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by Chris Turner

The Houses being referred to here are the 4th house, the 8th house and 12th house, sometimes called the water houses as they are the three houses that are naturally related to the water signs Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces, and they are perhaps the hardest of all the houses to understand.

The reason they are so hard to understand is because they deal with depths which have nothing to do with the rational mind. They deal with the emotional realms, the psychological interplays that are a continual undercurrent in every area of life. They represent the mysterious, the unexplainable areas of life. I prefer to call them the "Psychic Houses", the name given to them by the noted American astrologer Marc Emund Jones, not because an emphasis on them necessarily means you are psychic, but because they deal with the psyche, and how it motivates the other areas of our lives. These three houses are where we demonstrate our "animal" sides, those instincts which drive all of life on earth. Interestingly, it is only Humankind, and its unique feature of rationality, which has problems understanding the Psychic houses, or dealing with them. All other living things live out their lives in a Water House environment, and simply deal with it. They certainly never try and question it.

As there are various divisions of the signs, so those divisions can apply to the houses. No-one can doubt the personal
orientation of Aries, Taurus and Gemini, the more social proclivities of Leo, Virgo and Libra, or the collective detachment of Sagittarius, Capricorn and Aquarius, but Cancer fits as easily into the personal and the social, Scorpio into both the social and the collective, and Pisces can be as personal as it is collective. The same can be said of the houses - and here this division becomes even more confusing. The houses can be seen as an "environmental developmental evolution". The 1st is to do purely with the self, the immediate environment, one's physical self. The 2nd with personal needs and resources, how one keeps the self happy and comfortable, the 3rd with personal thoughts, personal communication and ideas. But the 4th?! On the one hand it is our personal moods and habits, but it is also the family and here we have a social connotation.

As a child I remember writing to my friends as Jane Smith, 2 Jones St , Newtown, Sydney, NSW., Australia, Earth, the Solar System, the Universe. In doing so I was expressing in a 4th house manner my infantile groping towards an understanding that my friend was at the one time just Jane, but at the same time she was something much bigger, much more, she was part of a collective. The 4th house is the burgeoning awareness of that. The instinctive knowledge that "I am not alone". That I have come from somewhere. I am not as individual as I like to think. My individuality is made up of thousands of generations of genes passed down from parent to child, and with those genes comes all the components that make up ME - the physical (I look like my mother) the mental (I think like my father) the material (I follow in my father's profession - and he in his father's before him), and the emotional, spiritual and psychological too. So the 4th house is about the awareness of the direct and personal link you have to the collective, to the greater whole, which is first of all your parents, and more than that to those generations who follow you - which is why the 5th has so much to do with children - it's the direct result of that 4th house feeling.

All three of these houses have an association with death on every level - the passage of the Soul. In fact, the great Jewish Book of Spirituality, the Qabbalah, calls these 3 houses "The Terminal Houses". In the 4th it is about how you face the end of the life, your awareness of how your genes, how your particular family, will carry on in the same way as you carried your own parents' genes and unique characteristics. The 4th house is about the survival of who I am - not just on the physical or material level, but in totality, and particularly in the safety of the knowledge of where you have come from. It is a type of womb as is all three of these houses, and the 4th is our personal womb, and also our emotional and psychological grave. Obviously this same analogy can be applied to a situation or an event. The 4th is the awareness of the end of a matter, but that it continues on in another form..

Moving right along in our stage of evolution, the 5th is about attraction between us and others, it's the first awareness that there are others outside the womb outside our immediate family, which after all is really only an extension of me the individual. One could say it's our first contact with those outside out own genetic pool. The 6th is about the responsibilities we have towards others, how we fit in to a co-operative environment, and the 7th is how we see ourselves through the other. The 8th is the culmination of all this. In fact every relationship goes through an evolution from the 5th to the 8th, moving into each house as it develops in maturity and commitment until the ultimate capitulation and surrender to another, traditionally represented by the 8th house and its connection with sex. More than that, the 8th house is the "urge to merge", the compulsion to be one with another person, the very deep yearning for completion as the awareness that alone we are only half a person, and we need a "complementary half". As we mature through life it also will show how we become aware of our shadows and projections as being our "complementary half".

Through the 8th we meet those people we feel passionate about, whether positively or negatively. Those people trigger deep instinctual often irrational feelings which often prove too hard to resist. Here we have the "social" or relationship connotation of the 8th house - the connection with the 5th, 6th and 7th. But the 8th house is also about the awareness of the collective instinctive shadow, it is where we are aware of collective lust and hatred and power struggles, and thus we start to move into the collective realm of the 9th, 10th and 11th. The 8th house is where you judge others, and inevitably it's where you are coming from when you say "I don't get along with Sagittarians, or Japanese" - pick your group. Its connection with death is well known, and here in the 8th it is the moment of death. One could say the 4th is the awareness of imminent death, and the 8th is the death itself, or the completion of a situation. In this sense it is also where it crosses into the social realm, as at the point of physical death, one's life becomes public knowledge - for many it is their five minutes of fame, and of course death itself is the moment we start letting go all personal trappings and make our first foray into the realms of the collective.

On a psychological and emotional level, this is the moment of insight - the moment we let go the personal ego and recognise how what is happening is only part of the greater community or society whole, rather than something we have been hanging on to for personal reasons.

The 9th, 10th and 11th houses I like to lump together as the "political" houses, because the sojourn through these three gives us the awareness of social and collective problems, the need to do something about it, and finally the struggle of the 11th to let go personal needs and desires completely and be at one with the collective. But you can't do it until you get to the 12th. The 12th is about total surrender, and in this it is part of the collective houses. As the last one of the Terminal Houses, as the 4th is the moment preceding death, the 8th is the death itself, the 12th is the moment succeeding death. The moment the soul leaves the earthly body behind - but perhaps is still able to view it lying there in its material form. So forgetting for the moment the traditional keyword interpretations of the 12th, such as self undoing, isolation, institutionalisation etc etc, think of it in these terms.

The 12th is the ultimate letting go of all form, which means emotional conditioning, thought patterns, and the personal ego itself. It's like a drop of water falling into a pool. As soon as it touches the pool it loses all personal identity to become a part of the whole pool, indistinguishable from the other drops that make up that pool. It is no coincidence that the 12th house is the last in the circle - the last of the evolutionary cycle, as this surrender is the most difficult of all the challenges we ever have to face in life, because life - at least earthly life is built on the foundation of being an individual, or being the sum total of our parts in one unique individual, and we will fight to the very end to retain that uniqueness.

The Water or Psychic Houses however are also concerned about survival at the most fundamental and primitive levels. The pattern of how these instinctive houses work on the unconscious or instinctive survival level, can be seen when an animal including the human species is threatened with a slow death - such as through evolution, or more short term an animal in a badly run zoo, or a human in the concentration camps of the 2nd World War. In this situation, the order of survival is very strictly adhered to. The first thing to be let go is the connection to family or community. The survival of the individual is paramount, as if it survives, one can re-connect later. The second route the individual takes is to stop the process of reproduction - again if the individual itself survives that is something that can be restarted once the danger is over, and health has returned. Finally the corporeal being ceases to struggle. It surrenders to the inevitable, which in some cases actually enables it to survive just that bit longer, or to change into something more fit to survive in the current environment. The motivation however in all cases is the survival of the species. One individual is expendable, as is its ability to reproduce. The species is not.

And it is only when we have totally surrendered - the act of which is perhaps the most personal and lonely thing each of us will ever do, when we have wiped the slate clean, can we look at rebuilding the ego, rebuilding a new individual. For those into horary ideas, the 12th is the 8th from the 5th. It is the death of unique self expression - allowing for a different form of the self to be born and to develop. It is also allowing the 5th house to become the 1st - the passing on of what we began in our own 1st house to our children, and those that follow after us. It is this awareness, that ultimately we are on our own, that makes it the most personal house of all.

And fittingly with finishing in the 12th, as a reflection, the Qaballah defines the 4th house as the grave, the 8th house as paradise, and the 12th house as heaven.

Copyright © 1997 by Chris Turner
All rights reserved

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: CHRIS TURNER is Principal of the "Chiron School of Astrology" which offers courses for the beginner to advanced, to FAA Practitioner's Certificate level. For more information, visit Chris Turner's website at: http://www.chironastrologyschool.com/ or email Chris at: turnerchris@iprimus.com.au

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