Posted by: Donna Cunningham | July 2, 2010

The 12th House—Comparing Ancient and Modern Views

 (c)2007 by guest blogger, Dana Gerhardt, reprinted with her permission

Donna says, this exceptionally sane post written by my esteemed TMA colleague, Dana Gerhardt, illuminates many of the questions readers have been asking in our Q & A exchange on the many facets of the 12th house.  She was kind enough to allow me to share it with you as part of our series of posts on the 12th house.   Read what she has to say about this mysterious house, including several excellent examples and her explanation of progressed planets in the 12th.

Over the years, I’ve received more inquiries about the 12th than any other house. The ones who write are usually in distress. Sometimes they’re new to astrology and are panicked to learn they’ve got planets here: “I’ve heard the 12th is a terrible house. Am I doomed?”

 Other times, it’s people who know all about the 12th. In fact, they’ve got a long tale of 12th house woe and are hoping I can predict the precise moment its trials will end. Classical astrologers have called this house “the valley of miseries,” “the dark den of sorrow and horror,” the “portal of toil,” and the house of “Bad Spirit.”

We’re told there is karma here. That means bad things will happen to bad people. Even good people will suffer misfortune if they’re carrying some mysterious past-life debt. This house can bring frustration, anxiety, confinement, and loss; also slavery, sickness, and imprisonment. It rules hospitals, prisons, mental institutions, and monasteries (the kind you were sent to when the family wanted to keep you from public view).

The 12th also rules hidden enemies. These are the evil doers you don’t even know about, like the smiling beautician who Moonlights as a sorcerer, and is even now sticking pins into a voodoo doll tied with a strand of your hair.

Thank goodness Dane Rudhyar, the father of modern astrology, declared, “There are no bad houses.” [1] And so modern astrologers, like a happy Extreme Makeover crew, took their axes to this structure of doom. They hollowed out its dingy cells and remade the 12th into a vast womb of invisible potencies.

It is now the matrix of divine unity, holding the Oneness from which we all emerge and to which we all return. Draped in the gauzy veils of Neptune and Pisces, the 12th has become an inner dream factory, residence of the collective unconscious, wellspring of symbols and archetypes, favorite haunt of the imagination. It is a house of intuition, compassion and spiritual transcendence.

You’re advised to serve here, so that you don’t have to suffer. For even modern astrologers couldn’t erase all the difficulties in this house. They warn that in such a potent unbounded space, you can easily lose your bearings. Functions and gifts of planets here may be hard to access.

You might lack a clear life direction or be confused about who you are. You may feel shy, insignificant, or anonymous—or you could suffer from delusions of grandeur. Saviors and martyrs live here. Your psychic boundaries might be so porous, you could be an easy mark for predators, or become a slick predator yourself. All of this could drive you to deception and drink.

“Things you cannot see” would be the game show category for this house. Whether you favor the traditional or modern view, analyzing this house poses a similar problem: How do you accurately see its territory? All of its dangers are invisible, whether caused by karma, hidden enemies, or the perverted logic of your own subconscious.

 “Self-undoing” is the most relevant of the traditional keywords to survive in the modern 12th house, and it’s potent enough to make us just as sick, imprisoned or enslaved as all the others. When you approach the veiled gates of this house, come armed with a healthy suspicion of your own blind spots. Pay attention to what irritates or frightens you “out there,” because it’s quite likely this enemy lurks in the shadows of your own nature, described by your 12th house planets or signs. 

Katie has a 12th house Moon. On Ingrid’s 12th house cusp is Cancer, ruled by the Moon. Both women have a similar “enemy” in the outer world. Katie’s nemesis is an actress in her community theater group. I’ve listened to Katie complain about her countless times. “She drives me nuts! She’s always feeling sorry for herself. She’s just a high school teacher but all you hear about is how hard she works, how stressful her job is. She’s forever bringing homework to rehearsals and cast parties, so she can fall asleep on a pile of papers. Does she think we’ll give her an Oscar for martyr of the year?” 

Ingrid’s nemesis is Katie, whom she talks about constantly. Her complaint is surprisingly similar. “I just can’t stand Katie. Listening to her is like fingernails on chalk to me. She drives me crazy, always playing the victim. Will she ever stop whining and feeling sorry for herself?” I once asked Ingrid why she thought Katie had such an effect on her. “I guess it’s because I’ve always had it so hard. My mother was an alcoholic, you know, and I had to take care of myself. I never got to whine like that…  No one ever cared if I cried.” 

Er, excuse me while I get my violin. I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic, but I’ve got a 12th house Moon too. That’s why I’m writing about Katie and Ingrid. Their whining about whiners bugs me! Because of her mother’s alcoholism, Ingrid was robbed of much of the emotional comforts of her Moon. But Katie and I didn’t have it much better.

Twelfth house Moons often have mothers who are sick, narcissistic, or otherwise un-nurturing, reversing the mother-child dynamic so the child has to mother the mother. Twelfth house Moons learn to disguise their own vulnerability and pretend it isn’t there. They become masters of self-sufficiency. Often they’re particularly gifted at taking care of others. But repressing their neediness doesn’t make it disappear; it goes to their 12th house blind spot, where it lives as an emotionally hungry child. Trailing the competent nurturer, the little orphan cries out with an unconscious “Poor me!”—which everyone but the 12th house Moon person can hear.

Consider the case of a 12th house Mars. Mars is the archetypal warrior, representing the ability to set boundaries, be self-assertive, get angry when necessary. People with a 12th house Mars often have difficulty going after what they want. They’re outwardly gentle and agreeable, for the most part lacking Mars’ sharp attacks. You can cross them several times and get no reaction, but one day, someone, possibly you, will receive a full-blown Mars explosion. The 35-year-old computer programmer will disappear and a 2-year-old in tantrum will take his place. But the person acting out won’t know what hit you. He may have sent you vicious emails, vilified your name in the public square, but when it’s time for an apology, he’ll brush it off. To truly regret his actions, his 12th house Mars would have to reach consciousness first. 

Our 12th house planets and signs are like children with special needs. They’ve suffered a critical deprivation. In some way our early environment didn’t encourage or support their expression. They may be usurped, denied or shamed by our caretakers. Somehow we got the message they’re unsafe to express. With Mars or Aries in the 12th, I may fear the expression of my competitive drive or deny my selfishness. With Pluto or Scorpio, I may be too embarrassed to reveal my passion, my sexuality, my power. With Mercury or Gemini in the 12th, I may decide to keep my mouth shut. With Uranus or Aquarius in the 12th, I’ll cover up what makes me different, and keep my creative genius under wraps. With Venus there, or Taurus or Libra, I won’t know how beautiful, how sensuous, how artistic or loving I can be.

Whatever the rejected planet or sign, the subconscious awareness of its loss leads to a kind of victim consciousness, a conviction, in fact, that it’s morally right to feel sorry for ourselves. Weren’t we robbed after all? A businessman I know with a 12th house Mars was keenly aware of his inability to be self-assertive: “My mom co-opted all the anger in our house. I didn’t dare cross her. But then I never got to be me.” When he learned he had a reputation among his co-workers for being ruthless and cruel—his shadow Mars—he was actually thrilled. “Doesn’t it bother you that you might really be hurting people?” I asked. There was a momentary confusion in his eyes before they glazed over. Lost in the memories of his past, and unable to fit them with a different picture of his present, he spaced out and forgot my question. 

I like the modern view of the 12th simply because I’ve found it more useful and true. From the modern perspective, to redeem 12th house planets, you must first become aware that you have them. The next step is to choose—metaphorically—among the more traditional options: Are you going to put yourself in prison, a mental institution, the hospital, or a monastery? You can pace a prison cell of past mistakes. You can go crazy with frustration or anger. You can lie on a sick bed of wounds. Or you can get on your knees and appeal to a higher power. In this vast inner world, time and space have no meaning.

 In restructuring your 12th house psyche, you have infinite choices. In imagination, you can, like a young Dalai Lama, roam an inner residence a quarter mile long with a thousand rooms, enjoying this precious incarnation, and taking advantage of centuries of history and learning from vast inner libraries. Whatever your past, shining a light in your 12th can open a field of new possibilities.

The invisible world doesn’t operate like the world of matter, so we shouldn’t act like it does. In the visible world if I am harmed, I can go about crying and blaming. If I am just a material being, and my early environment didn’t support my Venus or Mercury, I can say I’m just a piece of genetic material with the bad fortune to be born in a dismal circumstance.

Not so in the world of spirit. If I accept my spiritual nature, then I must somehow account for my existence before and after the womb. I may come to believe that my choices influence the course of my soul, that past actions have determined my situation this lifetime, bringing me to the right place for the next stage of my development, and that what I do now will affect what happens after I die. If we shift our perspective beyond this lifetime, the 12th takes on a whole new look. We acquire new responsibilities. Planets and signs here are no longer victimized or deprived. What looks like loss on the material plane becomes a sacred initiation or ritual sacrifice in the spiritual realm. 

Eric has a 12th house Aries Sun—opposed by Saturn and Neptune. He lost his father when he was five. His alcoholic gambler dad walked out the door and never returned. The Sun describes our will, our purpose, also our experience of father (just as the Moon describes our experience of mother). Not everyone with a 12th house Sun loses a father so literally, but in some way, the fathering influence will be dampened or sacrificed. Dad’s support or encouragement of the child’s special gifts will be lacking.

Eric tried on a variety of identities growing up, becoming a troublemaker, then a varsity athlete, then a rebel journalist, finally a poet. In college he had the good fortune to find a strong poetry mentor, and under the influence of this surrogate father, he found his way in the world. Astrology cookbooks often say that 12th house Suns are shy and tend to work behind the scenes. But you can’t always believe the cookbooks. Eric is a strong and opinionated Aries, who like a true individualist, refused to fit into any corporate mold. He founded his own publishing company and continued to write prize-winning poems. In spite of his 12th house history—or perhaps because of it—he became a devoted father of three and served as a father figure to many younger writers, supporting, encouraging, and publishing their work. His early 12th house sacrifice was the initiation leading to his later success.

When the progressed Moon entered Eric’s 12th house, his publishing company started to fail. The 12th is uniquely positioned on the horoscope wheel, coming as the last house, before the first begins again. Likewise, transits and progressions through this house mark an end that precedes another beginning. When the progressed Moon or Saturn goes through this house, this transition can last approximately two years. Life structures that have served their usefulness may dissolve. Relationships can go, losses may be suffered. We may be tested on how well we’ve developed this house, what we’ve learned from our initial sacrifice, how clearly we’ve seen into and mapped our blind spot. During the Moon’s progression, Eric struggled with his father’s legacy; he started drinking, fighting with his wife, and losing money just as his father had done. A whole lifetime of saying “I’ll never do what my father did to me” brought him face-to-face with that same potential in himself.

Twelfth house transits and progressions will take us deep. They’ll show us parts of ourselves we’ve never seen before. This isn’t always bad. New beauty, strength, and talent can hide in our blind spot too. By the time the progressed Moon crossed out of the 12th, Eric was a new man. He had cleaned up his life, found an entirely new path, and on renewed terms, was a strong and inspiring Aries Sun once again.

Paul is a writer and photographer with Neptune in his 12th. I described Neptune to him once, how it speaks through music, art, and poetry. Astrologers associate the 12th house with conception. I suggested that Neptune’s imprint may have been knowledge Paul gained in the womb. His eyes lit up. His mother had played the piano throughout her pregnancy, he said, and he always felt this had made a deep impression on him; his thoughts tend to move in musical patterns. An intensely private man, Paul has a Scorpio Sun squared by a controlling Pluto/Saturn conjunction and, not surprisingly, he is known for bouts of intolerance and rigidity. As one might surmise from his chart, his father was strict.

As a child Paul wasn’t allowed to drift and dream or float in Neptune’s sea; that was the early deprivation of this planet. As a young man Paul served in the military and later went to school for a business career. But in the past ten years I’ve watched him steadily withdraw from worldly concerns to submerge in the Neptunian world of his art. For the past two years he has been so deep in Neptune that he disappears for months at a time. Yet whenever I see him, he is intensely alive. More than anyone I know, Paul lives an artist’s life, completely on artist’s time. He will spend hours catching just the right light for a photograph. He will go days without sleep, living with the characters in his novel as though they were roommates. His 12th house Neptune has become the center of his life. It is the sunken treasure he has been working his whole life to retrieve. It is something truly divine.

 When I look at an individual’s chart and see planets in the 12th, “doom” and “misery” aren’t the first words that come to my mind. I rather think that here lies a great gift, in fact, the true wealth of the chart. But it’s like a trust fund. The 12th house individual must come of age first, spiritual age. Ego might greedily appropriate the rest of the chart for its desires, but this house refuses to give up its goods so easily. There will be sacrifice; there will be immaturity, weakness, and whining; there will be a long journey requiring self-awareness, humility, and spiritual responsibility. However long it takes, the 12th house treasure will not disappear. Won perhaps over many lifetimes, it is deep and instinctive. The potential for a wide appreciation of its gifts is also huge.

I’m not alone in thinking this way. Michel Gauquelin, a psychologist who used statistical models to investigate astrology’s accuracy, discovered that while many astrology factors have no relevance, planets in the 12th house [3] did have a strong correlation with an individual’s career success. Mars in the 12th house was often found in the charts of sports figures. Actors, politicians, and journalists showed Jupiter in the 12th; scientists and doctors, Saturn or Mars; painters and musicians, Venus; and writers, the Moon. This finding surprised even astrologers, who typically locate career indicators in the 10th.

Contemporary astrologer Maurice Fernandez makes even stronger claims for 12th house planets. [4] According to Fernandez, people who have positions of influence or fame will more often have an emphasized 12th house than a strong 10th. Since the 12th house rules both the collective unconscious and the masses, planets here indicate the potential to tune in to what’s popular and have an effect on a wide audience. They may also bear the burden of mass projection, sacrificing the personal life to become a product or symbol. Think of the different measures of fame the following 12th house Suns have achieved: Ghandi, Madonna, George Bush, and Rodney King.

As with any astrology factor, what really counts is what the individual does with it. I know behind every worried email I get about the 12th, lies someone with great potential for success. Since I’ve come to appreciate the special quality of 12th house planets, the rest of the chart seems to pale. Without question, this house of self-undoing, confinement, and loss is my favorite house in the chart. 

  1. Dane Rudhyar, The Astrological Houses (CRCS: 1972), p. 141
  2. See Deborah Houlding, The Houses: Temples of the Sky (Ascella Publications, 1998), p. 56 and 115, for a discussion of the Ptolomeic and Egyptian views.
  3. Gauquelin’s studies also showed that planets in the 9th, and to a certain extent, the 3rd and 6th had a similar influence. See Michel Gauquelin, The Truth About Astrology, (Hutchinson, 1984).
  4. Maurice Fernandez, Neptune, The 12th House and Pisces (Trafford, 2004).

About the Author:  A popular columnist with The Mountain Astrologer since 1991, Dana Gerhardt is an internationally respected astrologer. She has lectured extensively and written for numerous astrology websites and publications. She counts herself both a believer and a skeptic, not content with astrology’s assumptions until she can touch and taste their proof in people’s lives. That’s why she’s fond of using real life confessions and anecdotes in her articles. Her 12th house moon inspired a deep and enduring exploration of this mysterious luminary, culminating in her computerized Moonprints report and monthly workshop-by-mail, Twelve Moons. Dana worked for many years in the corporate sector. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Magna Cum Laude from Occidental College in Los Angeles and did graduate work in literature at Columbia University and CSULA. She currently lives in Southern Oregon and can be regularly found in cyberspace on her MoonCircles website. Dana can be contacted by email.


  1. Placements in this house do not an easy life make. Thank you for this post – a light upon what can feel like a black hole. With Virgo Mercury 6°50′, Sun 7°25′ and Venus 12°08′ and Saturn 1°59′ Libra in the 12th I am familiar with the See-Saw of which you speak!

  2. Just wanted to say thank you for this. It really hit home. Especially the writer’s 12th house Neptune, of course … It took me years to admit that I’m creative. Now I even tell other people – out loud! Perhaps facing the monster will be easier when there’s a promise of a treasure …

  3. Yay! Great article, Donna!

  4. What a amaze to see two posts on 12th house!

    I totally agree with the decription about Mars and Sun in 12th house, since I myself has Leo Sun, Mercury, and Mars in the 12th!

    Just want to share some of my understanding. I think the 12th house is related with compassion at an early age of life. Maybe for me it is also partly related to Sun-Neptune trine. However, in my case the compassion faded out since later I found it didn’t help anything. Then 12th house energy turned into thinking about the bigger picture.

    I have 12th house friends, who also seldom show their compassion or sympathy. But the way that they are so concerned with many big isssues always makes me suspicious that they “think too much” because they can feel other people, even when they somethimes describe things in a motionless way.

    About the name “secret” for this house, I guess the reason is that the feeling for compassion is really not a good thing to put above the board. Being hurt by people whom you had compassion for is really unpleasant. And the fact that 12th house people has a tendency to think or feel from other people’s aspect can give them ability to view a wider picture and therefore value differently from ordinary people. That’s why other people would consider them to be with “sectets”.

    Therefore I totally understand why Che Guevara (3 planets in 12th) has very strong compassions in youth but became ruthless later.

    I also wonder if strong 12th house is related with an very early stage of memory. I can remeber things in precision when I was 16 months old, and one of my 12th house friends can do better!

    I once asked a 12th house Saturn people if he doesn’t feel good when competition with other people is needed. I once asked a 12th house Mars people whether he wanted to save the world. And another time I asked a 12th house Venus people is she has a tendency to accept people’s anvances. It was really some amazing moments when I got positive answers, which even their parents never knew these aspects about them.

    In these cases, the 12th house people would admit rather than deny these so-called “secret” feelings. I think the 12th house has the name “secrecy” is really because it is so far away from the worldly majority of people’s thinking.

    PS: I am the Chinese student with Gemini MC.

    • Hi, Justin, I remember you! I’m glad you wrote down these observations and interpretations. I wonder if you and the young people you describe are in the generation that has Neptune (and Uranus and even sometimes Saturn) in Capricorn, because that would go along with certain types of disilusionment at a relatively early age. It’s a generation I’ve been waiting to hear more about as they came of age. Donna

      • Yes. I am. (1985) I guess you are interested in how the current T-square center Pluto transiting through the Neptune of our generation would affect the individuals. I always feel my peers are materialistic. I will certainly write to you when I learn any interesting stories from news or anywhere about my generation of people. Thank you again for learning so many things from you!

        All the best. Justin

      • Ah, so good to hear–I remember doing your generation’s charts for your parents and grandparents and wondering how such an unusual astrological pattern would turn out. Donna

  5. Donna, I recently went to a full day workshop given by Karen Hamaker Zondag. Her book on the “12th House” is quite extraordinary. Are you familiar with her work? She deals with the 12th house as ancestral karma, specifically focusing on the ruler of the house, and aspects to the ruler. But her lecture on Carl Jung and his mistress, who had a composite chart with a very heavy 12th house, was very interesting, based on the fact that she was his “muse” when it came to his work with dreams, etc. Thanks for publishing this great article. Regine

    • Yes, I do know Karen’s work–a very classy lady from the Netherlands who has won awards for her work in astrology education. Did you know that she is an astrotwin of Caroline Myss, who has written so many important self-help books? I was so suprized when I was doing research in AstroDataBank about the Neptune-Saturn aspects, and they both came up and had the same birthdate (different times and places, of course.) Donna

      • Wow. I’ll have to check that out. I knew that Karen is a Sag, but she didn’t reveal any other details about her chart. Carolyn Myss is wonderful also, as you say, and I’m not surprised to hear they are astro twins. You’re right about Karen, she’s very classy.

      • Off the topic of the 12th House, but you mentioned AstroTwins.
        There used to be an AstroTwin finding service.
        My mother said a little boy was born the same time as me at the hospital. I’d love to find him and compare notes.
        However, I do know three men born either on my day or within a couple of days of me and all of them have visual arts skills.
        We used to get to together and have a drink on our birthdays and I’m hoping to locate them again so we can toast 60! Interestingly, one of them also has Libra Rising, like me.

      • One way to find out at least if there were any famous astrotwins is to go to WikiPedia and put your date of birth into their “This Day in History” section, into the search engine for the site. Donna

  6. By the way, do you feel that with Neptune transiting into Pisces that there will be a huge “flood” of interest in the 12th house?

    • Well, none of us is old enough to know what Neptune is like in Pisces, since it takes a very long time for it to go clear around the zodiac–165 years. I never know what a planet is going to be like in a sign ahead of time, because I don’t want to prejudge with theories, only to feel the energy and experience it and then gradually draw conclusions from those observations. But, yes, in general, a planet in its own sign is like a double dose of that energy…in this case of Neptunian energy. I suspect it will be a bit much. Donna

      • Thanks for that response Donna. I appreciate it when astrologers resist the impulse to predict. Like you, I prefer learning from the archetype when it appears in a particular sign, rather than guessing its lesson plan ahead of time. Life is much more interesting that way!

      • Hello, Dana, thanks for dropping by. As you can see from the comments, your article was much appreciated. Thanks for adding such valuable examples in the stories of people you’ve encountered with 12th house placements. Donna

  7. Wonderful article on the 12th! Because my first house is intercepted, I am often confused as to whether or not my Mars in Capricorn R is in the 12th house or in my 1st house. Some charts I’ve had done show it in the first house, with Sagittarius (ruling the 12th cusp) also on the Ascendent. Other charts show Sagittarius ruling the cusp of the 12th with Mars inside the 12th, but they have Capricorn on the Ascendent. I believe this may be the difference between the Koch and Placidus house systems, but do not understand its significance. Do I ignore one or the other? And where is Mars placed in my chart? In the 12th or the 1st?

    Because my natal Mars is retrograde I assumed that accounted for difficulties with asserting anger and with expressing Mars energy in general but attributed its first house placement with the tendency for others to see me as courageous and independent, and adventurous or pioneering. But if it’s in the 12th that could account for a real difficulty I have with getting blind-sided by enemies I didn’t know I had! Many times, I’ve been blind-sided, feel absolutely innocent, then several years later something will occur to me that I either said or emanated (maybe they saw me as arrogant and in need of being pulled down a peg or two, etc.) In any case, I was not conscious of being provocative, but have wondered later if I somehow was without knowing it.

    • The Ascendant and Midheaven should be the same in all the major house systems other than Equal House and Whole Sign houses, so some sort of error must have occurred if you gave exactly the same time of birth each time and got two diffent Ascendant degrees. Try again online with a free chart calculation at either AstroLabe or AstroDienst.

      In addition to Dana’s excellent 12th house Mars case, you might find more insight into this difficulty by looking in the comment section of the Q&A session about the 12th house. I talk about the connection between secret enemies and denial/self-undoing, and how our own behavior contributes to creating enemies. Donna

      • I’ve so loved this exchange, I have been studying astrology for 30 years and still don’t understand it all…these Q&A’s have really been enlightening. In the comment section of the article before this, I made a comment/question and it just disappeared off the site. Does that happen very often; and when it does, should I just re-state my reply? Thanks.

      • That’s a rare occurance, caused by my trying to tighten up the very long comment section on that particular post. Since all you said was that you hoped I’d write a particular article and I had already published it, I thought it was okay. Donna

  8. “Our 12th house planets and signs are like children with special needs.”

    I love this description. I have both Uranus and Pluto there, and it’s probably why – with my 6th house ruler (and ruler of my Aquarius Moon and Chiron) placed in the 12th – I chose a career working in special-education.

    I think the 12th house asks us to serve something greater than ourselves, to stretch beyond our comfort zones and illusions, and to become fully self-aware. With challenging aspects, this can sometimes mean going where we’re not wanted. My 12th house planets can be very isolating, which is one of the reasons I’ve chosen to comment on various blogs – it’s forced me to share in a way that’s not ordinarily comfortable for me.

    My faith has taught me that while some forms of suffering can be avoided, other suffering cannot. One of the most powerful gifts of the 12th is to recognize the difference and to learn the lessons of compassion and humility. To let go of my own willfulness and trust in a higher, divine will can be very tough with Pluto. And it takes a great deal of trust to bring Pluto out of hiding.

    I thought the author summed up the gifts and responsibilities of the 12th beautifully, and I appreciated her insights. Thanks Donna.

    • Say, might you be aware of an active blog specifically by, for, about 12th house sun people? ThanksQ

      • No, I don’t know of one, but it sounds like a good theme for a chat room. Donna

    • Something funny that I think may be related to my 12th house placements has recently come to light. Apparently, I channel Reiki in my sleep!

      Several times during the past few weeks, my husband has told me he’s become aware of the sensation of heat and realized I was giving him Reiki while asleep. The first time it happened, he said he could feel my hand moving up his arm, “searching” for the place, before finally coming to a rest on his shoulder (which unbeknownst to me had been bothering him – an old injury). Then again last night, he felt my hand on one of his ribs, right where he’d been having a strange, nagging pain (again, something he hadn’t told me). I have no memory of either time since I was out like a light!

      My husband said he fell asleep both times while my hand was still there. And both times, when he woke the next morning, his previous discomfort was gone.

      I’m guessing I’m not the only one to experience such strange (and wonderful) occurrences, but wanted to share them anyway since they seem related to the 12th house. On rare occasions, I also talk (more like cuss) in my sleep, so I guess this is just another (more pleasant) manifestation.

  9. I’m going to have to read this over a few more times, it seems like there were mysteries I missed in it.
    I have two questions about this house.
    How is it read if it is empty?
    How is it read if it encompasses an intercepted sign?

    I would think I’d find the cusp sign (example – Taurus) and corresponding planet – that would be Venus, find where it is on the chart, (what house), Is that right?

    Would it be of any significance that the house that Venus was in was the house of the intercepted sign – 3rd/Mercury? Or is that just a coincidence with the chart I’m looking at?

    • Hi, EJ, I talked about an empty 12th house in the comment section of the Q&A post about the 12th house and interceptions in the general Q&A about houses. It’s too long a piece to repeat here, so have a look.

      Donna, who is too soon tired on this particular subject. It sure has been intense, but in such a good way. It’s stretching me and all of us to look beyond the externals to the wisdom and spiritual lessons behind the way the 12th works.

  10. I just love Dana Gerhardt – she is sensible, sane and funny as well as an excellent astrologer and writer.

    Sun, Jupiter, Mars & Mercury in the 12th and am very familiar with much of what Dana had to say about all of those. I’m comfortable with myself now but it took transits from ALL the outer planets by conjunction to get there . . . not to mention a few years of living! 😉

    • Donna, I really like this womb-like interpretation of one’s 12 house. What a relief! Previously, at the mere mention of 12th house or Pluto issues (sorry to admit that I didn’t care for your Healing Pluto Problems book, even if Diane did recommed it to me. Reason: I happily “own” all my Pluto manifestations and revel in them), I would mentally run through a list of anything and everything that I could possibly think of from way back to the time-frame within which I recall that I could actually think–baby bassinet days it was–to try and figure what conceiveably could remain at this yet childlike age of 51 which could possibly cause me any sort of embarassment whatsoever if such were to be revealed…Say, Diane, how’s about an article or a post ref 12th house synastry? Example: if the chart of my potential pal drops a pluto conjunct uranus into my otherwise empty Virgo 12th, and our work is related to R&D and things that go “boom”…I admit that this does give me pause for slight concern….

  11. Great article Donna keep it coming!! Sun, Venus, Ceres and Juno in the 12th life is certainly never dull and yet oh so much to learn.

  12. Great article. I have Mercury and Saturn in 12 and have just had my Second Saturn Return through it.
    And a goodly portion of my progressed chart is wading through my 12th right now. Very weird.
    Lots of weird dreams.
    But I am starting to get a new lease on my creativity and a more solid grasp on my dreams and goals.
    I see what she means about the Moon in 12 people. – I know one (Libra Moon/Scorp Rising)and she constantly creates her own misery and whines about it blaming everyone from mom to the Illuminati. She can’t see how she is perpetuating her own misery, in fact, doesn’t seem to want to know. She obsesses over past relationships, always saying “so and so is still in love with me” or “when so and so comes back into my life.” Her mom was a very cruel, controlling, narcissistic woman. Her dad was a cream puff who gave into mom.
    If you call on her miserableness, she accuses you of narcissism and being against her.
    Yep, I’m one of those shape shifting Lizard People who live under the government buildings! After my second Saturn Return, I crawled out from under the Capitol and changed shape. Just wish I’d have picked a shape other than round through the middle. ;>

  13. “What looks like a loss on the material plane becomes a sacred initiation or ritual sacrifice in the spiritual realm.”

    I do not have planets in the 12th, but Pluto just finished a transit of this house. I have lost and my life will not be the same. This has given me a new perspective. And new strength.

    It deserves a spot on my bulletin board.

  14. Fascinating, and very helpful. I have Cancer on my 12th house cusp, with my Leo Moon conjunct Ascendant and Uranus. Mom could be lots of fun, but not exactly stable or nurturing! I’ve been anticipating my progressed Moon moving into my 12th house next year (it’s already in Cancer), and this gives me some clues to how it may work. I am a writer by profession (you mentioned Moon in 12th as writers), and transiting Saturn will be moving into my 3rd house this fall. I expect some serious writing time.

    • The progressed Moon transit through the 12th is much like the progressed Dark Moon phase… both are very rich times. For the creativity to surface, it’s important to give yourself a lot of unstructured time. You’re “composting” throughout this progression, letting old beliefs, habits, and childhood complexes decompose, so that fresh energy and new creativity can emerge.

      • Wonderful interpretation, Dana. I don’t work with progressions for clients, only transit, but do follow my own progressed Moon….or maybe it follows me! Folks, Dana GErhardt works extensively with Moon material on her site and in her columns for the Mountain Astrologer. Donna

      • Thanks, Dana. I will keep that in mind. 🙂

        Donna: Yes! I follow Dana’s work on her site – and she has some wonderful articles on as well.

  15. Thanks for another brilliant, thought provoking article…
    With wisdom comes humility …is my 12th house ‘vision hook’ …

  16. I have found from doing many charts that when
    Saturn moves through the 12th house that one
    needs to be alert to what is going on in their lives
    and what they are doing. One needs to be aware
    more than ever that whatever seeming negative
    action they are doing during this time will be found
    out when Saturn moves over the Ascendant.
    A prime example is Tiger Woods whom everyone
    pretty much knows now the secret (12th) life he
    led before it hit the news. Saturn is in his 1st
    house now and all is revealed. Neptune I have found moving through the 12th is very subtle and
    one seems to be led down a blind path not realizing until Neptune goes over the Ascendant
    just what is in store. One can be misled by someone or one can think all is rosy until the
    truth is revealed when it moves into the first.

    • Tiger is an excellent example, Mary. Yes, whatever is going on in the 12th comes out when the transiting planet crosses over the Ascendant into the 3rd. Thanks for the info. Donna

    • Hi Mary (and Donna) – You are so right! During my Chiron return, Saturn was also transiting my 12th. A long time underlying medical condition was misdiagnosed (twice), and the prescribed physical therapy (which was wrong) resulted in the development of a painful medical condition which took several years to resolve. With Saturn transiting the 1st, it became painfully obvious that the original exercises I was told to do were harming me; it also made it easy to arrive at a correct diagnosis.

      The truth just came to light this week, so now I’m trying to deal with the damage and move forward. Apparently, it’s not uncommon for this particular “condition” to go undiagnosed for years.

  17. By coincidence, I happened to be preparing a podcast on Neptune, the 12th house, and self-undoing at the time this series was running & Donna asked me to post a link to it. You can find it here:

    It tackles the idea that positive use of Neptune can be helpful in healing 12th house problems and delves into one particular technique, hypnotherapy, and how it relates to astrology.

    • Sounds great, Victoria–a positive use of the 12th house desire to serve. Donna

  18. Thanks for posting Dana’s article, Donna. Lots of great info here and with all your other articles in this series.

    I’m also a 12th house baby: 6 planets in the 12th, with Uranus in Cancer at the aneretic degree; my Sun, Moon, Venus, Jupiter and Mars all in Leo and also in the 12th; and my Leo Pluto on the Ascedant cusp and all quincunx/opposition retrograde Chiron in Aquarius in the 6th.

    All I can say is that I’ve learned alot along the way, with lots still to learn, no doubt.


  19. Hi Donna,

    Love this article by Dana; she’s gifted. Think I saw it on, because I’d already read it but hadn’t seen the 12th house Q&A. Reading both was enlightening.

    It made me go into my site; I have a brother and a sister who are both Leos with Leo rising. The brother has Leo sun conj asc, with 4 planets in Cancer in 12th … yes read that as five 12th house planets! My sister has Leo sun and uranus in 12th and then four 1st house planets in Leo! (When I looked at this again, I laughed because my sister always tells me she can’t stand my brother; he’s so ‘overbearing!’)

    Anyway, when I looked at their charts, I noticed for the first time they both have Chiron in the 6th house. One has a mental illness and one has a physical illness. And my brother does have the moon in 12th, but our mother was the same for all; unreliable. Judith Viorst in her book “Necessary Losses” calls kids like us “Hansels & Gretels” and I’ve had long discussions with my siblings about how we were raised to take care of each other and our parents.

    Anyway, which do you think is a bigger indicator of illness; the 12 house or the 6th house?

    [This also reminds me of something totally unrelated; whenever people tell me that they think I’m intense, my response is always, “You should meet my family; they make me look like a wallflower!”]

    • I’d say the 6th and 12th represent different types of illness. The 12th is–or becomes–chronic and is often related to suppressed emotions (a psychosomatic component) or to some sort of self-defeating pattern, say an addiction. The 6th is more an ordinary illness, but often due to overwork or to workplace hazards. Donna

  20. Loved this blog about the 12th house and the G findings were really interesting as fas as careers go.These findings are super interesting regarding my youngest sons birth chart. He has Venus in Aries in the 12 opposition Pluto and nearby 8 degrees away in the 12th is Mars conjunct Mercury in Aries. Then at 10 Taurus in the 12th he has Chiron and the Sun in Taurus conjunct the Ascendant, born 5 minutes before Sunrise. His Sun opposes and parallels Uranus .He is a brilliant student in any subject, ( Science being the favorite) but his female partners have been wayward souls , displaying all manner of physical and psychological ills. I always wondered about his penchant for such women? But from what I have read here I see he really feels for the down trodden and with his current woman he is forgiving of the things she does and says. He understands her problems and says she can’t help it.
    He is really good in emergency situations in helping others but cannot seem to do the same for himself.
    To reiterate I have Jupiter Chiron Amour and Neptune conjunct and Neptune the closest to the Ascendant by 4 degree from the 12th. I love this house and what it represents. An added feature of Neptune is that its the Esoteric representation of the 2nd Ray of Love/ Wisdom; which happens to be the Ray our Solar Logos is on. Another interesting feature is that according to Greek Myth Jupiter and Chiron were brother room mates and shared a Cave on Mount Olympus but in the heavens,,,or “out there “they had different roles.

  21. Hi! Just found this article here, seen it elsewhere before. Very applicable to me. The very same situation I had in my life like Paul in this article!! Also Scorpio Sun [2nd house] square Pluto [10th house]. Neptune [and Saturn] in the 12th. First 40 years of my life worked for a large international organization, all along knowing that in spite of professional excellence and glamour that I had enjoyed there [Libra rising] , something crucial was missing. When I became 41, I turned everything upside down. Went back to university, took fine arts that I had wanted from my chilhood, changed the life style completely, from an urban sophisticate turned into a nature person, renovated a country house, began an art colony project, and ever since [last 17 years] have loved every bit of my transformation [very Scorpionic theme] along the Neptunian lines. Working on the side in the field of Jungian depth psychology as my hobby, I originally understood this process as a result of individuation, i.e. getting rid of my persona [Libra] and embracing my Sun Sign as who I truly am. After encountering this article by Dana Gerhardt, I realized that it was Neptune in the 12th who emerged from the deep waters and pointed to the REAL ME.
    Thanks, Donna!

  22. Interesting to read the article. Among others, it tells a lot about the fears embedded in the collective psyche along different eras. The concept of enemy itself is a form-creation of fear. Psychoanalysis is very prominent for some decades now and again it’s interesting to think about the connection between its birth and evolution and the history of fear.
    I’ve got 5 planets in the 12th and indeed I find that astrological hints do describe me (e.g. usual childhood biographies suggested for 12th house natives), while I’ve had friends with more scattered charts that found few or no personal clues in astrology and I guess we’re all right.
    In any case, the central fact for me is this being the last house and I wish I found this aspect more salient in articles about it. It’s pretty much like the end of the movie ‘Frida’: ‘I hope the exit is joyful and I hope never to return’. I very much see my life as a journey for closing accounts, for carrying as little as possible with me, for synthesizing [to obtain] the essentials. It is the undoing aspect, leaving the scariness out and focusing on the context- and the context is: this is probably the last time I’m here. These days, I often have the feeling I’m crossing water and not walking on earth…my life, especially my encounters with people are very unstable, as if no one is supposed to stop here, everyone passes. When a little bit younger, trying to apply the stabilizing vision floating in the air (the sort of structure of perception that my peers held, building their certainties on a certain segment of experience interpreted in a simple fashion)- I found myself to be rather miserable and in a straight-jacket…there was no recognition of contradictions, paradoxes, deeper links and changes and on top of that, life was growing under the shadow of bright expectations that I found rather suffocating.
    The selflessness mentioned lies in the repeated challenge of being asked to help people who have hurt me. Resulting situations are sometimes humorous if I tell the tale. Anyhow, for me the reward is in succeeding to help and that is how I filter out as well.

    • I do love this article–a guest post. There are about a dozen articles on the 12th house in the series this is part of. If you didn’t see the series, you’ll find lots of other helpful information in those posts. Donna Cunningham

    • I enjoyed your comment Bluespin – also with a loaded 12th house – “the buck stops here” –

    • No idea why ‘amaranth’ came to mind when I read your comment, bluespin – just thought I’d mention this ’cause now it’s stuck –

    • The depth of your comment touched me, Bluespin. I related to so much of what you shared; my wanting (needing) to get it right this time so as never to return and the profound awareness that all of my attachments -to people, things, places- are passing away, changing.

      I was especially touched by your feelings of ” . . . crossing water and not walking on earth.” Lately, I feel this more and more and have wondered what it means, if anyone else senses it or if it’s only me. Even my love of words seems to be passing, ideas fly away mid thought – if I’m lucky I catch them again later, when I’ve stopped trying. Clinging to anything, including any hard-heartedness, seems pointless; it only weighs me down and binds me. Better to forgive and serve.

      Anyway, thanks for sharing, Bluespin. I found your comment strangely comforting.

  23. @ alchemynow & LB Glad to hear the comment brought you some comfort or you’ve enjoyed it. It had the same effect on me- I was clarifying my ideas.

  24. Donna.I have sun,moon and mercury in the 12th house with leo. I have been going through hell.Is there a solution.I have got venus in virgo,saturn in gemini,jupiter in capricorn,mars in aries,uranus and pluto in virgo and neptune in scorpio.What is my future?

    • Those are important questions you’re asking, Parag, and ones that really cannot be answered in the depth they deserve without seeing where that planetary combination fits into your natal chart. To do it justice would go far beyond a brief reply in the comment section and would require a private consultation with an astrologer. I retired from chart consultations several years ago in order to focus on book projects. If you write to me at , I can send you a list of astrologers whose work I know and respect, but I should explain that these are professionals and there is a fee for their services.

      If finances are a consideration, you might consider submitting your question to Eileen McCabe, the advice columnist at Dell Horoscope magazine. Like myself, she has a Master’s Degree in Social Work and many years of experience in both astrology and counseling. Read more about her work and how to submit a question here:

      Donna Cunningham

  25. Thank you for this. 12th house stellium. This includes my sun, moon, north node and a few other planets and asteroids. I’ve been to astrology groups (I’m very much still a neophyte of astrology!) and those who look at my chart and know a thing or two inevitably give me a look and ask “So what kind of work do you do?” LOL! This article was enlightening.

    • Hi, Lisa, you’ll find a series of 15 articles about the 12th house on this blog, and I’d highly recommend Tracy Marks’ beautiful book on the 12th house. Also, you would find plenty of specifics about your stellium planets in my ebook, The Stellium Handbook. See the tab on stelliums on the front page of this blog. Donna

  26. can you explain these planets positions that i have…I have a leo in 12 house and 1st ascendant virgo , in third house north node in scorpio the jupiter in scorpio and pluto in scorpio etc

  27. i have also gemini in midheaven house 10 and leo 12th house…1 house ascendant virgo…in scorpio in 3th house i have north node, jupiter, and pluto etc etc aqurius 6th etc

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