Posted by: Donna Cunningham | July 4, 2010

New Insights into the 12th House from our Q&A Session

©7-4-2010 by Donna Cunningham, MSW

 A few days ago, we started a new miniseries on the 12th house by holding a Question and Answer session where readers asked a great many excellent questions about that mysterious and much maligned sector of the chart.  You responded eagerly, and within a day and a half got answers to more than 50 questions.

Since many of you subscribers don’t visit the comment section—or you leave a question, but don’t make it back to follow the thread after getting your answer—I wanted to preserve some of the best insights here.

 Part One: Basic Questions about the 12th House and its Structure

 Q: Syd asks,How do you see the differences among the earthy-watery-fiery-airy approach of the energies of the 12th?”

A: One possible level would be that the element in the 12th shows the nature of the retreat from the world that would best serve us for contemplating what it is that we’re handling in a self-sabotaging manner.

Maybe part of the self-defeat starts in not managing that element well, and so part of the antidote is giving yourself positive experiences of that element.

If  it’s a water sign on the 12th cusp or the 12th house planets, then buried emotions need to be brought to the surface and sorted out in order for the self-sabotage to stop. For me, being a 12th house water sign, nothing settles me out like a good, long swim. Staring at the ocean and listening to its roar for hours is another solace.

For people with earth signs on the 12th, not being present in the body and not handling material concerns may cause grief.  Perhaps a day in the woods, raising houseplants, using crystals, kneading bread dough, or tactile arts like pottery or weaving would help put them back in touch. I won’t do all four elements, but perhaps this is enough to give you the idea.

Q:  MSFullRoller asks, “Does having a particular sign on the 12th mean the same as having the planet that rules that sign in the 12th? For example, does Cancer on the 12th mean the same as having the Moon in the 12th?”

A: Similar, yes, but having the Moon or Cancer planets there is stronger than just having Cancer on the 12th cusp. Here’s what I would see as the order of strength for 12th house placements, with the first one the strongest:

1) a planet that falls in the 12th, within a conjunction to the Ascendant.
2) a natal planet in the 12th.
3) a slow-moving transiting planet in the 12th
4) a progressed planet in the 12th touching a natal planet
5) the sign a 12th house planet is placed in.
6) the sign on the cusp of the 12th and the house, sign, and aspects of the planet that rules that sign.

I may be missing a feature or two, but that’s the order, maybe depending on the planetary score for the 12th house planet (using the tests of planetary strength on this blog.)

Q:  tatiana.larina  asks,” When the 12th house is the most occupied of all houses, e.g. has three planets or more, while other houses get a single one at best, how does it influence the chart? Logically, it means that many houses and planets will have their rulers in this house, so a lot of “hospital/prison” interpretations appear in astrological handbooks.”

A: What a strong 12th house (like a stellium) indicates is that we have chosen the full range of 12th house pursuits as the curriculum for this lifetime. I believe we DO choose our charts before we come into body, and there are “guidance counselors” (a.k.a. angels or advanced souls) who help us choose them.

No chart is ever a mistake or a punishment, though some are certainly much more difficult than others. (That’s because some of us are more ballsy than others in picking out our life curriculum! We may elect to take extra credits in advanced subjects.)

Once we’ve chosen a 12th house emphasis in the chart, there are still lifelong choices to make as to whether we’ll follow the more painful and self-destructive ways of living a 12th house life or the more positive ones.

Unless we’re born as a Dalai Lama or similarly sainted individual, there’s quite a learning curve on the 12th house life path, for many choose to learn through hitting the bottom with self-destruction…or even bouncing along the bottom for decades.

Q: If the 12th house is empty, does that mean I don’t have any self-defeating habits?

A: When a person has a planet or several in the 12th, those planetary energies are actively working with 12th house issues–whether on a self-destructive or a spiritual level or both.

When there’s nothing in the 12th, the person may not be as prone to self-sabotage, but still you’d need to look at the ruler of the 12th, where it is in the chart and what aspects it forms, for that’s the area of life where the greatest potential for self-sabotage lies.

Q: Terri asks why, since her 12th house is empty natally, the recent transit of Saturn through that house was so devastating

A:  A real whallop comes from a transiting planet–or two or three transiting planets, these days–setting off repetitive natal patterns and forcing attention to issues that we aren’t handling. Since the 12th deals with things we’re hiding from ourselves, yeah, I’d guess it could bring a whole can of whallop.

How much and what type of whallop would depend on what natal planets the transiting planet was setting off. As you have no 12th house planets, I can only imagine that it was touching natal planets in other ouchie houses of your chart.

Part Two:  Questions about Particular 12th House Placements

Q: Toni asks, “Does a 12th house Sun mean that when the person displays sun qualities… ego, etc, that it will be their undoing?”

A:  Have you ever heard of George W. Bush? Leo rising, 12th house Sun/son. Actually, I’d say that either extreme of solar qualities could be the undoing of a 12th house Sun.

When the person has tooooo much Sun going for them, is egotistical, self-centered, and can’t seem to soak up enough attention to satisfy their ego, then people are likely to resent them and become secret enemies–or at least write them off as a braggart. (They’re only secret ones because with solar hogs, who can get a word in edgewise!)

On the other hand, 12th house Suns with little self-esteem or confidence who hide their light under a bushel and are afraid to show their true self to others can sabotage the gifts and talents they were born to give to the world. They can undermine themselves, for instance, so they never have enough money to survive and aren’t recognized for their true worth.

Oddly enough, there’s one flower essence that covers both extremes, and that is SUNflower essence, by a variety of companies, but I like the one by Flower Essence Services – Flower Essences.

Q: Carol asks, “I always read that people with Venus in the 12th will have affairs/clandestine romances…pretty much all I’ve found, actually. What are some other ways Venus in the 12th could play out?”

A: Nice question, Carol. After all, isn’t Venus exalted in Pisces, meaning that that’s its most evolved position? Venus in the 12th could have a variety of positive expressions:

  • Unconditional love expressed toward troubled and unfortunate people (for instance, in volunteer work, Big Sisters, etc.)
  • Uplifting art with a spiritual theme
  • Doing makeovers and collecting clothing for women who are trying to get back into the workplace
  • Befriending lonely, downtrodden people
  • Giving anonymous love offerings and playing secret Santa all year long

No doubt there are more, but you get the gist.

Q: Could you comment on the South Node in the 12th? As well as other nodal placements in the 12th and on planets that square them?

A: The South Node there sounds like a potential double dose of self-undoing, since the 12th already has that potential. How I tend to see the South Node is that it’s a type of behavior or even a gift developed so thoroughly in past lives that it’s what we do when we go on automatic pilot, as it’s the easy way out. Alas, the 12th is a house where the easy way out is seldom a successful strategy.

The South Node isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself if expressed in balance and in moderation. But when that’s all we know to do to meet the challenge of a particular house of the chart, it doesn’t help us grow….we just stay stuck in patterns that may not meet life’s new challenges. It can be like a dinosaur effect, and given the challenges we all face in a critical era like ours, we need to be open to handling the crisis in new ways.

The opposite placement, North Node in the 12th, would mean that the positive uses of the 12th–like service and spiritual studies–are part of your curriculum for this lifetime. Finding a balance between the North Node in the 12th and South Node in the 6th would be to avoid being too much of a workaholic and to nourish the soul by times of quiet introspection and spiritual practice.

Any planet squaring the North and South Node complicates matters by creating a conflict of interest. That planet and its house competes for the time and energy available to fulfill the nodal purpose. I have Uranus square the Nodes, with North Node in the 2nd, and making a living as an astrologer has been no small challenge.

Q: What about planets that are in the 12th but conjunct the Ascendant?

A:  Here are a couple of examples.  With Uranus conjunct the Ascendant but in the 12th, one’s eccentricities or striking differences are all too obvious to the outside world, but expressed so self-consciously or stridently that others view them as problematic.

Becoming comfortable with one’s differences (a lifetime effort, but easier after transiting Uranus opposes natal Uranus at midlife) lifts much of that conflict.

Since Neptune has a natural connection with the 12th, does Neptune on the Ascendant function pretty much the same regardless of which side of the Ascendant it falls on? In either case, it intensifies Neptune’s energies and creates a hazy interface with the world. It would be hard to quantify which was haziest! How would you sort it out? “Hazy today with a chance of chaos.”

The difficult thing about a planet that’s conjunct the Ascendant but in the 12th is that it’s a secret everybody knows except the person who has it. That person may be in denial about the qualities of that planet (e.g. Mars and their competitiveness) or may be convinced they’ve successfully hidden it from the outside world. Yet, even to the most casual of acquaintances, those qualities stand out starkly and can trigger negative responses in others who think  the person is being deceptive (a.k.a. sneaky).

Q:  Sea asks, “Do you think there’s a strong connection between Pluto in the 12th and chronic illness?”

A: You never quite know what’s going on with Plutonians. They’re very private (and, yes, even secretive) in general, and even more so with Pluto or Scorpio planets in the 12th, the house of secrets.

Where I would imagine Pluto in the 12th people would wind up with a chronic illness is due to resentments and even hatreds they carry around for decades. They typically brood on what has been done to them until it pollutes their bodies and their lives (and by extension, the lives of people closest to them). One important caution about Pluto in the 12th is that vengeance is like the scorpion’s sting–yes, you get even, but it kills you too.

Learning to forgive and to let go is one path to lifting the dark pall of brooding, recognizing that “even though the bastards don’t deserve it,” forgiveness can bring release from being chained to the past and bring inner peace. For articles about Pluto, bitterness, and healing yourself through forgiveness, here’s a good starting place: Purge Yourself of Pluto’s Negativity—Get Free of Bitterness.

Part 3: Healing 12th House Difficulties

Q: Lostshoe asks how to bring the unconscious content of the 12th to surface.

A: other than talking and contemplating, another tool that helps bring the 12th house contents to our attention is dreamwork–writing down your dreams and thinking about their symbolism.

Part of the work is telling your less conscious self before you go to bed that you want insights and healing tools to be shown in your dreams, then writing them down in the morning just after waking in a disciplined manner.

Perhaps a Tarot spread would be similarly revealing. Art therapy, where you draw your emotions, would help too–even if you just got a sketch pad and did it on your own. So might journaling or writing poetry–anything where the unconscious easily flows to the surface without our internal censorship.

I think what helps each person get in touch with their 12th is different, depending on the planets and signs in that house and especially on aspects they form to planets in more conscious or public parts of the chart. For one person, a Mercury square to a 12th house Moon would do it, but for someone else, maybe Jupiter trining a 12th house planet.

 Q:  Why is the 12th connected both to self-undoing and secret enemies?

A: Rest assured that in the long, long history of astrology, there are valid reasons why the old astrologers assigned such seemingly random and unrelated meanings to a particular house. Usually, if you look deeper, there is–or originally was–a connection between them.

How the 12th relates to both secret enemies and self-undoing is this: The secret is that you probably privately decided that So and So was trying to undermine something you wanted for yourself, and so YOU named them your enemy and started treating them as such, covertly, and maybe even without conscious awareness.

OR, maybe you didn’t even quite know the person existed, but you behaved in self-sabotaging ways that created a problem for them…or maybe triggered some of their own buried and unacknowledged desires. Or it could even be that you both were sensing a past life connection that carried over a residue of bad feelings into this life.

Sometimes a person becomes an enemy because you’ve closed down the possibility of an open airing and resolution of conflict, either because you don’t admit to or are in denial of the things you do that create the conflict. And when people can’t talk to you about what’s upsetting them in your behavior, they tend to go behind your back…a bigger level of problem, yet still a self-created one.

I would bet that any time we have a secret enemy, it’s because in the course of self-defeating behavior, we’ve done something to provoke it. The trouble is, we’re generally in denial of those behaviors and especially of their effects on others. That’s one reason the healing process of the various 12-step programs includes taking an inventory of people we have harmed through our addictions and then making amends to them.

Q: What healing tools would you suggest for someone with 12th-house related problems?

As a 12th house Sun, I’ve been studying a large variety of healing tools and psychological findings since about my junior year of college (that would be 1962, younguns!) You never get to the end of it, because healing therapies continue to be discovered and to evolve all the time, to suit the needs of the time (that would reflect shifts in the signs of the outer planets).

What healing tools work best for  a particular individual depends on so many factors–history, chart placements, tastes–that I couldn’t possibly give you a particular answer that would work forever after. Just try out the ones that appeal to you, and it might be that the ones that work to heal your own wounding will also become something you can pass along to others with similar wounding.

One great way the 12th works (and half of why we get saddled with those placements in the first place, I’m convinced) is that through our own suffering we develop compassion for others with similar difficulties who may have it even worse than we do.

Readers, this is just a sampler of the questions—there are lots more jewels hidden in the comment sections of the 3 articles about the 12th house in this miniseries.  (See the first 3 links in the list below.)

I think the most important realization to take away from this series is that as adults with 12th house placements who have repetitive patterns of being “victimized”, we generally are NOT victims, we have allowed ourselves to be victims  or have contributed to our own suffering through denial and lack of self-awareness. 

No more questions about the 12th for now, please, as I’ve said all I care to say on the  topic for the time being. Be kind to an old lady who’s astonished to be celebrating her 68th birthday tomorrow.

(Don’t write to me privately about 12th house questions either—I no longer interpret individual charts except in my Dell Horoscope advice column, which you can submit a question to at ).

But since I have a lifetime lease on the 12th house with my own Sun and Jupiter there, I have no doubt we’ll get back to this topic another time or two.  It’s a deep house and a lifetime learning project.   Donna Cunningham Skywriter

Skywriter’s  Complete Miniseries on the 12th house:

Readers Ask Series:  (Readers’ questions and my Answers are in the Comment Sections)

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Art credits: The clueless little fellow whose picture adorns this page is Question Mark Man, my personal mascot because I identify with him.  Like most of the art on skywriter, these images come from, a subscription graphics service with over 10,000,000 images.


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