free time at the mo – and so Saturn in the 12th is isolated and working hard. But I hadn’t expected how transiting Saturn conjuncting natal Uranus would make me so angry! I’m bad tempered and frustrated at this isolation and lack of ‘me time’. Nor did I expect the family melt-down, with Uranus ruling my 4th. My Saturian father and sister are in a very bad way. Massively guilty for being so far away from them and wrapped up with too much work. Add the ascendant, NN and Pluto and I’m wordering if I know who I am at all…what’s gone before appears to be more and more irrelevant.

    Donna, I hope your hands are recovering. Even though you aren’t writing at the mo, you are still making me think!

    • Thanks, Rose. Saturn conjunct Uranus isn’t easy, but I (and my age group) have it conjunct natally, and over the years, we’ve pretty much learned how to use it, so maybe this will help. I call myself a “sane weirdo,” because I’ve learned how to integrate the far out (Uranian) interests like astrology and the sound, responsible, disciplined energy it takes to be a pro. They do, in an odd way, balance one another, being neither too much of a maverick nor too much of an old school type. Uranus is the adolencent part of ourselves–knee-jerk rebel–and Saturn calls on us to grow up and get real. Donna

  13. 12-11 51, 1:15 pm Cleveland, Ohio – Sun – Sagittarius, Moon – Gemini – ASC – Aries – M.C. Capricorn stellium (mars, saturn and neptune inn libra in the 7th house) I am looking at different web-sites trying to get some other insights into transiting neptune throught the 12th besides my own. I use equal house system and neptune entered my natal 12th at 3degrees Pisces at the end of last month. At the end of this month transiting neptune will form a tring with my natal Venus (and semi-sextile with natal Jupiter) which will last most of the month of April. On September 9th (Adjusted Noon Date) my progressed Sun will form a trine with natal neptune (and an opposition with natal Pluto)
    which Erin Sullivan suggests reveals what has been gestating during a period begun in 1995 when prog. Neptune stationed – retrograde (followed the next year by prog. saturn) ad now emerges into life circumstances through the action of the prog. Sun trine. I have some ideas concerning what to expect as well as how my intentions have been developing. Like any practising professional however, and especially since we are dealing wit a science and art which is esoteric as well as exoteric in nature I would like to get other astrologers’ take on these things…and just to share insights and expereince.
    I also happen to agree with Acker and Sakoian who hold Neptune and Jupiter rule both Pisces and Sagittarius which makes Neptune one of my Sun sign rulers. So according to what I have given this year promises to be an important one for me, what do you think?

  14. Hi Donna, the latest post is from some years ago but I will try and hope to reach you. I have this qeustion about my saturn transit during the twelth house a few years ago that left me with a lot of questions which I still have today because I did have these destructive patterns working while I thougt I was doing the right thing by being mature, responsible and working for a career and so on. How is this possible? Still don t understand it.

    • It sounds like you are only thinking about the negative expressions of Saturn. You list positive
      expressions that you used well, so don’t question yourself. Donna

      • Hi Donna, I guess you don t get the picture though. What I meant to say is that all of the positive stuff didn t work and ended up in illnes, despite of all my efforts and I had to let it go. So, if you say to go with the Saturn flow in a positive way when a transit hits: that didn t work for me. And that s what still bothering me. I had Saturn in transit through the twelth house and even trining venus among the way and sextile mc.

  15. Glad for the clarification, Josine. One thing to remember is that the planets by themselves do not cause anything good or bad to happen. They just show the kinds of conditions and issues we are likely to meet. Donna

  16. I miss you Donna ❤

  17. I feel like life has been a lesson in the 12th house for me, having a balsamic moon, and having Neptune transiting through the 12th house from 1984- 2002, Uranus from 1988-1997, Pluto from 2008- until 2027, with Saturn having gone through 1988-1992 and now again there until 2021. Oh, for the creative and contemplative life…..looking forward to the light of day! :).

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