The 6th house: I live to serve you, master

In a wonderful movie you really should see if you haven’t already, Gosford Park (2001), set in 1934 England, a manor house is populated by both the uppercrust of British society and its staff of servants. Gosford Park is, on the surface, a murder mystery, but it is much more than that: it’s a social commentary on the values and mores of its time. Servants who worked in manor houses of that era were interviewed by the director, Robert Altman, so that he could tell the actors exactly where one placed the fish fork (above the plate) and how much space is correct between each place setting.

If you think that’s all there is to being a good servant, though, you’re wrong. Being a servant is as much a psychospiritual attitude as it is a skill set. A truly effective servant must be able, in the words of Helen Mirren‘s character, Mrs. Wilson, the chief housemaid, to anticipate the needs of the people she serves. “Do you know what makes me so good at my job?” she asks of a visiting under-housemaid. “I know when they will be tired, and the beds are turned down. I know when they will be hungry, and the meals are prepared. I am the perfect servant. I have no life.”

The key phrase you’ve latched on to, no doubt, is where I’m going with this: “I have no life.” This means the perfect servant is invisible. She has no needs of her own that interfere with fulfilling the needs of those she serves. To all intents and purposes, she doesn’t exist in her own right; she exists to serve others, which gives her her role and function in society (a role, it must be said, provides, or provided, many servants with a deep sense of fulfillment; more on that later).

I think you can see a fundamental problem with this set-up. In postmodern society, after two major world wars and severe economic repressions and depressions, England’s values and socioeconomic needs were forced to change. Society in England became somewhat more egalitarian. However, the reality of servants lingers in many countries today, especially in economically depressed areas that maintain strict hierarchies, where there are the haves and the have nots, and servants are cheap and the individual, with all our pernickety beliefs in fairness, and being treated as equals, are not taken into consideration because they don’t have to be.

Without getting into a long sociopolitical diatribe about human trafficking and slavery, (although I would like to remind you briefly that those are real concerns), now it would be better if I skip off them and talk about something much less difficult to solve, which is the spiritual essence of the 6th house. This house is where I’d look if I were asked for an opinion on the chart of someone dealing with inhumane abuse, just like I’d look to the 6th if I were dealing with a more subtle sadomasochistic relationship between a master and her servant or slave.

Let’s look at what it takes to be a servant. For many, it’s considered a degrading self-destructive act, wherein you lose your individuality while you take care of the needs of the other, selflessly. However, for many who willingly give up their egoic self to another’s needs, the desire to humbly submit to the will of another is compelling. Why is that, you ask? Well, it’s a valid and important question. It can be extremely hard for regular people, with forceful wills, to understand why anyone would be willing to kneel (literally or metaphorically) at the feet of another, yet this is the nature of the 6th house: for the individual to begin to understand that it does not exist on its own, it exists within a world of people who have equally forceful egos. At some point, says the nature of this house, we must all give in, give way, give up our “self” to become more than we are.

Ah. But how to do that? For it isn’t easy giving up your will to the needs of others. I’ve tried it. It’s a hard row to plow, although there is much to be learned from this as a spiritual path.

You begin by serving someone else’s needs, willingly and gracefully. This requires an awful lot of maturity, I’ve found. If the 6th house experience reminds us of anything, it is that there’s a reason why service to another requires acceptance of a spiritual path, a willingness and ability to give up your own needs and ego. In relationship to strengths we garner from the opposite house, in this case, the 12th, we are more or less able to give to another based on what we can bring to relationships. What are you able to give up to make a relationship healthier? This equation can be found in the 12th in relationship to the 6th.

One of the primary reasons the idea of the houses works for me is that there is duality inherent in each house combination. The shadow of the 6th is the 12th. It complements, supports, and at times, undermines, the 6th house experience. Look to the 12th to understand why you want to give up something to another, or why you’re willing to work like a dog in a job you hate; or why you get emotionally ill to the point of physical sickness if you’re mistreated. The concept of taking care of yourself in all ways belongs to the 6/12 axis, because your physical health is affected by that which you cannot necessarily see: your emotional health. Everything you cannot see that is eating away at you is symbolised by your 12th house, and how you manifest everything you can’t see is symbolised by your 6th.

Take these houses seriously; they represent forces that control your everyday life in ways that the West has become more and more aware of over time, but still does not appreciate to the extent we should. The overall theme, then, of the 6/12 axis is one of sacrifice: what are you willing and able to give up to take care of yourself and others? Look first to the 12th if you want to know why you feel the way you do, but look to the 6th to see how your need to subsume self to the other manifests. In both cases, the urge is subconscious, but the 6th will at least allow you to see your behavior in a way the 12th cannot.

The 6th is the house where we begin to accept others into our worldview. How we navigate our relationship to the outside world begins with what of ourselves we’re willing to give. Ask yourself, how giving am I, what do I have to give that I didn’t necessarily know about, and then look to the 6/12 axis to see how that will manifest for you. Your chart is an indicator of what you’re capable of; the houses are one way of looking at the entire complicated notion of ‘self.’ The 6/12 axis asks us to determine how much of what we’ve learned so far, from the 12th to the 5th houses, that we can now give away. This is where serving someone else comes from: internal and material resources we know we can spare and offer to others. Emerging from the 1st through the 5th houses with something to offer is crucial to this ability to give it all away.

We often spoof the servant-master relationship because we’re so uncomfortable with its inherent inequalities
TimePassages Astrology Software

15 thoughts on “The 6th house: I live to serve you, master”

  1. Thank you very much, this article was fantastic. As a practitioner of devotional yoga “Bhakti Yoga” this has helped me to understand the greatest spiritual potential of the sixth house. The mood of selfless service:

    “The happiness of God, is my happiness”

  2. I have my Sun here and Venus and Mercury. I often say, “I don’t have a life, I have a to-do list.”

    Loved this post.

    1. You are very kind. I will have to write more stuff if people are actually reading the blog. 🙂 It’s always great when someone finds one’s writing…!

  3. Love your blog! One of the best to explain the real feeling behind everyhouse.

    Specially the 6-12 axis you talk about, also the feeling that you must serve and specially the meaning:- I´dont have a life! Ring so true when I think about my sister. Also that the 12:house can compliment but also undermine the 6:th.
    My sister has her Sun,Mercury,Venus,Mars,Jupiter,Uranus,Neptune,Lilith,Vesta all in the 6:th house! (She has Saturn,Juno,Ceres,Chiron in the 12:th.)

    I never known anyone working so hard for everbodyelse the family,and the customers.
    They have 4 teenage children and a familycompany that they rule. She also has one of the most cleanest homes that I ever walked into. 🙂

    Myself I have Moon in the 6:th house.

    But I have Sun,Venus,Mars,Pluto in the 12:th house.
    Ha ha can you understand the difficulties by having this opposites in my life.
    I also love to serve and help people. But People seem having hard time to catch me and understand how much things I also have done but in another way than my sister. Sometimes I talk to people who have known me for a cuple of years. They Often understand that my sister is very active and workaholic. But they really doesn´t understand that amout me. That I have similar needs but in another way.The only one that really know me understand
    me better is my sister.

    Maybe whe choosed eachother before we incarnated to be in the same family.
    To light up eachothers life.

    Thanks again for one of the best blogs.´

    1. Thank you so much for reading; I’m really glad you get something out of this blog! I do think the 6/12 axis is one of the hardest for people to understand (for a variety of reasons). A long time ago, I remember when I first started trying to make some sense of what I read about those houses. It took many, many years before I realised there is a deeper, more esoteric meaning to the 6th house and its association with “sickness” and “service.” For me personally, these houses became easier to understand after I’d had what I would consider serious transits through them. There’s nothing like having to sit with the energy of a house during the time you’ve got Saturn, Pluto, Neptune, or Uranus transiting to make you aware of what some of the messages of a house are trying to tell you.

  4. Thanks for this article and the others. I have Saturn conj Chiron in Pisces 6th house opposing Uranus conjunct Pluto in Virgo in the 12th, a tremendous gift, which I approaching 50 am still unwrapping..

  5. Great article.. one of the best thoughts on 6/12th axis I have read and very useful.
    ( I have Saturn in Cap in 6th opposite to Venus Jupiter Mars in 12th cancer)
    So I got to understand this thoroughly. Particularly,

    “to understand why anyone would be willing to kneel (literally or metaphorically) at the feet of another, yet this is the nature of the 6th house: for the individual to begin to understand that it does not exist on its own, it exists within a world of people who have equally forceful egos. At some point, says the nature of this house, we must all give in, give way, give up our “self” to become more than we are.

    Nice lines… thanks for ur “service”;-)

  6. Dear Alison, I couldn´t find an article about The Middle Heaven in charts. Because the case is a Sun in Virgo (and Virgo´s natural home is the 6th), I am allocating my post in this article. I hope it is okay…

    I would like to ask you, if you are into this aspect of the Mid Heaven, whether does the Sun in this position (cuspid or ruling the whole chart, and in Virgo, 10th House) give a strong Ego.
    This case I´m bringing now does also present an “activated cross” (as I´ve heard calling them to some Astrologists in my country… although I am translating) of “mutable” signs: Sun in Virgo, Ascendant and Mars in Sagitarious and Moon in Pisces. Libra in Venus is a bit of the exception out of the cross. Mercury is 0º in Virgo, but really in the draw of the chart it is between Leo and Virgo… hence in these cases I have always a bit of a riddle, unless I do know well the person which is not the case yet.

    Normally a “mutable cross” would be something remarkable to be studied…. is what I have always heard (I mean, all the charts are worth to study. With remarkable I don´t mean it as “a positive”, but as something “troubled” in the case).
    I just recently met someone with this chart aspects and, before deepening, I´d rather to bring the chart (or the main aspects of it) a bit into the light.

    Would you mind to draw a bit of an insight upon it, if you know about activated crosses with same nature planets in a chart?
    I would appreciate it so much.
    Thanks, R

    1. I’m not sure what an “activated” cross is, although I have heard that terminology before. I would really suggest you join if you haven’t already, because there are a lot of people on that forum who could probably answer your questions better than I can, largely because there are places and people who use those kinds of phrases all the time, whereas my knowledge of astrology tends to be more traditional. I don’t know if you’ve taken a look at Café Astrology, but they also have good information. Or do an online search using the search terms you’re interested in knowing more about. Good luck!

  7. Hello Alison,
    Thank you for your advises. I will check those sites to get more information about this chart before embarking new ventures.. 😉

  8. I have Virgo Sun in 6th, and at first I took umbrage and was sputtering “I ain’t nobody’s SERVANT!!” and then I got to your line “I have no life” and had to swallow a big ol’ bite of crow. It doesn’t even register with me that I serve others. And the only warning that I am off-balance is when resentment surfaces, quickly followed by GUILT when I try to re-balance. LOL… talk about reconciling the opposites….

    1. It’s not really being a slave or actual servant to others that the 6th house represents, I think; it has more to do with a perspective that we either learn or bring to the encounter with someone that pops up, not necessarily with our conscious approval. It’s a response. It isn’t helped by the Pluto in Virgo generation crap. In terms of people who choose to become someone’s personal slave, I’ve spent a fair amount of time on websites for alternative lifestyles, and it teaches you a lot about the 6th house relationship to being willing to enact this lifestyle (but there are many Leos who do this, interestingly, although my numbers are not scientific lol).

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