Dear Madame Zolonga: Retreat sounds like defeat!

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Read more in Solstice Fire and the Art of Service, by Eric Francis.


Dear Madame,

Can you tell me the difference between the 9th house and the 12th house? I have three planets — Mars, Uranus and Neptune — in the 12th and one planet in the 9th, and I was told I needed to ‘get away’ during the upcoming Venus retrograde.

I’ve been looking up what this means, based on these houses, and I’m a little confused now. Retreat sounds like ‘defeat’. My 12th house planets are in Capricorn, so I don’t give up easily. Is this right?

— Attack Cap!

Dear Cap Attack,

Your 12th house challenge reminds me of the great American philosopher, George Carlin, who once described the essential problem of getting out of the Vietnam quagmire: “Pull out?! Doesn’t sound manly to me!”

As a Cap Sun, I sympathize. But you early ‘90s babies have Capricorn in spades. You all chugged in here with a cosmic directive for Building Significance. Any suggestion you should be bolting for Bali to discover your inner guru needs a practical directive, and possibly a business plan, too. Tough to embrace the spiritual ‘whim’ with this combination.

Let’s personalize this a bit. Let’s assume that ‘retreat’ isn’t a challenge to your manhood. But it might be a challenge to your personal planet, Mars.

With Mars exalted in Capricorn, that dude doesn’t give up easily. Unlike the new recruit we find in Mars in Aries, Mars in Capricorn is like a career soldier, a grizzled, cigar-chomping, low-ranking general — all guts, but rarely handy with the glory, and totally lost without a campaign. “Pull out?!” Would be the last thing on his mind.

Now. With The Little General in your native 12th house, this is a guy who never knows when the war is over. There’s always another battle to win, another ‘enemy’ behind that tree over there to investigate. Disconnected from the main action, he can be like a soldier sent deep into hostile territory, fighting on when the rest of the world’s celebrating armistice. Or confined to a hospital bed, champing at the bit to get back in the field.

Great for barking ‘motivational’ orders at your backside: “Get up! Get to work! Wars aren’t won while you snooze!” But challenging if retreat’s the directive from High Command.

You have to tell him. “Dude! Chill! Down tools!”

As for the difference between retreats, it depends on what you’re retreating from. Which is needed, a 9th house sojourn or a 12th house sabbatical? Only you know.

Retreat in the 9th house is, in it’s most essential definition, a pull away from the regular routine and daily commute. Anything that feels ‘foreign’ feels right here. You needn’t fly to Milan to get away. If you live in a large metropolis, staying at a B’n’B and exploring an area of town unfamiliar to you is all it may take to refresh your perspective.

You learn something new from people you’ve never met before. Throw a tour of religious relics and significant historical sites into that mix, or get cozy with the philosophical society at the local pub, and you get the full 9th house experience on the physical plane without even stamping your passport.

The 12 house is different. Rather that Outward Bound, it’s Inward, Yo. Sabbatical season. Time out from the madding crowd. It’s the acolyte who needs a long night of the soul away from the world, who seeks spiritual shelter. The one who longs for separation and solitude — somewhere the clanging Great Debates of civilization can’t intrude on his meditations of humanity. World weary and longing for a mental health break? That’s the 12th house, too. It’s the scene of hospitals, retreat centers, and substance abuse recovery programs.

Only you can decide what The Little General needs. If the 9th house calls, give him a specific itinerary that includes non-negotiable periods of reflection and observation. Keep him from making a martial campaign of the vacation: keep him occupied with a specific strategy for capturing higher-minded pursuits. Intelligence reconnaissance?

However, if it’s the 12th house that’s needed, why is that? Your drive and your motivation, symbolized by Mars in Capricorn, already sits in the 12th House. If the impulse to retreat doesn’t feel right, are you doing your 12th house right? Are you striving too much? What’s so scary about the word “surrender”? These are questions to ask if the 12th House calls.

Imagine: what would a low-ranking officer gain from two weeks with the Benedictines chanting, “Alma Redemptorus Mater”? Or chanting mantra for a month every morning on his back porch in the sun?

Attack Cap, if retreat’s what you need, I suggest you may be in need of a different mountain to conquer, and this is your opportunity to scope out the right one. Tell your main man, Mars, you hear him, and it’s okay. And then plan something together.

Stress less; Quest more.

Madame Z


Planet Waves is running a membership drive.
Read more in Solstice Fire and the Art of Service, by Eric Francis.

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