“The house does not rest upon the ground, but upon a woman”- Mexican Proverb
We were sitting around a table at my sister’s house, four women, different ages all, but natives of a place called Santa Fe, New Mexico. I had made pancakes at my sister’s birthday request, and in between pancakes and pedicure appointments, the conversation returned to the subject of home. Mention the ‘land of enchantment’ and most folks grow imaginatively enchanted, with thoughts of charming sand-baked adobe huts, picturesque turquoise doorways with sleepy cats, sun bleached bone against endless blue sky, mountains named after watermelons (the Sandias), hippy & artist enclaves. It’s basically a cultural, spiritual mecca welcoming seekers who seek to root in a charming hacienda and pay a small fortune for the privelege. For many, life in New Mexico typifies the mythos of a Georgia O’Keefe painting – empty and feminine, dramatically spiritual, romantic, lush. This makes sense; Santa Fe is a Cancer Sun Sign city and for those longing to be embraced by the Great Mother, it beckons, ‘come and ye will be healed’.
Ask me where I’m from and I’ll say this was my home, though my internal experience of this home sharply contrasts with the image. Astro*carto*graphy says that when I moved from East to West my natal Twelfth House Pluto moved with me – to the Ascendant. Through sheer force of childhood will, I tried to make this home a safe haven, but the Universe had other things in mind. As a re-located First House Plutonian, I attracted identity crisis and life/death struggles like a magnet. I encountered power struggles, the underbelly (drugs, sex, crime), and wore the emotional stamp of a trauma survivor. I was shedding the skin of a sick family system, perhaps a sick culture. Since First House Pluto demands periodic reinvention on a massive scale, the person I knew myself as, died, and I became someone entirely else although who that person was was a big question mark for a long time. I remember walking down the street, invisible to those who couldn’t handle (or didn’t want to see) the Plutonian forces I represented. I felt alienated, cast out like a leper, or a pariah. Paranoid and persecuted-feeling, I imagined this was probably how Jesus felt when cast out by his lot. On the outside, I was a scaly snake, mid-shed. From the inside, I was burning alive.
Something inside me was struggling to emerge, but the birth canal was long & dark. I remember the labor pains of trying to shed what was untrue, for something truer. I felt lost, naked and intensely alive. The idyllic home & family took up too much real estate in my imagination, and that attachment cost me plenty, but it helped me forge a strong identity and sense of self that was rooted less in a personal mythology and more in a universal one, because when I looked at the stars, I discovered my real story. To my delight, the stories here had far more possibility and imagination than my family stories. Since the stars also suggested that my identity didn’t have to be this Plutonian, I moved house, and life changed for the better.
As we grow, get healthy and our needs change, whom and where we call ‘home’ also changes. The one thing that never changes about home is our need for it. We all need healing refuge. We all need a place where we can go to feel protected. We need privacy and retreat, to gather and re-group our energies, to piece our self back together from the inside, so that when we go back into the world we are protected by our own self-knowing – and not from it. We are protected our self from our self-knowing when we’re too busy to slow down, when our self-care is denied, or we don’t change and we know we need to. The Cancer aspect of the Divine Mother is generous. Generously, through self-renewing, life-affirming, healing acts, she nurtures. Be it getting lost in a book, picking up a thread on a journey, or discovering a soul truth, by returning to our essence we’re restored to our True North. This is home, this sanctuary, this church.
Protection can be sanctuary for soul, but protection can become the enemy of the soul when it impedes real growth. That’s what happened to me when my Cancerian need for self-preservation, my attachment to home and family, needed to be uprooted and replaced by something more true. The tap root was dry. And in that long interim between, was darkness. Pluto pulls up dead roots that no longer nourish the tree of life (a fitting image for Cancer/Capricorn) and it does so so agonizingly slowly. This, and another image – the birth canal – once again came alive over the weekend when I was stuck in traffic in a tunnel, a pressurized dark birth canal, with me in it grunting, stressed, groaning in labor. I was feeling in the dark – and seriously feeling it (this New Moon falls on my Sun, I’m feeling the strain).
If Cancer New Moon is a pregnancy, Pluto is a capable mid-wife, offering rebirth on massive levels. We’re collectively in the Divine birth canal now, riding out the waves of physical exertion and pain, trying to remember to breathe through the contractions. It’s enough to make you want to pass out, or reach for a sedative (which this Jupiter/Neptune/Chiron conjunction so inclines). Some prefer to stay awake and ride it out, to feel the pain. This labor is prolonged; it’s going to take awhile so we might take care. The feminine forces need to do their job of breaking down calcified forts of pseudo-protection: family, tradition, security, institutions, and the parental units, all being transformed on this Cancer/Capricorn axis. As one president was traded for another (in the U.S.) and we no longer trust our time-honored institutions, the iconic Father figure is transforming. But what of the Mother?
I wonder if we’ve been lulled to sleep by one Mother archetype while the Great Mother’s concerns have been growing. Maybe: we’ve been far too forgiving of far too many abuses; called negligent mistakes ‘only human’; been understanding when we should have been holding accountability sessions; tended to our personal family interests when we need to be considering our larger family – the planet. Mothers are the best at gilding the truth to their own advantage. But, when clarity of heart is obscured, there is no safe haven and no real protection. The Mother, the one who bakes cookies, who forgives us for being late to lunch and tells us to not worry about it, is changing. Lately, She is looking far more like Kali than the Statue of Liberty. This reminds of that bumper sticker, “the Goddess is coming and boy is she pissed.” I personally don’t like to think of the Goddess as wrathful, but manhandle her one too many times, take advantage of her unconditional kindness & forgiveness – and what’s a girl to do?
Cancer always holds a candle for the more personal story about home & hearth. Maybe the time is right to explore a more empowered version of who we are and where we come from. We may know our family intimately, all those land mines we’ve learned to avoid and the ‘safe territory’ we can trust to engage. For some of us, home and family reveal far more Plutonian inevitabilities, the kind that aren’t so easy to walk into – unless you like walking into burning buildings. Astrology offers me refuge again. My Fourth House Jupiter in Aquarius has taught me that home is where the heart is, and mine can be found among books, astrologers, and teachers. It is a family that doesn’t bite, holds my hand through change and offers a vision of what’s possible. I have my own family now, too, a husband and three stepdaughters who model beauty, wisdom and grace, and who are far more Jupiterian than Plutonian (for now, that’s me by transit).
They say you can’t choose your family. Okay, true enough. I do, however, believe you can choose your clan.