One of the first concepts I learned when I began studying astrology was the idea of the twelve houses. Simply put, there is a kind of snapshot taken of the sky above and beneath the earth at the moment we are born. It contains the twelve constellations of the zodiac, the moon and the sun, and the eight remaining planets other than earth. Yes, astrologers still count Pluto; in fact, he is rather important. This snapshot becomes what is known as the natal chart, and it offers a blueprint of the energetic forces that we will carry with us throughout the remainder of our lives. It is divided into twelve different sections, with each one representing a certain area of our psyche and life experiences. Knowing a client’s exact birth time is crucial to astrologers because it informs us as to which constellation was coming up over the eastern horizon at that particular moment. This section of the sky is known as the first house, or the rising sign, and it sets the house placements for the remainder of the chart. The first house is the lens through which we interact with the world, and in the other houses we find things like our childhood experiences, our deep interpersonal relationships, our career and public selves, and our friendships, just to name a few of them. As with everything else in astrology, none of these house meanings were determined randomly, and have no origin in pop culture, but rather they were based on an ancient methodology that arose from a complex blend of the observable sky and corresponding mathematical calculations, as well as the principles of Greek philosophy and mythological stories. The natal chart can offer us insight into who we are as individuals by highlighting our strengths and challenges, and by helping us to understand why we behave and react in the ways in which we do. It is meant to be a tool of self-illumination, nothing more, and certainly nothing less.
Some of the houses have topics that are crystal clear and simple to comprehend, while others are murkier and do not lend themselves to easy interpretation. One of the most difficult houses in the chart is the twelfth, a shadow-filled place that corresponds time wise to the two hours we spend in that liminal space just before we are born. For very specific reasons, the ancient Greeks assigned the topics of isolation, imprisonment, and hidden enemies here, which translate, in terms of modern astrology, into themes related to the deep subconscious mind. I’m sure it comes as no surprise to anyone reading that this is the house that fascinates me the most. To make matters even more interesting, it is said that while the twelfth house can represent the ways in which we may become lost, it can just as easily offer us a means of finding our way back, so long as we learn to navigate our way through it. What exactly does that mean? An understanding of our twelfth house helps us to confront the ways in which we seek escape or refuge from the things that trouble or overwhelm us. I recently came across an extension of this idea that suggests that it’s also fair to view this house as the place where we hold unresolved matters. This makes a great deal of sense to me. What’s more troubling or overwhelming than the things we continue to push farther and farther down in the hopes that we can somehow keep them locked away? Not very much, right?
If we consider what it actually feels like to have an unresolved matter resting somewhere inside us, I would imagine that we’d all come up with similar metaphors. We have a heavy weight on our shoulders, a pit in our stomachs, or a gnawing feeling that there is something we need to take care of. We are restless, distracted, and uncomfortable. If we allow time to pass, and we press down as hard as we can on these emotions, we begin to feel some relief. Or so we think, until one night we realize that the unresolved matter now lurks around the edges of our dreams, flitting in and out, the specter still sitting in the corner when we open our eyes. It has moved into our personal underworld, the place I talked about in my Dreamscape post from two weeks ago. If, at this point, we still want to keep things unresolved, we begin a certain dialogue in our minds where we say things like “It really doesn’t matter to me,” or “I’m so done with this,” or “I really need to move on from here.” Now don’t get me wrong, there are times when these are accurate statements, but that’s not the conversation we’re having today. We all know the difference. If the unresolved matter involves a person, as it so often does, the difficulty factor can skyrocket because both parties have to be ready to come to the table. Estrangement can go on for many years, and we almost begin to believe that we’re past it, we’re okay, we’re resigned to the fact that this is how it has to be. And yet, we know better. It’s like when a jigsaw puzzle is missing several pieces with the other 997 in place, and all we can see are the gaping holes. Sometimes we’re denied the opportunity to ever have resolution because we physically lose the person, and we’re forced to to find peace on our own. While that’s still possible, it’s a tricky path, and one that requires as much emotional effort as we can give it.
I recently had both these situations in my life. In the first, I lost my brother after 12 years of a very complicated estrangement. I wasn’t given the opportunity to know that he was dying, but I wish that I’d had the chance to see him one more time to let him know that I was there, and that all had been forgiven. In the second, I met with a person who had once been the friend who knew me best in the world after many, many years of having been held apart by equally complicated circumstances. On the one hand, I’ll have to resolve the matter with my brother on my own. I hope that one day soon I’ll find him in my dreams, not as the terrifying presence I’m seeing at the moment, but as someone I can sit with and have coffee as I do with my parents from time to time. On the other hand, as I found myself across the table from my friend, saying all the words that needed to be said, and feeling the time slip away as if it had never even passed, one of those puzzle pieces dropped into place, and I felt my life move one step closer to fullness and completion.
For today’s cocktail, I wanted to center the drink around the idea of friendship, so I chose to go with a basil simple as my main flavor profile. I added lemon and gin to the basil because the three are so glorious together. I recently came across Bennett Wild Hunt bitters, inspired by a walk in the woods according to the back of the bottle. I thought these were fitting for this cocktail since a number of astrologers see the twelfth house as a journey through a dark wood. Finally, I added a chamomile hydrosol spray from Pine Barrens Post, an amazing local company in Sweetwater, NJ for whom I’m currently doing some consulting work. Chamomile brings comfort and healing, of course, and my friend Mary Kay and I shared many cups of it over the years we were friends. I’m so very grateful that we’ll now have the opportunity to do that once again. It was the perfect finish for this drink, along with a small basil leaf garni. Cheers everyone. Happy Saturday! Thank you for allowing me to share such a personal story today.
A Once Unresolved Matter
Long shake over ice.
Double strain into a cocktail coupe.
Two sprays Pine Barren Post chamomile hydrosol.
Basil leaf garnish.
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