Vicino Orsini

The 12th House

Underwater sculpture by Jason deCaires Taylor
Underwater sculpture by Jason deCaires Taylor

In the season of the eclipses, what better time to ponder the enigmatical qualities of the 12th house?

What is the 12th House?

To start, we might say it's the subconscious mind...

That which is hidden...

Attitudes carried over from the past...

Karma (as the Law of Attraction)...

The night sea journey...

And, so much more.

But what is the 12th house, really, in tangible terms? How to get our hands on it?

Pinning Down the 12th House

Pier Francesco Orsini
"You who are wandering the world looking for great marvels, come here where everything speaks of love and art." - Vicino Orsini introducing his Parco dei Mostri, the Park of Monsters.

Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, can feel confused by this department of life. After all, it rules the liminal states of neither/nor, out to sea, not one thing, or the other.

It's slippery terrain to navigate, one that would better be 'shown not told' through music, art, dance, poetry, nature . . . Every time you try to pin the meaning of the 12th down, it changes into something else. Like the god Proteus!

Proteus as an Archetype of the 12th

Do you know the story? Proteus was the elusive god of "sea change", symbolic of the  constantly shifting nature of the sea. He could foretell the future, though he would only answer someone if they were capable of holding him as he morphed through all his myriad forms. Because of his relationship to the sea, Proteus is both a symbol of the unconscious (subconscious) as well as dreams, imagination, vision and emotion. The key is how to handle these incorporeal energies so they will reveal their truths.

Astrologers & the 12th House

The 12th house is the third of the Water houses, cadent in position, associated with Pisces and ruled by Jupiter (traditional) and Neptune (modern).

Quite likely, if you study old astrology books, you'll find the 12th house is described with heavy labels. Isabel Hickey calls it house of the Self-undoing, where we 'serve or suffer', the house of drawn shades, confinement, incarceration, hospitalization, limitations . . . It's not looking like a holiday destination from this perspective.

But these ideas about the 12th house come from an Judeo-Christian-Islamic background of astrology, not leaning toward notions of Karma (as the law of attraction), the quantum Field, Source, infinite possibilities or the collective unconscious.

Amphitrite-4
Amphitrite bronze statue by Simon Morris.

Open Your Mind

So, to understand the 12th, I invite you to explore a broader perspective. Altered states of mind, meditation, the depths of the subconscious, the collective, where we lose our ego identity to find our Self. Source. Joseph Campbell's Hero with a Thousand Faces describes this as the liminal zone where the hero is 'lost' in the woods, an essential part of the journey.

Think also of the 12th as a repository and wellspring of archetypes, stories, myths, metaphors and  fairy tales, dreams (and nightmares), rich with layers of meaning. The house of the Muse.

Remember, the 12th is like Proteus; you must hold onto him before the secrets are revealed. Don't give up!

Back to the Basics

The Planets are the Energy - WHAT is acting.

The Signs are the costumes - HOW the actor portrays her role.

The Houses are the stages - WHERE the action takes place.

For those who want to cement this deeper, here's a quick 5 minute video tutorial on the basic building blocks of astrology.

The 12th House and the Sea

Essentially, the 12th house takes us under. It is more a dreamscape than land, filled with states of creativity, imagination and alternate awareness. Here we can immerse in the collective. Think of  hospitals, rehab, prisons, all institutions where individuality blurs. It is the house of synchronicity and all that rises from these meaningful coincidences.

William Ricketts Sanctuary - 12th House
Gateway to the 12th house? William Rickettes Sanctuary

The Gateless Way

Is the 12th house really negative?

No more than a gateway can be negative. The 12th is an essential landscape of being, filled with wonders of the non-rational kind.

The great way is gateless, reached by a thousand paths. Know this and you walk free in the Universe. – Zen saying

Consider the 12th a place to experience everything; exclude notion. Perhaps it is in "suffering" that a sense of compassion is gained. And maybe it is only through the "limitation" that a deeper relationship with the inner world is explored.

And isn't it through dreams, art, and storytelling that we find new meaning and purpose?

Something of our surety, identity and ego must drown in the 12th to rise renewed. More whole, more complete.

Like Water for Soul

The 12th is like water. It can be a refreshing stream, a cleansing pool or a huge tsunami heading toward shore. In this way, it's neither 'good' nor 'bad', but holds our most poignant experiences, dreamed, imagined or real.

Try to accept that the 12th house is an enigma to the conscious mind, but in the world of dreams and symbols, its meaning comes alive. The deep ocean or lake of the mermaid, the well that leads to Mother Holle, the ecstatic rites of Dionysus and the reflection of a resent dream image all belong to the 12th.

"Amphitrite," by Simon Morris, off Grand Cayman
"Amphitrite," by Simon Morris, found off Grand Cayman

The borderland

This house is the borderland where myths emerge into waking life. It's a humbling thought. Where consciousness is seen from the perspective of a veiled world.

Interestingly, Jung, who worked extensively with dreams, did not accept being called wise or even a sage. He said, “The difference between most people and myself is that for me the “dividing walls” are transparent. That is my peculiarity.”

This transparency of the dividing walls, belongs to the twelfth house. Behind the veil...

Explore the sign on the Cusp of the 12th

Here are some ideas for each sign that rules the 12th house. Start by looking at your own chart and others you know. Then expand by looking at the 12th house ruler(s) and any planets in the 12th. What happens to the 'actors' when they walk across this particular stage?

AriesARIES on the 12th house cusp

With Aries on the cusp of the twelfth house, you need to develop a sense of independence through a connection to the unconscious mind. Your identity might form around being a mouthpiece for the collective.  But, it's a paradox. Aries must find individuality in the hidden undercurrents of the collective unconscious, art, dreams and service to those less fortunate. Look to Mars by sign and house for more expression.

TaurusTAURUS on the 12th house cusp:

The Bull on the cusp of the twelfth house means the core values, sensuality and security must come from the depths. Remember, the twelfth is a reservoir of feelings, thoughts and impressions.  This is the sphere of diminished personal identity and blurred boundaries.  For the Bull to find true values and build sustaining resources , he must serve the collective in some practical, tangible way. Look to Venus by sign and house for more expression.

GeminiGEMINI on the 12th house cusp:

When Gemini sits on the cusp of the twelfth house, the conscious mind must explore the unconscious.  The need to learn, communicate and share ideas reside somewhere in the collective unconscious, blurring the line between rational thought and intuition. The duality of Gemini may manifest in moods swinging from humor to profound wisdom.  The need is to experience all manifestations of the collective, making this placement extremely active, at least on an internal level. Look to Mercury by sign and house for more expression.

CancerCANCER on the 12th house cusp:

The shy Crab on the cusp of the twelfth means the need to connect on a feeling level extends past the personal to the greater whole. The twelfth house represents all that is concealed, the secret unconscious of ourselves and of the collective. With Cancer here, the quest for love carries over from the past, finding communion in helping those less fortunate.  But how can we establish a sense of emotional security in the unseen real? Cancer must find the answer. Look to the Moon by sign and house for more expression.

LeoLEO on the 12th house cusp:

The Li0n on the cusp of the twelfth house indicates the drive for significance and appreciation falls into the sea of the collective unconscious.  This is the house of hidden meanings, secret needs and movements governed by the deeper feelings of the collective.  With Leo’s power here, there is a necessity for self-understanding, connection to and an orientation towards service and support of others.  When Leo gives to others less fortunate, or expresses collective truths and longings, the feelings of fulfillment expand. Must shine for others as well as self. Look to the Sun by sign and house for more expression.

Virgo VIRGO on the 12th house cusp:

When Virgo sits on the cusp of the twelfth, the need to create order out of chaos expands.  Here Virgo seeks to gather, sort, select and make use of energy that is by nature without definition, beginning or end.  Virgo may shift into hyper-drive with the swirling soup of unconscious images, hoping to contain them. This can result in genius creative expression through art, literature, dance or music. It can also manifest as compulsive energy, unable to relax or let go. Virgo might harbor secret fears about health, hygiene and the body.  In this case, letting the art, or cause, 'carry' the energy frees the spirit. Look to Mercury by sign and house for more expression.

LibraLIBRA on the 12th house cusp:

With Libra found on the cusp of the twelfth house, the need to partner falls into the realm behind the veil.  This is the domain of hidden feelings, taboo desires and karmic, counter-intentions, unformed artistic and literary expression and longings to merge with the divine.  With Libra here, sensitivity to others, to beauty and nature and to passion/longing expresses through relationship. Somehow, forming partnerships that help others, or for the greater good, can bring a sense of warmth, composure and symmetry. The feeling is 'karmic' or fated connections. Look to Venus by sign and house for more expression.

ScorpioSCORPIO on the 12th house cusp:

When Scorpio resides on the cusp of the twelfth house, the need to merge with others in meaningful ways, wield power, and periodically destroy and re-create movements in the collective, falls into the domain of the sea, the muse, the past.  Think deep unconscious, the collective soup where ideas, fads, trends, spiritual longing, taboo feelings and all things creative live and breathe. And, they all vie for manifestation. In the twelfth, Scorpio’s depths go just a little bit deeper, the longings a litter more obsessive and the passions a bit more powerful. Look to Mars and Pluto by sign and house for more expression.

SagittariusSAGITTARIUS on the 12th house cusp:

The Centaur on the cusp of the twelfth house needs to discover, explore and express the mysteries of the collective unconscious. A speaker for those without a voice. Here the house of the unseen real, where sweeping feelings from rage to rapture, heralds the call to adventure. When Sagittarius goes exploring in these waters, there is no telling what will be brought to the surface. With this placement, the meaning in life hides in the depths of the collective unconscious, not in the outer world. Look to Jupiter by sign and house for more expression.

CapricornCAPRICORN on the 12th house cusp:

The Sea-goat on the cusp of the twelfth house needs to gain respect and establish material security in the watery collective unconscious. The source of dreams, the world of hidden powers, collective thoughts and archetypes provide the matrix for growth and accomplishment.  To strive only for self-importance contrasts the twelfth house requirement of service to, and immersion in, the collective. Yet, to totally give the Self over to the needs of others denies the innate principle if Capricorn.  Clearly, a balance must be struck and maintained. Look to Saturn by sign and house for more expression.

AquariusAQUARIUS on the 12th house cusp:

When the Water-bearer rules the twelfth house, the need for freedom and unconventionality expresses through the collective. Sometimes, this can manifest as a longing for the dimly remembered yet idealized spiritual home. The drive to take a different approach to service, creativity and unity links to collective institutions, research and reflection of dreams, unconscious patterns and all things hidden or repressed.  With this sign of freedom and rebellion in the house of confinement, innovation is born. Look to Saturn and Uranus by sign and house for more expression.

piscesPISCES on the 12th house cusp:

The sign of Fishes naturally rules the twelfth and feels right at home in the chaos.  Here the need to dissolve boundaries and merge with the whole of life wants to express through the world of dreams, synchronicity and service. Compassion reaches out to those less fortunate with a healing heart. Pisces is seeking the ineffable, and in the twelfth house, that means the divine resides in nature, the sea, those less fortunate or lost along the way. A prison cell, a charity, a work or art, a song or dance can be the gateless way to Source. Look to Jupiter and Neptune by sign and house for more expression.

Thoughts? Ideas? Myths?