Does Astrology Point to a New Sexuality?

By Eric Francis
Planet Waves Digital Media, copyright 1999, all rights reserved. Additional introspection, research, and deconstruction of reality by Maria Henzler

E-mail from a reader (playwright and film writer from Manhattan): "Quick but burning question -- what do you have against long-term partnership? This September's warning to Virgos was your most explicit statement on the subject yet, and I feel the need to open some dialogue on this. Yes, marriage is often an unconscious knee-jerk reaction to love that can and has stultified and stagnated many a being. But the intimacy of long-term partnership, shared child-rearing or project-building, the sacred knowledge of another human soul that can be gained through making a faith-filled commitment to helping them grow and supporting them through the mystery of life, as they do the same for you -- these things strike me as worthy ventures... what about you?"

For reference, I will republish the Planet Waves horoscope in question:

My fire-breathing friend Alex just called me up raging about the state of her relationships. It seems that every guy she has good sex with wants to marry her, i.e., leave a toothbrush behind and watch the game Saturdays -- symbols of true love and alleged commitment. She was brilliantly irate, relating how, the other night, she had asked one of her suitors why friendship, dinner and amazing sex weren't enough. "One-third of the population goes to bed without dinner," she told him, "another third [I would say more than half] of the population goes to bed without sex, and the other third have this stupid fight. You have both sex and dinner. Why don't you appreciate it?" (And I'm sure it wasn't your ordinary dinner, either.) My answer? People don't appreciate it because they want mommy or daddy, not an equal partner. Or, they want security, which means somebody to control. Beware.

I hope it's obvious enough that a relationship designed to enhance "the sacred knowledge of another human soul," that "faith-filled commitment to helping them grow and supporting them through the mystery of life, as they do the same for you" is different than a guy lodging his toothbrush and robe in the bathroom after the third date. I sardonically refer to this as marriage, because it often ends up in a very similar state as most, as in the majority of, those holy bonds: an unconscious falling back on security, a pulling back from the edge of life, or, more often, a world of denial of one's real emotional, sexual and creative desires.

To each his or her own. Not everyone can live on the cutting edge of not knowing what will happen tomorrow. And not all marriages end up getting lost in their own sauce; there have been some compelling ones in history (though some of the more noted have not been monogamous). We are conditioned with a built-in bias that "committed" relationship, whether the toothbrush variety or the actual connubial communion, must be exercised with one member of the opposite sex, otherwise it's not real.

In actual practice, the bias in favor of compulsory heterosexuality and compulsory monogamy excludes the majority of humans, whose love map is neither heterosexual nor exclusive. In other words, if you were to add up the 25% to 75% of people who have sex with more than one person concurrently, and the 10% to 30% of people whose conduct is either gay, lesbian or bisexual (some would say far more), factoring for the overlap, you would end up with a majority, near-majority or potentially vast majority of the citizenry.

And let's not forget the people who are deeply in love but feel they cannot act on it because of another commitment. And let's not forget the significant number of people who only masturbate. In my opinion they are their very own sexual orientation. And let's also remember those who have loving sexual relationships with themselves in contrast to those who claim to draw their love and pleasure exclusively from another person; they are two very different sexual species.

........."I think we are all born 'sexual', writes an anonymous respondent to The Hite Report by Shere Hite, the nationwide study of female sexuality first published in 1976. "That is, we are each born with natural desires to relate to all other creatures -- animals, plants, ourselves, women, men -- when we feel love or communication with them. But society teaches us to inhibit all of these except desires for partners with whom it is possible to procreate [make babies], and then works up our enthusiasm for the 'act' by pushing the ideal of romantic love combined with marriage down our throats until we can't think of anything else."

Illustrated through astrology, a number of interesting factors are revealed in the marriage discussion. In the astrological system, life's events are considered in terms of the "house," or "department of life" in which they fall. Houses, as they are understood by astrologers, are confluences of experience; they are pools into which, and from which, many rivers flow. There are always numerous aspects of existence grouped into one house. Like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, sometimes the associations can seem a bit odd, but usually the association is intuitive, and with a little work can be understood in such a way that sheds light on reality (ATF's primary job is, in theory, to collect "sin taxes" on booze, cigarettes and guns).

So for example, the astrological Fifth House embraces the affairs of children, as well as romance, gambling, and daring activities like skiing and bungee jumping, and it also happens to include art and other forms of creativity. Now, this may seem a little strange, but the associations are fairly easy to make. Romance, which is daring and exciting and also a kind of gamble, can lead both to creation of children and a youthful attitude toward life. Betting is a kid-like risk and having kids is a kind of wager; art embraces every aspect of the house, since artists are people who live on a dare, paint all day even if the bills have to get paid, often living in a risky way, and they see the world like children, and give birth to ideas. Artists often have fun in their work, which is an overall resonance of the house.

So the idea of a "house" brings together, or intuitively associates, a variety of things that are not normally considered as a group, such as diapers, paintbrushes and blackjack. But it makes sense if you look at the connections, and this gives you one clue as to why astrologers are all such weird people.

Now let's consider the 8th house, which is the most important place astrologers look for information about sexuality and sexual values.

First and foremost, however, the 8th house is considered by astrologers to be the domain of death. Astrologers who investigate this kind of thing look to the 8th for information about the manner and cause of one's physical exit from the planet, but, like the Death card in the Tarot, the implication is extended, in modern thinking, to include the relatively recent idea of transformation. It is the realm of those intense experiences that make us, Phoenix-like, become new people.

The 8th is also considered the house of shared resources and other peoples' money, which is an easy call because often, death leads to the inheritance of someone else's wealth. By further extension of the "other guy's cash" theme, the 8th becomes the house of business partnerships and financial deals. (The 2nd house, the opposite region, is considered the house of one's own personal wealth and resources.)

So far so good. But the 8th is also relied upon for its strong sexual meanings by many astrologers as well. There is an association between the 8th house and the 8th sign, Scorpio, and Scorpios always get credited with or blamed for being the most sexual people around (I am convinced it's Geminis, and Capricorns will surprise you as well). The Scorpio association is helpful, but it's not a convincing rationale for the sex connection to me, besides which, it is an attempt to validate astrology with more astrology rather than understand life more clearly.

Drawing metaphorically on the other meanings of the 8th house, sex does involve surrender, and so does death -- and in French, orgasm is called the petit mort, or little death. That is a big clue. And sex is often an interaction with someone else. Most astrologers would associate orgasm with an 8th house experience of surrender to another.

But the connection of sex to physical death still seems a little strange to me; and yet whether or not we can trace this logically, it holds true that people with a strong 8th house are usually very sexual, the kind you can smell from across the room. They often consider reality in sexual terms. And when several planets are placed there, you can end up with the kind of person who is followed down the block by perverts when they are a child, and who has what seems like a total understanding of sexuality at age five.

Following the theme of sex, there is also an 8th house theme of jealousy, which is often associated with sex, and the death or fear of death involved in letting go of sexual relationships, which is a very private and solitary working out of reality which cannot be spoken of easily.

The connection between the 8th and sex is a kind of secret process, and that fits, because the 8th is the house of the occult -- secret things like sorcery, magick, and Freemasonry (and these are often reputed to involve death-rituals, human or animal sacrifice and related things). Put an important planet or two in the 8th and you'll end up with a subject who is a magician, an astrologer, a Tarot card junkie, or a manic numerologist, or, depending on the planet, a very secretive person.

In the normal world, though, sex and death are two of the culture's biggest hush-hush domains, and money is quite the taboo subject in many families, one that is never spoken of (until the will is read) so this association between sex, death, secrets and money works fairly well.

Speaking of taboos, the 8th is clearly their realm, the zone within which things are experienced but not mentioned, and sometimes not even acknowledged or remembered, such as unmentionable sexual acts where such vulnerability is expressed that we can, at times, barely remember or admit to ourselves that they really happened -- and these are often aspects of sex that society makes, or tries to make, illegal, and hence, control, another 8th house theme.

Then there is the 8th house theme of obsession. Sex, death, the occult, money -- all of these are things that people easily become obsessed over. All other obsessions get tossed in by association.

To further enrich matters, the 8th is understood to be the house of power relationships, and by extension, power itself, particularly ideas about power and other people's power. This gets interesting. Power relates to sex, death and money, and this brings in the theme of control, since all of these things are often used to consolidate and maintain power over other people. Control insinuates surrender, which we have seen is one of the sexual overtones of the 8th house, surrender to another, surrender to orgasm, surrender, death-like, or little-death-like, to "the inevitable."

So, to sum up: the modern 8th house is widely regarded as the house of sex, death, money, power, jealousy, secrets, obsession, control and surrender. All the things we want, all the things we need, and all the things over which we are in most ways powerless and also totally hung-up in this particular moment of history. The 8th is not your average astrological concept. If you are wondering why in our culture we are so hung up about sex, just follow the map on this grouping of themes.

In the 8th, you have associations between grandpa's coffin and life insurance policy; a witch in New Orleans casting a spell on someone; and the delicious experience of coming into your lover's body the other night, as well as her ex-boyfriend, who possibly wants to kill you, and the corporate acquisition your boss is working on. It is, in a single word, perverted. And people play the game like everyone came factory-installed with the rules.

We might well ask how things got this way.

I found my biggest clue in my reproduction of the 1647 edition of Christian Astrology by William Lilly, the first astrological text published in the English language. (This book, far from being a publication of the church, was published in the author's final months of life, under great fear of persecution.) It was a discovery which alone made the $100 price of the book a bargain. Look up the 8th house and our old friend Lilly informs us, with charming simplicity, that this is the house of "Death, dowry, the substance of the bride, etc."

At the point in history at which Lilly wrote his book, astrology was used mainly to answer questions, and the questions falling into the realm of the 8th house included: Whether one absent will return or not, and when; What manner of death the querent [the one making the inquiry] shall die; Whether the man or wife shall die first; and Whether the portion of the wife will be great, or easily obtained, or if the woman will be rich.

The connections run like this: The 8th house covers the manner and time of death, and death involves the transfer of wealth. The transfer of wealth is also a matter entwined in marriage through the bequest of a dowry, which is usually the money a woman's father or paternal grandfather gives to the husband through his daughter. Also called the "dos" or "dot," Black's Law Dictionary says that this is, from Roman law, "a wife's marriage portion; all that property which on marriage is transferred by the wife herself or by another to the husband with a view of diminishing the burden which the marriage shall entail on him."

Dowry is still a fairly common practice where the money interests are present to necessitate it.

William Lilly's research into the 8th house exposes the business and legal aspects of marriage and relationships. Marriage relationships traditionally involves the transfer not just of wealth, but also of right, title and interest by a man to his wife's reproductive organs, for the purpose of guaranteeing an heir, which is another business consideration. In essence, as is well documented in the legal literature and, more recently in the feminist literature, marriage is a custom in which the man takes possession of the wife; he takes her as his "ward" or "charge" or gains custody of her, and she is, indeed, given away by the father to the groom, along with the little bag of gold, which covers the burden the man is taking on. In the state of Vermont, the marriage law says, essentially, "upon marriage, the man and the woman shall be as one, and the one shall be the man."

Gee, Toto, we're a long way from Avalon!

It's worth mentioning that upon marriage, a couple usually vows "till death do us part," and woman experiences "civil death" -- that is, she goes from being Nancy Jones to Mrs. Robert Smith, customs into which the idea of death is consciously injected into the idea of love and partnership. This may seem like a strange or artificial concept, but given the financial considerations of the marriage, specifically, the amount of male-controlled wealth that is at stake and the necessities to keep it in the family line, it makes perfect sense.

But this makes no sense at all in the context of ordinary love and ordinary sex.

And yet in modern astrology, and in modern life, the 8th is where we look for the allegedly most clear information about sex and sexuality, regardless of its involvement or lack of involvement with marriage, death and money. Yet the sexuality of the 8th house is the sexuality that is enmeshed with business considerations, and it works out that it's really the only sexuality we know or hold to be "moral." People who "sleep around" are considered shameless and even sick, or at best, "unable to make a commitment." Proper sex is quickly associated with marriage in our culture. Except for the most transgressive, irreverent (that is, slutty) people, every potential sex partner is viewed as a potential marriage partner, or a potential long-term, live-in relationship and household partner (effectively the same thing). In a recent talk, pleasure activist and author Susie Bright, explaining why college girls seemed reluctant to have casual sex these days, revealed these 8th house issues beautifully when she said that young women who just have sex are viewed by their peers as diminishing the economic marriage value of the act; in the "sex economy," they are dumping cheap product onto the market, driving down the price. And they can make enemies for doing it.

And, for the men, when you have sex with someone and leave your toothbrush behind, you are making a claim. You are operating under the assumption that you are coming back, and that is a form of claiming a property right. It's worth mentig that when you combine the themes of sex, control, and attack or killing, rape is a logical outcome.

Sex as an 8th house matter implies money and implies death, which implies possession and control, which implies surrender (of one's name, of one's money, of one's reproductive rights, one's personal safety, etc.) and yet these things are rarely spoken of openly; they are insinuated or presumed, and operate as secrets, and as a result, the 8th house of marriage, death and money is also the house of sexual secrets, particularly the secret that women do not own themselves -- they are owned by their husbands and their fathers, or, if their dress is too risqué, by the rapist who attacked them who may get a light sentence in honor of a low-cut neckline. And in modern times, the patriarchy of medicine, the church and the legislature assumes and presumes the female reproductive system is within its lawful domain, as the well-financed campaign to ban abortion persists to this day.

But what about sex? What about love? What if you want companionship and passion that is separate from business considerations, reproductive considerations and secret conspiracies to deprive people of their liberty? What if you want relationship that distinguishes itself from all these "practical necessities" of the moneyed classes? What if you just want sexual friendship? Or what if you have different ideas about how community could best operate to support the lives of people, including children, both emotionally and financially?

I believe the answer is best found in the 11th house: The house embracing one's circle of friends, the larger community and one's place and role in it, as well as group awareness. The 11th includes ideas of extended households, human networks not governed by church or state law, and it includes things like professional associations that are based on one's shared gifts and talents. The 11th is the bigger world we all can enter, and is widely considered the most fortunate of the houses. In my take, exploring the 11th house (as it manifests in our lives) is where we will find information about how to have sane relationships that are based on who we are and how we feel about each other -- if such a thing is of any interest at all.

The question remains: What are our motives in relationship? Where do we go looking for love, and why? ++

Tune In Soon for the Continuation of
Astrology Points to a New Sexuality. Or, check out the article, Poly is Political by Eric Francis

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