Deborah Houlding's The Houses: Temples of the Sky presents us with a bleak picture of the Twelfth House. Holding uses sources from Hellenistic and medieval astrology to inform her interpretations. Of the Twelfth House, she says, "It is a very unfortunate house, associated with sad events, sorrow, anguish of mind, tribulation, captivity, imprisonment, persecution, hard labour, all manner of affliction and self-undoing." She also writes that the Twelfth "represents matters that are hidden, restrained, secret, incapable of action or of being fully understood."1
Modern texts are only slightly more hopeful. In The Astrologer's Handbook, Frances Sakoian and Louis S. Acker write that the people with the Sun in the Twelfth "can be lonely and estranged from normal human contacts." They go on to say that if the Sun is afflicted, "there can be neurotic tendencies and excessive shyness."2
All these negative descriptions would seem to make having the Sun in the Twelfth a recipe for failure. And yet, when you actually look at a list of people born with the Sun in the Twelfth House, you see a lot of highly accomplished, successful men and women. There are great writers (like Alexandre Dumas), famous industrialists (like Henry Ford), popstars (like Katy Perry), and three outright tycoons (Ted Turner, Richard Branson, and William Randolph Hearst). Worldy success is by no means out of th question for people born with the Sun in the Twelfth House. However, it does seem to come with some complications.
I would say becoming president of the United States is a pretty good measure of success, and we have three US presidents born with the Sun in the Twelfth House: Ulysses S. Grant, Jimmy Carter, and George W. Bush. Of course, these men aren't likely to make anyone's list of most successful presidents. Grant's administration was riddled with corruption and financial scandals. Carter's term was overshadowed by an economic recession and the American hostages taken in Iran. Bush's years in office brought us a pointless war in Iraq (searching for weapons of mass destruction that weren't there) and the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.
What these examples seem to be saying about the Twelfth House and success is that success is not always what it's cracked up to be, that, along with a chance for fame and fortune also comes an opportunity for failure, criticism, and regret. However, with the Sun in the Twelfth House, failure, critism and regret do not have to be the end of hte story, because they in turn invite us to stop, reassess, and look inward.
Interestingly, all three US presidents I mentioned turned their attention to their inner lives after they left office. Grant wrote a bestselling autobiography. Jimmy Carter sought to assert himself as an agent for peace outside the political arena. He has also written several books about his life and his faith. George Bush took up painting. He now does portraits of veterans of the wars he started. What these examples indicate is that, with this placement of the Sun, worldly success and failure are important only because they take us to a point at which self-examination, reflection, and an inward journey are unavoidable.
For some people with the Sun in the Twelfth, the troubles that interrupt their rise in the world have little or nothing to do with their own actions. They just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But there are also plenty of people with this placement who make their own trouble. Drug and alcohol abuse crops up frequently, along with secret love affairs and bad decisions. In some cases, the Sun in the Twelfth person seems determined to make a mess of his or her life.
None of this is recommended, but, if we look closely, we can often see elements of the deep examination of self that the Twelfth House seems to require in these behaviors. Drugs and alcohol can represent an ersatz and typically fruitless inward journey. A secret life with a secret lover can come to represent a secret self that is more meaningful than the one you show the world. Bad decisions and self-defeating behaviors lower the world's expectations of us and leave us free to consider our lives outside the context of success.
In some cases, acts of self-undoing like this can take the Sun in the Twelfth House person to an point of increased self-awareness and facilitate an inward journey. However, it is a dangerous road to take, and it seems more often to lead to addiction, misery, and alienation. People with the Sun in the Twelfth House are better off avoiding these kinds of behavior. The quick fix they promise is more often than not an illusion.
Inward versus Outward
One reason this placement of the Sun often seems difficult is the contrast between the outwardly directed energy of the Sun and inwardly directed nature of the Twelfth House. The Sun represents our ego, our need to make our mark in the world. When the Sun is in the Twelfth House, however, that egoic energy is forced to turn inward. How do we show the world our individuality, our strength and vitality, when we're constantly looking inward? The only way is to do something positive with what we've learned through that inward journey. We have to make our inner resource the means by which we push the ego forward.
An example of someone who did this is Mohandas Gandhi. (Gandhi's precise birth time is uncertain, but various sources confirm that it was shortly after sunrise, which would place the Sun in the Twelfth.) Gandhi led a non-violent revolution to free India from colonial rule, but the roots of his leadership came through self-examination and self-discipline. He is an example of the power that can come out of this placement once we accept the sacrifices and impediments that it often brings into our lives as a means of self-discovery.
Other people with the Sun in the Twelfth find different ways of turning their inward struggle into an outward force. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix did it through their music. Other people do it through visual art or literature. If you lack the talent for these activities, you can try talking to a friend or stranger who could be helped by what you have learned during your inward journey. Even in the dim light of the Twelfth House, the Sun has to shine. It has to give its light to the world.
Of all the house placements of the Sun, the mission of the Sun in the Twelfth is the one that is most often rejected. The inward journey required here does not fit into the typical agenda of modern life. If you do choose to accept this mission, you have to understand that your priorities are going to be different from those of most of your peers. Many of the things you do and the attitudes you express will seem odd to other people. You may take on burdens and restrictions that these people are not going to understand and put yourself in line for hardships that seem unnecessary.
An indication of how difficult this mission can be is the number of people with this placement who attempt to ignore it, who devote their lives to accumulating money, titles, and sensual pleasures. However, the mission of the Sun in Twelfth House does have a way of asserting itself into the lives of those who try to ignore it. This is another reason why the Twelfth has such a bad reputation. The means by which this placement of the sun brings us back around to our mission are often disruptive and sometimes catastrophic.
If you have the Sun in the Twelfth House, you may feel inclined to step away from the apparent and the physical. You may feel more drawn to spiritual exploration and to alternate ideas about reality. People with this placement are sometimes highly intuitive and sensitive to unseen forces. They tend to be more open to the the occult and they often find comfort in religious and spiritual practices.
Other people with this position find their inward path through a struggle with an impediment handed to them by life or by fate. Their real-world struggle with this impediment becomes a means of self-discovery and self-exploration. Through an up-close and personal experience of the limitations of the human body and psyche, they find wisdom and even joy.
This is not an easy placement for the Sun. It can bring severe challenges and trials. But there is a purpose behind these hard times. They are part of a process of learning about yourself, a part of a journey toward the inner peace and self-mastery that is the ultimate promise of the Sun in the Twelfth House. As long as you travel this road willingly and share what you have learned with your fellow travelers, the supposed horrors of this "very unfor-tunate house" will fall away, and it will become your road to fulfillment.
Excerpted from Behind the Horoscope: How the Placement of the Sun & Moon Tells a Story About You. Grab your copy today to discover what your Sun and Moon placement say about you, and how you can make the most of their placements in your chart.
1Houlding, The Houses, 89.
2Sakoian and Acker, The Astrologer's Handbook, 103.