Pluto, wherever he is in your astrological natal chart, indicates where God’s magnifying glass is focused upon your life. He makes large the small thing, the minor infraction, the little secret. Eventually, that which once seemed so great is made microscopic in the blink of a few hard aspects to your natal placements. He is a black hole, and with terrible pressure and fire, refines, refines, and further refines. Pluto applies earth-melting heat and stress in equal measure to make diamond dust of your life.

Part I

Milky Way over water

Ancient astrology has resurged in the last 5-10 years or so largely in thanks to the commitment and hard work of several astrologers, including Demetra George and Chris Brennan. Old texts are being recovered and translated into English from the Greek, Latin, Arabic, Sanskrit, and Persian.

Ancient, or rather Hellenistic astrology is the product of the marriage between the Babylonian and Egyptian systems which mingled in Alexandria some 2,000 years ago and gave rise to the familiar horoscopic-style astrology practiced today. It describes the interplay between planets, (zodiac) signs, and houses (places). The twelve places, like the twelve zodiac signs, are divided equally (using a whole sign house system – the primary system used by the Hellenic astrologers) within the 360 degree circle which is connected to the diurnal rotation of the planets.

Each of the houses (or places) are assigned their own meanings related to different topics or issues in a human life. There are some overlapping topics covered in two or more houses, but that is a discussion beyond the scope of this particular post. Using whole sign houses, each house is ruled by a sign in order starting with the ascendant (or rising sign). Not every house will have a planet within it – after all, there are only seven traditional planets and twelve houses.

Part II

Astrological timing techniques help the astrologer understand the cycles in a native’s life, and also assist in making predictions. Unlike modern astrologers who assert that the natal chart describes the native’s psychology, and that every part of the chart is equally and simultaneously active, Hellenic astrologers understood that the focus and activity within a chart changes over time.

The most straightforward timing technique to learn is Annual Profections. Starting with the first house (using whole sign houses) in infancy, each subsequent year is focused on the next house, so that every twelve years, the individual begins a new twelve-year cycle. This helpful chart shows the ages associated with each profected year.

To illustrate, everyone is in a tenth house profection year at age 21. The tenth place is associated with one’s reputation, career, trade, or skills, and advancement. For example, if the native attended college directly out of high school, the tenth house profected year is when most graduate and begin looking for their first job in their profession. What the year looks like for the native will be flavored by the sign, and the traditional planetary ruler of that sign (called the Time Lord of the Year) peculiar to their natal chart.

The Twelfth house is considered a bad place; its meanings (or significations) include: loss, misfortune, isolation, suffering, trouble, enemies, injuries, and death. It is a turning point, as Brennan writes in his book Hellenistic Astrology: The Study of Fate and Fortune, “Rhetorius calls the twelfth place “between the worlds” and signifies everything that happens before the moment of the native’s birth”. Ages 11, 23, 35, 47, and 59 are twelfth house years.

Part III

man in mirror with sheep mask

Looking at the “space weather” forecast for 2019 and 2020 gave me pause. There would be a pileup of planets in the sign of Capricorn, punctuated with some nasty eclipses that hit my personal natal chart in tender areas. Capricorn, or the “Goat God of Death” was casting a long shadow. Unfortunately, the only way to get past this was to go through it.

My twelfth house profection year began in the summer of 2019. Mars is my Time Lord of the year. I joked then that the name of the game for me was not to die violently (12th house significations of death + Mars’ significations of war and violence). As if reading from a script, my twelfth house year began with a health scare. Multiple doctors’ visits and tests later, it turned out to be nothing, thankfully.

A few months before, I learned that my stepfather (a Capricorn sun) had stage IV bladder and lung cancer. He refused chemotherapy and tried to use as little pain medication as possible, deeming them too expensive. He was unwilling to further drain the bank accounts which had already been decimated by the financial crisis of 2008.

This ultimately meant that I endured my own fears for my health in isolation because I was unwilling to further burden my mother who was caring for her dying spouse. When he died in August of 2019, I learned that my decision to keep my fears to myself was the kindest thing I could have done.

Part IV

My body is changing again. My fertility – something I never wanted – is coming to an end. There is a kind of beautiful symmetry to it as I began to menstruate at age 11 – my first twelfth house year.

Eleven years old was difficult in other ways as well. My mother had removed my brother and I from our private elementary school at the end of the term. That September, I would return to public school for the first time since second grade. I wasn’t returning to my previous school – that was long gone with the small farm and my parents’ marriage. This was a new school with strangers and routines with which I was unfamiliar. Just another thing I resented.

I was ten years old when my paternal grandfather passed away – complications from pneumonia and influenza. I knew he had been sick and hospitalized, but I didn’t learn of his death until my eleventh birthday party. My beloved grandmother was uncharacteristically subdued and dressed in black.

My asking about my grandfather caused alarm amongst the adults, but with the other kids distracted by cake and ice cream, I was quietly told the truth. Strangely, they used this opportunity to gaslight me – telling me that they had informed me, but the shock must have caused me to block it out. The truth is, they told my mother and instructed her not to tell us (my brother and I) because they wanted to tell us themselves. This is how my first 12th house profection year started.

Part V

man with head in hands

I’ve never been well-equipped to deal with death, I resent it deeply. To have eternity in our hearts, only to shrug off this mortal coil just as we get the hang of things strikes me as terribly unjust. It explains in part perhaps, my love of vampire stories: to be invincible and immortal, spending centuries in study or traveling the globe without fear. Vampire stories speak to both the love of life and the liberty to live without fear as a woman.

While I was always aware of mortality – I spent my early childhood on a small farm where road kill was frequently used as an example of why I should be careful when crossing the road – I was shielded from human death.

I was eighteen when I attended my first funeral. The younger brother of a classmate and close friend committed suicide. It was the oddest high school reunion. Although it was open casket, they might as well have installed a wooden puppet. It wasn’t him and his spirit did not linger. I was horrified, but it led to me occasionally considering how I would like my own funerary arrangements to be.

Part VI

Another layer to this twelfth house profected year is Mars – the planet of war – is my Time Lord. I admit I’ve spent much of the past few months screaming at my ancestor altar. Nate Caradog wrote a beautiful article about the 12th House, including significations for signs and planets. He discusses the 12th House as a place of shadow. With Mars ruling my 12th Place, wrath hides in the shadows.

Effectively expressing anger doesn’t come easy for most women; we’re not socialized for it. It’s difficult when women get angry, even when it is justified. Maybe especially when it is justified. We are often expected to let the petty and the most grievous of insults and assaults go. We are told to swallow our anger. This year has so far been a confusing mixture of grief and anger, which bubbles up and co-mingles into a curdled soup of mixed emotions.

The question I keep asking is how can I constructively use this righteous anger? How do I continue to love, but hold accountable those who have done wrong? How can we heal these hurt loved ones in our lives, but still expose the secrets and encourage the making of amends?

There don’t seem to be any answers. What has supported me through this 12th house year is my established routines (6th house topics – the opposite of the 12th) of ritual and prayer. While it hasn’t provided the explicit, black-and-white answers, it has softened the edges of hard things, and provided a way in; a way to ask more questions and a reminder to stay curious and lean into ambiguity.

Part VII

a path in to dark woods

After we buried my stepfather, my mother and I planned to visit my favorite uncle. Another Capricorn sun, he was in ill health and living with my cousin. He had cheated death numerous times before, but somehow I knew it would be the last time I saw him.

We finalized our plans and I rented a medium-sized SUV for the trip. I drove the 3.5 hours to pick up my mother, and then the additional 4 hours to Nevada. It gave us a chance to catch up and talk about my stepfather. I will tell that story another time. Let’s just say it was very emotional.

The trip was a great success. It was wonderful to reconnect with my cousin, his wife, and my uncle. We talked films, and aliens, and Bigfoot while I played tug-of-war with their dog. We also managed to visit a close friend of my mom’s who lives about an hour south of where we stayed.

Part VIII

We made it through the holidays – Thanksgiving and Christmas – easily enough. I felt energized and creative – making lots of baked goodies, candies, and other items to stuff in gift bags for friends and family. It seemed like maybe the worst had passed.

Two days after Christmas, a dear friend suddenly died. She was my age and also going through a 12th House profection year. She had that eclipse right on top of her ascendant. Her passing gutted me and I miss her terribly still.

Though Death gave us a reprieve in the month of January, S/He took three of my family away within the first two days of February – two uncles and a cousin.

Curiously, it was the night I built a psychomanteum that my favorite uncle passed away. He had been hospitalized, but made a remarkable recovery. He and my mother spoke on the phone every day; she was so relieved when he called to tell her that he was feeling better and would be released the next day. Death came for him in the middle of the night and unfortunately, never made it home.

Part IX

Just as I was preparing to publish this post, I learned from my best friend (who read it on Facebook) that my initiator and high priest passed away after a long struggle with Parkinson’s. While it wasn’t a surprise, as he had been in ill health for a long time, I was hurt that no one from my former coven contacted me. My phone number and email addresses have not changed.

The last time I saw him was from a distance at PantheaCon, a now-defunct pagan conference held in San Jose, CA. He was using a walker to get around, but unfortunately it was so crowded that once I pushed through the throng of people to greet him, he had disappeared.

The body count has reached absurd levels. I have a hard time believing it myself as grief washes over me again and again. Perhaps I can publish this before anyone else dies. As if I have that many more family members left alive. It has made grappling with decisions on what comes next extremely difficult.

Self-undoing is another theme of the twelfth house. However, unlike the past, where I detonated everything and started over, I want to be very careful about what needs to be undone and let go. I’m doing my best to bear my losses with grace and let them soften me instead of becoming hardened and brittle. Maybe when there are no more tears to be shed, Death and I can become friends. On that day, I shall know I am invincible.

Photo by yulia pantiukhina on Unsplash

A psychomanteum is, according to Wikipedia, a small, enclosed area set up with a comfortable chair, dim lighting, and a mirror angled so as not to reflect anything but darkness intended to communicate with spirits of the dead.

The psychomanteum was popularized by Raymond Moody, originator of the term “near-death experience.” Moody believed the psychomanteum was useful as a tool to resolve grief and compared it to the Greek Necromanteion, and said its function was a form of scrying. Magicians however seek contact with many spirits, not just the Beloved Dead.

I am fortunate to have a room of my own, (I’m sure Virginia Woolfe would approve). Over the years it has been invariably referred to as library, laboratory, altar room, shrine room, temple, and most recently: spirit room. It is where I store precious books, objects, and tools. It is where I pray, meditate, and do all manner of spiritual work.

In his most recent conversation with Dr. Alexander Cummins on his podcast Rune Soup, Gordon White briefly mentions the creation and use of a psychomanteum. Though I had heard of them before, something about this conversation focused on the forthcoming book An Excellent Booke of the Arte of Magick moved it up on the priority list.

Closet doors

The closet in the spirit room is used for storage, most of which is organized on two sets of wire shelves as you can see in the picture below.

shelves with items

I still require my storage space, but the closet also meets the criteria for a psychomanteum. So for maximum flexibility, I set out to create a space that can be converted in five minutes or less.

First, I removed everything from the shelves (and not only reorganized a few things, I also found stuff that had somehow missed my KonMari marathon). Then I added casters to the shelves.

Wire shelves with casters

Once I put everything back on the shelves, I tested them out, making sure I could easily pull them out and put them back in.

With a now-empty closet, I set to make measurements for placement of hooks and wall sconces. I already had a floor chair with an adjustable back – perfect for reading, meditation, or journeying. Luckily, the chair is light and easy for me to pick up. It fit perfectly in the closet.

After taking a few measurements, I installed the hooks and then the wall sconces. The wall sconce located behind the chair is fitted with a candle holder perfect for tea lights.

candle and chair

Next I installed the hook for the sconce that will hold the mirror.

Museum wax holds the mirror firmly.

With the doors closed, it is very dark. A wool yoga blanket folded lengthwise perfectly keeps the sliver of light under the doors from coming in to the psychomanteum.

Once an operation in the psychomanteum is completed, the mirror is easily removed, the brackets/sconces are lifted off the hooks and stored away until next time. After the chair is removed, the shelves are rolled back in and all is back to normal operations pretty quickly.

I cannot speak to its efficacy yet as there are still other, secret things to be done beforehand.

Back in the early summer of 2012, my husband and I were living together in a little, perfect apartment in West San Jose. We were not yet married; in fact, we hadn’t been a couple for more than five or six months. He was finalizing a divorce and I was recovering from my own previous long-term relationship. I now know the truth behind the old chestnut, “You will just know when it’s right.”

Peter is ten years older than I am. He’s much better at “adulting” than I am too. He had an established career, two adult children, a house in Cupertino that was almost paid off, and a 23-year marriage that he was ending. As per the grossly outdated and arbitrary family laws of the State of California, it was costing him a great deal. They decided to sell the house and divide the proceeds, which may have been the most painful decision he made during the entire divorce business. He was so proud of that house because he purchased it with money he earned and saved – both of his parents were alive, so there was no inheritance or gift bestowed. I watched leaving that house on a court for the last time actually, physically cause him to crumple.

Luckily, Cupertino is a very desirable city and the house on a court, in one of the best school districts in the nation, after paying everyone off, he split just over $1M with his ex-wife. The bad news is, this is the San Francisco Bay Area and $500K doesn’t get you much of anything.

Woman and man standing next to each other and looking out at the ocean

So here we are, in the summer of 2012, in my 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment with the vintage charm: weird little built ins, the cabinets in the kitchen island had doors on both sides, and all the glorious light from large windows – he was sitting at the bar and I was in the kitchen. We were drinking wine. The tiny jade plant I picked up at IKEA barely six months prior, when I had to replace every stick of furniture I owned, was happy in his little pot next to Peter. I promised him then and there, that I would do whatever I could do to get him back in a house he loved as much as the one in Cupertino.

I had zero experience with home ownership. I had grown up living in rentals and never had enough financial stability to purchase one myself. Clearly, we needed to be strategic about how we were going to reach our goal.

A few days later, Peter tells me that he is drawn to two cities: Campbell and Mountain View. He says he wants to check out Campbell because he’s inexplicably drawn to it. Mountain View is all about the zip code. I quickly come up with a bunch of listings with open houses in both cities and we spend our weekends looking at homes for sale.

On a lark, we visit a new townhouse development in Mountain View.

Next time, I’ll tell you all about going to the sales office and visiting the model homes of a new development.