The 2nd house: Little pig, little pig, let me come in…
The fable of the three little pigs illuminates many 2nd house themes, since it’s an allegory about building the strongest, safest ‘house’ that will protect you against the Evil Wolf (a.k.a. “real life”, which tricks us by playing on our weaknesses, such as cupidity, insecurity, and laziness).
The story begins with a mother sending off her children to make their fortune, since she cannot provide for them. The three pigs are then individually responsible for finding materials, and building a house that will protect them from the wolf, who is cunning, rapacious, and ruthless.
Two of the three piggies are not terribly clever, and, after obtaining insubstantial materials, nonetheless go about building their insubstantial houses from these inadequate supplies. Only later do they, presumably, wonder how something terrible could happen to them when the big bad wolf blows their insubstantial houses to the ground and eats them, as wolves are wont to do when confronted by silly, unprepared piggies. I think these piggies simply wanted to make use of whatever materials were lying to hand, and so built their houses quickly, without much thought, and paid the price for their lack of preparedness and impatience to be done with the project.
However, the third piggy learns from his brothers’ mistakes, and, happening upon a peddler selling bricks, buys the bricks (or, in some versions of the story, asks for the bricks), knowing full well that bricks are stronger than straw, and are much more likely to withstand attack from rapacious wolves. In the Tarot, this experience would be reminiscent of the Four of Pentacles, when we build our structures (outer walls, carapace, persona) for self-protection. This last piggy turns out to be the cleverest piggy of all, and outwits the greedy wolf at every turn.
The moral to this story is that it pays to be self-reliant; yet there’s another message, one reminiscent of Plato, who spoke of the iron, bronze, silver, or gold soul, indicating that some of us are just naturally smarter and better-equipped for life than others. In our era of democracy and egalitarianism, this kind of thinking irks people, but… we are not born equal, now are we? And where better to look for what qualities and abilities we’re born with than the 2nd house, which symbolises our bodies, our material resources, that which nature and nurture combine to grant us on the road of life. If life were a computer game, the 2nd house would indicate the items in our backpack we’d need as we went through each level, adding stuff and experiences to our competencies, making it progressively easier (or harder, if we slack off) to get ahead on the material plane.
Obviously, since we dwell in the land of metaphor in astrology, we’re not only talking about building real houses; we’re also talking about building ourselves, our bodies, our structure, the skeleton or scaffolding upon which the entire architectural plan of our lives will then rely. The 2nd house, in my opinion, is far too easy to take for granted, since life is like a Monopoly game where we are given playing pieces, a board, and some money before we ever get started. After all, we’re all born into a family of some kind, and we’re surrounded by material objects from day one. Even those born with nothing who then have to go out and make their living, like the three little pigs, all have innate talents and abilities. In other words, none of us—well, extremely few, statistically—are born utterly and totally bereft, although babies left on lonely crags, exposed to the elements, probably qualify as being amongst the most desolate souls on earth.
Returning to the metaphor of the three little pigs, however, a much more cheerful topic in many ways, the 2nd house dichotomies of want and plenty, self-reliance and dependence on others, the haves and have nots, ownership and loss, are all foregrounded. In the 2nd house, we are challenged to develop the skills we have identified are ours from the 1st house experience. Now, on the Fool’s journey, our focus is no longer solely on the step in front of us, where we’ll go and what we’ll do, but what we’ve got in our packs to take with us to sustain us.
If you ever ran away from home as a child, it’s highly unlikely you simply left. You probably packed a bag of some sort, didn’t you? Well, that’s the 2nd house experience; you, the road, and your backpack. What’s in your backpack? You’ll find, upon reflection, that what you put in your bag the day you ran away from home was anything you particularly loved and instinctively knew you’d need. That’s a 2nd house thought: what do I need with me on this journey? You will find that all that you can’t leave behind is in your knapsack, which will be filled with what you value, cherish, and have to have (which might not be material objects at all).
The 2nd house is so obviously associated with stuff and material objects, however, that the temptation is very strong to forget that esoterically, it represents the container and spiritual values. You could argue that a container is a material object, and you’re not wrong, of course. However, your ‘container’ can be as broadly-defined as the body you inhabit, to the Louis Vuitton suitcases you pack your stuff in. A container can be almost any object, but it’s also you; you are a container, too. What do you contain? Are you built of bricks or of straw? Will the slightest wind blow you down, or are you made of something solid that will withstand the test of time?
The 2nd house is ‘ruled,’ traditionally, by Taurus, and here, coincidentally, is an appropriate quote from a Taurus writer:
No, no, I am but a shadow of myself: you are deceiv’d, my substance is not here; for what you see is but the smallest part, and . . . were the whole frame here, it is of such a spacious lofty pitch, your roof were not sufficient to contain it.”
—Lord Talbot in Henry VI, William Shakespeare (Born April 23, 1564)