Chinese Screen by Jon Stevenson

Saturn has been transiting my Twelfth House for almost the full 2 ½ years and it’s taken me that long to write a blog about this incredibly mysterious and profound transit. What is time though? This is the Twelfth House House where minutes turn into days, years into minutes. When Saturn, the planet that gives authority and structure to the days of our lives, and self-governance to our ego, the planet who normally greases the wheels of our day-to-day with a relative level of predictability, transits this watery house of disillusionment, ghosts & retreat, time melts and the rules of the game change. We wrestle with illusion that we are in control (and lose). We make plans and have them dissolve, or never come together. It is, after all, not called the house of beginnings, but the house of loss. We lose steam. We lose momentum. We lose touch with the pleasures that once brought us joy — or did they? Venus is exalted in Pisces, the natural ruler of the 12th House. When sober Saturn takes up residence in the Twelfth House, empty or overly ritualized pleasures cease to please.

Twelfth House Metaphor: The IHOP Effect

So what is the Twelfth House about, really?  Traditionally, it is the house of nasty places no one wants to go– mental hospitals, prisons and convents (where there are no worldly pleasures, including no sex). It is also the house of ego-lessness and self-transcendence. Is it secret enemies, witches, slavery, prisons or spiritual transcendence? If we read between the lines we might see that our self-secret hidden enemy within has the power to send us to these dark places that steal our freedom, whereas transcendence of our ‘secret enemy’ frees us into spiritual consciousness. A universal law consistently applies here: if we aren’t acting from our spiritual values, values like compassion, integrity, kindness, humanity, caring etc. the angels pay us a visit to remind us of what those exactly are. When we’ve strayed too far from our center, suffering is the quickest way to re-align us with spiritual truth. Also consistent, if we are attached to a vice, money, workaholism, gain or any vice, our Twelfth House experience can resemble a hideous Goya monster, or a mob boss with the power to bring us to our knees, undermining us in our most needful, darkest hour. Likewise, if clear, our Twelfth House times can bring the angel that parts the clouds. I love how Steven Forrest describes the Twelfth House in his MP3, 12th House: Enlightenment and the Cosmic Blues. Steven, in his accessible style, poses an un-spiritual question, Remember that feeling after eating pancakes at the IHOP, the International House of Pancakes? The carbohydrate sugars hitting your bloodstream, the empty calories, you start to feel fuzzy. Twelfth House consciousness can be like that; fuzzy, imprecise, strange, a little bit spacey. Maybe it’s good for meditating or channeling, but probably not so good for driving a moving vehicle. The IHOP effect is a good metaphor for feeling your way into the Twelfth House: here we are naturally fuzzy, dazed, unclear. An astrologer will understand this, but a cop doesn’t!

Secret Enemies & Other Mischief

One of the things we know, but wish to forget, is that the Twelfth House is the house of secret enemies & the enemy is, Us. Of the 12th, Traditional Astrologer William Lilly says “Saturn does much joy in that House for naturally Saturn is author of Mischief.” We can make any Twelfth House transit many times worse than it has to be by ignoring any insistent nudge that something in our life isn’t working. We can undermine our well being through avoiding anything that is clamoring for our attention, and for the Twelfth House avoidance comes in so many forms, flavors and varieties you may not even realize you’re  escaping.  Twelfth House Saturn time as a time to restore, rest, repair, eliminate what’s outworn, and examine any the energy leaks in your physical and material life and your psyche. Make plans, okay, but prepare to have them change.

One way to find out what your ‘hidden enemy’ is, is to look to the sign on your Twelfth House cusp. Virgo rules my Twelfth House cusp; my daily habits, my relationship to food and body, my disconnect to the earth itself has undermined me my entire life. Maybe lifetimes. One of my major health issues during this period: a prolonged case of poison ivy that caused it to take up residence in my bloodstream mysteriously producing spontaneous painful outbreaks with no known trigger. The toxic poison factor I attribute to my endless Pluto transit; the skin is the defense between my self and the world and the fact is I have felt defenseless against the Pluto onslaught. However, the real reason I developed the chronic ivy is because I was a susceptible host. For those of you who know me, you know because of food, chemical and processing sensitivities, I’m one of the most careful eaters you will ever ever meet. We cook every single meal, from scratch and and we try to be all organic. Yet during the Twelfth House transit of Saturn, I regularly escaped in more than a few glasses of wine every week. I hadn’t had wine in over nine years, and for a reason – I also have chronic Candidiasis, an insidious diet-related disease that causes a host of other mysterious problems (a girlfriend, who also has Candida, describes it this way: Just take everything delicious off your plate. Then eat the rest). Because the Pluto-Uranus transit activated my inner deviant, I got sick and tired of being so damn good all the time. I got a little mischievous. After a stressful and rigorous trip to Spain, I started drinking wine as the Spaniards do, till eventually I was drinking one glass every night with dinner. When the repercussions hit, I went through a whole charade of chasing weird symptoms to no avail…till I woke up, as through from an IHOP fog, and took responsibility for the obvious: I was the source of my own self-undoing. Eventually, one way or another, Saturn will ask us to squarely face, and then be willing to lose, what is undermining our self-authority and draining our life energy — even if what’s undermining us is right for everyone else (a great job with benefits, a typical American diet, a status quo workaholic ethic) but wrong for us.

Rest, Restore, Retreat

Just in case you’re wondering, how I’m managing now, I am on the ascetic’s diet again, and feeling much better, thanks. Don’t even get me started about how time consuming food preparation is. My Aries Moon rants bi-weekly about this. Nor the constant rigorous exercise my Sixth House Mars requires consistently, daily, which I cannot compromise on without feeling like an insane person. I live to stay healthy (in equal numbers, different folks will often comment that say I look ghostly or tired -or- ask if I have discovered the fountain of youth!). Confusing? Yes. As I work on healing my Virgo Twelfth House cusp, my relationship to my body and nutrition, to nature, and to the Earth, I’m possibly also doing some deeply karmic Twelfth House work.

During this time I’ve intuitively known that I’ve needed to spend much of my 12th House transit time in nature because it feels healing; I’ve even taken walks when I’m sick, and after visualizing green chlorophyll permeating my entire being have  probably healed a couple of side infections, though I have no way of proving it. I once read that if a recovering alcoholic’s house has vibrant house plants you can trust that they’re really in recovery, doing well. I’m no alcoholic but I can connect why the inability to nurture a living thing likely might also mean you’re spinning out of control. So it would funny that I’m constantly saving my house plants from the brink of death, funny if the plants weren’t such an apt metaphor for my body.

Things I’ve enjoyed immensely: dream interpretation, watching the cat play, hanging out with the chickens, hanging in the hot tub, taking long walks, reading books and allowing myself to recognize that doing any of these types of things, prior to my Twelfth House Saturn visit, was just not possible and this in and of itself was dysfunctional. I was too busy working.

But I will not judge myself for ‘doing’ this transit poorly. Recently after exchanging emails with a friend who experienced some gloriously spiritual things during her Twelfth House Saturn transit, I recognized that nagging familiar Virgo Twelfth House hidden enemy, Guilt & Shame. “You did it wrong,” said The Critic. “You should have a least had a few good conversations with your Spiritual Guides by now,” said The Perfectionist, “but instead you dealt with the same old lesson that has undone you so many times.” “Screw off,” I replied, “I’m an imperfect human being on a unique and not always direct path. I’m doing my best.”

Saturn in the Twelfth: Maturing in Private

Saturn in Transit, authored by Erin Sullivan, has become my new bible for this period. In it she offers the most uplifting hopeful images for each of Saturn’s visits through the houses, and although this passage is only a few pages, they are poetic and deeply contemplative. She talks about this as the time of dissolution, of being plunged into an abyss of inexplicable outpourings of moods and feelings, and a time of letting go of attachments “…exclusive of one’s external image. It is not so much a time of self-definition as of self-discovery, in its true sense of uncovering.” This process doesn’t leave one totally naked though; a person can be public, but much is going on behind-the-scenes. She says we have the ability to retain some of the protective shell or skin while going through quiet change, “…rather like changing clothes behind a Chinese screen. I call it maturing in private.” This evocative image speaks to me on many levels. During a time in my professional identity when it’s been impossible for me not to be public, I’ve also needed to not be quite so public. I have, at times, true to my experimental nature, tried to ‘change’ in plain view (without the shadowed rice paper screen), through my writing and in my art, only to have the attempts feel premature and unfinished. When I listen deeply I hear, All will be revealed in time, and that feels right.

Saturn will finally cross my First House threshold in September, for the third and final time. Frankly, I have never so looked forward to a Saturn transit in my life! Sullivan calls this next step The Threshold Struggle, and from accompanying several close clients through their First House transit, the struggle is a process of becoming. It’s a time of integrating what’s been recovered about their self while deep in the Twelfth, and having that and bump against the personality, expectations of partners, work and community. Sullivan warns against anticipating what will happen then, pre-empting the natural unfolding of this delicate self-remaking process. Yet nothing can stop the force of a First House Saturn though there’s pressure and challenges… and how well we navigated the Twelfth House. If we lost the job (later realizing we hated it anyhow), at the First House, our Twelfth House pain, emptiness and despair begins to make sense, but hopefully before. The sooner we get on with the Twelfth House work of  losing what’s meant to be lost, the better. Loss precedes change, a change that will initiate a new 28 year cycle, which for many experiencing, is the rest of their life. For this reason and more Saturn’s Twelfth transit is momentous. The old life is trying to lose its grip. All we register, at least at first, is a fuzzy loss of control, and then a gradual breakdown from the way things were and the way things have always been…into what things will come to be.