The Roman Polanski film Repulsion is one Twelfth House look into the mind of a woman’s descent into madness. Like watching a beautiful train wreck, there’s something mesmerizing and terrifying about watching Catherine Deneuve somnambulistically shuffle between the flat and her day job as a manicurist filing the finger nails of old rich ladies and avoiding the sexually suggestive leers of men. She is mesmerizingly beautiful to watch but also terrifying because see she is hanging onto sanity by a thread and we know its about to snap. When her housemate and keeper, her sexually active sister, goes on vacation with her (married) boyfriend (of whom Catherine’s character disapproves), left alone, she disintegrates right before our eyes. She stabs a wealthy patron with her nail file (or did she imagine it?) then stops going to work altogether. Then begin the dreams… nightmarish dreams about being molested by men. Then there’s the hands that come out from the walls of her flat, grabbing her lovely flesh. We watch in horror as a simultaneously skeletal and sensually seductive seemingly unable to help herself in any way Deneuve subsists on a diet of sugar cubes and crackers for days into weeks (enough to make any fragile soul crack), until it gets so bad that there’s no way it’s gonna get better. In fact it gets much, much worse…
What is this strange madness? With her strained relationship to sexuality & desire, hazarding an astrological guess I’d say a Twelfth House Mars (and perhaps a Twelfth-into-First House Venus?) paid her a visit – and boy did they. Astrologically, the Twelfth House is the house of madness, illness, of institutions and prisons; it is also the house of spirituality & consciousness. Therefore, it is where our undifferentiated self-parts live, parts which in splintering off from can potentially sabotage use, or through making conscious, can save us. It is where the archetypal realm lives, is the cosmic womb, and having planets/signs here, while often difficult to access, also contain a key to our hidden and therefore, whole self. It is an equally hopeful and dreadful place, indeed a place of attraction… & repulsion. Erin Sullivan says, We know we have this place in us…where we dream of gods, of monsters, and of unknown skies where three suns or eight moons are rising and setting. Somewhere in the deepest resources of the soul in all people is a place of perfect bliss- and a place of ultimate horror. This is the Twelfth House.
I have Pluto in Libra in the Twelfth House and like many others with this placement, I’ve discovered the God who initiates me into the deepest layers of my spiritual and life journey, who provides me with the key to my ‘destiny’, is the Dark One. Steven Forrest once said your Twelfth House planet shows you the face of Your God. Test out the that theory on your own Twelfth House planet and see if that rings true for you. In practice, the deeper question of how to work with those energies that, as the Latin quote says Quod me nutrit me destruit, what nourishes me also destroys me. Here our choice is psychological integration or disintegration. And triggered by transit, that’s the time when what we are unaware of in our self, can also greedily possess us. In other words, what we don’t consciously relate to- can bite us in the ass.
One of the recent ways I’ve been accessing my Twelfth House planet: dreams. I’ve been mildly haunted with the idea that there is some repressed energy reserve in myself that wants to be known (natal Pluto-Mars, 12th-6th house opposition). Through the dreamy, hidden language of my subconscious, I’ve realized that I’m still grieving my grandmother’s death -and I didn’t even know it. It’s also fascinating that the self-parts I see in dreams often contradict my waking day reality version of ‘Me’ which says a lot about what, if worked with, could nourish and heal me. In her article in the Feb/Mar issue of The Mountain Astrologer, Ariel Guttman reminded me of the god who heals through dreams, Asklepius, and the once popular healing dreaming temples of ancient civilizations like Sumer and Greece. It was regular practice for people who were ill to visit these temples and have their dreams decoded. Practitioners believed dreams filled in the missing link between the soma (body) and psyche (mind), ie psychosomatic illness. Making our Twelfth House conscious can help heal Sixth House health issues. For a clear and highly effective method of dream interpretation, I am loving Tracey Marks’ book, Your Secret Self: Illuminating the Mysteries of the Twelfth House
But back to Repulsion. When Catherine Deneuve’s character’s consciousness reached that almighty tipping point, when her repressed fear and sexual desire flooded her ego, mixing together in such a inchoate, messy painting of lust and repulsion… she lost her ego entirely. That’s the undifferentiated state of the Twelfth House, too. Great and fantastic healing can happen in those kinds of moments because it takes losing our s***, or ego, to access what our brain normally can’t -which is a dangerous proposition because who knows whether we’re strong enough to make it back from the other side? A Twelfth House planet needs our ego to surrender its grip on reality in order to deliver its healing messages vis a vis other realms of consciousness beyond our limited perspective. Meditation, solitude, dreamwork, time spent in nature, slowing down can strengthen the part of us that knows how to surrender gracefully, instead of losing our stuff.
So does having Twelfth House planets doom us to a life of madness? What we can do during a Twelfth House time is learn to hold and strengthen the witness space, that ‘here but not here’ part of our self capable that exists at the eye of any swirling storm of self-contradictions, anxieties & competing self-parts. We can learn to decode and observe to our fears of strong sexuality or of losing control (Pluto/Mars), our bottomless hunger for love and affection, or haunting desire for children & family (Venus/Moon), our elusive craving for stability and solitude (Saturn). How our want for recognition undermines us (Sun), or how hard it is for us to believe we are one of Gods children, worthy and blessed -Jupiter. Our secret Uranian self, we are far weirder and wilder than we let on- or our secret Neptunian self, our fear/attraction for spiritualism. As we learn to observe our Twelfth House, we can decode our innermost contradictions. Otherwise our 12th House planet remains elusive at best, or at worst sabotages via the very thing that is trying to nourish us.