This is the first part of a series on how to examine relationship potential in a natal chart.
Let’s be honest. We’re all a little bored with the second house, unless we have some heavy hitting planets there. (The sixth house bores us, too, which I’ll tackle another day.) Okay, it’s all about our talents and our gifts and our sense of ownership. It’s a Taurus house, an earth house (yawn), its about our ‘stuff’… Everyone is fascinated by the Ascendant, that mysterious and ever-evolving “I.” Why does the second house get such short shrift?
Basic astrology tells us that the second house is about what we own: our possessions, our talents, our inner gifts. However, this doesn’t do the second house justice. While the Ascendant/Aries energy is off experiencing, it’s the second house that grounds those experiences in reality. In the second house we begin to define ourselves by what we can feel, hear, taste, smell, touch (Taurus). In essence, the second house determines our perception of our world. In the other primary “I” houses of the first quarter, the third and the fourth houses, we begin to define ourselves by relating to ‘other’—environment and family, respectively. But in the second house, we develop our inner experience of life. This, in turn, becomes our inner reality, which may be very different from the reality that others see.
This inner experience of Self, this collection of senses and sense memories, relates directly to the eighth house in the same way that the Ascendant relates to the 7th. The second house is how I experience my essential Self, the eighth house is the mysterious pull of the essence of other. (My subjective Self vs. subjective Other.) By old rulerships, we have another Venus/Mars opposition: Taurus, the sign ruling the natural second house, is ruled by Venus. Mars is the old ruler of Scorpio, and as such is the natural ruler of the eighth. (For this reason, I use Mars as well as Pluto for Scorpio when doing synastry work.) The eighth is the house of sexual merging: it is where we meet ‘other’ in an intense, transformative way. My essence takes in your essence, and you take in mine. As opposed to the push me-pull you of the objective Ascendant/Descendant axis, the second/eighth axis is all about resisting or accepting the merge, and the life-changing consequences that result.
There is an inherent danger in the second/eighth opposition: if my second house is not strong, if my sense of myself and what I have to contribute is not developed, I may be sucked into the undertow of the eighth house merging energy. There is the fear that, tsunami-like, whatever I once owned will be swallowed up and taken away. And it will feel like death, because life as I know it will be completely redefined.
People with heavy planets in the second, or a packed second house, often have difficulty genuinely opening themselves to others. There can be a reluctance to be truly known by another. They may behave in a perfectly ordinary way, and may seem completely open and perfectly charming, but then one day you realize that you don’t really know this person at all. You may have been sleeping with him or her for years, and suddenly realize that you’ve never got a glimpse of what’s really going on inside. People with second/eighth oppositions are particularly prone to this type of secrecy, because the threat of the basic loss of self is ever-present. Sexual relationships in particular cause these people to be guarded. There is a reason the French call an orgasm le petit mort— the ‘little death.’ (I do a lot of actors’ charts, and was once baffled by the preponderance of second/eighth house oppositions I found. That is, until I realized that their rationale was that they were not exposing themselves, they were exposing a character, an ‘other’. The pull to the essence of ‘other’ can lead you to places other than personal relationship. I sometimes think if these second/eighth house actors knew how much of themselves they were revealing through their work, they would quit and hide under a rock.)
Outer planets in the second house can define the inner perception of life experience in a very strong way. Outer planets tend to take away our security in whatever house they appear in, and this is particularly potent in the second house. With Pluto in the second, there is an underlying belief that life is a very precarious thing, and I need to hang on to whatever I have with whatever I’ve got. Neptune in the second will have a general sense that nothing can ever be held on to properly: as soon as something real comes in, something else gets taken away, often mysteriously and in ways that couldn’t be predicted or prevented. Uranus in the second suffers shocks of removal, often of material things, which can leave terrible wounds until the freedom-loving Uranian energy can be positively incorporated into the life. All of the outer planets in the second bring special gifts, but most likely they won’t be accessed constructively until much time has passed. Pluto in the second has to come to terms with personal power and the use of it. Neptune in the second has gifts of perception beyond the immediate senses. Uranus in the second has knowledge which cuts through the veil of material reality.
My second house defines how I feel and perceive my world –which may not necessarily agree with how I think about myself. Sometimes the two coincide, but what I think about myself and how I instinctively perceive my world may be in conflict. I may think I’m a sensible, rational being, but the univese may be continually pulling the rug out from under my feet. What we think about ourselves often misses the mark, particularly when we are younger. The second house describes our organic experience of life. It is very natural, very primal. The irony is that, on a basic level, I’m not sure we can ever grasp the second house in a rational way, the way we can other houses. Our second house experiences are often not understood until much later in life. We don’t become aware of how we’ve built our inner world until a crisis of transformation (eighth house) comes to rock our inner universe. At the extreme, conflicts in the second house may result in an internal crippling that prevents the rest of the chart being expressed in a positive way. The inner experience may be so skewed by trauma that it never recovers.
You can begin to see the impact of the second house on relationships. If I innately perceive life to be precarious, or dangerous, or threatening, I will bring that to a partnership. No matter how good the relationship is, my world view will affect my relationship with my partner. If my second house is loaded with well-aspected planets and I have a very strong sense of who I am and what I own, I may not understand how uncertain others may feel, particularly those I choose as partners. If my second house is conflicted, if there is a heavy Saturn influence or it contains a lot of planets with difficult aspects, or the ruler of the second house is troubled, my basic sense of self-worth will be affected, which in turn will define the type of partnership experiences I attract.
Our second house is very much involved in who we get hooked up with and why. We look to ‘other’ to fill in whatever gaps the soul is calling to attention. (There are always gaps, life being the limited thing that it is.) This gap is shown by the inconjunct relationship between the second and the seventh houses.I must give Jeffrey Wolf Green credit for the method of looking at the double inconjunct of the 2nd and 12th houses to the Descendant. He describes it in his book Pluto: The Soul’s Journey Through Relationships (please see the Recommended Reading List for full details). In the twelve years since the book was published, I’ve been using the method in synastry studies and it has proved to be extremely helpful in defining what soul-gaps someone is looking to fill through partnership. Both the second and twelfth houses are in a natural inconjunct to the Descendant. Inconjuncts represent conflicting energies that are nearly impossible to reconcile. If the second house is what I can grasp of my world, what I own, then the Descendant represents in very real terms what I don’t own. My gaps and lacks result in needs, and I turn to ‘other’ (the Descendant) to fill what I cannot fill in and of myself.
The relating pattern proves itself through the natural rulership of Venus to all three points. The first two houses involved, the second and the seventh, are both ruled by Venus—the Taurus Venus of material possession/value in the second, the Libra Venus as an attracting and relating power in the seventh. The twelfth house, the other inconjunct, is ruled by Neptune—the higher octave of Venus. (We will discuss the implications of the 12th house on partnership next Tuesday.)
The condition of the second house will both directly and indirectly affect the choice of partner. Again, our inability to really experience our second house in a rational way plays a part. How many of us can define our inner lives and our experience of the world? That we go into love completely blind has much to do with the second house, and is, I think, unavoidable. Would the pull to relate be so strong if we could exactly define what we were missing? Oftentimes the function of relationship is to point out flaws and needs that we never knew we had. Of course, there are many things to consider in synastry, but the natural placement of the inconjunct houses to the primary relationship magnet, the Descendant, provides an underlying framework for the drive to spiritual wholeness that is behind the initial attraction.
The drive towards spiritual wholeness through relationship has much to do with the twelfth house, which we will explore next week.