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The 9th House
by Dana Gerhardt

I like to think of the 9th house as a happy place. Here’s where we don lederhosen, toss a knapsack on our back, and stride gaily through the wide world, singing as we go, “Valderee, Valderah, Valderee, Valderah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.” Here we feel adventurous and free. The 9th holds our personal Alps, where the spirit soars, the mind expands, and life acquires new meaning. The 9th takes us to uncharted territories and gifts us with new perspectives. It rules travel to faraway places, higher education, religion, philosophy, mysticism, divination, and publishing—endeavors that increase our understanding and broaden the scope of our lives. When there is a 9th house emphasis by transit, progression or solar return, we might get justifiably excited: A new adventure is on the way! Rarely do we worry about planets in this happy house.

number nineThe year my Aunt Nancy had five planets in the 9th house of her solar return, she read voraciously—about past lives, auras and astral travel. She listened to talk radio shows about mediums, the spirit world and UFOs. She pondered the meaning of life, the lessons of her three marriages. She soared on the airways of her mind. Clearly she was experiencing her 9th house. That’s because she had no choice. Shortly after her birthday, she was hit by a car. She spent most of that year lying flat on her back in bed.

My friend with the 9th house Sun says his happiest memories are the two times he hit the road, without plan, letting serendipity chart his course. The first time Dave traveled with a hitchhiker’s thumb and knapsack. Fourteen years later he took to the road in a customized van complete with Nintendo and a mini-refrigerator. What launched his two adventures? Was it 9th house wanderlust? No. He’d been stunned by the two great setbacks of his life. The first came when Saturn conjoined his Sun. Dave’s wife left him—for a woman. Fourteen years later Saturn opposed his Sun. He was fired from the company he had helped to build for the past ten years. Both times his solar identity cracked. Ninth house wandering was how he put himself together again.

Expatriates often have significant placements in their natal 9th. Astrology concurs that such individuals might find their fortunes far from home. My foreign-born clients with 9th house planets often do seem free-spirited, broad-minded, and adventurous. Andre emigrated from France in his early twenties and never went back home. With a 9th house Moon, he loves travel, philosophy, politics, and women. He has an incredible joie d’vivre. But the year a crisis threatened to return him to his homeland, he told me several horrific childhood stories. Andre left France because he needed to put thousands of miles between himself and his family.

busWhen the 9th is strong in a chart, natally or by transit, we should get curious about what’s motivating those planets. Perhaps it’s a simple urge for adventure, a desire to cruise around the world, find one’s guru, expand one’s future with a university degree. Or perhaps the individual has paid a "world-upside-down" tuition fee, had her passport stamped by crisis. The days after President Bush’s re-election, I was stunned to hear so many of my “blue state” friends threatening to leave for Canada, New Zealand, the south of France. Would they leave everything behind because of an election? As the weeks progressed, most calmed down. I came to understand their initial reaction as a knee-jerk 9th house response. When the hammer falls, we take out the map and look for a new frontier. There’s nothing like a distant horizon to repair a shattered soul. Whenever we reach a personal limit, after a divorce, a career gone bad, when life doesn’t turn out as we hoped it would, to the 9th house we’ll go. We’ll take a trip. We’ll return to school. We’ll seek advice from a 9th house person—an astrologer, lawyer, or priest. We’ll pray for God’s blessings. As we go through the outer 9th house motions, inwardly we’re reaching, stretching and struggling to acquire a new perspective on our world.

The 9th encourages our quest for meaning in life. But generally we don’t go there until life falls apart. Few of us retire gaily to our dens to pen our personal philosophies. Something upends us and starts our questioning. There is an astrological connection between the 9th house and crisis. The 9th follows the 8th house of death and dissolution. In the 8th the ground is razed, monsters crawl up from the basement, our identities are stripped and laid bare. Something we’ve held onto dies. At such moments, we raise our eyes and seek a higher power’s grace. We want to connect with something greater than ourselves. Would we look for the gods if our tummies were full and life were constantly joyful?

cross-coatThe 9th rules the literature of spirit, the metaphors, symbols and myths that bind a culture, its moral codes, its shared ideals and visions. No other house speaks so eloquently of the dignity and intelligence of the human spirit. The 9th is a decidedly human house. What other species builds temples and universities or courts of law? Perhaps what most distinguishes humankind from the animals is our capacity for abstract thought. We look for underlying patterns, the overarching laws of Nature. We try to master our fates, predicting and planning for the future—based on our experience of the past or what we can divine from portentous symbols. Animals live in the present. Through language and imagery, we humans travel in time, building on the foundations of past lessons, drawing new futures out of imagination's pocket.

Yet we pay a heavy price for this gift. Knowledge of time also brings awareness of the inevitability of death. And this knowing throws us into an anxious, insecure, even terrified condition. Fear is an unexpected by-product of our awareness of time. As my dog lies peacefully on the couch, I worry about the future, about paying my bills, about dying someday, about watching a loved one die. My dog is blissfully ignorant of the daily news. But as I watch the pictures from Iraq, or Albuquerque for that matter, I wonder, why such suffering? What does it all mean? Against the suffering and impermanence of life, we seek a more enduring grace. Our 9th ideas feed our spirit. Our religious and cultural institutions promise that something good will survive after our last breath. We’re comforted by the belief that when we do die, we will pass into something rather than nothing. By making sense of death, the 9th gives new meaning to our existence. That’s why I consider this a happy house. This is where we refill our cups—with dignity, hope, and joy.

PastafariWe seek truth in the 9th house. But what we get there are beliefs, an entirely different matter. Its opposite, the 3rd house, is built on facts. The 9th is knit with theories and opinions. While its ideals can open up new worlds, they can also shut our borders and lock us into conflict. The 9th rules higher mind, but this can be any belief that guides us. It becomes our personal religion, and religions can cause more wars than peace. Discussing belief systems with clients is tricky work. Their beliefs will come up in almost every reading. But you can’t predict them in advance, nor pry troublesome ones loose with any ease.

Let’s say you have a client with the Sun, Mars, and Uranus in the 9th house of her solar return. She’s going to be (Sun), act (Mars), and change (Uranus) in 9th house ways. You start with outer options. “Are you doing any traveling this year?” “No.” “Are you going back to school?” “Nuh-uh.” Are you doing any teaching or publishing?” Your client shakes her head. A little desperate now, “Are you involved in a lawsuit? Joining a monastery? Immersed in philosophy?” Your client is wondering why her friend recommended you. You’re wondering why her solar return chart is garbage. Quickly you move on to what your client really wants to talk about: “My husband is an ass.” There are no transits to relationship planets or houses in her natal chart. Why is marriage on her mind? What’s going on in her SR 9th house? Why is her SR 7th house empty?

Along with houses 7 and 8, the 9th house is in the relationship quadrant of the horoscope. As Howard Sasportas writes, “The 1st house is ‘I am’ while the opposite house, the 7th is ‘We are.’ The 2nd is ‘I have’ and its opposite, the 8th is ‘We have.’ Correspondingly, the 3rd is ‘I think’ and the 9th is ‘We think.’1

When a husband and wife discover they think—or more precisely—believe differently, they have a 9th house problem. I don’t necessarily mean that she’s a Catholic and he’s a Buddhist. Let’s say her husband believes cheating means having physical sex with someone; everything else is harmless fun. But she believes that cheating is anything you do in secret with another woman, including hopping onto pornographic websites or sending salacious emails to online partners. When she discovers he’s been indulging his sexual fantasies in cyberspace, she learns that what “I think” is not what “we think.” Another way to look at it is the 9th house is the 3rd house from the relationship 7th. The 3rd house describes the mental environment of the 1st house self… the 9th house describes the mental environment of the 7th house relationship. When there is a disturbance in this environment, a conflict between one partner’s ideals and another’s, the solar return will reflect this with planets in the 9th.

Conflicting values are among the most difficult relationship problems to resolve. It’s hard enough discussing 9th house subjects with friends. Steve has Uranus and Pluto in the 9th house. We’ve had countless debates. Like many with difficult planets here, Steve had a 9th house monkey to get off his back. Raised in a strict Christian household, he traveled a straight and narrow path, living cleanly to keep in God’s good graces. In his early twenties, his progressed Moon entered the 9th house. Not surprisingly, he was studying at a university. But he was troubled. He was living at home, had no girlfriend, no sense of the future, and none of the rewards he expected the Christian life would bring. He became bitter and suspicious, not just of Christianity, but of any religion. By the time I met him, he was fond of quoting Marx: "Religion is the opiate of the masses."

eyeI reminded him of the lines that come before that famous sentence. Marx actually said, "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of the heartless world, and the soul of the soulless condition. It is the opiate of the masses." Prayers are not the only opiate, I pointed out, also political manifestoes, all philosophy, art and literature—the many ways we brace ourselves against the incomprehensible sufferings of life. My friend wrapped himself in existentialist despair. "Okay, so if we just make it all up, then what's the point? If there is no God, no 'something else,' it's all a lie, and life is just plain meaningless." There was both anger and triumph in his voice. There was no use getting him to see the irony of his own religion, that his nihilism was how he'd written meaning into his life. Our debate fizzled because neither of us was willing to change. Several years later, when the progressed Moon again entered Steve’s 9th house, he sent me an email from faraway India. His 9th house horizons had expanded. He was traveling with a quantum physics professor who was introducing him to a new religion. “I now know God is consciousness,” Steve wrote, “existing everywhere in everything!”

The 9th is a cadent house. In cadent houses we adapt to changing circumstances. We are acted upon by the world and we must adjust. No matter how certain our beliefs at any time, we should remember they’re not fixed. Do you still believe what you believed when you were 12? Twenty-four? Forty-two? If your client is stuck with a limiting belief, she’s calling because she needs a door opened in her 9th. The sign on her 9th house cusp won’t tell you what she does or what she should believe. But it can tell you how she holds her beliefs and how you can help her shift to one more workable. Water signs will need you to speak to their feelings. Earth signs will want you to speak in practical, tangible terms. Fire signs want to be inspired. Air signs will enjoy the play of ideas. Sometimes the best assistance you can offer is simply naming what feels like “truth” as a belief. Let’s say your client or friend is in a relationship with an unfaithful husband. She’s miserable. It’s slowly killing her, but she can’t bring herself to leave. After some discussion, the underlying belief comes out. “I’m afraid that Brian is my last chance. If I leave him, I’ll never find love again.”

To help someone dismantle a limiting belief, questions work better than lectures. That’s because the transformation must happen inside that person rather than come from you. Questions help till the mental soil so a new thought can take root. But empathy is important. “I can see how you’d feel that way, and how scary it would be to live alone for the rest of your life.” Until your friend or client feels heard, she won’t relax enough to shift her thinking. Hold her truth respectfully in the space between you. Then ask another question. “How do you know for sure that you’ll never meet someone new? What evidence tells you this is true?” Usually there’s no rational evidence for such beliefs. Of course it’s every astrologer’s dream to find a lovely Venus/Sun progression in such a person’s future. You’d like to say you know for sure that she’ll find true love next June. But you can’t prove futures with astrology. You can only make an educated guess. And if a person doesn’t believe that love is possible, her Venus/Sun progression might arrive as a box of chocolates or a delightful shopping spree.

“I know that women my age don’t often find romance. And good men are always hard to find.” One of the advantages of being an astrologer is you that know plenty of real-life examples to disprove such dismal logic. “Just last week I talked with a woman who met her soul mate at sixty-two. She had no idea that’s what would happen when she divorced at fifty-five. What would change for you if you believed new love was possible? How would you act? What would you do?” “Well I guess I wouldn’t feel so weak. Maybe I’d lose some weight. I’d start doing some of the things I’ve always wanted to do, like taking that metal sculpting class, and seeing if I could get my poetry published.” You hear a new strength in her voice and reflect that back. Spend some time in the spaciousness of this new belief. You can’t force people to change their thinking. But you can pluck a thread loose from their personal religion, and hope that after the conversation, their perceived limitations will continue to unravel.

As a writer, my own confidence routinely wavers. When inspiration disappears, my belief becomes “I’m just no good and should give it up.” During one such season, I did what I encourage my clients to do. I called an astrologer, James Braha, a Vedic practitioner. He said my Vedic chart confirmed that writing was my destiny; no bad planets were standing in the way. Nonetheless, I was stuck. "Perhaps it's the lack of confidence in your 12th house Moon," Braha suggested. The Vedic remedy? A Hindu ceremony known as a nava graha (or, nine planets) yagya.

I had heard of this ceremony. You pay some money, a priest in India chants for a while, and your problems disappear—groovy! Here was foreign travel and religious ritual rolled into one, and I could do it all with a credit card and phone number! "No," Braha cautioned, "you should do it in person. These are powerful ceremonies. But if the priest gets interrupted, it won't take. Check the yellow pages and find a local temple."

I arrived at a temple in the hills above Malibu on a Monday, the Moon's day. It was an auspicious waxing Moon. I had the items I'd been instructed to bring: two coconuts, two pounds of rice, 25 sticks of wood, a pack of camphor, a pack of incense, a pound of ghee, some assorted fruit, a bouquet of flowers, and a check for $101 made out to the temple. I was given a receipt and told to hand it to one of the two priests sitting by Shiva's shrine.

ritualThere was just one priest. When I produced my receipt, he scowled, then hollered in a foreign tongue, perhaps calling the other priest who was nowhere to be found. I was told to sit near the fire pit. Grumpy, the priest unpacked my rice and other items and poured them in a silver bowl. He instructed me in placing the fruit and flowers. He started the fire, then, in somewhat broken English, confessed he had a headache from praying in the morning sun. Braha had said nothing about a headache ruining the ceremony, but I was beginning to wonder.

The priest lit the fire and began chanting. Then he looked at me expectantly. I was supposed to do something? Yes, I was supposed to repeat the strange Sanskrit words. I took a deep breath. Real Hindu devotees were coming and going all around us. I felt like an idiot tourist, then made a split-second decision to abandon myself to the experience. Over the next hour, I chanted with passion, threw incense and ghee into the fire at the appointed moments (unfortunately I had brought oil-treated kindling sticks which flamed up so vigorously they nearly singed the priest's brows). I circled the fire pit nine times, bowed up and down nine times. Then the dreaded event occurred: the other priest arrived and interrupted us!

Did it matter? Lost in the ceremony, I had almost forgotten why I was there, until the priest, friendlier now, instructed me to ask the planets for what I wanted. I closed my eyes, tried to formulate the words carefully. Suddenly I felt such a powerful in-rush of energy, I was almost knocked off my feet. It was brief, but it was strong.

What happened after the ceremony surprised me. No shafts of light poured from the heavens, no divine voice thundered in my head. I did not run to my computer and start typing. But by the end of that day, a new conviction had quietly stolen in to replace my lack of confidence. I had a different perspective on my work. I hadn't reached this in any logical way. I’d leapt somewhere, but how? Perhaps it’s just this mystery that makes the 9th house so appealing--how your world can change with just an idea, a prayer, or a strange ritual. What is this power we petition here? Why has every civilization made offerings to it? How has this power poured into us as new concepts, moral guidance, art that endures for centuries? Certainly our 9th house beliefs can trap us and draw a curtain on our growth. They also can take us so far beyond ourselves that we conceive ourselves anew. That’s why mankind is so devoted to the 9th, connecting with God, searching for answers, believing in miracles. There is much in this house to ponder. And definitely much to love.

  1. Howard Sasportas, The Twelve Houses (The Aquarian Press, 1985), p. 85.

MOONPRINTS by Dana Gerhardt

Go to Moonprints Popular with readers of "The Mountain Astrologer" for almost two decades, this beautiful report takes an in-depth look at your emotional foundations. You will gain new insights into your birth moon - its phase, sign, aspects, and house. Discover your life purpose, hidden talents and danger zones through the moon's nodes. Use the moon to position yourself in time - through transits to the moon, your progressed moon sign and house, dates for two progressed lunation cycles, plus a year of new and full moons around your chart. You'll want to read every page of this report, designed to please both beginners and advanced students of astrology.
Moonprints at mooncircles.com


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