This is the second part of the series Synastry Studies. Currently, we are focusing on how to define relationship needs in a natal chart prior to synastry analysis.
This is the second of a two part article on the Descendant and it’s double inconjunct to the second and 12th houses. Both houses point to unfulfilled needs that we often seek to fulfill through partnership. Please read part one, The Second House and the Double Inconjunct, before reading this. Again, thanks to Jeffrey Wolf Green for first pointing out the double inconjunct and its relationship to the Descendant.
This is a long post. Take a break half-way, make a cup of tea. Take it in small pieces. The 12th house can be a dense and murky place, and I feel it’s necessary to clarify its motives and methods before relating it to relationships.
Almost everyone is fascinated by the 12th house. It has a kind of dark glamour attached to it. Its Piscean, Neptunian connotations, no doubt, and its notorious reputation as ‘the house of self-undoing.’ So many interpretations of the 12th, so many different and contradictory meanings, as befitting the house of Pisces. On the one hand, it is attached to fame and glory, and can point to tremendous talents. The 12th represents ‘the world’ in a larger sense (as opposed to our immediate society, represented by the 10th) and when we have planets in the 12th they often point to special gifts that we must share with the universe; our 12th house planets can make us icons that allow us to embody certain energies for the public at large. On the other, the 12th house contains the quagmire and quicksand that can be the dark side of inheritance and summing up of the past. The 12th house represents a kind of pearly gate where we are called to task for our lives—(and our past lives, and inherited tendencies). It reveals our spiritual and psychological debt to our deepest selves.
The 12th is a house that anticipates our rebirth. If we get stuck in the 12th house quicksand, if the rebirth doesn’t happen, the 12th house can be full of ghosts that haunt, or even torment us, for a lifetime. If we can’t get our selves together, if we can’t correct our balances and apply ourselves to our own rebirthing, we end up in the dreaded house of ‘self-undoing’ where we just can’t make it. (Transits through the 12th are difficult because they clearly point out the things we need to do that we find almost impossible to do.) Sometimes we can’t re-forge our flaws. Sometimes the weight of our past is so heavy that we can’t carry the burden, and never make it across the threshold. The 12th is where our karma catches up with us, but it also the place where we carry the shadows of others. Planets in the 12th can be both a blessing and a curse. They have a heightened awareness to our inner truth. They can lift us to great heights, but they can also pull us down. A general theme in the 12th house is loss.
The 12th house is opposite the 6th, the Virgo house. Ideally, the sixth and the 12th houses should operate in tandem. In the sixth house, we should sort ourselves out. That’s the house where we try to find some balance, go to rehab, get ourselves healthy, apply our skills, sort out the chaff from the grain and get ourselves together so that we can move on to use our energies to serve the greater good. The 6th is the last of the ‘personal’ houses. By then, we should be ready to merge with others and ultimately merge with the cosmos (12th). We learn to serve in the sixth by using our skills (Virgo is the sign of the craftsman); as we apply ourselves, we test ourselves against the outside world (houses 7 through 12). If we fail to get our act together on a personal level (6th), we fail the greater test of contributing to the whole. (If we miss the boat or screw up anywhere on our relationship journey from the 7th through the 11th, it ends up in the refuse bin of the 12th.) The 12th house can seem as though it is always asking us for something more, but in fact it is asking us to let go. In the sixth, we are asked to let go of what isn’t working for us. In the twelfth, we are asked to sacrifice what is not useful to others. This involves letting go of our unnecessary ego-oriented attachments.
The idea of sacrifice is misunderstood. Sacrifice is not about letting go of what is important or needed. Sacrifice is about letting go of what is unnecessary to our existence and offering it to the gods. (If we are asked to give up something that is necessary, then that is not a sacrifice, that is a tragedy, with heavy karma ensuing. Look what happened with Iphegenia.) A stroppy god will sometimes ask for the ultimate sacrifice, but before you know it, another god will step up and make a swap, saving us for better things to come. Sometimes we have to change gods, which is another message of the 12th.
But how to we sort out what is necessary from what is not necessary? What may seem necessary to us from an ego point of view may look ridiculous to the gods, who have other plans for us. The more we cling to our ego-centered plans, the more they torment us. Twelfth house gods can be relentless. Often we hold on too tightly to what in our deepest selves we know we must toss overboard. This includes false (ego-centered) wishes, hopes and promises that are no longer serving us. In the 12th, we are often asked to sacrifice our old dreams and replace them with new ones.
If I make a list of the traditional things associated with the 12th house, we may get a better sense of how it works. Hospitals, prisons, monasteries. Vocation. Karma. What do these things involve? These are all places/areas where we give up our ego to the call of something greater than ourselves. Ultimately, we are being asked to realign ourselves with divine intention, with the ultimate wholeness of the cosmos. The word religion literally means, “to re-tie”. Wherever we give ourselves over to a higher power, the 12th house is involved.
There is a sense of other-worldly power in the 12th house. In the 12th, we can feel the juggernaut of the universe pulling us forward, at times overwhelming us. In the 12th, we sense what is god-like and numinous, so far above our ordinary lives that the idea of embodying any of that energy is unthinkable. It is in the 12th house that we find what we worship. The 12th house is where our gods reside.
We often feel cut off in the twelfth house, particularly those of us with planets there. The isolation of the 12th house can be intense. The 12th house describes where I feel abandoned by the universe itself, torn from any connection that makes life tolerable (what is torn away can be described by the sign on the 12th cusp). In the 12th, I make my sacrifices. Planets in the 12th often don’t work for us the way they do for others. Something of that planet is taken away from us, and will only return when experiences allow us to see a greater picture. When we are torn from our gods, we are prevented from seeing our own possibilities. And so we turn to ‘other’ for fulfillment. (Ah, finally the synastry, I hear you sigh…)
As explained in the previous synastry post on the 2nd house, the 12th house forms a natural inconjunct from the Descendant. In the second house, we define our experience of the world. In the seventh, we meet up with that which we cannot be or have, the other, the desired one. In the 12th, we go beyond ordinary partnership. This is the house where we look to partnership to be a conduit for the numinous. This is the house where we seek to find the lost and abandoned part of ourselves through ‘other.’
The sextile between the second and twelfth houses is interesting. Whereas the 2nd and seventh houses are both Venus houses, the 12th house is Neptune’s realm. Neptune is the higher octave of Venus. (Sextiles offer opportunities: what I ‘have’ in the 2nd house I offer in the 12th). Neptune attracts in a Venusian sense, but it attracts via a finer vibration. Unlike Venus, Neptune has no ‘come hither’ look. It’s motives are not that clear and obvious, and its method is mysterious. It has less to do with material reality (2nd) and basic fulfillment of emptiness (7th) than it has with vibration. It brings together that which is vibrating at the same frequency. The 12th house attracts through resonance. It will draw what the soul requires.
When we do not see our ultimate connection to the divine, we may search for divinity in partnership. When this happens, we project our god within, our most numinous selves, on to ‘other.’ The sign on the 12th house, and planets there, can indicate what (and who) we worship. If we can’t comprehend our own 12th house alignment with the cosmos, we will project that divinity on to others. Much of the fame-worship in our culture is, and always has been, connected to our inability to recognize the god in ourselves. Glamour of all kinds is associated with Neptune and the 12th.
Inconjuncts in general are notoriously difficult to resolve. The inconjunct to the seventh illustrates the difficulty achieving divinity through other. The 12th house provides a clue to what we need to incorporate into the psyche in order to claim our own 12th house gifts. In doing so, we heal ourselves.
People who make 12th house contacts with us can seem to have godlike powers. Often they embody the very thing that we need to find to heal ourselves, that thing that we just can’t grasp. If the relationship does develop, the experience can feel other-worldly, fated, destined. We are drawn to it, and it to us, by often mysterious and indirect means (Neptune). This person seems to clarify some previously unknown and unclear part of our psyches. They can seem crucial to our psychological survival. They may make us feel complete (for a time).
Depending on the connection, 12th house contacts can also bring forth ‘others’ who arise from the darker parts of our psychological depths. The relationship may expose weaknesses that we never knew we had, or make very, very clear what we need to do to ‘fix’ ourselves in this area. We are often so clueless about the 12th that we are surprised by the issues that arise there. Our self-undoing is not so much about the hand of fate as it is about our habitual selective blindness. Relationships that touch our 12th house will often cause the scales to fall from our eyes.
Mysterious, strange, unlikely, other-worldly, ‘that couldn’t happen in a million years’ type relationships are also found with heavy 12th house contacts. Some 12th house relationships would take three Shakespeares a year and a half to come up with a plot dense enough to match the way these two unlikely people are brought together, with all the missed connections and strange synchronicities and bizarre coincidences along the way. It seems as though only a higher power could have arranged the coming together. This is the thrust towards wholeness of the 12th, the compelling impulse of resonance, of Venus/Neptune’s power of completion. I never cease to be amazed that the lengths the universe goes to teach us our lessons. Alas, heavy 12th house contacts are not often lasting ones, unless there is other glue in the chart to hold it together. Remember, it’s the house of sacrifice. Once we have learned our lessons, we are meant to let go.
I’ve always been uneasy with the simple explanation that all folks whose planets fall in our 12th house have karmic ties with us. I’ve seen greater evidence with contacts to the Moon, the Moon’s Nodes, the Vertex, Pluto, and the MC/IC. But people who have planets who fall in our 12th house almost always have a great deal to teach us about how we can be our greater selves, rather than our lesser. They may define our path towards our own wholeness. They may even show us the way towards our own immortality.
Ultimately, the 12th house is about finding and living what our soul requires of us. This is easier for some than for others. Projections are notoriously hard to withdraw, and take a great deal of self-awareness and hard work. The lessons from 12th house relationships can bring us further along on our path to recognizing our own divinity, but they cannot take us there. When we claim our 12th house gods for ourselves, we may, finally, find heaven on earth.
See The Inner Script, which continues the discussion of finding relationship signatures in and between natal charts.