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The 11th House: Shine On, You Crazy Diamond

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Giclée artwork by Jean-Luc Bozzoli

Traditional rulerships, which have certain limitations, force us to paste the sign’s meaning onto the house.

This carries with it some problems, since not all things true to the sign are going to be true of the house. Instead of focusing entirely on the nature of the sign ruling the cusp (Aquarius, in the case of the 11th house), we should consider focusing instead on the nature of the element (Air) combined with its associated ruling planet (Uranus) and ask, what does that tell us about the nature of the house involved?

Most of the time, of course, Aquarius itself is not actually on the 11th house cusp. In my chart, for example, the 11th house has Scorpio on its cusp, which automatically gives my 11th house a Scorpionic overtone. Scorpio there makes it harder to function as an air house, for one thing. This is going to matter more to an interpretation of my chart than the question “Is my 11th house in any way Aquarian?” The answer is, no, it’s really not. But do we really need Aquarius muddying the waters, so to speak, when we have Uranus and the element of air to work with?

Then I take a look at what we know about Uranus: its myth, history, and association with Ouranos, the Ancient Greek sky-god. That combination, plus the sign on the cusp of the 11th, will tell me a lot more about the person in question than asking in what way they are, or aren’t, expressing Aquarius energy.

Besides which, I refute the idea that any house should be constrained by keywords like ‘friendship’, ‘membership in groups’, and ‘dreams, hopes and desires.’ Once you start looking at houses and their axis relationship to their opposite house, and the ways in which each house is a mirror for its opposite, you begin to see a much larger picture of how the chart functions. This also gives you the opportunity to see how the 11th fulfills the promise of the 5th, or the ways in which the 5th foreshadows what happens in the 11th.

To understand the 11th house experience, filtered through Ouranos/sky god myths, the element of air and how we have come to connect it with the workings of the intellect, we then look at how Western society arrived at our perception of intellectual ability; specifically genius, which is the apotheosis of creative ability alluded to in the 5th house of creativity.

The word ‘genius’ was not always associated with ‘exceptional talent or native ability.’ Every child has a talent of some kind, but that doesn’t make every child—or every grown-up who develops that talent—into a genius, yet the 5/11 axis shows that potential. Ambition and setting of goals seen in the 10th finds expression in the 11th, the house of one’s true vocation—which might not be a job at all, and might not pay any money. That on its own does not make it an avocation; instead, the 11th is the house I look to for one’s true calling or life purpose.

The lineage behind the meaning of the word ‘genius‘ is long and complicated.

In brief, it began as a derivation from the Greek for “distributing destiny” or daimon. It was adapted by the Classical Romans and came to be linked with one’s personal guiding spirit, or life-force. It isn’t until the 1600s that the word is associated with exceptional natural ability, and starts to be applied to creative geniuses like Leonardo da Vinci and his contemporary, Michelangelo, whose unique vision marked them out from other artists, inventors, and creators of their day.

This is the essence of genius, the idea that the ability is so remarkable as to be extraordinary. This brings me to the nature of the 11th house, which, if the hierarchy of the horoscope has any validity at all, should be the place where we look for advanced intellectual ability.

The term ‘genius’ is fraught with difficulty in a postmodern era. Children marked as geniuses, or those with obvious, extraordinary talent, don’t always show up on the radar until later in life; in contrast, child prodigies often have social problems, fitting in with their peers and their own family, leading to isolation. Genius brings with it many problems, not the least of which the fact that use of the terminology itself is under debate.

Once again, the association with some numinous, poorly defined divine source, is a problem for postmodernists. We tend not to think like that; it’s too romantic, yet you’ll find mathematicians and scientists falling into the trap of referring to extraordinary mental feats as ‘acts of genius,’ a vague and muddy phrase if ever there was one.

Think about what it takes to be a genius, the fact that you are marching to the beat of your very own drummer, and you begin to understand the fundamental isolation of the 11th house. Collectivism is all well and good if you fit into the zeitgeist, but what if you’re on the fringe, or the edge, of the coming change?

If you’ve created the idea that foments the revolution in thought, design, or implementation, it’s most likely you’ll be either reviled or put on a pedestal. Either way, no one knows who you are. They do not understand, and it’s likely they’ll never understand, that underneath all of this intellectual ability lies a real person.

The 11th is where, no matter the level of intellectual ability, one finds the kernel of what makes us human, which is our ability to express ourselves through our humanity:  through our ability to speak, draw, write, paint, sing, dance, create. Ironically, these abilities also distance us from others. All of the higher-order cognitive functioning skills belong here.

Communicative ability, a higher-order cognitive skill, becomes problematic, though, since we can speak precisely, and convey our deepest meaning, or we can obfuscate, mislead, and misconstrue, all the while being very intellectually capable, yet socially inept. The 11th, therefore, stands for our ability to both connect, and disconnect, from society.

Leonardo da Vinci was a prototypical genius whose life was extremely odd, when viewed from the more prosaic perspective of ‘ordinary people’. He was never published, for one thing. He was too busy creating and inventing to care excessively if his work was being promulgated to the masses. He was also an omnibus genius, in that his primary talent lay in drawing and painting, but it branched out from there into invention and architectural design.

Extraordinary images in Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks; the notebooks themselves have an extraordinary history, as most were lost or sold off, only to be rediscovered much later.

Extraordinary images in Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks; the notebooks themselves have an extraordinary history, as most were lost or sold off, only to be rediscovered much later.

Albert Einstein is another good example of a genius, and he was a very interesting person. I like Einstein for a lot of reasons; he has great quotes, for one thing (see below). But I like him best for things like the time he failed his entrance examination to one of the schools he attended in his teen years. The thing is, being a genius does not mean you’re perfect. Geniuses tend to fail at tests, do badly in school, and never get published. This is normal for geniuses, so if you have a genius in your life, be kind to him or her, because it’s hard work being brilliant, and no one treats you kindly because they’re either too busy making fun of you, or asking you to do their homework for them.

That's not a shower cap; that's his hair

Albert Einstein was pretty impressive too. That’s not a shower cap; that’s his hair.

An Einstein quote: “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius—and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.”

10 thoughts on “The 11th House: Shine On, You Crazy Diamond

  1. Good Writing! I enjoyed your incites into the 11th house. I appreciate your view on geniuses as well. As having done much soul searching into the 11th house/Uranus/Air element I can tell you propagating some facade of genius is no desire of mine. More so, having studied Ninpo (Collection of Japaneses martial arts) the connection I felt more in tune with, in relation to Uranus especially, is the idea of disruption. That is what I consider my true vocation, a sort of psychological, social and culture jammer. In this way, the underlining emphasis you placed on genius not necessarily being related to any specific innate talent is important. In our society, any indication of ‘smarts’ gives you a one way ticket down the same narrow path. Any soul from the 11th house unlucky enough to be ushered in this way will find themselves stifled, stagnant and gasping for air. So it is hard. We express through chaos, or seemingly to our peers, and our mentors are locked behind bars or in the annals of uprising. We need all the smarts we can get to find our way, just to turn it all upside down.

    • Genius is a slippery elitist slope. Far too many want to be cattle-prodded into that great roundup, without realising that once they’ve been branded by society, society will now decide what to do with you, from funding to decapitation if you fail to produce the goods. The 11th house can also point to ways in which we desperately want freedom from this societally-imposed rat race of hierarchy. I also think the 11th is possibly, along with the 12th, the most complicated house in the chart.

      • Could not agree more. Luckily, for both the 11th and 12th houses they have each-other. One of my best friends and roommate is a 12th house resident. Some of the only solace I find in this world resides in his ‘whatever’ attitude. He is a type of seer but he doesn’t really care to be. Don’t blame him though, who has use for such abilities anymore…right? Well I do and I strongly encourage him. In that way, he finds comfort in my 11th house ways. All he needed was someone to appreciate his tools, such tools that are so enigmatic to most. I think of the Ouroboros, or rather whats going on inside the Ouroboros, when looking at our friendship. Such a comfortable pairing of chaos and paradox seated in his innate understanding of that infinite dark that resides in us all where such things shouldn’t be picked apart any further. He keeps me sane and I keep him awake.

  2. Wow. I really like your insights into the 11th house. The 11th house is definitely the most important house in my chart. It has my Sun (asc ruler) exactly conjunct Mars (MC ruler) at 11 Gem. It also has my North Node at 25 Gem. I think it’s interesting that I’m finding this info during this eclipse season while they’re hitting that conjunction and my nodal axis. A lot of the interpretations I would read about the 11th house were so vague, I simply didn’t know how it would relate to me. That paragraph about expressing humanity in our talents was particularly powerful. “Helps us connect, but also distances us” was definitely something I could relate to and has been a theme throughout my life (I also have Aquarius Moon in 7th and Uranus exactly trine Asc.). I’ll definitely be subscribing to your feed! You have some great perspective!

    • Thank you… I’m glad you saw something that made some sense to you. I have the goal of getting more writing done on this blog fairly soon. I am taking a step back at the moment, to get some perspective and also to figure out what I need to say.

  3. I am interested in how transiting Saturn will function in the 11th house. How does the earthy and slow nature of Saturn, Work, Pressure, Narrowness etc. function in this Air House?
    I really like your interpretation of the 11th as a continuation of the 10th house of vocation, very interesting. You mentioned you had a Capricorn Ascendant, as I do, how does the nature of Saturn in Scorpio transform (which is what it does doesn’t it?) the “Genius” of the 11th?

    • Actually, when it comes to me personally, my ASC is 29˚ Sagittarius. The Galactic Center is my home. 🙂 As for the function of Saturn in the 11th, Saturn is a co-ruler of Aquarius, and therefore is not necessarily an uncomfortable fit. In fact, in some ways, you could say that Aquarius provides excellent ground for Saturnian energy, since the nature of earth is more practical than emotional, more intellectual than visceral. However, the nature of Saturn is to bring, at one level, limitation and lack, so you can expect some version of that during any transit of Saturn (especially if there are things about yourself or your life you either take for granted, no longer need any more, have outgrown, but are unwilling to give up, or haven’t developed sufficiently).

      The perpetual focus we have these days on Saturnian “lessons” gets a little tedious, if you ask me. However, Saturn’s role seems to be, primarily, about structure and pragmatism. So there are areas of life, like the 11th, where you scratch your head when you come up against the idea of how to relate “structure and pragmatism” with the nature of the 11th. If you take a look at the kinds of issues that come during 11th house transits, one of them can be how one connects or does not connect to the collective. Scratching the surface of that, and depending on the rest of your life, and how you express your energy, your relationships to groups of all kinds will, most likely, change or be more limited. You might see friends come and go, for example. Friends often exist in our lives in groups, so whatever group of friends you used to associate with or identify with, might have to undergo serious transformation so that they more accurately reflect your new reality.

      Saturn in Scorpio combined with someone’s 11th blends two fixed energies, if you subscribe to the idea that houses have ‘natural’ rulers. The 11th is associated with Aquarius. I personally associate the ideas and ideals of genius with the 11th, and sometimes with Aquarius, the sign. With Capricorn on the Ascendent, all Saturn transits take on an importance they don’t necessarily have for others. I’d say that you should think in terms of what Scorpio’s strengths or weaknesses are, and see if you’ve earned Scorpio qualities. If so, you shouldn’t have any problem expressing Saturn in Scorpio, which is a determined, and very stable and faithful energy when Saturnian rules have been followed. If you have not done the work, you don’t get to reap the rewards. Saturn in Scorpio when you haven’t done the work will take stuff away from you, 11th house stuff, and you’ll feel really bad, since Scorpio is a bitch to have to answer to when you’ve been lazy or ignorant about that which Scorpio takes seriously, like loyalty, as just one of many possible examples.

  4. This is the first post about the 11th house that seems most accurate to me. My 11th house cusp is in Scorpio and I have the Sun conj Pluto in the 11th along with Venus in the 11th. I also have Uranus in the 1st house. Honestly, from life experience, it seems all of my energy flows through the 11th house and the themes and lessons of Uranus. This quote, specifically, encapsulates my lifelong struggle between being here, in the “today”, like everyone else and being bothered with the mundane like grocery shopping, small talk, tests and housework, or being true myself and living 100% in a world of tomorrow focused on the abstract so to speak.

    “The thing is, being a genius does not mean you’re perfect. Geniuses tend to fail at tests, do badly in school, and never get published. This is normal for geniuses, so if you have a genius in your life, be kind to him or her, because it’s hard work being brilliant, and no one treats you kindly because they’re either too busy making fun of you, or asking you to do their homework for them.”

    GREAT post! 🙂

    • Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment, Annabelle. I have Moon conjunct Jupiter in the 11th (with Scorpio on the cusp) and I do think that if your planets in the 11th are in stressful aspect to other planets in the chart (or even if they’re not) the 11th is a “difficult” house for most people to live with, since it’s a loner position for planets, most of which seem to give one a choice between being a group/follower kind of person, or a loner/leader kind of person. Usually, in my experience, 11th house planets make their owner more uncomfortable in group situations, unless there’s something else going on in the chart which allows you to fit in with the zeitgeist. There are signs and planets and houses that do a better job of appearing “normal,” but the 11th is not one of them, it seems. This isn’t to say there’s anything inherently wrong with banging your own drum at your own speed and rhythm, but just don’t expect others to immediately like you or to feel understood, particularly with Pluto in connection with the Sun. It’s just too intense an energy, and it can take a lifetime to figure out precisely how best to use that Sun/Pluto combination, since it’s a lot of power to carry around in one human.

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