Home » Astrology » The 12th house: Know thyself, or else

The 12th house: Know thyself, or else

Today, class, I would like to take you down into the depths of your psyche, so come with me on a 12th house excursion, as we dive to the deep and see what life under the sea is like.

For that’s what goes on in this house: all the buried sediment of your life lives here.

You know those sea creatures who barely have eyes, and survive by feeling their way through the inky black sludge that is the bottom of the deep sea floor? They are the denizens of your depths, and will be our tentative, sightless guides as we ponder this murk.

The 12th house in your chart is either tenanted or it’s not. If a tenant is squatting there, it’s likely you only know about it because, like a ghost tramping about in your cellar, you hear it go bump in the night. You haven’t heard denial until you’ve heard someone who has no idea their 12th house planet controls them, deny that’s what’s happening.

  • Pluto in the 12th? I’m not controlling! Are you kidding? I give everyone complete freedom, until they disagree with me, that is.
  • Saturn in the 12th? My childhood was idyllic, except for Uncle Rutabaga, and we don’t talk about HIM.
  • Sun in the 12th? I own my own power, except my husband takes care of all the little ‘details’ I can’t handle.
  • Moon in the 12th? I’m never sick. I just have this persistent cough.
  • Venus in the 12th? I’m gorgeous, I know, that’s what everyone says, but does this make me look fat?
  • Mars—you guessed it. This one is never angry.
  • Mercury hides their intelligence, or is inordinately proud of it and can’t let anyone know.

Planets in the 12th tend to cover their abilities the way cats hide litterbox offerings.

It’s an insecure house, a house of inferiority, because planets here are uncomfortable. They feel guilty for existing, and then they never get the attention they so desperately want. This is the house of introverts and shy people, people who struggle too often to feel okay about expressing themselves, who never believe they are okay as they are.

I am sad just writing this, but there is hope, 12th house people! You’ll feel better knowing that you’ll have to earn this happiness, though. 12th house people, like 6th house people, want to suffer a little (okay, they want to suffer a lot) to know their trek on this planet was worth it, and are happiest when the world obliges by strewing their already-thorny path with boulders.

This gives them something to struggle against, and that’s how they know they’re alive, too much of the time. Hence the denial, running away, and tragic ends. I strongly suspect Anna Karenina had Venus in the 12th, and if she were real, she’d have Pluto there as well, preferably in Pisces, for dramatic effect.

Hope lies in acceptance of one’s self as merely mortal, something the true 12th house person has some trouble with because they come into this life aware of truths most of us only dimly discern. Divinity and attainment of the godhead seem to be just out of reach for the 12th house person, but because they are so close to the source of inner knowing and wisdom, this house has the potential, like no other, to produce people who have true humility, true goodness and purity of spirit.

Your family of origin gave you what lies here; you learned it like the little sponge you once were, absorbing this energy, so don’t be surprised if you are unconscious you possess these abilities. For those who believe in karma, this house represents what you own and what you owe. For those who believe in past lives, much of what you used to be can be found here.

It’s the land of Ward Robe that leads to Narnia, the pirate’s bounty in Davy Jone’s locker. It’s buried away for a reason—so no one can find it easily. Therein lies the work of a lifetime, and it’s why we go to church, to psychiatrists, and to astrologers: to find a way to unlock the door to this room.

12th house planets are usually not overt until you bring the energy to the surface. This might come after some life trauma, but it’s more likely that insight will require trips to visit a therapist, a past life hypnotist, a non-traditional medical practitioner, a medium, an astrologer, the church of Scientology, or practitioners of Zen Buddhism—any of a number of resources designed to assist you in suppressing your conscious, rational mind, and release the messages your inner world is trying to show you.

Many use drugs to facilitate this release, but drugs are not strictly necessary on this journey, although unless it’s life-endangering, I say give it a go. During 12th house transits, I remember the words of my allergy doctor: “Go ahead, mix your meds. Who knows? You might attain Nirvana.”

The 12th house also represents a time of year, in that the Sun transits through the 12th house at a certain time of year for you. Each year, you get another opportunity to go inside your psyche and feel around, much like Mary Poppins searching inside her carpet bag, or Pandora rummaging around her box.

Ask yourself if you are especially “tired” this time of year, if you find you need more time alone, more time to ruminate, more time to allow whatever comes up during daydreams and fantasies and sleep to simply emerge.

Do you find that you have a lack of energy? That’s your body’s way of saying you’ve been living too much in the hectic light of day, and now it’s time for 12th house slumber. As with dreams and nightmares, the 12th house does not mean your mind is inactive. Instead, it is being prepared, like the ground lying fallow in the winter, for a new season of activity.

But what happens to the ground as it lies fallow? I’ll tell you what happens, since we’re extending this metaphor. First of all, it “rests.” This means it isn’t used for new plantings. The ground has become depleted of oxygen and other nutrients, all of which have gone into creating whatever was recently harvested.

During the transit of the Sun through the 12th, attention is being brought to this part of your reality; you are, temporarily, used up, and it’s time to rest and let nature work its miracle of healing and regeneration. The sludge that lies at the bottom of the oceans keeps many life forms alive with the nutrients that fall there, and this is what is going on in your 12th house psyche; dark stuff, the stuff of dreams, fairytales and nightmares, fall to the bottom and occasionally get dredged up.

Dark yucky sludge is not pleasant to look at, so it’s usually sifted through and allowed to fall gently back to the ocean’s floor again.

However, sometimes the sifting process that occurs when you take your deep sea submersible down there, unearths something useful, beautiful, or amazing. It is my belief that no other house is more capable of self-transformation and true attainment of spiritual truths, and I’m not saying that out of ego; my own 12th house is untenanted, so I have nothing at stake here, I just report what the voices tell me.

However, the 12th house is a potentially spiritual house, one that requires the 40 metaphorical years of isolation in the desert to find the treasure chest lying inside the submerged wreck everyone likes to put in their aquarium.

How to attain spirituality in the 12th? First, by owning what belongs to you. With the 12th, it’s too easy to see others as the problem (unconscious prejudices learned in childhood live here, along with everything you do not like about yourself, as well as untapped strengths and abilities you disown for one reason or another).

Everyone you’ve ever known who declares they’re nothing like the people they deplore has a weak, vulnerable, all-too-negatively human side, which lurks like a noisy ghost under the floorboards of this house. Someone else’s planets falling in your 12th tend to make your weaknesses transparent to them, a very uncomfortable feeling when they see right through your defense mechanisms and call you on all your tricks and denials.

Transits through the 12th might bring all of your inadequacies to light in extremely uncomfortable ways, until you own your negative self and the energy you expend on denial is no longer suppressed. I know it’s hard, but think of these transits as opportunities to know yourself better. Or else.

41 thoughts on “The 12th house: Know thyself, or else

  1. No one is as shocked as the 12th house person to find something out that was or is obvious to everyone else. ;-) There is a sense of being asleep for most of one’s life, and it’s too bad the native gets put down for this, since the sleep is necessary for something else to come to light. Lots of fairytale figures sleep through the boring bits. :-)

  2. How eye-opening, says the blind woman with Chiron and Ceres in 12th house Capricorn and MARS on the cusp of the Asc! Can’t tell you what a hellish ride the past few years have been with this blind-fold on as Pluto transits these Planet/asteroids! Going in to seclusion has helped a LOT and your suggestions are great! The things I have tried are therapy (traditional) and soon past life, psychics, meds, cds on self-hypnosis and guided imagery, reading, reading, reading to try and unravel these hidden inner mysteries (numerology and astrology have become obsessions), and the next thing I will try is auricular therapy. If all else fails, there’s always John of God in Brazil, (haha)…Pluto is not great for maintaining sanity as it transits the 12th when it hits anything in the 12th….He leaves in February and I am counting the days…But I must say in all honesty, I have truly grown in the area of spiritual depth and self-knowledge. It has been the Dark Night of the Soul though. If a person could WILL themselves to go to sleep and never wake up…well, I would have been gone long ago. Today I am beginning to get a glimmer of the light at the end of the 12th house tunnel. I can almost see the ascendant! Yippee!

  3. thanx for your thoughts.finally I have found someone who “speaks my language”.I am quite new to astrology but I guess it’s my sun,mercury and jupiter in 12th house that tells me to dig deeper and depper into the realms of my underworld.I shall follow you you here on my quest of acquiring the knowledge of self-discovery.thank you

  4. I love this post and found it very thoughtful and well written. Even the images you chose to accompany it are hauntingly beautiful – they speak to me and closely mirror images I’ve encountered through dreams, healing work and art I’ve been inspired to create. With natal Uranus and Pluto in the 12th (and both strongly aspected), I plan on bookmarking it to refer back to whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed – it’s special.

    Oddly enough, just days ago the Sun finished its annual transit through my natal 12th, and precious sleep/rest was mostly denied me – exhausted as I was, I’ve only now begun to sleep again. Finding your post today feels a bit like stumbling across Divine encouragement, so thanks. :)

    • Thank you very much for your comments, and for subscribing! It’s always good to have a new reader. The 12th house is of great interest to many people, I find; it’s obviously not easily understood, and so many pieces of the puzzle seem to lurk there, hiding away in hidden cupboards and behind closed doors… so transits through that house might help, or might befuddle until clarity is accomplished. One can but hope for clarity in the gloomy murk. ;-)

  5. Thank you for writing such an inspiring article for this 12th houser. It gives me hope that better things are to come for me after the long sleep!

    12th house Sun, Pluto, Saturn, Jupiter

    • Don’t conflate the 12th house with Pisces. One is a location and a place for planets to dwell; the other is a sign in the celestial heavens. Each has its own characteristics, not all of which overlap neatly.

      • Oops. That was a Freudian slip because at one time, I did conflate the two. I meant t say in the 12th house. But anywho….for me personally, anger is definitely experienced but at the same time, there is always a persistent 6th sense telling me that very very bad things will happen if I respond the way I’m inclined to and they probably would. Whereas other people would get away with expressing anger, it would cause serious setbacks for me in the form of an untold number of new enemies, imprisonment or worse. Even the simplest expressions of anger are met with opposition. It’s like the universe says that I’m not allowed to be angry

    • Do you mean you’re a neophyte about these two planetoids/asteroids, or that you’re a neophyte in general? I don’t believe in doing readings out of context with the rest of the chart, because these placements do not function alone. I’d prefer seeing your entire chart in total before making a comment about the way these two might function for you, but in general, 12th house points/planets tend to work pretty much the way I’ve written about them in the above blog entry… they are there, but you might not have claimed the power of each one. Or, in the case of Chiron in the 12th (in aspect to what, other than Pallas?) you might have chronic problems that are hard to pin down. Anything in the 12th is usually murky or hidden, and we’re quite often in denial about the energy. If you’re not, with that combination (Pallas in conjunction to Chiron) I’d wonder if you were a nurse or a carer of some sort. Someone who works to heal others? Or you’ve had people over-relying on your strength to care for them. Again, without the entire chart, this is just guess-work.

  6. awesome article and it comes at a great time in my life…..I have Pluto transiting through my 12th house/Capricorn and bringing up alot of things for me!! I have no planets here however I do have natal Pluto and Sun in Libra in 8th house and am Cappy rising with poor Saturn intercepted in my 7th!!! Needless to say I am going through some serious transformations!!

    • I completely understand. For any number of reasons, and although I don’t have anything in the 12th natally, the Pluto transit through the 12th was the hardest transit I’ve ever endured, but then, Pluto is strong in my chart. I felt like I was scraped out and served up raw. Now I’m a new, clean and shiny person. Sort of. Thanks for reading, and I’m glad you got something out of it!

  7. Pluto right on ascendant and approaching cap sun at 23 degrees // considering solar reading soon for this year should be a doozy–

  8. This post is helping me with understanding how the 12th house 5-planet stellium in my solar return chart might be operating. I can relate to the theme of cleaning out the closets — and claiming what is mine hidden beneath the clutter. My job this year? Bring these inherited gifts into the light of day. Thanks, Alison.

  9. It was an awesome explanation and perception on 12th house that I have never read before. Also once we know the real meaning behind it, it would help a lot to get over it. Thank You !!!
    Can you please tell how would the married life and Mercury and Venus Dhasa be for my friend with below details. (Pisces Ascendant; Aquarius Moon Sign; Mercury,Venus and Moon in 12th house)
    Date of Birth : 28/03/1987 ; Time : 5.45 AM; Place of Birth : Kaatu Mannar Koil, India (5.30 hrs East of GMT);
    Longitude : 79.43 E, Latitude: 11.24 N

  10. hi. i wanted to learn more about my 12th house planets. and yr post was really useful. i jus wanted to ask for more advice regarding planets in 12th house, as i have 5 planets in the 12th house, and it is said to be more difficult for ppl having many planets in the 12th house to solve their problems.

    i have (aquarius) venus , (capricorn) mars , (aquarius) jupiter , (aquarius) uranus , and , (capricorn) neptune in the 12th house, and i wonder if u can help me . as i find my 12th house too complicated for me to understand. especially so, with the many aspects connecting to the rest of my chart planets, and those among the 12th house planets. thanks.

  11. Hi a great article and its good to read more on this magical topic. I have a 12th house sun and its depths have been a life long struggle to understand and bring to light, and thats with the aid of having studied astrology. I definitly feel that most times I am not really part of this world yet still physically a part of course, the dancing with the barries of worlds between worlds is the greatest experience of having a sun in the 12th house, there are no limits. That of course can extend either way.
    Thanks for your work


  12. Really nice post. I am just begining to study astrology and your article has been very helpful to understand the 12th house. Just have a question, what if the Black Moon is in this house? Congratulations, this is a great site!

    • Well, Enrique, I’d need to see the entire chart. BML is, however, a powerful influence wherever she or it, however you think of it, is placed. What you’d need to do, of course, is take a look at the aspects made to the rest of the chart; what does BML aspect in the 12th? Let’s say a man (you, possibly) has a point or planet posited in the 12th that is associated with feminine types of energy—any planet or point found in the 12th is most likely expressing in a relatively unconscious way, unless the person is determined to see him or herself clearly. That’s one way to interpret planets in the 12th; another is to say that the person has a tendency toward expressing 12th house type energies, such as an interest in things or issues related to the 12th (the list is long, and includes such diverse items as ‘prisons’ and spirituality, broadly defined).

      So anyway, you have this 12th house, which covers any number of issues, and you find a feminine-type energy in it, and/but you’re male. How does this energy then express? Given the way most people function, the greatest likelihood is that your relationships with women or with feminine-type people reflect unconscious issues having to do with BML, a controversial point in the chart, but generally associated with troubled energy. Look here for more specifics on BML: http://www.astro.com/astrology/in_lilith_e.htm and http://darkstarastrology.com/triple-moon-goddess-lilith-astrology/

      I do not use BML on a regular basis, and will generally only look at it if a client starts talking about certain issues s/he’s having trouble with. But my take on a planet or point falling in your 12th is that it requires the native to take a close look at how s/he is not expressing that energy consciously, because the greatest likelihood is that s/he is probably seeing that behavior in others but not in her- or himself.

      In other words, 12th house planets tend to be projected, if the native is not consciously aware of their energies. Not only that, but one tends to attract that issue into your life in some form or other and then gradually bring the energy into consciousness; depending on what this involves, the process can be very painful, or just protracted, but the goal is always to push the individual towards wholeness, and seeing the larger picture.

      Ignoring the 12th house usually means you live out the planets/energy through someone who brings that energy into your life, eventually forcing you to own your own behaviors and attitudes. These would, most likely, be fairly ‘dark’ energies with the 12th combined with BML, but that’s just one opinion. I would imagine there are positive spins to put on that combination, but to be sure about any of it, I’d have to see the whole chart.

      I do not necessarily see the 12th house as ‘always’ representing any one particular style of behavior, but since the 12th has the glow of the group mind (the masses) about it, you can also see it as one of those influences that makes it possible that the person involved will express whatever planet or point is posited there, beloved of the masses or equally reviled by the masses. The 12th is not always expressed only personally, after all; sometimes the native is expressing the will of the masses, although I tend to see that combination more with the personal planets.

  13. I’m a 12th house Sun, Mercury and Moon thought this one is really close to my ASC.
    However your interpretation is one of the best I have read! It really let me thinking and saying:aha!, yes! i’m like that.
    My sun is in Leo, so of course i want to shine sometimes, but i now understand that maybe i’m not born to that and I accept myself.=)
    Actually, I think I like having a 12th h sun. Well, it’s obvious since it allows me to be alone all the time and that’s something I love <3
    The only thing that kind of bothers me is that I have read a 12th h sun has Piscis energy, so I feel I tend to fall in the victim category sometimes and to project my personality on people and in a very neptunian way, i think?…

  14. I have the Sun, Pluto, Saturn, Jupiter and Mercury in the 12 house and have been avoiding finding out what it really meant for many years.
    Finally some things happened in my life and i got to this point. I was ready to find out what is waiting for me in the shadows.
    Thank you for making it into a beautiful deep world worth exploring.

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