(Revised for publication from Aug 2005 online version)
The 8th house has earned the dubious reputation as the ugliest house in the Jyotish neighborhood. It’s the one capable of wrecking the most damage, even death, and it’s hard to get more morbid than that. It can be summed up as the house of change - sudden, dramatic and intense change. As a society we love the kind of drama that the 8th house provides, as long as it’s happening to somebody else! Just consider our obsession with sensational news, reality TV shows, and thriller movies, like The Dark Night, which recently broke all records at the box office. It’s just when change affects us personally that we fear and resist it. Nobody wants to lose anything they value: health, wealth, job, loved ones, etc. So when we do, it’s understandable to blame it on the 8th house, its lord, or its karaka, Saturn. But do we really need another scapegoat for our woes? I mean, in addition to the boss who fired us, or the husband who left us? This article explores different perspectives about the 8th house, and the gifts that can be discovered alongside its typical wreckage. It also discusses careers and events of the 8th house that are not merely ruinous.
Change and The 8th House
In Vedic astrology undesirable change is associated with influences of the malefic planets Saturn, Mars, Rahu, and Ketu (secondarily the Sun) and the dusthana houses, the 6th, 8th, and 12th (secondarily the 3rd). Of the dusthanas the 8th house is maligned as the most malefic because it’s the 12th house (loss) from the 9th house (fortune), which makes it the house of misfortunes - change, death (the ultimate change), obstacles, disappointments, upheavals, scandals, reversals, chronic illness, among other typically undesirable outcomes. The classic text, Laghu Parashari says, “The Lord of the 8th house by virtue of being the 12th from the 9th does not produce good results.(Ch 1 shloka 9)” For instance, M.S. Mehta quotes K.N. Rao in his book, Analyzing Horoscopes Through Modern Technique, as saying, "In the ending of any marriage the role of the 8th house or planet in the 8th is well known."
The malefic influences in our chart generally deliver to us our negative, undesirable karma during the times of their dashas and transits. They fall into the category of tamas or decay in terms of the three gunas: rajas (creation/Brahma), sattva (maintenance/Vishnu), and tamas (destruction/Shiva). Their role is to do the astrological dirty work by passing on the negative effects of our past actions. Therefore, during 8th house influenced time periods, such as the dasha of 8th lord or planet placed in the 8th house, a variety of difficulties are likely to occur: pursuits resulting in disappointment, losses of things you value, etc. You don’t need to be creating negative karma at the time. Bad things can happen to nice people, due to their past, unseen karma.
Even though it’s valid, from an astrological standpoint, to define the effects of the 8th house as malefic, it's our attitude about change that's important. Our happiness is internally based, not externally. “People are disturbed not by things, but by the view they take of them,” writes Greek philosopher Epictetus in the 1st century B.C. Astrology reveals the likely outcome of our external situation but not our internal reaction to it. That is our choice, moment to moment. We either choose to be 'victims of our fate' or we rise above it. We either look for the 'silver lining', the 'blessing in disguise', the 'opportunity for growth,' or we continue to feel like our situation really, totally and justifiably 'sucks.'
Blessings in Disguise
If we don't look beyond our surface frustrations to the depths of our life lessons we're missing the greatest gift of the 8th house - spiritual transformation. The 8th house is not only a dusthana house, but a house of moksha or liberation along with the 4th and 12th houses. Isn't it interesting that the most malefic house is also a house of liberation? The 8th house takes us to our edge where transformation and rebirth are just on the other side of despair and death. It’s a house of transition from one state to the next. Its role is not just to create upheaval that leaves us in a sobbing heap on the floor, but to liberate us. The destructive principle of tamas paves the way for new creation (rajas), just as compost provides fertile soil for new seeds to grow.
Just like compost takes time to transform from waste, the blessing that the 8th house invariably gives, may take time to be revealed. A rebirth is guaranteed following any kind of death, but there may be a gestation period. The Dalai Lama says, “Sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.” We all know of people who’ve lost their dream only to find that something better was around the corner, if not immediately, then eventually. A Course in Miracles says, “All things work together for good. There are no exceptions except in the ego’s judgment.” Often letting go of our judgments and learning to trust the process are the most important lessons of the 8th house.
The change of an external situation, like transitioning from a job or marriage, are obvious kinds of transformation but what about spiritual, inner transformation? The 8th house, like its karaka Saturn, often represent the hardest life lessons in the chart, yet also the most rewarding. It’s the house of intense transformation because it corresponds to the 8th sign of Scorpio, the most intense sign. The last moksha house, the 12th house, represents the ultimate dissolution of the ego, but the 8th house is often where the battle between the ego and the soul takes place. Mars, the planet of war, rules Scorpio. It’s where we face our demons and slay them. Our demons are our compulsions, obsessions, phobias, and fears, with death being the ultimate fear. This is our psychological baggage, which is why the 8th house is a house of psychology. The moksha houses correspond to the water signs, and the water element represents our past psychological conditioning, and the unconscious mind.
We slay our demons by facing them and making them conscious. The great psychologist Carl Jung said, “Whatever is not conscious will be experienced as fate.” Just like history tends to repeats itself, we’re doomed to repeat our personal history until we learn from our mistakes. Therefore, it's valuable to take the time for reflection during the transitional periods of the 8th house, so we can learn from our past. "Where the wound is, is also where the gift is," says Sobonfu Somé, author of The Spirit of Intimacy. When we take the time to dive for those pearls we are able to transform our lives the most. We may choose to make a resolve (vrata), like committing to a mantra practice for a specific length of time, that significantly changes our karma from that point forward.
Crisis Counseling and the 8th House
A crisis is the most potent time for transformation, because it’s during a transition that new seeds are sown. Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” However, making a major shift, especially inner, is not easy. After all, we’re creatures of habit, and usually defend against changing them. Harville Hendrix, the author of the best selling book, Getting the Love You Want, talked about his experience of counseling couples for over 25 years in a TV interview. He said, “When it gets really bad that’s when it’s about to change. And most people leave when it’s really bad, so they never get to the change. I think that’s such a tragedy.”
We frequently play the role of crisis counselors as astrologers, because clients often come for a reading while in a transition. This makes it a unique opportunity to facilitate positive change.
This is the chart of a woman who tried for more than two years to heal her marriage but was unsuccessful.
She came for a reading during her three year Rahu-Venus dasha. Notice how Venus is placed in the 8th house, and retrograde. It’s also in a tight conjunction with the 8th house karaka, Saturn, which is debilitated in Aries. In the year since starting her Venus sub dasha she had separated from her husband, moved to another state, and had her second child. Needless to say, it had been a tumultuous time as a single mom.
However, it had always been an unstable relationship with her husband. They had met and married while she was in her Rahu-Mercury dasha, with Mercury being closely aspected by Mars, the 8th lord from the lagna and the Moon. Mercury is also in the 8th house in the Navamsha chart, conjunct debilitated Saturn and Venus in Aries.
They had separated in her Rahu-Ketu dasha, but she was still determined to work things out. However, by the time Venus began it was clear he wasn’t willing. This made it necessary for her to make a major shift even though she was pregnant with their second child.
In typical 8th house fashion, her sub dasha of Venus has been extremely difficult, yet has also led to very positive transformation. The reason she wanted a reading was to understand the karmic reasons why she married her husband, as well as to get clarity about how to avoid this situation in the future. She had been spending much time studying the psychology of relationships since Venus began. Venus is not only in the 8th house of psychology, but it’s the 9th lord and conjunct the 5th lord Saturn. This reveals that her Venus dasha was not only been a time of intense change due to its position in the 8th house, but also of acquiring knowledge and wisdom due to the influence of the trinal lords.
It’s important to assess the strength of the planets causing the malefic influences of the 8th house. In her case, Saturn and Venus are natural friends, and are both vargottama. In addition, Saturn’s debility is cancelled by its association with Venus, its exaltation lord. These factors soften the malefic influence during her Venus sub dasha.
Here’s the chart of a woman who came for a reading shortly after starting her 1½ year Moon-Saturn dasha.
Notice how Saturn is the 8th lord from various lagnas in the chart: the ascendant, Moon, Sun and the dasha lord, also the Moon. Major areas of her life were in flux: job, home, and relationship. She was about to quit her job, and could either move to a foreign country she’d never been to with her boyfriend, or face being alone. What made it even more challenging was that she’d normally use her intellect to solve problems, but since starting her Moon dasha she’d been very emotional and withdrawn. Notice how Saturn is aspected by the 7th lord, Jupiter, and also aspects and rules the 7th house from the Moon. This combination of being in a Moon dasha and the sub dasha of the 8th lord, revealed that this was not just about the potential move with her boyfriend, but about past unresolved relationship issues that were preventing her from moving forward with clarity.
Astrologers, Dur Yogas and the 8th House
Since a major role of astrologers is to assist clients through transitions, it’s not surprising that the profession itself attracts people with 8th house connections in their own charts. Usually the 8th house or 8th lord will be connected with either the 10th house (career), the 1st house (self, identity), the Moon (mind, emotions), or the Sun (personality).
The following chart is of astrologer Marc Boney.
Natal chart of professional Vedic astrologer
Notice how Marc’s 10th lord, Mercury, is in the 8th house, and conjunct the 8th lord, Mars. His other profession is as a management consultant, where he assists high powered executives through transitions in the work place. This is shown by the 10th lord conjunct the exalted Sun in Aries. Both of Marc’s professions, astrology and management consulting, can be explained by the 10th lord’s placement in the 8th house, since they both assist client’s through transitions.
However, this interpretation can be confusing because his 10th lord is involved in a Dur Yoga, which is defined by the 10th lord being placed in a dusthana house. “Dur” means difficult and a Dur Yoga is characterized as giving difficulty to one’s career. Is this always the case? No. The 8th house represents breaks and separations, as well as breaks from convention. An innocuous effect of a Dur Yoga involving the 8th house is having a profession with a work schedule with built in breaks. For instance, consultants who take time off once they’ve completed a contract, or a session with a client. They work independently and create their own hours, instead of having a conventional forty hour a week job. Astrologers fit into this category and often have Dur Yogas involving the 8th house, as in Marc’s case.
Here’s the chart of a professional psychic, with a successful practice for over 30 years. Notice that he has a Dur Yoga formed by a Parivartana Yoga (exchange of signs) between the 8th and 10th lords, the Sun and Venus.
Natal chart of professional psychic
It’s during 8th house influenced dashas that people often get interested in astrology and metaphysical subjects. The 8th house is a house of depth, seeing beyond the obvious to the causal level, to the hidden meaning. This is why astrology, psychology, metaphysics as well as research are all associated with the 8th house. It is the most mysterious and the least tangible house.
When I first went to India in 1992 I studied with R. Santhanam, the translator of many classic Jyotish texts. After reviewing my chart he said, "I see you began studying astrology during the sub dasha of your 8th lord. This also happened to me. I took up astrology in the dasha of my 8th lord." Since beginning the sub dasha of my 8th lord, my life had changed radically. My mother died suddenly, I was in a career transition, and I began studying astrology intensively to find answers. After getting my first reading I became hooked, and began taking as many classes as I could. Within a year I was in India studying with R. Santhanam.
R. Santhanam and Vaughn Paul, Dec 1992
Research and the 8th House
The 8th house is a house depth, seeing beyond the obvious to the hidden meaning at the causal level. This is why astrology, psychology, and metaphysics are all associated with the 8th house. However, any profession that explores hidden knowledge, like research, could have combinations involving the 8th house.
Here’s the chart of a woman who has a conventional job doing research on public policy for a state legislature.
Natal chart of researcher in state legislature
Notice how she has the 8th lord Moon placed in the 10th house. As the 8th lord, the Moon represents sleuthing into unexplored regions, while being placed in the sign of Virgo makes her work very practical, analytical and detailed. The Moon is also aspected by Mars, the 12th lord, and Jupiter the 4th lord from the sign of Pisces. Any moksha house or water sign contributes to the field of research since they represent hidden, deep, and secret pursuits.
Here’s another example of a researcher, but in the field of physics.
Natal chart of researcher in physics
Notice how the ascendant lord, the Sun, is placed in the 8th house with Ketu. In addition, the Sun is a karaka of the 10th house, and it’s conjunction with the 12th house karaka, Ketu, in the 12th sign of Pisces further contribute to his skill in probing to profound depths of insight.
Other People's Money and the 8th House
A more tangible gift of the 8th house is receiving money from inheritances, grants, insurance policies, or simply snatching it from your wife’s purse! The 8th house is the 2nd house (gains) from the 7th house (relationships) and represents other people's money in general, especially one's spouse.
The following chart is of a client who received a huge inheritance in her Venus-Moon dasha.
Her father had passed away and left her with a fortune that changed her life completely. She had been working as a therapist and suddenly didn't have to work another day in her life.
Notice in her chart that Venus, a natural benefic and a temporal benefic for Libra rising, is in the 8th house in its own sign of Taurus. Venus is also in the 11th house (gains) from the Moon and in the 2nd house from the Sun. From many angles, Venus certainly represents the possibility of receiving a large sum of money in her Venus dasha. The 8th house, as previously mentioned, is the house of death and is also the 12th house (loss) from the 9th house (father). The inheritance came while Jupiter was transiting through her 2nd house of wealth and aspecting both her mahadasha planet, Venus, and her sub dasha planet, the Moon.
This was, of course, a mixed blessing since she had the experience of grief and a new found financial freedom simultaneously. This demonstrates how our lives are complicated and why we can't just evaluate a dasha period in simplistic terms like 'good' or 'bad'.
Here’s another example chart of a man who worked with other people’s money for over 35 years as a tax accountant.
Natal chart of tax accountant
Notice how his 10th lord, Moon, combines with the 8th lord Venus, and Jupiter. The other important combination is his raja yoga in the 8th house between the 9th lord Mercury and the 4th lord Saturn. This powerful yoga was activated during his consecutive Saturn and Mercury dashas, which spanned the most successful years of his practice.
Ultimate Lessons of the 8th House
The 8th house represents many things, but it can’t be underestimated for its ability to create change during its dasha. When we're going though intense change it can be helpful to think of the wheel of samsara or illusion as being an actual wheel. The closer we get to the center or hub the less spinning actually takes place. This is why meditation and spiritual practices are so important because they pull us back into the peaceful center of our beings so we can stop spinning out with our minds. The way out is in.
In Marianne Williamson's book, The Gift of Change, she says, "The most important thing to remember during times of great change is to fix our eyes anew on the things that don't change. Eternal things become our compass during times of rapid transition, binding us emotionally to a steady and firm course." The 8th house is where we face our extreme vulnerabilities and where we realize our invulnerable Self.
In Paramahansa Yogananda's classic book, The Autobiography of a Yogi, he writes about his meeting with Anandamayi Ma in his chapter entitled, 'The Joy-Permeated Mother.' He asks her, "Please tell me something of your life." She replied, "Father, there is little to tell. My consciousness has never associated itself with this temporary body. Before I came on this earth, Father, I was the same. I grew into womanhood, but still I was the same. When the family in which I had been born made arrangements to have this body married, I was the same. And Father, in front of you now, I am the same. Even afterwards, though the dance of creation changes around me in the hall of eternity, I shall be the same."
This is one of my favorite quotes and something valuable to remember when we're going through major transitions in our lives, or counseling someone else who is.
It’s easy to jump to negative conclusions when analyzing malefic influences in a chart, especially involving the 8th house. However, it’s helpful to remember that no planetary combination in the chart is all malefic or benefic, and therefore can’t be summed up as simply good or bad. It’s always a mixed blessing, just like the material world is a mixture of the three gunas. As astrologers we can be of the most service when we help clients find the gifts amidst whatever challenges they’re facing, especially the gifts of the most malefic house, the 8th house.