The 12th House, Karma and The Womb Experience
by Jenny Yates
When you look at someone, there are some things you notice right away. You say to yourself,
“Hmm, she looks very kind and sweet-natured,” or “My, she looks butch.”
In her horoscope, the chances are good that these things have to do with the 1st house, which
holds whatever a person wants to project. It’s not that she isn’t kind, or butch, or competent, or
whatever she’s projecting. She probably is. However, that isn’t necessarily her whole self.
What’s hidden behind that face? To find out, we go to the 12th house. In the 12th are the things
you might learn on a dark night, around a campfire - or perhaps when you’re in bed after making
love. Or you might never learn them, because she doesn’t know them herself.
Looking at your natal chart, the 12th house is the one just above the eastern horizon. The eastern
horizon (the rising sign, or ascendent) is the furthest point on the left, and the first house is the
wedge going down from there. The houses (pie-shaped wedges) go around the circle from 1 to 12
in a counter-clockwise direction, so the 12th is the one just above the 1st. Many charts have little
numbers close to the center of the wheel, telling you which house is which.
The 12th house represents the underpinnings of your life. If you can imagine yourself packing a
psychic suitcase before bidding all your friends in the other world goodbye and then sliding into the
womb, then the 12th house would be the contents of that suitcase.
In the womb, you’re sensitive to certain kinds of phenomena, and these phenomena reflect
whatever you’ve got in your psychic suitcase. After all, you’ve picked birth-parents and a birth
situation that will help you resolve your last experience, whatever it was. If you had a traumatic past
life, then your new life will help you heal from that. Likewise, it will be a chance to use the talents
and skills that you developed then.
If you have more than one planet in the 12th, then you are working through a lot of past-life issues.
Twelfth-house planets are shadowy, but you are always aware of them on a subliminal level. A 12th-
house emphasis can mean spending a lot of time on a spiritual quest, or perhaps talking to a
therapist, working out what’s buried within you, figuring out what to do about it.
A strong 12th house will often give artistic talents. After all, the muse especially loves to visit those
who are peering into the shadows, looking for buried truths.
In the old books, the 12th-house is called “the house of self-undoing”. That’s because you often
tend to ignore or repress what lies in your 12th house. At the same time, you generally can’t help
acting it out in one way or another - and so you often feel compelled in this area. If you reject your
12th house planets, if you don’t admit that they’re part of you, then you can end up condemning
yourself. If you accept that they are you, you can learn from them. And you will often discover that
they have wonderful gifts to give you.
If you’re looking at the horoscope of a potential or actual lover, her 12th house will explain some of
her unconscious behavior. You can encourage her to express these traits in a positive way, and
you can love them in her (even if she doesn’t love them in herself). And if you’re trying to figure out
where you might have intersected in a past life, her 12th house planets might give you a clue.
If your sun is in the 12th, you were a leader in a past life. You were very visible, and a great deal
was expected of you. (Your sun-sign will give you some clues about what made you famous.) This
sense of specialness continues while you’re in the womb. Everyone is aware of you, waiting for you
to emerge. You may be awaited eagerly, or you may be notorious even before your birth, but you
are definitely a force to be reckoned with right from the beginning.
During this lifetime, it’s easy for you to take leadership positions, and to exert your authority, even
when you don’t realize you’re doing it. Often you show fierce independence, with a compelling need
to do things in your own way.
If your moon is in the 12th, you arrived with a lot of emotional baggage, and some of it probably has
to do with the person who is your mother (in this life). You may have loved and protected her in a
past life, and so you were drawn back to be with her. Or you may have been royally angry at her,
perhaps deceived by her, and so you incarnated to get things squared away. During your time in
the womb, you are very conscious of her - everything she feels, everything she experiences.
During this lifetime, you respond to a great many things in an emotional way, even though you don’t
always realize it. You could be moody at times. It’s not easy to get in touch with your emotional
needs, but you can see what these needs are by looking at your moon-sign.
If your Mercury is in the 12th, you focused on ideas and theories in past lives. You may have been
engaged in figuring out some scientific phenomenon, or counting how many angels dance on the
head of a pin - and then your time was over, and you never did work it out. So you arrived with a
consuming intellectual curiosity, which may go in a single direction, or may branch out in different
areas. It’s often said that an unborn child can hear everything that is said in her vicinity, and this
was definitely true of you.
During this lifetime, you are still haunted by the need to know. But sometimes you can over-
intellectualize, reducing everything to an idea. Communication is especially important to you, and
you can sometimes be compulsive about it. If you can’t share your thoughts and ideas, the
frustration can be intense.
If your Venus is in the 12th, you may have been a great beauty or a great poet in a previous life.
Your focus was on pleasure, and this could have meant the ecstasy of art, the excitement of sexual
escapades, or the passion of a great romance. You might have been a Juliet, or you could have
lived happily for a lifetime with your lover. Whichever it was, there was a sense of leaving before all
your pleasures were done. In the womb, you are very aware of the love - or the lack of love - in
your new life.
During this lifetime, you want love more than anything, but you can’t always admit this to yourself.
And so you can be compulsive about anything connected to pleasure, beauty and romance. You
can diet unmercifully, or even go in for plastic surgery. You can go from one lover to the next. But
once you work through your insecurities in this area, you have a very deep love to give.
If your Mars is in the 12th house, then you have a very butch shadow. In a past life, you may have
been a soldier, a martial artist, or someone who competed fiercely in the sports arena. The 12th-
house Mars shows quite a bit of jostling when you were in the womb, and it can mean that your
mother had accidents, surgeries, or other crises during this time. You felt that life was going to be a
very physical thing.
During this lifetime, you really need to express yourself on the physical level. However, this isn’t
always easy to do, and you may sometimes deny your will and your impulses, feeling that they’re
not really “you”. This often backfires, and you do rash things on impulse. Mars is also the planet of
anger, and you can squelch anger till it explodes, or until it makes you ill. You have to find healthy
If your Jupiter is in the 12th house, then you were a social force of some kind in a past life. You
might have been very rich or you might have had noble blood. You were established in some way,
a pillar of the community. You made yourself pretty comfortable while in the womb, and your mother
probably gets a lot of good medical care. This could have meant doctors, or it could have meant
aunts with herbal remedies, but there was a sense of abundance, and you tapped into this.
During this lifetime, it’s important for you to be part of the community. Jupiter is the planet of
expansion, and so you may have a tendency to overdo everything - for instance, starting an
enormous number of projects, or spending more money than you have. You’re always hungry for
more, especially more social attention, and so you need to find a welcoming, warm community with
which to share your enthusiasms.
If your Saturn is in the 12th house, then you are dealing with a karmic loss of some kind. This is the
position which shows most past-life suffering, and it can mean bringing regret, sorrow or guilt with
you. In the womb, conditions were a bit limiting, one way or another. Your new family may have
been poor, depressed, or over-burdened with responsibilities, and you picked up on this, and didn’t
feel overly comfortable.
During this lifetime, you frequently return to an old sense of sorrow or deprivation. There’s some
part of you that has trouble believing that you deserve to be happy, and so you can unconsciously
sabotage your own projects and opportunities. Once you work through your karmic trauma,
forgiving yourself and others, your 12th-house Saturn gives you a great deal of wisdom.
If your Uranus is in the 12th house, you are influenced by a past life that was exciting, turbulent, full
of shocking changes. You might have been in the middle of a revolution, an earthquake, or a tidal
wave. In the womb, there continued to be some disruptions. Your family may have been reeling
from some sudden change, and you got the sense that things wouldn’t calm down anytime soon.
During this lifetime, you expect things to change, and you are always on your toes. You have a lot
of nervous energy, a tendency to suddenly and compulsively rock the boat. It’s not that you don’t
prize stability, but there’s a part of you that doesn’t quite believe in it. However, your 12th-house
Uranus gives you wonderful creative gifts, and so it’s important to find people and organizations who
appreciate your innovative ideas.
If your Neptune is in the 12th house, you were once a dreamer, a poet, a spiritual figure, or
perhaps a drug addict. You dwelt in the realm of the imagination, always attuned to other
dimensions. You may have experienced intrigues, illusions, deception, and confusion, and you
arrived in the womb with some definite trust issues. In the womb, too, it was hard to know what was
what. It could be that your mother drank or used drugs, or that she was exposed to other toxic
elements in her environment.
During this lifetime, you may find yourself dealing with a compulsive urge to escape from reality.
You can imagine a life in which there is perfect peace, beauty, love and joy, and it’s easier to live in
your imagination than to stick your consciousness to the physical plane. You have wonderful
creative and spiritual gifts, but need to stay grounded enough to give them.
If your Pluto is in the 12th house, you dealt with some heavy power issues in a past life. Pluto is
about the collective unconscious, and so you may have found yourself dealing with the shadowy
elements of society - criminals, prejudiced people, crazed mobs, war hysteria, or other kinds of
mass psychosis. In the womb, you were aware that your family was marked by some deep inner
divisions, perhaps issues of good vs. evil, or life vs. death.
During this lifetime, you know yourself to be a survivor, but you are still conscious of deep inner
urges which don’t seem to fit. Your psyche sometimes seems to be a Pandora’s box, full of every
random need or desire known to humankind. You may be afraid of your own power, but it’s
important to realize that you possess more than the power to harm. You also have the power to do
great good in the world.
If you don’t have a copy of your natal chart, go to http://www.astro.com/cgi/ade.cgi to pick one