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Thanatos and the 8th house

In “The Iliad,” Thanatos (death) and his brother Hypnos (symbolising sleep) drag the mortally wounded Sarpedon off the battlefield

The god of a peaceful death for the Ancient Greeks was Thanatos, who existed in contradistinction with his terrible sisters, the bloody Keres, who brought one a sticky end.

Obviously, one preferred a peaceful death, and indeed, a peaceful, pain-free death is still better than watching one’s loved one suffer. As a predominantly 8th house person, the subject of death is often on my mind, particularly at this time, when I have lost a close family member in the past few days, a very sad event. Death is also an 8th house theme, and I would like to discuss the 8th house in relationship to the concept and reality of death, because I know this house is truly misunderstood, as is death itself at times.

If I could pick an influence that would help explain the psychological dynamics of the 8th house, it would involve the various myths that surround Ancient Greek attitudes and beliefs about death, including the mythic journey one must take into Hades, crossing the river Acheron (not Styx; that is a common misconception) that would bring your soul to its final resting place. The metaphor of descent is germane to the 8th house, for those of us who “live,” if you will, in our 8th houses, with a pileup of planets, points, fixed stars, etc., seem to be much more interested in plumbing the depths than the average person.

8th house people are comfortable with the concept of death and all it implies (endings, beginnings in a new form, gradual decay or destruction, initiation, and all that lies beneath the surface, unseen). I would say, from those of us I have known, we tend to wax philosophical about death on a regular basis. Death does not scare us, that’s for sure, although I can attest to its bitter poignancy and sense of loss. Death, birth, and the passage of time are linked, and every birth brings the awareness that one day, a death will be due.

In fact, the word ‘Hades,’ in Greek, meant ‘the unseen,’ as well as denoting the name of the god who ruled over the underworld. Everything that is “unseen” about human nature, especially all that you would ordinarily not want to touch with a ten foot barge pole, is of interest to the 8th house person. Okay, so, what does the 8th house “mean,” then, we ask, remembering that all attempts at finding meaning through astrology carry a sticker that warns “caveat emptor”; astrology is filled with myth, and myth is not “real.” However, it is very interesting, and opens up doors in the mind to rooms of discovery, so let’s discover how you feel about the concept of death, as symbolized by the issues contained within the 8th house.

For example, here is a website that presents photographs as Memento Mori, “early postmortem and memorial photography” of adults, children and pets who have died.

If you’ve ever seen the movie The Others, you’ll know that these kinds of pictures were fashionable in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There was a desire, during the Victorian Age, to remember the dead through photographs. The Latin words memento mori mean “remember you will die,” and photographs, locks of hair preserved in jewellry and hair collages all reminded the Victorians, the last great purveyors of romanticised death, that their number might soon be up. In fact, the entire history of death is quite fascinating, as is how we individually cope with death in all its forms.

The 8th house is, traditionally (keeping in mind we always question tradition here) where we confront death: in ourselves, when our personalities undergo transformation; in our psyches, a debatable netherland of shadow and doubt; and in our external lives, when circumstances, people, and expectations change. The 8th house requires you to spend a lot of time alone, looking inward, “navel gazing,” as my parents might have said. This time of germination is necessary for creativity, inspiration, and innovation, in my opinion.

Without that deep penetration into the unseen, how would we emerge with insight about ourselves and others? If there is a lesson to be learned in the 8th house, it is to embrace silence, solitude, and aloneness, for therein lies the seed of the rebirth of the spirit. If death, metaphorical or literal, is both an end and a beginning, then the 8th house represents that time of transition between one state and another, the liminal zone of our awareness of self and others, the threshold we inhabit as we stand in the doorway to a new reality.

5 thoughts on “Thanatos and the 8th house

  1. This is such an interesting subject as a Pluto in the 8th house person. As a little child, my parents asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I replied nonchalantly, “Mortician” not really understanding (unless from a previous life) what that meant. I have pictures similar to this child’s of my dead father, who was killed in a terrible car crash in which my mother, (who was also 5 month pregnant with me in the backseat asleep) was seriously hurt. She still has never looked at those pictures, but I have. Now, at my 2nd Saturn return with Pluto at the end of my 12th house, I find a similar situation to the 8th..dealing with the death and endings of things in my life–family,reality about my bad marriage, health, career, you name it. Thanatos is hitting me right between the eyes with death of everything and life as I know it. Pluto is squared my Sun in my natal chart. Next year Pluto will move into my 1st, so hopefully there will be a resurrection. But what you say about Pluto in the 8th and death is true. It seems to be a life theme for some of us who have it in our charts. I really enjoyed working at Hospice and helping dying people as they left this earth plane for a better place. It was far from morbid–it was very rewarding work.

  2. ‘As for “Memento mori” meaning “Remember that you are mortal”, such a phrase, or its equivalent “Hominem te esse memento!” meaning ”Remember that you are a man!”, is said to have been used as an admonishment addressed by a slave to the Roman general when he was riding in his triumphal chariot through the streets of Rome.
    A slave in fact who stood behind the victorious general whispered this to him just to remind him that he was mortal, though he was at the height of his success at that time.’ – ‘Maria’ @ AllExperts

    My 4th Cap Mars trines my 8th Taurus Moon so I don’t think I’d need a reminder….

    That Mars also hooks up with my Mercury so sometimes guests at family dinners found the tabletalk unappetizing ;P

    Perhaps it’s my Moon that adores the smell of rotting flora in the tropics.

    (I got here via your piece on the 12th – where my Sun resides.)

    • “Rotting flora” you make me laugh. 🙂 Well, if you had to find your way into this dark grove, it’s probably appropriate that it was through the house that takes us down to the depths. I’m glad you’re a reader.

  3. Hi pluto in capricorn is just leaving by transit. I feel I have so many new beginnings. I realized a child was grown and updated, letting go the responsibility while strong energy surrounding me identified me as a woman overriding Mother? I became aware that other is my immortal self and that another world lys beyond beliefs. Huge changes that I feel are seeds that seem to be held back by this life I took on. Like dormant or something. I gather pluto is about clearing the decks. I do feel I am standing on the threshold of a new reality exactly. Well except sometimes I think it’s just becoming aware of whats in our chart.
    Look at Witneys 6th house sun, singing in a church choir. Today venus is transiting my part of death so I came on line and here I am.
    On this plentiful site. thank you.

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