Irrational Fears are Often Our Undoing


Irrational fears are often our undoing. Maybe that's partly why the 12th house, the very last house before the Ascendant (i.e., rising sign) in astrological charts, is sometimes referred to as 'the house of undoings'.

The realm the 12th house represents in our lives is the most difficult to describe in clear terms because it is, by nature, unclear—our dreams and visions, illusions and delusions, faith and paranoia, miracles and inspiration, utter bliss and total escape. When planetary forces occupy this foggy space, by natal position or transit, the energies manifest in not-easily-understood mystical ways, whether through psychic inspirations that foster spiritual belief through their illogic or equally senseless anxieties that threaten to overwhelm our faith with fear.

Lately I've become better acquainted with this supernatural place, by no choice of my own, thanks to Saturn's travels through my 12th house over the last couple years. Saturn is the father-teacher who knows best, delivering strict lessons to toughen us up in whichever area of life is symbolized by the house through which he moves. Saturn (sometimes affectionately called 'the lord of karma') teaches limitations, and does so by showing the consequences of when we color inside the lines and when we don't.

Saturn is not a bad guy. We need his whip-cracking to stay on task, to focus our efforts. When we rise to his challenges, we are met with the kind of fruitful products that only come from strategic, sustained work. As a result of having accepted responsibility, we grow in wisdom and maturity.

Of course, when we shirk the work and refuse to impose limits on ourselves, Saturn manifests those fruits too, in no uncertain terms. Saturn can deliver harsh punishments, which hopefully lead to serious realizations, but only punishments that we've somehow 'earned' through our refusal to accept the reality of our personal limitations. Saturn is neither good nor bad—he simply ensures that we receive the just results of our doings or undoings.

Saturn transiting the 12th house is like building a fence around a mystical experience. The goal of wanting to reserve some mystique for later, for craving the continuity of spontaneous divine bliss, is noble. But such a fence cannot be constructed from plain old wood. The psychic juice leaks through, seeps out.

The lesson brought by Saturn in the 12th is how to recognize and appreciate spiritual wisdoms that reveal themselves quietly and irrationally (as in 'outside rational thought'), as when the wind briefly blows curtains away from a window and permits a quick glimpse into the room before returning its cover. We have to be silent and still enough to catch the glimpses, and yet not become so overattached to divine communication that we seek it too intently, searching for cosmic clues where there aren't any or sabotaging our earthly existence by escaping into fantasy.

That's why Saturn in the 12th usually involves some sort of self-imposed isolation, time alone to filter fear from faith, and is best handled with spiritual (12th) disciplines (Saturn) like prayer or meditation. At its worst, it drives us to substance abuse in frantic attempts to sustain the bliss or, in less conscious circumstances, to mental illness in an inability to deal with non-bliss. Most of us usually experience it somewhere in between, floundering in small puddles of our worst fears, then finding the cosmic strength to reset our energies through conscious psychic reprogramming, all of which transpires behind the scenes.

After a couple years of this, I welcomed Saturn's eventual departure from the opaque 12th house and entrance into 1st-house immediacy. When Saturn crosses the Ascendant into the 1st house, we feel its sobering down-to-business effects across the board, in our lives and in our being. We are ready to buckle down and get to work, now that we've (hopefully) dealt with the psychic baggage blocking our clarity. The to-do list makes it way onto paper, explicitly detailed and itemized, and if we opt not to act now, it is only in blatant refusal to assert our will toward our most desired goals (and Saturn will get us for that later!).

When Saturn moved into my 1st last August, I felt the shift almost immediately, and I was indeed ready to do my work. I was eager to emerge from seclusion, having honored my anxieties and then positive-thought them into disintegration, and to start systematically attending to my to-dos. My internal taskmaster was getting great results, too.

That is, until some of my old fears popped back up, reintroducing obscurity right when I thought it had run its course. Why? Thanks to that feisty planetary phenomenon known as retrogradation, Saturn had reversed its motion (at least from our earthly perspective) and wound up back in my 12th for another few months of its maddening fear-fidgety treatment. Though Saturn returned to direct forward motion earlier this month, I'm still waiting out these next few weeks until he crosses back over into my 1st, hands me back my to-do list and lets me get back to checking off items.

This is one personal story that demonstrates how following astrology provides a narrative structure to the seemingly scattered events of life. But this is also a story about retrograde planets, how sometimes we think we are fully prepared for forward movement in some area of our life and then the planets tell us otherwise. When a planet turns retrograde, it retraces its recent steps through the zodiac. It has ground to review, conclusions to reconsider, actions to delay or commitments to revisit. In terms of the recent Saturn retrograde in my chart, the notion that I had put certain nagging fears to bed and was totally ready to get to work had to be rethought, in order to get those last specks out of overlooked corners so that I'd really be totally ready. (Cancers and Capricorns may have experienced something like this over the last six months or so.)

Mercury is the most well-known planetary victim of retrograde motion, as he shifts from forward to backward three times a year for approximately three weeks. Mercury is the messenger, ruling all forms of communication and transmission, so when he turns retro on our gradation, thoughts and words get a little convoluted. Mail gets lost. Phones have static. Traffic faces detours, and machinery faces malfunctions.

And guess what, you lucky winners? Mercury is going retrograde next Tues., Apr 6 in the sign of Taurus, moving backward into Aries before turning direct again on Apr 30. This one could be a bit of a doozy, considering Mercury retrograde conjuncts the upcoming solar eclipse on Apr 19 (more on this later). Let's put it this way—this week, as you feel your mind shifting into practical mode, thoughts developing productively toward palpable goals, don't get too accustomed to it. There's still some spontaneous fire breathing itself into your mental processes, out of line with what more conventional voices were starting to tell you.

You've got a few more weeks of unbridled newness before you're able to generate product from concept. Perhaps it's a little annoying to bide your time, but it's worth the extra opportunity for reconsideration, believe me. The next few months require some mental restraint to counteract the frenetic activity level and keep us from making rash decisions we might have to unmake later.

Best advice for these coming weeks: Don't rush to remedy what appear to be glitches, inadvertently causing the snafu by trying to avoid it. If it appears broken, set it aside for a bit and come back to it later. Sideways glances are part of the big picture, so look both ways before you cross. Most of all, get used to living in the grey, where multiple answers are right. When Venus turns retrograde in Gemini in May, you'll want a perspective that embraces ambiguity.